Ever since I can remember, I've always dreamed of fighting. Brutal, bloody, dirty, male fight. I laughed at village boys who dreamed of becoming knights. I wasn't attracted to this noble nonsense. Maybe because it was hard for me to believe in honour and nobility. I have never experienced them myself in my life. With my father a drunkard, who worked as a fisherman on the lake all day. And in the evenings he kept himself busy by beating my mother. My mother who has been hiding her power for years only to repay her husband for all the pain. She destroyed him…
My childhood wasn't beautiful or fairy-tale. It was brutal, bloody, dirty and masculine. Until now I wonder how I managed to live to a woman's age as I was not born a boy.
I learned fights in every possible way, at every opportunity. Although my widowed mother did not let me for too much. She terrorized me with her newfound power until They appeared and took her away. Witches. Beautiful, menacing women in elegant dresses. They were strong and proud. But I never aspired to be one of them. I would not like that.
No. I wanted to swing my sword at right and left at my own discretion. So despite the fact that I had to earn money as a innkeeper, I often played arbitrary bandit, a slayer, a hunter, a madman doing justice. And the most of all I wanted to kill monsters. Not all, because some of these beasts were beautiful and fascinating in their own way. Anyway, my skill level wasn't the best either. So I was rather dealing with people, whether they deserved it or not.
But I was still just a kid with a piece of metal in my hand, though already a mature woman whom the whole village wanted to set up and send away. So they would not have to deal with me anymore. They associated me with problems. I can't blame them. I was really attracting trouble like a magnet.
It was early afternoon. Most farmers were still hanging around in the field, only old Rervin sat in the tavern, drowning sadness, loneliness and old age in a mug of beer. He did it every day, keeping me company while I was scrubbing the tables. Sometimes he even honoured me with a conversation. Like this day.
"And how's the poor lad who fish eels?"
"Are you asking if his eel got to me, Rervin?" I answered with a question, smiling at the old man nonchalantly. A moment later I stood upright in front of him, imitating the voice of the said boy. “You are a respectable lady, you should settle down. And my cock demands attention, so fall on your knees, o great beauty and suck till yar out of breath!”
I did not expect that Rervin would not be the only observer of my performances. At the time I was fooling around, two men entered the inn. They stopped nearby and let me finish my own disgrace before letting me know about their presence. Then they only cleared their throat quietly, actually only one of them did.
I glared at Rervin who seemed too amused by the whole situation. Then I turned around, still surprised by the sound. I was getting myself into trouble, as usual. That's why I didn't feel so embarrassed. A little bit, yes. And a bit stupid, and a little bit uncomfortable, and a bit...
Let Chaos absorb me, those eyes... Wonderful blue eyes and a wide smile beneath them. Too wide, too radiant, too joyful. Immediately I decided that I do not like a guy in a red suit for that smile and for those damn beautiful eyes. His companion did better because he was standing there so gloomy, spreading the aura of death.
They smelled of adventure.
"Gentlemen, please sit down," I said, quickly wiping the table closest to them. “The owner is in the back, so go ahead and order if you want to eat something.”
"Beer," said the big, grim chap, politely sitting down at the table and taking two beautiful swords from his back. My eyes flashed immediately and my heart beat faster. Such steel easily won my innermost feelings after just one look.
“Geralt” the other said in a melodious voice and something shuddered in me. I looked toward him, trying my best to look highly offended by his presence. But he looked so pretty that it wasn't an easy task. “Don't be so cold to such a pretty lady. She deserves all the respect.” After these words the man looked straight at me and I couldn't resist raising his eyebrow.
Visitors were always the same. Maybe they didn't usually look like the two, but it didn't change anything. They always came here confident, eager for beer, food and women. Ready to disappear in half a second. Wanting to use the curves that were closest at hand. That is me. Forever the same empty compliments, then pokes, touching when they felt confident enough. I won't say, I let some of them do that. I also liked to have fun myself. Only that the role of a charming innkeeper in a simple dress has never suited me for more than a moment. This, however, did not suit all men. Although they usually disposed of this fact in silence and after a one night disappeared on their way.
This one even looked like a professional womanizer. One that likes when ladies melt under his touch. Oh no. I didn't feel like it at all. Especially after my own performance a few moments ago.
“Save the bullshit, pretty boy. You also want beer?”
"Hmmm," the grey-haired giant muttered, and I had the impression that it was some sort of approval for my attitude.
"I will never give up on giving honour to such a charming being like you, lady. You deserve every good word. Your beautiful figure like a the proudest mare…”
"Ha," I couldn't stop the amused snort that came out of my mouth. I have never heard such a senseless compliment. And yet the man's eyes glowed cheerfully.
“This laugh deserves the best of my ballads!” he rattled, reaching towards his back, and after a while there was a lovely lute in his hands. It didn't impress me like swords, but it did caught my eye for a moment. Yeah. Bard. It made sense.
“Give it up, it's like you want to write songs about grunting pigs. Give me your order so that I can finally serve you and take care of myself.”
"In that case, I should delay placing my order indefinitely, if only it can keep you in my company." His words were so insolent and so nice at the same time that it was hard for me to find an answer.
This time the words did not flow from my lips. Standing bent over the table of two travellers, I stared into the blue eyes of the bard, blinking time after time. I had the impression that if it took a while longer, my cheeks would glow pink. Bard also seemed to know about it.
"Julian Alfred Pankratz," he said, extending his hand to me. I am not sure if this that was supposed to save me from further silence or rather to seal my failure.
"If that fish boy who wanted to have his cock sucked didn't work out, maybe you should try this one!" Exclaimed Rervin, who was sitting quietly in his place till now.
This time the blush came very quickly. So I quickly turned my face to the old man and glared at him. He didn't seem too worried about it, because he just grinned at me with his crooked teeth.
Furious with this turn of events, I left the guests at the table, leaving Julian Alfred Pankratz's hand hanging in the air. I no longer wanted to feel like a clumsy girl who had just been served a less decent compliment. And yet I felt that way.
"So beer once," I grunted, disappearing behind the bar.
When I returned to the table with a mug, it turned out that Rervin was sitting with the wanderers. At the sight an unpleasant moan escaped my mouth. I knew too well what that meant. I will not be able to finish my work in peace. In a few moments I will be drawn into a bizarre conversation that will be rather unpleasant for me.
I put a beer in front of the grey-haired chap.
"Thank you," he said in a deep, heavy voice.
Bard looked at me shyly, a faint smile on his lips. As if he felt sorry for me. But he didn't say a single word.
I bit my cheek from the inside. Why did he have to look so pretty? So beautiful that I wanted to stand up and fight for him and put a wreath of blue flowers on his brown hair.
"Y/N," I grunted, then went away to continue rubbing the tables.
“I told you so” I heard Rervin. Of course, this old man advised bard something about me. And he probably did it the right way. After all, he has listened to some of my complaints about men, he would be able to inform someone about what impresses me and what only irritates me. “This is not her best day, but she is a good woman. She has a rather bad experience with these idiots from here. And rather different desires than the ladies you know, dear boy.”
"Is there even a shadow of a chance that you will give up this time?" Asked that heavy, deep voice.
“You hurt me, Geralt. I just consider it my own duty to make some beings aware of their beauty...” These words sounded almost like a song.
Scrubbing the table with the rag in my hand I closed my eyes for a moment. This whole conversation made my heart feel heavier. I sat at the table I was cleaning and continued working from this position. Giving much less effort. I felt glances at me. Neverimind. It doesn't matter. I didn't want anyone to conquer me with lovely balladlike words. I wanted to grab the sword and...
"Then I will leave you alone with this awarening, Jaskier. I'm going to see if they have any work here for me.”
Jaskier? The bard introduced himself completely differently. Ha! Another cheater basing on nice words. So I judged him well.
“What work are you looking for, giant?” Rervin asked.
"As if you could advise him something, Rerv," I said, turning sideways to them and attracting their glances. Bard looked at me with such a light in his eyes... With such a childish fascination. And sadness. Sadness that probably hides in every artist.
“Don't you guess?” Jaskier said, arching his lips in a wider smile. Why was he so eager for this joy and lightness when I saw the immense sadness pouring out of his soul? "White hair, black outfit, grim loner type, two large sword..."
"The Witcher," came out of my mouth. My eyes opened wider, my legs instantly pulled me up. "The Witcher," I repeated with awe. "How could I be so stupid," I added, approaching Geralt with a smile. “I was wondering how I know this name. It's from this stupid song about you and the elves...”
“Hey!” Jaskier squealed with indignation.
Right. He was a bard. In the company of this particular Witcher. Dumb song... Oh.
"Catchy," I added with an insolent smile toward him. “But stupid. I'm not going to throw coins at this noble Witcher.”
Geralt gave me a rather cold look.
"I intend to show him the monster for whom the mayor will shower him with coins," I finished, finding the Witcher's gaze. And what was that what I saw in him? Surprise? Respect? Satisfaction? Or maybe everything at once?
“Who will take care of the pub, huh? Your mother will not be delighted that you sneak into the woods with the Witcher... - Rervin mumbled. He was scared. People in the area were rather superstitious and fearful. They were afraid of Witchers. I've always been fascinated by these mutants. Emotionless beings created to kill monsters. Oh, how much I would give to become one of them.
“My mother can fuck herself, Rev. You can repeat it to her if she ask” I said while putting on my a coat on way to the exit.
The Witcher did not comment on my exchange with the old man, but he followed me silently. And to my great surprise, the bard followed him.
“It would be enough for you to show me the direction and say what kind of monster it is,” said Geralt after a moment.
I snorted in response.
"I might as well go to the mayor and ask him about it," added Witcher.
I stopped abruptly, pressing my index finger to his chest.
"You won't take my adventure from me, Witcher. Nobody but me has the right to tell me what I can and cannot do. I am not stupid. I would never do anything about the monster on my own. But I don't dream about anything else. If you go to the mayor, I'll be at the monster first. And I will die at worst. I won't give you my story.”
I don't think I could take another "hymmm" for an answer. Fortunately, the Witcher just nodded as if he understood. It was enough for me. As long as he didn't stop me, he could judge me as badly as he wanted.
When the noble Witcher
Bends his head in penance
Don't you try to catch her
Soon you'll die in silence
She's brave lady knight
There's fire in her heart
Her love is like a fight
This crushes me apart
Oh let her be mine
Oh let her be…
“It's not time, Jaskier.”
"It's always time for a good story," said the bard.
"And it's always time to lie, isn't it, Mr. Pankratz? Or rather Jaskier?” I snapped. I was mad at the bard. Angry for this short song. A song about me... So beautiful and melodious, delicate and sharp at the same time... Damn musician with silver lips.
The Witcher cleared his throat awkwardly.
"He may be ignorant and a fool, but he did not lie to you…" interrupted Geralt, ending uncertainly, as if he did not know if he could call me by name.
“Y/N, I told you my name is Y/N.”
"Oh, pretty lady, how could I ever lie to you?"
So her glory I'll spread
On my knees, with head bent
Crown I'll put on her head
To win her in the end
She's brave lady knight
There's fire in her heart
Her love is like a fight
This crushes me apart
Oh let her be mine
Oh let her be…
"Stop it," I cut off. Why did he keep singing? Sweet lies, pretended worship.
I stopped at a small wooden storage on the edge of the forest. Inside were the tools, nets, antiques of my father. And also one rusted sword handed down in my family from generation to generation. My mother didn't even know I came into its possession.
Squeezing the familiar handle in my hand, I turned back to the bard.
“You don't know me, bard. You have no right to write songs for me or ask for anything. Not to mention me myself. And why would you want it?”
After these words, I turned on my heel and led them into the forest. All the time walking in front, I took a few meters to lead. It was then that I heard men talk to each other.
“Why does she hate me so much, Geralt? That star walking on the ground? Fire in her eyes and ice in her heart...”
“You heard what the old man said. This is a hurt woman. She won't trust you because you will sing her. And good for her. Knowing the durability of your relationships. That's not what she needs.”
“Oh ?! Oh! The great knower of love spoke up! Passionate and emotional guy.”
"Jaskier," Witcher hissed.
“I've never left a woman, Geralt. They left me!”
"I wonder why," Witcher only the growled.
I smiled to myself, amused at their exchange. I appreciated the Witcher's understanding of my dislike of men. But at the same time this bard... In how he tried to make contact with me, how he was speaking, how emotions emanated from him... There was something appealing about it.
“You are a great friend, you know?” The bard frowned, his sarcasm almost flowing from his words.
“The one that saved your ass more than once from your little loves’ husbands.
“How dare you compare my admiration for this goddess to the moment when I let myself be wrapped up in the bonds of married women!”
This was the end of the dispute. And very good because it was starting to tire me out. Although at the same time it amused me. Only a slight prick in the heart at the thought that these silver lips told other women the same fairy tales they are now trying to charm me with.
But I gave the my charms to the two who followed me, I gave it to so many unworthy ones. So I wasn't better at all.
I sighed heavily, stopping on the path and looking down at my skirt, which hooked on the branches of the bushes and the crap lying on the ground. With unnecessary irritation I started to untie the apron and then hold the skirt with the corset. Fortunately this dress was two-piece. And fortunately I usually wore pants under the skirt.
But the gentlemen did not know this.
“Lady Y/N!” Jaskier's scream sounded worried. Although I did not immediately understand why. I froze with my skirt down to my knees. “But...”
Bard ran to me in a few seconds just to stop in amazement. He scanned me from top to bottom, then froze, looking at my hands as they lowered the material downwards. Without waiting, I allowed myself to finish getting rid of this unnecessary scrap of material. Then I smiled cheekily.
"Is a poor, noble knight afraid that I have gone crazy and am exposing myself in the middle of the forest?"
“No... Yes… I mean” Jaskier lost his beautiful words and his cheeks turned slightly pink.
"But I think that the nasty side of this bard hoped for that to happen. And don't call me a lady or a goddess or anything like that. I'm just an innkeeper.”
"It's not right to call the sun just a lighting and the ocean just a puddle," he protested.
I sighed. But not so hard. Not with so much irritation anymore.
“You don't call a mare a steed and daisy is not a rose.”
"But sometimes the daisy is more graceful than a rose, so why wouldn't I have the right to give her honour by lifting it higher than a rose?"
I bit my lip, though my mind told me to fight again, my heart whispered to let him win. After all, he will soon disappear forever from my life and I won't have to worry about it. Nor about his blue eyes that had colour of the sky before the storm. Nor his melodious voice, which sang words so wonderfully in my praise. Or that smile... Or... Oh.
I realized that I stood silently right in front of him, my face centimetres from his own. Eyes fixed on his pink lips. Zero answers from my mouth. For what mistakes, oh Chaos?
“Are you done?” Geralt asked, overtaking us with his slow walk and heading further into the forest.
I rolled my eyes.
“Not a lady or a goddess. Do you understand, bard? Think of something better. I am closer to a warrior than a court lady” I replied without hostility, motioning my head to the bard to follow me.
His face beamed. As if he were a small child that someone just praised for drawing with a stick in the sand.
"And you can call me Jaskier, Sir Y/N," he replied with a smile, levelling his steps with mine.
“I'm not a knight, Jaskier.”
"You could be for me," he said, and after casting an playful look at me, he accelerated a little.