Closed Thread 200 orens

A Silver Sword

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"Please!" The cry was not sharp at all. In fact, the plea was something half moaned to keep the desperation of it within throats that had uttered it. It could have easily been lost in the din of the Market place, which even in winter was as much of a riot of hawkers, colors, voices as he imagined it would be in summer. He straightened his backbone from its slouch along the support pole of stall dedicated to selling hot cider. Snowy white head tipped casual toward the sound of plea, heightened senses picking it and the owner of it out in the blur of the crowd.

A woman in simple, thick forest green cloak had home spun gloves hands fisted in the depth of winter brown skirt. The hood was held in place by plain brass pins he could see flash in the light with her motion to lean forward and plea for help. She tried to entreaty several men wearing coat of arms identifying them as part of the watch. He wasn't yet sure which part of the watch was what, which ones were privately owned and which ones were hired just to look pretty when bad things happened, but he was sure by their expressions these men weren't going to help.

The woman pushed tendrils of cinnamon curly hair back into the hood and tried to follow them as they moved off as a group.

"Please!" She tried again, scuttling behind them in a bid for their attention.

He pushed off the stalls support and started forward.

"Please! We don't know what else to do M'lords, my father is too old for fighting and I've children to think on! Half our livestock's been eaten and if this continues we'll not make it the winter! Please, will you no send a man or two to kill it?" Imploring, she spread gloved hand to catch one mans chain coated elbow. A mistake, really, as that man paused long enough to shove her bodily to the dirt and horse shit.

"G'won wit' ye then. We don't 'ave any time for whiny whores. Go find yerself work elsewhere."

Typical, really. They hadn't even heard anything she'd said to them. Sprawled in the muck as it were, milk-pale skin flushed with the effort to neither yell nor tear up as she curled hands into fists. The group of armored men had themselves a laugh while the crowd parted around her and continued on their way. They'd seen this a million times before and hadn't time anymore to care.

By then however, he'd come close enough to her to hear her ragged breathing, the soft cussing thrown in their direction. Some of what she said was even impressive to Geralt. Close enough to smell the wood smoke, the mud, the muck, the lemon rinse she used in wealth of curls for her hair to keep them clean and shining. Close enough to offer the leather clad hand toward her in the line angry blue eyes simmered.

"You all right?" he rasped, breaking the spell of her thought and staring down at cornflower blue eyes. They blinked up at him once and began to fill with tears, even as the little chin in round, healthy face tipped up proudly and she grabbed hold of his hand to pull herself up.

"Right as I can be, I suppose, bruised pride be not anything to worry none on," she muttered as she stood. She let go of Geralt's hand quickly and dipped her head to sniff angrily and pat down skirts. She was clean and well fed, wide hipped and round in places that he could not help but notice. He--

"Thankee rightly then for the hand up. I can't stay long; I must get home before sunset."

"What is it?" He asked sharply as she meant to turn. Her skirt was stained now but he did not point it out. She stopped in mid step and turned back, a single spiral curl of cinnamon bouncing along her cheek.

"What is what, sir?" Her brows arising slightly, Geralt lowered his chin to level a look at her.

"What is it that's eating your livestock?" Finally asked of her through gravel and steel rasp. When he asked, her eyes filled once again and she cursed softly, dashing the wrist of her glove across eyes to dry them quickly.

"'T'is not alive, that's for sure," she hoarsely began. "Sickly pale, almost green, I caught sight o' it one night when I didn't almost move fast enough. Its eyes glowed pale red likes an' if it were human once there be not a lick of it left in it. Its toe nails looked more like claws, fingernails too, nose rotted right off...And the smell.." Her entire face wrinkled up a moment as with a rustle of skirts she was wrapping gloved hands around his arm and looking up.

"Oh please, sir, can you help us? Please!" He had been so engrossed with how accurate a description she gave of some sort of ghoul, wondering which type it was, that he had not noted her step forward, let alone...Brass eyes tipped down, thoughtful.

"Mhm," was all that he said at the moment. He watched the lightly freckled features come alive in joy. Then, "For two hundred orens, I will."

That expression upon her face froze. "Two hundred orens? What...be that?" Possibly hoping or praying.

"Gold," supplied helpfully. She dropped his arm right quick.

"We don't have two hundred gold, sir. That kind o' money be for folk far better off than us."

Geralt shrugged his shoulders. "Suit yourself." Half turning on leather boot. He took his time about it however, because--

"Wait!"

Geralt smiled, a tight lipped expression that faded as he turned head over shoulder.

"We've...We've some heirlooms y'can sell or keep, and 80 gold saved for winter, some livestock still left alive," as she said it, he entertained thoughts of a horse instead of footwork everywhere. "if you can be rid of us whatever it is, y'can have the heirlooms and your pick of the left over livestock," reluctantly offered.

"All right," was all he said, and he tipped his head slightly as she went on to give him an address as to where to go to by night fall. Finally, something he knew how to do. Something to feed his belly and perhaps, give him something to do other than think of paper whites, little fingers, wide eyes-- idle things.

There was a glint in brass yellow eyes, a spark, which the woman with cornflower eyes mistook for something else as she spoke to him of all the troubles they'd had this winter.
 

A Silver Sword

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The mule, he later learned, as Ellwyn rode it side saddle and he lead it down dirt road, was named Daisy. He learned many things during the trip whether he truly asked for it or not. Swaying slightly with Daisy's meandering gait, Ellwyn, as she had so informed him earlier when he was more than eager to put hands round her waist and help her up— had not stopped talking since the trip started.

Geralt set his jaw and stared forlornly forward down road, muddied by sudden warmth and thawed ice. The mule was not to be guided; he'd tried that earlier much to the amusement of Ellwyn and the staunch digging in of hooves by Daisy. It turned out, however, he did not need to steer the mule away from deep carriage furrows in the road and all was relatively peaceful if noisy, thanks to Ellywn's completely nonstop commentary. She spoke on anything and everything with little shame, from men, her fathers stubbornness, and the extremely horrid price hike in winter vegetables in addition to how she really hadn't planned on being a single mother you know, just how things turned out there, where people came and went as changeable as the seasons.

"He really wasn't a bad man, mind you, this Alrric," Ellwyn nattered on as the carriage marks in the road soon gave way to old hoof prints, marking the change from well traveled road to barely used. Further and further away from the sounds, smells of the city proper and into the unknown of pine surrounded wintering forest. "He paid his dues to the child when he could an' visited me often, bringing me a bit of food, coin an' story of his travels when he could.

"Then one day, he up and stopped coming round. Nary a word from the watch or his friends, not a thing." Ellwyn sighed. Daisy snorted.

Geralt agreed, silently, with Daisy.

"Poor boy, he thinks his Da went the way of craven when it came to him and no doubt ran off with some other lass." Geralt, of course, though he may have wanted too, did not ask her if that was truly the boys theory or hers. "He's a good boy, though."

"Mhm," rasped quietly as he swept eyes from road and aside to Ellwyn. The mule plodded on behind Geralt, connected to the Witcher via rope from harness to pale, scarred hand. He almost regretted his decision, almost. Ellwyn was not harsh at all to look upon, a right handsome woman with enough curves to her to make a man forget about things. Like the fact that she would not shut up.

"I told him after," she crisply said, down and aside. Geralt snapped his eyes up, "— that it was no fault of his own. Next year he'd grow big and strong and be able to kick that bully Mared right back, I did." Geralt had somehow lost track of the subject. It'd jumped from here to there while he was staring.

"Mhm," he answered again. She didn't seem to mind his monosyllable replies because she smiled, a pretty little thing that pushed the freckled apples of her cheeks up and—

"Oh-ho! There we are, look then. There's the house!" Ellwyn pointed a milk pale finger in the distance. Sun set quickly approached as the sky flooded with bloody red as well as orange ribbons of cloud and color. In the distance nestled on small hill to the left of them was a faded gray wood cottage merrily puffing smoke from its chimney into the cold air, he studied this as Ellwyn chattered excitedly about stew and getting him a bowl of it.

At the back of his neck, small hairs which curled along nape arose. The closer he stepped down the road the more the sense of foreboding— one that had kept him alive in many a situation— began to grow.

Along the road the shadows grew long and greedy, eating up the last fading rays of light.
 

A Silver Sword

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The cabin did not appear terribly impressive to Geralt, a man whom had crawled sprawling cities underbellies and made pacts with Kings. It had weathered many years, turning fresh wood to aged gray and like old men tend to do, began to lean to the left. It?s chimney continued to lazily billow charcoal gray smoke in thin, strangling tendrils from soot blackened top. There were foot prints here and there through the snow which he idly tracked as Ellywn slid herself from the back of Daisy and led her to a barn which leaned in the opposite direction of the house.

For the sparse moments of silence when she was gone, Geralt took the toe of his boot and cleared away snow. Kneeling down, old yellow grass was cleared away as well as frozen ground with a few swipes of trophy hook. It did not take him long or very far to dig to find the end of a rusted arrow head, a single piece of chain from armor. He cleared away a second place to find more of the same. This confirmed several things; the smell of old things, the echoes of others which had prickled the hair along back of neck. This place had one time or another been a battle field of some sort, the earth pushing its blooded secrets upward. If that were the case? Ellwyn may be dealing with an Alghoul, he thought while arising from crouch to roll his head side to side and think.

There were other things not quite right yet, scents that did not mix. He could smell the frozen rot of dead things far more recent. Brass eyes scanning the horizon in fading light found after second sweep the poke of a hoof, stripped of all flesh. The bone white against snow could have been easily missed if it had not been for the single scrap of cow flesh dangling in the wind.

Ellwyn had returned from the stables with hands crossed, coming to stand near and peer up at the Witcher who, to her, gazed off into nothing. Geralt took no note other than to place her as a murder of crows took flight away from the tree line instead of roosting, a winter wolf howled far off, and—

"Did y'want to come in for something to eat?" Ellwyn's voice bordered on exasperation, she must have had to ask the question several times before Gertalt's attention and eyes rolled down her way.

"No," one word was all he needed. A second study of her features however— "Thank you." His addition seemed to ease a bit of the crumpling along her heart shaped mouth. Which he looked away from and toward the sky as it darkened.

"You should go inside now. Do not come out until morning." His tone left little room for argument, though some may say that was always how he spoke.

"But—"

"Go." The single word was harsh and commanding. His rasp was akin to sword rattling out of scabbard.

To give her credit, Ellwyn did not eep, only scuttle with skirts in hand to the cabin.

Geralt eyed the first twinkling stars and scattered heightened senses. He could not shake the feeling that he was missing something. That something was not right.
 

A Silver Sword

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In winter, Geralt believed somehow that the night sky became sharper with the edge of cold. Above slight swaying pines velveteen midnight blue splashed with silver dots of stars winked cool down to him, uncaring as ever, separated from the worries and cares below. In the distance he heard Ellwyn's plates clatter to a table even from where he stood, he could hear hare scuttle away from area and he could even smell the change in the air as night fell. Death oozed strong from the line of trees like oiled snakes slipping through grass. A man can't forget that smell once he knows it; it follows him everywhere reminding him of what happens when he lets his guard down.

Quietly, Geralt turned and studied the landscape before him. Several misshapen figures under the snow revealed to him that Ellywn had not lied. Remains of horses, cows, sheep and perhaps a few goats were buried under the snow. Each carcass licked clean of any meat what so ever and the bones gnawed with marrow sucked out.

He turned and made his way further from the cabin in hopes of keeping the violence away from it. He may very well be freak of nature but he felt no need to mar the minds of children any further than they already might have been living where they were. He heard Ellwyn call two names, Dru and Duggar for supper, her merry contralto wove through the cabin to carry even here.

The further he drew away from the cabin toward the dark, stoic line of pine trees the stronger the stench of decay grew. Perhaps this was his feeling of foreboding earlier? Maybe it was only the presence of undead attributed to the uneasiness? But surely, a handful of ghouls or alghouls would not have cause for such reaction; he'd taken care of them before, many, many times before. These weren't anything truly to have instincts react to in such a way? Were they?

The toe of his boot caught on something buried under the snow. He knew he did not have much time now, if the ghouls were feasting on livestock instead of human flesh they would be starved, no doubt half mad with hunger and here he was standing in the middle of the snow like lost lamb. He knelt down a split second to take the broad of his palm and wipe away snow. Broken, cracked as well as forgotten beneath white and time was a sundered headstone from a grave. The single name engraved upon it made Geralt, literally, double take. A few seconds later he was clearing the snow around him to reveal two smaller stones, each worn and almost faded name clicked together in his mind like links in a chain.

So that's...?

No time to wonder it now. As he glanced upward, three sets of mindless, glowing red orbs flared to life within the choking dark of the wood. Three of them are far more than one of them, she lied to me.

Geralt arose quickly and scoured the air with his fingertips, drawing a series of complicated sigils. As he drew the sign of Quen, calling the earth to form barrier around the Witcher, the earth responded here near instantly. This surprised him momentarily, given how unstable his signs had apparently become here in a realm infused with confusing magics. He did not dwell long upon this thought however, as the shield formed. It was the color of amber mixed with dust and pebble, a pale bubble around and about Geralt that fed on his energies. It would last long enough and remain safe enough for him to quaff quick one of the potions on his belt then give him time to ready himself as well as his sword.

Inside the cabin, distant, Ellwyns melodic voice called a second time for her boys to come for their supper.

Geralt realized that it may be a longer night than he expected.
 

A Silver Sword

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There wasn't anyone around him to see the way he grinned in the faint glow of Quen summoned shield. The snarling wolf pendant shook in warning that he did not need to pay heed to. After all, he could see danger coming at a rather speedy rate. The ghouls broke from the line of trees and were now running their surprisingly rapid, shambling knuckles-to-ground run toward him. Geralt didn't rightly care there were no witness about to take note of unlikely expression, as he watched the pair of ghouls rushing toward fresh meat. The larger of the two more rapidly broke from them and came out in the lead.

There's no way that he could forget that smell the three of them carried, he inhaled it as it grew stronger with every ground tearing stride the ghouls took. While the cat's eye potion worked its poisoned magic through stomach and veins he familiarized himself with it once again. It was the dust of ancient crypts, dry tinder of rotten bones, maggot ridden flesh and the unmistakable odd sweetness rotting dead meat carried that made a man's gut want to twist and wretch. It was the stench he associated with what he did best and it felt fucking good to smell it. Not as good, mind you, as other things he'd like to fill his mouth and nose with, but such things were not the time to be thinking about it.

Ghouls were bottom feeders, a step up from zombies with limited intelligence and little humanity left. They stood upright on their feet, they were reasonably man shaped, but this is where the similarities ended. Their faces were twisted in permanent hunger for the taste of flesh, dead or alive, their skin an ashen gray. Ghouls had no noses, but large heads primarily for the enlarged jaws that hung slightly open to drip drool and show sharp meat tearing teeth. They wore no clothing and had no gender specific features; their toenails and claws were razor sharp claws best suited for shredding the victims they would then leave to rot and eat later. He noted with absent regard these ghouls were exactly as he remembered from home.

The Alghoul was at least a head and shoulders taller than the ghouls that trailed either side of him, moaning and snarling for their meal. Hulking width in comparison to his two shorter friends, the only way to tell it was an Alghoul other than size was the greener tint to skin, not gray at all. Alghouls were far more vicious than their smaller, less well fed buddies; they preferred to kill and eat their victims on the spot, or even labor over how to prepare them and tended to hang 'round the remnants of battle fields. This would explain the presence of this particular one currently snarling as well as ineffectively swiping claws at his Quen shield, but it did not explain everything.

Geralt tossed silver plated sword from one leather clad hand to the other. He was aware of many things all at once— Ellwyn had stopped calling for her sons, the smell of rot was overwhelming as the three ghouls tore at the edges of his shield. He knew that he could not maintain it much longer and that he hadn't any idea how the ghouls had found enough to eat out here.

The livestock wouldn't have sustained them long. They'd have no reason for them to stay. They'd of shambled off to follow the scent of graveyard or distant town. No, they shouldn't even been here anymore unless?

Unless.

Unless someone was purposefully feeding them.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Geralt rasped to himself. The Alghoul snort-snarled and dripped more drool at the edges of earthen guard toward him. The witcher tossed his head.

"Yeah, me too," dryly returned. It was at that moment he jerked a hand not wrapped around hilt of silver sword to form the sign of Igni. In a moment, Geralt's Quen shield dropped, the ghouls blurred with starved speed toward Geralt.

But, Geralt unleashed a devastating wave of fire that rolled forth from the witcher like burning tsunami, circling around the Witcher in cleansing flame and carrying outward, catching the monstrous flesh eaters in mid leap.

Their howls to the clear night sky made the witcher's grin grow.
 

A Silver Sword

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Even as the blast of fire fanning outward in ember ridden circle carried all three undead backwards to sprawl into the dirt, he could not help but remember a time when these monsters were not so easy. He had so many memories to work through, some cloudy, some not?

No time for reflections now, though. He had an inkling there was more to worry about than just the ghouls strewn several feet back, dazed and on fire like ancient old tinder. At this point in time however, he needs must concentrate on this portion of tonight?s entertainment, worry about that tickling thing at the back of his head later.

The smell of rotting flesh was unpleasant but now that it was set it on fire and it made Geralt shake his head once like dog that accidentally found the pepper. Silver sword in hand the Witcher half crouched himself and ate up the ground with his own mutagen inspired speed. Toward prone ghouls he hurried though his direction specific. The Alghoul, he decided needed to be taken care of first. The largest, most vicious as well as being the most powerful, life would be easier pickings to be rid of that first and concentrate on its less impressive friends.

Geralt placed one foot on the still stunned, now on fire in some places, Alghoul. While it was busy attempting with its limited intelligence in trying to understand how it got here, after going after its meal over there, Geralt twisted his sword until it was point down. With its slim end saluting the ground it was driven through the creature's neck. It slid through greenish cast skin as hot knives in butter, only hitching when it sheathed slightly in the dirt behind the Alghoul's neck. Beneath his foot, the Alghoul's body jerked, the creature gurgled then flailed at the sword in its throat, slicing its own fingers and hands batting ineffectively at the weapon protruding from between collar bones.

The Witcher took no time to watch the creature struggle, the hilt of the sword was twisted first, then pushed right and left, separating its head from neck and leaving nothing but sliver of bone connecting. Geralt finished the job by stepping off the Alghouls chest then taking his other booted foot to the head. The shove with his heel severed the remainder with a sickening, yet satisfying snap. The head rolled, perpetually clueless and surprised several feet with now fading red eyes staring blank to the sky.

In the nick of time really, as his friends, also caught on fire but entirely whole, began to scramble upward. So far, so good. Easy witcher's work as far as he was concerned.

Geralt tipped blackened bloodied silver sword their way and turned to keep them before him. His smile tight lipped and slow, returned.
 

A Silver Sword

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He toyed with the two remaining ghouls for as long as he fancied. While chopping wood as well as sword play out back behind the inn was all very good for exercise, it certainly wasn't at all like having a real opponent, skilled or not. And so the Witcher toyed with both ghouls, allowing them to reel themselves in close enough to scrape the skin and draw blood from his forearm; this frenzied them, quickening their motions and making them claw at him faster, though clumsier than before.

Had he been still human, the cuts would have festered within hours due to the rot ghouls carried, for Geralt however, disease and sickness immunity were part and parcel with the gifts bestowed to him when he underwent the trial of Grasses to become a Witcher. The other prices for his gifts were something he did not think important enough to dwell on.

For an hour or two, perhaps even three while the stars glimmered brighter to life and the odd Rhydin moon began to climb in full pregnant waddle across sky, they clawed, he dodged, they bit and he lunged at them with silver sword just to hear them squeal as pups with stepped on tail would. The snow beneath his feet and their claws became torn up and splotched with their diseased, blackened blood in addition to the Witchers boots. He could feel the sweat trickle between shoulder blades that began to ache with the weight of the sword, and as the moon finally took her height in the sky Geralt of Rivia decided he had enough of play.

As he'd done earlier, a quick twist of his tiring fingers in leather gloved formed the sign of Igni. The ghouls had long stopped burning from his first cast of it and now they ignited again, sent sprawling back into the dirt several feet away. Geralt, finished with this evening's work out, made quick work of both. Two heads rolled in the white slush of snow, near the body of the Alghoul, twitching and writing until nerves finished firing.

The Witcher swung his sword and brought it down with a sharp snap, flinging corrupted undead blood from the blade of it. It'd do for now, until he could return to his inn room and cleanse it?

"No!" The wail of mourning behind him set his teeth on edge, his hair arising and had him whirling about with sword up.

Ellwyn? No..this was not Ellwyn, this pale creature with cinnamon curls that floated bare foot from a cottage that was dark, dead, broken down and had not been lived in for centuries. This was a glamour that had come undone.

"No, my sons! What have you done! What have you done!?" Wrapped in red silks, the woman that had been Ellwyn fell beside the bodies of ghouls and cradled one headless corpse. The dress she wore covered little, left much and was moth eaten. It smelled like years of rot, like her children.

Geralt— Well this is awkward— reached up absently to tap the still pendant of vibrating wolf. She wasn't a monster? Then what was she...

"Witch." Geralt sneered.

She was beautiful still, even though her cheeks were now gaunt and her frame was no longer illusionary. Her eyes, however, burned with madness and hatred. They were a pale, dull mirror of the cornflower blue of hours before. "Murderer! How dare you! My children! My husband! Alrric! Dru! Duggar!" Ellwyn-not-Ellwyn sobbed.

Geralt turned his head and spit, then considered the line of leg shown in red silk, pale and soft.

"Soooo, about later. I thought maybe you and I, we could grab a drink?" Ellwyn-not-Ellwyn's shriek as she rose up with twisted face and utterly insane eyes made him wince. Geralt sheathed his silver plated sword and removed his steel, saluting the witch who began chanting.

"Guess not." he rasped, then chortled to himself like hyenas over limping meal.
 

A Silver Sword

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Sir Henry Jonathon Wolfsbane the third was a man trapped by his past. This wasn't meant in some romantic sense, but in the very real state of things. A bird like shrewd little man settled inside a full outfit of plate mail, the family's crest painted across the impressive breast plate was chipped, battle worn and pitted. He looked positively trapped within it, his thin neck above the chest piece stuck out like twigs in a leaf pile. Yet, he wore it every day to work and settled himself clanking in a chair behind an old rosewood desk.

The years had shrunk him down within a suit of armor he once filled; he used to be an impressive man. He surveyed his desk and the piles of parchment, papers, notes, like a lord would survey carefully orchestrated maneuvers in a battle field. For the past ten years, Sir Henry, since granted this position within the Watch by his higher ups, had donned himself in the family's armor and set himself behind the monumental task of processing the Watch's paper work.

It was an entirely fruitless task, in essence.

It filled his money pouch with barely enough money to keep himself, his wife and their home running, their three children when they had been young in clothes and, now, in their retirement, it had eked enough for their daughter's dowry and nothing more. Yet every morning Sir Henry would grimly arise well before dawn to spend the hours needed to buckle his failing body into the remnants of a past he felt had long died here. He spent countless more hours processing paper work the best he could; death reports, tallies, taxes unpaid, crimes unsolved, bounties paid. He had a system by now that meant he could process faster than the new hires, some who wore odd clothing made out of thick denim and shouted things such as, righteous, and, awesome.

His door today, as it has been the entirety of his life working here was shut. Though this door is actually the three hundredth and eleventh door to grace the frame, as some enjoyed kicking them open as opposed to using the handle. There were several scars along the frame work from when it had exploded multiple times due to the enthusiastic young mages and he had not bothered to repair some of the scratches on the white washed walls behind him. The room was old but devoid of anything that was not in some manner or way, business. Much like Sir Henry had become.

He did not even look up in mid shuffle of yet another missing persons report, when the door was booted inward, followed by the rattle of swords out of scabbards and the clank of his fellow Watchmen rushing toward the raucous. Sir Henry had seen it and heard this so many times he did not even raise his head.

"I am afraid you have the wrong department," he supplied without looking up. A hand gestured absently to the right. "Claims, missing persons and such are down the hall over there."

Whomever it was looming over his desk tossed something on top of the paper piles Sir Henry was working on. The man's brows drew sharply, he could hear several of the younger Watchmen trainees collectively inhale. Sir Henry may not be what he once was, he may not be able to handle his sword play as he once did...but there was nothing wrong with the sharpness of his tongue. There were legends about grown men coming out of his office in tears.

Henry sucked in a breath to perhaps start in on a tirade, when the mingling scent of turned blood and perfume had him look at the mussed papers on his desk. There were droplets of coagulated blood, the consistency of jelly splattered all over his ever so neat paper work. It dribbled from a very unhappy looking severed head that had been plunked down on his desk proudly as children show brand new toys. Pretty face, something distantly familiar about it tickling his memory. The blue eyes had long faded to dead-white, its expression in death is not pleasant or surprised, mouth open and blue tongue rolled out as if she'd been caught in mid scream. The cinnamon curls were what drew his eye most. And then, of course, he looked up.

"I'm here for the reward," a white haired man, the cause of the shadow towering across Henry's desk. He was of average height, Sir Henry surmised sharply. Neither above six foot nor below it, making him fit in here easily. His eyes were a strange mix of something not human, he would have said cat but as the seconds ticked by that was not it despite the pupils which slashed across reflective brass like felines. They seemed otherworldly, to put it the best he could, and the white hair did not match the stubble growing across harsh jaw line.

"The reward?" A hand gestured to the head on his desk this time, then Sir Henry set down his quill, folded hands together and put them under his chin. "All I see is a man bringing me the head of a possibly poor, defenseless woman. I surmise you'd do better tossed in a jail cell... Why should I reward you for murder?"

The man curled his lips back and emitted a sound that was a terribly convincing snarl. Wolf like, almost. When he reached into his pocket, several of the Watchmen crowding the door all rushed to pull their swords in rattle from scabbard, several tried to push through the door at once, getting caught and making a ruckus.

"For the love of Gods!" Sir Henry's brown eyes snapped toward the door, "Get out of my office, all of you. I am not yet so feeble that I cannot know when I should have need of you. Out. Out!"

They shuffled out one by one and shut the door, hanging heads. Gods above, he thought, when will they stop sending me pups to train? Sir Henry pretended he could not hear them leaning against the door to eavesdrop and returned attentions to the white haired man. "As I was saying?"

The white haired fellow pulled hand from pocket and tossed a ring beside the severed head. It tinged momentarily, as Sir Henry unfolded a hand that had long ago lost its sword calloused to pick it up. A red ruby in the shape of a tear, the inscription, 'For my Scarlet, love, Alrric,' was engraved inside the band.

"I believe there was a reward posted for the Scarlet witch. The one luring people to their deaths." The snowy headed male put a hand on the desk, below his palm was a signed and officially sealed copy of the contract for bounty.

"Indeed," Sir Henry drawled. His eyes fell on the woman and then a parchment tucked beneath the bloody meat and bone of stumped neck. Long fingers twitched the blackened smeared paper out from under it and Henry picked up his set aside quill, dipped it in ink pot, scratched his name beneath it and reached for his seal and wax. "Your presentation is lacking, however. Take this slip to the front desk and they shall give you your two hundred gold."

The man reached for the paper, which Sir Henry twitched back toward him slightly, just out of the mans grasp. "Before you take this, entertain an old man, won't you." It was not a question, but a command.

The white haired man grunted. Sir Henry continued. "How did you know she was the Scarlet witch? There are several thousand Scarlets running about here and there. Narrowing it down would have taken months."

Geralt tipped his head aside, studying the room. "I didn't," he began, "Not at first. Some people are well versed in hiding the monster within them. It wasn't until I awaited the ghouls at night and accidentally stumbled across the gravestones. The names chiseled within them were the names of her sons and apparent lover she mentioned before hand, as if they were alive.

"After I killed them, she appeared in crimson with ruby ring, matching the description." He was not a man made for speeches; he delivered that matter of fact then reached over and tore the paper out of Sir Henry's grasp. Sir Henry narrowed his eyes on him.

"You have to sign the paper, as well,"he told the white haired man. He didn't, actually. But Henry was a shrewd man despite the dust age might have settled on his appearance. The white haired man grunted, pulled the ink well toward him and shoved the wrinkled paper on the desk. Smoothing it out awkwardly, he scratched the single initials, G of R, and shoved the quill like one would sheath a sword in a gut back into the well.


"I'm done here," the man rasped with little care, turning about to the door. Sir Henry waved a hand as if he could see it. Half way to the door however, the man with odd cat eyes stopped and half turned, dark brows arising. "Do you want a mule?"

Sir Henry blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

The white haired man set his jaw. "A mule. It's been following me since last night. Do you want it?"

The old knight behind the desk snorted a laugh before smothering it with a sharp clearing of his throat. "No, I have enough of those in my employ as it is."

The white haired man slumped, slightly and exhaled sharply, throwing open the door and scattering Watchmen to and fro in his long legged stride out.

Sir Henry watched him go for as long as his old eyes could follow him down the hall and until he disappeared. He couldn't remember the last time someone had actually followed through with a bounty. He had the feeling he would see this man again, Sir Henry did not think it was as bad as...he pulled a face at the severed head still on his desk, turned and bellowed for one of the trainees.

___________________________________________

Geralt descended the stairs from the local Watchmen's building, eye balling the mule that stood on the cobblestone in the way of everyone coming and going from the building. Daisy was chewing lazily on the weeds poking through the rocks below her hooves as if she were in the midst of some field in summer.

When his foot touched the last step, Daisy's ears pricked up and forward followed by her head. Passer-bys that day would recount the tale of man and mule, both staring down one another like pig headed fools might.

In the end Geralt reached up to rub his palm over his brow then let his hand drop.

"Whatever," he told the mule, turning on leather booted heel and marching down the road. Daisy snorted, turned herself about and followed at an easy gait behind the Witcher.
 
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