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"Why wouldn't you travel by main roads?"

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Okay, it's time for the sixth episode.

You may or may not notice that these chapters get more unwieldy the more character overlap there is. At this point, everyone's together except Ciri. So this is going to be a nightmare, and thank god that the dragon kicks the group apart again at the end of the episode.

We ended on Yennefer last time, so let's try sticking with her.

Going by the timeline, this episode takes place six years after the previous episode, and twenty-two years since Yennefer quit working at court.

Yennefer is here for the dragon hunt. Now, it's presumably coincidence/Destiny that Geralt is there at the same time. But...

Geralt: "You’ve wasted your breath, Borch. I don’t kill dragons."

...

Geralt: "The answer is no."

...

Geralt: "I’m in."

...Geralt chooses to go because he sees Yennefer's there.

And Yennefer's first lines in the episode are remarking on this to Geralt, indicating that this has likely been happening a lot.

Yennefer: "How is it that I've walked this earth for decades without coming across a witcher, and then the first one I meet, I can't get rid of?"

If you knew nothing else about Yennefer, this would be very much in line with the Yennefer she tries to present. She's suggesting he's clearly chasing after her while she's disinterested to mildly annoyed by him. The power is all on her side here - he desires her, she wouldn't care if he fell off a cliff.

But not only are we about to see just how upset she is at the idea of him falling off a cliff, with what else we've seen of Yennefer, the reason she's bringing this up is because she desperately, desperately wants to hear him say that's what he's doing. That it isn't somehow just a coincidence. Or maybe that he'll let her accuse him of caring without trying to defend himself. That he not only cares but isn't ashamed of people knowing he cares.

Think about what little we've seen of Yennefer's previous relationships. They're marked by secrecy. Her relationship with Istredd is a secret. While it was known that she was Tissaia's student, that she meant anything more to Tissaia was something Tissaia tried to keep secret to the point that in the first months it was a secret even from Yennefer. Even going as far back as with her mother, we're told Yennefer wasn't allowed in the house and we know she wasn't doing chores with the rest of the household and her father hits her for trying, so it's pretty likely what time she had with her mother and any other siblings had to be done clandestinely. If people care about Yennefer, they treat it like a flaw. From an outside view, that's because everyone Yennefer's been around has been deeply messed up too, but in Yennefer's experience, she's the common thread.

So Yennefer's absolutely invested and pretending not to be here. And she's doing a pretty good job at pretending, which is another point to consider. Yennefer's act is going to be better or worse depending on how much time she has to prepare. In this case, she's had a couple years of running into him on and off. That means even though this is a huge issue for her, she's probably spent a while thinking over exactly what she'll say next time and got it down to this gem. But when surprised or under more stress, she moves closer to showing her actual feelings.

And, of course, she does snow Jaskier on this one, although as I said last episode, Jaskier is extremely bad at reading Yennefer so that probably didn't take much.

Yennefer: "How is it that I've walked this earth for decades without coming across a witcher, and then the first one I meet, I can't get rid of?"
Jaskier: "I'd say something strange was afoot, but then again, witchers are bound to bump into monsters eventually."
Yennefer: "Jaskier."
Jaskier: "Yennefer."
Yennefer: "The crow's feet are new."
Jaskier: "Yeah, well, your jokes are...old."

We see here a continuation of what I mentioned in the previous chapter that Yennefer is not actually a fount of endless snarking but someone who does it in response to other people taking the first swing. She says something to Geralt, Jaskier shoves himself into the conversation to say she's nuts and further insult her/imply he wants her dead, she responds by saying he's getting ugly.

Since fandoms these days are a miserable place of "you can't ship that because..." you can totally ship that. There is definitely some stuff going on here! But what we see here is Jaskier being the aggressor, not Yennefer. On Yennefer's end, she didn't acknowledge him until forced.

There is also a marked contrast to how she and Geralt talk.

Geralt: "What are you doing here, Yen?"
Yennefer: "I'm here with my escort. Noble Sir Eyck of Denesle. To assist him in killing the dragon."
...
"Till we meet again, Geralt. See you, Roach."

We can see that although she sounded put-upon originally, she's not even particularly keeping that up, even though we'll learn later that she's actually nursing quite the grudge against Geralt. Now, one option is that she's really happy to see him and can't entirely hide that. The other is that she's just not very good at being spontaneously mean instead of going nuclear in retaliation to the smallest thing, so all it takes is Geralt not engaging to make it peter off.

Now, what does it mean that she's ignoring Jaskier until he forces the issue? Because while Yennefer's often talked about as if she doesn't pay attention to vast swaths of people until they prove themselves worthy, we don't actually see that. The closest is her performatively semi-ignoring Tissaia last episode because she's mad, which implies rather the opposite about how Yennefer normally acts toward other people.

We know Jaskier doesn't like her, and he's probably already made that clear. Yennefer's main way of dealing with things is, well, not dealing with them. In addition, she's terribly thin-skinned, and she really likes getting other people to like her. It makes sense, then, that she just wouldn't want anything to do with Jaskier if she can help it.

One interesting question is if Yennefer ever apologized for the events of the last episode. Not apologizing or acknowledging it happened at all fits with this exchange as well as her tendency to burn bridges and never look back, so that's the easy answer, but while I'm confident Yennefer has some sort of fucked up relationship with apologies, I'm not sure she actually avoids them. She insults Tissaia for that hangup, and has been pretty willing to admit to failing or screwing someone over, she just isn't capable of taking advice to stop because it won't work, and she was certainly fine owning up to the fact she mistreated Geralt with the mind control spell when it came to saying he should be mad at her.

You might think that if she did apologize Jaskier's the sort to forgive but whatever Jaskier's stance on apologies is, I'm pretty sure if she gave an apology it'd be a terrible one that if anything made things even worse, so that also fits fine with the present situation. Consider the possibility of something along the lines of "Sorry about all that, I thought you had this thing I wanted, but whoops you didn't!" I'm actually hoping we do get this referenced at some point, because if she didn't apologize it suggests she didn't class any of that as anything that someone could be mad over - in that case she might think that threats don't count and only actually following through would've been wrong, and once she let him go without doing it then there's no longer anything to apologize for.

Yennefer: "I'm here with my escort. Noble Sir Eyck of Denesle. To assist him in killing the dragon."
Noble Sir Eyck of Denesle: "For kingdom and glory!"

And this! This is another very interesting element.

First, there's just the basic fact that Yennefer is not here alone. Yennefer's inclination is to partner up with someone.

In the books, this guy's almost a paladin, where there seems to be some connection between his intense  personality and the fact he's incredible in combat. Here...well, I don't think they did a very good job showing he's impressive by having him whack at some starving creature, but I think we're supposed to think he knows what he's doing - "That knight may be a fuckin' dumbbell, but I'll be damned, the dragon won't stand a chance." However, we really don't see the kind of thing either Yennefer or Geralt are capable from him, and Yennefer will go on to try to do it all herself.

Now, is Yennefer evilly using this man? Did she trick him into this? Is he her magically controlled puppet?

No.

Now, this should be obvious from the introduction when Geralt is just staring at her lovingly and not going "oh shit gotta help that poor guy", but even if you assume Geralt is totally okay with mindcontrolling someone else because he doesn't hold a grudge when it happens to him, it's just not what's happening.

The next thing of note for Yennefer is Eyck killing the hirikka. Yennefer appears surprised and uncomfortable - she either didn't expect him to do that, or she finds it disturbing how he's going about it.

Eyck: "Knights never waste a kill. It's precisely why I'll make a great lord to Niedamir's vassal state. A great knight must lead by example."

Is Eyck a bad person? We know he killed unnecessarily, and he's also kind of a twit. But given he's doesn't even know this creature shouldn't be eaten, it seems to be a matter of ignorance. He doesn't say anything racist during his brief screentime, and it's one of the dwarves calling him a poor bastard and considering setting him straight. Given he's kind of a twit and the rest of the group does find his FOR KINGDOM AND GLORY bit annoying, and that he's also got the whole lordly condescension thing going on on top of all that, that no one seems to outright hate him suggests he must've been relatively decent otherwise.

Eyck: "My subjects will be the luckiest serfs in all the lands."

I mean, we have seen other lords at this point. You could do much, much worse than someone talking about leading by example and not wasting food.

Do we know Yennefer wouldn't be helping out a total monster just as readily? We do not. But we don't see evidence of it. It's no less plausible to say the reason precisely one knight shows up for this reward is that Yennefer portaled the other, bigger assholes to the other side of the continent.

Eyck: "Especially with the beautiful Yennefer as my mage."
Yennefer: "I cannot wait to serve you, My Lord."

This is very much the sort of court manners we saw from Yennefer back in the third episode, which actually tells us extraordinarily little. Yennefer can probably do this in her sleep, and I don't think she sees it as degrading or something to avoid doing unless she has to because her starting point is of a child so hated no one even wanted her attention. Being able to do this is its own kind of power.

Whether or not she would've done this anyway, though, she's probably also testing Geralt here. Look at how she doesn't even notice you, Geralt! Look at how she's paying attention to someone else! Doesn't it hurt? I'm not sure if she's looking for any particular response because I think Yennefer's really terrible at actually knowing what she wants. That said:

Boholt: "How would you like to serve me tonight, Witch?"
Geralt: "Careful, Boholt."
Boholt: "So, the Witcher wants to play knight too, hmm?"
Geralt: "No. She's plenty able of murdering you herself."

This is a pretty good answer to it.

While characters are wrong about each other a lot, Geralt is established last episode to actually get Yennefer right in the end, and he's the one good judge of character we see.

And it is Geralt who speaks up. While this is explicable just as a matter of keeping the scene going and giving Geralt the chance to talk, Yennefer doesn't seem to expect any defense from Eyck here and he doesn't offer it. I'm not sure it'd mean anything if Eyck did, either - the person he'd be defending is the mask Yennefer's wearing.

Whether or not the previous bit was aimed at Geralt, the next part probably is.

Eyck: "Um... I'm afraid I must take my leave. Lady Yennefer, may I escort you to your tent?"
Yennefer: "Will you be joining me?"
Eyck: "Uh... My Lady, I would...never degrade your honor in such a way."

Yennefer enters the tavern already partnered up with Eyck. Yennefer doesn't seem to attach much value to sex, and if she can probably do court behavior in her sleep at this point she likely considers being sexually available part of that, so it's not a big deal for her to offer it, but it seems like she hasn't before this, even though they've presumably known each other for at least the previous day. Her decision certainly wasn't because she was overcome by how sexy he looked hacking at the hirikka and he just failed to actually defend her honor from another asshole. But after Geralt defends her, she propositions Eyck.

Eyck: "My Lady, I would...never degrade your honor in such a way."
Jaskier: "I hate to break it to you, but that ship has sailed, wrecked and sunk to the bottom of the ocean."

This is funny, and yet... Like I mentioned last episode, we don't actually see Yennefer fucking people constantly, and Jaskier in particular seems to have only seen her have sex with one person, Geralt. It's possible that they've met up with Yennefer a few times when she's busily fucking other people, but the flashbacks we'll see shortly don't back that up. And Geralt immediately smacks him, so yeah. Something can be funny and also shitty and unjustified.

Note, however, that Yennefer doesn't react to this to defend herself. The only time she responds to Jaskier is when he's butting into a conversation she's trying to have with Geralt. Yennefer doesn't seem to get mad at people for being shitty to her, or if she does, it's solely people she's already emotionally invested in, like Tissaia.

Overall? Yennefer really doesn't seem to show much sign of having an ego. It's easy to assume she must because her refusal to listen to reason when she's making a bad choice seems like it's coming from a place of arrogance, but remember, she has no problem admitting she fucked up after the fact. She just hates being told what to do and is really reckless. Yennefer doesn't defend herself when insulted and she doesn't go after people for being cruel to her.

Now, if Yennefer isn't literally puppetting Eyck up the mountain, is she still in some way a bad person taking advantage of him?

Also no.

Yarpen: "So, shall we tell the poor bastard that he's vying for a vassal state that won't exist in a decade?"

Even people who think Eyck's making a mistake think it's him being dumb for reaching the wrong conclusion from the information around him. This is also said casually with Yennefer still with the rest of the group, rather than waiting for her to leave to plot revealing her evil witchy lies to her thrall. Geralt dismisses this as no big deal and that Yarpen's being way too dramatic/overly cynical to think this particular position is unusually in flux rather than the normal perils of doing lordly business. And the only reason to offer a reward is that someone thought it'd convince knights to show up and kill the dragon, so a knight showing up saying that's why he's going to kill the dragon to get the reward does not require mindrape.

I'd add it's very likely, given he talks about himself and his plans, he's outright said that he came to the conclusion before meeting Yennefer.

So in sum, Yennefer wanted to kill a dragon, therefore she found someone who also wanted to kill a dragon and partnered up with them for mutual benefit.

However, there's a reason that Yarpen thinks the vassal state reward is particularly empty:

Yarpen: "This is fuckin' new! The rightful son of Nilfgaard has returned, burnin' through the south."
Yennefer: "With Fringilla as his mage. (Laughs) Nilfgaard's a joke."

I'm not sure how invested Yennefer is in Nilfgaard as a whole, but she's certainly clinging to the idea she's better than Fringilla. Once again, I wish we'd gotten more of their schooldays! Was she always looking down on Fringilla, or is this because she's got a grudge against Fringilla for betraying her by getting the assignments swapped? And the second option's particularly intriguing considering the people Yennefer seems to hold grudges against longest are those she did consider friends.

Yarpen: "I saw it with my own eyes down in Ebbing. Those zealot freaks are inching closer by the day. Won't be long till they try and take Sodden. Next it'll be Temeria. Redania. Cintra."

While she brushes it off initially, Yennefer shuts down as soon as Yarpen starts talking about what Nilfgaard is doing. She wasn't laughing because she doesn't care about the deaths.

Borch the totally not secretly a magic dragon: "Perhaps if Nilfgaard's religious zeal had been tempered earlier by a stronger hand..."

Okay, so is this Yennefer's fault?

The problem is we don't know what Borch's angle here is. Does he actually know this would've happened, or does he just know it's what Yennefer fears?

As I said in a past chapter, all we really know is that sending Fringilla was a disaster. Maybe Yennefer would've tempered it. Maybe Yennefer would've just fucked off and left them mageless. Maybe Yennefer would've become a zealot too and done even more damage than Fringilla has.

Whatever the answer...

Yennefer: "If you'll excuse me, I must get my beauty sleep."

Yennefer feels responsible, and deals with that characteristically, by getting away from the reminder.

The next day they discover Eyck's dead.

When we see the group on the move next, discussing this, Yennefer's taking up the front and seems to be trying to keep her distance from the rest.

After the group agrees to take a shortcut, Geralt goes after Yennefer.

Geralt: "Did you kill Eyck?"
Yennefer: "Kill him? That's rather pedestrian. And you're the one who's been staring daggers at him since we arrived."

Yennefer keeps circling around coming out and asking if he cares about her. It's terribly important, but for the same reason she can never address it.

She does not seem to mind being thought a murderer - either she just likes being thought of as the person in control of the situation like that, or this is one of those times their conversations avoid misunderstandings and trouble and she takes it to mean he's asking if something happened and she had a reason.

Yennefer: "That bastard Boholt killed my escort before he could accomplish the one damn task I actually needed him for. "

Did she particularly need him?

Yeah. This is rationally true - Eyck's very death proves this is a situation where you need someone to watch your back. And it's emotionally true that Yennefer expects betrayal and mistreatment at every turn. But that's not what she's talking about here. Yennefer is not going to admit she's scared of being alone and puts it as a future thing, that she needed him to kill the dragon, even though she's going to rush off to try to do it herself when the chance arises.

Does she care he died?

The thing about Yennefer is that if she doesn't care and was just using him, she'd be acting like this, but if she did care and feels guilty...she'd also be acting like this to try to convince herself she didn't care and it's fine.

Geralt: "And what was that? Yen! What are you really doing here?"
Yennefer: "I'm here for the dragon."

When Geralt waits, Yennefer hesitates, then opens up.

Yennefer: "There are certain healing properties it's rumored to possess."
Geralt: "I thought your transformation healed all parts of you?"
Yennefer: "At the cost of losing others, yes."

After a moment, Geralt realizes what she means...and starts to smile.

Yeah, this isn't going anywhere good.

Geralt: "Yennefer... do not tell me you've traveled all this way for made-up fertility cures using fresh dragon hearts?"
Yennefer: "They're not made up!"
Geralt: "They are."

There is a moment when Yennefer says nothing, which, considering how bad Yennefer is at reconsidering her plans, is a lot. Unfortunately, Geralt keeps talking.

Geralt: "And seriously? You, a mother?"
Yennefer: "Do you think I'd make a bad one?"
Geralt: "Definitely."

Yennefer values Geralt's opinion, and as I said earlier, she's not as ego-driven as you'd expect. She makes no attempt to defend herself. She just turns away.

Is Geralt right in his opinion? Well, why Geralt thinks this is a question for Geralt's side of things. Let's just consider Yennefer.

A lot of people think someone pursuing a child to fix their own unhappiness is a pretty big red flag, and that's a good point. However, it's also worth pointing out that Yennefer does not have the other traits that usually go hand in hand. Yennefer is not stuck in a bad situation and wanting to live vicariously through a child. Yennefer, really, is spoiled for choice and the problem is she has no idea what she wants to do or what would make her happy. That particular direction of abuse seems unlikely.

In response to Geralt asking her what the fuck anyway, Yennefer once again dodges the question of why she thinks a child is the solution, because once again, she clearly doesn't understand herself why she's fixated on that in particular, to just repeat she's mad she didn't get a choice.

Geralt then does a bit better than Tissaia in that he belatedly realizes that shit, this is really important to her, and tries to switch to arguing why children are bad instead of continuing to boggle at why children.

Geralt: "Listen...the people who made us, they made us sterile for a lot of reasons. One of the kinder ones is because this lifestyle isn't suited to a child. What? You were going to summon chaos on kings' orders in between feeding and naps?"
Yennefer: "Do not patronize me!"

Is this a valid concern, or is Yennefer right to be pissed?

I'm on her side here. Yennefer's current lifestyle is absolutely not suited for a child, but Yennefer's only doing all this in pursuit of that goal. Yennefer is not planning to get a child in addition to her regular job. She quit that one explosively and has refused to go back even with her own authority figure/mom begging her. Between that and how much we see her commit to whatever she's actually doing at the time, the evidence is much more in favor of the idea she's planning to retire to a cottage with the kid - and if that doesn't make her happy either, evidence is also that it'll take her decades to even consider trying something else. A kid could really do worse than a stay at home mom who ultimately decides she wants a career again after you've grown up.

Unfortunately, Geralt then lets slip he's already got a kid. Yennefer is willing to be told she's a piece of shit who doesn't deserve to be happy, because yeah, obviously. She is not willing to hear from people who have what she wants that it wouldn't make her happy anyway, because fuck those people.

Yennefer: "You have a Child Surprise? Isn't that rich? You lecture me on made-up cures for having a child, meanwhile you cheat with destiny to steal one."

"Steal" is an interesting choice of words, isn't it?

We see the Law of Surprise come up three times, and each time, it's by men. Calanthe's husband agrees to it, presumably at Duny's own request. Geralt requests it, and Duny agrees to it. And Geralt's rescuer at the end of the season will offer it.

Meanwhile, Calanthe not only hates it, but specifically accuses men as a class of not getting why it's an awful thing to do.

And one of the traumatic events in Yennefer's life is being taken from her mother.

It is somewhat telling of fandom that not wanting to steal babies from their parents is considered a sign Yennefer's a horrible person and an idiot.

At any rate, this conversation sure went terribly, didn't it? Yennefer opens up about her deepest desire, and gets that trampled on, then finds out Geralt and fate at large are mocking her by having what she's denied.

And yet...

Geralt: "The dwarves, they're leading us to a shorter path. Come along."
Yennefer: "I can take care of myself."
Geralt: "You don't always have to. Come with me."

This is an echo of what happens at the campfire - Geralt is offering help carefully, without saying she can't do something herself. I think also Yennefer will often lash out over one thing before the rest of it sinks in, and, while she's upset, what Geralt said was really that he can't have the child either and it haunts him ("I've thought about this. Often."), because he can't take care of it, and then that's reinforced with Geralt ending by saying he regrets mentioning it. He's said she'd be a bad mother, but he didn't call her a bad person for it, then said he'd be a bad father for the same reason, and so couldn't be one either. Yennefer's still upset, but I think that tempers how upset she is at Geralt personally.

So she takes another risk. She goes.

Yarpen: "'Tis a perfectly fine route."
Yennefer: "For a dwarf."
Yarpen: "Stifle your mewlin'. You'll manage."

Hey look, Yennefer apparently managed to reference race without being a dick! We know this because Yarpen and company have made it clear they're not willing to put up with shit, and yet all Yarpen does is laugh and then smack Jaskier. Also, while we get very little about if there's any actual racial differences, this suggests dwarves are, either genetically or through having lots of practice, actually pretty damn good at staying on the side of a cliff.

Jaskier: "Uh, ladies first? Ah! All right. Yep."

Yennefer lightly pushing him to just get on with it instead of trying to creep around him to go first is possibly the actual meanest thing she does to Jaskier all episode, which is a pretty good illustration of how mean Yennefer habitually is.

Also, I don't think she thinks he'd push her - but I don't think she's particularly comfortable with him, and probably prefers to be behind rather than in front.

They continue on, and the planks behind give way under Borch and company. Geralt grabs for the chain. He starts to get pulled down too.

It's an interesting little scene in that neither of them does a very good job keeping themselves safe. Yennefer's first reaction is to dive toward Geralt just as Geralt dove toward Borch. She only backs up because Geralt tells her to - he doesn't want to pull her down with him. Then the planks start to break under Geralt, and it's Yennefer pleading with him to recognize that and not get killed either.

Borch resolves this by apparently committing suicide. Tea hesitates, but Geralt looks like he's going to try to reach her, so she lets go as well.

Yennefer, who as far as we've seen had only the interaction with any of the group was Borch obliquely implying everything is her fault for not taking the Nilfgaard post, is horrified by all of this, because that's a normal human reaction and Yennefer has those.

In the next scene, Geralt's doing some traumatized staring into the distance while Yennefer's already holed up in her tent, because once again, Yennefer's way of dealing with things is getting away from them. But then, Geralt goes into the tent, which he discovers is actually magically a much larger room with a nice bed and such.

Geralt: "Hm. So simple."
Yennefer: "Do you like it?"

She's not saying this sarcastically. She's silent for several seconds, then looks over the room anxiously, then asks.

Yennefer is utterly desperate for any sort of validation. And this is magic, and that's the one thing she's ever been able to give people that they wanted.

Geralt doesn't respond. They stare at each other. Then Yennefer sighs and goes to kiss him. She doesn't look happy at this whole thing - more like, if that didn't work, she'll try this.

Yennefer: "Is this not what you came for?"

If a lot of the episode so far has been about Yennefer intentionally trying to test Geralt in a way that's understandable, this is a much sadder development.

Either she's going along with this because she's upset enough she wants to be wanted on any level, even if it's solely her appearance which she doesn't value, or she thinks Geralt's shown up because this was transactional - he helped her earlier because he wanted this. She didn't like Eyck but she was willing to simper and sleep with him in return for having an escort.

Geralt: "I came for you."

And that's what Yennefer's been chasing. Being seen as herself.

Yennefer being Yennefer, hearing what she wants means she says there's something wrong with him: "I was afraid that mountain would take you from me, but now I fear it took your senses instead."

Geralt: "Only my nonsense."
Yennefer: "I quite like your nonsense."

It's taken half the episode, but they're momentarily on good terms!

Geralt: "That scent. The moment I dread most every time you leave...is when it fades. When you're really gone."

And we, and he, find out why Yennefer's actually mad at him.

Yennefer: "You left first. In Rinde. I woke up in that destroyed house and you were gone."

Yennefer is clingy. She doesn't put much value on sex, yes, but that isn't the same thing as not being interested in anything more. You can sleep around all the time and also be hurt if someone you thought cared about you beyond sex vanishes as soon as they get it.

So yes, Yennefer has been sleeping with Geralt and then pointedly leaving after. Not because that means nothing to her, but because it means so incredibly much to her.

This also gives another layer to the ambivalence she has this whole episode. From her perspective, it's Geralt giving mixed signals - he leaves her and makes it clear she means nothing to him, then he comes back? Does he care or not? Does he just want to have sex with her again? Why?

Geralt: "Forgive me."

And then she gets this, which I don't think she was expecting, or even considering could happen.

This is, up until the end, the episode of Yennefer actually facing her problems in a reasonably healthy way - she admits to them, she talks about them, they turn out to not be quite as awful as they seemed. Geralt didn't handle the mother thing great, but that nothing he said was that she herself is valueless and unlovable may have helped in the sense that it stopped her catastrophizing - Yennefer has been very all or nothing about things, which is probably feeding into why she's usually so defensive, so in the back of her head she's probably been wondering if she'd be the worst mother in every possible way. And he inadvertently laid out a path for what being a good mother is that's actually achievable for her - a stable home where she can be there for the kid rather than running across countries doing magic for kings. Geralt sees this as a total impossibility, but it's not even a big thing to Yennefer. And now she's admitting to Geralt that she does care, and that he did hurt her, and that's not being used against her.

Afterward, Yennefer asks: "Do you hurt? I don't mean physical pain. They say witchers can't feel human emotion."

This is interesting because we know Yennefer didn't think he was actually emotionless back in the last episode, and how she links "hurt" and "emotion" now. It could simply be that faced with things going right for once, her neurosises are flaring and she's suddenly questioning things she didn't believe before, but I wonder if she thought it was possible witchers were emotionally improved, still possessing emotion but with the bad parts (which is, in Yennefer's experience, most of the human condition) cut out. That'd have been another reason for her to want to know more about how witchers work. She might've thought she'd have liked to be more like that as well.

Geralt is honest in response that it's just a shitty prejudice from shitty people, and Yennefer asks if he regrets it.

Geralt: "It's hard to regret something you didn't choose."

This isn't how Yennefer works, so she doesn't get it.

Yennefer: "But if the choice had been yours, what would you have done instead? A farmer? A stableman?"
Geralt: "Horses are good company. But if I ever dreamed of being something...other...than what I am...it was too long ago to remember. Did you dream of being a mage?"
Yennefer: "I didn't have much of a choice either."

So yeah, from the horse's mouth, Yennefer does not feel it's about making a bad choice but, quite rightly, not having one.

But Geralt asks a question from a different angle. People have told Yennefer what she should want, and they've told her she's dumb for not wanting it, and that she's dumb for what she does want.

Geralt: "Did you always want to become a mother?"

This is the first time anyone's actually tried to address that ball of trauma and unexamined decisionmaking.

Yennefer: "I dreamed...of becoming important to someone. Someday."

Which, on the one hand, not necessarily something you should be saddling a kid with. On the other hand, noteworthy how very little she's really asking here. She doesn't even want a child under the impression it's obligated to love you. She'd like someone who loved her, but she wants someone who at least needs her.

At this point Geralt is falling asleep, but when asked if she's boring him, he says, "Not at all. Before we met, the days were calm and the nights were restless. But now...you're important to me."

Yennefer proceeds to stroke his face while he sleeps. In the morning, she's surprised and relieved to find he's still there.

So, she has what she wants now?

Well, Geralt thinks so and starts talking about heading down the mountain.

Yennefer: "What are you talking about? We're almost at the top. I came here for a reason, Geralt. I'm not leaving till I've killed that dragon."
Geralt: "Yen, no! What will it solve?"
Yennefer: "It will solve everything."

Geralt may be a lot better at getting Yennefer to listen to him than other people, but she's still someone who decides something and then sticks with it.

She really has every reason to leave. Geralt's told her this won't work, and he's pretty trustworthy. Geralt's also given her something else to live for instead of getting herself killed trying to solo a dragon. And you can also see the shape of the other solution in what's been laid out this episode - Geralt has a kid he can't claim because he wouldn't be able to provide for them, which Yennefer could do.

But Yennefer is just really, really bullheaded. She doesn't like to give up on things until she's tried everything.

Before they can properly get into an argument, Yennefer realizes the dwarves have already left. Incidentally, shoutout to the dwarves for not trying to murder anyone in their sleep. They've been really stand-up competitors this whole way.

Yennefer, in turn, uses magic to freeze them in place instead of fireballing them or something, because she's also not that vicious a killer, and rushes ahead.

She pulls out a knife. Now, I've seen people demanding to know since when does Yennefer know how to swordfight as she clearly didn't know how to do it back in the third episode. But "since when" is kind of the answer as well. Twenty years have passed, which alone would explain Yennefer knowing how to do more by this point, and on top of that, the third episode shows just how badly Yennefer fails at dealing with an attacker. Of course at some point it occurred to her that being able to physically defend herself was a good thing to learn, especially when she's spending that time on her own, afraid of getting attacked by the Brotherhood or possibly jumped by one of the rogue mages she's meeting with.

We then get another edition of Yennefer being very oppositionally defiant. She's expecting a vicious monster flinging itself at her, and is already distressed at the sight of a corpse around an egg instead. She's hesitating and moving more slowly. But when Tea and Vea appear to tell her to back up, she starts taking steps at normal speed again. When they tell her to stop and raise their swords, she tells them they should've stayed dead.

Geralt shouting stop, surprisingly, actually gets her to wait. And, distracted from the argument, she then gets back hesitating and feeling upset at the corpse
of an animal she was planning to kill and butcher: "He's dead." and is quickly corrected that no, "She's dead."

She hears the explanation that the dragon couldn't move her egg, and says to herself, "She was protecting her baby." and finally lowers the knife.

Once again, there's slightly more going on here than just that Yennefer really wants a baby. This is something no one would do for Yennefer - her birth mother doesn't fight for her, and Tissaia doesn't either.

And so, when the Reavers show up and start attacking, she switches sides. (I'd also guess that Yennefer seems to do a lot better at letting go of what she's doing if she has something else to move on to.)

She tells Geralt to use aard and kisses him in what's probably some sort of energy transfer so it's a super blast I guess, but yes, kind of silly. Still, on-point symbolism of them working well together...and arguably being easily distracted by each other, given they keep kissing when the fight's not over and there are a lot of people who still need stabbing. Luckily, there's a giant magic dragon to point that out, and they leave the cave to keep fighting. Yennefer gets grappled and Geralt chucks his sword into the guy, then gets dirt thrown in his eyes by his own opponent, then Yennefer stabs that guy in the throat.

Everything is going great.

And then comes the conversation.

Borch: "And thank you, Yennefer of Vengerberg. I can see why Geralt didn't want to lose you."
Yennefer: "What does that mean?"
Geralt: "In Rinde. The djinn."

And Yennefer starts spiraling.

I think this would've happened normally - things have gone impossibly well, so she was going to start second-guessing and sabotaging herself. But right when she's most vulnerable to that, she gets an actual reason to do so, and it's catastrophic.

Yennefer: "That's why we can't escape each other. Why I feel this way inside."

Now, moments ago? The way Yennefer felt was happy. Similarly, the thing she's rejecting is him telling her the thing she wanted to hear, that she mattered to him. This is even more insidious than thinking he made her love him, this is thinking every positive thing that she's experienced is false.

Yennefer: "It's not because of anything real...or true. You made a wish. It's magic."

The reason I think this is really happening because Yennefer can't believe anything would go right for her is that this is the first time Yennefer's expressed the belief magic doesn't count. Magic counted just fine when it was her trying to bind the djinn, just like it counted just fine when it murdered a baby or turned her friends into eels. It's only when something's actually working out for her that suddenly magic is fake.

And remember, being good at magic is the last thing Yennefer's been able to hold onto as a reason she has any worth as a person. If she'd just rejected the wish alone as fake, she'd at least still have that, but now she's both lost any hope of being happy and the thing she relied on to keep going despite that.

Geralt: "It's real, Yen."
Yennefer: "How could we ever know? Disregard for other's freedom has become quite your trademark."

People, understandably, think this is pretty hypocritical, but bear in mind Yennefer does not appear to have so much as given Eyck the idea to participate in the dragon hunt. The mindcontrol was a specific thing for a specific goal, and does not appear to be part of Yennefer's normal problem-solving set.

Geralt: "I made that wish to save your life."
Yennefer: "I didn't need your help!"
Geralt: "Like fuck you didn't! And you, you flit about like a tornado, wreaking havoc, and for what? So you can have a baby? A child is no way to boost your fragile ego, Yen."
Yennefer: "I'll take advice from you about children as soon as you take responsibility for the one you bound to you and then abandoned!"

So, are these guys a disaster together, on the whole?

Well, this is two people melting down because they have pre-existing issues. A toxic relationship is one where you're fine until you get together. This episode shows them having ups and downs, and even here, yelling at each other, they both point out something the other one needs to hear in the process.

Borch: "That's enough. I'm going to save you both a lot of hurt with a little pain now. The sorceress will never regain her womb. And though you didn't want to lose her, Geralt, you will."

Does the dragon disagree with me and the ship is Word of Dragon sunk?

I would also argue no, that's not what this means, it's just how Geralt takes it in the same way Yennefer takes him to mean she's never going to have a child. Yennefer, after all, is going to respond to this with, "He already has." and immediately do her best to fulfill that side of it on the spot, and that's certainly not the final resolution on their relationship. It's possible this is foreshadowing that they're going to try to break the wish before the end, or it's possible this fight alone is all he's talking about, that Geralt can't make her stay and she needs to work through all this on her own.

In conclusion:

I realize this is easy to miss because her character has a lot of elements that usually go with a loner, but Yennefer really does not like to do things on her own. She wants to have people around, she just has a lot of trouble with lasting relationships and tends to sabotage them. She's never alone by choice, and will try to group up with people even if she doesn't need them.

Yeah, snarky confident characters are fun to write, but that's really not what's going on with Yennefer. Yennefer takes everything very much to heart, and her responses tend to be lashing out in self-defense or just taking it. You have to have halfway functional self-esteem to handle banter.

At the same time, because she doesn't have functional self-esteem, I don't think she particularly begrudges other people for any of it. I would actually really like to know if she even has any idea why Jaskier dislikes her - she was easily able to understand enough of the Geralt and Jaskier dynamic to know Geralt cared about Jaskier and wouldn't be easily removed, so she's got the intelligence to understand, but she may not bother to question why someone hates her.

Yennefer is also incredibly desperate for validation of any kind, even from people she doesn't think like her. Her preferred way of getting it is by being good at magic, but sex will do in a pinch. This is the other side of her stated desire - she wants to be important to someone, which means she doesn't believe she ever has been, and she's not really good at telling otherwise.

We also don't see much sign Yennefer uses people. This time, she's teamed up with someone already pursuing the goal for his own interests, and she doesn't seem to have so much as encouraged him to go a little further than he would've already.

Once again - good god, Yennefer is just so bad at changing her mind once she's committed and doubly so as soon as anyone tries to give her orders.

The magic issue appears to have developed in response to finding out it's why things seem to be going well for her for once. This strongly implies there's been a pattern of self-sabotage where she devalues things as they work out for her, presumably starting off with "being beautiful" which would also feed into this - if she's already used to dismissing the benefits of her magically-given beauty, it's easier to jump to other things magic's done.