Chapter 63: Questionable Advice

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Every man has four battles he must face. He must battle those who do evil in the world. He must battle the fallen, corrupted natural world. He must battle his animal nature, that seeks to debase him. He must face the demons inside him, that.

-Sanyong Tsung, The Blackened Soul and the Luminous God.

***

The world was a dream, one they couldn't awaken from.

The Host awoke, stretching his body out. The Host had named himself -Laidu- but that name was meaningless. He was Host, and that meant he supplied them with a mental habitat.

With these motions that he made, Rhaem could feel the strength in the Host's muscles. He could feel the Host's emotions, buzzing around Rhaem like gadflies on a hot summer day.

The others were rousing. The Furred one, or Big-Ears as Kasran called him, stretched. Next, the other male, the Broad One, or Big-Muscles, again with Kasran's name. Well, it used to be Big-Muscles. Now it was Bully He was mean to Kasran, but Kasran had been really mean to the Host.. Rhaem had learned their real names -el'Thaen'im and Karik'ar -but those were semantics, meaningless. 

The Smart One, Indra, or Scarf-Lady rose, rolling her neck. The Scary One, the Big-Mouth, the mercenary, still slept, occasionally clutching at one of her swords.

Next to her, the Precious One slept, peaceful and beautiful.

Rhaem smiled. There was a warm, exciting feeling any time the Host so much as glanced at the Precious One. It was a nice feeling to bask in.

The Host unrolled a parchment, a scroll, with things inscribed on them. Silly squiggles and lines, given meaning, semiotic transferal of information. A shape, drawn to try to capture the form of land, the thing given the name of map. 

"Here's where we are, approximately," the Host said. "My celestial navigation skills are a bit rusty. We're either here, by this pass, or here, by that one," he said, pointing to the map.

"You can't tell?" Bully asked.

"It's been a few years. Astronavigation was covered for first-year stuff." The Host scratched the base of his top left horn. Rhaem purred. "I think we're here, otherwise..." the Host began, yanking out a compass, staring at the needle with intensity. "Yeah, otherwise we'd not be able to see that mountain. Yeah, the one with the split peak."

"So?" Big-Ears asked.

"If I'm reading this map right, this symbol means that there's some sort of obstacle up there, maybe a day away." The Host said, indicating a symbol on the map. Looking like a lightning bolt with a curve around it, almost like an ear. "I don't know what that is." He paused. "If we backtrack, go a few leagues backwards, we can circle around and go up this path."

"Bad idea," Bully said."We don't have much time, and we know that Kazailibad-"

Rhaem hissed. That name stirred something dark inside his psyche, something that even managed to cast a shadow over his cheerful demeanor. Deep below, locked away underneath layers of willpower, Kasran stirred.

"Hush now," Rhaem cooed. "Go back to sleep."

"He deserves to die," the new one said. He called himself Tasron. He was always snapping with anger, with righteous anger as opposed to the hateful rage of Kasran. Either that, or he was thinking about the Precious Ones, either the Host's Precious One or theirs. All in all, he and Rhaem could be friends.

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