A Long Road Chapter 2 Ficbit – War’s Aftermath

“It’s been about two years since the war ended,” Kero stated. “The Lan Sect’s Cloud Recesses were burned. The Unclean Realm’s mostly in one piece, but the Nie Sect were fighting the Wens in a nasty border skirmish for most of a century before the war. And the Jiang Sect’s Lotus Pier was burned to the waterline. Their Sect Leader Jiang Wanyin’s barely older than Elspeth, his sister’s married to Jin Guangshan’s one legitimate son, Jin Zixuan, and most of the rest of the Jiang are dead. If Guangshan grabs for that throne, the other sects might not be able to stop him.”

Talia let out a slow breath. “That’s… very honest, for heirs speaking to a foreign power.”

“Or a bit young. And desperate,” Kero agreed. “They do know we know this. Kellen won’t talk about Lan Wangji without him here but he’s plenty willing to fill us in on everything they say about their homeland. Wangji doesn’t mind, and Nie Huaisang’s all for it. He may act like a useless fop, but he honestly likes Wangji and he’s trying to make this work without anyone getting killed. Poor kid hasn’t had many people who approve of friendly plotting, I think.”

Daren looked at his map again, finger tracing south beyond the land it showed. “That’s why our travelers came here. Valdemar’s far enough away, we have no stakes in their feuds. They can look for help, for whatever magic or Gifts might give them an advantage. And we have no reason to stop them.” He lifted his hand back to the east, planting a finger on one of the blighted spots. “In fact, if they can help us cure the land – we have every reason to help them.”

Selenay glanced at the map, and shook her head. “It’s a long way to come, for such a gamble.”

“Mm.” Kero waggled a hand back and forth. “Maybe a gamble, maybe not. Kellen asked. The worst rumors? They’re true.”

“The worst….” Daren swallowed. “Armies of controlled soldiers. Like Ancar.”

There was a suspicious silence in the back of Kero’s head. :Sayvil?:

:There’s something Kellen is not telling us.:

Kero bit back a snort. :He’s dealing with a Chosen who’s not just a Mindspeaker but a swordsman-mage who kills magical beasties as a way of life. I think we can afford to be patient about every last detail until after we’re sure he’s talked Wangji into not doing anything lethal.:

53 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 2 Ficbit – War’s Aftermath

  1. Can’t be much longer till WWX and the Wen remnants attract attention, methinks. He’s unfortunately going to raise horror/hackles once someone gets a look at the state of his spiritual being. Not too mention the rather lively zombie in the group. But the rest of the Wen refugees will likely help defuse things- someone up to no good is darn unlikely to be having that kind of desperate, destitute group in their train.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, they’re definitely attracting attention… over in Rethwellan, as of chapter 3. (Travel time. Is a thing.)

      Of course, that village in Rethwellan has no idea exactly what happened….

      And, eh? No, actually, Wei Wuxian’s spiritual being at this point is a lot better than it was immediately post-Sunshot. The healing power of a giggling radish boy! And Wen Qing’s needles. 😉

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Considering Kellen is currently experiencing similar memories as up above, I’d want some time to decompress and absorb them to. Actual walking dead as a normal fact of life is gonna be a hard fact to swallow.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh yeah. Wait until someone gets a glimpse of the inside of Wei Wuxian’s head.

      I mean, canon the guy is coping a lot better with the Wens looking after him. But still. Lotus Pier burned. Over 1500 of their cultivators killed – men, women, and children. The guy has trauma.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Don’t forget the Golden Core surgery! Three nights and two days, all while awake. Followed immediately by being captured & tortured by WC and thrown into the Burial Mounds, where what happened to him was SO BAD MDZS says she doesn’t even want to think about, and given some of the things she’s written in TGCF? Like Human Face Disease & XL being stabbed like a hundred times? That’s very worrying. I know it’s pretty much accepted that WWX 100% resorted to cannibalism, since they’re the only thing he could have eaten, given that nothing grew there before the Wens. So that would doubly fuck him up. And then there’s the resentful energy, which is likely exacerbating the problems.

        WWX is in desperate need of an ARMY of mind healers. Boy has SO MUCH trauma. At least he’s been promised cuddles with baby Companions! And has A-Yuan, incarnation of cuteness.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Eh. *Waggles hand* I think the whole constantly fighting off possession, fierce ghosts, and fierce corpses while trying to invent a new form of cultivation based on theories worked out when he was 15 is enough horror.

        Like

      3. Trauma is such an understatement it’s’s not even funny. In chronological order
        *His parents disappear during a night hunt and he’s left to fend for himself
        *Fighting with packs of feral dogs for food
        *Emotional and physical abuse from living at the Jiang Sect ( mostly Madame Yu but unintended does not excuse it Jiang Fengmian )
        *The Wen indoctrination camp and the whole Xaunwu ordeal
        *Still recovering from the last and then being horribly whipped with Zidian which leads into the Lotus Pier massacre
        *Trying to take care of a suicidal Jiang Cheng
        * The 3 day core transfer surgery which he had to be awake for
        * Being thrown into the Burial Mounds and the Sunshot campaign
        *The Jin war camps, Wen Ning’s death, and the split from his family
        *To top it all off trying to survive in a haunted malicious wasteland when everyone wants him dead

        The ValdemarIan Mind Healers are gonna have a field day. I can see them taking shifts to get justifyly drunk.

        Liked by 5 people

      4. Don’t forget the fact that he likely had to resort to cannibalism in the BM! Seriously, it’s said that NOTHING grew/lived there before the Wen Remnants, so how did WWX survive fresh off major surgery and torture, with no ability to practice ineda because his core is gone? Well, the only thing we know for sure were in the BM were corpses, and combined with his comment that you can eat anything if your hungry enough? Yeah, terrible implications…

        And on top of that? MDZS herself said that WWX’s time in the BM was like a nightmare and she didn’t want to write it. Which, given some of the shit she wrote in TGCF…is very worrying.

        WWX needs an ARMY of Mind Healers.

        Liked by 5 people

      5. Almost nothing, there was a type of black bamboo(possibly a normal species corrupted from resentful energy )that WWX used to carve Chenqing out off. Still not a good food source as bamboo has very little nutritional content (which is why giant pandas eat so much of it)

        Liked by 3 people

      6. I think maybe it’s because the Wen had very little expectations for him, besides the idea that he had trauma. Someone pointed out to me a pair of scenes from Untamed that illustrate the point, one from episode 7 and one from, shoot, it’s after he gets back from the Burial Mound the first time. In episode 7, Niè Huaisang announces himself loudly, and Wei Wuxian is fully willing and able to drape himself all over his friend and have very positive interactions. In the later episode, Wei Wuxian has just been dragged to Qinghe and Niè Huaisang loudly announces himself and goes to touch Wei Wuxian’s shoulder. Wei Wuxian flinches. And Niè Huaisang becomes Concerned, stops, and lets Wei Wuxian set the pace and try to reach out, except Jiang Cheng starts dragging him away. Whatever happened in those three months, the author stated that it was very dark and she did not want to go there, it took one of the most openly tactile characters, one who reveled in touching and being touched, and gave him the bone deep knowledge that touch was bad, that touch was pain. But he still craved touch, but he couldn’t stop that instinctive flinch from it. And then he rescued the Wen, and he found A-Yuan. A-Yuan who needed to held and carried and hold hands and spoiled just a little.

        But the Wen, even if we don’t go by the drama that they were the medical branch of the Wen sect, they were doctors and farmers and craftsmen. Most crucially, they’d been on the loosing end of the war and brutalized afterwards. All of them had trauma and flinches they couldn’t stop anymore. A-Yuan probably saved a lot of people’s sanity on the Burial Mound. Now, a few bunnies wouldn’t go amiss I’m sure, there’s only so much one toddler can be expected to cuddle.

        Liked by 3 people

      7. You can explain a lot of his flinches from touch just realizing that the Burial Mounds is full of undead. So for three months straight, anything that touched him was bent on ripping him apart, physically or otherwise. Brr.

        Bunnies would be good, yes. Very good.

        I think part of him getting better might have been Wen Qing being there? He associated her touch with pain, too – but it was deliberate pain that he chose to inflict on himself. He had control. It wasn’t an attack. Easier to deal with!

        Liked by 3 people

  3. And they haven’t even got to the absolute disaster of the genius necromancer who WON THE WAR (with help from JGY’s backstab) for the sects, who was then systematically targeted by them because JGS wanted his power and didn’t want the Jiangs to be able to stand up to him (which they could, with the guy who could raise ARMIES), staged a jailbreak of innocent civilians and a zombie, and is LIFEBONDED to their new Chosen. Like, the bond might not be recognized yet, but given LWJ is willing to commit treason even believing his feelings are unrequited, and WWX might even hate him? That is a mess just waiting to happen if the Council of Valdemar (I feel like the Heralds will warm up to him fairly quickly what with his civilians, and at least not be actively hostile) decide to freak out.This is going to be an absolute trainwreck.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. *G* What’s part of the fun is that all three of them are Deliberately Not Mentioning Wei Wuxian for different reasons.

      Nie Zonghui: He was an ally but the ghost path is heretical, let’s just not mention it.

      Lan Wangji: Wei Wuxian is a kind, good, noble soul who looks absolutely terrifying if you don’t know the circumstances. This must be approached delicately, and without other sect members around.

      Nkie Huaisang: Like hell I’m mentioning the guy I have as a hole card to save my butt. Heeellllppppp!

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Hooo boy, the things they are not mentioning. WWX being just the biggest thing.

    Frankly, I am SO glad that Valdemar, the Heraldic circle namely, will actually be VERY hard to manipulate into the kind of shit JGS and JGY are liable to try first? Like, even setting aside things like the truth spell and various mental abilities that make it hard to pull things over on an attentive Herald, Valdemar tends to be FAR less reactionary than most groups. They just don’t leap to believe awful stories about people without proof.

    Something fishy going on somewhere? The locals say this person did something awful and demand the heralds do something? INVESTIGATE. Accept no rumors as truth without verification. Torture is not an option at all, killing a last resort. I feel like this approach is going to get many a O_o?!??! reaction once it’s understood as ‘yes, that’s REALLY how they do things there’ because that’s really NOT how things are done elsewhere.

    Especially the way the standing of the individual being accused or doing the accusing matters FAR less than anywhere else. Like, you still get corruption, and all crime is still a thing in Valdemar, but if a servant goes to a Herald and tells them the person they work for took liberties, that person is getting investigated and possibly charged. Their system is far from perfect, but it’s WAY ahead of most other countries justice systems.

    And the way all Heralds are technically equal is gonna be weird for them too. A Herald’s birth doesn’t matter a bit apart from Ruler and the heir to the throne, and even then it doesn’t matter the way people coming from the outside will expect (ESPECIALLY from a rigidly respectful culture like NHS and LWJ are coming from!). The Queen’s Own was born a farm girl, the Herald Chronicler was an accountant before being chosen, one of the weapons masters (semi retired at this point iirc) was an enemy soldier. There’s a herald that was a Thief (Tho he went with Elspeth), and heralds that were born so poor the first shoes they owned were given to them AFTER they were chosen. And on the other side, there are Heralds that were born Lords and Ladies. None of it matters to the Heralds.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Don’t forget the Companions! One key fact about the Heralds is that ALL their ideas/impulses/impressions are double-checked by the magic horses. And the “there is no one, true way” philosophy they have. Valdemar, especially the Heralds, will be far more willing to leave the Wen Remnants, WWX, and the adorable zombie alone than the Sects have proven to be, even without the fact the necromancer is lifebonded to one of their Chosen.

    AND Valdemar is FAR better equipped to help WWX than pretty much anyone else, given that Mind Healers are an established institution there. And WWX REALLY needs them. They’ll pick up on that pretty fast, I bet, especially since they don’t have any preconceived notions about him, and I doubt our Sect Squad will share much about him at all, and Kellen isn’t going to share anything that might put his Chosen’s lifebond in danger.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh yeah for sure. WWX is roughly a thousand bleeding issues taped together with tissue paper right now, and that’s AFTER having a bit of a breather and the healing application of a toddler and friends.

      Valdemarian Mindhealers (especially Talia) are gonna have to force themselves to NOT offer him soft blankets and soup and therapy the second they actually meet him, bet you. They’ll have to be careful, go slow so they don’t spook him. And also make sure they offer soft blankets and soup to his people first (who do also deserve soft blankets and soup), so he’ll take what’s offered to him and THEN ease him into this strange, talking about the awful things you went through so your mind can process it all thing.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Oh man, I didn’t even THINK about Talia. Holy shit, the feedback she’ll get from him…good thing she has a LOT of experience being patient. She’ll be ITCHING to help him.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Talia has always been one of my favorite characters. ^__^ She’s gonna be so good for LWJ and WWX, I think. NHS too probably? She has no preconceived notions about who any of them /should/ be, only who they /are/, and that’s something all three of those characters have had far too little of in their lives. Also, she is a Mom with a capitol M, and that’s also something all three of them could use a dose of!

        Liked by 4 people

  6. You know, it could be argued that the whole situation smells of shamanism.

    Guy hangs out with supernatural spirit animals? Shaman.

    Guy hangs out in the land of the dead, brings some rest and has others hanging out with him? Shaman.

    Land is infected with bad spirits? You need a shaman.

    There is a lot of layers of old shamanic stuff going on in the background in Asia, but it doesn’t have the prestige to get mentioned much.

    And yeah, you could argue the Companions are shamanic totem animals, in a way….

    Liked by 3 people

      1. If you think that is bad, you should see that crap I’m censoring because it isn’t even /that/ good. 😀

        It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Crown Prince or Crown Princess of Valdemar must be in want of participation in the Shaman King Tournament, the Fuyuki Grail War, or both!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Any culture that comes up with theories of life after death (I certainly have my own), ends up with some sort of role for helping the dead along to a goodly rest. Might have a shaman do it, might have a priest . . . often, the rich are allowed to pay for extra effort, although the God of Abraham had words to say about how extra sacrifices to Him were in vain, having no need of the nourishment that pagan gods demanded.

      As far as I can tell, Vkandis and the Star-Eyed, in any of their aspects, are both Kardeshev: ENOUGH to be similarly immune to mortal bribery. Thus not charging Tarma anything for reviving and full-healing Kethry in the aftermath of the adept duel, for example.

      -Albert

      Liked by 2 people

  7. In my initial comment at the beginning (First?! :]) I was thinking not so much of the psychological trauma, but that WWX has no core will become apparent, probably when the Valdemaran observers realize that WWX does things quite differently from the other cultivators, although having had the same spiritual training. The fact that he finds any/every excuse to refrain carrying/using a sword when all the other cultivators do, even LWJ, who uses his… lap harp? a lot.

    Actually, what would a Cultivation Core be, in Valdemaran Talents/soul terms, concepts?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And, is a Node something that sane Valdemarans wouldn’t think of wanting to carry around in their bodies/soul? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Pretty much, yes. *EG*

        Long story short: Nodes are where a bunch of ley lines (sorry, that’s the canon Valdemar term) come together and create a roaring torrent of magical power even Adept mages are hesitant about tapping. Tayledras and those trained by them are the only ones who make a habit of it, and it tends to bleach out your hair and eyes even so. (The same way Companions are bleached – they channel that much power just by existing.)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Or that it would even be possible to gain a core, even if one doesn’t understand why you would do such a thing?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Conventional magic says that nodes are something rooted in the world as a natural magical phenomenon, where multiple *twitch* ‘ley-lines’ cross each other, rather than something you cultivate within yourself via Chinese internal alchemy.

        -Albert

        Liked by 2 people

      5. To help with perspective, in the short story Transmutation for the third anthology there’s a Gryphon who’s dying of a lack of magic. Another Gryphon mage constructs a node from a change circle and turns it into a hearthstone (a physical container for a node essentially ) When the spell that heals is activated the stone will consume itself and release all it stored magic in a saturated burst. There’s a 50/50 chance that it will heal or instantly incinerate the other Gryphon from the inside. Thats what cultivatiors purposely train to have inside thier bodies.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. *raises hand* okay, a thought here. Presumably LWJ and WWX will be around when the Tayledras contingent shows up with Elspeth and Skiff? And once they swap relevant stories and magic geekery, would the Tayledras be able to do something about WWX missing core? Like the Tayledras specialize in /creating/ nodes. The Heartstones at the center of every Vale are artificial nodes (or rather, human grown ones).

      So, once they wrap their heads around ‘you people develop WHAT in your bodies’ Firesong the healing adept and Wen Qing the scary skilled cultivation type healer might be able to figure out SOMETHING?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wen Qing manages to become fifty percent more badass for handling a node barehanded. And this provides an interesting look on what, exactly, the Core Melting Hand did. Because the Storms are having the same effect on the meridians of the land, at least according to the explanations given by the Owl books. So that gives treatment options and potentially more ways to help when the Storms really hit and after they’re over. Good job on double duty, Wei Wuxian.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I guess another result of this cultural exchange is that someone figures out a way to keep the Nie Cultivators from being consumed/overpowered by their Blades? Though that particular problem will probably take a while before it comes up, being just the “normal” progression of things for the Nie Clan.

    Liked by 1 person

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