It was the first night they spent without Aderes there. They both knew they left her a spot by the fire, but refused to talk about it.
Gathering firewood had been harder as the trees thinned out further up. The journey West required them to go through a mountain pass.
“Alright, alright. Enough with this awkward atmosphere. Fun question time,” Chester said.
Jonathan looked up from the dagger he was sharpening. The edge had been dulled by whittling. He was working on it carefully, keeping in mind the advice Aderes had given him about sharpening. The princess knew some things, as she sometimes did maintenance on her spear. “What question?”
The bard leaned forward. “Who do you want to be like or who do you look up to?”
Jonathan held back a sigh. He didn’t want to answer this. However, it’d be awkward if he refused and he didn’t want to be pestered for the next several miles. “I had a best friend, Micah. He was always jumping in head first to help anyone. I admired that.” On the other hand, Jonathan knew the risks and used to never take any of them.
“That makes sense. Mine is my older brother. He protected me and he always seemed to know what to do.” Chester picked his mandolin up again. The instrument’s wood was worn and scratched in a few places, but it was always polished carefully and the strings were new. “Do you still remember that sea shanty? I can sing it if you like. It was written by my older brother.”
“No, please,” Jonathan said. Although the time after the song had been introduced was short, Aderes and Chester had a habit of humming or singing that sea shanty together. He had even been roped in a few times.
The silence while riding got to Chester on day three. He had lost his usual conversation partner and he disliked only hearing the wind, horses, and creaking trees. “What’s the name of your mare?”
Chester pet his stallion’s side. “This is Magnus. Aderes asked before, but I don’t think I introduced him to you.”
“Okay,” Jonathan simply responded, refusing to carry the conversation further. He ignored how Chester seemed to be crying internally at the mellow reply.
They camped in a small grove of trees off the road.
Chester was still trying to talk about his family and music. “Now that I think about it, that song doesn’t have a name. I just said that it was my brother’s. Any ideas?”
Jonathan was going to suggest something when he noticed a noise from his saddlebags. He shot to his feet. The transmigrator knew exactly what was happening. He wasn’t sure if he had missed the start, or it was truly just starting now.
It was the sound of an egg cracking.
Jonathan opened the saddlebag with the mysterious egg. He saw that there was a line across the side and quickly pulled the egg out; it was warm. The egg was trying to move in his hands. When he put it on the ground, the egg wobbled and fell on its side. The transmigrator crouched down and watched.
The crack spread, showing an opening past the inner lining. The eggshell shifted and shuddered as whatever was inside stretched out.
The tip of a beak poked out of the egg.
After another few stretches, the crack spread far enough to split the eggshell and release the creature. It took a few seconds and uncurled itself, planting its bottom and two clawed feet on the grass. It already had a downy covering of feathers, but that was slicked down by the fluids from the egg.
Jonathan could feel the bard standing behind his shoulder, staring at the chick.
“Alright, alright. Maybe there’s something that’s a bit more important to name here,” Chester joked. “Although I guess it depends if you’re planning to keep it.”
“I guess I am, at least for now.” Jonathan would have reconsidered if it was a lizard. As a transmigrator, the plot he was likely cursed with automatically meant a lizard would grow up to be a dragon. Dragons were dangerous creatures to be around, especially as he was trying not to draw the attention of anyone important. He watched the chick, which was chirping as it tried to stand.
“How’d you find it?”
“I stumbled across it one day, picked it up because I was curious,” Jonathan said.
Chester held his hands up defensively. “Okay. Any idea what it eats?”
The chick gave up on standing and laid its large head on the ground. It blinked at the two men and shuffled towards Jonathan.
Jonathan shook his head.
“Uhh, try bugs and worms? We might have to mash or cut them up.”
“That . . . could work.”
Both of them were realizing they had no idea how to take care of a newly hatched bird.
“I bet we could get into the next town tomorrow if we ride fast,” Chester pointed out. “We could ask a farmer there, or see if they have some books for raising animals.”
The chick sat down next to Jonathan’s shoe and chirped almost indignantly at him.
Jonathan tilted his head at the chick and wondered why it wasn’t scared of him. He was much bigger. It’s possible that the chick believed that Jonathan and Chester were family.
That last idea was quickly proven wrong as the chick would shy away from Chester but not Jonathan. Because of this, Chester was elected to be the person to get some bugs and worms to try and feed the chick. The bard complained loudly about it not even being his pet, but still went to get some possible food.
The chick’s feathers were already dry due to the warm winds whistling through the valley they had stopped in. Despite the down appearing a dark brown initially, it was actually a pale gray color.
“You want food, right?” Jonathan muttered. He wasn’t sure why he was asking. He blamed streaming for his habit of talking out loud when he wasn’t actually talking to someone. “You don’t actually think I’m your mom or something like that.”
The chick ruffled its feathers and pecked at Jonathan’s boot.
“Okay, good talk.”