It was a cold, wet day in Celtie’s capital. The upside to the weather came in that the park was empty of all but the animals hiding in their homes and the plants desperately straining for the sun.
Jonathan chose to sit under the cover of a gazebo. He unfolded the paper and checked the details again.
Oliver had kept the note brief:
Whenever you want to talk more,
the same park
1 o’clock in the afternoon on the third day of the week.
Jonathan hung his coat over the railing that ran around part of the gazebo in some hope of drying it off. He retied his hair back into a loose bun and settled down to wait.
Oceton ruffled his feather, quickly going from wet to dry with the help of his magic.
The rain cleared up briefly, and brought with it a somewhat familiar figure with red hair.
“You’re here,” Oliver noted. Some surprise had crept into his usually monotone voice. He sat down on the painted wooden boards near Jonathan.
“I am. What did you bring?” Jonathan only asked because Oceton seemed interested in the food.
Oliver wasn’t smiling, but that seemed normal for him. “A local special: fritiqis; it is fried dough filled with cream.”
“You don’t seem like the kind of person who would have a sweet tooth,” Jonathan muttered.
“Would you like any?”
Oliver didn’t continue to press his half-brother. He sort of smiled faintly, a bitter genuine thing. “Do you care about Liam?”
“Why are you wanting to know?” Jonathan raised his eyebrows high. He didn’t trust Oliver, and he wasn’t trying to hide it.
“Just answer, please, Ros-” Oliver paused and corrected himself, “Jonathan.”
“I would do a lot of things to keep him safe.” There was a sort of promise to his tone, that he was just as willing to go against Oliver.
“Good.” Oliver placed his paper bag of treats down on the wooden planks. “There’s been too much political activity in the other regions. Lembroke is always a problem because of the war with Nu, but I’m suspicious of why she’s getting involved when Crown Prince Jaeger just went back on the frontlines. I’m not entirely sure what mother is doing right now, but she is impatient.”
Jonathan’s lips tightened. He wasn’t here to play politics, although he did want to have a better idea of what Oliver was wanting. If Oliver wanted to, he could tell Consort Lorelei and Jonathan’s home would be in danger. “What’s the point?”
“You don’t seem interested in the throne.” Oliver was smoothing the creases on the paper bag out, while maintaining eye contact. “Would you keep Liam safe?”
“If I needed to, I would,” Jonathan’s response was curt.
“If there’s a civil war and I die, I want you to take Liam and hide him.” There was an undertone of uncharacteristic worry in Oliver’s voice. “As long as mother has a son in line for the throne, she will not give up.” He seemed to be admitting that to not only Jonathan, but himself as well. It was not easy to come to terms with how far someone’s parent would go in order to gain a position of power.
Jonathan had been surprised through this conversation by how open Oliver was acting and the questions about Liam. It was rather sobering to realize this was because he was Oliver’s backup plan in case something happened to him. “I’ll take care of him.”
“Thank you,” came the quiet response.
A silence fell between them, accompanied by the staccato of rain drumming onto the roof.
Eventually, Jonathan decided it was his turn to ask some questions. “Do you want to be emperor? You don’t seem to be interested.” He held a hand out to Oceton and ran his fingers down the bird’s head; the phoenix felt like a feathery heat pad right now.
“No. I am not.” Oliver looked around, at the small park and the tall walls. “I have enough power, enough responsibility. I can protect the people I need to.” It was said firmly, and there was that bitter smile again. “Have you ever been so tired of everything that you want it to be over? That is my view of all of this.”
Jonathan felt the words slipping from his tongue before he had the chance to rethink them. He was curious about something for the first time in over a decade. What was the rationale behind why someone would actively murder for political power? “What about your mother? How does she see it?”
“A struggle for her survival that only gets more fierce.”
“My mother was from Reagle. She was married off for political power; the same was the case for the other consorts, except for the empress. I was born only three hours after Jaeger. Perhaps my mother always believed that she had been cheated of being the mother of an emperor, or maybe she was always like that. The killings between the women started after the empress died. I am rather sure she had died from true illness, but the other two consorts . . . I remember what happened with them.” Oliver had finished smoothing the creases in the paper bag out, and picked a small fritiq out with his long nails. “However, for myself, if being an emperor means bloodying my hands just for power I don’t need, then I don’t want it.”
Jonathan struck at a different aspect. “You won’t just follow along because someone else wants you to.”
Something about the phrasing seemed to amuse Oliver. There was a faint smile on his lips. “That as well. It seems we share some common perspectives.”
Jonathan knew that several of Roscoe’s siblings were acting out of a desire for revenge. He wasn’t sure if Oliver was, but the mix of pride and hurt was the same look Jonathan had when he dealt with his own mother.
A sudden thought seemed to occur to Oliver. “Are Emlyn and Millan alive?”
“I know they’re alive.” As a gesture of trust, Jonathan answered truthfully. He found himself relating more to Oliver than he wanted to. Someone estranged from their younger siblings and parents
“That’s enough then.” Oliver knew about their gang, about how the government in Maskiff was really just a puppet government for the two. They would be safe in Maskiff.
“Do you know what happened?” Jonathan knew from Emlyn. This was a test.
“Clementine betrayed them. If you’re alive then that means she betrayed mother at least once.” Oliver sighed and made his way through another two of his small treats. “Trust is far too easy to break.”
“Yes.” Jonathan almost felt like he should disagree with the thought, but he couldn’t. His own experiences tied his tongue. He had been hurt too badly, by people too close to him, to actually object.
“I have some hope we won’t break each other’s.” Oliver pulled one of the dumplings out of the bag and held it out.
“Maybe.” Jonathan hesitated but accepted the snack. He let the dumpling rest in his palm and made no movement to eat it. “Anything else?”
Oceton moved closer and eyed the treat. He stared up at Jonathan with what could only be seen as a pleading expression.
Oliver shook his head. That was all he had to say for now. He had already said far too much and regretted half of it—but in his eyes, this was a necessary conversation.
“You’re as bad as Biscuit,” Jonathan muttered as he gave Oceton half of the dumpling, and ate the other half himself. He stood up and was, for a moment, lost for words. “Goodbye,” was what he settled on. He pulled on his coat and scooped up Oceton.
Oliver continued to sit on the painted wooden boards, and watched as Jonathan disappeared into the storm.
Oliver is one of my more complicated characters. He’s made a lot of important decisions in his life, during a novel set earlier in the timeline will have some more time there (as he’s very fun to write).
Reminder about first official fanday: Saturday June 24th, 2023. Here’s a link to the twitter post that contains information and rules for the event: https://twitter.com/TheSilverHunt3r/status/1657446101539074055
Best type of jerky everyone? I like teriyaki the most.