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Abaddon knew from the beginning that Azibeel was possessed by Hunky, but hy decided to wait and see what the dirk could do in the death combat before hy killed hym. Abaddon never had high hopes for Azibeel before the posses- sion. In the negotiations with the father of Haziel which cleared the way for that yang's son to have a crack at Abaddon's son, Azibeel insisted on the right to establish the conditions of the match. Hy chose a variation of Freeball hy made up on the spot, Combat Freeball, with knives.

As the match drew to a close Haziel placed all six of his dirks in a ring, who hoped by sheer numbers to capture Azibeel and fling hym at armed Haziel for the kill. At the referee's first whistle Azibeel's closest team- mates curled into fetal positions at hyz feet, and hy was also curled up. At the second whistle all three made themselves straight as fast as they could. Azibeel surged forward and the other two dirks were flung back.

When Azibeel was joined by hyz Van and Wingbacks, the Flankers reached the elastic end cap feet first and kicked back off again, perfectly timing it to take advantage of the thumping rebound. Spinning on hyz long axis now to make him harder to grab, Azibeel reached Haziel's defending line. Azibeel's Wingbacks had overtaken him and joined to face Haziel's defenders too. Freeball was a contact sport. Azibeel's team kicked and punched to form a narrow tunnel for hym to drill through, scattering bodies like bowling pins. Forbidden to stab the unarmed dirks, Azibeel bent and twisted hyz body like a maggot to wriggle free. Stinging from blows, Azibeel reached a wall feet first and did a dance. Left foot sticks, right foot kicks, hy chanted,

launching hymself out again to chase after Haziel.

Haziel and one of his flankers linked hands to swing off each other and change course, tumbling head-over-each-other's-heels. Thus, Haziel was flung after Azibeel, but he was left flailing with a yaw rotation he couldn't control. By chance, when they met, they were both in a poor position to strike each other, but Haziel's position was slightly poorer. Azibeel slipped his blade between his Haziel's ribs and pierced his heart.

The match was televised across the empire, and everyone knew Abaddon did not cheat to favor hyz son. The Emperor was overjoyed. No one had ever seen him happy. Ever. On a whim hy made young Lahatiel the rank of ophan.

At this the Eyes of Belial grumbled, and Balberith even protested openly. Lord, we have very good reason to believe this dirk has slept with hyz sister on the ship before the ritual combat demanded by your holy law.

Belial had never really cared about those sexual prohibitions. Hy had used them to try to pit the planetdwellers against their own instincts. Now it suited hym to ignore his own law, and Abaddon said as much. Balberith accused Lahatiel and his sister of bewitching Abaddon into spouting heresy.

Abaddon replied by asking Lahatiel if he desired anything. Anything at all. Lahatiel faced Balberith and drew out the yang's own blade from the sheath dangling from his side. You speak of heresy and in the same breath imply it is possible for our Lord and God to fall under the spell of mere nephilim! And with that blade Lahatiel brutally butchered Balberith.

How many dependents were attached to the officers manning Exiler?

Arioch, next in line after Balberith, quickly answered Abaddon, saying, There were a total of sixteen yin and all their children.

Lahatiel, today I have made you a flag officer, entitling you to eight wives. You may take your sister Nuriel and any seven of those sixteen yin, whosoever of them pleases you the most. The rest shall be returned to their fathers. You are my chief lieutenant now! Choose a new crew for the warship. In the days to come I am going to rely on you to deal with the issues presented today by Binah and hez blasphemous starship.

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Strangers In Paradise