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In The Silence Where Your Heart Used To Beat

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Dandelion’s hands are shaking. It could be the vodka, or maybe it’s just his nerves, on edge like they’ve constantly been since Rivia. No small part of it is fear, too. Fear that his memory’s slipping and soon he won’t be able to recall the sound at all.

Th-thud he taps against the body of his lute, the sound hollow and wooden.

Thu-thud...two, three, four.

He plucks at a string, relying on trembling muscle memory to carry the melody. Knuckles whiten as he clutches at the fretboard.

Th-thud he taps, and counts again.

Th-thud.

He plucks more notes, stumbling through half-improvisation as he tries to hold the memory in his mind. This was Geralt’s heart. It beat this rhythm, once. No...too fast? He isn’t sure if he’s accidentally quickening and losing his timing or if he’s just too drunk to tell.

A note lands flat, the string twangs horribly, and Dandelion has to stop. His own pulse rushes unsteady in his ears. He takes a moment to gather himself before trying again.

Th-thud...two, three, four.

This time he manages four bars before taking a breath and beginning to sing.

“Tell you a story of silver and gold,

But no coin, dear friend, will you find here.

Silver, the blade in a courageous hand,

And gold is the heart of the witcher.”

Devoid of vibrato, his voice trembles.

“Golden eyes and hair like the snow,

Let me paint you a picture:

Under old armour in a noble breast

Beats the heart of the witcher.”

Should have done this sooner. So much sooner. If he’d just asked Geralt if he could listen one more time, begun composing when the witcher’s heart still beat steady and strong, he wouldn’t be fighting so hard now to keep the sound in his head.

Too fucking late. If he wants to pay tribute to the beauty of his friend’s heartbeat, memory all he has.

“Fire filled the sky on a hot summer’s day

When blood stained the ground of Rivia,

And a cruel pitchfork in nobody’s hand

Pierced the heart of the witcher.”

Each tap sounds hollow and flat and nothing like Geralt’s heart at all. Dandelion’s voice cracks.

The notes turn harsh as he plucks angrily at the strings, warping them out of tune, and it sounds more like a mockery than a tribute. He inhales, wants to try another verse, and then thinks fuck it all. With a discordant cacophony as his palm collides with the strings, Dandelion grasps the neck of the lute, stands, then swings it at the wall.

Should have done this before, he thinks as the neck cracks and splinters. Should have honoured him while his heart was still beating. But I was just too fucking busy, wasn’t I?

With the horrid reverb still lingering in the air, Dandelion pulls back, the body of the lute still hanging on by broken strings, and swings it again. This time more strings snap with a twang.

Too busy fucking Anarietta; too busy fucking other women; too busy writing flowery ballads about my friends to be there to die with them.

He doesn’t see it through the tears when the final string breaks and the body of the lute flies across the room, but he hears it collide with the wall with a crash. The pieces clatter to the ground and Dandelion doesn’t stop.

Now Geralt’s gone, he thinks, and smashes the splintered neck into the wall. Regis and Milva and Cahir and Angoulême...they’re all gone. Yennefer’s dead and Ciri’s disappeared and Geralt’s heart will never beat again. And I...I can’t even remember how it sounds.

Finally, when there’s no more damage he can physically deal, Dandelion collapses in a trembling heap to the floor. The lute lies in ruins, unable to ever create a melody again. Like Geralt’s heart.

In a hundred pieces, like Dandelion’s own.

The bard bows his head over the splinters and weeps.