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How I Unleashed the Fourth Northern War

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Generally speaking, Jaskier is the kind of man who does not believe in regrets. If he wastes his time regretting something, that's less energy he can spend on doing good things now. He can't change the past, so rather than regret, he tries to take note of what went wrong and move on. Of course, he loves to complain about things, but generally he laments the misfortunes of the present.

He does not regret meeting Geralt. He does not regret following him, putting time and energy into their friendship, actually leaving when the witcher had cast him aside after an ill-fated dragon hunt ended in a bad breakup. He does not regret the amount of time it took them to reconcile, nor does he regret forgiving him. He does not regret falling in love with him, does not regret finding out Geralt loves him back, and most certainly does not regret eventually marrying the man.

However, he can't say he's particularly pleased with his husband's strange habit of being Public Enemy Number One for various paramilitary organisations.

Honestly? He isn't even sure what Geralt did this time. He also isn't sure why it's almost always Nilfgaard out for his blood. He thinks that maybe Emhyr finally caught on to their whole "faking Ciri's death" ruse, though it's been... what, twenty-six years? Something around that, since Ciri became a witcher, which is honestly pretty fucking embarrassing for the White Sun's spies, with all their bragging about being the best intelligence agency ever. Emhyr's probably an old man by now, and it would make sense that the White Flame Dancing on Yadda Yadda Posturing Blaggard would want an heiress who doesn't age. It's every dynasty's dream, probably.

Whether it's that or some other stupid shit, Nilfgaard wants Geralt's head. Again. And, like always, when Geralt is Public Enemy Number One, Jaskier has the honour of being Public Enemy Number Two, by association.

Still, he doesn't regret any of it. If there is anything he does regret, it's ignoring Geralt's warnings and traveling in this direction anyway. If he hadn't he would have been late for the competition he's supposed to be judging, and he'll admit that Geralt's suggestion of skipping it had upset him, maybe more than it should.

Perhaps it's a good thing that he's not with Geralt, because then he would definitely miss the competition. Now, though, as he stands in line at a Nilfgaardian checkpoint, he's starting to think he probably should have just dealt with being late.

One thing that not many people know — at this point, only witchers and maybe two sorceresses are aware — is that he's not human. Well, he's half human, but he's half elf too, which... yeah, it's easy to see why he'd hide that sort of thing. It's rarely a boon, especially for someone in the public eye like him, to be anything but human. He hasn't aged a day in decades, but people tend to assume it's due to his proximity to "freaks" like mages and witchers, which is still better than being labelled a "freak" himself.

For once, it's actually great being half elf. Actually, it's not the first time; he had been a spy, once or twice, after all. The ability to be a famous figure, easily recognised, and then take off his glamour and be someone else entirely is a huge boon in terms of espionage and getting away quietly. Come in as the acclaimed bard, leave as the half elf servant — it's a useful strategy when nothing else works.

So, now that he is standing in line with Nilfgaardians searching for him, his husband, their sexy and terrifying magic wife, and especially their daughter (who has all of Geralt's deadliness, Yennefer's magic, and Jaskier's charm, and then some), he's very glad to be able to be someone else.

It makes sense for a half elf to have an elven lute. He can easily explain that no, officer, his is the most famous, but only because he's a human! Many of us have similar lutes! if he's asked. Thankfully, Nilfgaardians love their fucking paperwork, and since he's pretty sure that where'd you get the fancy elven lute isn't on the list, he doesn't worry about it much.

When he comes up to the officer's desk (because of course they had to set up tents and desks, it's all very official-looking), the officer barely gives him more than a bored once-over before intoning, "Name and surname?"

Now, here's the problem, and why Jaskier probably should never have been a spy in the first place: he's a little shit. A complete bastard. If he's given the chance to fuck with someone, and he thinks he might get away with it, he absolutely will.

So there's no force in the world, not even Ciri's space-time magic, that can stop him from responding, straight-faced, "Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz."

The officer stares at him.

Jaskier smiles politely back.

Blithely, after a long and awkward pause, he repeats his supposed surname. "Brzęczyszczykiewicz."

Now, the officer glares at him. He continues smiling, like he has no idea what fresh hell he's putting this man through. After another long pause, he repeats his made-up first name, just a little patronisingly. "Grzegorz."

What follows is about a solid minute of the Nilfgaardian officer very slowly and awkwardly attempting to sound out and write his name. Jaskier keeps that placid smile on his face and says nothing, offering no help. When the man slowly places his forehead in one hand, then rubs his palm tiredly down his own face, Jaskier once again repeats, "Brzęczyszczykiewicz." He says it very clearly, but not any more slowly than the first two times.

"SHUT UP!" the officer shouts. Part of Jaskier is afraid he's pushed too far and is going to end up in a dungeon. He will never hear the end of it, and takes a brief moment to wonder which spouse is more likely to murder him, before the officer seems to pull himself together.

"HANS!" the Black One barks, and then clears his throat. "Hans?" he repeats, a lot more mildly, clearly struggling to swallow his own frustration.

"Yes sir?" says the boy on the other side of the tent, who Jaskier obviously assumes is Hans. He looks like he's barely old enough to enlist. He sounds eager to please his commander, probably filled with nationalistic ideals in that way young men tend to be when they haven't yet had to watch a man die.

"Please write it out on the machine," the officer says, tone suffused with a faux-politeness. He then gestures Jaskier to the young man's desk, where there is indeed some sort of machine sitting there. Jaskier thinks he's seen something like it — gnomish technology, perhaps? There are buttons corresponding to each letter, and Jaskier can't see how it's more quick or convenient than just writing with a damned quill. It still uses ink, but with little stamps. Perhaps it's a legibility issue? But at that point, just teach your damned soldiers proper penmanship.

It takes ages for the young man to fiddle with the machine. He takes a page out, puts a new one in, turns a dial this way and that. As he's fucking around with the writing machine, the officer strides out, practically stomping. Jaskier just barely suppresses a smirk at how easy it had been to get under his skin.

Finally, eventually, the young man casts a wide-eyed gaze up to the bard and asks the same question the officer had.

"Name and surname?"

And honestly, Jaskier doesn't want to fuck with this kid the way he did the officer. It's sort of cruel; at the other's position he knows exactly what he's doing, but this kid probably doesn't even know how to hold a sword yet. Still, he's already started this ruse, and if he gives it away now, they'd probably hang him. In for a copper, in for a crown, he thinks; and, with the same stupid smile he'd given the officer, as though he's a little lacking in his mental faculties, he says, "Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz."

The boy starts to punch the buttons to write out the name. It doesn't take much before he's slowing, stopping, and looking at Jaskier like he can't quite tell if he's being had. "How?" he squeaks in Nilfgaardian. Oh, he's broken the poor boy. Oh well.