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The Wolf and the Rose

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He was tired and reeking of blood and sweat when he finally made it to the city of Vizima. Roach walked along with his head slung low, a few shallow cuts and abrasions on his sides and rump from the monsters in the bogs they had just crossed.

Geralt sighed deeply and dismounted nodding at the stable boy waiting to take the reins.

"Recommend a good inn?" he asked.

The boy pointed down the muddy road.  "Down this road til the sign of the Muddy Duck. You make a left then follow the cobblestones to the big red building. Can't miss it. Best beds in town...if ya got the coin!"

Geralt tossed him an extra coin and the lad thanked him profusely.  At least he could rest assured that Roach would get an extra flake of hay tonight.

There was rain in the air.  He could feel it and smell it.  He didn't care.  All he wanted to do was take a hot bath and sleep.  Even food wasn't enough of a deterrent as he walked into the Inn and paid for a night.  He never heard a single question put to him and mindlessly walked up two flights of stairs to what he hoped was his room.  Geralt seemed to be the only resident on that floor.

He unstrapped his swords and the buckles on his boots, leaving a trail of garments as he walked to the bathroom.  A large bath barrel sat in the center of the floor and he turned on the taps.

The joy of modern plumbing. Vizima was an inventor's paradise.

With a heavy sigh he sank into the hot water and shuddered with pleasure.  He closed his eyes and lay there, his mind full of a thousand thoughts.

Geralt Roger Eric du Haute-Bellegarcie,  known simply as Geralt of Rivia, had always accepted that his life as a witcher would be a lonely one filled with only two things: death and coin.  The former was required to procure the latter, and the latter could buy him companionship for a night or two, but beyond that there was naught to be done with it.  At first it had been fine.  He revelled in the heightened sense of danger and excitement.  The thrill of a sword placed just right, the sight of a head soaring through the air after being decapitated from its body.  The chinking sound of a bag of coin landing in his palm.  The feel of Roach galloping beneath him as he moved on to yet another town, another village, another city, another camp in the woods.

Then one day it became exactly that.  Yet another town, another village, another city, another day precisely like the one before, with the only difference being what fell at the end of his sword. Even the coin was no longer a source of satisfaction.

He allowed himself to think of his surprise child Ciri. She had sacrificed her own happiness and a potential future as the first female witcher to take on the mantle of Empress at her biological father's side. Geralt had nearly begged her not to go that route, to leave with him and let him train her.  But she believed she could do so much more for her people as a leader.  She wanted so much to do good, to undo all the evil that had come before.  With Temeria restored she truly felt that sacrificing her own desires was the right choice.

He still disagreed.  There was nothing wrong with thinking of one's self, of one's own needs and desires. It was a matter of balance, and he felt that Ciri did not have that now.  He remembered her as the precocious child she had been, full of life with a stubborn streak.  How would her life play out now?  He had never seen this coming. He had always believed once he found her and rescued her from the clutches of the wild hunt that Ciri and he would be together, fighting off the monsters of the world side by side.

Now he was without her, and always would be.

Geralt's mind wandered to the sorceress Yennefer.  The raven haired beauty that had been bound to him for so long first by the spell of the Djinn, then afterwards by a deep curiosity to see if their love had been real in any way.  He had loved her in his own way, but after the spell was broken he very clearly felt that there was nothing deeper from his end. He saw that her ambitions had always come between them, that she treated him as more of an assistant than a lover.  Time and again when they had met she had never been sure where her heart lay. Geralt had openly asked her so many times if she loved him, and she could never respond directly.  It became clear to him that he needed to go his own way. After they had located Ciri, and fought back the Wild Hunt, they separated for good.

The other love in his life had been Triss Merigold.  With hair like fire and a spirit to match, Triss made him feel younger and more alive. Her presence gave him the feeling that there was hope for a future, a reprieve from the loneliness. She had been open, willing to give him what he needed most, but he had still been bound to Yennefer and needed to play that story out. To his dismay, Geralt had discovered that Triss had been deceptive and dishonest in her dealings with him. She had come to him when he had been stricken with amnesia. Her awareness of his situation with Yennefer, her friend, didn't dissuade her from seducing him with magic and guile.  Although he had come around to forgiving her and helped her and the mages out of a tough situation during Radovid's occupation, Geralt could never be comfortable with a personal relationship with the red headed sorceress. Triss had had dreams of her own, and he learned that she had made at least one come true. Last he had heard, she had sailed to far off Kovir to act as advisor to the King. It was something he knew she had always wanted to do. Even if things had been different, a life at court was not a life for him, and if she had wanted that lifestyle he could not have gone regardless.

There had been others, and his mind replayed his time with them. Some he still thought of, but felt that their time together had come and gone. Some he knew he would never see again, but there was one he hoped he might. She had been special to him, and he had wanted more with her but things didn't turn out that way. There were times his mind roamed over what they'd had together and it left him empty inside, wondering if he had imagined her feelings for him. But nowhere in that thought process did Geralt believe his solitude would end. At best he might have a companion for a time.

He mentally tapped on those old wounds and found them scarred over. The sharp pain had gone from them, the dull ache that had been a constant companion now also was a distant memory. He wondered if it were possible for him to feel anything deeper for anyone anymore. If he needed sexual gratification, it was easily to be found. The more coin one was willing to cough up, the more noble and elegant the service. He wrinkled up his nose in distaste. Another paid lady of the night who would be anything you wanted her to be. In the end it left him emptier and more broken than before.

Where once he had reveled in a lifestyle of such indulgences, complete with the unending flow of liquor, he now shunned those places, preferring his own company to that of any paid companions.

Geralt washed himself slowly, then arose and reached for a towel. Drying himself off he looked at his reflection in the mirror. A week's worth of beard had appeared but he didn't care to shave it off. He was too tired to mind his appearance. What did it matter anyway? Who was there to look at him?

Perhaps after a long sleep he would be ready to face the world again.

But he doubted it.

 


Geralt felt the sun on his face from the window and rolled over. Morning had come too soon it seemed. It felt as though he had just lain down. He rolled over and planned to return to that blissful unconsciousness when a sharp rapping came at the door. At first he ignored it, thinking that it was across the hall, or anywhere else. No one knew him. No one would visit him.

"Hello! M'lord! Are you alright in there!?"

The rapping invaded his tired mind over and over, the insistent voice shrill.

"What is it?" he shouted out.

"Milord! I've grown concerned. 'aven't seen you in some time!"

With a groan he sat up, reached for his shorts and ambled to the door. Flinging it open in irritation he saw the woman from the bar whom he had paid for the room.

"Stop that racket!" he almost yelled.

She looked at him, taken aback by the aggressive stance and tone. He had come in wearing two swords, amber cat's eyes alert, and was not a man to be trifled with. She stepped back.

"Forgive me m'lord but it 'as been 2 days since you arrived. I was afeared ye might 'ave come to 'arm!"

Geralt blinked and raised his eyebrows for a moment. "2 days. I have been asleep for 2 days?"

Realizing that he had no notion of what was going on, and was not about to become violent, she stepped forward again. "Aye. Ye paid me for a night and 'aven't been out and about since. Will ye be stayin' on then, now that I see ye be still breathin'!"

Geralt turned around to the table on which he had lain his coin pouch. Retrieving several coins he paid her for the past night and for the next several. He was generous as he felt sorry for his rather rough behavior towards her. She was a simple soul and meant no harm. She smiled and dipped her head, then scuttled off back downstairs.

He stood there in the doorway for a moment allowing his foggy head to clear, then closed the door. A bowl of fruit lay on the table and he absently dug into it, choosing an apple and a few grapes. Returning to the bed he sat down and began on the apple.

Two days. Two days he had lain in this bed while the world went on around him. Gone were the days of rushing from place to place to find Ciri, or reunite with Yennefer, or out into the wilds to fulfill a contract.

For a brief moment he missed those days. It had seemed simpler than. Simpler yet filled with purpose.

What was his purpose now? Making coin? To what end? To buy a cottage or a manor somewhere, fill it with servants, and wait for his time to come? He was only 105 years old. That time might be long way off.

He threw the finished core across the room into the waste barrel.

He could always return to Ciri and see if there was something he could do for her. But the notion of life at court, wearing uncomfortable, binding clothing and making small talk with small minds did not appeal to him.

Maybe some old friends could be found with work to be had. But where to start? Cerys or Hjalmar in Skellige? Zoltan in Novigrad?

Geralt realized that his whirlwind life had suddenly come to a grinding halt.

He was lonely.