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The Witcher: Child Of Surprise

By Randy Toll

Copyright 2017

More on the way soon.

The blue light ended and she appeared ten feet above the ground. Screw teleporting, this is gonna hurt. Gravity took over and she hit the snow covered ground with a thud. She was bleeding from multiple places. Dammit, where am I? I need sleep. Sleep, sleep, sleep. She thought.

‘No no don’t sleep’. She said to herself. The young woman tried to get up but felt a sharp pain in the front of her left leg. She immediately sat back down.

‘Where am I hurt?’ She asked. The ashen haired woman looked at her leg and saw the large wound. Ciri had seen lots of nasty things in her lifetime. So much gore, blood, and guts but at the sight of her leg she damn near vomited. Inside the large curved gash she could see her leg bone. The sight sent a chill up the entire length of her long back. Blood was pouring out of the wound and she knew she had to act fast or she was going to be unconscious within seconds. All around her the wind howled fiercely kicking up snow and making it almost impossible to see. She tried to get up but the weight of her silver sword and the bite of the wind set her back down. She was sweaty, tired, and most important of all she gave up hope. Ciri closed her eyes and thought about her options. Her gloved hands were getting cold and starting to hurt. So this is how it ends. I’m going to escape the Wild Hunt only to succumb to a simple leg injury. She sighed and looked around. A slow dark curtain was falling around her. She could hear voices not of a beast but of a girl. A small ashen haired girl with green eyes. You’re imagining things wake up Ciri wake up. I am not going quietly into the night. The curtain closed.

He was out running today. The dirt path he usually followed, ran around the surrounding land. It worked its way over hills, steep slopes, and back around to the other side of the lake to form a complete circle. It was freezing cold and the snow was falling harder and harder. He blocked it all out and concentrated on his breathing. Up ahead were the rolling hills of the place he called home. He had only lived here for around three months and though this was hard living, it made him feel good as he spent a large amount of time in Skellige as a kid, and this place was almost a carbon copy. He was approaching the halfway point in his run and decided he would take a short rest before returning to the hunting lodge. Ydnar rounded the bend by the large round frozen lake; which was the halfway point, and paused. Wraith Lake. Named for its resemblance to the spectre that struck fear into the hearts of many peasants and kings alike. But not him, not here, not now. How long has it been now? Five, six, years since I’ve seen my parents? I can’t remember any more. When summer hits I’m going to… Something broke him off of his thought.

“What is that there?” He asked. He decided to get a closer look at the object in question. Ydnar approached the unknown brown object. It was just sticking out of the deep snow. Ydnar knelt down and felt the brown article of clothing. He tried to pick it up and realized it was attached to something. He realized the thing it was attached to was a person. Ydnar uncovered the snow and little by little the whole body was uncovered. It was a young ashen haired woman. Her eyes were closed and she looked like she had a large gash in her knee. His hands hurt since he didn’t bring gloves. Ydnar’s heart dropped into his stomach and he froze up. The strong man stood up and looked for the monster that may’ve caused it. He didn’t want to be its second victim. Ydnar was a bounty hunter and saw many dead men and woman, but never a young woman like this. She looked to him like she suffered terribly before she went unconscious. Without even thinking he grabbed her under the legs and just below the head. You idiot what are you going to do? Carry her back to your house? Yes. For a mile? Yes. He pondered. She even though tall, wasn’t heavy and as such he began to run as fast as he could to get her to shelter. He found the path which now looked more like a smaller pile of snow and followed it through the forest of tall pine trees and eventually arrived at the front of the house. He opened up the brown door and walked inside with the young ashen haired women cradled in his arms. He laid her down on his bed and took off his black and red jacket. He saw the sword on her back, in it’s crimson red hilt with brass edges, Ydnar carefully took it off of her and set it to the side. His military training kicked in. He took off her brown knee high boots, then her dark green pants, and saw the wound. She was cut deep down to the bone.

“Lots of blood loss.” He declared. He put his cold right hand on her frozen long neck and didn’t feel a pulse.

“Nothing ...Shit.” He took off her beige long sleeve shirt. He immediately performed cpr trying desperately to get a sign of life. He opened her mouth as he had been taught and gave the breath of life. Her lips were cold but smooth. He listened for anything. He repeated the cycle. I will not accept defeat. By the Gods it’s not going to happen. The ashen haired woman moaned.

“Are you ok?” That’s a dumb question. He thought. Of course she isn’t ok.

She gritted her teeth and said through the head splitting pain, ‘It …...hurts…... I can’t--

“Your leg?” He asked.

‘Yes. I can’t open my eyes. I…... can’t see……. anything. Ohhhh……. it hurts.’ She explained as she released another ear splitting moan. He messed around with the wound a bit trying to get a good look at what exactly he was dealing with. She felt herself shiver. She could tell that she was lying on a bed as the warmth from the covers felt good on her back.

“Relax for me. You’re going to be fine. You're in good hands.”

She breathed deeply in and out to try to get herself to focus on something else. ‘How …….bad……. is it?’ She asked gripping the bed sheets to numb the pain she was feeling.

“Don’t worry about the wound. I’ll take care of it. Just relax as best as you can. You’re doing great just stay with me.”

He took off his green shirt and stuck it firmly on the large crescent shaped cut. It was bleeding heavily. Good that means the flow is back and she can start to warm up a bit.

She started breathing heavily.

“Do you know where you are?”. He asked.

‘I can’t………. remember………... Somewhere………….. cold’.

“That's one attribute of the area”. He remarked as he began to wrap the wound. Idiot I need to sew her leg back up not wrap it in something. He thought. Ydnar looked into her closed eyes and said, “Ok I’ll be right back I promise.”

She immediately responded with, ‘Please be quick it really hurts.’

He raced out of the room and into the small granite countertop kitchen. He quickly opened the white wooden cabinet stacked with various colors of bottles. Ydnar found the white colored bottle with a red label that said sleep. Ydnar made his own meds as many of the meds in the cabinet were actually considered illegal.

“This ought to do the trick.” Ydnar grabbed the bottle and closed the cabinet. His right hand turned a bright blue, a tingle went down his spine, and suddenly he had a glass of water in his hand.

He quickly walked back into the room. She was still there breathing heavily unable to open her eyes. She was drenched in sweat which wasn’t helping her to warm up.

“I’m going to give you some meds for this.”


He slipped the red colored meds into her dry mouth followed by water and she quickly fell asleep.

Good now I can sew up that leg. He knew he needed to be fast for the meds were only temporary and would last for no more than a day maybe two at the most. He quickly sewed it up and wrapped it in a soft blue towel. He looked at her closely for any other signs of bleeding. Finding none he hung her beige shirt and green pants on the brown dresser next to the bed. Looks good. Now just have to wait for the pills to wear off. He decided that he would take her to the small shack that he used when he went hunting. There he had many more meds and the ability to keep her warmer as the shack had a fireplace. Ydnar looked in his closet and picked out a blue long sleeve shirt and a green jacket that had bronze buttons running vertically down the length of it. He grabbed a large black towel and wrapped her in it to keep her warm. He put the shirt and jacket on then Ydnar picked her up and balanced her on his right shoulder. He carried her out of the room and using a spell he learned from a friend of his, opened the door to the outside world. Damn it’s cold out here still. Ydnar by this point was used to it as the climate here was very similar to Skellige. He went around the outside of the dark wooden hunting lodge and followed a dirt path that led down to a small pool of water. The hunting lodge was deep into the forest and offered the seclusion he needed to stay away from other people. I’ll just get her fixed up and get her on her way. No point of keeping her around her any longer than I have to. He continued to follow the path for the next three miles.

“Ok”. He said as he carefully set her down so he could open the door to the small wooden shack. The shack sat in a very remote area away from any houses or any prying eyes. His dad used to take him here many times when he was younger and they would go hunting frequently around these parts. He took out the golden key and opened the door. He knelt down and picked the young women up; he walked through the door and shut it with his foot. The inside of the shack was actually large. It had two rooms and a single large bed. The first room is where all the cooking and cleaning supplies were and the second room was where the bed, couch, and fireplace were located at. He decided to carry her to the second room and once there he carefully set her down next to the fireplace to tried to keep her warm. He wrapped the black towel around her and grabbing a large blue pillow he propped her head up. Ydnar looked at the fireplace and ushered a spell to set it alight. The fire roared to life as he looked the young woman over to make sure it was only her leg. He took the black towel off and felt the rest of her body for any burns or cuts. Her skin was very soft and her body was beautiful to look at. Could she be from one of the southern regions of Nilfgaard? One things for sure she isn’t from around here. At this time the sun was just starting to dip below the horizon. Ydnar got up from the wooden floor and went over to lock the door, to get some paper and something to eat. He opened the cabinets up and pulled out some berries. The berries came from the tops of the trees that grew native to this area. Elderberry. His mom used to make some amazing pies from these sweet, blue, round, berries. He returned into the other room with the paper, a pen, and the berries that were in a round tin. He set the things down on the black leather couch and came over to look at the woman again. He felt her ashen grey hair and saw a scar on the right side of her face near her eye. He saw another smaller one on her chest. He got up and went to the small wooden drawers that were in the room. The couch and fireplace were at the very front near the doorway linking the two rooms. Behind the couch sat the brown and green bed and to the right of that there were many cabinets and drawers that housed medical supplies, food, water, and any other essential that could help you while you were out here. He found the bottle of smooth liquid that he was looking for. The liquid was actually made from the bark of the large pine trees in the area. It was supposed to help numb the pain and also speed up healing so he thought he may as well use it to help erase or at least take care of the scars. He came back to her. The only light in the room was from the fireplace and it made her body seem to glow orange. He put his finger into the oily mix and gently rubbed it on her face and chest. He shifted to her lower body and rubbed some on her wound as well. He then set the small bottle aside and walked to where the bed was. Ydnar took off the covers and set them next to the bed. He went back to the young woman and carefully picked her up and set her on the green mattress. There were already pillows on the bed and he adjusted her so her head was on one of the pillows and she was looking at the ceiling. He grabbed the brown covers and put them around her. He took off his shirt and jacket and set them aside. Ydnar sighed and slipped under the covers next to her. She’s only going to be out for a day then she will live right? Yes she will live. Don’t get attached to her. Clearly she isn’t your type; she’s beautiful, met for someone that is of royalty. You’re neither beautiful nor are you of royalty. He got up realising that he had left the pen and paper on the couch. He walked over picked them up along with the red metal tin full of berries and brought them over to the bed where he again climbed beneath the covers. He sighed and cast one spell to turn off the fireplace and then another to turn on the candles that were behind the bed. He started drawing to pass the time a bit. He wasn’t really tired and didn't want to fall asleep too quickly tonight. He wanted to make sure she would be alright. He was used to going many days without sleep; though it was dangerous, he knew his limitations, and he knew them well. He started drawing her face. Her hair and the scar he etched in. He wasn’t really all that good at drawing but at the same time he was just wasting time. He complexion was astonishing. He face was beautiful and looked to be like those he saw when he traveled to Kaedwen or Aedirn. He carefully drew her looking at her as he did so. He started yawning which meant he might want to sleep at this point. He finished the drawing of what he thought was a beautiful young woman . The drawing was ok but he much preferred the real thing. He put the pen and paper on the floor and blew out the candles behind the bed. Ydnar sighed and turned on his side. Behind the bed there was a circular window and the moonlight that came in made her body look that much more exotic. Damn. It would be a shame to let a pretty woman such as this slip through my fingers but…..no, no, no. Not after you vowed to leave that life behind. Before she goes from me I at least want to know her name so I can remember who came to my house. Damn shame I feel like this. What did Nilfgaard do to me? I used to take advantage of moments like this but now, now I sit out in this barren wasteland and freeze my ass off every day trying to hunt for food and make a living for myself because I can’t come to terms with the things I did during the war. Huh, war, that wasn’t war; killing innocent people. If that’s war then i’m the next King Radovid. He sighed and closed his eyes to fall asleep.

The next day was the change in weather he was looking for. He decided before the sun came up to carry her back to the hunting lodge. He needed the exercise and besides he really didn’t want her knowing to much about him anyway. He was embarrassed and ashamed of what he did when he was with the black ones. He was sitting on the bad next to her and eating more of the berries. He watched the bright yellow sun come up over the tops of the trees. The lodge was built on the side of a hill so one side was a steep drop off and the other side is where the land met the house. He started thinking about the events that happened here to try to piece together a story of what happened. How did she get this badly hurt? He wondered. There is nothing for miles around here in Frognier. Something doesn’t add up. Though I promised after my time as a soldier to help anyone and everyone I would like to know who this is. Looks to be around fifteen maybe eighteen at the oldest. She’s skinny and shaped like a princess with slim lines and long legs. He began to record what happened in a small green notebook that he kept in the nightstand beside the bed. Young women ashen haired around fifteen. I found her in the snow near-- scratch that-- at the lake. She had a deep cut on her left leg near the calf muscle. I treated her accordingly and stabilized her condition. He heard her breathe. He got up still shirtless and looked at her. With some difficulty she opened her eyes. Just a sliver at first then all the way. Green eyes. He thought. Green as an emerald dancing in the sun.

“How do you feel?” He asked as he came over and looked at her leg.

‘Tired but my leg doesn’t really hurt anymore’.

“Good to hear. Anything I can do for you young lady?”

‘Yes actually. Help me up I need to be on my way now that i’m better.’

“You’re joking right?” He remarked.

‘No. I am endangering you by being here’. The hunt. They’ll be here in a few days. They’ll kill us both. I’m tired of people dying trying to help me.

“How’d you come to that conclusion?” Ydnar asked looking into her eyes.

‘Are you going to help me up or do I need to do this myself?’

He sighed and shook his head. “Not really sure who you’re trying to impress but it’s not working. Let me look you over a bit then maybe I can let you off today. That gash you got was deep. It went all the way down to the bone”. He put his hand on her chest and felt her heartbeating. She felt him touch her chest and she looked at him. He had crystal blue eyes and a well defined face. His arms looked powerful, his hair was brown, and was cut short, as if he was or used to be a soldier. She blushed just slightly at having him touch her chest.

‘I was trying so hard to impress you too. The fact that you’re not evenly slightly swayed hurts me deeply’. She said teasingly.

Ydnar laughed and shook his head. “Yeah...well…..no women would ever want to anyway. Been that way my whole life and will continue no doubt. Sorry miss I don’t mean to burden you with my life”. Ydnar said as he removed his hand from her chest and then sat down next to her carefully removing the towel from her lower body.

‘I ….sorry...about the comment I...didn’t know. I guess I thought a man like you would get a lot of attention from women’. She said as she looked up at the ceiling.

“You don’t have to apologize. Women have never liked me and tend to stay away from me”. He sighed and looked closely at the wound. “Looks like it’s healing fairly quickly but now the internal damage is what i’m worried about now”. She looked around the room a bit and saw he had a very large axe sitting on the small table in the room. She knew a good amount about weapons and saw that he increased the weight of it be adding metal around the shaft.

‘It takes someone strong to wield a weapon of that size’. She said as he looked at the wound more closely.

He laughed. “Then why am I using it right”?

‘I didn’t mean it like that I just meant--

“I know what you meant miss I was just trying to say it like it is. I used to be much stronger than I am now but even then that wasn’t much to write home about”. He sighed and got up.

“Try to move your leg.” He commanded.

‘Owww ah.’ She tried but immediately stopped trying to. He’s right there is no way I can do this. Now I know what question he will ask next. She thought.

“I can have you back on your feet within a day no less.”

‘I can walk ok i’m sure of it, but if you say so i’ll trust you.’

“Glad we’re on the same page. I would like to know if you don’t mind” he started as he grabbed her clothes that lay on the dresser, “what your name is.”

‘Cirilla. Though most call me Ciri. How about yourself?’ She asked as she grabbed the clothes he handed her.

“Ydnar.” He answered. “Let me help you up.”

She felt his cold hands against her warm body helping her as she struggled to stand.

‘Thanks.’ She said.

“No problem”. He said as she started getting dressed.

She noticed his blue eyes watching her carefully.

“Sorry I don’t mean to stare I can leave you while you dress.”

‘Your fine. I don’t mind.’

“What I thought I would do is take you down to the lake. Not the frozen one but the one that remains warm year round. I will take you there and you can wash yourself. The warm water should help your muscles to relax a bit.”

‘Lead the way’. She said as he handed the sword to her.

“Here take this. This should help you walk without too much weight on that leg.” He handed her a strong wooden walking pole with elvish writing on the top. He put on a shirt, grabbed a pair of towels, and helped her walk outside.

The air outside was cold. It had stopped snowing but the wind hadn’t gotten any calmer.

‘Is it always like this around here?’ She asked, trying to keep up with the young man.

“Most of the year yes. If it isn’t snowing its hot if it isn’t hot it’s snowing. Do you know Ciri why this place is called Frognier”? He asked.

‘It’s something in elvish. Yet i’m not overly fluent.’

“It means freezing desert in the elvish language”.

They continued on the winding path trudging through the snow that was now beginning to melt. Ciri looked up at the massive trees overhead. The tops were lined with blue round balls of fruit. Elderberry maybe. She thought. They neared the area and it seemed all at once the snow was gone and the forest gave way to a rather large, light green pool of water. Just nearing the water Ciri could feel the heat coming off of it. It felt good.

“Not many people come around here any more Ciri. Especially not people with green eyes and ashen blonde hair. There were no traces of a struggle anywhere near the scene where I found you. I also found a material that was slightly burned and smelled of sulfur and sulfur comes from few places and especially not from around here. He stopped right in front of the green pool of water. He sighed and looked at her. “Did I happen to stumble upon the world famous Zireael”?

She looked at him and decided to admit it.

‘Yes...yes you did.. Not many people would be able to use your reasoning and tracking skills. Are you a bounty hunter perhaps’?

“Of sorts yes. I’m also a hunter and have many years of hunting experience that helped my come to that conclusion”. He sighed.

“Anyway here it is. They say that this pool has been here for a thousand years but not sure if I believe it.”

‘That’s amazing here I thought I saw it all by traveling through other wor--’

She abruptly stopped herself. You’re getting too friendly with him and yet you don’t know who he even is or what his intentions are.

“Ciri relax at this point I know who you are. No I won’t tell anyone but relax.”

“It starts to make sense now. You were trying to avoid the hunt weren’t you?’

‘Yeah you got me figured out.’ She said hesitantly as he stripped down to his jeans and entered the pool of water. She took a good look at him. Blue eyes nearly that of the color of the pool. Strong arms which looked intimidating and a very skinny frame. His hair was flat like those in the---

‘ You look like a soldier. Have you ever fought for Nilfgaard?’ She asked. She immediately regretted doing so. His face became that of an angry depressed man not the young man she saw earlier.

Good job Ciri you are really sharp as a spear aren’t you.

As if he read her mind he said “Yeah I did, and you don't have to look like you just committed a crime. I suppose since you were honest with me i’ll be honest with you.” He hopped up on the edge of the pool next to her and stuck his legs in the water. She noticed he had marks on his chest, some deeper than others. “I got in with Nilfgaard because I thought it was the right choice. I heard so much about their cause and that they help people in need and all that bs. I joined, made friends, then regretted my choice immediately.”. He looked at her. It looked to her like he was about to cry.

He continued “I was dumb, stupid, and arrogant all at the same time. Instead of helping people I was ordered to kill them if they got in our way, which many did. Long story short I left them in the middle of the night and using a bow fought my way out of the hornets nest until I was in neutral territory.” The wind howled once more and the trees shook. “From then on I vowed that I would help anyone and everyone who needed it regardless of who they are or what side they were on.”

After a moment of silence Ciri responded.

‘You were not stupid. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction in times of war.’ She said feeling ashamed for asking the question.

“Oh but I was. It’s hard for me to look at you. There is a reason I don’t look into your green eyes. I see the eyes of other young women who were killed by my hands. Ciri It hurts me deeply. This is why I live out here away from people. The shame that I carry”.

‘It was my fault I should not have asked the question.’

“You didn’t know.” He broke the silence and said “it’s funny I haven’t seen my parents since I left many years ago. They probably think I am out saving the world. The lies. Anyway”

Cir sat there next to him. The water felt good on her aching muscles. She went the rest of the way into the water and it felt even better. She started to close her tired eyes but then realised where she was.

“You can sleep if you want. I’m just here to watch over you. Not that you need it. I can tell that you know your way around a sword.”

She looked at him and asked, ‘What gave you that impression?’

Ydnar smirked and answered, “The fact that your sword is made to be used with two hands. It gives you greater reach and accuracy. Not many people use a sword like that.”

She hopped out of the pool onto the wet grass and stood up only to fall to her side. He was quick and caught her just before she fell on her face. She felt his strong grip pull her up.

“That could have ended badly for you.”

‘Yeah thanks, second time you saved me today’. Blushing as she said it.

‘Now I owe you even more.’ She said As she dried off and put her socks and boots back on.

“You don’t owe me anything. I did this so I can sleep tonight knowing I helped someone.” He got dressed quickly and started walking but noticed that she was having trouble keeping up.

“It’s hurting again isn’t it?”

‘No’ she said lying through her teeth.

“There is no need to play the hero in this story”.

Ydnar stated. The strong man put the towels on the ground, came up to her, and to her surprise picked her up. He slung her over his right shoulder and bent over to pick the towels back up. He set off towards the house again. After a brief moment he asked, “I didn’t hurt you did I?”

‘No. I appreciate you taking care of me’.

“Anyone would have done the same.”

‘Thats a lie. I have been to many villages and cities. Enough to know that there are many more ill mannered people than there are well mannered ones.’

Ydnar sighed and said, “Yeah suppose that’s true”.

Soothed by the rocking motion of being carried she drifted off to sleep.

She awoke with sweat all over her. She gasped for air and opened her eyes. Looking around she remembered where she was. She was in the same red walled bedroom she started in. Ciri noticed Ydnar was not in the room. It was beginning to get light outside. The soft orange light revealed a cloudless blue sky worthy of a postcard. The tops of the green elderberry trees were becoming visible. She sighed and thought to herself I know I need to go but maybe i’ll give it one more day after all it’s quite nice here.

She stared at the ceiling, looking at the awards and medals lining the top of the walls. She then decided to get up and noticed that Ydnar wasn’t in the living room either. She immediately got dressed and grabbed her sword. Ciri sighed and decided to visit the blue green pool of water this morning. She opened the front door and followed the dirt trail as it wound itself to the pool. As she walked down the strong smell of pine filled her senses and she immediately thought back to Skellige. As Ciri walked, she looked at the tall pines that held the sweet round balls of fruit at the very top. Ciri walked out of the thick forest and up to the water. She stripped down to her bra and panties, took her sword off, and hopped into the warm water. Mmmmm I love it. Do I really need to leave? No…..No I don’t. The ashen haired princess closed her eyes and let the feeling of the water soothe her tired muscles and stressed head. Ciri heard the calm wind blowing through the thick, hardy trees. She wondered where her friend had wandered off to. It was warm today. The sun was out fully. She was enjoying herself when she heard a familiar screech. Her eyes opened and she saw it. The giant Griffin. Classified as a draconid, the Griffin was a beast of incredible strength and speed. It’s head was that of a dragon with a strong beak. Add to that the fact that it’s lower body was that of a lions. It could walk on all four legs and fought fiercely. If it all failed then it even had a large tail that could break through bone instantly. It’s wings shimmered in the bright sunlight. Ciri bolted out of the pool and lept to her sword which was lying on the side. The Griffin was faster though. She had to abandon her quest for her sword as she saw the creature come back around to make a pass at her. She let the large hungry bird get close, close enough to see it’s deep black eyes and it’s bright orange beak. Ciri rolled left, coming within inches of the draconoids claws. The bird then hovered just above her head and screeched again louder this time. Ciri took this time to make a lunge for her sword. The ashen haired woman got it out just in time to see a well aimed arrow streak in and strike the head of the bird. Dark, red blood spilled out of the bird's head onto the green, grassy, ground. The Griffin roared and fell to the ground, just as another arrow came in to finish the job. She looked at where it came from. There off to the far end of the forest was Ydnar. He was wearing dark black pants and a buttoned up blue shirt. Ciri grabbed her clothes and put them back on as she thought, How did he shoot the bird from that distance while it was flying? Not even the Squirrels can do that and they never train outsiders. He walked down the path towards the pool.

“Looked like you could use a hand” he said grinning.

‘I had him right where I wanted him’. Ciri countered.

“Yeah and he had you where he wanted too”. He laughed. “ Was your sleep good”?

‘Yes it was actually thanks for asking’. Ciri looked at him feeling a bit embarrassed that she got caught without her sword nearby.

‘I think I fell asleep as you were carrying me last night.’

“Yeah you did”. He said carrying a large stack of red brown firewood to the pile. “I felt bad for you last night, it got very cold. Unfortunately I don’t have any lamps that provide heat so I just found a large cover and wrapped you up in it. Hopefully it was enough to keep you warm.”.

‘It was. Thank you.’

“My pleasure”.

‘How and where did you learn to shoot like that?’ She asked with a quizzical look.

Ydnar sighed and turned around to look at her. She was looking at him with her bright green eyes. He smiled and said, “On the run. It’s amazing what you can force yourself to learn when you’re running from Nilfgaard.” He stretched his arms above his head and then after a brief moment asked,

“Are you still planning on leaving today?”

Ciri walked closer to him, smiled, and said, ‘No. I changed my mind. If it’ s all the same with you I would like to stay another night.’

Yd nodded his head and replied, “Absolutely. You don’t even have to ask.”

She put her sword away. Up to this point she was oblivious that she still was holding on to it.

‘What were you doing up so early’? She asked as she looked at the pool of water.

“There was a caravan that appeared outside of the forest last night. I wanted to check it out. Seems like it could have come from the hunt but i’m not overly familiar with this type.”

The words he uttered sent a freezing cold chill down her long back. No. I don’t want to leave yet. It can’t be. Relax Ciri see if he’ll take you to it. Ciri looked into his eyes and said, ‘Show me.’

Ydnar nodded and replied, “As ordered, follow me”.

They walked among the trees with the fruit eventually coming to an area littered with flowers of many different colors. The wind was calm. The air smelled of sweet flowers and water from the nearby sea. Ciri was lost in deep thought admiring the scenery. I have been to many worlds all over. Some large, some small, some complicated, and some simple but never have I seen something like-- She ended the thought upon seeing the birds who were roosted up in the tall trees suddenly fly away. He immediately pulled her by her sword back behind some foliage. How does he know to do this so quickly? Ciri end your thoughts that’s the trouble, i’m not thinking clearly enough to make fast decisions.

He came close to her. She smelled the strong but pleasant aroma of verbena. The sound of approaching horses grew louder and louder as they neared their location. The horses, one black and one white, stopped in front of them. The riders got off and started to look around rustling the fresh leaves on the ground as they did so. The two men were wearing what looked like light armor. It was dark grey with a golden symbol plastered on the front of it. One man had a large scar on his face. The taller of the two looked like he hadn’t shaved in awhile. “That’s the hunt is it not?” Ydnar whispered, not sure of himself.

‘I’m not sure. It doesn’t look like them’. She whispered back.

Ciri tried to enhance her senses and listen in on what the men were saying. She couldn’t really get anything out of it as they were too far away. It appeared to be important as both were making wild gestures with their hands. However, just as quickly as it started, it stopped. The men in question mounted their horses and rode off past the forest towards the cliffs that lined the far eastern edge of the area.

Ciri waited a bit then said, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never seen that symbol before.’ She walked out from the bush and looked at where they rode off into.Ydnar came out of the foliage behind her.

“Well”, he started, looking at her. “You want to continue to the caravans”?

Ciri tore her eyes away from the cliffs and forest to look at him. She nodded and said, ‘Let’s ferret on’.

Ydnar continued walking and she followed close behind.

Eventually they came to a clearing in the forest and there near the very edge of the thick growth of trees was a jet black caravan with a giant yellow and grey symbol on it. They came up closer to it and she saw the yellow sun with a grey sword going right through the center of it. It was covered which to Ydnar meant it was used to haul troops not goods.

“At first….I thought it could maybe be of Nilfgaard origin but it’s not. Emhyr wouldn’t approve of such things drawn on his beautiful little sun”. Ydnar got into his teasing face and imitated the Nilfgaardian leader in a royal english voice, “I am the white flame dancing on the graves of my foes. Please…..the only thing you’re dancing on Emhyr is my patience”.

Ciri laughed and started to turn red. She forgot all about the caravan and found it hard to breathe. Ydnar looked at her and smiled. Her laugh reminded him of innocence, almost like the laugh of a baby. Ciri put her right hand against her chest and the process of respiration started again.

‘Ydnar….That was well done. You’ve obviously had some time to get that voice down’. She claimed looking at him.

He sighed and looked at the grassy ground. “In camp we loved to imitate his voice. Over, and over, and over, again. I can’t stand the way he does things and what he gets away with it just”--He stopped himself, looked at her, sighed, and said in a depressing voice, “Let’s get back to the house now”.

They started walking back along the dirt path to the house and disappeared into the forest once again.

They arrived back at the front of the house. It was noon; the sun shined brightly overhead and the trees cast massive shadows on the ground. Ciri sat down on a stump of a tree.

Ydnar was nearby chopping wood.

“It’s going to be a very warm day today, I can tell already”. He said as he took off his shirt and continued chopping wood.

‘Earlier’, she started ‘when you killed that Griffin is that a skill you can teach?’ Crack! Another small log was chopped into two equally sized pieces. He paused breathing heavily and turned around to look at her. She saw he had a fairly large mark on the center of his chest. It looked to her like that would really hurt.

“It depends what you mean by teach”. He said catching his breath. The axe, which was still in his hand, suddenly struck the circular chopping block and stuck in it. He did that with one hand. I don’t honestly know that I could do that with two and he managed it with one.

Ydnar looked at her and said, “I could teach you how I shoot. Keep in mind though this is a skill that will take time and effort to perfect enough to do what I did to the Griffen”.

He wiped a thick bead of sweat away from his eye with his forearm and said, “If you want to learn, follow me”. She did. She followed him around to the right side of the log home. In the distance there was a green shack with a brown roof that looked in need of repair. Suddenly the shirtless man stopped and looked at her. “That is your target. That shack”. He took the wooden bow laced with silver on either end from his back. He kneeled down reached behind him and in the blink of an eye shot two silver tipped arrows in rapid succession that landed in the side of the shack only a few inches from each other. I’ve seen better. Only from the Scoia’ tael. Not from a soldier. That’s impressive, no man nor women that I know could match that speed and accuracy. She thought.

“Come here and sit behind me”. She did as instructed. The cool refreshing breeze played with her ashen hair. “Watch me do this, I will explain myself to you”. He grabbed another arrow from the bucket on his back. “Notch the arrow. Kneel or squat, if you stand your stability will be off and you are more likely to miss the target. Pull the bow back in a smooth steady motion. No jerking or swaying”. She watched as his powerful arms pulled the bow back to the furthest extent. “Take the lead adjusting for wind and drop rate. I generally find that holding the bow at a forty five degree angle works best for me. Then release with a smooth motion and follow the arrow to the target”. She watched as the arrow released and hit just to the left of the previous two. He makes it look way too easy. Of course he does he lives here and has to be good at hunting to survive. She thought.

Ydnar looked at her and said, “Now it’s your turn; i’ll be guiding you”. He gave her the bow which felt clumsy in her hand compared to her sword. Ydnar traded places and squatted down behind her. She knelt down on the soft ground, made even more soft by the large amount of dead leaves. Ydnar knew he shouldn’t be looking at her like this but it was hard not to when her tight body was knelt down in front of him like this. Put the fire out. She’s not yours and never will be, put the fire out Yd. She grabbed an arrow from the brown bucket behind her. Ciri swiftly notched the arrow, straightened out her left arm and pulled back on the string with her right arm. The wind changed direction. She waited and then released feeling the bow wiggle in her hand. The arrow whistled through the air. Ydnar could already tell she was going to be short of the target. She watched the arrow hit just below the shack.

‘Damn’ She cursed.

“Cirilla” he said using her full name, “don’t tell me you expected to bullseye the first shot”.

‘No I suppose I shouldn’t have’. She commented.

She notched and shot another arrow. She saw the arrow land a bit further than the last but still short of the shed.

“A little higher Ciri.”

‘I have been.’

“No you haven't been.” He retorted. “Do you see where your arrows are ending up? Right there in that clearing. If that old shed was an animal it would’ve been halfway to Novigrad by now”.

Ciri turned to look at him and said flatly, ‘This is nothing like wielding a sword Ydnar.’

“That’s because you're using a bow. Ciri listen to me”. He came next to her and knelt beside her. “This takes lots of practice. I didn’t learn to do what I can do now in one day. Do you remember that Griffin from earlier? The one I shot in the head?”

Ciri nodded looking at him with her piercing green eyes.

“That took me months to pull off. To do what amounts to shooting a moving target.”

She sighed and returned with, ‘You have a knack for it; I don’t.’

“There is no such thing. Do you know how a newborn Griffin survives? By adapting. It’s abandoned at birth. It has to adapt and adapt quickly in order not to end up like the one earlier today. I adapted when I had to get out of Nilfgaard’s court of jesters routine.”

‘Is that what you call it.’ She giggled uncontrollably. I’m starting to get too flirty with him. Why? What makes him so special that I feel attached to him? I have met many guys out there but was never attached to any of them. So why him?

Ydnar allowed himself to smile and said to her, “That’s about what it sums up to. Now relax, we’ll do this one together, i’ll guide you.”

He came around to the left side of her. He wrapped his arms around her and held the bow firmly. She felt her cheeks heat up as if placed into a fire. She knew she was blushing wildly. She wanted to take advantage of this moment, but she decided against it.

“Go ahead Ciri tension the bow. Aim where you think it should be but don’t shoot the arrow yet. Ok see where your aiming thats too high. They say the best archers can fly the arrows path before they shoot it, and as such, can know exactly where to aim.”

Ciri fired back, ‘Well i’m not one of the best archers.’

“We will get you there. Lower and to the right. Anticipate the drop and the recoil. Remember firm hand, straight arm, brace your leg.”

She could feel the heat coming off of him. The confidence of a true archer trained to kill at any distance. Ydnar could smell the sweet smell of her perfume; it reminded him of a field of flowers. It smelled heavenly to him and made him want to do foolish things.

He took his hands off the bow. She shot and hit the shed dead center.

“See there really isn’t much to it.”

‘That was with your help though.’

“Not much help. Next one is on you young swallow.” I like it when you call me that. Young swallow…..sounds good.

She grabbed the arrow and notched it on the bow. She then steadied herself. Raised her left arm and extended it out as far as it could go. She took a deep breath. For a moment it seemed like the world slowed then picked up speed again as the arrow was released. The arrow flew and struck right next to the one previously shot.

“Well done. See you can do it. Now you can come hunting with me tonight, if you feel like it of course.”

Ciri turned around and said to him with a large smile, ‘Thought you’d never ask’. I’m really starting to like it here. She thought to herself as she and Ydnar walked back to the log house. Such a simple life puts shame into those who live in Novigrad or even Skellige. I would whole heartedly say that I would trade every one of the days I spent on the run for days like these.

It was late in the evening when he came to wake her up. When he came in he noticed right away.

“Ciri why are you so sweaty are you feeling alright”? He asked as he jumped up on the bed and felt her chest for any abnormalities. Her chest felt soft to his hands and he felt her heart rate jump up a bit as he ran his hand along it to find her pulse.

‘It’s nothing. It’s just warm in here that’s all’. She blushed violently but he didn’t seem to notice. She wanted to lean in and kiss him right then and there but she restrained herself. Only just. I need to get up before I do something that I may regret doing. She thought as he got up and she followed him out. She was excited to be spending more time with him and the beautiful land that lay beyond the other side of the sea. He grabbed a large double sided axe and she grabbed her sword.

“Ready?” He asked looking at her.

‘Yeah let's go.’

They opened the brown door that lead directly outside. They started following the path down towards the warm pool of water. He led her to the right of the pool and into the dense treeline.

She noticed the sun. It was a beautiful golden color as if the sun itself was made of it. It was still warm outside but that bothered her little. A sweet aroma of pine could be smelled in the gentle breeze.

‘I’m glad that these past few days i’ve got to do things that i’ve never done before. Usually it’s all training with a sword. It gets tedious after a while.’

“Yeah. It’s easy to feel that way. You should have come here in the summer. It’s even more beautiful.”

He said as he effortlessly climbed up the side of a small white cliff.

He extended a hand out to Ciri who grabbed it as he hauled her up the cliff. Once again she felt the strength of his arm.

They paused for a bit. Both of them were dripping with sweat. She came closer to him and put her arms on his sweaty neck. He looked into her eyes, damn near kissed her, then pushed her away slightly and said, “I….Sorry…..I can….I shouldn’t do that. Sorry Ciri”. He blushed and looked away. She caught it and said, ‘Why not? Seems pretty obvious you like me’.

Ydnar looked at the bright orange sun and said, “Well….I ….reasons. Things that happened in the past. I can’t love a woman any more”.

They stood there for a bit and the wind blew her few strands of hair that weren’t in her ponytail around.

Ciri sighed and shook her head, ‘Even if I love you’? The sun was going down quickly.

Ydnar sighed and looked at her again, “Yes Ciri, even if you love me”.

She sighed again and said, ‘Ok…..Ok Ydnar if that’s how you feel I won’t push it’. Great another Hotsporn. He loves me but doesn’t offer me companionship.

“This” he said with some difficulty breathing, “is the meadow that I used to go to when I was younger. I used to pick all sorts of flowers and bring them home to mom who would take them and put them in a vase.” He said as he caught his breath.

‘I thought you said you lived here since you escaped?’

“You’re right I did. That was before I joined. My dad would take me here and we would go fishing together. I enjoyed those days.”

‘From where?’ She asked.

“Skellige”, he answered.

‘Seems so far away from any wars and conflicts. I spent much of my younger life there. It’s a pretty place but it pales in comparison to this. What are these yellow flowers that are everywhere in here?’ She asked.

“These are called celadine.” He said pointing to a tall yellow dotted plant. The flowers looked like bright yellow spots. “This herb is extremely useful for fishing, for the sweet smell attracts more fish.”

After a pause he said “ we should probably keep going; we need to reach the line of red trees. It’s not far from here.”

She followed him closely.

Eventually they came to a bright red line of trees that looked like they had been set on fire.

“This is it. We are looking for anything. Ghouls are extremely valuable as you can make food from their meat if you prepare it right.”

‘Looking for ghouls; interesting usually I try to avoid them.’

“Yeah I suppose most people do.”

He started going through the trees. The wind brought with it the sweet smell of the celadine plants and the smell of the sea. The ground started to shake. It sounds like--

“Get down now!” He said as he leaped and landed directly on top of her. Dazed, she looked behind her and saw many horses, black, dark horses with armor. The riders wore dark black armor and had giant maces on their back. The riders stopped just in front of where they were hiding. The bluff was just high enough so they couldn’t be seen. Ciri felt his chest bouncing up and down from breathing. The sun shined brightly and gave it a nice golden tint. She smelled the scent of verbena and saw the marks on his chest from his time with Nilfgaard. She couldn’t understand the conversation. Something about looking for traces. They need to stop for food somewhere and get to the forest by night fall. She thought.

The riders galloped away towards the far side of the forest and disappeared into the tree line.

“Sorry if I hurt you. I just reacted and didn’t really think it through very well.”

‘Your fine. I was caught in the middle of a thought and, well, yeah.’ She said as she blushed at the warmth that was radiating from his body.

“It’s getting dark now. It’s dangerous to be out here at night. If you want there is an old fishing hut that is just past the end of the red treeline. My dad and I used it multiple times and there is a bed and furniture in it as well as some food. “ He said getting off of her.

‘Sounds good.’ She said as she got up and brushed herself off.

“Sorry we really didn’t get much out here. I’ve been striking out in terms of hunting.”

‘Ydnar just being out here with you and being able to talk about other things besides war and how much training I still need is nice. I enjoy being with you on this. It’s hard when someone keeps telling you what to do regardless of your feelings or your ideas.’

“That’s nice of you to say. That would be the first time any women told me that. Usually most just avoid me.” He said as he started off towards the red treeline.

‘Really? You?’

“Yeah believe it or not. I can’t talk to women without stuttering or saying something dumb. I’m not overly attractive either and my voice sounds like i’m always a sleep.”

‘I don’t think that your voice sounds like that.’ I want to tell him that I think he is quite attractive and above all was funny. What would Geralt say Or Vesimir for that matter. Something like the opposite sex is not for us. It’s hard labor and work above all. Relationships are not part of this. She had been told this multiple times since she was young. She continued to follow him as the forest turned into rolling hills and beaches of sand.

They came to a wooden shack that was larger than he made it out to be.

Ydnar dug into his pocket and pulled out keys. He stuck them in the red door knob and with a flick of his wrist opened the door. The inside of the shack was actually quite clean. She looked at the various fishing rods and crossbows that sat on dark wooden shelves along the walls of the shack. The walls were made of dark wood and the floor of the shack was made of granite which was cold but the rugs that laid across the floor were warm. She went through a second door and saw a red chair and a green sofa in the next room. They laid upon a large red carpet that matched the chair.

“Make yourself at home. The bed is in the room with the chair and sofa and I should have food stashed somewhere in here.” He said as he opened the cabinets in the room with the furniture.

“Aha.” He said suddenly. He came out holding cooked fish and what looked like bear meat.

“Help yourself to some meat.” He said as he brought out plates and silverware. He grabbed some meat and sat down on the green sofa.

‘Thanks. Was this here when you came here?’ She asked as she sat down next to him on the sofa with a plate of meat.

“No. Well yes I guess so”. He sighed then continued, ”see Ciri i’m getting tongue tied just trying to talk to you”. After a short pause he said, “Dad and I came here after he had it built. The people around here didn’t mind one bit. They are very nice to us. Over the years the shack got upgraded to the point now where you could actually live in it. Mostly since mom worried about us out here. I think dad did it to put her at ease. Moms these days always worrying about where their loved ones are.” She giggled as she shivered noticeably.

“I’m sorry are you cold?” He said as he got up and to her surprise turned on a fireplace that she failed to make note of when she looked around.

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