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Family Secrets

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Ciri doesn’t remember her mother. She doesn’t recall the first two or so years of her life. She’s heard rumors of a cell in the watch tower, kept more like a feral animal than a child. She doesn’t remember the mother she killed being born or the grandmother who hated her for it. She doesn’t even recall the handover wherein that grandmother spat her out to her Witcher father on the promise of some ancient rite.

Ciri is glad she doesn’t remember those things. No, the first thing Ciri remembers, at the most frayed edges of her memory, is a ballad.

“—And oh, she cried, kiss me sweet Prince, my heart is in your hand. For just a moment, under the sun, hold me—

It was drizzling on the highway. A dark, dank, summer afternoon. She was small then, smaller than she probably should’ve been, and being confined to a tower her whole life her ankles were too weak to walk very far. Let alone trek for six, or eight, hours to the next town out of Cintra.

She thinks she must’ve been scared. These strange men. Especially the big one with the funny eyes. They tried putting her on the horse for a while, with the bigger man, but she kept crying and crying. She must’ve thought there were going to eat her or maybe that they were taking her far away to bury her. Then again, at three-ish, she was probably too little to think much of anything. She certainly didn’t have any words for them or herself to explain.

“Oh come off it then you great idiot,” the smaller man hassled the horse to a stop. “Give her here.”

“Hm.” The bigger man grumbled, his sternness unreadable.

“Give her here, come on.” The smaller man ordered, hand on his hips.

“You really think you’ll have better luck?”

“Better than you at least. I have to.”

Sighing the bigger man handed Ciri down into the arms of his wirier companion. Jaskier, Ciri would learn. Geralt, her father, handed her to Jaskier. Her other-something. They never quite picked a word.

Jaskier bundled her up and didn’t try to hush her. He held her on one hip, his lute bumping the opposite hip rhythmically at his walked and started to sing to her. Or maybe just to himself to drown her out. It worked regardless of his intention.

She was transfixed by his crisp, clear, voice. She settled, at first just to listen, and then to enjoy. She tried to understand the sound, she thinks, there had been no lullabies for baby Cirilla in her tower and no mother to sing them. But from that day she had a glut of them, as if the gods were making up for lost time.

By the time Ciri was four she recognized a hundred different songs. She knew from the first line what from his repertoire Jaskier was going to sing and he was always expanding the stocks. She learnt to talk late and, much to Jaskier’s continued delight, because Geralt spoke so little most of her first words were sung not spoken.

They would walk. Ciri would walk a little while, toddling and stretching her legs, strengthening her muscles into the lanky little rapscallion she would become. Then she would ride with Geralt a while. She often had her afternoon nap between the neck his mount, Roach VI, and his broad chest. She would accustomed herself to his big, secure, hand on her tiny tummy and his soft leathery smell.

When she was not walking or riding, she would be in Jaskier’s arms, or else on his shoulders. He would sing till his voice ran out and then he would sing some more. When Ciri was four Jaskier would be kidnapped by Fae who were equally surprised and impressed that Jaskier could sing till sunrise without quitting. He thanked Ciri, above all, for the “rigorous training regime” she had provided him.

Those highways, Jaskier’s lullabies, are Ciri’s earliest memories and she is grateful for them. The alternative is so dire that it seems a blessing the most she can remember is the golden days sharing apple slices on the road with Roach while Jaskier strummed his lute.

Winter led them to Kaer Morhen. Lambert, Coen, Eskel and Vesemir. All a little bemused by Geralt’s new additions. The bard they quite enjoyed. The younger Witchers had heard Jaskier’s songs across the continent and they’d been hassling Geralt to meet his summer travelling companion for some time. They were a little more bemused by the Child Surprise. Witchers, even in the prime days, were rarely dumped at their doorstep so small and there’d been no trainees for so long that Lambert and Coen certainly didn’t know how to bounce a little girl on their knee. No one in the towns or villagers would ever let them near their children and, even if they did, the children often smelt so badly of fear it put the Witchers off entirely. They learnt.

It would get cold at night, especially cold, and Ciri would toddle out of her room. If Geralt found her, still awake himself, he would walk her through the keep until she fell asleep in his arms. Whereupon he would return her to her bed and tuck her in. It was special time, those walks, a twilight privacy with her Father Surprise. Sometimes he’d tell stories or just talk to her a little.

If she didn’t get caught by Geralt it meant Ciri had made it down the hall to Jaskier’s room. Jaskier would pull back the covers, tuck her into bed beside him, and cuddle her till they both slept through breakfast with their cat nest warmth.

Kaer Morhen was safe. Ciri appreciated that. But as she got a little older she found herself increasingly restless towards the end of winter. Itching for the long days walking the highways. She would pick berries, make flower crowns, and see so much of the world. She and Jaskier would stay at taverns, warm taverns, and have summer baths while Geralt hunted. There would be stories from Geralt’s hunts and that always meant Jaskier would write new songs. Ciri liked to mark every year in her life with a new song in Jaskier’s library though she often had several to pick from.

“She should stay at the Keep,” Geralt would sigh at night when he thought she was asleep. “It’s safer there.”

“World’s not a safe place, Love.”

“I know that.”

“Besides, she spent—That time, confined? It’s not wonder she hates feeling restrained. I couldn’t bring myself to make her feel confined again, could you?”

Geralt grunted. “She’s here, isn’t she?”

Jaskier laughed.

Lambert would often joke that Ciri was a hellion. Worse than some of the monsters they fought and twice as cunning. Though sometimes, on special occasions, he would claim her ‘four times as cunning’ if she’d pulled off something particularly thrilling.

But on the road Ciri understood the importance of good behavior.

“If you don’t follow my instructions you don’t get to come traveling with us.” Geralt told her very seriously. “Jaskier and I play our games but when I tell him to stay, he stays. And when I tell him to run, he runs.”

“I’m not a dog.” Ciri crossed her arms stubbornly.

“It’s about trust.” Geralt replied. “More important to me than the job, is keeping you both safe. Jaskier trusts my judgement, do you?”

Ciri tightened with a new respect. From there she focused herself into a child as well behaved as she could bare to be. If Geralt said stay, she stayed. If Geralt said run, she ran. If Geralt said hide, she hid. More often than not with Jaskier. And, if Geralt wasn’t around to give the order, then she followed Jaskier’s instructions. Though he was often more diplomatic about the whole process of survival than Geralt.

Sometimes they’d bumble into a hunt, no tavern in sight. And Ciri would get to see something exciting. A man turned into a beast, a dragon once… But as she got older she started to appreciate her tavern time with Jaskier. They’d play cards, shop for travel gear, laze around eating better food than they could have on the trail, wash their hair every night…

“For your father, Dear.” A barmaid would say, passing her a bowl.

“She’s very pretty,” another would tell Jaskier.

“She takes after her mother,” Jaskier would reply. “Which makes it all the more startling she’s so pretty. Her mother is a big bruiser 6’4 with white hair, massive shoulders, two swords—”

Ciri would laugh and Jaskier would deflect further questioning by offering to play the tavern another song. He always drew a crowd.

Ciri would discover young that Jaskier was good at keeping secrets. For her, for Geralt, and even a few for himself. He’d told her, once or twice, that a good bard knows when to tell the truth and when to lie a little. It was a lesson she liked to apply to her own dealings in later years; that sometimes there’s a kindness to dishonesty.

She learnt her first secret when she was eight. She and Jaskier were kidnapped by a violent troop of she monsters looking to turn them into soup. Ciri was frightened, mostly because Jaskier was frightened and he was her litmus test for the seriousness of a situation.

She calculated, as she was sure Jaskier did, about the likelihood of Geralt coming to save them. It looked grim. Geralt was several miles away at the time, hunting a totally different monster he’d been contracted for, and he’d only left the day before. It was unlikely the hunt would end early enough for him to realize anything was amiss and that Ciri and Jaskier had been taken from their camp in the glade.

Jaskier, seeming to accept this, bundled Ciri up and whispered; “cover your ears, Love.”

Ciri tucked down into his arms, pressing her palms to her ears, and felt more than heard the rumble of Jaskier singing in his throat. She has spent so many years falling asleep while the music eased out his chest in this same way. She recognized it then.

When it stopped, and she lifted her head again, she found their she-monster guests slumped over in the cave. She thought they must be sleeping. They looked that way. Picking her up however, Jaskier did not hurry in collecting their things, getting Roach VII from outside and walking back to their campsite down the hill.

“Shouldn’t we move?” Ciri asked as Jaskier rekindled their fire.

“Geralt left us here, he’ll have to find us if we move.”

“But if they come back—”

“They won’t come back, Love.”

“When they wake up—”

“They won’t.” Jaskier murmured, stoking the fire.

Ciri tilted her head at him. He wasn’t different in her eyes, not in any real way, he was still Jaskier who sung her lullabies. But this was a new facet, a new power. Something she never imagined he was capable of. She’d heard of all sorts of things then, seen half of them; Fae, Elves, Sorceresses… but she didn’t understand what this was.

“How’d you do that?” Ciri asked.

“It’s a bad story,” Jaskier shrugged. “Not even worth a song.”

Ciri chewed her lip, plucking up another question—

“Let’s not tell Geralt, alright Love?” Jaskier seemed to plead. “Just between us. A secret adventure.”

Ciri fumbled, thumbing her knuckles, “but why?”

“Do you trust me, Ciri?”

Ciri nodded.

“Then please don’t tell Geralt.”

It was the please that did it. Jaskier wasn’t ordering her to do anything. He was asking her, begging her, as a loved one. He was looking for support. And after falling asleep to his lullabies for eight years Ciri couldn’t imagine betraying him.

Ciri’s second secret came when she was ten. They’d met Triss on the road. Ciri was not unfamiliar with Triss. She passed them every year or two on the summer roads. She had her own adventures and her own loyalties, but she was a friend to the family and Ciri was not afraid of her.

“I stink!” Jaskier complained, leaning into his knees.

“Now you know how I feel.” Geralt said.

“You get paid to splash around in monster guts, I don’t.”

“We should all bathe.” Triss decided.

“Please.” Jaskier sighed.

Triss was staying at a lovely little residence then. A fancy house tucked away seemingly in the middle of nowhere while she researched. As Jaskier gathered up a change of clothes to accompany Geralt to the baths downstairs Ciri made to follow them. Triss stopped her.

“Why don’t you bathe with me?” She offered.

Ciri glanced to Geralt, checking as she often did, and Geralt nodded once before taking the bag of clean clothes off Jaskier and carrying their things off to their own bath.

In the bath Ciri let Triss run oils through her hair.

“You’re getting so big,” Triss smiled, her softness pressed up behind Ciri. “You’re going to be a young lady soon.”

“Am I? Lambert says I’m more a goose than a lady.”

Triss laughed but seemed to have some tangent in mind. “It must be hard, sometimes, travelling with two men as a little girl. I’m sure there are things they don’t understand.”

“We understand each other fine.”

“Your body is growing,” Triss ran her fingers through Ciri’s hair, “it probably doesn’t seem so different form them right now. But soon you might feel very different from Jaskier and Geralt.”

Ciri frowned. “Why?”

“Well, just because they’re men and we’re women. Not in a bad way.”

Ciri felt a prickle of realization creeping at her. “And women look like…?”

“Like me.” Triss nodded as Ciri turned back towards her.

Never shy or obtuse Ciri squinted at Triss’ tits and turned back around a moment later. Triss didn’t know, she realized. Not that Ciri herself had realized it until now. Ciri had never felt odd amongst her parents. Not in the keep or on the road. Geralt looked like Geralt. Always had. And he wasn’t shy about getting naked. There was nothing sexual or lewd about it. He was her father. A hard working man who often needed to get scrubbed off. She wasn’t bothered by Jaskier’s nudity either. In truth, under his clothes, Jaskier looked more like Ciri and Triss than Geralt. Ciri had never really taken much notice or care about this. They all bathed together in rivers or in taverns when they were on the road. They all bathed together in the hot springs at Kaer Morhen during the winter. No one had ever drawn attention to Jaskier’s body, or Ciri’s, so Ciri had never considered that maybe…

When Triss went to bed Ciri crawled into Geralt’s bedroom and into bed with him.

“Aren’t you a little old for this?” Geralt opened one eye as she crawled onto his chest.

“I have a question.” Ciri whispered. “But I think it’s a secret.”

“A secret hm?”

“Is Jaskier a girl?”

Geralt sighed. “No, Jaskier is a man.”


“But, yes, his body is like Triss’s. Like Yennefer. Like yours will be.”

“But he’s not a girl?”

“No.” Geralt assured.

Somehow that made perfect sense to Ciri. She nodded slowly. “Okay then.”

“Other people don’t always understand Jaskier, his body being different. It’s a kind of magic.” Geralt explained. “And like elves sometimes stay hidden to stay safe—”

“It’s Jaskier’s secret?”


“I won’t tell anyone.”

“Good.” Geralt nodded lazily. “That will make Jaskier happy.”

“When did he tell you?” Ciri wondered.

Geralt snorted. “Long before you were born.”

“How did you find out though? When did--”

“Goodnight Cirilla.” Geralt grumbled.

“I want to know.” She hissed, poking his side as he rolled over. Pulling up against his shoulder to stay close to his ear but trying to keep her voice soft so they wouldn’t wake anyone.

“That’s my secret.” Geralt said. “A very special secret, between Jaskier and I.”

Ciri huffed.

Ciri forgot the secret might in any way be useful to her until she turned twelve. They were in Kaer Morhen for the winter. She had been training with Lambert, more rough housing than anything, the guise of training as an excuse for some stupid games. She had been knocked off her feet but the pain didn’t linger long enough for her to think anything was wrong.

When she went to the bathroom a little while later, only then did she realize she was bleeding. Quite heavily. She was used to blood. She’d seen a lot of it by then. But she’d never bled here before. And she knew internal bleeding was the worst kind. Wounds under the skin were the hardest to treat and could be life threatening.

She hurried to Vesemir’s study, shuffling awkwardly. She was still bleeding and she worried if she pushed herself too hard she would make the injury worse. Walking quickly but not fast enough to strain herself while she panicked was irritating. She made it however and letting herself into the study she found him with Eskel discussing something.

“Help.” Ciri squawked like a bird.

“What is it, Princess?” Vesemir pivoted towards her instantly.

“I hurt something, inside, training.” She explained, feeling very flushed. Maybe dying.

Eskel shared a grave glance with Vesemir.

“Where does it hurt?” Vesemir put down his tools, wiping off his hands and coming to her.

“I’m bleeding,” Ciri said, “between my legs.”

Vesemir stiffened, an awkward expression crossing his features. “Ah.”

“Am I dying?” Ciri mistook his expression for dread.


Eskel started laughing behind them, quick to cover his mouth.

“No, no,” Vesemir promised. “Let’s—uh— Eskel--?”

“I’ll go get Jaskier.” Eskel promised readily.

“Right, good,” Vesemir fumbled. “Let’s get you back to your room, Ciri.”

“Am I--? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.”

“Then why am I bleeding?” Ciri snapped. Why did the adults not understand the gravity of this situation? They were usually much more sensible than this.

“Jaskier will explain.”

Jaskier entered her room a little while later looking exasperated. “It’s alright Vesemir. I’ve got this.” He promised, patting the elder Witcher on the shoulder and directing him out of the room.

“What’s wrong with me?” Ciri demanded, more than a little irritated from being ferried around.

“You’re a woman, my Love. I am so sorry.”


“It’s your time, Ciri.” Jaskier sat next to her on the bed. “You remember how I told you ladies bleed every little while? Well, you’re a lady now. So you’re bleeding.”

“You didn’t tell me I’d bleed there!” Ciri exclaimed.

“I know, it’s bullshit, isn’t it?”

“It’s so much.” Ciri gripped her stomach. “What if I bleed out? What if I die?”

“You won’t die, Dear. I promise.”

“Well how do I make it stop then?”

“You don’t.”


“Well—” Jaskier backtracked. “When you become a Witcher, a full Witcher. I think it’ll stop. But until then it happens every month and you just, sort of, have to endure it, Dove.”

“That’s fucking bullcrap!”

Jaskier laughed. “Isn’t it just?”

Ciri groaned, clutching her stomach. “It hurts even…”

“I have tricks for that at least,” Jaskier promised, rubbing her shoulders. “How about we get you cleaned up in the hot springs? That’ll do wonders to make you feel better. I promise.”

It did do wonders. Ciri would practically live in the hot springs during her period from then on. Lambert made one particularly badly timed joke about a sea monster and Ciri threw a cup at his temple hard enough to draw blood. Jaskier had to sing a lewd song to smooth over the mood after that once.

But in the hot springs, a little while later, Ciri felt more emboldened to ask things that hadn’t occurred to her the day it all started.

“Do you bleed too, Jaskier?”

“I do,” Jaskier sighed. “You have my unending sympathies therefore.”

Ciri looked between them. Jaskier sprawled back, tits out. His breasts were smaller than Triss’s by a wide margin but not insignificant.

“I never notice them,” Ciri remarked.

“I wrap them.” Jaskier explained casually.

“So people don’t know?”

“Yes, sight easier than hiding elf ears at least.”

“It must be hard,” Ciri thought, “being a man who looks like a woman. Is it a curse?”

“Of sorts.”

“Can we fix it?”

“I fixed it a long time ago, Love. Aren’t we all happy? Because I am very happy.”

The summer Ciri was fourteen she was having strange dreams. There was talk of war in Cintra. The whole continent was tense with the looming threat of violence on a grand scale. But trouble like that is for kings to worry about. Not Witchers. Certainly not a Witcher, a bard and their ward making the rounds. Jaskier had songs to sing that year, Geralt had monsters to slay, and Ciri was even getting big enough to slay a few of her own. Though the mutagens hadn’t twisted her well enough to take her fertility from her yet.

“Do you ever worry?” Ciri heard Jaskier ask Geralt across the room as she slept.

“About Cintra?”


“As far as anyone knows; Calanthe’s daughter and granddaughter both died during the delivery. That was almost two decades ago now. If anyone thought Ciri existed, they wouldn’t know where to look.”

“I suppose that’s true.”

“You sound worried.”

“Hiding, keeping secrets, it’s hard, isn’t it?”

“I suppose.” Geralt’s weight sank onto the edge of the bed.

“I don’t want that for her.”

“And what about you?”


“It’s been what, forty years?”

“Something like that.”

“She’s going to notice soon, that you don’t age. Just like I noticed.”

“You never mentioned.”

“I’ve been waiting for you to tell me.”

“Tell you what, Love?”

“Whatever it is you’re not saying.” Geralt murmured.

Jaskier sighed, heavy enough that Ciri could hear the ache in his voice. She heard the bed shift, Jaskier moving closer to Geralt she thought. “If there was anything worth saying. I would’ve already said it.”

“Would you?”

“I tell you I love you, all the time,” Jaskier seemed to lean into him. “Isn’t that enough? There’s us, there’s her, what more do you want?”

“I want to understand, Jaskier.”

“Do you want me to age?” Jaskier jokes, with a kind of edge Ciri is unaccustomed to hearing in his voice. “Do you want me to grow old and die while you watch?”

“Of course not.” Geralt growls.

“Then I don’t understand what we’re fighting about.” The bed creaks as Jaskier pulls away but Ciri hears the clap of skin as Geralt grabs him.

“Please,” Geralt hisses, “don’t.”

Jaskier sighs. “I just wish you’d trust me.”

“I do trust you,” Geralt insists. “What about trusting me?”

Jaskier groaned but didn’t seem to have an excuse.

“Are you scared?” Geralt whispered.


Ciri was still uneasy about what she overheard when left alone with Jaskier the following few days. Geralt has a hunt. Too big for Ciri and it might be for the best. Killing things seems to clear his mind of confused thoughts. He kissed Jaskier in the shadow out of sight of the street, before he went. It was a hard kiss. A kiss between two people who love each other very much.

It’s a secret so old Ciri doesn’t even remember learning to keep it. She’s always known Jaskier and Geralt love each other, love her, and they’re her family unit. It seems natural to her. She never had a mother so she never questioned having two fathers in the slightest. She never needed a mother either. Geralt took care of her when she was sick, Jaskier has checked under every tavern bed for monsters since she was three, why would it ever worry her?

But this? A secret in Jaskier that even Geralt isn’t allowed to know? That worried her.

She sat with Jaskier, in their sun speckled room, him strumming on the lute, her oiling her armour and polishing her weapons for their next combat outing.

“So odd, really, now you’ve got your own amour. I’m so used to watching Geralt do that. I feel like I could do it myself now.”

“You could. I’ve seen you do it.” Ciri recalls.

“Not very well.” Jaskier shrugs. “I do a lot of patching, mending and tending when Geralt is injured but I would never claim to do it well.” 

Ciri hums, tending the knife in her hands.

“You’re thinking something. Loudly.”

“My parents,” Ciri asks, “the ones that gave birth to me. Did you ever meet them, Jask?”

“Just the once.”

“You were with Geralt then, when…?”

“When he claimed the Law of Surprise? Yeah. Fucking idiot.” Jaskier sighs.

Ciri snorts, not in the least bit threatened. Jaskier has loved her so well her whole life she knew intimately that Jaskier in no way meant to imply she was a mistake.

“What happened?” She prods. “How did it all happen?”

“Well, they were finding a husband for your mother,” Jaskier tunes the lute. “Your grandmother had a pick but your mother didn’t like him.”

“But you,” Ciri presses, “what were you even doing there?”

“Oh that. I was there to perform of course. Geralt might not have even been there but in those days, before we—Well in those days I bedded a lot more people and I’d slept with half the wives of the important men folk, and they all wanted my ass. Geralt was my bodyguard.”

“That sounds like you.”

Jaskier chuckles. “Your father storms in. Turns out your mother was his claim from another Law of Surprise and he wanted her for his bride.”

Ciri’s mind trips over for a second, trying to follow the story, because when Jaskier says ‘your father’ her mind immediately supplies an image of Geralt and here Jaskier means an entirely different man. Someone Ciri has never met. Someone who never bounced her on his knee or braided her hair for training. Someone who didn’t get her first knife let alone teach her how to use it. A man who probably didn’t even know how to gut a rabbit let alone tell one kind of monster from another.

Ciri has often struggled to imagine what life would’ve been like if her birth parents lived. Life as a princess of Cintra. It seems like a world that belongs to someone else. Not her story at all.

“Your grandmother was furious. Next thing you know they’re all fighting. Geralt of course, respecting the Law, is helping your father. Your grandfather too. They’re all fighting the guards but worse your grandmother with her own sword out.” Jaskier narrates. “And Geralt saves your father’s life, smooths the whole thing over, and the marriage is agreed upon by all parties.”

“And then?”

“And then your father says something like; oh please, however can I repay you? And Geralt, being much too tired of all this shit, says; law of surprise, cause he thinks we’ll get a bottle of wine or maybe a horse. Next thing we know your mother is puking up the peasant and they’re all screaming that she’s pregnant.”

“And what did Geralt say?”


Ciri cackles. “Of course he did.”

“Right, and we leave, and I try to talk to him about it but…”

“You decided to come back?”

“Your grandmother made it very clear if…” Jaskier trails off.

“She was going to kill me, wasn’t she?”

“I don’t know. She threatened to if we didn’t claim you before your fifth birthday.” Jaskier explains. “She sent out her mage to find Geralt with the threat. But, of course, when he heard of how you were being kept he couldn’t bare to let it go on a second longer. Expected or not he’s always seen himself as responsible for you and he couldn’t let you live like that.”

“But the other man…”

“Other man?”

“My…” Ciri stumbles over the unnatural turn of phrase. “My father. The other one. Where was he? I know my mother died giving birth to me. That’s why my grandmother hates me. But where was the other man?”

“I can’t say I know, Love.” Jaskier seems to apologize. “He was out of the picture somehow. No one told us anything and we weren’t going to stick around to dig. We were already on thin ice. Haven’t been back since. We let the other Witchers tend to Cintra. Geralt thinks Calanthe can rot in her own piss after how she treated you. She could be on fire and he’d piss on the other side of the room.”

Ciri ruminates. “What about you Jask?”


“Yeah, you.”

“I love you of course. If you want specifics around my thoughts on your grandmother--”

“No, not that.” Ciri dismisses, altogether bored of the subject of a woman she’s never met nor cared for. “What were your parents like?”

“Oh you know,” Jaskier grunts. “Parents.”

“Were you noble, Jask?”

Jaskier squirms. Ciri senses he doesn’t want to lie to her but that he would do anything to avoid the topic. “I left all that behind Ciri. My parents are gone now, long gone, and my whole life is you lot so…”

“But before us you must’ve had a life.”

“Oh, I was—” Jaskier hesitates. “I was young enough when I met Geralt.”

“You always look young, Jask.” Ciri says pointedly.

“I do, don’t I? Great skin care regime you know.”

The joke doesn’t land and Jaskier laughs awkwardly. “You’re wondering things, aren’t you?”

“I am.”

“Well,” Jaskier fumbles, “before I met Geralt I studied the Seven Liberal Arts and Oxenfurt. Music in particular. I’d only been a bard a little while when we met. Was a couple of years after Blaviken and that whole mess.”

“And before that?”

“And before that…” Jaskier sighs. “What does any of that matter, Ciri?”

“When were you cursed?”


“With a woman’s body?”

“Oh, when I was born. It’s always been wrong.”

Ciri frowns. “When I was little, Jask, do you remember that time we got taken? The cave, the she-monsters, they wanted to mince us for soup and you—”

“And I what?” He lifts his head, seemingly surprised she remembers.

“You did something.” Ciri murmurs. “I don’t—I think you killed them. With your voice, somehow. Some kind of magic. I’ve never seen you use it before or since. You asked me not to tell Geralt, and I didn’t, but…”

“I appreciate that, Ciri.”

“You know, whatever it is, Jask we’d love you.”

Jaskier softens. “I know, Love. It’s just…” He hums softly. “You could’ve been a princess, in another life, and I imagine that doesn’t feel right, does it?”

“No. Not at all.”

“It’s like that.” Jaskier explains. “It wasn’t my life, it wasn’t me, and so I don’t see the point in going there anymore. Not even in myself. I’m Jaskier, the bard of Kaer Morhen. That’s who I am. The stuff that happened before that belongs to someone who isn’t real. Who isn’t me. Going there wouldn’t tell you more about me because that time in my life I wasn’t allowed to be myself. You have all of me already.”

Ciri nods slowly, starting to understand. She can respect that entirely. If someone came to her today and wanted her to ride back to Cintra as princess Cirilla she would laugh at their face. She’s not princess of anywhere. She’s a Witcher. That’s been her whole life. Anything else would be an unnatural skin. It would be wrong, a lie. Jaskier’s life with them is his truth. The old stuff, the stuff he’s not telling, it’s someone else’s lie.

Ciri can understand why Geralt is worried. The magic, the fact Jaskier doesn’t age… There are missing puzzle pieces. But whatever they are they’re not as significant as the mind makes them out to be. Their life as a family is much more important.

Geralt is still away on his hunt when Ciri lurches awake in the night. Her gasp, hacking and raw, wakes Jaskier in the bed next to her. And fumbling up in his nightclothes he bundles her up protectively while he’s still half asleep himself. She pants, the room spinning, and he seems to be looking around for whatever monster startled her.

“What Dove? What is it?”

“I had a dream.” Ciri clips her tongue, getting her heartbeat to steady.

“A dream?”

“Cintra fell. I saw it.”

Jaskier is very quiet for a moment, holding her. “If you saw it, then it probably happened.”


“I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Ciri turns into him.

“Do you want to talk about it? What you saw?”

Ciri bundles up closer to him. “Can you sing, Jask?”

“Hmm? Yeah, little one, come here.” He pulls them back onto the bed.

Ciri lets his hands pet her hair as he rolls through a familiar ballad. His ankles cross under the bed sheets and Ciri hopes she’s never too old for cuddles and lullabies. The things she saw in her dream make her never want to grow up at all. Make her scared to be a Witcher.

In the morning Ciri spots Roach IX before she spots Geralt. He’s dirty but not so much as he could be and she throws herself at him. He grunts, gripping her around the waist, and barely stops walking. Just lifts her gangly teenage body off her feet and carries her a few inches off the ground as he heads to the stable with Roach IX.

He must’ve done well if he’s not too tired to carry her.

“Did you hear? On the road?” She asks.

“Hear what?” He puts her down on the hay.

“Cintra fell.”

He doesn’t look at her for a moment, taking the saddle off Roach IX to attend to her.

“I saw it, before it happened,” Ciri says.


“No not just hm,” she growls. “What does it mean?”

“Nothing yet.” He supposes. “Has anything else happened?”

“Like what?”

“Anything weird.”

“I mean—” Ciri sighs. “We fight monsters. Define weird.”

“Anything you can’t explain.”

“Just the dreams.”

“Then they’re just dreams. Some people have a little sight, maybe you’re one of them? Big events like that I’m sure anyone even remotely sensitive would see something about it.”

Ciri doesn’t feel assured.

And, sure enough, there are more dreams. It’s like something’s uncapped a bottle of vile in Ciri’s head and now she can’t seem to stop having dreams. She knows when Geralt is going to be in trouble. Sometimes she sees a little ways ahead, sometimes weeks.

She sees the Nilfgaard armies raiding more towns before they do. She knows there movements. She knows Yennefer is going to fight in Sodden before she does. And while Jaskier has never much liked Yennefer the fact she looks to be in danger in Ciri’s dreams gives him pause.

“We should warn her at least,” Jaskier supposes.

“Yennefer is the strongest, cleverest, sorceress I know.” Geralt replies. “Ciri has seen her fighting. And she will fight, I’m sure. But it would take more than an army to kill Yennefer.”

“But if we can help—”

“I don’t want us wrapped up in this.”

“In what?”

“The whole thing.” Geralt grumbles. “Let them fight their wars. It’s not Witcher business.”

“Ciri’s dreaming of it.” Jaskier thrusts his finger at her. “I’d say we’re wrapped up.”

“We stay out of it.” Geralt declares. “That’s also a decision.”

“You really think—”

“No one knows Ciri is having these dreams. No one knows about Ciri. And I think we should keep it that way.”

Jaskier groans. “I’m not saying we get lodged in international politics. Not again anyway. Always ends badly. But…” he sighs.

“But?” Geralt seems to hesitate.

“At least call Triss to Kaer Morhen for the winter. She can come with us.”

“What do you imagine she’ll do?”

“If Ciri has magic, she should know how to use it. Chaos is dangerous and a Witcher doesn’t need distractions while they’re hunting.” 

Geralt glances, warily, between Jaskier and Ciri.

“I don’t like rich people’s wars, Geralt. You know that. You know I wouldn’t want Ciri hurt either. But it’s dangerous to have a power we don’t understand.”

“No,” Geralt puts his foot down, head shaking sternly. “I won’t do it.”

“Then I’ll do it.” Jaskier declares. “I’ll call Triss.”

“She is my responsibility. I am her father by the Law of Surprise—”

“And what do you imagine I am?” Jaskier snaps.

Geralt freezes.

“I’ve been here too, Geralt, the whole bloody time. You think you raised her alone? You think I don’t get a say? After all the times I stayed at camp with her and patched you up when you got back, you don’t think—”

“You’re right.”


“You’re right,” Geralt barks. “I’m sorry. You do get a say. Of course you do. You and Ciri both. I just don’t like it. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Jaskier sighs, hands on his hips. They both look tired.

“What do you want to do, Ciri?” Jaskier asks.

Geralt lifts his head to her and Ciri thinks on it very seriously for a moment. She’s been worried about it for weeks. She finds it hard to imagine she can see an army moving if she’s not supposed to do something about it.

“I want to talk to Triss.” Ciri says. “I want her with us for the Winter.”

“We’d have to talk her out of Sodden.” Geralt says, not quite arguing just reminding. “I’m not sure if she’ll abandon Aretuza while they’re in need to do us a favour. They’re her people.”

“Well…” Jaskier sighs. “We head to Kaer Morhen and we extend the invite. She comes when she comes.”

“If she lives, which, given what Ciri’s seen…”

Jaskier and Geralt both look worried.

Despite the unease it’s good to be home. Geralt seems lighter with every footfall up the mountain. He pushes them to complete the hike in less time than they would normally and when Jaskier and Ciri both start to complain Geralt pushes them further.

“Get on Roach, Jaskier. Rest your feet.”

“Charming but not the same as agreeing to camp.” Jaskier points out.

“It’s so close.” Geralt lifts Jaskier up, putting him on Roach rather than letting Jaskier argue further. Jaskier sighs, sensing he’s going to lose the argument, and takes the reigns. “And you, come here,” Geralt pats his shoulders.

Ciri feels childish for accepting a piggy back at fourteen but they’ve been walking almost two days straight and she’s exhausted. She slumps her face into the back of Geralt’s neck and, determined to get his little family home, Geralt escorts them both the rest of the way to the keep as tenderly as he’s able.

Lambert is excited to meet them in the yard and upon seeing them he seems ready to make a joke. Ciri would expect it. But she just slumps her head back down and they must look so bone tired, so haggard, that Lambert seems to know something is wrong.

“Hey, you assholes,” Lambert greets them warmly. “You’re just in time for dinner.”

“I could eat a whole boar.” Jaskier groans, easing down off Roach IX.

Geralt carriers Ciri the whole way into the dining hall. Not putting her down till he can put her down in a chair next to Vesemir. Vesemir too seems to sense they’ve had a rough summer and pulls Ciri into his shoulder where she continues her slump.

The first few weeks are pleasant, routine. Triss doesn’t come and the battle of Sodden rages without their interference. Ciri doesn’t mind at first. Once the battle is over her dreams abate for a week or two but then they return, stranger than before.

They seem to have some kind of…

Her dreams feel strange. Like they’re trying to communicate something new. Not a warning this time, something else. Instead of feeling like she’s on the battlefield she feels like she’s watching everything through a plane of glass. It’s all a little blurry.

“Any more?” Geralt asks her as she pushes her porridge around her bowl.



“Yeah, a weird one.”

“What about?”

“It’s a palace, but I don’t recognize the crest on the wall. It’s not the right combination of colours or insignia for anywhere.”


“There’s a mage. He’s…” Ciri strains. “He’s got a brown bushy beard and big black robe. His hands aren’t real, they’re magic.”

Geralt sits a little straighter.

“And there’s a princess.” Ciri focuses, closing her eyes. “They’ve got her chained up in a tower and they’re… I don’t know, they want to do something awful to her. The Queen is arguing against it. The King is torn. Torn enough to keep the princess locked up for the Mage but not let the Mage cut her up for the Queen’s sake.”

On Ciri’s other side Jaskier has gone very still. Ciri can feel them exchanging a glance over her hunched head as she opens her eyes again.

“Stregobor.” Jaskier says.

“Probably.” Geralt hums.

“For certain. Ignoring the princess tower business, Stregobor lost both his hands in that elven princess uprising, remember?”

Geralt nods slowly. “But why backwards? Why now?”

Jaskier shrugs and looks away, looks uncomfortable. Not that he’s alone, Geralt looks equally uneasy.

“Backwards?” Ciri repeats.

“Long before you were born, Cirilla,” Geralt rumbles. “Stregobor, that Mage, was trying to destroy all the princesses born under a prophecy. A blood moon, Lilith. A whole thing. People said they’d all bring about the apocalypse.”

Ciri digests that for a moment. “That is strange. Why would I suddenly see things that happened a long time ago? So far all I’ve seen is things that are going to happen.”

“Who can say with this weird magic shit?” Jaskier snorts. “Might be—What would you call it? Interference? But at any rate do we think it matters? The coming stuff is the important shit, I think.”

“If Ciri’s seeing it then it’s all important.”

“But they’re all dead, Geralt. All the princesses.”

“I know.” Geralt bites softly. Heavy with something.

Jaskier doesn’t push it. Doesn’t seem to want too. “Well maybe it means Stregobor is going to die, that’d be nice.”

Geralt laughs dryly but sounds like he’d very much like that. Which isn’t like him. Geralt rarely wishes for the death of any human. All Ciri knows is that there are only two people Geralt would very much like to kill but, even then, Geralt has always avoided doing it for the sake of honour. And the other one is Calanthe, who is clearly dead already.

The dreams keeps coming. The Princesses, the towers, Stregobor. Ciri watches them cut up and torn apart in a myriad of different ways. Ways little girls shouldn’t be dissected. Ciri realizes she doesn’t recognize the banner flags because the flags are outdated. Belonging to kings or whole dynasties that have been replaced in the following century. Witcher time moves slow but human time moves fast.

Triss joins them after the battle. She’s clearly healing from some injury but she’s shy about showing it. None of the Witchers harass her when she bathes electing instead to give her a wide berth and, Ciri realizes, the Witchers are using that excuse as cover for keeping Triss’s baths entirely separate form Jaskier’s. Whatever injury Triss may have is not, entirely, as important as making sure Jaskier maintains the privacy of his own secret.

Ciri however is invited to bathe with Triss and she sees it. The battle scars. They don’t worry her. She’s seen worse on Eskel and Lambert as a child. But she senses the scars trouble Triss. Witchers are meant to have scars after all while Sorceresses are meant to be stunningly beautiful. It must be quite the blow to Triss’s sense of her own body.

“Have you started?” Triss asks, swirling the water in the hot spring.

“Started what?”


“Aye,” Ciri sighs.

“And they help you manage it all? Or did Geralt call Yennefer?”

“No, we managed. Witchers aren’t as ignorant about the realities of women’s issues as most common men.”

“I see, another part of their charm perhaps.” Triss smiles.

“These dreams…”

“Yes, your dreams.”

“What do you suppose they mean?”

“Destiny, of some sort no doubt, but they’re your dreams. What do you think they’re telling you?”

“I think…” Ciri sighs. “It started with the fall of Cintra. I think that I’m supposed to learn something, about me, about my future or heritage or something…”

“Whatever it is, you have power.”

“I’d rather have a sword.”

“I’m sure you would.”

“I don’t know how to control it. I feel it sometimes, when I’m upset or combat is particularly bad, itching at the edge of me. But I don’t—I don’t want to uncap it until I know how to aim the damn thing.”



“Harnessing chaos is the root of all magic. Elven or human. Though we get it all from the elves in the end, try as we might to forget that. Harnessing chaos is not about fighting it, its about exactly that; aiming it.”

“And how do I do that?”

“Let’s try some things.” Triss invites. “At Aretuza they taught me many different ways of harnessing my chaos. Some of those tactics worked better than others. You’ll find your strand.”

“In Witcher schools it’s not like that. You learn it and you practice it until you can do it. Until your body and your mind are in synchronicity. You keep going until you can do it. Because it’s important.”

“I’m sure. But magic isn’t a muscle you can train to submission. It’s a relationship. Chaos is a force of it’s own, independent of you, and you need to learn how to work together with it.”

Ciri sighs, head back against the edge of the pool. “Then I better get to know my new friend.”

They try all sorts of exercises. Rocks and flowers yield absolutely nothing and Ciri, who is a quick study, is frustrated that the magic seems to come precisely when she doesn’t want to but is limp and dead when she actually tries to study it.

When a storm rolls over Kaer Morhen Triss takes her up into the tower and shows her how to capture lightning in a bottle. Triss makes it look easy and while Ciri is brave enough to stand their with a bottle up to the sky without hesitation she still can’t direct the lightning the way she wants. She breaks two bottles, hair smelling of smoke, until Triss refuses to let her try again.

“I can do it.” Ciri argues. She won’t fail, stubborn as her father.

“You need to get down.” Triss orders.

“I can do it!”

“I shouldn’t have even let you do it twice, you can barely stand now. What do you imagine a third blast will do?”

“I’m going to catch the third blast.”

“You still don’t understand. You won’t catch anything.”

“We’ll see.” Ciri declares, chin up as the wind batters the tower.

“Ciri stop.” Triss strains.

Ciri stands unwavering.

Triss seems to realize talking and coddling won’t do any good. She likewise begins to realize Ciri is going to keep trying until something makes her stop.

Triss, moving how Ciri has never seen her move, grabs Ciri’s hair and drags her out of the tower. Ciri helps but it used to such manhandling from her usual teachers. Triss pushes her down the stairs by a handful of hair and when they exit the tower Ciri whips around, ready to fight, but—

“Go to bed!” Triss’s voice cracks.

Ciri hesitates. Vesemir is not afraid to pick her up and throw her over his shoulder when she gets too stubborn. Geralt is the same. They’re used to this part of her and their place in it. But Triss seems disquieted that she had to be so forceful to compel Ciri to listen.

“We can’t practice anymore,” Triss warns the following morning.

“Why not?”

“You need to listen to me when I say it’s too dangerous. If you strain and push yourself before you’re ready, you’ll die. You need to let the magic do the work, not you, and if you won’t listen to me, I won’t risk teaching you.”

“I need to figure this out.”

“I know,” Triss says, “but I’m not going to tell Geralt you’re dead. I won’t do it.”

Ciri swears and leaves the breakfast table to throw rocks at Lambert while he trains.

On the battlement Jaskier finds her. He’s got Geralt’s cloak today which usually means Geralt isn’t far. Ciri flicks another rock at Lambert, sparring with Coen, and Jaskier snorts. “Bad night?”

“I upset Triss.”

“How’d you manage that?”

“I wouldn’t back down, and she…”

“She’s not used to making people back down?”

Ciri nods.

“Triss might find force distasteful, but it happens that sometimes you’ve got to hit someone hard around the head for their own good.” Jaskier chuckles.

Ciri sighs, slumping forward into her forearms. “It’s so fucking annoying. I just can’t figure it out. Any of it.”

“You will.”

“What if I don’t?”

“Used to say that about a lot of things.” Jaskier reminds her. “Riding, playing a lute, using your sword. You used to tell me you’d never get it, and you got it in the end. You always do.”

Ciri sighs, pushing off the battlement, and Jaskier catches her readily his hand resting on the back of her sore skull. He holds her and she feels small.

Ciri suspects she’s dreaming about every princess Stregobor pulled apart. She sees Renfri kill her maids to escape into the woods. She sees Princess Alistaire throw herself out a window rather than suffer torture. She learns some of their names but some of the babies are never even named.

Then she sees it. Something she probably wasn’t meant to see.

Jaskier is still in bed when Ciri forces her way into the room he shares with Geralt. Geralt is probably helping ready breakfast. It’s usually his turn around now. Jaskier lifts his head, groggy but happy to see her, and pats the empty patch of bed next to him.

“I saw it.” Ciri declares.

Jaskier yawns. “Saw what?”


Jaskier goes very still and then, slowly, sits up. “Me?” He repeats incredulously.

“Stregobor was going to kill a princess. One of the Lilith girls. She’d been in a tower. And I saw her.” Ciri explains. Heart beating fast. “She tricked a handmaiden into swapping places. And then she left the keep, dressed as a boy.”

Jaskier looks pale. Sick.

He swallows, meeting her gaze. “So?” He murmurs. “What about it?”

“You were one of them, weren’t you?”

“Some cursed Lilith princess?” Jaskier scoffs. “Darling, I am a bard.”

“But you are. You were born that way. Weren’t you?”

Jaskier scowls towards the fire. “I’m your family, aren’t I? Didn’t I raise you? Didn’t I sing to you and feed you and—”

“You have magic. Like me.”

“Lots of people have magic, Ciri.”

“But yours is wild magic, like mine. You didn’t tap into anything, run into it, like Yennefer and Triss. You were born this way. We both were. Conduits.”

“What does it matter?”

“You can help me.”

“Help you?” Jaskier squints. “No, no way. There’s—”

“You could teach me. You have to teach me.”

“Teach you how to kill people?” Jaskier scoffs.

“I kill plenty of things already.”

“I’m not doing it.”

“You have to!”

“No, I bloody well don’t.” Jaskier snaps.

“It makes sense.” Ciri stamps her foot down.

“How does any of this make sense?”

“Geralt won me, by the Law of Surprise, but you raised me too. You said so. And you’re one of the only living people like me. Someone who can understand. Why shouldn’t you teach me? It’s destiny.”

“Fucking destiny!” Jaskier groans, throwing himself back down on the bed and pulling his pillow over his head.

Ciri climbs onto the bed and onto him. “I won’t take no for an answer!”

“You never fucking do!”

“I need your help.” Ciri insists. “I need you, Jask, please.”

Jaskier groans louder.

“We don’t have to tell Geralt.” Ciri offers. “It can be our secret.”

Jaskier seems unconvinced.

“Just teach me the basics. How to access my power and direct it. Then I can go back to Triss and do the complicated stuff. Just help me get in touch with that part of myself.”

Jaskier goes limp and Ciri waits, hopes.

“This is our secret.” Jaskier tells her, turning up towards her. “Do you understand? Just our secret.”

Ciri nods.

They hardly need an excuse for Ciri to run off with Jaskier. They go to an empty room in an empty part of the keep. There used to be so many more Witchers it the Wolf School that much of the keep has started to fall apart from disuse.

Jaskier puts a rat in a bucket and Ciri is already concerned.

“What did Triss tell you?”

“That it’s a relationship. That everything has a cost.”

“Not for you.” Jaskier sighs. “At least…”

Ciri listens.

“Things have a cost. But the cost is persuasion. You’re not trading with chaos with flowers and bits of elvish spells. You’re negotiating. At least that’s how I do it.”

“What do you do?” Ciri asks.

“This rat.” Jaskier points to the bucket with the thing scrambling inside. “I am going to convince it to be a pigeon.”

Ciri frowns, “and how do you do that?” She grimaces. This already sounds harder than Triss was explaining, worse somehow. She can understand trading X for Y but trying to charm chaos into doing anything sounds fraught.

Jaskier adjusts his lute in his lap and starts playing.

It’s a song Ciri knows back to front, she’s heard it a thousand times. Jaskier sings it with his usual energy. Not overly exuberant but always a skilled showman. He sings like he loves the song and the singing.

—up, up, wee lassie come up. In the glade and hay bale come up, up, wee lassie come up—

In the bucket the rat starts to squirm. Ciri leans over it and watches as Jaskier’s song seems to unlace the whole organism of the thing and repackage it. It bubbles and morphs, fumbling around like mercury in a vial, and then it’s a pigeon.

Ciri laughs, lifting her head towards Jaskier. He shrugs, nonchalant.

“You can do that?”

“I can do a lot of things.” Jaskier says. “I chose not to.”

“And I can do that?” Ciri supposes, fishing up the pigeon to see how study it is cooing in her hands.

“Somehow you’ll do it. I didn’t know how to do it for a long time. But I love music, so music became the perfect tool for conducting the magic. You might have your own style this is just mine.”

Ciri squats down with the pigeon. “Can I try?”

“Sure.” Jaskier nods. “What do you want to try?”

“I’m going to turn it back.” Ciri decides.

“Okay then.”

“What song should I use?”

“What song comes to mind?”

Ciri pauses, considering the library of ditties Jaskier has given her over her lifetime. She knows a thousand songs thank to him. “Oh we sailed from east to west,” she starts, “rolling over salt waves of sapphire blue—”

Jaskier picks up the familiar tune on his lute, supporting under her voice. She’s never been shy about singing with him around. Singing is as natural a part of their life together as fighting monsters. Ciri taps her toes in a crouch, the pigeon twitching in her fingers. ‘Rat, rat, rat,’ her mind says, ‘go home.

She can see the song. She can see the pigeon and the rat. She can feel it moving through her all focused and directed by the anchor of the song. It’s like an incantation but unlike the elvish Triss has been teaching her this comes so easily Ciri doesn’t have to think so hard about it she stops feeling it. Her brain is engaged more with her body and the business of magic because the song is second nature. It is a command, clear to her, and—

Ciri exclaims, pushing up to her feet. “I did it! I did it!”

Jaskier cheers and finally, finally, Ciri feels she has something to anchor her.

Ciri feels like, in his own way, Jaskier has trained her for this her whole life. Thanks to him she knows thousands of songs off by heart. She always has one for any occasion and its easy to while away hours in their corner of the keep singing. Letting the sorrow or the joy hit her voice she can feel it strengthening her magic. Her emotion tightens her intent, aiming her weapon more precisely.

It starts to come so easily Ciri struggles to remember what about the whole process was so hard for her at first? With Jaskier it just makes sense. They sit, strumming his lute, or just singing and it all comes naturally. The magic which has always been part of Ciri starts to feel like a real extension of her body. When she and Jaskier sing together Ciri feels like, with enough intention, they could bring the whole of Kaer Morhen down before their second verse.

“Why don’t you use this?” Ciri strums his lute. “You’re so strong.”

“What do I need it for?”

“But you could do anything.”

“I’ve done everything I want.” Jaskier shrugs. “I don’t much want armies or crowns. None of that. I have Geralt, and you, and a home. I’m happy enough. I don’t need to use this.”

“Why do you think we have it?”

“The magic you mean?”

“Yeah.” Ciri nods. “I agree with you. I’m content with my life. I love being a Witcher. I don’t want some grand destiny. So why give us power like this?”

“I don’t know,” Jaskier admits. “If I had to guess- Well, that assumes that fate is wise and kind.”

“What does?”

“Well, if you give great power to people who are inclined to use it that just makes for chaos. Wars, all sorts of horrible things. Senseless things. People like you and I aren’t inclined to abuse magic like this so, in some ways, we’re the safest people to have it.”

“Would changes things though, don’t you think?”

“Witchers had bad luck last time they got involved in politics.”

“But between you, me, Yennefer and Geralt…”

“Between us?” Jaskier prompts.

“We could make things better, don’t you think? For regular people. Not just for kings.”

“Maybe. If that’s what you want to do, Ciri.”

“Would you help me?”

“I’d certainly try.” Jaskier sighs.

“But you don’t want too?”

“It’s not that.” Jaskier promises, squeezing her shoulder. “Things have to change, inevitably. I’m just happy enough that selfishly I don’t want them to change.”

“They could change for the better.”

“They could, that’s true.”

“I didn’t think it would ever make sense.”

“Your magic?”

“But it does now. It feels right now.”

“Then you better ask Triss to elaborate on the finer points, don’t you think?”

Ciri stiffens. “We don’t have to stop this, do we?”

Jaskier laughs. “Would I ever turn down a chance to sing with you?”

That, more than anything, comforts Ciri. But she and Jaskier both sense they’re on the precipice of trouble. Ciri is starting to realize that, just by helping her, Jaskier has put all the pieces in place for his own confession. Something he’s avoided for a long time. But he’s made it inevitable just by helping her. She’s grateful, of course, but she can’t help but feel guilty for dragging him into something he never wanted to say or do. She needs him, as children need their parents for lots of things, but she doesn’t want to hurt him.

Ciri goes back to Triss. Now that a month or more has passed Triss has softened to the prospect of trying again.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of practicing,” Ciri says. “I think I’m finally starting to understand it. I think we can really help each other now.”

“Let’s try.” Triss welcomes, setting up a brief exam to gauge Ciri’s progress. Her first test is lifting a rock off the ground, suspending it. Triss gives Ciri the flowers she uses for the exercise but while Ciri fingers them she doesn’t use them.

She hums, rolling the tune over in her mouth, and the stone lifts.

Triss is surprised but continues.

Triss has her change the colour of a block of wood next.

Again, Ciri lilts a few lines of a song and the red wood sours pure black.

Triss presses again, not really speaking except to make clear what she wants.

Two onions become twelve to a bawdy drinking song.

“Is this good?” Ciri eventually cracks, feeling tense under Triss’s mounting scrutiny.

“It’s—Yes.” Triss decides. “You’ve made great progress. You have much more control now, I can see. But I’ve never seen anyone do it like that.”

Ciri scuffs her boots on the stones under her toes.

“How did you learn that?” Triss presses.

“I was stressed, frustrated,” Ciri says carefully, “so I decided to play music with Jaskier. That always makes me feel better. It just started to develop that the music helps me express what I want from the magic.”

“That’s pretty ingenious.” Triss seems to believe her, laughing weakly. “I never would’ve thought to suggest that. I’m not sure how to teach you with that kind of style but we’ll figure it out. You’ve broken through the first barrier. The next ones will be easier.”

Triss buys the lie, but Geralt does not.

Triss insists on showing Geralt and Vesemir Ciri’s progress. She considers it a huge milestone that they should share. Ciri tries to delay the impact of it all. But can’t formulate a strong enough argument to put the Witchers away from her magic lessons any longer than another week or two.

Vesemir whistles, clearly impressed. Delighted even. He claps, like a proud grandfather, his eyes twinkling as he sees the potential for so much growth. Geralt stands, arms crossed, and looks darker every second.

“How’d you learn to do that?” Geralt asks.

Ciri starts to tell her story again, the one that convinced Triss, but—

“I don’t buy that.” Geralt says.

Ciri swallows.

Only now do Triss and Vesemir seem to realize something is wrong.

“Do you want to tell me the truth? Or should I ask Jaskier?”

“He didn’t do anything wrong.”

“He did something.” Geralt says.

Ciri grinds her teeth together. Wishing she could lie well enough for Geralt to buy it but not even she has that kind of magic. She doubts anyone does.

“He did more here than just make suggestions, I know it,” Geralt presses.

“It’s…” Ciri looks to Triss helplessly.

“What’s going on?” Triss asks. “I don’t understand.”

Geralt sighs.

“Jaskier is…” Vesemir rolls his hand. “He’s special.”

Triss frowns. “Special how?”

“We don’t exactly know.” Vesemir admits.

“We’re getting warmer.” Geralt grunts. “And frankly I’m sick of talking in circles. I want someone to be upfront with me.”

Ciri huffs, fumbling, “it’s not my secret.”

“Damn it Cirilla—”

“You always taught me—”

“Not from me.” Geralt snaps. “You think I’d hurt Jaskier? Hurt you?”

“No, never.”

“Then why can’t I know?”

“I don’t know. Please, I don’t want you to fight.” Ciri winces. “Jaskier didn’t even want to do anything, I twisted his arm into helping me.”

Geralt turns and—

“Wait!” Ciri runs after him.

But Geralt doesn’t stop.

Triss picks up her skirts and hurries after them, a little procession trailing after Geralt through the keep. They find Jaskier in the hall with Eskel.

“Hey ho,” Jaskier greets, “what’s all this then?”

Geralt presents himself before the tabletop Jaskier is sitting on like a knight before a sovereign. “For forty years, have I not loved you well enough?”

Jaskier pales, glancing in a raw panic between Geralt and the increasingly confused crowd assembled. “Always,” he murmurs sheepishly. “What is this--?”

“Have I not kept your secrets?”

“Every one,” Jaskier admits.

“Are we a family?” Geralt strains, voice tight.

Jaskier looks wounded, “of course we are, Love. Always.”

“Then tell me the truth.” Geralt demands. “We have secrets. I accept that. But we were never meant to have secrets from each other.”

Jaskier sits a little straighter. Putting down his lute on the table he beckons Geralt closer. The Witcher practically falls forward, tightly knit, and Jaskier pulls him between his knees and cradles his face.

“I didn’t know Renfri.” Jaskier specifies carefully. “But, I admit, at the start I wanted to know what kind of man you were. And, when I realized you were the kind of person who would’ve treated her with mercy and compassion, when I realized how much you mourned and hated Stregobor, I felt I owed you the service of rehabilitation the reputation you had sacrificed for one of my sisters.”

Geralt takes a deep breath.

“It started that way, and I didn’t want you to think it was all about that,” Jaskier admits. “I stayed not because of any of that. I stayed because of you and how much I treasure your companionship.”

Geralt head slumps forward, tired, and Jaskier cradles his cheeks to kiss his temples. Geralt’s arms wrap around him.

“I’ll kill Stregobor.” Geralt says.

“No, you won’t.” Jaskier pets him. “As far as he knows I’m dead already and did you not so often council against revenge?”

“I was wrong. About Renfri, about Calanthe, about Stregobor. You and Ciri deserve—”

“Oh shut up,” Jaskier lifts his chin to kiss him. “It’s alright, Love. It’s alright.”

Triss looks away for a moment, more sheepish than bothered, Ciri knows if she’s smart she’s likely suspected the intimacy between Geralt and Jaskier for a long time. The only surprise here should be the magical sort.

“No more secrets between the three of us.” Geralt orders, casting a glance to Ciri and another pointed look to Jaskier. “We keep each other, not from each other.”

“Agreed.” Ciri nods.

“Yes, I swear,” Jaskier says.

“Can we extend those parameters out a little?” Eskel gestures to the room. “I vote to exclude Lambert, of course, but within the walls of Kaer Morhen we’re all family, right?”

“If that’s the case then we have to include Lambert,” Jaskier tuts.

“Oh, yuck, forget I said anything.”

That draws a weak laugh out of Geralt.

“Better?” Ciri comes close enough to take his hand.

“Better.” Geralt pulls her close.

They have plenty of a secrets still, from everyone else, but Ciri feels a great relief knowing that whatever happens next they are honest with each other.