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“Say, how long have we been walking like this Geralt?” Jaskier says, as they walk along.

The witcher, Jaskier’s witcher turns to him with fond eyes and says, “Since this morning. You were grumbling about me waking you before dawn.”
”Oh, yes. I remember now. So very indecorous of you.” But he smiles as he says it, remembering the fantastical sunrise.

Geralt gives a fond hum, as they  continue their walk along the dirt track. The sunlight reflects beatifically off the small puddles of water and against the damp autumnal leaves.

Jaskier strums on his lute.  As they’ve been walking he’s been working on a jaunty little tune, but he can’t get the bridge right.

“Do you remember,” Geralt says, “The wedding in Beauclair?”

“Of course,” Jaskier replies, “There was this couple there who made me believe in love again. And not the pair to whom the wedding was dedicated.”

“Tell me about it,” Geralt says, with an easy and obliging smile.

“Surely you remember! I was newly broken hearted - Ekaterina from Drakenborg had just turned me down -  and so I was shy and fragile in my romancing,” he pauses for the snort of derision that he’s sure will follow such a statement, but Geralt stays quiet, “So I was hesitant to approach them. They were shy at first but when the Marchioness pulled us all up to dance they came gladly, and so affectionately with each other. Obviously the bride was my dear friend but even seeing her marry her true love paled in comparison to this couple’s quiet and open joy as to even hold the other in their arms.”

Jaskier sighed, reminiscing. They had been truly wondrous. The pair had been an elven and dwarven duo; their hesitation out of fear of bigotry. Jaskier had almost wept when they’d twirled each other throughout the dancing, smiling without a care in the world.

“A good memory?” Geralt asks.

“Undoubtably,” Jaskier says. Then, after blinking himself out of the memory of the couple, he looks along the path they’ve come, and frowns. “Where’s Roach?”


“Yes, Roach?!”

“She’s safe. Don’t you worry about it.”

Jaskier frowned a further second but under Geralt’s reassuring smile he nodded and carried on walking.

After a while a pricking sensation begins on the back of his neck. When he turns around there’s no one there.

“Is it just me or has it gone suddenly cold?”

“It’s that time of year.”
”Yes,” Jaskier agrees absently. The sun is warm. But he is cold.

“Geralt,” he continues, trying to fill the horrible silence, “Where are we going?”

“To find somewhere to stay.”

“Without Roach?”

That - that didn’t seem right? That wasn’t right.
”She’s safe.”

“Right. Right.” Jaskier plays the tune again. He can’t get it quite right. There’s something in his ears,or in the air, distorting it.

“Is there a contract?” he asks, to sate the anxious ripple of adrenaline writhing under his skin.


“What on?” There isn’t a breeze, he notices.

“Does it matter right now, we have plenty of time?” No birds, neither singing or rustling in the trees.

“What if I want to get a head start on the ballad, huh, Geralt?!” There’s just the sound of Jaskier’s voice, his breathing. The quickened beating of his heart.

“You’re always telling me to relax, Jaskier. Take your own advice.”

“Hm, right.” There’s something not right, here, Jaskier realises.

“Do you remember,” Geralt says, “When we at the competition in Tretagor?”

Jaskier can’t concentrate.

“You came third, but-”

Jaskier tunes him out. There’s something missing…

“Is it a fleder? Or a rock troll?”

Geralt sighed.

“Can’t you wait for the surprise?”

“I hate surprises,” Jaskier lied, “They feel too much like practical jokes.” Maybe he wasn’t lying, he certainly felt wrong footed.

“It’ll be over quickly. Then we can relax by the river. Fish, maybe.” Geralt smiled, his molten gold eyes stirring Jaskier’s stomach bile.


Fishing ….

Jaskier took a deep breath in through his nose and slowly let it out. His throat feels tight, his feet wet.

“Geralt,” he began in a small voice, looking straight ahead towards the never ending tunnel of trees, “Where are your swords?”

Geralt said nothing.


He looked over.

His companion had stopped. A curtain had fallen.

“You’re not Geralt.”

The figure said nothing.

“What are you? A Doppler? No, you’d have had his swords if so.”

The figure reached out with one hand, towards Jaskier’s chest.

Jaskier stumbled back, but it was as if he were sinking into molasses.

When the index finger touched over his heart Jaskier buckled to his knees, clutching his throat.

The canopy of trees above his head flickered and changed.

~ A weeping willow now veiled him from a mid morning summer sun.

Blood ran down his chin and onto his shirt. He was sunk into damp riverside mud being supported under one elbow as he choked.

“Jaskier?! You’re okay. We’ll find a healer!” Geralt, that  was Geralt! He had a firm grip to Jaskier’s arm, keeping him from sinking back into the endless, endless, walking.

He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe.

“Geralt-” he tried to speak but couldn’t, “Geralt-!”

Peace .~

And he was back in the sunlit woodland path, the hair on his arms standing on end.

“He wanted peace,” Jaskier said hollowly, his throat phantomly tight.

Not-Geralt nodded impassively.

“And he got it,” Jaskier confirmed in a small voice, “He wished for it.”

“You could play your new ballad?” Not-Geralt said, with a wrong-wrong-wrong incline of the head.

“Why?” What was the point? His closest friend, his companion, had called upon a djinn to rid himself of Jaskier.

“It would make you happy,” it stated simply.

“No. No it wouldn’t.”

Jaskier looked back at how far they’d walked, though honestly it was hard to tell. All the trees looked the same. The path repeated itself every few meters. He could have been here hours. Days. Years.

“I want to go back.”

Not-Geralt said nothing, just carried on smiling and inclining it’s head.

“Your job is to take me on, right? To go that way-” he pointed the way they’d been walking, “- so that way is home? Back to my Geralt.”

The creature, or Jaskier’s dying creation - a figment to ease his passing into the next world - once again did nothing. Now that Jaskier had discovered the truth, it had lost it’s purpose. Ceased to be that comforting presence.

“Right.” And Jaskier turned on his heel and went back the way they’d come.

He walked. And walked.

And walked.

He’d gotten good at it, after 15 years on the Path.

“The only way is on,” false-Geralt said, eventually.

Jaskier said nothing. He had to try.

“He wished you away,” the figment said, voicing his deepest fears.

“No.” Jaskier shook his head in denial, refusing to look back at the thing following him.

“Yes. Come with me. It’s calm. You could live there, rather than be tethered to a man who doesn’t appreciate you.”

“Go away! He- he was calling a healer!”

“But what’s there to go back to? What’s a bard without a voice?”

“LEAVE!” Jaskier yelled, screamed. When he turned to look, not-Geralt was gone.

He was alone in the sunny tunnel of trees. He fell to his knees and sobbed silent tears.

He tried to wail out his grief, his loss, but no sound came out.

The hands that covered tear stained cheeks began to fade, the cold press of mud against his blue silked knees became numb and unfeeling.

He was unbecoming, untethering from this horrible liminal limbo.

Where was he going? Which way was he fading? Forward or behind? But which was which? To go onward was to die but he’d been facing backward?

His head spun. His eyes, his dry eyes, pinpricked with pain as bright lights pierced through.

Whichever way it was, he was going?

Which Geralt would greet him?