After they finished eating, they parted ways at the fork they had camped nearby. Jordi and Kern were headed further North and Jonathan was headed further West.
A few days later Jonathan hit the foothills of a mountain and then a forest. The trees seemed to be some type of evergreen, but the transmigrator had never seen the type before.
Biscuit and him had gotten used to each other. The mare was now grazing alongside Jonathan when the transmigrator stretched his legs during breaks. Sometimes Biscuit would want fruit that was higher up in a tree and would look pleadingly at Jonathan until her rider caved and devised a plan to get her the treat. The transmigrator felt that horses in this world were a bit smarter, maybe something to do with magic, or perhaps it was just Biscuit.
As for riding itself, his legs didn’t feel like they were falling off anymore when he got up in the morning. Jonathan found his legs were usually fine while riding, but that after he took a break his muscles would feel sore. Now that his muscles had adjusted some, that was fortunately less of a problem.
For tonight, he had finally reached the end of foothills of the mountain range that ran back and forth across the entire country of Lembroke and then ran mostly straight all the way to the Western seas. The country had been subjugated by the empire only a century or such ago. Although Lembroke didn’t have a formal army for a long time, the mountainous terrain and cold weather made it hard for the Pinscher soldiers—used to the warm coastal climate—to fight against the locals.
By now, Jonathan had definitely crossed the country’s border and just hadn’t known he was in Lembroke territory. He was still in the Hrea Empire, but he was further away from the Imperial Capital where everyone would know him as Prince Roscoe.
He did a quick check of a small cave close to the path before deciding to camp there for the night. Jonathan refilled his water, unsaddled Biscuit, and checked over his supplies.
He hadn’t been able to stop his curiosity and often checked on the egg during his breaks. Besides, Jonathan didn’t really have much to do except whittling and rambling to Biscuit. He didn’t do anything crazy like hold the egg or carry it around. He just opened the bag, made sure it was intact, used a finger to tell whether it was still warm, and then buckled the bag’s strap tight again.
This night when he did his routine check, he decided to do an old trick he heard about: candling an egg. Jonathan did indeed have a candle he bought from the general store as he realized he didn’t really have any actual light sources he could carry with him.
Jonathan placed his candle on the floor, slipped his fingers around the large egg and lifted it up. He settled the egg against his knee and grabbed the candle. The transmigrator didn’t have much practice but he did have steady hands. He carefully lined up the candle’s flame with the opposite side of the egg.
The egg’s shell was thin but opaque. Jonathan could only see the general outline of a curled up blob in the middle. He sighed in frustration and put the candle down.
Jonathan stared at the egg. He was fine with mysteries, but he didn’t like not knowing whether or not something was dangerous. If the merchant had malicious intentions, Jonathan might have been given a ticking time bomb. However, Jonathan had made the choice to keep the egg and so he put it back in its designated saddlebag, then promptly put out his candle and went to sleep.
He woke up to the sound of something near the cave. Jonathan sat up and squinted into the darkness. He fumbled to open the saddlebag he had been laying on and retrieved Liam’s dagger. It was a bit dull from being used to carve, but it was the best weapon he had.
The sound grew closer and a light appeared in the darkness outside.
A young woman skidded to a stop at the mouth of the cave, a torch and spear in her hands. She bent over to gulp in precious oxygen for a few moments.
Biscuit whinnied and shuffled away.
“Is anyone there?” The girl asked, half-fearful and half-hopeful. She held her torch up high to get a better view. The arm holding the torch was dripping blood onto the stone below. Her blue eyes looked like the night sky outside.
Jonathan stood up. He hid his dagger behind his back. “Who’s there?” He replied.
The girl moved further into the cave. She stopped when the torchlight hit the person talking to her. She took a breath of relief and regained her composure quickly. “I’m Aderes. Do you have any medical supplies?”
“I have some,” Jonathan admitted. “What’s going on?”
Aderes ignored the question. She pulled out a clear prism shaped item and lobbed it at Jonathan. “You know how to use a magic crystal, right?” Her face was clearly expectant.
Aderes cast a glance backwards into the dark night outside of the cave. “It’s simple. Imagine an element in your head. For water, imagine an ocean and then a small whip in your hands. For fire, imagine a forest fire and then a spark in your hands,” She recited the words with ease; she had undoubtedly memorized the spiel. “I don’t have time to tell you all of it. You get what I’m saying, yes?”
Jonathan decided to go along with whatever was happening and hid the dagger in his belt. He crouched and picked up the object from where it had fallen at his feet. The transmigrator closed his eyes. He pictured a forest fire and then a spark. The crystal glowed softly and a spark burst to life in his other hand. Jonathan cursed, panicked, and threw the spark towards his doused fire. The spark hit the wet wood and fizzled out.
Something bitter flashed across Aderes’ face. “Perfect. Just do that but more. When I tell you to, imagine something and throw it.”
Jonathan sighed. “Fair enough, but what’s chasing you?”
Something shifted outside of the cave . . . something big.
What is your favorite color? Let me know in the comments. I actually don’t have one? There are colors I dislike, but not any one particular one I love above all else. I have several I equally enjoy: blue, purple, green, pink, etc.