Chapter 427: Crisis
"This is new. A witcher who's concerned about politics."
"What we're concerned about are the people affected by it. Ciri, to be exact," Geralt answered.
"Thank you for coming all the way to Cintra just to see my granddaughter." Calanthe bit her lip and tugged on the blue strip over her shoulder. With her best effort, she tried to stay calm. "But your worries are, I'm afraid, unfounded. Cintra has at its helm the bravest king it has ever seen." She held Eist's hand and smiled at him. "The most determined royal family and the best warriors in these lands. Should Nilfgaard launch an invasion, they shall find nothing but bloodshed on their end. Our warriors will beat them back the way they came."
Geralt answered calmly, "Your Highness, there is no need to hide your worry. We're not here to laugh at you or make a mockery out of your predicament. We too loathe Nilfgaard for launching this war."
"Shouldn't you be happy?" Calanthe, like someone who got triggered, mocked, "War means death, and death means more monsters. To put it simply, you'll get more requests."
"Taking requests is not the only way we make a living now, Your Highness," Roy rebutted. "Our business creates more wealth than any request ever can, and it's safer. Requests are nothing but something we take for fun. Like seasoning, we don't need too much of it."
"I see." Eist shot his wife a look, telling her to calm down. "I would like to listen to this crisis you talk about."
Geralt answered, "You're in a more significant predicament than you imagine. I've seen the representatives. I've lived long enough to tell you neither they nor their kings want to join this battle. If I'm right, only King Bran of Skellige Isles will help, and he's your brother."
The rulers of Cintra exchanged a look of surprise. It was a shock that the witcher could guess the outcome of the conference despite not being there themselves. Or so they thought. Neither of them expected Roy to have listened in.
"It's only been a year since we met, and already you're sensitive to the political changes of these lands, Geralt." Mousesack caressed his beard, his eyes twinkling with suspicion. "I almost thought you went through spy training and quit being a witcher."
Geralt took a swig of wine, but his face tensed up. Fortunately, the rulers dismissed Mousesack's comment as a joke.
"So what about it?" Still filled with confidence, Eist said, "Even if we only have a single ally, our warriors are more than enough to trample Nilfgaard's soldiers. The children of the sea fear no death or blood. We shall decorate our saddlebags with the heads of the enemy generals."
"Very well. Have you sent your scouts to Amell then, Your Majesty?"
"Of course. Nilfgard's troops number fifteen thousand. That's about the same as our troops." He continued, "But their security is tight. Our scouts failed to gain more information on them."
"And how long ago was that?" Roy shook his head, sighing. "I bring bad news. Nilfgaard's troops number over fifteen thousand. Their sights aren't just set on Cintra, no. Not even just the southern shores of Yaruga."
The rulers and Mousesack looked shocked, but what came out of Roy's lips next shook them.
"They wish to conquer the whole of the Northern Realms. Their troops will march up north, eventually numbering two to three hundred thousand. And they have planned this invasion for twenty years. Now they have taken over Nazair. Their troops have trained for years just for this invasion alone. All of them, including their generals, are masters of various combat arts." Roy paused for a moment. "Now do you think your troops can fend them off? Do you think Ciri can still be safe in the face of so many soldiers?"
Silence swooped down on the conference hall.
A nervous Calanthe was starting to bruise her husband's arm from how hard she was holding it. "To hell with that, witcher. That is a lie." Calanthe forced herself to calm down, a hint of disdain filling her eyes. "I know what you're getting at. That's a lie to make me give up Ciri. You think I'd fall for that? No. No, I tell you! Now get out of my sight! You're pardoned for your lies only because of your earlier achievement, but you can forget about any reward. And don't ever try to disturb Ciri again! Guards!"
"Hold it, Calanthe," Eist said. He was staring straight into Roy's eyes darkly, but there was no hint of deception in the witcher's eyes. There was only clarity. Indifference. Like he was a spectator narrating a historical fact.
Mousesack added, "Your Majesty, my instinct tells me the lad isn't lying."
"Very well then, Roy. And how did you get your hands on this piece of information? Are you Emhyr's relative or a child of his general who wishes to defect?"
"You might not believe this, but let me finish my tale." Roy shot up from his seat and ignored the look of disdain Calanthe was throwing at him. "I used to catch glimpses of odd occurrences. Of different events. I used to think they were nothing but figments of my imagination. I used to brush them off, but when I thought about it, everything I saw either happened in the past or they would happen in the future. No exceptions.
"For example, I saw Ciri running away from her engagement and scurrying off into Brokilon, so I ventured to the woods in search of her. That's where I ran into Geralt. Mousesack can prove that. You can ask Ciri if you want to prove the veracity of my tale."
Mousesack nodded at the rulers. He ran into Roy, Ciri, and Geralt a few yards away from Brokilon. "Your Majesty, I do know some people are born with the power of a seer."
Roy shot the druid a look of gratitude, though he wondered why Mousesack would help him.
"But that could be a coincidence," Calanthe retorted.
"I saw your conference. It ran for two months." Roy raised his voice. "The representatives either provide nothing but vague answers, or they demand Ciri's hand in marriage as a prerequisite for their help. Some, like Raymund of Toussaint, went back on his word, and it backfired on him."
"So that was what you told Geralt." Calanthe looked at Roy in a new light. There was disgust and admiration in her eyes. "Cunning beyond your years."
"Or you wouldn't have spared us a moment of your time."
"Did you see Nilfgaard's troops with your premonition then?" Eist tapped the table with his finger lightly. He trusted fate and prophecies thanks to a certain event in his life.
"Yes." Roy paused for a moment. He tensed up and gave Mousesack a solemn look. "What I'm going to say concerns the future of Cintra. It's going to be hard to accept. Offensive, even."
"Speak. I trust Mousesack's judgment." Eist was still as composed as ever. "If what you say is the truth, then there is no offense made."
"The Nilfgaardian troops shall attack Cintra in July next year. The battle shall happen in Marnadal, and Nilfgaard pulverizes Cintra without much effort."
"That is preposterous!"
"Patience." Eist patted the back of Calanthe's hand.
Magic glinted in Mousesack's eyes. He tried to see through Roy, but nothing appeared. Then he tried to divine Roy's future, but nothing showed up either. The lad has immunity against divination. He's beyond the eyes of fate.
Geralt leaned back and sipped some wine as he watched the conversation unfold. He convinced me the same way he's convincing them. Wonder if they'll fall for it.
"In a single day, the Nilfgaardian troops will surround the very city we're in. King Eist and his troops defended the gates for four days and four nights, but eventually, he fell." Roy's tone was dark. For some reason, his tale sounded believable.
"The troops will invade Cintra, looting and plundering everything they can. Cintra will be turned into a living hell, drenching the seas and skies in the color of blood. And Cintra will be no more."
Eist took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He leaned on the back of his chair, silence taking over him.
"You can glimpse the time, location, and the outcome like you're there yourself." Calanthe was in disbelief. She couldn't believe the troops she was so proud of would fall so easily. It was easier to think that this was something Roy made up.
Fury flared in her eyes. Shrilly, she asked, "Did you see what happened to me and Eist then?"
Roy remained silent. He wondered if he should say it out loud.
"It's fine. Just say it." Eist waved at Roy and gave him a look of encouragement.
For some reason, Roy saw, through Eist's exhausted eyes, a hint of light and relief. It's like he knew.
"King Eist charged into battle like a furious sea monster, but he was shot by an arrow and lost his life. Your final resting place lies in Skellige, your homeland."
"What about me, then?" There was a tremor in Calanthe's voice. From fear and fury. Nobody expected to see the lioness of Cintra to shiver and tear up.
Eist held her in his embrace, just like how he once did when he defended her from the falling rocks.
"None of the royal family would submit. Everyone and their family poisoned themselves and died. You were pierced by a spear while you were defending the kingdom, and yet you dragged yourself all the way back to the palace and cut your own wrists open."
Every time the witcher paused, Calanthe would shiver in her husband's arms.
"You crawled all the way to the window and leaped from the highest tower. And you perished." Roy looked at her again, but this time with respect. Calanthe might be cantankerous, but she was tough. Bravely, she faced off against a hopeless situation.
But the witcher didn't spare them from the cruel truth lying in wait for them. "Your corpse went missing. King Eist was laid to rest all by his lonesome."
"Enough! Silence!" Calanthe wiped her tears off. She sat up and forced a smile. "That is enough, witchers. I shall give you your reward, and you may leave."
A frown furrowed Eist's brows. "There's another thing you haven't told us. Where did Ciri go?"
"You would believe his lies?" Calanthe turned around, her eyes glistening with tears and confusion.
"Seek deep within yourself, my love. You know the answer." A long sigh escaped Eist's lips. "I trust him."
Eist had a secret of his own. Back when he was just a seafarer, he would look to the stars and keep his ship on track. But one night, when he was lying on the deck and observing the stars, he noticed a secret that was hiding within them. A secret he only found out.
That discovery changed him. It replaced his humor and outward attitude with solemnity and silence. The stars told him of a dark future. It wasn't as clear as Roy's depiction, but most of it agreed with Roy's prophecy.
For the longest time, he had to carry this nightmare alone, but now so many people were sharing his burden. That fact alone unshackled him.
"Do you think so too, Mousesack?" Calanthe turned to the druid. There was anticipation in her eyes. She wished for him to say no, but alas, reality disappointed her.
Part of a druid's job was to observe natural phenomena like storms, waves, lightning, and the stars. They would then conclude what they saw from it, and most of the conclusion would point to the omen heralding a specific future.
He had no idea how Roy managed to glimpse into the future, but his experience and lie detecting told him Roy was telling the truth. Darkly, he said, "I cannot be sure if he's telling the whole truth, but nature is telling me at least most of it is."
All of Calanthe's strength left her. She plopped back into her chair and stared at the ceiling blankly. Then she closed her eyes. It was hard to admit this, but the witcher's depiction of the future was just like what she would do.
If she were forced into that kind of situation, Calanthe would throw herself into death's embrace, but what Roy said next destroyed her.
"Before you perished, you asked the knights to escort Ciri to safety. They tried, but the Nilfgaardians soldiers killed them. Ciri hid between the corpses and watched as her kingdom burned to the ground."
The rulers held their breaths and clasped their hands tightly, holding each other up. Geralt was paying attention as well. Roy had never told him about that part of the prophecy before.
"Ciri relied on her wits to escape the Nilfgaardian army and managed to survive. But the journey that awaited her was laden with hardships and starvation. She endured more pain than she ever had all her life."
A pregnant pause ensued. Only the sounds of ragged breathing filled the air.
A long, long time later, Calanthe took a deep breath and recomposed herself. She took her handkerchief out to wipe her tears. When she looked at the witchers again, the disdain and disgust in her eyes were replaced by understanding and respect. "I see. So you wish to spare Ciri from the pain of losing her kingdom."
"That's right." Geralt said, "We're finally seeing eye to eye. We can't do anything to change Cintra's fate, but at least we can save Ciri. We're telling you this in case she blames us for keeping it a secret."
"Oh, I think you can change Cintra's fate, even if just slightly." Calanthe held her husband's arm and exchanged a look with him. "Assuming you're telling us the whole truth, you've given us information on a war one year before it will happen. Do you know what that means?" Calanthe's eyes shone with a sliver of hope. "We have a year to prepare. Yes, the outcome might remain the same, but we'll try to lessen the impact of defeat."
"Let's not talk about Ciri for now. Roy, you've seen a lot of things we haven’t. I think you are still hiding something. Some suggestions, for example." Fate might have crushed Eist, but determination flared within his eyes. Now that he wasn't carrying the burden of knowledge alone, he would fight until the bitter end to ensure his wife’s survival. Even if death were to claim him, Eist swore he would make Nilfgaard pay the price. "How should we deal with the threat Nilfgaard is posing? What do you think we should do to defend ourselves?"
Roy mused over it for a while and heaved a sigh.
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