Time seemed to progress at a crawl. Geralt alternated between pacing and failing in attempts at meditation. This is a terrible plan. If Triss was coming for them, she should have been here by now. And who says Jaskier is even going to sit in that blasted chair anyways? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Eskel appeared to feel the same tension. He fiddled with a dagger and any attempt at conversation fell flat as the two witchers lingered in the stable. Even Roach scuffed at the ground with her hooves and repeatedly tossed her head.
If Jaskier didn’t come back soon, the waiting might just finish Geralt off first.
It was perhaps his... fifth? sixth?... who cares? attempt at calming himself, when he began to feel as though they were being watched. An unknown pressure seemed to settle on the back of his neck. He cleared his throat to catch Eskel’s attention. When the other’s amber eyes landed on him, Geralt tapped the medallion that sat calmly on his chest, the gesture an unspoken notice to be alert, that something was present.
“I’m going to get some ale. Want anything?” Geralt asked. A high, whimsical voice interrupted before Eskel could answer.
“No need for paranoia or searching the shadows, boys. I’m right here.” A woman stepped through the barn door. She was short, her head leveling with Geralt’s chest, with white blonde hair and stunning sapphire-blue eyes. Her high-necked, white dress clung to subtle curves, and her face was beautiful both in features and in the cosmetics she wore. It was the fierceness in her gaze, however, which Geralt found himself most drawn to. Despite the casual stance she held- hands clasped at her stomach, head tilted and hips cocked- he could sense the otherworldly power that emanated from within her. She radiated ‘sorceress’ or perhaps the more likely option, ‘demon.’
“And who are you?” Eskel asked, settling into a fighting ready stance, both hands near his weapons but not quite touching them.
She looked amused at his presumption. “A friend of sorts.”
“You’re not the first demon to say that to me,” Geralt commented. “And I doubt you’ll be the first to actually follow through on what it means.”
Her eyes flashed to black with a sadistic grin. “Well well, I suppose you are smarter than you look. You’re the whole package. A bit of brain to go with that brawn, and Jaskier left out what a gorgeous face you have. What gave me away?”
“No one else would be able to find us here. Humans can’t cross the Great Sea, and Jaskier has this place too heavily warded against outsiders. So either you have the power to circumvent them, or you’ve been here before. Only people able to do that would be other demons.”
“Humans can’t cross the Great Sea? What has that go to do with…?” She blinked and then laughed. “You mean he didn’t tell you where you really are? I knew he was fond of this island when we were training, and used it as his model for building this place, but really. I suppose I always knew Jaskier was an idiot. He’s outdone himself this time.”
“Care to share the joke?” Eskel said calmly. Geralt noticed he kept his hands near his weapons, prepared for anything. Geralt didn’t have the heart to tell him how pointless it likely was. If her powers were equal to Jaskiers, they would be her playthings before he could pull the blade from its sheath.
“You’re in Hell, darlings.” Her amusement provided the perfect foil to Geralt’s dread. And honestly, he shouldn’t be surprised anymore. How didn’t he see this one coming? It should have been obvious. Hell. For fucks sake.
“Why are you here? Why do you care if we stay or not?” Geralt inquired.
“Like I said, I’m a friend. You can’t fulfill your role stuck here in Jaskier’s private domain. You’re needed on the Continent.”
“And you’re going to take us there? What’s the price?”
“I will. I have no dramatic demands of you. I just need you to forgive Jaskier for being a fool. He’ll find you again eventually, even with that pendant hanging from your neck. You’ll need each other, and I need you to accept him as your companion when he comes to you.”
“That isn’t something I can promise.”
She rolled her eyes. “You needn’t be genuine for my sake. Just let him follow you when he reemerges. Forgiveness is really just a bonus. Might also have the added benefit of convincing him not to kill me when he eventually finds me as well.”
“And is that how this benefits you? You didn’t really mention that part.” Eskel demanded.
Her face settled into a glare. “I’ve given my answer. Now, you can accept my help to get back to the Continent, or you can stay here and wait for Jaskier’s response to your hair brained scheme I found in the house. He won’t agree to letting you go. Not willingly.”
“I don’t trust you.” Geralt warned her.
“And you shouldn’t. Shall we go White Wolf? He’ll be back anytime.”
The demon and the witcher evaluated each other for a moment. Eskel looked to Geralt for his decision.
“What do I call my rescuer?” Geralt finally spoke.
“Laurel will do for now.” A piece of parchment appeared in her hand. “Read this quickly and sign it. It will bind us both to completing the terms of our arrangement.”
Eskel took the document before Geralt moved for it. He skimmed the document and then held out his hand for a quill. “A few changes first. Some wording needs to be clearer in section 4a, points three and five. Also, I’m completely striking out section six. That wasn’t agreed to.”
She thrust a quill at the outreached palm. “Make it quick, witcher. I can’t say I want to be standing here when Jaskier arrives. I plan to be far away when he realizes you two made a jailbreak.”
“Section 5b says you’ll return Geralt’s witcher equipment to him. Where is it?” Geralt reads the text over Eskel’s shoulder, and damn, he was right. Geralt had almost given up on getting his own things back; he thought he’d need to have new weapons forged and new armor crafted. The thought of getting the originals back… well he was looking forward to it.
“Jaskier has them locked away in a vault on the Continent. I’ll have to get those after I send you home. And he’s going to know I was the one to go get them, which means he will then know I’m the one who busted you out of here. Which I want him to find out later rather than sooner. He will be on a warpath when he realizes it was one of his own that rescued you both. So if you are quite finished…?”
Eskel hmms. “I suppose that is as tight as I can make it on short notice. Sign it, Geralt, and let’s get the… well I’d say get the hell out of here, but I suppose we’re trying to get the witchers out of hell.”
Geralt shook his head, re-skimmed the contract, and signed. A few seconds and a portal later, he stood in the courtyard at Kaer Morhen, Eskel and Roach at his side. He took a deep breath of fresh, clean, arid mountain air. It was good to be home.