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'Cause I'm No Ordinary Bard

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It was a beautiful summer day when the Viscount and his wife had their first child, a beautiful baby boy by the name of Julian.

A week later when the family gathered at the entrance to the sea beneath their house. The house was built atop a cave, within which was a lake that emptied into the ocean. When baby Julian, carried by his father, was placed in the lake the water began to foam. The foam surrounded his legs, hiding them from view. When it finally dissipated there was a beautiful blue tail, the color of the sky on a clear summer day, in place of his legs. He was laying on his father’s tail, a bright purple one that stretched nearly five feet in length (Alfred Pankratz was always very proud of his tail, the very color of royalty, proving him fit for his role as Viscount).

Julian grew up loved and spoiled on the island that his family called home. He befriended some of the servant kids that were around his age, playing games both on land and in the sea. Not much happened on the island worth talking about in Julian’s opinion. The first event of note happened when he was five years old and his baby sister Isabella was born.

“Mama,” baby Julian stared up at his mom, eyes wide and sparkling with love and curiosity as he stared at his little sister, “what color do you think her scales will be?”

“Oh honey, your sister doesn’t have any scales.”

“Why not?”

“Because honey bunches, only the oldest kid gets to have scales.”

Julian deflated at that. “That’s not fair. Bella should get scales too.”

His mother laughed at that. “I agree, it’s terribly unfair. Unfortunately not everyone gets to have scales. But what’s truly important is that your dad and I love you both with all our hearts, scales or no.”

While Julian knew that not everyone had scales, his sister and best friend Jakub were proof enough of that, it wasn’t until he was thirteen that he learned why.

Nobody still alive remembers what happened or why but generations ago the Pankratz family was cursed. The eldest child born to the family would turn into a mer at the slightest touch of water. Despite this though none of the Pankratz’ really considered it a “curse”. Inconvenient for sure but it came with a lot of upsides, such as the ability to dive deep and explore the beauty beneath the waves and of course the amazing abilities power over water that they each have.

The family had claimed the island they now called home around the time of the curse, it was the perfect home for them, with both an underwater and above ground entrance to the home. The children didn’t leave the island while the eldest learned to control their abilities (and learn how best to avoid water and by extension accidental transformation). The island was staffed with trusted people whose families had been keeping this secret for years alongside the Pankratz’.

Julian’s father was a fun-loving and care-free man who always seemed to have a smile on his face. So when his father sat him down with a serious expression set on his face he knew it was important. “Julian, you must never let anyone know about your scales.”

“Why not? My scales are amazing.”

His father gave a small smile at that. “Yes they are, but do you remember what you were taught about elves?”

“Because…” The young viscount-to-be scrunched up his face in thought, thinking back to his lessons that he only half paid attention to. “Because the elves were different and so the humans banished them?”

“It was a little more complicated than that, but essentially yes. So what do you think humans would do to you or me if they found out about us?”

Julian paled at that thought. He may be young but his parents had hired the best tutors around who spared no detail when describing the various atrocities humans had committed in the past. “I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

His father relaxed at that, his typical smile once again lighting up his face. “I’m glad. Make sure you keep that in mind when you go off to Oxenfurt next year.”

“Oxenfurt! But can’t I just stay here, where I don’t have to hide my scales?”

“I’m sorry, but you need to explore and see the world for yourself if you ever want to be a viscount.”

And so next fall Julian went to Oxenfurt. During his stay he quickly fell in love with both the city and his music lessons.

It took a couple years and a couple dozen letters but Julian, now Jaskier, convinced his parents to let him abdicate his position to his sister (who was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of ruling) and instead start his career as a bard. A month and a half later he found himself in a tavern in a little known town called Posada.

Chapter Text

Jaskier never meant to keep his curse a secret from Geralt but, well, “I’m part time merman” just didn’t seem to come up naturally in conversation. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the Witcher, but after years of not letting anyone see his scales unless he was back home keeping his scales hidden was just...habit.

The excuses for never bathing around Geralt slid off his tongue before he even realized. He always washed his clothes separately and if a bit of water spilled on him he would quickly and discreetly evaporate it in the about 20 seconds from the initial spill to when his scales would appear.

Looking back Jaskier realized that he definitely should’ve told Geralt on his own instead of letting him find out in one of the worst ways possible.

~~~

“Geraaaaalt,” Jaskier pretended to swoon, throwing himself off balance and nearly tipping over in the process. “My delicate sensibilities can’t handle another night in the woods. We must find an inn soon or I fear that I shall surely perish.”

The witcher snorted, turning back to face the bard. “Well if your ‘delicate sensibilities’ hadn’t decided to try to dismember that man in the last town then we might’ve gotten a room there.”

At that point Jaskier straightened, a pout setting on his face. “Well he deserved it. I mean the nerve of some people, calling one of the nicest people I’ve ever met a monster.” He scoffed.

“I’m used to it, Jaskier. You don’t need to protect my honor. I can protect myself just fine.”

“But you shouldn’t need to! Those assholes just need to either see what an amazing guy you are or learn to keep their mouths shut. Besides,” Jaskier whispered, knowing Geralt could still hear him, “you deserve to have someone to protect you, even if you don’t need it.”

Geralt quickly turned away from the bard but Jaskier still caught the clush that started to form on his cheeks. “Whatever. Let’s just hope that the next town has a contract.”

Jaskier smiled at making Mr. “I don’t feel, I’m a big bad Witcher” blush but let the topic drop. Instead he started humming lines from a song he was working on as they made their way to the next town.

Once they reached the town they split ways, Geralt off to the notice board to look for a contract while Jaskier went off to get them a room and secure himself and opportunity to sing that night.

Room secured and Jaskier scheduled to sing in a couple of hours when the dinner crowd came, the bard found himself in their room for the night, attempting to polish off his newest song about Geralt’s battle with a griffin. He jumped, nearly dropping his lute as Geralt came stomping into the room. “Hey Geralt!” Jaskier jumped up, helping the witcher take off his armor and get settled. “Any good contracts available?”

Geralt just grunted, shedding the last of his armor and laying it out for the night. “Drowners. Sounds like a small pod.”

“Exciting.” Jaskier drawled. “It’d be nice if we could get more varied contracts, I’ve written probably half a dozen songs about drowners already.”

“Unfortunately it’s the drowners we’re getting paid for.”

“I just think it’s rather rude of the monsters not to allow us a bit more spice in life.”

“Well then,” Geralt smirked, “you wouldn’t mind staying behind then, would you?”

Jaskier spluttered. “Of course I would! If I’m not there to help patch you up then who will?”

“You do realize that I did survive for years without you.”

“But you don’t have to. Don’t you understand Geralt just because you don’t need help doesn’t mean that I won’t help you. I’m your friend Geralt, and I’ll always help you.”

Jaskier didn’t mind that Geralt just grunted and turned away. He knew that Geralt has a hard time processing his emotions and has most likely reached his limit on emotions for the day.

“So when do we leave to go after the drowners?”

“We’ll go out at dawn.”

“Perfect.” Jaskier beamed. “So I still have time to wow the crowd tonight. Will you watch my set tonight?”

“I guess I could grab a bite to eat.” The witcher smirked.

~~~

The pair left early the next morning, setting off to find the drowners harassing the village.

When they got to the river the drowners were supposedly residing Geralt tied off Roach and readied his supplies before turning towards Jaskier. “Stay back. I don’t want you getting in the way.”

Jaskier took one look at the river, thinking of all the ways things could go wrong, especially with his curse in play, and hastily agreed.

With that the witcher nodded and went off to do his dirty, dirty, monster gut covered work. While Jaskier wanted to stay far away from the action for multiple reasons he did creep into a position to better view the fight. Afterall, it was up to him to turn this info into an amazing ballad and Melitele knows that Geralt won’t be any help in that sense.

It looked to be a fierce battle, four drowners all erupting from the river. Geralt lept into action, immediately felling the first drowner before the second one jumped on his back. Jaskier winced as he saw the sharp claws dig into Geralt’s armor as the third attacked from the front.

Jaskier watched, fascinated, as Geralt beheaded the third drowner. The witcher did a roll, throwing the last drowner off his back. With all his attention on the fight before him Jaskier didn’t hear the rustling in the bushes behind him.

The bard screamed as the fourth drowner burst from the bushes, leaping for his head. Jaskier quickly scrambled back, dodging the first blow. The bard fell as the second attack hit, lodging one of the drowners claws deep into his thigh. A scream tore itself from Jaskier’s throat, echoing across the forest.

He must’ve blacked out for a moment because one second he was alone, a drowner trying to eat him alive. The next second the drowner was dead beside him and Geralt’s face hovered above him, looking terribly worried.

“Jaskier. Jaskier look at me.” He could never deny Geralt anything, so he opened his eyes. When had he closed them? “I’m going to clean out the wound so I can see how bad it is, okay?”

“No...” Jaskier muttered. “No water.”

“Look bard I have to clean out that wound before you get an infection. Stay. Here.” With that Geralt stood and made his way over to the river.

Jaskier drifted in the silence, unable to focus on anything. He smiled when he saw Geralt above him again. “You came back.”

“Yes Jask, I’m back.” Geralt sighed. “Now I need to clean out your wound.”

His leg felt like it was on fire so the cool cloth against it felt nice. At first. After a couple second though it felt like his leg started to tear, the gash widening and ripping apart more of his delicate flesh.

Soon his vision blacked out, but along with the blackout his pain went away so Jaskier figured it couldn’t be that bad.

~~~

When Geralt heard Jaskier scream he swore he felt his heart stop. He made quick work of the remaining drowner before turning towards his friend. There the bard was, a drowner with a claw in his leg attempting to eat the man whole.

Geralt saw red. How dare that beast think that it could put a hand on his bard. The witcher charged across the river bank, killing the drowner in one fell swoop. He had no time to rest though, Jaskier was losing too much blood far too fast.

First priority had to be cleaning out the wound, despite Jaskier’s nonsensical protests. Infection was the last thing they needed right now. He gathered some water from the river and wet a cloth with it.

He’d barely started cleaning out the wound when the worst noise Geralt had ever heard tore it’s way out of the bard’s mouth. He barely even winced at the sound of the scream grating against his sensitive ears, focused as he was on the magic that was covering and obscuring the bard’s legs. His medallion was practically thrashing against his chest.

When the magic faded away Jaskier’s legs had been replaced by a huge bright blue tail, about 5 feet in length, and his clothes had... disappeared.

What.

The.

Fuck.

It was then that Geralt realized that Jaskier had passed out. Shit. What if he couldn’t breathe air now that he was a merman. (He was pointedly ignoring the question of how or why for the moment.) New first priority: make sure that his friend could breathe.

With that thought in mind he grabbed Jaskier, placing one hand behind his bare (and surprisingly muscular) shoulders and the other under his tail, just a bit away from where it faded back into skin. It wasn’t ideal, Jaskier was taller (longer?) in this form and the end of his tail was dragging on the ground.

Nevertheless he made it to the river. He’d meant to set the bard down gently in the water. Unfortunately, he’d tripped on a drowner limb and sent both himself and Jaskier flying into the water.

The fall combined with the sudden rush of cold water woke jaskier up. He came to, spluttering as he tried to make sense of his surroundings. “Geralt. What the fuck?”

“You’re a fucking merman Jaskier! What was I supposed to do?”

“Not throw me in a freezing cold river?”

“But mermen can’t breathe air.” Geralt was thoroughly confused by this point.

“Sucks to be them. I’m not a merman, not technically anyways.”

Now that both of them had calmed down some Geralt remembered what started this whole mess. “Let me see your... tail... I need to make sure your wound is all clean and bandaged.”

“Oh I’m sure it’s plenty clean Geralt, afterall, I might as well be taking the weirdest bath of my life.” Despite all his complaining Jaskier did maneuver so that Geralt could better access the gash in his tail. It looked nasty, ripped longer now that his body had stretched, and turning all the surrounding water pink.

“So. Merman?”

Jaskier sighed, lying down on the river bank. “It’s a family curse, although it’s not that bad really.”

Geralt just raised an eyebrow at the bard.

“It’s not so bad when I don’t have a giant gash in my thigh.” He conceded. “Bit of a first for me, believe it or not.”

“Do you need help removing it? Your curse I mean.”

“None of us have tried honestly. Besides we don’t even know how, why, or by who the curse was cast.” Jaskier shrugged. “The oldest one in the family with it is my great grandma. She remembers that she wasn’t born with it but she was only a toddler when it was cast so she doesn’t remember any of the specifics. Her parents died when she was a young, killed by revolutionaries, so she was never able to ask them what happened.”

“I’m surprised she wasn’t killed too.”

“Oh she nearly was, but one of the revolutionaries took pity on her and helped her to safety. Bad move on their part because she laid in wait, biding her time, and 70 years later she led her own army and took back our lands.”

“So, you’re okay with this? With having this curse?”

“Totally Geralt.”

“Good because you’re going to be stuck like this for a few days while that wound heals.”