Jonathan arrived back in the town at the end of the third day. He didn’t see Chester in the town square and went looking through the taverns. He spotted Peter in a smaller one on the outskirts of town; the place being half-empty made it easy to notice the straw hat.
“How’d it go, young ‘un?” Peter called. He had a full plate of food in front of him.
Jonathan sat down. He stared at the merchant and took one of the drumsticks, eating it with a stone-faced expression. “The dragon wasn’t dead,” he informed the merchant and grabbed another piece of meat.
“Is it dead now?”
“L’ua is still very much alive. I almost wasn’t.” Spite slipped into Jonathan’s tone, like hot bubbling magma that was slowly making its way across the table.
“My information was incorrect,” Peter acknowledged with a troubled look. He seemed to be tactfully ignoring his increasing loss of food. “I am sorry for the danger that caused you.”
“I want more questions.” Jonathan picked up one of the buns. His fingers were covered in spices.
“Alright, four questions total,” Peter agreed. A smile flashed across his face.
Jonathan frowned. He meant an additional four questions, making it five, but he hadn’t specified.
Peter opened a pouch on his belt and showed two pieces of paper. He put them on the table and took a bite of his bread. “Here are your tickets. The train leaves at seven or so tomorrow morning.”
Jonathan grabbed Peter’s napkin and wiped his fingers off. His smile was tinged with the spite he had been holding onto. “Are you willing to answer my questions now?”
“It’s not a good idea to talk about those sorts of things here. Let’s wait until we’re on the train.”
Jonathan cast a glance around the tavern, noticing how the other conversations were quiet to the point of whispering. He stood up and walked outside, following Peter’s lead. “What do you mean, on the train?”
“I didn’t mention? I’m also headed to Maskiff.” Peter clapped Jonathan on the shoulder and bid him farewell before he left.
Jonathan stared after the merchant and sighed. The transmigrator felt there was no way he could force Peter to explain himself, nor was it a good idea to try. He would just have to wait until tomorrow.
Jonathan rode to the next town over, the one on the path that the soldiers had stayed in. The largest gambling den in the town was rather easy to find, and Magnus was tied outside of it.
Many drinks had already sloshed onto the floor due to drunken hands. Waiters worked quietly, flitting between groups. Every table had a game going, money and other items clumsily grouped in the middle.
Jonathan felt like clasping his satchel to his chest. He settled for resting a hand on top of it and made his way through the crowds.
Chester’s table was near the center. Instead of money, jewels, clothes, and small weapons were clustered together, serving as the pot for this round. The bard sat at the table with a small saddlebag on his lap. He held his cards at a low angle to keep any of the watchers behind him from signaling to the other players.
Jonathan decided to wait until the round was over.
“Hurry up,” one of the players impatiently said. He was a soldier, judging by the dark red uniform he wore.
“Whose turn is it?” Chester asked.
“Ah.” Chester’s smile didn’t waver. “Sorry, lost in thought.” He put down a card.
“What’s going on?” Jonathan whispered to the other spectators. He had no idea what game they were playing.
“It’s a game of Clover. You never play, kid?”
“When I was younger,” Jonathan lied. “It’s been a bit and I’ve forgotten how to.”
“Younger? Bah.” The old woman laughed raucously. “You’d have been a baby if you played it when you were younger.” Her white hair was in a bun, but looked matted.
“Explain to him, you old bag. Don’t just bully ‘em.” The old man who joined the conversation rolled his eyes at the old woman. “The point of Clover is to take the least amount of tricks in the round. There’s a card in hand per player in the round. In this case, there’s five players and five tricks that can be taken. A lot of sabotage happens in Clover.”
The old woman spat on the floor boards and ignored the old man.
The last trick of the round was finished.
The old man chuckled and slapped Jonathan on the shoulder. “I wouldn’t suggest joining this table because you’re a beginner. If it keeps going like this, the redhead will be taking the clothes off their backs.”
Chester used a hand to pull the pot to his side of the table. He ignored the spite from the rest of the table who had been trying to sabotage him.
Jonathan stepped forward. “Ready to go?” He pointedly eyed the small pile of things Chester had won and picked up the saddlebag; the chick was sound asleep inside.
Chester’s smile seemed a bit less fake as he saw his friend. He stood up and slid his earnings off the side of the table, into a sackcloth bag. “It’s been wonderful playing with all of you.”
Jonathan saw the irritation in the soldier at the table and elbowed the bard. He pushed his way through the crowd, past the other guests.
A man stood up from the table and put his hand on Chester’s shoulder. The gambler smelled like sewage. A shovel was in his other hand. “Wait a darn second there. We’re not sure if you’re a cheater yet-”
Jonathan drew his dagger out and leveled it at the drunkard. “Take your hand off.” He wasn’t very tall, but he had bit up some muscle over the past few months.
A small space cleared around them. Those nearby grew a bit quieter, spectators waiting for blood to be shed or thieves stealing from the watchers.
Chester elbowed the man and stepped out of reach. He kept his money to his chest, out of the crowd’s reach.
“Using a blade for a small brawl like this? What, are you some sort of knight?” The gambler jeered.
Jonathan looked at the drunk man and sheathed Liam’s dagger without a word. He then took a step forward and swung his fist. His knuckles impacted against the drunk’s cheek.
The gambler dropped to the floor.
Chester bowed, making eye contact with the other players he had won heavily from and smiling.
Jonathan rolled his eyes and started pulling his friend away before they caused another scene. Once he was outside again—human cargo in tow—he untied Biscuit and mounted the mare.
“How was your trip?” Chester asked. He tied the sackcloth among his saddlebags and hopped on board Magnus.
“Stressful, but I have two tickets for the train to Maskiff tomorrow.”
“How early tomorrow?”
Chester groaned. He nor Jonathan had loved waking up in the morning, that special ability was reserved for Aderes. “I have plenty of money, so we can get rooms somewhere.”
It was pretty obvious how Chester had survived despite his work as a bard not being financially successful.
You guys finally get to see how Chester is able to survive despite being bad at being a bard.
This chapter is a day later than usual because my fingers hurt and so typing was not fun.