Jaskier was very much enjoying his three Wolves, but he felt like they deserved some time on their own. Jaskier has informed his partners earlier where he was going to be. They tried to put up a fight but with a raised eyebrow they all backed down.
They had finished breakfast, no one brought it up so Jaskier felt like they were okay with it by then. They needed their time alone and he was okay with that.
During training he watched Geralt's eyes drift over to Eskel a lot more than usual, so the White Wolf was obviously planning something when Jaskier was with Vesemir. The old wolf was not impressed with the staring and had forced Geralt to fight Lambert and Eskel was with Jaskier.
Training took them to lunch where Vesemir and Lambert worked on bringing food out. Jaskier wondered who had received the cooking skill from their father and it seemed Lambert had. The man was as good a cook as Vesemir and that was high praise from the Bard who loved food.
Lunch was a selection of fresh bread, duck and vegetables. Jaskier would have bowed to the two cooks right there if they asked. Each bite was like heaven and Jaskier never wanted Winter to end if it meant they would cook him food all the time.
Lunch was filled with jokes and jabs at each other’s training techniques. Vesemir added his input occasionally but kept quiet like Jaskier did. The three wolves were joking around and had smiles on their faces which made the other two smile.
“Jaskier, have you checked on the animals since breakfast?” Vesemir asked the Bard as the others talked between each other.
“No I was going to head out after this meal, Scorpions scratch has healed well, and Lil’ Bleater is still her happy self.” Jaskier replies as he took a break from eating and drank the ale.
“That’s good. I’m impressed with how you got all three horses to trust you so fast. Humans are usually less trusted by horses.”
Jaskier smiles brightly, he loves when he impressed Vesemir, it made him feel like someone outside of his partners actually cared about him and not his fame.
“I always loved the horses in the manor. But my father did not approve of his son working with ‘the vagrants’ as he called the workers. He didn’t allow me to help them but I still know some tricks.” The bard smiled as he spoke, but Vesemir could sense the discomfort of bringing his family up. He knew something happened but he wasn’t one to press.
“Well it’s good that they like you. Eskel and Lambert aren’t great at caring for them properly and Geralt just pampers his Roach when he tries to clean the stables.”
Jaskier could imagine, Roach was one of the most important things in Geralt's life. If she was a person Geralt would have married her he guessed. Smiling at the image he nodded.
Food now finished, he waved bye to the four of them and headed to see the animals. All of them nickered as he drew close enough for them to see. He pet all of them as he checked their teeth, everything okay he started to muck out the stables. It was a horrible smelling job, but it was his job.
He hummed as he worked, a soft tune he had been working on since he first arrived in Kaer Morhen. The work seemed to pass by in a flash, he had cleaned the stables, pen and coop. Checked for injuries on all animals and even gathered a couple of stray eggs he missed earlier.
So he started on his next task, finding Vesemir in the keep. The eldest wolf was either in the Kitchen, Library or his study. So he tried the kitchen first, it made sense to check the one closest to him first. As he ventured into the keep he could hear the rumbling of three energetic wolves climbing the stairs. He smiled softly and headed to the kitchen.
The room was empty of people but Jaskier never said no to a drink or two, so he poured a glass of ale to drink as he hunted a wolf. He decided to head to the Library next. It was one of his favorite rooms, filled with so many amazing texts which he had thought were lost to time. The room was lit as he drew close to the door. He knocked softly to alert the Wolf he was there as he opened it.
“Jaskier, come to join me?” Vesemir asked from his seat beside the fire. He wasn’t looking at the Bard but it was obvious he could smell and hear him.
“I would like to if you are okay with that,” Jaskier was taught to respect the Lord of a Manor, and Kaer Morhen was basically a Manor.
“Of course, I did offer. Pick a book and I’ll go get the good wine,” the Witcher rose from his seat and passed Jaskier who decided to find a book he hadn’t read before. That wasn’t hard, all these books he never even knew existed and he was an Oxenfurt graduate!
He settled on a book about the Great Cleansing. He felt it was right to educate himself properly and who better to ask and discuss it with than someone who was most likely alive.
The bard draped himself down on the opposite chair from Vesemirs. He downs his ale and watches the door until Vesemir walks through.
He was carrying two bottles of Wine and Jasmine could not wait to try them. In his other hand he held up some cheese and bread which Jaskier took off him and placed down on the table between them.
Vesemir sat down placing the wine bottles beside the food. He let Jaskier look at the label and he let out a shocked noise.
“Corvo Bianco from 1200. This is older than I am! How much did this cost?” Jaskier was staring at the bottle. It was beautiful, he almost didn’t want to open it.
“Nothing surprisingly. The owner at the time had given us enough to last a century.” The bottle opened with a satisfying pop and Jaskier couldn’t wait to try it.
“Did you know them?” Jaskier asked as Vesemir poured him some.
“Yeah. I saved him from a werewolf. He had it written down that every time I was in the area I was to get more bottles. It’s been passed down to his son I think,”
“Was it a contract? Or does Geralt get his hero act from you?” Jaskier asked with a chuckle.
“No contract. He was traveling back from the inn and was attacked. And Geralt was always self sacrificing. You should have seen him the first time someone tried to fight Eskel.”
Jaskier put his book down and looked up, because childhood stories about his Wolfs? Yes that was a need.
“Listen up pup because those three were messes back when this was a school.” Jaskier leaned forward and sipped his wine as he watched Vesemir with bright eyes.
Vesemir was over the new recruits. They are worse than the last set, he didn’t think any would actually survive the trials. Yet he had to continue training them. There were two that did stick out, one that he had picked up and another that Varin had brought back. They had formed a close bond as soon as they met and no matter who tried they didn’t separate.
He had caught them laughing as they tied a mug to a bee, Geralt had tried to take the blame and say Eskel was there to stop him but Eskel has also said the same to him.
Both ended up being punished but that didn’t stop them. They pranked their own class and sometimes when they felt confident some of the older trainees. Vesemir found some of them funny but he was forced to punish them if they were caught.
One evening he was trying to have a moment with Rennes but it was interrupted as someone knocked on his door and requested help. He had rolled his eyes but followed anyway. And to no one's surprise a fight with Eskel and Geralt against an older boy was going down.
They two were fighting pretty well, and as their instructor he felt proud of their techniques. He quickly split them up and sent the older trainee to Barnim as he dealt with the two.
Geralt took the blame, again, because someone insulted Eskel and he didn’t think before he punched him. Eskel got involved to help Geralt. Vesemir dragged them to his room where he explained that fights didn’t solve everything. He didn’t punish them, just made them realize their wrongs.
The two quickly grew and soon enough they were completing the trials. Eskel had almost caused the Keep to burn down when he had found out about Geralt's extra mutations. It took seven teachers to calm him down. Vesemir didn’t have the heart to punish him for that so he sat with the young Witcher and let him cry.
Eskel was too sweet for a Witcher, no one thought he would have survived but they were all proven wrong when he was handed his medallion. Vesemir felt his heart swell with pride as both him and Geralt came back after their first year on the path.
That Winter was hell, the teachers had thought their pranks had passed with the reality of outside. But Vesemir has caught them discussing something in sign while laughing. Did he mention that when Barmins small clothes found themselves hanging from a balcony? No. The two deserved to laugh.
They were out for maybe five winters when Lambert showed up. That kid was a mess. He was angry, and determined to leave. He was always in trouble, and like Geralt and Eskel, Vesemir took a liking to the young kid.
His partner Rennes helped him train Lambert in the art of control. Come Winter both Geralt and Eskel were involved in the training. The three were inseparable and Vesemir didn’t have the heart to remind them about the trials and the odds. He prayed to Melitele and all the other Gods that this kid survived.
Rennes took a special liking of this kid, he saw himself in Lambert. He took to private studies with Lambert where he explained how he could control his emotions.
The day of Lambert’s Grasses Trial. Eskel and Geralt had come back and stayed with Vesemir and Rennes until they received word on Lambert’s survival. All four let out a sigh, he was okay. He only had two more to go.
Geralt and Eskel were in their own rooms but ended sleeping in the same. Eventually Lambert was invited to join them. The three just held each other, they loved each other even if they didn’t know what that was.
Rennes and Vesemir had a bet on how long it would take for them to get together. Rennes won, of course he did. Vesemir didn’t even care because he loved his partner and he wanted that for those three as well.
The Trial of Dreams was upon Lambert, there were only 20 kids left from the 52. They all knew the odds of him surviving but they knew he would. Because if he didn’t they didn’t know how they would cope.
It was close. He nearly died a few times but Vesemir pushed all four of them into his room and nursed him back. Out of the 20 that went in only 7 came out. They made sure he survived, and all five of them sat in silence from the near loss of one of them.
The five of them all knew he would survive the Trial of the Mountains. He was resilient and wanted to prove the people who said he would die wrong. And he did. Two died on the Mountain, one of them was a friend. Lambert withdrew after that. He couldn’t cope with the loss of all his year. Only 5 out of the 52. It was the biggest loss for the Keep in a while.
Then the raid happened. The lost Rennes, and it wasn’t good for a while. They cleaned up and tried to rebuild but it wasn’t the same. There weren't any more pranks, no more teachings. Lambert was lost without Rennes who he grew close to, Vesemir worried about his suicidal streak. He picked fights with all of them. It took Eskel pinning him down for his act to break. The three of them held him as he cried and screamed.
It hurt, Vesemir lost his partner and was now the father to three Witchers. Any year could be the last for one of them. They could be killed and the others wouldn’t even know until Winter. A Witcher wasn’t meant to feel but that’s a lie, they felt more fiercely that anyone in the world. They longed for affection and love, held the pain of their lost brothers, and held the fear of death every time they were on the Path.
They feel so much, but they can push it away to get work done. It was the way of the Path.
Jaskier listened to the stories, his heart breaking as Vesemir spoke. The man had gone through an entire bottle of wine and Jaskier had given him his drink. His pain was so intense, Jaskier couldn’t imagine dealing with that.
“I’m glad they had you and Rennes. You cared for them and taught them what it felt like to be loved and cared for.” Jaskier said to the man who nodded into the fire.
Vesemir was silent, he hadn’t spoken of those days to anyone. He knew how Lambert felt when he cried for them all. The pain stung every single step in the Keep. The echo of boys running away from each other. The strikes of swords in the training rooms. The faint smell of Rennes every time he entered his room. It hadn’t left since 1190 and he hoped it never would. He kept his oil he used topped up when he felt the need to smell his partner.
He never wanted his pups to feel the pain he did but he knew that was unavoidable, Jaskier was human, he would die and they would all feel his loss.
The two didn’t speak for the rest of the night. Both lost in the past. When Jaskier crawled into the bed after nightfall he started crying in Lambert’s arms.
The three didn’t ask anything at first, just held their bard as he sobbed in their arms. Eskel asked him if he wanted to talk about it and Jaskier looked at Lambert with such sadness that it pained all of them.
“Vesemir and I talked about Rennes. I’m so sorry you all went through that. I can’t imagine your pain.” Lambert went stiff in their arms. It was an unspoken thing that they didn’t mention Vesemir's partner. It was too raw for them all.
“He was a good man. One of the best.” Lambert whispered, out of the three of them he was closest to Rennes.
“You are too. I love all of you so fucking much. I know that The Path is dangerous but the idea of you dying and me not knowing until I hear about it.” Jaskier started to cry again, another thing they never mentioned. The dangers of their job, it scared them too.
“They would have to drag me screaming to leave you lot,” Eskel whispered into his bard's hair. The words were so simple but so caring.
“We all love you Jask. We aren’t leaving if we have a say in it.” Geralt told Jaskier who nodded through his tears.
“We can work out a way to stay in contact after Winter. That way we don’t have to worry about each other too much,” Lambert said. His face was buried in Jaskiers chest but his voice was trembling like he was crying.
Jaskier pulled the man closer and nodded. They would work something out. But for now he needed to be in the middle of a Witcher cuddle pile. Maybe Vesemir wants to join their cuddles. He’d ask the man tomorrow.
His dreams were filled with a summer day where his Wolves were lazing around on the green grass and they were happy and safe.