Even those who are different can survive…


Staggering=Dorregaray whispered=Staggering . .  . Hey!=Dandelion struggled in his bonds, making the wagon shake=What is it? Over there! Look!=A great cloud of dust could be seen on the eastern side of the gorge==and shouting, rattling and the tramping of hooves quickly reached them==The dragon extended its neck to look==Three large wagons full of armed men rolled onto the plain==Splitting up, they began to surround the dragon=It’s . .  . Dammit, it’s the constabulary and guilds from Barefield!=Dandelion called=They came around by the source of the Braa! Yes, it’s them! Look, it’s Sheepbagger, there, at the front!=The dragon lowered its head== and gently pushed a small, green-greyish, mewling creature towards the wagon==Then it struck the ground with its tail, roared loudly==and shot like an arrow towards the encounter with the men of Barefield=What is it?=Yennefer asked=That little thing? Crawling around in the grass? Geralt? It’s what the dragon was protecting from us=the Witcher said=That’s what hatched some time ago in the cave, over there in the northern canyon It’s the dragonling from the egg of the dragon that Sheepbagger poisoned=The dragonling, stumbling and dragging its bulging belly across the ground== scurried unsteadily over to the wagon, squealed==stood on its hind legs, stretched out its little wings, and then without a second’s thought clung to the sorceress’s side==Yennefer, with an extremely queer look on her face==sighed loudly=It likes you= Geralt murmured=He’s young, but he ain’t stupid=Dandelion twisting in his fetters, grinned=Look where he’s stuck his snout I’d like to be in his shoes, dammit Hey, little one, run away! That’s Yennefer! Terror of dragons! And witchers Well, at least one witcher— Quiet, Dandelion=Dorregaray shouted=Look over there on the battlefield! They’ve got him, a pox on them!=The Barefield wagons, rumbling like war chariots, raced towards the attacking dragon=Smack ’im!=Sheepbagger yelled, hanging on to the wagoner’s back=Smack ’im, kinsmen anywhere and anyhow! Don’t hold back!=The dragon nimbly eluded the first advancing wagon==flashing with scythe blades, forks and spears, but ended up between the next two, from which a huge double fishing net pulled by straps dropped onto it==The dragon, fully enmeshed, fell down, rolled over, curled up in a ball, and spread its legs==The net tore to shreds with a sharp rending noise==More nets were thrown onto it from the first wagon, which had managed to turn around, this time utterly entangling the dragon== The two other wagons also turned back, dashed towards the dragon, rattling and bouncing over bumps=You’re caught in the net, you carp!=Sheepbagger bawled=And we’ll soon scale you!=The dragon roared and belched a cloud of steam into the sky==The Barefield constables rushed towards him, spilling out of the wagons==The dragon bellowed again, desperately, with a thundering roar== From the northern canyon came a reply, a high-pitched, battle cry==Out from the gorge, straining forward in a frenzied gallop, blonde plaits streaming, whistling piercingly, surrounded by the flickering flashes of sabres, charged . .  . =The Zerrikanians!=the Witcher shouted, helplessly tugging at the ropes=Oh, shit!=Dandelion chimed in=Geralt! Do you understand?=The Zerrikanians rode through the throng like hot knives through a barrel of butter==scattering their path with massacred corpses, and then leaped from their horses in full flight, to stand beside the dragon struggling in the net==The first of the onrushing constables immediately lost his head==The second aimed a blow with his pitchfork at Véa, but the Zerrikanian, holding her sabre in both hands== upside down, with the tip pointing towards the ground, slashed him open from crotch to sternum´==The others beat a hurried retreat=To the wagons!=Sheepbagger yelled=To the wagons, kinsmen! We’ll crush them under the wagons! Geralt!=Yennefer suddenly shouted==pulling up her bound legs and pushing them with a sudden thrust under the wagon==beneath the arms of the Witcher, which were bound and twisted behind him=The Igni Sign! Make it! Can you feel the rope? Cast the bloody thing! Without looking?=Geralt groaned=I’ll burn you, Yen! Make the Sign! I can take it!=He obeyed==and felt a tingling in his fingers, which were forming the Igni Sign just above the sorceress’s bound ankles==Yennefer turned her head away==biting down on her coat collar and stifling a moan==The dragonling, squealing, beat its wings beside her=Yen! Make it!=she bellowed==Her bonds gave way in an instant, as the disgusting, nauseating odour of charred skin became unbearable==Dorregaray uttered a strange noise and fainted, suspended by his fetters from the wagon wheel==The sorceress, wincing with the pain, straightened up, lifting her now free leg==She screamed in a furious voice, full of pain and rage==The medallion on Geralt’s neck jerked as though it were alive==Yennefer straightened her thigh, waved her foot towards the charging wagons of the Barefield constabulary==and shouted out a spell==The air crackled and gave off the smell of ozone=O, ye Gods=Dandelion wailed in admiration=What a ballad this will be, Yennefer!=The spell, cast by her shapely little foot, was not totally effective==The first wagon – and everything on it – took on the yellow colour of a kingcup==which the Barefield soldiers in the frenzy of battle did not even notice==It did better with the second wagon==whose entire crew were transformed into huge, rough-skinned frogs=which hopped around in all directions, croaking comically==The wagon, now bereft of a driver, tipped over and fell apart==The horses, neighing hysterically, fled into the distance, dragging the broken shaft behind them==Yennefer bit her lip and waved her leg in the air again==The kingcup-yellow wagon suddenly dissolved into kingcup-yellow smoke to the sound of lively musical tones drifting down from above==and its entire crew flopped onto the grass, stupefied, forming a picturesque heap==The wheels of the third wagon went from round to square and the result was instant==The horses reared up, the wagon crashed over, and the Barefield constabulary were tipped out and thrown onto the ground==Yennefer, now driven by pure vindictiveness, flourished a leg ferociously and yelled out a spell==transforming the Barefielders randomly into turtles, geese, woodlice, flamingos and stripy piglets==The Zerrikanians expertly and methodically finished off the rest==The dragon, having finally torn the nets to shreds==leaped up, flapped its wings, roared and hurtled, as straight as a ramrod, after the unharmed and fleeing Sheepbagger==Sheepbagger was dashing like a stag, but the dragon was faster==Geralt, seeing the gaping jaws and razor-sharp flashing teeth, turned his head away==He heard a gruesome scream and a revolting crunching sound==Dandelion gave a stifled shout==Yennefer, her face as white as a sheet, bent over double==turned to one side and vomited under the wagon==A silence fell, interrupted only by the occasional gaggling, croaking and squealing of the remains of the Barefield constabulary==Véa, smiling unpleasantly==stood over Yennefer, legs wide apart==The Zerrikanian raised her sabre==Yennefer, pale, raised a leg=No=said Borch, also known as Three Jackdaws, who was sitting on a stone==In his lap he was holding the dragonling, peaceful and content==We aren’t going to kill Madam Yennefer==the dragon Villentretenmerth repeated=It is over What is more we are grateful to Madam Yennefer for her invaluable assistance Release them, Véa Do you understand, Geralt?=Dandelion whispered==chafing feeling into his numb arms=Do you understand? There’s an ancient ballad about a golden dragon A golden dragon can . .  . Can assume any form it wishes=Geralt muttered=even that of a human I’ve heard that too But I didn’t believe it Yarpen Zigrin, sir!=Villentretenmerth called to the dwarf, who was hanging onto a vertical rock twenty ells above the ground=What are you looking for there? Marmots? Not your favourite dish, if memory serves me Climb down and busy yourself with the Reavers They need help There won’t be any more killing Of anybody=Dandelion, casting anxious glances at the Zerrikanians, who were vigilantly patrolling the battlefield==was still trying to revive the unconscious Dorregaray==Geralt was dressing Yennefer’s scorched ankles and rubbing ointment into them==The sorceress was hissing with pain and mumbling spells==Having completed his task==the Witcher stood up=Stay here=he said=I have to talk to him=Yennefer stood up, wincing=I’m going with you, Geralt=she said, linking her arm in his=May I? Please, Geralt With me, Yen? I thought . .  . Don’t think=she pressed herself against his arm=Yen? It’s alright, Geralt=He looked into her eyes, which were warm==As they used to be==He lowered his head==and kissed her lips==hot, soft and willing==As they used to be==They walked over==Yennefer, held up by Geralt, curtsied low, as though before a king==holding her dress in her fingertips=Three Jack . .  . Villentretenmerth . .  .=the Witcher said=My name, when freely translated into your language means Three Black Birds=the dragon said==The dragonling, little claws digging into his forearm, arched its back to be stroked=Chaos and Order=Villentretenmerth smiled=Do you remember, Geralt? Chaos is aggression Order is protection against it It’s worth rushing to the ends of the world to oppose aggression and evil, isn’t it? Witcher? Particularly, as you said when the pay is fair And this time it was It was the treasure hoard of the she-dragon Myrgtabrakke the one poisoned outside Barefield She summoned me to help her, to stop the evil threatening her Myrgtabrakke flew away soon after Eyck of Denesle was removed from the battlefield She had sufficient time, while you were talking and quarrelling But she left me her treasure as my payment=The dragonling squealed and flapped its little wings=So you . .  . That is right=the dragon interrupted=Well, it’s the times we live in For some time, creatures, which you usually call monsters have been feeling more and more under threat from people They can no longer cope by themselves They need a Defender Some kind of . .  . witcher And the destination . .  . The goal at the end of the road? This is it=Villentretenmerth lifted his forearm==The dragonling squealed in alarm=I’ve just attained it Owing to him I shall survive Geralt of Rivia I shall prove there are no limits of possibility One day, you will also find such a purpose, Witcher Even those who are different can survive Farewell, Geralt Farewell, Yennefer=The sorceress, grasping the Witcher’s arm more firmly, curtsied again==Villentretenmerth stood up and looked at her, and his expression was very serious=Forgive me my frankness and forthrightness, Yennefer It is written all over your faces I don’t even have to try to read your thoughts You were made for each other you and the Witcher But nothing will come of it Nothing I’m sorry I know I know, Villentretenmerth=Yennefer blanched slightly=But I would also like to believe there are no limits of possibility Or at least I would like to believe that they are still very far away=Véa walked over, touched Geralt’s shoulder==and quickly uttered a few words==The dragon laughed=Geralt, Véa says she will long remember the tub at the Pensive Dragon She hopes we’ll meet again some day What?=Yennefer answered, narrowing her eyes=Nothing=the Witcher said quickly=Villentretenmerth . .  . Yes, Geralt of Rivia? You can assume any form Any that you wish Indeed Why then, a man? Why Borch with three black birds on his coat of arms?=The dragon smiled cheerfully=I don’t know, Geralt in what circumstances the distant ancestors of our races encountered one another for the first time But the fact is that for dragons, there is nothing more repugnant than man Man arouses instinctive, irrational disgust in a dragon With me it’s different To me you’re . .  . likeable Farewell=It was not a gradual, blurred transformation, or a hazy, pulsating trembling as with an illusion==It was as sudden as the blink of an eye==Where a second before had stood a curly-haired knight in a tunic decorated with three black birds==now sat a golden dragon==gracefully extending its long, slender neck==Inclining its head, the dragon spread its wings==dazzlingly gold in the sunshine==Yennefer sighed loudly==Véa, already mounted beside Téa, waved=Véa=the Witcher said=you were right Hm? He is the most beautiful

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