Atticus sat on a particularly large stone, gazing down into the lake, smiling. He reached down and touched the surface to create a pattern of ripples. In response, from the silt and gloom, a black-hued creature, vaguely human in shape, arose. Large, pupil-less green eyes peered up. With a smile full of sharp, pearlescent teeth, the creature playfully bit at the surface, as if inviting Atticus to reach down again.
“I am so proud of you,” the villain said. “How many heroes have you caught with your lady of the lake routine this month?”
The monster made signaled ‘7’, winked, and swam away.
“So proud,” Atticus murmured, mostly to himself, watching the waters settle, the algae soak in the last of the dying sun’s light. Fireflies and will-o-wisps rose from the lake and surrounding forest before he left.
“Let’s go,’ he repeated. ‘Yes,’ said Yennefer. ‘I want to see the sky.’ ‘I’ll never leave you again,’ Ciri said dully. ‘Never again.’ ‘Let’s go,’ said Geralt. ‘Ciri help Yen.’ ‘I don’t need help!’ ‘Let me help you, mother.”
“That name,” the hall rang with the silvery voice of the elven queen, “is pretty in any combination. And each of us here would love to have a daughter like you, Zireael, Swallow with the eyes of a hawk.You are the body and the blood of Lara Dorren. Each of us would give everything, even this Lodge and the fate of the kingdoms around the world, to have such a daughter. However, it is impossible. We know that it is impossible. So we envy Yennefer.”
“Thank you, Lady Philippa,” Ciri said after a few moments, squeezing the head of the sphinxes in her hands. “I also feel honoured with the proposal to take the surname de Tancarville. However, it seems to me that my new last name is the only thing that I can choose for myself, I thank the two mistresses. But I want to be called Cirilla of Vengerberg, daughter of Yennefer.”
She shifted and gently freed her arm from under his head, and lay beside him on the grass so that she could look into his eyes. She looked eagerly, as if she would memorise his image, as if to save it for the future, for all eternity…
Her voice stuck in her throat so rapidly that she instinctively raised her hands to her neck, as if what she had on was not a necklace, but a choking garrotte. Emhyr continued to measure her with his eyes, still full of praise for Stella Congreve. At the same time he also felt anger. Unfounded anger and therefore even more terrible.
“Know that I had nothing to do with your kidnapping girl,” he said sharply. “I had nothing to do with your kidnapping. I gave no such orders. I was fooled…”
He was angry with himself, aware that he was making a mistake. He should have ended this conversation long ago, ended it with grace, with power, menacing, like an emperor. It was necessary to forget about this girl with the green eyes. The girl did not exist. She was a double. An imitation. She did not even have a name. She was nobody. The emperor does not ask for forgiveness, does not apologise to someone who…
“Forgive me,” he said, the words sounded strange, unpleasantly sticking to his lips. “I made a mistake. Yes, it’s true, I am guilty of what happened to you. Guilty. But I give you my word that you will come to no danger, no injustice, no harm, no threat. Do not be afraid.”
“I’m not afraid,” she lifted her head and etiquette notwithstanding meet his gaze. Emhyr flinched, struck by the honesty and trust in her eyes.
- Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski, Gwent card illustration by CDProjektRed