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The Colour-Magic Theory

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Intro

The Theory: bright gold and cornflower blue make emerald green.

Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon is a child of magic. Elder Blood courses through her veins – a trait which she inherited from her mother. Pavetta’s power is a formidable force in itself... but it’s not the entirety of Cirilla’s magic. In fact, it’s only about one-third of it.

The reasons for it are unknown but what is assumed to have happened is this: at the declaration of the Law of Surprise, Pavetta’s power reached out. Guided by pure chance or perhaps Destiny’s hand, it touched two people in the room and tied their magic together with itself. All three forces became conjoined in the life that has just been revealed to the world.

When Cirilla looked upon the world for the first time, everyone was shocked to find that her eyes were in a shining, emerald green colour, as if the blue of the skies and the gold of the sun merged into one.



I

From a look, a song and unwanted friendship, new lives are born.

The stack of firewood is swallowed up by flames the moment Geralt casts Igni.

“Oh, I love that trick,” Jaskier says and puts his hands close to the fire, warming them after his fingers got stiff from playing the lute in the chill of the autumn evening. “Why don’t you use it every time, I wonder?” the bard asks, observing his companion sitting across the bonfire. “It’s so much easier.”

The witcher only grunts in reply, as is his way, and continues munching on a strip of beef jerky. Jaskier isn’t deterred by the silence, however, and continues staring at Geralt expectantly. His questioning gaze is like a physical touch. It sends a tingling sensation down the witcher’s spine, the way it always does.

With a resigned sigh, Geralt answers, “I usually want to save my magic for when I really need it, but you were whining so much about the cold that I just wanted to shut you up quicker.”

Jaskier gasps and lays a hand on his breast, about to dramatically take offence, but doesn’t voice his hurt in the end. Something else intrigued him. “Save your magic?” he asks, “what do you mean?”

The witcher measures the bard with the blank “no more questions” look for long enough that any sane person would give up. Jaskier isn’t exactly sane, in Geralt’s (and some others’) opinion, and stares at the witcher right back, unmoved. When it comes to stubbornness, their relation is a diamond cut diamond type of situation.

Finally, Geralt gives in, huffing in irritation. “Magic always has a price. When you take power from Chaos, you have to give something back. The give and take tends to affect your physiological well-being, especially when the stakes are high.”

“So...” Jaskier begins, confused about his understanding of the matter, “casting signs weakens you and that’s why you don’t use magic often?”

“No,” the witcher answers, confusing his companion even further, “My extra mutations... they must’ve changed it. Using magic doesn’t have any effect on my body.”

“Fascinating,” Jaskier replies, then immediately gets up to rummage through his travel pack. He comes back to sit across Geralt with a notebook and a pencil in his hand. “What is the price you pay, then?” he asks the witcher and starts writing something in the notebook without waiting for a reply.

“Jaskier,” Geralt growls, “I haven’t told anyone about this.”

The bard’s head snaps up and he stares at Geralt in shock. Then, understanding dawns on his face. “Oh.” He clears his throat. “Alright.”

The next moment, the page is torn out of the notebook. It lands in the bonfire and turns into ash. Geralt stares into the flames silently while Jaskier waits for him to speak up.

“My powers deplete themselves,” the witcher says, “It takes time for the magic to return.”

“Peculiar,” the bard remarks, “And a pretty shitty deal, too. I’d rather have it affect my physiology than have to wait after every silly spell.”

Geralt shakes his head. “There’s something else. It’s... hard to explain. In a way, I can negotiate with Chaos. Make my magic not exhaust itself as quickly as it should. It’s useful when I’m in a fight.” His mouth sets into a grim line. “I still haven’t figured out the price I pay for that, though.”

Jaskier smiles a wry little smile, not commenting for once, and Geralt lets himself look at the bard, who meets his eye squarely. The bright gold connects with the cornflower blue and time stands still. Just between the two of them, the colour of the bard’s irises is suddenly so vibrant that it alerts Geralt’s witcher instincts. Jaskier tends to have that effect on him. The bard is always full of energy  – all flutter and movement, brightness and sounds – and it’s too much not to be suspicious. Too much for Geralt’s heightened senses as well; Jaskier’s constant chatter almost gives him a headache every day. His singing is even more bothersome, considering that Geralt’s medallion reacts to it.

“Maybe the price is putting up with you,” the witcher jokes, deadpan.

“You!” Jaskier cries, directing an accusing pointing finger at Geralt, “You bastard! I’m a delight and a gift to this world!”

Geralt huffs out a laugh but does nothing to deny it. Jaskier may be annoying and strange but he’s a blessing all the same. Since he joined Geralt two years ago, he’s been working relentlessly on improving Geralt’s image and changing the public perception of all witchers. The bard wants him reborn as a hero, which is a fool’s errand, but he’s grateful for it anyway. The thank-you gets stuck in Geralt’s throat whenever he wants to say it, even though he’s already less spat at in villages. Fortunately, Jaskier seems to understand. Many things pass between them with little words.

Later, when they lay down to sleep, Jaskier’s quiet question reaches the witcher’s ears.  

“Geralt?”

“Hm?”

“Thank you.”

“Hmm.”

***

The bard walks a few steps ahead of Geralt, who follows him on his horse’s back. Jaskier is composing. He’s always in front of Roach when he’s preoccupied with the creative process. The song about the healing of the Striga that he’s working on is in the middle stages – the first version of lyrics is ready but every single line needs perfecting. This is exactly what Jaskier is doing now: trying out the sound of every word and looking for ones that fit the melody better.

The bard is so engrossed with the task that he doesn’t notice the obvious – how the nature around him moves to get closer to his voice. Geralt’s keen eyes notice the way each straw of grass and every leaf lean in, just a touch, to “listen”. The air has gone completely still and the meadow is eerily silent; even Roach seems to be holding her breath. Geralt’s medallion vibrates.

The witcher decides that this moment is as good as any to confront the issue.

“You’re not human.”

Jaskier freezes in his tracks, his body going rigid with tension. The acidic stench of fear fills the air and Geralt shifts in the saddle, disturbed by the smell for the first time in decades.

“I am not,” Jaskier replies, his back to the witcher.

“Do you want to tell me?” Geralt prompts, his voice gentle like it almost never is.

The bard turns to face him, face pale and hands trembling. “You really don’t know what I am?”

“You should be the one to say it,” the witcher answers softly.

Jaskier releases a shaky breath and nods. Stepping off the path, he walks into the tall grasses and strums his lute. When he opens his mouth, he sings in a language which the witcher has never heard in his long life. The tongue consists mostly of croons, trills, whistles and swishing sounds, and it’s enchanting even to Geralt’s ears. The air becomes thick with power immediately. It’s not Chaos, however. It’s a whole different type of magic.

The fae are creatures of nature – they are born from its energy. Guarding its Order and sustaining its sacred rhythms is their ancient task that they’ve always been fulfilling, hidden away in their own dimension of the world. They belong to the magic of nature and they don’t move out of it. Usually.

Jaskier didn’t belong anywhere, not until recently. His rhythm has always been too fast. He flutters from place to place, both quickly bored and immensely fascinated with everything and anything. The skies have always drawn him in the most – he's a fae of the skies, after all. In the end, Jaskier’s Queen found his temperament unbearable enough that she didn’t clip his wings any longer and allowed him to mingle with mortals.

Jaskier’s done his fair share of that, along with quite some mischief, but his life of adventure truly began only when he saw the brooding loner in Posada. The man’s restrained disposition and the guarded gold of his eyes were arresting, intriguing. Jaskier instantly wanted to know what secrets the witcher held. A few years later, he’s sure he won’t ever grow tired of uncovering them – every little bit of information, of understanding Geralt better, sends a thrill of rightness and belonging through his being.

Freeing his magic puts him at ease, lets him truly breathe. And so, the bard carries on singing, not afraid anymore. He smiles, radiating happiness. His glamour has dropped a bit and his sharp fangs are showing but the witcher only smiles back with the tiny upturn of his lips. Jaskier laughs in between the lines because from this moment on, he’s well and truly safe.

When the song ends, the meadow is completely silent for a moment, then the buzz of insects picks up anew and the gentle gust of wind returns.

“You’ve said enough,” Geralt remarks, and that’s all he has to say on the matter.

After that, the bard opens up to his companion even more, if that’s even possible. Geralt has a suspicion that Jaskier’s chatter was to serve as a distraction from his magic. Now that it’s out in the open, Jaskier’s silences, previously almost non-existent, has got longer. The bard doesn’t shy away from using his power around the witcher, too, and uses it in various ways to make their lives easier. He enchants a client into compliance when they don’t want to give Geralt the promised pay, or asks plants and animals to tell them where the nearest shelter is. When Geralt has a restless night, Jaskier’s humming puts him to sleep. The witcher’s medallion always vibrates then but Geralt isn’t alarmed by it any longer. It’s become a welcome thrum.

Their dynamic changes but they don’t look for any ways to describe it; they simply live the new way and enjoy it. The lazy, warm afternoons are the most pleasant, when Geralt stretches out in a shade of some tree and dozes off to the sounds of Jaskier's lute. Other times Geralt uses Aard to toss some object and Jaskier tries to catch it, laughing, his giggles lovelier than the tinkle of silver bells. Chaos and Order swirl around them, the sky is blue and the sun shines bright on the lush green grass. It could mean nothing or it could mean the world but what matters is that they both find peace. This is why Geralt doesn’t call Jaskier his friend – the word doesn’t fit.

Then Cintra happens and they part ways for three whole years.


Colours conceal and reveal when they paint a story.

Young Cirilla is different. When she says so to her mother, Pavetta chuckles and answers that it’s because she’s a princess. Ciri knows better. Her nanny told her tales about princesses and not one of them could make flowers smile when they hummed a song. The flowers don’t do that literally of course, but Cirilla can see that her singing makes them happy. Trees and other plants are also glad to hear her voice, just like birds. Birds also talk to her, always calling her “the girl in the woods”. Especially one kind of birds does that. Shrikes, as Lazlo explained once. Swallows call her "Zireael". When she tells her father about how she’s different from other princesses, Duny only smiles and calls her a very imaginative child. He wishes her sweet dreams and kisses her on the forehead.

Cirilla usually has pleasant dreams. She hears voices she doesn’t know but they don’t scare her. They are like her mother’s embrace, in different ways. 

Most often, Ciri sees the sun but she hears a man. His voice is deep, rough and growly. She isn’t afraid because in her dreams, she runs to the sunny man and he puts his arms around her. It’s safe.

When she dreams of lilacs, she hears a woman. She sounds both soft and dangerous like a lightning, but Ciri doesn’t fear her. The lilac woman runs her fingers through Ciri’s hair. It’s warm.

There’s the cornflower man too. His voice is beautiful and he always sings, sometimes of strange things. She isn’t scared - the cornflower man boops her nose and caresses her cheeks. It’s like laughter.

Sometimes, she dreams of the three voices at once - she hears them talking. The sunny man’s voice blends both with the lilac woman’s and with the cornflower man’s. The three people walk with her in a meadow. The grass is very green, the sky is blue and the sun shines bright. The two men hold her hands while the woman guides her somewhere.

Young princess Cirilla doesn’t understand what all those dreams mean. She only knows, with absolute certainty, that they show her something no one else is supposed to know about.

Chapter Text

II

From every beginning, each life’s fate is driven by choices.

The noise in the inn is steadily dying down. It’s late into the night and many patrons have left or are about to leave for their homes to rest. Jaskier wore them out with his performance, or so he likes to think. The bard sits with his witcher companion at the table, both sipping on their ales quietly. Jaskier is tired after entertaining the rowdy audience while Geralt is still regaining his strength after yesterday’s contract. The air between them is strained, and Jaskier decides to finally say it.

“At the banquet... did you feel something?”

Geralt’s tenses. Jaskier noticed that there was tension about his friend the moment he re-joined Geralt on the Path three months ago, for the first time since the Law of Surprise fiasco. The bard can’t decide whether the witcher is upset due to what happened in Cintra or it’s because he is here. The curse of understanding each other’s silences is that they can hide very little from one another. Jaskier sees how the witcher doesn’t soften around him as much as he used to. Geralt is less patience and more bite than he was before.

Geralt wants to forget. Tries to, but doesn’t succeed. The resentment sits heavy in his gut as he can’t help but think he wouldn’t have even known of the damned banquet hadn’t it been for Jaskier.

“I felt that I’d just pulled off the worst fuck-up of my life,” the witcher answers with a grunt.

“That’s not what I mean,” Jaskier replies and leans in towards his companion. He goes on in a hushed tone, “Something happened there, Geralt.”

Geralt rolls his eyes. “I got myself a fucking Child Surprise,” he answers harshly, “That’s all that happened.”

The bard tsks. “Don’t play dumb,” he tells the witcher sternly, “it doesn’t suit you.” He pauses and tries to catch Geralt’s eye but the witcher stares down at the table stubbornly. Jaskier sighs. “You must’ve felt it too.”

Back at the banquet, the sensation was barely noticeable, like a quick brush of a hand against the skin. Jaskier and Geralt didn’t give it a second thought. Then, as time passed, not thinking about it started being harder and harder.

Jaskier’s ears have become keen to hear any news about Cintra for some reason. Even unwillingly, he listens to what forests and animals have to say. Shrikes often tell him that there is “the girl in the woods”, swallows twitter “Zireael!”, while trees ask him about his very own bud-ling. All this strangeness leads the bard towards a suspicion – he’s gone insane from roaming the mortal world for so long. After all, he doesn’t have a child. His body can’t produce offspring with any human or non-human. Besides, he’s looked for the girl in the woods but never found her.

Tired of this madness, Jaskier spent most of the last three years in the fae side of the world. He found respite in the realm of Order, where nature was quiet. Only his mind wandered, but he lived with that. Jaskier pities his friend, though; he doubts Geralt’s had much rest from the unwelcome thoughts.

The witcher bares his teeth. “You don’t fucking feel Destiny,” he snarls, “because it doesn’t exist!”

The topic is a raw, bleeding wound that refuses to heal. Geralt doesn’t want to discuss it, refuses to think about it. He finishes his ale in a few gulps and slams the tankard against the table, then storms off. Jaskier, as always, goes after him. Later, his humming lulls Geralt to sleep.

***

He pulls the net out of the lake and growls in frustration. No vessel again.

The witcher is so tired. His recent contracts have worn him out more than usual – his magic failed him when he needed it and he suffered serious injuries as a result. His recent inability to negotiate with Chaos as well as he used to puts him on edge. He longs for some kind reprieve but even sleep doesn’t come to him. Renfri’s last words echo in his head every time he closes his eyes, and Geralt is exhausted of constantly wondering how many future should-haves he trespasses with his every move. He must put an end to this. A djin is a perfect solution to all his problems.

Then Jaskier shows up.

It’s a disaster of their own making. All three of them have their share in the outcome.

Before Geralt made the last wish, the sorceress wasn’t so important. The danger to Jaskier’s life, and Geralt’s guilt about having caused it, overrode everything else. Then, Geralt and Yennefer shared a bath and deep understanding and after that, there was magic and madness. The aftermath of the last wish is a wild pull between him and Yennefer. 

Geralt and Jaskier keep stumbling upon her on the road - Yennefer has got woven into their story with a thread made of thorns and it hurts all three of them. Sometimes Jaskier and Geralt still find peace together as they walk the Path, almost like in the old days, but it’s always ruined when the storm of sheer power, violet eyes and lilac-gooseberry perfume shows up. Every time, she takes and takes and takes until Geralt has nothing to give, then leaves. Every time, he feels more hollow and mad about the sorceress than before. Geralt thinks himself in love and it’s painful when he and Yennefer part ways.

He is not a good company when it happens. In fact, he’s downright awful. Yet, Jaskier stays – the bard always chooses to remain by the witcher’s side. He bears Geralt’s snappish comments and grim silences with much grace, only saying that Yennefer is no good for him. Geralt deserves someone who would cherish him, in Jaskier’s opinion. Geralt’s suffering hurts him too, so deeply that it becomes his own pain.

When Jaskier offers to lull Geralt to sleep, Geralt still accepts sometimes. In those precious moments, the bard runs his hands through the witcher’s hair, and Geralt’s body relaxes under the touch. It makes Jaskier feel such warmth in his chest that his blood runs cold when, one evening more than a decade into their friendship, he finally understands

His humming ceases and his fingers stop their movement as shock paralyses him. Geralt opens his eyes and looks at him questioningly. Jaskier gazes into the witcher’s eyes, cornflower blue connecting with bright gold, and a part of the bard’s heart wilts. The gold of Geralt’s eyes has never appeared so beautiful to him, so full of warmth and strength. Geralt is breathtaking, but Jaskier will never have his love. 

He doesn’t hum to Geralt again.  

The distance between them grows. The rift slowly becomes an abyss as the years pass and the weight and consequences of Geralt’s choices wear him down more and more. He tries to be reasonable and blame himself, as he should, and fails. Jaskier’s suggestion to get away for a while is his desperate attempt to bridge that gap, but the effort is futile. On the day when it all comes to a head, the sky is grey, and within a few moments, three hearts get broken. Destinations and destinies shift in the echo of their pain.

Jaskier is a blessing no longer. The witcher’s words leave the bard with only one choice to make, but Jaskier is sure he’ll come to terms with it in time. Geralt, on the other hand, later realizes that he himself won’t.


Silences uncover many tales.

Princess Cirilla knows when she isn’t told something. She was raised in a court – a place where things unsaid are often more important than any words which have been spoken. After thirteen years of living in such environment, she’s got very good at determining which silences matter and, thanks to this ability, she’s certain that there’s a lot more to the story of her parents’ betrothal than her grandmother allows anyone to say. There's more to how deadly silent castle was when her mother died at sea. The quiet stares with which many people regard her are laden with much more than she's aware of. 

She’s always realised that she isn’t normal, even with her royal status aside. The inexplicable dreams that comforted her in her early childhood have never gone away or revealed anything about what they mean, and they aren’t even the only mystery Cirilla cannot solve.

As she grows up, she discovers that plants and animals communicating with her isn’t the only thing peculiar about her. She’s also able to sense power around her – she feels it swirl in the air every time Moussack does some magic trick, she knows when some people are connected and is aware that she’s at one end of such a link. It tugs at her, urging her to go somewhere, to someone. There’s also power inside her – an incredible fury that thrums and waits, lurking. It’s buried somewhere deep and she has no idea how to release it, to finally have it calm down. The constant buzz is so tiring and she just wants to scream, sometimes.

Ciri still tries to let the power loose in the only way she can think of – doing magic. She asks Moussack to make something levitate and later tries to recreate his hand gestures, the way the magic around felt. When she finally successes to do the trick, her inner power hums even more than usual but nothing else happens. After that, she perfects her levitating skills and finds that she can make things float in the air for hours – the stones upon which Cintra was built are ancient and they support her. That's the only explanation she has for it, even though she doesn't understand it.

The questions mount with no answer in sight, and in the end, Cirilla doesn’t ask. She doesn’t ask about her parents’ betrothal, or if they had powers too and she just inherited them, or just why she is like this at all. She doesn’t ask and doesn’t say anything about it to anyone but plants and animals – she somehow knows that they can be trusted, even though they offer no response that would make anything any more clear.

Birds especially are unhelpful chatterboxes. They say a lot of simple sentences and phrases, and Cirilla has learnt to glean as much information from bird-speak as possible, but sometimes it all still feels like a code she can’t crack. She knows she’s missing something. She's painfully aware of it when birds arriving from three parts of the world cry, “He’s coming! He’s coming! He’s coming!”.

“Who’s coming?” Cirilla asks them.

They don’t answer. She isn’t given enough time to decipher their silence. He arrives.         

Chapter Text

III

At some points, decisions not disastrous are bound to be made.

Thanks to sheer dumb luck, Jaskier gets permission to play at Cintran’s court. He arrives when the Queen is out of the city and when the Lioness returns to her liar, the only thing that saves Jaskier from being run through with Calanthe’s sword is Cirilla finding out that he played at her parents’ betrothal banquet. The princess wants to know all about it from the bard’s perspective.

Calanthe threatens to torture him to death if he utters even half a word about the White Wolf. He’s tempted to do so anyway – Ciri deserves to know – but refrains in the end. When he looked upon Princess Cirilla for the first time, the emerald green of her eyes struck him as so familiar that his whole being ached.

He has yet to live. He might’ve just found his true purpose.                             

After he was ripped away from the place where the thought he belonged, the harsh words cutting him to his very core, his heart almost wilted from the wound. He wandered aimlessly, wallowing in heartbreak, until merfolk sang sweetly of his woes and the sea washed the pain away. Even then, Jaskier refused to head back to his Queen with his tail between his legs because of pride and sheer spite. He’s made the decision to stay in the Chaos side of the world and make something of himself yet, even if he’s not what he believed he was meant to be.

Perhaps his fate is more tied to a Lion Cub than to a Wolf. He must’ve heard “Zireael” repeatedly uttered by swallows for some reason, after all. The moment he finally made the connection between the name of Cintran’s Princess and its meaning in Elder, he directed his steps towards the place which his thoughts have been wandering to for so long, something tugging at his heart and urging him to go, go faster.

When they’re in close proximity, the connection between the bard and the princess is almost palatable to them both. They all but gravitate towards each other, yet, Calanthe is always present when Jaskier is in the same room as Cirilla, not letting him get near. One day, however, the Lioness isn’t there to guard her Cub, royal duties calling her and her druid away.

In the evening on that day, Jaskier croons a soft lullaby as Ciri lays in her bed. When the girl is almost asleep, he caresses her cheek and she leans into the touch with her eyes closed. Jaskier feel such warmth bloom in his chest that he just can’t help himself – he lets out a deep coo, the sound specifically used by the fae to express affection for their offspring. Humans can’t register it; they would only sense a change in the mood, find the atmosphere calming. Still, Jaskier knows he risks a lot since there’s the danger of Moussack sensing Jaskier’s magic when he returns. The bard couldn’t care less at this moment. The warmth he holds for this girl is too great and it needs a way out. He coos again, putting the girl deeper into a restful sleep.

And then Ciri responds. A chirpy little purr leaves her mouth while she sleeps and Jaskier almost jumps ten feet in the air.

“What the fuuuck,” he hisses out under his breath, hoping that Lazlo didn’t hear it. He glances over his shoulder at the young knight keeping guard by the door to see him look at Jaskier questioningly.

“Is something wrong?” Lazlo asks.

“No, young sir,” Jaskier responds, weaving some calming spells in between the words, “all is well.” The knight stays put and the bard turns back to the princess.

He coos once more. Ciri purrs back in that adorable, chirpy way, and that’s it. Jaskier’s is done for. He stares down at the girl, lighting-struck, and feels a rush of such deep, all-encompassing, unconditional love that he can barely breathe. The emotion is so fierce that Jaskier is ready to kill or die for her that very moment, and he knows it bodes trouble. He’s irrational in love, and the fae protect their young at all costs.

Jaskier doesn’t get another chance to sing Ciri to sleep, no matter how much he longs to do it again. He comes to understand, with great regret, that he should’ve done this so much earlier. He lost so much time. Cirilla seems to have realised something as well – her gaze is both knowing and sad when she looks at the bard. Jaskier sometimes dares to coo to make her smile.

When Jaskier hears sparrows twittering about a white-haired man on his way to the city, the bard all but flees. He’s a cad and a coward, after all.

“Forgive me,” he says to his bud-ling before he departs.

“Don’t go,” Ciri whimpers. 

He goes. Cintra falls a week after that.

***

When the White Wolf looks upon his Child surprise for the first time, she appears so fragile to him. She’s a tiny and thin “boy” next to the lads who play with her. He’s afraid he’ll break her or fail to protect her when life will try to do so.

Geralt follows her, just two steps behind her, but he’s never close enough – destruction gets there first. There are many times he thinks he arrives too late to see anything but her dead body, yet every time, he doesn’t find her. Something spurs him on, guiding him forward. After ghouls attack and he can no longer move on his own, it’s Destiny who carries him the rest of the way.

When the girl in the woods runs towards him, he’s paralyzed  - there couldn’t be a clearer sign that Destiny will always collect her due, no matter how much he may try to escape. Fear rises within him as he wonders what fate he cannot run from, but then everything goes silent because he embraces Ciri. Their closeness calms him – it’s a breath of at last, Cub.

The girl is not afraid of him from the start. She’s tense and the silence between them often gets awkward, but she doesn’t fear him, doesn’t even flinch at his angry stares when she keeps asking about Yennefer. Ciri always looks at him so openly, with absolute trust, and the emerald green of her eyes stirs a fierce feeling in his chest. He doesn’t dare give it a name and only allows another kind of thoughts to take shape in his mind: the promises to shield her from harm until his dying breath. He even might, soon, since he decides to take her to Kaer Morhen, and the road will be perilous.

As they travel together, Geralt comes to the realisation that he can protect her from physical danger all he wants but it won’t be enough. The horrors she went through haunt her, especially in her dreams. Ciri’s piercing screams keep Geralt awake at night and the witcher has no idea how to soothe her. He doesn’t know how to offer comfort, or how to be a parent at all, and the helplessness of his failure makes his eyes prickle. He takes the girl into his arms but his attempts at shushing her are futile. She only keeps screaming with tears rolling down her face, and the cruel dreams don’t let her go.

Ciri’s nightmares occur almost every night, which exhausts them both. As a result, Geralt is too tired to fight the unbidden, cutting thoughts of regret and longing – hadn’t he been a monster and a fool, Jaskier still would’ve travelled with him. The blessed silence has become a curse without him. Jaskier would be able to soothe Ciri

As he and Cirilla slowly head North, the witcher starts wishing for the bard’s company daily, then every moment of the day, until it reaches the point when Geralt thinks he’s gone mad. It seems to him that he can hear Jaskier’s voice and heartbeat somewhere in the distance, that he catches faint whiffs of his smell. His throat constricts every time his mind conjures up the illusion of Jaskier being close. Geralt tries not to wonder why it hurts him so much, almost managing to ignore the fact that he wants Jaskier to hum for Ciri’s sake as much as for his own.

In order to push those thoughts away, he decides to focus on teaching Ciri everything he knows about monsters and self-defence. She learns quickly, and whenever she manages to do something right, she grins at him proudly. Warmth explodes in Geralt's chest at the sight every time and he just has to ruffle the girl's hair. Ciri does struggle with a dagger but on the other hand, she doesn’t have such problems with magic. The witcher can clearly feel the sheer power she wields, almost like he’s linked to it himself. The sensation turns out to be an indicator of something puzzling after he shows Ciri how to cast Signs – when the girl casts Aard a few times, Geralt finds himself unable to negotiate with Chaos for his own magic to last longer.

If that wasn’t worrying enough, the very same day Ciri is in good enough spirits to hums a song to Roach and as she sings, both Chaos and Order swirl around her while Geralt’s medallion vibrates.

For many reasons, the witcher needs Jaskier.


Certain contexts unveil the true meaning.

After life makes her scream, Cirilla understands why birds call her the girl in the woods.

The sunny man turns out to be the furthest thing from sunlight but she doesn’t mind. The gold of his eyes is like a sigh of relief and his embrace is the safest place in the world, just like she remembers it to be from her dreams.  The security of his whole presence fills her with comfort whenever she feels hollow.

She tries not to get attached to Geralt; everyone she’s ever cared about, even a little, is ripped away from her sooner or later. Cirilla has been torn away from her home – she has no roots and she’s floating on most days. Geralt grounds her but she’s afraid of liking him too much. After all, Jaskier was in her dreams too but left soon after he caressed her cheek and sung to her. She’ll never forget the cornflower blue of his eyes and the sound of his voice. Yet, she lost him.

As Ciri and Geralt travel, the princess only waits to lose the one who’s supposedly her Destiny. It appears to be coming – she sees how her nightmares exhaust him, her questions about Yennefer annoy him (she has to ask, though; she knows, deep down, that it’s the lilac woman’s name). When the witcher trains her in magic, he gets strangely tense, and Cirilla starts wondering just when she will drive Geralt away.

Perhaps he’s judged to be a monster of some kind. Sometimes he looks at her as if she was some kind of ghost, especially when she hums to Roach. Ciri doesn’t see what the problem is – the mare really likes it.

Trees and birds also seem to think that Cirilla will loose Geralt soon.

“Go, child,” spruces and pines whisper.

“Find him,” cuckoos urge her on.

“But I’ve found him,” she replies, confused.

“He’s close,” the forest answers.

It doesn’t make any sense at all, until one day when Cirilla hears it. The song wafts between the trees from somewhere far away and Ciri is up on her feet immediately. She runs towards the sound as fast as she can, heedless of Geralt’s protests and calls of her name. Undergrowth tangles around her feet and she almost trips many times, but she keeps running. Soon, she can make out the words.

“An entity is more than the sum of its component parts,” a beautiful, beautifully familiar voice croons, then pauses and says, “Eh, that’s too philosophical for this song.”

Panting heavily, Cirilla barrels into the clearing. Her eyes search the surroundings wildly until they land on the bard sitting in the shade of a birch tree. Emerald green and cornflower blue meet.

“Oh, hello, girl in the woods,” Jaskier greets her with a smile, “you found me.”

Another puzzle piece falls into place.

Chapter Text

Bitter consequences can bring sweetness amid turmoil.

At Ciri’s request, Jaskier has dropped his glamour completely just this once. It took the girl only a week of travelling together to convince him, which is a remarkable feat. Geralt never even dared to suggest it in the first place, knowing it was a lot to ask.

Now Jaskier stands before them in his true fae form. Only the hair on his head remains unchanged – everything else about him is different. His facial features are sharper, so are his teeth. Jaskier’s ears are much bigger, elongated and pointed, while his fingernails resemble talons. The fae’s eyes are such a vibrant cornflower blue that they sparkle. His skin, in an olive tone, is also radiant; so much so that it appears as though was touching it. Jaskier is wearing only his boots and trousers (having foregone putting on any upper garment), and all over his hairless chest and arms, there are delicate veins of tiny speckles in all shades of brown and green. Freckles dust Jaskier’s face, too, light blue and beige in colour.

Moreover, there are some parts of Jaskier that haven’t been changed by the glamour – there were actually completely veiled by it until now. Small, sharp-pointed antlers are seated on the top of his head and on his back, there are massive, feathered wings. The feathers are dark brown at the root, just like Jaskier’s hair, but gradually turn beige and then blue at the tip; there’s also a blue-green shine to them.

Everything about the bard screams inhuman, and he exudes fae magic so much that Geralt’s medallion vibrates only because of Jaskier’s proximity. The witcher isn’t alarmed, however. He and Cirilla both admire the magnificent creature before them, unmoving in their awe. Geralt’s eyes roam all over the fae’s form, and the searing gold of his gaze reminds Jaskier of the sun itself. He longs to let himself bask and bloom in the warmth like a flower, or to fly towards it. Jaskier is a fae of the skies after all; his wings can carry him far. (But not far enough. The sun is out of his reach).

“Jaskier, you’re beautiful,” Ciri breathes out as she steps closer towards the bard, her voice full of wonder.

Jaskier smiles softly. “So are you,” he answers, then boops her on the nose.

Ciri giggles and hugs him. Jaskier wraps his arms around her, then his great wings envelop them both, only the fae’s face remaining visible. Geralt hears Jaskier make a deep coo, to which Ciri responds with a chirpy purr.

Jaskier’s gaze drifts up to rest on the witcher and the look in his eyes hardens. The cornflower blue gains a threatening glint but the bright gold doesn’t back down. Geralt wants answers but none are in sight since the bard refuses to talk to him. They continue glaring at each other but then Cirilla wriggles out of Jaskier’s embrace and the tension is broken.

They make camp for the night. Jaskier chatters with Ciri all the while, although he doesn’t reply when she asks why he seems angry with Geralt. Geralt offers no words on the matter too; he finds himself unable to admit to what he has done. Cirilla pouts and whines, as she tends to do when she doesn’t get her way, but the witcher and the bard don’t relent.

In the evening, Jaskier croons a lullaby to put Ciri to a restful sleep. Due to the glamour being gone, his fae powers aren’t restricted by anything, which makes his soft singing even more sweet and charming than it usually is. Cirilla dozes off very quickly but the fae keeps crooning, and Geralt starts getting affected by it too. He feels himself drifting to sleep but doesn’t fight it – it’s like gently easing into calm, quiet and warmth. Suddenly everything he has been missing is there.

Then Jaskier stops. The world turns cold, and Geralt sits up abruptly, comprehension striking him like a lightning.

“Jaskier,” the witcher says. Jaskier’s sparkling eyes lay upon him and before he can think better of it, Geralt blurts out, “it’s you.” He swallows hard. “The blessing of my life, it’s you.”

Jaskier breaks the eye contact, a wry smile twisting his lips. “And yet you run to Yennefer every time,” he murmurs, his tone so bitter that Geralt can almost taste it on his tongue.

The witcher frowns, confused. “Jaskier, what? It’s not–”

“Spare me, Geralt,” the fae cuts in, waving his hand. He sighs, averting Geralt’s gaze, and goes on, “I’ve forgiven you long ago. However, I can’t forget.”

“Let me fix it,” Geralt replies, his voice balancing on the edge of pleading. Jaskier doesn’t react. “Please,” the witcher insists, inching his body closer to the unmoving, unmoved creature. “I want us to be like before. We used to be...”

Happy. The words linger between them, better left unsaid. The air grows thick with the bitter sting of memories – the moments of peace and laughter long gone.

Jaskier slowly looks up at the witcher, his features weary and rueful. “There’s no coming back, Geralt,” he says.

The truth rings out in the silence and Geralt can only fight for breath. His chest constricts, a voiceless scream filling lungs and burning his throat until his eyes begin to prickle. The witcher opens his mouth but no words come out. He can only stare at the beautiful fae he has hurt, self-loathing coiling in his gut.  

“There’s no running away either,” Jaskier adds, pointing at sleeping Ciri with his chin. “I think she’s bound to both you and me.” The fae gets up to sit by the girl’s side and starts caressing her cheek. “My bud-ling,” he says tenderly.  

Geralt understands the sentiment. A small smile lights up his face as he watches Jaskier and Ciri. The moment is quiet and soft, everything basked in the gentle light of the bonfire that makes Jaskier appear even more otherwordly. The witcher commits the sight to memory.

Soon after, Jaskier gets ready to put on his glamour again. When he’s about to leave the campsite, Geralt says, “Just know that I’m sorry.” Jaskier stops in his tracks but doesn’t turn around. Geralt goes on, “I was cruel. You deserve so much better than... me.”

Geralt can’t decide whether he actually hears the whisper of, “Yet it’s only you that I’ve ever truly wanted” or it’s just a trick of his mind and the wind.

When they go to sleep, they lay down on Ciri’s sides. The girl sleeps between them and a feeling of wholeness settles deep into their bones, enveloping them like a warm cocoon. As they both hold Cirilla throughout the night, they feel like they’ve done something right.

***

Jaskier reaches for his travel pack, currently swung over Geralt’s shoulder, but the witcher moves away before he can take it.

“I’ve got it,” Geralt grunts and starts walking ahead, leading Roach by the reins.

Ciri jogs up to Geralt’s side but Jaskier stands in place for a moment more. The witcher has been kind to him in all those small yet grand ways – carrying his travel pack, making sure he eats first after Ciri, letting him ride Roach, and more – and the bard finds it hard not to let the gestures warm his heart too much. His heart is almost fully withered, after all; it would catch fire easily. He can’t allow wishful thinking to spark a disaster.

After Jaskier joins the witcher and the princess, he says, “We’re getting close.”

Ciri nods enthusiastically. “I could feel her,” the girl gushes, “she’s powerful!”

“That she is,” Jaskier agrees because there’s no way to deny it. The sorceress is almost pure Chaos, which, together with the other reason, is why the bard has always found her company hard to bear. Her magic clashes with his Order.

Trees talk to each other and their roots run deep. They know about what’s been happening miles away, and so do birds. When Jaskier, due to Ciri’s relentless insistence, kept asking them about a “lilac woman”, one day they finally answered that they had heard of a woman smelling of lilac and gooseberries. And so, two weeks ago, Ciri made them change their course, claiming that she needed the woman to join them. They had been travelling for a month at that point, and autumn was just around the corner, but there was no arguing with the princess, no matter how much Geralt and Jaskier dreaded meeting Yennefer again.

Jaskier started showing Ciri how to connect with the thrum of life, which allows to experience what plants and animals do in one’s mind eye. They would sit on the ground together, searching for any traces of Ciri’s “lilac woman”, and they soon discovered that nature’s Order was disturbed far away, both by a mighty Chaos-wielding person and a large group of soldiers who kept starting fires. They’ve been following the disturbance ever since despite the danger.

Now it won’t be long until they catch up with her. Geralt and Jaskier try savouring the last moments of calm before the storm. Although nothing between them is sorted, they both find peace in caring for Ciri. The three of them (and Roach) have settled into a rhythm over the past month. The daily travelling routine involves, among other things, Geralt teaching Cirilla self-defence and her learning fae magic from Jaskier. The lessons help the witcher and the bard to get to know the princess better, and vice versa. The girl takes to Jaskier quickly, since she met him before, but grows close to Geralt too. She’s started seeking out Geralt’s attention and affection on her own. The girl even hugs him from time to time, much to the witcher’s astonishment. Jaskier laughs at the frankly adorable look on Geralt’s face every time it happens.

The evening on the day before they find Yennefer, after Ciri falls asleep, Jaskier addresses Geralt, which is something he rarely does nowadays.

“Tell you what,” the bard says apropos of nothing, “in the end, I just find it annoying.”

“What do you find annoying?” the witcher inquires.

“It ‘s always us who want something from her,” Jaskier replies, “not the other way around.”

Geralt huffs a laugh and answers, “Believe me, in this, she needs us more than we need her.”

Geralt says it with so much fondness betraying his deep affection and understanding of Yennefer that only one fibre in his heart stays beating. What else remained alive before now withers.


As dreams crash with reality, harsh truths come to light.

Ciri’s childhood dream comes true in a strange way. The sunny and the cornflower blue man walk on her sides while the lilac woman walks ahead. Geralt and Jaskier don’t hold her hands, however, and there’s nothing pleasant about the current situation, not like it was in the dream. The reality is actually different so much that Ciri isn’t sure whether it should count as the dream coming true at all. 

They found Yennefer after they stumbled upon a camp full of dead bodies – Nilfgaardian soldiers and some of their prisoners who didn’t make it. The violet-eyed sorceress was limping away from the place, alone, covered in blood and dirt, and overall looking half-dead. Geralt jogged up to her and when she noticed the witcher’s approach, she let out a manic laugh.

“Incredible,” she choked out, “I fought my way to freedom but it seems I’m not allowed to enjoy it for five fucking minutes.”

“Yen...” Geralt began but Yennefer wasn’t listening because her gaze landed on Cirilla, who walked up to her with Jaskier.

“Who’s this?” the sorceress asked.

“I’m Ciri,” the girl answered, “Geralt’s Child Surprise.”

Yennefer’s gaze on her was watchful, assessing. Ciri could feel how much Chaos the sorceress wielded, even despite her weakened state, and felt drawn to it. Her violet eyes held a dangerous glint but Cirilla wasn’t afraid.

“Nice to meet you, Ciri,” Yennefer replied softly. She then looked at Geralt and snapped, “I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

After that, she started slowly walking away from them. And so, they have been following her silently. Geralt and Jaskier almost radiate tension and Ciri’s completely at loss. She imagined that this would go in a completely different way, yet now she wonders whether it was meant to happen like this. To show her that dreams don’t, in fact, come true.

Yennefer trips and almost falls. Geralt is by her side in an instant, trying to hold her to help her walk. The sorceress shoves the witcher’s hands away and whispers something furiously. Geralt responds in kind and the two start arguing while Jaskier and Cirilla stand in place, staring at the pair.

“Jaskier,” Ciri says, tugging at the bard’s sleeve to get his full attention, “please tell me, what’s going on?”

Jaskier looks down at her with great sadness in his eyes. “Oh my bud-ling, where do I even begin?”

“Why are they arguing?” Ciri asks.

Jaskier sighs, his shoulders slumping. His gaze drifts to the pair and he answers, “Many years ago, Geralt made a Djin wish to save her life. It bound them together. It’s something Yennefer doesn’t want, as she was given no choice on the matter. Because of the magic, she can’t tell whether her feelings for Geralt are real. Geralt, though, believes his love,” Jaskier’s voice cracks, and Cirilla frowns up at him. The bard’s face is like an unmoving mask and he doesn’t look at her, so she can’t determine the emotion in his eyes. Jaskier clears his throat and goes on, “He believes his love for her to be true. And so, they argue about it. Well, they often argue about other things too. They aren’t exactly good for each other, I’d say.” He pauses, then adds quietly, “Geralt deserves better.”

Ciri blinks, surprised. “Jaskier?”

The bard finally looks into her eyes. Cornflower blue connects with emerald green and suddenly, Cirilla can see. During their travel, she gradually coaxed the bard into sharing some information concerning the resentment between him and the witcher. She was told about a decades-long friendship ended with harsh words and an apology that hasn’t mended the hurt, yet she always had a feeling that Jaskier was not telling the truth. Now she knows that Jaskier’s truth is heartbreak, pain, longing and sorrow, all buried deep, deep down beneath his cheerful facade. The girl gasps as she begins to understand how her insistence to make the dream come true has brought only grief.

“Oh no,” she whimpers, “what have I done?” Tears well up in her eyes as she babbles, “Jaskier, I’m so sorry! I didn’t know, I’m sorry, please don’t hate me, please don’t –”

“Hey, shh,” the bard cuts in, wrapping his arms her, “It’s all right, I promise. I could never hate you.”

Cirilla hides her face in Jaskier’s chest and purrs. She doesn’t know how and why she can make the sound, but what matters is that it makes Jaskier happy when she does it. The bard responds with a pleased, deep coo, and Ciri starts to relax.

Then, birds nearby let out a harsh cry of alarm, startling them both.

“Black sun people!” the forest warns.

“Nilfgaard,” Jaskier breathes out. “Nilgaard!” he shouts and takes Ciri by the hand. They both run to Geralt and Yennefer. “We’re being followed,” the bard says, all frantic, “they’re close!”

Without a word, Yennefer creates a portal that takes them to some beach. When the portal closes behind them, the sorceress collapses to the ground, barely breathing.