Chapter 113: All Hail Rhaedrashah

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They have tried to encourage the lower natures of man, encouraging the demons that dwelt in the soul to take precedence. They had fostered rage and anger, and sought to turned it against fellow man, against the other races, against the other tribes. 

But that rage was tempered with virtue. So when the Eight fomented rage, expecting to release demons upon the earth, they found instead vengeful crusaders, angels of wrath, ready to rise against the Eight and slay them. 

***

Something had changed. 

It had changed in a fashion so subtle, on a plane of reality separate from the gross consciousnesses of the masses. It was a plane not of matter, but of spirit, of ideas and emotions. Here, the whorls and eddies of the thoughts rippled around the souls of all, in every place and time, for here, time and space were one and the same.

Here, a battle was taking place, a battle that was simultaneously a debate and a duel. Words became weapons, ideas became the strength behind them. This battle had taken place before, and it would take place again, over and over again. 

It was a battle between decadence and virtue, between lies and truth, between selfish lust and selfless love, between dark and light, between madness and reason. These forces lined up, clashing again and again at the skirmish lines drawn down every age, down every culture, down every soul. It was a war waged between hope and despair.

Yet for a long time, there was disorder among the side of light, of hope, and of good. A champion of the light, a standard-bearer of virtue and good, not chosen by destiny, but uplifted by the light he held, had fallen into darkness. In the slough of madness he had wallowed, thrown in there, held within there. He had held forth an argument that had become incoherent.

But now, there was light regained. The argument became clear, and the light had returned. 

The champion rose again, proud and radiant. 

And once again, the dark trembled.

***

Laidu stood in a void of white, a field of brilliant light, staring up at the beast that had resided within his head, once shattered and mad, but now whole and terrifyingly sane.

He was a warm gold, the same shade as Laidu's scales, and looked similar to the small, dog-sized dragon Rhaem manifested as. Of course, Rhaem had looked kind of cute, and this being wasn't adorable at all. Instead, he exuded a sense of fear and dread, as if standing in his presence was a terrifying danger.

He stood on four legs, like Rhaem had, but unlike Rhaem, his legs were corded with muscle, ending in sharp claws. His head had the same rough shape as Rhaem's had, but also had a mane of frills and three pairs of long, saber-like horns, instead of the stubs that the smaller voice in Laidu's head possessed. Giant batlike wings erupted from his back, bearing some tears and scars of old wounds, and across his face, raking over one brilliant gold eye, claw marks separated the golden scales of his forehead. He was solidly built, a powerful beast, and he glared down at Laidu.

This was Rhaedra. "So, you're Rhaedra," Laidu said.

"Normally, one addresses the King of Dragons as Rhaedrashah," the dragon grumbled. "It is an insult to my honor otherwise, and such insults are rectified with blood."

"You're in my body." Laidu glared back at him. "King or not, you won't be trying to rectify any insults to your honor."

"Your impudence does not become you." He lowered his head, pulled his wings in closer to his body and growled, stalking closer towards Laidu like a panther. "Have you not heard the songs sung of my victories? The tales told of false kings I had slain?" He moved around Laidu, his growl inspiring terror. "Do they not speak of my power? My scales shine brighter than the sun, and are stronger than the eldest of mountains! My horns are stronger than the lances of a thousand kingdoms, my teeth sharper than swords of a thousand empires! My eyes see into the night as if the moon blazed forth like the sun, and all is revealed before my gaze! My wings blot out the sun, and my claws carve up the land! My roar echoes farther than the east and west winds, bringing fear to all who hear its call! My breath ushers forth death, whether by scorching flame or withering frost! So then, frail child of man," he said, staring right into Laidu's eyes, his head suddenly inches away from Laidu, "have you not heard of me? Why are you so impudent?"

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