The Winter passed rather uneventfully—except for Deimena’s occasional requests for tea—and Spring arrived, along with a letter from Aderes.
Come to Lembroke. There’s something we need to talk about.
The letter was cryptic.
For all Jonathan knew of what was going on, it could have been a trap. He shook his head. He shouldn’t be this paranoid about what Aderes wanted, but such blatant mystery had a chance of danger attached to it.
He wasn’t sure if he should go, yet . . . a friend had called for him. What if Aderes just needed someone she trusted?
His peaceful time being a lumberjack in the middle of nowhere kept being interrupted. The kids were fine. The problem was how easy it would be for the politics entangling almost everyone he knew to drag him back into being Prince Roscoe.
Jonathan leaned back in his chair. He irritably ran through some more scenarios as Oceton started trying to groom his hair; whenever his hair wasn’t tied up in a bun, the strands somehow knotted together immediately.
He groaned. The man just couldn’t ignore it, despite how much he wanted to. “Fine. I’ll try to go over there soon.”
There was a knock on the door. The voice was muffled, but it was clearly Marcus. “Are you up yet?”
“Yeah, I’m ready to go.” Jonathan pulled his hair back and grabbed his bag, then headed out.
Jonathan hooked Biscuit up next to Marcus’s mare and they started on their way to the capital. It was the end of this lunar cycle, which meant that Marcus would go into the capital to sell his products.
Trees and bushes were starting to grow bright green, young foliage again. Puddles of water had formed where the ice melted.
The two men sat up front.
Marcus was trimming some cut flowers. He carefully pulled off leaves, trying to preserve the main stems as much as possible.
Jonathan drove the cart. He wasn’t sure why, but Oceton had perched between him and his neighbor.
“How did you really get your bird?” Marcus questioned. “The only known phoenix eggs are locked up in the Hrea Empire and Malamut’s vaults.”
“Oceton is just a red bird. He’s not a phoenix.”
“I don’t buy it.”
“If I answer about how I got the egg, then it’d be only fair for you to tell me something in return.” Jonathan was getting rather tired of the prying. He disliked busy bodies who thought they had a right to know something about something else, even after being rebuffed. “How do you actually make it so that your flowers never die?”
Marcus’s expression shifted into something uncomfortable. He had almost snapped a flower stem at the counter. “Long story.”
Jonathan slowed the cart down and stared at his neighbor. “Mine is as well, and we don’t need to tell each other them without a reason.” He enjoyed the silence that lasted for the rest of the trip there.
The streets of the capital were a bit annoying to navigate through with a cart, as the late morning traffic was always heavy.
They stopped in the alley behind Marcus’ shop and Jonathan helped him unload before the transmigrator headed off into the city.
Jonathan had ridden with Marcus into the capital because he wanted to see if Norel had completed his sword yet. He glanced into the busy smithy.
The place hadn’t changed much. There were a few more scorch marks on the stone and some bits of metal shavings in some areas.
Oceton seemed to enjoy the heat from the furnaces. He rustled his feathers with a pleasant chirp.
Norel greeted Jonathan and went into the back to grab the broadsword. He handed it over and said, “Pull it out. Let’s see what you think of my work.”
Jonathan complied and unsheathed the sword. He was surprised by the material being reddish in color.
“The coloring was Kern’s idea. It won’t affect anything but appearance.”
“And the hilt?” Jonathan asked as he held the sword out, testing the balance and grip. The metal of the basket hilt formed a bird’s head.
“Cornelia demanded a feather or something bird related. I did the actual detailing and shaping of the basket hilt.” Norel laughed slightly. “You kind of gave us free rein for the design, and we went all out.”
“I like it.”
“Good.” Norel patted Jonathan on the shoulder. “I’d appreciate it if you also told those two.”
Jonathan nodded and pulled out the promised gem along with the authenticity certificate he had gotten from a capital jewelry store. He paid Norel and headed outside.
Outside, sat on some crates, Cornelia, Bas, and Kern were eating together. They had gone to buy some street food because Bas was craving some particular vegetable and also wanted his friends to try it.
“How are you supposed to get something from a dragon by Summer?” Cornelia asked. “If you actually try to hunt one, you’re going to get yourself killed.” She wouldn’t admit it, but the strange yellow vegetable and meat was a great combination.
“I’ll figure out some way to,” Bas responded.
Kern was frowning. “Why?” He didn’t understand the need to risk one’s life for this.
“If someone doesn’t have an official shot at the throne, they lose all of their allies. On the other hand, my siblings aren’t kind enough to leave a future problem alone when there’s such a big opening.” Bas spoke matter of factly, almost casually about the possibility of death awaiting him if he failed. To him, who had grown up with that way of doing things, it was normal.
Kern looked at Bas, startled. He couldn’t understand. “Does your father not care?”
“About his kids?” Bas’s smile was sharp and jagged, bitterness welling up in his eyes. “He has too many to care about each of us unless we do well.
Oceton hopped off Jonathan’s shoulder and started pecking at a bit of meat that fell off a skewer.
Jonathan shook his head at the opportunistic phoenix; it wasn’t like he didn’t regularly feed Oceton. “Thank you for your help on my sword.” He carefully patted the two apprentices on the head. “As for you Bas, it sounds like you’re involved in something difficult?” He hadn’t liked what little of the conversation he heard.
“He needs to get something from a dragon.” Cornelia wilted slightly under Jonathan’s raised eyebrow.
“She’s right,” Bas confirmed.
“Something from?” Jonathan questioned. “You don’t necessarily have to kill a dragon, right?
“Mister Jonathan,” Bas said, “Would you know something about a dragon?” His eyes were almost sparkling with how much sudden hope there was in them.
“You act a lot more respectful when you want something, which isn’t a bad thing. Better to be polite than rude. However, it’s a bit obvious,” Jonathan dryly replied.
“But can you help, please?” Bas pleaded. “I know you used to travel around a lot. I could try to steal or trade from a dragon instead, or just take something from a forgotten hoard.”
“I might,” Jonathan admitted. “How much time do you have again?
Jonathan calculated out the travel time there and back. He did his best to ignore the puppy dog eyes from Cornelia and Bas. It would be a bit tough, unless they could get on the train lines for a bit. “There is a dragon in Lembroke that is willing to trade with humans. I’m headed there for a bit anyways, so I could go with Bas.”
“Yes!” Cornelia and Bas cheered in unison, while Kern grinned.
Jonathan sighed, far less enthusiastic, but a bit nostalgic. “It’s not final, we still need to talk about this.”
“Of course,” Bas replied. His smile hadn’t been affected by the comment in the slightest; he knew better. If Jonathan said something like that, it meant he had actually agreed to take Bas.
Jonathan knew this as well, but he didn’t like to admit it.
It would be the first time Jonathan had been back on the road for real after three years.
Enjoy your bonus chapter for the week courtesy of Sours. On kofi I have a goal of 5$ where I’ll put up a bonus chapter and/or make some new art for a character.