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House Gerash stores many provisions in the ice caves that are their ancient homes and are not best pleased by intruders from either direction.

King Gordiel, with the aid of Khondiel and her Fallen Angels, had prevailed against Belial as it is recounted in the Buron, but the king knew time was not his ally. For he waxed infirm, and knew his death swiftly approached, and none of his subjects believed Gordiel would anoint his like as successor king. Certainly Gordiel was unwilling to anoint his daughter for what promised to be a very brief reign. So the king commanded Talishi, Khondiel, the Fallen Angels, and all others willing to go with them to embark on a quest long in preparation to sail from Aramel across the Ramman Sea until they reached the far shore in the uttermost west of the Middle Lands.

Thence they were to ascend the staircase of foothills and mountains that led ever up to the Ice, the ancestral home of family Gerash, where many provisions were stored up against the day of a third Deluge. But in the prepared caves and tunnels of the ice fierce battle was assured, the King warned them, for the stores were known to be stoutly defended by the vigilance of Belial's forces from any who would raid them, whether from east or west. But the King knew Khondiel stood a fighting chance to win through.

If they prevailed at the caves, then continuing due west for many leagues, the ice and snow would begin to fail, and descending once more the travelers would come at last to unfrozen soil in the West Lands and the fastnesses of the Brown Beards, Family Bellon, who are no friends of the Gerash patriarch, and would certainly welcome any refugees from the Middle Lands.

Talishi thanked King Gordiel for his faithfulness and service to Chokhmah, and took her leave of him, knowing full well they would never meet again. With Talishi went also the king's daughter Khondiel (who was inconsolable), all her Fallen Angels, and hundreds of others from across the Middle Lands who had fled to Aramel to escape the harsh edicts of the Law of Belial.

But soon after the wayfarers departed, it seemed a light went out of the eyes of Aramel's king, and the name of that light was Princess Khondiel. So he swiftly declined, and went the way of all flesh, and was buried in a lavish tomb. The people of the city mourned his passing for thirty days.

Then the army of Belial marched through the city unhindered, and Belial himself appointed a new king over the city who laid a heavy tax on the people in penalty for their rebellion, over and above the tax that came in with Belial's reforms. For it was the Law of Belial that in every four day work period the people could keep the fruit of their labor from three days, but the increase of one day was to go to the maintenance of the army, and to the Eyes of Belial, and to Belial's temple priests. But upon the people of Aramel was laid a second yoke, for the fruit of the labor of yet another work day was to go the upkeep of the new forces which garrisoned the city. Thus the people could only keep half of what they earned.

The Eyes of Belial multiplied in Aramel like flies. Houses could be searched on a whim. There were many checkpoints in the city, and even children were put to cruel torment for the smallest of transgressions, yet none were permitted to depart to other cities in the Middle Lands. So matters would remain until a whole generation of Aramelites had passed away, according to the decree of Belial, but ever after any nephil who spoke with the accent of the far west would bear a stigma among the White Beards.

Those who accompanied Talishi on her sojourn fared little better. As King Gordiel had foreseen, the Ice caches which lay across the sole passage west were defended, and there was hard fighting before the exiles won through, and barely half of the refugees who had set out from Aramel walked down to the shore of the Eastern Sea of the West Lands to gaze at the fertile Isle of Sealiah. But no defenders survived in the ice garrisons of House Gerash, which would infuriate Belial when he learned of it somewhat later.

And Talishi was brought by ship to the city of Rumbek to present her petition before Lord Irmgard Bellon, the Patriarch of the Brown Beards.

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Strangers In Paradise