A Long Road Chapter 3 Ficbit – Time to Panic

Ordinary travel packs had been flung at the foot of the bed. Dinner, such as it was, rested on a little table in the room with the two of them; Nie Huaisang had pleaded weariness from the journey and a need for quiet, and a well-paid innkeeper hosting a Chosen’s allies had been only too glad to oblige. Their mounts rested in the inn stable, already curried. Nie Huaisang had made sure to pick his mare’s hooves clean himself. Their horses had to be ready to run.

Nie Zonghui placed the last silencing talisman directly on the door, and nodded.

Nie Huaisang let out one shuddering breath, then snapped open his fan before his face. “This was not in the plan!

“True.” Zonghui sat down where he could reach the food. His hand hovered over the pot of local herb tea, the golden bread, the steaming baked beans, the green salad topped with freshly-chopped apples – all of which looked quite lovely – and retreated. “Well, our Lan friend won’t be going hungry tonight.”

Reached into a sleeve, and pulled out a wrapped packet of ham.

“Da-ge said to pack enough food for the whole trip.” Nie Huaisang felt tension seep out of his shoulders at the salty scent of good Qinghe ham. “I thought he was joking.”

“We eat a lot of meat back home,” his cousin shrugged. “You can’t grow someone Sect Leader Nie’s size on beans.” Setting the ham between the dishes, he glanced up. “Eat something, A-Sang. Inedia works for building up your cultivation, but it’s hell on plotting.”

Zonghui had been at Nie Mingjue’s side as their general hacked his way through the war. He’d know.

Heaving a sigh, Nie Huaisang flung himself down and set to dinner. Food might calm some of his quivering nerves. Maybe.

…Or, he realized, as ripples shivered in his teacup, maybe not.

Zonghui eyed his cup, and sipped his own tea, mouth twitching at the foreign taste. “Our sect has always been better with yao than spirits. It should be reassuring that Hanguang-jun finds no trace of resentful energy near the… local peacekeepers.”

Should be. Wasn’t, for either of them. Whatever a Companion was, it wasn’t a yao, ghost, monster, or demon. That didn’t mean it was safe. Tales of hungry shrines were used to scare sect children because they were out there. And every cultivator had to know the signs. Go on a night-hunt with tools against demons, and meet an angry god instead? If you didn’t know when to run, you were dead.

19 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 3 Ficbit – Time to Panic

  1. Like the Dafan Mountain hunt. The kids only survived because WWX was there, figured the goddess out, and summoned WN, who was pretty much her weakness. Everyone there got super lucky, really. If it weren’t for WWX, they’d all be dead.

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  2. I think the option of running away has already passed. I have a feeling that Companions have no difficulty outpacing mundane horses. True, the Cultivators have their teleportation arrays, but they have to reach them first. They would by design have to be somewhat out of the way, and what Lan knows, his Companion does as well. The Nie troop probably couldn’t make any new arrays since Lan bonded, either. The further on towards the Valdemar capital they go, the more distant the last array presumably gets…

    Of course, the Heralds and other Valdemaran officials don’t want to spook the Cultivators, so even if Nie Huaisang and co bolted, any pursuers would probably just pace them at a remove, and leave it up to the new Herald pair to try to calm things down.

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    1. Oh, Companions are ABSOLUTELY faster than horses. It’s a whole thing in the books. Smoother gaits too. Also, you know, human smart so they can think and plan a route and deal with difficulties much better than a horse. They tap into nodes to augment their speed and stamina, though it’s not sustainable indefinitely, and if they really go all out (like crossing a whole country in days) they will collapse from exhaustion once they stop.

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    2. Companions can easily outpace a horse by at least 3 times – either by speed or endurance, probably both. If the Nie had to get out, they’d take horses first to lay a false trail, then get on sabers and book it.

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  3. There are mentions of nasty gods (and thingies that are worshiped as gods but aren’t) in the Valdemar books too tbh. The Companions won’t begrudge their caution even if some of the general population (and some of the hotter headed Heralds even) would get a bit offended.

    It’s a bit hilarious to see NHS freaking out enough to make the tea tremble tho. It’s GOOD for him, really. He needs to learn FLEXIBILITY in his scheming to become really effective at it. XD

    And he’ll be happier with the food in the capitol, probably. They eat more meat in Haven, I think? Lots of poultry, especially pigeons and chickens, and, hah, lots of rabbit. Things that are easy to keep in a city. Fair bit of pork and beef inside the palace complex too, because that’s where the rich people and the collegia are.

    I wonder how they’ll like the meat pies that are so common in Valdemar?

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    1. Meat was both more and less common then people think. Fish was common, if you lived near water. (We aren’t going into the Lent dodging that went on to classify ‘fish’.) minor poaching was probably pretty common too. Not deer or anything big, but voles and other common little critters were probably felt to be alright so long as no one boasted. Wild goose. And then there are ways to stretch your meat. Potatoes and other starches, mostly vegetable and meat dishes. And then using a meat broth for flavor. Stew could stretch. And there were egg preservation methods that had 90% success rate after two years. So. But it’s a good thing the Niè packed their own provisions. Their cultivation may actually require a high protein/meat diet.

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      1. Ah yes, religious rules lawyering where beaver and otter are considered fish. And I also seem to recall some baby animals being classified as fish too? *squints* It’s been a while since I watched the good Ruth Goodman docs.

        Valdemar-wise, I honestly can’t recall the stance on poaching? I know they don’t do that whole ‘all the forest critters belong to the crown’ bs, but other then that? *Hands* Probably it’s based more in conservation of resources tho. Like, being a fantasy world, there is anachronistic understanding of some things, like the possibility of hunting something out of existence if too many people go hunting (no pesky Catholic church telling people that God would /never/ let something die out like that!). Hah, I wonder if Valdemar has hunting licenses? That would be awesome.

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      2. Well, more meat is what they’re used to, in part because they hunt monsters! (And, it’s implied, eat what’s left if it can be purified. Waste not!)

        …Not to mention just, Nie Mingjue. Yiiiikes that guy is big. And it’s all muscle.

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      3. If you ask the Classical Greeks, there is a division of food between “main dish” (ie, bread) and “stuff you eat for flavor” (ie, meat, fish, vegetables, etc.). They had some weird color divisions.too.

        If you ask most pre-modern civilizations, including Jews and Romans, there is a big division between “animals that live in the water,” “creeping land animals,” “winged animals,” and “land animals with legs and stuff.”

        Of course, the Greek philosophers pranked each other. When humans were defined as featherless bipeds, somebody sent the definer a plucked chicken to be his new human student.

        Anyhow… The point is that it’s not “rules lawyering” to use the pre-existing definitions of one’s religious culture, especially when said definition is several thousand years old and has divine sanction.

        Especially when one sees how plastic the biological definitions are. I’d hate to do mealplanning based on cladistics.

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      4. Also, the Catholic Church never said animals and plants couldn’t die out. Medieval demesnes were very big on hunting and fishing law to prevent overfishing and overhunting. The biggest way to prevent overfishing of natural fisheries was the use of vivariums (ponds for raising fish) throughout Europe. (The Romans did it first, but monasteries spread the practice throughout Europe, particularly to make sure there was plenty of fish for Fridays, Advent, and Lent.)

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      5. One of the reason medieval folks were big on eating eels and otters is that they were afraid that they would kill off all the fish. OTOH, having an eel live in your well was considered a great way to keep your well clean of pests.

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      1. lols, yeah, when LWJ politely told them he does not eat meat, they probably assumed the people with him were the same and served them accordingly.

        *G* It’s funny how many human cultures adore dough+filling. It’s not the steamed buns they’re familiar with, but gravy? Meaty bits? Potatoes/turnips? Other not immediately identifiable green bits? In a flakey golden crust? Very nice.

        Hand pies are a common subtype, eaten both hot and cold, so they might get some of those from the inn for the road. If I’m remembering right, egg and vegetable ones are popular (and I’m sure Kellan would like a bite or two, since horses will happily eat eggs with no trouble)… Would LWJ be willing to eat eggs I wonder? I don’t think the Lan are what we’d call vegan entirely, and eggs are a valuable, long keeping protein they’d be able to source from elsewhere, so they might eat eggs even without keeping their own birds?

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      2. I’m sure there’s no problem with eggs, and there’s not really a problem with meat, either, they just avoid it in the Cloud Recesses because of the no-kill rule. (Which when you know any death leaves resentful energy makes a certain amount of sense.)

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      3. *nods* I figured it started like that, but ended up being upheld while they’re elsewhere because not eating meat for a long time and then suddenly eating meat causes quite a bit of gastro intestinal distress. Tho, being cultivators, they might skip that?

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