Most people leaned towards the latter. At least until they met a Witcher themselves and their opinion (usually) shifted, assuming the worst of the Continent's monster slayers. That they took their ill-gotten gains back to some secret, fabulously wealthy abode where the eyes of common men wouldn't sully their treasures.
Those people, the ones that assumed the Witchers of their world were greedy abominations benefiting from the horrors of necrophages, drowners, griffins and the like? They would be shocked and bewildered to see the famous White Wolf of Rivia and his ward, the Lion Cub of Cintra, in their present circumstances.
Plain truth of the matter was, Witchers were paid handsomely to deal with other people's shit. And they still had to deal with almost all of the same normal and utterly mundane shit the common folk assumed the rich and fabulously wealthy were immune to, through the sheer power of money and affluence.
Not that they were wrong about that. Money can insulate a body or mind from many problems in just as many different ways, corrupt or otherwise. Although Witchers were indeed paid handsomely, the populace knowing just how well-compensated they were led to them being charged like the ultra rich for even their basic amenities, meaning that although Witchers were wealthy, they would blow that wealth in mere days, even living humbly.
Capitalism. It is a vicious beast, far more ruinous than any dragon or vampire. Because everything was so expensive for a Witcher, they had to charge more and more for their services, only worsening and exacerbating their problems -- and nevermind the fact that so many Witchers did jobs for free out of the kindness of the heart. Or, for that matter, that many of them accepted jobs just for the exposure it would give them to other customers.
Never accept payment in exposure.
Now, you may now be wondering what the fuck any of this has to do with Geralt and Ciri.
The two white-haired warriors were riding back to civilization after a successful griffin hunt, its severed head attached to the saddle of Ciri's horse Kelpie, while its declawed feet were hanging off Geralt's Roach. The trophies would have impressed anyone they passed on the road, but it was growing late. It was too late for them to visit the village's alderman, who had assured them he would have their payment ready. It wasn't so late that the dirt street should have been deserted.
That was the fault of the heavy downpour, soaking either of their oiled cloaks to their bodies. Their clothes were beginning to grow wet beneath them, so they decided to stop at the first inn that they saw. Its innkeeper took one look at Geralt's feline eyes, did some mental math, then told him their last remaining room would cost roughly seven hundred times its normal cost.
And it wasn't even actually their last room. They had four vacant ones, not that Geralt or Ciri would ever know that.
"Bullshit," Ciri grumbled to herself even so, climbing back into Selkie's saddle. "That's a fucking ridiculous price for an inn room." It was uncharacteristically vulgar of her, but it was a sentiment that Geralt wholeheartedly agreed with.
He agreed with a mild grunt as he mounted Roach, squinting against the rain as he considered their options. They could probably find 'accomodations' in a stable, but he was desperate for a decent bath and figured Ciri felt the same way. There were a handful of people in the village who might be willing to rent them a room for the night, if not let them crash for the evening -- but then they'd probably be expected to repay them with a favor. Also, they probably wouldn't have a good bath tub for them to take turns soaking in.
That left the only other inn in the village, the Sin Inn. It had a sleazy reputation and it was probably the last place Geralt would normally take Ciri, but... "Any port in a storm," he grumbled, spurring Roach onward to their best chance at a decent room, at a decent cost, with decent damn baths. "Come on," he grunted, wheeling his horse about without giving the inn another look, unlike Ciri. "We'll take our coin elsewhere."
Ciri, feeling irritated, made a point of meeting the innkeeper's eye as he peeked out the window, sure that the waterlogged Witchers were about to produce all the wealth in the world from their saddlebags. She flipped him the bird, something that really should have been beneath a woman of her blood, then put her heels to Selkie and rode after Geralt.
An hour later...
The Sin Inn was happy to room two Witchers for the evening at a modest, practically unnoticeable twenty percent markup. They probably could have charged the exact same premium the other inn asked and gotten away with it -- after all, what were Geralt and Ciri going to do at that point? Go back out into the torrential downpour? Definitely not.
The only reason they weren't paying an arm and a leg for their lodgings was because Geralt once cleared out the monster responsible for the sordid establishment's name. Without a succubus preying on its patronage, the Sin Inn no longer hosted the nightly orgies and gangbangs in its common room that earned it it's sleazy reputation. That was years ago, but the reputation stayed intact. It was a good place for horny ne'er-do-wells and upstanding citizens alike to find a quick lay or even more debaucherous entertainment.
That was probably because the succubus' magic had left a permanent stain on the building, so faint that not even Geralt or Ciri's silver Witcher medallions could detect its effect or the subtle way it influenced their minds. If they had, well, maybe they would have braved the rain once again.
Instead, they hit their respective rooms to wash the hunt off them before reconvening in the inn's common room below them.
Ciri was down there before Geralt was, nursing a tankard of ale at a table that was all too familiar to her mentor and father figure. As he neared her, he glanced down at the notch and mysterious stain surrounding it that he put there years ago. In fact, Ciri was sitting right where the succubus had been before Geralt had put an end to her. "Let's sit somewhere else," he grunted, picking up the ale she left ordered for him.
"What's wrong with this table?" Ciri asked, though she got to her feet anyway. He glanced back at her. She was right to question him, of course. The seats she had chosen were exactly the kind he taught her to look for years ago. Both of their backs would have been to a wall. None of the windows would have given a clear line of view to either of them, and Ciri's own chair faced the door, all important things for a woman hiding from the Emperor of Nilfgaard.
"Bad memories," Geralt simply replied, before rapping his knuckles off the mysterious stain. "And I doubt they've cleaned the place since the last time I was here. This..." He rapped his knuckles again and made a point of meeting Ciri's eyes, letting his tone grow blunt. "This isn't ale, and it certainly isn't blood."
Ciri looked at the stain for a long, long moment. It was a bit glossy. A bit white. Then she slowly stood, scraping her chair back and picking up her own tankard. "Right," she said, turning away from the table. "Lead the way, but good luck finding another table." Surprise, surprise -- the Sin Inn was completely packed, with men and women in varying states of inebriation living life to the fullest. More than a few were acting if not moving in shifty ways, furtively getting off by themselves or with someone else.
The Lion Cub rolled her eyes at the sight of one woman with someone very clearly hiding under her skirts, both because of the shifting misshapen lump in them and because of the two sets of shoes sticking out from under them.
After a couple of minutes of looking, they weren't able to find a table. But they were able to find a booth, albeit one without any form of proper seating, tucked away from the rest of the tavern but still offering a glimpse of the front door. Ciri frowned to herself as she set her tankard down on the high table, its surface just a few inches lower than her waist. "What a queer design," she mused, folding her arms over her chest and considering the polished surface. Well-polished, well-maintained. "What do you make of it?"
Geralt simply shrugged. "Probably for a tall regular. Maybe they had a troll at one point," he observed. It wasn't abnormal for taverns to have differently-sized tables for differently-sized folk, like the gnomes and dwarves of the realm. It was rare for them to have something so different for taller patrons.
"A troll in a tavern," Ciri laughed, a bright and easy peal of noise breaking up her intense and sometimes gloomy exterior. "You can't be serious," she accused him. Though they were often assumed to be hideous monsters, trolls were more like exceptional toddlers. Stupid and exceptionally big and exceptionally clumsy and exceptionally destructive, but toddlers nonetheless.
It certainly wasn't built for trolls. The booth had been there when Geralt last visited the Sin Inn, but he wasn't around for the succubus making extremely liberal use of it. There was a reason it was so well-polished and so taken care of. It was the one place where couples could tuck themselves away and hammer out a quickie without being furtive about hiding what they were doing.
"Knew one once," Geralt said with a shake of his head and not a hint of humour; his expression made the mirth on Ciri's face vanish, replaced by curiosity. The White Wolf wasn't the kind of person to set up a joke, with a sense of humour all about well-timed, deadpan or dry comments. "Shupe. One of the best Gwent players I've ever met," he admitted, taking a long swallow from his ale and allowing his mind to wander back to the card playing prodigy. "Had the largest collection of cards I ever saw, too, except he could barely hold them. Kept them in barrels. Not organized, just piled in. He would smash them on the floor and make a deck on the spot."
Ciri stared at Geralt. He really wasn't the kind of person to bullshit like this. "You can't be serious," she repeated.
"Never took a game off him," he admitted plainly. "And I don't think I could today, even now."
"Okay," Ciri said with a slow spread of her fingers in gesture. "Let's say you did know a troll who played Gwent--"
"Shupe," Geralt interjected.
"--that this Shupe really did exist, and could fit in a tavern to play Gwent--"
"He played in his cave, actually," Geralt interrupted once more. "And before you ask, it was a dry cave. His cards were always in great condition before he started smashing barrels."
"--that this Shupe played Gwent in his cave with you and whomever else showed up," Ciri corrected once more with visibly mounting exasperation. "And he always beat you soundly. Is it possible that Shupe was not, in fact, the greatest Gwent player of all time--"
"I didn't say that. Of his generation? Without a doubt," Geralt clarified.
"Sorry. Go on," Geralt said with a wave of his hand, nursing his drink.
"Is it possible," Ciri asked again, pausing to take a sip from her own drink and for dramatic emphasis before resuming her question. "That Shupe was not the greatest Gwent player of his generation and that you are, in fact, shite at Gwent?"
Geralt eyed Ciri over the rim of his tankard, dead silent for several seconds. "We've never played Gwent before, have we?" he asked his ward hypothetically, full well knowing the answer. He lowered his ale and setting it aside on the booth's table. "I've been playing the game longer than you've been alive," he told her pointedly. His hand slid towards a pouch on his belt, tugging it loose and slipping his fingers inside to pull out a pile of cards. "And I'm always," he said as he tapped his deck straight on the table, punctuating his words, "always ready for a round."
"Have you, now? Are you?" Ciri asked with a smirk curving her full pink lips, leaning back against the booth's wall and folding her arms under the curve of her breasts. "I've never seen you play before," she pointed out, glancing down at the cards before raising her green eyes to meet Geralt's gaze. "Haven't even heard you bring it up before in conversation. Is this some kind of mid-life crisis?" she prodded, the twist of her lips growing more crooked and catlike. "Reinventing yourself, from Witcher to Gwent savant?"
"I don't think you could handle the truth if I told you it," Geralt told Ciri levelly, not rising to the taunting challenge in her voice and instead replying in kind, though not so directly. He shook his head and began shuffling the deck, making a point to flow from overhand to riffle and then the far more difficult Faro.
"Try me," Ciri remarked dryly, raising her eyebrows. She wasn't impressed by the shuffling; of course Geralt was good with his fingers. A Witcher had to be agile and dexterous. Of course that would extend to his digits. Card tricks had nothing to do with deck construction, strategizing or being able to execute on strategy.
"Fine." Geralt shifted the cards from one hand to the other with a flourish, then set the stacked deck face down and ready to play. "Yennefer and Vesemir were certain that I would ruin Gwent for you, so they made me promise not to ever play with you." How many years ago was it now? It was a little white lie, a twisting of the truth. Ciri was trying to egg Geralt on, so turnabout was only fair play.
The truth was, Yennefer and Vesemir made him promise not to play Gwent with anyone in Kaer Morhen. Geralt was just too much of a tryhard at the game after spending a month trapped in a cave with the Gwent savant troll Shupe. He wasn't fun to play against. Eksel quit and Lambert, well, Lambert never really got into Gwent in the first place because of Geralt.
Ciri narrowed her kohl-lined eyes. "That's bullshit."
"Told you that you wouldn't be able to handle the truth," Geralt drawled, laying his trap as though Ciri was just another one of the many monsters he had hunted throughout his long life. "Gonna prove me a liar, or are you going to keep acting like a brat who hasn't ever played a hand herself?"
"Fine," Ciri scoffed, procuring her own deck from her belt's pouch and setting it down on the table. "But if we're doing this, let's make it interesting." While she wasn't bad at Gwent, Ciri didn't enjoy the game enough JUST to play it, or just to rub it in Geralt's face how awful he was.
"What have you got in mind?"
Ciri's first inclination was to suggest the loser choosing between truth or dare. That's what she always played when she busted out her cards, but most of her Gwent games were with one of her many girlfriends or boyfriends. The heir to Cintra and the Empire had a warm bed waiting for her in every village and city. Truth or dare with Geralt felt a bit -- juvenile, and beneath both their dignities. The white-haired beauty thought for a moment, then suggested a slightly more adult alternative.
"Loser takes two shots."
Yet Another Hour Later...
Eight shots later, Ciri was finally beginning to believe Geralt had played Gwent before. Maybe he had played it several different times before. The White Wolf was on his sixth, likewise corrected on any preconceptions he might have had about Ciri's skill at Gwent. It was a great way for the two Witchers to kill the time, but now they were in too deep to just call it a night and wrap up the games. No, now it was a proper competition.
There would be no winding down, only ramping up. Another round ended. Ciri hissed out her frustration as she and Geralt scooped up their cards; she set them to the side in a disorderly pile while Geralt stacked his together and tapped the deck against the table until it was neat and ready for another round at any moment. "Bottoms up," Geralt smiled, a faint but crooked twitch of his lips. Between his mutations and years of poisoning his poor liver, he could hold his liquor with the best of them.
Ciri had neither advantage, but her blood seemed to stave off the worst of the liquor. That didn't mean it hadn't messed with her inhibitions. "This shit tastes like horse piss," she complained as she pinched one of several remaining poured shots on their table. "And that fucking-- that fucking trebuchet card is bullshit," she added tartly, narrowing her eyes at Geralt as she staved off the inevitable.
"Mhm. Less talking, more swallowing."
"Heard that one before," Ciri muttered without a thought, huffing out a breath before grabbing the first shot and sending it down her hatch. She grimaced and made a face at the taste, but went on to slam the glass on the table and repeat the process with her next shot. It went down mildly (and only mildly) better, ending with a soft hiss.
"'Heard that one before', huh?" Geralt asked with a slight peak of his brows.
Ciri blinked at the question, then quickly coughed and cleared her throat, trying to shake her head at the same time. She felt much more ridiculous than she looked, intent as she was on avoiding the question. "No, uh-- I've just-- you know," she said, clearing her throat and giving her head one last aggressive shake, sending a few wayward strands of hair free from her messy chignon. "Been here before," she said with a wave of her hand, the start of a blush flushing her cheeks a light red.
"Have you," Geralt commented more than he asked, his pale eyebrows rising all the higher on his aged forehead, intent on fucking with his ward -- just a small bit of payback. "You said this was your first time here. Did you forget something?" he pressed, well awaye she wasn't talking about the village or the Sin Inn.
"I-- uh... oh, fuck off," Ciri stammered out before she abruptly snorted, having no intention of discussing any of the cocks she had sucked with Geralt.
She ignored how stiff her nipples had gotten, unaware of how eagerly they pressed against the thin material of her shirt. The first thing she had done after getting into her inn room was slip off her brasserie, and she didn't bother putting it back on for just hanging around the common room with her father figure. The soft, damp heat she was feeling in her pussy -- had been feeling in her pussy for several rounds of Gwent now -- was a bit harder to ignore, but she endeavoured.
Geralt was in a similar state. That succubus was getting her last laugh years later, not that either of her victims were likely to complain about it the next morning. They played another round, and then another. Ciri downed another two shots. The next round ended in their first draw; one shot apiece.
The white-haired Lion Cub of Cintra wasn't ignoring her stoked cunt anymore, trailing her lusty eyes over Geralt's powerful and agile body. She wondered what it would feel like to be like Triss or Yennefer, to have her softer body and curves pressed up against the White Wolf's much more solid frame, to have her full bowed lips melded against his masculine mouth. Her tastes always trended towards more effeminate men and women -- for so many years, Ciri thought herself a lesbian. She learned better than that, but her tastes still leaned towards femininity more than masculinity.
With all the alcohol flowing through her body and the succubus' lingering influence taking root... oh, she wanted to try something new. Ciri lifted her shotglass to her lips as Geralt did the same, watching him down his but only biting down on her bottom lip. "Hey," she murmured across the table to Geralt, letting her voice drop to a more husky whisper as she stepped around the booth to squeeze in beside him. Ciri wanted nothing more than to swing her arms around his neck and rub up against him like a pussy cat in heat, but she held her composure. She couldn't just leap into it. That wouldn't be satisfying.
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