Chapter 422: Sneaking In
"Halt, who goes there?" A soldier in grey chainmail and halberd stopped Geralt. His face was inscrutable, and his gaze was interrogatory. "What business do you have here?"
"Ahem." Geralt cleared his throat and looked around the gates. There were other soldiers around, and using Axii here would be unwise. "I am Ravix of Fourhorn, a guest of the queen. This is my servant. We are here for an official visit. And we bring important news. The urgency of the matter cannot be overstated. Please tell the queen about this."
The soldier froze for a moment and exchanged a look with his colleague, a soldier with a nose that resembled garlic. They had never heard of anyone who went by the name Ravix of Fourhorn, but Geralt was calm, and he claimed to be a guest of the queen. The guards were a little nervous. He wondered if refusing to tell the queen about this would be a great crime.
"Master Ravix, the queen is in a meeting with a group of kings and ambassadors. If you do not have an invitation to the conference, you will have to return after the meeting is over. I shall bring your message to the butler by then. I apologize, but we cannot allow anyone without an invitation to enter. Please leave."
They held their halberds back up and resumed their positions, paying Geralt and Roy no attention.
The witchers left with nothing to show.
Roy teased, "So, Ravix, they don't recognize you. Are you gonna take me along for the ride next time?"
"Roy, this is not a fake title." Geralt's eyes shone with reminiscence. "Many years ago, I joined an event at the palace with the very same title. She was choosing a husband for her daughter back then. But it has been many years. These soldiers probably don't remember me anymore. Just wait. The queen will summon me once she hears of this."
"Or she might chase you away. You know she's worried you might run off with Ciri. I have a better idea." Roy stared at the palace's window. The one that was facing the sea. "Stay here. I'll sneak in for some intel." Wonder how the negotiation is going.
Shocked, Geralt quickly tried to dissuade him. "Don't do anything stupid, Roy. If you get caught, it'll be over for us."
"Oh please, like I've ever let you down. It'll be fine, Geralt." Roy produced a grey cloak and wore it over his shoulder, then produced a hand crossbow.
The palace was draped in a blanket of golden sunlight. A sparrowhawk flew through the air and perched atop the open window surrounded by old, vine-covered palace walls. One silver bolt leapt up from the reef underneath and landed beyond the window.
The silhouette standing on the reef disappeared only to reappear within the palace. He found himself standing in the corridor, a beautiful red carpet unfurling beneath his feet. On his sides hung expensive oil paintings and the heads of animals like deer, tigers, and crocodiles. In the corners stood gigantic vases and armor exhibits, while beautiful patterns painted the ceiling overhead.
Gryphon hopped ahead, scouting the path for Roy.
Roy changed into the sticky gloves and boots Kalkstein made for him, then he cast the twin shields over himself. A little dash later, Roy climbed the walls like a lizard and stuck himself to the ceiling, scurrying away along the pillars.
The cloak and shields covered his smell and sound, and he moved as quietly as a scuttling spider. If anyone was around to patrol, all they could see was a black silhouette dashing past the ceiling.
With Gryphon's help, Roy went past ten patrolling soldiers, guards, and the dizzying paths that led to who-knew-where. The palace was like a maze. Only those who knew the layout could navigate it easily. But Roy had been here once. During the month he spent with Ciri, he had already memorized the layout in case something like this happened.
Navigating the place was child's play to him. He didn't even have to use Axii. All he had to do was go where his witcher senses told him to. To the place where sounds and smell congregated.
Halfway through, he came face to face with a gorgeous, green wooden door. It was a familiar door, and Roy fell silent. The light of reminiscence lit his eyes. He was here about a year ago, and the young witcher landed in silence, then he stuck his ear to the wall.
A petite figure sat on a gigantic chair with golden sides, her legs swinging in the air. She was scribbling something down with a quill, but all of a sudden, the girl stopped writing. Her beautiful emerald eyes were filled with exasperation. "I have had enough of this, Coria!" She swiveled around and raised her head haughtily. And then the girl approached her servant, her eyes set on her. She threatened, "I command you to write this letter of repentance right away."
"But I can't mimic your handwriting, princess." The servant held her hands before her chest. With a shivering voice, she said, "The queen specifically said you had to finish it yourself, or she would have my head. Please, o brave, kind, and beautiful knight princess, have mercy on me."
Ciri puffed her cheeks like an angry squirrel. "This again? She keeps holding you hostage just because you're my only friend." She puckered her lips like a sad little cat. "I won't keep giving in. Someday I'll make it big, and Calanthe's gonna regret it!"
"Please, Your Highness, be quiet!" The horrified Coria begged, "If Her Majesty's men were to hear you, she'd have you write a second letter of repentance!"
"Well, I dare them to snitch on me!" Ciri raised her voice shrilly, tears filling her eyes. "That hag locked me up for more than a year, forcing me to read, write, and learn how to be a lady, but I won't do it! I wanna go out! I wanna see the ocean, I wanna ski, I wanna race, and I wanna fish for crabs! I've written a thousand of these stupid letters! How much longer does she want to keep me captive?" She leaned on the desk and wiped her tears. "Damn Calanthe! At least let me see my friends! I can't even remember what Hjalmar and Cerys look like now!" Ciri's voice was weak. Her shoulders trembled, and she covered her face, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Please don't cry, Your Highness. You're going to fall ill if you cry too much." Coria rubbed her cheek against Ciri's and wiped her tears away.
"And the witchers! Those liars said they'd come back for me. Said they'd take me along for the ride, but I bet they've forgotten about me. I haven't heard from them in a year! They think I'm a three-year-old or something!"
She stared at the blocked window, her reflection looking back at her. Tears streamed from her cheek and fell to the ground. Her brows frowned, and she gnashed her teeth. "Wolf School, Viper School, it's all a lie! They're nothing but a School of Bluffers!"
Someone knocked on the door, and Ciri stopped crying. She sat up like a current of electricity just coursed through her, and the girl nervously wiped the tears off her face.
Coria quickly pulled her apron up and wiped her face. She regained her composure and carefully approached the door. A deep breath later, she tried her best to say calmly, "The princess is writing her letter of repentance. Come back in an hour."
"I'm not the queen's henchman," a young, warm voice said.
It was not a voice Coria had heard before, but for some reason, she thought the man behind that voice must be a charming one. "Who are you?"
The princess was still scribbling on the paper, but she listened closely to the answer.
"I am Roy of the School of Bluffers, here to apologize for the great princess knight. Sorry for the wait, Ciri."
Ciri let out a cry and leapt out of her chair.
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