After Kirodiel is restored to hyz full faculties in the house of Haziel
near Mt. Anshar hy is supremely angry, because hy knows Chokhmah has con-
trived a final end to Milcom’s scheme of setting aside a private harem of
elohim females. Something has happened. Chokhmah’s new maleness cannot be
ignored. There is no direct link between Thaumiel and Chokhmah’s newborn
eloah named Binah, yet Binah’s link comes through his own link with Chokh-
mah and terminates on Barbelo, as he agreed beforehand that it may.

It is not exactly what Thaumiel expected when he made the agreement, but
such hairsplitting might not be accepted by El later if the whole thing
blew up. The conspiracy is already unraveling and Thaumiel does not wish
to compound his crime. Thaumiel says nothing to Milcom about what has just
happened.Going forward he would only tell Milcom that Chokhmah remains in-
transigent and refuses to mate.

The truncated sex is what angers Kirodiel the most, and hy only refrains
from burning Haziel’s house down when hy sees that har avatar is parked
nearby and it is hyz only way home. Haziel gets one final dig in by de-
bouching Kirodiel in full view of hyz subjects in the center of hyz own
city.It cannot be hidden that Lord Kirodiel has hitched a ride in his ri-
val’s avatar.

After the city of Salem is throughly sub-divided and ruled absolutely, High
Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash and Lord Kirodiel take the balance of their
forces and sail over the Western Sea, then march to the place where the
northern and southern ice come together, one of three such frozen barriers
on Barbelo. There they divide their forces, leaving some to rebuild the
garrison and ice stores that were so thoroughly annihilated by the avatar
of Chokhmah when Princess Khondiel assailed them.

Then Kirodiel leads the army down into the West Lands, and it is the first
such invasion by the forces of family Gerash against any other House since
before the Great Deluge.

When the army of House Gerash is come nigh to the shoreline in the West
Lands a full division of troops from the House of Bellon confronts them.
The division was mobilized when Haziel presented aerial intelligence of the
invasion to King Arman. And though House Gerash had overwhelming numbers on
the field, Lord Kirodiel did not signal them to attack. The white flags of
parley-truce were unfurled, and the High Lord Patriarch came forth together
with Lord Kirodiel to speak to the commander of the Bellon force.

KIRODIEL: Thaumiel himself it is who stands against you. Do not hinder the
faithful of the House of Gerash. Do not send your sons to thwart the jus-
tice of the Army of God, for on the Plain of Judgment they shall be con-
sumed like dry grass! Yield up this Haziel interloper. Abandon your false
deity Chokhmah and turn back to your first love, Thaumiel the All-Merciful,
or the fire of his indignation shall devour your young!

And the commanding Bellon general holds forth the rolled up scroll contain-
ing hyz written orders.

GENERAL: Behold, Great Lords of the White Beards! I have been authorized by
the King to accompany Hyz Excellency the High Lord Patriarch of the House
of Gerash, or the great Lord Kirodiel if hy so chooses, or both as it may
be, to the city of Rumbek for a parley, hy and any reasonably-sized force
Hyz Excellency might deem to be suitable to assure hyz protection. For it
may not be known to Hyz Excellency that the sovereign heads of House Sala,
Antero, and Larund are also convening in the city soon to take council with
the King and Lady Haziel and the Princess Khondiel in exile.

To this parley Kirodiel agrees. Both armies leave the field unblooded. The
Bellon division returns west, taking with them Kirodiel and a single compa-
ny, but not before Kirodiel sends hyz forces north led by Kirodiel.

Under the command of the Gerash Patriarch the army comes to a bay which is
the easternmost finger of the sea. Kirodiel sets a strong perimeter to
catch any Bellon spies, then hy sets hyz whole army to work building many
ships of war. Swiftly a great navy is built by the united forces of the
whole House of Gerash, as insurance, lest the parley in Rumbek does not go
to the liking of Lord Kirodiel, which seems a certainty.

Thaumiel has always delighted in terrifying the people of Barbelo with his
flying avatar, but nephilim are nothing if not adaptable and after a time
they began to think Thaumiel’s gig was getting a little corny. Yet not even
Thaumiel was given to doing anything without a deeper purpose. He was still
riding that hobby horse, his dreary old thesis that all of the planet-
dwellers who had dealings with the elohim cannot follow the simplest set of
arbitrary rules without screwing them up.

From the beginning many beasts were brought from Earth. For the most part
these creatures were benign, and fitted in well with the ecology of Barbe-
lo, or they were herd animals men had tamed from time immemorial. Thaumiel
saw that animals would soon breed far beyond the ability of Barbelo to sup-
port them, and chief among these animals, he knew, would be the nephilim
themselves. So Thaumiel introduced to his planet monstrous predators from
the darkest dreams of mankind to keep them in check. Then was seen on Bar-
belo many monsters and trolls and goblins as well as Leviathan, the monster
under the sea who devoured those who foundered therein. After that Thaumiel
introduced flying dragons, and thereafter all who went about on two legs
had to keep one eye on the sky, for they became the dragon’s prey, as sure-
ly as the small creatures who go on four legs are ever the prey of eagles.

But all the predators created by Thaumiel were merely taken by the nephilim
to be strong threads woven into the growing tapestry that was Barbelo. The
nephilim honored the wisdom of Thaumiel in creating them, and they were not
really very afraid of them. For it is man and not any other beast who are
the most terrible predators the universe has ever known, by utter necessi-
ty, from the first day that fangless, clawless big-brained monkey came down
from the trees in the East African Rift and decided to compete on the sa-
vanna with lions and tigers and bears for meat. And now that man was un-
leashed on an entirely new world so much the worse for that world, dragons
or no.

The dragons made by Thaumiel were immortal if they remained safe in their
aeries, and they bred only very slowly, but they could still be slain, and
lays commemorating the deeds of many dragonslayers, would-be or otherwise,
are still sung in the roadside inns dotting the land. In the end only one
dragon remained alive, and this worm yeng found much too difficult to kill,
for it was the greatest dragon of all. Thaumiel had parked his entirely
mechanical avatar and decided to drive a living avatar that would resonate
with the darkest nightmares of yeng. Thaumiel named it Demonstroke.

In the days after Thaumiel unveiled his new toy, using his dragon avatar to
burn portions of several cities in all the lands, he fashioned a sword made
from a single large diamond and called it Dragonthorn. Thaumiel declared
through prophets that he had infused the blade with a powerful spell bind-
ing the beast. And Thaumiel also declared that the eldest daughter or niece
of the ruler of the Red Beards of the House of Antero would wield the
blade, and the spell would remain unbroken for as long as she remained a

When the virgin held Dragonthorn in her hand, whatever she bid Demonstroke
to do, he would do it, even to allowing the virgin to ride upon him in the
air as though he were a winged steed. The role was a great honor and privi-
lege, but it was also a serious duty. Unleashed, the dragon could lay waste
to all the cities on Barbelo. Control of Demonstroke hung by the slender
thread of the girl’s virginity.

The current Patriarch of the Red Beards, Brogan Antero, loved hez daughter
Kari very much. Princess Kari was not nephilim but fully human, the result
of King Brogan, a jen, crossing with hez human wife, who is now deceased.
Kari has the full beauty of youth and long, bright red hair, and she is on
the very cusp of womanhood. The King is almost supernaturally patient with
Kari, and denies her not the least thing. Even during the frantic prepara-
tions for the Royal Council in Rumbek che is willing to stop and make time
to listen attentively to Kari as though she were the only thing that mat-
tered on Barbelo. The King sits close to her and nods hez head up and down
as she describes for hem the seemingly random images of last night’s dream.

KARI: Parent, I dreamed it was night, and I could see the ground was cov-
ered with sleeping little metal people. Other people came out of the sky in
two tall metal engines of war that spouted fire, but they wore strange ar-
mor, and I could not tell if they were men or women, yeng or yen, boys or
girls, dolls or dirks. The first person picked up one of the small metal
people and took it into the first metal tower, and somehow I knew that lit-
tle metal person was myself, in the strange way of dreams. That first per-
son took us into the sky and we were safe. The second person stayed behind
to pick up as many of the other metal people as he or she could find, but
that person was caught by strange men and killed. Then I awoke.

King Brogan stops nodding hez head and smiles at Kari.

BROGAN: Shall I interpret the dream for you, child?

KARI: Please do, Parent.

To Kari, the King is the most wise jan who ever lived.

BROGAN: The first person in your dream is myself, who am both male and fe-
male. You feel protected around me, which is indeed a good thought, because
my entire will is bent toward keeping you safe. The second person in your
dream is your human mother, who wanted to have other children by me, and
those were all the other little metal people. But she fell victim to poison
in her drink, and was killed by the palace intrigues that never cease here
in Vaska.

KARI: As simple as that, Parent?

BROGAN: As simple as that. Your sleeping mind created images to express
what you felt in your heart. You are still dealing with your grief. I find
solace from the content of your dream that you do not blame me for your
mother’s death.

KARI: Never, Parent!

Kari is shocked at the mere suggestion that she would think that Brogan was
to blame, or even that she might dream it.

The King places a hand on Kari’s head to reassure her.

BROGAN: If you did blame me, even secretly within your heart of hearts,
then your dream would have taken a very different course.

KARI: Beloved Parent, why have you not taken for yourself another wife? Are
you afraid that she would be killed as well?

BROGAN: Not so, Kari. Soon the one adept at poison will come forward and
try to worm into my life, and then I will know who she is. But now we must
set aside your dreams, daughter, and our lingering grief for your mother,
and our lamentation of things we can never change. Queen Aurra Sala has bid
me to come to a great council in Rumbek, and I would have you travel with

As declared by Thaumiel the sexual virtue of Princess Kari must continue
intact to keep Demonstroke under control. The King has always tried to
lessen the burden for hez daughter Kari by letting her believe that a
strong spell to influence others accompanies possession of the diamond
blade, and che denies her not the least thing except a suitor. This delib-
erately-fostered delusion would soon prove the undoing of all.

BROGAN: It is a very great distance across the West Lands from Vaska to
Rumbek, but we will ride together on Demonstroke, for I know how much you
love to do so, daughter.

And at this she beams at hem.

It is said that Demonstroke was as much engine of war as he was living
beast, and King Brogan thinks there must be a glimmer of truth in that. For
what mere beast can contain the fires of the orange sun that is Thaumiel?

Demonstroke’s head bends back over them on its long scaly neck and fire
spews out in a jet that propels the dragon into the sky, pushing Kari
against her parent, and her parent in turn against a bony ridge at the
place where Demonstroke’s neck joins to the rest of his body. And the drag-
on soars into the sky until the air becomes almost too thin for Brogan and
hez daughter to breathe.

Then Demonstroke’s head bends forward again, and he stretches his wings.
With gentle flaps the dragon extends his glide as much as possible as the
largest river in the land of the Red Beards slides by underneath. Then,
when the land has rushed up to meet them and the deadly tops of trees na-
tive to Barbelo nearly brush the belly of Demonstroke, he bends his head
back again and lets loose another long jet of flame.

Over and over again this cycle repeats as the day gives way to night, but
the cycles of fire and glide grow shorter and shorter as they approach the
city of Jelaket nestled high in the mountains that mark the border with the
lands claimed by House Bellon.

Brogan and Keri, well-bundled against the cold, both drift off to sleep as
the dragon flies on through a darkness punctuated by fire, a sleep they
find possible only after many such flights. As they sleep they cross from
mountains to the plains in the east inhabited by House Bellon, and the
lights of lonely, widely separated houses pass underneath in the darkness
far below.

When the glimmer of dawn appears before the king and his daughter once more
they are well over the Magodon peninsula, the heart of the land where
dwells the Brown Beards, and the city of Elketz is seen moving stately to
the west far below. Yet their final destination, the capital named Rumbek,
would not be reached until mid-day.So much the better for Princess Kari,
who loves to fly by dragon.

When everything was done in preparation for the Council of Royals and there
remained only the impending arrival of the great Personages, Queen Aurra’s
two serving wenches Luzea Cedarbranch and Aliwe Halil attain to the aston-
ishing situation of having nothing to do. So they remove to a small empty
nook above the great hall of the airy stone castle high enough to see ever-
ything and wait for the nobles to filter in. Whimsical Luzea, who speaks
only in terribly bad rhyme, utters a verse then:

I sing of final days brought by White Beard.
When noble ones rose against what they feared.
Just close your eyes to watch them meet the King.
Mark two slave women who observe unseen.

Her more wary companion Aliwe laughs a bit at this, but then suddenly grows so-

ALIWE: If they catch us here avoiding work Queen Aurra will have us flogged
until the skin hangs from our back in bloody strips!

Shrugging, Luzea only continues her recitation:

Aliwe Halil is one slave girl’s name
And Luzea Cedarbranch is her flame.
They shirk their toil in Arman’s galley.
“There’s Brogan Antero!” says Aliwe.

Indeed King Brogan Antero of Vaska arrives at the Council first, accompa-
nied by hez daughter Kari, and they look none the worse for their flight by
dragon to Rumbek. King Arman has decreed that no weapons should be brought
into the council chamber, save for the Dragonthorn alone, the ceremonial
blade in the possession of Kari, which she wears in a scabbard on her back.

The Count Berek Antero follows the king into the chamber arm-in-arm with
hyz wife Losna. Hy rules the city of Gerazan, the major Antero city which
lies furthest from the Bellon lands on the lake which is snuggled at the
far west of the West Lands. Gerazan was the breadbasket of House Antero and
produces such a bounty that there exists a trade with House Larund beyond
the ice.

Baron Priam Antero of Jelaket enters next, but no yin accompanies hym. The
baron is the son of Baroness Vandriel Antero and the late Ichor Gerash, a
spy of the House of Gerash who went native rather than passing through to
the East Lands and carrying out hyz assignment against the Black Beards.
The Eyes of Thaumiel subsequently sent more spies to assassinate Ichor, but
hyz son Priam took much better precautions, and when hy had buried his fa-
ther he swore eternal conflict with House Gerash. King Arman, suitably im-
pressed, awarded hym the mountain city of Jelaket, which breeds the best
horses on Barbelo, and supports most of the military forces of house An-

After that Lord Kirodiel makes an unassuming entrance, a stroll without any
pomp or wasted movements that says with no mistake that hy is first and
foremost a solider. He comes with a mysterious black-clad, black-haired
human female he introduces as “Joy” but that is clearly an ironic name, for
her black lips never smile, and her black eyes seem to show forth upon her
pale white face her icy heart within. And it is rumored that this Joy is a
great sorceress from Earth immersed in the martial arts who comes as both
bodyguard and concubine to Kirodiel.

Luzea Cedarbranch is too frightened by this Joy, or possibly too fascinat-
ed, or both, to utter any verse.

Kirodiel knows the aim of this council is nothing less than the formation
of a league of all the houses on Barbelo, which together would be far
stronger than the house of Gerash alone. If that alliance came to be, an
intolerable peace would break out between the eternally warring states, and
that in turn would spark an existential crisis for the White Beards. For
House Gerash has shifted over to an economy based almost entirely on sup-
plying arms to the other houses, or attending to the needs of those who
manufactured those arms. Now, overnight, the entire basis of industry in
the lands ruled by House Gerash could evaporate, unless this nascent league
of kingdoms was stillborn. Kirodiel would attend to that directly.

Next the delegation from House Sala enters the council chamber. Walking at
the side of Queen Aurra is the Royal Consort Duke Evandr Sala. But again
Luzea has no immediate comment. She would lampoon the Queen later during
the meal, to her regret.

The Queen rules from Saharad, in the center of the largest, most fertile
plain on all of Barbelo. It is easy to follow the trend. Left unchecked,
House Sala would simply continue to grow until it outnumbered every other
great family on the planet. Kirodiel did not intend to leave House Sala un-

Following the Queen is the Countess Ayani Sala, recent widow of Aldred
Sala, which (after a suitable mourning period, of course) made har the most
eligible bachelorette in the Land. Many at the Council, however, note the
virtual eye-lock Ayani has with Count Priam Antero. Something is happening
there, and Luzea is slightly disgusted because it is such a naked display
of raw heterosexuality and there has only been two weeks since Count Al-
dred’s death. She says:

Make room in the Sala barn of prize stallions.
The countess eyes a two leg medallion!

Following the countess is har brother-in-law, Baron Bayard Sala of Thor-
grim, who is also eligible for marriage among the noble class, but it is
said hyz tastes ran more to meat of the commoner female variety, which is
contrary to the long tradition of the Sala clan. The Queen knows hy was
probably born that way yet she would sanction no union between har son and
a completely different sub-species. Of the Baron, Luzea sings:

The Baron Bayard is food for many a talebearer.
Noblewomen have no chance, he finds urchins much fairer!

There is no particular order to which delegations come into the chamber,
for it has been chosen by lots, lest some think the sequence represented
the opinion of King Arman of which noble one was greater. Hy only decreed
that the Bellon delegation should come last.

So at this time Lady Haziel enters, accompanied only by Khondiel in har
best Fallen Angel dress uniform. Khondiel has dolled harself up, and wears
another headband Haziel has given har with a brilliant pure white light set
in the center of it. Many of the delegates marvel at this light, but Haziel
tells them later sha is working to bring about a time on both worlds when
such things would be mere trinkets, and an entrance such as made by Khondi-
el just now would be seen as totally ridiculous.

After Talishi and Khondiel are seated at the table the Black Beard delega-
tion arrives. The first royal peer to enter is stalwart King Garund Larund
of Peshast, at the foot of Mount Tureth in the highlands that separates the
lands of House Larund from Haaretz, far below the Wall of God. And though
this astonishing face of rock was an invincible barrier to large armies
moving east or west, there remains a single path, known only to the Black
Beards, which ascends the face of the wall like a narrow ramp. Thus in
small companies House Larund often skirmished with House Sala or raided the
children of Kirodiel in Haaretz. Luzea sang to Aliwe:

Hy rules hillside Peshast where you were born.
The Queen greets hym without a trace of scorn.
Yet their bitter clash of arms claimed har son
And is fresh in the minds of everyone.

The King is followed by the stout and yangly Count Raddai Larund of the
city of Belen, with hyz wife the Lady Irus on hyz arm. This count rules the
chief city of a province with a wide variety of rich veins of ore honey-
combing the hills near the place where the ice forms a barrier to House
Antero. Luzea sings:

Belen the source of much copper and gold
Guarded by the might of Raddai the Bold.

The stylish Baron Kadir Larund follows next, but hy travels only with
aides. His city of Locotin, well up the valley of the River Bandar, is en-
dowed with a verdant forest of gopher wood, a type of lumber that is found
neither on Earth nor on Barbelo, but is a hybrid of trees from the two
worlds, and was used by many ships in the Great Deluge, for it is flexible
enough not to be destroyed by expanding ice. But many other valuable goods
are made from gopher wood. It is easy to cut and work, and the entire city
of Locotin is constructed of gopher wood set in the branches of giant liv-
ing gopher trees. Of Baron Kadir, Luzea sings:


Locotin the arboreal city
Even the Baron lives high in a tree.

And the Larund delegation takes their seats along one edge of the large
six-sided table made, appropriately enough, of gopher wood. Then at last
the hosts of the council, the Brown Beards of House Bellon, make their en-
trance. King Arman Bellon, duke of the city of Rumbek, enters then.

Fishers circle Sealiah in a ring
With all of them subject to Arman King.

King Garand is followed by Count Zelus Bellon of the city of Mandakar, who
comes to the Council with hyz beautiful human wife Tamar from the land of
Haaretz. Mandakar, which lies on the west shore of the fertile island of
Sealiah, is the city that feeds the Brown Beards. Luzea sings:

The more food they grow in Zelus’ valley
The more we toil in Arman’s galley!

The Count is followed by the Baron Kerresh of Elketz, who proceeds at a
stately pace with hyz wife Ainia at his side. Elketz lies at the center of
the range lands of the Magodon Peninsula, where cattle are sold by the head
or by the herd and driven alive to parts throughout the land to be slaugh-
tered. Luzea sings:

Watch your step Baron, when ready to roam,
We just caught a whiff, reminder of home!

When everyone has been seated Queen Aurra Sala stands up.

AURRA: In the name of our God Chokhmah, and in the name of Thaumiel Lord of
Barbelo, I welcome all of you here, and I especially offer much thanksgiv-
ing to King Arman Bellon for hosting our Council in this beautiful city.
The issue before us is nothing less than the question: will there be endur-
ing peace on Barbelo? Therefore I dedicate this Council, the first such
gathering in the history of our world, to the memory of my recently slain
son, Aldred Sala. I implore that each one of you endeavor to find a way to
make Aldred’s otherwise useless death meaningful in some lasting way.” And
after speaking those words she takes her seat to allow the Council to truly

It quickly degenerates into a sort of trial, with an endless chain of accu-
sations against House Gerash left dangling in the air while Lord Kirodiel
attempts to defend against each one of them.

Queen Aurra Sala is the first to give har testimony.

AURRA: I was already in mourning, for the news of the death of my son Count
Aldred Sala traveled faster from the battlefield than the bier carrying hyz
pierced body. But it wasn’t until I saw the stricken face of my consort
Evandr that I submitted fully to my grief. Yet I was surprised to find that
Lady Haziel had come with hym. Then I saw King Garand Larund in the proces-
sion as well and I asked Evandr, ‘Did we prevail in the battle after all?
Is the King our prisoner?’ But Prince Consort Evandr said to me, ‘Lady Haz-
iel brought hym here. King Garand comes under a truce-bond to offer hyz
apologies for the death of our son, and also an explanation.’ ‘It is war’,
said I. ‘What is there to explain?’ But King Garand said, ‘It is a war that
never had to be, Your Highness. Lord Kirodiel came to me in Peshast not
long ago. Hy rolled out a map, and said the Isle of Danya should belong
solely to House Larund, for we had always been mariners, while House Sala
had become more the farmers. Kirodiel said that House Sala holding Danya
was as though the Gold Beards were sticking a finger in my eye. I accepted
the truth of hyz argument at the time. And then very skillfully Lord Kiro-
diel changed the subject from Danya to the superbow.’ And King Garand
brought a superbow out for my inspection.”

King Garand Larund stands up in council to add hyz testimony to that of
Queen Aurra.

GARRAND: The superbow is a sandwich of wood between a layer of sinew in
front and horn in back, all held together from glue made from boiled horse
hooves. The bowstring is made also of sinew from the shoulders of oxen.
When Kirodiel showed this my eyes fairly sparked at the sight of it. And
when I fitted an arrow to it I deemed that only mighty yeng could draw the
string fully back, and when they released the shot, the arrow would fly
half again as far as from any other bow. So I ordered a thousand of them.
And why not? Haven’t all of us done the same for a century, four Houses
against one or a combination of the other, but never all simultaneously
against House Gerash?

AURRA: Thank you King Garand. And if you’ll remember, I demanded to inspect
the superbow myself, and I showed Evandr the curious mark which is also
stamped on every weapon we have purchased of Gerash make. This mark is to
be found in every Sala armory.

GARAND: My cavalry met the cavalry of Prince Consort Evandr Firegem at Fa-
tho. We had somewhat greater numbers, but we faced Gold Beards armed with
bows curved in curious shapes which allowed the archer to hold the string
back without growing weary. That in turn gave them sufficient time to take
a carefully considered shot. I was forced to break off the engagement or
face a mutiny by my own cavalry. But it was not soon enough to save the
life of your son, your Highness Queen Aurra, to my everlasting regret. Hy
fell at a shot from a superbow. As I told you at the time, I am truly sor-
ry. I can never make good your loss.

AURRA: My son is gone, and hy cannot be replaced. Yet something you said
just now, King Garand, might forge some good out of all this. You said,
‘Haven’t we done the same for centuries, four against a combination of the
others, but never all against the White Beards?’ House Gerash has been
playing a double game for too long. Your army was driven off by what Kiro-
diel called a compound bow when hy sold them to us.”

Lord Kirodiel stands up to speak in his defense.

KIRODIEL: I do not deny the essentials of what Queen Aurra and King Gerand
have just related to you. House Gerash is a house of merchants after all.
What I deny is their implication that our dealings with House Larund or
House Sala are nefarious somehow. Are you noble ones making the claim here
today that the pursuit of monetary profit is intrinsically evil?

KING BROGAN ANTERO: It is not. No one here embraces a planned economy. But
as Lord Kirodiel may recall, last year your embassy came to my palace and
sold to me a forest of long pikes made from a new alloy that could pierce
any armor in the Red Beard inventory, and they assured me it would pierce
even the mail of the Brown Beards. And yet during the summer campaign the
yeng of House Bellon were not caught by surprise at all. I was met on the
approaches to Elketz by Baron Kerresh and hyz entire infantry armed with
new plate armor that was miraculously capable of turning aside those very
same ‘innovative’ pikes that your representatives sold me. And so friend
was turned against friend, brother turned against brother, with no small
loss of life, and no one benefited except the arms merchants of House Ger-
ash. It seems that the only planned economy we are really talking about is
that of the White Beards.

KIRODIEL: I fail to see any real significance in this tale, King Brogan.
The pikes we sold you were indeed invincible at the time we sold them to
you. House Bellon merely took advantage of a late breakthrough in metalsmi-
thy. If your house and the Brown Beards insist on carrying out your family
squabbles, we are only too happy to provide the means for to do it, as
surely as we aid House Sala and House Larund in their perennial warfare.”

The lesser noblemen of the four kingdoms tell similar stories of wars that
cross the ice, Larund against Antero, of the whole West Lands united
against the entire East Lands, and they even speak of tussles between
nobles within the same House. And at every point there is the seemingly
omnipresent Lord Kirodiel or hyz representatives selling a problem to one
side and the remedy to the other side. The stories with their common ele-
ments seem to reach back into antiquity.

Princess Khondiel stands up to relate the rise of the Law of Thaumiel among
the White Beards, of the resistance of the city of Salem and the inexorable
transformation of family Gerash to a harsh militarism that went far deeper
than any seasonal skirmishing between the other four Houses.

KHONDIEL: And now the greater part of the Army of Thaumiel is camped in the
eastern marches of this very land, not far from this very city. I have seen
this host myself from the air. This of a certainty tells me that my father
is dead, and the city of Salem has fallen. For of what real import is the
controversy between House Bellon and House Antero if House Bellon entire
falls to the White Beards?

King Arman addresses Lord Kirodiel directly.

ARMAN: Do you deny the report of Princess Khondiel?

KIRODIEL: I deny nothing, King Arman. I have come to demand the return of
the fugitive and common criminal known as Haziel, and to take into custody
the one who facilitated har escape, Princess Khondiel, as well as the hun-
dreds of har accomplices. That is the explanation for my army crossing the

A bell rings somewhere in the castle. Queen Aurra Sala slaps har hands
sharply twice, and that is the signal for har two serving wenches to serve
the midday meal. The Council of Royals have discussed weighty matters in-
deed that morning, but now they pause to enjoy the hospitality of King Ar-
man’s kitchen.

When Luzea Cedarbranch serves a kingly plate of roast beef to Brogan Antero
she ventures to sing to hem:

Born to rule Vaska as her king.
Yet queen-gentle hez words do ring.
Valiant like the yeng of old
Fair like a bust of purest gold.

The King is shocked at first, but then che laughs with self-recognition at
the impromptu verse. Queen Aurra is less amused. Sha growls Luzea’s name
But this merely serves as the trigger for yet another verse from the play-
ful Miss Cedarbranch:

Who rules the city of my birth?
Aurra Sala, the Queen of mirth!

This elicits laughter from everyone at the table except the Queen, who
points directly at Luzea.

AURRA: Tonight. Twelve lashes!

Aliwe bursts into tears for her friend, and Luzea herself is suddenly
shocked into silence. In fact, there is embarrassed silence all around the
table now. Surely the Queen is joking, they think. The whipping tree for
such a small thing?

Haziel catches the queen’s eye and slowly shakes har head, as though to
forbid it. King Arman weighs the wisdom of publicly contradicting the
queen’s command, hy would have no dungeon-style cruelty in hyz own house.
But the Queen’s face remains stern and inscrutable. Luzea and Aliwe are
finished at any rate, so they return to their niche high above the room.

The incident attracts the attention of Aurra’s son, Baron Bayard, who only
recently has come into hyz full inheritance. Hy has been recalled from the
border with the Middle Lands upon the news of the death of his brother. In
fact, hy had spent many years in virtual exile and had not taken a meal
with his mother the Queen for all that time, so hy was not acquainted with
the new serving wench Luzea and her “talent”. Luzea Cedarbranch certainly
caught hyz attention just now, and hy contrives a way to get with her
alone. Bayard clears hyz throat.

BAYARD: Your Highness and my mother, I beg leave to speak.

AURRA: State your piece, son.

BAYARD: Your Highness may not know it was a hobby of mine on the Ice to
contrive certain unusual and severe forms of punishment. Now a flogging is
certainly a painful and terrible thing, especially with a whipping tree,
but it is also such a common punishment on Barbelo that I feel sometimes it
no longer has the desired lasting effect as it undoubtedly did in days gone
by. So by your leave, Mother, turn this slave girl Luzea over to me for
correction. I can assure you in all truthfulness that she will never forget
the experience.

The Queen knows exactly what hy was up to, and hides har smile behind a
hand. It wasn’t like hy was going to come right out and ask har, before all
the royals assembled there, “Mother may I be excused from this meal so I
can go have sexual relations with your slave girl?” Nevertheless, Queen
Aurra realizes har son is on to something. Knowing Luzea’s own preferences,
it would still amount to a very severe punishment of both mind and body,
and the whole thing would be an effective deterrent for the other serving
girl, Aliwe.

AURRA: Then I turn Luzea over to you, son. But let me caution you, if she
is fit to return to work in less than a week I will deem your ‘punishment
far too lenient.

BAYARD: Thank you, mother.

Baron Bayard pushes hymself from the table, and signs to the guards that
Luzea should be brought along. And when the other guests are finished eat-
ing they excuse themselves as well.

When Baron Bayard Firegem is alone with Luzea Cedarbranch in hyz chambers
hy commands her to disrobe, but Luzea balks, saying:

The Queen would give me twelve whistling lashes
I fear you more than a hundred slashes

BAYARD: Nonsense, Luzea, I know you have seen the whipping tree do its
work. It may be one of the tamest form of life native to Barbelo but it is
nasty enough. Twelve lashes means at least two cracked ribs and maybe even
some kidney damage. So remove that dress and let me see what I bought with
my lies to my mother.

Luzea slowly complies, but she is trembling. The baron commands her to lie
back on the bed so hy can drink in the vision of her nude body. Luzea is
lovely, hy thinks, with that untamed female scent he craves, but her purely
animal fear takes all the appeal out of what hy wants to do with her. As
well mate with a captive hare. The Baron sighs.

BAYARD: ou commoners are fortunate. You can do as you like but among the
royal family of the House of Sala we are only allowed to take wife from
among our peers, upon pain of exile. And when the Queen sets her mind to
exile sha has options that are truly outlandish.

Luzea senses that hy is relenting in his enthusiasm for “punishing” her and
her trembling begins to subside a little bit.

BAYARD: Oh, but only if you knew how good you seem to me. I’m a Gold Beard
baron with a decidedly overwhelming preference for unspoiled human women or
nephilim yen.

My Lord endeavors not to let this show
But tell me does your mother the Queen know?”

BAYARD: Yes, Luzea, she has known for a long time. My taste for commoner
female flesh is overlooked as long as I keep things quiet and discreet. But
the Queen is beginning to lose patience.

There is a scratching sound in the ceiling above, and the Baron rolls to
one edge of the bed just in time as a thin ceiling panel gives way. Aliwe
Halil falls to the bed just then, landing on Luzea’s nude body amid many
wooden splinters. One naked leg of Luzea curls around Aliwe almost instinc-
tively with pleasure, a conditioned response from their many sweet nights

The Baron smiles, gets fully dressed, and strides toward the door to leave
them alone.

BAYARD: I do ask that you put my room back in order when you are done, la-
dies. I’ll tell the guards to give you an hour alone.

Before hy leaves hy remembers something and turns to Luzea.

BAYARD: There’s still my mother’s wrath to allay. You will have to feign
some kind of injury so horrible that you refuse to speak of it. I think
that will satisfy her.”

Hy looks at the two of them starting to squirm and tilts his head.

BAYARD: And that should be me there wrapped in your lovely arms and legs,
young Luzea!

Then he closes the door.

As the keeper of the sword Dragonthorn, Kari Antero is convinced that she
has the power to bend the will of everyone around her, even the will of her
father the King. At least, this is what her father constantly assures her,
to hez ultimate undoing.

Some time ago when King Brogan was away, Kari flew Demonstroke all the way
to the city of Thaumiel to put her belief to the ultimate test. Now, while
Queen Aurra’s Council is taking a short recess she once again dismisses the
guards blocking her way to Kirodiel’s chamber and receives yet again con-
firmation of her invincible power of persuasion.

Joy, the woman from Earth, is lounging sensuously inside the Lord’s chamber
like some exotic black cat. In fact, everything about her is black except
her unnaturally pale white skin. Kari tells her she is dismissed also. Joy
raises an eyebrow, but leaves quickly without a single word of protest.

KIRODIEL: How did you get in here?

Kirodiel is angry after witnessing hyz woman being sent abruptly away like
some common servant.

KARI: It wasn’t very hard, I’m very persuasive it turns out. Yet the last
time we met, Lord Kirodiel, you had the stronger power, it seemed.

KIRODIEL: I don’t know what came over me then. And Joy would certainly nev-
er understand if she discovered the truth of the matter. She has very un-
pleasant ways of making her displeasure known.”

KARI: I came to see if your resolve to keep our secret has not withered.

KIRODIEL: You must be thinking of the strict sexual purity required of ev-
ery female entrusted to guard the Dragonthorn blade.

KARI: The penalty for losing my virginity, were it discovered, would far
more terrible than any other punishment in the history of Barbelo.

KIRODIEL: Yes indeed, Princess. A truly terrible fate to contemplate for
any creature no matter what their crime, and sufficiently horrible, in
fact, that in the past it has never been found necessary to mete out. In a
way I’m flattered that you risked that awful fate for a single session in
bed with me.

KARI: So what are your feelings on the necessity to keep the matter, se-
cret, Lord Kirodiel?

KIRODIEL: I find that I still have no desire to reveal it to anyone, and
even thinking about revealing it to another person causes me to be overcome
with a very bad depression that grows worse and worse the closer I come to
making my urge into an actuality.

KARI: It is a shame that it must be so, Lord Kirodiel. When last we met you
said that I had a very lovely ass and could not keep your hands from ca-
ressing it.

Kirodiel puckers hyz mouth in disgust.

KIRODIEL: Princess, right now I wouldn’t reach across your ass to grab a
winning ticket in the Salem numbers racket. I resent very much that you
have somehow cast this spell against me. But your secret is safe, so be
content with that.”There is a long pause before Lord Kirodiel says, “So if
that is all you want, Princess Kari, then please leave.

Kari frowns, pivots on one foot, then marches out of hyz chamber without a
sound. When she is well out of earshot Kirodiel begins to snicker. The ef-
fort it had taken not to laugh the entire time was almost too much for hym
to manage.

Joy emerges from behind a curtain. She had doubled back by secret ways and
listened to almost the entire exchange.

JOY: So that was the girl. What a stupid twit, my Lord! It’s a wonder you
didn’t have done and unleash the dragon on Vaska the instant she came to
you and gave away her so-called virtue.

KIRODIEL: It is not her virginity that controls the dragon, but the sword.
I need only to manipulate her into breaking the sword and then you can take
control of the beast yourself.

JOY: With the sword broken I will have no problem flying Demonstroke. But I
need access to his holding pen, my Lord. There’s a limit to the range of my

KIRODIEL: My guards can get you in easily enough. But tell me, Joy, how is
it that you can make beasts do your bidding, really?

JOY: My lord already knows Chokhmah and Binah have what they call the b’nei
elohim project going on the side. A little below gods we are, the saying
goes, a little above humans. Each one of us has a unique ‘talent’. Mine is
to control animals. I cannot control any beast until Chokhmah or Binah pre-
pare it with something like a bead embedded in its brain. Your dragon,
however, has already been prepared by yourself, Lord. I will merely tap
into that.

KIRODIEL: Good. Then we shall await the moment when Princess Kari breaks
the sword. There must be no doubt in the mind of Haziel and all the assem-
bled ladies and lords that what follows is entirely the fault of the prin-

And though Joy has removed herself to the enemy camp, and serves Thaumiel
with her whole body and soul, it never at any time occurs to her to mention
that Chohkmah and Binah have discovered a way to manipulate history. The
compulsion never to reveal this to Thaumiel, directly or even indirectly,
runs to the very inner core of all the b’nei elohim, faithful or otherwise.

When the table in the council chamber is restored again to order after the
meal and everyone has taken their places, it is Haziel’s turn to state har

HAZIEL: Thaumiel is Lord of this world that we call Barbelo. That no one
denies, and House Gerash has always been especially devoted to him. And yet
the nephilim are not native to Barbelo. Long ago they were grafted in from
human stock originating on Earth, where I reign with my newborn daughter
Binah. Perhaps this is why House Sala has cast their lots entirely with me,
and why the other houses of Barbelo, and even the inhabitants of the city
of Salem in the Middle Land have varying degrees of devotion between the
two deities. This divided loyalty is tolerable to myself, I can assure you,
since I have has always called humans and nephilim the Students, and one of
the most important thing a student can learn is how to think, not what to
think. But I can also assure you that this state of affairs is not tolera-
ble to Thaumiel. I’m quite certain that he has already begun to make his
move to bring this entire world to war, and you will soon discover why he
has maneuvered to keep the other four house off balance and at each other’s
throats. For he does not call human beings students, but rather slaves. I
will not attempt to influence the decision of this council, but I do offer
a warning that if you decide to present a united face to House Gerash, that
afterward you move with supernatural speed, for Lord Kirodiel will then be
presented with no choice but to attempt to conquer each one of the other
four houses one at a time. And now I would bid good King Arman Bellon to
tell his tale.

The king stands up.

ARMAN: Thank you Lady Haziel. Your worlds are weighty and are to be pon-
dered deeply. We here in Rumbek have also played the fool for the arms mer-
chants of House Gerash, despite the formidable water barriers which protect
us on three sides, and the Nine Mile Wall which protects us on the fourth.
At times during the last century we have campaigned often against the Red
Beards and even crossed the Ice to assail House Larund. But for the last
twenty years, with only one recent exception, the aforementioned unfortu-
nate incident with Count Zelus, we have been at peace with the rest of Bar-
belo. That is why when Lord Kirodiel came to me with tidings of House An-
tero building many portable pontoons designed to bridge the straits north
and south of Magodon, I was not panicked into buying the catapults hy was
offering to repulse the supposedly immanent attack.

BROGAN: Lord Kirodiel did offer to sell us the prefabricated pontoons, King
Arman, but I was never tempted to buy any of them.

ARMAN: So you told me, King Brogan, through your ambassador, and thus we
both knew Lord Kirodiel to be a liar. It brought to mind a state visit to
the Middle Land I had made some time prior, when I crossed the Ice and
passed through Salem to Ganelon and thence to the city of Thaumiel. In
Ganelon I saw some of the finest bottom land I have ever seen, better even
than the land around Saharad perhaps, with soil so deep and rich it was
nearly black, yet there were no crops, save weeds.

KIRODIEL: The Middle Land has a manufacturing economy now, not a primitive
agricultural one like the four monarchies.

ARMAN: Your land is indeed a manufacturing economy, Lord Kirodiel, but it
manufactures weapons of war. Solely. Noble ones, let that fact sink in for
a moment. Outside of Salem, everyone who makes a living in the Middle Land
is either employed to make weapons directly, or they support those do.
Their livelihood rests on keeping us at each other’s throats.

KIRODIEL: I will tell you what our economy purchases for us. In a legal
sense even my guards are on the same level as myself, with the same rights
and obligations to the state. Can any of you noble born say the same thing
about yourself and any one of your servants? A lowly apprentice could rise
to attain to my seat on the State Council. Outside of Salem, as you say
(but that is now changing) blood counts for nothing in the Middle Land,
only ability and loyalty to Thaumiel. We are a theocratic meritocracy.

AURRA (standing): Not just individuals but kingdoms, too, may form repub-
lics after a fashion, Lord Kirodiel.” Sha stands up and raises har voice.
“At this time I propose the creation of an entity I choose to call the Un-
ion of Kingdoms. Within each individual kingdom, we royals shall maintain
our absolute sovereignty. Yet decisions which have an effect outside of our
respective borders, such as concluding treaties or going to war, shall be
thrashed out in council chamber with every kingdom fairly represented.

BROGAN (standing as well): I second your proposal, Your Highness. At this
moment you may consider House Antero to be joined to House Sala in a Union
of Kingdoms precisely as you describe.

After Brogan vows to join Queen Alodra’s new Union of Kingdoms, Arman Bel-
lon announces hyz decision to add the land of the Brown Beards to the Union
as well, followed by Belen Larund of the Black Beards, whose conflict with
the Queen had accelerated this Council of Royals, and whose assent now at
the end completes it.

Lord Kirodiel remains sitting. Hy is perceptive enough to know the White
Beards are not and never would be invited into this Union.

KIRODIEL (without looking at anyone): Review your own history, O privileged
ones. Can you remember a single battle between your kingdoms and House Ger-
ash? Or even hearing about one? You cannot, and if you scratch a little
deeper you will find that it was not for lack of trying. We clipped your
little seedling attacks before they could proceed beyond a simple skirmish
and take root. How were we able to do this time after time, you ask? Very
simple. House Gerash, you see, always retains the newest and best arms for
its own defense.

ARMAN: Yet there are unintended consequences to becoming makers of arms
rather than customers. We have a continuous warfighting tradition which you
lack. Take extreme care, then, lest your attacks sputter to nought in con-
fusion and your forces become our prisoners.

KIRODIEL: No doubt your longfathers of old weighed that very thing in their
calculations as well. The wise ones refrained from assailing our Republic.
The foolish ones made their sorties and were repulsed. So this can be no
new warning to you: If ever House Gerash should find your so-called Union
of Kingdoms standing at cross-purposes to our interests, beware.

Princess Kari Antero stands up then, drawing the diamond sword Dragonthorn
from its jewel-encrusted scabbard strapped to her back.

KERI: Lord Kirodiel would also do well to remember that the Middle Land is
not the only realm which can bring unmatched weaponry to the field of bat-

BROGAN (sharply): Nay, daughter! Your king now commands you! Stand down
and restore the sacred blade to its place!

And the King is very wroth because Kari is the only person allowed to be
armed in this chamber, and even that only on a ceremonial basis. A chas-
tened Kari obeys her father the King and stows the diamond blade once more.

KIRODIEL (in a parody of lament): I begin to wonder for what reason I was
really summoned to this Council. To receive threats, and weapons brandished
in my face, it seems.

BROGAN: My daughter’s action was rash, but there is some truth to her word-
s. The meaning of the creation of our Union of Kingdoms is that we shall
never fight among ourselves again. But that must not be construed to mean
we shall never fight again. And there are some mighty ones here who are
worth many times their number in Gerash soldiery.

AURRA: We could have made this a secret Council, and let your people be
caught off-guard by a sudden and inexplicable loss of their livelihood. I
invited you here for one purpose, Lord Kirodiel. The people of the Middle
Land must till their earth again, and make things once more that serve life
rather than end it. They will need a huge head start to begin to make the
necessary changes before starvation sets in. So you witnessed the creation
of the Union of Kingdoms to bring that news to your people in your so-
called republic and give them that head start.

Lord Kirodiel has been holding back his mounting anger for the entire dura-
tion of the Council. Now hyz wrath is taken off the leash, and hy launches
into a long-winded screed against the monarchies of Barbelo that holds
nothing back. As hy rants, hy skirts dangerously near to revealing Kari
Antero’s awesome secret, yet without actually crossing the line.

As Kirodiel fully anticipates, the Princess rises from her seat and ap-
proaches hym with Dragonthorn drawn from its scabbard once more, in open
defiance of her father the Red Beard king. The sword is pointed directly at
Lord Kirodiel’s heart. So shocking is this sight all the other royals are
struck dumb at the spectacle, even Brogan Antero.

When Kari Stronghammer is standing near enough to threaten Kirodiel once
more, she speaks again.

KARI: Lord Kirodiel must give account for the loved ones each one of us
have lost due to his lies!

And she raises Dragonthorn to strike hym. Aliwe Halil, also standing near-
by, freezes in the act of filling Lord Kirodiel’s flagon with wine.

King Arman is furious and finds hez tongue first.

ARMAN: Princess Keri Antero, hold! I gave my word to grant Lord Kirodiel
safe passage to Rumbek for the purpose of attending this Council, and my
word holds firm. Lord Kirodiel of House Gerash shall be sped to the border
with all haste, and I swear that no harm shall come to hym! Stand down,
daughter! Put away your blade. As your king and father I command you!

KIRODIE: Noble ones of the Council, I believe I know precisely what it is
that is really disturbing the Antero Princess.

But before the human incarnation of Thaumiel can continue to speak, Kari
assails the unarmed yang with Dragonthorn, the legendary blade that, they
say, cannot be turned by iron mail nor even the hardest stone.

Instinctively Aliwe Halil brings up a silver platter she is using to carry
wine as a pathetic shield to try to protect Lord Kirodiel, knowing full
well it will just be demolished by the beautiful diamond blade, perhaps
sliced in two along with her arm, but Aliwe’s first impulse is to act in
such a way that carries out the stated will of King Arman. But to every-
one’s surprise the Dragonthorn shatters against Aliwe’s makeshift silver
barrier, and glittering broken diamond shards of the ancient blade fall to
the ground at Kari’s feet.

Baron Bayard Sala begins to marvel that this Aliwe girl always seems to be
exactly where she needs to be, exactly when she needs to be there. Aliwe
replaces Luzea as foremost in his erotic thoughts.

Only Lord Kirodiel finds his voice.

KIRODIEL: You have been remiss in your education as well as in your duties
as priestess, my dear Antero Princess. It seems the ones who instructed you
did not mention that when the spell is broken with the loss of your virtue,
Dragonthorn becomes nothing more than a diamond in the shape of a blade.
Beautiful, yes, harder than anything known, but as brittle as glass! My own
body mail would have done as much as that servant’s silver plate.

But far more astonishing to Kari than the destruction of the Dragonthorn
blade is Lord Kirodiel suddenly breaking her magic spell of persuasion com-
manding hym to be forever silent about her seduction of hym once upon a

Lord Kirodiel correctly interprets the shock of this development on her

KIRODIEL: Foolish girl, you never had the power to persuade anyone to do
your least bidding, and if King Brogan thought to make you believe that so
your life might be a little more pleasant as you waxed old in your spin-
sterhood, then more fool che, for the pretense has led to the undoing of
you both!

For no mortal flesh can withstand the pure white fire of Demonstroke and
live. Keri is rapidly consumed where she stands as the dragon hovers out-
side the chamber on great strokes of his articulated wings, harnessed by
the dark sorceress will of the mysterious Earthwoman named Joy who now
rides upon his shoulders.

It would have been a simple thing for Kirodiel to command Joy to reduce all
of the chief Peers of the Land assembled there to piles of ashes, not the
least hyz most dangerous foe Princess Khondiel, yet for now Kirodiel has
determined that Kari alone should die. In so doing hy shows contempt for
King Brogan’s earlier claim that some of the nobles assembled there indi-
vidually are worth many Gerash soldiers on the field of battle. Lord Kiro-
diel deems it more important to leave them alive for a time, that their
minds might encompass the fullness of hyz triumph and thus fall into de-
spair before he contrives their final end.

Later some of the royals even thought that Lord Kirodiel had done the thing
out of a greater kindness, so that Princess Keri would not suffer the pen-
alty of her abomination, and certainly that peculiar tradition of the mon-
archies filled even Thaumiel with disgust.

With the dragon Demonstroke’s smoking open mouth menacing the royals none
dare to stop the hysterically laughing Lord Kirodiel from joining hyz lover
Joy on the back of the dragon as both of them make good their escape into
the air.
The Great Sea of the West Lands is divided in twain by the peninsula of
Magodon, as large as Florida and anchored to the mainland on the west. But
sheer cliffs rising as much as four hundred feet guard every approach to
Magodon by sea. This natural wall is made of soft sandstone and cannot be
scaled by any army. At the foot of these bluffs all around the peninsula
lie impassible swamps that would swallow horses and trap the wheels of

Also none can pass by land around the Sea to the north or the south. There
roaring waves run nigh to the very Ice, and oft vast slabs of unstable ice
melt and slide into the sea with a great thunder. No permanent road can be
carved, no tunnel bored, to permit passage east or west.Thus King Arman had
thought Lord Kirodiel to be a big fat liar for suggesting House Antero was
preparing to invade Magodon from across the water. For only at the utter-
most eastern tip of the peninsula of Magodon can armies pass, but this is
guarded by the Nine Mile Wall and also by several small islands bristling
with fortified settlements, including the chief city of Rumbek.

So the Bellon capital has long been the main bulwark against any Gerash
incursion, protecting not only the Brown Beard’s lands in Magodon and be-
yond, but also the lands of family Antero and Larund far in the west. As
for the other invasion route, assuming House Gerash could subdue House
Sala, their army would be stopped by the Wall of God in the east of Haa-
retz, blocking any further travel east.

So believing there was still much time, most of the nobles who had attended
Queen Aurra Sala’s council, including the queen harself, lingered in Rumbek
after the Council abruptly ended with Lord Kirodiel and Joy departing on
the back of the dragon Demonstroke.

In the immediate aftermath Haziel whisks King Brogan by her avatar to Jela-
ket, where he begins to organize the immediate deployment of the greater
part of the forces of House Antero to ride with all haste to the east to
come to the aid of House Bellon. Che does not know how long it will take
for hem to return with hez forces, yet Princess Khondiel deems this is the
only hope that Rumbek would survive the impending onslaught of House Gerash
despite the existence of the Nine Mile Wall.

As for Haziel and Khondiel themselves, they return to their home on Sealiah
Island to ensure the Fallen Angels are fully prepared to aid the Brown
Beards in the coming war. The general feeling is that of a calm before a