“Rescuing a fair maiden, really?” Geralt said.
“The notice had he/him pronouns, so probably not exactly,” Yennefer said, looking at her nails. “And you need the money. Do you want the contract or not?”
Geralt picked it up from the table and smoothed the parchement.
“There’s really very little information here, they say he’s guarded by a dragon?”
“Mmmhmm,” Yennefer said, brushing at a chip in her nail polish that was probably imaginary.
“There’s no dragons out here, the terrains wrong, we’d know anyway.”
“Mmh, intriguing, right? Bet you wanna take that contract now.” Yen hadn’t looked up from her nails.
“Yen, what do you know?” He lashes cast odd shadows across her face in the torchlight.
“Nothing I’m telling you,” she said. Then she summoned a portal and disappeared with a swish of skirts.
Damn. He really was out of money though.
The tower wasn’t imposing or ominous. It wasn’t made of black stone or crooked, no random lightning storms or smoke, it wasn’t even that tall.
“Go away,” the voice came from a throat like a blast furnace and Geralt was staring into the slitted eyes of a mid sized (still big enough to eat him, just in more than one bite) dragon.
“Hello,” he said. “What’s a sky dragon doing in a place like this.” It was his special ‘talking to horses or big animals’ voice.
“Not a sky dragon,” the sky dragon grumbled.
“Yes you are, and what’s weird is that you should be up on some chilly cliff, not in a forest.”
“I’m a dragon, not any special kind. The eat you all up and burn your armor kind.” There was a pout in the voice now.
Geralt scratched one of the snout scales.
“Sure,” he said. The dragon huffed, blue-silver smoke rings curling from the nostrils. No eating occurred.
“I imagine I’m not very good eating,” Geralt said. Most witchers would probably at least give a dragon indigestion. “I also imagine you know something very important about the prince in the tower.”
The dragon, despite having eyes the size of soup bowls, did not meet Geralt’s gaze.
“He’s not even a very important prince, I don’t know why you’re interested.”
“I’d quite like to know why he’s imprisoned in a tower,” Geralt said, although a mental picture was forming. “And why I have a contract to kill both him and the dragon guarding it.”
The dragon pulled back sharply and hissed. A blade thin line of fire, blue and so hot it nearly seared off an eyebrow, missed Geralt by inches.
“Monster hunter,” the dragon said, shifting up on it’s haunches like it was getting ready to pounce. It wasn’t. He could see it in the muscles, they weren’t bunched right. The dragon didn’t want to hurt him, and the eyes just looked sad and kind of resigned.
“Yes,” Geralt admitted, holding up his hands, both currently sword free. “But I don’t want to kill him…or you. Monster hunter, not prince hunter.”
“Dragons are monsters,” the dragon said.
“Only to stupid people,” Geralt replied. “And sheep,” he added as an afterthought. “I want to meet this prince of yours.”
“NONE MAY ENTER,” the dragon said. “NOW LEAVE BEFORE I BURST YOUR EARDRUMS WITH A ROAR”
“You can’t, that’s only earth dragons, they’re all curled up under a mountain somewhere, and they’re certainly never blue.”
“The dragon looked nonplussed. “I’LL SPIT ACID IN YOUR FACE.”
“Swamp dragons,” Geralt said. “Green or yellow and a little smaller.”
“You were raised by humans,” Geralt interuppted.
“Yes you were, otherwise you’d know more. Did the prince raise you? I won’t harm him you know, I only wan’t to talk.”
“NONE MAY ENTER.”
“Yes, you’ve said, but I won’t take him away. I just want to know why people want him dead.” Here Geralt looked the dragon right in the blue eyes, close enough to se the silver flecks in the iris. “Maybe I can help him, help you both.”
The dragon looked away. “Come back at sunset.”
He yelled out for the dragon but it wansn’t there.
“I’m climbing the tower,” he called out. “Don’t flame me, you invited me.” And he clambered up the tower. Coming back down he’d be thankful for the rope he’d brought, because the stones were slick and smooth. He sat on the small windowsill and swung his legs into a room.
It wasn’t a very nice room. It was definitely a prison. small bed, one candle, uneven table and wobbly stool. A young man was sitting on the floor, cradling a lute.
“Are you the prince?” Geralt asked. He hadn’t seen a picture and although he felt silly making sure, he’d feel sillier if he got it wrong.
“Yes, are you the dragon slayer?”
“Witcher,” Geralt said. “And I did’t slay your dragon.”
“He’s not my dragon, he’s my fearsome jailer, keeping me inside this tower.”
“No,” Geralt said. “I doubt it. Show me your eyes.”
“No,” said the prince, not looking up.
“I’ll bet they’re a very pretty shade of blue,” Geralt said. “With silver.”
Blue and silver eyes met gold.
“You knew,” said the prince, swiping dirty, brown hair from his brow.
“You act odd, for a dragon, prince…” he sought the memory. “Julian.”
“Friends call me Jaskier,” said Jaskier. “Although I don’t have many. Just a little bit of dragon blood in the line, barely more than a drop, really, but I just so happen to get all of it. Anyway, I thought all dragons could look human.”
“They can,” Geralt said. “But they’re raised by other dragons, so they don’t act the same. Why are you inprisoned? And why was I sent to kill you.”
Jaskier sighed. “It’s not good, is it, to have a dragon for a son, even if he is your third son and won’t inherit. Father locked me up and had a mage cast a spell. As a dragon I can roam a little, but I can’t climb down the tower as a human, and I’m only human at night, some mishap with the runes as I understand. True love’s kiss breaks the mage’s spell.”
Geralt scoffed. “That pansy stuff never works.”
“It’s just what I was told,” said the prince, shrugging. “Somehow my father got the idea that true loves kiss will also make me no longer a dragon.”
“Not how that works,” Geralt said.
“No,” Jaskier agreed. “But he keeps sending heroes after me hoping they’ll kiss me.”
“The contract said I was to kill both of you.”
“Yes, well, that would also take care of the problem, wouldn’t it?”
“The problem being you?” Geralt said.
“The problem, generally speaking, being me.”
“We’ll break the spell,” Geralt said, although it wouldn’t be that easy.
“And then what? I can’t fight, I’ve no useful skills and nowhere to go. According to you I don’t even make a very good dragon.”
The young man slumped down. “But I’ve been so lonely,” he said. “You know I’ve been here five years? Just me and my lute, I think I’m going mad. You could even be a figment of my imagination.”
“Right,” Geralt said. “Getting you out first, dealing with other problems later.”
“Where am I going to find true love’s kiss?” asked Jaskier. “Do I kiss you?”
“You could try?” Geralt said. He really wouldn’t mind. The prince was whiny and a little dirty but very good looking. “But I was thinking more like, finding the runes and wiping them out.”
“You can just do that?” Jaskier leap to his feet. “They’re right up there,” he pointed among the cieling beams. “I can’t reach them on my own but the two of us…”
Geralt was already lifting the princling onto his shoulders. He didn’t weigh a lot.
“Just a little forward,” Jaskier said, accidentally kneeing Geralt in the chin.
“Hmmm,” he said, to avoid cursing, and shifted forward.
“Thery’re coming off! The runes are wiping away!”
He was loud but Geralt couldn’t blame him, five years was a long time. Although not compared to a dragon’s lifespan.
“They’re gone, I’m free!”
Geralt let the boy down from his shoulders and got a surprisingly tight hug and a very pleasant, extremely enthusiastic kiss.
“Just…you know, covering all my bases,” said the blushing prince. He really was cute.
Geralt carried him down the tower. Delighted, Jaskier turned into a dragon, then back to a human, then a smaller dragon, house cat sized, and perched on Geralt’s shoulder.
“Where are we going now? And what’s your name? Will I meet other witchers? Don’t forget to bring my lute?”
It would probably get old very quickly, Geralt thought. But the company was kind of nice, if a little scaly.