Chapter 334: Wolven Storm
It was noon in Novigrad, and the sun was shining down from the zenith. After one month of renovation, the ballroom was finally open for business. The weather was warm for once, and everyone was delighted to walk around. They were watching the ballroom curiously.
Several blue vases stood on both sides of the door, and the flowers in them had dewdrops on their leaves and petals. A gust of breeze sent their scent flying everywhere, and their petals danced in the air.
A big blackboard stood in front of the vase like an out-of-place accessory. There was something written on it, and the words read, 'Twenty percent discount for everything. Opening day special!'
Novigradians were born smart. Even if they were illiterate, they could still see discounts where discounts were happening. The customers started heading into the new establishment to see what the fuss was all about, and to see if the discount was worthwhile.
Magical lamps rained down gentle light on the lobby, which looked like something between an inn and a mini theater. Wreaths made of mistletoe, spruce, and pine hung on the amber wall, ready to welcome Midwinter. Red embroidered curtains hung from the windows, and the stage curtain was closed.
The beautiful fences around split the lobby into two floors, and the stairs on both sides were connected to the entrance, giving the patrons more space to move about. They could opt for the VIP seats on the second floor and watch the show on the main stage in peace. The second floor offered a wider vista, but they could also go for the first floor. There were seats around the wooden table that flanked the lobby. They could eat and drink with their friends and family. Fresh fruit, succulent meat, and good wine were provided.
It was noon, and the hungry, curious customers had taken their seats. Novigrad was a big city that housed tens of thousands of people. Entertainment was always scarce, and people loved trying out new stuff. For that reason and some other factors, all the tables had been filled in just a bit.
There were gaunt, pasty people among the crowd as well as merchants and nobles in hats, fashionable clothes, and accessories. There were also flashy bards equipped with flutes and accordions who came to show support for their fellow bards.
This was the scene Dandelion was aiming for. A ballroom that combined theater and inn was perfect for both upper and lower society. Everyone could have fun, regardless of their status.
The witchers were in the frontmost left seats. They were beyond the dance floor, and the main stage was just an arm's length away. At Dandelion's vehement insistence, the witchers changed into more appropriate attire. Complex underclothes, doublets, trousers, and tight tops. The attire was suffocating the witchers, and their muscles were threatening to tear the clothes apart. It was akin to a peasant in a king's clothes or an illiterate trying to recite a poem. In a word: awkward.
Serrit took a swig of the wine and frowned. He looked at his collar in disgust and tried to make it bigger by pulling on it. "This is your surprise, kid? Making us wear these clothes and subjecting us to torture in a ballroom? I bet my last crown I can't even kill a boar in this outfit."
"That's right, Roy. You'll have to compensate us for this." Auckes finished half a bottle of the wine in one go and wiped his lips. "I think last month's profit from the apothecary shop sounds nice."
"He has a point. If the bards can't put on a satisfying performance…" Letho put his elbows on the table and clasped his hands. He rested his chin on the back of his hands as he came up with an idea. "You're going to take one for the team and dance onstage."
Carl choked on his wine and clutched his belly. His face kept twitching, and he turned around to hide his laughter, but Roy could see that his face was already red from holding it in.
Felix, who was right beside him, quickly refilled his glass with wine. "No wasting."
Carl stared at his mentor, and it killed his laughter. He held his glass up, a bitter look hanging on his face.
Kiyan was still in his usual cloak, hood, sunglasses, and mask. His outfit garnered a lot of curious looks, but he just went on with his business without a care in the world. Sometimes he would pat Carl's head, but there was a forlorn look in his eyes.
"There are performers for the stage, mates. I don't have to dance. And what's the rush? The show's only starting." Roy stuffed a purple fruit in his hood and raised a toast to the smiling Kantilla and his reserved parents. Even Mino was here.
A blonde appeared on the wooden stage holding a light yellow lute in the shape of half a pear. She was in typical bard attire made up of a tight blue shirt with red sleeves, and her pants were half yellow and half blue, while her leather boots had pointed ends.
She was sitting on the stool, a confident smile curling her lips.
Standing beside her was a handsome man in a purple hat and silk shirt. Dandelion cleared his throat and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I am Dandelion, the manager of this ballroom, and I hereby announce our opening starting this lovely afternoon! Thank you for your support. We greatly appreciate it!"
Dandelion held his chest with his right hand and bowed to everyone.
The crowd turned silent. Even the people who worked the lowest jobs knew they had to be silent before a performance.
"I'm known amongst lovers of poetry, and most of you have probably read some of my works…"
"Like The Adversities of Loving?" one of the ladies gasped.
"Yes, that is one of my works."
A small commotion erupted. Apparently quite a few customers recognized Dandelion, and a few of the beautifully-dressed ladies were starting to give him beguiling looks.
"Midwinter is drawing near, so allow me to wish you a good Midwinter in advance. And now a few words from yours truly. I've spent thirty years of my life wandering from city to city, writing thousands of poems and meeting countless lovely ladies along the way, but in the end, I chose to settle in Novigrad. Do you know why? Because this city accommodates you. It doesn't care who you are or where you're from; anyone can gain peace in this city. Of course, like any other city, Novigrad has its fair share of evil and unsavory memories, but there's kindness, tolerance, life, and prosperity to be found. That's why I wanted to realize my dream of opening a ballroom here. I want people of different races to come together and have fun. I want to put on performances that everyone can enjoy, no matter who you are."
"And today, I finally got my dream fulfilled. Special thanks to witchers from that Viper and Cat School for sponsoring this. Roy, Letho, Serrit, Auckes, and Felix, thank you for your generosity."
Dandelion and Priscilla bowed to the witchers. "And by my name, I guarantee that witchers are as noble as they are generous. Believe not in the rumors flying in villages. Those are nothing but slanderous remarks against these brave and noble souls."
"That's it for my little talk, and you guys must have had enough of it. And now, the esteemed Priscilla shall present a song for you. Roy of the Viper School made this, and it talks of a hauntingly beautiful love story. The song is dubbed… Wolven Storm. Please, enjoy the performance."
Dandelion moved the stool to the center of the stage, and Priscilla started playing a tune on the lute.
When the first note started playing out, the crowd started falling silent. Not even the sound of eating or drinking was heard. Everyone's eyes were on the gorgeous bard on the stage.
A slow tune hung in the air, and Priscilla sang.
"These scars long have yearned for your tender caress
To bind our fortunes, damn what the stars own
Rend my heart open, then your love profess
A winding, weaving fate to which we both atone…"
As Priscilla played out that song, Roy narrowed his eyes. He was moved. Never would he expect to see Priscilla perform this song live, right in front of his eyes. He only dreamt of this before, but now he finally had the chance to experience it. Perks of traveling to another world.
Roy's companions lost their nonchalance, and the bored looks on their faces turned to brooding expressions. Witchers had no talent for poetry or singing, but they lived far longer lives than most humans, and relationships came and went all the time. That experience allowed them to connect with the song more, and they resonated with it.
Even the disfigured Kiyan was feeling a little melancholic under his disguise.
"You flee my dream come the morning
Your scent - berries tart, lilac sweet
To dream of entwisted raven locks, stormy
Of violet eyes, glistening as you weep…"
The song was in its second verse, and the witchers kept their eyes on the bard. Everyone in the hall seemed to be frozen in time. They were listening closely to the song, not even making a sound. Some of the more emotional ladies were already tearing up from the sad tune and sorrowful lyrics. They could see how this relationship would end, it seemed.
Moore and Susie were clasping their hands and stared into each other's eyes. There was bliss gleaming in them.
Mino was sucking on his thumb, his eyes also on Priscilla. Even a baby like him remained silent while the performance went on.
Roy looked past the crowd, Corinne, and even Todd. He set his sights on the window beside the entrance. A handsome man with short purple hair was standing in front of the window, staring intently into the lobby. The pendant hanging around his neck was shining.
The man was the doppler who took over Matteo's place. Roy invited him as well, but he seemed reluctant to enter. After all, he was one of the most powerful men in this city. If he went around like nobody's business, it would cause a commotion.
Roy nodded at him.
"I know not if fate would have us live as one
Or if by love's blind chance we've been bound
The wish I whispered when it all began
Did it forge a love you might never have found?"
The crowd was immersed in the questions posed by the song, but Roy suddenly cocked his eyebrow. He felt someone's foot slithering over to his and stepping on his shoes under the table.
Roy turned around and saw Kantilla winking at him as she cracked a toothy grin. The wine was getting to her, and a red hue colored her cheeks.
What are you doing? Roy asked quietly. Kantilla moved in and put her leg on his. The young witcher took a deep breath and turned around.
The performance was nearing its end. After Priscilla played out the final notes, she bowed to the audience. Everyone pulled themselves out of the melancholic ambience and either heaved a sigh of relief or regret. But one thing was for sure—they clapped thunderously, and for one whole minute too.
Dandelion and Priscilla exchanged a look of excitement. If they could keep this quality of performance up, the ballroom could stay open for a long, long time.
Then it was intermission. The lobby got lively again as the customers ate and drank.
"That was an excellent show, kid." Letho downed a glass of wine. "You don't have to dance this time."
"When did you come up with that song?" Auckes craned his neck and rested his head on Roy's shoulder. He muttered enviously, "I didn't know you had a talent for songwriting."
The other witchers turned their sights to Roy.
"I didn't come up with that. Saw it in a glimpse of the future," Roy explained while pushing Kantilla's leg away.
"Do that a few more times and have Dandelion slide the songs into their performance." Felix puffed his cheeks and chewed down on the meat. "We need to make money."
Music started playing again, but this time it wasn't about a sad love story. Instead, a dozen bards took to the stage and put on some sort of orchestra. The tune felt lively, quick, and fluid.
Some of the younger customers hopped onto the dance floor and moved their bodies happily. The delight spread in the air and infected everyone. One by one, the customers jumped onto the dance floor and danced all they liked while they had their wine.
Dandelion and Priscilla started a ballroom dance, while Moore and Susie started spinning slowly as well. And then there were the witchers, who danced like beasts, moving their bodies in violent ways. The ladies and girls screamed in terror at the sight of these monster hunters dancing.
Kantilla approached Roy out of nowhere, but the young witcher wasn't as on guard this time. He held her hands and danced his heart out with her. Things eventually started heating up, and everyone tossed their worries away. They enjoyed the here and now, and their shirts were eventually drenched with sweat.
And then in came the sorceress with fiery hair and a black dress. She seemed a little angry for coming too late, but her gorgeous looks attracted everyone's eyes.
She barged onto the dance floor and snatched the young witcher away from Kantilla. "I'm not opening a portal for you until we dance, you heartbreaker," she whispered.
Portal? Oh, yeah. Today's the day we leave this city and head for Blue Mountain. We need Coral's portal for that. Roy was in a daze, but he went on dancing with Lytta anyway.
Kantilla wasn't mad at all. She just kept dancing alongside the witcher and the sorceress.
Roy stared at the people dancing on the dance floor, and a resolute smile curled his lips. I'll protect this until the day I die.
End of arc
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