Chapter 338: Feast at Kaer Morhen
Down a few wooden doors and through some twists and corridors they went. Eventually, they came to the left wing, where the kitchen stood. There was a basket of vegetables and rows of dried pork and meat hanging around.
An elderly man was working in front of the cauldron in the center of the kitchen. He was wearing armor made of cotton, chains, leather, and metal. The man was muscular, and his hair was slicked back. His hair was brown, and he looked younger than Geralt. There was a little mustache hanging above his lips.
Deep worry lines and stress lines decorated his face, but his skin was glistening, and his eyes were glimmering. He looked a lot younger than his age, and if Roy had to say, this man looked like a regular fifty-year-old guy. Even though he was no longer as handsome as he used to be. Roy could see that this man was as big a heartthrob as Dandelion was back in the day.
But this guy is almost as ancient as Kaer Morhen itself.
Age: Three-hundred and four years old
Status: Wolf School grandmaster (proficient in all Wolf School skills)
Witcher Signs Level 10, Alchemy Level 10, Meditation Level 8, Cat School Swordplay Level 10, Wolven Swordplay Level 10, Ursine Swordplay Level 10, Witcher Senses Level 10
Crisis Sense (Passive)
"And who is this lad, Geralt?" Vesemir placed his ladle into the stew and looked at the young witcher gently.
"It's an honor seeing you, Vesemir. I'm Roy from the Viper School. My companions and I just got here." Roy gave the grandmaster a look of respect and smiled at him. He had always wanted to see Vesemir, especially after the Battle of Kaer Morhen in the game.
"It's been decades since I’ve seen a witcher as young as you. Or was it a decade or so?" Vesemir pinched his mustache and laughed. "And you're handsome too. Reminds me of my younger days. Can you come closer? I wish to relive my youth for a moment."
Roy approached the grandmaster, and Vesemir gave him a quick bear hug, and then he shook Roy's hands. "Welcome to Kaer Morhen, Roy. We're going to have some long talks down the road. It's been a while since these walls have seen any guests."
"I envy the Vipers. They come all the way from the south and still managed to get a new apprentice who passed the Trial." Vesemir noticed the slight difference in Roy's eye color, and then he was reminded of the dire situation his school was in. "But why do you look at me like I'm an old friend, boy?"
"Geralt talked to me about you before." Roy looked at the smiling Geralt. "You're a magnificent mentor and the protector of Kaer Morhen."
"Oh, stop with the pleasantries, boy. You're making me envy the Vipers more every moment." Vesemir picked the ladle up and placed a butcher knife on the stove. "We'll talk over a drink, and now it's time for you to cook. Make us something good. Don't let them wait for too long."
Roy looked at the pork and the cauldron, and he smiled.
"Don't just stand there, Geralt. Get us some tomatoes!"
Night eventually descended, and it was time for a feast. Sconce flames and candlelights shone on the table of tantalizing food: grilled venison, a cauldron of stew, seasonal greens, and fruits.
The Vipers and Wolves sat around the long table draped in a red tablecloth.
"It's been years since we had any guests at Kaer Morhen. Four guests at once calls for a celebration. Geralt, Lamber, Eskel, raise a toast to our guests!" Vesemir raised his mug and downed the booze all in one go.
Everyone followed suit, and foam flew everywhere. As the witchers burped, Vesemir announced, "Dig in, friends. Be at home."
"Don't mind if we do!"
Merry was the air at the table, and the witchers spoke as freely as they wished.
"What do you call this, Roy? This is superb! How come you never made this before?" Auckes was drenched in sweat, and he speared a long strip of boar meat covered in sauce. He swallowed it whole without even so much as chewing once, and then Auckes wiped the grease from his lips. Then he closed his eyes in enjoyment.
"I've never had something like this, Viper." Lambert speared a thin piece of potato and popped it into his mouth. The spicy taste made his tongue burn, but he kept taking more from the cauldron. "Is this a Nilfgaardian recipe or an original one?"
"It's my first time trying this out. Glad you like it." Roy grinned at the sweating witchers.
Even Vesemir was eating as fast as he could. Despite his age, he could move fast.
"How did you come up with this?" Lambert sighed. "This kind of cooking never even crossed our minds. Decades of food wasted!"
"I drew inspiration from us gathering around this table even though our schools are hundreds of miles apart. So I thought, why don't I add everything I have into one big pot and cook them together? As you can see, a fusion of food makes things so much better."
And then a jolt of pain seared the back of Roy's foot. He turned around and gave Letho a look, but the veteran witcher kept digging into his leg.
Vesemir fell silent for a moment. He put his cutlery down and raised his mug again. "It's not every day you see a young man who can cook even better than me. This is exquisite. To Roy!"
"So, Letho, why did you guys move to the north?" Eskel gulped down his yam. "The north isn't exactly fertile grounds for witchers anymore. Monsters and requests don't come as much, and the people despise us."
He was reminded of a bad experience and laughed at himself. "Any family with kids is always on guard against us no matter where we go. Rural areas, cities, it's all the same. Is the south even worse?"
"No. Emhyr hasn't been hostile to non-humans." Letho took a swig of his liquor and grumbled, "At least he's better than Radovid of Redania or Henselt of Kaedwen, but he wanted our fortress. He thought Gorthur Gvaed was located in a strategic location. Emhyr was planning on taking over by force, but he gave up for some reason, and we're safe for the time being."
The look on Vesemir's face changed. He was also reminded of an ugly past. "We had it worse than you, honestly. A long time ago, a bunch of peasants, thugs, and mages banded together and ambushed this very place." He recounted, "They took over the fortress for quite a while and killed off most of the Wolves. Ran off with a lot of our valuables too."
Vesemir sighed. He was the swordplay instructor back then, and he only escaped death by hiding under the corpses of his brethren, though Vesemir was out cold as well. Geralt and Eskel weren't even born yet back then. "Vipers and Wolves aren't what they used to be. Only four of us from each school remain."
Everyone commiserated with one another.
Letho explained, "Auckes, Serrit, and I realized we couldn't put our fates in the hands of nobles. We needed to find another way out, and thus we came to the north. It proved to be the right decision, as we found a new member less than a year after we came." Letho looked at his apprentice, who was munching on a chicken drumstick. "But before we find a place to rebuild our school, we thought we should first come and say hello. Build up a rapport."
He scanned the Wolves. "We're all witchers here. We know what difficulties we have to face. If we run into any trouble, at least we can help each other out, especially in this environment. No matter what we do, everyone thinks our existence is wrong. I know you understand what I mean."
Geralt nodded. Eskel downed his alcohol solemnly.
"Letho has a point. You seem to be calm and reasonable people. We'd be happy to build a partnership." Vesemir paused. "As long as we never go against our creed of neutrality in politics. And I'd say don't pin too much hope on us. The whole Wolf School is just the four of us, including me. We can't do much."
"You're being modest, Vesemir," Letho said. "You might be the oldest living witcher yet. Your experience alone is worth three or four witchers in weight."
Vesemir nodded and drank some alcohol. "We'll talk about the terms later. After all, time is on our side." I need some time to observe these Vipers.
"Tell me how you guys managed to convince this kid into joining you." Lambert frowned. "Law of Surprise isn't as useful as it used to be. I tried using it for decades, but nobody would join us. How did you find one in less than a year?"
"Patience. You're still young. There's much to be seen," Geralt answered.
Vesemir and Eskel took the chance to finish the remaining meat in the cauldron.
"You're still relying on the Law of Surprise to get new blood, Lambert?" Auckes suddenly shouted, and it gained everyone's attention. "The Law of Surprise is outdated. We need to keep abreast of the times." He raised his mug, the light from the flames shining on his face. "Roy's not a product of the Law of Surprise. How he joined us is a story worthy of a page in the history book of witchers."
Letho choked on his beer, and Auckes said mysteriously, "But that's a tale for another time." If I bring that up now, the kid's going to also bring up the brotherhood.
"Very well. I shall await your tale." Lambert didn't press for details. "So how are you planning to rebuild your school? First, you'll need coins. A lot of coins." Lambert counted his fingers solemnly. "And you'll need an officially certified land. Getting a kingdom's seal is not something coins can solve. Third, how are you going to recruit new blood if you're not going to rely on the Law of Surprise? The people are going to think you're kidnappers."
Vesemir stopped eating, and the wolves listened closely.
"We have enough coins. Our business in Novigrad netted us a whole treasure trove," Serrit said. "And land isn't that hard to find." We still have that lab under the Temple Island if push comes to shove.
A smile curled Serrit's lips. "And this is a big world. There are plenty of orphaned, starving children who would clamor to join us as long as we extend an olive branch to them."
"But these children can't form a bond of Destiny. They're no Unexpected Children." Geralt put his cutlery down and argued, "The Trial is nothing but a death sentence for these kids."
"But I'm an exception." Roy looked at Geralt and Eskel. He argued, "So what about Unexpected Children? Not like they'd become apprentice witchers anyway. We need to change if we want the schools to continue existing."
Eskel touched the scar on his face, and Geralt froze. He was reminded of the girl he left back in Cintra.
"We shouldn't talk about something to somber during dinner." Vesemir knocked on his plate. "Let's talk about something lighter."
"And we're gonna start with Geralt!" Lambert gushed. I have been waiting for a long time. Time to tell our guests about our luck with women. "How many women have you slept with this year? And then I'll talk, and then it's Eskel's turn."
"Are you sure you want to bring that up?" Geralt shot his friend a look of disdain. If his face could make an expression of disdain, that was.
"You're not going to say anything? Why? Did you stay celibate for a year?"
"Why don't I go first?" Auckes asked. "I dated a sorceress in Aretuza earlier this year. She's a petite blonde."
The sconce flames and candlelights shone on a few lewd faces as they exchanged their 'experiences.'
Vesemir even stopped taking the meat and slowly moved toward the discussion area.
Roy heaved a sigh. Looks like it's going to be a long night.
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