The next morning, they rolled out of their respective beds and rode towards the station. They were able to bring along Biscuit and Magnus, but they had to pay for additional transportation.
The carriages were divided into a hallway, with several rooms on each side. A single window was in each. The seats were made of some sort of animal leather. There were no beds; they would have to sleep on the seats.
Chester knocked on the door at the end. He received no reply and opened it. “Here is fine.”
“Well, don’t sound so excited,” Chester joked.
Jonathan dropped his saddlebags on the floor near the window and sat down. “Don’t worry, I won’t.”
Soon after they had gotten settled, there was a knock on the door and someone opened it.
“Jonathan, there you are. You’re looking better after a night’s rest.” Peter had a suitcase under one shoulder. He wore a tan, bowler hat.
“Hello, who are you, Sir?” Chester asked. He was already on his feet, with a curious expression.
“I’m Peter, a merchant.” The man shook his head, a smile on his face. “No need to call me sir.”
“Chester the bard.”
“Do you two mind if I bunk with you? The others seem to have been taken already.”
Jonathan was pretty sure that was a lie, but he wasn’t going to call Peter out on it. Sure, Peter was keeping secrets . . . everyone did. Jonathan was keeping just as many. However, the merchant didn’t seem to have bad intentions. “That’s fine with me.”
Chester glanced at Jonathan and nodded.
“Wonderful. Which side?”
“Chester can have the other side with the luggage and we can share this one,” Jonathan said.
After some maneuvering, they all sat down.
Jonathan took out his book on raising animals.
Peter stared out of the small window.
Chester was performing maintenance on his mandolin. He had to replace a string soon. “So, how’d you two meet?”
“We ran into each other a few months ago and I sold Biscuit to him.” Peter’s answer was carefully crafted. It was enough to answer the bard without giving any more details.
“Biscuit’s a nice mare,” Chester compliment. “I met Jonathan while performing in Lembroke.”
Jonathan looked up from the book, meeting the stares of the other two. He didn’t have anything to add. He proceeded to ignore both of his roommates.
On the second day, Jonathan was cleaning off the chick. Fuzz was being replaced by normal feathers. He had sanitized and had hung up the saddlebag and the cloth inside of it.
“Are you ever going to name him?” Chester asked.
Jonathan nodded. “Oceton.”
Peter had looked up from where he was carefully polishing a few silver ornaments. His expression was calm.
Chester looked baffled. “Why Oceton?”
“Figure it out yourself.” Jonathan’s lips twitched. He was not going to explain the pun.
It was only on the ninth day when Jonathan had a chance to talk to Peter privately. Chester left to buy food for them at the station they were stopped at.
It wasn’t storming outside, but there were certainly dark clouds gathering. The winds were picking up speed, whistling past the train in a manner that was obvious when they had stopped.
“I will promise that I won’t lie.”
Jonathan frowned. He wasn’t sure about that. However, the only thing he could do was ask the older man and see where things led from there. “Who are you, really?”
“My name is Peter Montague. I am a merchant.” His calm expression didn’t waver in the slightest. He put down the gem he had been inspecting, a show of his sincerity and somberness.
They both ignored the chick who had poked his head out of the saddlebag and was watching their confrontation.
“Where were you born?”
Peter smiled. “Finally a better worded question. I was born in Melbourne, Australia. It’s been a while since I’ve been back home.”
Jonathan cursed under his breath. The young man couldn’t believe he missed it. He hadn’t been suspicious enough despite all of the strange happenings. “You’re not from this world either. You’re a transmigrator.”
This information called all of his past interactions with the older man into question. Peter sold him Biscuit. Jonathan getting Oceton’s egg wasn’t an accident. Peter knew more than he was saying, but how much of their interactions had been planned?
Jonathan dragged a hand down his face. His expression showed how jumbled his emotions were. He had forgotten to keep up his guard. He had forgotten everyone lied and kept secrets; that was just life. If Peter had malicious intentions, Jonathan would have been dead months ago. “Why did you help me get out of the capital?”
“I have jobs to do here. One of those jobs was for you to get out of the capital. To help you, I sold you a horse and supplies. I was looking for a horse and found Biscuit. She’s a good girl.”
“And another mission was acquiring that bracelet from a dragon’s den,” Jonathan concluded.
Jonathan had one thing he needed information about. “Explain the egg.”
“That’s not really a question, now is it?” Peter returned.
The young man looked at Oceton. He didn’t know what the chick was, where the egg came from, or why Peter had given it to him indirectly. He wasn’t sure which would be the most important either, but he couldn’t find out the last one on his own. “You didn’t accidentally forget the egg. It was in its one saddlebag.”
“I’ve dealt with that type of bird before,” Peter vaguely stated. “They can be a real handful, especially if they don’t like you. The one I had didn’t like me, so I passed on this egg to you, as a gift. I would explain more. . .” he smiled and finished, “. . .If you weren’t out of questions.”
A silence fell between them for several seconds as they thought over the conversation.
Jonathan chuckled; the sound dry and lifeless. “We were both lying when we first met.”
“True,” Peter acknowledged. “It’s hard to build trust after that, but neither of us have ill intentions towards the other. However, I wasn’t lying about everything, nor were you.”
Jonathan turned his head to avoid Peter’s stare, choosing to look at the window until Chester came back to break the tension. Peter still couldn’t be trusted, especially if he was a transmigrator. That might be a bit unfair now that he was also one, but he was done with talking about all of this. The conversation just reminded him of everything he had wanted to avoid thinking about.
I’ve been working on another novel in this series and it’s been a bit of a struggle, but I’m making slow progress on outlining. Once I am done outlining I can start writing it. 😀 Also, I have been doing some art for the mc of that novel. Some friends of mine suggested a plague doctor mask for the main character’s outfit. If that sounds fun to you, I have sent that finished art in the an unwilling prince channel of eap discord.