Marcus thankfully picked up the conversation again with an innocuous discussion of the weather in the region. The florist also commented that he had been caught out and drenched by one storm recently.
“It was the one about two or so weeks ago?”
“That’s the one,” Marcus confirmed. “Sprang over the mountains like a spry goie.”
Goie were a bit similar to goats, as far as Jonathan knew. “It did come on rather quickly. I was already home by then, but no one in the village had been expecting rain. The storm caused some panic among Zachariah and the others.”
“I’m lucky I only have my gardens and a few patches around our mountain to take care of. There’s a few farmers in the village who have some farmland up here, you’ve seen them. I heard that Old Zayn Miller tripped and got a mouth full of dirt while he was trying to protect this mountain crops. Oh, that old, clumsy geezer.” Marcus’s laughter would have been mistaken for a brief coughing fit by those unfamiliar with him.
Jonathan didn’t particularly think the story was funny. He knew the Millers some; they were customers of his.
“Where’s that large bird of yours?”
“Where did you get it, again? I can’t quite seem to remember.”
Jonathan gave a thin smile. He had told his neighbor about Oceton’s origins, but it was always the same bit that never explained anything. “A friend of mine gave him to me.”
“Right, right,” Marcus agreed. The older man fell silent for a few seconds, considering, before pointing to his guest’s boot. “I’ve been thinking of saying something for a while, so I guess I will. That dagger and sword of yours, did you use it to hurt a strong mage a few years back?”
Jonathan looked at Marcus suspiciously. “Why?”
“Show one of them to me for a moment, if you would.” Marcus shuffled through the clutter on the small table next to his chair and pulled out a pair of reading glasses.
Jonathan pulled Liam’s knife out of his boot. There was no blood on the blade. He had made sure to clean, polish, and sharpen it.
Marcus leaned in closer. “My senses haven’t failed me,” he crowed, victorious. With the glasses on, his eyes visible; they were black, and they shone in a strangely metallic way.
“How did you know this was used to hurt a mage?”
“Mana is created from the soul, but the body is also infused with it. Blood has an unusually high amount of mana and that is why it usually ends up being used in many rituals. Mana leaves traces, and so can blood. Some types of ritualistic magic track and trace the residue of mana. It’s easier to tell if an item has been the subject of that type of ritual, because the residue won’t fade over time.” Marcus tapped the dagger with a finger. “The residue on your sword has faded, but not on your dagger. Someone tracked—or is tracking—it.”
Jonathan was trying to process the amount of information that had been dumped on him suddenly. A sudden terrible thought occurred to him, but he pushed it down and mechanically said, “I just remembered something I needed to do later tonight. I appreciate the information, and the tea.” He put the dagger back into his boot and stood up.
“Of course! It’s been a great time, shame you can’t stay longer, but I understand.” Marcus followed his guest to the door and slapped Jonathan on the back in an amicable manner.
Jonathan easily ignored the action. His neighbor wasn’t frail, but the transmigrator had been chopping down trees for the past three years; he was even more fit than he had been in his original world. “Yeah. . . great time,” he echoed back as he untied Biscuit.
Jonathan rode into the forest and dismounted once he was closer to his house.
He decided to unpack what had hit him after learning about the dagger.
When he was in Celtie, he tried to give the dagger back to Liam, the younger brother of the original person who lived in this body. Jonathan and his friend Chester had later been attacked on the border of Alita.
If Jonathan had actually left the dagger with Liam that crazy mage would have tracked down the kid instead. He might not have killed the mage and Chester might have lived….but Liam could have been killed.
He could have gotten Liam killed and he wouldn’t have any way of knowing.
Jonathan cursed out into the forest.
He really had forgotten how deadly some of the things in this new, magical world were.
He really had forgotten how much he didn’t know, then and now.
It was a dreadful reminder.
Biscuit noticed his agitation and nosed against him.
Jonathan stopped midway through cursing. He sighed and put a hand on Biscuit’s neck. “Thank you.”
He hadn’t known and it didn’t happen. He would just have to be more careful in the future.
Jonathan planned to do some more whittling back home tonight, to help settle his mood. That was more productive and helpful than simply shouting in a forest.
He was about to mount Biscuit again when he heard rustling coming behind him. In response to the noise, Jonathan slid off the mare’s back, landed solidly, and pulled out his sword. It wasn’t uncommon for beasts to live and roam in the mountains, but they tended to be more nocturnal hunters.
“Hello! Hello! Is anyone there?” A female voice called.
Jonathan cursed slightly. His breakdown had apparently drawn attention. “There is. What do you want?”
A young teenager emerged from the bushes, leading a pale grey horse. She had her dark hair pinned into a tight bun. Mud and leaves were stuck to her boots and leather armor. A few birds had been killed and tied together on a wire, then slung across the horse’s back. “I’m lost.”
“And? What do you want me to do about it, kid?” Jonathan questioned.
She didn’t appear insulted at the term, accepting it with a placid attitude. “I was hunting and got lost. If I could have directions to a nearby village, that would be greatly appreciated.”
“There’s one at the bottom of the mountain.” Jonathan confirmed that the teenager looked exhausted and grumpily asked, “Hungry?”
“My house is on the way. If you don’t mind the clutter, I can make some needle tea and a meal.”
“I greatly appreciate your hospitality, Sir.” She had immediately perked up at the offer of food.
“I’m Jonathan, not sir. What’s your name?”
“Tam. I’m a squire at the capital.”
Jonathan nodded and started moving. He wanted this to be over with. What odd, cursed twist of fate had led this girl to run into him again. He already had enough feelings and revelations of the past to deal with, so meeting the only other person present for Chester’s death was not a bonus.
Have you guys ever thought back on past decisions and realized you dodged a bullet? I have. Jonathan now has too.
Do you guys remember the song Chester sung in novel 1 “River Ket”? When I create lyrics for songs in my stories, I also come up with a melody. I made an animated music video for you guys to hear Chester’s sea shanty. https://youtu.be/EuLhmKcRKBY
I am working on a kofi shop as well. Hopefully soon I can put up a pdf copy of An Unwilling Prince and some things like stickers or bookmarks, but for now there’s a lot of wallpapers. It’s pay what you want, so you can just get them for free or donate me some money for food. https://ko-fi.com/thesilverhunt3r/shop