Jonathan went back home immediately, with the dreadful knowledge that he only had a day or two to clean up his house. He did a decent job, but then people kept coming over; they were mercilessly recruited into helping him clean the cabin and stable. Jonathan did pay them with food, or else they would have revolted.
Everyone ruled the house properly clean by the second day, but decided to stick around for lunch.
Peter and Tam were making tea in the kitchen, experimenting with some different blends and water temperatures. They had secretly made it their mission to create a tea that Jonathan would be forced to admit was good.
Cornelia and Kern—sat at the table—had started messing with some scrap they had brought. They had also gotten into the stash of softwoods for carving.
Jonathan was reading a book in the corner. He was both curious about what the two smith apprentices were trying to make, and slightly scared of whether a monstrosity would result. He had some similar concerns about Peter and Tam creating something food related together.
The knock on the door was abrupt, but not harsh; it had irregular pauses like a child was playing around outside.
Jonathan got up and let his friends in. Despite his attempt at dodging, he was unable to avoid the bear hug from Chester.
Aderes pushed past the two young men and set her stuff down. She glanced around the cabin. It was definitely more spacious than she had expected for a lumberjack living in the woods to have.
“Who are you?” Cornelia asked. She had a hand on a dagger at her side.
Aderes straightened up slightly. Her shoulder was back, but her feet were spread apart. It was a trained stance, drilled into her through years of instructors. There was always something a bit more brutal in her body language than what her facial expressions suggested. The wickedly sharp spear hanging over her shoulder likely didn’t make her appear less of a threat either. “A friend of Jonathan’s.”
Cornelia looked unimpressed, yet she had accepted the explanation enough to not start a fight. “He has friends?”
“Wow. He hasn’t mentioned us at all?” Chester questioned. The bard was almost pouting as he let go of Jonathan.
“Who are you?” Aderes questioned the two teenagers.
Jonathan grumpily commented, “Two annoyances.”
If Kern thought that the man meant it seriously, he would have flinched. Fortunately, he knew not to take Jonathan’s grumbling as only a joke by this point.
Chester put his mandolin and pack down to the side, near Aderes’ things. “I’m Chester, and that’s Aderes.”
Tam and Peter peeked out from the kitchen door. They weren’t quite sure what was going on outside, but they wanted to know.
Jonathan raised an eyebrow, having caught the movement. “And there’s another two.”
Chester’s smile grew slightly more dim when he recognized the middle aged man. His tone was surprised as he commented, “You’re that weird merchant, from the train.”
Peter laughed. He stepped out of the kitchen, followed by Tam. “I am a merchant. I’m not sure about ‘weird’.”
Jonathan coughed and muttered something that sounded like, ‘NPC merchant.’
“My name is Peter.” Peter almost extended his hand for a shake, but extended his thumb instead. He had just gotten back from a modern world and mostly forgotten this world’s common gestures; if not for his visits to Jonathan, he never would have remembered anything about this place’s culture in the first place.
Chester tapped his thumb against the merchant’s. “Good to….see you again.”
“I’m Tam. I’m a squire for the capital,” the girl said. She stared at Chester, not exactly sure where she remembered him from.
Cornelia waited a few seconds and then asked, “Why are your eyes weird?”
“What if I told you I was blind?” Chester replied straight faced.
Aderes let out a suspicious cough, turning her face away. She really wanted to laugh at the unbelieving expressions of the three kids.
“You’re not blind,” Tam carefully argued. She didn’t want to make a big deal of it, but the man was lying.
There was no smile on Chester’s face. “I am.”
Aderes solemnly nodded. She elbowed Jonathan to get him to agree.
Cornelia stared at Chester’s face for a moment, then shook her head vehemently. “That would make no sense!”
Kern stood up. He looked calm, but there was some nervousness when everyone in the room looked at him at the movement. “We all know there’s something else. I won’t look for it. If you want to call yourself blind, then . . .okay.”
“Thank you!” Chester smiled. “The secret is that I’m not really alive.”
Chester laughed. “Just joking!”
Realization flashed across Tam’s face, and she put a hand over her mouth. She knew he wasn’t joking, but she understood why they weren’t telling everyone up front.
“You really like messing with people,” Aderes deadpanned.
“A little bit.” Chester’s laughter had puttered out quickly. He hadn’t liked the response he got, and it was obvious Peter and Kern now knew it was the real answer from their expressions.
Cornelia narrowed her eyes. She flatly told the bard, “You’re mean.”
“Sometimes, a bit,” Chester acknowledged.
Jonathan took the chance to move things along, without any hesitation. He wasn’t certain whether Chester wanted other people to know about the whole undead business. “I’ll grab some cold cider for us from the cellar, and then we’ll go somewhere to talk.” He pulled a rug aside, and climbed down into the trapdoor.
“The tea!” Tam remembered, eyes large.
Peter pulled out his pocket watch, an old thing that didn’t seem to be made of metal. “Go take the kettle off. It should be fine.”
Tam nodded and dashed into the kitchen.
“Who wants a cup of jasmine?” Peter asked.
There was only confusion at the question.
Peter didn’t seem phased at the question. He had to deal with such things far too often. “A rare spice from far away.”
“I’ll try it,” Kern volunteered.
Cornelia glanced around the room, but boldly agreed as well. She wasn’t a fan of new things. However, Kern and Tam were going to have it and she would too.
Aderes traded a look with Chester and shrugged. “We’re going to go for now. Maybe we can try it later.”
Jonathan emerged from the cellar with a large jug of cider and three small cups stacked inside of each other. The brown cups were made by the man a while ago; he didn’t love them, but at least they weren’t lopsided. “I think we’ll be back for a brief lunch later.
“I can throw something together for lunch,” Peter offered.
Chester took the cups and Aderes opened the door.
“That’d be appreciated,” Jonathan agreed, already half out the door. “Tam is in charge of the regular food.” He was mostly messing with Peter on this one, but Tam would better know what he had in the cupboards.
Cornelia stifled her giggles at the expression on the old merchant’s face.
Peter’s mouth had fallen open in shock. “What, you have a problem with my cooking now? It’s not just the tea?”
Strange trio arc! Strange trio arc!
I’ve always been a bit sad that I didn’t give them much time in novel 1 to hang out, so they get more here.
Reminder about first official fanday: Saturday June 24th, 2023. Check the carrd out above, or go to this twitter thread: https://twitter.com/TheSilverHunt3r/status/1657446101539074055
New updated version of An Unwilling Prince available! includes an unreleased short story https://ko-fi.com/s/ee384ebab2 (If you already bought version 1, I will happily send you a link to the short story)
If you want to see art of Biscuit eating a biscuit, click here or use this link: https://ko-fi.com/i/IX8X1LVAFS