A Long Road Chapter 5 Ficbit – Catlike Tread

He’s so small. Wei Wuxian looked over the bundle of cloth and baby the Herald was cradling, how it tucked into the crook of a white-clad arm with plenty of room to spare, and tried not to curse. Too small. Too young, babies are frail enough when they’re born on time. “Wen Ning-!”

Hat poking through the roots at the cave entrance, dark eyes raked through the gloom, likely picking out details only a healer would notice. “I’ll get Jiejie!” Black fluttered, as he scrambled back out.

Herald Arvil looked up, blinking away tears. “Who?”

“His sister, Wen Qing. Our best healer. Sometimes ghosts aren’t healthy for people. She’ll know what to do.” She did, after two years in the Burial Mounds. And she was going to need it. This place… it was much smaller than the Burial Mounds. Younger. Less steeped in millennia of death and hate. But the resentment was intense, purple-black and hungry, fueled by a tree yao’s thwarted hopes for centuries more of life.

And it wasn’t the Burial Mounds. It didn’t know him. It didn’t want to know him. He was an intruder, he was alive, and he was taking the only breathing thing it was willing to tolerate.

Chenqing in hand, Wei Wuxian gripped the Herald’s free arm, tugging shamelessly. “Come on. We’ve found what’s important. Now we have to get out of here.”

For a moment Arvil pulled back. Then seemed to look at him, and started walking.

Don’t know what he thinks he saw. Don’t really care. We just need to make it a few more steps. Wei Wuxian carefully glanced around torn earth as they picked their way out of the cave, trying not to let on to thickening dark smoke that he could see it perfectly well, resentful energy rising like a river in flood the closer they got to the entrance.

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19 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 5 Ficbit – Catlike Tread

  1. Poor munchkin, good thing Wen Qing is a really good doctor.
    Now I’m wondering if the tree ensared a pregnant who gave birth prematurely while it was draining her and that’s’s why her ghost is around. Not quite sure what mytholgy your pulling from so thats my best guess.

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      1. There were several Japanese mining camps in the American southwest. It might be stranger that you also found it in the Appalachians.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s enough differences between the various stories, and there’s enough history on both of them, that I think it’s more likely the same idea was had by both groups of people independently.

        …And by “enough history” I mean “looks like you can track it back from the Appalachians to the British Isles before the Scots-Irish came over”.

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  2. Seedling #2! Wonder how Arvil will react when WWX picks up more…

    They’re not getting out of there before the tree monster wakes up, are they?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Aw, poor Bean. Might be extra tiny on top of being pre-mature because cow and goat milk is barely a fraction as nutritious for baby humans as human milk is, too. But Mama’s been trying, and hopefully now that there’s help (bc Wen Qing is amazing) he’ll live!

    Given how it generally takes quite a push for a ghost to stick around in Valdemar, I’m guessing we’re looking at a perfect storm of events that lead to this poor woman becoming this. Hmmm, I am suddenly reminded of what led to Madcoil in the Elfquest novels. Something like that? (Fight for life with all the accompanying fraught emotions hits pocket of bad/poisoned magic)

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Oh dear. Wei Wuxian just found the area’s equivalent of him. By which I mean the only living thing a resentful area will tolerate. He may find he needs to bring something with them from here too. Or maybe not, it’s powerful but young after all. And it hasn’t been used as a body dumping ground, with all the “never to be found/escape” intent with every corpse.

    It does make me nervous that they’re approaching the tree roots and Wen Ning left to go get Wen Qing. Arvil may get a demonstration of how dangerous that flute is after all.

    Good on Wei Wuxian for realizing what he was seeing, looking at the tiny seedling. A premature child? No wonder the ghost was after milk.

    Liked by 2 people

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