Rennes is tired. Exhausted. Weary. However he looks at the problem he's currently facing, an oddly Geralt of Rivia shaped problem, he can't shake the deep exhaustion that seems to have taken a hold of his old bones. Maybe he should start to think about retiring, install Vesemir as the new head of the Wolf school, courtesy of Geralt being his child of surprise.
The fact that he really wouldn't dare leave the keep might pose a problem though. He certainly couldn't bear to be parted from his lover that easily, moreso if it would mean the nightmare child would win. The other heads of schools wouldn't ever let him forget that fact. Luckily Rennes is a stubborn bastard who refuses to let the damn pup have the best of him.
He's considering pouring himself a glass of brandy, the fact that it is still morning be damned, when his door is violently pushed open and Junod of Belhaven unceremoniously walks up to his desk.
“Still racking your brains over that letter ?”, Junod smirks at him and nods towards the parchment sitting in front of him.
“Fuck off,” Rennes mutters, “You're not the one who's going to have to tell the Griffins that Geralt of fucking Rivia pushed another one of their members into retirement.”
“Guess that's your problem,” Junod says and shrugs, “I offered to put the troublemaker down after the Blaviken mess. You uppity Wolves were the ones insisting he be allowed to live.”
“You're not the one who'd have to deal with the fallout of his death,” Rennes grumbles.
He glares at the Bears' second in command – their head of school, Arnaghad, being too old and crotchety to bother attending the schools' meetings – and gets up to peer out of the window. Junod joins him and they stare in silence at the trainees sparring in the courtyard.
“What do you want ?”, Rennes asks him after a few seconds of blessed silence.
“Oh, just wanted to tell you that the Cats are going to arrive in a few minutes. Barmin said that they would probably appreciate the head of the school coming to greet them.”
“Fuck,” Rennes curses, “Couldn't you have started with this ?”
Rennes scoops up his swords and leaves his office at a run.
“An annoyed Treyse is a fun Treyse,” Junod yells after him.
Rennes doesn't have the time to answer him and he barely stops in his mad dash towards the courtyard to send a weirdly idle Remus up to his office to make sure Junod doesn't fuck with his papers or, more importantly, with his stash of brandy.
He manages to get his silver sword settled at his side as he finally reaches the courtyard and scowls at the sight of Treyse and some of his Cats already lingering next to the gates. Barmin is already present, which is a relief, but Treyse's eyes still pin him in place as soon as he sets a foot out of the keep.
Rennes hesitates, troubled by this mad gaze peering at his soul, and he shivers. He's certain that Junod is laughing at him and he takes note to sit him next to Ivar at meals as soon as the Vipers will join them. Stopping turns out to be a mistake though, because it means that an overeager Lambert overtakes him and runs at full speed towards the Cats.
Rennes swears and runs after him, not wanting to start this already exceptional meeting by a murder. Lambert is faster though and he even manages to evade Barmin to reach Treyse.
“Decrepit Cat,” Lambert greets the head of the school of the Cats and Rennes stumbles on his way over, what the fuck is the damn pup thinking .
He wonders what is it with their dumb luck in trainees, Rennes could swear the Wolves always end up with the worst deals. Sure all their trainees are talented, but they're also fucking nightmares. They have disastrous Geralt, goat hoarder Eskel, slut Gweld, shoe laces' collector Gerd and irreverent Lambert, who they had all thought was actually dead for the last six years.
However the pup had apparently just been sulking and had finally decided to grace them with his presence this winter for the first time since he left the keep. He already managed to blow one of their cellars up in his first week home and Rennes has been wondering for a few weeks now if he could get away with throwing him out of Kaer Morhen. It's not like most of them terribly missed him. Sadly he doesn't think he'll manage to get it done, he's pretty sure Vesemir and their alchemy teacher, Krevin, would object.
“Did you bring him ?”, Lambert asks and stands on his tiptoes to peer at Treyse's escort, “Is he here ?”
“Stupid pup,” Treyse greets Lambert, which makes Rennes stumble again in astonishment because they seem to know each other, “He wouldn't allow us to leave for Kaer Morhen without him.”
And then the Cats move and push forward one of their own. The witcher hobbles forward and smiles at Lambert – smiles ! Who the fuck smiles at a psycho like Lambert ? –, before throwing off his back what looks like to be all the bags from the Cat party. Lambert whoops in joy, tugs the Cat into his arms and kisses him right in front of everyone. Rennes has a bad feeling about this.
“Treyse,” he finally greets the head of the school of the Cat as he joins him, “Welcome to Kaer Morhen.”
“Your hospitality is still lacking, I see,” Treyse growls and marches right past him.
Rennes is left sputtering as all the Cats ignore him and follow their leader into the keep and he turns to Barmin for some reassurance. The old Wolf shakes his head at him, squeezes his shoulder and follows the Cats, hopefully to see them to their rooms. Rennes is then left with Lambert, who's still firmly lip-locked with the unknown Cat.
He raises his arms to the sky, snatches two trainees from Varin's class and orders them to bring their bags to the Cats, before Treyse accuses him of trying to keep them prisoners and depriving them of the barest necessities. He hates dealing with the Cats, they're always so difficult.
He then goes back inside, makes sure to politely nod at Mejaï, the Manticore head of the school, when he happens upon her and locks himself up in his office, finally pouring himself that well deserved glass of brandy. He can't wait for the Griffins and Vipers to join them. The fastest they join them, the sooner they can all deal with the aftermath of Geralt's latest fuck-up and the sooner Rennes can send them all on their way.
Unfortunately the Griffins and Vipers haven't arrived by the time the cooks yell to announce supper and he drags his feet to the main hall, dreading the meal to come. He takes his place on the raised dais they put up for the occasion and is relieved when Mejaï takes the seat on his left and Junod the one to his right, leaving Treyse to sit on the Bear's other side.
They manage to get through the main dish in silence, in complete opposition to the rowdy hall, packed with witchers now that winter is fast approaching. Rennes is actually feeling quite optimistic about the meal, Treyse being quiet, meaning the cooks remembered his favorite dishes, when halfway through dessert, Vesemir enters the great hall. He suspiciously heads out again immediately and comes back a few seconds later pulling Geralt and Eskel behind him.
Rennes' eye ticks and he glares at Vesemir. He ordered Geralt to make himself discreet until all the heads of schools left, but they're not even all here yet and already the damn pup is disobeying. And the worst of it is that he's carrying his daughter in his arms. Not that the goat Eskel's carrying is any better.
Rennes growls and inadvertently reduces his slice of pie into mush as he does his best to will the two nuisances to disappear into thin air. They soon catch him glaring, and the pups at least duck their heads in mock shame, but Vesemir only smirks, winks at him and struts into the hall heading to the table near the hearth. Sometimes Rennes wonders if he's not deluding himself thinking that he's in charge of this school when he feels anything but.
"So, that is the child of discord," Treyse drawls as he keeps his eyes trained on Geralt.
"Yes," Rennes says through clenched teeth, " That's her."
"Her ?", Treyse asks, sounding surprised.
"Definitely a girl," Mejaï says.
"Then she's either for you or me," Treyse points out and looks at the Manticore.
"She's for no one," Junod chuckles, "Her walking disaster of a father doesn't want her to be trained as a witcher."
"It was her mother's wish," Rennes explains, "She was willing to give the child to Geralt, if she wouldn't ever be mutated."
"Then send her back to her parents," Treyse growls, "We have no use for a human child and her being returned could maybe stop witchers being stoned out of Cintra."
"We can't return her," Rennes grunts, "Her mother gave her up. It's not our fault queen Calanthe and the princess' consort are throwing a tantrum over it."
"I wouldn't want to be a member of the royal family right now," Mejaï comments, "Suppers must be so awkward."
"Can't be worse than the supper we're sharing right now," Treyse grumbles.
Rennes makes an effort not to rise to the bait and he glares at Barmin as he joins Geralt, Eskel and Vesemir. The old Wolf sits down next to the White Wolf, who's busy feeding his daughter some goat milk, and he smiles at the child. Rennes doesn't understand how Barmin and Vesemir can be so taken with the kid after only knowing her for two months, but they certainly seem to have already adopted her.
He keeps his eyes trained on Geralt as two Cats take a seat next to him and start to converse with the group. By the satisfied little smile Treyse sports, Rennes is sure the Cat motioned for them to go get some intel. Rennes isn't quite sure what they expect to get out of this encounter and shakes his head at the sight. Their target is a baby after all, apart from learning how many nappies she goes through a day, Rennes doesn't know what they hope to discover.
As they're all looking at Geralt and the Cats, they're in the front row to witness the disaster. The girl gets fussy once she's done eating and Geralt hands her to Eskel, who has to let his goat go. The damn goat climbs up on the table, which infuriates Rennes even more, before shitting into one of the Cats' plate.
“Fuck,” Mejaï chuckles next to him, “Treyse will lose it.”
And indeed Treyse is looking somewhat constipated. The fact that the child's burp ends up being liquid enough to be sprayed around and covers the other Cat's right arm in foul smelling regurgitated milk certainly doesn't help. Rennes doesn't wait for Treyse to gather his thoughts and start to rant, he gets up and flees, being able to perfectly imagine his recriminations.
He heads up to his room to hide and hopes that the night will let the Cats cool down. He's sitting in bed, reading a child rearing essay Barmin gifted him a month ago and wondering if he could apply the methods described in it to his own grown-up witchers, when Vesemir finally deigns to join him.
“Hey,” Vesemir greets him.
Rennes huffs and keeps his eyes on his book.
“Eskel and Geralt cleaned their mess in the main hall,” Vesemir tells him as he changes into soft sleeping clothes, “And Treyse didn't have an apoplexy in front of everyone, if you were wondering.”
Rennes huffs again.
“Fine,” Vesemir sighs, “Sorry about putting Ciri into the spotlight, but the cooks are fed up with Geralt and Eskel eating in the kitchen and the kid would have been cold anywhere else.”
Rennes grunts unhelpfully as Vesemir crawls into bed. His answers are apparently lacking, because Vesemir growls at him and rips his book out of his hands.
“I'm reading that,” Rennes points out testily.
“You were reading that,” Vesemir smirks as he puts the book away, “Come on, you couldn't have hoped to keep Ciri hidden away for the whole visit of the other heads of schools. Master Mejaï already saw her anyway.”
“Better to keep her hidden if Geralt insists on being stubborn and not giving her up to the Manticores or Cats to be trained. I wouldn't put it past Treyse to try to steal the girl.”
“Oh, so you do care,” Vesemir smiles at him and lies down, his head resting on Rennes' thigh.
“I don't,” Rennes grumbles, “I'd just prefer not to have your disaster of a child surprise bringing hell down on the school and the alliance because we denied him his child. It was bad enough when he felt like we stole Eskel from him.”
“You could have sent them both to the Griffins as envoys,” Vesemir points out.
“It was a diplomatic exchange of members for a winter,” Rennes grunts, “Nobody wants to see Geralt sent on a diplomatic journey. Eskel is level-headed and the one who had a lot to gain from the Griffins' tutelage. I didn't expect for the idiotic pup to invade their keep in the dead of the night to steal his lover back.”
“Wouldn't you have done the same for me ?”, Vesemir asks as he mischievously smiles up at him.
“I don't suffer from separation anxiety.”
“You also don't have one single romantic bone in your body,” Vesemir drily comments.
“That's not true,” Rennes splutters, “I take you out for a meal twice a month !”
Vesemir hums noncommittally.
“You like picnicking at the foot of the waterfall !”, Rennes insists
“Yeah, I do. But it's always the same. I try to mix things up when I want to surprise you. A relaxing evening at a lake under the starry night in summer, a romp on a bed of leaves in autumn or a nice dinner with candles. You could try to surprise me, you know.”
“With what ?”, Rennes asks, perfectly aware that he's never been known for his vivid imagination.
“A bed covered in petals would be nice,” Vesemir mumbles.
“It's winter, where am I supposed to find petals ?”, Rennes asks, baffled.
“Ask a mage for a portal to Toussaint or Nilfgaard.”
“Pretty sure that it would be considered an abuse of authority.”
“Pluck all the winter roses in our greenhouses then,” Vesemir growls and pinches his side, “Melitele knows you wouldn't be the first one to do so.”
“Do I want to know who did it ?”
“Lambert. This afternoon.”
“I didn't want to know,” Rennes whines.
Vesemir snorts and Rennes blows out the candle. He then wiggles around until he's comfortable lying down, Vesemir's head cushioned on his chest and the furs pulled up to their chins keeping them warm.
“Love you,” Vesemir mumbles against his shirt, already sounding half asleep.
“Love you too,” Rennes whispers back and kisses his forehead, before closing his eyes, utterly content for now.
It takes another two days for the Griffins and Vipers to arrive and Rennes spends them running left and right, hiding into the deepest parts of the keep and avoiding Treyse. He still has to deal with the abrasive Cat at dinner and supper, but he tries to ignore his jibes and only talks to Mejaï.
Unfortunately he doesn't manage to totally shut Treyse out and he catches him bitching at the weather, the keep's supposedly poor masonry which lets cold draughts in and of course the impolite Wolf witchers who have the infortune to cross his path. His usual nervous tick when he has to deal with Treyse comes back on the second day and Rennes resigns himself to feel the right side of his face uncontrollably spasm for a few more days.
He also learns that Lambert spent the five winters he didn't come back in the keeps of the other schools. He visited first the Cats, then the Bears, the Vipers, the Griffins and lastly the Manticores. His travels and visits saw the pup develop his relationship with his kitten and meet almost all the witchers still alive.
Treyse takes great pleasure to inform him of these facts once he notices that he has no idea what the young pup did during the past five years and Rennes wonders what the world is coming to when it appears that Lambert self appointed himself as a Wolf ambassador for the last few years.
He rants at Vesemir about it, because they have people formed to be diplomats of sort and it still appears that Lambert did a better job at it than most of the Wolves they sent to the other schools in the past. The Griffins had sent Eskel back to them after Geralt's stunt, Tjold is banned from ever setting foot into Gorthur Gvaed again, but the Manticores ask about him often, Aubry is on somewhat friendly terms with the Bears, but he spends his winter hibernating at their side, which isn't very useful when you need him to extort some concessions from them, and Remus can usually be persuaded to go spend a winter at Stygga Castle, but he refuses to even engage into a debate with the Cats when he's there.
The only Wolf witcher the other schools are literally fighting over to be sent to them is Gweld. And, to his profound despair, Rennes has learned that it is because the pup spends his winter on his back or his knees, being serviced by and servicing his hosts in turn. Rennes and his council had quickly found out that Gweld's behaviour isn't very useful either when you need him to negotiate some favors. Sadly he doesn't think that Lambert will be any easier to ask things from.
And finally, after two long days, the Griffins and Vipers show up. They arrive together and Rennes hurries out in the courtyard to greet them. It's too late to start a meeting now, but if he wakes them up early enough, they might be done by the next evening and he could potentially throw everyone out on the next day.
He greets Keldar of the Griffins cordially enough and then turns towards the Viper party looking for Ivar. He doesn't find the master of the Viper school though and frowns at them.
“Where is Ivar ?”, he asks desperatly and hopes that he's hiding behind Letho.
It's not that he particularly likes the head of the Viper school, but Ivar always takes his side when he and Treyse are fighting and he likes having an ally at his back he knows he can count on.
“He's not here,” Kolgrim, Ivar's second, answers and steps forward, “He sent me in his stead. He said that three emergency meetings in eight years were too much for him and that he'd see all your ugly mugs next year anyway for the traditional decennial reunion. Of course, he's already looking forward to hosting you all at Gorthur Gvaed for the week long assembly.”
“Fuck,” Rennes swears, choosing not to comment on the sarcasm.
“He also told me to always take your side against Treyse,” Kolgrim adds, looking somewhat confused, “And to bet on you no matter the different.”
“Thank fuck,” Rennes says and tugs Kolgrim into a hug.
Rennes smiles for the first time in three days at supper and doesn't even bother glaring at Geralt, who's gently rocking his daughter next to the fire, Eskel softly humming at the poor child that has decided not to settle tonight. He invites Kolgrim to sit at his right and makes sure to keep Mejaï on his left, not feeling in the mood to deal with Junod's smirks, Treyse's ranting and Keldar's demands about what happened to Geralt's latest babysitter.
He's in such a good mood that he drags Vesemir out of the main hall under everyone's scrutiny, leads him to their room and proceeds to exhaust him quite thoroughly. He wakes up invigorated in the morning, abandons Vesemir to the bed he's not ready to leave yet and heads down to breafast with a spring in his step.
The other heads of schools slowly trickle in and Rennes is only slightly disappointed he won't be able to go obnoxiously wake one of them up. His good mood abates somewhat when he catches Treyse complaining about his supposedly chipped plate, but he holds on the thought that his guests will all be on their way soon and he already feels better. The sight of a still dishevelled Vesemir making his way towards his seat halfway through breakfast makes him feel smug and invincible and he ushers his guests to his office with a smile on his face.
He should have expected his morning to go to shit as soon as he closes the door behind the sixth of them though, it would have prevented him from gaping at Keldar's rude demand to see the letter Geralt's latest babysitter asked the White Wolf to bring back to announce his retirement to them. Rennes winces, fetches Julian of Kerack's letter and hands it to Keldar with a grimace. The Griffin reads it slowly and Rennes takes advantage of the calm to get mugs and the good brandy out.
“What the fuck possessed him to buy a glamour and become a bard full time ?”, Keldar growls and glares at Rennes like it's his fault Geralt pushed the Griffin onto the path of retirement.
“What kind of name is Jaskier ?”, Kolgrim snorts as he snatches the parchment and proceeds to read it too, “A bard ? It's ludicrous !”
"He was already playing the bard part time as he travelled with Geralt," Rennes comments as he pours the brandy, "The cintran mess must have been the last straw."
"Isn't it too early for brandy ?", Kolgrim asks.
"It's never too early for brandy on a emergency meeting," Treyse says and proceeds to finish his glass in one go, "Your liquor still tastes like piss, Rennes."
"At least mine only tastes like it," Rennes growls, "I'm pretty sure you're serving us actual troll piss when we meet at Stygga."
"You're new to emergency meetings," Mejaï softly says to Kolgrim, "You'll get used to it."
"Well, I'm certainly not tasking another one of my Griffins to keep an eye on Geralt of fucking Rivia," Keldar grunts, turning back to the topic at hand, "He already turned Piotr into a fisherman and now Julian into a bard, I'm not losing another one of my witchers to retirement."
"You won't have to," Rennes sighs and takes a seat at the head of the table, "Geralt agreed to stay here for a few years to raise his daughter and take on some of Barmin's duties."
Five extremely horrified faces are suddenly facing him and Rennes frowns, wondering what spooked them now.
"You're putting him in charge of organizing diplomatic meetings and supervising witchers' exchanges ?", Mejaï asks, clearly taken aback.
"Fuck, no," Rennes sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, "Barmin is still in charge of our stable in addition to his diplomatic duties. Geralt will take over, breed our horses and train them. We'll probably ask him to give some sword lessons at some point too, we just need to make sure he won't encourage our trainees to stick their heads where they're not supposed to like he tends to do."
"Thank fuck," Junod says, relieved, "Pass me the brandy."
“You better keep an eye on him,” Mejaï adds, “We have enough on our plate with one disastrous Wolf, we don't for him to start spreading his affliction to your trainees.”
“Fuck off,” Rennes grumbles, “We don't need your help to train our pups.”
They all finish their drinks as they glare at each other before the Griffin loudly clears his throat.
"So he's not giving up the child," Keldar comments.
Rennes shakes his head at the Griffin and prays for patience as he starts to repeat what he already had to explain to Mejaï, Junod and Treyse.
"No," Rennes sighs, "Her mother agreed to relinquish the child on the condition that she wouldn't be put through the trials."
"And he agreed ?", Kolgrim wonders, "She's going to be useless to us, he would have done better letting her stay with her parents.".
"Princess Pavetta disowned her child, so that we can't even send her back and the queen can't demand her back, "Rennes sighs, "We'll make do. And Barmin is of the thought that Destiny wouldn't have paired the girl and Geralt up if nothing were to come out of it."
"You're following an old superstitious senile witcher's advice, now," Treyse mockingly notes.
"Barmin may be old, but he's not senile, you old wreck of a Cat," Rennes growls, "And he tends to be right about these sorts of thing."
"Anyway what's done is done," Mejaï says, "We should concentrate on what to do about Cintra, whose people are now hunting and stoning our brethren, and on what to do to prevent such a situation from occurring ever again."
"Nothing to be done about Cintra," Junod announces, "We better spread the word to our brothers to avoid it for a while until they call us back."
"He's not wrong," Rennes sighs.
"And as for Geralt of Rivia, we could always put him out of commission for good," the Bear adds with a sharp smile, "He would cease to cause trouble then."
"At the risk of repeating myself," Rennes growls, "We're not killing him."
"I won't caution it," Keldar supports him.
"Pity," Treyse drawls.
"Why did we agree to put the Griffin in charge of vetting our assassination proposals," Junod laments and finishes his drink, before asking for the bottle to be sent to him.
"Because you're all assholes used to stab first and ask questions later and I'm not," Keldar sighs and rolls his eyes.
"What was he doing in Cintra anyway ?", Kolgrim asks, "I thought that Cintra was supposed to be Griffin hunting ground for these ten years."
"For once, that wasn't his fault," Rennes hurries to explain, "Julian's reputation as a bard reached Cintra and they asked for him to perform at the princess' betrothal feast. He just dragged his charge along with him."
"He should have known better after fifteen years following your disaster around," Keldar laments and glares at Rennes.
"Maybe it's not so bad he retired after all," Mejaï comments, "What I want to know is what possessed your White Wolf to ask for the law of surprise ?"
"It was his right," Rennes says, wondering where the Manticore wants to take that conversation.
"No, no, no, she's right," Treyse intervenes, "You Wolves shouldn't be allowed to ask for the law of surprise anymore ! You're on your second princess already and look at what happened with the first !"
"Do you have a secret to snatch kids away from their parents ?", Kolgrim asks, "Because if that's so, I'm sure Ivar would be interested to know about it."
"He's right," Mejaï comments, "You have a good number of children surprise in your ranks. And we've all got some, but clearly not as much. We're more used to be given carnivorous plants than children to be honest."
"For us, it's socks," Kolgrim says.
"We've got a great collection of incomplete encyclopaedias,"Treyse adds, "Nothing as glamorous as your children surprises, indeed."
"You can't forbid us to use the law of surprise," Rennes splutters, "It's a universal right !"
"Then control your underlings better," Treyse smirks at him.
"Like it's that easy," Rennes grumbles, "You have no idea what kind of idiots I'm dealing with."
"Woe to the poor Wolf," Treyse drawls.
Rennes glares at the Cat and gets up to fetch another bottle of brandy. He hates the Cat, can't stand his ugly mug and he looks forward to bashing his head in.
"You don't have the monopoly on dumb witchers, you know," Keldar points out, "We all have our own headcases."
"Yeah, but none were nicknamed The Disaster," Rennes growls and almost breaks the bottle he violently puts down in front of Junod.
"Well, we have to concede that you collected some very special specimens over the years," Keldar acknowledges.
"I still maintain that a witcher who's trying to graft some archespore's seeds on a carnivorous plant is more dumb than Geralt of Rivia," Mejaï grumbles.
"It's another kind of dumb," Kolgrim nods and steals the brandy from Junod's fingers.
"Can we get back on track ? Please," Keldar asks, "I don't want our meeting to devolve into another debate about who's the dumbest witcher of the continent."
"I promise to have a talk with Geralt about using the law of surprise responsibly in the future," Rennes sighs, defeated.
“Have a talk about not using it at all would be better,” Treyse grumbles.
"And not just with Geralt," Junod smirks, "With all of your Wolves."
"Fine," he grunts to placate the other heads of schools, having in reality no intention to do so, the law of surprise was rather useful to maintain their numbers after all and they have every right to use it, grouchy old witchers be damned.
"Good, now on to the compensation," Keldar jovially intervenes.
"What compensation ?", Rennes asks, wary.
"Your boy has wrecked havoc in Griffin territory and we won't be able to go hunt into Cintra for the year to come. We deserve some compensation for our loss.”
Keldar is looking so happy, Rennes is sure that the Griffin already knows exactly what he wants from him. He hopes that he's not going to bargain to have access to some more territory, because Rennes doesn't want to allow him and his hord to go hunting into Kaedwen or Aedirn. His Wolves used the last nine years well and made an effort to develop relationships with important people who are usually glad to see them and pay well. He'd be loathe to lose all of it, but he has to concede that the Griffins deserve reparation.
“What do you want ?”, he asks, wary.
“I don't want to presume,” Keldar simpers.
“Don't play coy now and put the Wolf out of his misery,” Junod grumbles.
“Fine, I want Gweld to come back with us for the winter.”
“What ?”, Mejaï intervenes, “No !”
Rennes narrows his eyes at Keldar as he and Mejaï get lost into a nasty bout of bickering. It is true that Gweld has been rather close to the Manticore party since they've arrived, has even been courted by the women and Rennes had already resigned himself to lose him to Mejaï's school for the winter.
So convincing Gweld to step away from the Manticores to join the Griffins for the winter might prove a tad tricky. It wouldn't be the first time Gweld's proclivities would get used as a bargaining chip to compensate an another school and the young witcher had never complained about it before. Rennes isn't a monster though, he won't force him if he refuses to go spend the winter with the Griffins, but Gweld's agreement would really make his life easier.
Gweld had always been more than willing to take one for the team by getting laid and taken care of for the whole winter though – the other schools had soon learned that if they wanted Gweld to come back, they had to go all out, because the little shit loves his comfort – but Rennes doesn't know how he'll react to having his plans upended. He'll just have to present his request nicely and hope for the best.
“Done,” he says loudly, making himself heard over Mejaï ranting at Keldar.
“You might also have to agree to keep Coën for the winter in exchange,” the Griffin adds.
“Who's Coën ?”, Rennes sighs, hoping he won't end up babysitting another nutjob.
“Lambert and Aiden's lover. Young fledgling your nuisance of a pup and his damn kitten got infatuated with. He annoyed me into allowing him to tag along,” Keldar says matter-of-factly.
Rennes is floored by the news. Considering that three weeks ago he had still been thinking that Lambert had died years ago, he thinks that he can be excused for not keeping track of the Wolf's private life. He supposes that by the way Lambert clings to the Cat, whose name he's finally glad to learn is Aiden, he will want the Griffin close too. And he has a feeling an angry Lambert could prove himself even more destructive than usual and could reduce the keep into rubbles in a matter of weeks. He doesn't feel like testing this theory and resigns himself to hosting this damn Griffin for the whole winter.
“Done,” Rennes concedes, defeated.
“Wonderful,” Keldar says and claps his hands in delight.
“I hate Geralt of Rivia,” Mejaï grumbles.
The Manticore then steals the bottle of brandy and proceeds to finish it in a few seconds, before wiping her mouth and asking for more. Rennes gets up with a sigh and hands her another bottle.
“You've just condemned me to spend the winter in a keep full of frustrated women, who're probably going to be pissed their favorite toy is taken away from them,” Mejaï continues to rant.
“Feel free to sample some of our Vipers,” Kolgrim offers, “Melitele knows Ivar will be pleased if I manage to foist some of the noisy fuckers onto you.”
“No, thanks,” Mejaï snippily retorts and wrinkles her nose, “You wouldn't suffer the comparison well anyway.”
“Too bad,” Kolgrim says and shrugs, “At least I'll be able to report that I tried.”
“Are we done then ?”, Junod asks, “Because I'd really like to get smashed now.”
They all agree and Rennes is relieved to finally be able to get the White Gull out.
“That's it ?”, Kolgrim wonders, “Your emergency meetings usually last hours !”
"Oh, no, that's it," Junod confirms.
"But what is the point then ?", Kolgrim asks, "We didn't figure anything out ! And we didn't talk about the consequences for the White Wolf of his behaviour."
"It's not like we can do much more," Keldar grumbles.
"He'll be able to continue to wreak havoc just like before," Kolgrim adds.
"He's being grounded this time," Rennes answers with a shrug.
"Which already is an improvement on what usually happens," Mejaï comments and shrugs when faced with Kolgrim's indignant face.
"The White Wolf always gets a rap on the knuckles and is sent off into the world like nothing happened," Treyse drawls, “You get used to it.”
"But what's the point then ?", Kolgrim whines.
"Oh, we're just trying to appear like we're in control of the situation and doing something," Keldar explains, "That's the best we can do, really. We learned over the years that Geralt of Rivia will always find himself stuck in the middle of the most fucked up situations you can dream of. We just try to deal with the consequences so as to minimize their impact on our brothers."
"Can't you do more ?", Kolgrim wonders.
"What do you propose then ?", Junod asks, "But be quick, the White Gull is waiting."
"I don't know, punish him ! Send him to Toussaint or Nilfgaard for a season !", Kolgrim proposes.
"I'm not sending Geralt to Toussaint," Rennes says and shudders, "His dream, his aspiration as a kid, was to become a knight. Can you imagine the trouble he'd get into in the motherland of knighthood ? It would be an utter nightmare."
"And he's not setting one foot in Nilfgaard," Junod decreeds, "With his damn luck, he'd manage to dethrone the emperor and take his place without even trying."
"Stop insisting," Treyse says to Kolgrim, "You won't get Rennes to punish him anyway. The Disaster is something like his stepson."
"What ?", Kolgrim asks, confused.
"He's not !", Rennes splutters.
“Treyse's right,” Mejaï grins, “Admit it, Rennes, you're family by now.”
“How is that possible ?”, Kolgrim wonders again as Junod hands him the bottle of White Gull.
“He's been fucking the pup's father surprise for decades, maybe centuries,” Keldar explains.
“And he'd end up in the doghouse if the lad were to be punished,” Junod smirks.
“You're all being ridiculous,” Rennes says through clenched teeth, “I'm still in charge of this damn school !”
“That's a pretty lie you're deluding yourself with,” Treyse smirks.
“Nobody asked you, asshole,” Rennes snarls.
“Your boytoy is toying with you,” Treyse continues, clearly baiting him.
Unfortunately Rennes never did manage to ignore the Cat's taunts for long and he knows that he'll snap in a few seconds if he keeps ridiculing him.
“He's got you on a leash,” Treyse smirks, clearly aware of what he's doing to him, “You're crawling after him like a pup.”
“Fuck off,” Rennes snarls, shaking from anger in his seat.
“You're whipped,” Treyse drawls.
The Cat adds a rude gesture to his statement and delights into imitating the sound of a cracking whip. That is the final straw that makes him snap and Rennes jumps on the table and launches himself at Treyse with an angered yell, ready to make him regret his attitude and comments.
Treyse grins as Rennes bowls him over and they fall down in a tangle of limbs, snarling, pinching, punching and just trying to get the upper hand over the other.
“What are they doing ?”, Kolgrim asks, sounding appalled, “Shouldn't we step in ?”
Rennes and Treyse both growl at his bold suggestion, but don't bother stopping their fight.
“That is the traditionnal end of meeting fight,” Mejaï says, “Do not try to step in, they'll gang up on you, throw you out of the window and go right back to fighting.”
“Fucking hell,” Kolgrim sighs, “Traditionnal ? Really ?”
“They can't do without it,” Junod adds, “It's their sixty-seventh fight.”
“Currently we're at thirty-two wins for Rennes and thirty-four for Treyse,” Mejaï chuckles.
“There's a fight missing in your calculations,” Kolgrim points out, “A tie ?”
“Oh, no,” Mejaï laughs, “Keldar's desk won that round.”
“Keldar's desk ?”, Kolgrim wonders, “Dare I ask ?”
“We've been sworn to secrecy,” Junod says, “Now, on to bets !”
Rennes tunes them out after that and concentrates on pinning down the damn slippery Cat. In their struggle they break Junod's chair, roll under the table and carefully make sure to get out from under it before straightening up, acquire several bruises and get their clothes torn.
Rennes is starting to think that the fight will be a long one, when Treyse rolls to escape him, slows down and he clings to his back like an octopus. The Cat tries to buck him off and rolls around until Rennes is sure his back will just look like one big bruise on the morrow.
Once Treyse is starting to slow down – they are quite old after all, fighting like that is tiring – Rennes doesn't waste any time to scramble up his body and flip him to his knees as he himself gets up. He enjoys the satisfying crunch Treyse's nose makes as it breaks and he smirks as he brings his knee up to hit the side of the Cat's head. Treyse grunts, his eyes fall shut and he slumps unconscious on the floor.
“Fuck,” Rennes grunts.
He sets the bastard's nose – simple courtesy, he's not trying to make a mortal ennemy out of the Cat – and then limps back to his chair, motions for Mejaï to hand him the White Gull and proceeds to drink straight from the bottle.
“Is he alright ?”, Kolgrim asks and nods towards Treyse's prone body.
“He's fine,” Rennes answers dismissively, “We both had worse. He'll join us in a few hours, right as rain, but hopefully he'll keep his damn mouth shut.”
“You're all nutjobs,” Kolgrim says and shudders, “Next time Ivar can come himself, I won't make the mistake of agreeing to take his place again.”
“Suit yourself,” Rennes shrugs, “Who bet on me ?”
“Me and Kolgrim,” Mejaï answers and adresses Keldar and Junod with a sharp smile, “I hope your best bottles of brandy are ready to change hands.”
“Fuck off,” Junod grumbles and proceeds to steal another bottle of White Gull from its hiding place.
“You can fuck off,” Rennes grunts back and winces as he presses a hand against his throbbing cheek, “I want you out of my keep by the end of the day.”
“The crepes,” Keldar whines.
“You can stay for the damn crepes,” Rennes sighs and rolls his eyes, “Barmin will probably bring them up for dinner, then you all sobber up and get the hell out of my keep.”
They all agree with him and get to drinking heavily in comfortable silence. Rennes and Mejaï then proceed to throw empty bottles at Treyse still unmoving body and Keldar throws himself at the crepes, when Barmin offers them the treat as dessert.
The old witcher doesn't comment about the mess, used to their antics by now, and leaves them be with only a disgruntled shake of his head. Keldar then eats most of the crepes, Treyse ends up with one crepe placed over his face and they all snicker at the Cat's predicament, before catching a nap at the table.
Rennes is woken up much later by Barmin's urgent knocking on the door and he growls as he gets up. As it turns out, it's almost time for supper and he barely has the time to herd his guests towards the courtyard before the sun sets. He orders Remus and Aubry to fetch the members of the diplomatic parties and takes great delight into pushing them all through some portals to send them the fuck back home.
He feels lucky Gweld doesn't make a fuss about having been loaned for the winter to the Griffins and the pup cheerfully accompanies Keldar to Kaer Seren with a stubborn Manticore still attached to his arm. The last to leave is Treyse, because he can't help but to make Rennes' life difficult, and they scowl at each other as the Cat party crosses through the portal to Stygga Castle.
“Peace at last,” Rennes whispers once he's alone again.
He hums as he joins the main hall, lets Vesemir fuss over his bruises and makes a note to look into that petal idea. He'll maybe have to do with leaves, what with winter setting in, but the small adjustment won't probably matter. He's already imagining what a nice evening he'll enjoy at Vesemir's side, when Geralt's daughter starts to cry and his lover drags him towards the new father.
Not really knowing how or why, Rennes ends up with a babe craddled in his arms and he rocks her gently to calm her down. His humming seems to help too and the girl soon stops fussing and closes her eyes. Rennes tries to foist her off to her father or Eskel, but the pups have the audacity to snort at him and refuse to take her back.
Vesemir then has to open his damn mouth and announces that they'll take care of the girl for the night, so that Geralt and Eskel can enjoy some private time together and his lover just ignores his grumbling as the two pups hurry to leave. He's glad the other heads of schools have left, because Treyse is right, Vesemir has Rennes wrapped around his fingers, and the damn Cat would never let him forget what just happened. Rennes realizes that he doesn't really care though, that he's fine with the situation and he wouldn't have it any other way in the end.