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Although Belial had placed Major Rogziel in authority over all of his Eyes of Belial priesthood, a group of five Eyes led by one Balberith came to Rogziel and ordered him to join them in the hangar with the angel of Belial to answer for a certain recent development of some interest.

"You will hand me your sword, Major," Balberith told him, and Rogziel, sur- rounded by the five armed yeng, had no choice but to comply. They searched him roughly for any other weapons or paraphenalia he might use to evade judgment should Belial declare him a traitor, as they were quite convinced he would. Then Rogziel was frog-marched into the hangar, with very little of his dignity remaining to him.

The five Eyes of Belial prostrated themselves before the angel and com- pelled Rogziel to do the same with a rough kick. Then Balberith stood up and said, "Your pardon, Lord Belial, but a matter has come to our attention that we believe proves your trust in Major Rogziel is misplaced and un- founded."

Belial said, "Come closer, Balberith, and state your piece."

Balberith walked reverently forward a few more paces and said, "We know, Lord, that you commanded Rogziel to draft orders to Commodore Lahatiel of the Exiler to investigate the Iron Fist organization at Xanthos and destroy them. Instead, the Exiler has gone to the prison at Rhene and set free a notorious rapist and murderer, which will dismay certain very powerful clans on Gorpai when they learn of it."

"Is that true, Rogziel?"

"Yes, Lord, Captain Balberith's report is correct in every sense."

Emboldened, the Eye of Belial engaged in a little speculation. "Lord, this Commodore Lahatiel could not have ordered the release of Elimelech on his own authority. Only Rogziel acting as your most senior lieutenant could have swayed Warden Achimel. We have come to believe that Major Rogziel has done nothing but lie to you since he arrived here, Lord Belial, and hy is really serving your enemies."

"What say you to that, Major Rogziel? Did you really authorize the Commo- dore to release this prisoner called Elimelech."

"Yes, Lord."


"Lord, there are sixty-one identical domes that make up the city of Xan- thos. Your orders are to destroy the dome containing the headquarters for the Iron Fist organization, but few know where it is even among that city's own residents. Elimelech is an important figure in the Iron Fist. By re- leasing Elimelech from Rhene and setting him free at Xanthos, he will lead the crew of Exiler straight to the proper dome, and that is the dome that will be destroyed."

"Can the Exiler really track him from space, my old friend?" Belial asked.

"Lord, this crew put together by Commodore Lahatiel is absolutely the rari- fied foam on top of the cream of your naval crop. I trust that hy knows exactly what hy is doing, and I think we could all use a little bit more of that trust around here.

"Frankly, Lord, these are all tiny details which can be handled without your personal attention, and I am embarrassed for you. It was your will to appoint me to this position, Lord, and I find my mere presence here before you now, which was made mandatory by these same five Eyes of Belial, to be an unforgivable insult against your judgment far more than a simple expres- sion of disrespect against my office and authority."

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Strangers In Paradise