Chapter 335: Blue Mountains
Blue Mountains. A great mountainous range that separated the northern kingdoms from the sands and prairies of the east. Home to snowy caps, foggy valleys filled with rivers, and verdant ancient forests, these mountains were a natural, gargantuan maze.
The witchers spent most of their time ascending the mountains after they left the portal. Ever pursuant, they kept heading ahead according to the directions left to them on the simple map.
The witchers didn't have to worry about survival supplies thanks to Roy and Letho's storage items, nor did they have to carry any heavy items. The trip had been convenient, and not to mention there was a handsome sparrowhawk flying overhead, leading them in the direction they needed to go.
Still, this was a rocky and dangerous path. The ever-rising altitude could rob any regular human of their consciousness in an instant, and the gales that howled perpetually in the valleys threatened to sweep any traveler away into a gruesome death, should they even lose focus for one moment.
But not the witchers. The witchers were blessed with incredible balancing skills. Their cloaks might billow in the winds, but that didn't hinder their movements. They leapt and ran across the narrow path, but they were always as steady as a boulder. Sometimes they could even look down at the magnificent valleys too.
The land they left behind turned into nothing but a speck of dust. The infamous land of Kaedwen, helmed by Henselt, a hater of non-humans, was pulled back into the horizon over yonder. Everything was left behind.
The Vipers traveled from noon to dusk, and they finally hit a downward slope. The path before them twisted and turned like a snake, and a colossal valley unfurled before them. Thich pine trees swayed below on the land, and streams of water flowed into this valley before the witchers.
"That'll be all for today, folks." Auckes tucked the map into his pocket and looked at the sky. The sun was starting to set, and dusk was fast approaching. "Let's camp for the night and resume our journey tomorrow."
The witchers walked down the path covered with pebbles and grass, eventually reaching the valley before nighttime. They set up camp under a protruding boulder, laying out haystacks and setting up a campfire.
As usual, the youngest witcher would be on hunting and kitchen duty for the night, while everyone else stayed back at camp to scout out their surroundings.
Roy didn't bother to object. He was used to this. The young witcher walked on his tiptoes across the mulch, traversing between the bushes and trees of the valley while holding his pendant down. Mana was abundant in the air come winter, and his pendant would vibrate most of the time, necessitating the action to stop it almost every time it happened.
He then held up Gabriel with his left hand and put his right on the trigger. If Roy so wanted to, he could fire off a lethal shot anytime. At the same time, he looked around cautiously. If anyone was here, they would see a pair of wild eyes staring at them through the glistening cobwebs hanging between the trees.
Roy pricked up his ears to receive any and all information from his trusty little helper—the sparrowhawk. It was zipping through the air above Roy, searching for prey and looking out for any potential danger.
It screeched, and a silver bolt flew through the woods. A small animal underneath a bramble bush thirty yards away fell to the ground, a bolt buried in its flesh.
'Rabbit killed. EXP +5.'
"Looks like it's grilled rabbit for dinner." Roy gave the sparrowhawk a thumbs up.
Gryphon cooed and perched on a branch to flap its wings in excitement. It loved being praised.
Roy hunkered down and quickly approached his prey, but he came to an abrupt halt and stood beside a big pine tree. The young witcher held his breath, the look on his face turning grim. The ground's shaking. And something big's coming. Yech. Something stinks too.
Gryphon noticed the change in the air as well. It remained perched on the branch, but the critter craned its neck and transmitted what it saw to its master.
Through Gryphon's eyes, Roy saw a grizzly bear popping its big head out from behind the bush, and then its whole body followed. The bear measured about six feet seven in length and four feet eleven in height when it was on all fours. Its flabby layers of skin wobbled with every step it took. The creature would have looked adorable if not for its long, sharp claws and tough, muscular limbs. This was no animal to be trifled with.
The big guy lowered his head and picked the rabbit up with a single stroke of its tongue. It sat down and tore into the little creature, breaking it into little pieces to make it easier to eat.
Age: Ten years old
Hibernation (Passive): Grizzly bears are born with a body composition that allows them to store fat before winter arrives and food becomes scarce. They will then follow their instincts and hibernate in a remote tree or cave. Their energy and stamina consumption will then be lowered, allowing them to pass the winter safely.'
"You should have remained in hibernation, you big oaf, but you chose death instead." Roy shot an icy look at the bear and caressed his weapon. "Now I'm going to put you on ice. Thanks for the big haul. I'll make sure to cook you well."
Roy gesticulated, and Quen covered him. He then pulled the trigger, and his pupils contracted.
Two silver flashes of light arced through the air and destroyed the bear's eyes before it could even react. Agony sent it into a frenzy, and a great roar that shuddered the trees and sent birds flying tore through the night.
The bear stood up, the fur on its chest bristling as it tried to pull the bolts out of its punctured eyes, but Roy wouldn't let him do it. Two more bolts buried themselves in the bear's paws.
The creature quickly went on all fours and tried to sniff out where the witcher was. Even without its eyes, its excellent sense of smell quickly locked onto its target, and the bear charged at Roy like a big tank.
The woods were trembling from the bear's charge. It moved at an unbelievable speed, traversing thirty yards in less than two seconds. The bear opened its maw as it swung its paws at the witcher. The sheer strength behind those gigantic paws was enough to shatter Quen in one blow and crack Roy's bones in two.
But Roy was faster. He held his hand crossbow up and set his sights on the air behind the bear, and then he pulled the trigger. Ripples spread across the space where the witcher was before he disappeared into thin air. Then he reappeared beside a tree about thirty yards away.
The bear crashed into the oak, its claws peeling off a layer of bark, and leaves rained down on it. Before it could reorient itself, two more bolts embedded themselves into its hind legs.
The bear swiveled around in fury and charged ahead again relentlessly, but it was a futile attempt.
Roy had the high ground, and he kept blinking around the battlefield like a sorcerer. Every time the bear was about to land an attack, Roy would evade it at the last possible moment only to appear in another spot and fire a few more bolts.
His Mana reserve and the healing effects Activate brought were enough for him to cast Blink eleven consecutive times.
Not even one minute into the battle, the bear had already demolished more than a dozen ancient trees, but it had nothing to show except for a few dozen bolts on its body. The bear looked more like a porcupine at that moment. It couldn't even muster up enough strength to roar.
Its chest was heaving, and its breathing was heavy, but not once did it manage to hit the enemy. The bear finally realized the predicament in was in, and it started running toward the woods' exit.
Night had encompassed the land, and a full moon hung in the air, shining on a solemn hunter standing between the trees.
Roy held his sword downward and knelt on one knee. Gwyhyr remained pointed at the ground. When the bear finally came near the witcher, he leapt into the air and fell like a meteor onto the bear's back. The momentum and gravity pushed and pulled Gwyhyr down to the ground, piercing the creature's head while it was on its way.
As the bear's brain turned to mush, it came to an abrupt halt and skidded five yards before coming to a total stop. Its head was buried within the mulch, and not a sound came from its mouth.
'Grizzly bear killed. EXP +150. Level 7 Witcher…'
Roy leaped off the back of the bear, and Gryphon flew down to perch on his back. It pecked his hair lovingly, and Roy patted its head.
The young witcher wiped the blood off his sword with the bear's fur and pulled out the bolts from its dead body. He was delighted by the hunt. Two minutes. I killed that big guy in two minutes and tried out a new combat tactic. This is a good haul.
Someone interrupted his moment of delight. "Did you step in Kovir's salted fish today, Roy? That's a big haul!" A hooded witcher leapt off a branch and lifted up one of the bear's paws, and then he gave Roy a look.
Roy grabbed the other paw, and they made their way back to the camp.
"A shame we can't sell the hide for much. You put too many holes in it."
"I can't engage in close-quarter combat with it as I am right now. Too risky." Roy was confident about killing the bear in just moments if he used Axii and Fear in close combat, but he would have to get injured to do that. Not a perfect battle for me.
Smoke billowed in the air, obscuring the moon for a moment. Four bear paws stood beside the campfire, and a young witcher was brushing honey and spices on them while he turned the paws over the open fire. The paws started crackling and oozing oil as they cooked, the aroma wafting in the air awakening the witchers' appetite.
"Get in line, people. I dragged this big guy back, so I'm taking the front paw." Auckes licked his lips and rubbed his hands while gulping like a starving wolf.
"And you need to learn respect!" Serrit waved off the bugs that were flying in the air. "So I'm taking the other front paw." And then he sighed. "The last time we had bear paws was three years ago."
"Yeah. We were still in Nilfgaard back then. 'Twas in a mountain near Gorthur Gvaed. Ah, those were the days." Letho set his sights on one of the hind paws. They weren't as tight and tender as the front paws due to their relative lack of activity, but they were juicier and more succulent. "Things just kept piling on since we got to the northern kingdoms. We were busy, and your bear traps weren't put to good use. This is really unexpected, kid. Getting a bear before Midwinter? That's some luck."
"And this is just the first day of our trek. Fate decrees it so. This is a good start." Roy was grinning and drooling. "I bet we'll befriend the Wolves when we get to Kaer Morhen, and perhaps we can talk about something more than that too."
"Put that thought on hold and don't talk about the brotherhood," Letho retorted. "We'll see how they react to the visit. If everything goes well, we can invite them to Novigrad."
The Vipers exchanged smiles. While most of their brethren were still ekeing out a living by taking deadly requests, they had already opened up a lucrative shop. They could live their whole lives without even doing anything, and that was an accomplishment, even though most of the coins were kept by a certain guy.
"So, what did White Wolf say the last time you saw him? How many Wolves are left?" Auckes picked the paw up and took a bite. The temperature scalded his tongue, but he narrowed his eyes in enjoyment as the meat melted in his mouth.
"Four. Same as us. Geralt, Eskel, Lambert, and their leader, Vesemir." Roy stared at his ever-optimistic friend and smirked. "I think you and Lambert will be fast friends."
"You've never even seen the guy. How would you know?"
"Oh, instinct." Roy smiled but didn't elaborate. He looked at the bear's corpse beside the fire. Nobody was even touching it after they cut its paws off. "And we're just going to waste all of the bear?"
Serrit shook his head in disgust. "There's something I need to tell you, Roy. From a veteran bear-hunter to a newbie. Aside from their paws, bears are made up of literal fat. They smell like shite no matter how you go about it. Just cut off the gall bladder and peel the hide off. That'll make a good gift for the wolves. Bury everything else and give it back to the land."
"Sure." Roy turned the skewers again and cut off a small part of the bear's neck before tossing it into his hood.
Gryphon held it between its beak and gulped it down. The sparrowhawk wasn't picky about its food.
"How long until we get to the rendezvous point?"
"At our current speed? Two, three days at most."
Roy stared into the night and through the woods and mountains. He could almost see a looming, ancient, but dilapidated fortress. I'm coming, Kaer Morhen!
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