Chapter 637: The Beginning of the End
Chandeliers swayed on the ceiling of Novigrad's ballroom, its light shining upon a bard on the stage. He was wearing a blue, notch-collared, puffy-sleeved shirt that tightly fitted him, and a feathered bird was perched on his head. His song was coming to an end, the tune of his lute slowing down.
The song was done, and he bowed at the audience. The audience responded with thunderous applause and cheers.
One of them stood up. "Thank you, Dandelion." The dwarf was stout and hard as a boulder, his beard dense and extended to his belly. When he spoke, his voice was a bellow. "Allow me, Yarpen Zigrin, a guard of Eternal Fire, and a dwarf the witcher once advised, to give praise to your most wonderful voice. No one is better, and I believe everyone agrees with my opinion."
There were more than two hundred people around the dwarf. There were humans and non-humans like dwarves, elves, and gnomes. There were also beautiful sorceresses and an alluring oneiromancer. Commoners in rags and blue blood in riches were gathered in this ballroom, filling it to the brim.
The expensive members-only seats that no one cared to reserve not too long ago, were now filled with the most prestigious members of this city. The Collector, King of Beggars, Cleaver, and even the Hieronymus of the Eternal Fire were present. Some people, failing to get a spot in the ballroom, stood in the aisle, sat on the red carpet beside the chairs in the ballroom, and some even sat astride the banister.
No one was angry at them for this uncouth behavior, however. They nodded at one another and whispered among themselves. Some half naked men even raised their mugs and cheered loudly. Some ladies were still immersed in the epic play, sobbing and wiping their tears away.
"The Brotherhood of Witchers is a marvelous play. You should spread to all the lands across the world. Kaedwen, Redania, Temeria, Aedirn… Even Kovir under the Dragon Mountains in the far north. All Northerners should see this play. They should know of the heroes behind the crises. They should apologize and repent for their ignorant slander against the witchers."
Barney, Reagan, and Paul were beside Yarpen. Their faces were red, and they nodded. The peasants within the crowd looked ashamed of themselves.
"But I have one gripe. When are you coming up with the sequel? You can't just leave us hanging. The witchers slayed monsters and saved countless. They got rid of the menacing Wild Hunt, helped the Northern sorcerers avoid a coup on Thanedd, which indirectly pushed the Northern Realms' alliance to join Meve in the war to protect Rivia. And they resisted the South. But then what? Did they get rid of the world-ending disaster? I heard people from Gors Velen say that the sea beside the isle is still frozen solid. It's like a perfect miracle now. Those arrogant sorcerers even erected statues for witchers in Aretuza."
"Yeah. Even if you don't want to sing the story, you can tell us all about it." Corinne blinked. "What did the witcher and the lovely young ladies see at the end of the White Frost?"
"How should I put this?" Dandelion put on a mysterious smile. "There are two sides to one coin. That's always been the case. Where there's good, there will be evil. Where there's heat, there will be cold. Where there's strength, there will be weakness. If you take the legendary Elder Blood as the head of the coin, then the White Frost is the tails. One leaves cracks in time-space, while the other repairs it. They were born at the same time and had fought forever, just twins destined to battle through time."
"So did they make it? Did the Elder Blood win?"
"Is that a trick question?" Cyrus, or Jiji the doppler, was on the second floor. He stroked his beard and loudly said, "If they failed, the disaster would've been upon us. We'd never be here having fun or praying to the great Eternal Fire."
"Yarpen, Corinne, you must be drunk," Gawain joked.
"No, you got it all wrong. The White Frost is gone, yes, but did the heroes return?" Yarpen stared at the bard with his puffy eyes. There was nervousness and anticipation in his gaze.
The people moved by the play waited for the answer with bated breaths, afraid that Dandelion might shake his head.
Dandelion smiled. Cryptically, he said, "Perhaps when you run into monsters during your forays in the wilderness and need someone's help someday, you will know the answer to that question. For now, I take my leave. And for a month at least, I'll be going on a long trip, so I can't perform. I apologize for that." Dandelion bowed apologetically. He then turned to the entrance of the ballroom.
A young, innocent lady with brown hair tumbling down her back waved at him. Her eyes were sparkling with naivete. Dandelion leapt off the stage, holding his lute. He waved at his adoring fans and approached the young lady. "Is everyone ready, Casiga?"
"They are, Dandelion. We're only missing you. But is it a good idea leaving Priscilla alone in Kovir?"
Dandelion coughed and counted his fingers. Righteously, he said, "I'm doing some self-sacrifice. We have some couples waiting for me to officiate their wedding in another world. I'd never have left my wife or these adoring fans if not for my old friends. And think about it. Witchers, sorceresses, a succubus, higher vampires, and the elves who almost never crack a smile are going to a strange and faraway land. If they have no bard spicing up their lives, it's going to be boring. It's a torture for them. Wait. Shouldn't we take the carriage to the House of Gawain and then the ship?"
Casiga gesticulated. The light of magic conjured up a diamond-shaped portal. "That's too slow." She dragged Dandelion and leapt into the portal.
Everything around Dandelion spun. When he snapped out of it, he was already standing on a gigantic brig. The bard looked down the rail, and he had vertigo. He was nearly thirty-three hundred feet in the sky. The buildings and people on the ground were nothing but specks, and they were zipping by fast.
He looked around. The skies were clear as a lake, and clouds decorated it, changing shapes every so often. Cold, suffocating winds blew in the air, and the sails extended like flags. The emblem of crossed blades shone golden under the sun. In the center of the deck, familiar figures were chatting away.
Ivar was swinging his right fist enthusiastically, depicting a bright future with Letho, Serrit, Auckes, and the new Vipers. Geralt and Yennefer were standing on the edge of the ship, enjoying the view. Vesemir and Mignole were huddled close together, whispering. Eskel had his arm around a chuckling succubus. Lambert was happily flirting with Lydia and Kantilla. Kiyan and Evelyn were researching a deathbell, while Igsena was singing a new play she learned. Coen was her audience.
Felix, Coen, and Eskel were regaling the apprentices with their adventures.
Coral and Triss, both beautifully dressed, were helping a group of Aen Elle sorcerers keep the ship's magical barrier intact, fending the chilling winds off.
A handsome yet charming young lady in hunting gear snuck up on Dandelion. "You're late, Dandelion. Sing us a song that fits the occasion." A silver ponytail was tied behind her head, and the medallions of the Wolf and Viper dangled from her neck. A grin cracked her lips.
"Why are you dressed up like a witcher, Ciri? And who gave the swords and medallions to you? Did your grandmother allow you to leave?" Dandelion plucked his lute.
"Don't you know? Not too long ago, Roy and I used the Elder Blood to meet up with the guy who abandoned his family. I'm talking about Emhyr."
"What's that got to do with my question?"
"After Roy and I persuaded him, the emperor has finally realized his mistakes. He willingly returned Cintra to Calanthe. With her problem gone, she was delighted, so she gave me my freedom."
Dandelion had a lot of questions about that. The White Flames Dancing on the Graves of His Foes and the ruler of Nilfgaard would never be convinced by words. The process must've been interesting. I could write a book about it. I have to extract it from Ciri and use it in my poems.
He even came up with a name. The Young Lady Emhyr Succumbed To.
"Pity Calanthe kept Eileni behind. Said she wanted Eileni to assume the throne of Cintra."
Ciri broke Dandelion's train of thoughts.
"But I'm not interested in that. Being ruler of Cintra or Aen Elle. I just like adventuring with you guys."
"Very well, Ciri the witcher. Congratulations on regaining your freedom. Now back to business. Where's our navigator, Roy?"
"At the bow."
A cloaked man was stepping on the conical ram with one leg. On his back were two swords, and a hand crossbow was tied between the blades. "Get ready, people. Close your eyes. Hold your breath and count to ten."
The black ship froze, and then it moved ahead, its ram piercing the void. The whole vessel quickly sank into the void and disappeared completely.
A short and indescribable journey through the dark void later, everyone saw the light once more. The ship had entered a new and strange world. Back in their world, it was the end of summer, but it was winter in this world. Icy winds howled across the air.
Beneath the ship were endless lands and snow-capped peaks. Hundreds of never-seen-before plants swayed beautifully. The people on the ship looked down and saw numerous creatures they'd never seen before. Foxes, badgers, mud crabs, sabertooth tigers, even grayish-white giants the size of a small building. They also saw wooly mammoths.
Further ahead was a great city built upon a stone mountain. The golden sunshine draped a sheen of gold upon it, its walls standing tall and mighty, but the city felt peaceful and lively.
"We're in Skyrim?" Ciri's face was red with excitement, and she was almost prancing.
"The Bannered Mare in Whiterun has special ale made by Argonians?" Auckes licked his lips.
"Daedric Princes are playing pranks on humans everywhere?" Letho and Felix exchanged a look.
"The Companions can morph into powerful wolves? How much different are they from Cursed Ones?" Angouleme muttered curiously.
"There are new magic and enchantment systems here?" Kalkstein's eyes were shining brightly.
"And another type of vampire here too?" Regis rubbed his chin.
"And there are dragons destroying cities everywhere?" Ciri shouted. "Roy, I can't wait any long. Take us on a dragonslaying mission!"
Roy turned back. He saw familiar, smiling faces, and a smile curled his lips. "Calm down, people. First we need to find Whiterun's Jarl, then we need to talk to my friends and see if we can rent a place and shape it into the brotherhood's Skyrim branch. This is a new beginning."
"So we'll have other branches in the future?"
"Then what are we waiting for?"
The black ship was filled with laughter. The people on it rode into Whiterun, where a new adventure awaited.
"Through the veil of darkness the silver light tears, away with the dark fog when the light of Signs shines."
The sound of lute played through the air. Dandelion's singing rained from the skies.
"The old story has ended, a new adventure awaits. And onward our legend goes."
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