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8.5 Ivalace - Geralt

# 4019 20 - 27 mins. 15

Geralt awoke in a large canvas tent to the sound of the light patter of rain. The clouded skies made it still dark out despite his internal clock usually waking him just about at sunrise. Geralt looked around the room, saw no leaks in the tent far too big for him, and sat up on his cot.

He stood and walked over to his desk, trying not to wake his compatriots. At the desk sat a journal. He opened it to a page labeled 'The Grandsome Glories' and grabbed a quill. He began writing.

Day 16

It's a dreary day today, but that will not keep us from adventure. Though the rain pours down overheard we will journey onward to find the missing people. Through thunderous torrents and muddy earth, we will do our duty to Humankind.

Just like the days before, we will push through, with me at the helm, fearlessly leading us into the unknown to discover and defeat the dangers of this land.

Geralt paused for a moment to use his quill in an imaginary sword fight. He sliced and parried against a tiny non-existent foe, making hushed clanging noises with his mouth. With a plunge into the imaginary beast, Geralt's sleeve caught the ink bottle, flipping it and sending the contained ink shooting across his journal.

"Ah, no!" he said, quickly trying to dry the mess before its mark became permanent. He ran over to Seth's bed and grabbed a dirty sock. He gagged at the smell and held the brim of it between pointer finger and thumb. Then he tried to dab the sock on the spilled ink without pressing his fingers into hard enough for the smell to stick. He gagged again, waving the fumes in front of him.

When he pulled the sock away, it was black and wet. The paper itself was barely readable. Geralt sighed. "No matter," he said to himself. "I'll just have to slay more mighty beasts to fill the remaining pages." He smiled at no one, his blonde mustache curling into his peripheral.

He walked back over to Seth who slept on a cot that was too small for his overweight body. Seth snored with his mouth wide open and still held a chicken leg in one hand with a bite taken out of it. Geralt deposited the ink-covered sock back in Seth's boot, assuming he wouldn't care.

Geralt tapped the foot of Seth's bed with his black leather boot. When Seth didn't rouse, he did it again, harder. Seth nearly fell out of the undersized cot as he choked on a snore and said, "Huh? What?"

"It is time for another adventure, young Seth," said Geralt.

Seth looked at him confused. "I'm the same age as you."

"Get your things together. We leave shortly," said Geralt, ignoring Seth's statement.

"Right. I"m up. I'm up," said Seth. He sat up in his bed, spied the chicken leg and took another bite before he swung his legs to the floor.

Geralt walked over to the third cot in the tent. In it laid a giant of a man, but this one was large with muscle, not fat like Seth. His head was bald and he slept much more quietly.

Geralt went to kick the cot but hesitated. He looked around the room and found an unused tent pole instead. He grabbed the pole and poked the cot where his third compatriot slept. Again, the first poke was to no avail. Geralt winced and gave the leg of the cot one more firm poke with the pole. At that, the monster of a man rose quicker than Geralt could react. When Geralt opened his eyes again, the giant held his face within an inch of Geralt's. The cold of metal grazed his throat.

"Heh, good morning, Wallace," said Geralt.

Wallace's face relaxed and he said, "Oh, sorry boss." He let go of Geralt's collar and sheathed the blade that he had held to Geralt's throat.

"We really need to figure out a way to wake you up without that happening," said Geralt as he straightened out his pristine white pajamas. Geralt cleared his throat. "We have a big day of adventure before us, fellows. Get your gear on! And make haste!"

Geralt turned back to his own cot and began getting dressed as well. He changed into his day clothes, a simple red linen shirt, and leather pants. He stood in front of the mirror as he did it, making dashing looks at himself. Even though he had just woken up, his hair hung perfectly in wavy golden locks. His mustache was a bit frayed from his sleep, so he twisted it up between index finger and thumb, bringing it back to a sharp point. The rest of his facial hair came to a small point beneath his chin.

He donned golden plate armor that was hard for him to maneuver. It was such a struggle to put it on due to its weight, but fear not, Geralt would be accustomed to it soon enough. It fit his body perfectly, and when he finally did get it on, he did look rather good in it. He gave himself a wink in the mirror once more.

"Are we ready for the day?" asked Geralt, turning around to display his armor. Wallace was already dressed. He usually had less trouble with armor than Geralt, but his armor didn't look as good on him. Wallace was so big that the armor almost looked unnecessary. It was too small for the giant that he was. But Geralt wasn't about to go out into the colony without matching armor; That would be embarrassing.

When Geralt looked over to Seth's cot, he found that the boy had slumped back down and fallen asleep. Freshly chewed chicken meat sat in his open mouth.

Geralt sighed. "Come on, Seth! Adventure awaits!" He thwapped the cot leg with the tent pole once again and Seth sat up quickly, choking on the chicken this time.

"Oh, right. I'm getting up," said Seth, though he moved like a snail. Seth pulled on his socks. Geralt winced as the one covered in ink was pulled out, but Seth didn't even notice. He pulled on his custom armor next, though it was slightly smaller than what would actually fit him. He had kept telling Geralt that he was going to get in shape before coming to Daegal, but he never did. He never even tried. When his golden armor was finally on, his rolls stuck out the side.

Geralt looked around to make sure everyone was equipped. Wallace held a two-handed axe in one hand, Geralt had his family sword attached to his hip, and Seth held his crossbow in one hand and the chicken leg in the other.

"Off, to seize the day, and save our fellow Humans," said Geralt.

"Huzzah," said Seth through a mouthful of chicken.

The group stopped at the tavern before heading on their way. They studied the map for a place to scout. Off to one side was a collection of four green pawns tracking what was said to be a dangerous forest. Down lower there was a tower that the Treek girl had found. Beyond was a large river and waterfall. And there was a swamp off to the side.

That Treek girl had found a lot. But no matter. Today would be the day that the Grandsome Glories made it on the map.

Geralt slammed his gold-painted pawn down in a spot just beyond the edge of the swamp where no one else was scheduled to go. "Today, we'll explore this area, and see what information we might find on our missing people."

Wallace remained silent, watching the rest of the tavern. Seth continued chewing.

After a moment, Seth spoke. "Hey. That Treek girl has found a lot, huh? I wish we could find as much as she does."

It infuriated Geralt, just a little, but he held his composure. "And we will, young Seth. Today is the day. I can feel it."

"We're the same age," said Seth.

"Onward. Let us march into the wilderness," said Geralt. He turned and marched toward the back door of the tavern, ignoring everyone else that may or may not be watching them.

🔥

The Grandsome Glories traveled out the back gate and into the wilderness beyond. They traveled for hours with the golden armor weighing down on Geralt. The sweat ran down his back and his legs were tired from days of carrying more weight than he was used to.

When they finally reached the swamp, Geralt said, "Halt!" raising his hand high and straight. "We stop here..." he cocked his head up and to the left. "...for lunch!"

The swamp was dense with moss hanging from it's mangled trees. Tall plants covered up much of the ground, but the spot that Geralt had picked was in a tight open area walled in by tall plants.

"Hey boss," said Wallace. "Don't you think we should find some higher ground first? We don't know what lives in this swamp."

"Nonsense, Wallace. If anything dares provoke us it won't live to regret it," said Geralt. "Besides, I brought a cheese log."

"Oh, right," said Wallace, with his eyes scanning the tall plants that blocked their vision to the rest of the swamp.

Geralt spread out a velvet blanket on the grass. Seth had no trouble sitting down and digging in. In moments, food hung from his mouth.

"Hey, boss," said Wallace. "I think I heard something."

"Relax, Wallace," said Geralt, "I'm sure nothing would dare provoke us, in all our glory."

"No, I heard something," said Wallace.

Geralt ignored the giant of a man as he held his great axe at the ready. Wallace walked slowly around the blanket, scanning whatever he could see.

SKREEEEE

Geralt startled at the sound and heard the pat pat pat of footsteps running away. He stood up. "What was that?"

"I told you," said Wallace. "There's something out there. Draw your blade."

"Right," said Geralt. "I just figured it wasn't time yet." He drew his blade and yelled into the dense brush. "You can't handle the Grandosme Glories!"

"Keep it down," said Wallace in a hushed voice. "We don't even know what it is."

Geralt held his sword out and stood close to Wallace. Behind him, he heard the sound of chewing. He turned to find Seth still eating the cheese, unaware of the current situation.

"Seth," whispered Wallace. "Crossbow."

"What?" said Seth through a mouthful of food.

"Get your crossbow ready," said Wallace.

"Ooh," said Seth. He picked up his crossbow from the ground next to him and set it on his lap. Then Seth reached for another bite of cheese.

Wallace stepped forward and slapped at Seth's hand before he could reach any more food. "Get up!" he said. "There's something out—"

Something taller than a man bolted through their small clearing faster than Geralt could make out. It ran into Wallace knocking him into the brush and disappeared among the grass. Geralt only saw a blur of blue and yellow.

Geralt began to shake in his armor. "Wallace. You handled it mightily, did you not?"

There was no response.

"Wallace?"

While Seth was finally getting to his feet and getting a bolt ready in his crossbow, the creature ripped through the clearing once again, this time plowing into Geralt. He didn't see it once again but felt a hard head plow into his back, launching him into the weeds. The footsteps tapped away from him once again.

He stumbled back to his feet and tried to make sense of where he was. He couldn't even tell where he had come from with the reeds so high. He was beginning to rethink his decision to have lunch in such a small isolated clearing.

He held his sword in front of him, with a death grip on the handle, and chose a direction. He stepped forward, then again, and one more time. He placed each foot slowly, trying not to make noise and alert the creature of his presence. He took another step and then heard the reeds rustle beside him.

"Ahhh!" Geralt screamed much higher pitched than he thought possible from a grown man. He hoped the others hadn't heard, but Wallace appeared from the weeds, dragging Seth behind him. He used his free hand to cover Geralt's mouth and mute the scream.

"Keep it down. Let's get out of here," whispered Wallace.

Geralt composed himself and said, "I am the one that gives orders around here."

"Do you want to die?" asked Wallace.

"Let us get out of here, my compatriots," said Geralt. He began walking again, but Wallace turned him to point him in the right direction. Geralt didn't protest.

"But the cheese log," said Seth.

"There will be plenty more cheese logs when people see us for what we are," said Geralt.

"Come on. Go!" said Wallace, and the group began to run.

Reeds whipped against their faces and stood taller than all of them, except maybe Wallace. Not too far off, there was a screech. Geralt looked in the direction of the sound but saw nothing but dense vegetation.

They escaped the reeds and found themselves back in the swamp, nearing the far end of it. As the end was in sight, they heard the screech again. Geralt looked with his sword still out as he ran, and saw a monstrous flightless bird charging at them. It stood on two long legs, and its elongated neck made it reach somewhere around the height of Wallace. Even for a bird, it was bulky. Its beak was easily the size of one of their heads and snapped like the drop of a guillotine.

"Oh no," said Geralt. "Seth, quickly."

A bolt shot out of the crossbow behind them but came nowhere near the giant bird due to the pudgy man's frantic run and lack of breath. The bird plowed into Seth, knocking him to the ground. It rushed after him where he was coiled on the floor of the swamp.

"Seth! No! I'll save you, fellow hero!" Geralt charged with his sword raised above his head. He heard Wallace groan behind him. When Geralt reached the bird, it jumped and kicked, launching him into Wallace's knees. The massive man came crashing down on top of Geralt before he managed to swing at the bird.

As Geralt and Wallace struggled to get back to their feet, they heard the bird scream again. When they looked, they found a bolt sticking out of its thigh. As it recoiled in pain, Wallace grabbed Seth, and the group ran again.

The bird charged after them, slower than before, but still faster than them. The bird gained on them, inching closer with each step. It pecked at Seth's legs as he was dragged behind Wallace.

Geralt yelled, "Get him to safety, compatriot. I will conquer this foul beast!"

"Geralt! Don't!" said Wallace.

Geralt turned and swung his blade at the monster bird, and it connected. The tip of his sword sliced a papercut-sized wound on the bird's neck. A small drop of blood fell from it and Geralt smiled in victory. The bird stopped and looked at him for a moment. Then with a swing of its head, it plowed into him and launched him into a nearby tree. The gold plate-metal groaned with the impact.

"Come at me, you devil bird," said Geralt. "I will defeat you handedly."

The bird charged him again and his foreboding face turned to terror. He lifted a leg and covered his face with his arms. The bird screeched as it stomped toward him. It wound up its head, ready to peck through Geralt's skull. Just before it unleashed its attack, a great axe swung from nowhere and swiped straight through the bird's thick neck. The body's momentum, however, kept it moving. The bloody stump of a neck crashed into Geralt and drenched him in gore.

Geralt tried to wipe the blood from himself. "Wallace. I had him," he said.

"Yeah," said Wallace. "Sorry, boss."

"It's okay," said Geralt. "Next time, though. Next time I'll beat you to the kill." Geralt stood up, still visibly shaking. He snorted and kicked the bird. "Well, now that this nuisance is dealt with, where should we go next?"

"Woah," said Seth. "How about there?"

Geralt looked in the direction Seth was pointing. Beyond the edge of the swamp was a town, or city maybe. Rows of streets and ruined buildings stretched out in every direction.

"Well, good find, my friend," said Geralt. "We shall name it, Birdsbane!"

Geralt walked forward with his shoulders raised, trying his best to ignore the blood splatters on his armor. "Onward," he shouted, lifting his sword to point at the town. The fading adrenaline caused it to shake and fall much sooner than he had intended.

The others followed and they began to explore the town. It was ruined, all of it. Buildings crumbled and were covered in ivy and moss.

"Woah, what is this place?" said Seth.

"I do not know, young Seth," said Geralt. "But there are sure to be riches and adventure here."

SKRRREEEEEEEE

In the distance, there was an ear-splitting scream. Something far too loud to have come from a smaller animal like the bird they had just slain so mightily. Geralt jumped back.

"We should get out of here boss," said Wallace.

Geralt cleared his throat and stepped forward. "I never took you for a scaredy-cat, Wallace," said Geralt.

"I'm not," said Wallace. "I hate cats. But I also don't want to die. That sounds way too big for me to save you all from, and I want to get paid."

"We all helped in taking down that bird, and we will all help with this," said Geralt.

"I don't think—" Wallace started.

"Eh," said Geralt, raising a finger and cutting him off.

Wallace sighed. "Okay, Boss."

"Make haste!" Geralt shouted as he charged forward into the city.

"Do we have to?" said Seth.

"Yes, come on," said Geralt.

The crew ran past ruined buildings, churches, and theaters. The scream rang out three more times before they arrived at their destination. They peaked around the corner of a dusty stone building and saw, in the middle of a ruined market area, four mages in gray and yellow robes surrounding a massive creature. It was easily the size of the large church at the far end of the square. Reptilian scales covered its body, and a spiny ridge running down its long neck and back. It stood on four muscular legs and giant wings stretched out from its sides, tied to nearby buildings. Its long tail slapped the ground, trying to break free and its toothy jaw snapped and released a puff of smoke and small torrents of flame.

"It's—it's a dragon!" said Geralt in a whisper.

"Dragons don't exi—" said Wallace as he too peaked around the corner. Seeing the creature for the first time cut him short.

"We could be, just like the heroes of old, and slay a dragon!" said Geralt. "We could slay a dragon!"

"No we can't, boss," said Wallace. "Do you see that thing? It's enormous. And we'd have to get through those storm mages first."

"Nonsense," said Geralt. "We are skilled warriors. We can handle any threat!"

"Boss," said Wallace.

"Let us at least take a closer look. Come on," said Geralt. He turned toward an exterior stone staircase and climbed to the second floor of the ruined building. He shrunk down to his hands and knees and began crawling toward the opposite end where the wall had broken off halfway up. Geralt peaked over the wall, and the others joined him—Wallace first, and then Seth.

"What are they doing to it?" asked Seth. Three Elves restrained the creature with chains that looked much too small to hold such a large beast. A fourth stood close to it, with a hand on the creature's head. The dragon struggled to hit the Elf with his head, but an extra pulse of some sort of magic from the mage's hand seemed to calm to the dragon's temper.

"Maybe they're trying to tame it," said Geralt.

"Then they might be as stupid as we are," said Wallace.

"We are not stupid. We are brave warriors that do not back down in the face of danger," said Geralt.

"Maybe you are. I'm a smart warrior, who knows when they're outmatched. That right there is outmatched," said Wallace, pointing at the dragon.

"You wouldn't run from danger, would you?" asked Geralt.

"If staying would get me killed I would," said Wallace. "But I'll stick around until that happens."

"Good," said Geralt.

"Why does my foot feel so weird?" asked Seth. He sat down on the stone and pulled off his boot to reveal a sock covered in black ink. "Gross," he said.

Wallace groaned. "Gross is right. Put your shoe on. The dragon's gonna smell us."

"No. Do you see this?" he pulled off the sock and revealed a black foot. "Geralt, is my foot going to fall off?" He stuck it out, past Wallace, for Geralt to see. Geralt remembered his mishap from earlier that morning.

"No. I think you'll be just fine, young one. Now put that away—" Geral began.

"We're the same age!" said Seth, pounding the floor for effect. But the floor where he sat wasn't sturdy. With the strange way he was sitting with one leg extended and the extra force from his fist, the floor gave out beneath him. Seth fell through and landed a story below with a loud crash. He rolled, and then the wall behind him began to topple with all of the commotion. Thick chunks of plaster came down on a nearby chain, jerking at the creature's head.

The cloaked figure by the dragon's head looked at the commotion. When he did the dragon screamed again and pulled it's head up. With the loosened chain and the tamer distracted, it made progress this time. It gained enough leverage to smack the tamer with the side of its head and launch him across the square. He disappeared behind a building.

The other figures started yelling, trying desperately to pull on the chains and curb the creature's anger. It was no use. With another flick of its head, the dragon pulled the restraints on its head and neck completely free of the nearby crumbling buildings.

Lightning began to strike at the monster and the wind picked up in an instant. Then the dragon raised its head and aimed at one of the chains still holding its wings. One of the hooded figures tried desperately to hold it down. The dragon screamed and from its mouth came a torrent of fire. Geralt could feel the heat even from across the courtyard. When his eyes adjusted again as the flame stopped, he saw the burned crust of a man and several glowing molten chain links. The dragon wretched again and the red chain links snapped.

It spun around and snapped at the tamer, who was now back in the fight. When the dragon snapped at him, a bolt of lightning struck the monster on the nose. It lurched back in response to the pain.

"Come on. Let's get out of here!" said Wallace tugging Geralt away from the wall. He got a feeling it wasn't the first time Wallace had said it.

"But the dragon!" said Geralt.

"We'll slay a dragon another day. Preferably when I'm not in your hire," said Wallace.

He shoved Geralt down the stairs. Wallace jumped down and disappeared into the house. He came out with Seth over one shoulder, and they ran.

Moments later, when the sounds of lightning strikes and rushing wind had died down, they heard the heavy beats of wings. From the cover of the swamp trees, they watched the dragon raise into the air, and fly away, free of its chains.

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