Jonathan went down to the village of Tesriff the next week. He needed another small patch of red fabric for his favorite coat; a small incident involving Oceton’s talons had given the piece of clothing another tear.
On the way to buy fabric from the sole dressmaker of the mountain, he crossed the Main Street that ran through the small town. Three workers passed by him. A few pets were roughhousing in the patch of dirt and weeds nearby.
There was one person who stood out among the scenery: a young girl with a scowl on her face. She wore clean, neatly ironed clothes. Her boots were dusty, but that was from the road and not wear and tear. This was Cornelia, a swordsmith apprentice of Norel Strong. Instead of greeting Jonathan, she immediately asked, “Do you know where the ore seller Mot Snap is?”
“Norel sent you on an errand up here?”
“Yes,” Cornelia affirmed. “Now, where’s the merchant?”
“She must be very new if you haven’t met her before.” Jonathan paused. “Are you doing okay?” He had already noticed that Cornelia seemed to be in much more of a hurry today than usual—even when she occasionally had a task of checking on supplies and suppliers in the mountains, she stayed and talked for a bit.
“I don’t have time if I want to keep up,” Cornelia bit out. Her frustration wasn’t directed at Jonathan, and that was obvious.
Jonathan raised an eyebrow. “Keep up?”
“There’s a new apprentice. I don’t like him.” Cornelia put her hands on her hips. “Where’s the merchant?”
“What makes you think I know?” Jonathan responded. He did know who it was. Mot Snap was the one always talking about getting big and moving away to the city. Some of the people around didn’t take kindly to that view, while some of the others agreed.
Cornelia laid out her logic. “This village is small. People talk to you. You know.”
Jonathan sighed. “Snap should be in Big Jael’s inn for breakfast.” He gestured towards a three story building with a thatched roof down the street. “Jael said that Snap was a late riser. If you’re quick, you’ll catch her.”
“Thanks!” Cornelia headed for the building that had been pointed out to her.
After a moment of hesitation, Jonathan followed after the young girl. It was early enough in the morning that the drunks should have been taken home, but it never hurt to make sure. Norel would not be happy if anyone hurt an apprentice of his, and Jonathan would also not be okay with that.
“What are you doing?”
“Hot cider,” Jonathan simply replied. He was rather cold.
Oceton started paying attention again when cider was mentioned. He was fond of it, and had been allowed to sample various ciders. His sweet tooth was well developed by treats of beverages and fruit candies.
Jonathan opened the heavy wooden door that was the front entrance of the tavern. He held it open for Cornelia to go in first, and glanced around.
It was early. The stone held the morning chill far too well. Everyone inside was wearing coats, or gathered around the fireplace in the middle of the large room.
Mot Snap was rather easy to spot. She had a long scarf wrapped around her neck and shoulders. A pair of glasses—each lens a different color—sat on her noses. She lifted her cup of cider up towards the two who entered. “Hello! And what can I do for you two? Looking to move up the ladder?” Her eyes were stuck on Jonathan, a sort of complicated expression on her face.
Cornelia stepped forward. She had lost some of the arrogant tone she usually kept to adopt one that was a bit more neutral. Norel had entrusted a task to her, and she would not let him down. “We heard you have a shipment of tillson gei to sell.”
Jonathan understood why Norel had sent Cornelia to get ore now. Tillson gei, or Climber’s Fall, was a sort of metal ore that popped up in unpredictable places. The colloquial name for it was because a climber had supposedly spotted this ore and fallen down a cliff in their shock.
“You’re the representative?” There was only mild surprise at Cornelia’s age. “Are you looking to make a deal?” There was a strange emphasis on the word ‘deal’, as if it had more importance than just a business transaction.
Jonathan glanced between the two. He saw that Snap’s drink was getting low. “I’ll order some cider for all of us, and you two can talk over the details.” He made it clear he wasn’t going to leave while they talked.
It was quite boring to listen to the two negotiate. However, Mot Snap had initially angled for some sort of favor from Norel’s smithy before Jonathan disagreed. Favors were rather dangerous things, especially for Norel who treated his promises and his apprentices with high regard. Oceton, at least, enjoyed his half of a hot cider.
Once the ore was set with a price and the logistics of delivery worked out, Jonathan saw Cornelia back to her horse and went back to his original mission. He bought his fabric and patched up his coat that night.
Three days later, Jonathan opened the door, rolled his eyes grumpily, and waved Tam inside. “I’ll put something on the stove.”
“I caught some things you can add to a stew or roast if you want.”
Jonathan muttered his thanks as he pulled out his tea pot and a pot.
“Did you always want to be a lumberjack?” Tam asked. She was a rather polite kid most of the time, but she had quickly adapted to pestering Jonathan with random questions.
“No, but it’s better than it could have been. There are worse things than being a lumberjack.”
Jonathan laughed. He held up four fingers and counted down as he listed off, “Dead, homeless, jobless, or rich and famous.”
“Doesn’t everyone want to be rich and famous?”
“A lot of people think they want to be until they are. They think their work will be all worth it when they reach the top; that they won’t feel a hollow victory, scream at the world, and realize they dug themselves into a hole.”
“Should no one be famous or wealthy then?” Tam questioned. She had furrowed her brow.
“Not the point I’m making, Tam,” Jonathan corrected, but not harshly. “The better question is whether it would be worth it to that person, how they get to their goal, and whether that was . . .” He hesitated but finished, “. . . really the goal in the first place.”
Tam’s eyes went wide for a few moments. There was a thread of excitement running through her. “Did you want to be famous and rich? Were you?”
“Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. Right now, however, I’m a lumberjack in the middle of nowhere and I want to keep it that way. I have enough.”
Tam nodded. She understood the idea of enough, the idea of being content. “I want to be a knight so I can protect people. If I can do that, I think I’ll be happy.”
“I wish you luck with that.” Jonathan’s smile was slightly bitter, but that melted away as he absentmindedly patted the kid on the shoulder. “Now, if you want dinner here, go clean your catch.”
Chibi Strange Trio + Peter are done.
I’m considering other characters to make art of. Put suggestions in the comments. I’m also considering what merchandise to make with the art, so things like stickers or bookmarks.