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The icy world of Gorpai, from the warm and snug avatar of Binah in orbit.

When the avatar of Binah rose into the sky again over Aramel there was much shaking, and Talishi was gradually pushed back into her seat with greater and greater force. As the weight piled on, Talishi began to cry. She was brave, but she had reached her limit. After a time the shaking stopped, and Talishi was no longer pressed into her seat. She felt blessedly free, as though she were swimming. Only the knotted ropes kept her from bouncing around inside the small space at the top of the central pillar.

The avatar of Binah performed a half-rotation until the curved white bulk of Gorpai could be seen by Talishi outside of the many small windows, and the sky was no longer purple but black, yet it was not night, for the yellow and orange suns remained in place. Binah said, That is your world, Talishi. You see it is a spinning ball, and the suns do not tunnel under the ice like you have been taught.

I had thought it to be a ring, Lord, Talishi said. Some adventurers have reported penetrating the ice in the far west of the West Lands and arriving in the far east of the East Lands. To repeat their stories is discouraged.

The avatar made a curious sound Talishi could not identify. This was the manifestation of Binah's equivalent of a laugh, and Talishi expressed fear that she had somehow offended Binah. But Binah said, I am experiencing the delight of surprise. Intelligence to go with your fearlessness. Chokhmah will be pleased that I brought you.

Binah rotated the avatar to put the bright bulk of Gorpai and the two suns out of sight. Now Talishi could see stars shining brightly through the portals. The first thing you must learn, Talishi, is that stars are faraway suns. And her mouth opened in wonder, because she had never encountered that idea before. It greatly magnified the scale of her reality.

They flew in a curving path high over the northern Ice, and the narrow yellow and blue equatorial belt that was the inhabited portion of Gorpai passed over the horizon and out of view. Almost the entire world of Gorpai was covered in at least a thousand feet of ice. Precipitation was greatest at the poles, where the world-glacier was miles thick. And these giant icecaps moved very slowly, grinding the surface flat.

At the narrow equatorial belt, temperatures were warm enough to melt the ice. The great glaciers of the northern and southern hemispheres came to an end and huge chunks of ice sheared off, fell to the ground, and melted, the source of water for many rivers and lakes. As the twin ice packs advanced and retreated, they left behind long ridges of loose till piled in low terminal moraines. And rarely, active volcanoes formed under the ice and burned their way to the surface. Mount Anshar was one of these. The northern ice gave way around the bulk of Mount Anshar and closed back up again many miles to the south, forming a small territory of land in the shape of a teardrop which was free of ice. And it was here that the avatar of Binah reached landfall once again.

Thermal features abounded in the land of Anshar, keeping the many lakes and ponds from freezing despite the extreme northern latitude of the place. So far was Anshar from the inhabited places along the equator that not even Family Antero had discovered it when they roamed the northern ice before the Second Deluge.

When Talishi climbed back down through the central pillar and reached the ground again, she was startled, because someone was waiting for her there. It looked like a slender nephilim, perhaps a yin, who was encased entirely in featureless white, even the face, which remained perfectly smooth, with not even eyes to see or mouth to speak. Yet see and speak it could still do, for it said, Welcome, Talishi. Behold the avatar of Chokhmah. And it held its arms out for her inspection.

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Strangers In Paradise