A Long Road Chapter 11 Ficbit – Object Reading

Alberich nodded. “Cultivators, disciplined are. Yet for the mind to heal, at times defenses must lowered be. A difficulty in healing Lan Wangji, you have?”

“I don’t think I can heal him while people he loves are in still in grave danger,” Crathach admitted. “Yet if we want to get those people out of danger, we have to work with what he and the Nie are willing to tell us. The Nie have an agenda, gods only know what, and Lan Wangji’s still not rational about what happened in the Sunshot Campaign. We’re having to work on guesses. It’s… maddening.”

“Mm,” Alberich agreed. “Intrigue between nations, always frustrating is. Even when all involved the best of intentions have.”

“Now I’m really curious,” Mical put in. “If Jianghu’s that far away from Valdemar, how much plotting can they do?”

“That, let us see if discover we can,” Alberich said decisively. :Kantor? This promises to be dangerous.:

:I’ll pull you out if I have to,: his Companion acknowledged. :I’m curious, too.:

Alberich nodded, and opened his mind to the younger Herald. :I am here.:

:I appreciate it. What Crathach said about the poor hauler who had this in him – ow.: Mical breathed deep, settling into a trance, then laid one hand on iron.

Alberich watched in his mind, as Mical peeled back layer after layer of impressions; his skill with his Gift had grown tremendously since the days a young Trainee had only been able to read the very last touch on an object. First was a fleeting ghost of Crathach, realizing cut iron was important and wrapping it in cloth to prevent clouding details any further. Then Healers from near the south gate, fear for their patient locked down tight as they worked in pairs; one carefully pulling iron loose a hair’s-breadth at a time, as the other Healed blood vessels torn in the bar’s wake. And with the Healers came pain

:Rikard,: Alberich concluded, bracing Mical as he winced. :It is likely to get worse.:

35 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 11 Ficbit – Object Reading

  1. Ouch. But hey, at least this way they will know exactly what it’s like to be on the receiving end of Chengqing. That can only help, as well as the sensation of releasing the resentment. But first they do it all in reverse. That’s gonna hurt. On the other hand sometimes I’ll grab stories that I’m unsure of to check the last chapter to see if I think the pain would be worth the ending. So. Even though they’re going through the reverse of the bittersweet ending.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Mmm… Alberich and Crathach are no strangers to pain, or to Very Scary People. I don’t think they’ll freak out much. Mical is less of a known quantity, but with Alberich bracing him, I think we can count on them getting a fairly decent reading on what happened.

    What will be really interesting, and possibly vital later on, is whether they can tell from Reading the rod if the accident really was just a very convenient accident for WWX and WN. B/c *someone*, once everyone starts getting caught up, is going to point out that it was suspiciously convenient.

    (WWX: “Prayers to Holy Vathara really work! Who knew?”)

    Another vital item will be how well they can read *intent* from the rod. Now matter how Utterly Demonic WWX and WN might appear through the lens of Reading the rod fragment, if Alberich and Crathach can get a firm impression of their emotional state (“trying to help” as opposed to “sneaky plotting”), it’ll be more weight on the pro-WWX side of the scale.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hopefully they’ll seem less demonic and more utterly Spooky. 😉

      And actually I think Alberich would be willing to argue it was very inconvenient. The last thing any spy or infiltrator wants to do is arrive in a memorable manner. The fact that people just happened to overlook the pair of them long enough for them to scamper is pure luck.

      (Well, luck, and Wen Ning and Wei Wuxian both having a year of practice keeping their heads down and looking Ordinary, Really.)

      Liked by 6 people

  3. Hm… appears I was ninja’d while typing.

    Although, an Evil Thought occurs to me: what would happen if Mical were to try reading one of the cultivators’ swords? Or… (shudder) Chengqing?

    I mean, the objects come across as at least slightly aware, and more than a little bloodthirsty. But it’d be interesting to see if their reactions were violent, disdainful, or “oooh, this one is interesting, let’s see what we can do with him.”

    ….poor Mical.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The sword he might get away with, although the sword-spirits might play with him like a cat first. The sabers would be worse about it.

      Chenqing? Oh boy. On the one hand, Wen Yuan teethed on the dizi. Canon. It’d never, ever hurt him. OTOH this is an adult with no connection to the Burial Mounds and lots of connection to divine power. I see a frizzed-cat reaction, with a lot of warning hissing. And, well, if you don’t take the warning….

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I’m sorry, I just have this sudden image of Albrich stopping Kero from drawing her sword on a surprised Wei Ying, Mical shaking out his tingling fingers with wide eyes, while Chenqing is wrapped in smoke shaped like a large housecat, (maybe a mock fire cat… 😉) tail all puffed up, back arched with fur on end and hissing. 😂🤭
        Bonus Lan Wangji watching from the sidelines, tilting his head to one side as he examines the smoke cat with an intrigued mn.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. To be fair, Chenqing really is Just a Dizi. It didn’t bite Jiang Cheng for all the years he had it (and unlike Suibian, Chenqing never knew Wei Wuxian’s golden core), and it sure wasn’t the flute that makes Wei Wuxian dangerous. He’s just as capable of using whistles or clapping to control resentful energy; Chenqing just gives him more finesse.

        Liked by 4 people

      3. While you have a point, Wei Wuxian was also Dead while Jiang Cheng had it… and considering Chenqing’s reaction to Shijie tying to touch it, at least in the Untamed, I am betting that Wei Ying being Dead definitely had something to do with the Dizi not biting Jiang Cheng. Also, in this awesome version, strong spirit tools have much more personality, examples being Kellen Talking about Hearing Bichin and Plotting-Nie even talking about his sword pushing at him, and the Nie swords don’t have a drop of the resentment that Chenqing has. 😉😘

        Liked by 3 people

      4. I have this sudden image of everybody getting together, and somehow Mical is asked to do a read on Chenqing.

        He touches it, jerks back in surprise, and just stares at WWX for a long moment. After several seconds of just staring, and before he can be asked what happened, he reaches out and gently turns the dizi on the table before him, clearly looking for something in particular.

        Finding it, he waves the Queen over. Raised eyebrows are given a quick mind-message that there’s no danger, just something very telling.

        Selenay gets close, and sees what Mical is displaying: A-yuan’s tooth marks.

        Cue very surprised Selenay: “This *is* the tool you use to raise and control the dead, is it not?”

        WWX: “Of course. Why? What’s the issue?”

        Selenay: “Why is there a toddler’s teething marks all over it?”

        Everybody but WWX & Co and LWJ has wide eyes and dropped jaws.

        WWX (puzzled): “What else would I have let A-yuan teeth on? Didn’t have my Whatever, after all.”

        Selenay: “Your… what?”

        WWX: “My sword.”

        Kero: “You… named your sword… ‘Whatever’?”

        WWX (sparkly eyes): “Yep!”

        Liked by 6 people

    1. Will have to check that out, thanks! My plotbunnies seem to want to do something more “external action” after the whole “relationships” focus in Oni the Lonely, so I’m poking various possibilities.

      And darn it, the way martial arts and cultivation magic is portrayed in SVSSS, MDZS, and Thousand Autumns is just fun.

      I’m considering a “Western fantasy with xianxia twist” idea, and one of the things that poked me was the whole “going into closed cultivation for X number of years, coming out to a Problem”. In SVSSS, Shen Yuan comes out to the demon invasion; in Thousand Autumns, Yan Wushi comes out of 10 years of seclusion to find a lot of old rivals are dead and his chief rival’s apprentice just landed on the rocks bleeding.

      Bunnies: “Huh, and contrary to a lot of fantasy we know things can change drastically in the course of just one century. If a wizard went into a century of seclusion or curse-bound stasis in 1050 AD in the British Isles, for example, he’d go in where most of the land was Anglo-Saxon and come out in 1150 to a realm that’d been ruled by Norman overlords three-quarters of a century, spoke an entirely different language, and had wiped out most educated native medical practices.” (Hence why we’re only testing that nifty bacteria-slaying eyesalve now, from modern scholars deciphering manuscripts.)

      That, and the whole start of Valdemar was Baron Valdemar packing up his people and running to the most gods-forsaken wilderness he could find to get away. What’s classically in the middle of a wilderness? Wizard’s tower….

      Basic image: Sect leader of a Cang Qiong-like mountain academy of mages waking up from their self-imposed shielded sleep, ’cause they had to ward the whole mountain/mountain range against some massive blast from an empire in the throes of decay/invasion. (And shielding may have been the only way to survive and wait out the magical radiation levels.) And they start looking around to see what’s going on, and – is that a city down there? Who are these people trying to climb up their mountain and poach everything…?

      Not a firm idea yet, but – any thoughts?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oooo, sounds very interesting to me. I will fully admit that the idea of cultivation in general combined with the martial arts I have seen in the latest C-Dramas have stirred up plot bunnies because, like you said, it is just Fun! And I like the thought of a wizard or the like going into seclusion and coming going: What the? Also, I realize it is different, but didn’t a certian Hell Walker end up in a similar situation? Granted hers wasn’t exactly voluntary, but…

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I had a thought that has a relationship, but is more of a knight’s move than anything closer or more related.

        Satoyama Filter Layer 1: You know, that situation with the Empire on Velgarth is basically sorta like Valdemar being saved by a Dies the Fire level civilization killer. So Vathara’s point about refugees and bandits super holds.

        SFL 2: The bunnies have been playing with a knock off Valdemar IN SPACE!. What about a strange isolated pocket space kingdom, falls into contact with a bunch of large expansionist polities, before they all get taken out by different civilization killers.

        SFL 3: Oh, that one is a little bit… (see initial sentence of comment.)

        SFL 4: Civilization killers aren’t /that/ fun to read, nor all that realistic. And, ‘country the gods love best have their existential threats smashed by random acts of god’ is maybe a bit ethically dubious. On serious reflection, maybe this isn’t as cool as it sounds.

        I’ve also been thinking on the Companions issue, and possession.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Well, “new language” and “wiped out” are a little fraught. Even before the Norman invasion, Old English was rapidly acquiring lots of Frankish/Norman French/Provencal loanwords, and had already had lots of Latin and even Greek loanwords (because Church, and because Irish influence). Depending on where you were, some Middle English was a lot more like Old English, and of course that’s just in areas where things were written. Bubba and Dodo down at the farm probably spoke mostly Old English with some new words and grammar, until a century or two later.

        And frankly, there seems to have been enough Old English culture still around that you get the “alliterative verse revival” in the 1350’s!! And you get stuff like Gawain and the Green Knight, which was purposefully written to use extremely local locations and extremely local words. And those words and location names endured so long in its local area that ALAN GARDNER was able to understand the poem like it was perfectly normal, and ended up having to explain the poem TO HIS PROFESSOR. And subsequently the professor demanded a teamup with Alan Gardner’s grandfather, who understood the old words even better, along with a “locations of the poem” local tour.

        And of course, Bubba is still a perfectly good name, just like in Domesday Book. Language has some shocking discontinuities, like the rapids in a stream, but most of the river just keeps moving right along.

        We also don’t really know enough about medical techniques being used, to be able to tell if things really disappeared. Medical manuscripts are a drop in the bucket, or the tip of the iceberg.

        For example. Apparently it is widely known that mustard (or mayonnaise, or just vinegar, depending on availability and allergies) is a good burn lotion. Widely known to people in the restaurant industry. Which I am in. And yet I had never heard about this before last week.

        (Btw, yes, already burned myself and had to test it. Yes, it works, and the wrapping aluminum foil around a burned finger after the mustard also worked. I had burned myself good on foil in my oven, and within fifteen minutes my thumb just felt a little stiff in that area. By the next day, it was like nothing ever happened.)

        So if Dr. Bubbus was still using the eye thing, and Dr. Perkin had never heard of it, we’d never know, because neither of them were writing books or teaching at the university in Bologna. Heck, some Victorian doctor could have been using it, and we’d never know unless he wrote an article about it.

        But… that said, it’s very true that a lot of stuff happened in most European countries in the course of a century, and especially in England.

        The other difficulty is that Really Big Things could be happening and not show up much in the historical record, like the Irish slave markets that seem to have been a big embarrassment that wasn’t talked about. Pagan Norse running slave markets in Dublin, selling good Christians from England to the evil Saracens? Yup, we’ll talk about that. Christian Irish taking over the slave market in Dublin and continuing it after the pagan Norse were driven out, and selling other Irish and Scots as well as the odd English dude? Um… maybe we won’t talk about that, even if that’s the unacknowledged reason why EVERYBODY ELSE IN EUROPE THOUGHT IT WAS A GREAT PLAN FOR THE ENGLISH TO TAKE OVER IRELAND. Because yup, the English were kinda oppressive/annoying, but they shut down the slave markets. After that, the Muslims had to capture slaves for themselves, and they did it a lot, and especially in Mediterranean Europe… but no more slave trade in Christian lands for several hundred years.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. This everyone knows but only in some areas thing goes for animals, too; my dad was 35 years into a beef ranching career, mostly when he was working for a guy who was 50 years into it before he was born, when he found out from a guy who had been a ranch hand for roughly 65 years (in a different state) that cows that are fed in the morning tend to not have calves at night.

        It was shared in the style of folklore.

        To detect it, you have to have a setup where you have several hundred cattle who can be fed in the first quarter of daylight which are taken care of by the same people doing the feeding– so either recent, or when the farm is a secondary job for a large family. (I think Fred got it from the latter and used it as a handy trick until he mostly retired, but this is a guess.)

        It doesn’t work on first-calf cattle (heifers, they are *Random*) and guess what most places doing studies have access to in order to make their herds? Same way the guys testing salves used lab equipment?

        If you act like heifers are going to have normal calving patterns, start to feed when it’s more like before-lunch than barely-light, or the recordings of time-of-birth go off of when the samplers first saw there was a calf rather than when the cow went into labor (you probably don’t have people who know what “this cow is having trouble” looks like!), you’ve just “proved” that it “doesn’t work” to feed cows in the morning.

        When the point of having calves not born at night is that if something goes wrong, it’ll start going wrong when labor starts and you can SEE it, so they actually had to help more cows but there was a large drop in dead calves– and it also lowers the amount of newborn frostbite.

        My mom kept rather obsessive records and was able to show this happening… in the course of a few years. Which is how she figured out the details on what “in the morning” meant. 😀 Slight decrease in pulled calves because they were changing bulls at the same time (lower birth weight) but also a higher rate of survival….

        Liked by 3 people

      5. The other thing is that, honestly, Henry VIII dismantling the monasteries and raiding the cathedrals is why we don’t have many Old English manuscripts. We have library lists of what used to exist before the Dissolution, and it was a lot. Because if you spoke Middle English, you could mostly understand Old English, and the old manuscripts actually were written in pretty easy handwriting styles.

        So a lot of surviving manuscripts come from college libraries (because Henry didn’t send out his guys to toss those on the fire), or from libraries of noblemen, or lawyers.

        Henry VIII was probably more destructive than the Normans, honestly. The Normans just wanted to take over monasteries by putting a new guy on top, and some of them were actually obsessed with promoting English saints (to show that they weren’t all that bad, or because they actually got some kind of miracle happening). A lot of Normans wanted to marry female English nobles and so on. It wasn’t a great situation, but you don’t get to be a feudal lord of your newly William-granted land by killing off or driving away all the available manpower.

        I suspect that Bologna and other medical university programs actually did more to make native technological developments less popular. I mean, you’re reading Galen and Hildegard of Bingen and such, and learning the latest humors medical techniques, and you’re going to concentrate on what’s coming out from Bologna and Paris. And if it doesn’t fit into humors or alchemy, and doesn’t involve bleeding anybody, you’re probably going to figure it’s a little superstitious and not try it. Or at least, you’re less likely to spend a lot of time copying out old recipes in Old English, especially when you can buy a reasonably priced Galen textbook from the bookshops/book manufactories in your university town.

        If you learned by apprenticing to another physician or chirurgeon, you were probably more likely to learn old techniques.

        Liked by 3 people

      6. Book manufactories — forgot to define.

        Medieval university towns had enough demand for books that (before the printing press) bookshops employed laypeople as book copyists. It could be the bookshop owner and his family (including women), students needing extra cash, clerics needing extra cash, and any other random laypeople who knew how to write and didn’t have a better-paid use for it. They also employed artists (to make woodcut illustrations) and illuminators (to color in the illustrations, if the client paid for color).

        So they had stock of books, and they also sold copies on demand, at various price points according to features desired. It wasn’t cheap, but it was something a poor student (or several poor students) could afford. There was also a used book market (mostly the same bookshops).

        That’s why there’s the famous line about “When I had a little money, I bought books, and when I had a little more, I bought food.”

        The reason we have a lot of medieval scholarship of public arguments, teaching lectures, etc. is that some students made money by taking notes on lectures or public argumentations or q and a’s by famous professors, and selling the notes to the bookshops. Since students directly paid their professors (who didn’t get employment money elsewhere, unless they were in religious orders that supported them), students saved money or preserved their class experiences for later by buying these books of notes.

        Which is why a lot of medieval books can be rather outline-like.

        Of course, students were mostly expected to memorize stuff, using the Ars Memoria, which is why medieval books had the illustrations (they are usually memory palace images, right down to the freaky pictures in the margins).

        Liked by 3 people

      7. If you were in a monastery/convent, especially in early medieval times, your monastery had a library primarily for the mealtime reading of edifying books or Scripture. (Because St. Benedict set it up that way, to cut down on chatter.) But you were also expected to study every day in your study period in your room, if you weren’t living in a dorm, or in a study room otherwise. So the library would loan out books for a month or three months or six months or a year, and everybody would study their book and work on memorizing it and meditating on it, and then you’d give it back at the end of the loan period and get another book. (And yes, there were rules against damaging books, and penalties.)

        But if you were somebody like St. Albert the Great, you’d stay at monasteries while traveling Europe, and do your best to read and memorize anything interesting in the library there, in the course of a day or so. And you’d maybe copy out anything super-interesting.

        Liked by 2 people

      8. I’d point out that Dublin was not the /only/ situation in Christian Europe where slaves were sold. Apparently, there is a record of the Teutonic Order selling a slave to a noble visitor/temporary lay member who later became a King of England.

        Liked by 2 people

      9. The Teutonic Order was basically a walking embarrassment — at least, in certain chapters. There were others that were very nice and solid, and there’s even a very nice “female auxiliary Teutonic Order blessed” and a “saint candidate who ran around cleaning up the Teutonic Order guy”.

        But honestly, and with all respect to the problems of Prussia and Lithuania’s frontiers and such… the Teutonic Order got joined by a lot of knights who wouldn’t have been accepted by other military orders with higher standards, or who really enjoyed going somewhere far enough away that they could do nasty and stupid things without supervision.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Point of order, Wei Wuxian did not actually name his sword. He thought it was awesome, granted, but he didn’t name it. That was Jiang Fengmian. Wei Wuxian just had too many names for his sword, so he told Fengmian to name it whatever, he couldn’t decide. Fengmian took him at his word.

    When you look at the things he’s actually named (Chengqing, Jin Rulan, Yin Tiger Tally) he does pretty well.

    But he’s absolutely the type to let people think his naming sense has no significance. For example I’d wager a lot of people don’t receive the explanation of Suibian’s name. Lan Wangji has always been special to Wei Wuxian.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. “If Jianghu’s that far away from Valdemar, how much plotting can they do?”

    You’d be surprised. It is amazing how much trouble someone can cause when inclined to do so.

    Especially since one of the plotty-ones is right there in Valdemar – trust me, he could unleash a lot of mayhem on your heads if he wanted to do. Or felt he needed to. Okay, he is far more likely to let someone else to the actual mayhem part since that kind of running around isn’t really his thing . . . fortunately for the Nie, he knows someone is very good at mayhem and has no problem doing said running around.

    Liked by 1 person

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