On The Path: Witcher Shorts

On The Path: Witcher Shorts

Hey Guys!

I'm new here and I wanted to contribute some fan fiction I've been working on.

Recently I started a series called "On The Path" which is just that, various witchers doing contracts, investigating curses and even getting tied up in political turmoil in a post conquest Northern Kingdoms. I have a deviantart page where I've been posting them. If you are interested in reading more, here is the link: http://scionsproject.deviantart.com/

Anyway, here is the first and second chapter of my latest one, "Plague of Madness". I really hope you guys like this! C&C are welcomed!

Temeria, Spring 1278

The sun began to crawl its way up the horizon. Rays of light peaked over the tall trees of the woods surrounding the town of Longdale. The rooster awoke and proceeded to herald the morn as it always did, crowing from atop a barn near the edge of town. The farmers had long been at work before the rooster crowed, tending to their crops and preparing for the planting of the spring crop.
The one exception was the orchard, just on the edge of town, right along the main road toward Vizima. The orchard was left looking empty, save of course for the heavily weighted down apple trees. Big, juicy red apples hung from the branches, ripe for the taking. Yet there wasn’t a single farm hand inside the orchard.
There was a witcher inside the orchard, however.
Alder, of the cat school, was fast asleep on a branch of one of the apple trees. He lightly snored as the rays of sunlight begun to bathe his face in an orange glow. He frowned, turning away from it, wishing to sleep just a little while longer. Alder’s sleep was spoiled by a wagon hurrying by. It was loud, tearing down the road, the driver barely able to keep it on course as the carriage skidded past the orchard, forcing the witcher to wake.
“Hey! Asshole!” He tore an apple from the tree and threw it at the noisey passer by. “Some of us are trying to sleep!”
Alder groaned as he layed back down on the branch. Realizing he wasn’t going to get anymore sleep, he decided to grab breakfast. The witcher took his time choosing the right apple, his hand hovered over the many, many choices before finally settling upon the biggest, juiciest apple he could find. Taking a large bite into the apple, the witcher kept his ear to the edge of the orchard.
On the east side of the orchard, over a fence, was a dense forest. From it came the reason why he was here: ghouls. Even though the war had ended nearly a year ago necrophage were still a nuisance. With no battlefield carnage left to feed them, they had to resort to feeding on the living. Ghouls had recently attacked this orchard, killing two workers and wounding a third.
Alder was fortunate enough, as the witcher put it, to be passing through when these attacks occurred. The ealdorman promised to pay the witcher handsomely if he could rid the ghouls from the town orchard. All Alder asked for was the orchard to be closed and a swine that was about to be slaughtered.
The witcher hated putting anything to waste, especially such a fat swine. He estimated if he smoked the meat it could last him quite a long time, though Alder needed it to lure the ghouls out. As the name implies, necrophage prefer rotting, dead carcauses as opposed to living flesh. That didn’t mean they wouldn’t go after living people, but they’d much rather eat the dead; they didn’t fight back. As such, the dead pig would do nicely as bait.
Alder worried that the smell of the orchard would mask the carrion stench, but his ears told him otherwise. From the east he could hear them. These ghouls were a cautious bunch. Alder could hear them pacing before the fence separating the orchard from the forest for a good while before they finally committed in jumping over it. By their footsteps and by how many jumped over, Alder wagered it was a pack of eight.
“See. Old man promised me ten gold ahead, that means, eighty gold. Not a bad pay day.” As he mused on what to spend his gold on, he slowly removed his silver blade from its scabbard.
It wasn’t any ordinary silver sword; it was a single edge blade, with a curved tip. A falchion, as it was called by the blacksmith who forged it for Alder. He held it with great care, making sure the sharp edge was facing slightly away from him. The witcher’s eyes looked over to the bait, then over to the rest of the orchard.
Alder could see them now. The four legged, man faced, pale skinned necrophages crawled toward the pig carcass. One sniffed it carefully, before biting into it. Another jumped in, grabbing the pig by one of it’s hooves and pulling it away from the already feasting ghoul. Clearly angered by the packmate taking its food, the first beast sunk its teeth into the pig attempting to pull it away. The rest circled around the first two. Some tried to get into the feeding frenzy while others scurried around looking for anything else.
During this, Alder slowly rose from his prone position into a standing one effortlessly, not even disturbing the tree branch he had been previously sleeping on. He came down to a crouch, and then took a big, loud bite of the apple, grabbing the attention of the ghouls. Some turned and growled at the witcher, others were still focused upon the swine. One ran up to the tree the witcher was in and begun to claw and tear the bark of it as the ghoul tried to climb up.
“Want a bite?” Alder mockingly asked, holding the apple toward the ghoul. It replied with a growl and clawed at the witcher in the tree. “Well fuck you too.”
The witcher then took one last bite from the apple, and threw the rest of it at the ghoul. It only caused the necrophage to blink, but that was all Alder needed it to do. Before it could even react the witcher had already leapt from the tree branch and brought his blade into its back. The witcher heard the ghoul’s lung collapse. Twisting and pulling out from the ghoul, the witcher finished it off with another stab, this one into its head, causing the ghoul to struggle for a moment, then fall limp.
Alder now had the pack’s full attention.
The next ghoul came to strike at Alder. Pouncing at the witcher, maw ready to bite, claws ready to shred, the ghoul roared; Alder ducked and rolled out of its way. The necrophage slammed into the tree, causing a few apples to fall from it. Alder replied with a horizontal slash, badly cutting into the ghoul’s hip; Alder completed the motion with a flourish, piercing through the beast’s side. Twisting and pulling the blade free, Alder worried not of knowing it was dead, and instead focused on the next ghoul. This one was smarter; it stayed low to the ground and kept its distance instead of mindlessly charging in. Alder’s slashes were met with dodging and weak-yet-wild attempts at parrying, but as soon as its skin made contact with the silver, it yelped in pain. This gave Alder the window he needed.
It was three steps- three steps that had been drilled into him from years of training. First: Alder side stepped past the ghoul, ending the move on his left foot. Second: putting his weight now on the right, the witcher slashed the ghoul. The strike was powerful enough to topple the ghoul, putting it on its back. Third: flipping the sword into a reverse grip and placing his other hand onto the pommel, he brought the sword down into the ghoul’s chest. Twist. Pull. The ghoul was now dead.
“Three down.” He spun the sword back into it’s normal grip. “Five to go.”
Wanting to be on the attack now, Alder charged the nearest ghoul, which saw his charge and decided to meet him. Reaching to the belt that ran across his chest, the witcher threw a small silver dagger, which lodged itself into the ghoul’s eye. Caught off guard, the ghoul tripped and fell into the ground. Before it could pick itself up, Alder precisely nicked the artery which ran across the back of the necrophages neck.
Two more tore through the orchard; Alder was forced to roll out of the way, catching one passing by with a slash across its flank. Another, lagging behind the rest, tried grab onto the witcher by his boot. Alder side stepped and brought his other steel toed boot into its skull. The blow flipped the ghoul onto its back, but Alder couldn’t finish it. Hearing the other’s paws tearing across the orchard again, Alder readied himself to dodge once more.
This time the witcher opted to mix it up a little. Rolling out of the way, he waited right as all three ghouls were as tightly packed as possible. Acting quickly, Alder made the Sign Aard. From his free right hand a gush of wind swept the ghoul’s off their feet. One was sent into a apple tree, crunching as it impacted. The other two were sent tumbling through the rows of trees.
Alder took a deep breath in, feeling the strain of using the Sign, then threw himself toward the ghouls. Still dazed from the Aard, the ghouls could barely react. The first to fall wasn’t even aware of the witcher until the falchion had split its neck wide open. The ghoul flailed around in anguish; the witcher knew it was gone, and now turned his attention to the last ghoul. It already had rolled back onto its legs when Alder struck it. The witcher felt only a little resistance as he took the ghoul’s head clean off. Free from its body, the head bounced across the orchard a few times before halting at the base of a tree.
Alder waited a few moments, eyes scanning the distant tree line. He listened for movement beyond his sight, and smelt the air for any more foul smelling necrophage. The witcher did this until he was satisfied that the pack was dead. Alder then put his sword back into its sheath; the fight was over.
He then took the rope his belt and got to work collecting heads. Alder took out a butchers knife and begun work chopping the heads of ghouls off. It was a long, boring process for the witcher. Alder was careful to make his strikes clean, though that didn’t stop him from getting his knife caught in a bone or tendon every so often. Looping the rope through the neck and out the mouth of each ghoul Alder created what looked like a very macabre bracelet of necrophage heads which he held on his shoulder.
“Now to get paid,” Alder paused, and sniffed himself. “And maybe a bath.”
With a wide smile of a man who just got done with the work day, the witcher exited the orchard, practically skipping. The ghoul heads swaying as he did this. The sight alone caused many of the townspeople to gasp in horror. Alder even heard a women faint as he came down the main road toward the ealdorman’s house. As the witcher walked through the gate leading into the house, gardens flanking the entrance, an old, bald man came out, looking excited.
“Hey!” Alder called out, he grabbed the ring of heads of his shoulder and held them up, “Got eight of the fuckers for you.”
The ealdorman wordlessly came forward, he looked over the heads for a moment, almost as if he was fascinated by them. Alder could level with the old man; it wasn’t everyday that normal men got to see monsters up close. The ealdorman now gazed onto the witcher, a smirk on his face.
“Knew I could depend on a witcher.”
“Always can.” Alder said setting the ring of heads carefully on the ground, “Now, that’ll be eighty crowns.”
“Aye, I’ll get your pay. Wait here.”
The ealdorman disappeared into the house. Alder meanwhile sat on the fence bordering the ealdorman’s property. He passed the time by playing with his knives, practicing various tricks with them. Alder then heard someone coming up from behind him.
“Sir! Sir!”
Alder turned to the source of the plea. Standing behind the fence was a girl, he estimated to be in her late teens. She had long, straw like hair, that framed a narrow, freckled face. Green eyes looked at the witcher, eyes holding a gaze of desperation, the same a drowning man gave to a sailor on a boat. Alder’s eye raced up and down the young girls form.
“I’m not a sir, just a witcher.”
“Well please master witcher, do you have a moment?”
Alder could sense that the girl was clearly perturbed by something, and it wasn’t his mutant gaze. Before the girl could speak Alder heard the doors to the ealdorman’s house open. Turning, he saw the old man come out, sack of crowns in hand, and a sour look on his face.
“Girl! Scram! I told you to leave, didn’t I?”
“Please! I need to speak to the witcher!” She spoke again.
“He isn’t interested in your, ‘plague of madness’. Go to Vizima or Novigrad. Find a plague doctor or even a mage if you can pull him or her out of their hiding hole.”
“Plague of madness?” Alder narrowed his gaze back to the ealdorman .
The old man shook his head, “This girl-”
“Alix! My name is Alix you walking corpse!”
At that the ealdorman threw the sack of gold to the ground, crowns flying everywhere. He then moved at a remarkable speed for a man of his age, a look of fury on his face. Fists raised above his head, the ealdorman rushed toward the girl, cursing and ranting all the way.
“Listen hear you vagrant! Off my land before I beat you to death! You whore-”
“Hey!” Alder stepped in between the two, placing a firm hand on the ealdorman’s chest. “No need for that shit.” He exchanged glances between both Alix and the ealdorman . “What’s this about a plague?”
“Master witcher,” Alix begun folding her hands together. “My village, just east of here, has been gripped by a plague of madness.”
Alder slowly nodded, “Look, I know you mean well and all, but I’m a witcher, not a doctor.”
“Which means he won’t be able to help you girl!” The ealdorman stepped in. “Now scram! You-”
Alder put a finger into the ealdorman ’s face. “Stow it!” He turned back to Alix. “Sorry lass, but I ain’t going to be much help. Vizima is a few days ride west, and if you feel like riding more, Oxenfort is a week's ride northeast. I know-” A sack of gold interrupted him, thrown by Alix. The witcher caught it mid air. He opened the sack and smiled at the crowns stored within them.
“Fifty crowns. Will that be enough to sway your mind?” Alix asked frantically.
“Normally I’m insulted when someone interrupts me, but I’ll forgive you, this time.” Alder put the pouch in his satchel.
“So, so you’ll take it?” Alix asked excitedly.
“You paid me.” Alder said with a grin. “I’m obligated to assist you now.” He then turned to the ealdorman . “Now, my reward from you sir.”
The old man sighed, walked over, grabbed the thrown sack of gold, and stared at the witcher for a moment before tossing the coin at Alder, which the witcher caught.
“Go on, looks like you have another job, freak.” The ealdorman said bitterly.
Alder raised his eyebrows at the comment. “Well. Guess I won’t be welcomed here.” He then turned Alix. “Well, why are we standing here, let's get moving.”

Start of Act II

“So, mind telling me how far we’re riding?”
The witcher and Alix had been riding for quite sometime. Alder estimated, judging by the sun, they’d been riding for four, five hours. The two had been silent through most of the ride. Alix wanted to get back to the village, White Run, as quickly as possible, saying she’d explain everything once they got there. Alder, personally, felt that he should know more, but had held his tongue. Something about the girl made him think twice. The witcher had met counts and lords that had the same aura he felt around her; she was meant to rule.
“Almost there, master.” Alix said looking over her shoulder at the witcher. “Remain patient.”
“Then perhaps, if you would be so kind, to explain why you choose a witcher over a plague doctor?”
Alix didn’t speak.
“Well?” Alder pressed her. “I would like to know.”
“And why would you?” Alix asked the witcher, this time not looking over her shoulder. “Why so curious?”
“Because I’m being paid to look into a plague.” Alder spurring his horse, Lucy, forward to catch up to Alix. “You’re spending an awful lot of coin on a man who slays monsters, not plagues.”
Alix sighed, she spoke, eyes still looking forward. “When I was a babe, I was really sick. The doctors said I would die before the seasons end. My parents, they were so desperate, they turned to a witcher.” Alix now gazed toward Alder, looking wistfully. “He cured me. I don’t know how but he did.”
“You were probably cursed.” Alder explained. “Sounds like a nithing if I’ve ever heard of one. Though, doesn’t mean I haven’t seen my fair share of pox. I will still give it a look, but I can’t give any promises.”
The girl gave him a faint smile. “Thank you master.”
“Don’t call me that.” Alder replied with a smirk. “That was my master's name.”
The rest of the ride was done in silence. The pair made their way through the Temerian countryside at a brisk trot. Alder liked this side of the country; it was close to the mountains, far from Novigrad or Vizima. The air was crisp, and the waters were much cleaner on this end of the Pontar. The trees changed from the wide oaks to tall, skinny pines as they rode through the forests.
All the while Alder kept his ears and eyes open for any signs of monsters. Bruxae were known to inhabit the deep woods of eastern Temeria. The witcher recalled that the easy way to know if you were entering bruxae territory was if you could hear several different song birds at once. These vampires were know to keep them as pets and often use them as alarms. The birds would fly away upon someone coming through, alerting them to prey.
Luckily for him and Alix, the witcher heard only crows, and a circling falcon, looking for mice. The witcher did hear a forest troll shambling in the distance. Alder wasn’t certain how far it was off, but it was no threat. They were far too slow to catch a witcher and a young girl who were on horses.
The witcher turned his attention back to Alix. Personally he was impressed by her. Women who took action always intrigued him. Although, something about her behavior tipped him off that this might not be in her nature; how she sat in the saddle, how her eyes were constantly scanning the forest, all of it made her seem like she was more a homely, farm girl than an adventurous maiden.
“If you're worried about monsters, the only ones in this wood are trolls.”
Alix didn’t seem to change from her current mood, “Yes, I know. Auntie always told me to stay clear of these woods.”
“Ride often?”
Alix nodded, “Aye, Auntie sends me on errands.”
That told Alder a lot. The witcher assumed that she was nervous because of the ride through the woods. Now it seemed clear she was nervous about something else. It was clear to Alder why Alix was so nervous.
“Guessing Auntie is one who is sick.”
Alder didn’t want to ask the question but he knew it had to be asked. From what he understood of disease it could be spread by close contact with those who had fallen ill. Meaning if it was a loved one of Alix, she could be infected. Which would explain her hurry and her wanting to get this all done. After a long silence she finally spoke.
“Yes.” Alix replied with a sigh. “You see, I’m actually Redania. My mother was an alchemist, my father a simple farmer. Then Radovid came to power, and...”
“I can guess the rest.” Alder halted her. “No need to open up old wounds.”
Alix nodded. “Auntie Clare is the only family I have left in this world. I need to protect her. It’s why I got you. No plague doctor, no matter how much gold I throw at him or her is going to care about some backwater in Temeria, and all the mages are either dead or in hiding. You're the only hope we have, witcher.”
Alder did not reply. How could he, he thought to himself. Sure, the witcher mused, he could act humble and pretend it was nothing. Though that would also give the impression that he could solve Alix’s problem. Deep down, the witcher felt as if this would be another contract gone nowhere. On the other hand, he couldn’t bring himself to try to bring her hopes down. Normally he would do it to any client, but something was different about this one. The witcher decided it was time to move on.
“Tell me, how long has this ‘plague’ been affecting the village?”
“Two days.” Alix was quick to reply. “The first to be affected a fisherman, Jon.”
“Is he still alive?”
Alix shook her head. “He died last night, it was what drove me to seek you out.”
Alder nodded. The witcher made the mental note of how long the plague took to take a grown man’s life. If he was a fisherman he was definitely in good health, and more than likely of a youthful age. Alder made two assumptions because of this. One: Alix wasn’t infected. If she was she would already be showing symptoms. Two: Alix’s auntie was running out of time. If Jon died so quickly, her auntie would probably have less time, assuming Alder’s assumptions were correct.
“What are the symptoms?”
“Crying fits, seeing things that are not there, cold sweats, and a thirst for water.” Alix listed them out carefully. “Vomiting as well.”
The second to last caught Alder’s attention the most, it was an odd symptom. Though he always heard from medics and doctors that the best solution to a fever was to drink purified water and to stay one's hand from alcohol, he hadn’t heard of a pox that caused such a symptom. Crying fits and hallucinations were also unusual. Though now that he thought of it, some things were tieing together. Cold sweats, and vomiting could lead to dehydrations, which would explain the thirst.
“Hmm.” Alder mused for a moment. “Could be Black Water Sickness.”
“What’s that?” Alix asked, clearly perturbed by the name of the illness.
“Contracted in swamps in Temeria. The illness causes one to lose all the fluids in their body, killing them. Could explain the thirst, along with the cold sweats and vomiting.”
“Is there a cure?” Alix asked excitingly.
“Now hang on.” Alder begun, raising a hand. “Just ‘cause I think it might be Black Water, doesn’t mean it is. Some of the pieces don’t fit. The crying fits and the hallucinations are what’s throwing me off.”
Alix slumped down again looking saddened by Alder statement.
“Now, now!” Alder raised a hand. “Don’t get disheartened. Doesn’t mean I can’t try. I need to see them, the sick; then I’ll know for certain.”
Alix’s posture straightened up a little, a small smile forming. “Thank you, master witcher.” She turned to the road. “We’re here.”
Alder turned to see the village; it wasn’t quite what he expected. It was rather large, the majority of the homes settled upon the creek which ran through a clearing in the woods. The homes were quite quaint as well, most made of stone, and were painted in vibrant colors. It was a change of pace from the almost depressing villages of Velen and Ikor. The witcher saw on his approach that a small welcoming party awaiting him and Alix. Two armed men and whom he assumed to be the village ealdorman, judging by the rather bright blue doublet he wore. The witcher looked over to Alix with a puzzled expressions, something told him Alix did this without telling anyone.
“Alix Bennett!” The rather young village ealdorman yelled out. “You disobeyed my decree! ‘None shall leave the village ‘till Lawrence's return!”
“That fat man can barely ride his own wife! How do you expect him to get to fucking Vizima!”
Alder fought tooth and nail to not fall off his horse laughing, and fought even harder to maintain his solemn, ‘witcher-on-the-Path’ expression. Now he fully understood why he couldn’t hurt this girl in anyway, she was simply too much fun. The ‘welcoming party’ met Alix and Alder half way from the village on the road. The guards flanking the ealdorman were in fine studded leather armor, brandishing long spears and wide wooden shields.
“Watch your tongue young lady!” The ealdorman turned his attention to Alder. “And who is this? We cannot let anyone else catch the pox!”
Alder raised his right hand, as if he was doing a Nilfgaardian salute, to reveal his School of the Cat medallion wrapped around his wrist like a bracelet. He wore it this way, with the chain hanging low, to conceal it; he had decided long ago that this was good for professional purposes.
“Don’t believe I’ll be catching the pox anytime soon.” Adler replied with a toothy grin.
“A witcher!” One of the guards said in shock.
“What is the meaning of this?!” The ealdorman demanded from both Alix and Alder. “Answer me?!”
Alder decided to speak. “Alix here hired me to look into your, ‘plague of madness’.”
The ealdorman snarled. “No need! Last thing we need is a freak like you poking around.”
“Bryan please!” Alix pleaded with the ealdorman. “Alder here has seen many a pox and blight. He can help us!”
“I will not entertain the thought! We wait for Lawrence's return!” Bryan said making a sweeping motion. “Now be gone, witcher!”
Alder narrowed his gaze at the ealdorman. “So let me get this straight: You want to throw away a chance to cure your village of a pox, just because that cure comes from a ‘freak’?”
Bryan was silent, his visage changed from an angry scowl to a confused frustrated man. It was clear to Alder that the ealdorman truly cared for his village, but also held a clear prejudice against non-humans. A common occurrence in Temeria, one that Alder counted on encountering. Alder continued on.
“Let me look at the ill. If I can’t figure it out, I’ll leave before the sun sets. If I cure them, then you’ll not have to worry.”
Bryan nodded, then looked up to the witcher. “You have one turn of the hourglass.” The ealdorman finally said holding his index finger up. “That is all.”
Alder hopped off his mare, Lucy, and came up to the ealdorman, and extended a hand. “You have my word.”
Bryan snorted and turned around, and begun walking back to the village. “Just do your job quickly.” He said looking over his shoulder.
Alder then flipped his hand around and extended his middle finger. He then turned to Alix who looked embarrassed. The witcher had seen that look before; the look of a person ashamed of their own people. Alder had seen that look on many of his brothers, even seen it in reflections of himself from time to time.
“Master witcher,” Alix spoke up, not making eye contact with the witcher. “I’m-”
“No need to be sorry.” Alder interrupted Alix, he spoke softly, adopting the tone of one consoling a close friend. “Your ealdorman is merely attempting to keep his people safe.”
Alix looked up and smiled at the witcher.
“There, see, a smile.” Alder said grinning. He rubbed his gloved hands together. “Now, time to get to work. Only have an hour. Where is the barn they’re being kept?”
“Come! I’ll show you.”
Alix guided the witcher through the village. Alder felt the gazes of the villagers on him. Though he did not let that bother him; he continued through the town, a confident look on his face. During this walk through the village he kept an eye out for anything, unusual. Any signs that may point him to a cause of the plague. Rats, crows, any animal known to carry disease. The absence of these animals meant that black water was a very likely candidate for what was causing the villages woes.
Finally, Alix and Alder arrived at the barn. A town guardsmen stood before the barn door; through it, Alder was able to see about a dozen or so men and women, two children, laying on the straw of the barn, heads propped up by pillows or more straw.
“What do you two want?” The guardsmen held his spear a little more tightly as the pair approached the barn. “You want to get the plague or something?”
“Think we’re good on that.” Alder begun stepping up to the guardsmen, showing his medallion. “Been hired to give the sick a once over. See if I can figure out what's wrong with them.”
“A witcher?” The guardsmen tilted his head. “Bit overkill if ye ask me, but I ain’t paid to answer. True that you lot can’t catch the pox?”
“In a sense.” Alder didn’t wish to explain witcher mutations, he’d waste his hour. “Mind letting me through?”
The guardsmen nodded. “Go right in. No funny business.”
“I’m coming with you.” Alix said seriously.
Alder turned raising a hand. “This is where you stop. You’ve been helpful to these people, no reason to get yourself infected.”
“No buts, alright?” Alder said in an almost fatherly tone. “Stay here, maybe you and-” He looked over to the guardsmen.
“Oh, Tom’s my name master.”
“Tom, can get to know one another.” Alder patted Alix on the shoulder. “Be back in minute.”
Alix let out a sigh. “Fine. But, please... Be quick.”
“Being timed, kinda have too.” Alder said with a grin.
Passing by the guard Alder got a good look at the ill. The witcher noticed how pale they were. Their skin was white as a sheet, glistening with sweat. He came to the first on the left, a women, around Alix’s age. She was shivering, though it was mildly warm in the barn, the humidity was high due to the nearby river. Taking off his glove the witcher felt her forehead. Ice cold. The witcher clicked his tongue a few times, an odd habit he had that helped him concentrate. Alder then noticed the bucket next to her, filled with vomit. He took a wiff of it, and shook it around.
“Watery.” The witcher observed while looking into the bucket. “Strange. Almost as if they were all-”
That’s when it hit him.
Alder had this affliction long ago. It was no disease however, something worse. He then checked the others, all too had buckets of the same contents. Several leapt in their sick beds when his mutant eyes met there own, frightened gazes. He knew what it was now. Alder wasted no more time, he exited the barn, making eye contact with Alix as soon as he was out.
“Your water supply, gonna need to see it.” Alder attempted to remain calm, he had a theory but the witcher needed one last piece of evidence.
“Follow me.” Alix said, she could see his urgency.
Leading him down to the creek she made a sweeping gesture over it. Wordlessly Alder stepped into the creek. He stared into it, focusing, looking for what he hoped not to find. Everything was quiet around him. No birds. No wind. No Alix pleading to know what he was doing. Nothing else matter besides what was in that creek.
A sparkle.
Using his mutated reflexes he scoped up the shimmer in the water. Alder held the water in his hand up closely to his eyes. The witcher’s looked changed to a grimace one would give an old enemy. Hatred in his eyes, he released the water from his hand, dusting it off. The witcher turned to Alix, who looked worried.
“Know what it is.” Alder revealed to Alix.
Her mood changed to one of excitement. “So, can you make a cure?”
“Cure is to give those people as much water as possible.” Alder said to Alix. “Boil it, let it cool, then give it to them. I’ll take care of what's causing it.”
“Causing it?” Alix asked confused.
“This is a human borne plague,” Alder said bitterly. “Worst kind...”
The witcher followed the creek up stream, cursing and grumbling the whole way. He knew exactly what it was, and what it had done to the village. Not since Novigrad, when he was a common cut throat for some ‘lordling’ for a time in the city of sin, had Alder seen the stuff. He’d sworn off it. It didn’t take for the witcher long to find the object of his hunt.
A fisstech lab.
The lab looked like it was once a fisherman’s hut. Built over a sandbar, which lead onto the creek, it seemed to be empty. Near the creek Alder spied several discarded crates on the sandbar. The white powder narcotic leaking into the creek. The mystery was now solved, but Alder did not leave. The door was open, it hanging by only one of it’s hinges. Alder slowly approached to the lab, his gaze fixated intently on the door, nearly missing the wagon tracks on the ground.
“They passed right by me...” Alder muttered looking at the tracks.
His eyes locked back on the lab, a tinge of fear could be seen on the witcher’s face. Alder’s hands were firmly tightened into a fist. He could smell it, that sweet aroma beckoned him to the crates. Before he knew what he was doing he was looking down at the crates full of fisstech, hand twitching.
“Maybe... Maybe just...”
Alder’s hand, seemingly, reached down to the open create, scooping up a hand full of the powdery drug. It was almost to his chin when his visage changed from a blank one, to a rage filled one. Angrily he tossed the drug from his hand. The witcher then tore the crates from their place in the creek, landing with a thud on the sand bar.
“Not again! Not again! Not again!”
Alder screamed those words over and over, his hand spewing forth a stream of fire, engulfing the fisstech in flame. This was no ordinary Sign of Igni, he was putting his all into it. The flames screamed from his hand, burning white hot. The sand surrounding the fisstech began to turn to glass as he focused all he had into the sign. Finally, he felt himself collapse onto the ground, his vision blurry; he had overdone it. Alder felt light headed, and cold, yet it had been so warm earlier.
Then he heard the riders.
They would be on him before he knew it. Reaching into his rough sack he pulled out a specialty potion; stallion decoction. The potion restored a witchers vitality for a time until he could get out of the fight. Alder had spent most of stamina casting the sign. The witcher fumbled the potion with his shaky hands.
“Fuck...” He groaned weakly.
Alder scooped the potion off the ground, popped the cork, and chugged the lime green liquid. It burned. That’s the best way he could describe it. It burned its way down his throat, and he got into a kneeling position, bracing himself for the effects. The witchers head jerked up, eyes open and irises wide. His veins began to turn an obsidian black, his skin began to turn to a sickly pale. Alder gritted his teeth, his hands were clenched so tightly his fingernails began to dig into his palms. Finally the worst had passed; his head came back down to normal, and he began to feel his stamina returning. The witchers eyes refocused, he was able to see clearly now.
Clear enough to see the six armored knights of the Flaming Rose in front of him.
“Hello, freak.”

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