High above the ruined landscape of Velen, the air was cold and clear. It was a perfect night for flying, but the simple joy of flight was far from Regis' mind as he beat his powerful wings and caught another updraft. He soared as silently as an owl on the crest of its rising surge, indifferent to the cold and the wetness of the dew that streaked his skin. His mind was fixed on the glittering ribbon of the Pontar growing before him. Moonlight painted its surface silver, with garnishes of gold cast from the flame of human occupation. Soon he would be able to see the high walls and towering spires of Novigrad, and then his search would begin.
There was so little time to waste. Geralt's life hung in the balance, and every minute lost was another grain of sand passing through the hourglass of his mortal life. Every second counted down to Anna Henrietta's judgment—the price that Geralt would pay for listening to him.
There was a tumult of emotions writhing like a serpent in Regis' heart. Relief. Pain. Sorrow. Fear. Gratitude. Love—but there was no time to process it, no time to ruminate. Dettlaff lived on and Sylvia Anna had perished. Although he had despised her, Regis still felt guilty for failing to prevent her death. One reaps what they sow, he mused grimly, and Syanna sowed much death and betrayal in her short life. Perhaps not so much that she could not still have been redeemed, but enough that her end was not unjustified. There was nothing he could do to change what happened on the night when the vampires fell upon Beauclair, but there was one fate yet to be decided and he would do everything in his power to ensure its salvation.
Regis drew his wings in tight, clutching at his satchel with his hands to secure it as he plunged, before snapping his wings out again to cut through the air with the force of his momentum. There! The smog of the North's great titan of industry and innovation rendered the stars ahead hazy and indistinct. In cities, Regis had always found both the best and worst sides of humanity, in such extremes that it often exhausted him. In the countryside, one could take their time in sampling the breadth of the human condition. Regis much preferred this approach, as even after four hundred years humanity continued to vex and surprise him.
Soft as a shadow, Regis passed high above the guarding wall of Novigrad. He circled like a raptor until he spotted a suitably high rooftop upon which to alight. Digging his claws into the clay tiles, he crouched over the gutter like a gargoyle and surveyed the city. At night, the air was thick with sounds and smells, and it took many long minutes of deep concentration for Regis to filter out the glut of sensory information.
Novigrad was vast, but there was a particular sound he was seeking, and when he heard it, he spread his wings and glided over to another rooftop. He listened intently to the music, murmuring voices, and laughter below, before eventually concluding that his quarry was not among the troubadours or their audience. In this manner, he flitted from brothel, to inn, to open-air theater, before eventually settling on the roof of a tall building near the southern wall of the city. He listened keenly to the sound of merriment inside until a familiar voice which he had not heard in many years rang in his ears.
Choked with joy and relief, Regis clung to the roof for a moment just to bask in the warm glow of the bard's song and all the hope it brought him. If there was one man whose wit and charm could free Geralt from his accusers' judgment, it was Dandelion. Once the feeling had passed, he carefully crawled to the edge of the roof and—after checking for both observers and occupants—melted away into a dark mist to filter through the shuttered upper window of the cabaret.
The room he found himself in was spacious and opulent. Red velvet curtains decorated the windows and the walls, and the centerpiece of the room was a large and comfortable-looking bed neatly made up in quilts embroidered with golden vines and flowers. Now solid once more, he allowed his wings to melt back into his body as his more monstrous features shrank and faded back into his ordinary, shabby human form.
Dematerialization, although an exceedingly useful ability, was not practical when it came to covering distances greater than a few miles, as it required a tremendous amount of concentration when maintained for prolonged periods of time.
As such, the quickest method of travel from Beauclair to Novigrad was on the wings of a bat.
The only minor disadvantage to travel via his true vampiric form was that, unlike as a fog, he could not remain clothed during his transformation without destroying his vestments. They were a bit threadbare now, but he had become rather fond of them over the years and was not keen on replacing them yet.
As a logical consequence of this, Regis found himself standing in the room entirely naked, save for the bag he had carried from Beauclair. He made quick work of retrieving his clothing and had just begun the process of dressing himself when the deafening sound of a lock turning in a key drew his attention to the door, which was now beginning to open. Realizing it was far too late to hide or make an escape, Regis opted for preserving his modesty and pulled up his trousers.
A very startled woman with a bright red tunic and long flaxen hair stood in the open doorway. She held a bundle of purple fabric in her arms and wore a red cap with a goose feather plume. They stared at one another for an excruciating moment as Regis frantically tried to think of something to say.
"Who are you? And what are you doing in our couple's suite?" the woman asked. Her voice was strangely rough for such a young maiden.
"Ah, I am… renting it. As you can see." The woman looked down at Regis' bag, lying on the floor, and the shabby leggings that he had clearly just put on.
"Well, I know that you are not since I run this establishment and I know all the guests that stay with us. And you, sir, I have never met," she said sternly, eyes narrowing.
"Ah, well, that is…"
"Are you a thief? How did you even get in here? The door was locked."
"I assure you I am not a thief," insisted Regis. "I'm here on… business." The woman raised an eyebrow, but her posture became a little less defensive.
"Business? At this time of night?"
"Yes. It is an urgent matter, I fear," Regis admitted.
"And with whom is this business to be conducted, if I may ask?"
"Ah, well, it is also a private matter…"
"I see," said the woman tersely. "Well, I do not know who indicated that this 'private matter' should be conducted here, but this is no longer—"
"Is the poet Dandelion here?" Regis interrupted. "I'm afraid I really must meet with him urgently." He had, at this point, begun to retrieve his other articles of clothing and hastily put them on. The young woman's eyes suddenly grew stormy.
"Oh, he's here. Actually, let me leave these with you," she said, setting the fabrics down on a chair just inside the room, "and I'll go fetch him for you."
"Ah, well, you have my gratitude, miss…?"
"Priscilla," the woman replied curtly, not bothering to close the door as she left. Hurriedly, Regis tugged on his boots, feeling a bit perplexed by the exchange. His confusion did not last long though, as the sound of heavy feet came pounding up the stairs. Regis could only blink in surprise as a very angry dwarf with a very large axe suddenly appeared in the doorway.
"Alright, ye half-crown whore, this ain't a brothel anymore and I cannae' believe Dandelion would do such a thing as hire a prostitute when he and lady Priscilla have finally stopped beatin' around the bush. So ye can get yer scrawny arse outta this establishment by the count 'a three or the only thing gettin' intimate around here will be my axe and yer backside you—"
"My dear Zoltan, is that really you?" Regis exclaimed, smiling with pursed lips. The dwarf stammered, axe sagging in his hands as he stared, dumbfounded, at Regis.
"Melitele's tits, Regis?"
"In the flesh," said the vampire, bowing with a flourish.
"But, yer dead. That's what I was told."
Regis spread his hands apologetically. "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
"Well, I'll be. You sure you aren't a doppler or some sorceress's illusion? Not Phillipa Eilhart having a go at me for keeping her as a pet?"
Regis' lips quirked up at that. "I assure you I am the genuine article. Although you, my friend, seem to have had some adventures of your own while I was laid up recovering from my injuries. Keeping a sorceress as a pet? What have you been up to?"
"Ah, you incorrigible rascal," Zoltan exclaimed, setting aside his axe and spreading his arms wide. Regis leaned down to accommodate his old friend's firm embrace. "Gods, what a true blessing, to have a friend returned from the dead. There've been too many losses of late."
"I'm glad to see you too, my friend," Regis replied, still smiling, although a bit more sadly as they parted.
"Zoltan? You know this man?" The blonde woman, Priscilla, had returned, looking more than a little surprised at the turn of events. Zoltan turned to her, still grinning.
"Priscilla! Yes, this is an old friend of mine and Dandelion's. A traveling companion and true comrade. Devilish fine hooch too, although it packed a wallop from what I can recall." Regis gave a chuckle, bowing deeply to Priscilla.
"My apologies for startling you earlier, and for failing to introduce myself. Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy, at your service, though simply Regis will suffice."
"Priscilla," she replied in kind, giving a shallow curtsey. "A traveling companion of Dandelion's, you say? Regis… your name is familiar, although I cannot recall the tale." Regis waved his hand dismissively.
"Fear not, introductions without expectations are the best kind, in my experience. The possibilities are innumerable."
"Well, I accept your apology and greet you in kind. And I apologize for my… ahh… assumptions as to the nature of your business." She said, blushing faintly.
"Think nothing of it," Regis assured her, smiling warmly. "I admit you caught me at an inopportune moment, although I do have a new insult to add to those I have been gifted over the years. What did you call me, Zoltan? A half-crown whore?"
"Aye, ye bastard, and I'm startin' to think that may have been generous," the dwarf growled.
"Why, you wound me! I should think I would be worth a whole crown, at least, considering my charming personality and ravishing good looks."
"Charming as a mosquito and just as noisy," the dwarf grumbled, but Regis only grinned wider.
"Why, I'm offended by the comparison!" he said cheerfully.
The sound of footsteps clattered up the stairs as Dandelion rounded the corner, dressed in a gaudy purple doublet and matching leggings.
"Zoltan! What's going on up here? What did Priscilla have to—" he stopped abruptly upon noticing the third party, eyes practically bugging out of his skull. "Regis?!?"
"My dear Dandelion!" the vampire cried, spreading his arms wide and striding quickly towards the bard. "It's so good to see you, my friend. It's been far too long."
"You—but you—" he stuttered as Regis clapped him on the shoulders. "You died! Geralt said that you—that you were— that there was nothing left—" He was cut off as Regis squeezed his shoulders, smiling widely enough to show his fangs.
"Untrue. I was gravely injured in the battle against Vilgefortz, but I did survive, against all odds. I am not an easy man to kill." He winked at Dandelion, who looked back at him in wonder.
"Gods, Regis!" Dandelion threw his arms around the vampire and the two embraced. "It's so good to see you again."
"Likewise," Regis murmured as they parted. "And as much as I would like to catch up and listen to a few of your tales, I'm here regarding an urgent matter which I must speak to you about without delay."
"Geralt is in serious trouble," said Regis gravely. "The kind that I cannot extricate him from. You, however, maybe be able to. If we make haste."
"Me?" Dandelion asked incredulously. "What has Geralt gotten himself into now? Ah, come on. Let's not talk about this standing around in the hall. There's no one in the couple's suite right now, so we can use that room." He glanced at Zoltan and Priscilla, who had been observing their reunion, but before he could ask anything, Regis anticipated his question.
"Zoltan and Priscilla may join us if they wish, the matter is not so confidential that trusted allies cannot know of it."
"Aye, let's hear it then," said Zoltan, ushering them into the room.
After the four of them had settled down in the suite, the door securely locked to prevent interruptions, Regis began to explain the events of the last several weeks in Touissant. The murders, Dettlaff, Tesham Mutna, the blackmail, the hunt, the revelation of Rhenawedd's identity, the Night of Long Fangs, Syanna's death, Geralt's choice, and his present imprisonment.
"So now I find myself in a position where I am unable to help Geralt but unwilling to let him come to harm for what he did." Regis finished, assessing his audience.
"He spared the vampire," Zoltan breathed. "What a world. I wonder why?"
"I've wondered that myself," admitted Regis, his gaze far-off and his thoughts drifting further.
"Isn't it obvious?" asked Priscilla, drawing all eyes to her. She raised an eyebrow. "Really? You don't know?"
"No, I do not," said Regis, looking at the young woman intently.
"He let Dettlaff go for your sake, Regis," said Priscilla, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "It's clear that you care very much for him, despite his actions, and it seems that Geralt cares about you quite a bit as well. So long as it could be avoided, he would never seek to harm anyone he cares about."
Somehow, Regis realized, the thought that Geralt might have let Dettlaff go to spare Regis the pain of having to kill his own kin had not even occurred to him. He blinked at Priscilla in wonder, once again astounded by the shrewd emotional intuition that humans were capable of.
"That sounds like Geralt, all right," Dandelion agreed. "With Syanna dead, Dettlaff was no longer a threat to anyone, so killing him would have just caused more pain, particularly to you, Regis. After everything we've been through and all you've done for him, I doubt he would have allowed that."
"Thank you, Dandelion. I feel a bit foolish now—that it seemed so obvious to everyone but me."
"Regis, you are perhaps the least foolish man I have ever met," declared Dandelion. "But after that riveting story, I can't help but wonder why you came here to find me."
"Because," said Regis, now finding that it was his turn to state the obvious, "You are the only one who can convince the duchess to spare Geralt."
"Oh no," said Dandelion, going white as a sheet. "Uhh, I don't know if you've heard, Regis, but the duchess and I are not… on the best of terms. I'm not exactly, ah, allowed in Touissant anymore."
Regis shook his head. "I'm aware of your troubled parting with the duchess, but the circumstances are dire. Her emotions regarding her sister's death cloud her judgment. You, Dandelion, not only have close personal ties to Anna Henrietta, but an artful tongue and keen mind which have many times extricated you from similarly dire situations. If anyone can reach her in this time of rage and grief, it will be you."
"I… I don't know…" Dandelion stammered--fear and unease evident in his expression.
"Please, Dandelion," Regis pleaded. "Geralt needs you. No one else can help him."
Dandelion bit his lip, clearly struggling with himself.
"Dandelion," Priscilla said softly, reaching over to clasp the poet's hand in her own. "Geralt has always come to your rescue when you needed him. Now you have an opportunity to do the same, to use your own skills to help him in a way that no one else can. You must at least try. No one else has any chance."
Dandelion sighed, covering Priscilla's hand with his own and looking up to meet Regis's coal-black eyes. "Fine. Okay. I'll… I'll go to Touissant and speak with the duchess. I don't know if it will make a difference, but you're right, I have to try. I can't let Geralt suffer if there's a chance I can do anything about it. He broke me out of jail once, saved me from the gallows. I owe him the same."
Regis smiled with pursed lips, feeling relieved. "Thank you, my friend."
Dandelion nodded, his expression grave. "I'll set out in the morning and make haste. If we run the horses ragged, we should reach Beauclair in a week. How long has Geralt been imprisoned?"
"Two days," replied Regis. "And I do not know how long he will be held before judgment is passed down."
"Hold on," interrupted Priscilla, scrutinizing Regis. "How could he have been imprisoned for only two days, if you did not leave for Novigrad until after his imprisonment? No horse could have carried you here that quickly, nor any ship."
"I used a portal," lied Regis smoothly.
"Did that portal also deposit you in this room, behind locked doors?"
Priscilla's eyes narrowed. "And who cast this portal? Why did they not accompany you? And how did they know to send you here, exactly?"
Regis opened his mouth to reply, but this time he could not think of an answer quickly enough. He closed his mouth again and said nothing.
"As I thought. What are you concealing, Regis? Dandelion says that he knows and trusts you, but I do not know you, and yet I know that you are lying. I will not allow Dandelion to put himself in danger."
"Priscilla, it's okay," assured Dandelion. "Regis is trustworthy. It doesn't matter how he got here. I'll be fine."
"It does matter!" She insisted. "If you were harmed—"
"Lady Priscilla," Regis interrupted, raising his hand placatingly. "Your perceptiveness does you credit, and I have no wish to sow doubt and mistrust through omissions and falsehoods. A trusted friend of Dandelion's is a trusted friend of mine, so I will reveal to you the truth." He cleared his throat, making direct eye contact with Priscilla.
"I am a vampire, and the past two nights I have flown from Beauclair without rest or delay because I knew that there would be no faster way to reach this city. I apologize for concealing this from you." He bowed politely, still seated in his chair.
"A vampire," whispered Priscilla, "Like…"
"Like Dettlaff, my friend and brother," Regis finished for her. "We are both higher vampires."
Priscilla turned to Dandelion, questioningly.
"Yeah, I knew," sighed Dandelion. "Learned a long time ago, when we were traveling together looking for Ciri. You don't need to be afraid of him, he's a better person than most people I know, and he'd never hurt you."
"Melitele's tits," murmured Zoltan, staring at Regis in awe. "Well, I suppose that explains the trick with the horseshoe."
Regis cracked a smile, revealing just a hint of pointed fangs. "I admit, I have not always been sensibly cautious about hiding my true nature. At least, not if I can save lives by doing otherwise."
Zoltan nodded. "Well, I cannae' say I'm surprised, in truth. I know you, Regis, and if Geralt trusts ye, then I trust ye too. Vampire, wyvern, or grave hag, yer a mate and that's all that matters."
Regis laughed at that. "Ah Zoltan, if only there were more open-minded mortals such as yourself, perhaps there would be less conflict in the world."
The four friends talked long into the night, drinking and sharing stories. With the truth finally revealed, the persistent tension between Priscilla and Regis had melted away. They chatted animatedly as Priscilla peppered Regis with questions about his life, tales of adventure, and his friend, Dettlaff.
"What a tragedy," she said softly, fidgeting with the glass of wine in her hands. Zoltan and Dandelion had already fallen asleep with Zoltan's head on the back of the couch and Dandelion's face pressed inelegantly into the dwarf's shoulder.
"Yes. I regret that things did not happen differently," Regis said, sipping at his own glass.
"He sounds like such a gentle soul, from what you say. What kind of pain would drive a man like that to such violence?"
"Only a pain of the soul the likes of which Dettlaff had never experienced," said Regis, contemplating the dark red wine cupped in his pale hands. "He paid Syanna's betrayal back by taking her life. A just exchange? Perhaps not. But for him, it was the only recourse. Yet, it will not heal the damage done to his heart. I am afraid for him."
"Will you go after him?"
"Yes. I can do nothing else," admitted Regis. "He needs me now, as I once needed him. Despite his actions, he is still my dear friend. But, regardless of his mental state, Geralt's situation is much direr, and I will not abandon him to his fate."
Priscilla nodded, sipping at her wine. "The bonds of friendship between you are stronger than dimeritium. You will save Geralt, and you will save Dettlaff. With someone like you watching over them, it could not be otherwise."
"Your words ease my heart, dear Priscilla. I'm humbled by your confidence in me."
She nodded, smiling softly before a yawn overtook her. "It seems I've reached my limit, as much I have enjoyed our talk. I must bid you goodnight, Regis." She stood up to leave, and Regis got to his feet as well.
"Goodnight, Priscilla. It has been a privilege meeting you."
Her smile, despite the late hour and her obvious exhaustion, was radiant. "The privilege has been mine, Emiel Regis."
The next morning, Zoltan and Priscilla said goodbye to Regis and Dandelion. They passed through the Gate of the Hierarch accompanied a small entourage who would travel with Dandelion to Beauclair. Although the men were mounted, Regis followed on foot with only his leather satchel slung over his shoulder.
"A remarkable woman, your Priscilla," Regis said, smiling knowingly at Dandelion.
The bard sighed. "Don't I know it. Not sure I deserve her, Regis."
"I believe only she can be the judge of that," the vampire replied wisely.
"Yeah, that's for sure. Will you ride with us to Beauclair, Regis?"
"No. I will go on ahead, keep an eye on the situation, and intervene if absolutely necessary. Although it would be in Geralt's best interest for us to resolve this situation through the proper legal channels, I will not allow him to be executed should that be his sentence." Dandelion nodded.
"Of course. I wouldn't expect anything else. Let's just hope it doesn't come to that; Geralt's spent enough of his life running."
Regis followed the party for several miles--until the last of the villages surrounding Novigrad were out of sight. With some final parting words, he watched as Dandelion and his entourage galloped ahead down the path, making haste to Touissant. When night fell, Regis would transform and take to the skies. On the rising air currents, he would soar south to Beauclair, to watch over Geralt until he was once again safe from harm and this long nightmare was finally over.
Then, Regis would find Dettlaff, and perhaps together they could heal from this terrible series of events.