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.”