Jonathan and Aderes left to go talk once the dinner had ended.
On the way they ran into Joseph. The young man had no bags under his eyes, but his arms were full of books and papers. He had achieved what he wanted to do: be a scholar. Jonathan finally was able to congratulate him in person.
After the brief interruption, the two continued further into the stronghold. The hallways were legitimately cold by this point. Jonathan had been glad he put his red coat on once they arrived in Lembroke; by now it was a bit patchy, yet functional.
Aderes stopped in front of a door and knocked.
The door itself was normal, just the same as the others in the hallway—wood carved with a simple insignia of the Lembroke royal family. However, the bottom of the door showed that there was a light on inside; someone was there.
Jonathan stopped a few feet from the door. “Why did you want me to come here?” He didn’t like being suspicious of a good friend of his, but old habits were hard to kill and trust issues simply didn’t die, especially with his past experiences.
Aderes hesitated. “It’s complicated. You’ll . . . You’ll have to see for yourself.” She opened the door once the person inside had told them to come in.
The room was decently sized, with a large bed in the middle and some furniture scattered around. It was definitely lived in from how drawings, loose leaf paper, and music sheets were scattered around.
A man was sitting on the bed, cross legged. He had an instrument in his lap and looked over when the door opened. “Aderes, did you-” He stopped halfway through the sentence. His eyes were completely white, from the iris to the pupil.
Jonathan had only seen eyes like that once before: Ciley. However, this was not the crazy mage who tried to romance him. “Chester?”
The bard didn’t really look any different from before he had died, aside from the eyes. “Jonathan!” Chester dropped the instrument. He almost seemed to have super speed as he rushed over and scooped Aderes and Jonathan into a tight hug.
“Air,” Jonathan flatly said to disguise the turmoil his heart was going through. “How are you alive?”
He saw Chester die.
He saw Chester die.
“A necromancer brought me back.”
“Why?” Jonathan asked. His tone was sharp, cutting. Everything about this was setting off the paranoia that said wrong.
Chester let go of his friends. His happy tone faded to something more contemplative. “I think . . . he was trying for Ciley, but messed up somehow.”
“Ciley . . . she had white eyes,” Jonathan quietly said. He was trying to piece it together, but there was too much missing to the puzzle.
“She couldn’t have been brought back to life though. Ciley wouldn’t have died that easily if she was an undead.” Chester smiled sheepishly at the questioning look. “We might have tested some things.”
Aderes moved the conversation along before Jonathan started scolding them about their safety. “I had Joseph look through the library over the past month or so. We don’t have a lot of information, but from what he’s learned, eyes are affected by ritualistic magic. Casters get black irises and white pupils. The focus, such as an undead, entirely loses pigment in their eyes. It would explain what happened with that crazy chick if she got eyes with the help of ritualistic magic.”
“Fully black eyes.” Jonathan hummed. There was a connection to something else, but he wasn’t quite sure what it was yet.
Chester made a noise of disgust. “If she knew the necromancer, did Ciley get the eyes of a dead human or . . .”
The three friends grimaced.
“Disgusting,” they muttered together.
A long silence fell.
Jonathan awkwardly broke the silence that fell by confessing, “I’m . . . glad you’re back.” He was genuinely happy, a sort of bubbly feeling that made him want to stay in this room forever and forget about everything outside.
Chester smiled and opened his arms up. “Aww, do you want another hug?”
Jonathan rolled his eyes and moved further away. “No.”
“He’s a bit less grumpy now,” Chester noted. “He would have said something like, ‘I would rather die’.”
“He really is,” Aderes agreed.
Jonathan picked up a pillow in a threatening manner. He forcibly pulled his lips downwards. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.”
A quick pillow fight—which the head maid would have ruled as inappropriate for royalty to participate in—occurred. Aderes and Jonathan allied, but the latter was quickly betrayed. Aderes showcased her ability to throw pillows right into her friends’ faces, while Chester complained that using knacks was cheating.
Eventually they stopped from fear of busting the pillows and sprawled out near the fireplace.
Aderes looked at the other two and smiled. She couldn’t help but comment, “We’re sort of back to normal, like how it was when none of the really crazy stuff happened to us. It’s nice.”
“That’s true.” Chester rolled over and tried not to smack his chin against the floor.
Jonathan huffed. “Crazy stuff happened to me long before I met you two.”
“Like how you know three princes?” Aderes questioned. Her smile was thin.
“Like that,” Jonathan agreed, and added nothing else. He didn’t want to talk about it. He wasn’t ready yet.
The other two stayed quiet for a few moments, waiting for him, in case he wanted to elaborate.
Aderes moved the conversation along after Jonathan just raised an eyebrow at them. “It’s hard to find ritualistic magic users. They’re rare. Ones that dabble in controlling death . . . that’s going to be even worse.”
“Controlling death.” Jonathan cursed quietly under his breath
“What?” Aderes asked. “Something you remember?”
“I might know someone in Alita who could give us some information.”
Chester and Aderes stared at him.
“Alright, alright. I now do believe what you said earlier.” Chester shook his head. He was the person who got brought back from the dead out of this trio, their other friend was a queen, and yet he didn’t feel him and Aderes were as strange as the man who picked up a phoenix and decided to be a lumberjack. “Your life is weird. Now that I think about it, my life only got weird after I met you.”
Jonathan shrugged. He moved the topic back to solving what had happened. “I said I would take Bas to trade with a dragon, and I will. When I’m back in the capital, would the two of you want to go with me to Alita?”
“I can’t leave Lembroke without preparations or a public reason.” Aderes looked torn. “It’s already early summer and I could go to Malamut for the competition banquet. Slipping away to Alita for a bit would be easy then.”
Chester was similarly conflicted, but for different reasons. “I’ll stay in Lembroke.” Some apprehension managed to sneak its way past his usual smile. “I’m not ready to face my family yet. I think summer. I think that would be fine.” He would be fine if he had his two best friends with him.
“Okay,” Jonathan decided. “I’ll wait for you two.” He didn’t know if he would be able to handle it by himself. “We can meet up and investigate after the banquet.”
REMEMBER THAT MYSTERIOUS NECROMANCY STUFF AT THE BEGINNING? YEAH, SOMEONE BROUGHT BACK CHESTER FROM THE DEAD.
Welcome back, my favorite bard.