Chapter 342: Watchtower’s Portal
Kaer Morhen's plains were once again visited by a chilly dawn zephyr. Snow fell on the fourth day after Midwinter, draping the land in a silver coat.
Pine trees swayed on the plains as horses trekked through the snow. Eight riders in thick cloaks sat atop the mounts as they made their way west of Kaer Morhen.
"Nice horse, Geralt. A mare, isn't she? What's her name?" Roy patted the black horse beneath him. He was reminded of Wilt, who was stationed far away in Novigrad.
The Blue Mountains weren't easy to trek, so he didn't bring Wilt along. Wonder if Kantilla is feeding him well.
"Roach. She's a lively girl." Geralt held the reins with one hand and patted her mane with the other. There was a gentle smile on his perpetually stiff face. "She's mostly obedient, but sometimes she gets jittery and flings me off her back in battle. And sometimes she just goes against my orders."
Roach bared her teeth and made a weird noise of protest.
"Roach… Sounds like an insect's name." Roy was reminded of something interesting, and he smiled. "She hops onto someone's roof sometimes, doesn't she?"
"And how did you know that?" Geralt frowned. He stared ahead at a red horse, where Auckes and Lambert were vying for control.
"Got a premonition when I saw her? How did she do it? Did she grow wings and fly onto the rooftops?"
"A witcher's horse is no regular beast. The potions and Signs affect her throughout her adventures with me. Now she's more like a… human, not a horse." A yawn escaped Geralt's lips, and then he stared ahead. A ramshackle watchtower was standing over the snow-capped hill in front of them. "We're here."
To the pine trees the horses were tied, and up the meandering path the witchers went. The watchtower looked even more run-down upon closer inspection. Centuries ago, a powerful magical attack had hit the tower in the middle, breaking it in two. Most of the tower's insides were filled with debris from the walls, rotten, blackened wooden beams, and stairs.
Yellowing grass grew on the ground, and a few frozen trees stood around the tower.
"Are you sure there's a diagram here, Roy?" Vesemir stopped looking around. "I searched the whole place after that siege, but I found nothing."
Geralt and his companions were confused as well. Growing up at Kaer Morhen meant exploring the fortress and areas around it for fun, but they didn't find anything either.
"Perhaps you were too besieged by sorrow to find anything. But there's eight of us here now," Roy said confidently as he led the way into the watchtower. "I saw Wolf's mark and a crystal in my premonition. Find them, and we can find the secret passage."
The watchtower was only the size of a regular inn, and eight witchers scouring it made for an efficient search team.
But something happened fifteen minutes in. A screech that resembled a baby's cry rang out, and a purplish-brown humanoid monster came crashing down while flapping its wings. Like an eagle hunting for its prey, this monster went straight for the scrawniest of the team.
Roy felt a gust of wind coming down on him, and he instinctively ducked and rolled away. Once the winds were gone, he stood up and came face to face with a repulsive creature.
The creature's wings were over six feet long, its humanoid body was covered in ugly cuticles like it was the victim of a fire, and long, black talons hung from the ends of its limbs. One stroke from those claws would be enough to shred Roy's flesh off. Its head resembled a human's, but there was a huge beak where its mouth was supposed to be. The monster gnashed its teeth in fury, the screech from its teeth mashing together grating.
Age: Five years old
Chimera (Passive): Erynias possess the strengths of eagles and fish. They can fly and move underwater. Their stomachs are powerful enough to handle rotten and fresh meat. Human flesh included. +2 to Dexterity, Constitution, and Perception.'
After missing its first attack, the erynia flapped its wings again in an attempt to take to the skies, but Roy shot the monster an icy look as he quickly shot an Aard at it. The Sign hit, a loud explosion rattled the air, and the monster was sent tumbling down to the ground.
Screams of agony escaped the monster's lips as it tried to flap its wings and escape, but it was too late. With Aerondight in his hands, Roy leapt into the air and swung it down on the monster, easily cutting into its flesh.
Roy then landed back on the ground and flicked the blood away from his blade. At the same time, the erynia stopped moving. A crimson line appeared on its ugly, flabby neck, and blood spurted everywhere.
As if in slow motion, the monster's ugly head moved from its neck ever so slowly. It eventually hit the ground and rolled over to Roy.
'Erynia killed EXP +80. Level 7 Witcher (3080/4500).'
"That's what you get for trying to come after me. Thought I was easy prey, didn't you?"
Roy whipped a short sword out and went to dissect the monster. "Monster guts, monster feathers, oh, an eye of erynia. Good alchemical component."
Lambert whistled from the other side of the watchtower. "Good job, kid! A clean, deadly hit. And the Sign was perfectly cast too. I see my younger self in you."
The battle was done in two seconds. None of the witchers managed to get any hits in either.
"Yeah, right," Auckes scoffed. "I bet this ugly bastard could whoop your fifteen-year-old ass like it's nothing."
I'm just going to ignore their bantering. "It's odd seeing an erynia on Kaer Morhen's grounds though." Erynias usually live near the sea like their close cousins, the harpies. Cintra and Skellige Isles are their homes, but Kaer Morhen? Oh, there's another about erynias.
Roy pulled out the innards while taking a trip down memory lane. Coral told me a merchant told her she was as lovely as an erynia, and she teleported him straight to the nest of one. He could see he made a wildly wrong comparison, and that was the last thing he saw.
While Roy was reminiscing about his time with Coral, Vesemir looked around him. "Seems like we should be cleaning up once in a while. See if you can find any erynia nests here."
The witchers spent some time looking around, but there were no monsters to be found. The assumption was that this erynia probably got separated from the main group and wound up lost.
About ten minutes later, Letho found something within the broken walls on the west side of the watchtower. Lying underneath a layer of snow was the mark of a wolf's head made by something sharp. The pattern was minute, vague, and easily missed. The elements over the years all but erased it.
The witchers pried that brick open and revealed a small box lying within, and in it, a blue crystal slept.
"Your premonition was spot on. There's something hidden here." Vesemir stared at the crystal. There was reminiscence and guilt on his face. "I can't believe I missed this for so many years."
If I had found the diagrams and geared those rascals up, maybe more of us could have survived this treacherous world.
Geralt, Lambert, and Eskel were staring at Roy as well. They hadn’t taken the premonition talk seriously, but now that doubt was gone. And yet it only shocked them more, for the power Roy possessed essentially made him a prophet.
"So this thing can open a passage or something?" Lambert rubbed his chin. "Okay, so what next? How should we tinker with this and open up that passage?"
"This is obviously an energy source for a portal. But it seems broken." Serrit held the cold crystal in his hands. "It can't be used." And then he looked around. "Anyone can repair magical items here?"
"Sorry. I'm a sword instructor. Portals are out of my depth." Vesemir shook his head.
"I'd do it if this were simple magic, but this is beyond me." Geralt shrugged. "We need a professional. Like the resident sorcerer who was here two centuries ago."
"Hey, Auckes, you're tough, aren't you? A better swordsman, Signcaster, and drinker than I am, aren't you?" Lambert raised his chin and challenged, "If you can repair this trinket, then I'll say you're better than me."
"I can't do this, but…" Auckes kept winking at Roy. "Roy can! You can do it, right?"
"I think you guys are forgetting something." Roy went past the witchers and stared at the crystal.
"What is it?"
"If we can't repair it, just brute force it. Like this!" Roy made a blue triangle in the air and pushed it at the crystal.
Aard's air current smashed into the crystal, and a brilliant blue light shone from the trinket. At the same time, a green whirlpool appeared right over the wooden splint hanging over the edge of the walls on the witchers' right.
There was nothing but a straight fall on the other side of the whirlpool. Not even a little rock to hold onto. The sheer height of the fall almost gave everyone vertigo.
"Complex little mechanism. And a pretty one too. A parallel portal, huh?" Eskel looked at Geralt, whose eyes were twitching. He teased, "So are we going to jump through this? It might kill us."
"Look at the color, people. We can still see the grass underneath. This portal is obviously incomplete." Letho said, "We're going to break our bones, if not die, if we jump into the portal right now. There's another crystal here, and we need to find it."
The witchers almost cursed their resident sorcerer for coming up with a creative place to hide the second crystal. Instead of keeping it in the watchtower, the sorcerer decided to hide it somewhere near the cliff outside, and an hour went by before they even found it.
Once again, they cast Aard on it, and the crystal lit up. Finally, the portal turned a deeper green and covered all the ground underneath.
The witchers were impressed. Two centuries had gone by after that siege, but the crystals still worked, though they weren't sure if the items were safe, given how long they had existed.
Nobody knew what was in store for them on the other side, and they argued about who should go first. Vesemir volunteered, but the other witchers wanted to go first as well. While they argued, Roy handed his little duck to Letho and exchanged a look with him.
He cast two Signs, covering himself in yellow and black light, protecting himself from physical and elemental harm.
With confidence in his heart, he left the squabbling witchers behind and leapt into the whirlpool.
Everything around him spun as he hurtled through the portal into a seemingly different world. One moment he was in the lands of Kaer Morhen, but the next he found himself in a dark, claustrophobic place.
"Jumping through a portal sure is better than walking through one." Didn't feel nauseous at all. He snapped his fingers and produced a small flame with his left hand.
As his surroundings lit up, Roy slowly realized he was in a dark, narrow cave. The ground was covered in rocks and twinflowers, while yellowing vines slithered down the top of the cave. With shields covering him, a small ball of fire in his left hand, and Aerondight in his right, Roy slowly moved ahead.
White light shone from the nearby exit, and a ball of green light popped into existence. A wraith equipped with a lantern and short sword charged toward the witcher, screeching and screaming.
Roy put his hand against the ground, and purple light shone into the air. He swung Aerondight around and held it near his waist, pointing the tip at the creature facing him.
The moment the wraith was constricted by Yrden, Roy thrust his blade a few times at its chest, and the silver burned through it. The young witcher wasted no time in getting around the wraith through its underarms and burying his sword into its back.
The wraith extended its burning body and let out a harrowing scream, but it was useless against Roy's powerful Will and the power of Heliotrop. Time to finish this!
Axii and Fear locked the wraith down like a pinned prisoner, and Aerondight swallowed it in a wave of crimson cuts.
The wraith didn't even last a single moment. It screamed and howled, but not even its desperate attempts could save it from being turned into a pile of dust.
'Wraith killed. EXP +70. Level 7 Witcher (3150/4500).'
"Whoa. Ten more EXP than regular wraiths." Roy tucked away the specter dust and a lesser green mutagen, the latter of which was a surprise. "That's almost enough specter dust, and this is a remote enough place. Wonder if I should summon a demon here?"
Roy left Gwyhyr around as his teleportation waypoint.
He kept pushing forward and found a skeleton at the edge of the cave. Roy searched the skeleton and found four dusty but intact diagrams on it. Armor, gauntlets, trousers, and boots. And there was also a note written by a shaky hand.
'Cannot move. Spine broken, liver (perhaps spleen?) pierced. Knew jumping into portal was extremely risky with only 1 crystal powering it - but still better than certain death at hands of enraged peasants. Mob broke into tower, cut off path to second crystal. Had to flee. Grabbed diagrams for Wolf School gear before going - hoping Varin will come save them, if not me. Perhaps he will come still, will jump through the portal, retrieve his diagrams, rescue me... A foolish hope. My time is very short.'
"Probably one of the sorcerers keeping watch over this tower. Wonder if he was Hieronymus or Chird? He managed to finish the diagrams right when the keep was attacked. A sorcerer forced into a corner by a mob with torches and pitchforks. How ironic."
It didn't matter if this man was a witcher or sorcerer. They couldn't save themselves from a horde or angry mob on possible steroids’ witch hunt.
"But I'm different. I can blink and teleport away." Roy tucked the sorcerer's remains away and slid down the cliff outside the cave.
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