The Shou-Jen and the Founding of Ryuujii
I was shocked to find only the Ryuujii-biased version of the story of Shou-Jen available here on Dereth Isle. Here I seek to correct the story and present it in its true light.
A long time ago, when mankind seized the domain that Grace once ruled, the world was rocked by the sheer audacity of the action. The pillars of Heaven shook so hard that many evil beasts, once imprisoned by the Unicorn and the Firebird in the darkness, broke free of their chains and came rushing back to the world of mankind. These evil beasts were so terrible that nothing in this island of Dereth can compare. They acted as Divine retribution for the pride of mankind.
Of all of them, the Wind Serpent was the most feared. He was a son of the great Dragon Elder. He had seven heads and rode upon the wind, belching forth sheets of fire down to consume entire villages. Some say that the Wind Serpent came of his own will, but others say that the Dragon had secretly grown jealous of the success of mankind, and had sent his son the Wind Serpent in revenge.
But at last the One had pity upon the people, who cried day and night for help. The One directed the Firebird and the Unicorn to forgive humanity and to help them against the Dragon.
And so it was that young Shou-Jen Rian dreamed that he was carried up into a brilliant purple light, where the voice of the Firebird came to him, rich with the splendor of Heaven:
Rise up, Rian of the Shou-Jen! The Unicorn of Grace has seen fit to bequeath unto you what little grace you can bear, and I too will grant you a little bit of the splendor of Heaven. And you already have more power than you think. Slay the Wind Serpent, Shou-Jen Rian, and free your people from their suffering. For this task, I give you the black sword. No mere sword is it, but it is actually one of the great pillars that connects Heaven with Earth. Only while it is in your hand shall it remain a sword; only let it go, and it will turn into its true nature.
When Shou-Jen Rian awoke, he found a black sword in his hand. Bowing his head in gratitude, he said:
Oh great Firebird! I accept your glorious gift of this sword. I will do as you have told me.
The very next day, the screaming of the wind and the shaking of the ground told him that the Wind Serpent was drawing near. He raced up the mountain that overlooked his village, and there he lifted the black sword and cried into the wind:
Mighty Wind Serpent! If you are a son of the proud Dragon, you will hear my challenge. I challenge you to a battle, oh son of Power, and I, a mere human, shall overcome you!
Of course, the Wind Serpent could not ignore this challenge to his honor – not from a mere human. So it was that Shou-Jen Rian saw the terrible sight of the seven-headed serpent descending from the clouds. He trembled in fear where he stood, but holding firm the sword, he waited.
The Wind Serpent opened its mouth and sheets of flame rained down on Shou-Jen Rian. But a blinding light sprang from the sword and protected him.
I see the light of the Firebird around you! cried the Wind Serpent, in anger.
This time, the great beast leaped down upon Shou-Jen Rian and sought to shred him with sharp claws. But a gentle light sprang from the sword, and what should have rent Shou-Jen Rian into two instead slipped harmlessly off.
I see the light of the Unicorn around you! cried the Wind Serpent, in anger.
This time, the Wind Serpent flew up high into the dark clouds, thinking to fling himself down upon the human, and crush him. The clouds grew yet darker and rumbled with the thunder of wrath.
Shou-Jen Rian said, I see the light of the Dragon around you! And with that, he flung the sword up into the sky, toward the Wind Serpent.
But the sword, now free of his hand, grew back into its true form: a great shining pillar that connected Heaven to Earth, from the base of the mountain up through the dark cloudy sky. And down the pillar came the brothers of the Wind Serpent: the Lightning Serpents, the wild and unruly destroyers, faster and brighter even than the Wind.
In their haste to leap to the ground in joyful play, they did not see their brother who rode high in the clouds. Their light burned the Wind Serpent horribly, so much so that he fell, screaming, and a trail of black smoke rose up into the sky. And where the Wind Serpent landed, destroying everything around, new serpents sprang into existence. These new serpents looked like the trail of black smoke that the falling Wind Serpent left as it fell from the sky, and their natures were similarly destructive. They flew off into the storm to cause destruction elsewhere in the world, and they too have been come to be called “Wind Serpents.” But they are nothing compared to their father, the Wind Serpent that Shou-Jen Rian slew.
But in the meantime, Shou-Jen Rian looked down and saw the destruction that the Wind Serpent's fall had caused, and he wept. For his village had lain there. But the Unicorn's gracious voice came to him:
Do not fear; I have called them out, and they are safe.
So it was that Shou-Jen Rian was reunited with his family. Soon, other families, having heard rumors of the fall of the Wind Serpent, came to see if the rumors were true. There were many celebrations, even though their village had been utterly destroyed.
But the Dragon heard the sound of their rejoicing, and saw the remains of his son. Enraged, he himself leaped down from Heaven. Though he had been forbidden to utterly destroy them, he drove the hapless people across the land, burning their crops, destroying their homes, and forcing them to move on.
For years and years the Shou-Jen and all the other families were driven further and further west and south through the land. Some even asked if it might not have been better to be killed by the Wind Dragon, but the family of Shou-Jen Rian knew that the Wind Dragon's end had been ordered by Heaven. Shou-Jen Rian, though by now an old man, knew in his heart that he had done the right thing.
At last, they came to the roaring sea and could go no further, the people turned in wrath against Shou-Jen Rian. They cried, Here we are at the end of the world. Now what would you have us do?
But a dream had come to Shou-Jen Rian the previous night. In the dream, the gracious Unicorn had spoken gently to him and said,
Long have been your sufferings, and long have been your trials. Here at last all can be reconciled. You have chosen the path of hardship and discipline. You do not know it, but the great Dragon secretly fears you for the discipline you have displayed. He does not really wish to fight you, but he does not know how else to regain his honor. Take now a gift of grace, which is this advice: You have two choices. You may either fight the Dragon here upon the shore, at great cost. If you win, then the Dragon will be recalled to Heaven, as I have been, and you shall be free to do as you wish. Or, you may settle here and name your kingdom after the Dragon, and he will have earned back his honor and will become friendly to you, and you will have earned peace for many years.
Shou-Jen Rian presented the choices before the people.
Shou-Jen Rian's family and many others, upon hearing of the choices, cried out: A great Power is the Dragon! We would have such a powerful Elder as our ally. We shall be invincible.
Some, though, remembered how fickle the Dragon had been, and how much truer the Unicorn and Firebird had been. It was the Grace of the Unicorn and the Splendor of the Firebird that saved us from the Dragon and his son. We will never trust the Dragon.
But Shou-Jen Rian was honor-bound to listen first to his own family. So, in the hearing of all the people, Shou-Jen Rian sat down upon the shore and said, This is the new homeland of the Shou-Jen. It shall be called Ryujii, the land of the Dragon. Those who do not wish to ally with the Dragon are free to leave.
And so it was that the Dragon became the friend and ally of Ryuujii.
But six families rose up and built boats, upon which they sailed over the waters and founded the nations of Iiwah and Chiran-tou, dedicated to the better principles of Grace and Splendor. On them, I hope to write more in the future.