A Long Road Chapter 9 Crossover Ficbit – Worrying the Problem

“There have to be other ways to get in and out of the Palace than the gates. Wherever there’s politics, there’s spies. And they need to pass unseen.”

Wen Ning nodded, recalling the realities of trying to skirt the eyes of the powerful in the Nightless City. He and his sister hadn’t been able to escape Wen Ruohan, but sometimes they’d managed to be specifically elsewhere when Wen Chao went looking for another soul to torment. He still remembered secret doors and Qishan’s twisting alleys like the back of his hand.

“So there has to be a way out the guards don’t know about. Or that they know they’re supposed to ignore. And any way out, is a way in.” Wei Wuxian smiled, as he picked up his tools again. “I just need to find the right ghost who knows about it.”

Sounded like a plan. Relieved, Wen Ning found his gaze wandering over Haven again, watching the firefly glow of ever more lanterns against the night. “…I wonder what happened here.”

Carving another line, Wei Wuxian paused. “What happened?”

Wen Ning lifted a hand, waving at the maze of the city around them. “It would have been a long time ago, but… look. We can see how Haven started? All the circle-streets, so no ground force can charge straight in; all the walls… they were almost as worried as Qinghe Nie. And then the next wall is old, and crumbling, and the next wall’s not much better, and now the city just spills out along the roads….”

“And the roads closest to this city – the ones that are hard and won’t wear – would be the old roads. When this kingdom had magic.” Wei Wuxian almost whistled, looking over the city with renewed interest. “It’s not just the streets. They must have had rules about how tall buildings could be, and where. Some of the buildings in the outer rings are taller than the rest, but here, up the hill where all the noble mansions are….”

“These s-should be the tallest,” Wen Ning realized. Except for the Palace, of course. Sect leaders were jealous that way.

“Only they’re not.” Wei Wuxian gripped iron more firmly, eyes alight. “You can’t get a good look over the Palace walls from here. You couldn’t see over them from any of these mansions.”

A/N: Yes, I may be indulging in “what does Haven look like to people who’ve had war not just on their doorsteps, but burning down every place they hold dear?”

And it looks weird.

Then there’s all the aspects of “Haven was built with a lot of working magic, hence the roads – magic that no longer was available later,” adding to the weird.

46 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 9 Crossover Ficbit – Worrying the Problem

      1. ::Facepalm::

        I think Alberich is going to be kicking himself (not entirely justifiably, TBH, secrecy is a good defense too) for not thinking about that aspect immediately after the sparring match, if not earlier.

        That said, he’ll have no cause for blaming himself for Ghost General related Woo-Woo when it comes to sentries being seen to be avoided.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. As I remember the description of that entrance/exit that Alberich uses, the physical security against it being opened from the outside is that it is set up so a *Companion’s strength* (plus intelligence) is required to activate the system.

        Giggle. Wen Ning. Although the function of the door/passage is probably not *readily evident* from the outside, so that knowledge barrier is also meaningful to people who cannot talk to ghosts.

        Then the real question is whether or not the information security about that portal has been good enough, over the time since it was installed, to prevent the existence of unfriendly ghosts with that knowledge. O_o

        Liked by 4 people

      3. This was actually one of the very first things I worked out in the story once I had the image of LWJ and WWX in Companion’s Field.

        As for information security… Alberich is very good at his job, and has gotten a lot of vicious criminals executed. Meaning even if there’s a low percentage of ghosts, there’s a large number for that percent to cut through.

        On top of that even the most harmless ghosts can get bored and start poking around in curiosity.

        So picture an Angry Criminal Ghost hanging around who spies that Brawler/Historian/Other persona of Alberich’s that got him rounded up and killed. “Argh! I’ll follow him to his death-!”

        And hits the inn where persona goes in and Herald comes out.

        …Just imagine the level of resentment then. Oh yes.

        Liked by 4 people

      4. “ghosts can get bored and start poking around in curiosity.”

        I see. I had not consciously realized that this universe is using a model of “ghosts can learn new things after their deaths.”

        I had previously internalized the model used by so many other authors, in which ghosts are either non-sapient echos or are “lost” in their memories.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. And, yes, in order to maintain this (subconscious) opinion I think of Vanyel (and Isfandes and Stefen) as not-precisely-a-ghost, but something different. Shrug!

        Liked by 2 people

      6. And, yes, in order to maintain this (subconscious) opinion I think of Vanyel (and Isfandes and Stefen) as not-precisely-a-ghost, but something different. Shrug!

        Even “normal” ghost theory involves this– there’s stuff that ranges from “appears to be a clip of something that happened” through “sometimes they show up and seem almost like someone seeing US as a ghost” up to “basically exactly like a living person, but dead.”

        From memory of the story so far, there’s stuff from “vague malice” up through “general desire” and “I have a specific goal stronger than death itself which MIGHT just be destroy stuff,” with the general desire including that obnoxious peddler who was mostly coherent and could draw new conclusions based on new information even if he was very much set in his original manners.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Incidentally, Vanyel would roughly fit with the theological type of apparition. Like where the Virgin Mary shows up and interacts with someone, sometimes even including medicine or protection.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. There are some weird things with theological apparitions too, though. St. Teresa of Avila apparently did a lot of spiritual poking in of nose, at the convent where she died and was (temporarily it turned out) interred. To the point that if you were doing something annoying after lights out, she would show up and admonish you before the living nun with that job could get there and do it. (During silent times for Carmelite nuns, this meant just a warning knock, so yup, getting one from a deceased saint sounds even more ghostly!)

      I mean, yes, it is nice to have the cloud of witnesses around, but the cloud of contemplative hall monitors is kinda tough love.

      Btw, it is amazing the kind of details from eyewitness reports that you can get in older books, which are totally ignored in newer books about the same events. Modern historians and hagiographers are no fun at all.

      (And it turned out that one of Teresa’s confessors was yet another guy who had gotten abducted and sold into slavery by Barbary pirates when he was young. I had read a lot of books about Teresa without that ever being mentioned. “I got abducted by Muslims” was surprisingly common as a formative experience in Europe, if you lived by the sea.)

      Liked by 3 people

  1. If you know how to read it right, architecture can tell you alot about a place. Now I’m wondering if WWX tried his hand at ghost assisted archeology when he had a bit of free time in the Burial Mounds.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “wondering if WWX tried his hand at ghost assisted archeology when he had a bit of free time in the Burial Mounds.”

      O_o Even WWX needs to sleep sometime!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “grave goods being one way to get funds to keep everyone fed!”

        Somehow I had formed the impression that the Burial Mounds are so bad because none of the many corpses there were *properly* buried. o_O

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, that is important. I wonder if there are still old laws and/or spells to keep greenery away from the walls? I remember in one of Patricia C Wrede’s books a man was absolutely horrified at the fact that the family he was delivering a death notice to had nothing but short grass within bow shot range of the fortified porch. It meant that the family kept to the Old Ways and this was going to be a very painful moment of watching a family’s face become stone still as they refused to mourn in front of an outsider.

    But man, considering I think it’s implied, maybe contradicted by Founding which I haven’t read (she just seems to be getting tired. The spark hasn’t been in her last few books), that Valdemar took his people and ran from the Empire as fast and hard as he could, settled in the middle of nowhere, and was still worried about pursuit, I can see him building very defensively.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. [[Nosy Ol’Biddy mode, activate]]

      she just seems to be getting tired. The spark hasn’t been in her last few books

      Going off of her being published more in Baen lately, shortly after some (not involving her) political BS went down, and at least one of the books published being a very obvious trunk novel that I would guess predated SERRAted Edge and was VERY poorly updated*, I think she’s under a lot of stress right now.

      Seemed to happen after she had five-ten years of rather nice/happy feeling light romances with Luna (500 Kingdoms) and those stopping might be related to them being bought by HarperCollins, while Baen is distributed by Simon & Schuster.
      (It’s romance novels inspired by Terry Pratchett, on the level you’d expect from ML. Definitely not a history dump, but she’s having fun for most of it.)

      Valdamar and the Elemental Masters series are both through Random Penguin, looks like she’s been pumping out a lot there— I would guess, on the other information, that she went back through her notes/trunk novels/etc. I really HOPE it’s not the usual “their output went way up, there’s health issues” thing– I may not have much respect for her common sense, but she doesn’t seem actually malicious, and that’s valuable enough I’d like to hold on to it, y’know?

      [[End Nosy Ol’Biddy mode]]

      * Like when you read the new imprint of a Nancy Drew novel that was perfectly fine for the late 50s/early 60s when it was written, but they had some intern go through and add cellphones that somehow change nothing, and Hello Fellow Kids type flavoring.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Well, I gather she had a bad allergic reaction to paint and chemical fumes at Gencon, back in 2018, when they put her in a hotel room that had just been repainted. (And new carpet, new furniture, et al.)

        But honestly, she always averaged three to five books a year, as far as I can tell.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, ugh, outgassing… doesn’t hit me, but I can just imagine.


        Between three and five a year, I’d agree, but 2020 was at least six on Goodreads….
        Elemental Masters yearly since ’14, 1-3 Valdemar yearly since ’14, and it looks like between one and three visits back to old series in the same rough period of time, some co-authoring (which she’s been doing for decades) and appears to be some editing and short stories mixed in.

        HOPEFULLY it’s from good causes, like…. ::pulls example from air:: found a writing setup that just really CLICKS for her style so all the previously wasted time and frustration is now going into writing.


      3. Oooh, maybe it’s something fun like he’s helping her brainstorm/ fix trunk novels/ flesh out stuff? Maybe even doing more of the raptor rehab….

        I hope so, assuming they’re happy; went to look at his Goodreads and it LOOKS like he didn’t publish as much starting about the time her output went up.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. And really, if you’ve been anywhere with some history to it… that’s _backwards_ to what you’d expect, unless something odd’s going on.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. WWX is more similar to Alberich then Kero even knew, when she was comparing the two- what’s with the sneaking and disguises…

    I now imagine him and WWX , both disguised, using a hidden exit, and pretending to not notice one another, while hiding their features to also not BE noticed

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I almost never see mediums/necromancers actively using their powers for information gathering.

    They often have information drop into their laps, and they might ask a ghost about that ghost’s personal history, but when they say “I need X information” they never seem to follow up with “where can I find a ghost that knows X?”

    And there’s a lot of advantages.
    Ghosts won’t be concerned with consequences the way a living person is.
    Ghosts might be able to gather information unseen.
    If they retain their intellectual abilities, then you’re looking at a massive amount of life experience, and chances are they’d be thrilled to tell you all about it. (Getting them to shut up on the other hand…)

    Imagine if WWX started consulting with the ghosts of mages and cultivators for magic tips?
    That could be even more valuable than his ability to invent on his own.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I almost never see mediums/necromancers actively using their powers for information gathering.

      I just realized that you’re right– and this is hilarious, since the cultural origin in western culture is… the Witch of Endor doing EXACTLY THAT, by calling up Samuel.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Not to mention the shades of the dead consulted in Greek myths, etc.


        I just had this image of the Yiling Patriarch chilling on top of a gravestone with a crowd of ghosts around. “So, what’s the sitch?”

        Ghost lady batting eyes. “Girrrrllllfriend, lemme tell you….”

        Liked by 3 people

    2. IIRC, (and I may not) some settings have it so that the dead won’t necessarily give the living a straight answer.

      We ran into this in our D&D campaign when we were trying to get a recently deceased party member to tell us whether and how he wanted to be revived, and the cleric kept asking compound questions instead of “yes or no” ones. >_>;

      I think the fluff text for the spell said something about the dead suddenly being utterly unconcerned with affairs on this side of the veil.

      … or maybe that’s just the dead that don’t have a reason to stick around.

      Liked by 1 person

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