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The Princess Khondiel is formidable enough, but now her father is throwing his weight behind her Fallen Angels.

At dusk in the castle Brys, Khondiel came before the king and it broke his heart to see the look of absolute despair on the face of his daughter. He knew that her teacher Talishi had been paraded before her in chains.

In the beginning I was a servant of Belial, King Gordiel said, but the people have embraced Chokhmah and now I find the counsel of our gods have sundered one from another. I have a difficult decision to make.

Belial makes war upon yin, father. This is not who we are.

He said to her, This city can no longer be called a sanctuary to you or your Fallen Angels. Soon every hand of House Gerash will be raised against us. I am thinking of the safety of my subjects.

Khondiel's eyes fell with disappointment. She timidly asked, Then are you to command us to leave the city at this time my father and liege-lord?

He smiled gently, and glanced also at her two female companions. Far from it, beloved daughter. I would ask you to command your Fallen Angels in league with the forces of the city. Because what you say cannot be denied. We did not agree to the oppression of yin.

And Khondiel broke royal decorum to embrace her father in love.

That night she adjusted the armor and helmet she borrowed from her father's armory, padded out her curves, and put on false facial hair to offset her soft features. Then she drifted into the camp of the army of Belial fetching water for the men and moving toward the summit of the hill where Talishi was held captive, guarded by two yeng warriors. As was true every night, Talishi's cage was covered with a dark canvas to keep Belial's soldiers from leering at Talishi instead of watching for Khondiel as they were ordered to do. The uniform worked well. Khondiel could swagger with the best of them. The guards permitted her to enter with a torch and a ladle of rancid water. She appeared between the canvas and the cage.

Khondiel! Talishi husked, filled with joy, but immediately she was also filled with consternation. Nice beard.

Hush! Take my headband. It was a green flexible band of intricate make, a gift from Talishi that she said was made by Binah, for in the center it possessed a brilliant white light which allowed Khondiel to move on the darkest nights, and there was none like it anywhere on Gorpai.

Talishi said, No. That was my gift to you, Khondiel, and my gifts are without repentance.

Khondiel said, You will have to make an exception this time, and she passed it to Talishi between the interlaced bars. This is the only thing I have which says 'Khondiel was here' without any mistake. Now Israel will come in here and gloat over you like evil warlords always do. At that time I want you to let him see you have my headband. That's my message to him: I can come or go at will.

Israel is Belial, Talishi warned. But it will rattle him good.

Khondiel said, Belial, you say? Good. The more yeng he has guarding you, the less yeng he'll have on the field of battle tomorrow.

Talishi smiled at her. I knew you had a plan for getting me out of here, Khondiel. This one might even work.

And then they shared the most heartfelt kiss of their lives, and the first truly passionate one, knowing it could very well be their last kiss. Then Khondiel left, promising to return with two armies to get Talishi loose.

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Strangers In Paradise