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The Story Is This

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The cottage looked meaner than she remembered it, somehow.  The frame of the door seemed more slanted.  The roof had more holes.  The walls did too, for that matter.  She eyed the empty pig pen, chock-full with weeds, wondering if she should even bother.  A shuffling noise, like moving feet barely lifting off the ground, could be heard from the side of the house facing away from the town.  Hesitating, she tried to decide what exactly she thought this would accomplish.  She meant what she had said to Istredd the year past; she didn’t want to be that scared little girl ever again.  She wanted to forget.  And court life suited her.  But after a year of dances, private duties to the king, asinine obligations, and diverting intrigues, she had become curious.  There was no lost love between herself and her family, and yet.  Waiting a beat longer, she followed the sound. 

 

Her mother was sitting against a cut tree stump and breathing deeply, as if the journey had tired her.  A brittle and broken cough rasped from her lungs, spittle trailing from her lips.  Yennefer stood stunned for a moment, quickly calculating how long she had been gone for, wondering if she made a mistake.   This woman was old, far older than she should have been, if she was Yenna’s mother; dark lines etched across her face and hazy, deep set eyes suggested someone quite elderly and frail.  A tear fell in a straight line down Yenna’s face as she gazed at the old woman.  She gritted her teeth, trying desperately to hold back the chaos shimmering and buzzing under her skin.

 

“Ma?” Her voice broke only slightly, imploringly.  “Ma, it’s me.  It’s Yenna.”

 

Kneeling in front of the old woman, palms held up as she wondered whether a touch would be wanted.  Her mother’s eyes still didn’t track her, but she did release a heavy breath. 

 

“Yenna,” she croaked, “she left.”  Her brow furrowed in memory or confusion. Yennefer took a chance and placed a soft hand on her mother’s wrist, suppliantly. 

 

“I came back, ma.  I came back.”  Tears streamed fully down Yennefer’s face.  “I didn’t leave, I was taken.” 

 

“So long… so long…”  Her mother trailed off, still not seeing her lost daughter right in front of her of her unseeing eyes. 

 

“Mother, I’m here, I’m in Vengerberg.  I’m a mage to the king! I survived, I- I’m beautiful,” Yennefer found herself babbling, hoping something, anything, would draw her mother out of herself.  But the distance remained.  Finally, with some effort, she looked down and seemed to see her daughter. 

 

“Erica.”

 

Yennefer’s heart fell to her stomach as her mother called her by her sister’s name.  Wiping her tears from her face, she managed a tired smile. 

 

“Yes, mother,” she struggled to say, “I’m here.”

 

“Inside,” her mother gestured, wheezing with the effort.

 

“Of course.”

 

Yennefer took the other woman’s arm to help steady her on the walk back to the house.  Her mother’s clothes were ragged, her arms so thin they were bone.  Walking into the house, she noticed that there was dust and cobwebs everywhere, as if the home had not lived in for some time.  Dishes were left as they were, stacked haphazardly on the table. 

 

Finally, she saw it, the embroidered family life tapestry.  Even as poor as they were, her mother had dutifully woven the important family events into the cloth through the whole of her childhood.  Hands slightly shaking, she looked to it for answers. 

 

There, on the bottom, she saw the woven gravestones.  Three of her siblings and her father were gone.  A little above was her sister Erica’s wedding.  And so, her mother was left alone here, with the ghosts of the past all around her, until she taught herself not to see. 

 

Yennefer could shed no tears for her father, but she found her anger had lessened with the passing of time.  Turning to see her mother trying to climb unsteadily into the one bed the family owned, she moved to help her.  Even after everything that had been done, Yennefer did not find it in her to abandon the old woman to her fate.  She kept watch over the sleeping woman for some time, before gathering herself to go. 

 

She stopped just outside the farmhouse as she left, eyes marking the spot where she had first seen her, Tissaia.  Her teacher and her mentor, who had ridden up to her house all arrogance and glamour, demanding respect.  She amused herself thinking of how many of their fights had rehashed that moment.  Four marks indeed.  Yennefer had certainly made Tissaia pay for them during the length of her education.  And she tried, almost desperately, not to remember the way the woman had made her heart race, the way the sun caught the curve of her cheekbones, or the smell of ocean spray in her hair.  It was time to grow up.  It was time to leave the ghosts behind. 

 

She stepped back from what had been her home, heart strangely hollow with her leaving.  Heading into the small town, she made inquiries of several villagers for a caretaker, someone who would stay and give her mother the care she needed.  Finding the right woman, a newcomer to the town, Yennefer paid in a bag heavy in silver and gold.  The woman’s eyes lit up at the payment, assuring her that her mother would be looked after for the rest of her natural life.  A few measured threats and demonstrated fireballs later, and Yennefer was taking a portal back to the palace.  Entering her chambers, she realized that not one person had recognized her at her return.  Not least her mother. 

 

It felt as though she had shed a piece of her childhood, much like a leaf falling from a tree. 

 

 


 

The fifth-year anniversary festivities for King Virfuril’s reign were in full swing.  Even with many guests the ale and wine continued to flow freely, adding to the general revelry of the crowd.  While waiting for the King to finish conversing with his foreign guests, Yennefer admired the splendor of the palace.  Despite living in magicked Aretuza for more than a decade, she was entranced by the Royal Castle’s beauty; magic had no hand in its creation.  Glass mosaics splashed across the ceiling lit up in vibrant and breathing blues, greens, reds, and purples by the sinking sun.  The marble columns scattered throughout the hall were carved with vines and flowers of unparalleled craftsmanship, looking almost alive despite the color of their blooms. 

 

For a brief moment, she wondered if this place had been home to elves before humans.  She trailed her fingers gently across the face of a nymph whose upper torso was carved into an archway designed to look like a tree.  Yennefer pondered the fate of a being transformed into nature, thinking once more of Anica and Doralis in their pool.  Did their families ever wonder about their fate?  Did letters go unanswered and dreams go unfulfilled?  Thinking once more of her mother gazing off into the void of her mind, she struggled to shed her musings to better fit the revelry mood.  And just in time, as King Virfuril turned to introduce her to someone important the next kingdom over.  She offered a dazzling smile in return, taking his arm and mingling with his guests. 

 

The night continued on till the wee hours of the morning, the visitors keen to speculate about the unmarried, handsome king.  Bets were being made about a possible marriage.  Yennefer thought of that only in regards to her duties as mage, presupposing that princesses and queens would make her job harder than when they were absent.  Her eyes lingered over the guests, wondering if she was in the mood to bed someone.  Stopping a yawn from leaving her lips she decided sleep was the preferred option.  And then, as she turned to make her good nights, she sensed something.

 

Somewhere behind her, she felt a tickle of recognition; Tissaia?  She couldn’t stop herself from turning quickly on her heel, eyes wide as she searched for the other woman.  Instead of the brunette, she saw a blonde.  A tall one, unfamiliar to her, who was curtseying graciously at the king, and walking away.  She slumped at her mistake, and with keenly felt disappointment swallowed the hope that had sprung up inside her.  She doubted the woman ever thought of her now, except in regards to her position, of course.  Trudging along to her quarters, she lost herself to her thoughts.  Surely Tissaia would have better things to do than check up on her.  Surely.  Yennefer knew it was the lingering liquor that made her think, but why not?

 


 

 

‘To whom it may concern -

 

The King of Aedirn requests additional support from the Brotherhood in seeding the fields of the northern territories.  A wet rot is hindering the planting season and the King is worried about instability amongst the peasants.  He’s been muttering about torches and pitchforks for a few days now and it’s become irritating.

 

Dutifully, Yennefer of Vengerberg’

 

 

 

‘Yennefer of Vengerberg

Mage to King Virfuril of Aedirn -

 

There is protocol for that request.  This is not protocol. 

 

Tissaia de Vries

Rectoress of Aretuza

Chapter of the Gift and the Art

Brotherhood of Sorcerers’

 

 

 

‘Do you seriously write that at the end of every letter?  How has there not been an ink shortage in Temeria?

 

Yemma of Vergerburger’

 

 

 

‘Yennefer of Vengerberg -

 

Please stop sending frivolous messages, it’s clogging my post.  And didn’t anyone tell you?  It’s far easier to just use blood, dyed black.

 

Tissaia de Vries’

 

 

 

‘Seriously how have you not stabbed someone yet? Or is this a confession?? Do you need a barrister, because I think I could be a good one.  I mean, I have an outfit that would work.

 

Yummifer of Vagdeburn’

 

 

 

‘Yennefer -

 

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but if you are this bored at court, you could probably fix that crop problem in the northern territories all by yourself.

 

Tissaia de Vries’

 

 

 

‘Did you not hear the part about the peasants?   

 

Yer-maw of Vagitable'

 

 

 

‘Dear Brotherhood of Idiots & Chapter of Cretins –

 

The King of Aedirn would like to Formally Request that you, please, wipe his Arse.

 

Respectfully, the Miltseed of Louse’

 

 

 

‘YENNEFER’

 

 

 

‘Piglet, I know that was you.  

 

TdV’

 

 

 

‘Oh, so now you won’t respond to messages?

 

TvD’ 

 

 

 

‘To the Rectoress of Aretuza,

Chapter of the Gift and the Art

Brotherhood of Sorcerers –

 

I am unaware of what it is you accuse me of.

 

Dutifully, Yowza deVirginer’

 

 

 

‘Yennefer, this is a dangerous game you are playing.

 

            TvD’

 

 

 

‘Tiss, before we go any further, I do insist we exchange safe words.  Mine’s ‘don’t stop’. 

 

‘Spank me daddy’ also works. 

 

            Yeppifer of Vagenda’

 

 

 

‘‘Yennefer of Vengerberg

Mage to King Virfuril of Aedirn -

 

I believe this communication needs to cease before it devolves any further.  As your superior, I request that you apply yourself a little more vociferously to the handling of court affairs.  I am putting together a compendium of information relating to agronomy that should help you with Aedirn’s problem.  I highly recommend The Treaty on the Northern Regions Relating to Agriculture of 1176, as it relays the importance of cooperation and cultivation in the continent.

 

Tissaia de Vries

Rectoress of Aretuza

Chapter of the Gift and the Art

Brotherhood of Sorcerers’

 

 

 

‘Yennefer –

 

Where has the Treaty on the Northern Regions Relating to Agriculture gone?!?  And why do I suspect that you have something to do with it???

 

Tissaia’

 

 

 

‘Dear Rectoress of Aretuzza –

 

I’m so glad you asked.  The item in question is on the very top shelf in the third storage cupboard on the fifth floor of the second tower. 

 

Dutifully, Yodeling in Vaginaberg’    

 

 


 

 

Despite herself, Tissaia laughed as she read over Yennefer’s last message.  It would appear that court life was of too unvaried an existence to retain Yennefer of Vengerberg’s attentions.  She fought a blush at the thought that she was.  Chances were, Tissaia knew, this was just a game to Yennefer. After all, it was game she had learned from Tissaia herself.  And one she had dabbled in since her teen years.  Tissaia battled with her yearning for a long moment, then, sighing, placed the letter in her locked cabinet besides all the others.  She touched them softly, remembering Yennefer as she knew her, not as she was now, transformed.  But there was much to be done. 

 

Smoothing her dress, Tissaia readied herself for class.  She collected her things and set off for the teaching rooms.  Soon enough, little Triss skipped by her side, babbling some story concerning jackdaws and a pail of oil. She quirked her lips at her vivacious companion, nodding at the appropriate moments.  When they reached the classroom, Triss turned to take Tissaia’s things before settling in her seat.  It seemed that the little girl, younger than the rest of the class by a decade, had appointed herself as Tissaia’s assistant.  Tissaia found it was not within herself to deny the role.

 

Lingering once again in her memories, she began the lesson.