A Long Road Chapter 5 Ficbit – Spirit Grass

Maybe Bards sang some of the same spooky ballads in Rethwellan, or wherever he’d come from. Arvil was trying not to hear the lyrics whispering in his mind. Heralds were supposed to defend the innocent and uphold justice, not run off screaming like littles from a Sovven-night prank.

After all, the whisper in his head could be wrong. He didn’t see any shallow graves around here….

The three of them rounded another tree-clad fold of earth, catching up with the red ribbon at last. Wei was standing on the streambank by a tree whose fallen trunk was still taller than his head, odd black flute in hand and shoulders braced as if against a winter wind. “Come up. But keep it slow.”

Arvil traded another glance with Graya, and dismounted. There were no weapons in sight, but Wen Ning had fallen in at Wei’s side as if they’d fought sword to sword. “What are we – oh.”

It was a fallen giant of a tree, undermined by this same stream years or even decades ago. A tree of the size you only saw in the Pelagirs, roots thicker than a man’s leg just visible dangling on this side. The hole they’d gouged out of the earth should be just upstream, around the trunk, hanging roots forming a shallow cave likely big enough for a man to stand in.

“She’s in there.” Wei’s voice was low, but steady. “See the língcǎo – er, those odd purple ferns? They must have sprouted in her aura.”

Or they were just Pelagirs ferns that didn’t care it was autumn, not spring. Spirits didn’t change plants. Did they?

“I didn’t want to go in alone,” Wei went on. “Whatever she’s protecting – she might not be calm.”

As if that incident back in the village had been anywhere near calm. Arvil swallowed. “Ghosts can’t-”

Three pairs of eyes slid a look at him; dark, silver-gray, and bright sapphire blue.

If it’d just been the two strangers, Arvil might have laughed it off. But Graya wouldn’t lie to him. “Do we need more help?”

Wen Ning shook his head. “More might scare her. She might – hurt things. Even what she cares about.”

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37 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 5 Ficbit – Spirit Grass

  1. Ooo! Spooky people, but they know how to deal with the spooky ghost. And now I’m really curious about what happened in the village! Something to convince a Herald that this was fierce ghosts, not that, they really have that term yet.

    And it’s so fun to see the cultivators in their element, through an outside perspective. I wonder what happens that Wei Wuxian gets to walk away with the seedling? (A-Yuan is going to thrilled to get another sibling.) Maybe it’s just because Arvil needs to keep riding his circuit…

    You do imply, in an earlier comment, that Wei Wuxian takes his paper and ink out of his saddlebags. Does that mean that Graya quietly approves, or even suggests it? Because if the spirit horse doesn’t want you in her saddlebag, you are not getting in that saddlebag.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The hair standing up at teh back of his neck probably helped, along with the “glance away a second she vanishes– oh hey the weird priest guy and the sick dude are following her, after them!”

      Liked by 3 people

  2. /After all, the whisper in his head could be wrong. He didn’t see any shallow graves around here…./

    Just deep graves… which means that whatever crawled out would have to be strong enough to claw their way through several feet of soil… Arvil decided to stop thinking about it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Oh, man, this is spooky. (Not familiar with this legend, maintaining my lack of spoilery info on purpose.)

    Btw, if you go to daytonmetrolibrary.org/register, you can put in for an ecard and borrow electronic media/ebooks, or use electronic educational resources, without being a Dayton or Ohio resident. (Unless they’ve changed policies recently.) If you ever get up here for any reason, you can show ID and upgrade to a “real” library card.

    Don’t feel guilty about this. It’s not super-expensive, we’ve got a lot of money set aside for libraries in Ohio, and it’s not like everybody in the known world is panting to have and use twenty electronic library cards, like my one local friend who is a voracious reader. There are lots of people who don’t ever get any library cards when they easily could and should, so a library card for somebody in another state or someone serving overseas is just making up for non-participation. (And helps maintain library funding.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Also, you know what people in Valdemar can use?

      Cooking chopsticks. Holy crud, those big long cooking chopsticks have so many uses. I was cooking today, and I used them to pull a foil dinner out of the back of the oven without using oven mitts. You can stir with them. You can poke things with them. You can test texture of cooked meat with them. You can do all kinds of things with them. They’re light. They work outdoors, indoors, and for camping. They would be the dungeon adventurer’s friend, as long as you remembered which pair you shouldn’t cook with.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Advantages over tongs? Although I suppose tongs + spoon + fork + knife is more gear to pack for the outdoors.

        I can see an adventurer keeping three kinds of chopsticks: One for poking/prodding/grabbing things in the dungeon, one for cooking, one for eating.

        -Albert

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Traditionally, you carved a new set whenever you needed one, if you were out wandering/camping/etc and didn’t have a baggage train to carry extra supplies.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. If you use chopsticks for something like that, and just carve new ones as needed, it’s very important to know the properties of the local plants you might carve them out of. Like for example oleander. Never do that, the entire plant is poisonous if ingested, and people have died from eating meat cooked on oleander skewers before.

        I know this because my grandmother still has an oleander bush in her greenhouse, and had to be very careful where she kept it while her grandchildren were in that young toddler stage of put anything you find in your mouth. Oleander leaves should not go into the mouths of children.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Okay, as long as my arm from my shoulder to a couple inches above my wrist. 16 inches or so.

        And I forgot frying. Great for standing away from the grease and heat, and turning over individual chunks. Although tongs are a tad more secure for that.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Arvil: there were no weapons in sight, just Wen Ning and Wei with his flute…
    Everyone in the Sect lands: *spontaneously shiver*

    And Kero was worried that the guards wouldn’t realize that the Nie were dangerous even without their sabres. There’s going to need to be all sorts of updated training once Valdemar discovers how dangerous music can be.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. *G* Yes, I liked writing those lines for the irony.

      And I don’t think Lan Wangji has demonstrated any chords yet. 😉

      Kero: He calls up ghosts. He can use leaves as a weapon. He can block a sword with a godsdamned bamboo flute. What do I have to do to make him harmless, strip him naked?

      Lan Wangji: *Ears completely red.*
      Nie Huaisang: *Hides behind fan, giggling.*

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Even that wouldn’t work, Kero. You’d have to gag him, because he can whistle. And he’s good at talismans so you have to tie his hands.

        ….

        Yeah, Lan Wangji absolutely deserves a chance to lie down. Alone. Unless Wei Wuxian would like to come. Otherwise, no he really needs some alone time.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Maybe the only way to make him safe enough to present in court is to hand him a cute clingy child that will cry if you put it down. He won’t be not-dangerous but safe for a ritualized occasion

        Liked by 5 people

      3. Later, NHS to Kero: A lot of very powerful people have asked that same question and mostly came to the same conclusion: he’s only harmless if he’s dead. Maybe don’t mention that to LWJ.
        Kero: dammit! also, why are you telling me this?

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Kero is just teasing. Kero will be dangerous as long as she is alive and conscious, and so is quite willing to believe that other people are also dangerous. Lan Wangji doesn’t really believe that WWX is dangerous when he is flying around with a sword, much less sitting around drinking tea even when there is a ferocious corpse next to him, and restless ghosts skirting the tea party and criticizing the cups. Too large, too thick, ugly. Kellen and Kero; “these are common cups for everyday use, not for formal meetings. When I was your age I drank from a tin mug and was thankful to have that much! Did you ever go to war Mistress Ghost?”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Rebecca, they didn’t think he was harmless even when he was dead. They spent a lot of time and effort into trying to contain him. See: summoning rituals, protective statuary, etc that multiple sects laid down for him. (And the one thing to catch him, was the one thing he didn’t want and couldn’t have predicted.)

    Banshee, is drawing a talisman with your spiritual energy just a drama thing? Where you draw and flick, and the paper talismans are less energy intense/can be used later?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point. And that conversation would go over even more hilariously:
      Kero: what does it take to disarm this guy?
      NHS: No one is really sure, but the current theory is that after he’s dead (again? he did tell WRH that he’d died before), certain rituals can be done that might…
      Kero: … after he’s dead… again… might… never mind, forget I asked

      Liked by 4 people

  7. I like that it’s not technically a grave. If you die out in the Pelagirs there no guarantee anyone is gonna be around to bury you.
    I wonder what killed her and if it’s still around creating the resentful energy.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hmm. Okay, based on admittedly minimal familiarity with both fandoms, considering how formidable Wei Wuxian and Wen Ning are, I can think of two reasons to need a Herald. Arvil’s sense of not knowing what’s going on does not wholly rule out “esoteric information on local monster/natural phenomena”… but it does make me currently rate it lower than ” ‘it’ is human” — and hence they need a Herald to handle a completed crime in accordance with local law and custom.

        Liked by 2 people

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