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Golden Scales

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“Ah yes, that.” The earl said, gesturing at the little pool in the middle of the courtyard. “Yes, we don’t talk about that. Causes too much trouble to be worth it.”

Geralt looked at the pool, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword. He let out a low grunt upon seeing what was inside...

In it was a mermaid. It had shackles around its neck, wrists and one around the tail. The pool itself was too small of it to swim in. Also, there was a gag in its mouth.

Ah, a siren, not a mermaid it seemed. The yellow tail was shimmering in the sunlight as if it were made of gold. Blue eyes looking back at the humans. So incredibly inhuman upon closer inspection.

“We caught it last month. My daughter wanted a pet so of course, I couldn't ignore her. Unfortunately, " The nobleman frowned deeply, "It tried to run five times since we put it in here, harming my little girl too in the process. Foul creatures.” The earl spat.

The siren glared at the man, their tail moving lazily in the water as much as it was able to with the shackles.

“Figures.” The witcher mumbled, moving to the earl. "My payment?”

“Ah yes. Here you have it.” The earl clapped his hand and a servant appeared with a pouch full of gold. Geralt took it, counting it briefly before looking at the earl again, his expression stern.

“This is not the amount of what you promised to pay me.”

The earl showed a sheepish grin, “Yes, well. That will cover the rest.” He pointed at the siren behind him.

“No.”

“You could sell it.” The earl offered.

“Why don’t you sell it, and then give me the rest of the money?” Geralt snarled back. God, it was always the same with these nobles. Too bad he couldn’t unkill the creatures he had killed for the man.

“Look, witcher… You deal with creatures, right? We can’t sell it. It’s too dangerous.”

Geralt looked over his shoulders to the siren, it’s tail now slapping softly against the water as if it was daring the humans to take action. The witcher could just punch the shit out of the earl, demanding the rest of the payment and leave this house. But he didn’t, as he could see bruises on the siren’s body. He didn’t know what had happened, but it couldn’t be good for the creature.

Geralt turned to the man again, “100 gold pieces and then I will take the siren off your hands. ” He said.

The earl only chuckled. “As you wish.”

___________

 

And that is how Geralt walked down the hill with a fish under his harms. They had putten extra shackles around his waist attached to a pole to the end of his tail so he was unable to move it. Great, they had known how to restrain this creature well… too well.

When Geralt had reached the stables he threw the siren on the ground. “Listen up. I am not going to harm you.” He held up his hands to show him he was not hostile. The siren cocked an eyebrow. “I will ungag you so you can tell me where you come from. I will take you home. If you try singing I will push a sword through your throat. Understand?” Geralt deadpanned.

The siren eyed him hesitantly, eyeing him from top to bottom and resting his eyes on the two swords on Geralt’s back. Then he nodded.

Geralt removed the gag.

The siren coughed, “Oh, I’m drying ooouuuttt~” It wailed immediately, putting a hand on its head and sighing dramatically.

Geralt sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I am a monster hunter. I know sirens don’t dry out.”

The siren opened an eye and his mouth made a tiny ‘O’ shape. He decided not to say anything and instead tried to wiggle free since his terrible plan hadn't worked. Of course, he was still tied up and he was unable to do anything.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Geralt grumbled.

“What does it look like, sweaty. I’m trying,” He managed to roll on his stomach, “to escape you!”

Geralt was surprised by the insult but decided not to take any chances. He unsheathed the sword and dug it in the ground next to the siren’s face. It froze.

“I am going to help you. Tell me where you are from so I can take you back.” The witcher said, louder this time. He wasn't playing around, and the creature had to see this.

“You are going to sell me.” The siren looked at him with wide eyes. A statement.

“No.”

“Oh, oh yes. I heard you talk to that man. Hah, sell the creature for money, right? I’d like to see you try!” It proclaimed, lifting chin in the air and huffing.

“Just answer the damn question.” Geralt’s patience was running thin. Now he understood why they had gagged it. “Or I will gag you again and then drop you in some random lake. Good luck finding your home then.”

The siren looked over his shoulder at the witcher, his face already covered in dirt. “You are serious?” He asked.

Geralt gritted his teeth but managed to let out a breath. He had to stay calm. He couldn’t spook the fish now. “I am.”

The creature’s eyes left to the ground again, thinking deeply. “I come from the ocean.” He finally said, looking at Geralt again.

“The ocean? How the hell did you end up getting caught?”

“Do I look like I wanted to get caught?"

Geralt closed his eyes, so, so tired. “I never.. said that-”

“They took me, yanked me out like some sort of trout. Or-- a thing that they pull out. Like seaweed. I am not seaweed. They just pulled me out! The audacity.” It cried out.

“It doesn’t matter… the downside is that the sea is a long way from here.”

“I don’t care. Just get me out of this dirt. I am not some sort of… of… thing you can throw around.”

“No… you are not seaweed and you are not a thing.” Geralt said, pulling the siren up. ”So what can I call you instead?”

“Jaskier.”

The chains were thrown on the ground, to be forgotten forever.

___________

 

That is how Jaskier ended up on the horse, which Jaskier didn’t know was called a horse, since Jaskier hardly saw any of the four-legged creatures. He sat in between the human’s arms, his tail inside a blanket. He didn’t know if the human, or Geralt as he introduced himself as had done it so he couldn’t escape or because he wanted to hide his tail. Probably the latter, since he couldn’t escape in his situation after all.

So he forcefully remained on the horse. And he talked, because what in fuck’s name was that?

“A tree..” Geralt answered.

“And what about that?” Jaskier was just pointing at whatever he was seeing. The land was so strange and new to him.

“That is a house.”

“But it’s so much smaller than the one we came from.”

Geralt was living in an absolute nightmare, “Yes. So?”

Jaskier looked at the man, “I dunno. Huh, what about that?”

Geralt looked at what he was pointing, “What?” He didn’t see anything of interest.

Jaskier kept pointing at the scenery in front of him.

“What? Grass? Flowers?”

The siren lowered his hand, shrugging.

The white-haired human grumbled something under his breath and let out a long sigh, “Just be still.”

Jaskier didn’t say a word, instead focusing on the trees in a nearby forest. Who knew the world could be so green.

 

___________

 

And then suddenly it happened, “Geralt… Geralt, oh fuck. Oh, fuck!” The siren cried out.

“What?” Geralt growled, turning around from the campfire he was preparing. He looked at Jaskier’s tail. The scales were coming off. The siren was crying by now, trying to gather the golden pieces and desperately trying to stick them back where they belonged.

“Don’t worry. Your body is adjusting to your surroundings.” Geralt noted.

“Why would it do that. It has never done that before.” Jaskier said through tears.

And then he had legs. The siren was sitting in a pile of his golden scales, naked.

The witcher threw him a blanket and the siren kept staring at his legs. “Disgusting.” He announced. “I’m not doing this. No, I refuse. Get me to water right now!” He said, standing up and falling over immediately. Geralt caught him before he fell face flat in the fire.

“Sit down, now!” Geralt ordered.

Jaskier was shivering, looking down at his feet, his body. “I’m naked!”

“You were always naked, for god’s sake..”

Jaskier’s lips trembled, but he slowly sat down, putting the blanket around him. Geralt saw him shivering, looking at his toes which stuck out from under the blanket and being surprised that he was able to move them.

The siren didn’t eat that night. He simply went to sleep, turning his back to the witcher.

Meanwhile, Geralt planned the fasted route to the sea. If he was correct, there was a river a few days from where they were. He could drop the siren in there and he would able to make his way back to the ocean safely.

___________

 

The next day, Jaskier tried to grab as many of his scales as he could. Geralt slapped them out of his hands. “Don’t.. they will grow back.”

“How do you know?” Jaskier asked, taking only a handful.

“I studied. Now get on,” Jaskier was now wearing one of Geralt’s large shirts and his breeches which were much too big for the slender siren. They made their way to the river on Roach's back.

And then there were bandits. Jaskier stumbled off the horse as they proved to be hostile. Geralt rose his sword, attacking, but not killing them. The siren was unable to run, so he fell to the ground, his legs too weak.

One of the bandits grabbed him by his hair and put a dagger against his neck. Geralt whipped around, briefly worried until he snarled.

Jaskier was weak in this form, having only his voice to help him in these times. He couldn't use it, however, since it would harm Geralt as well... But he did have fangs, sharp enough to devour fish and whatnot. He bit down in his captor’s arm, making the human scream in pain. Jaskier bit down again, even when he was on the ground. The panic, the fear of being caught again. It drove him mad. He was sure he was able to bite the man’s hand off until he felt a hand on his shoulder.

Geralt looked at him, those yellow eyes so different than the bandits, or the human’s that had captured him before. Only now did Jaskier see it. Was Geralt even human?

“Let’s leave.” Said the man sternly. Jaskier nodded, blinking and looking around. Jaskier

The other bandits had run off as soon as they saw blood. The bandit on the ground was groaning in pain.

Back on the horse, Geralt sighed deeply. “You will be under my protection until we are at the river, but it seems like you don’t need it after all.”

Jaskier wiped the blood from his mouth, not saying a word.

___________

 

They came into a tavern the following day, but Geralt was not allowed inside. He left with a clenched fist and took Roach by the reigns. Jaskier trailed behind him, slow and clumsy on his legs, but managing.

“I’m confused… are you human?”

“I’m a mutant.” Geralt murmured, “A witcher.”

“Is that why your eyes are like that?” The siren jogged up to Geralt, pointing at his peepers.

Geralt whipped his head, sneering. “What of them?”

“They are pretty.”

Geralt blinked and looked in front of him again.

“What? Am I not being friendly.” The creature frowned, unable to grasp why he was reacting like that.

“I wouldn’t know how to be friendly.” Geralt stopped as they reached a safe place to camp. The siren dropped to his knees, happily sitting down and not having to hold his breeches the whole time.

“You could learn. Say something nice to me!” Jaskier offered.

“No.”

“Why not? Am I not nice.”

Geralt looked at him, eyeing him from head to toe before tying Roach to a tree. “You have… hair.” He said, uncertain and not wanting to play along in the first place. Geralt shook his head.

Jaskier beamed, however, “Why thank you!” He smiled brightly, patting his head of hair. “I must admit, I love it much more now that it’s soft and not wet.”

Geralt huffed, almost smiling.

___________

 

The next town was a lot more welcoming, even though Geralt received a lot of keen eyes. He quickly ordered food, ale and sat in the corner. Jaskier loitered behind, not daring to say a word. It felt strange to be amidst the enemy.

Geralt showed him a bowl of stew. “Eat.”

And Jaskier did. He chewed slowly. It tasted different then the rabbit and deer they ate previously, and much different from the fish he ate back home.

Jaskier nodded, “It is good.”

“Good.”

“What is this?” Jaskier ate more, faster.

“It’s.. ah.. stew. It’s stew. Probably?” He put a spoon in the food and it made an unpleasant sound like it was mire or ooze.

“I love stew!”

“Good for you. Eat, then we will rest.”

Jaskier looked around the room, “In here?”

“In bed. In a room, above. You pay for a room and then you can sleep for a night, or more if you pay more.” Geralt explained, glancing around the room. He couldn't take the constant blue, sparkling eyes of the siren in front of him.

“Why? Can’t you just sleep everywhere?” Jaskier asked, picking up a piece of sausage out of the bowl

Geralt watched him play with the slimy stew with a furrowed brow, “It’s...um… We have been doing that in the woods. But it’s nice to sleep inside from time to time.”

“Ah,” Jaskier slurped the stew from his fingers.

“Stop, please. Don’t.”

Jaskier looked at him questioningly. Geralt sneered, pushing his food away. Suddenly he wasn't hungry anymore.

___________

 

Jaskier jumped off Roach as he heard it: the river. He stumbled over to the water, almost tripping over the breeches and his legs.

“Jaskier, wait!” He heard behind him. He didn’t listen. He didn’t see the rock and fell on the ground, right into the grass. Perhaps he would never grow used to his legs, but that was alright. He was going home.

Geralt was quick to hurry behind him, helping him up. “Stop fucking around and just wait.”

They slowly made their way to the water.

“Good, good. Now. Bye.” Jaskier said, removing the shirt and walking right in. Instantly, his tail grew back and he fell flat on the water. The rest he had to crawl, but it didn’t matter because he was whole again and he had his beautiful yellow scales and he was free!

He tried to crawl further until his tail was stuck. Jaskier slapped his tail widely, but he was unable too. Shit, fuck, shit! Freedom was so close.

And then he felt a hand on his tail and he almost lashed out to attack until he saw Geralt, a dagger in his hand. He cut off the net that had him trapped. They made eye contact. “Take care, Jaskier.” The witcher said softly, no real emotion behind it.

Jaskier smiled. “Thank you! I am forever in your debt!” He hugged the witcher, almost sending him falling backwards.

“Argh-” Geralt exclaimed but hugged back briefly. “Yes.. let’s just hope we never see each other again so I won’t need anything from you. Now go.”

He sounded almost relieved when Jaskier jumped into the deep part and swam away, knowing exactly which way he needed to go to get to the sea.

Geralt waited a while on the river bend, staring at the river and following the speck of gold in the blue river. It was an amazing sight, he must admit, and he briefly imagined how it was to be as free as he siren.

He could hear a song being sung. He looked back, wondering if it was Jaskier or just his imagination.

Then he left to go find a new contract.