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“Geralt, are you ok?” The sharp scent of pain washed through the kitchen, followed by a subtler scent of grief. Looking around, Geralt was the one the scent seemed to be radiating from as he sat, stock-still, at the breakfast table, his spoon clenched tightly in his fist.

“I’m fine.” He gritted out. And, indeed, the scent of pain dispersed, even if the tinge of grief still clung to him, as he seemed to loosen up and continue his breakfast as if nothing happened. “Muscle cramp.” He said by way of explanation while the others all stared. Quickly, at least quicker than the others, he finished his breakfast and left the table, mumbling about it being his turn to muck out the stables.

It wasn’t.

But sometimes Geralt just needed the quiet that the animals provided when things got too much to bear. Especially since winter had started in earnest the previous week, thoroughly snowing them all in for the winter. 

Once lunch rolled around and nobody had seen Geralt all morning, Eskel was the one to volunteer to track down the errant wolf. Getting to the stables, they had indeed been mucked out and fresh hay strewn about for the horses and goats. The scent of pain, though, had permeated the building, along with grief and frustration. 

“Geralt?” A familiar growl came from Roach’s stall. “Are you...Okay?” The question held a different note as Eskel stepped closer and realized that Geralt’s pants- wet in the crotch and inner thigh- were slung over the stall wall. Whatever was spilled on them wasn’t water… but it wasn’t piss either. 

Close enough to look in, he watched Geralt pace around in a circle in nothing but his winter tunic, his hand on his stomach. Then he stopped, squatting slightly and growled deeply. “Geralt?”

It wasn’t until Geralt stood back up and looked over with a snarling grimace on his face that he responded. “It usually doesn’t take this long.”

“What doesn’t-“ Geralt somewhat squatted again and Eskel clued in. Not even bothering to work the fiddly latch on Roach’s stall, Eskel hopped the barrier and came closer to his lover. Without asking, Geralt looped his arms around Eskel’s neck and made him take his weight while he focused on his body. “What do you need me to do?” He asked softly, hesitating a moment before petting Geralt’s arms and keeping his breathing steady.

“Just this.” Geralt managed to grit out, his knees buckling. He felt something shift and shook his head, burying his face into Eskel’s chest. “Fuck, you’ve only been back a month. Down.” Eskel guided them both to their knees, Geralt’s as wide-spread as he could comfortably make them. 

Something was wrong, Geralt was sure. Whatever he was feeling, was too large, too well developed for Eskel only being back a month. “I’ve only been with you.” Geralt growled out, whether to himself or Eskel, he didn’t know. Again, the pains came, and he did what his body told him to do to expel the mass of cells that was yet another missed opportunity. But the pain held on, only crawling down slowly, burning a path down to his entrance. It should have been over with by now. It should have been nothing but blood and cells and a couple hours’ mourning before joining the others for lunch, or, if it was bad like it was turning out to be, supper. 

But it was wrong. It had only been a month. A month where he hadn’t consumed any toxic potions and the hardest hit he had taken had been a smack on the ass from Vesemir’s training sword to correct his form. 

Another pain came and Geralt screamed into Eskel’s chest as it turned sharp. While the compressing pain stopped, the sharpness didn’t and he only got a few lungfuls of air before the compression started again. “No. No no no no no no…” Geralt didn’t even realize he was talking anymore, swinging his hips in an attempt to relieve the burning.

And then.

It stopped.

Oh, the ache was still there, but the fire had been banked. He was able to breathe again, at least for the moment, as he felt the something rotate. A feeling he had felt only once before, some forty-odd years before. Mentally, he counted the months. “Es… Eskel, I need you to feel.” Freeing his arm, Geralt took Eskel’s hand and drew it between his legs. “I- I can’t.” He needed to be sure. 

Eskel wanted to ask what he was feeling for, but before he could get the question from between his teeth, his fingertips brushed against something wet. Wet, and solid. Wanting to duck down and look so badly, the only thing stopping him was Geralt’s groan as he curled into himself, pressing his crown against Eskel’s chest. Instead, he felt around. A nose, chin, an open mouth between them. Cheeks, a forehead, eyes. The child had hair. 

Catch him.” Geralt managed to grit out and suddenly, there was so much more than a head in his large hand. Shocked, he didn’t move until the babe in his hand started to squirm. When it nearly fell, he managed to pin it to his own chest while still holding Geralt up.

“L-let me down.” Geralt murmured, refusing to look at what had just come out of him. It was better to not get attached before burning the body. At least, that was the plan before the infant started to wail.

Geralt’s eyes snapped to the small thing squirming in Eskel’s arms. That was impossible. It was still alive. None of them had ever survived before.

“Geralt? Eskel? You guys doing okay in here?” Jaskier called from the barn doorway.

Correction. One had survived before.

“Over here, Jaskier.” Eskel called from where he still knelt next to Geralt, holding a baby. Holding his son. “Come meet your brother.” 

“My-“ coming over to the stall and looking in, whatever Jaskier was about to say, died on his tongue. “...brother.” He was breathless, staring between Eskel, who was holding something small, to Geralt, lying on the ground, panting and half-naked. Between them hung a thick cable, still pulsing with life, connecting the two. “Oh shit. Oh. Shit!” His unglamoured eyes slitting and dilating as he took in the sight before him. Soon enough, he unfroze enough to fumble the latch open and nearly fall inside the spacious stall, crawling over to meet the other two -three- already inside.

Somehow, even though he knew that Geralt was technically his mother, it hadn’t really sunk in until this very moment. Looking around, Jaskier frowned. “Do you have any water? A knife? ...Blankets?” He asked. The stable was bare of anything he would expect of a birthing mother, even if it was just the basics.

“Didn’t expect it to be-“ Geralt grunted, rolling onto his side and curling into himself, holding his stomach. “Alive.”

“Ah, yes, I can see where you could assume that.” Crawling closer, he peer over at the definitely alive infant before looking down at Geralt. “Afterbirth?” He stroked Geralt’s -his mother’s - hip as he went through the contraction.

Geralt shook his head. “Too strong.”

“To str-“ Jaskier blinked, a niggling voice in the back of his mind that reminded him of his medical tutor, telling him to check Geralt over. “Geralt, I need you to roll on your back for a moment, okay? Then you can shift back to whatever is most comfortable to you.” His voice took on a soft but no-nonsense tone it did when Geralt was too injured to object to being healed. It took a minute, but eventually he rolled back over toward Jaskier. “Thanks. Now, I’m going to press on your stomach. It’ll be uncomfortable, but nothing compared to everything else today, ok?”

He barely waited for Geralt’s grunt of assent before he was palpitating his stomach. He seemed to feel what he was looking for, because he sat back, keeping his hand on the spot, and grabbed Geralt’s. “And that.” He pressed Geralt’s hand onto the spot firmly. “Would be why those are real contractions.” Geralt was still until he closed his eyes and sighed.

“Two?” 

“Yep.” Jaskier nodded. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Eskel’s floored expression. “That, I believe, is a little derrière. Which is good, because it means it’ll be coming out the right way. A good portion of twins, at least one of them, turns breech.”

“Twins.” This time, it was Eskel’s turn to be breathless.

“Uh-hm.” Jaskier nodded. “Now, how do you want to want to do round two?”

Geralt growled, but worked his way up, slowly, into a spread-legged kneeling position. “Give me the baby and help me up.” Before he took the infant, he stripped his tunic the rest of the way off and tossed it in the same corner as his soiled trousers. While inexpert, Geralt’s hold was still more practiced than Eskel’s. He inspected the cord connecting them and, since it was still pulsing, left it alone. He would only cut it when it drained, or started to become a problem. 

The next contraction hit while Geralt was halfway up, one leg kneeling and the opposite foot planted firmly in the straw. Groaning, he rocked while holding the infant carefully with one hand, the other wrapped around Eskel’s waist.

Off to the side, Jaskier knelt and watched carefully and waited for the contraction to finish before speaking. “Are you comfortable there, or do you still want to stand?” 

“Up.” Looking over at Eskel, Jaskier nodded and moved back just enough so that Eskel could support Geralt’s weak legs as he started to- very slowly- make a circuit of the stable. Roach, wonderful girl that she was, stayed out of their way and walked counterpoint to the three humans, ready to catch Geralt if he fell. 

It only took two circuits of the stall before Geralt started shaking his head and hooked his arm around Eskel’s neck before sinking down into a deep crouch, his knees helping support the arm holding his child to his chest as he shook with the strain. 

“Hey,” Jaskier kept his voice calm, like he had since he realized what was happening, and touched Geralt’s back softly, settling a bit more firmly when he didn’t pull away. “Do you want Eskel or I to hold the baby?”

Geralt shook his head. “Catch.”

“Ok.” Jaskier nodded, but only Eskel could see his small frown. “Which one of us do you want to catch the second baby?”

“Es-sss.” Geralt’s answer was cut off as the next contraction caught him off guard, leaving him to hiss out the rest of his breath while he pushed. 

The opening of the barn door made both Eskel and Jaskier whip their heads around, baring their teeth at the threat. “Hey, are we having a party in here, or what?”

“Close the door!” Jaskier snapped, recognizing the voice, but instinctively knowing he would be the protector if something were to happen. 

“Yeesh, okay, then!” Lambert muttered, closing the door behind him and blocking out the snow before coming over. “Wha...t the hell?” Looking in, Lambert took in the scene of Geralt giving birth in the stall a lot less gracefully than Jaskier had. “What the fuck is going on here!” 

“Ah, great.” Jaskier chirped, turning away from Geralt as far as he was willing to. “I think we may be a bit delayed to lunch, if you could tell Vesemir for us. And if you could be a dear, do you think you can get a couple towels, a blanket, a couple buckets of hot water and a sharp knife? Thank you.”

“Uh… yeah. Sure.” Keeping his eyes on the tableau, Lambert walked backwards, out the barn door, closed it firmly, and ran like a griffin was after his hide. 

“Vesemir!” Lambert yelled across the great hall. “Uh… I don’t think they’ll make it to lunch. Geralt definitely won’t, at least.” 

“Did Geralt get injured?” Vesemir asked, wiping his hands on a towel.

“Yes. No… kinda?” Lambert danced a bit, looking over his shoulder at the door. “It looked like he was- he was giving b-birth out there. Eskel and Jaskier are out there helping him and Jaskier asked me to bring them a whole bunch of stuff. Like a knife, water-“

“Towels and probably a blanket too.” Vesemir finished for him, seeing Lambert’s last nerve being shot. “Go eat your lunch if you can, and keep Ciri entertained for the afternoon. I’ll go bring them supplies.” If he was being blunt, he didn’t think Lambert would eat anything. He was looking a bit seasick, if anything. 

Vesemir should say that he was surprised, but he really wasn’t. Still, it was good that Geralt had a support system around him this time, for whatever was to come. First, he went up to his room to gather up his best dagger, sticking it in the top of his boot. Then to Geralt and Eskel’s room to grab Geralt’s favorite bear fur cloak. Then it was down to the bath house where he grabbed a stack of towels and the largest bucket of water from the hottest end of the spring. 

Outside, Vesemir had to brace himself, since the storm had kicked up since that morning. Absently, he was glad they had reinsulated the barn that summer. Opening the door, he was greeted by the first screech of a newborn. It seems like he was just on time.

“...And that’s baby number two.” It sounded like Jaskier who cooed.

“Give.” And that, exhausted sounding as he was, was Geralt. 

“Let’s get you situated first. Eskel, sit down behind Geralt and- careful now!- there you go. Eskel? Good.”

By the time he made it to Roach’s stall- not really surprising, honestly- the family was situated in a clean spot of the recently-fresh straw. Eskel was propped against the wall, bracing Geralt between his knees and laying back on his chest. And lying on Geralt’s chest were not one, but two small infants, already startling to suckle. Between their tiny legs, it looked like Jaskier was palpitating Geralt’s stomach.

“Looks like you’re nearly done.” He stated, sitting back up on his heels a respectful distance away. “Just waiting on the placenta- placentas- to drop. Nursing like that should help.” Geralt just grunted, his eyes closed, halfway to passing out. 

Clearing his throat, Vesemir got the adults’ attention before making his way into the stall. “Lambert’s keeping Ciri occupied.” He excused the unasked question.

Looking over, Jaskier took inventory of what was in Vesemir’s hands. “A knife?”

“In my boot.”

“Good. That’s everything, then. Once the babes finish up, we can cut their cords and get everyone cleaned up and back up to the keep. I would suggest some swallow if the bleeding’s bad, but otherwise this has been a smooth birth.”

“And how would you know so much about birth?” Vesemir asked what Eskel had been wondering but had no time to ask before.

Jaskier shrugged, watching the twins. “It was just part of the whole medical lessons course I took. That, and I sometimes teach at a college that allows teenage girls to attend. Sometimes they get in trouble and don’t want to talk to someone who will look down on them for just existing. Take your pick. Between Witchers and Teenagers, I’ve learned to be prepared for stupid emergencies.” 

Vesemir grunted, thinking back at the old days. “Teenage Witchers. The worst of both worlds.” That got a startled laugh out of Jaskier as Vesemir finally set down the supplies. “Now let me see my grandsons.”

Coming close, Vesemir looked, but didn’t touch. As much as Geralt seemed out of it, he still had a warning hold on both babies’ backs. “That one’s baby one.” Jaskier pointed to the one on the left. This one had dark hair plastered to his head, already drying into wispy curls. “And baby two, as of about a minute ago.” The second one was redder, and bald, from what he could see. If he was honest, they looked more like something he would have to slay for a contract at this point. He didn’t have much experience with what newborns should look like, seeing as most of their children were, at the very least, weaned and somewhat talking before being taken up the mountain. He had heard rumors, though, that there was a time or two that the mother was brought up to the keep to birth and give up their baby. Still, the babe was weaned before she could leave. 

“They look like fine boys.” Vesemir stated, feeling as though he should say something about it.

“That one.” Jaskier wore a half-smile and pointed at the younger twin. “Is actually a little lady.”

Vesemir blinking and looking down to confirm for himself was the mildest of the reactions. Eskel squawked in disbelief and even Geralt opened his eyes and ran a finger down the front of the younger baby’s crotch since he couldn’t see. Sure enough, there was a significant something missing there. “A girl…” 

“Yep.” Jaskier confirmed, “At least for now. She could always decide to go by ‘he’ later, but for now, that’s a girl.” 

“Impossible. I only have boys.” 

Jaskier would beg to differ, seeing as his previous experience was him and a bunch of miscarriages, but he wasn’t cruel. “I guess she’s just lucky then.” 

A small grunt and Geralt spreading his knees was the only warning he gave as he finally passed the placentas. Giving them a cursory look-over, Jaskier grunted and then moved to Geralt’s side, unstringing his laced chemise and snapping the tie in quarters with a mournful whimper. But still, it was his own fault for forgetting to request at least some leather thongs on his list. 

“The boy first.” Jaskier carefully twisted the little one’s body just enough to expose the cord without disturbing his meal and tied it off with two of the strings. Turning to ask for the knife, he watched Vesemir sanitize it with a precise Igni before quenching it in the water and handing it over. “Thanks.” Taking hold of the cord, he raised the knife and paused. “...Geralt?”

Geralt grunted, watching Jaskier through half-lidded eyes. “...Who do you want to cut the cords?”

He pursed his lips and looked away, shrugging. 

“...Right.” Jaskier pulled back. “Eskel, do you want to do one?” Eskel blinked, looked from the baby, to the knife, then back up to Jaskier, his cheeks pale. “The baby can’t feel it.” He sighed before turning to Vesemir. “How about you?” 

Vesemir, giving Jaskier a small smile as he smelled the boy’s frustration, held up his hands. “I’ll do the girl if Eskel doesn’t want to. How about you do the boy?”

Sighing, a quick pull and it was finished. Only a small startled cry from the tug happened before he went back to his meal. In nearly the same motion, the girl was tied off as well, with the knife offered to Eskel, who shook his head a second time. Sighing, he handed the knife over to Vesemir, who copied the strike, cutting without even the tug that Jaskier did. 

“I’m going to go burn this.” Jaskier dived in and scooped the placentas up in the rattiest of the towels. “Stay here and bond . When the babies are finished eating, they need cleaning and swaddled. I’ll show you how to do that when I get back.” With that, he retreated and found a corner of the bailey downwind from the rest of the buildings and built a small bonfire. In his fatigue, it took a few tries to get Igni to work well enough to light the frozen detritus. He didn’t even want to attempt to hunt down a flint and steel to light the fire otherwise, and throwing it into one of the fireplaces inside was no. Just, no.

~(*.*)~

He didn’t know how much time he lost, just staring into the small fire, until a touch to his shoulder snapped him out of his haze. “Vesemir.” He murmured, acknowledging the old mentor.

“You should be in there too, ‘bonding’. I can watch the fire for you.” 

“I’m fine.” He wasn’t. “You should be in there instead. I’m sure Geralt would appreciate the welcome company.”

“I believe, in times like this, it should be the family, and you’re part of that. I’ve had my chance to see the babes, and I’ve no doubt that I will see plenty more of them still, so you should go in and get to know your siblings.”

“I don’t want to watch Geralt reject them.” 

“And here, we get to the heart of the matter.” 

“The only reason he’s not running for the hills right now, is that it's nearly a blizzard out, and he probably can’t feel a thing from the waist down from the pain right now.”

Vesemir gave a rueful chuckle. Unfortunately, they had seen it all before. “True, but he does take responsibility sooner or later. He is getting better at that, at least.” 

“Only because he can’t run away.”

“Unfortunate, on his part.”

“But what about come spring? Weren’t you planning on all going back on the path next year?” 

“They were tentative plans, at best. I think some priorities have shifted just now.”

“At least until they’re weaned and Geralt can give them away. The boy, nearly anyone would be willing to foster a boy that is nearly guaranteed to be a good guard dog or heavy lifter, at the very least. But the girl… Unless she shows some extraordinary talent, will be nothing but a drain on resources. You can’t marry off a barren girl-child.”

“I thought you had younger sisters.”

“I do.” Jaskier nodded, looking out into the white void. “And they’ll be expected to marry eventually. That’s the only reason that they were allowed to go to college: to increase their worth. Eventually, they’ll be expected to put down their lute and harp and marry, just like Bea did. She had two boys, Ciri’s playmates even. I don’t know what happened to any of them when Cintra fell.”

“You could ask her if she knows.” 

“I could.” Jaskier nodded, “But I won’t. I have a good suspicion since they never showed up to pay mother’s respects.” 

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Don’t be. I was never allowed to meet them.” Looking down, Jaskier kicked the remains of the fire, scattering the ashes across the snow. It had done its job, now it was time to go back inside. “Time to go make some babies scream.” He muttered to himself before turning and heading back to the barn, Vesemir following silently behind. 


“Are they fed?” Jaskier asked, coming into the stall, leaving the door open for Vesemir, and crouching at Geralt’s side. 

“Yes, they finished a few minutes ago.” Eskel was the one to answer, his hands laced over Geralt’s as they both held the babies close.

“And they were burped?” Eskel’s blank look gave Jaskier all the answer he needed. 

“Yes.” Geralt answered instead, keeping his eyes closed and resting. He patted both gently on the back as he spoke.

“Good. You mind me cleaning them up then?” Grunting in assent, Geralt lifted his hand from the boy, who started wiggling about as the warm hand was removed.

“Right.” Jaskier reached over and plucked the boy up, bringing him close to his own chest. “Why, hello there.” He chirped down at the little one, touching his little brother for the first time. The baby wiggled, winding up to start crying as he flung out one arm. Jaskier caught the tiny hand and cooed as fingers wrapped around a single fingertip. “Oh, you’re going to hate me in a minute, yes you are! First I took you away from your sister , and now I’m gonna get you all wet again, and just when you finally dried off, too !” Humming, he freed his hand from the tiny grip and used it to check the temperature of the water in the bucket. 

Vesemir handed over a small cloth to clean the babe with, dunking a second and bringing it over to Eskel with instructions to help clean up Geralt. Geralt’s bitten-off grunt and hiss was all too familiar, even as Eskel used the lightest touch he could while efficiently wiping Geralt down. There were just some places that were just too tender for even the lightest touch, and Eskel seemed to find them all.

Turning back to the bucket, Jaskier tested it and found skin-warm water, but the feel of the wet cloth still startled a cry from the infant like he had been dunked in the frozen lake, setting him to crying. “I know.” Jaskier sympathized, but didn’t stop. “It’s miserable, but you’ll feel much better when you’re clean.” Unfortunately, he set off the girl also, and she started whimpering, even while still held safely against Geralt’s chest. 

As quick as he was, it still felt like an eternity before the babe was wrapped tight in one of the bigger towels before he was returned to Geralt. Unfortunately, Vesemir hadn’t brought any supplies that could be used as diapering, so they would likely have to repeat the whole process again in a few hours. 

And then it was the girl’s turn. Thankfully, she was quieter than her brother(s) during her bath, either from exhaustion, or just being a quieter infant in general, but all of their ears were thankful for it. 

Standing over Geralt with the baby girl in his hands, Jaskier mentally plotted out what needed to happen next. “We need to get you to bed so that you can rest.”

Grunting, Geralt rolled to the side and braced his hand as if to get up. “Woah! Oh, no! What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Geralt?” It was more of a rhetorical question, since Jaskier had already handed off the girl to Vesemir to hold and stomped over to take hold of Geralt’s elbow, stabilizing him when he wavered slightly.

“Getting up.” 

“Oh-ho-hohoho-no, you are not! You just squeezed two cannonballs out of your crotch! You’re not walking anywhere!” 

“I rode a horse right after I had you.”

“And I’m sure you were miserable and probably ripped something too! And, if Mother was to be believed, I was a premature infant. Those two .” Jaskier gestured expansively to the boy in Geralt’s free hand and the girl in Vesemir’s, “Small as they may look now, are most definitely full term. No. One of us will carry you up to bed and you’re not to leave it except for the chamber pot for at least two days! If you were one of my students, I’d say a week, at least! Thank the gods for Witcher healing, Geralt, because you should be dead. Men’s bodies are not meant to get pregnant, let alone give birth .” Jaskier continued to rant under his breath, helping prop Geralt up as they managed to wrap Geralt’s good cloak around his and the baby boy’s bodies before Eskel easily scooped the two up into a bridal hold, despite Geralt’s grumpy protests. 

“No, you don’t get to say anything.” Jaskier plowed over Geralt’s grumbles, plucking the boy from his shaky arms, much to Eskel’s relief. “You’re not walking, let alone climbing all those stairs. At least, not tonight, you aren’t.” Making sure both he and Vesemir had an extra towel to use as a shield against the snow, Jaskier led the way out of the stall.

“And don’t you worry, darling Roach! Someone will be out to clean up the mess we made of your stall in a bit.” Jaskier used what Vesemir was quickly dubbing his baby-voice on the horse, who just snorted and started drinking from the warm water instead of the cold in her trough. 

Making their way across the yard to the keep’s doors was a miserable experience none of them would wish to relive any time soon. The wind had picked up again, driving ice into their faces, which wasn’t the problem. 

The problem was, was that two newborns were screaming their wrath to the elements as the bath sheets barely protected them from the storm.

“Geralt?”

“He’s fine, lass.” Vesemir grunted, making sure the door was well-secured with one hand, while the other held the precious bundle close. “Lambert, help out by cleaning up Roach’s stall while we get Geralt and the pups settled. Ciri, you stay right there. You’re going to help me sort some things out when I get back down here.”

“Yes, Vesemir!” Ciri’s worry didn’t cut through her enthusiastic curiosity, in contrast to Lambert, who seemed to not have gotten any of his color back before he grumbled and, eventually, skulked off to do as he was asked. 

Upstairs, Vesemir made sure that Geralt was settled in bed before handing over the infant to Eskel, stoking the fire in Geralt’s hearth before making his excuses and leaving. “I’ll leave you lot to get settled while I go see if I can find if any supplies survived. I’ll send them up with Ciri later on. In the meanwhile, I’ve no doubt you need to talk, as well as Geralt, you should get some rest while you can.” Grunting, Geralt rolled to his side and watched Vesemir leave through heavy-lidded eyes.

“Go ahead and rest, Geralt.” Eskel pushed a lock of Geralt’s hair out of his face. “We’ll be here when you wake up.” Grunting, Geralt closed his eyes finally and deflated. 

They both watched as his breathing evened out before Jaskier finally moved. “Come, let's sit by the fire. I bet you haven’t held a baby before and have questions.”

“How could you tell?” Eskel asked dryly and they both looked down at how stiffly he held the girl. “No, I haven’t. Diedre was… I never saw her so young.” 

“You’ve mentioned her before.” Jaskier prodded softly, settling one twin in the crux of his crossed legs before helping Eskel to adjust his arms to a more comfortable angle. 

“...I guess I have.” Eskel nodded, looking down and stroking the sleeping infant’s cheek with a thumb. “She was my surprise child, like Ciri is for Geralt. And, honestly, should have been a warning to us all on how to behave. I always wonder, if I had been more active in her growing up, if she wouldn’t have been driven mad by the black sun.”

“Oh, no.” Jaskier breathed. He could nearly tell where the story was going. He had heard of the black sun, the story of the Butcher of Blaviken, in fits and starts, and liked to say that he put together the whole story. Girls, born under an eclipse, driven insane between their own unusual abilities and the cruelties of those that they should have been able to trust. Either killed as infants, or lived long enough to be put down like rabid dogs. 

“We did bring her here, at one point, but she was already a woman by then, and half-insane besides. Her brother wanted to kill her, to secure the throne. We, I, thought we had saved her by taking her away. Instead,” Eskel absently scratched at the scar that marred one side of his face. Looking closer at it, it never really had looked like a monster’s claws, nor a weapon’s blade, but Jaskier could see how chaos-charged nails could create such a pattern. “...I don’t even know if she’s even alive any more, or has just embraced running with her two pet wolves. She wants nothing to do with me.”

Jaskier hummed, absently running his finger from forehead to nose tip on the infant he held. That… explained a few things. Especially how he was both so protective of Jaskier, yet fearful of him at the same time. The times when he would look at him in awe, when he would come back to camp or an inn after a hunt, to find him still there. How he would put forth so much effort, trying to appease Jaskier’s whims, as if one wrong move would make him leave. 

“From what I understand, there’s nothing that you could have done to prevent her from going insane. And as for Ciri, her powers are from a different source completely.”

“And you?”

“I know what genuine love and care feels like.” Jaskier closed his eyes in a long blink. “I think that’s the important thing here. Now,” Sitting up, Jaskier dove into the rabbit hole of newborn infant care, much to the wide-eyed disbelief of Eskel.