Jonathan hung up his coat. His guess of who had invaded his house without warning was correct. He, however, took no offense to the action.
Peter sat at the small table. He had made himself at home, judging by the mug of tea in front of him. There was a calmness to him, a sort of frigid peace. “You look like you’re ready to talk about one of those important questions you mentioned,” he noted.
Jonathan’s memories of his time adventuring had been brought back to the front of his mind when Tam showed up. Running into Kern that day had only tuned up more. “How many lives has Oceton lived before?”
“I’m not sure, certainly a few.”
“Oceton is a phoenix, as far as I’ve been able to tell.” Jonathan gestured to a few books on his shelf.
“And you’re right.”
“Did you ever try to have him bond to you?” Jonathan dropped into the chair across from Peter. He was playing with Liam’s dagger.
“I tried and it didn’t work. He didn’t like me. When I got my next assignment, I decided to slip him in there as a bonus of sorts.”
“Why give him to me?” Jonathan always thought that Peter had given him the egg, and not forgotten it.
Peter’s expression was thoughtful, and slightly guilty. He paused, then pulled up his sleeve. “This is Mancer.” A small salamander-like creature was curled around his wrist, but the shadow underneath—black as ink—seemed tattooed onto Peter’s skin. “I’m not going to force a sentient creature to stay with me if they don’t want to. I learned the hard way how bad of an idea that is.”
Jonathan leaned in closer, inspecting the small lizard.
Mancer craned her neck and blinked at the young man. She licked her eye. The colors on her changed, similar to a dying fire. Reds to oranges, oranges to yellows.
Peter tilted his hand, and the lizard stayed still.
“When did you really buy Biscuit?” Jonathan realized that horses with broken legs almost never heal once he moved to Alita. Farmers put them down because the horses won’t keep off an injured leg.
“Only a week or so before, healed her with a magic potion from the system. We got along well, but you needed her help.”
The lizard seemed to sink into the skin underneath her; she was just as colorful, yet flat. After another look around the room, Mancer scuttled back under Peter’s rolled up sleeve.
A comfortable silence fell as Jonathan poured himself a cup of tea and Peter sipped at his.
Peter looked at the dregs sitting in his mug and sighed. “I need to be on my way soon. Anything else, young ‘un?”
Jonathan barely held back rolling his eyes at the term. “How much do you actually know about how this world will go, or is supposed to go? Or, whether I’m supposed to do something here?”
“I know some things,” Peter vaguely admitted.
“Anything you can tell me?” Jonathan questioned. He never liked how Peter played at being cryptic.
Peter hummed. “I would suggest doing some research into how thrones are inherited.” He stood up. “That all?”
Jonathan didn’t like how casually the merchant was handling whether or not the lumberjack had some terrible duty of averting the world’s destruction or changing the course of history. He would at least take that this wasn’t, indeed, a harem. “Your tea is terrible.”
Peter put on his hat; it was once again his old, straw hat. “Thanks.” His coat was hanging by the door and he snagged that as well on his way out.
Jonathan dumped and cleaned Peter’s mug. He sat back down at the table and finished the rest of the tea. He privately thought that it was, unlike what he told Peter, decent.
There wasn’t much for him to do as he hadn’t been cutting down trees this morning, but planting some for future use and checking on some that had been planted about nineteen or eighteen years ago.
Jonathan didn’t even have Oceton to bother him. Maybe he should go ride Biscuit for a while after lunch.
For now, however, he was stuck with his thoughts.
Jonathan had been rather sure of Oceton’s species for two or so years, after the bird’s plumage grew to be a bright red. Once Oceton was fully grown and started using elemental fire magic regularly, his feathers looked similar to burning coals or a raging fire.
There was a reason they were so rare. If a phoenix wasn’t dead or in an egg state, they could keep their bonded partner, a sort of familial claim, from dying an unnatural death. It wasn’t immortality. Their partners still aged and could be killed when their phoenix was out of the equation. However, this ability was why the species were indiscriminately wiped out, leaving only five known survivors.
Jonathan wasn’t quite sure why a phoenix would stick around a human. His research had led to the understanding that phoenixes who were raised by other sentient magical creatures would stick by their adoptive parents, or adopt other sentient magical creatures into their flock in the absence of other phoenixes. Sentient magical creatures had a tendency to bond with those who raised or cared for them. Oceton had stuck around which meant the phoenix considered him to be some sort of family. Jonathan might have a bond with a phoenix. Perhaps how Oceton could always find him or understood who to deliver letters to.
He didn’t like thinking about the ramifications of being considered family, which is why he never brought it up again with Tam. His family was gone, and Roscoe’s family was not his and overly complicated.
When he found out about bonds, Jonathan had written to a friend of his, Rando, on the subject. The mercenary band were pleasantly surprised to learn that the boar following them around, titled The Blade, likely had bonded to them for some reason or another. Or, perhaps, the boar enjoyed the potatoes and conquest more than the company.
Jonathan was interrupted in his musings by rapid, impatient knocking on the door. “Who is it?” He called.
Jonathan got up and opened the door. He should have expected that the girl would show up. Cornelia and Bas had a habit of dropping by, particularly when overwhelmed, upset, or bored. “What’s going on?”
Cornelia had already tied up her stout pony. She grumbled about getting mud on her boots, but left them outside on the porch before she came in.
“What’s going on?” Jonathan repeated.
“I want to talk to you about something.”
“Okay.” Jonathan was already checking through his cupboards. He was hungry, and he had been advised that dealing with issues and emotions was already. “I’m making lunch.”
Peter the merchant has returned once again and is giving some answers about how all of this business works.