Chapter 22: Paradox

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We wanted to be a society without war. We wanted to be a society without poverty. We wanted to be a society without strife. All were noble goals. But these are twisted into our natures. Can any artifice work when every part is inherently flawed?

***

That night, Laidu dreamed.

But this dream felt different. It felt like a memory, too real to be imagined. He felt the wind on his scales as he stood in the street of a great city. The buildings towered over him, made of smooth stone. Glass windows, in Alberion the privilege of the rich, shone in every window. This was a city of prestige, a city of power.

And it was burning.

The sky was choking with ash, the horizon stained red by the vast inferno. Buildings became deathtraps, the outer stone shells turning the structures into blast furnaces. He could hear the screams of the people within.

A flag drifted by in the wind, the corner on fire. With a start, Laidu recognized the symbol. It was an eight pointed star, the tips touching the edge of a circle around it. The symbol of Elysion.

"I thought I told you to leave," an all-too-familiar voice said. Laidu whipped around. There was that thing -Kazalibad- and it stood, bathed in crimson. Long, tonguelike tendrils lashed out, originating from the mouths all around the creature.

"Leave?" Laidu heard himself say.

"They abandoned you. They cast you out." Kazalibad's mouth on his head smiled, and the slit above opened into the crazed, bloodshot eye. "King of Joy, they don't want you anymore. They want the chaos. They want the incoherence. They want the amoral world they chose." He looked around. "This is what they wanted. But they didn't know they wanted it."

"You...you murderer!" There was a righteous anger in Laidu's voice, one he had never possessed before.

"I may kill...but I will never die because of that." He looked at the corpses, stained red around him. "Their lives were insignificant. Time plus matter plus chance. A fortunate happenstance for them. But I have elevated them to a greater purpose. They have become a part of a greater whole." Kazalibad's tendrils flicked around. "Me."

"You're wrong." It definitely wasn't Laidu that was talking. Laidu didn't have that sort of authority in his voice. "They're not insignificant."

"It's a moot point now," Kazalibad said. "Your presence, however, offends me." The tendrils idly lashed to and fro. "I don't like being offended." The tendrils paused. Laidu felt a deep fear come over him.

The tendrils lashed forward, slamming into him. "And now," Kazalibad said, picking up a massive chunk of masonry, "it's time to die!"

He brought the stone down on Laidu.

***

Heart pounding, Laidu sat up in bed. Which, in this case, gave him a headache.

BAM! Pain exploded across his forehead as he slammed into something. There was a thud as whatever he hit fell to the ground. "Ugh..." Laidu said groggily.

"Ow..." Kyra moaned, rubbing her head, laying on the floor.

Thaen sat up. "What's happening? Are we under attack?" he asked rather loudly. That caused the other three to sit up, alert. Well, Karik'ar and Skaria were alert. Indra was still half asleep.

"No..." Kyra said, sitting up. Laidu tossed off the covers and hopped off the bed.

"Kyra, are you alright?" he asked. "Sorry about that."

She put a hand on his bare shoulder to stabilize herself as she got up. "It's alright."

"Alright. No one's attacking, no one's dying. I'm going back to bed," Skaria said. She looked odd with her hair undone and her armor off. She fell back down onto the pillow, grabbed the quilt and pulled it close.

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