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A Quest for your Memories

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Jaskier had gone quiet a while ago. Geralt assumed he was getting tired as he would occasionally stop walking for no apparent reason. The lack of mindless chatter, lute playing and even complaining was worrying the witcher, so he’d already begun to scan the roadside for a place to stop and rest. For now, he simply settled for listening to the bard’s footsteps behind Roach to make sure he was still following along. When the footsteps stopped for longer than before, he called his name without turning around. "Jaskier, keep up."

"Bad," the bard muttered, barely audible.

Geralt turned in the saddle to find Jaskier a good few paces behind, hand on his forehead and staring at a point in the distance. As Geralt dismounted Roach, the bard suddenly collapsed, as if he was a puppet with his strings cut. He wasn’t fast enough to catch the man as he fell down into the dirt.

"Jaskier!" he called out as he knelt next to him, carefully lifting the bard to a sitting position. He was conscious but seemed confused as to what had just happened. “Are you hurt?” Jaskier looked at Geralt, or at least in his direction as his eyes were still unfocused. "mmm" was the only reply. He couldn’t tell if it was an answer or just an acknowledgement of Geralt’s presence.

The witcher was becoming concerned now, trying to fight down the cold feeling of dread that something was horribly wrong. Jaskier had been fine for most of the day, talking and singing and playing his lute. He hadn't skipped any meals and the witcher had made sure he'd drank plenty of water. It was only about an hour ago that he started to go quiet.

"Are you ill?"

There was a moment of silence as the bard seemed to assess himself before answering with an uncertain "no."

“Did you hit your head?” He couldn’t see any sign of injury but he wanted to rule it out. Jaskier only shook his head this time.

"Can you tell me what's wrong then? Did something happen?" he asked, giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"Bad."

Geralt tried to subdue the small spike of fear as the bard repeated himself. "What's bad?"

Another pause, then "Feel bad... wrong. Dunno."

He was still holding a hand to his head. Geralt gently removed the hand to check for any injury. Despite Jaskier denying hitting his head, he doubted the bard would really be able to tell at the moment. There was nothing he could see, and his skin was cool so he could rule out a fever.

“Fuck,” Geralt grumbled under his breath. If something was wrong with Jaskier and he needed a healer, then they were in deep trouble. They were at least a few days away from the nearest town.

"I wanna stop," the bard mumbled, slurring his words slightly.

“We can't yet. This isn't a safe place.” He tried to make his voice as gentle as possible as the bard seemed uncharacteristically close to tears.

Jaskier only nodded. Geralt helped him to his feet and took his wrist, leading him over to Roach. "You're going to ride Roach," he said as he helped him in the saddle. Jaskier still seemed unaware of his surroundings and barely reacted to the change in position. Geralt took the reins and led them onward. He hoped to spot a decent place to rest soon.

As the day wore on, there was no change in Jaskier’s condition, whatever was going on. He had a permanent look of confusion on his face as he seemed to be constantly trying to figure out what was happening. He would occasionally place his hand on his head again but when asked denied he was in any pain. He only uttered a few words at a time when prompted by the witcher about how he was feeling which was highly unnerving for the usually talkative bard. He never seemed to be able to recall what had been said more than a few minutes previously. If it weren’t for a lack of actual injury, Geralt would’ve assumed he’d sustained a serious blow to his head.

An hour or so later, Geralt finally led them off the path into the nearby trees. They stopped in a small clearing with some nearby grass for Roach to graze on. He left Jaskier on the horse as he set up his bedroll before helping him down. Jaskier stood in place, not moving until Geralt gently took his arm and led him to the bedroll. He sat him down and wrapped a blanket around his shoulders. The witcher still couldn't detect any hint of illness on him. As they’d walked he had briefly entertained the thought that it was some kind of curse, except his medallion would have detected it if that were the case and they hadn’t come across any mages in a long time.

"Jaskier, how do you feel?"

He turned to face him but didn't seem to know how to answer. Geralt tried a more direct question.

"Do you still feel bad?"

A nod.

"Are you hungry?"

Another nod.

"I’ll go find something. Stay here," he added, not really thinking he would wander off but making sure anyway.

It wasn't long before he'd managed to catch two rabbits and returned to camp. He found Jaskier exactly as he’d left him, staring blankly at the ground and hand on his head again. He started a fire and prepared the rabbits, skewering them on some sticks to roast. He watched Jaskier as he waited for the meat to cook. His brows furrowed for a moment and some recognition came back to his eyes. He dropped his hand and looked up.

“Geralt?” Jaskier’s voice was quiet but he sounded mostly like himself.

“Jaskier.”

“Where are we? What happened?” He looked around the small clearing in confusion. It was clear he had no idea what happened over the past few hours.

“You collapsed about an hour ago and said you felt “bad”. You didn’t seem to know what was going on, so I put you on Roach and we stopped here.”

“I collapsed? Wait but it’s midday. It was just sunrise when we left camp.”

Geralt raised an eyebrow. “We’ve been travelling since then. Do you not remember anything?” Jaskier only shook his head. He started picking at his hands, a familiar tick Geralt had noticed he did when anxious.

When the meat was ready, he handed one of the rabbits to the bard who took it gratefully. He ate slowly but seemed mostly himself, occasionally blabbering on about nonsense as he usually did. Once they’d finished Geralt asked how he was feeling. Jaskier admitted to still feeling a bit strange but otherwise being okay.

With that they set off again, Jaskier on Roach while Geralt led her on. Jaskier might say he was fine but Geralt didn’t want him collapsing again and this way he could keep a much closer eye on him. This time, their travels were accompanied by snippets of songs half-finished, lute playing and whatever else popped into Jaskier’s head.

Geralt had begun to relax as the bard returned to his usual self. However, just before sunset the bard went quiet again. “Jaskier?” the witcher asked. When he didn’t give a reply Geralt brought Roach to a stop. He lay a hand on the bard’s arm to try and get his attention. He turned to look at Geralt but didn’t say anything, the same vacant look on his face from earlier.

The witcher cursed under his breath before taking the reins again and leading Roach into the forest. They would have to stop for the night soon. They came to a small area mostly devoid of roots sticking up from the ground with a stream nearby. Geralt led Roach to a patch of grass for her to graze on before pulling Jaskier out of the saddle. Not trusting the bard to support himself he carried him to the centre of the clearing and sat him on the ground. He retrieved their bedrolls and lay them out before moving Jaskier onto his. He quickly gathered some wood and cast igni. He didn’t want to leave the bard by himself to go hunting, not knowing if he would take a turn for the worst.

Instead he returned to Roach to relieve her of their bags and the saddle. He gave her a pat on the neck before returning to the fire. He found some dried meat and stale bread and offered it to Jaskier. He only stared at it, not making a move to take it. “You should eat.” Still no reaction. He sat beside the bard and placed the bread in his hand, hoping he would do something. It took a moment for him to realise something was in his hand but when he did, he began eating. Geralt ate his own meagre meal in silence as usual, finding he missed the bard’s idle chatter.

He offered a waterskin to Jaskier which he also took and managed to take a few unsteady sips. Night had fallen by the time Geralt was satisfied Jaskier wasn’t hungry or thirsty. He coaxed him into lying down and covered him with a blanket. “Sleep,” he said, hoping the bard would understand.

Geralt set up his own bedroll on the opposite side of the fire. He didn’t close his eyes until he could hear Jaskier’s breathing even out with sleep.

Chapter Text

Geralt woke to darkness and a cry of pain. He was up instantly, grabbing his sword ready to fight off any monsters. Instead he found Jaskier tangled in his blanket and writhing around. He dropped the sword and knelt next to the bard. His eyes were open, but he didn’t notice the witcher.

“Jaskier, what’s wrong?”

“Hurts,” came a choked answer. “It hurts so much.” A tear rolled down his cheek which Geralt tenderly wiped away with his thumb. The bard blindly reached out and grabbed on to Geralt’s shirt, trying to find some comfort. Geralt took his hand in his own and held it, letting him know he was there. He stroked his other hand through the bard’s sweat damp hair, trying to give him some amount of relief.

After what seemed like hours, Jaskier seemed to calm down as the pain lessened. He fell into a fitful sleep, exhausted but still hurting. Geralt stayed nearby but did not rest. He thought over events so far, trying to piece together what was happening. He doubted it could be a disease as he showed none of the typical symptoms. It couldn’t be a curse as his medallion was still. That left very few options, none of which seemed probable.

It wasn’t until the next time Jaskier woke in pain that he noticed something off. As he manoeuvred the bard upright to rest against his chest in an embrace, both to comfort and to stop him hurting himself with his pained thrashing, he noticed his spine was jutting out more than it should’ve. He knew the bard wasn’t underfed, he’d seen him shirtless only two days ago after washing in a river. He waited until the pain passed and once again Jaskier was asleep before lifting his shirt. Underneath he saw raised ridges along his spine under the skin that hadn’t been there before. Gently he ran his fingers over them. They felt solid like bone.

Something clicked in his brain then and he lowered Jaskier to the bedroll again. He carefully looked at one of his hands, finding the nails resembling sharp claws. Hoping not to wake his sleeping friend, he coaxed his jaw open and saw his normally blunt human teeth had become sharp.

“Fuck.” He stood and paced. This was no curse. Jaskier wasn’t human, he was some kind of creature wearing a glamour. Which meant one of two things. Either Jaskier didn’t trust Geralt with his secret or he himself didn’t know.

Geralt tried to reason through the situation despite his spiralling thoughts. He knew that almost all prolonged glamours needed to be cast on an object. It was likely Jaskier had lost the object recently, which was why all this was happening now. If that was the case, and he was aware that he wasn’t human, he probably would’ve been more concerned. Leading Geralt to the conclusion that Jaskier had no idea what he was.

Questions raced trough the witcher’s mind, almost too fast to comprehend. What was he? How long has he been wearing the glamour? Would he remember Geralt once he’d transformed? Would he be dangerous? He knew in some cases glamours could be used to conceal memories as well as appearance. Would Jaskier remember a life he had before and want to leave Geralt?

He had to forcefully shake himself from his thoughts. None of it was helpful and Jaskier still needed him. He glanced over to the bard, sleeping fitfully by the fire he’d reignited. With a calming breath, he went back to the bard’s side and sat, ready to hold him through the next wave of pain.

It was just after sunrise when Jaskier finally seemed to regain some level of consciousness. He found himself being held by the witcher’s arms, supported against his chest. He also found that his shirt was missing and was only being covered by a blanket. “Geralt?”

“Jaskier, you’re awake,” he said, running a surprisingly gentle hand through his hair. Jaskier found himself letting go of some tension he hadn’t realised he’d been holding in his muscles. The next thing he noticed was a deep ache throughout his body.

“Why do I hurt? And where’s my shirt?” he mumbled.

Geralt only replied with a “Hmm.” However, years of travelling with the witcher meant he’d learnt how to decipher what each noise he made meant. This particular hmm meant he was thinking carefully how to word his next sentence. This did not bode well with the bard.

“Jaskier, I…” Geralt started but seemed to think better of it, trying to find the best way to word what he wanted to say.

“What is it? You’re scaring me now.” He tried to sit up a little to look at Geralt properly but was restrained by the witcher’s arms.

“Did you lose anything recently. Something small that you’ve had for a long time?” Jaskier didn’t see why that was relevant but Geralt was always precise with his words so he answered.

“A ring my father gave to me. I think someone stole it in the last inn we were at. I told the innkeeper, but he didn’t really care.” He couldn’t help the note of sadness in his voice. That ring had become important to him since his parents died.

“How long did you have it for?”

Jaskier was wondering if Geralt would ever get to the point. He tried to think back to when his father had given it to him. Actually, he couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t have it. “As long as I can remember. Why?” was his reply.

Another “hmm” and a pause came before Geralt spoke again. “Jaskier, I don’t think you’re human.”

There was a pause, Geralt allowing the usually talkative bard a moment to say whatever was in his head. Instead he was silent, too stunned to speak, so Geralt continued. “I think that ring was the source of a glamour to make you look human. It may have also concealed some of your memories. I don’t know what you are yet, but I will be here for you.”

Jaskier could only sit in shocked silence. The words had hit him like a gut punch, the ground falling from beneath him. How could he not be human? He remembered growing up human with human parents. But Geralt said it hid memories, how many of his memories were fake? How much of his life was a lie?

Now that he was looking for differences in himself and was a little more awake, he noticed smells were too strong, the sun was too bright despite the early hour and his teeth felt too sharp in his mouth. He was trying his best not to panic so blurted out the first thing he could think of.

“Where’s my shirt?”

Geralt understood the bard was quite possibly having a major identity crisis right now so chose not to make fun of his question. “I took it off after it got covered in blood.”

“What!?”

Wrong thing to say. When Geralt failed to elaborate, Jaskier shrugged out of his hold to sit up, despite his protesting muscles, and turned to face him. “What do you mean “covered in blood?” What happened?”

“Fuck.” A pause, then “It’s your back. You grew spikes from your spine. They broke through the skin but they’re healing fine. They just bled a bit.” He hadn’t wanted to tell the bard about that yet, but it was probably for the best. There was no way to know when he would next be pulled into unconsciousness.

Jaskier’s face drained of colour and he reached around behind him to feel his back. Sure enough, his hand fell on the spikes erupting from his sore skin. It was a strange sensation but at the same time, it almost felt like they belonged. “Huh,” was all he found he had to say about it.

Geralt was surprised he seemed to be taking it so well. As he’d run through scenarios during the night, most of them resulted in a very loud and distressed bard. This was unexpected. He wasn’t quite sure what to do. Just because he wasn’t making a scene didn’t mean he was okay. “How do you feel?” he settled for asking.

“Shocked but… not too bad? I’m not sure. It’s a lot to take in. I don’t remember ever not being human. I don’t know how much of my life is a lie. But at the same time, now that you’ve told me, it feels almost right. Like something I didn’t know was missing has clicked into place.”

There was a moment of quiet between before Jaskier asked another question. “How long will it take? For me to fully… transform.”

“Depends. If you’re a humanoid of roughly the same size, then it shouldn’t be long. The more different from what you are now, the longer it’ll take.”

“And you have no idea what I am?”

“I can narrow it down. Your species is intelligent, capable of complex magic as I doubt any mage would transform you then let you roam the world freely. So, I imagine you’ll probably stay much the same after as you are now, mentally speaking. You’re most likely some kind of predator based on your eyes, teeth and claws. That only leaves a few options.”

Jaskier looked down at his hands then, noticing the claws for the first time. “How am I going to play my lute with these! I’ll shred the strings.”

“I’d be more concerned about the fact you may not have thumbs.” The witcher couldn’t help a small smirk at Jaskier worrying about the wrong things. Of course, he knew how important music was to him, it was his life, how he passed the time and made a living. And he was good at it too, not that he would ever admit that.

Jaskier mourned the loss of his ability to play for a moment before the rest of what Geralt said caught up to him. “My eyes?”

“Slit like a cat’s. They’re still the same colour though.” Well that explained why everything was so bright. “I might be able to tell you more as things progress. Are you hungry? Transformations like this take a lot of energy.”

Jaskier noticed then that some of the pain in his abdomen was actually hunger. He nodded and Geralt got up, gathering one of his daggers. “I’ll be back soon. Don’t move.”

Jaskier didn’t think he could even if he wanted to. Left alone with his thoughts he began to wonder what he could possibly be and the impact it’ll have on his future. He couldn’t play the lute and he doubted he would be able to sing, or possibly even speak sooner or later. Music was his life, had been since he left home. That led him to thinking about his parents.

He’d grown up the son of a Viscount. Both of his parents had loved him dearly, despite the mischief he often caused. He’d had many friends with which he would go on “adventures” with. When he was older he’d gone to Oxenfurt to study the liberal arts. While there he’d received a letter saying his parents had died, killed by bandits while travelling. He’d been devastated at the time but continued with his studies.

He couldn’t remember if he’d gone to the funeral, or even if there had been one, whivh was odd. A family of nobility would surely have had a memorable funeral and yet, he couldn't recall attending. He hadn’t thought about it much before but now it seemed like the memory of that time was clouded in thick smoke, fuzzy and bleached of colour. He assumed that must be a fake memory as it seemed so out of place in his head. Was that when he became human? If so, was everything before that nothing but a construct? Were his parents as he knew them even real?

He realised that he could only be certain that his time at Oxenfurt and onwards was real. He knew people there who he still talked to, sometimes about their time as students. That was real. Anything before that could be false, a result of the glamour.

The only thing he knew he could count on now was Geralt. He’d help him through his transformation into… whatever. And hopefully find a way to create a new glamour. He didn’t think he’d be able to live as anything but a human.

Before Geralt returned, a shock of pain ran up his spine. He cried out and collapsed on his side, unable to remain upright. He grit his teeth and balled his fists in the blanket as the pain spread to his head and limbs. At some point he must have blacked out because he came to with his head lying on Geralt’s lap.

He tried to say Geralt’s name but all that came out was a grunt. He was exhausted but was unwilling to fall back asleep. “I’ll be back,” the witcher said, carefully replacing his lap with a bunched-up blanket and standing. Jaskier saw him move to the fire and picked something up before returning. He felt himself being sat upright across the witcher’s lap, a strong arm around his back. He was handed something which he vaguely recognised as some kind of meat. He found himself devouring it in only a few bites, starving as he was. He was only slightly surprised when Geralt handed him some more which he took slightly longer to eat, savouring the taste.

“How do you feel?” Geralt asked once he’d finished his meal.

“Better, thanks.”

“Here,” he said, passing him a waterskin. Jaskier took it gratefully and took a good few gulps before passing it back. “You should rest. It’ll only get worse from here until the process is complete.”

“You won’t go, will you?” Jaskier asked, almost fearful even as he began to drift off.

“No, I’ll be right here.”

Chapter Text

The next few days were a blur of searing pain and gentle touches as his body broke and reformed itself. He rarely woke and when he did, Geralt was always there, holding him and murmuring words of comfort Jaskier barely understood. At one point he thought the witcher was even singing but he couldn’t be sure before he blacked out again.

He remembered coming to semi-consciousness many times to arms wrapped protectively around him, a hand stroking down his back, easing some of the tension from his sore body. Sometimes Geralt would try and coax him to take a drink of water. Sometimes he simply didn’t have the energy and just lay there, breathing heavily as his body took a break from reforming and allowing him a moment of rest. It never lasted long before he was pulled back to darkness with a burst of pain.

He remembered his bones breaking, reshaping themselves, his skin becoming dry and itchy before peeling in patches leaving red sores. At one point he felt blood running down his head and hated to imagine what he looked like, what had become of him.

He woke for good after three days, transformation complete. He was exhausted and hungry, but he knew it was over now. His eyes remained closed, but he tried to say Geralt’s name to get his attention. He was surprised to hear a noise somewhere between a growl and a squeak instead. It seemed to do the job though as he felt a large hand run over his head and down his back. “Jaskier,” came the familiar gruff voice.

Jaskier attempted to speak but once again only resulted in a growl. “I suppose I can’t speak anymore then,” he thought to himself.
“Open your eyes Jaskier."

He tried to do as he was told and after much effort, he succeeded in cracking open an eye, almost blinded by the sun. His head was resting on Geralt’s lap near the fire and wrapped in a blanket. From what he could tell from his position, curled up on the ground, he had gained a tail and there was something heavy on his back. He tried to give his new tail an experimental flick. He underestimated his strength and if it wasn’t for the blanket getting caught, he probably would’ve walloped the ground quite hard.

“Careful, you’re still not used to your new body.” Jaskier looked back up at Geralt, hoping to ask the burning question with just his eyes. “You want to know what you are?”

Jaskier nodded.

“You’re a dragon. A red one.”

A dragon. So that meant the weight on his back was his wings? He tried to move them but got caught in the blanket yet again.
“Easy. Rest first, then you can wriggle about all you want. You’ve been through a lot.”

As much as he hated to admit it, he had a good point. He could feel exhaustion pulling him back to empty blankness, despite the strange mix of excitement and fear. He closed his eyes and soon drifted off with the witcher’s hand running soothingly down his back.

When he woke again, he felt well rested. It was sunrise so he guessed he must have slept through the night. He looked around the tint camp but found the witcher was nowhere in sight. Assuming he’d gone hunting again Jaskier attempted to get up. He got caught in the blanket still wrapped around him and found it almost impossible to move. He briefly managed to get his shaky legs under him but soon found himself in a heap on the ground when he tried to pull the blanket free with his teeth.

Geralt returned to their camp to find a pile of wriggling, screeching blanket as Jaskier seemed to try and fight it off. He stood for a moment, amused at the sight of a dragon losing to a piece of cloth before he dropped his kill near the fire and helped his friend out of the tangled mess. Jaskier seemed embarrassed needing help with such a thing so Geralt apologised for wrapping him up so tight. He’d already been through enough over the past few days, no need to add embarrassment to the list.

Jaskier, now free to move around, took a few wobbly steps towards the fire. Geralt watched to make sure he didn’t fall, not that he was sure what he would be able to do if he did fall. His head reached Geralt’s elbow and now he was standing, he estimated he was roughly the size of a large wolf or warg.

Jaskier seemed to find his legs relatively quickly. The same could not be said for his tail which was whipping around somewhat erratically. “Mind your tail. You’ll knock something over.” Jaskier turned to look at him then behind him at his new appendage. He hadn’t even started thinking about his wings yet. Jaskier simply plonked himself by the fire, basking in its warmth now he was free of the blanket.

Geralt was half tempted to ask how he was but knowing he couldn’t answer he refrained. He didn’t want to cause any distress by reminding Jaskier he could no longer do the one thing he did constantly. Instead he set about preparing the deer he had caught. Now Jaskier had fully transformed, he knew the former bard would be starving.

He cut the meat up and began roasting it over the fire. He caught Jaskier eyeing the small scraps of raw meat left over hungrily. “Do you want this?” he asked. He had no plan to use it and would’ve buried it otherwise to avoid scavengers.

Jaskier nodded with a little chirrup. Geralt tossed the scraps his way and Jaskier quickly snapped them up. Geralt supposed his appetite will have changed as well as his biology. They sat in comfortable silence as the meat cooked. Jaskier experimented with his new wings, stretching them out and almost losing his balance. He admired his gleaming ruby scales and the strength he felt in the new limbs. He tucked them away again. Later he would see what he could do but for now it was probably safest for both himself and Geralt if he just stayed by the fire for now.

When the meat was cooked, Geralt took some for himself and saving it some for future supplies, letting Jaskier eat the rest. The new dragon ate gratefully. Surely meat had never tasted so good before, despite a lack of any additional flavouring to the venison. Geralt finished long before Jaskier and began to pack up what remained of their camp, loading their bags onto Roach.

When he came to Jaskier’s lute, he felt blue eyes burning into him. He carefully placed it in the case and found a spot between the saddlebags for it to rest on Roach’s back. Usually Geralt refused Jaskier’s attempts to get the mare to carry it for him but since he no longer had any way to carry it other than in his jaws, he was willing to make an exception.

Once they were both ready, Geralt mounted Roach and they headed back toward the road. “Jaskier, you know men would kill a dragon without a thought. To them you’re nothing but a prize. If I tell you to hide, you hide. Understand?” Geralt didn’t want rumours of him travelling with a dragon to start circulating and he certainly didn’t want to have to fight off a dragon hunting party again any time soon.

Jaskier nodded and shortly after they broke through the trees to the road. They continued in the direction they had been going before. Geralt explain his plan on the way. They were going to find a mage and hope they could produce the glamour required to give him a human form. Then they would seek out some answers about his past. Jaskier seemed thrilled by the idea of having a human form again but less so about learning his past. The witcher wondered if it was because he didn’t like being reminded of his probably false memories.

Jaskier, for the most part, had reconciled himself rather quickly to his new reality. He thought he should be at least somewhat bothered by it but found he was actually rather enjoying being a dragon. He supposed deep down in his subconscious he knew this was what he really was.

Admittedly he missed being a human with a voice and hands to play his lute with, but he knew Geralt would help him find a mage and all would be well again. So, he decided to simply let himself enjoy it.

They travelled in silence except from the occasional growl or huff from Jaskier when he spotted something he would normally talk about at length. Initially Geralt tried to enjoy the newfound peace. But it had been four days since he’d heard the bard’s voice and he was beginning to miss it. Years of travelling with near constant noise had left him accustomed to it and now he was without it, it felt wrong.

Then he remembered something from his brief time with Borch. As a dragon he had spoken directly into his mind, his presence vast and powerful in his head yet somehow gentle, like he was afraid of damaging him. Which, he supposed, was entirely too easy for the golden dragon.

“Jaskier, can you speak with your mind?” he asked.

Jaskier stopped for a moment. Geralt pulled Roach to a stop just ahead of him. Jaskier searched his mind, trying to see if it was possible. He closed his eyes and focussed. He let himself go blank and found his mind moving outward, seeking the witcher’s. Gently, he brushed against his consciousness, asking permission to enter the others mind. Geralt allowed him in and he was careful to remain only on the surface of his thoughts. The witcher’s mind seemed vast and he didn’t want to accidentally start sifting through his memories.

He tried to say something but found the words became garbled nonsense that drifted into silence before they could be heard. Instead he tried to send a sense of warmth and gratitude to the witcher, showing how much he’d appreciated his help over the past few days. This seemed to work as he felt a similar warmth being returned to him. He withdrew his mind and came back into himself.

He blinked a few times and took a few shaky steps forward, feeling somewhat drained from reaching his mind out. He quickly recovered though and once he caught up to Roach they were off again.

“So, no words but you can do feelings. Interesting.”

They continued onward. Jaskier found himself reaching out his mind into the surrounding trees, brushing against the consciousnesses of surrounding wildlife, reading their surface thoughts and practicing sending them thoughts of his own. Geralt had to call to him to keep up a few times when he stopped walking, too distracted by a colony of ants or a nest of baby birds.

Jaskier soon found himself capable of sending more complex feelings and thoughts to the surrounding wildlife beyond base emotions. He even managed to impress the idea of his lute on the mind of a very confused squirrel. He was reluctant to try it on Geralt just yet, afraid of annoying him into closing off his mind. For now, it was best to stick to simple thoughts.

By the time dusk was setting in, the town was coming into view. Geralt led them off the road before the trees ended and the fields began, into the forest. Jaskier brushed against his mind, sending a prickle of confusion his way. “You can’t go into town,” was all he said.

A thought struck in Geralt’s mind then that somehow felt remarkably like “well, duh,” and was so stunned by the clarity of the thought he had to take a moment to remember it was Jaskier and not himself. When he didn’t say anything, he felt another, stronger questioning almost pulse in the back of his mind. “I’m not abandoning you for a lumpy bed while you stay in the woods alone,” he said eventually.

Jaskier made a happy sounding rumble at that from deep in his chest, accompanied by a flash of warmth in his mind. It wasn’t long before the bedrolls were set up. Jaskier chose to lie on top of his, sans blanket, and curled up. Geralt thought he looked much like an overgrown cat. The witcher himself took the extra blanket and made a makeshift pillow for himself. Geralt hoped tomorrow he would be able to find information about a mage nearby and he would be one step closer to getting his bard back.

Chapter Text

They both rose early with the sun. Geralt gave Jaskier some strips of dried meat before they set off. Before they reached the fields surrounding the town and breaking through the cover of trees, Geralt instructed Jaskier to go around to the far side and find somewhere to wait for him there. He agreed and disappeared into the undergrowth.

Leading Roach by the reins, he made his way through the streets towards the only inn. He gave the stable boy a few copper coins and instructed him to give Roach the best care. With that he made his way to the tavern. He went up to the bar and ordered some food. He asked the bar keep if he knew of the whereabouts of a mage, but he didn’t know any in the area.

Many of the townsfolk were similarly unhelpful throughout the day, although one did have a contract for him. A pack of nekkers had been plaguing some fields to the west of the town. He tensed, remembering that that was the direction that he’d sent Jaskier. However, an open field wouldn’t make a good hiding place, so he was probably safe. He assured the man he would deal with the nekkers before the day was done and they came to an agreed price.

He made his way to the small market, taking the opportunity to buy some supplies as he asked around. He received a few convoluted stories at best, none of which were likely to be true. He was just about to give up when a young woman overheard him.

“You’re looking for a mage, sir?” she said approaching him from beside a stall. She didn’t seem afraid as most of the other townsfolk did, despite their well-meaning words. He could tell that although everyone he had so far come across weren’t hostile to witchers, they weren’t exactly trusting of them either. “There’s one in the town just north of here, about two days on foot. Helped my father when he was gravely ill.”

“When did you last see this mage?” He needed to make sure the mage hadn’t moved on as he found they tended to do after a while.

“Only last week. Most folk around here don’t like to talk of magic. Fear it simply because they don’t understand it.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And you don’t?”

“Oh, I do. But I also know it can be used to help. Like with you, master witcher.”

Geralt only hummed at that and the woman walked off into the crowd. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of the strange encounter but decided she seemed trustworthy enough to be believed about the mage.

Deciding spending any more time here was pointless he headed back to Roach in the stable and took his silver sword out of his bag. He decided against using a potion, the man had only said there were a few nekkers and he was reluctant to waste a potion. They should be easy enough to deal with.

He walked to the west, out of the town toward the plagued fields. He stepped off the main road into the trees. Once he was out of earshot, he called for Jaskier. After a moment there was a rustling in the bushes to his left and a red dragon came bounding up to him. He was holding something small and bloody in his mouth which Geralt guessed was probably a rabbit. Jaskier sent a wave of happiness over his consciousness before tipping his head back and devouring his kill, licking the blood off his mouth with his forked tongue.

“I suppose your hunting instincts have kicked in then,” he patted his head in greeting. “Listen, there’s a pack of nekkers not far from here. I’m going to get rid of them, collect my pay and then we’re heading north. Apparently, there’s a mage there who might be able to help.”

They made their way towards where the man had said the nekkers were, a field on the very edge backed by trees. Jaskier remained hidden, not wanting to be spotted by any curious villagers wanting to see a fight.

Geralt saw the entrance to their underground tunnel, could hear the nekkers beneath the dirt, no doubt hiding. With his silver sword ready, he waited, using his enhanced hearing to try and determine how many there were.

It wasn’t long before three burst out of the ground and attacked. Two were in front of him and one behind. He swung for the first two, injuring one of them. The other two jumped at him, long claws raking across his armour. He heard a screech and at least seven more emerged from the ground. Fuck, this was way more than he was expecting.

He slashed at them, dodging their attacks as best he could but they kept coming at him from different angles, making it hard to track them. He managed to kill a few of them but could feel himself beginning to tire and the majority were still alive. He was beginning to regret not taking a potion. The man had said there were only a few so he hadn’t thought it necessary, but this was almost a horde. He was sure one more had just crawled up from the ground as he finished of another one, stabbing it in the gut.

They were starting to overwhelm him, making his movements difficult as they crowded him, slashing at him. Suddenly a large weight barrelled into him. He recovered quickly, dispatching two more nekkers as they regrouped. He turned to face the new threat only to find Jaskier swiping and biting at the nekkers.

He didn’t have time to be angry at the dragon, instead taking the opportunity of their dispersed numbers to hack at the regrouping nekkers. With fewer of them surrounding him, it was easier to swing, silver singing in his hands as he relieved a nekker of its head.

When the last had been defeated he turned to find Jaskier fighting off the very last nekker. It looked as though Jaskier had the situation under control, avoiding the nekker’s attacks and countering with a swipe of his talons.

When it was over Geralt quickly ushered Jaskier back under the cover of trees, sparing a glance back at the village to make sure he hadn’t been spotted.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” he said gravely. “I had it under control.”

Jaskier didn’t even bother reaching out with his mind with a comment, somehow conveying his scepticism with nothing but a look. “Thanks anyway, I guess,” the witcher admitted begrudgingly. It was true he would’ve been fine, but it didn’t mean his help wasn’t appreciated.

“Are you hurt?”

Jaskier indicated with his snout to his right side. Geralt knelt to inspect the area. Now that he was closer, he could see the red running over his scales, causing them to darken. The wound itself was deep, cutting into the softer flesh at the shoulder joint between his wing and back, slicing down the front of his right leg.

“This is deep. It’s going to need stitches,” the witcher said gravely. “I need to go back into town before I can do anything for you. Roach has all of my supplies. Wait here, and don’t attract any attention to yourself.” With that Geralt got up and headed back to the nekkers. He cut the head off one before going back into the town.

The man from earlier was in the tavern. He handed over the coin without complaint at the sight of the head, leaving a pool of dark blood on the floor where it had been dropped. Geralt couldn’t be bothered to ask for more than the agreed price as he usually would when faced with something he hadn’t expected.

The witcher went to the stable to fetch Roach and led her back to where he’d left Jaskier. When he arrived back, no more than half an hour could have passed and yet Jaskier was lying on the ground, curled up in a concerningly quiet ball.

“Jaskier, we’re back,” he announced, hoping to get some kind of reaction. He was rewarded with a small growl. Geralt quickly set to work, retrieving strips of cloth he used for bandages and locating a needle and thread. He knelt by the dragon, laying a hand on his neck. “This is going to hurt but I need you to keep still for me.”

He felt a wave of emotion hit him. It was muddled with pain, but the overall feeling was one of trust. With that, Geralt set to work, using the water from his waterskin to clean the wound before threading the needle and beginning to stitch the wound closed. Luckily for Jaskier, it was a clean cut through his flesh, so the sutures didn’t take too long but he did keep stopping when he sensed the pain was becoming too much. It was hard work, having to sew in such an awkward place with the added difficulty of the hard scales lining the gash.

It seemed a long time before he was done. Jaskier was exhausted from the pain, adrenaline long since worn off. Jaskier watched as Geralt rose to rummage for something in his bag. He returned with a small jar of something.

“This salve should help prevent infection and numb the pain a bit,” the witcher explained as he began rubbing the substance over the wound. The effects were immediate as Jaskier felt some of the ache seep from the area leaving a dull throbbing. He couldn’t help but let out a contented growl.

Once Geralt was satisfied the area had been thoroughly covered he began wrapping a bandage around it. Despite the awkward location, Geralt managed to do a pretty decent job of securely wrapping the wound.

“Can you walk? We should really get away from this town before the farmers return just in case.” He hated the thought of having to make Jaskier walk with his injury but the risk of being discovered outweighed it. Under any other circumstances, he would’ve set up camp here so Jaskier could recover somewhat but that simply wasn’t an option this close to town.

Jaskier answered with a rumble from deep in his chest before pulling himself to his feet. He took a few tentative steps before gaining confidence he wouldn’t fall despite the pain. Seeming satisfied, Geralt packed up the medical supplies and mounted Roach. “We’ll go slow. Let me know if you need a break.”

They cut through the forest until they joined the road leading north away from the town so as to not be spotted and set out at a fairly slow pace. At first Jaskier seemed mostly fine, only limping slightly and keeping his wing pulled close to his body. He would occasionally reach out with his mind to test the boundaries of his ability to communicate. Geralt found that Jaskier could send clear sensations and expressions and even a few muddied thoughts in the form of images.

Jaskier had so far shown him his lute, Roach, a dandelion and a sword. As far as Geralt could tell they were just a random assortment of things Jaskier could see but it was nice to know his mental communication was getting better. Geralt had tried to send similar things back but found he was lacking. No matter how hard he tried, he only managed to get emotions through to his friend. Still, it was something.

After almost two hours the witcher could tell Jaskier’s energy was beginning to flag. Any thoughts that were sent his way were tinged with pain and yet he never indicated he needed a break. Geralt pulled Roach off the road in search of a place to stop before the sun sank too far below the horizon.

Jaskier followed, glad for a chance to rest. He hadn’t asked to stop despite the pain because the longer they kept going, the sooner they would find a mage. He knew it was stupid, but he couldn’t help but miss being a human and the pain was gradually clouding his thoughts. Keeping in constant mental contact with Geralt hadn’t helped either, draining his energy bit by bit, but he found it gave him a small amount of comfort to know the witcher was there.

Geralt set up camp quickly with an efficiency that came with years spent on the road. Jaskier practically collapsed in front of the small fire, curling up and falling asleep almost instantly. Geralt couldn’t help but be worried. He hadn’t eaten anything since just before the fight and had been walking solidly ever since being injured. He hoped he recovered soon and that the mage wasn’t much further away.

Chapter Text

Jaskier woke to darkness and a throbbing pain in his shoulder. He shuddered as a chill ran through him, curling up tighter to conserve as much body heat as he could. When had it become so cold? Summer was on its way and the nights hadn’t been this cold in weeks.

The small movement sent a spike of pain down his leg. The pain was probably what woke him up. With nothing to do and finding sleep unlikely, he swept his gaze across the clearing in which they had stopped. He saw Geralt sleeping nearby, seemingly unaffected by the sudden cold. He began shivering and something in the back of his mind was telling him he should be concerned.

He couldn’t remember much leading up to their impromptu stop, his mind had been rather hazy. He had only known that he had to keep going, they had to find the mage and get help. He felt his eyelids begin to close, exhaustion overwhelming the pain. As he gave in, he couldn’t help the prickle of fear as his mind told him something was very wrong.

 

Geralt woke to the rising sun. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep but he was exhausted, not having a proper night’s rest since Jaskier collapsed all those days ago. Even the night before he hadn’t let himself rest properly, too afraid that someone would sneak up on them and attack Jaskier. It was only because of the exertion of the fight the previous day that he finally succumbed and got some actual sleep, despite Jaskier’s injured state.

He got up and glanced over to the dragon. He was sleeping but something about the way he was curled up didn’t seem right. He was too tense and he would occasionally twitch as if stuck in a bad dream. He took a few short steps to kneel by his side. He could feel the heat rolling off him in waves. This was bad.

The witcher tried calling his name to wake him but got no reaction. He placed a hand on his back, hoping to avoid startling him. He didn’t fancy losing a finger to a startled dragon. Jaskier only let out a tired growl.

“Jaskier, you need to wake up,” he said gently but firmly. “You have a fever. I need to take a look at your wound.”

Jaskier managed to crack open a glassy blue eye. Sluggishly it focused on Geralt before he opened his other eye to look at him properly. He began shivering and sent an accidental wave of misery and pain across the witcher’s mind.

Geralt tried to encourage him to sit up, allowing him access to the injury. Carefully he peeled back the bandage, careful of the dried blood that had seeped through the cloth. There was an awful smell as he unwound the last section. The wound was inflamed and dark and he could see puss surrounding the area. He couldn’t tell how bad it was due to the red scales still covering the skin around it but at least two scales had come away, revealing more of the infected flesh.

“Damn it,” he growled.

He rose to retrieve the medical supplies from the bag by Roach before returning. He dampened a cloth with water from his waterskin, ready to start cleaning before he paused. “I need to treat this. It’s going to hurt like hell,” he warned. Jaskier nodded his head, another confusing mix of emotions washing over his mind. There was pain and fear but also trust. With that, the witcher began gently wiping at the area, clearing away the dried puss and blood.

Jaskier suppressed his growls of pain, resisting the urge to bite the witcher as he tried to help. Every touch was torture although the cool cloth brought some relief to the burning heat of his skin. It took all his concentration not to let his emotions slip and barrage Geralt’s mind during his careful work.

Once the witcher was satisfied he had cleaned as much as he could he applied another layer of salve, completely covering the area around the injury, before getting a clean bandage and wrapping it once more.

“We need to go, now. I’m sorry but you’re going to have to walk. I can’t carry you or put you on Roach, you’re too big.” Jaskier could see the genuine hurt in his eyes as he spoke. Geralt wanted to ease the pain but he was helpless to do so.

The witcher swiftly packed up his bedroll and the medical supplies. Securing it all on Roach he took the reins, ready to lead her. Jaskier managed to stand on shaking legs, taking a few tentative steps forward. Any weight on his injured leg was excruciating but he found he was able to walk on three legs without too much trouble, at least for now anyway. He felt weak but he knew he had to move.

Geralt hated to make him do this but there was no way he would be able to get him to the mage otherwise. He could probably pick him up thanks to his witcher strength, but he wouldn’t be able to carry him for long and Roach would similarly only be able to take his weight for a short time, if he managed to get him on her back at all. He could only hope Jaskier was strong enough to make it.

Geralt made sure to keep an eye on Jaskier the entire time, watching for any sign he might need to stop. Ideally, he wanted to take as few breaks as possible, knowing each time they stopped it would be harder for Jaskier to start going again. However, the last thing he wanted was for him to collapse from exhaustion.

It was slow going but they managed to walk for a good few hours before Geralt led them off the road. Jaskier had kept moving but his eyes had started to close. The dragon didn’t so much sit as controlled his fall to the ground once they stopped, landing in a heap in the shade of a tree. Geralt tried to get him to eat but he refused. “At least have some water then,” he said, holding the open water skin.

After a moment of hesitation, Jaskier opened his mouth and let Geralt pour some in. It sat heavily in his empty stomach and briefly thought he was going to be sick, but he managed to supress it.

They sat for maybe an hour, allowing Jaskier to regain some of his strength. Geralt ran through their few remaining options. Jaskier likely wouldn’t last past today so they needed to reach the next town very soon. The young woman from the last town had said it was two days away so, despite their slow pace, they could theoretically make it if they didn’t stop too often and pushed on into the night.

If not, Geralt would be forced to leave him behind and hope he could convince the mage to come with him. He also had to hope the mage would actually help instead of killing Jaskier for their own gain. It wasn’t every day that one came across a small, injured and vulnerable dragon after all, and he knew how cruel some of them could be. Overall, Jaskier’s chances of survival were slim.

“Fuck,” he sighed, running a hand down his face. Jaskier looked at him with dull blue eyes, pulling himself to his feet. He gave a quiet, low growl from deep in his chest before nuzzling the witcher’s hand. “Are you ready to go?”

Another growl and a small nod.

They didn’t stop again until the sun began to dip below the horizon. It was a short break of only a few minutes, but it was badly needed. Instead of sitting or lying down, Jaskier chose to lean heavily against a tree. He knew he wouldn’t be able to get back up if he did. He was feeling considerably worse, the pain in his injured limb almost blinding with every small movement despite his best efforts not to move it. He was weak and continued to go from feeling far too hot one minute to freezing the next.

Jaskier’s energy had been somewhat boosted by their short break but soon began to flag again. Geralt knew that if they stopped again, Jaskier likely wouldn’t be able to keep going. He tried to help him stay motivated with words of encouragement. He offered water and food often but they never stopped again.

Jaskier would occasionally accept water when he felt like his stomach was less likely to rebel. So far, he had managed to keep the water down. Despite his hunger, he refused food, certain it would only make matters worse.

Night began to fall and still they walked. The town was nowhere in sight. Geralt kept hoping it was just around the bend of the path, hidden behind the trees. He was always disappointed. He didn’t know how much longer his friend would be able to keep going. He was surprised he had made it this far, pushed on by sheer force of will. Worryingly, he seemed to be mostly moving automatically, his mind having gone silent a few hours ago.

The witcher missed the near constant stream of thoughts but he could tell it took energy to communicate that way and currently, that wasn’t something Jaskier had something to spare. Instead he had to rely on the occasional growl to know he was still at least somewhat aware.

He prayed to any god that would listen the mage was still in the town they were supposedly heading to. If they had left, they were in deep trouble. A healer could probably help but he didn’t want to trust a human not to tell of Jaskier’s existence and judging by the rate at which the wound had become infected, he suspected magical intervention would be required anyway.

If Jaskier were a witcher, one of his potions and some rest would be enough to heal without a problem. But he didn’t know what effect witcher potions would have on a dragon. Would they have a similar lethal effect as they do on humans or would they be rendered completely useless in the system of a dragon. He had no idea and was unwilling to take that risk with Jaskier’s already fragile life.

Lost in thought, he didn’t notice that Jaskier had stopped until he heard a dull thud. He whipped around to see Jaskier in a heap on the ground, eyes half closed and weakly struggling to stand again. He was by his side in an instant.

“No, Jaskier, you need to get up.” He tried to help him up but Jaskier’s legs refused to cooperate. He knew it was useless, but he was unwilling to face reality. With a growl Jaskier caught his attention. He blue eyes met gold and the witcher felt a calming wave of reassurance wash over his mind. Jaskier had given up.

“No, you’ll be fine, just… Hold on, please.”

Jaskier went limp in his arms, succumbing to unconsciousness. He felt the heat rolling off him in waves. He must have been suffering terribly all day, but he had somehow managed to keep going, despite the pain, exhaustion and sickness.

A plan was beginning to form in his mind. He hated it but it was the only option left. He managed to get his arms around the dragon and lift him in an awkward hold. He was heavy but lighter than he was expecting. There was no way he could carry him for any length of time, nor would it be safe to put him on Roach, cementing in his mind what he had to do. He took him a fair bit deeper into the woods before laying him down. Roach dutifully followed her owner without prompting, sensing something was wrong.

He took a blanket from his pack, covering Jaskier as much as possible, hoping to hide him from view. If all went to plan, he would return before sunrise, but he didn’t want to risk anyone discovering him. He removed the bags from Roach’s saddle and hid them in the undergrowth. They would move faster with less weight. He took Roach’s reins to lead her back to the road. She tried to resist, unwilling to leave Jaskier behind. “I know, but we have to go to save him.”

Once back on the road, he swung himself into the saddle. He urged her forward and she took off in a canter, sensing the urgency of the situation. They rode hard, speeding along the road as fast as Roach could sustain. She wasn’t used to going so fast for so long, but she had always been reliable.

In the dark of the night, Geralt couldn’t help his thoughts straying to the bard. Would they find the mage in time? Would they be able to save him? Had he abandoned Jaskier to die alone in the middle of nowhere? He tried to shake the thoughts off, this was the only thing he could do to help now, no matter how much he hated it.

They rode for almost an hour before he spotted dim lights through the trees. They didn’t stop until they reached the main square. There were a few drunkards standing about outside what he presumed was a tavern judging by the smell and noise drifting out of the open door.

“I need a mage. Is there one in this town still?” he asked the nearest group, not bothering to dismount.

The men stared at him in stunned silence. He could smell their fear. “Tell me, now.” He practically growled.

“Th-the manor on the edge of town,” said one of them, pointing down the main road.

Without even acknowledging them he turned Roach in the right direction. The mare was breathing hard but still moved at a fast walk when prompted. He owed her so many apples.

The manor was easy to spot. It was far from the rest of the nearby houses and seemed quite grand in comparison despite its relatively small size. It was surrounded by a low wall but there didn’t seem to be any guards around which made things easier. He rode up to the main door, dismounting before Roach had even stopped and pounded on the door. He heard movement inside before the sliding of the lock.

The door swung open and he was met with the scent of lilac and gooseberries and familiar violet eyes.

“Yen?”

Chapter Text

When Yennefer had heard desperate pounding at her door in the middle of the night, she had assumed someone from the town needed her assistance. She hadn’t expected to be faced with a panicked witcher.

“Geralt, what are you doing here?” Yennefer said, opening the door wider.

The witcher was speechless for a moment, obviously trying to sift through his thoughts, before saying “We need your help.”

“We? Your bard I presume,” her voice remained casual, almost disinterested, something she had worked on for decades while still serving as court mage.

“He’s dying. Please, help him.”

Yennefer finally properly took in his appearance. He seemed almost frantic, a wild look in his eyes as if he had been chased. Strands of his hair had come loose from where it had been tied back, presumably from riding fast. Then she noticed Roach behind him, foaming slightly at the mouth and breathing hard. She couldn’t see the bard anywhere and she could feel a hint of fear rising in her chest. She may not have always got along with the bard but she had to admire his bravery and loyalty. She took a step outside to better see her surroundings, but he was nowhere in sight. “Where is he?”

“I had to leave him, Yen,” Geralt’s voice wavered. He sounded desperate.

Yennefer dropped the cool, collected façade and allowed herself to feel the small sliver of worry for the man. “Come in, tell me what happened. I need to get supplies.” She disappeared back inside the house, heading to the storeroom where she kept various herbs, potions and medical supplies.

Geralt followed her inside. “It was a contract in the town south of here. Nekkers. There were more than I was expecting, and I was being overwhelmed. Jaskier dived in to save me, but he was badly injured, and it got infected.”

Yennefer didn’t have time to wonder why a bard would jump into a fight with nekkers, she would ask for the full story later. She quickly gathered everything she might need in a bag, mentally putting together an idea of what she would be dealing with, before heading back outside. “I need you to think about where you left him.”

Geralt closed his eyes and pictured the path where Jaskier had collapsed. He felt the air shift and opening his eyes he saw a portal. “Come on,” Yennefer said before stepping through.

Geralt followed immediately after, recognising the road. He led Yennefer off the road to where he had left Jaskier. She created a dull blue light to see the way, hovering just above them. Geralt picked up his scent before he saw him, sickness and blood, but under it all was the unmistakable scent that was uniquely Jaskier.

As they walked, Yennefer felt a growing feeling of unease pressing in around her. At first it was nothing but a prickle at the back of her mind, but it gradually grew stronger the further into the trees they went. She eventually recognised it at another being’s thoughts. “Geralt, there’s something out here,” she said. All Geralt did was take a few more steps forward before kneeling next to a large mound. He pulled back what she assumed was a blanket, revealing a small red dragon.

“Geralt! What’s going on?” she took a step back, raising a hand and calling on her chaos ready to defend herself. Geralt seemed unconcerned, gently running a hand down the creature’s snout, waking it from sleep. “Where’s Jaskier?” This wasn’t making any sense and she still couldn’t see the bard anywhere.

“This is Jaskier.”

The dragon, opened its eyes, blearily looking in her direction. She couldn’t deny those eyes looked remarkably like the bard’s. Yennefer was shocked to silence. She took a moment to gather her thoughts before speaking. “Have you lost your mind in the months I’ve been away? Jaskier is a bard. A very human bard. That is a dragon.”

Geralt stood, placing his hand over her still outstretched one, carefully lowering it. “Yennefer, please. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later. Just, help him.” There was genuine desperation in his voice, something she never thought she would hear. It didn’t suit him.

Hesitantly, she set her bag down and knelt next to the small dragon. She felt him reach for her mind, but he was too weak to make the connection. She felt sorry for the poor beast. Dragons could only communicate with their minds and this one was too weak to even do that. As she began unwinding the bandage, she reached out with her own mind and made contact with him. “Yennefer,” he managed to say to her, accompanied with exhaustion and gratitude. His mental voice was the same as Jaskier’s, albeit weakened. His mind was familiar, altered slightly but no doubt the same as the bard’s from the few times she skimmed across his thoughts. She couldn't deny that this dragon and the bard were indeed one and the same. She momentarily stopped unwinding the bandage as she quickly processed what that really meant.

You’ll be okay now,” she tried to reassure him. With that he promptly withdrew from her mind and fell back into unconsciousness. Once the injury was uncovered, she could see why he was in such a bad way. It was badly infected, leaking puss and blood from beneath a layer of salve.

She cleaned the area and began applying her own healing salves, infusing them with magic to speed the process up. She had never been the best at helping but she found it came in useful every now and then to know how to treat wounds and cure ilnesses. Geralt sat by Jaskier's side silently as she worked, absenty running a hand down his spine. “Geralt, I think you may have left out some key information when you came to get me.”

Geralt only replied with a “hmm,” clearly distracted.

“Care to explain how you bard is actually a dragon?”

The witcher was silent. Just as she was about to give up on getting an answer, he spoke. “A few days ago, he collapsed on the road.” Another long pause. She could tell whatever had happened had been difficult for him, so she refrained from interrupting.

“At first, I thought he was ill, so we stopped. He was awake but it was like he wasn’t there; he had no idea what was going on or where he was. He seemed to get better for a while but then he got worse again.

“That night he woke up, crying out in pain. It stopped after a while, but it kept coming back. I wondered if he had been cursed or something. It was clear at that point he wasn’t ill. At some point I noticed he seemed to be… changing. When he was lucid, I asked if he had lost anything. He told me about a ring his father had supposedly given him when he was young.”

“A glamour,” Yennefer finished form him. He nodded in confirmation. “Did he know?”

“No. He had no idea.” Geralt hated how his voice cracked, clearing his throat to try and mask it. He was sure Yennefer heard anyway.

“How long did it take?” She knew the dangers of wearing a glamour for prolonged periods of time. If Jaskier didn’t know what he was, he wouldn’t have known to remove the ring and change back frequently to keep the process simple and painless. And he had been with Geralt for twenty-two years. How many years he had been human before then, she didn’t know.

“Three days.”

Yennefer couldn’t help the pang of sorrow and sympathy. They both knew just how painful physical transformations could be. Three days of excruciating pain as his body broke and reformed. It must have been torture.

“All I could do was hold him as he screamed. I had to try and keep him quiet, to stop people from looking.”

Glancing over at the witcher she finally saw how exhausted he was, both emotionally and physically. He had never had to endure a friend’s suffering before, knowing there was nothing he could do but let it happen.

“I’m sure he was grateful you were there for him.” She reached over and placed her hand over his.

She continued to work for a few more minutes, using magic to enhance the work of her salves. She even managed to get Jaskier to drink a potion to help with pain. “We need to get him back to the house. I can open a portal, can you carry him?”

“Not far but I can manage.” Getting him this deep into the forest had been a struggle, partially fuelled by adrenaline. He was reluctant to repeat the experience.
“I’ll put the portal directly in one of the guest rooms.”

Geralt nodded, moving to pick the sleeping dragon up once again, careful of his injury. Yennefer stood, creating a portal which led directly into the house. He went straight through and she followed.

Geralt was already placing Jaskier on the bed when she emerged. With a snap of her fingers the candles flickered to life. In the light, his scales looked dulled and somewhat drained of colour.

She headed out of the room before Geralt stopped her. “Thank you, Yen.”

“You’re welcome to stay in the other room until he recovers. I’ll be back with something to help bring down his fever.”

As she made the potion to help with fever, she thought over what Geralt had told her. She had never really got along with the bard, but she couldn’t help but admire his loyalty. She had always enjoyed exchanging barbed comments with him. He was one of the few who weren’t afraid of angering her and she enjoyed the challenge of one-upping him. She usually won.

The signs that he wasn’t human had been there all along, she simply hadn’t been looking. He hadn’t seemed to age a day since they had first met, in a very similar situation to this. She had remarked about his crow’s feet on the mountain all those months ago but truthfully, they were barely noticeable, more like laugh lines than wrinkles. There had always seemed to be a faint aura of something more about him. It wasn’t anything she could put a name to and eventually she had dismissed it as just another quirk. Now she sees it was the raw magic of a dragon, hidden by an impressively powerful glamour.

She then began to wonder how old he really was. From what she knew of dragons he was too big to be around forty. Despite most dragons being truly massive, they aged incredibly slowly, taking centuries to reach their full size. Even so, a forty-year-old dragon would be much smaller than Jaskier by about a third of his current size. But then, she was no expert and could very well be wrong. There was such a shortage of information about the elusive creatures that no one really knew anything about them.

The big question was why he pretended to be human for all those decades, seemingly without knowing what he really was. Was the glamour forced on him or done so without his knowledge? Did he do it to himself to escape something?

She eventually returned to the room to find Geralt sitting on the bed, staring at Jaskier. She placed one potion on the small table by the bed and uncorked a second, managing to get most of it into the sleeping dragon with little fuss. “This one is to help with the fever. That one will help dull the pain if he wakes,” she said, gesturing to the other potion. “I’m going to sleep, I’d suggest you do the same. There’s a room across the hall.”

“Our bags are still in the woods,” he grumbled, attention still on Jaskier.

“I’ll open a portal for you tomorrow. I need to rest. I’ve used a lot of energy tonight.”

“I should go see to Roach first.” The mare had been at the back of his mind, but he knew she would be fine. Over the years he had left her in much worse places during hunts.

“There’s a stable around the back. Goodnight witcher.”

"Thank you, Yennefer," he said. She had a feeling he meant more than just the stables. She gave a small nod before she retreated to her room. It had turned out to be one of the strangest days she had ever experienced.

Chapter Text

Jaskier slowly came back to consciousness feeling pleasantly warm. He could immediately tell he was no longer lying outside on the forest floor despite his hazy mind. Instead the ground beneath him was soft and the smells of the forest were absent, replaced by clean sheets and herbs. He almost succumbed to the pull of sleep once more before remembering why he had been in the forest to begin with. The slight ache in his shoulder was the only indication of his injury he could feel, nothing like the near blinding pain from before.

He slowly prised his eyes open and saw a bright airy room with sunlight filtering through the large windows. He found himself curled up on a large bed, covered by a blanket. He looked around for a moment, hoping to see Geralt. The witcher was nowhere to be found although his scent lingered in the room. He hoped it was because he was busy with something and that he would return soon. He felt uneasy being in a strange place by himself since he became a valuable prize for commoners and mages alike.

Speaking of mages, he assumed wherever he was belonged to the mage they had been travelling toward. He couldn’t remember how he got here however. The last thing he could recall was trudging along the road after dark. He must have passed out at some point, the infection and exhaustion becoming too much. The fact that he was awake at all told him that Geralt must have been successful in finding them and having his wound mostly fixed. He hated to think how much it cost.

He tried to get up, which was difficult since yet again he was tangled in a blanket and the bed kept sinking beneath him, throwing off his already unsteady balance. He eventually gave up after collapsing in a heap for a second time. Surprisingly, his leg didn’t hurt too badly despite his moving around although he still couldn’t put any weight on it.

He accidentally let out a frustrated noise, somewhere between a whine and a growl, when he lost his balance for the second time. He froze, unsure who else was in the house or what the mage’s intentions were for him. Hopefully Geralt was nearby and could come and untangle him but it was equally likely to be a murderous sorcerer.

It wasn’t long before he heard footsteps approaching. Too light to be Geralt. He wondered if he had made a mistake in bringing attention to the fact he was awake when the door opened.

Yennefer?

“Hello Jaskier. Good to see you’re awake. Geralt has been insufferable.”

Geralt’s here, good.

“Why, do you think he would just leave you behind? I’ve only just managed to convince him to leave your side to take a bath.”

He looked at her in stunned silence. He hadn’t been reaching his mind out to her and yet she had read his thoughts.

“I’m a mage trained at Aretuza, of course I can read your thoughts Jaskier. I would have thought you’d be grateful since Geralt can’t understand you.” She moved to the bedside and tried to remove the offending blanket, having to pull it out from under him when he got tangled.

What happened Yen?” Jaskier asked once he was freed. He had no idea how much time he had spent unconscious.

“Geralt turned up at my door two nights ago asking for help. He explained what had happened and that you needed help so I created a portal to you. He had however failed to mention you’re apparently a dragon. I treated your wounds and we brought you back here. You were asleep for all of yesterday.”

Jaskier was relieved to hear he hadn’t missed much. He hated the thought of losing more than a few days to his injury. “Where’s Geralt?” he asked.

“Like I said, I’ve only just managed to get him to have a bath. He’s been worried about you, refused to leave you for more than a few minutes. I’m sure he’ll be back soon. In the meantime, how do you feel? Any pain or sickness?”

Just a little sore but I’m sure that’s to be expected.

“Indeed. If you were human, you would have surely died from a wound like that. Even magic has its limits,” she said, checking the bandages still covering his shoulder.

There was silence as Yennefer continued to check over him. He was almost tempted to call it fussing but thought better of it, seeing as she could read his mind. She stood and picked something off the large table by the wall. In one hand was a viscous black sludge in a small vial and in the other was a plate with what looked like chicken. Jaskier suddenly realised he was starving.

“I’ll only let you eat if you drink all of this first. It’s to help make sure the infection doesn’t return.”

Reluctantly, he opened his mouth and allowed her to pour the potion in his mouth. It was foul, possibly the worst thing he had ever tasted. He gagged but managed to swallow, shivering as he felt the sludge move down his throat.

Yennefer wordlessly placed the chicken in front of him and he dug in eagerly. At some point she must have left the room as when he had finished his meal she was nowhere in sight. Deciding he wanted to stretch his legs he carefully jumped down from the bed and hobbled out the door on three, slightly shaky legs.

The corridor was just as light and airy as his room had been. He sniffed the air and caught a whiff of cooking. Deciding he was still hungry he followed the smell. He passed a few rooms on his way. He peeked inside the ones with open doors, all were lavishly furnished and bright. He idly wondered what poor lord Yennefer had enchanted this time to acquire such a beautiful place.

He eventually came to a landing with a wide oak staircase. He hesitated for a moment before taking a tentative step down. He wobbled dangerously and for a moment he thought he was going to fall. He managed to gain his balance, spreading his wings slightly and digging his claws into the wood, leaving shallow gouges. He took the rest of the stairs slowly, but he managed to get to the bottom.

He continued to follow the smell of food and found himself in a large kitchen. Yennefer had her back to him, although she no doubt knew he was there. It looked as though she was making some kind of stew in a large pot over the fire.

“Jaskier,” she said without turning around, confirming his earlier assumption. She added something to the pot before turning around. “I see you made it down the stairs then.”
He only responded with an annoyed snort. She must have known how long it took him to get down.

“I suppose you’re looking for more food?”

Jaskier hated looking greedy in front of the mage but to be fair he had almost died. “Maybe I’m just here to look around. It is a nice place after all. Who did you enchant this time?

“I bought this place actually. It had fallen into disrepair, so I got it for cheap and fixed it up,” she explained in a somewhat smug tone as she moved to a cupboard and rummaged around. She pulled something out and placed it on the table. He watched as she unwrapped the cloth package to reveal strips of dried meat.

“This is all I’ve got for you.” she said as though explaining it to a child. He didn’t appreciate being spoken down to and he made sure she knew by shoving his disapproval at her mind.

“Ow, alright. No need to be so loud.” She placed the cloth with the meat on the floor so he could reach it easily. While he ate, she went back to the pot over the fire. They were silent but it wasn’t tense like he had imagined it might be. If anything, it was pleasant. Not like when he was with Geralt, but nice all the same.

Some time later he heard footsteps approaching. “Yennefer, where’s Jaskier? He’s not in his room,” he called before rounding the corner to the kitchen. Jaskier looked up from the last strip of meat and greeted him with a growl and a pulse of happiness to his mind.

“Jaskier,” Geralt said in greeting, kneeling next to him where he lay on the floor. He placed a large hand on his head and rubbed gently. Jaskier couldn’t help the happy sound that rumbled from his chest and decided he didn’t really care if they heard him practically purring like a cat.

“As sweet as this is,” Yennefer said, startling them both. They had forgotten she was still in the room. “Perhaps you two could take this elsewhere.” She had her arms crossed and gave them a pointed look.

She had a point, Jaskier admitted to himself. He snatched up the remaining strip of meat before getting to his feet. Once he was standing, he caught Geralt giving him a strange look. “Have you grown? I’m sure you weren’t this tall two days ago.”

Jaskier looked down at himself then his surroundings. It was hard to tell in the unfamiliar environment, but he found his head almost reached Geralt’s shoulder, meaning he’d grown maybe three inches.

He looked over to Yennefer who simply shrugged her shoulders. “It’s possible that your transformation isn’t completely over yet. Your size was probably reduced to make it easier to shift from a human and now your body is catching up. There’s no telling how big you’ll eventually get.”

Jaskier didn’t like the implications of that. The bigger he got meant the older he really was which in turn meant there was more time he had forgotten from before. Geralt, sensing his distress placed his hand on his head once more. “Come on, let’s leave Yen alone,” he said, turning to leave the room.

Dragging himself from his spiralling thoughts, he followed Geralt out of the kitchen to a room furnished with plush looking seats. Geralt sat on one end of a large sofa, leaving plenty of space next to him for the dragon. He carefully hopped up lay down, his head resting against the witcher’s thigh. He was trying his best to distract himself from the new information but was failing miserably.

He must have accidentally let his feelings leak into the witcher’s mind as he was the one to break the silence. “Jaskier, we’ll figure this out okay. Whatever happened before may be gone, but I’m still here for you.” He stroked his hand down Jaskier’s spine, barely there at first as though asking for permission. When Jaskier gave a rumble of approval he continued, massaging his back lightly. Jaskier found himself relaxing, concentrating on the calming feeling of Geralt’s hand.

They sat for a while in silence, Geralt continuing the soothing motion. Usually Jaskier would fill the silence with inane chatter about whatever thought raced through his head. Geralt usually contented himself to simply listen, occasionally saying a few words to prompt the bard to keep going. The witcher decided he didn’t like this silence. It felt wrong with Jaskier around. Usually silence meant he was sick or injured. He should be loud and vaguely annoying, not quiet and miserable. Even on their way to the last town Jaskier had interrupted his thoughts often with his feelings and random images.

This time it fell to Geralt to hold a one-sided conversation and he did it in his typical fashion by getting straight to the point.

“Yennefer says she can understand you. Read your thoughts,” he said hesitantly, not knowing if Jaskier actually wanted him to talk right now.

Jaskier turned his head to face the witcher, silently encouraging him to keep talking.

“She said she could try and teach you to speak with your mind properly. So that I can hear you too.”

Jaskier made an excited noise at that. Being able to communicate with Geralt properly would be great, although he would have to make sure he didn’t annoy the witcher too much since he would be speaking directly into his mind.

Geralt must have picked up on his excitement as he could detect the faint hint of a smile pulling at his lips. “It will take time. She may even have been able to create another glamour before then anyway.”

Jaskier felt his heart rate pick up at the mention of another glamour. He could be human again. Oh, how he missed his music and his lute and just being able to speak. “She didn’t tell you that?”

Jaskier only shook his head. It was then that Yennefer entered the room, making her way to an empty chair opposite the two of them. She winced slightly as Jaskier assaulted her mind with his racing thoughts. “Jaskier, I can’t understand you when you do that.”

Geralt said you can make me another glamour?

“Yes. You’ll have to take it off every now and then or else you’ll have a repeat of your last transformation but otherwise it’s painless,” she said with a wince, recalling when she had undergone her own transformation, her spine snapping and realigning itself.

Jaskier would have jumped up and down with joy if his leg didn’t still hurt. “Thank you, Yen.

“Right well, Jaskier. I think we need to talk about certain things,” she said gravely. Jaskier didn’t like where this seemed to be going. “Geralt said you have no memories of being a dragon.”

Chapter Text

This was decidedly not the conversation Jaskier was hoping to have right now. After all, he’d only just woken up from nearly dying. The least they could do would be to allow him to rest for a while before interrogating him on his fractured past. Yennefer might have helped heal him, but he knew her inquisitive nature, always looking to learn as much as possible while forgetting the subject of her studies had feelings. He honestly didn’t think she did it on purpose but that didn’t stop it from rubbing him the wrong way. He could tell Geralt was against the idea too, his eyes narrowing on the mage as she brought up the sensitive topic.

Seemingly undeterred both by the look she received from Geralt and from the small wave of discomfort and anxiety from Jaskier she continued down her chosen path. “Look, if you want my help, I need to know everything you can tell me,” she said with a sigh. “The sooner the better as memory spells take a lot of time and preparation and I’m sure you’d rather not wait too long. That is, if I can do anything in the first place. These things are extremely complex.”

Jaskier had to admit she had a point. But still, a day or two surely wouldn’t make much difference. He looked to Geralt for support, hoping he would back him up. To his dismay the witcher seemed to be siding with the mage.

Fine, but I’m only doing this if Geralt can hear me too,” he said into Yennefer’s mind, resigning himself to his fate. He wanted Geralt to be able to hear him mostly so he didn’t have to retell what he remembers again at a later date but also partly for moral support. Although he didn’t really know how good the witcher would be at that.

Yennefer rose from where she had been sitting and stood by Geralt, placing a hand on the side of his head and a quick instruction to hold still before speaking something in Elder. “Geralt?” he asked once Yennefer had returned to her seat.

“I can hear you Jaskier,” he said, once more running his hand down his spine.

“This is only a temporary solution and I won’t be able to hold it for long. You two will have to learn to do this on your own after this,” the mage said.

Now all attention was on him and for possibly the first time in his life, he had no idea what to say. There was so much going on in his mind, conflicted thoughts and feelings and underlining it all was the uncertainty that anything he thought he knew was even real to begin with.

Yennefer, having an easier time sifting through the onslaught of tangled thoughts, tried to help by focussing his attention. “Tell me, what’s the oldest memory that you’re certain is real.”

That he could do. “I think it’s the first day I went to Oxenfurt.

“What makes you think that?”

I’m not sure. It’s like… the memory is more solid. Everything seems vague and dull before then, like looking through murky water. But that day in Oxenfurt seems clear and bright. As does everything after it.”

“Makes sense,” Geralt said. Yennefer sent him a questioning look, prompting him to elaborate. “Turning up somewhere new where no one knows you and practically starting a new life along with everyone else. It’s a good place to hide.”

Jaskier didn’t like the implications of that. “Hide from what?

Geralt, rather unhelpfully, only shrugged and refused to say anything more.

“What about your family? What do you remember of them?” Yennefer asked, once again giving him a focal point for his spiralling thoughts and distracting him from the witcher’s rather ominous statement.

I have memories of them but they’re like everything from before Oxenfurt. They’re blurry and dull. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what they looked like. Or what they were like at all for that matter.

“Do you have any specific memories of them? Any times that stand out to you at all?”

Jaskier concentrated, casting his mind back into the probably fake past. He tried, almost desperately, to find something that stood out to him against the murky greyness of his supposed childhood. He sifted through each memory that came to his mind but each one felt mostly the same. A vague image of a man and a woman and a small spark of love. The background shifted and changed but there were no details and the colour seemed bleached from everything. With each one he dismantled it, knowing it never happened, and cast it from his mind.

There was nothing. He was only slightly surprised that he hadn’t noticed before but that was probably the old glamour’s doing, distracting his awareness away from the fact that he simply didn’t have memories of his parents. Now that it’s connection to him was weakened, the truth was being revealed, even if it was simply him now being able to recognise the false memories for what they were.

He was left feeling hollow at the realisation. He no longer felt that certainty that he had once had a family who loved him, instead left with a vague sense of someone who raised him and that tiny spark of love he was sure must be real, rooting the false memories in something. That sense of love felt more robust than anything else in his past, bringing a tiny amount of warmth to his otherwise cold and empty memories. If nothing else, he was sure his parents, whoever they really were, did in fact love him.

They’re not real,” he said after a while. “At least not how I think they existed. None of my supposed childhood is real but…

“What is it?” Yennefer asked when he trailed off.

Whoever they were, I’m certain they did love me. That’s the only thing that seems real about them.

“Is there anything at all that seems like it’s not completely false, like that feeling of love.”

With a steadying breath he once more dived back to his false past, searching for any scrap of reality. It was exhausting but he knew it was necessary. He once more sifted through memories of his past, not bothering with the ones his parents featured in. A few times he found there was a man who seemed clearer than anything else, his image clear and the grey only slightly bleeding into his edges.

There was a man, a mage. He worked for my parents sometimes. But he doesn’t look familiar. Almost like he’s been hidden in my mind.”

Both Yennefer and Geralt were silent for a moment before Yennefer spoke. “You say he’s a mage?”

Jaskier nodded. “It could be that he was the one to cast the original glamour and hid himself in your memories. Maybe to make you trust him and make it easier for him to manipulate you. Do you remember him from your real memories?”

No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him after Oxenfurt.

“Could be that he had a plan but something happened to him before he could actually do anything,” the witcher said. “Can you remember his name?”

Jaskier shook his head. There were only a few instances of the mysterious mage in his mind and in all of them he was silent.

“Jaskier, may I try something? I want to see if I can get your memories back, at least the ones which may have this mage in them, but I warn you it may not work.”

Jaskier thought about it for a moment before giving his consent. Yennefer got up to kneel in front of him. He felt the connection to Geralt’s mind fade as Yennefer drew her power into herself. She placed her fingers lightly either side of his head, closed her eyes and began speaking in Elder. He felt his head grow fuzzy, his awareness fading at the edges before a sharp pain lanced through his brain. He jerked back form Yennefer’s touch with a growl, pulling himself more upright in an attempt to get away.

It took a moment for the disorientation to fade. He hadn’t realised he’d closed his eyes until he blinked them open to see Yennefer still sitting on the floor, one hand massaging her temple. Geralt had resumed stroking down his neck to try and calm him down.

“Sorry Jaskier, that wasn’t supposed to happen.” Yennefer pulled herself back up and returned to her seat opposite them. “It seems this mage or whoever else made this enchantment certainly knew what they were doing. I’m afraid to remove it I’ll need the original glamour.”

Jaskier’s heart sank. The town where the ring had been stolen was days away now, further if it hadn’t been taken elsewhere since then which was likely. Innkeepers didn’t tend to keep stolen goods nearby. Then once they found it they would have to get whoever stole it to admit to it and hope they would either hand it over or track down whoever they’d sold it to. No, the ring was gone for good.

He once more felt the tendrils of Yennefer’s magic probing at his consciousness. He was about to snap at her to knock it off when he realised she wasn’t going after his mind again. “There’s still a weak connection between you and the ring. It’s not enough for a true tracking spell but I can probably use it to help you find it again.”

A heavy silence filled the room. There was no guarantee they’d be able to find the ring meaning Jaskier’s past was as good as lost along with it. Surprisingly, it was Geralt who broke the silence. “How long do you need to make a new glamour?”

“A week at most. I need to gather a few ingredients first, some of them can be quite hard to come by.”

Geralt only nodded. The silence had become awkward and none of them really knew what to say. Eventually Yennefer left under the pretence of checking on the stew, leaving the witcher and dragon alone once more.

Geralt had continued stroking Jaskier’s back since having Yennefer invade his mind. The witcher found he quite enjoyed the soothing motion, possibly almost as much as Jaskier was. He was normally hesitant about touching others, afraid of scaring them off. Jaskier had always been different though and over the years he had learnt to accept his small touches whether it be him washing monster guts from his hair or brushing shoulders while walking. He knew Jaskier was a very tactile man and knowing he could no longer initiate those small touches himself, Geralt found himself filling that need for the both of them.

He looked down to find Jaskier had drifted off to sleep at some point, his large head resting on Geralt’s thigh. He wasn’t surprised, his injury was still healing and he’d been unconscious for almost two days. He’d wake him for dinner in a few hours but was content to simply sit with him for now. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do. Yennefer had allowed them to stay in her home for as long as they needed so he didn’t need to go and find a contract to be able to keep a roof over their heads.

Roach had been seen to after a few hours of arriving back at the house. She’d huffed at him in annoyance but otherwise seemed unperturbed. She had been left worse places after all. He’d led her to the stables at the side of the house and relieved her of her tack, brushing her down and providing her with plenty of hay and a few apples as compensation for making her gallop for so long.

It had been tiring work but he’d needed it to keep his mind occupied and keep from spiralling into what ifs. The sky was beginning to lighten up by the time he finally went back inside, heading straight back to Jaskier’s room. He’d been in exactly the same position as when he’d left him, curled up on the bed with a blanket draped over him. He knew he’d struggle to be free of it once he woke but he had every intention of being there when he did, needing to see those blue eyes clear of sickness and pain.

Of course, Yennefer had ruined his plan by insisting he take a bath and sending him away although it was hard to argue with her logic. He stank of horse, sweat and blood, both belonging to the nekkers and to Jaskier. The relief he’d felt when he’d seen Jaskier in the kitchen was immediate. All the remaining tension he’d been holding left his muscles and he felt lighter.

No matter if they found Jaskier’s ring or not, they would be okay now, he was certain of that.

Chapter Text

The days following their conversation about Jaskier’s past seemed to last forever. Jaskier found himself becoming antsy and impatient, trying desperately to make time move faster. Yennefer said his shoulder was healing nicely and there should be little scarring, which seemed to be the only interesting news so far. His natural rate of healing seemed to be faster than usual and he wasn’t sure if it was a natural part of having a dragon’s body or if Yennefer’s magic had something to do with it. Either way, he was grateful.

Yennefer had set out the morning after to begin her search for the necessary ingredients. She was gone most days, only returning in the evenings. She brought back several plants, books and a few strange looking objects Jaskier couldn’t begin to try and identify. He asked Geralt about them out of sheer boredom but the witcher rarely got a good enough look before the items were taken to Yennefer’s private study which she had forbidden them from entering unless someone was actively dying.

The witcher had spent the first two days in the large house, tending to his swords and armour and making sure Roach was comfortable. Jaskier had spent most of those two days following Geralt, pestering him and trying to communicate with his mind. They were getting better at it, Geralt able to grasp most of what Jaskier was trying to communicate at a base level, even if he couldn’t manage specifics just yet.

On the third day Geralt had told him he was going to try and find work, whether it be a monster contract or as manual labour. When Jaskier tried to object, the witcher had told him how he disliked feeling useless. Jaskier knew that even when he went back to Kaer Morhen for the winter, the witcher was always busy with chores or training so he let him go without too much of a fuss.

Unfortunately this meant that Jaskier was left to his own devices for most of the day. At first, he had simply tried to pass the time by napping but there was only so much sleeping he could do in a day. He scavenged some food from the kitchen and tried to pass the time by exploring every corner of each room in the grand house, flicking his sensitive tongue out to taste the air and crawling into small, forgotten spaces to see what lay inside. Most of his finds consisted of dust and cobwebs but he did find a few sheets of paper. The writing had become illegible with time and the parchment itself was damp and floppy but it was more interesting than the spiders occupying the space.

That only kept him occupied for a few hours before he was bored again. He missed playing his lute, his fingers dancing across the strings as he composed a melody. He tried to compose in his head but found the lyrics kept escaping him as he couldn’t write them down and the melody was inconsistent without the focus of his lute. Frustrated, he eventually gave up on that too. He resigned himself to waiting until either Yennefer or Geralt returned.

The days stretched on in much the same fashion. Yennefer would leave not long after eating breakfast, Geralt would stay for an hour or two before also going out, leaving Jaskier stuck inside all day by himself. He couldn’t even go outside and run around to burn off his excess energy for fear of being spotted. He felt like a trapped pet, kept in the house all day, waiting for its owner to arrive and keep it entertained.

For the most part no one came to the door looking for Yennefer, but there was one instance of a man looking for the mage’s services. Jaskier had been lounging on the rug in the main sitting room, having grown slightly too big for the sofa to still be comfortable on it when he heard a loud knock at the door. He jumped to his feet but didn’t really know what to do next. Should he hide in case they came in or should he stay still so they couldn’t hear him moving?

His question was answered when the man moved in front of the window. Jaskier has a split second to dive behind the sofa before the man leant against the glass to peer in. Seemingly satisfied the mage was out he eventually left, but the encounter left Jaskier’s heart hammering in his chest. As soon as Yennefer returned, he told her what had happened. She had tried her best to calm him down after he managed to get himself worked up again, promising to put up a sign warning everyone to not disturb her for the next few days.

Geralt had commented on the sign when he returned and Yennefer told him what had happened. He spent all day at the house the following day, claiming he wanted a break from working. Jaskier was grateful.

On the sixth day he decided to risk sneaking out to the garden at the back as Yennefer had finally removed the bandage on his shoulder, confident no one would ignore the sign at the gate and risk the mage’s wrath. He was still a little sore, but it was mostly from disuse, the muscle pulling uncomfortably as he moved. The wound itself was barely visible, just a thin pink line already partially covered by new scales growing in. He just needed to go outside, feel the sun warm his back and the grass beneath his feet. He passed the stables on his way and decided to pay Roach a visit. He hadn’t seen her since before he collapsed, only having heard about how she and Geralt had practically raced to save his life. He reached out his mind to hers and tried to convey his gratitude. He doubted she fully understood but she didn’t seem bothered by his presence in her mind either, so he took that as a good sign.

The garden at the back was small compared to the front. It was little more than a wide strip of green backing on to the high wall signifying the end of the land that came with the house. It was one of the best things Jaskier had seen in a while. He happily bounded up and down the grass, soaking in the freeing feeling of being outside, even if he still couldn’t really go anywhere. He scented the air, flicking his tongue out to better get a sense of his surroundings. He took in the freshness of the grass and the smell of the herbs Yennefer grew in various beds.

He stretched out his wings properly, something he couldn’t quite do inside for fear of knocking something over. His injured wing ached but it felt good nevertheless. A light breeze picked up and he was suddenly overtaken by the urge to fly and almost attempted it before remembering he hadn’t the first clue on how to do that and that his wing was still healing. There was also the added danger that if he were to fly, he would surely be spotted. Maybe once he was away from civilisation he would try it. For now, he simply curled up in the sun and dozed off.

He woke a few hours later to Geralt shouting his name. At first, he thought he was angry but then he heard his name being called again. He sounded scared, something rare to see coming from the normally fearless witcher. He stood and rounded the corner to see said witcher facing away, his eyes most likely scanning his surroundings for any sign of him. He let out a low, questioning growl to let him know of his presence.

Geralt whipped his head around, golden eyes burning with something unidentified. “Jaskier,” he breathed in clear relief. Jaskier suddenly felt a wave of guilt. He had disappeared from the house with no indication of where he had gone after someone had possibly spotted him just two days ago. He should never have fallen asleep outside, it was stupid and dangerous.

He tried to apologise to Geralt mentally before the witcher could say anything. By now Geralt was pretty good at understanding his words, not just the feelings behind them thanks to Yennefer’s guidance. Geralt simply shrugged him off. “It’s not your fault Jaskier. I just didn’t know where you’d gone. I don’t blame you for wanting to go outside,” he said, walking over to the dragon. Jaskier was almost the same height he had been when he was human so instead of resting his hand on his head, the witcher’s hand went to Jaskier’s uninjured shoulder, providing a small bit of comfort to them both.

They made their way back inside to find Yennefer emerging from a portal with a large, old book in her arms. “Where have you two been?” she said, placing the book on the nearest available surface.

“Jaskier was outside but I couldn’t find him. Thought something might’ve happened.”

Yennefer only hummed after giving them a quick once over with her eyes to check they were both alright. “Well, I’ve gathered everything I need. I’ll need another day for preparation, but the glamour should be ready by the end of tomorrow.”

Really?” Jaskier said, suddenly finding himself with a renewed energy he hadn’t realised had been depleted.

“Yes. But neither of you can disturb me tomorrow or it will all be for nothing.”

The next day seemed rather anticlimactic, despite Jaskier practically bouncing off the walls. Geralt stayed with him again that day, allowing Jaskier to bombard him with questions about dragons, something he had previously been hesitant to ask about. Where did dragons usually live? How many were left? How could he learn to fly? Could all dragons breathe fire? Could he breathe fire?

Geralt had answered his questions with all the enthusiasm of an exasperated teacher and the bare minimum amount of words. Jaskier was surprised he was willing to offer up as much information as he was, but he supposed it was a good way to keep him occupied.

As the sun was setting, Yennefer eventually emerged from her study holding a silver chain and pendant in her hand. “It’s done. We’ll eat first and then we can do the final step.”
They ate in silence, the room filled with nervous anticipation. Well, at least the witcher and Jaskier felt nervous, Yennefer simply seemed exhausted from working on the glamour all day.

Geralt offered to clean the dishes while Jaskier and Yennefer went to Jaskier’s room. She told him to get on the bed before she began to explain what was going to happen.

“I’m going to need a small bit of your blood, only a few drops so that I can bind the glamour to you. Then I’m going to put you to sleep for a day so that it can work on transforming your body. When you wake, you’ll have your human body back and I’ll teach you how to use the glamour to change forms. There’s clothes over there for you for later,” she finished, indicating a chair in the corner which he only just noticed had a stack of clothes resting on it.

Thank you, Yennefer. For all of this,” he said, trying to put as much sincerity in his words as he could. They may not have always gotten along but he truly was grateful.

Yennefer hummed, giving him the barest hint of a smile. “Give you your arm,” she said, holding up her hand, a knife held in her other hand. He did as she said, resting his foreleg in her open palm. With the tip of her knife, she nicked his skin beneath his scales and allowed a few drops of blood to drip onto the pendant he had seen earlier.
It was small and circular and seemed to be engraved with words in elder around the outside. At the centre sat a small red jewel, almost the same colour as his scales. His blood made a slight hissing sound as it hit the metal.

Yennefer said something in elder and he felt a rush of power that left him slightly breathless. She wrapped the small cut and instructed him to lie down before speaking elder once more. He found his eyes closing against his will and before he knew it, he was asleep.

Chapter Text

Jaskier opened his eyes. The room was bathed in orange light indicating the sun was setting. He moved to sit up, expecting to get caught once again on a blanket that had been placed over him at some point. Instead it slid off him, pooling on his lap. It suddenly hit him then that he had his human body back.

He hurriedly tried to get out of bed in his excitement, but found his limbs were uncoordinated and he fell with a thud to the floor. He managed to avoid smacking his face on the wood beneath him but had to lie still for a moment to get his bearings. Apparently, he had made enough noise when he fell that there was a knock at the door. “Jaskier?” came Yennefer’s voice.

Jaskier opened his mouth to speak but found his voice raspy. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I’m alright. Just give me a minute.”

He heard footsteps disappearing down the hallway, her heels clicking on the wooden floor. Jaskier let out a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding, worried the mage might walk in to see him on the floor, barely covered by the blanket which had accompanied him down.

He sat up once again before managing to get his legs under him with the support of the bed. He stumbled over to the chair in the corner where Yennefer had left him some clothes. The clothes weren’t familiar to him, presumably something Yennefer had found for him somewhere. He was surprised at how well they fit, especially considering she hadn’t seen his human self for some months.

He struggled with the buttons on his doublet and eventually gave up altogether, cursing his lack of coordination. His movement was stiff aa though his joints had frozen. He didn’t have this much trouble when he became a dragon, but he supposed dragons don’t have much need for fiddly things like buttons so he doubted he would have noticed as much. When he was suitably decent, he made his way to the door, pleased to find he had mostly regained control over his legs. It felt strange only walking on two legs after becoming accustomed to four and he missed the weight of his wings at his back, something he had become used to very quickly.

He passed the mirror on his way and stopped to look at his reflection. The first thing he noticed was that he looked younger, not by much but there was a noticeable difference pushing his apparent age closer to his mid-twenties rather than thirty something where he had seemed to stop aging before. Other than his age, nothing seemed different from before which was a relief.

He eventually managed to tear himself away from the mirror after an attempt to do something with his hair. Once through the door and in the hallway, he made his way to the stairs. His legs still felt a little shaky, so he found himself staying near the wall, just in case. The stairs were easier than they had been while he was a dragon. Well, he supposed he’d always been a dragon, but he hadn’t had the body of a dragon.

He found Geralt and Yennefer in the lounge. Yennefer saw him first, shifting her attention away from whatever it was she was saying to Geralt. “Jaskier,” she welcomed him, causing Geralt to turn in his seat. He could see the faintest hint of a smile on the witcher’s face when he saw him. He stood to help Jaskier after watching him stumble closer. He tripped on his own feet but the witcher managed to catch him before he met the floor again.

“Careful,” he mumbled as he helped right the bard. He kept a hand on his lower back in case he tripped again as he led him to the sofa. Jaskier was grateful, his legs were beginning to feel like jelly again.

Once he was sitting, Yennefer spoke again. “How do you feel? Any pain?”

“I’m fine. It’s just everything feels strange.”

“That’s not too uncommon with these kinds of things. Give it a few hours and you’ll feel like yourself again. For now, I’d suggest taking it easy.” She stood and moved behind the chair she’d been sitting on. “In the meantime, here.”

She held out his lute case and he practically snatched it out of her hands once it was within his reach. “Thank you, Yennefer.”

“It was Geralt’s idea, thank him.”

Jaskier turned to face the witcher sitting beside him. “You kept going on about how much you missed it,” he said with a shrug.

“Well either way, thank you Geralt.”

He opened the case and took out the lute. He gave it an experimental strum and was greeted by discordant notes. His fingers may be temporarily too clumsy to play but he could still tune it. The other two left him to it, heading off to do their own thing while Jaskier slowly took the time to tune each string.

By the time the strings sounded as they should he felt he could try to play something. He’d start with something relatively simple, as a warm-up exercise. When he began, his fingers were still stiff, but he managed to find the correct placement well enough and soon he was playing without much trouble. He moved on to progressively more difficult songs, humming along at first before joining in with words, slowly building up his confidence in his newly restored body. His voice cracked occasionally but soon that too returned to normal.

It wasn’t until Geralt informed him it was time to eat that he realised how long he had been sitting there. The sun had fully set, the candles had been lit and there was the smell of food wafting from the kitchen. Jaskier got to his feet and followed the witcher, only stumbling once on his way.

After eating he felt like his usual self, any uncertainty about being in his new body having left his mind. Both Yennefer and Geralt seemed pleased though undoubtedly for slightly different reasons. Yennefer wouldn’t accept anything but the best from herself and if Jaskier had remained uncoordinated and stiff she would have undoubtedly berated herself until she could find a solution. Geralt on the other hand simply seemed happy to have his bard back.

“Jaskier, with me,” Yennefer called as she got up and left the room. Jaskier shot a confused look to Geralt who simply shrugged before darting after her. She led them outside to the rear garden. The only light came from the moon shining above them.

“I’m going to teach you how to use the glamour to switch forms. While you’re wearing it, the pendant will sustain the glamour for you. However, when you take it off you will need to consciously hold on to the link between it and you. To change form, you should take it off, hold the link and then let go carefully when you’re ready. To change back you should do the same in reverse. Understand?”

“I think so.”

“Good. Now, give it a go.”

“Wh… now?”

“Yes now. That’s why we’re outside,” she said as if it was the most obvious thing.

Jaskier closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment. He found he seemed to keep the ability to reach out his mind to others which he was glad for, able to detect Yennefer’s consciousness at the edge of his mind. He searched for the link Yennefer had mentioned, tying him to the glamour. It wasn’t a particularly strong connection, but it was distinct.
He held on to the faint thread of magic, lightly grasping it with his mind and strengthening it slightly with his own power before removing the pendant from his neck. There was a surge of magic before he felt the thread grow weaker, sustained only by his will to keep it intact. Then he gradually let go as Yennefer had instructed.

Almost instantly he felt his body shift. He opened his eyes to find he was back in his draconic body, the pendant still held in his claws.

“Good, now change back,” the mage said, sounding rather pleased at her work.

Jaskier searched for the thread of magic again. It took considerably longer as the magic was barely there, but eventually he found it again. He poured some of his own chaos into it, willing it to change him back to human. He felt himself shift form again and opened his eyes.

He was back in his human form once more and thankfully still dressed. He put the pendant back on and released the thread of magic.

“That was… odd,” he said, feeling somewhat dizzy.

“It’ll get easier as you do it more often. Eventually you’ll barely have to think about it.” With that she headed back inside to the kitchen where Geralt still was. Jaskier followed after her a moment after, feeling like he needed to catch his breath.

“Wait, does this mean I can use magic?”

“All dragons can use magic Jaskier. Some, such as Borch, more than others. As the effects of the old glamour continue to wear off, you’ll probably find your power growing. It’s already happening with your thought transference with Geralt. He may be improving but so are you.”

“How did he do?” the witcher asked when the entered the kitchen.

“Surprisingly well. He’d be ready to leave tomorrow if you wanted.”

Geralt only gave a small nod before leaving the room.

Yennefer turned her attention back to the bard. “if you do intend to find your ring, I’ve placed a spell on your pendant. It allows you to know when the ring is nearby but I’m afraid I couldn’t do much more than that.”

“Thank you, Yennefer. And you’ve done more than enough already. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”

“Just, keep each other safe.” With that she left the room, leaving Jaskier feeling slightly off-balance. What the bloody hell did she mean by that?

Jaskier decided to simply return to the lounge and retrieved his lute. Settling back down he began to play again, a soft melody he had composed a few years ago. He stayed there, singing to himself softly until Geralt returned.

 

Jaskier wanted to talk about their plan to retrieve the ring but there really wasn’t much to it at this point. They would travel back to the inn they had stayed in and find out who stole it but there was little else they could plan for without knowing who had it.

Geralt had packed their things and made sure Roach would be ready to leave the next morning. There was no point in hanging around, they’d already wasted a week as it was and the more time passed, the further away the ring could be.

Eventually they all retired for the night, heading to their separate rooms. Jaskier found it difficult to sleep. He done nothing but sleep for the past day after all but he couldn’t deny the mixture of excitement and nerves at finally going to find a way to restore his memories.

Chapter Text

It took them just three days to get back to the place where Geralt had been hired to deal with the nekkers. Many people seemed surprised to see him again so soon. They didn’t stop for long, only going to the market to replenish some of their supplies for the next leg of their journey.

Geralt knew that although these people weren’t outright hostile to witchers, they weren’t exactly welcoming either and he didn’t want to spend too long around them in case they decided to run them out of town. Jaskier had complained of course, wanting to spend the night in a bed and to play for a crowd after so long without an audience. He knew the bard thrived on the energy of an attentive audience, but this was not the kind of place that would want to hear about the deeds of a witcher. Reluctantly, he had agreed and they had been on their way.

As the days had passed, Geralt experienced first-hand how powerful Jaskier’s thought transference had become. What had been a constant buzzing in the back of his mind while they were in the town had become a loud stream of consciousness from the bard, even when he wasn’t trying to communicate with his mind. Geralt had asked him to get it under control one it began to give him a headache. Jaskier had managed to silence his mind but it took a great deal of concentration on his part and he still occasionally slipped up.

Geralt tried not to get annoyed with him about it. After all, this was new to both of them and Jaskier had no formal training in magic. It did mean however that Jaskier was silent for most of their travels. He was just grateful this hadn’t become such a problem before the last town. The last thing they needed was Jaskier projecting his thoughts into the minds of everyone around him. He would also need to find a better solution before they arrived at their destination as the next town was likely to hold enough distractions that he wouldn't be able to hold on any longer.

Unfortunately, the concentration required to keep his thoughts in check meant Jaskier was developing a headache of his own. He was barely aware of his surroundings which meant he practically ran into Roach when Geralt pulled her to a stop. The surprise broke his concentration and his thoughts spilled out, causing Geralt to wince before he got it under control again.

“Come on,” he said, leading them off the road to a meadow just past the trees. “We’re stopping here.”

Jaskier wanted to object. They had hours before the sun would begin to set. However, travelling and concentrating on keeping his thoughts in his own head was proving to be difficult and the thought of an early end to the day sounded welcoming. Jaskier simply sat cross legged on the ground and closed his eyes. He suddenly felt exhausted. He knew Geralt would be setting up their camp and seeing to Roach but he barely paid him any attention. That was until a waterskin was thrown in his direction, causing him to jump and his thoughts to spill out again.

“Why don’t you transform for a while. You might find you have better control that way,” Geralt said after Jaskier accidentally bombarded him a second time.

It was worth a shot he supposed. He took off the pendant and passed it to Geralt, keeping the thread of magic whole. Then he let go and shifted forms. Initially it was much worse, causing Geralt to flinch hard and Roach to toss her head. It soon settled down into background noise for the witcher before Jaskier cut it off entirely. “You’re right, it’s much easier like this.”

Jaskier relaxed for the first time in the last two days, stretching out in the grass, spreading his wings. Geralt also seemed to relax as he finished setting up camp. The road they were travelling on wasn’t very busy and they were slightly hidden by the trees so the chances of Jaskier being spotted were pretty slim. He could probably fly out of danger anyway. Hopefully…

“Can you fly?” the witcher asked.

I don’t know. Probably but I haven’t exactly had the chance to try,” he replied, turning to face him.

“Why don’t you give it a go then? There’s plenty of space here and we're hidden by the trees.”

Jaskier got to his feet and spread his wings but then he seemed to freeze. “I really don’t know how to do this.”

“I can’t help you there. You’ve probably got some instincts hidden somewhere in your head.”

Jaskier only came up blank. Well, he may as well try something. He was bigger than he had been when Geralt found him outside but he closed his eyes and stretched his wings out again, hoping to find the same feeling he had in the garden before. He felt slightly ridiculous just standing there with his wings spread but where a slight breeze came along he felt the instinct to fly overcome him again. Instead of backing down like he had last time, he embraced it. He pushed off from the ground and flapped his wings, achieving a moment of flight. It didn’t last long however as he overbalanced, ploughing into the ground.

Once he righted himself, he heard Geralt chuckling to himself. “I’d like to see you do better.”

“Forgive me but it’s not every day I see a dragon crash to the ground.”

At least I got in the air.”

“For a second.”

Jaskier batted him with the tip of his tail as he returned to his starting point. Luckily Roach seemed nonplussed be what he was doing and simply munched the grass in front of her. She was far too used to big scary monsters and seemed to simply accept Jaskier's presence.

Jaskier tired again, launching himself in the air and tried to simply glide. He managed to land on his feet that time and counted it as a success, even if it wasn’t exactly flying. He passed the next few hours practicing. He found flying in a straight line fairly easy once he was used to being in the air but turning took much longer to figure out. Not only did he have to think about his wings but also his tail, which if he flicked it the wrong way, would send him tumbling to the ground once more.

As the sun was setting he thought he had finally got the hang of it, able to fly above the meadow for a few minutes before coming back to land. When he returned to their camp, he found Geralt had cleared a space for a fire and was cooking something in a pot. “You did well,” he said as Jaskier approached.

Jaskier let out an appreciative huff of air. “Can I have the pendant back.”

Geralt pulled the pendant out from a pocket on his belt and held it in his palm. He wasn’t entirely sure how to give it back but suddenly Jaskier had changed back to his human form and was plucking it off his palm before putting back around his neck. He was also pleased to find his mind had remained unscathed by Jaskier’s when he shifted. “It worked then,” he said after a moment.

“What?”

“With the thought transference. Shifting helped. Or at least I’m guessing it did.”

“Oh, yes! You’re right! I don’t even have to think about it now,” he said, a grin plastered to his face.

Geralt filled two bowls with whatever stew he had been cooking and handed one to Jaskier. They ate in companionable silence before settling down for the night.

 

It was a further two days of travel until they reached the town where this whole debacle had begun. Geralt left Roach tied to a hitching post outside the inn they had stayed at before he and Jaskier went inside to confront the owner of the inn. It was empty inside apart from a drunk slumped in a corner and the innkeeper himself. He was a portly man with a sour expression. He had bargained a high price for a single night in a room that definitely hadn’t been worth the coin when they had last been here.

“Hello good sir,” Jaskier greeted him, turning up his charm to the max. “You may remember us from a few weeks ago.”

The man only replied with a grunt which could put Geralt to shame.

“Anyway, I’m afraid some of my property was lost during our stay and I was hoping you would be able to help us.”

“Can’t help you. If you’re not gonna buy anything, get out.”

It was clear no amount of Jaskier’s charm was going to help here so Geralt decided to step in. “Just tell us what we want to know, and we’ll leave,” he said with a clearly forced smile.

“I ain’t got nothing to say to you, mutant. Now get out.”

“Or what?” Jaskier chipped in. Geralt didn’t really see what this man could do to make them leave but that didn’t mean he wanted to find out what he might have planned. He’d had enough of this man and with a quick gesture he cast axii, thankful no one was paying attention.

“Did you steal a ring from our room while we were here?” he asked.

“Not me, one of my boys did.”

“Where is the ring now?”

“Sold it a few days ago.”

“To who?” Geralt hated the short sentences people tended to speak in under the influence of axii. It just drew the whole process out.

“Some lord. Think he lives west of here.”

With that Geralt released the sign and gestured for Jaskier to follow him out. The man would take a few minutes to recover but would otherwise be fine and have no recollection of their little chat.

“Looks like we’re going west then,” Jaskier said.

Geralt only hummed. They would need to resupply at the small market and hopefully some of the townsfolk would be willing to give them some information about this lord. He left Roach tied at the post, knowing if anyone tried to get near her, she would bite and kick at them until they left her alone. Their possessions were safest with Roach. With his coin on his belt, the witcher headed toward the market

Buying supplies was easy enough, the market having everything they needed. Jaskier had wandered off at some point, no doubt to look for something useless and shiny as usual. Just maybe he had gone to look for information, but he wasn’t counting on it. He asked every merchant he talked to about what they knew of this lord to the west.

There were a lot of rumours thrown in but eventually the witcher managed to build up a clearer picture on the man. It turned out the townsfolk themselves knew surprisingly little about their supposed protector. His estate was only a day away from the town. He was a minor noble but had plenty of guards on his land. He was greedy and cared little for the town, which was technically under his protection, not that it was possible to tell. Other than that the people tended to contradict each other and a few threw in wild stories about the man.

When he was satisfied he had enough information he went to seek out Jaskier. He only had to look for a few minutes before he heard the distinctive sound of his lute coming from the far end of the market. Sure enough, Jaskier was playing for a small crowd of mostly children. They seemed enchanted by his music and Geralt didn’t have the heart to tear Jaskier away just yet. He stayed on the opposite side of the road and simply watched as he played.

Chapter Text

After camping on the outskirts of town for the night, the witcher and the bard headed for the lord’s estate. They arrived not long after noon. The guards at the gate stopped them, asking what business they had. Geralt let Jaskier do the talking. The bard explained they had a private matter they wished to discuss with the lord.

“Lord Strama isn’t taking visitors,” one of them stated. When they tried to turn them away, Jaskier decided to escalate things a bit. “Do you know who I am?” he said, sounding just like every entitled noble Geralt had ever come across, effortlessly switching from Jaskier the bard to Julian the Viscount. “I am Julian Alfred Pankratz, Viscount de Lettenhove. I demand an audience with Lord Strama.” He looked about ready to start stamping his foot in indignation and Geralt barely fought back a small smile at his antics.

The guards paled somewhat, one apologising while the other opened the gate for them. Once they were out of earshot, Geralt turned to Jaskier. “I didn’t know you could pull rank like that,” he mumbled, mildly impressed.

“I try not to do it often. It makes me uncomfortable, but it has its uses,” he said with a slight shrug of his shoulders.

“How do you know you’re even a real Viscount?”

“That is a part of my past which doesn’t seem to be fabricated, although I’m not sure how I came across the position. I’ve spent many winters in Lettenhove while you hide away in the mountains, overseeing things as best I can. I mostly leave it in the hands of my advisors however, and I receive the occasional letter while in Oxenfurt.”

Geralt was quiet in thought for a moment. “I thought you hadn’t returned to where you grew up?”

“I haven’t. My memories of growing up didn’t take place in Lettenhove. I'm not sure there even was a place attatched to it really other than it being somewhere in Kerack.”

There was a pause before the witcher spoke again. “Can you tell if your ring is here?”

“It’s here, my pendant is buzzing like your medallion. Honestly, I don’t know how you can stand it.”

It wasn’t long before they reached the front doors of the large house. It was clear the owner was only of minor nobility but wanted to appear higher up. Mostly by having guards at every entrance it seemed. These two were less hostile since they had already been allowed in but still demanded their names and business. Jaskier brought out Julian again and it wasn’t long before they were allowed inside and directed to a small room before being told to wait.

The inside of the house was poorly lit and smelt musty, not what would usually be expected of a lord. The room they were waiting in was no different. Jaskier supposed he probably didn’t receive many visitors, especially if what Geralt had told him the day before was true. He was a tyrant to his people, only interested in acquiring wealth.

They didn’t have to wait long before a large man wearing an assortment of gold jewellery entered the room. In Jaskier’s opinion he looked like it weighed him down and clashed horribly. “Viscount de Lettenhove,” he greeted with an inclination of his head. He flicked his gaze over to Geralt standing behind Jaskier but paid him no attention. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

Jaskier allowed himself to become the Viscount he was supposed to be yet again. He hated having to assume this position, preparing himself to deal with a whole host of meaningless pleasantries to get the ring back. He may consider himself a master of words, but the stiflingly polite language the nobility used was often more than he could bear. There was a reason he was a bard and left his advisors in charge after all. “Lord Strama, I’m afraid this is a little bit awkward, but I believe you’re in possession of a rather important item of mine.” He made sure to keep his tone light but maintained eye contact.

When Strama said nothing, he continued. “A few weeks ago, now I was staying at the inn not far from here when a ring of mine went missing. It was a gift from my father before he passed away so I’m eager to get it back.” Of course, he now knew this to be bullshit, but it didn’t hurt to emphasise the ring’s importance. “I’ve been tracking it down for the past few days with my witcher friend here and the trail led back to you.” He waved a hand in Geralt’s direction when he was mentioned but otherwise kept his attention on the lord.

“I’m afraid I can’t help you. I haven’t been to that town in well over a month so I don’t see how I can possess this ring you speak of.” It didn’t go unnoticed how Strama seemed to become uncomfortable under Jaskier’s gaze.

Jaskier gave him a clearly fake smile. “I know it’s here. Don’t think I didn’t notice you hiding your hands behind your back when I mentioned it.” Geralt had noticed too but was surprised Jaskier had. Although, he supposed he could probably tell he was wearing it when he entered the room with his pendant.

“I don’t like what you’re insinuating,” Strama said, a cold edge in his voice, a clear warning to be careful with what he said next.

“Oh please, we both know what it is you’re doing. You hire the innkeeper to steal from any wealthy looking guests at the inn and buy whatever he takes off him so you can feel like you have more power than you really do,” Jaskier said nonchalantly, absently inspecting his nails as though the lord was the least interesting thing in the world. “I’m not here to stop you, although I would recommend that you do. I’m simply here to reclaim what’s mine.”

Geralt watched as the man turned red, whether from anger at being caught or shame, he couldn’t tell. Strama thought for a moment before bringing his hands in front of him. Geralt recognised the ring immediately. “It’s this one, right?” he said, pointing to it where he wore it on his left hand. Jaskier nodded. “I’m not giving it up without a price. After all, I did buy it.”

“Only after it was stolen,” Geralt grumbled under his breath. Thankfully, only Jaskier seemed to hear him.

“Name your price.”

“Four hundred gold.”

Jaskier was stunned to silence for a moment before recovering. “I simply don’t have that kind of money. Perhaps we could negotiate.”

“Four hundred or you don’t get the ring.” It was Strama’s turn to hold the power and he seemed to be enjoying it. “I’m assuming its sentimental value would be worth that much to a Viscount like yourself?”

“Very well. I’m sorry we couldn’t work something out, but I suppose we should be on our way. Come on, Geralt,” he said, indicating with his head that the witcher should follow. Geralt was left stunned. How could Jaskier just walk away when they had finally gotten so close. Strama too seemed mildly surprised he couldn't wrangle the money out of them but made no move to stop them.

He followed Jaskier outside and back down the path to the gates. “What-.”

Not yet,” he said with his mind.

Only once they had stopped out of sight of the front gate did he speak again. “Jaskier, what’s going on? Why didn’t you, I don’t know, argue with him or something?”

“There’s no reasoning with a man like that. He’s greedy. Even if we went away and somehow got the four hundred, he likely would have upped the price when we returned. Not only was he after more coin, he also liked the power he held over me. I out rank him but him having the power to hold something back from me probably gave him some kind of sick pleasure. Our only option to get the ring that was would be to pay him up front and the gods know we don’t have the coin for that.”

“So what are we going to do?”

“We are going to steal it back.”

 

Night had fallen and luck seemed to be on their side as there were thick clouds blocking out the moon. They had led Roach into the forest about half a mile away from the estate to wait for them to return. As Jaskier had suspected, Strama didn’t actually have that much money so the walls surrounding his house were poorly maintained and unguarded around the back, allowing them to climb over relatively easy.

Geralt only had his steel sword with him while Jaskier had his dagger strapped to his thigh. Hopefully they wouldn’t need to fight, but it was best to be prepared. It was well past midnight when the last few lights went out in the windows and they could be sure everyone but the guards out front were asleep. They approached what was presumably the kitchen door at the rear and tested to see if it was open.

Geralt stepped in front and held his hand in front of the lock. He made the sign of aard and the wood around the lock splintered with a crack. There was a tense moment where they hoped the noise wouldn’t attract any attention. When no one appeared, Geralt pushed open the door and they stepped inside.

As suspected, they found themselves in a grimy kitchen. No one seemed to be around and Jaskier began to wonder if the only staff Strama hired were his guards. They quietly made their way to the main entry way at the centre of the house, checking the way was clear as they went. From there Jaskier led them upstairs, following the vibration of his pendant.

They came to a door at the end of the hallway. Strama was likely inside so they would need to be extra careful. “I’ll go in alone, you stay out here and keep watch,” Jaskier said.
Geralt nodded, not risking replying out loud. He still hadn’t quite gotten the hang of projecting his thoughts like Jaskier, but he was getting there. Jaskier ever so slowly pushed open the door and peered inside. On the bed was Strama, seemingly asleep.

Jaskier pushed the door just enough to slip inside. A dresser was pushed against the far wall. On the top were a selection of necklaces, rings and other pieces of finery. Jaskier could immediately tell his ring wasn’t among the selection in front of him. He opened one of the draws to see yet more jewellery. It seemed the lord collected all kinds of pieces. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem fussed about organisation as it was all left in a pile in the drawer. Jaskier could tell the ring was here in the dresser somewhere, but he couldn’t simply rummage around and hope to find it.

He moved aside some of the larger necklaces to see if he could spot his ring, but something slid out of place, metal hitting the wood of the drawer with aloud thud. He froze, risking a glance at the bed. Strama continued to snore. Letting out a shaky breath, Jaskier continued his search.

While his method was quiet, it was also time consuming and he was aware that the longer he took, the more likely they were to be spotted. When the first drawer proved not to contain his ring, he moved on. He began moving things round more quickly, pausing whenever something made a particularly loud noise. There were several rings buried under the heavy gold chains but none of them were his, so he moved on to the third drawer. Really, how much jewellery did one man really need?

He was crouched far too close to Strama at this point, but he tried to move quickly. He felt a sudden rush of anxiety and realised Geralt was trying to warn him. He glanced back out the door to see the witcher pointing down the hallway. Someone was coming.

Several things happened at once. The person spotted Geralt and called for backup. Strama woke up to see Jaskier by his bed and called out for his guards. Jaskier scrambled back toward the door where Geralt had unsheathed his sword. Jaskier also grabbed his dagger, prepared to fight.

Three more guards came running up the stairs. They must have been the ones stationed outside at the front door and heard the commotion. The first guard had his sword drawn and moved to attack Geralt, who was standing in front of Jaskier. Their swords clashed, Geralt forcing the man back before he came in for another strike. It was difficult in the confined space but Geralt managed to dispatch the first guard. A moment later a second one attacked.

Jaskier, who had been watching the fight, felt himself being yanked backward. He had forgotten about Strama, who was now holding him from behind with a knife to his neck. “Witcher!” he roared. His guards stopped attacking and Geralt turned to face them. “Drop your weapons, both of you.”

Jaskier did as he was told, letting his dagger fall from his grip to clatter to the floor. Geralt slowly lay his sword on the floor, not wanting to risk Jaskier getting hurt. “Take them to the cellar.”

Two of the guards stepped forward to restrain Geralt while the third grabbed Jaskier. They fought against them the entire way down the stairs and to the cellar but to no avail. There were at least four tiny cells lined up against the back wall. They were shoved into one at each end of the row with the empty ones between them. Jaskier continued the verbal abuse against them until Strama ordered him to be restrained and gagged.

At this point more guards had turned up and easily subdued the bard long enough to secure shackles on his wrists behind his back and a rope gag in his mouth before locking him in. It seemed they decided against trying to chain the witcher up seeing as they barely managed to get him in the cell between the three of them. “I will deal with you two in the morning,” Strama said before storming back up the stairs, followed by his guards.

The door was shut, and they were plunged into darkness. Geralt’s eyes soon adjusted to the dim moonlight coming in through a tiny window at the far end of the room. He could make out Jaskier’s outline where he sat on the ground from where he was forced down.

Well shit.”

Chapter Text

Jaskier woke to the slamming of the cellar door. Despite the shackles cutting into his skin and the ache in his shoulders from his arms being restrained behind his back, he had, at some point, fallen asleep. He looked over to see Geralt was already getting to his feet, unhindered by chains.

The witcher had spent a long time after being locked up searching for any weaknesses in the bars keeping him captive, hoping to find something he could exploit. Alas, the cells were well maintained and any attempt at simply blasting the door away with aard would only fail or result in enough noise to alert the guards. Without a weapon, there was no way Geralt would be able to fight his way out of the cellar against a dozen guards, let alone get them both out. They needed a quiet solution, but none was to be found.

Jaskier managed to push himself upright but remained sitting on the ground. It would take too much effort to stand with his hands behind his back and he wasn’t about to wriggle around on the floor to get to his feet in front of his captors.

Strama came down the stairs, accompanied by four guards. Yet again he was wearing a large assortment of jewellery and his clothes were stitched with gold thread. Jaskier felt his pendant hum against his chest, alerting him to the fact the lord was once again wearing his ring.

“I could have you two executed for what you did last night,” Strama said, voice filling the space. “How dare you try and rob me.”

Oh, so, it’s alright when it’s you doing the robbing then,” Jaskier said to Geralt. He thought he could detect the slightest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. Of course, Strama had no idea what Jaskier had said and continued his tirade of outrage.

Jaskier simply zoned out, uninterested in the little lord’s hurt feelings. He simply sat, looking as bored as possible, staring at the ceiling and bars to try and better convey his disinterest. “Ask what he intends to do with us. This monologue is dreadfully dull.

Geralt seemed to agree. When Strama paused for breath, Geralt asked. This of course caused him to launch into a second rant. Jaskier again paid him little attention, only really catching “How dare you interrupt you superior” before zoning out again.

The so-called lord did eventually cease his verbal tirade. He was red in the face and seething, pacing in front of their cells in what was likely supposed to be an intimidating manner. It didn’t quite work, seeing as they had already seen how quick to anger he was without carrying out any disciplinary measures. He was all talk and no action. His guards, however, were a different story.

Jaskier watched them. They stood behind Strama, hands resting on the hilts of their swords and a hard look in their eyes, like they were waiting for an excuse to use force. He could imagine the kinds of people Strama would hire as guards. Men who craved violence and could be hired for cheap. Mercenaries and ex-soldiers, men who simply liked to feel powerful because they had a weapon. Much like Strama himself.

Jaskier snapped back to attention for the last bit of Strama’s speech. “You will be detained here indefinitely until I have come to a decision about your fate. In the meantime, my guards will be in charge of you.” With that he finally turned to leave. The guards remained. “Do as you wish with them but don’t let them escape.”

The guards grinned at them. Part of Jaskier wanted to shrink back against the wall but he refused to give them the satisfaction. Thankfully it seemed they didn’t intend to do anything just yet, but he was sure it was only a matter of time. Geralt seemed to have a similar impression, he could feel a wave of anxiety rolling off his mind. Not for himself but for Jaskier, although he wasn’t quite sure how he knew that. The guards turned away and set up what looked to be a game of gwent on an upturned crate.

We’ll be fine. You’ll find a way to get us out and we can escape.

Geralt gave him a look he wasn’t entirely able to decipher. He couldn’t risk replying out loud and drawing the guards’ attention. Jaskier reached out his mind to Geralt’s again but only received a confusing assortment of feelings and images. At the centre of it all was the ring.

The ring is the least of my concerns right now. If we can get out, we can come back for it another time. Maybe with Yennefer or something.

Geralt only sent him another confusing wave of emotions, this time overlaid with something like annoyance. Jaskier had no idea what it was supposed to mean and told the witcher as much. “I don’t know what you’re trying to say. Try focussing more on the words.

“What do you think I’m doing,” Geralt bit out in a hiss, sending a glare at the tied-up bard. Annoyance was quickly replaced with a glimmer of panic as he realised he just spoke out loud. Jaskier looked over to the guards who had stopped their game and were now watching the prisoners intently.

“Who’re you talking to, mutant?” one of the guards asked.

Geralt remained silent. A second guard stood and sauntered over. “Answer him,” he practically growled.

“Myself,” Geralt said through gritted teeth. It was the only answer he could give that wouldn’t make matters much worse for the both of them.

“Are you addled in the ‘ead or somethin’?” another asked. Geralt didn’t dignify the question with a response and simply stared down the guard in front of him.

“I heard witchers can read minds, like witches. Is that what you’re doing with your bard? Trying to talk to him without us knowing,” the second man said.

“Witchers can’t read minds. Whoever told you that was lying.”

“Better teach him a lesson, just to make sure,” the fourth guard chipped in, already standing from his position by the abandoned game of gwent. The others seemed to agree and were crowding in front of Geralt’s cell.

The first man unlocked the door and pulled it open. Geralt tried to push past them before they could do anything, catching them off-guard. He shoved one of them to the ground, but the others caught him and threw him back into the cell. One man had, at some point, grabbed a pair of shackles and the other two were now attempting to subdue him enough to get them on. Geralt fought back as best he could but he was one witcher against three burly men in a small space.

Once the shackles snapped shut with a click, they started beating him. Jaskier scrambled to his feet at this point, trying to beg them to stop. His words were muffled by the gag still in his mouth and he went unheard. He was helpless to stop them from hurting Geralt. He watched as Geralt tried to fight back but with bound hands it was near impossible in the confined space.

An idea came to him suddenly. He had no idea if it would work, but he had to try. He reached his mind out to the guards. Their mental barriers were almost non-existent compared to Geralt’s and he certainly didn’t bother asking for permission. He had only ever spoken to two people at once like this and Yennefer had been doing most of the work. Now he was in four minds at once and was already feeling the strain.

He tried to order them to stop, planting the idea in their minds and hoping it would take hold. It did not, the thought swept aside in favour of more violence. He tried again, with more force, but he couldn’t quite summon the energy to make the command stick. It seemed words wouldn’t be enough. He was sweating and shaking now from the effort, and he could feel the beginnings of a headache behind his eyes.

He closed his eyes and gathering as much energy as he could summon to put behind what he was about to do. With a deep breath which was for steadying himself than anything else, he screamed in their minds, drowning out all other thoughts. They flinched back, grabbing their heads with a yell.

He tried to scream again but he could feel himself growing weak and it had less of an impact. It seemed he had accidentally caught Geralt up in his mental assault as he too seemed to flinch at the psychic attack. The witcher recovered swiftly however and took the opportunity to knock one of the guards out. The other three seemed to finally take a hint and dragged their unconscious friend out of the cell before locking the door once more.

“What the fuck was that?” the first guard shouted at no one in particular. Jaskier found his knees giving way and fell to the floor. He managed to twist so that he landed on his side instead of his arms behind his back. He was shaking and sweating from the exertion. Yennefer had warned him about overexerting himself when using magic but he had needed to do something. He felt a sudden wave of nausea and prayed he wouldn’t throw up. He tried taking a few steadying breaths through his nose and the nausea receded but was replaced with dizziness. The bars swam in front of him and he was forced to close his eyes.

He heard Geralt calling his name but he sounded far away. He was pretty sure the guards weren’t paying them any attention, too caught up panicking over the assault on their minds. Jaskier cracked an eye open and regretted it immediately. His vision swam and the world tilted around him. He tried to focus and managed to make out Geralt staring at him, worry clearly written on his face. He went to say something before remembering the gag.

Instead he reached out his mind to the witcher. It was much more difficult than before, like stretching an overworked muscle. He was aided by Geralt reaching out his own mind, making the mental connection for him like Yennefer had when she first found him in the forest. “I think I over did it.

Geralt glanced over to the guards, making sure he wouldn’t be overheard before replying. “Are you going to be alright?”

Probably,” was the only answer he gave. He let his eyes slide shut again, feeling the mental bridge between them waver. He tried to keep it in tact but found he had nothing left to give. He felt Geralt pour some more of his own energy into it, just enough for Jaskier to try to reassure the witcher before he passed out. “I think I just need to rest.” With that, Jaskier withdrew his mind from Geralt’s and promptly fell into unconsciousness.

 

Geralt listened as Jaskier’s breathing even out somewhat as he fell asleep. He turned his attention back to the guards. The one he had knocked out was still lying on the floor, haphazardly propped up against the wall. Of the three still awake, one was missing, presumably gone to tell Strama what happened.

He hadn’t expected the screeching in his mind, but he could instantly tell where it had come from. Although Jaskier hadn’t made a direct connection with him, the outburst was still powerful enough to affect him. It left him with a headache but otherwise unscathed. The guards however had looked close to passing out. One had gone almost white, allowing Geralt to knock him out with a calculated blow. They had shackled his hands in front of him, allowing him to get enough momentum for the strike to be effective.

At the sight of the fallen man, the others had decided to get the fuck away. Now they were shouting, arguing about exactly what had happened. He didn’t know if they had noticed the attack had affected him as well or if they would assume it came from him. He hoped it was the latter and they would leave Jaskier alone. The bard was in no state to defend himself.

If they thought Geralt was a threat, they might be tempted to go after him again and leave the bard alone. He was more able to withstand a beating than Jaskier, even if he was a dragon. He was currently in his human form and that meant he was relatively defenceless whereas Geralt had the advantage of his mutations. The bruises the guards had given him would fade to nothing within a few hours.

Eventually the guards shut up and the cellar fell silent. They hauled the unconscious guard up the stairs and didn’t seem too keen on returning any time soon. Geralt decided to meditate to pass the time. He knelt on the cold stone and closed his eyes, allowing his mind to go blank.

Chapter Text

The guards had returned. Not that they seemed brave enough to enter the cellar itself. Instead, he could hear thir voices from their post outside the door to the stairs leading down. It seemed Jaskier’s stunt had scared them away for now.

The bard hadn’t woken up yet, still lying on the floor where he had passed out. Although he was grateful for his intervention, he wished he hadn’t pushed himself so hard. His abilities were still coming to him and he had very little experience using them. Neither of them knew exactly what he was capable of yet and he could easily have caused himself serious harm. He was glad it only resulted in him passing out this time.

With nothing to do, he sat with his back against the wall of his cell so that he could keep an eye on Jaskier as well as the door for any guards. If they returned, they wouldn’t have any defence against them this time and he wanted to be as prepared as possible.

At least an hour passed before he heard a muffled sound from Jaskier. The bard blearily opened his eyes, immediately squinting from the light assaulting his sensitive eyes. He let out another groan as he pulled himself upright, not an easy feat with his hands still chained behind his back.

“Jaskier,” he said once he seemed awake enough, “how do you feel?”

Jaskier turned his head to look at him. Geralt could feel him at the very edges of his consciousness, just barely making enough of a connection. “Weak. But it was worth it.” His mental voice sounded strained and fragile, much like his real voice would when he spent too many hours performing. He could tell it was taking a lot of effort for him to talk like this, nothing like the effortless communication they had managed before.

“You shouldn’t have done that. You still don’t know what your limits are.”

It worked, didn’t it?” came the smug reply.

“I wasn’t in any real danger.” It was true, although certainly not ideal. Four men against a witcher, even one with his hands bound, wouldn’t be able to do much damage with just their fists. The bruises he had received had already faded to next to nothing.

But I could stop it so that’s what I did. Really, Geralt, you ought to be thanking me.” Jaskier’s voice in his head seemed to waver dangerously the longer he held the connection between them. Geralt gently put up a mental barrier, separating Jaskier’s mind from his.

“You need to rest, Jaskier. Talk to me again when you’ve recovered more of your strength.”

Jaskier gave him a glare, unhappy at being forcefully silenced. It didn’t last long since he could tell he was already weakening again.

Jaskier let out a sigh through his nose before shuffling around so that he was facing Geralt with his back against the bars of his cell. He allowed his eyes to slip closed as he rested his head back. He wasn’t asleep but it seemed just keeping his eyes open for now was an unnecessary drain.

To Geralt, he still looked pale and exhausted, but he was considerably better than he had been before he passed out. There was little that could be done to speed up his recovery unfortunately. What he needed was more rest and a decent meal, neither of which they were likely to get any time soon.


Days passed by, stretching on for what felt like an eternity. Geralt could only keep track of time thanks to the somewhat regular rations of bread and water they received twice a day. The strip of cloth keeping Jaskier gagged had been removed to allow him to eat, though they had left his hands bound behind his back, forcing him to come up with more… creative ways of eating. It was no doubt intended to humiliate him, to force a Viscount to scramble around his cell for little more than scraps. Jaskier himself had made a point of showing the guards just how unbothered he was about it, knowing it would infuriate Strama, even if the lord didn’t see it himself. Geralt knew he was frustrated and angry really, but he never let it show.

Jaskier’s strength had returned gradually. He managed to stay awake all day the second day after the incident and had been able to hold gradually longer mental conversations with Geralt until he was almost back to normal.

While one issue may have been resolved however, a new one appeared.

It had been well over a week now since Jaskier had last shifted forms and his chaos was becoming, well, more chaotic. He didn’t seem to have the same problem as before with struggling to keep his thoughts in his head, but instead would result in an unpredictable and strong burst of thoughts, emotions and images while they were talking. Luckily, only Geralt ever seemed to be effected, the guards usually not being in the room at the time. But it was quickly becoming a problem and was giving Geralt a headache.

Jaskier himself was becoming agitated, pacing the confines of his cell, trying to stretch out muscles he didn’t currently have. Geralt wondered if his draconic form had grown since he had last seen him. Surely the old glamour would have worn off fully by now.


Geralt knew things were bad when he growled at the guard sent down to give them their second lot of rations for the day, baring his teeth and practically spitting venom at him.

“The fuck has gotten into you,” the man chuckled. “Being locked up got your mind turning to mush?”

Jaskier didn’t say anything, turning away from the man instead. “Hey, look at me when I’m talking to ya.”

Jaskier couldn’t suppress the low growl that clawed its way out of his throat. The man set the rations on the floor, reaching for the key on his belt. He unlocked the door and pulled it open on screeching hinges. He reached down to where Jaskier was sitting and grabbed the front of his doublet. He dragged him to his feet before slamming him back against the bars.

Geralt was on his feet at this point, pressed up against the bars but helpless to do anything. “Leave him alone,” he ground out. He could feel Jaskier’s mind reaching out to his, thoughts frantic from the stress of the man being too close and trying to control his chaos.

“I don’t think I will.” He grabbed Jaskier under the chin, forcing him to face him. At his touch Geralt was hit with a sudden surge of emotions from Jaskier. Luckily he seemed to be the only one who could feel it when the guard didn’t even flinch, though he must surely be able to feel the chaos building in the air around them like static.

The guard stared Jaskier down for a moment but quickly lost interest when Jaskier didn’t make another sound. He seemed like he was about to leave when he caught a glimpse of something. “What’s this then?”

Geralt couldn’t see what he meant but was hit with “nononononono,” from Jaskier. The man grabbed something near Jaskier's neck.

The guard pulled the pendant out from where it had been safely tucked under Jaskier’s chemise, pinning the bard down when he started struggling to get away. He admired it for a moment before closing his fist around it. “Don’t!” Geralt called.

The man didn’t listen. Jaskier’s eyes went wide and suddenly his mind withdrew from the witcher’s. The man yanked the pendant, snapping the chain before shoving Jaskier to the ground. Geralt had been prepared for Jaskier to suddenly shift forms but he somehow seemed to be holding on, lying on the floor and trembling.

“I’ll be keeping this. See if I can’t make some money from selling it,” the guard said, kicking the rations so that they slid across the floor into the cell before slamming the door shut and locking it.

Geralt said nothing, quietly seething, glaring at the man as he walked past. He felt a glint of satisfaction as the man sped up as he went back up the stairs. Only when the door to the cellar slammed closed did Geralt speak.

“Jaskier? Tell me what’s happening.”

Jaskier was still shaking but had just about managed to push himself upright. “I flooded the link between the glamour and I with magic before he broke the chain,” he said, his voice shaky and uneven. “It’s still intact but I have to hold on to it myself.”

“Is that why I can’t hear you in here?” he asked, tapping the side of his head. It was oddly quiet without Jaskier’s presence in his head, having grown so used to it even if he wasn’t saying anything.

Jaskier nodded. “Can’t do both," he gasped.

“Fuck.” He began pacing his cell, much like Jaskier had been doing earlier. “How long can you hold it?”

“Not sure. A few hours maybe?”

“Fuck.”


They didn’t have hours. Jaskier startled when the bolt to the cellar door slid back, not having expected any more guards for the night. He was still sitting with his back against the wall, trying his best to keep his glamour in place. His clothes were damp with sweat and he was shaking from the exertion of keeping together a broken spell. He could feel his energy draining but he couldn’t risk falling asleep.

Two guards descended, wearing ugly grins on their faces. “We heard you got something worth selling,” one man said, staring directly at Jaskier. “And we was wondering if you got anything else.”

“Leave him alone,” he heard Geralt growl.

“What you gonna do to stop us, mutant? You’re stuck. We’ll do as we bloody well please,” the other said.

The door to Jaskier’s cell was unlocked and yet again he was hauled to his feet. He kept his eyes screwed shut, trying not to lose his concentration. “Is he ill or something?” one asked, taking in Jaskier’s sweaty, pale skin.

Jaskier managed to open his eyes, squinting at the men in front of him. “I assure you gentlemen; I have nothing else of value on my person.” He sounded unconvincing, even to his own ears, unhelped by the weakness of his voice.

“We’ll see about that.”

Jaskier tried to wriggle out of his grasp as his hands started roughly searching him, earning him a gut punch. It was all that was needed to break his focus for just a split second.

There was a sudden "pop" in the air, like something intangible had snapped. It was enough of a shock that the men let him go. He fell to his knees with a strangled gasp, desperately trying to pull together the frayed ends of Yennefer’s spell. It wasn’t enough however, the spell had already slipped away, the broken glamour too far for him to reconnect with it.

He felt himself begin to shift, almost welcoming it after all the time he had spent human. It was like finally scratching an itch he’d had for the past week only infinitely more satisfying.

The two men had backed out of his cell the second he had started shifting. The shackles on his wrists broke, falling away to allow him to finally move his arms. The muscles in his shoulders ached but he ignored it as he braced himself against the ground. As he kept growing he broke down the bars of his cell. He finally heard the guards’ panicked yelling as they scrambled back up the stairs. Knowing the whole place would soon learn there was a dragon in the cellar, he let out a deafening roar to scare them off, hopefully for good.

He soon realised he was still getting bigger as he passed the size he had been the last time he had shifted. His head touched the ceiling, causing him to have to crouch down. He eventually stopped when he filled at least half of the room. Luckily he had managed to avoid crushing Geralt in the chaos. He reached over and easily ripped away the bars keeping him captive.

Guess they know they have a dragon in the cellar now,” he said. “I’m sorry. I tried to hold on.

“Don’t apologise Jask, this isn’t your fault. We just need to get out of here now.”

There was a commotion from the top of the stairs. No doubt every guard around was scrambling for his weapon. Geralt started searching the crates stacked against the wall. Jaskier didn’t know what he was looking for until he pulled out his steel sword.

“We’ll have to fight our way out,” he said, turning back to face the dragon. “I’ll look for the ring and the pendant so you can shift back. You should go. Meet me by Roach.”

If you think I’m just going to leave you here to fight your way out by yourself you can think again.”

“Jaskier-”

No. You look for the ring. I’ll hold them back,” He said, emphasising his point with an angry puff of smoke.

“Fine," he said after a moment of being stared down by huge, angry blue eyes. "I'll go first since you're going to have to break down a few walls to get out. I'd rather not get crushed by falling rubble after all this." He took a steadying breath. "You ready?”

Yes.”

Chapter Text

The door exploded off its hinges with a blast of aard, sending the splintered wood flying into the gathered crowd of guards waiting to fight the witcher and whatever beast was now lurking in the cellar. Geralt followed swiftly after the blast, sword held at the ready.

Those who hadn’t been in the way of the blast attacked quickly. The first strike came from his left. It was a sloppy attack, easily countered. The man fell but was swiftly replaced by another, more careful with his blows than the first. Geralt parried, swinging his sword in an arc to swipe the blade away before felling the man.

Geralt quickly counted five men, not including the one who had taken the full force of the blasted door and had failed to get up. They put up a decent fight, but they were no match for a witcher, all eventually falling to his blade.

He could hear yelling from elsewhere inside the house as more of Strama’s guards arrived, ready to fight. He made his way to the front of the house. He could feel Jaskier in the back of his mind, waiting until he deemed the witcher to be a safe distance away from the cellar before he started tearing his way out.

Sure enough, as he came to stand in the foyer, face to face with at least a dozen men, Jaskier let out a near deafening roar. The ground shook followed a crash of rubble as Jaskier broke through the masonry. Geralt didn’t look behind him, wanting to keep his enemies in view. He could smell the sharp tang of fear fill the air, the soldier’s eyes growing wide as Jaskier pulled himself into view. One man fled out the front door, dropping his sword in his haste to get away.

You find Strama. I’ll deal with these,” Jaskier said, his mental voice having taken on a strange, gravelly quality. He could practically feel the chaos humming in the air around him now that he wasn’t sinking his power into the broken glamour. He knew he had spoken to everyone when the scent of urine from one of the men entered his nose.

With a snarl, Jaskier stalked up behind him, stopping when his head was above Geralt, just to his left. “Go, he’s upstairs.”

Geralt charged forward, already anticipating the strike from the nearest guard as he approached the stairs and raising his own sword to parry. There was a cacophony of shouting behind him, just enough to distract the man so that Geralt could easily cut him down.

He ran up the stairs, following the route he and Jaskier had taken several days ago to Strama’s private room. The door was locked but it gave way with a blast of aard. He stepped inside; sword raised ready for an attack.

He couldn’t see anyone at first and began to suspect Strama may be elsewhere. He focussed his senses, trying to pick out the sound a heartbeat over the sounds of battle downstairs. Sure enough he picked one up nearby, beating fast and accompanied by the scent of fear.

“I know you’re in here,” he growled, “Show yourself and I may let you live.”

The sound of shuffling came from his left. Strama emerged from behind the bed where he had been hiding. He was clutching a sword in one hand, but it seemed he had no intention of using it. His grip was wrong, and he was holding it too loosely to be of any use. Not that he stood a chance against a witcher anyway.

“What beast have you unleashed, witcher?” he asked, voice trembling ever so slightly.

“I did nothing,” he said casually. “One of your men did this. Took something that didn’t belong to him.”

There was a roar from below, as if to punctuate his point. Knowing Jaskier, it was probably intentional, dramatic as ever.

“You also took something that doesn’t belong to you,” the witcher said.

“Th-the ring, right? That’s what you came here for?” Geralt nodded. Strama hurriedly began pulling a ring off his finger before chucking it over to Geralt.

He caught it one handed, keeping one eye on Strama in case he tried any funny business. He glanced at the ring now sitting in his palm. From his memory of the ring, this one looked similar to Jaskier’s but something about its shape seemed off. He couldn’t be sure it was the right one and they couldn’t risk a mistake, not now that they were so close.

With his mind, he poked at the edges of Jaskier’s conscience, asking for his attention. He tried to project the question of “is this the right one?” but knew words weren’t always guaranteed from him. He hoped Jaskier understood what he was asking, nonetheless.

That’s not it,” came the reply.

Geralt let out a low growl, feeling a little satisfied when the scent of fear in the room intensified. “Did you think you could trick me, lordling?” He took a few measured steps forward, tightening his grip on his sword. “One more chance or I’ll cut your fingers off. Then you won’t have any use for rings.”

Strama looked back at his hands, frantically searching for the right one. Geralt was close enough to grab his wrist by now, having spotted the ring on his right. Strama desperately tried to wrench his arm out of his grip but he remained steady.

Geralt wouldn’t be able to remove the ring without putting down his sword first. The lord seemed to be unarmed so he decided to risk it, leaning the blade against a nearby table. He went to pull the ring off his finger when there was a blur of movement.

Strama wasn’t as defenceless as he had appeared, pulling a hidden dagger from his belt and striking at Geralt. The witcher reacted with lightning speed, jumping back so that the short blade cut into his arm instead of his neck.

There was an enraged roar from below, Jaskier no doubt being aware of what was happening. Geralt shoved back against Strama, pinning him against the wall. He grabbed the hand still holding the dagger and twisted his wrist, forcing him to drop it. “Now you’ve really pissed us off,” he growled.

While still pinning him with his body, Geralt managed to yank the ring off the man’s finger, making sure it was safely tucked away in his pocket. He grabbed Strama by the front of his shirt with both hands before slamming him back into the wall, knocking him unconscious when his head bounced off the stone.

He let go, letting him fall limp to the ground. He really couldn’t care less about what happened to him after that. He retrieved his sword before heading out of the room.

The foyer below couldn’t be more of a mess. The front wall had been knocked down, a wide hole now occupying the space where the door used to be. Jaskier was outside now, surrounded by bodies and soldiers, lit by dropped torches in the night. Geralt could see he was getting tired, his movements slowing.

He rushed down the stairs, cutting down the guards anyone his way. He happened to glance at one of the bodies, recognising him as the man who had taken the pendant. Kneeling down, he quickly searched his body, hoping to find it. Sure enough, it was tucked into a small pocket inside his shirt. The chain was missing but since it had been broken, he doubted it would matter anyway.

“Jaskier!” he yelled as he finally reached his friend, “We need to go now.”

There’s too many to outrun them,” Jaskier replied, snapping his teeth at another man who dared to get too close, missing only by a small margin. Now that he was close, he could see Jaskier was bleeding from several wounds on his legs and sides, the blood blending in with his red scales.

“You can fly away. I can fight my way out.”

Don’t be stupid, witcher,” he said. “I’m not going to leave you here.” He batted away another man with his claws, earning a shallow cut from the man’s sword. “Get on my back. I can fly us both out of here.”

“Jaskier-”

Just do it Geralt,” he cut him off, ending any argument the witcher may have had. He lowered himself to the ground, stretching out his foreleg to allow Geralt to climb up. He really wasn’t sure about this. Jaskier had only flown once before, and he’d seen the results of that first hand. He’d never flown with the extra weight of someone sitting on his back.

Jaskier seemed determined however, and he knew he wouldn’t leave him behind, no matter how much he insisted otherwise. He sheathed his sword and sat in the hollow between his wings, his legs either side of his neck. It wasn’t too different from riding a horse. As Jaskier got back to his feet, Geralt had to grab the spike on Jaskier’s back in front of him to stop himself falling off. Jaskier seemed unbothered by the vice-like grip.

He stretched his wings out but didn’t seem like he was about to launch them into the sky. Instead, Geralt felt the familiar static feeling in the air of chaos building around them. Suddenly flames erupted from Jaskier’s mouth, incinerating everything in front of him and setting the ruined house on fire.

The men surrounding them dropped their weapons and fled, giving Jaskier the chance to launch them into the air. Geralt had to hold on for dear life as they accelerated into the sky, climbing higher and higher with every powerful wingbeat.

Only when they levelled out did Geralt allow himself to relax a little. “I didn’t know you could breathe fire.”

Neither did I. It just… sort of happened.”

“Why didn’t you try to make it happen sooner?”

You were still inside.

The conversation died down, neither really knowing what to say. It would have been silent if not for the freezing air rushing past Geralt’s ears. He knew Roach was somewhere below with all their possessions, but the thick forest prevented Jaskier from landing anywhere close, forcing him to keep going.

Now they were no longer in immediate danger, Geralt took the opportunity to take in the view. It was a strange experience to be speeding through the sky on the back of a dragon. A dragon who also happened to be his best friend. They probably weren’t very high up but Geralt had never felt quite so close to the stars which were shining above them. Not even at the top of the tallest tower at Kaer Morhen did they feel so near.

Eventually Jaskier must have spotted a safe place to land in the dark as they began to descend. Geralt grabbed on the spike in front of him as they tipped forward, not letting go until they were back on solid ground.

Jaskier lowered himself to the ground again, making it easier for Geralt to slide down his side to the ground. He made no move to get back up. “Jaskier, are you alright?”

Just tired.” Tired was an understatement. Jaskier was clearly exhausted, barely able to keep his eyes open. There was no way they would be going anywhere else tonight.

“I found your pendant. The chain is missing but maybe you can still use it,” he said pulling it out from his pocket and holding it out.

Jaskier perked up a little at that, lifting his head to inspect the glamour. “The spell has been damaged,” he said after a moment. “It’s still there but it won’t maintain itself. It’ll be like it was in the cells again.”

“Fuck.” He tucked it away, knowing Jaskier wouldn’t have the strength to use it tonight. It seemed they would be stuck here for a while. “I’m going to go back and get Roach. You stay here. We should be far enough away that they can’t find us.”

It was telling just how exhausted Jaskier was when he didn’t argue, only wishing Geralt good luck and a speedy return. He closed his eyes and with a sigh fell asleep. Geralt turned back in the direction they had come and began walking, relying on the light of the moon to guide him.

Chapter Text

The house had been little more than a charred husk in the distance, a column of smoke rising into the sky, illuminated by a few smaller fires still burning. He couldn't hear any indication that anyone was still around, either having perished or fled.

Roach was exactly where he had left her. She stamped her hooves in irritation at being abandoned and seemingly forgotten for so long as he approached. “I’m sorry girl,” he said, petting her neck, even as she headbutted him. “I promise you’ll get plenty of apples next time we’re in a market.

Geralt gave her a once over to make sure she hadn’t been harmed while she had been left, feeling incredibly guilty that she had been in her tack for so long. Thankfully she appeared to be fine, if a little restless and irritated. He walked her further into the woods, away from the direction of smoke back to where he had stashed their saddlebags. He carried what he could manage on his own back before loading the rest onto Roach, not wanting to overburden her. Finally he turned them back around and headed back to Jaskier.

They returned to the clearing just as the sun was rising above the horizon, bathing the trees in golden light. Jaskier was curled up, still fast asleep. In the light of day, Geralt could now see where blood had dried on his sides and legs, dull and rusty against the shiny crimson of his scales. His front in particular was covered in it but he couldn’t be sure how much of it was actually Jaskier’s. Still, his wounds had scabbed over and seemed mostly superficial.

The mare was unbothered by the great big dragon sleeping in the clearing. Geralt assumed she recognised Jaskier’s scent, tainted with blood as it was. She allowed him to lead him to the edge of the clearing where he unloaded their belongings and finally freed her of her tack. He checked her over for sores again before brushing her down and providing her with some oats.

She finally settled down just as Jaskier woke, opening his large cornflower blue eyes with a yawn. He stretched in a way that reminded Geralt of a cat, luxuriating in the movement. “Morning.”

Morning.” His voice sounded more like it usually did in his head, the growling quality from the previous night having disappeared. “I see Roach is back with us.

“She’s a bit pissed off at me for leaving her,” he said, looking back at the mare who was still happily munching away at her oats.

Can’t say I blame her. I take it she was unharmed?” Geralt nodded. “Good. I’d hate to think my mistake hurt her.”

“Your mistake?”

The whole ‘trying to steal back the ring’ thing. It was my idea and we got caught because of it.

“There weren’t exactly many options.”

No, but we should have thought it through more at least. It was a stupid idea to begin with.

Geralt shook his head. “It’s in the past. We got out and Roach is fine. No point dwelling on what ifs.”

Jaskier made a rumbling sound in his chest, an imitation of one of Geralt’s signature ‘hmm’s.

Geralt turned back to their pile of belongings. The packs had seemed untouched but he wanted to check that nothing had been taken nonetheless, though it was much more likely someone would have stolen Roach first. Sure enough, everything was where it had been left. Some of the food had started to go mouldy so that was immediately discarded, but they still had enough rations to make it back to Yennefer if Geralt hunted for extra meat.

Geralt…” Jaskier said, strangely hesitant. “What are we going to do about the pendant?”

“What do you mean?”

Well, the spell is damaged. I can maintain it for a while but there’s no way I can hold it until we get back to Yennefer. I don't think I'll be able to travel on the road like this either.”

Fuck, Geralt had forgotten about that. “Is there nothing you can do?”

Jaskier shook his head. “The chain was a part of the glamour. It was probably designed to work as a whole. I think, when it broke, it must have damaged the spell. I think it only works at all now because of the magic I sank into it just before it broke.”

Geralt pulled the pendant put of his pocked, rubbing his thumb over the stone in the centre. Now that it was light, he could see spidering cracks in the stone, fractured but still there.

“Fuck. It's too risky for you on the road," he said shaking his head. "We have no idea how many men escaped, if any. The village could already know there's a dragon around and news travel fast." He looked up from the broken pendant. "You’ll have to go to Yen by yourself. You can probably get there in a day or so at the speed you can fly.”

What about you?

“I’ll be fine, Jaskier. I do travel by myself you know.”

But won’t people be looking for you?

“Doubt it. If anyone did get away, they'll be focussed on finding you, not me. And if they were after me, I can handle a few men with swords looking for some misplaced glory."

Jaskier was quiet for a moment. “Do you really think they’ll come for me?” he asked. “I know dragons are hunted for their- our parts.

“Like I said, I doubt anyone survived to tell the tale. This is just in case. Better to make sure there are no accidental sightings and keep your existence nothing more than deranged ramblings of a man who escaped a fire."

The conversation seemed to be over so Geralt turned back to their packs, searching for something to tie around the pendant. It wouldn’t fix it but at least it would be easier for Jaskier to hold. Eventually he pulled out a length of leather cord. It was thin enough to thread through the pendant, forming a big enough loop for Jaskier to easily grasp. One he was sure the knot wouldn’t slip, he held it out for the dragon to take.

“Here, you should get going. I’ll meet you back at Yennefer’s.”

I’ll see you there, wolf.” Looping the cord around one of his talons, he took the pendant before turning and launching himself into the sky. Geralt had to brace himself against the rush of air as he climbed into the sky. He watched him go until he was little more than a speck. He felt strangely alone once Jaskier’s presence in is mind receded.

“Looks like it’s just us then girl,” he said, turning to Roach. The mare only huffed at him.


Jaskier climbed higher and higher into the sky. He didn’t think he would ever get used to this. The pure freedom he felt as the wind rushed beneath his wings. Despite this only being the third time he had taken to the sky, he felt as though this was where he belonged. Any fears he had about falling out of the sky vanished as he let his instincts take over.

He’d never been this high up, or at least not that he could remember. He looked down, watching as the trees blended together into one big mass of green, zipping by beneath him. He felt himself making an involuntary rumbling in his chest, much like a cat purring.

He climbed high enough that to any people who may see him below, he would appear as only a speck in the sky, no bigger than a bird. It was cold this high up and the air was thin but with the sun warming his back he was unbothered.

He flew all day, only stopping briefly around midday when his hunger finally drove him to the ground. After tracking down a deer and satisfying his hunger, he was back in the sky.

He reached the town shortly before the sun began to set. He was still too high up to be spotted from the ground in the dimming light. He cast his gaze around the area, trying to find somewhere far enough away that no one would notice him before he could shift. He didn’t want to be too far away since he would have to hold the glamour himself and he didn’t know how long he could manage that for.

There was a clearing in the trees a couple of miles away. Any closer and he’d have to land in someone’s field and that would hardly do. He just hoped he had enough magic left in him to make it to Yen.

Feet on the ground, he gathered the frayed threads of Yen’s broken spell and poured his remaining energy into it. He willed it together, patching it up as best he could, and he felt himself shift. It was an immense drain, causing his knees to give out under him. He had to kneel in the grass for a minute, catching his breath and steeling himself for the trek back to town.

“Come on Jask,” he muttered to himself, ignoring the trembling in his body. “You can do this.”

He pushed himself up from the ground on shaking arms, pendant still clasped tightly in his fist. He glanced down at himself, finding his clothes were torn and bloody. His front was stained with ash. His wounds had scabbed over but pulled painfully where the fabric had gotten stuck to him. It was nothing major, much like it had been in his draconic form. He probably looked frightful but there was nothing he could do.

He took a second to orient himself in the right direction before taking the first few steps into the trees.

The first mile or so was difficult. He developed a pounding headache that was steadily growing worse and the trembling in his limbs hadn’t lessened any. He was sweating but could feel himself growing cold, his extremities becoming numb and bloodless as he continued to pour energy he didn’t have into the glamour.

The sun had disappeared from the sky when he finally came across the first building. The lights from the town the only thing guiding him, a beacon in the night leading to his salvation. He stumbled onward, forcing himself to put one foot in front of the other.

He knew he had used too much chaos. He was at his limit but pushed on regardless. His vision beegan to waver, making it difficult to avoid tripping up on already uncoordinated legs. The ground was unsteady beneath him but he couldn’t tell if it was because he could barely walk straight or because of the pounding headache behind his eyes throwing him off-balance.

He passed a couple on a late-night stroll as he made it through what he assumed was the centre of town. He heard the woman gasp, turning to her lover to whisper something. He ignored them, trying to carry on. The buildings all blurred together and without the sun he had no idea which direction he needed to go. He was lost.

He half-fell against a nearby wall, bracing himself against it as he tried to clear his mind. He tried to take a steadying breath but it was ragged, catching in the back of his throat and causing him to cough. “Are you alright?” he heard a man’s voice ask him. He looked up and just about recognised him as the man from the couple.

“Mmph,” was the only reply he could come up with.

The man looked back to the woman for a moment, saying something to her that Jaskier couldn’t quite catch. He tried to push off the wall but nearly fell face first into the cobbles instead. A pair of arms wrapped around him, catching him at the last second.

“Are you sick? I can take you to the healer.”

Jaskier shook his head, internally cursing when it made the world spin. “Mage. Need Yennefer.”

The couple exchanged a look between them. “Please,” he said, the word little more than a breath.

“Alright. It’s not far,” the man said eventually. He slung Jaskier’s arm over his shoulders and dragged him to his feet. Jaskier tried to help as much as he could, forcing his legs to cooperate.

He was running out of time. He could tell he was going to pass out soon and then it would be over. There was no way people were going to miss a great big red dragon suddenly appearing in the middle of town.

Jaskier couldn’t remember the journey up to Yennefer’s house, only coming back to himself when the door swung open to reveal a rather pissed off Yennefer. “What do you-” the words died as soon as she saw Jaskier. “Shit. Leave him with me, you can go,” she said, waving a hand at the couple as she took Jaskier from them.

“What happened to you bard?” she asked, placing a hand on his cold and clammy face.

“Spell broke,” he wheezed, finally opening his hand to reveal the cracked glamour.

“Fuck. How are you even human right now?” She took the glamour from him with one hand to examine it, the other wrapped around his back to keep him upright. The small pained sound he made as he lost contact with it didn't escape her.

“Barely… holding on.”

“Let’s get you inside, you can shift there.”

“No.” He tried to struggle against her, but it was useless. “Won't fit. Need to get away.”

He had to close his eyes as the vertigo threatened to overwhelm him. He felt Yen move beside him but didn’t feel himself being moved.

“Go, now,” she ordered. Cracking an eye open he saw she had opened a portal. “It’s safe. Go!” She shoved him, causing him to stumble forward through the portal. He fell though, tripping up on his way and falling onto gravel.

The portal closed behind him, severing his already tenuous link with the glamour and forcing him to shift. He released the chaos, feeling it snap back at him like a bowstring, tight and painful. He didn’t have the energy to get up.

He cast his gaze around his surroundings. He was surrounded by rock, only broken up by what appeared to be a cliff edge, looking out over the mountains. No humans seemed to be around. He was safe.

Closing his eyes, he slipped into unconsciousness, too exhausted to do anything but let himself rest.

Chapter Text

After shoving Jaskier through the portal, Yennefer simply stood outside for a moment, trying to piece together what the fuck just happened. The couple who had brought Jaskier here were long gone, likely not wanting to face the mage’s wrath.

Jaskier had been in a terrible state, drenched in sweat and shaking like a leaf in a storm. She had initially thought he was seriously injured taking into account the blood staining his clothes. But upon slightly closer inspection she realised it was old, having dried several hours ago at least. His wounds didn’t seem to be his biggest concern either. He didn't appear to be in pain and was cold to the touch, almost icy as she took him from the man who was basically carrying him at that point, before they turned tail and disappeared.

It was only when she got close that she felt the stuttering chaos around him. The weak dregs of magic flickering dangerously, threatening to snap at any moment, and she knew the bard had pushed himself far past his limit. By all accounts, he should be dead. Or at least have passed out and subsequently breaking the spell. Clearly neither of those had happened, much to her relief. She had never seen someone so far past their limit and still going. It must have been something to do with his draconic blood. The only thing she could do right now to help was shove him through the portal so he could shift in safety and hopefully regain some of his strength.

Now she stood outside all alone. Shaking her head to ground herself somewhat, she held the pendant in her hand up to the light spilling out of the open door to examine it. The chain was missing, replaced with a long cord of leather, tied with a large knot. It must have broken, in turn causing the damage to the spell. What broke it she didn’t know but it must have been purposeful, not caused by simply getting it caught on something.

It made her wonder if Geralt was alright. Jaskier was clearly alone so the question now was, did he leave Geralt voluntarily or were they in deeper trouble than some bandit trying to rob them. With fear clenching in her stomach, she instinctively opened another portal leading to Geralt and stepped through, prepared for the worst.

She found herself in a clearing in a forest, a small fire burning in the centre. There was a huff from her right. Turning, she saw Roach staring at her, free of her tack and munching on a mouthful of grass. There was the rustling of leaves before Geralt emerged into the firelight, carrying a bundle of logs. “Yen?”

“I got your bard,” she said, letting the tension drain from her at the sight of the witcher.

“Is he alright?” he asked, placing the firewood down.

“He exhausted himself, both magically and physically but he should be fine.”

“Where is he now?”

“Somewhere in the mountains,” she said with a vague wave of her hand, causing Geralt to frown at her cryptic answer. She wasn’t doing it on purpose since she hadn’t really been thinking about a location when she opened the portal. She could easily get back to him however, so she didn’t elaborate and cause the witcher unnecessary stress. “Geralt, what happened?”

With a sigh, Geralt sat down by the fire, chucking a log on it. “We found who took his ring. Some petty lord who favoured power over his people. He wanted a ridiculous amount of money for it which we clearly couldn’t afford. Jaskier came up with the idea to steal it back but we got caught. Long story short, some brute saw the glamour and decided he could sell it. He pulled it off hard enough to break the chain.”

“So Jaskier was forced to shift?”

Geralt shook his head. “Not immediately, he managed to hold on for a few hours but later some others came in to beat him up and broke his concentration.”

Yen was silent for a moment. “What about his wounds?” she asked, remembering the blood staining Jaskier’s clothes. “You don’t seem to be hurt.”

“We had to fight our way out. I went to find the ring while he kept everyone else busy. I only really fought a few men but Jaskier took the brunt of the damage before burning the place to the ground.”

“He can breathe fire?” she asked, unable to keep the surprise from her voice.

Geralt nodded. Silence fell over the small camp.

“If I had gone with you, all of that could have been avoided.”

Geralt shook his head. “No one knew what we were going to find. It could have just been a wild goose chase.”

“Well, the least I can do is take you back.” Geralt made a quiet grumbling noise, no doubt displeased at the thought of travelling via portal. “Unless, of course, you want to spend the next few days on the road.”

“Not really.”

“Better get your stuff ready then, witcher.”


Once Geralt had Roach settled in the stable and brought his and Jaskier’s things inside, he went and found Yennefer, back in her study. “When can you get it fixed?” he asked.

“A day, maybe two. That is if it can be fixed at all. I’m still trying to figure out the extent of the damage, but it may be too great to do anything.”

“What happens if you can’t?”

“Then I’ll have to make another, though I’d rather not.”

“So Jaskier would be stuck in the mountains by himself for a week?”

“I can portal you to him if you really want Geralt, but he’s a dragon, and a damn powerful one at that.”

“What do you mean?”

“He held together a fractured spell with nothing but his magic and willpower. Even I can’t do that. And not only that, he held it for several hours, pushing himself well past his limit, and yet he did not die.”

“Die?”

“What he did would’ve been fatal for a mage. Instead, he’ll sleep for a day or so and wake up with a headache. Geralt only looked at her, confusion and fear warring behind his eyes. “Surely you know how magic works Geralt. Nothing can be created without sacrificing something else. To repair a spell like Jaskier did would require an incredible amount of energy and from what you told me, he was only drawing from himself. And he thought nothing of it.”

Geralt averted his gaze, glaring at the floorboards instead of the mage. Yennefer watched him trying to puzzle things out. Eventually she grew bored, and she was still after answers. “Tell me Geralt, how much do you know of dragons?”

He shrugged. “Probably all there is to know.”

“So, based on your knowledge of red dragons, would you say Jaskier was fully grown?”

Geralt seemed at a loss for words, though that was hardly unusual. “He’s… I-I… Maybe… Yeah probably.”

“I’m assuming you also know how long it takes for a red dragon to reach that size, at a minimum.”

“At least a century.”

Yennefer only made a rather non-committal sound, her attention going back to the pendant. “Leave me Geralt, I want to get this fixed as soon as possible.”

The witcher made a noise somewhere between a hmm and a grunt but left without complaint. Only once the door closed did she set the pendant aside. She would return to it later but there were too many thoughts racing in her head at the moment.

What Geralt had said about Jaskier’s size, along with the sheer power he demonstrated, he must be older than a century by quite a bit. Younger dragons couldn’t command power like that. This news brought complications to Jaskier’s ring as well. The sheer number of memories Jaskier had lost may cause damage to his mind if they were released all at once. That is if they even had the ring. Geralt had failed to mention it so their whole mission may have been a waste of time.


Geralt stood in the hallway, not knowing what to do with himself. Yennefer had effectively banished him, Roach was settled in the stable and Jaskier was apparently on some gods damned mountain somewhere, probably passed out from magical overexertion.

The questions Yennefer’s interrogation that had been dragged to the surface kept running through his head. It was getting to be too much. He needed to do something but what was there to do in the middle of the night?

With no destination in mind, he wandered outside, letting his feet take him away while his mind was elsewhere. He wandered the town and the surrounding area for maybe an hour before his thoughts finally calmed enough that he felt he could go back. He was exhausted, not having slept since before breaking out of the cells. He was only still standing thanks to his witcher mutations after all.

Closing the front door quietly behind him, he headed up to the room he had used the last time he was here. He pulled off his boots and lay on the bed, not bothering to remove the rest of his dirty clothes. He would have a bath and change his clothes tomorrow, for now he needed to rest.

He felt uneasy knowing Jaskier was elsewhere, weakened and vulnerable on some remote mountain. He may be a dragon of apparently formidable power, but that would count for nothing if he was unconscious to do anything against any threats. He just hoped there wasn’t anything that would be foolish enough to take on a dragon up there.


Yennefer brought him some news the next morning. “I’m pretty sure the glamour can be fixed but it’s going to take another day to do so.”

“Thank you, Yen.”

“The sooner it’s fixed, the sooner I can send you two on your way,” she said, her tone teasing but light-hearted.

Geralt busied himself in much the same way he had before, carrying out menial tasks such as chopping wood even though there was no need. Yennefer didn’t exactly stop him, knowing he needed to keep busy. She did occasionally bring him food throughout the day. After the first few questioning looks from Geralt, she finally said, “Look, I don’t know what happened while you were gone but I can see you didn’t get enough food. So just eat, would you?”

He didn’t mention the food after that, only accepting it gratefully. He wondered if Jaskier had access to anything he could hunt wherever he was, and that sent him into another spiral.

“What is it this time?” Yen asked as he wandered into the house, clearly reading the distress on his features.

“It’s, hmm…”

“Spit it out would you,” she said with a quirk of her lips and a tilt of her head.

“It’s Jaskier. How do you know he’s alright where you’ve left him?”

With an exasperated sight and a roll of her eyes she started walking to the front door. “If you miss him that much, why don’t you just ask to see him?”

They stopped just outside. Yennefer stood with her arms crossed, an amused smirk on her face. Geralt didn’t know what to do with himself suddenly so simply stood still. “Well go on, ask.”

“I, erm… Can I see him?”

“Why yes, Geralt, you can." With a wave of her hands, she summoned a portal in front of them. “I’m going to get you in an hour but otherwise you’re stuck there. Don’t take too long getting back.”

With that, Geralt stepped through the portal, trying his best to ignore the disorienting vertigo that came with portals. He found himself standing near the edge of a rocky cliff. Stepping forward, he saw the view before him. Mountains stretched out before him, trees lining the valleys below. It seemed… peaceful. His fears over Jaskier being found could be laid to rest, there was no way anyone could get up here.

Jaskier however was nowhere to be found. He must have been here; large patches of gravel having been disturbed and swept aside. He must have woken up and gone flying since there was no other way off this ledge.

Geralt hoped he would be back soon. The thought of spending an hour by himself on top of a mountain didn’t really appeal. He sat with his back against a large boulder, stretching his legs out in front of him and closing his eyes. He allowed himself to slip into a meditative state, calming his mind for the first time in days.

The first indication he had of Jaskier’s approach wasn’t the familiar presence of his mind in his own, but the distinct sound of the beating of his wings. Geralt opened his eyes as the sound got nearer. He scanned the sky with his eyes but couldn’t see him. How could he possibly miss a great big red dragon?

There was a sudden rush of air and dust as Jaskier appeared from below the cliff, rising into the sky above before twisting to land. His scales gleamed like rubies where they caught the light. Geralt couldn’t deny he looked majestic.

Jaskier landed with a final beat of his wings, stopping himself from colliding with the ground and sending more dust into the air.  He spotted Geralt immediately where he was getting to his feet, shielding his eyes against the dust. The witcher thought it was strange when Jaskier made no attempt at connecting with his mind and suddenly began to wonder if this was a different dragon. “Jaskier?” he asked wanting to make sure.

Jaskier gave a slow nod, pressing his massive nose against Geralt’s chest. Geralt rubbed at the scales there in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. “Cat got your tongue?” Jaskier huffed at that, blasting the witcher with warm air, but kept his head where it was, allowing Geralt to keep petting him. “Is it because you overdid the whole magic thing?”

Jaskier make a keening noise in what Geralt assumed was agreement. On the very edges of his mind he could feel Jaskier. His presence was nothing like it usually was. Instead of being loud and powerful, he felt weak and fractured, nowhere near strong enough to form a proper mental link between them. Geralt still lacked the skill to make the connection himself so they were stuck with this barely there acknowledgement.

“You’ll get your strength back in no time, I’m sure,” he said, going back to scratching his scaly snout. “Then you can continue to annoy me with your songs and stories.” The words held no heat.

Jaskier made a contented rumbling sound, the one that reminded Geralt of an oversized cat. Jaskier straightened back up before moving further away from the ledge before curling up. Geralt stayed where he was, simply watching him move. It took a moment for him to realise Jaskier was watching him expectantly, waiting for him to do something, though he wasn’t sure what.

“What do you want?”

Jaskier rolled his eyes before pointing with his snout to a spot beside him.

“You want me to sit over there?” Jaskier nodded.

Geralt did as he was asked, sitting on the ground beside the dragon. Jaskier let out an annoyed rumble. “What?”

Instead of an answer, Jaskier began nudging him with his snout. Geralt was forced to shuffle away but stopped when his back his something solid. Belatedly, he realised he was now sitting with his back against Jaskier’s side. He was warm, chasing away the chill of the thin mountain air.

“Happy now?” he grumbled, the words lacking any of his usual annoyed tone.

Jaskier made the happy rumbling noise again, laying his head down so that he could still see Geralt. The witcher felt more than heard the odd purring, the sound reverberating in his own chest. It was strangely calming.

“Yennefer thinks she can have the glamour fixed by tomorrow,” he said, feeling more than a little out of his depth having to lead the conversation. Jaskier’s eyes, widened ever so slightly with excitement. It was strange seeing such human emotions on the face of a dragon, but he supposed that was just a part of who Jaskier was.

“She also said what you did could have killed you,” he paused. “If I had known that I wouldn’t have asked you to go alone. We should have just risked the road. I could’ve got Yennefer to go to you.”

Jaskier interrupted any further commentary by batting him lightly on the arm with the tip of his tail while growling. “You know I’m right.”

The growling only intensified and with his back still pressed against Jaskier, the witcher felt like he was being shaken with the intensity of it. Jaskier flicked him with his tail again and fixed him with an icy blue gaze. The message was clear, even without words. Stop beating yourself up. It’s not your fault.

Geralt decided it would probably be best to just shut up now and change the subject. They could talk about it another time so Geralt could apologise properly. “Alright, enough,” he said, holding his hands up in surrender. That seemed to placate the dragon and he settled back down.

They sat in peaceful silence for a while, simply enjoying the other’s company. Jaskier, unsurprisingly, was the first to grow restless. He made a few short growls in what may have been a poor imitation of speech. “You want me to talk?” Geralt asked. Jaskier huffed, looking a little pleased.

“I don’t know what to talk about,” he said dumbly. Jaskier rolled his eyes. “Alright fine. Erm… have you eaten anything?” he asked after a moment. That was after all the question that led him here.

Jaskier made a strange series of short growls, shaking Geralt where he was still leaning against him. Belatedly Geralt realised he was laughing. Geralt couldn’t help the small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “You asked me to talk. So here I am, talking,” he said.

Once Jaskier seemed to calm down a little he gave Geralt a nod. The witcher let go of some of the tension he had been carrying, glad to know his friend wasn’t starving on top of everything else that was going on.

After that he simpley sat and told him about a few of his past hunts where Jaskier had been absent. They were nothing exciting but Jaskier listened all the same. Eventually a portal opened and he knew his time was up here. “Yennefer will have the glamour fixed tomorrow. I’ll see you then,” he said at the threshold. Jaskier gave him a nod before the witcher disappeared through the portal.