A Long Road Chapter 3 Ficbit – Favors

Translucent gold hair whipped in cold wind, half-covering a wine birthmark as Betony Weaver stepped soundlessly away from the village that had let her be murdered. Her dress was a mist of blue and pale cream, her shoes only foggy suggestions of leather. But the cloth bundle in her arms was solid and real, brown wool striped with white and black.

Another step, and she faded, bones gleaming white through the fog of ghost-flesh-

Lotus Cloud was there in a swirl of red, shimmering with fury, hands on ghostly shoulders to lend her own resentful energy.

And I thought she didn’t like children. Wei Wuxian whistled, low and quiet, feeding both ghosts more power.

Betony solidified, blinking at him. “…Master Wei.”

“Ah, you don’t need to call me that! I was glad to help.” He smiled, trying not to glance too obviously at the blanket-wrapped treasure in her arms. Too big for a baby, too small to be a teenager. “I hoped you’d be at peace now.” Now that the mayor, her grandfather, was most thoroughly dead, never able to catch another grandchild overhearing what they shouldn’t.

Mayor Weaver had made quite the tidy little profit for himself and his town this past decade, allowing a small group of smarter bandits to use their village as a base to pick off travelers after they’d passed through. What was an ugly, unmarried granddaughter next to that? Just one less mouth to feed.

Flickers of Betony’s hurt still bounced through him, even after he’d spent most of the day meditating in preparation for their raid. Knowing your own flesh and blood had murdered you was horrible enough. Knowing they justified it because you were ugly and worthless

Wen Ning was right. Gentle souls didn’t become restless spirits, no matter how much resentment they’d suffered in their lives. Rising as a fierce ghost took a push.

Maybe that’s why Lotus Cloud is helping. She’s all about revenge on awful clansmen.

“…I will be at peace. Soon.” Betony straightened, holding out her burden. “I need… one more favor. Please.”

35 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 3 Ficbit – Favors

  1. I find myself wondering what the bandits did before they became bandits: Were they soldiers who mustered out but couldn’t find work? Younger children who never had a place (medieval cities are a bad place if you don’t have a living, but apparently people considered them less bad than being a farmhand with no hope of inheriting or other prospects)? Bullies who grew up and went professional? Spare cadet nobility looking for excitement?

    (But as someone working on his heartbreaker, being able to offer multiple backgrounds for baddies seems important when helping DMs generate towns and distinguish between bystanders and antagonists pretending to be bystanders.)

    Also gotta wonder what the criteria was, to be able to go after targets worth the effort without raising suspicions above the point where the regional authorities would send someone to investigate.

    -Albert

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In most magic-world type stories where they think about it, it seems to be upgraded gangs– mostly bullies who went professional, some loser Army types, one or two sympathetic “no place to go” characters to help Our Heroes escape before they die tragically.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. These guys being on the far edge of Rethwellan implies they were unable or unwilling to find honest mercenary work in the nation… which, given Valdemar and Karse are currently buffering Rethwellan against Hardorn whether they like it or not, makes a lot of sense.

      Also, what regional authorities? Small village, in the Pelagirs – people can go missing all the time.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I… guess that’s her own remains? Or maybe an object or objects of emotional significance, that she wants passed on?

    Her final request might to give her mother/family closure over her death? Her own direct family doesn’t seem to have been involved in Betony’s murder, from what little we know so far; If so, her death might have just been left a mystery.

    Did I understand that right? Betony needed an infusion of “resentful energy” to actually rise?

    Being able to communicate with the dead could be very useful for the Heralds’ mission of justice. Being able to find out if a death was accidental, natural causes, suicide, or foul play. There might be some concerns raised about the veracity of testimony from the dead. Would those “truth spells” work, or are there other methods?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. According to the wiki, the vrondi dislike the emotions that accompany lies. Depending on how you interpret ’emotions’, that could be really scary, because what happens if someone figures out that they can lie by suppressing whatever feelings the vrondi are averse to?

      (Any sorcerer who knows his spirits has a decent chance of knowing this tidbit.)

      -Albert

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Heck, psychopaths would be seriously screwed– you get one that is TRYING to be good, he’s got a good chance of giving off “lying” vibes nearly constantly, just trying to do The Right Thing when he doesn’t have the internal guides for it.

        ….

        Oh. Oh, wow, fridge horror….

        Pretty sure most of us here are familiar with the usually high intelligence/low social instinct problem of “over thinking,” where we just can’t “norm” to what others are doing.
        That’s a known problem on IRL lie detectors, it’s why they’re supposed to look for changes rather than evidence of emotion/agitation.

        But.

        That could mean that anybody who is just not quite normal grows up with annoyed vrondi around them All The Time.

        (In my magic world, spells are EXTREMELY literal. So you can say, “I didn’t kill Joe last night,” and Truth will rate as true if you killed him this morning. On the other hand, if you have a Search spell looking for the Elven Investigator, it will do a partial hit on both the investigator who is hired by whatever Elves the caster was categorizing as, and the Elf who is investigating but is just curious, while the elf who is hired by the Elves as an investigator will glow the brightest. And every caster knows that the spell can get false negatives because the framing was just slliiiiiightly off, so the “mostly right” is almost always what you’re looking for. Almost.)

        Liked by 2 people

      2. *Wry* So I’m not the only one who noticed that bit about the vrondi. You realize that would explain a lot about Valdemar’s weird social stasis? If a high proportion of the Odds who don’t have the Gifts or self-sacrificing mindset to become Heralds or Healers are faced with the options of beating feet out of Valdemar, or going insane.

        …Meaning Wei Wuxian and co. may well start collecting people simply because where they are feels safe.

        (Scenario for you: Setting a small, fast air spirit on a necromancer who hears spirits all the time and is, canon, extremely fast himself….

        Vanyel himself said the only advantage vrondi had was most people didn’t know they existed.)

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Not so much energy to rise, as to be able to affect the physical world. Canon WWX has been shown to “wake up” spirits and corpses.

      And heh. Yes, the dead can lie like anyone else – unless they’re faced with Inquiry, or Empathy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That was still one reason I liked the movie Gattaca. The civilization thought they’d made a utopia (or at least a less bad place) by genetically altering everyone before birth to make it so they couldn’t have the negative emotions like anger/jealousy/etc, so obviously any “crime of passion” must be caused by those undesirables who hadn’t been genetically engineered like this… and the movie does a good job of showing how in some ways those emotions actually act as a damper on even worse happening by “rational” thought, as the murder that is central to the plot happened for the cold-bloodedly logical reason that “this guy has the power to stop this thing from happening, and the intent to do so, but I believe this thing to be necessary for the survival of humanity. All I need is a few more days and this thing can’t be stopped, and this thing is important enough that my own life and freedom don’t matter beside it, so the most efficient way to ensure it happens is to murder that guy even if I do get caught later.”

        Liked by 2 people

      2. ….which I just realized is the show-it-the-hard-way of all those Bible songs about “Faith, Hope and Love– and the greatest is Love.”

        0.o

        …I still don’t like those “fix humans by removing BadThoughs or StrongThoughts, but at least that gives me a rational reason beyond ‘ew’.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I just had the image of several ghost adopted children/teenagers sauntering casually, in the center of a cluster of Wen, on the way to their new home. Nothing to see here, absolutely, definitely came with these people, look, can’t you see the resemblance? Hey, they’re going to be spending a lot of time with Wei Wuxian who, on the occasion of an old friend asking where he’d acquired a toddler, loudly proclaimed to be the mother. Despite the fact that the time of birth was at the start of a war, when he was an active fighter. Refuge in audacity is totally his thing.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Wei Wuxian who, on the occasion of an old friend asking where he’d acquired a toddler, loudly proclaimed to be the mother. Despite the fact that the time of birth was at the start of a war, when he was an active fighter.

      And here I’d have though that the audacity of the claim would lay in him being male.

      Of course, I haven’t read the original work, so…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Some Xianxia settings have cultivators who can create worlds, or realities, complete with intelligent inhabitants theoretically capable of cultivating to the apex.

        The more low power feat that comes to mind is using various materials to form a biologically different clone body, which can go off and do various things.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I mean, there is canon what happens when a psychopath is forced to tell the truth by Truth spell(don’t forget there are two levels) and it is exactly as disturbing as you expect. Not that Talia wasn’t scarier, in a way.(The second Arrows book)

    And while the idea of them circling around people is that creepy, canon they were really only supposed to watch mages(which suggest Hedge witches are actually a Gift, not magecraft). Also, Vanyel is occasionally an idiot.

    Though my head canon is Rolan knows he screwed up with Talia. Not because she’s a bad person or wasn’t needed, but having what is basically an archangel who routinely dies and comes back, chosing someone who wasn’t already an adult or already chosen(Remember, before this it’s canon that the King’s Own Stallion usually picks someone who is already a Herald), drives a lot of her problems. And also why he actually steps in and interferes to rescue her with Dirk and the others. Also, no matter what people think about the twins, one of them will likely not get picked to be King’s Own before Talia dies. Or if they are, it’s Tavar, not Rolan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If Rolan were to pass away,the next Monarch’s Own Companion probably wouldn’t be Taver as he was alive last generation. It would either be Arlen or Jastev (who show up in the anthologies)

      Like

      1. There does seem to be a rotating cast of Grove-Born Stallions … Rolan has been through twice that I know of. I’m pretty sure he was the Monarch’s Own Companion during The Last Herald Mage as well as during Arrows/Winds/Storm/Owl, and there’s something like 700 years between Herald Mage and Arrows.

        Liked by 1 person

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