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#warlord au
not1-2write · 7 days ago
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roots, a warlord au ch 8
(ao3 link)
Ciri is waiting for them when they get home. She's waiting outside, where the wards against portaling into the keep don't reach, several strides away from the gates, her hand in Jaskier's, Lambert and Eskel on either side of them both.
She doesn't smell like fear, only relief and joy when she barrels forward and launches herself into Geralt's arms.
"Papa your eye," she cries, small arms wrapping around his neck.
Geralt can only bury his face in her hair and smile, inhaling the joyful scent of a seven-year-old who's outside and not afraid and happy to see her family safe and home once more.
She's here, she's safe, the battle is over and he's home.
"Just a scratch," he assures her, pressing a kiss to her flyaway curls.
"Hell of a scratch," Jaskier says. He keeps his distance for now, giving father and daughter a moment together, but Geralt can smell the relief coming from him as well.
Geralt wants him closer.
Lambert blows right past him without a second look and practically tackles Aiden to the ground. "Figures you'd come back without any new marks on you," he says.
Aiden laughs and hauls him in for a kiss that is borderline indecent, neither of them caring that the Cat smells like smoke and is covered in mud and dust and blood. The other Witchers step around the reuniting pair- or over them when Lambert does finally wrestle his lover to the ground. Yennefer rolls her eyes and kicks them out of her way, skirts lifted to avoid the dirt and grass flying up around them as they roll.
"Missed you too, cutie."
Ciri places both hands on Geralt's face and turns him to look at her. "Is it going to scar? You have a lot of scars."
"I do," he agrees. "It might. We'll see what happens when it closes fully." He hasn't had the time to properly tend to the mark. It very well might scar.
He can't stop stroking his hands through Ciri's hair, can't wipe the smile from his face. She's outside and she's happy about it. No fear, no worry, just pure sunshine happiness radiating off her and joy about her family being complete once more.
Eskel slaps him on the shoulder, gives him a little shake before moving to greet the rest of the Witchers ready to get into the keep and fall into bed or raid the kitchens.
They're all fucking exhausted, hungry and ready for the comforts of home. The battle was long and tiring, White Flame men determined to take land that doesn't belong to them in the name of their false king. They were beaten back but it took days and lots of bloodshed for Geralt and his men to finally send them running. Then there was three days of tending their own wounded, of Geralt marching into Foltest's castle with Yennefer at his side and putting forth the new rules and order.
Foltest still has his kingdom. Geralt's not interested in ruling any more land than he has to but now the king has new allegiances, a freshly signed treaty and a new enemy in Emhyr.
The White Flame is no longer welcome in Temeria- which is now officially protected by the Wolf's armies. They've effectively cut Emhyr off from advancing in any direction. He'll have to go into Malleore or Talgar in order to spread his rhetoric, and they've been sick of him for years. He's finally cut off from spreading further into the Continent, finally stuck in his small corner and is being left there.
And finally, finally, Geralt is home.
Jaskier still hasn't come closer, merely watching Ciri hug her father with a fond smile.
So Geralt goes to him.
"Missed you," he says into Ciri's hair, eyes locked on Jaskier and hoping they both understand.
He hears Jaskier's heart rate spike.
"I missed you too, Papa," Ciri says, snuggling in closer. "I kept an eye on Jaskier like I promised."
"She really did. Wouldn't let me go anywhere alone." Jaskier huffs out a small laugh, eyes sparkling with amusement. His dark circles have faded slightly but he still looks tired. "I felt very safe with a fierce lion cub guarding me the entire time. Knew there wouldn't be any trouble while she was around."
He hesitates, hand stuttering in the air, but slowly- oh so slowly- Jaskier reaches up and gently touches the wound around Geralt's eye. Calloused fingertips trace over the edge of the mark on his cheekbone, sympathy shining in those deep blue eyes.
"Ouch," he says.
He goes to pull away, to pull back but Geralt chases the feeling, tilting his head into the touch, free hand coming up to circle Jaskier's wrist. Even if he couldn't hear Jaskier's heart rate ratchet up he would be able to feel his pulse scrambling under his fingers. It goes wild when Geralt turns his face, nuzzling into the touch and presses his lips to the base of Jaskier's palm.
Oh but the little stuttered breath that escapes Jaskier is delicious, and now Geralt's own Witcher-slow heartbeat attempts to match the pounding beat of Jaskier's.
Ciri bounces on his hip and flings herself down, deserting him to hug Yennefer fiercely.
Jaskier swallows audibly. "You should put some of Triss's salve on that," he says, voice dropped low. He doesn't look away from Geralt. In fact he comes even closer now, even daring to brush his thumb against the stubble that's formed on Geralt's jaw. "It's not a bad scar. Makes you look even more dashing somehow."
"Is that so."
"I didn't think it was possible but here you are." Jaskier bites his lip, tipping his head forward slightly, his nose just brushing Geralt's. "Here you are."
Geralt very nearly hauls him in for a kiss, audience be damned. He's right there, he's inches away, he's in Geralt's arms and is pleased about it- Geralt can smell the happiness coming from him. But there is an audience. They're surrounded by Witchers, Ciri is just a few feet away and Geralt knows that when he finally gets to taste Jaskier he's not going to want to stop at just a taste.
The moment is broken, of course, by Lambert.
"You all fucking smell," he announces. He's got one arm firmly around Aiden's waist, the other reaching out to clap Geralt on the shoulder. "Go bathe."
"They smell better than you," Jaskier says. He still hasn't moved away. Geralt takes full advantage of the closeness and slips an arm around Jaskier's waist, pulling him fully against his chest. Jaskier makes a pleased sound in his throat, his hand dropping from Geralt's cheek to his shoulder. "You've been stomping around the keep all week while they've been stomping through mud and goodness only knows what else and I think they're all cleaner than you are."
"It's my manly musk."
"If that's what you want to call it. I thought it was just an aversion to soap."
Aiden snickers, turning to press a kiss under Lambert's jaw before he untangles himself. "I vote we all take a trip to the hot springs. I could use a good soak."
Jaskier is still tucked against him and Geralt really doesn't want to let him go. So he doesn't. Everyone knows he's interested anyway and Jaskier isn't protesting. He is in fact leaning in and enjoying it so why can't he? He doesn't feel like parting with Jaskier quite so soon. He likes feeling him so close, likes having an arm around Jaskier's trim waist- finally filling out a bit after months of eating with Witchers.
Likes the smell of happiness radiating from him that's quickly taking over everything.
"Will you join us?"
It's been months since Jaskier's leg was healed, the infection finally leaving him after two weeks of healing attempts. He can walk much better now even if he still needs to rely on his cane for longer trips. The leg itself is scarred over, still a touch more thin that the right one and not quite as strong but his range of movement has improved drastically. He walks with a bit of a limp when the pains dig into him but today his movements are smooth and steady.
Jaskier tilts his head, considering it. "I haven't seen these famous hot springs yet. I'd love to." He starts to pull away. "You'd better head down without me. I'm still a bit slow on the stairs."
Geralt tightens his grip. "Together," he says, unwilling to let go of Jaskier just yet. "I'll help you."
Jaskier practically melts against him. His right arm comes up to clutch at Geralt's waist- just long enough to encircle it, enough to hold Geralt as tightly as Geralt is holding him, enough to make Geralt's heart stutter. "All right. Together then."
Gods Jaskier's smile could blot out the fucking sun.
Beside them, Lambert snorts. "Yeah this is real fucking cute and all but seriously, you all smell so fucking bad. Let's go."
Ciri drags Yennefer over, one hand firmly in hers and the other snatching Geralt's again so they're all linked together- Jaskier to Geralt to Ciri to Yennefer- and begins to pull them all inside.
"Lambert, you truly have the heart of a poet."
"I do not. You take that back."
xxx
Jaskier doesn't know what he was expecting when the hot springs were mentioned but it certainly wasn't this. He's had months to picture them and nothing compares to the scene in front of him.
He supposes he was picturing a medium sized room with a few pools in them- nice and calming, probably a little damp and steaming from the natural heat coming from the water. The reality is the undercarriage of the keep seems to span the entire width of the building, several pools of varying sizes dotting the room. They're all connected via small streams of water and appear to be different depths as well.
Vesemir is already in a pool along the far wall, arms stretched out behind him, head resting on the rock wall. Judging from the steam wafting up from the water, he's in one of the hottest pools. Only two other Witchers are in there with him- and one looks a tad too red for comfort.
"Pools on the left are a bit cooler," Geralt says from behind him. He's still got an arm around Jaskier, steering him around the Witchers that are all stripping and clambering over each other to dive into the water. "Hottest ones are on the right."
His leg is a bit peeved about the journey. It's not screaming quite yet but Jaskier has a feeling that he's going to need to sit down for most of the day after making the trip down all the stairs. Getting back up them will be fun, but the soak he's about to have is going to be more than worth it.
Also the view is... spectacular. There are a great number of attractive people and they are all very much naked. Jaskier doesn't know where to look. Should he avoid looking? He's probably not capable of not looking.
Gods above now Geralt is stripping.
He... he should probably also remove his clothes right? Right.
Jaskier tugs his shirt up and off, setting his cane against the wall before moving to tug at the laces of his pants. The seamstress- a lovely woman named Annabeth who has the most gorgeous freckles and charming laugh lines around her mouth and eyes- has offered to make him more clothes if he brings her the fabric he wants but Jaskier's refrained for now. He doesn't want to take something out of the tribute that someone else has an eye on and besides his clothes are just fine for now.
He does have to do laundry more often than most- he might live with Witchers but he's not going to smell like them- and he's never had so few outfits in his life, and certainly not such bland ones before, but it works. He manages. And he has no right to complain. If he wants more clothes he'll get them made. He's got some money saved up now (he was correct, Geralt pays more than a fair wage for a librarian) so he could perhaps, maybe one day make the trip down the mountain to the village and pick out some fabric.
Maybe he'll do that: no taking of cloth from Geralt's tribute, no overworking sweet Annabeth. And he'll have earned the clothes that way. Paid for with his own money, not given to him because he's a noble or handed to him because someone wants him to dress a certain way.
Jaskier manages to distract himself enough that he barely notices all the very attractive naked people around him until he's halfway to a pool in the center that looks like it wouldn't boil him alive.
Ciri streaks past them at a full sprint and jumps, folding herself into a small ball and landing in the water next to Jaskier's pool with a very large splash. Triss and Yennefer yelp and immediately begin splashing her when she surfaces, giggling.
Jaskier is surprised when Geralt slides into the water after him. He thought the Witchers would want the hotter pools.
Lambert plops in with no care about who he splashes or how much, sinking right under the water and scrubbing at his hair before he surfaces.
"How long can Witchers hold their breath?" Jaskier asks. He lathers up the soap and gets to work on his leg, hoping the massage and hot water will loosen the stiffening muscles slightly.
He made the trip down without help, only his cane and Geralt's arm firm around his waist so surely he can make the trip back up without embarrassing himself. Though he wouldn't object to being carried back upstairs if necessary... and if Geralt was the one to carry him.
Geralt's arm around him the entire trip down was wonderfully amazing. Being allowed to have his arm around Geralt as well was astounding.
"He won't drown," Geralt says, splashing his face. He winces slightly when soap gets into the scratch at his eye. "We've tried."
Lambert pops out of the water and aims a glare at Geralt. "I heard that."
Eskel appears behind Lambert and shoves him back under the water with one hand. He holds his brother down and snags a bottle of something with the other. "You've been using my shampoo," he accuses. Bubbles are blown in answer and Eskel sighs, kicking Lambert away.
Lambert is very close to Jaskier when he surfaces this time. "Huh," he says, blinking at a startled Jaskier. "You do have some good scars. That leg is something."
Jaskier hunches ever so slightly. He's not ashamed- there's nothing to be ashamed of with his scars. He has them, they're there and they're always going to be there. He's literally surrounded by a horde of attractive warriors at this exact moment and they are all littered with scars themselves.
Geralt's mark over and under his left eye is... certainly something. It adds character to his already handsome face and it is most definitely working for him.
But Jaskier's scars are still new to him, even though it's been over half a year now. The memories behind them are not good, bad enough to still yank him from sleep with a scream trapped in his throat. At least he mostly wakes with a gasp now, soaked in sweat and panting but no longer screaming.
Ciri hasn't had a nightmare in months. She still occasionally has bouts of sleeplessness but she's got methods to help with that. She'll find whatever Witcher is awake and drag them to the training grounds, or crawl into bed with Yennefer or Geralt, or even come find him in the library if he's awake. She's doing much better- it had even been her idea to go outside the keep and wait for everyone to come home, her hand clinging tight to Jaskier's as they waited for the portal to open.
"Lambert," Geralt growls.
Jaskier swallows. "They're pretty spectacular," he agrees, one hand tracing the visible marks on his chest.
"Eh, they're okay. You want spectacular? Check this out."
And then Jaskier is staring directly at Lambert's ass.
"Oh gods, put that away," Eskel groans. "No one wants to see that!" He slides under the water to rinse his hair and avoid the sight.
Jaskier merely tilts his head and considers the webbing of scarring marring Lambert's right ass cheek. "What in the world did you do?"
Lambert laughs, ducking back down under the water and turning to face him. "Old job on the Path. Got dragged into the water by a kikimora."
"Ass first?"
"Ass first," he confirms. "Hurt like a bitch. Thought I'd lose half my fucking ass that day."
Aiden latches onto Lambert's back and pulls him in to his chest, arms coming up to circle his (also scarred) chest. "Love, stop showing off your ass. You're going to make me jealous."
"It is a nice ass," Jaskier admits, scrubbing at his own hair now. "Too bad it's most of his personality."
Beside him, Geralt chuckles.
Geralt's very nice chest is right there and Jaskier is doing everything in his power not to look at it. Unfortunately he's surrounded by attractive no matter where he looks so he's going to wind up looking at someone. He slips into the water to rinse to avoid it for now and prays that his body behaves. Witchers can smell lust, he knows (thank you for letting that tidbit slip, Lambert) so they all know that he wants Geralt but a physical showing would be... embarrassing.
Geralt can smell it too. Geralt knows. And still Geralt touches him, pulls him close, wraps an arm around his waist. Smiles at him. Presses a soft kiss to his palm like Jaskier is some blushing maiden that warrants a gentle touch.
The gentle touch is more than welcome, always wanted. Jaskier would very much like to get his hands on Geralt as well.
"Oh, we spotted people coming up the mountain," Eskel is saying when he surfaces.
Geralt sighs, drooping into the water until only his head remains dry, the ends of his hair floating in the murky water. "I literally just got home."
"It's a large group of Elves," Eskel continues. He grabs a bar of soap out of Lambert's hands and scrubs at his chest, swatting Lambert's hands away when he tries to get the soap back. "They should be here in a day or two. Aiden, control your man before I fucking drown him."
"Then I'll worry about it in a day or two." Geralt's eyes slide closed. "Right now I just want to soak for a bit."
Two pools over, Ciri shrieks with laughter. There's a mighty sounding splash, then the sound of several people giggling. Geralt doesn't even open his eyes when he smiles.
Jaskier leans back as well, uncaring that his legs are trying to float in the water. They're all scarred and marked up in different ways. It's nothing to be ashamed of- and he's not. Everyone's seen them by now anyways and he's not about to hide them. It's just skin.
Geralt's hand bumps his in the water.
Jaskier doesn't think he's reading this wrong. He might not have a Witcher's sense of smell but he does know when someone is interested in him. Usually he wouldn't hesitate to leap into bed with anyone who so much as crooked a finger at him but Geralt... Geralt is the Warlord of the North. The famed and fabled White Wolf, protector of the people, enemy of the White Flame.
He's a good man, the best man and Jaskier- Jaskier is a librarian. He is- he used to be a Pankratz. Surely there are better people, people with less baggage and more heroic stories behind their scars that would be happy to warm the Wolf's bed.
Jaskier wants more than to fall into bed with Geralt. Oh he's certainly up for it if Geralt ever asks (what, is he going to say no if Geralt invites him into his bed? he's not insane), but he likes Geralt far too much for it to just be sex. And that scares him a bit. He has no chance of claiming Geralt's heart- he knows this and he's most likely going to get his heart broken along the way when Geralt inevitably finds someone better. But...
Jaskier slides his hand over Geralt's, twining their fingers together and pretends the flush on his cheeks is from the heat of the water.
Geralt doesn't open his eyes or lift his head, merely tugs on Jaskier's hand and pulls him in tight against his side, releasing his hand to drape an arm across Jaskier's shoulders instead.
"Aw," Lambert croons. He doesn't move from his position against Aiden's chest. Their hands are tangled together over Lambert's heart and isn't that just the sweetest thing?
Jaskier kicks a wave of water at him and snuggles in. Aiden cackles and wraps Lambert up tightly to avoid him striking back, bending to kiss his lover slowly and coax him into relaxing rather than trying to drown everyone or get drowned himself.
Silence falls in their little pool. Jaskier can hear the sounds of everyone around them, laughing and talking, jeering and even comparing injuries. The smell of soap and shampoo wafts up, water dripping and splashing as people come and go. Ciri is having a blast running and jumping into pools as she pleases. She soaks in a hot pool for as long as she can stand it and then runs to a cooler one and dives in, cooling off before running back to the hot one.
"Don't fall," Geralt orders his daughter, who laughs and keeps running.
He stays curled up against Geralt's side, head resting gently on a broad shoulder. He risks a soft nuzzle. Is rewarded with a deep purring sound reverberating through the wide chest he's propped up against. He does it again, smiling when the sound gets louder.
However Geralt wants him, for however long he's wanted, Jaskier will be happy to be had.
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xxmelancholicworldxx · 4 months ago
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Some things for both the zombie au and the warlord au
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@xxxtoony-brosxxx @ask-elizabendy-the-demon
Lol idk what I'm doing
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belial-the-ink-demon · 5 months ago
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WARLORD AU
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"Are you done?"
getting yelled at and called names doesn't really phase him.
if anything he just gets mildly annoyed
Belial is battle-hardened so insults don't phase him. Plus what can anyone do against a 6'5ft, buff, war general? Punch him? ooooh so scary 😂
A common slur towards Deitros is barbarian or heathen though it's not like they care. If anything Deitrosians just play along spooking the daylights out of foreign civilians who dare throw insults at Deitrosian soldiers who couldn't give two sh*ts.
@warlordau
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watermelon-chan · a year ago
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Warlord Ace and how he could be More Cowboy
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on-a-lucky-tide · 9 months ago
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The Witcher King
Part gift for/part collaboration with @cylin-aka-ankamo.
1238 - Geralt is born out of wedlock to the King of Rivia and the sorceress Visenna. A raven-haired sorceress curses Geralt in revenge for the king's murder of her lover (and his queen), Kalis.
1248 - Meve, aged 16, marries Reginald. (Geralt is 10).
1249 - Reginald the Courageous becomes King of Rivia and Lyria. (Geralt is 11).
1251 - Villem and Anséis are born. (Geralt is 13).
1254 - Banquet of Cintra and Geralt claims the Law of Surprise. (Geralt is 16)
1256 - Geralt becomes known as the Butcher of Blaviken. (Geralt is 18); Eskel ascends the throne of Kovir and Poviss.
1257 - Eskel reunifies Kovir, Poviss and surrounding principalities.
1258 - Eskel conquers Kaedwen.
1259 - Reginald dies; Geralt marries Eskel. (Geralt is 21)
From his death bed, Reginald the Courageous mapped out the future of his kingdom. His sons were still too young—too weak—to take the throne, so he left his beloved wife, Meve, as regent. There were rumblings from the south of Nilfgaard’s mobilisation—a war economy gaining momentum, training grounds flooded with new soldiers, an emperor hungry for expansion and the power that came with it—and the Witcher King had subjugated Kaedwen in the north. Lyria and Rivia were in desperate need of allies lest they become another footnote in the history of the Continent.
Nilfgaard demanded too much and would use any foothold it gained to further its own power, but there were rumours that the Witcher King had no interest in conquest unless he was first threatened. Henselt had grown arrogant and tried to use the frailty caused by the Secession of Poviss to expand his borders, only to fall foul of the Witcher King’s might. Yet, when Djikstra of Redania went calling for funds, the Witcher King honoured the neutrality of his forebears and sent the spymaster away empty-handed. His apparent lack of ambition for personal gain married with his formidable military acumen made him the perfect ally. For this reason, Reginald decreed that his brother-in-law, Geralt of Rivia, should be sent to become his consort.
And so it begins...
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theofaron · a month ago
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more warlord au art for the GUYS
Kirril and Kaeler is Sarge’s. Iros is mine.
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morikron · 17 days ago
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more warlord stuff, Cayne + Iros
Cayne belongs to sarge
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kaer--morhen · 9 months ago
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not super big on the warlord au but something that does make me laugh is other kingdoms trying to interact with the witchers and sending big fancy gilded elaborately written Official Letters and treaties and such and getting back a ratty piece of parchment that just says "yeah ok"
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gwimm · 5 months ago
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Kinda Wanting to make a comic skit where all the generals gathering In Hall Councils of World Peace. Aka HCWP. It's a Gathering of all war generals around the globe to disscuss about wars and etc.
I kinda wanna also make a story how they met and such I just thought it would be funny XD.
That's actually how the Au works basically like adding stories like the Mafia au and suchs.
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elfyourmother · 7 months ago
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so my take on warlord au:
Gisele is actually from Ul’dah, for simplicity’s sake, so no isekai business (it’s complicated enough)
she’s still an omni-mage and Dancer but that’s it, and she was plucked from a pleasure house when the Echo surfaced in her. she became a priestess of Nald’Thal and trained to become a powerful sorceress.
Raubahn, the Immortal Bull, is the Warlord who rules Ul’dah, and for political reasons took Gisele as his concubine, though they are very much in love. She is his Left Hand, while Ilberd the Black Griffin—his old comrade/lover from before the days they were forced to fled the Black Wolf who conquered their homeland—is the Right. Gisele’s Raubahn’s key to maintaining power among the various warring factions in the desert because they are all scared shitless of her. Rightfully.
At a feast held to renew ties between Raubahn and the other Warlords (the Horned Queen of the Black Shroud and the Storm Queen of the White Isle), Ilberd betrays him, and Gisele is exiled to die in the frozen highlands of Coerthas, believed to be a haunted land of dark mysteries, one from which few have ever returned. Coerthan Warlords are thought to be monstrous even by this World of Barbs’ standards. She’s found half freezing to death by Haurchefant of the Sanguine Mare, High Warlord of Dragon’s Head.
and then…stuff happens
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handwrittenhello · 9 months ago
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sweet little lies
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Rating: M Warnings: Assassination attempts, poisoning, bombing Relationships: Geralt/Jaskier/Yennefer Word Count: 6.2k Summary: “He’s very…” Geralt trailed off, arms crossed. "Pretty?” Yennefer finished for him, appraising the man in front of her. He seemed entirely unconcerned about his state of near-nudity, and even less concerned about the fact that the entire court was ogling him, including the Warlord of the North and her right-hand man. “Thank you,” the man said, bowing deeply. “I do try.” -- When Yennefer of Vengerberg, Warlord of the North, receives Jaskier as tribute, she doesn't trust him—the rumor is that assassins and spies are trying to infiltrate her court. And despite being sent unwillingly, Jaskier seems perfectly happy—too happy—to be there. As tensions with the bordering country of Rivia grow stronger, she must beware, and figure out who she can truly trust.
or, yet another warlord au (but with warlord yennefer this time), inspired by @inexplicifics! read here on ao3.
“He’s very…” Geralt trailed off, arms crossed.
“Pretty?” Yennefer finished for him, appraising the man in front of her. He seemed entirely unconcerned about his state of near-nudity, and even less concerned about the fact that the entire court was ogling him, including the Warlord of the North and her right-hand man.
“Thank you,” the man said, bowing deeply. “I do try.”
He did indeed try, judging by how heavily his face was made up and by the numerous precious metals and jewels that adorned his ears and fingers and even one nostril. Yennefer didn’t think she’d ever seen more piercings in her life. The wealth the stranger wore on his body was simply astounding. Besides the more conventional jewelry, he also wore a shirt—if one could call it that—of fine gold chains interlaced, studded intermittently with shimmering gems. He wore no trousers, only a sheer wrap accentuated by a belt, made of yet more fine chains entwined. Finishing the ensemble were golden cuffs around his wrists—the entire outfit seemed to subtly shout prisoner, in fact, when she looked for it.
“And who sent you?” she asked, her voice ringing clear through the hall.
“I come to you as a gift, courtesy of King Vizimir of Redania,” the man replied, sinking into another low bow. “Julian Alfred Pankratz, Viscount de Lettenhove, Master Bard, and Esteemed Courtesan, at your service, my lady.” He made no mention of his own involvement in the matter, Yennefer noted darkly. She would not take slaves, expensive tribute or not.
But to publicly refuse such a gift would show blatant disfavor, and may spark an unwanted war. “You may tell King Vizimir I accept his gift,” she told the messenger who had accompanied Master Pankratz. “And you,” she turned to Pankratz, “may come with me.” She turned and left the hall, trusting him and Geralt both to follow her.
Whispers rose up in her wake, titters at what she might do with the new esteemed courtesan, but she ignored them. One did not become Warlord of the North by caring what courtly gossip featured oneself.
She pushed open the doors to her room, Pankratz just behind her, and Geralt, silent, bringing up the rear. He was good at that sort of thing—protecting her, always, and always with the taciturn seriousness most knew him for.
Only few knew what truly lurked beneath the surface. She was privy to more than most—as her right-hand man, bodyguard, and occasional lover, he let her see more than most. She could see a hint of it peeking out through his stony exterior now—he was disturbed, unsettled, though she couldn’t tell the cause.
She sat herself in her customary armchair by the hearth, Geralt taking a place looming behind her, and after Pankratz hesitated, she directed him to the armchair across from her. He sank into it quickly, giving the ridiculous impression of a puppy aiming to please its master. She rolled her eyes.
“We can drop the bullshit,” she stated plainly, and his eyes widened. “Do you truly wish to be here? Speak truly.”
He swallowed. “My lady, it is truly the greatest honor to be in your presence—” he began, but Yennefer cut him off with a look.
“I said no more pretty lies. I have enough of those in my court—I don’t need you adding to that pile of shit.” There was little more she despised than venomous intentions disguised. The best attack was one that could be anticipated.
“Very well, my lady. Though it is true I did not come here willingly—” Geralt stiffened at that, his hand going reflexively to the hilt of his sword, though Yennefer gave no outward indication of her disgust. “—I did not come here willingly, but, having found myself in your court, I find that there is little else I could wish for. In truth, I would much prefer here to whence I came.” He said the last bit in a black tone, hinting at some strife Yennefer knew not of.
“Well, I would give you the option, then,” Yennefer replied. “You may leave, if you so wish—I will supply you with enough to get by until you can establish yourself, wherever you may choose to go. I hear Toussaint is nice this time of year.” Pankratz smiled. “Or you may remain in my court, but know this—I tolerate no treachery, no spies, of any sort.” She leaned in close; the smile dropped from his face. “If I discover that you’ve been sent as some foreign agent to engineer my demise—” she locked eyes with him “—your demise will not be swift.” She spoke the last words softly, so softly, but plenty intelligible in the absolute silence of the room. “But you’ll wish it would be.”
Pankratz gulped.
“Have I made myself clear?” she asked, leaning back, releasing him from the uncomfortable closeness.
“Crystal, my lady,” he answered, smiling shakily. “And, if it’s all the same to you, I would rather not try my luck out there. Much easier to earn my keep at the luxury of the court.”
Yennefer wasn’t surprised by the attitude; clearly this was a man well accustomed to luxury. “Very well. And how do you plan to earn your keep?”
“Well, my lady,” he began, voice dropping into a sultry register. “You’ll find that I’m quite good with my fingers and tongue, as it were.” He slid from his chair, somehow managing to make it look effortlessly elegant, and shuffled closer to her on his knees. Geralt stiffened; Yennefer waited for Pankratz to dare touch her. But no touch was forthcoming, despite the strange flutter of arousal in her stomach that spoke to how she almost wanted him to try.
“Presumptuous of King Vizimir,” was all she replied. “And what if I have no need of a bedwarmer?”
Pankratz sat back on his heels. “Well, I have other talents. I studied at Oxenfurt—you may also hear me called Jaskier the Bard, at your service,” he said, giving a little half-bow, all he could manage in a kneeling position. “I would sing of your victories for all to hear and be warned, lest the—the Raven Storm come to batter down their doors!” He punctuated his sentence with a grand gesture, one that nearly knocked him off balance.
“No.”
“N-no, my lady?” Jaskier questioned, his arms dropping. “I can come up with something else, if you don’t like the name—"
“It’s not the name,” Yennefer said dismissively. “It’s the exaggeration. I’ve already told you, I value honesty alone. I won’t have any pretty ballads hiding bastard truths.”
Jaskier looked as though he wanted to argue, but wisely held his tongue. To soften the disappointment, Geralt came around and offered him a hand up. Jaskier took it, and also took a moment to stare appreciatively at Geralt. He was lucky she wasn’t the jealous type—she could have his head for it.
“You may stay,” she declared. “You need not pay for it in my bed, though if you do truly mean what you say, then we can discuss your… talents, as it were. For now, Geralt will find you rooms of your own and show you around the palace. You may have the rest of the day to acclimate, though I expect you in the dining hall tonight at sundown.”
It was a clear dismissal. “Thank you, my lady, you’re too kind,” Jaskier said as Geralt led him out of the room.
“No flattery,” she reminded him, but they were already gone.
Jaskier settled into life at her court like a duck to water. He did indeed have a talented tongue and fingers—which he proved the first time he sang for them, with a lute to accompany it. He bounced around the room, capturing the attention of all he met—he was impossible to ignore, loud and bright as he was, bedecked in jewelry.
Geralt had tried to offer him clothes when he first settled into his rooms, but Jaskier seemed more than content to prance around nearly naked. Geralt hated it—he complained to her, one night, that Jaskier was too distracting, pulling Geralt’s attention away. He took his duties very seriously—formerly a knight of Rivia, he now devoted himself to her with the same near-religious fervor, taking her protection upon himself.
It was sweet, if a little misguided. She could protect herself just as well, but it was nice knowing that he was there behind her, always ready to support her if she faltered.
“I don’t like it, Yen,” he said to her, late one night, as the fire burned down to embers in the hearth. They were curled side by side in her bed, sweat cooling on their damp bodies, Geralt occupying himself by playing with strands of her hair. “Unrest in Rivia is growing stronger—we could have a revolt on our hands before the harvest.”
“I’m not worried about Rivia,” Yennefer replied, waving a hand lazily. “Little more than whispers on the wind. King Reginald, gods spit on his soul, has too few supporters left to be any real threat. The rest either died with him in the coup or fled like the cowards they were.”
“I’m serious, Yen. Word on the street is that there’ll be an attempt on your life before the year is out.” A furrow creased his brow, his fingers growing tense in her hair. Gently, she disentangled them before lacing their fingers together.
“Is that not what I have you for?” she asked, a smile quirking her lips. He worried too much—his consternation was almost cute. “Relax. If any assault comes, we’ll be well prepared for it.”
“It won’t be anything as obvious as an attack on the city. Rivian forces are smart—they’ll send spies, or assassins, or both. You wouldn’t even see it coming.”
“If it will make you feel better, then you may begin vetting those in the court you find suspicious,” Yennefer relented.
Geralt hummed, his eyes slipping closed in satisfaction. She too closed her eyes, but the thought nagged at her—did she trust everyone in the palace? Most of them she’d known for decades—they’d worked under King Demavend with her, and had helped her overthrow him when he became too cruel to stand. She’d rewarded their loyalty with a place at her side, and they’d remained trustworthy through the years.
There had been few new arrivals since then—Geralt himself was among them, having joined her during the Coup of Rivia. And of course there was their newest arrival, Jaskier.
He seemed perfectly content in his new role. She had to admit it suited him well—he loved attention, and got it in spades when singing or when draped seductively next to her throne. He made good decoration, though she had yet to negotiate a more intimate role with him. She never held back from staring, though—and though he often caught her, he seemed pleased more than anything else.
Was he too comfortable here? It was true, he had settled in remarkably quickly—did he have a hidden purpose? But what use would King Vizimir have for a spy in her court, especially one as useless as Jaskier? He wasn’t present at any strategy meetings, or even privy to her company more than most. Perhaps he was an assassin biding his time?
Yennefer huffed. This was how paranoia set in—whispers and rumors crept in and set the mind aflame with possibilities until it drove itself mad. She resolutely cleared all thoughts of betrayal from her mind and tried to sleep.
Geralt commenced his investigation as soon as he was able, but Yennefer heard little else from him about it. She assumed that meant the search for traitors was proving unfruitful.
She interrupted him one day with a task at the southern border—there were reports of skirmishes breaking out, most likely bandit attacks. He departed with a promise to return by the month’s end, and she watched him leave with a pit in her stomach.
It wasn’t the first time they’d parted—so why was her stomach twisting so? Why were her instincts screaming that it would all go wrong?
There was nothing to worry about. She needed to take her mind off it, that was all. She went back into the palace and headed for the southern wing—where Jaskier’s rooms were.
“My lady Yennefer!” he greeted her happily, springing from his writing desk upon her entrance. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” Then he paused, frowned. “Where’s your shadow? I can’t hardly think of a time I haven’t seen him hovering menacingly over your shoulder.”
“He’s away for the time being.” She motioned him closer, and he went as if reeled in by a fishing line.
“Luckily you still have me,” he replied, biting his lip. He was yet unsure of his advances—good. She would keep him on his toes.
“And would you give yourself to me?” she asked, stepping even closer, until there were scant few inches between them. “Let me have you?”
“In a heartbeat, if my lady so wished,” he breathed, leaning in. She didn’t wait for his lips to brush hers; she surged forward at once, attacking with brutal efficiency. The kiss was more a clash of wills than anything tender. To her delight, he didn’t simply let her plunder his mouth, but gave as good as he got, hands coming up to clutch at her dress. She pushed him away, and his face split with confusion until she pushed him again, back onto the bed. His hands fisted in the covers as she climbed on top of him, finding the clasps that would free him from the confines of the chains that draped over his body.
Soon she had stripped the gold and gems from his body, and at some point her own clothes had disappeared as well, and finally she was free to take him how she wished. He was a good lover, enthusiastic and skilled—his talents truly were as good as he’d made them out to be.
Her only point of contention came near the end, when he began to murmur sweet nothings into her hair, praising her and begging in turn. Even after, when they lay panting atop the sheets, he continued to weave pretty lies, complimenting her prowess and beauty until she rolled over and pinned him down.
“What have I said about lying?” she bit, but there was no real heat to it.
“And as I’ve told you a dozen times, I speak nothing but the truth,” he replied, “but if you wish my silence, well—I suppose you’ll have to find a way to shut me up.” He grinned.
She was gratified to see that he was no longer the deferential pretty thing that had been gifted to her, but had instead grown into his role here and thus felt comfortable enough to tease and prod.
In fact, as the days passed and they spent more time together, he turned downright annoying, at times, whining about how cruel silver was to his skin—did she know that he was one sixty-fourth fae? How it itched so—but gold didn’t go as well with his complexion, and really, he should be wearing sapphires, not rubies, since they brought out the blue of his eyes better…
Yennefer tolerated it with confused amusement for all of one day before she took his suggestion and found ways to occupy his mouth, just so that the inane chatter would stop.
She was almost disappointed when the day that Geralt would return drew near. She looked forward to his triumphant return, of course, but she was apprehensive of how he would react to her getting so close to Jaskier in his absence. She was lucky that she didn’t have to contend with jealousy from him—he simply wasn’t the type—but nor did she want him to distance himself from her, afraid of intruding on something new.
And though she’d succeeded, for the most part, at distracting herself from his absence, she couldn’t shake the sense of dread that still came over her at odd times when she thought of him. He was plenty capable; there was nothing to worry about, she knew, and yet that didn’t stop her traitorous heart.
As the days passed, however, with no sign of his imminent return—not even a letter—she knew her worry was well-founded. On the second day of the new month—two weeks since she’d last seen him—she resolved to ride to the border with all the forces she could gather.
Jaskier worried at her departure—“My lady, you would leave the palace so defenseless?”—but she would not be swayed.
“You’ll be fine. The city can protect itself; you need not worry about a thing.”
“It’s not myself I worry for,” he replied flatly, a moue of displeasure overtaking his face. He didn’t grace her bed that night, and she resolutely told herself she wasn’t bothered.
The sun rose early, and she with it, saddling her horse and donning her armor. The air held a chill, heralding the coming of autumn, though it was unusual so early in the season. As the morning mists in the fields began to burn off, she and her forces rode out, heading south.
They were scarcely a mile away from the palace when she spotted something on the horizon. She called them to a halt, sending ahead scouts to report on what the disturbance was. They returned in short order, shouting joyously—Knight Geralt was returned, unharmed, though he’d lost his men in the interim.
“Yen,” he greeted her warmly, pulling short his ill-tempered mare as he approached. She seemed especially ornery today, hardly responding to his commands, but Yennefer supposed that after weeks on the road, she would be ornery too. “Sorry I’m late.”
“You should be,” she answered, but couldn’t maintain her anger for long, not upon seeing him safe and whole. “What took so long? And where are the men who accompanied you?”
He frowned. “They’re not back yet? I’d thought they’d arrive first.”
“No, we’ve heard nothing since you left. What happened?” It was unlike Geralt to leave his men behind—his sense of chivalry demanded otherwise.
“It wasn’t bandits at the border—it was Rivian insurgents making trouble. Easy enough to mop up, but in the fight, I got separated. Ended up having to lay low for a few days in Spalla. I gave the men instructions to return to Vengerberg if anything went wrong.”
“Do you think they’re still out looking for you?” Damned loyalty. While she valued it, it often proved to be quite the pain in difficult situations.
“Could be. We ought to send another team out, round them up.” She was grateful that he didn’t suggest going back to look for them himself—she would have expected that from him, stubborn as he was, but she wasn’t ready to lose him again so soon.
She motioned over the captain of her guard, Ivenka. “Take your best fighters and track down our poor wayward soldiers.”
“Yes, my lady,” Ivenka replied. The party split; Yennefer and Geralt led the rest of the forces back to Vengerberg.
Upon their return, Jaskier launched into a rousing song of victory—if he was surprised to see them back so soon, he didn’t show it. Geralt bore the attention as he always did, with an uncomfortable grimace. Once the commotion settled, Yennefer pulled Geralt into her rooms for a full report on what he’d found at the Rivian border.
“The talk of insurgence was right. A resistance has formed, with more support than we thought. King Reginald had more friends than we knew.” Geralt delivered the bad news with no inflection, which was how Yennefer knew it was a grave matter indeed.
“A resistance? How strong would you say? Have they any support from the commonfolk?” That was how battles were won, Yennefer knew—it all depended on the attitude of the peasantry. If their favor had shifted against her, they could expect full-blown war within the year.
“Not yet, though they’ve changed the minds of a few. More than anything they’ve sown dissent—talk of crop shortages, of trade disturbed. Trying to make you out to be just as bad as Reginald.”
Yennefer cursed. “We need to head this off before it grows any worse.”
“Parley? They might be open to discussion—this incursion may have been a way to get our attention.”
Yennefer nodded. “Send a messenger at once,” she instructed.
Geralt inclined his head in acquiescence and left her to her thoughts.
He had been right about the coming rebellion—was he also to be believed about the rumored attempts on her life? She would have to keep her guard up.
They received the Rivians a few nights hence at a banquet, meant as both a display of wealth and numbers. The entire court was assembled, and the visiting party arrived wide-eyed and trying to hide it.
Yennefer herself was seated upon her throne in full gilded plate armor—everything but a helmet. Geralt stood beside her, arms crossed, a scowl writ upon his face, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. And on her other side, draped across the arm of the throne, was Jaskier, in his finest jewels and with a full face of makeup, not looking even a bit vulnerable though he wore almost nothing.
“Yennefer of Vengerberg,” the man leading the visiting party said, inclining his head in lieu of a bow. Beside her, Jaskier narrowed his eyes. “I am Gudros of Scala, and accompanying me are Velah of Hawksburne and Ozrias of Scala.” He gestured to the two behind him, who had so far stood silent and still, their expressions unreadable beneath their helmets.
“Vengerberg welcomes you,” Yennefer announced. “You may partake of food and rest from your journey. Once you’ve had your fill we may retire for more formal talk.” Gudros bowed his head again, and the feast resumed.
“I don’t like this,” Geralt murmured, barely audible over the voices and instruments overlapping in the hall. Yennefer glanced up at him—he looked torn, lips pursed and hands clenching and unclenching into fists.
“Keep an eye on them for me?” she replied. He nodded and slipped away—Yennefer looked forward to his report on what they were saying.
She was so intent on watching the Rivians that she hardly noticed it when an attendant approached with a tray carrying goblets of wine. “Milady,” he greeted, offering her a glass. She reached out to take it, but was beaten there by Jaskier, who snatched it out of the attendant’s hands before she could.
He grinned cheekily at her—this was almost too bold. She’d have to put him in his place later tonight. But she let him have it and reached for her own goblet, just as Jaskier took a sip of the wine.
The smell hit her nose as soon as she raised the glass to her lips. It was hardly detectable, but she’d learned a thousand and one ways under King Demavend’s reign to brew poisons—she recognized instantly the characteristic sour odor it held, the way it slid, oily, down one’s throat, the way it burned from the inside out.
She threw the goblet to the floor, heedless of the way that it shattered into a million pieces. “Geralt!” she screamed, wrenching Jaskier’s goblet from him—though it was already falling from his stiff fingers, his eyes bulging and his face reddening in mere moments.
Geralt appeared at her side instantly, as if he’d never left. Seeing Jaskier in trouble, he threw the consort over his broad shoulders and followed Yennefer as she fled to her old workshop—Goddess willing, she would still have enough ingredients to prepare an antidote, though it had been years since she’d set foot there.
The doors flew open under her hands, dust swirling about the room and cobwebs shuddering in the sudden breeze. Yennefer drew on the spark of chaos buried deep inside her, hardly used, but called forth in full force now. The torches flared to life at once, jars and pots flying off the shelves into her hands.
Geralt laid Jaskier down on the worktable in the middle of the room, now wheezing and coughing, spittle flecking his lips. “Yen,” he tried to wheeze, but she paid him no mind. She needed every ounce of concentration to prepare the antidote, something she hadn’t done in years.
“Mistletoe… wartweed… ground lichen…” she muttered, adding each ingredient in turn. The potion began to bubble, a haze descending on the workshop as it released puffs of smoke.
“Yen, he's not breathing,” Geralt called, and she cursed, stirring faster. Finally, finally, the sickly shade of green gave way to a deep turquoise, and then a solid blue. She rushed to Jaskier’s side, forcing his mouth open with one hand and pouring the antidote down his throat.
He convulsed, and, sensing that he was about to spit it up, she clamped his mouth and nose shut, putting her full weight into holding him down as his limbs juddered and jerked. But with no other choice, he eventually swallowed, his throat spasming under her harsh grip, and then he went abruptly lax.
She took her hands away, letting him breathe—it was a long, tense moment of waiting before he took an easy breath, no wheeze present. Yennefer breathed too, the tension lifting from her shoulders.
Jaskier’s eyes fluttered open. His gaze flitted around the room for a moment, landing first on Geralt and then on herself. “Yen,” he said urgently, struggling to sit up. “You’re alright?”
“Of course I am,” she snapped. “I’m not the idiot that drank poison.”
“Oh, thank the gods,” he sighed. “I mean, I had a suspicion, but I didn’t want to die for nothing—”
Yennefer froze. “You had a suspicion?”
“Well, yes,” he answered, frowning. “I highly doubted the Rivians were here under good intentions, and as Geralt has been saying, an attempt on your life was bound to come sooner or later, so—”
“You knew it would be poisoned, and yet you drank anyway? Why the fuck would you do that, Jaskier?” She dug her nails into the tabletop, itching to wring them around his neck.
What sort of fool would knowingly drink poison? Only the braindead or suicidal, and while Yennefer did hold his sanity in question at times, it still didn’t make sense.
He blinked. “Do you really have to ask? It’s as I’ve told you a thousand times in a thousand ways.”
No. No, he couldn’t mean—
“I love you, Yennefer of Vengerberg. I would, in fact, die for you, as we’ve proven.” He grinned. “Don’t say I never live up to my promises.”
While, yes, he’d said as much before, it still stunned Yennefer to hear it said so blatantly, and with such tangible commitment. She’d thought them pretty lies, the fanciful words of a jester that wanted only to flatter his lord.
Unable to come up with a response, she turned and fled. If she stayed in that room, she might end up saying or doing something she would later regret—whether that was wring his fool neck or have him right there on the table, she would never know.
So caught up was she in whirling thoughts of truth and lies, she didn’t notice Geralt was following her until she was nearly to her rooms. “I don’t want company right now, Geralt,” she said tersely, whirling around.
“We need to talk,” Geralt replied, stepping closer. “The Rivians—”
“Leave me alone!” she snarled, which was enough to make him pause, giving her time to dart into her rooms and slam the door behind her. She locked them with a fierce finality, relishing the heavy click that signified she was alone with her thoughts. She pressed her back to the door and her hands to her eyes, seeing the stars that burst behind her eyelids from the pressure.
If she could have but a moment to think, to sort out the mess of thoughts churning in her mind—but no, even now, she could hear raised voices, shouting, the clang of steel on steel. What kind of leader was she, cowering in her rooms like a confused animal, simply because of an ill-timed, unexpected confession of love?
She straightened her armor and drew her swords before opening the door and heading out to face whatever chaos lay in wait. As she grew closer, the voices grew more panicked, and she hurried her steps along until she was nearly running.
Jaskier came stumbling out of her workroom, looking worse for the wear and confused, searching for the source of the commotion the same as she was. “Go lie down,” she snapped. “I just saved your life. I don’t need you undoing all my hard work.”
“But what’s happening? Where’s Geralt?” he asked, craning his head. Then he spotted the swords she carried. “What do you need those for?”
She started to reply, and then—
An explosion. All-consuming, fiery hot, ripping her eardrums apart. She flew backwards and hit the wall, stunned. Through blurry vision, she saw Jaskier tossed like a ragdoll, slumped opposite her, bleeding from the temple.
Her ears were ringing; she blinked. Chunks of stone rained down on her like hailstones, a fine white powder covering everything in a thin layer of dust.
Slowly, slowly, her vision stabilized and her hearing began to return—the first thing she heard were screams.
Her people—she had to help her people. She tried to struggle to her feet, but it was as if her limbs were encased in plaster. She looked down and saw that a large chunk of stone was pinning her legs to the ground—with monumental effort, she lifted it off herself, grunting. She closed her eyes and breathed, in, out, and then staggered upwards.
She checked on Jaskier first—he had a head wound, bleeding profusely, but nothing more serious than that. She clumsily slapped his cheeks a few times until he roused, groaning, eyes squinting shut.
“Are you alright?” she shouted, her own voice hardly reaching her ears. He nodded, eyes still closed, and she left him to recover. Staggering into the hall, she took in the sight before her—it was as if a bomb had gone off, and maybe it had.
The entire hall was bathed in sepia-toned light, the torches guttering in and out in the wake of the blast. Chunks of stone and broken pieces of furniture littered the floor, which had fallen through to the dungeons below. To her surprise and immense thankfulness, there were few bodies—perhaps they’d had advance warning and had fled, screaming.
Four people stood in the middle of it all—she recognized Gudros, flanked by Ozrias and Velah. The fourth had hair as white as bone—“Geralt?” she called, and he slowly turned around. Wrong, wrong, wrong, all her senses screamed.
“Not quite.” He laughed, a chilling sound, unlike Geralt’s own rare laugh in every way. She knew then—this wasn’t Geralt. This hadn’t been Geralt for a good while.
“When?” she asked, though she knew exactly when. It had been that damned trip to the border. “Who are you? Really?”
“We are the rightful leaders of a free Rivia, and we would see her prosper once more, no longer under your bloody banner!” Gudros cried. “You have bewitched Rivia’s citizens. We’ll not see you reign any longer!”
“I’ve bewitched no one,” Yennefer snapped. “If you speak of your loyal knights turning against you—that was your king’s own doing, with his wicked deeds and cruel heart.”
“No! Geralt of Rivia was a good man—we’ll break whatever spell you’ve placed on him, right after we parade your desecrated body through the streets!”
Not-Geralt smiled, all teeth, and dropped the illusion—suddenly, he had changed forms, and now appeared as Yennefer herself. “You’re a doppler,” she said, teeth gritted. “What stake have you in this fight?”
“I’ve lived a long life, you know. To tell you the truth, I’ve grown rather bored with it—and what better game to play than this?”
“You’re sick,” Yennefer spat. “You’ve aligned yourself with murderers and oathbreakers.”
“Would you have me align myself with you, Kingslayer?” the doppler purred. “I see it all, you know—I’m in your head. I see how you kill, and lie, even to yourself.”
With a wordless yell of rage, Yennefer threw herself at the doppler, who met her swords with a sword of its own. It was an even match—perfectly even, with all her skill as a fighter reflected back at her. And with the other three Rivians advancing, it looked to be a quick end for her.
Her people would die, and Jaskier would be captured and most likely enslaved, and Geralt would remain captive to those who believed him brainwashed, subject to tortures as they attempted to break whatever enchantment they believed lay over him. And she would be brought up as an example, her dead body held up to the world to say: this is what happens to those who fight back.
She dodged the first swipe of Gudros’ sword, but it left her open for the doppler to press her back, putting her off-balance. Her foot caught on a chunk of rubble and she teetered backwards, falling to the ground, the doppler pouncing on her at once.
“Here lies the Raven Storm; blustered herself out, little stronger than a gust of wind at the end,” the doppler cackled. Yennefer looked into its eyes—her eyes—and braced herself for the end.
And then a chain looped around the doppler’s neck, choking, burning. The skin beneath the silver links smoked and cracked, blackening, the doppler’s hands scrabbling uselessly at the chain and burning too.
Yennefer looked up to see Jaskier standing tall behind the doppler, one of his many decorative body chains in his hands, his face creased in furious fierceness. Yennefer pushed the doppler off of her, rolling to the side just in time to avoid yet another blow from Gudros. She yelled inarticulately and stabbed upwards, piercing his gut through. Without bothering to check if he was dead, Yennefer turned to Velah and Ozrias, both of whom were advancing on Jaskier, swords drawn.
“Behind you,” she shouted, and he ducked a swipe meant to behead him. She darted over and shoved Velah away with a kick to the side, and in the same motion brought her sword up to parry Ozrias’ next strike. Behind her, she heard the doppler let out a guttural noise and collapse—hopefully dead—and out of the corner of her eye she spotted Jaskier trying to avoid Velah’s wildly swinging sword. He barely dodged the last one, and earned himself a neat score along his cheek, blood pouring forth from the small wound.
Luckily, Ozrias proved to be a rather weak swordfighter, and she killed him with a swift dodge and counterattack, cutting off his head in one swift motion. She threw herself in between Jaskier and Velah just in time, handily disarming her while Jaskier cowered and yelped behind her.
Pointing her sword straight at Velah’s throat, Yennefer demanded, “Where is he?”
Velah threw her hands up. “He’s in Spalla. Please, don’t kill me.”
Yennefer narrowed her eyes. “You hurt what’s mine.”
“Please, mercy—” She didn’t finish; she was dead before her body hit the floor. Mercy granted her a quick death, but nothing more. Not after kidnapping her right-hand man, her lover, not after bombing her palace and killing her people, not after hurting Jaskier.
Jaskier took in a deep breath, letting it out shakily. “Whoo. That’s enough excitement for me, I think. I need to sit down,” he said, and sat down right there in the middle of the wreckage.
Yennefer busied herself with cleaning her sword. “So you don’t want to come to Spalla with me?” she asked casually, and he sprang back up to his feet—albeit shakily.
“No, no, I’m in! Someone has to write sweeping songs of your victories there.” He paused. “Just, maybe, a moment to catch my breath? I’ve never really—ah—never had to fight for my life before. Never killed anyone, either. I think my body might be shutting down?” he squeaked, sinking to his knees. “My—my heart is beating so fast, gods, and my hands feel all tingly, and I’m shaking—”
“That’s the adrenaline,” Yennefer answered, kneeling down as well. “It will pass.”
“Good. Because this—well, is this what you feel all the time?” He looked up at her, a dawning sort of respect in his gaze.
She shrugged. “You get used to it eventually. But yes, more or less.”
“Color me impressed, then.” As they spoke, the color began to return to his cheeks, and his frantic breathing slowed, and his shaking died down. “Alright. I’m feeling better, I think.”
“Good,” she echoed, sheathing her sword and helping him up. “Because now we ride for Rivia.”
“To Rivia,” he repeated. “Hey, do you think Geralt will be impressed? Bet he’s never killed a doppler before.”
“Shut up, Jaskier,” she replied, but couldn’t hide the small smile that graced her face.
Her palace was in ruins, and Geralt had been kidnapped, and they were about to go to war with Rivia for the second time, but somehow she knew—it would be alright.
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not1-2write · 15 days ago
Text
roots, a warlord au ch 6
(ao3 link)
Jaskier's day descends into chaos pretty much the moment he opens his eyes.
Triss comes in bright and early, all wide smiles and far too awake when the sun is barely up and Jaskier is still going through the movements of actually waking up and not just being conscious after tossing and turning most of the night.
"Shirt off," she orders, pulling a jar of salve from her dress pocket with far too much joy. "I need to look at your back."
Jaskier blinks at her slowly, processing her words at a fraction of his usual pace. Why is she so awake at this time of day? How do people function this early? Is it a rule of the keep that you have to be an early riser in order to live here? The Witchers barely need sleep but surely the magic users need rest every once in a while.
Triss doesn't waste any time. She pulls Jaskier's shirt over his head before he realizes what's happening, tossing it aside and wrestling him into a sitting up position.
"I've decided I don't like you," Jaskier announces, nursing the cup of strong black tea she hands over with bleary eyes. Really, must mornings be so noisy and chaotic? He hasn't even pulled his hair back yet.
Triss only laughs at him. "Yes you do."
Jaskier manages a hum, trying not to flinch when her hands brush over his back without warning.
He still doesn't know what his back looks like, even months after everything. He can sometimes see the marks on his shoulders if he cranes his head enough, the scars on his sides visible in the mirror. The scars on his chest are nicely faded white now, only a few standing out under all the chest hair. But the ones on his back he can only feel. He knows they're there, he can feel the tight skin when he twists, the raised flesh when he touches them.
He wonders how many scars Geralt has. He's seen a few on his arms, on his chest when his shirts gape.
Not that he looks he just can't help but notice when... Geralt is the most attractive person in this entire keep and that's saying something, okay? Of course he's looked. Of course he's noticed. After seven months of living here how could he not?
Jaskier is also very aware he has absolutely no chance with the White Wolf, Warlord of the North. He knows that. There are hundreds of extremely attractive and capable people in this keep. Yennefer is Geralt's ex. If none of them are good enough for Geralt then there's no way in hell that Jaskier could ever be. He's a librarian. A translator.
Geralt's a friend. That alone is astounding. He’s allowed to call him Geralt, to tease him and Geralt just smiles. Jaskier won't ever do anything to jeopardize that not matter how loud and fast his heart beats whenever Geralt is around.
...Geralt can't hear that, can he?
Triss dips her finger into the jar. "This will be cold," she warns.
Jaskier bobs and nearly drops his precious cup of tea. "Gods!" he all but shrieks. "You said cold not freezing, what is that made of, ice!?"
She just laughs at him, the cruel woman and continues spreading the thick goop over his spine. There's a thick scar on his right shoulder that she takes extra care with- a knife wound that was created by a particularly cruel twist of red hot metal and seared closed by fire.
He's not sure he wants to know what that wound looks like. It feels large and ugly and right where anyone but him can see it.
Not that there's anything wrong with visible scars. Most of the Witchers have several and honestly it's far too attractive for Jaskier's poor heart to handle- Geralt himself has several and it's... not something he's going to allow himself to think about anymore, remember brain?
But the scar is still new and the memory attached to it often makes him break out in a cold sweat. He's not seen it for himself, he has no idea how bad it really is. Between the marks on his back, the scars on his leg, the fact that he can't walk more than thirty feet without the assistance of his cane... it feels like his body isn't his own anymore. He doesn't know this body, doesn't understand what it can and cannot do yet.
And it doesn't listen to him. If he turns wrong in bed his leg cramps up. If he twists too suddenly the scars on his back protest and lock up his muscles. He gets too tired too quickly but he still has so much trouble sleeping no matter how long he lays there and tries to quiet his mind.
"How are the nightmares?" Triss asks, bending to examine a twisting scar along his ribs.
"Still there," Jaskier says, because he's sure they've all heard him gasping at night, or working in the library to avoid sleep as long as he can. "But they seem to be tapering off a bit."
It used to be every night but now, finally, he has nights where he'll sleep until dawn at least. Nights where he doesn't remember the dreams upon waking. There are even nights- though they're few and far between- that he doesn't dream at all.
He doesn't wake refreshed and ready to take on the day- and certainly not ever at this hour- but he does feel better overall.
He's improving. Slowly, surely, he's improving.
And on the nights he does retreat to the library, Geralt keeps him company for a little while. Sometimes they talk. Sometimes Geralt will grab a book and thumb through it while Jaskier mutters and curses Witchers and their lack of proper library decorum and puts things away. Sometimes Ciri will crawl into her father's lap and doze off watching Jaskier work.
Every once in a while she requests that he sing to her. He always does, even with Geralt there, though he can't bring himself to sing "the golden eyed wolf song" in front of him, no matter how much Ciri pleads.
Geralt is at least very amused by the whole thing, which is a relief. If he'd been offended Jaskier might have just thrown himself off the ramparts.
Someone knocks on his door before Triss is done with his back. He doesn't feel like getting up to let them in and calls out a tired "come in" and chugs the rest of his rapidly cooling tea. He has a feeling he's going to need it.
Eskel appears in the doorway. "Hate to bother you so early, Jaskier."
"No you don't," Jaskier grumbles, setting his cup aside. "You're just as early a riser as this evil sorceress."
Eskel doesn't deny it. "Mind looking something over for me? It's an old Dwarven trade agreement that needs updating but none of us are any good at this dialect and we don't want to accidentally screw anyone over."
Is he awake enough to think in another language? He thinks so. Jaskier hold out a hand for the scroll. "Are we screwing anyone over on purpose?"
"Not this time."
Dwarves are also protected people under Geralt's rule. Really almost everyone is protected while on his lands, the only exceptions being anyone loyal to the White Flame.
Ever since Ciri's kidnapping Geralt's been driving the White Flame steadily back, no longer the least bit tolerant to the Flame's men on his lands. He's even ready to march into the still-neutral Temeria and set up an occupation at along the borders of his lands to keep the enemy army as far back as possible. Foltest had balked at that and despite Geralt not really liking the man personally, he's a fair enough king that Geralt mostly stays out of his business (the whole thing with his sister and daughter notwithstanding).
So Temeria remains White Flame and Witcher free. For now. They're both allowed into Temeria of course, but there's a strict non aggression clause in the trade agreements for them both. For Temeria to be truly neutral the two warring factions are not allowed to bring their grievances from their land onto Foltest's.
Jaskier's not sure how much longer that's going to last. Emhyr is getting aggressive about expanding his territories past Redania and Caingorn and before he came to live in Kaer Morhen, Jaskier heard rumors that Foltest was starting to cave to Emhyr's demands. He doesn’t know how true said rumors are but he did warn Geralt and Yennefer both about it. Apparently they’ve already set up people in Foltest’s court to keep an eye on things- and it’s not even the least bit suspicious given that Adda was (and still is, Jaskier supposes) a Striga that needs certain rituals performed once a month.
It was quite gracious of Geralt to offer a Witcher and a sorceress to Foltest, in order to keep his daughter safe. And if they just so happen to overhear a few things and pass those things on to Geralt then, well. It is a war after all. And Emhyr has men everywhere, trying hard to whisper in people’s ears.
"Hand me that inkpot and quill?" he asks Eskel, hand out as he skims the scroll. He already sees a few outdated clauses that will make trade difficult and unfair if not reworded now. "Dwarves tend to prefer to be paid in livestock and coin, not one or the other. Worded like this we could technically give them a bunch of goats and still be adhering to the agreement. They'd be broke and overrun with goats in no time."
Eskel leans against the wall, watching Triss putter around Jaskier as he scribbles all over the trade agreement.
"You should also ask them about an alcohol trade. They make rather strong whiskey that might be worth trading some of your spirits for," Jaskier tells him. "I once had a shot of the stuff and woke up three days later in Malleore, missing my pants. Had to barter my way back to Lettenhove half naked."
He actually had a blast parading around with the merchants he’d hitched a ride with. They were happy to loan him some trousers and give him food, traded for songs and entertainment on the long trip back to Redania. He wound up in bed with a lovely couple a few times, sandwiched quite nicely between them. It’s one of his fondest memories.
Intrigued, Eskel taps his chin. "Might be worth looking into then. We already know they can handle some of our drinks. Never thought of setting up a trade for it. Put that in there. We'll ask Yarpen next time he's around. He handles most of the Dwarf agreements."
Triss glances up from her exam when Jaskier's foot kicks. "Sorry, did that hurt?"
"No," he assures her quickly. "No, I was just surprised. Is that Yarpen Zigrin?"
"That's him. Fierce warrior, comes and goes from the passes in the mountains. He's an old friend of Geralt's. We buy most of our iron from his family."
Of course Yarpen knows Geralt. Jaskier isn't the least bit surprised.
"He used to trade in Lettenhove, before it was made illegal. I'd smuggle his goods into the marketplace and sell for him every now and then," Jaskier tells them, a fond smile on his face. "He's also the one that gave me that shot of whiskey. He laughed so hard he nearly puked when I told him what happened and then offered me more."
Yarpen is also the first Dwarven contact Jaskier made as the Sandpiper, the first one willing to smuggle Elves through those Dwarven passes and accept Jaskier's money to do so. After a while Yarpen started refusing payment, only asking that Jaskier continue to sell their metals and gems in the marketplace for them.
A lot of lives were saved that way. Yarpen brought a handful of men into the agreement- trade for Elf smuggling as sort of a multi-cultural 'fuck you' to the White Flame that spanned multiple years. None of the Dwarves were interested in fully being part of the Sandpiper network once it really got going, but they supported it. They took whoever Jaskier brought to them, leading them safely through the Kestrel Mountains and depositing them into Geralt's lands.
Yarpen had waited all night with two frightened parents while Jaskier guided their son through the marsh lands, singing and getting muddy with a small Elf child huddled up against his chest. He still remembers the sheer relief that had come over their faces when he handed their son over to them, safe and unharmed. Yarpen had grumbled about the wait but had slapped Jaskier on the shoulder hard enough to make him stumble before leading the family and the two other Elves he’d freed to safety.
It had been the first time he'd smuggled anything that wasn't jewels or metals, the first time he'd gone into the dungeon below the Pankratz manor and seen with his own two eyes the horror that awaited the Elves chained up there.
The first time but not the last. With no plan beyond get them out, Jaskier picked locks and broke chains, leading them outside, carrying the small (so small, so young) child in his arms himself, two other Elves willing to follow him out, stole them some horses and rode like hell to get them to where Yarpen was waiting. The Elves said he sang like a bird, told him he was as brightly colored as one. They passed through a flock of sandpipers digging for their next meal, squawking as the horses passed by them and making the little boy in his arms laugh when they flew off.
And thus the Sandpiper was born.
Jaskier might not be the Sandpiper anymore but it'll be nice to reconnect with Yarpen. He wonders if he still helps out with the network or if Shani moved things around enough that they don't use the mountain passes anymore. Did Shani take up the mantle of Sandpiper permanently or pass it on? Is she still in Oxenfurt? Does she know Jaskier is alive and mostly well? He never wrote to her, too afraid that she'd come under suspicion and unwilling to risk it in case Emhyr's men were already looking into any of Jaskier's contacts.
He knew Shani in college. She and their other friends were probably heavily investigated once Jaskier was captured and he couldn't risk sending any of them word that he was safe. He already brought Shani into enough danger by bringing her into the network in the first place and then even more by putting her in charge.
But surely now it would be safe? Maybe he could write to her to let her know he's alive? He's not sure if sending a letter into Redania would be allowed- it would surely be looked upon with suspicion. He'll ask Geralt about it later, see if something can be arranged.
Yennefer bursts in without knocking like she always does. Jaskier doesn't even glance up from the Dwarven text, still scribbling away.
"Yennefer."
"You were not lying about ambassador Rennick being a lying, pompous blowhard," she announces.
"I tried to warn you."
"You're in my light," Triss protests, shooing Yennefer to the side. She's probably the only one allowed to shoo Yennefer ever.
"Isn't he the one from Hagge?" Eskel asks. "The suspected White Flame sympathizer?"
"Very much suspected now," Yennefer claims, pacing back and forth in front of Jaskier's bed. There are an awful lot of people in his rooms this early in the morning. He thinks this is just his life now. "Get this: the bastard tried to lie to me about Emhyr's armies coming into Temeria and setting up along the borders. We already know they're there- which is a huge spit into Geralt's face since his men aren't allowed. I didn't need Coen to tell me he was lying but he confirmed it."
Jaskier lowers the scroll, watching Yennefer pace and rant. He's learned it's best to let her get it all out of her system before interjecting.
"If Foltest knows about this then Temeria isn't neutral anymore," she continues, skirts swirling as she turns to pace the length of the bed again. "That's going to be a problem. It gives Emhyr easier access to Cintra and we know he wants Cintra very badly."
"In general or because he has a personal grudge against Calanthe?" Jaskier asks.
"Either. Both." Yennefer waves an impatient hand. "He's hated her ever since she sided with Geralt and- however begrudgingly- allowed Elves to become protected people per their agreement. Before that probably. They never got along even when he was her son-in-law. And he killed Pavetta so Calanthe fucking hates him. She'd kill him herself if she was able."
Eskel straightens now, eyes hard. "Does Geralt know?"
"Just came from telling him. The tribute is arriving today and if Temeria's is missing we'll know Foltest is officially picking a side."
"And it's the wrong one," Jaskier adds, pulling his shirt back on. He's able to stand without help but he grabs his cane out of habit. Yennefer walks fast when she's pissed. "Every land that Emhyr's conquered, he's removed the ruler from power by removing their heads. Why does Foltest think this will be any different?"
"It'll put his daughter in danger too, not that the idiot's thought of that."
"If he's thinking at all. Geralt isn't going to take this laying down- and neither will Calanthe. Foltest has a bad storm coming if he does this. What did Rennick say?" Jaskier steps behind his changing screen to get into fresh trousers. He's not ashamed of his body or his scars but he can't quite bring himself to drop his pants in front of three of the top five most attractive people in the keep no matter how distracted they all are at this exact moment.
(Geralt is obviously number one with Lambert's lover Aiden rounding them out, not that Jaskier will ever admit to that where Lambert can hear him; he doesn't feel like being stabbed by Lambert any time soon.)
"That officially Temeria is still neutral, but I think that's a load of horse shit. I’ve sent word to our people keeping watch over Adda. They know to be ready for a quick getaway."
"There’s an old smuggling route near Flots that they can use," Jaskier says from behind the screen. If he remembers right it’s mostly unguarded and untraveled. Too dangerous for anyone but the most desperate of refugees or perhaps a Witcher or two. "It’ll get them to Ban Glean easily enough if they can’t portal out. Pretty sure none of Foltest’s men have any idea about it. It’s a rough journey but…"
"Could come in handy. I’ll send Sabrina word and let her know."
Jaskier's barely stepped into his shoes before his door crashes open again, Ciri bursting into the room and zeroing in on Yennefer.
"Aunt Yen!" she shrieks, excitement leaking out of every pore. "Dara is here! He's here, he came up with the tribute!"
Instantly Yennefer melts from 'pissed off advisor of the wolf who marches in to have a bitch-fest with Jaskier' to 'doting aunt'. It's really quite the transformation.
It's hard not to be excited seeing Ciri so happy. She's practically oozing happiness and glee, bouncing on her toes and dancing around, grin wide enough to show off all of her teeth. She grabs Yennefer's hand and starts to physically pull her from the room.
"Come on, come on, let's go!"
"I am apparently needed elsewhere," Yennefer tells the room at large, allowing herself to be yanked out into the hallway. "See you all downstairs."
Jaskier waves her off with a yawn. He only just got dressed but maybe he can just slide back into bed and catch a few more hours of sleep. His dreams hadn't been too terrible last night but he could stand to get a few more hours. Geralt's been commenting on his dark circles lately, hovering over him and asking if he's getting enough sleep.
Triss wipes her hands on her apron. "Well boys, shall we go see what's in the tribute today?"
Slightly startled, Jaskier blinks at her. "Am I supposed to go as well?"
"We get a lot of books in the tribute," Eskel says, collecting the edited scroll. "Probably should go sort through it yourself, see what you can find. Plus anything else you might want."
He's never gone through the carts before. He's seen them, of course. Roughly once a season carts and wagons of stuff arrive at the keep as tribute for Geralt. Mostly as a peace offering, sometimes as thanks. Any kingdom with a treaty with Geralt sends something- even Aedirn, though Geralt is technically in charge of it while they still bicker over appointing a ruler.
Geralt very much wants them to appoint a ruler soon. He hates the backstabbing politics that keep happening while the throne is empty.
Last time tribute arrived Jaskier wasn't well enough to make it down all the stairs so he'd merely watched from his balcony, shivering in the cold air but curious enough to watch. He's sure he can make the trip now but he'll have to have help getting any books back to the library.
"I don't need anything," he says, falling into step with Eskel. "But I'll go sort through the books, and meet this famous Dara Ciri's been talking about."
"He's a good kid. Elf, about ten years old. One of the Sandpiper refugees, him and his parents. Apparently they were one of the first ones rescued from Redania. Dara was the first actually, along two others." Eskel pauses at his office long enough to drop off the scroll and let Triss catch up when she ducks into the infirmary to shed her apron. "It's how we learned about the Sandpiper- they came to tell Geralt about the network after more kept getting shipped into Geralt’s lands. Ciri got friendly with the boy while we got set up to accept the refugees, make sure they had a place to go. Now they make the trip to the village, or up the mountain to let them see each other."
"At least she's excited about going outside."
"She's getting better about it," Triss tells them. "Yesterday she went out to gather herbs with me along the outer wall. Eskel and Lambert both had to come with us but she did well."
"She's a tough little cub."
Right now she's an excited cub. Jaskier doesn't need Witcher hearing to hear the excited, ear piercing squeal coming from the courtyard. Poor Eskel winces even as he smiles.
Geralt is already in the courtyard when they make it downstairs, chatting with two Elves in front of several wagons filled to the brim. Yennefer is elbow deep in one, a claimed wine bottle under one arm and a bolt of dark shimmery fabric in her hand. Triss all but pounces on the wagon in the back, filled with various herbs and plants.
Jaskier hangs back, just watching. He's here because there are books to be sorted and shuffled off to the library. He doesn't need to go through any of the carts for that. He can wait until everyone else is done and then collect what needs collecting. No point in getting in the way. Honestly he probably shouldn't even be here at all. He could just ask the books be delivered to the library and left for him to sort, no need for him to walk down and then back up all the stairs.
At least his leg seems open to the idea of walking more, though it protests the cold wind that blows in.
The head cook collects the meat and produce sent, barking orders at the various servants scuttling about. Eskel's already making friends with the large cows and various horses that were brought in, a calming hand on a distressed looking goat's head. It bleats at them, cross about the entire thing.
More people spill out of the keep to examine the tribute: servants, cooks, the seamstresses. Bolts of fabric, bottles of wine, entire sacks of potatoes are claimed and carried inside, distributed to the various places they need to go. When one cart is about half empty, everyone busy going through another wagon, Jaskier approaches it, already eyeing the stack of books tied together with ribbon.
The lute sits off to the side, gleaming in the sunlight.
It's a beautiful instrument, Jaskier can already tell from here. The body gleams with fresh polish. Little gold inlays decorate the back, small flowers climbing around the side. It's stringed up and ready to go and left alone in the cart, untouched and practically begging to be played.
It’s been years, literal years since he’s so much as held a lute. He can’t stop the music from coming to his head. Ignoring the songs doesn’t make them go away. Instead his brain gets too crowded, the words tangling together until he writes them down and then crams the songs into that overflowing drawer in his desk and does his best to forget about them.
You can be a bard again, if you wish.
Jaskier can't help but brush his fingers over the strings, smiling at the sound of the notes hanging in the air before he snatches his hand back.
He's not here for him, he's here for the books. Besides, none of this is for him. He has no right to just claim something out of tribute meant for the White- for Geralt and his people. Like the servants, like the cooks, he's here to take what belongs in the area he's in charge of. Books. Just books.
Nothing else.
Ciri pops up beside him, her hand firmly around the wrist of the tall Elven boy beside her.
"Jaskier!" She's still speaking loudly, still overly excited and it's honestly contagious. It's nice to see her so happy- thrilled even- this close to the outside of the keep. The gates are still open and Ciri isn't the least bit stressed about it. "This is Dara!"
Jaskier turns and comes face to face with the last person he ever thought he'd see again.
He's gotten taller. Five years have passed, he's obviously grown up but Jaskier knows that face, knows those brown eyes- eyes that widen in shock when they look to him.
"Oh," Jaskier breathes. Overcome, overwhelmed with so many emotions, Jaskier can only stare. "Look at you. You're all grown up now."
He might not even remember Jaskier. He'd been so young when it all happened, a boy of barely five. But Jaskier will never forget his face, the way he reached to Jaskier with trust and allowed him to pick him up and carry him safely through muddy swamp and beaches, into the mountains where Yarpen was waiting with his parents, a note from Jaskier begging him to be patient in his hands.
Dara's face crumples. He throws himself at Jaskier, thin arms catching him around the middle and squeezing tightly. Tears soak into Jaskier's doublet and he laughs even as he hugs Dara back, his own tears gathering.
"The sandpipers," Dara sobs. "I remember. It's you. There were birds and- it's you, you're here. You're the man that saved me. You took me out of the dungeon. It was you."
He's never... Jaskier's always taken people from one place to another. He's rescued them from various dungeons or cells, or intercepted ships full of nonhumans or had people brought to him. Then he would hand them off. To other people in the network, to Yarpen or other Dwarves. And then he would never see them again.
This is the first time he's seen someone he freed since he sent them on their way.
And it's Dara. The little boy he sang to in that marsh, the first Elf he ever freed, who laughed at the Sandpipers squawking and digging in the sand for their food and gave Jaskier the name, who said he was like a bird and was so happy to see his parents again.
His parents who are also coming at Jaskier full speed. He's barely able to keep his feet under him when they collide with him.
He's now being hugged by three crying Elves, several pairs of arms tangling around him and holding him upright.
"You," they cry, garbled Common and Elder mixing together as they all try to talk at once. "Thank you- we heard- it's you, we never knew- you're the man, you saved him from that place- so many of us-!"
"He’s never forgotten you," Dara’s mother tells him. "We’ve never forgotten. No one has forgotten you."
Jaskier feels like he might choke on tears. "No one?"
"We never knew your name but everyone you saved remembers your face," Dara’s father tells him, wiping his own eyes. "It was just you in the beginning, the same man rescuing us all over and over again. No one ever said anything- they weren’t about to expose you, but they all remember you, Sandpiper."
Across the courtyard stands Geralt, frozen as he watches it unfold. Everything around them just sort of... stops. Lambert's jaw is nearly to the ground, Aiden's eyes wide. Yennefer is standing in the cart full of fabric, blatantly staring at the pile of Elves and man, all of them wiping tears and smiling.
Eskel recovers first.
"You're the fucking Sandpiper," he says.
Jaskier breathes deep. He’s caught now, Witchers can smell lies and he’s been recognized- he never thought he’d be recognized. "I used to be," he says, voice cracking and it breaks the spell. Everyone rushes forward, voices all washing over them as everyone talks at once.
"I fucking knew it!"
"Oh you did not Lambert, shut up."
"You're the Sandpiper? What the fu-"
"-makes complete sense honestly-"
"-hear that right? Jaskier? The Sandpiper? Wow..."
A large hand splays on Jaskier's back, grounding him, the crowd parting for Geralt to get to him. He's lost his cane in the madness and leans heavily on the stunned looking warlord at his side. Dara's parents take a step back but don't release him, tears still sliding down their faces.
"Thank you," they say over and over again. "Thank you."
Ciri worms her way to Jaskier's side, her hand joining her father's on Jaskier's back.
"This is Jaskier," she says, tipping her face back to frown at Dara's parents. "Why are you calling him Sandpiper?"
"He's the one that saved me," Dara manages through his sobs, hands pressed against his eyes in an attempt to stop the tears. "He- he carried me and s-sang to me and told me about the birds and he brought- brought me to my parents."
Geralt scoops up Jaskier's cane, pressing it back into his hand. He keeps his hand at the small of Jaskier's back, his other around Jaskier's arm when he sways slightly.
"Oh." Ciri blinks at them, then breaks into a wide grin. "That makes sense."
Amused, Geralt glances at his daughter. "It does," he agrees. "It really does. It’s just a bit of a surprise."
"Nuh-uh!" she argues, hugging Jaskier firmly.
Jaskier laughs through the tears. His cover is fully blown wide open, his best kept secret out in the open now because he was recognized, because they remembered him and Ciri isn't shocked. "No? Why not?"
Ciri gives him a look that suggests he's painfully dense. "Because you brought me home too. That’s what you do: you bring people home."
"Hmm." Geralt presses his forehead to Jaskier's temple and breathes deep. "That he does, cub."
Geralt's arm slides fully around Jaskier's waist, pulling him tightly to his side. Overcome, overwhelmed, Jaskier leans into him and tries to stop his tears. He fails and allows himself to be pulled in for another hug as they fall, Dara's parents clinging to him tightly, Ciri on one side and Geralt, strong, steady Geralt holding him upright through it all.
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ask-the-extra-au · 5 months ago
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Mah oc for the @warlordau
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Name : Lucifer Pascual Age : 20 Rank/position : Corporal Characteristics : hard-working, Respectful, too honest, loyal to his leaders, and kind Hobbies : painting, singing, fishing alone, and talking to his friends Family/Familiar : he doesn't have a family but he have 2 friends Alisia Vallo and Brian Rubio
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belial-the-ink-demon · 5 months ago
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Warlord Au: Diplomatic Meeting
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The other generals meet Belial for the first time and don't recognize him as a general because he doesn't wear his colors or valor to the meeting 😅 he thinks medals and ribbons to identify rank are vain and stupid so he came in basically his sleeping gear.
And he leaves halfway through because he thinks it's pointless when nothing involving him is discussed much to the frustration of the other generals.
A ridiculously prideful, informal, logical individual.
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ask-elizabendy-the-demon · 5 months ago
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Decided to make a ref for war!Elizabendy.
(also yes, I’m still doing the normal Elizabendy asks I just am currently fixated on the war version.)
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ravenlocksentwisted · 4 months ago
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My favourite thing about The Witcher is the way the fandom looked at this deconstruction of an epic chivalric fantasy and went “We’re gonna reconstruct it.”
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jonespea · a month ago
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FREDERICK THE MERCIFUL
Nr of aesthetics// 02
AU : serpents and bunnies
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ramwrites · a year ago
Note
Idk if you'd even want to do this request, but, Uvogin in a medieval setting? Like I just see Berserker Uvogin covered in bear pelts and armour, body and battle axe soaked in blood, him stooped down in your doorway with flames behind him because the troupe is looting the castle, and saying, "found you princess~!" in a sing-songy voice with that manic grin of his.
ive wanted to write something like this for a while, so imma do a three-part bgb warlord au
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“Where’s that barmaid from the tavern we visited? The... The Leaking Barrel or something?” The voice resounded through the yard, the owner impossible to miss as he walked through the streets carrying a bloodied axe. Surrounded by his generals, he still towered over them, creating an image in the villager's minds they wouldn’t ever forget. “If any of you idiots killed them, I’ll kill you.”
The generals, who’d seemed so incredibly dangerous when taking over the town, all swallowed and responded with assurances that they hadn’t. 
That only seemed to further disgruntle the man in charge, Uvogin.
Wild hair matted with blood, a bare upper body that had seen more battles than butchers had seen meat and a few scraps of armor and leather clothing protecting his lower body. Despite his rather barbaric appearance, he carried himself with an authority that was undeniable. The fully-armored generals surrounding the man seemed to be little more than cannon-fodder when in his presence.
He was a warlord, alright.
Not one person in the village had ever seen one before, which was quite normal since there were but a few in the world. In total there were three warlords, two to rule the land and one to rule the sea. They were machines of war in service to the King of Spiders, a man that had started an empire mere years ago and was rather quickly overtaking every other nation.
The latest news had been the city of Yorknew being sieged and overtaken, and while that news had worried the elders, Yorknew was far enough away for the villagers to feel a modicum of safety.
It seemed that time of peace was over now. 
Scraping the axe over the floor, an action that made the villagers surrounding you flinch, you tried to keep your head down. You saw the daughter of the butcher look at you, her eyebrows furrowed as she tried to figure out why the warlord was searching you.
Not a lot of people outside of tavern regulars knew, but you’d spent some nights working in said Leaking Barrel. You knew the owner and it had been an easy way to get a small bit of spending money since your family automatically confiscated anything you made with your daytime work. You often poured the daughter of the butcher some of the more expensive booze and in return, she saved some of the better meat for you in the morning.
It was fun work: pouring ale and telling stories till the sun would rise again, the occasional bouts of music and laughter filling the air as the night would run its course. 
Last weekend had been no different, though at one point several strangers had entered the tavern, and while some regulars had gotten antsy, you’d welcomed the business and greeted them heartily. 
Several of the strangers you now realized, had been generals, their neat beards and clean clothing making them quite recognizable among the rabble. But, despite you recognizing them, they weren’t exactly the stranger you were currently most worried about, realization flooding your mind with both embarrassment and shock. 
The largest man among the strangers that night, a giant with wild brown hair, imposing sideburns and an enthusiastic laugh, had joined you at the bar after you greeted the group and had kept you company throughout the entire evening. He’d told you he was a traveler, and his stories of faraway places had been the most exciting you’d heard in a while.
Said feat wasn’t hard, as the usual stories were about the cheating miller and the boy that lived near the creek who’d caught a big fish.
Now you realized the troops had probably already been nearby and they had only visited to have some fun before the attack or to scope out the surroundings. Strangers were rare in these parts and well-dressed ones like these with deep pockets should’ve aroused your suspicion. 
But It wasn’t often you experienced anything exciting, so you’d latched onto the experience, trying your best to amuse him with your own stories and jokes, and pouring enough ale for him to have a good time. 
A good time that had eventually led to him fucking you against the back of the tavern, the other customers long forgotten and your only priority being to keep up with him. Despite the rather messy way it had all happened, it had been fun and lighthearted and you’d kissed him like you never would kiss another. 
It was hard to think that man who’d laughed so freely with you that night was the same man as the warlord with the bleeding axe barking orders at highborn generals and soldiers alike, threatening to kill your entire village for supplying grain to the rival nation of Rokario. 
Most of the villagers had been ushered into the square, but every single one that had opposed him had been mercilessly beheaded or gutted, filling the normally busy streets with entrails instead of business. 
With the giddy laughs that had accompanied said killing, the same laugh you’d heard plenty of while telling him jokes, you didn’t think the warlord was especially concerned with the lives of your fellow townspeople.
“No, no, no. That’s not them.” He said, his eyebrows furrowed as he looked at the usual barmaid of the Leaking Barrel, a sweet girl with curly black hair. Nevertheless he looked down at the quivering girl and asked her. “Last weekend. Where is the barmaid who worked then?”
The girl, whose body was stiff with fear, looked around the square, about two hundred people crouching down as per the warlords requests. “They should be here...”
“Aha, what’s their name?”
You suddenly realized why this was taking so long, and felt a mix of annoyance and relief. He’d forgotten your name. 
While you’d told him yours during that night, he’d been rather secretive with his own, wiggling his eyebrows in a teasing manner at you whenever you’d try to wring it from him. Now you understood why: the name Uvogin of the Spiders raising alarm bells everywhere in the world. 
Despite the small amount of time his lacking memory had earned you, the fact that you would be found soon was without question. 
What would he do once he found you? Had you done or said something wrong that night or was he looking for another go at you? Why couldn’t you have just continued working instead of sneaking outside and messing around with a fucking warlord. 
“It’s.. Y/n.”
And there it was. 
Uvogin’s eyes lit up with recognition and the generals seemed pleased that he was showing a different emotion beside blood lust for now. “That was it! I remember now.”
A very eager general stood forward toward the crouching crowd, probably trying to please the warlord beside him, and bellowed. “Bring forth y/n!”
You felt the eyes around you begin to shift, slowly moving toward you. The woman next to you, someone you only knew as the cheating miller’s wife, shot up with a bit too much enthusiasm. “They’re here!”
Uvogin laughed victoriously and walked briskly through the crowd to the place where you now awkwardly stood, having foregone looking down as it wouldn’t do you much good anymore. As the warlord reached you, you didn’t know whether to feel nervous, terrified or exasperated as the familiar enthusiastic smile lit up the man’s face. 
“There you are!” You tried to say something, or at least explain to your gawking fellow villagers why the warlord who was threatening to kill them all was acting so familiar with you, but before you could adequately make a noise, you were lifted up and thrown over the giants shoulder. “You sure like making me work for it, y/n, did you not recognize me like this?”
Again, you wanted to speak, but before you could answer, Uvogin already started giving new orders to his generals. “Okay, I got what I came for. Take whatever’s valuable and burn the rest down.”
The eager general perked up. “And the townspeople?”
Uvogin shrugged, a motion that bounced your body slightly, and went along his way, his large hands stroking down your back while you made eye-contact with your neighbors and family, all of them looking terrified.
“They’re all weaklings, dig a pit and wait for me to come back.”
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gwimm · 4 months ago
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⚠TW:BLOOD?⚠
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GwinForth always been targeted by assassins whenever he goes, either he's on the warzone or resting.
This time he was targeted after taking a shower in a temporary base. Let's just say it didn't turn out well for them.(assassins)
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trashscenariihxh · a year ago
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Uvogin x Reader Smut
WARNING: Very, very, extremely dubcon.  Almost noncon.  Please don’t read if that is upsetting to you.  This is kind of an add on to @ramwrites glorious Warlord!Uvo fic, which can be found here.  Go give it a read, it’s amazing!  Anyway, onwards:
The war-tent in which Uvogin had left you was large but sparsely furnished.  There was a table, a chair, and an enormous bed covered in a variety of fur pelts.
“Make yourself comfortable,” Uvogin said as he unceremoniously deposited you on the ground, “and don’t even think about leaving.”
“And what if I do?” You felt defiant then, spurred on by the rage of seeing your village ransacked.  Using all your strength, you stood, glaring up at the giant before you.
Uvogin smiled predatorily down at you and stroked your cheek with a long, bloodstained finger.  “___, I just destroyed an entire village.  Laid waste to the local militia.  Imagine what I could do to you.”
He turned and left, laughing as though the idea of crushing you was the funniest thing he could imagine.  As soon as he was gone your resolve disintegrated; your knees buckled and you fell to the floor, your body wracked with sobs as the reality of the situation slammed into you.  Your village was gone, your family was gone, your friends were gone. Now, there was only Uvogin.
You supposed that you should count yourself as lucky.  After all, you’d been spared… but what kind of life awaited you?  Did Uvogin expect you to be his kept woman?  His plaything? Bile rose in your throat at the thought; you rushed to the side of the tent and vomited into a chamber pot.  You coughed and sputtered, trying to regain some semblance of composure as thoughts rushed through your head.
Where was Uvogin?  Would you be able to sneak away?  Could you make a run for it?
No.  You remembered what he’d said, and you knew it to be true; he could crush you like an insect.
You covered your eyes with your hands, groaning as you wiped your tears away.  Who would have thought that the affable giant you’d met the night before would be the blood-stained, ruthless warlord who had carried you away?  Last night, when Uvogin had laughed at your jokes, drunk your alcohol, and fucked you against the back of the bar, you’d felt so light, so carefree.  Yesterday seemed like an eternity ago.
You looked down at yourself, at your filthy, blood-smeared clothes caked with mud and wondered why Uvogin had even bothered to take you with him.  You’d put up a fight of course, but terror and exhaustion had soon overcome you, and you’d allowed him to carry you away.  To here, wherever here was.
Your thoughts were interrupted by the tent flap opening.  A small woman flashed you a shy smile as she entered the tent, carrying a large bucket full of water.  You studied her briefly; she must be stronger than she looked; the bucket looked extremely heavy/
“You must be ____.” her cheerful voice contrasted sharply with your despair.  “I was told to bring you this.”  She set the bucket on the ground before you, smiling expectantly.  “To wash,” she explained.  When you still didn’t move, she sighed.
“Still in shock, eh?  Poor thing.”  Without asking your permission, she immediately began removing your clothes.  You resisted, but only for a few moments.  You were too exhausted to resist anything anymore.
The water was icy cold.  You winced when the woman dabbed your neck with the wet washcloth.  “I know,” she soothed, dunking the cloth into the water and ringing it out.  “You’ll get used to it.”
You didn’t get used to it, but you endured it.  After what felt like far too long, you were clean and in new clothes.  They were far too big and hung off your frame, but anything was better than what you’d been wearing before.  A large part of you wanted to balk at the idea of wearing anything that Uvogin- for it surely it had been him who had sent the clothes- had given you, but unless you wanted to keep wearing clothes stained with the blood of your family and friends, you had no choice. 
You were so deep in thought that you didn’t notice the friendly woman slipping away.  By the time you realized, she was gone, leaving you alone again without so much as a name.  You looked around the tent and saw that there was nothing you could amuse yourself with, nothing with which to pass the time until Uvogin inevitably returned.  Resigning yourself to your fate, you crawled into the giant bed and fell asleep.
You were awoken by heavy footsteps, and you opened your eyes to see Uvogin towering over you. He was filthy; his wild hair stuck out in all directions, and his face was smeared with ash and blood.  Fresh blood.  You shuddered at the sight.
Seeing the obvious fear on your face, Uvogin let out a bark of laughter.  “What is it, ____?  Aren’t you happy to see me?”
You trembled before him; your hair stood on end, shivers ran down your spine… had it been full, you would have emptied your bladder.  The man in front of you was just so big, so imposing, so… 
Terrifying.
“Please don’t hurt me.”  Your voice was small, weak, barely above a whisper.
More boisterous laughter.  “I’m not going to hurt you, ___.”  He bared his teeth in a feral grin.  “If I wanted to hurt you, you’d be dead already.”  With another bark of laughter, he headed over to the bucket of water in the corner of the tent and splashed some onto his face and arms.  It did little in the way of removing the more caked-on grime, but most of the blood washed away.
Uvogin returned to the bed, leering down at you.  When you curled into a ball and scrambled to get away from him, he merely grabbed your leg and tugged you towards him.
You froze, powerless to break his monstrous grip.  Pain shot through your leg; he was holding you too tightly.  For a moment you thought he was going to crush your tibia, but Uvogin let go. 
“Where do you think you’re going?” His lip curled in a snarl.  “Be careful.  You’re starting to try my patience.”
“What.. what are you going to do to me?”  The feral look in his eyes made you wish you hadn’t asked; you knew what he wanted.
A large hand ran down your thigh.  “What a little thing you are,” he murmured, his hoarse voice growing softer.  “So small, so soft… so easy to break.”  The bed dipped as he joined you on it. 
You shivered at his touch.  His enormous hands were warm and rough, and yet, there was something oddly soothing about the way he was stroking you.  You again remembered the night at the tavern when he’d taken you so completely; it had felt so good, so wonderful then.  And now…
“Uvogin,” you mumbled softly, “please don’t…” Please don’t what?  You were in no position to be making demands.  “Please don’t break me.”
“Break you?”  Uvogin sat back on his heels and grinned down at you.  “I have no intention of breaking you, ____.  Although, you are mine to break.” Before you could say anything more, he bore down on you, covering your mouth with his own in an all-consuming kiss.
You squeaked in surprise, as if you didn’t know exactly how the night was going to end.  The kiss seemed to ignite something within Uvogin; he drew back, and within seconds he tore your clothes from your body.  “I’ll have more brought to you,” he promised as he kissed you again, softer this time.
Despite everything, you found yourself relaxing into the kiss.  Something about having him on top of you was strangely comforting.  As comforting as a giant, murderous man could be, that is.  Memories of the previous night, of just how good Uvogin had felt inside you, came flooding back, manifesting as a little twinge between your legs.
With a soft growl, Uvogin turned his attention to your neck, nibbling and sucking on the delicate skin.  For a man of his stature, he was being surprisingly gentle, a fact you appreciated.
“____,” he moaned, stroking your thigh again, “____…” Drawing back, he lied down on the bed, seizing your hips and pulling you on top of him in a quick motion.  He smiled wolfishly up at you.  “Look at what you do to me.”  He thrust his pelvis upwards as his thumbs rubbed warm circles onto your thighs.
You glanced down and immediately noticed his massive erection straining against his pants.  You gulped.  How had you taken that last night?  With shaking hands, you carefully undid his pants, allowing his erection to spring free.  You could feel his gaze, and slowly raised your eyes to meet his.  You wondered if he could see the terror in yours.
“What, don’t you want it?” He thrust his hips again.  “I thought you would, after last night.”
Had you been less wise and more brash, you would have retorted that murdering an entire village is something of a turn-off, but you kept your mouth shut.  It was for the best.
Uvogin looked at you expectantly, clearly wanting you to do something about his achingly-hard cock.  Slowly, tentatively, you wrapped your hand around its base, and lowered yourself down so you could lick along the shaft.  Uvogin’s breath hitched when you swirled your tongue over the head.  “That’s good, love, so good.”
You froze.  Love? How dare he use that word, after what he’d done?  You continued as if he hadn’t said anything, and took his cock into your mouth.  Uvogin groaned as you sucked and began to pump his shaft, his hips bucking slightly.  It was clear that he was doing his best to hold back.
“That’s enough, love,” he rasped, tangling his fingers in your hair and pulling you off of him.
Love.  There was that word again.  You looked into his eyes and saw nothing like love in them.
Thick fingers pressed against your lips; you obediently opened your mouth.  You gagged at the intrusion, and Uvogin merely laughed at your discomfort.  “You’d better get them nice and wet,” he threatened, “or else you’ll regret it.”  Satisfied with how much you’d licked his fingers, he pulled them from your mouth with a slick pop and reached between your legs.
You winced at the prospect of him slipping into your core, but you parted your legs and repositioned yourself to allow him access all the same.  Better to go along with it, you told yourself.  Better to pretend to like it, to want it.  You felt no tenderness towards this man, but you would force yourself if you had to.  You wanted to live. 
Uvogin’s fingers entered you, and you cried out in pain.
“Too much?” he asked, withdrawing a bit.  When you nodded, he sighed and pulled his fingers out, only to slip one inside you again.
You bit your lip; it wasn’t painful anymore, but it was certainly uncomfortable.  Again, you asked yourself how you’d taken him the night before.  After pumping into you a few more times, Uvogin added another finger.  You groaned at the stretch.
“Do you think you’re ready for me?” Uvogin asked.  He’d begun stroking his cock in time with each pump of his fingers.
You nodded shakily.  Better to get it over with.
With a groan, Uvogin drew his fingers out of you and, grabbing your hips, positioned you above his cock.  Slowly, with far more caution than you’d come to expect, he lowered you down onto him.  You hissed as you stretched to accommodate him.
“That’s it,” Uvogin gritted out as he eased you onto his cock, “just like that.”
You whimpered when you took him in as far as you possibly could, and bit your lower lip hard enough to bleed.  Uvogin felt impossibly big inside you; he was in so very, very deep.
With a grunt, Uvogin lifted you up, only to slam you down onto him again.  You cried out at the suddenness of it.  When he did it again, you cursed.  “Shit, Uvogin!”
He grinned up at you.  “Say my name again, ____.”  As he spoke, he began to bounce you up and down on his cock at a much faster pace than before.
You obliged, and cried out his name once more.  Despite it all, despite your fear and hatred of the man below you, wicked little flashes of pleasure were beginning to flit through your core.  You closed your eyes and cast your mind back to the night before, when Uvogin had been so funny, so charming, so caring.  You remembered the ways he had touched you, and the way he’d taken such care not to hurt you when he’d fucked you.  So engrossed were you in the fog of your memories that you didn’t catch a moan of your name.  At least, not at first.
Uvogin was groaning out your name repeatedly as he fucked into you, his hips snapping up to meet you as he slammed you down onto his cock.  You opened your eyes and looked at him, really looked at him, then; his eyes were closed, his jaw clenched, his hair fanned out on the pillows.  You felt a little tug in your chest; under different circumstances, perhaps, you could have felt some affection towards him.
Another groan from the man below you signaled that he was close; he slammed you down onto  him a few more times before finding his release.  With a deep grunt he came, filling you up with his cum.
His hands fell to his sides as he panted, leaving you to gingerly lift yourself off of his now-softening cock.  You made to get off of the bed, but a large arm wrapped around you and pulled you down to Uvogin’s chest.  You lied there for a moment, feeling suddenly sleepy, finding confusing enjoyment in the warmth of Uvogin’s skin and the rise and fall of his chest.  You were about to fall asleep when Uvogin spoke.
“____, you didn’t cum for me that time, did you?”
“Hm?”
“Be honest.  You didn’t.”
Too afraid to lie, you answered that you hadn’t.  “But it’s okay!” you quickly added.  “I don’t mind, really.”
“We’ll have to fix that next time.”
Next time?
“Oh no, that’s fine, you don’t have to--”
“You’re mine and I can do as I please with you,” Uvogin growled, holding you closer.  “Never forget that you’re mine now, ____.”  He turned to you to press a lazy kiss to your mouth.  “Forever.”
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