A Long Road Chapter 7 Ficbit – Define Barbarian

“Much in common, we have,” Alberich said after a moment. “Another matter of the sects, then, I would ask of. What you spoke of to Dirk, Ahrodie noted, and asked Kantor to ask of me. In a sect the Weaponsmaster, first disciple would be, you implied.” He raised a brow at that. “And part of your fury was that Selenay’s marriage, thought I should have a say in, you did. An OutKingdom Herald, born of Valdemar’s most vicious enemies? For so Karse was, then.”

“And yet you were Weaponsmaster. The man trusted with training the sect’s disciples for war. For survival.” Lan Wangji shook his head. “Who else could better gauge if a suitor would be trustworthy in battle? And if he was not, how could you trust him with your sect’s most prized treasure? Divorce or not, he would still be an heir’s father. The sect leader and the heirs must be trustworthy. Or a sect dies.”

Alberich leaned forward, intrigued. “A sect leader’s spouse, on the battlefield would be?”

“Not all are,” Lan Wangji allowed. “Madam Jin has not night-hunted in years. And Jiang Yanli’s cultivation is too weak to risk her so. Though she has learned the sword; all Jiangs do. But it is the ideal. Madam Yu, wife of Jiang Fengmian, was a terror on the field. Even ambushed in Lotus Pier, the Violet Spider brought down dozens of Wen before Wen Zhuliu shattered her core.”

Alberich inhaled herbed steam. “So. Were Heralds a sect of the Jianghu, Prince Karathanelan on the killing fields would stand, to lead the fight.” From the way his mouth curved wryly, he was imagining just that. “Convenient, that would have been! Never would he have courted Selenay did he think that a likely fate.”

Lan Wangji relaxed a hair at that amusement, setting his thoughts in order. “From what I have studied, Valdemar is far larger than a sect. More complicated. Even so. Could no one stop the queen from marrying one so unsuitable?”

“Hmm.” Alberich regarded him, a hawk eyeing the field below for enemies or prey. “Two questions, yours is. The first – could we the Queen have stopped? The second – why did we not, even if tie and gag her we would have had to?”

Tentatively, Lan Wangji nodded.

“The first, the most frustrating was,” Alberich confided. “The Council wished the Queen married, and an heir assured. Many the lords they threw at her; refused them all, she did. Satisfied they would have been with a Shin’a’in barbarian, did he get her with child!”

Lan Wangji clamped down on any shadow of a flinch. Valdemar considered the Clans of Dhorisha barbarians? Surely, they lived in tents instead of houses, and forbade their own to use talismans or cultivation. But their swordsmanship was excellent, their teaching songs effective, and their horses second to none. What of any of that was barbaric?

Later. Advise Nie Huaisang to investigate. The clans are valued trading partners to all the sects; he will want to know.


25 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 7 Ficbit – Define Barbarian

  1. Ooof, Alberich just stepped in it a little. But how’s he supposed to know about the Jianghu’s relations with the Dhorisha? Culture clash, always fun to navigate…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think he’s quoting the Council’s views, here. Remember, he works closely with Kero, who has family among the Shin’a’in. He knows better.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. He is indeed quoting the Council’s view (which hasn’t changed despite all the good horses and Kero herself). So… he’s stepping in it, yes, but deliberately. Alberich more than most Heralds has reason to know how much people’s impressions go off the surface stuff like fine clothes and manners, and miss deeper morals and worldviews.

        Alberich’s well aware that Lan Wangji and the Nies are talking to each other on a regular basis. He’s also aware that people out to get a valuable match for their daughters too often look at the signs of financial success (Nie Huaisang is visibly rich!) and miss whether or not there’s a viable cultural match. So… it’s a bit of a subtle warning.

        (Also, this way he can observe Lan Wangji’s ability to read between the lines!)

        Liked by 3 people

    2. That, may or not have been accidental actually. Even though Alberich himself and for sure any Herald trained by Kero (herself a Shin’a’in kinswoman, authorized to trade in her tribe’s behalf in Valdemar) don’t hold that the Shin’a’in are barbarians, it’s important to note that the nobles of the court do. Also, please watch your step or a cultivator will take offense to how you just spoke about grandma’s favorite trading partner’s spouse.

      It’s also a warning about how certain practices of the sect lands will be seen, and thus, the sects.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. This, so much. It’s actually one of the things that helps convince Lan Wangji to tell them certain grisly details later. Because how the Heralds and Queen will react to that will tell him a lot – not least, if he should tell Nie Huaisang to give up bride-hunting, it will not work here.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. A lot of the time, “Barbarian” can be translated as something like “doesn’t value what I find most precious.”

        If this is useful or no will depend a lot on what someone values; for me, because of a faith foundation and very peaceful historically speaking culture, something like the self-evident rights from the Declaration would be a reasonable shorthand; as Lan Wangji’s internal dialog indicates, his is roughly effectiveness-in-battle-and-protecting-culture.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. To the best of my knowledge, ain’t nobody on Velgarth that speaks ancient Greek. 🙂

        I personally think that limited government, and being a contrary jackwagon are among the highest qualities of civilization. XD

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I recently reread By The Sword, and funny enough Rethwellen also had a problem with bad arranged marriages. Daren’s father was married 3 times ( twice politically and lastly for love) and he wrote to Tarma that he knew Thanel was so much dreck that he planed to marry some stupid thing to get pregnant, spend her money, and sleep around on at 13. ( this was blamed on his mother and not fostering him out) Daren was pretty terrified he would be forced into a political match with out his say so and even Kero’s sister in law met her brother a week before thier wedding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hang on, it’s been literally over a decade since I read By The Sword, but didn’t Tarma call herself a barbarian and pass it on to Kerowyn? Although as far as I can tell, she meant something like, “We don’t bind ourselves to people who think their bloodlines are Spechul.”

    And by that definition, the cultivators aren’t barbarians either: Their hereditary sect leaders have all the moral failings of other Velgarthian nobles.


    Liked by 2 people

  4. Are the Sects at war all the time? Leave the Wen out of the consideration. In a fanfic, Jiang Fengmain didn’t think learning to use the sword on people was worthwhile, since the cultivators fought monsters and demons and ghosts not each other. Sparring with each other is a sport.
    If Valdemar was more like the Cultivation world, Selenay’s husband would be expected to lead fights against monsters. The Violet Spider was noted for her skill with sword and whip.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jiang Fengmian is not the best judge of a responsible sect leader, given he’d been watching the Wen have their cold war with the Nie all his life.

      Though I doubt Karathanelan would have been happy to go against monsters, either.


  5. Yeah… given the historic obsession that China has had with “we Han are the center of the world, our language is the only really civilized one, our customs are the only really civilized ones, and actually we don’t even want what the rest of you have,” I would say that a fair number of the Sects would consider everybody in the world barbarians except themselves, and wherever they came from.

    This does not mean that all Chinese felt that way, and if nothing else, the Chinese had enough obsessions with recordkeeping that there was somebody who had to find out all kinds of stuff about the barbarians. Whether or not the Emperor and his ministers ever consulted the records, they had ’em.

    OTOH, pretty much most of the significant technological achievements of China that were things like stirrups, horsecollars, wheels, crossbows, etc. — they were all from the steppe peoples, and were developed much earlier than they were adopted by China, Persia, or the West.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. To explain the council attitude to Selenay and getting married, you really have to explain her dad, Sendar. Whose wife died, and who refused to remarry. So for years, they only had the King and his one heir. And that was precarious enough.

    Then the King dies in battle. And as Alberich pointed out at the time, the enemies that killed him would want to grab Selenay alive. Alive, so that she could be married off to the lead conqueror and legitimize their new claim to Valdemar. Alive, but not sane – so that she could never challenge their claim. And they would likely drive her mad by killing her Companion.

    The only reason that didn’t happen, iirc, is that the entire Valdemar Army KNEW the instant that the king was killed (along with a good chunk of his bodyguards) and reacted in grief and overwhelming fury, absolutely clobbering the foes in front of them. That, and Alberich’s trained cavalry bodyguards, a mix of horses and Companions and humans (heralds and non-heralds), who kept Selenay from being dragged off.

    So suddenly the Council was left with only a queen – and unlike Sendar, because she was a queen, there’s a real risk she could die in childbirth and take the heir with her. That’s a big disaster. But the bigger disaster is if she dies without an heir. And they know exactly how close they came to that scenario, or worse. That’s part of why they were so urgent.

    So, is Alberich going to explain Sendar to LWJ?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That would likely take Alberich needing to get to know Lan Wangji a lot better. Those are painful memories.

      Two other considerations. First, it’s not what Lan Wangji was asking about. Second… it might sail right over his head as to why that was even ever an issue. Sects don’t have exactly the same line of inheritance. Yes, the Great Sects go by bloodline, but if the leader and heir fall, inheritance goes to the next relatives in the sect, and there are usually a fair number of cousins. Not to mention adoption is always an option.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Historically speaking look at Scotland when they had to choose a King from the descendants of the dead King’s grandfather’s siblings. This was in 1290. There is a reason everyone is frantic.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes. There’s definitely a reason. The problem is for Valdemarans it’s a fish-misses-water problem. “We must prevent instability in our kingdom and have a delegated heir, or it’s civil war!”

        Jianghu: “So, Tuesday?”


  7. I like this discussion, with how Lan Wangji describes what he sees for the situation. And from hints in comments, I’m really looking forward to when he starts talking about WWX…. Partly because I’m really curious about Kero’s reaction, let alone Talia’s and some others… 😀

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s