Chapter 59

From Peshast, Baron Bayard Sala leads Haziel’s dwindling party west through a maze of footpaths that winds through the hills that border the Wall of God. With the baron goes hyz commoner servant Aliwe, and from time to time Bayard stoops to pick up an agate and hands it to the girl. Victoria notices that hyz fingers linger on Aliwe’s hand as she takes the stone from hym, and the expression on the girl’s face is hard to decipher.

For the first time since joining Haziel’s group, Victoria looks at Aliwe very carefully and is surprised to see that the girl’s face has features that strongly remind Vic of her own. But there are also things in Aliwe’s appearance that remind her of Baron Bayard. Vic doesn’t know what to think.

The quest moves at the pace of the oldest and slowest person among them, Count Berek Antero, who is entirely aware that hy is holding everyone up. Hy also misses hyz wife Losna who has stayed behind at Gerazan, and hy is not entirely sure hy is prepared to endure the Catwalk as Bayard has described it. Yet hy is a thoroughly honorable yang who wants to aid Haziel in every way that hy can. So hy is torn by an internal debate as hy trudges along.

Victoria looks at Haziel and sees how har legs have become muscled and wiry. The walk has aged har a decade. Haziel is more handsome now than beautiful. Victoria and Haziel both know full well that beauty has a sell-by date. Haziel regrets only that sha would never grow old together with Princess Khondiel.

Behind them goes a single company of Fallen Angels, only about two hundred forty yin now. Two of every three have elected to stay behind in Peshast and disband, and gloomy Berek warns Haziel that some of the yen who elected to tag along are certain to fall. The law of averages would claim them and there is little anyone could do.

At length the Baron leads them south on a footpath that gently climbs up a long wooded ridge. It looks like a simple trail, but Baron Bayard assures them it will become the Catwalk when they walk a little bit further. They all look back down the way they have come. They are now at an altitude where the trees are stunted and sparse, so the views east are unobstructed and spectacular. But at the summit of the ridge the view west is absolutely beyond belief.

Nineteen thousand feet below them lies the land of Haaretz in its entirety, even to the great sea known as Thalury. In one glance they take in both the Northern and Southern Ice, walls little higher than the Wall of God itself, racing west and drawing together until both they and Thalury slip over the horizon. Nowhere else on Barbelo is the spherical shape of the world so apparent.

To the south the trail slips below the ridge and becomes an ice-carved wall almost concrete smooth, and the travelers can see how the trail transforms into the infamous Catwalk, a lip only three feet wide where the cliff juts out and falls once more. As hy feared it would be, all of this is far too much for Count Berek Antero. “I am deeply sorry,” hy says. “I have already delayed the quest, but now I see I cannot go on.”

“I would say that you have made a noble decision, Highborn,” Aliwe says, and not a few Fallen Angels come to the same wisdom as Count Berek. Haziel’s party whittles down to some one hundred fifty souls.

Haziel suggests that they make camp and embark on the Catwalk in the morning when everyone is well fed and fully rested. But rest will not come for many of them. In the morning there is little speech, for the enormity of the task ahead has weighed in everyone’s mind all night.

As Count Berek also had feared, the law of averages begins to take its toll. About once every hour or so the silence of the trek is broken by the terrified scream of a yin somewhere far behind Haziel slipping off the Catwalk and falling to har death. Waiting for the next one to fall becomes a constant and living horror that none would ever be able to banish from their memories for as long as they lived.

There comes a moment in the quest when Baron Bayard makes a move to fondle Aliwe, and Aliwe tries to back away from hym. The problem is there just wasn’t much backing-up room on the Catwalk, and she, like some of the Fallen Angels behind her, slips off the face of the Wall of God.

There is no scream but Victoria sees everything and flies down after her, not even taking the time to think that Aliwe’s weight would be too much and there really is no saving her. Didn’t she say as much before they embarked on the quest?

Below the Catwalk the Wall of God is not perfectly vertical. Victoria cannot stop Aliwe’s fall but she can push Aliwe out of the way of any stony outcroppings as she approaches them. Aliwe tells Victoria to let her go, and reluctantly, Victoria has to arrest her own descent and let Aliwe slip away to impact the broken talus at the base of the cliff.

Victoria continues down at a smaller pace, trying to estimate where Aliwe’s body bounced so she can attempt to bury her. But when she finds her, Aliwe is smiling, none the worse for wear. She is standing in a small woody glen at the base of the Wall of God. They are at least three thousand feet below the Catwalk where the rest of the party waited for any sign of them.

Victoria finally guesses that Aliwe is b’nei elohim like herself, but one she never knew.

“I’m the daughter you haven’t had yet,” Aliwe explains. “Mom.”

Victoria smiles back. “It makes sense. I thought you had my cheekbones.”

“And I have Baron Bayard’s eyes.” She knows the implication of that statement has sunk in when Vic stops smiling. “Sorry I ‘slipped’ off the Catwalk, but I had to get Bayard to turn his attention to you. Otherwise the ick factor would have been too much and I wouldn’t be born in this loop. Besides, as you can see, my own particular talent is indestructibility.”

“Like Del?”

“Similar. I can heal myself with supernatural speed but I can’t heal anyone else. Aren’t we superheroes all supposed to have a weakness, like Kryptonite? And even Del can only fix so much.”

“Let’s see. Bayard is a yang, so I guess that makes you an ambi?”

“A very feminine jen, actually.”

“You are here so it means we win, right? Binah and Chokhmah survive?”

“We win, they live, Thaumiel dies. This quest is important. Thaumiel has this weird passive-aggressive thing going on with his dragon where he can assail any city or army on Barbelo and it’s all Keri Antero’s fault for getting laid and breaking the Dragonthorn. After you kill the dragon he has to decide whether to use his first avatar in the same way, but either way, he loses. If he uses it, people stop following him because he’s a violent and malevolent god. If he doesn’t, then there’s peace on Barbelo. Win, win, for us.”

“So why are you back here?”

“Yeshua wanted me to improve the outcome for Haziel’s group. It’s already paid off to an extent. On the original loop Kari killed Kirodiel with Dragonthorn. With no need to escape with her lord still living, Joy simply had the dragon burn down everyone at the Council, which meant of course that I was the only survivor.”

“So who is that Joy woman? I’ve never seen her up close.”

“Joy is really your aunt Ariel, killed in the Moon War and living out her afterlife here. She’s not doing very much to impress Yeshua, if you ask me. Joy has been possessed by Jill, and even before that Jill went completely over to Thaumiel, so don’t hesitate to kill the dragon even if it means Joy dies too, which she will, and when she does she’s basically screwed because Yeshua won’t give her a third chance.”

“A long as I don’t fuck Bayard before it happens. Rules you know.”

“That whole virginity thing was part of Thaumiel’s scam all along. It’s all lies. You could fly straight out of a week-long orgy and still kill Demonstroke with that shard.”

“One thing still bothers me,” Victoria says. “You said on your loop Joy killed everyone at the Council except you. So if she killed your father, where the hell do you come from?”

“I should have said she killed everyone who came to the council chamber when the Queen summoned us. Dad was still in his own chamber having sex with Luzea. I don’t blame him for that, actually. Luzea ain’t one of the b’nei elohim but she sure has a natural born talent! On your timeline I interrupted them because Luzea is all mine, and then Dad went back to see Gramma Aurra. All this this was before you got here, but you’ve heard the accounts so you already know I saved Kirodiel’s life by intercepting the diamond blade with a metal tray. On my timeline Dad was the only surviving noble on the planet, outside of the Middle Land. He became something like a renegade while House Gerash started to take over the world.”

“So how did I meet him on your timeline?”

“Pretty much the same way you did this time around, Mom, except the quest was just you and him. You took the Catwalk, went to Menkant, the dragon shows up, and you fought Joy pretty much the same way you will again. As for how you fell in love with Dad I don’t really know, and do you know what? I don’t even want to know!”

“I find it impossible to believe that you will result from our union again, when there must be a trillion factors that will be different this time. The timing is crucial. This sperm and not that sperm, fifty-fifty you’re a boy instead of a jiste and very few of the events that formed your memories on your timeline will be present again in this timeline.”

“You are absolutely right, Momma, but even if you and Dad have nothing but boys that will have nothing to do with me, because you did have me back on my timeline. But all I want to do right now is get back to the talented Luzea. Now this next part is going to seem strange to you, because I know you but you don’t know me, but here goes.” And Aliwe pulls Victoria close for a kiss and a hug.

“I love you, baby,” Victoria says. “Will we meet again when it’s all over?”

“I hope so Mom, but this is a new loop. It rhymes, but it’s not the same.”

Then Aliwe leaves to pick her way down the river, a trip that would kill a less hardy person. On the coast she will try to find someone willing to take her to Saharad.

Victoria soars directly into the sky along the face of the wall to return to the Catwalk. Everyone sits around looking sad, except for Baron Bayard, who looks guilty. Victoria tells them only, “Aliwe is in a better place,” which considering the nature of the Catwalk is absolutely true. Besides, it would keep Bayard from trying to hit on her at least until they got down off the face of the Wall of God.

A day later Haziel’s party has nearly completed the descent of the Wall of God on the Catwalk. Only about a thousand feet of vertical distance remain. But no one lets their guard down just yet. That thousand feet is still perfectly fatal.

On that final afternoon they arrive at a section of the Catwalk that Bayard calls “problematic”. It has been damaged somehow, perhaps in a quake, and for nearly a mile it was no wider than a toehold. But there are steel pitons already pounded into the rock ready for them to snap brass carabiners and sling ropes.

By some quirk of fate or baronic contrivance Victoria is next in line after the Bayard. He says to her, “Haziel calls you one of the b’nei elohim, yet I know almost nothing about them. Can you tell me more, or is it some sort of divine secret?”

“There are some things about us we may never reveal,” Victoria replies, “but what I can tell I will. The most important thing is that we are a family, one big unruly but mostly loving family with the usual family squabbles.”

“Then are you noble born?”

“Not in the way you are royalty, Baron, as the son of Queen Aurra. In a real sense we would be considered nothing more than common folk here.”

Victoria does not know that was precisely what she needed to say to raise Bayard’s interest level in her to eleven. Still, Bayard wants to test that. “And yet you can fly. Some say you are demigods, which would make you far greater than royalty.”

“I can fly, that is true, but it’s not on account of something innate to me, to my body. For all practical purposes, it’s nothing more than a magic trick.”

Applause and cheering break out on the line ahead of them on the Catwalk. Lady Haziel successfully traversed the broken portion to safety on the other side.

“And our foe, this woman Joy, is she also b’nei elohim?”

“She is one of us, and that is what I alluded to when I mentioned family squabbles. Some of us have removed themselves to the camp of the enemy.”

“And the way she controls the dragon, is that another magic trick?”

“More trick than magic,” Victoria said. “Neither we nor the elohim that we serve hold the supernatural realm to be real. So call it a holy deception.”

“The House of Sala has also dabbled in the same sort of thing,” Bayard says. “When the gods of Earth first brought people to live in Haaretz, the Gold Beards feared that many of them would sail west across Thalury and make their homes in our ancestral lands. We sought to discourage that, so we spread a tale among them that the world was constructed like a stair, and the Wall of God was but the second of many such awesome barriers. We told them another wall existed to the west, and Thalury tumbled over this step in a bottomless cataract.

“We went on to tell them that from the beginning of days sailors heeded the divine injunctions of all the elohim never to sail out of sight of Haaretz, lest they meet the edge and fall over it. We made the claim that so rigidly was this law observed that if any sea captain captain, drunk or otherwise, steered his ship such that the land of Haaretz faded from view, it was cause for the crew to mutiny and throw the captain overboard. No such crew returning to port ever faced punishment.

“And the story contained a warning that went something like this: In the fullness of time King Ravenmaster was put to death. It was the days of the revolution in the ancient kingdom of Kurgan, when the union of loosely-united city-states known as the Saiph League was born, and many of the laws established by the elohim were overthrown.

“‘Reason’ reigned supreme, and when time was ripe seamen were found to man two ships, sailors who were willing to disregard the divine warning never to sail out of the sight of land. Such was the rebellious mindset of the men of the Saiph League that it never occurred to them the gods issued their commandment for the safety of mariners.

“Instead, there were rumors of yet another land far in the west, a choice land the elohim created for their own enjoyment, a beautiful realm filled with gold, rich in abundant fruit, and the divine prohibition was to keep this land from being despoiled by mere mortals.

“The two ships commissioned by the revolutionaries were Will O’ The Whisp and Fire of the Covenant. They drifted in the current with sails unfurled. After two days, the dark line that was Haaretz could no longer be seen in the east, and some of the sailors shuddered, for the tradition was deeply embedded within them.

“And their fears proved more than superstition, for one night after about a week underway the lookout in the highest mast of Fire of the Covenant screamed that the horizon ahead was closing in on them. There was a sharp edge to the sea!

“Captain Dogtrapper signaled with lamps to Will O’ The Whisp that he was raising his sails and turning back. Captain Skulldagger aboard the Will didn’t follow suit until it was too late. With billowing sails Fire of the Covenant barely escaped, but the current became too strong for her sister ship. In short order she was seen to tip over the edge and was never seen again.”

By a strange coincidence Baron Bayard slipped off the Catwalk just then and screamed. Victoria pushed her nose into the wall of the Sacred Cliff, resisting the urge to fly after him, since it would be as useless as her attempt to save Aliwe. But Bayard’s fall was arrested by the ropes, as they were intended to do.

When he had been hauled back up, and had recovered enough that his voice had steadied, Victoria begged him to continue his story again. Or his meta-story, his story about a story that had been told to the Israelite colonists in Haaretz to keep them from sailing to the lands of the House of Sala.

“’Will ‘O’ The Whisp had indeed fallen over the edge of the world,” he said. “For not far away from Haaretz the sea poured over a great cataract, an infinite waterfall. For days the ship fell partially submerged within these waters, which had become a vertical sheet.

“The crew found they had no weight, they floated freely, and some floated far away from the ship. Winds eventually broke the sheet into globes of water, ranging in size from a man’s head to the size of a barn. Fish were seen swimming in some of these spheres of water, and when the food aboard ship ran out these fish provided the only source of food. There was no thirst, for Thalury was a freshwater sea, always replenished every few thousand years by comet-fall.

“As the crew continued to fall, the black underside of the world became visible overhead and the doomed crew could see that the warnings were true, the world was indeed a vast stair.

“The eternal winds blew the globes of water further and further apart, and the heat of the day caused them to slowly evaporate. One day none of the water globes which remained near the ship contained any fish, and the men began to starve. Thoughts of killing each other for meat crossed their mind, but by the time they were desperate enough to act, they were too weak to successfully attack each other or do anything more than moan pitifully.

“Then came the final week, when they passed away one by one, according to their remaining strength.

“But the story we told them didn’t end there,” Bayard tells Victoria. “We said that when human beings die in Haaretz they find they are resurrected on the rim of the Wall of God, where they wait for a ship to carry them across yet another sea that lies east of the rim.

“The dead people atop the wall can hear voices upon the winds of Haaretz through a trick of reflecting sound. Ever they walk the ramparts, hoping to hear their loved ones. When they do hear their name it is bittersweet, for they find their friends and loved ones have soon forgotten them and moved on. The more famed a person was in their life, the more fragments they hear, so they linger a while more. The humble accept the truth sooner. It’s really all about letting go.

“But there are always the dummies at far end of the bell curve, and firmly anchored there was Captain Skulldagger, captain of the Will o’ the Whisp. To this very day the shade of this infamous captain is still standing on the rim of the Wall of God waiting for his name to be heard once more as the story of his voyage was retold, just as I have told it once more to you.

“But Skulldagger notwithstanding, at length almost all the dead come off the precipice and rest on the lawn behind it before the Upper Sea, waiting for a white ship to come and take them east to an unknown destiny. The priestesses who attend them always refuse to speak of their final fate, and only say to them, ‘Great gifts are sweeter when they are but revealed in their fulfillment unspoiled by hasty tidings.’”

“Within twenty years all the members of Captain Skulldaggers’s ill-fated crew passed east across the Upper Sea, or leaped from the rim to a more permanent death, but the captain alone remained. For he had attained a form of immortality through infamy, and never a day passed but that his name was spoken aloud by someone far below in Haaretz with a shudder as the story of the Will ‘O’ The Whisp is told to yet another generation. The sound of his name is carried aloft to the rim, and he savors it.’”

When Baron Bayard finishes telling hyz story, Victoria begins to see a glimmer of how she can see the way through to loving this yang. Hy is strong and kind, and more important than that, hy is interesting.

After everyone survived the rope traverse the Catwalk becomes much wider and safer, but their journey is slowed by the presence of many blown-down trees which have been knocked over recently in a storm and lie directly across the trail. Sometimes the travelers roll over them, but other times they must crawl under them, which is exhausting work, and they could not avoid getting their clothing soiled.

The fearsome cliff under the Catwalk comes to an end, and forms a normal slope. The company enters a small stand of fat virgin trees that drape the slope down to the bottom, and here the character of the journey changes dramatically. Victoria thinks it to be a magic place that has escaped the ax in the first, second, and third waves of cutting from Wazol, as though by an oversight.

After that they reach a large outcropping of stone that Bayard calls Picture Buttress. It offers a marvelous view to a forest glade below. Victoria thinks it is beautiful but still dangerous. The trail actually wraps around the parapet here, and a thoughtful person, probably Bayard on his journey long ago, has provided a rope for each of them to hold on to.

They pass a large duckpond so serene that it reflects the sky and the branches of the trees above the water like a mirror. The trail skirts the edge of this pond with a small but calm diversion before resuming its course.

“It’s going to be a little rough going here,” Bayard says, plowing through prickly foliage and bidding Victoria to trust him. The route is flagged with orange and black ribbons. “Not many people know about this trail. Those of us who do know of it use it and we maintain it but we don’t fully connect it anywhere.”

And finally the Catwalk ends ignomiously in some poor old man’s back backyard in the city of Wazol. He is tending his garden and shrugs as one hundred forty people tramp through his property and go out the side gate to the front of his house to reach a city street.

“Where do we go next?” asks the Baron.

“Victoria knows,” says Lady Haziel with a smile revealing her awareness that Vic has spoken to a living Aliwe. “Menkant. Then Joy and her dragon will come to us.”

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Chapter 58

Somewhere between the place where Lilith had paused and the front door of the lighthouse Haziel has slipped away. Lilith is quite alone when she knocks on the door of what had been her girlhood home. A strange, severe-looking woman with her hair tied back in a bun opens the door. “Yes, what is it?”

“Is my…is Benjamin home?”

“Who are you?”

Lilith’s father hobbles up behind the woman to see who has come calling. At first, when he sees the IDF uniform, he doesn’t recognize who it is, and he thinks he is in some sort of trouble again. But his mind merges the two decades of changes on Lilith’s face with his own memories of his daughter. Tentatively, he asks, “Lilith? Are you Lilith?”

His daughter’s face crinkles up in a way that Benjamin cannot mistake, and this time there are tears, perhaps the first tears she has shed over all that time. Lilith sobs, “Father, I’m so sorry!”

They embrace for a long time, and Lilith weeps as she has never done before in her life, for she realizes that her father has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to deserve the silent treatment that she has inflicted on him over all the intervening years. Lilith had rationalized to herself that she was punishing her father for refusing to emigrate to Palestine, but that was nothing more than a huge lie she had made herself believe all that time, and Lilith now marvels at her own capacity for self-deception.

When Benjamin and Lilith separate from their long embrace, the strange woman holds out her hand to Lilith. “I am Laura,” she introduces herself. “I am your father’s wife.”

“Life goes on,” Benjamin offers, as though he owed an explanation.

Lilith is mildly shocked by the news. “Father. We have so much catching up to do, it seems.”

“Then let us do so, beloved daughter, over a cuppa.”

The three share afternoon tea in the large common room of the lighthouse. It is the place that once held a Teletype that gave the family their orders to direct the Clarinet antenna for a strategic bombing run over occupied Europe. Benjamin tells Lilith he was old enough to retire, but operating the lighthouse is not so physically demanding, and he still enjoys making his meterological observations and publishing articles in his field to various professional journals. Also at certain hours during the day he and Laura guide tourists about the lighthouse grounds and even take them up to the top, something Benjamin forces himself to do despite a bit of arthritis in his knees.

Lilith, for her part, is necessarily vague on answering her father’s questions about how she managed to travel to Israel, since she herself didn’t know the mechanics of that. But everything else she relates, in reverse order, starting from the recent Suez War and going backwards to the birth of her adopted nation.

“And all this time, daughter, were there no gentlemen in your life? Have you never considered being married?”

Lilith comes to a dead stop there. The heroic accounts of an IDF Major in the Arab-Israeli wars are over. Her father’s innocent question dumps her directly into the pit of agonizing memories that smolder yet in the core of her soul. “How shall I proceed father? I am no stranger to the touch of man, but…let’s call it conditioning, shall we? The thought of physical love inevitably takes me back to the camps. You may draw your own conclusions, but that, I think is a mental scar far more long lasting than any of the physical ones I bear, and I know you have seen those.”

“I am so sorry, Lilith!”

“Rather it is I who must apologize to you, father. At no time did you do or say anything that merited shunning from your own daughter.”

“Once,” he tentatively said, thinking of Lilith’s mention of scars, “just once, I did see the scars on your back. Will you say anything about what happened to you?”

Lilith lowers her head for a long time, gathering the painful memories into a narrative for the first time since it happened. This is it, she thought. And I dread it so, but Haziel wants me to do this.

“One time,” she began, “near the very end, before we were liberated by the American army, the survivors — and this was a death camp so there were not very many of us – the survivors were mustered together for a roll call, or what the Germans called an appell. We all wore very thin clothing, and it was very cold, as the mornings often were in late March. The commander of the camp gave an order to flog the entire first row of prisoners simply because the exhausted and freezing women had poor posture! And I was in the first row.

“Listening to the screams of the prisoners being whipped before my turn was almost worse than the actual punishment. Almost. I vowed that I would not scream when it happened to me, and I begged God for the strength to make that vow hold true.

“I was stripped naked and held by two female guards over a table while a third laid on the lash. The agony of this punishment is indescribable. I will not even attempt to describe it. But from the first stroke I completely forgot my vow, and I did scream.”

Both Benjamin and Laura gape at her with horror.

“I lost count of how many strokes I received because I lost consciousness before it was over. I woke up in the camp hospital in only slightly less agony than during the whipping, with my entire back on fire, it felt like. It would take four days before I could get more than a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep at a time. I had lost a lot of blood and the slightest movement opened the wounds and caused me to bleed again. So I could not be moved from the hospital or walk under my own power. When the American forces drew very near, the entire camp descended into chaos. I was left behind.

“A day later I did manage to stumble out of bed for one final task. Troops of the 89th Infantry Division of the US Third Army captured Ohrdruf-Nord on April 4, 1945. Among the many thousands of dead Jews whose burnt or decomposing bodies where strewn about the camp, one female German guard also lay on the ground with her head nearly twisted off the spine. That guard was the one who had laid the lash on my back. She was my first one, father, but she was not my last one, not by a wide margin.”

Benjamin closes his eyes and howls in despair, as Laura tries to comfort him.

“And so you see, father, as I stand here in my IDF uniform, that the little girl you raised in this lighthouse is no more, replaced by a cold-blooded killer, and we do not really know each other at all, do we?”

“Please,” Benjamin begged, recovering just a bit. “I must know. Please. What happened to your mother?”

Lilith shakes her head firmly. “You’re not ready for that, father. It would kill you. I’m not ready for it yet, and I was there.”

She gets up and quietly leaves the lighthouse. Looking around for Haziel, Lilith sees instead an unclothed white human figure with no hair, no eyes or mouth. The figure draws near to Lilith, who is not afraid. She reaches a hand out slowly as though to touch the mannequin-thing. A needle springs out from the surface to pierce one of Lilith’s outstretched fingers, and she draws back her hand in pain. Then there is a rush of images, followed by the heat of the sandy stretch of the eastern Mediterranean that Lilith calls home. The white figure is gone.

Nineteen years after the creation of the State of Israel, Lilith Gervasi (having been advanced from seren to rav seren, or Major) is crucial for her nation’s success in the Six Day War. This is the third major conflict between Israel and the Arab nations that comprise the bad neighborhood of the Middle-East. Geopolitically this war would have greater ramifications than any other tussle in the Arab-Israeli conflict except on one timeline when the 1973 Yom Kippur War with its use of nuclear weapons would prove much more fateful.

The cause of the 1967 war is exactly the same as the cause of the First Suez War in 1956. President Nasser rolls the dice one more time. The Strait of Tirin is once again blocked by the heavy guns of the fortress at Sharm el-Sheikh, choking off the southern Negev town of Eilat from access to the open sea.

The biggest factor in the war is the destruction of nearly two hundred Egyptian warplanes while they are still parked on their runways. In just a quarter of an hour on the morning of June 5 many Egyptian planes which had been prepared to bomb Israel are mortally crippled by the Israeli Air Force, and powerful cluster bombs tear up the airfields where the planes were parked. Bomblets shatter the concrete of the runways down to the foundations and make them temporarily useless.

The IDF retains most their fighter planes orbiting on CAP (Combat Air Patrol) in Israeli airspace to defend from any counter-attacks in case the bombing attack fails, but some of these are dispatched to Egypt after the attack to evaluate the damage. They report that 180 Egyptian planes have been destroyed, and all the communications facilities of the Egyptian air forces are also out of operation. The operation is considered to be a spectacular success.

President Nasser tells King Hussein of Jordan nothing of the sudden loss of his entire air force. He tells the king it was the Israeli air force, rather, that has been completely destroyed. Proceeding on the basis of this misinformation the king orders his troops to cross the border and his planes to begin bombing targets in Israel. Syria and Iraq attack at precisely the same time.

Within two hours, Israeli warplanes drive back the invading forces and destroy the bulk of Syrian and Jordanian air assets with aerial dogfights and ground attacks. A grand total of four hundred Arab aircraft are destroyed in the first day of fighting, leaving only 280 operational planes, but there are very few runways left operational from which to launch them. That fact alone decides the outcome of the war in favor of Israel. The rest is just icing on the cake

On June 6th, Nasser makes another phone call to King Hussein to tell him American and British planes destroyed his entire air force on the first day. Nasser half-believes that lie himself. To admit the Israelis had somehow decapitated his entire air force would imply that mere Jews were militarily superior to Arabs, which was, of course, utterly unthinkable. So it must have been the Anglo-Americans went his muddled thinking.

On the morning of June 7th Major Lilith Gervasi receives orders to report to General David Elazar at his Northern Command, based out of Galilee, where she is given command of a full battalion. She spends the rest of that day and most of the night evaluating the readiness of her troops and briefing her staff.

On June 8th General Elazar drives to Tel Aviv to get permission from Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin to attack the Golan Heights, lest the Syrians be left in a position to shell settlers from there after the war draws to a close. At first the proposal is rejected, but overnight it becomes clear the Egyptian army is in a state of disintegration. Moshe Dayan, the Minister of Defense, overruled Rabin and authorized the Golan attack.

By June 9th Lilith and her battalion are in bitter hand-to-hand fighting against Syrians manning fortifications in the Golan Heights, which their enemy defends with impressive tenacity. But future President-for-life Hafez al-Assad, then the Minister of Defense in Syria, begins to fear for his own hide. He orders the Golan defenders to withdraw to reinforce his forces along the route to the capital city of Damascus, which lies only forty miles away from the front line.

As the Syrians give ground through the night, Lilith’s battalion advances, but the fighting remains fierce and exhausting. By the evening of June 10 it is all over. After only six days of hard fighting, Israel possesses three times the territory she did before the war.

No Egyptian forces of any strength remain to prevent the IDF from reaching Cairo even if they chose to do so, which they ultimately do not. Egypt’s infantry has been reduced to thousands of thirsty, barefooted stragglers walking west to cross over the Sinai Canal. As long as they keep moving west, the IDF lets them go. Israel is already burdened with 7,000 Egyptian prisoners as things stand.

The whole Sinai peninsula is annexed by Israel, which completely isolates the Gaza Strip. Sharm is abandoned by the Egyptians in the face of a strong amphibious assault. A chain of IDF fortresses designed to block any future Egyptian attack is built along the east bank of the canal. This was called the Bar-Lev Line, but it was never staffed by appropriate numbers of Israeli troops, and this foolish policy allowed Egypt to attack once again in 1973.

The ancient capital of Jerusalem falls completely into Israeli hands after nearly two thousand years. Jordanian forces are driven east across the Jordan River, leaving the entire West Bank, also called Judea and Samaria, under IDF occupation. The State of Israel now controls the lives of a million Palestinian Arabs, and this was to come with its own host of problems well into the Twenty-first Century on every timeline El Shaddai and Yeshua established.

Syria loses their territory in the strategic Golan Heights. A helicopter takes IDF soldiers to the summit of snowy Mt. Hermon to take possession of the radar facilities there. This broad and tall mountain, whose snows are the source of the Jordan River, becomes the eyes and ears of Israel.

Total Israeli losses are about 700 dead. This butcher’s bill is far smaller than had been feared on the eve of the war, but it is still a heavy burden for their families and communities to bear. Arab losses are much higher. In the Sinai alone there are 15,000 Egyptian corpses left unburied on the desert sands.

Israel, despite her relatively small population, has stabilized as the regional superpower of the Middle-East. A roughly equal number of Jews dwell in the United States, where they lived in conditions much safer than in Eretz Yisrael, but they were still of the Diaspora. They weren’t home, in the land that had been promised to Abraham, and if the Jews had learned anything over the previous three thousand years it was that seemingly favorable conditions abroad were liable to change precisely because they, as a tribe, as a people, never changed. Something buried deep inside the rest of humanity could never accept that.

The lesson had to be learned all over again just five years later.

Early in that five years Lilith develops the same bony knob at the back of her head that is the mark of the Boda in Greendome. The knob opens to become a 55-pin connector. At first Lilith is quite alarmed, but she knows it has something to do with being pierced by that white figure in Ventnor, and that Haziel must be responsible.

In the middle of the five years between wars Haziel meets Lilith and brings the Purple Cable with har. Sha plugs one end into the back of har head, and holds the other end out, requesting that Lilith do the same. At no time does Haziel force Lilith to do anything. Lilith accepts the invitation and her mind is flooded with a storm of images.

I am not the one you worship as God but I seek that one even as you do. Thaumiel stands between us and the Old One who created the elohim in this galaxy and who also created humans on Earth. This planet alone has the combination of a stable sun, a self-moderating climate, a magnetic field to shield it from cosmic rays, a large moon to dampen wobble due to precession, a large gas-giant planet to vacuum up most stray comets and asteroids, the optimum rate of spin to moderate both temperature extremes and stormy weather, an active geology to rebuild eroded lands, and a fully functioning water cycle.

Lilith sees the thick planetary accretion disk forming around Epsilon Eridani. Haziel takes her to the Hyades star cluster in Taurus, and then to the Pleiades cluster further on. There Lilith looks back to see how the Earth’s sun is snuggled in along the outskirts of what Haziel calls Collinder 285, a formerly tight star cluster which is widely scattered now, but a few core stars remain close together, and men called it the Big Dipper.

Next Haziel takes Lilith far above the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. The sun dims far below and is lost among the interstellar clouds which give shape to the spur of the Orion Arm in which it lies. Haziel points out Rho Cassiopeia, four thousand light years away from Earth, a huge supergiant star 100,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Behold Milcom, my absent eloah father.

Lilith learns there are 2 billion trillion stars in the visible universe, but only a tiny fraction of these are alive and awake. Then Haziel takes her further out and up, until she is looking at the forty galaxies of the Local Group, dominated by the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. We count ten billion large galaxies like our own, and a hundred billion lesser galaxies.

Haziel takes her even further out, and Lilith sees that the Local Group is just a satellite of the Vega Supercluster, which had one hundred fifty large galaxies and a thousand dwarf galaxies, all bound together by gravity. It is a meta-galaxy made up of galaxies, with a core thirty-five million light-years away. And it was only one of 300,000 superclusters in the universe. But the whole Vega Supercluster is moving toward the Great Attractor near the Centaurus supercluster. Meanwhile the Sculptor and Phoenix superclusters form part of a long wall of thousands of galaxy groups stretching across a billion light years of space.

Finally Haziel shows Jill the Bootes Void, 300 million light-years across with no clusters inside it at all, only a few lonely galaxies scattered within. This is the structure at the largest scale of the universe: Walls of galactic superclusters, which form the surface of large voids. The universe is built like a vast sponge.

Haziel judges that sha has shown Lilith enough for now, and departs. Two years later, war comes once again to Israel.

Egypt crosses the Suez Canal on October 6, 1973 while Israel is basically shut down for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Egypt’s attack consists of 240 warplanes and two thousand pieces of artillery, followed by eight thousand troops crossing over the Suez Canal. At the same time, six hundred Syrian tanks advance across the uplands known as the Golan Heights.

Mobilization orders go out to the reservists and regulars of the Israel Defense Force while the soldiers are at home, or attending synagogue, or even living overseas. Lilith Gervasi, now an adjunct professor living in the United States, is notified by telegram and arrives in Israel Oct. 8, in uniform as a sgan aluf or Lieutenant Colonel.

Lilith reports for duty once more at General David Elazar’s Northern Command. At forty-five years of age she is a little long in the tooth as combatants went, but Lilith, who spends much of her time between Arab-Israeli wars conditioning herself for the next Arab-Israeli war, is actually in excellent physical shape.

By Oct. 10 the Israeli counterattack in the Golan reaches the line from which Syria launched their attack on the first day of the war. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan wants to halt right there, thirty miles from Damascus, to avoid drawing the Soviet Union into the war. General Elazar, by contrast, wants to advance another twenty miles into Syria to set up a strong defensive line and stabilize the northern front. Prime Minister Golda Meir, who has been assured by the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Nixon had her back, sides with Elazar.

The Israeli thrust east from the Golan Heights into Syria begins on the 11th and pushes the Syrians back after fierce fighting. Early that evening, Lilith’s brigade is already six miles over the border into Syria. A few days later, the Christian commander of Syria’s forces in the Golan is executed before a firing squad in Damascus for ordering the withdrawal.

Moshe Dayan goes on television at 2200 hours and reminds the Syrians that the road from Damascus to Israel is also the road from Israel to Damascus. But the next day Iraq enters the war, with fifteen thousand Iraqi troops shoring up the Syrian front. King Hussein of Jordan resists Arab pressure, however, and refuses to move against Israel in yet another war.

In Syria, all eighty tanks of one Iraqi brigade are destroyed by Israeli tanks and planes with absolutely no losses to the Israelis. Another Iraqi tank brigade is blocked by Lilith and a demolition crew who arrived at two bridges the tanks needed to cross and slice partway through their support structures with blow torches, letting the weight of the tanks do most of the work. There are no tell-tale explosions. When the bridges collapse, fifty of the eighty tanks were stranded on a dirt “island” with fewer than ten tanks able to advance, which the IDF Air Force quickly takes off the board.

On October 16, sixty Iraqi tanks are hit on the Golan Heights and they withdraw. The Israelis hold their position just eight miles outside of Damascus and Lilith’s brigade of infantry is an important part of this strong offensive line. The IDF also halts five miles west of the road from Damascus to Amman, Jordan, ready to block any late-minute entry of Jordan into the war with a flank attack. The Soviet Union finally grows alarmed at the setbacks experienced by their Arab client states.

At that point the Israelis begin to breathe a sigh of relief, particularly when equally spectacular results are starting to come in from the southern theater of war. But the religious extreme right in Israel, with none of their own boots on the ground (as usual) prevail upon the female Prime Minister Golda Meir to withdraw all female combatants from the front lines of the conflict. In the event she refuses they threaten to take Likud out of the temporary power-sharing arrangement of her Alignment party, which would in turn drive her from office. Meir quickly caves in, and Lilith Gervasi is relieved of duty.

When she makes formal protest, General Elazar, demonstrating an extraordinarily short memory of Lilith’s legendary accomplishments for Israel over the years, barks at her, “Give me one reason why I should not carry out these orders rotating you back home?”

She bares her arm with the six tattooed numerals. But it is not enough and she is immediately demobilized.

As the 1973 Yom Kippur war rages on, President Nixon orders an airlift of military supplies to allow Israel to keep fighting. The Soviets supply their Arab client states continuously throughout the war. To keep Lilith away from the temptation to wage war against the Arabs by “unofficial” means, she is placed on an empty C-130 Hercules cargo plane on it’s way back the United States.

In the Sinai, Israel loses two hundred tanks right away, but a pair of extra tank divisions are rushed forward to halt the Egyptian advance. Eighty percent of Israel’s entire inventory of armor that is still operational is sent into the battle, but Egyptian troops using Soviet-supplied anti-tank weaponry hold the Israelis to a line five miles east of the Suez Canal. Meanwhile more Egyptian tanks and infantry massing on their side of the canal are protected from Israeli air attack by a tough shield of anti-aircraft missiles guided by radar, again courtesy of the Soviet Union.

On October 13 the Egyptians try to break through two mountain passes in the Sinai. What follows is the largest tank battle on Earth since the 1943 battle of Kursk between Germany and Russia and the second largest tank battle anywhere, ever, involving nearly two thousand tanks. During the battle a total of 264 Egyptian tanks are knocked out, to Israel’s ten. On the 14th another Egyptian attack on the Suez Canal is stopped with the destruction of 200 tanks and a thousand Egyptian soldiers killed.

The following day a third battle is fought at the meeting point between the Egyptian Second and Third Armies that serves as an administration area for both armies and headquarters for the 16th Infantry Division. Tanks fire at practically point blank range. Egypt loses 150 tanks to Israel’s eighty. Overnight an IDF parachute brigade establishes a toehold on the other side of the Canal. Two forward-deployed Egyptian anti-aircraft missile bases are taken out, allowing Israel to establish air superiority over the western bank of the Suez Canal.

A veritable conveyor belt of Soviet war supplies move by air to Egypt and Syria, while the Americans supply Israel from their own endless abundance. But when the Soviet Union sees the Arabs checked in the Golan and now in the Suez, and Nixon refuses to pressure Israel to allow the trapped Third Army to escape, Leonid Brezhnev begins airlifting Soviet troops to Cairo to supplement the Egyptians.

Passing through the strait of the Dardenelles, Soviet naval forces in the Mediterranean reach a total of 97 ships, including 23 submarines, while the US adds a third carrier battle group from Spain for a total of 60 ships. Three carriers in a theater always heralded war.

Nixon takes the US to DEFCON 3 and sends the 101st Airborne into the Sinai to counterbalance the Soviet troops, but events are moving fast and there is insufficient time to match the Soviets troop-for-troop. Nixon tells Brezhnev that sending any more troop transport planes would be crossing a red line, but Brezhnev calls his bluff.

Fighters from the USS Independence shoot down the next cargo plane hauling Soviet troops. Brezhnev replies with a nuclear-tipped torpedo round fired at the Independence. The United States didn’t even know the Soviets had nuclear torpedoes. The weapon didn’t even have to be close. The blast takes out the carrier, several support ships steaming alongside, and even damages the Soviet submarine that fired it. The Cold War has just gone hot.

Nixon orders weapons red and free on all Soviet forces in the Mediterranean, and the two sides slug it out. Both remaining US carriers are taken out, but the Soviet naval forces definitely come off much the worse.

This hardly matters at all. An exchange of ICBMs takes out the American and the Soviet capital cities, killing ten million people instantly and many more people after the fact. Then the two superpowers go back into their own corners to assess what is happening and see if the other side is willing to escalate.

A few more items on each side’s laundry list are nuked, such as the Hanford site in the US where Robyn and Hunky were once held, and the Sevastopol navy base, but Brezhnev and Nixon are both dead, and cooler heads don’t think losing more millions of lives would be worth what either side has gained by the war, which is precisely nothing.

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Chapter 57

In late spring of 1946 Robyn gives birth to her daughter Ariel Shybear. Because sha is still essentially a fugitive, it has to be a home delivery. A hospital was just right out of the question. The entire Boda, including now Inge, does what they can for har but there is no solution for Robyn’s labor pain. Between contractions sha keeps saying, “It hurts like hell.”

The story in the Jewish scriptures is that the pain of childbirth was a curse laid down on Eve by God for daring to put two competing hypotheses about the lethality of a certain fruit in the Garden of Eden to a scientific test, using Adam as a control subject. The Buron lays out a different reason that makes more sense. Humans are the only animals on Earth that walk upright. At every moment, they are faced with the threat of being disemboweled simply by standing up. So the hole in the pelvic floor has to be as small as possible to prevent that. At the same time, humans have the largest brains of any animal on Earth as a percentage of their total body mass. So the opening in the pelvis cannot be too small, or the infant would be wedged in the birth canal and die, and take the mother with it. A baby’s skull does not fully form until after birth, so it actually deforms during birth to ease the passage, but the ordeal is still very dangerous for both, and extremely painful for the mother.

But when it is all over Robyn has baby Ariel and the pain is forgotten. Since Robyn has been transformed into a nephilim, a yin, with two Z chromosomes, while Jerry remains a human male with XY chromosomes, the only possible genders Robyn’s baby could be are an XZ, either an ambi or jen, or an YZ, or a yang. Ariel turned out to be an ambi.

All nephilim have a set of two genitals. As an ambi, Ariel is similar to a jen like Yeshua genetically, but rather than having hez penis located over hez vagina, the vagina of Ariel is positioned over hez penis.

Ariel is perfectly healthy and comes with a little pad of soft black hair. Robyn found that words would always fail to fully convey the greatest possible human experience, that of bringing another life into the world. To Robyn, baby Ariel was:

Doll-like
Dainty
Ruddy
Feisty
Beautiful

Robyn loves to hold hez face close to har own and sniff hez soft baby scent, that special new person smell. Robyn can hardly believe sha is Ariel’s mother! And Jerry’s joy in Ariel is just as great as Robyn’s, even if he could never grasp the full depth of har joy in giving life to the baby. One time Haziel tried to describe this joy to Yeshua after giving birth to Del, but it really is something that must be experienced to be grasped.

Earl Roland keeps tightening his noose on the Boda, and they continue to live like rats underneath Greendome. Robyn and Jerry have a second child, but it is a yang this time, and they name hym Edgar.

Late in June 1947 a US Marine C-46 transport plane crashes on the western side of Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Range, and when word gets around, a private pilot named Ken Arnold volunteers to aid with the search. While he is circling the mountain on June 24 he spots a cluster of nine brightly glowing meteors rushing past his plane at supersonic speed toward remote Mt. Adams in the south. Because they are pieces of a fireball in the process of breaking up, they seem to be flying in formation, so Arnold assumes they are aircraft, and he interpreted their intermittent bursts of brightness to be sunlight glinting off polished aluminum.

The pieces are of irregular shape and they are tumbling, which makes them appear to randomly hop up and down in the air stream. After his flight Ken tells a reporter that they flew like “a saucer skipping over water.” This is the first modern sighting of Unidentified Flying Objects and it sparks a national obsession with “flying saucers” that borders on mass hysteria because people insist on identifying them as spacecraft operated by aliens. Perhaps it was just more fun that way.

By July there has been many more saucer sightings. Some are ordinary mistakes but most are outright copycat hoaxes. The reporter has somehow garbled Arnold’s description. The pilot merely tried to convey that the objects moved like saucers, not that they looked like saucers. But it is too late, the erroneous quote is already in print, so everyone is “seeing” saucers.

In Greendome Jerry is working to adapt home-built macros to an air frame. Jerry’s idea is to obtain powered flight by constantly sucking in air from an intake manifold on the roof of the vehicle, making the air simply “go away” and thus creating a bubble of low pressure over the vehicle. Theoretically this would create lift, much with like a helicopter, but with an ability to stay aloft indefinitely. Jerry is, however, stumped on a final body design.

The first thing that comes to Robyn’s mind is the big national flying saucer craze. She says, “If we make it in the shape of a flying saucer, then even if people see us and report it, they won’t be believed. If they photograph us in flight, they will be accused of taking a snapshot of a hub cap.”

Jerry thinks that is a truly brilliant idea and he, with Hunky’s help, builds two flying saucers powered by the macro process. He spends a week teaching Inge, Hunky, and Dory how to use them, but Robyn is too busy with her newborn Edgar and her toddler Ariel to learn to fly.

Hunky and Dory take one saucer to visit Alaska, a trip is all pleasure and no business. So sparsely inhabited is that state that few UFO reports are forthcoming from their trip. That leaves just Jerry and Inge and the second saucer, since Robyn can’t go anywhere with her hands full. Jerry brings out his puppy-dog face, indicating to his wife that he wanted to take Inge out on the saucer, and Robyn has to make a decision.

For a year and more Robyn has been using her power of prediction to keep anyone in the Boda from being picked up by DECON. Some mornings sha’d say, “Don’t go to that house today, Earl’ll getcha.” Sha already knew Inge Hahn’s real name and what will happen if they force the Sharing, so she never pushes for it. She knows Jerry is up for a tour of the national parks in the American southwest, a decent inspection of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the wind-carved sandstone marvels of Utah that would require at least ten days, just him and Inge alone in a saucer, and she knows they have hanky-panky on their mind, but that, bad as it is to Robyn, isn’t the worst thing that can happen. If Robyn doesn’t let them go, there’s no longer any scenario where the Boda avoids being captured by Roland. Inge is that close to doing what she always intended to do. If Robyn does let them go, she knows they will both come back, in a manner of speaking, but not anything like the way they are now, yet a path remains open for the Boda to stay free, if living under the town of Greendome could be considered free.

So Robyn wishes them a happy trip.

When things get boring between the national parks, Jerry and Inge fill in the time by having sex in a mesh hammock slung between hooks on the bulkheads of the saucer. Jerry figures Robyn, who can see the future (and therefore no hiding anything from her) is fine with it, seeing as how they hadn’t had sex for months while she carried Edgar, which is hard going for a newlywed man.

Jerry discovers, to his delight, that Inge’s heavy helping of freckles extends over her entire body. He had brought along the Purple Cable to enhance things like Hunky and Dory frequently reported, but Inge refuses to let him use it, and so her mind remains a mystery to him even if her delicious body no longer is, inside or out.

The P51 Mustang fighter plane is a bomber escort that revolutionized the strategic bombing campaign over western Europe during the war. Bomber pilots called them, affectionately, their “little friends”. Jet aircraft are coming on line now after the war, but the P51 remains in service as the most numerous fighter in the US Army Air Forces, which is still a few months away from being split off into it’s own branch of the military called the US Air Force.

Unfortunately for Jerry and Inge, they are touring a part of the country that has large empty areas of land given completely over to military operations. In short order Jerry and Inge became acquainted with a P51 over the state of New Mexico. They don’t have a chance. In the War, Mustangs shot almost 5,000 enemy aircraft out of the sky, and destroyed another 4,000 aircraft on the ground. It has six .50 caliber machine guns. Several rounds penetrate the crew canopy. One round hits Jerry in the leg. It is all he can do to get down to the ground without killing himself or Inge.

It is more of a crash than a landing, and it takes place on a ranch about thirty miles north of Roswell. This is to become the most famous “UFO incident” in history.

Inge is shaken but not injured. “I think the main macro still works,” Jerry gasps while Inge ties off his injured leg with his belt to try to stop the bleeding. “You can hover us the hell out of here.”

“I still don’t know how to fly this thing,” Inge says. She had expressed no desire to learn, and even now, with Jerry’s life on the line, she is too afraid to try. “I’ll just end up killing both of us. Besides, the airplanes will probably return and finish the job.”

But there is still one thing she is willing to do, and it is an enormous thing. Both of them eye the Purple Cable. She snaps one end into her head, and the other end to Jerry’s head, and then she begins to receive him.

Jerry’s memories and personality flood in. Inge’s self is pushed down and flooded out, but there is the beginning of a creeping return as the edges of Inge soak back into the new memories of Jerry which now stand firmly in the center of her mind.

The threshold trigger levels between brain cells are being flushed of Inge’s values and set to Jerry’s values, but this is not fully accomplished. The neurons are even being physically rerouted to reflect Jerry’s long-term memories but this too is not one hundred percent complete.

Feedback goes up the Purple Cable back to Jerry. From that instant he knows her great secret: there is no such person as Inge Hahn. She is really Becky Roland, the daughter of their enemy Earl Roland who had imprisoned Robyn and Hunky at the Clinic, burned down the temple, and made all of them fugitives. Roland was their implacable enemy, and Becky, his own daughter, is a plant. At first Jerry is horrified by this betrayal. But with Becky’s supreme sacrifice, giving up her very identity, Becky is saying to Jerry, “I am truly one of you.”

A new person is emerging who has 71% of Jerry’s brain wiring and 29% of Becky’s original wiring. At one point Becky fully surrenders her original identity, and after that a new composite person stares out at Jerry and his crippled and bleeding body.

The new Jerry, filled with amazement lets his hands roam all over his new female body with the creamy, freckled skin. So soft and smooth! He is a woman now, in body and spirit. The influence of Becky remains and has combined with a buried impulse that once led Aaron Anton to call him a natural bottom. Jerry is fully a she. And she decides to call herself Jill from that moment forward. Both Becky and Jerry have completed the Name Ritual and are fully b’nei elohim.

“They will be coming,” the injured Jerry warns Jill, but he hardly needs to speak. They are almost exactly the same person, still linked by the Purple Cable. “Leave before we’re both captured.”

“You could suffer True Death,” Jill warns him in reply. It is a concept that Jerry alone has rolled around in his mind long before this. He knows a terminal mind-capture must encapsulate the moment of death. If even one second was allowed to transpire after the recording, then the individual bifurcated. One would go on, but the other would experience being extinguished.

“I trust you will move heaven and earth to make sure that is not so,” he says. He removes the Purple Cable from his head, establishing the bifurcation, then gives his hand-macro to Jill. “Eliminate all the important parts of the saucer, the macro in the roof, and all the controls.

When she is done with all that Jill uses a screwdriver to attempt to open Jerry’s macro, which triggers the defense mechanism. The blade eats most of itself, enough to make the task of reverse engineering it impossible. She stamps the tiny remnant under her feet.

There is still a little water left over, enough for Jerry to drink until he is captured, and enough for Jill to fill two canteens. She also takes along a bag of trail mix to eat. But she is a ginger, and she knows the sun is really going to kick her ass during the hike.

It takes the rest of the day and part of the following night for Jill to walk across the desert south to the town of Roswell. From there she calls her bank, has money wired to her, and returns to Greendome by bus, which takes another three days with all the required bus transfers.

Cowboys find the wreckage in the desert while Jill is still on foot. They render what first aid they can and take Jerry to a small hospital in town. The movement of the horse-driven cart as he is carried out of there is terribly agonizing to him. The doctor saves Jerry’s leg, but he is laid up in traction and can make no move to escape.

The 509th Bomb Group retrieves the saucer from the rancher’s land and cranes it onto a couple of trucks. But it is just a pile of junk and there is nothing they can learn from it. There is no motor and no controls. It looks like a playground saucer made to entertain some children. And Jerry refuses to explain how it or he came to be there.

In the saloons, cowhands mention the “silver disk” they found and soon enough some reporters come calling. The Army press liaison tells them it is just debris from the crash of something they call project Mogul, and that Jerry Shybear was a local “Indian” who found it first, and shot himself in the leg when he thought he saw something move.

Then an Army general bitches about the leak of Mogul.

Tasked to conceal the existence of Mogul, the first thing that comes to mind was the big national flying saucer craze, exactly what occurred to Robyn’s mind. So the Air Force makes an official announcement that it had recovered the wreckage of a flying saucer. The press goes even more nuts, and the Air Force bureaucracy gradually realizes it had made a huge mistake. On July 8 they go on the radio, retract the flying saucer claim, and say naw, it is really just a weather balloon they picked up. Americans were less cynical in those days and let this go, so the military successfully covered up the cover-up.

Two years later when the existence of Project Mogul is declassified the Air Force says their original saucer statement is inoperative and that it had really been Mogul all along. Mogul is now the operative statement. Mogul had been an experiment to send balloons with microphones and tape recorders high into the sky to listen for Soviet nuclear detonations, then pick up the recordings later after the balloons had circled the globe.

So the press and the public let it drop again and the Air Force concludes they have successfully covered up the coverup of the coverup. That was the last anyone heard of it until three things happened that took away America’s virginity and put an end to the halcyon days when her leaders were looked up to and trusted implicitly.

The first was the assassination of the President in 1963, which sparked a poisonous conspiracy mindset that only seemed to be validated by later events, especially the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam in 1968, when people realized with shock that the government had lied and victory was nowhere in sight in the Vietnam War, plus the cover-ups and incredible abuses of power of the Watergate affair. Only after this vast attitude shift did people begin to read ominous things into the comedy of errors that took place at the beginning of the UFO era in 1947.

Alien bases were then imagined to exist in the four corners area of the south-western United States. An entire alphabet soup of imaginary government agencies were cooked up who were supposed to control all the top secret in formation on the alien presence, and even the information that these agencies existed was, conveniently, also supposed to be classified top secret. There were claims that projects existed to recover all downed flying saucers and claims that projects existed to overhaul and test-fly recovered flying saucers at “Area 51″ sixty miles northwest of Las Vegas. And the very lack of evidence for any of these claims was considered the best proof that a conspiracy to hide the truth existed.

Jerry Shybear is taken to a location in arid land but it isn’t Area 51 (Groom Lake), since the government did not establish that base until 1955. There is even a clinic much like the one at Hanford, but with much enhanced security. Earl Roland learns from his mistakes.

When Jill returns to Greendome she lays out the bad news first. “Jerry is either dead or in the hands of the enemy.”

Hunky and Dory grow filled with grief and press Jill for answers. She answers truthfully, but the hardest questions come from Robyn.

“I betrayed you, Robyn,” Inge admits. “We both did. Please don’t ask me to Share, you won’t like what you see.”

“So it was an affair.” Robyn had to admit to harself sha opened the door to that when sha told Jerry he owed her one homosexual fling. Har marriage to Jerry should have come first in every instance.

Jill then starts to dribble out some good news: she had allowed Jerry to take possession of her body, in the same way Chokhmah had taken possession of Haziel, or how Binah had possessed Yeshua. All of Jerry’s memories until the moment of possession are intact. “But I am not Jerry, nor am I Inge Hahn anymore. I ask you to call me only Jill from now on.”

This cheers up the b’nei elohim somewhat. Both Jerry and Inge are still present with them. Jerry is dead, but he lives on behind Jill’s eyes. And Jill herself has undergone an ad hoc version of the Name Ritual. The b’nei elohim have truly added a new member. Still, Hunky and Dory both feel something about Jill isn’t quite right.

So Jill toggles once more and lays out some bad news: “There never was any such person as Inge Hahn. My real name is Becky Roland, and I am the daughter of Earl Roland, planted by him here in the Greendome area so I could infiltrate your group.”

Robyn knew that all along. Sha lets out a slow sign. At least now it is out in the open.

“Why did you do that to us, Jill?” Dory wails, hardly able to believe it. “We loved you!”

“And I still love you,” she says, “all of you. Enough for Inge to surrender her body and soul so that Jerry might live. And I’m not finished giving. If there’s a chance Jerry’s alive, I must find him. And if he is dead, that only makes it even more important that I find him.”

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Chapter 56

Haziel stumbles west with the defeated forces of House Antero, Bellon and a regiment of Fallen Angels for days before sha shakes off har own self-pity over the loss of har precious Khondiel and realizes there are injured people around har who need the knowledge and skills of a healer. So sha begins to carry har own freight long before reaching the first major Antero city of Jelaket. As Haziel walks without the benefit of riding in har avatar or even on horseback sha learns directly in the muscles of har legs and in the soles of har feet what a large planet Barbelo truly is.

Baron Bayard Sala tells hyz serving wench Aliwe Halil to walk close to Lady Haziel and that har smallest whims are to be taken as direct commands. The two seem to quickly develop a language of their own and speak of many things that are incomprehensible to the Baron when hy happens to catch a word or two, tales of swarms and moons, of things called micros and other things called macros. And after Aliwe’s first words with har the Baron and soon everyone else notices that Haziel has begun to smile again and seems to shed all vestiges of har grief at last.

The forces of House Antero has horses, yet they use them only as beasts of burden to carry supplies, and the yeng walk beside their horses that they might stay and protect Haziel. Baron Priam Antero had fallen in battle, but King Brogan and Count Berek yet live.

None of the House of Larund walk with them save Lady Irus, for har husband Count Raddai had also fallen at the Nine Mile Wall, yet Lady Irus never shows the level of grief that afflicted Haziel with the loss of Khondiel. For Irus and har husband had freely come to aid the Brown Beards, and when sha saw Raddai consumed by the fire of the dragon har heart was salved against the pain of losing him with the pride of knowing hy fell after a most valiant stand.

At Jelaket the ranks of the stragglers begin to thin, but the rest press on across the heart of the West Lands to the Antero capital of Vaska. As they draw near the subjects of King Brogan send trains of supplies to aid their march, including many horses, for Jelaket has none, having sent nearly all of them with the forces that had come to aid Rumbek.

In Vaska when King Brogan and Count Berek have been welcomed home by the people of the city, Haziel is bid by the king to stay and rest for as long as sha would like. But Brogan laments the faithlessness of hyz daughter Keri, which had brought all of this grief down upon them.

“Or so Thaumiel would have you believe, Your Highness,” says Haziel. “Thaumiel takes pleasure in turning the things we love against us, King Brogan. In time the shame you feel over your daughter will be transformed into anger against Thaumiel. And after that, perhaps your anger will be transformed once more, but into pity. For Thaumiel is well embarked on a path toward his own dissolution and is indeed to be pitied. Great has been his fall heretofore, and greater still the depths he has yet to fall. Thaumiel might succeed in gaining direct control of all of Barbelo one day, but the one who controls the world, whatever it is, will not be of the elohim or anything like us.”

“Then what do you council for House Antero?” the King asks.

“House Antero is unfortunately in a most precarious position, for there exists no natural barrier except distance between your city of Jelaket and downfallen Elketz in Magodon. Next year Lord Kirodiel will arrive here demanding tribute. Hy will begin to build garrisons throughout your land and Demonstroke will darken your skies to protect them. Behind him will be the combined might of House Gerash and House Bellon in a newly-doubled army of Thaumiel. You have no hope of succeeding if you offer resistance. So I council that you do not resist. Pay the tribute. Aid Kirodiel in building hyz garrisons, as hy will demand.”

“And the honor of the Red Beards will never be retrieved again.”

“Yes, King Brogan, that is true. But in return, you will preserve the lives of your people and the lives of House Larund beyond yours. You will find that the Law of Thaumiel has prepared the White Beards to assail any resistance until it breaks, but after it breaks this law flounders, and when presented by no resistance at all, the death culture it fosters slips into the inactivity of confusion, which is why we were not pursued after the war. You see, the one thing Thaumiel cannot teach the people to do is to simply live. So lay down your self-respect, King Brogan, and live, that you may know a deeper victory over your foe.”

“It will be made so. And yet, Lady Haziel, there remain tokens of the shame of House Antero I can no longer bear to have in my keeping.” The King unrolls a rich black cloth on hyz table so Haziel can behold the glittering broken shards of Dragonthorn. “Take these far away from my kingdom, I beg you.”

“It will be as you say, King Brogan.” And Haziel commits the relics to the keeping of Aliwe.

After a month in the house of the king, Haziel and har dwindling group ride to Gerazan to winter over. Then together with Aliwe, Lady Irus, Baron Bayard, and a brigade of Fallen Angels, Haziel crosses the ice bridge that leads from the far west of the West Lands to the far east of the East Lands. They are almost precisely on the other side of Barbelo from Thaumiel’s capital city in the center of the Middle Lands. For all their journey they are never assailed by Demonstroke as Haziel feared they would be. Thaumiel had essentially forgotten all about Haziel.

Bereft once more of horses, the party spends the entire (albeit short) planting season on the move, so Haziel knows nothing but bitter white cold for the better part of a year. But harvest time is unusually warm, almost hot, and sha is in good spirits as they come down off from the ice to the outskirts of Belen. Here is the very source of the River Bandar, emerging from the face of a melting glacier. Every hour or so, a portion of the ice melts, releasing a boulder, sometimes the size of a house, into the vale below. But the stream is too wild to survive running it in a raft. The journey, by necessity, remains by foot, parallel to the river.

At length, Haziel’s group arrives in the city of Locotin in the center of the Black Beard lands. They have come to the end of their walking travels. Lady Irus commissions a barge and floats with Haziel down the River Bandar to the capital city of Peshast, where the people marvel to see the wife of Count Raddai returning from a battle beyond the end of the world.

The Black Beard commitment to the war had been relatively meager, due to the great distance involved, so King Garand bears no resentment toward Haziel for the defeat. And Haziel says to the King, “Of the three houses that remain opposed to Thaumiel, House Larund has the best disposition. You have flown in my avatar, King Garand, so you know Barbelo is in the shape of a ball, and the lands of House Larund are furthest from the Middle Lands. On the west you are protected by a great natural wall. On the east are two ice bridges and a friendly House. I do not think you will be subject to invasion, but for a time, I believe you might face raids from the dragon controlled by Joy. Therefore I council that you convert all the dwellings in the land of the Black Beards into houses of stone.”

“Certainly Demonstroke will be able to flatten even these,” the King objects.

Haziel replies, “What you say is true, King Garand, nothing can withstand a direct assault from the dragon, not even the fabled Nine Mile Wall was proof against it as we saw. Yet your cities as they are presently constructed are little more than so much stacked dry timber to be kindled by Demonstroke in a single strike. Why make it easy for Joy?”

“Your counsel is good, Lady Haziel. You have traveled far. I offer a wing of the castle to be a home for yourself and your Fallen Angels, if you would abide here in Peshast. Many of our people have assigned their loyalties to Chokhmah rather than Thaumiel, much as House Sala has done and here you would have much to teach and do. Your reputation as a healer is well-known.”

“I thank you deeply for your offer, King Garand, and indeed I will avail myself of it for a little while. But Peshast will not be my final home. I have summoned a woman of the b’nei elohim named Victoria to come to our aid, and I must wait here until she arrives.”

Baron Bayard is bid to stay in Peshast as well. This had been hyz home when hyz mother Queen Aurra had exiled hym in punishment for hyz taste in women and yen of low station. And the baron’s servant girl Aliwe was fully occupied, but more often than not her task was simply trying to keep Bayard’s hands away from her slender body.

Thaumiel has a dragon, certainly, but Binah has a woman who can fly. Her name is Victoria and she is a third-generation b’nei elohim. Yeshua got the idea of a flying woman from that one time when che departed from hez followers in Jerusalem and ascended into the sky. On the summit of Mount Olive che had summoned a worm-tunnel mouth, stepped into it, and had remained entirely visible to the disciples as che physically moved the bubble into the air, riding along with it. The same mechanism was used to allow Victoria to fly on Earth and also on the Earth’s moon, the only difference was that Binah handed full control of the position of the worm-tunnel mouth to her.

Haziel asked to borrow Victoria after learning of har existence during har long talks with Aliwe. And so Victoria immediately comes to Barbelo through the Sacred Pool. She drops to one knee before Yeshua and says, “Command me, Lord.” For it was written by Paulus that every knee will bow at the name of Yeshua and every tongue confess that Yeshua was Lord. The b’nei elohim consider themselves to be the greatest servants of Yeshua.

“I need you to kill an errant dragon,” Yeshua tells her, and not for an instant does Victoria blanch.

“Such a simple thing, Lord? I would love to whack a dragon for you, of course, but there is one small hitch. I can’t fly on Barbelo.”

Yeshua then orders the Ark of the Covenant to be brought out and propped just above the dark wooden decking that surrounded the Sacred Pool. Then che tells Victoria, “Touch one of the cherubim on the cover of the Ark.”

For the Ark, as the only remaining avatar of Chokhmah on Barbelo, is also a receptacle for the end point of a one-dimensional fold-space line. Chokhmah uses the physical structure of the Ark as a reference to keep the end-point of the worm-line positioned within. But after Victoria touches the lid of the Ark, that worm-line begins to track on her body like an invisible piece of string cheese she can never shake loose.

Now Victoria is the Ark, for all practical purposes. For the time being, the original Ark is just an inert piece of gold-covered wood, with no connection to the elohim at all.

Yeshua says, “The fold-line cannot act as a tunnel, that requires a continuous flow of dark energy and I’m only budgeted for the one that connects to this pond of water. But the end of the fold-line you now possess can balloon out like a pod, just big enough to contain you, and of course you can now control where that pod takes you, in the usual way.”

“Which is to say, Lord, I can now fly on Barbelo. Where shall I go?”

“Haziel is waiting for you in the King’s castle in Peshast, the capital city of the Black Beards, east from here and over the Wall of God. There sha will give you the weapon you will use to kill Demonstroke.”

Victoria bows and says, “Thank you, Lord Yeshua, for giving me this opportunity to bring glory to our divine Father.”

“Chakhmah doesn’t need glory, Victoria, he just needs the dragon dead. But I will say to you that you are entirely welcome for this opportunity to have more fun than any member of the b’nei elohim has ever enjoyed before.”

The demigod Victoria, daughter of Ariel, granddaughter of Robyn, exults as she flies in the violet sky of Barbelo. Victoria soars over the River Armak, which flows west from the place where it was joined by the river Arhena. She continues to fly along the River Arhena east, always east, as the awesome Wall of God begins to loom as a barrier before her.

Victoria looks down and sees trees with leaves of many colors, red and green, yellow and gold, such that the land looks to be perpetually in the full glory of autumn as it was known on Earth. Yet Barbelo’s trees are never bereft of leaves, for there are no seasons as there are on Earth. Instead the leaves fall from their trees individually after a span, and are replaced by another.

The source of the River Arhena is a perpetual rain that falls as a mist in the center of the Wall of God. Victoria becomes thoroughly soaked as sha flies through this heavy drizzle. A little more than halfway up the dark Wall of God, at 10,000 feet, the mist becomes a solid white sheet of falling water. This is the greatest cataract known by humans and nephilim to exist.

At 19,000 feet Victoria flies over the rim and turns horizontal once again, and alights, for the ancient agreement is that Binah can only operate her end of the fold-line within the boundaries of Haaretz. On foot, Victoria follows the chief waterway of the Black Beards, the River Bandar, east through high hills to the city of Peshast.

To the guards of the castle she says, “I am Victoria of the b’nei elohim. I was summoned here by Haziel herself, gentlemen, so please take me to her.”

Victoria is brought to Haziel in the council chamber, and as she had done in Canterwood she kneels in worship, for any one of the b’nei elohim are much more aware of the awesome difference of the elohim than most other humans were. Haziel welcomes Victoria and tells her to rise.

“My Lady,” Victoria says, “the Lord Yeshua told me you have a weapon to kill Demonstroke.”

“Aliwe, please do the honors.”

Aliwe unwraps the black cloth from around the broken pieces of Dragonthorn, the blade Kari Antero once used to command Demonstick.

Haziel says, “This is the only heirloom we possess with which we can hope to even the odds against the dragon and it is nothing more than a pile of sharp baubles.”

Victoria steps forward to gather up the diamond shards. The one still attached to the hilt could serve as a long dagger, or very short sword. She says, “I think I can fly behind the dragon and ram this into hyz brain.”

‘The covenant says she who wields Dragonthorn must be a virgin woman,” Baron Bayard declares. “Otherwise the dragon will not be mortally wounded.”

Which was the Baron’s way, of course, of saying hy was interested in Victoria and wanted to know more about her. Hy wasn’t quite sure where a b’nei elohim female fit on the spectrum between commoner and noblewoman.

“I have never known man,” Victoria declares in turn, with a wink at Haziel. She doesn’t mention the crazy lesbian sex sha once had with her aunt Chayn. Maybe that skirted the intent of the virginity requirement, but it was the elohim, after all, who made their demigod servants such utter horn dogs.

After Victoria officially joins Haziel’s group they ride down the river Bandar to the town of Vesa, where the Fallen Angels camp outside the city. The royals reserve an inn. There, after supper has finished, the conversation turns to strategy.

Victoria asks the first, most obvious question: “Where, actually, is this dragon located?”

Baron Bayard asks the innkeeper if there is a map of Barbelo at hand. When servants post it on the wall of the dining hall, Baron Bayard walks up to it and says, “Behold the Wall of God. The woman Joy is said to keep Demonstroke in an aerie high above the Valley of Ten Thousand Creeks that come together to form the Alnitar river, approximately here. You can see this is the wildest region in Haaretz. No roads issue forth thither from Nath or Hamar. Yet we must start from Fatho because it is the nearest city to the aerie.”

“Hell. In the morning I can find this aerie myself and dispatch the dragon as I have been commanded,” Victoria says.

“That will not do,” Haziel counters. “I have no doubt you can do precisely as you have described, but it’s no good if you just kill the dragon in secret. People have to see you do it. That’s what this is really about. People have to see that we are resisting Thaumiel.”

Victoria bows har head. “As you say, Lady Haziel.”

The Baron says, “Some of you might have surmised that I intend to use the Catwalk to reach Haaretz from here.”

“And what dear Baron is this Catwalk of which you speak?” Victoria asked.

“The Catwalk, Lady Victoria, is a path carved into the stone face of the wall which drops four air miles in one hundred Catwalk miles. But it is precarious beyond belief. There are places where the Catwalk is no wider than one of your feet is wide.”

“M’lord Baron, please tell me this Catwalk comes with a safety rail,” says Aliwe Halil.

“The Catwalk comes with no rail. We must take our own precautions. Oh, did I mention that one part of the Catwalk entails a rope traverse?”

“Naturally I do not fear this Catwalk,” Victoria says, “but do have caution, all of you. If anyone falls, I will not be able to stave off your death. I can carry little more than this blade which I intend to use to slay Demonstroke.”

“I do not doubt the courage of anyone in this company to continue,” Haziel says, “but it may be the case that not everyone will be mentally prepared to negotiate it, as the Baron describes it. Let everyone turn it over in their mind as we ride to the rim tomorrow, for it shall be there that whoever freely elects to end their part of our quest must remain behind while the others go on.”

An awkward silence falls as everyone contemplates how they would react when they see the Catwalk.

Haziel turns to the commanding officer of the Fallen Angels who is also present at the inn. “Tell the dolls what they’re facing tomorrow and make the same offer. I am not ordering any of them to accompany me to Haaretz. But if they elect to stay behind here in the lands of House Larund they must disband as Fallen Angels, and by that I mean they must not even form veteran societies. I will not have King Garand troubled by the presence of a regiment of foreign troops in hyz realm.”

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Chapter 55

Lilith Gervasi is an English Jew and an eighteen-year-old survivor of the Holocaust. She does not sleep nights anymore, not even now, a full year after the War.  Instead she stays wide awake, watching the coast with her war surplus Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle for Nazis who would never come. She suffers terribly from something 21st Century doctors would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

One instant Lilith is scanning the beach in front of St. Catherine’s lighthouse on the Isle of Wight.  The next instant a woman appears.

The manner of the woman’s sudden appearance is entirely out of the ordinary, Lilith thinks.  Then again, so is standing watch all night every night.  Lilith realizes it is entirely possible she is not sane.

The female is not a Nazi, but Lilith isn’t taking chances, not after what she has suffered.  She fires a round into the air from fifty yards to get the lady’s attention and advances closer.   Lilith sees that the strange woman has white hair, but despite that she looked to be rather young, and is perhaps only thirty years of age.

The woman watches Lilith draw near with the rifle but she cannot put her hands over her head because she is nursing a baby.  When they are close enough together that they can comfortably speak the woman says, “Please don’t shoot again. As you can see I have a baby.”

“Who are you?” Lilith demands. “You don’t sound remotely English.”

“My name is Haziel,” sha says. “And you are correct, I am not from your country at all.  I am from somewhere very far away.”

Lilith’s rifle drops a bit from its sight-line on Haziel’s head. It is now aimed at har heart. Lilith says, “So what are you doing here?  And how did you get here?”

“I am here to meet someone,” Haziel says.  “As for how I arrived, I can explain it to you, but you would think me to be entirely balmy, rather than just yourself.”

Lilith lowers the rifle to point at the ground between them, and there is even the faintest glimmer of a smile. “Why did you bring a baby?”

“This is my beloved newborn daughter Del,” Haziel says.  “I’m so madly in love with her I never let her out of my sight.”

That is quite enough. Lilith unchambers the round and slings her rifle over her back.

It is pre-dawn, and in the gloomy light that is beginning to gather Haziel can take a better look at Lilith. The girl has just reached adulthood, but there is also an aged look in her hollow eyes, as though she has already lived four lifetimes, and it haunts Haziel. A kind of Darwinian process in the camps has produced a girl who is able to outwit, bribe, or intimidate anyone to get what she needs to survive. Haziel sees the results right on Lilith’s surface.  Sha asks, “Do you live here, at the lighthouse?”

Lilith nods.  The work camps had emaciated her body, and when she returned home to the Isle of Wight and was fed by her father, the weight came back in the form of strong, wiry muscles. She is eighteen but looks twice that. “My father is here, she says. “He operates the lighthouse and runs a weather outstation.”

“I should like to meet him,” Haziel says.

Lilith spits at the ground. “He has sold his life to the Goy and betrayed the promise of God that our people should rule Palestine.”

“When you say your nation,” Haziel says, “I know you are not speaking of England, Lilith Gervasi.  You are a member of a people whose very right to exist is always being questioned.”

Lilith’s eyes narrow at Haziel.  “How do you know my name?”

“I know many things about you.  I know that your father was used by the government to help deceive Hitler as to exactly where the invasion was going to take place.  I know you and your mother were taken to camps on the Continent by German frogmen.  I know they tattooed a number on your arm and I know that you have come through such suffering and human degradation and evil that few could ever begin to understand the mere periphery of it, let alone sympathize with the core of your ordeal and your memories of it.”

Lilith shows Haziel the six numbers tattooed to her arm by the SS to affirm har assessment is correct.   She says, “The Crown owes a very large marker to my father, but he will not cash it in to obtain a thing, a concession of such little import it could not possibly disconcert the government in the smallest way. The Foreign Secretary refuses to allow Jews to immigrate to the British Mandate in Palestine. Not even Jews who are already British subjects.”

“Oil,” says Haziel.

One word, but it explains everything. The Middle-East is awash in petroleum, but if the Arabs suspect the Jews will have an independent state there they will attack the wells owned and operated by the British. So the Balfour Declaration and the Churchill White Paper were torn up for the worthless pieces of paper they always were, and all bets are now off in the Holy Land.  Lilith says, “The admiral who deceived my father is dead. My father is willing to let the whole matter go.”

Little Del starts to cry. It is cold, dawn is just breaking, and che wanted hez mother to take hem back to a place that was warm so che can go back to sleep. Haziel says, “You saw the manner of my coming, and your eyes were not deceiving you.  What would you do if I said I could take you to Palestine in the blink of an eye?”

Lilith does not hesitate at all. She goes into the grounds of the lighthouse complex and returns ten minutes later carrying a small tote bag with clothing and her personal effects. She also carries her rifle, but now she also had several boxes of .303 caliber cartridges carried on little straps. But she has not taken the time to wake her father and notify him that she is leaving, and Haziel knows that as matters stand the girl might never be persuaded to speak to him.

Haziel also notes, with some satisfaction, that Lilith carries in one hand a quantity of unleavened bread.  That is the essence of the feast of Passover, to re-affirm the willingness of the children of Israel to respond without delay to the command of their God to depart a place.  Deep down Lilith might have a small spark of recognition as to who Haziel really is.

Haziel asks Lilith to hold Del for a short time, which forces the girl to leave her rifle and other belongings on the ground.   Holding the infant distracts Lilith from the instantaneous transition. The crack of dawn in England changes to mid-morning in Israel, for they have east toward the rising sun. Lilith sees the light has shifted, and the terrain has changed as well.   The beach is gone, replaced by desert.  Astonished, Lilith almost drops Del, but just manages to hang on to the child.   Her eyes lift to meet those of Haziel.  “Who are you really?”

“If I told you the truth, like I said before, you would think me a nutter, and blasphemous to boot.  But hopefully, Lilith, at the very least I will be your lifetime friend. There may come a time when I will ask much more.”

Holding Del in her arms and listening to Haziel’s words has an effect that Lilith would never be able put into words.   After a few wordless moments, as her body shakes with dry weeping, Lilith returns the child to Haziel.

After that she is whisked away by a number of Jewish farmers who live a few miles inland from the Mediterranean, at a kibbutz founded by Polish immigrants in 1943 named Yad Mordechai. The settlement lies on the coast highway only eight miles north of the city of Gaza and in later years would lie only two and a half miles outside of the border of the Gaza Strip.

Lilith speaks no Polish, nor at that point has she learned Hebrew (which has already been revived from extinction to become the official tongue of Eretz Yisrael). But all she needs to do was brandish the tattoo on her forearm, and it is enough for the pioneers.   They are already well acquainted with Haziel and on good terms with har, but they refuse to reveal anything about her to Lilith when she begins to ask many questions.   And in the weeks and months that follow, Lilith begins to suspect she had been taken to her new home by an angel of God. That first morning begins to seem like a dream. But much fighting lies ahead, and that would much more like a nightmare.

As a consequence of the victory over the Ottoman Turks in the First World War, Great Britain became the master of the whole Middle-East. In the closing days of the War the British Foreign Secretary. A.J. Balfour, declared that “His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

In 1922 the Churchill White Paper put forth the premise that Jewish immigration to Palestine could continue until such a time as there was a Jewish majority there. But by 1939 Britain bowed to threats to British oil extraction infrastructure from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen and reversed this position. This reversal hit at precisely the same time that Jews were being exterminated throughout the growing Third Reich.

After the War, Polish Jews refused to be repatriated to their homes in Europe. Physical attacks on them continued, and several hundred were murdered in the first three months after hostilities ended. Hundreds of thousands of Jews ended up in Displaced Persons camps throughout Europe, where conditions were only marginally better than they had been in the Reich’s death camps.

For the balance of 1945, only eight small ships carrying a thousand Displaced Persons reached Palestine from ports in Italy and Greece. For the first half of 1946, another 10,500 immigrants arrived on eleven ships.  Haziel took Lilith to the kibbutz at Yad Mordechai during this span of time.

From August 1946 to December 1947, 51,700 Displaced Persons try to make their way to Palestine on thirty-five ships, but are captured by the British and taken to new camps on the island of Cyprus, where they languish behind barbed wire. Many of the armed guards of these camps in Cyprus had liberated some of the same prisoners from the extermination camp at Belsen-Belson only eighteen months prior to this, and they are fully aware of this. Clandestine immigration to Palestine falls to a trickle. The British propose a plan to divide Palestine, but it is rejected by both Arabs and Jews, and the question is referred to the United Nations.

On August 31, 1947, the UN proposes the creation of two independent states in Palestine, one Arab and one Jewish, with the city of Jerusalem under separate international control to administer the holy places of the world’s three major monotheistic religions. The Jewish side of the partition was to have 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs. The Arab side was to have 700,000 Arabs and 10,000 Jews, and Jerusalem was to have about 100,000 of each ethnicity. The Jews would get the blasted wasteland of the Negev desert, and the Arabs would get the fertile upper Galilee region.

The UN thinks all these arrangements are fair. So fair, in fact, that after Israel declares Statehood and the UN realizes the Displaced Persons are being handed rifles as soon as they get off the boat at Haifa, another SC resolution is passed to prevent immigration of males from age 17 to 45.

David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency whose authority was established by the League of Nations, knew the Jews would have to fight even for the lousy territory they had been assigned. He orders every Jew in Palestine mobilized for war, men and women alike.

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly accepts the partition proposals by a vote of thirty-three votes to thirteen, with ten abstentions. The Jewish people, homeless since the days of Emperor Hadrian of Rome, are to have their own state again. There is rejoicing in the streets, but the people danced still knowing war lies just ahead.

On the day after Partition, a bus carrying Jewish civilians to Jerusalem is attacked by Arabs with rifles and grenades, killing five people, including a young bride named Shoshona Mizrachi Farhi on the way to her wedding The bus attack comes to symbolize the beginning of the war for independence, which would claim the lives of 6,000 Jews, or one percent of the total population.

In this period, just after Partition but before the official declaration of the state of Israel, the armed forces are called the Haganah (Defense). Great Britain still occupies Palestine, and considers the Haganah to be an illegal organization. By the fall of 1947 Haganah has two thousand regulars and a thousand reserves.

Armed Bedoin nomads surround a number of isolated settlements in the south, including Lilith’s collective farm. The Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion swears that not one single settlement will be evacuated. Armored cars produced in Tel Aviv are used to secure the water pipelines that these settlements depend on, and also to send weapons and reinforcements through the Bedoin lines.

After a Jewish convoy is attacked en route to reinforcing the kibbutz at Yad Mordechai, and all forty-six soldiers are killed, the Haganah develops a plan to occupy those Arab communities that lay close to or directly between Jewish cities and the far-flung settlements.

In most cases, the Arabs flee their communities when they are besieged and occupied. In the case of the town of Dair Yassin where they do not, the Jewish terrorist groups Irgun and the Stern Gang massacre all the Arabs, men, women, and children, to the shock and horror of most Jews, including the leadership of the Haganah. But the Haganah is not yet willing to cut off all ties to Irgun because they need manpower and rifles and they have the same enemies. In April Haganah and Irgun even conduct joint operations along the coast while the British accelerate their complete withdrawal from Palestine.

In reprisal for the Deir Yassin massacre in March, a convoy of armored buses is attacked on April 15, and seventy-seven Jewish doctors, nurses, and patients are killed. Only twenty-eight survive, and only eight of these are not wounded.

King Abdullah of Transjordan, who is the only real ally of the Jews in the region, offers Jewish autonomy, but only if it remains under his sovereignty. A Jewish Agency negotiator named Golda Meir is pained to disappoint her good friend the king, but she has to reject his offer. After all that the Jews have suffered, especially in the Shoah (or Holocaust), it is simply not enough to be represented in a foreign parliament.

This leads directly to the declaration of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948. Eleven minutes later, President Truman officially recognizes the state by cable, before he even knows what the name of the country will be.

Israel’s army boasts nearly 37 thousand troops, but 1,200 have already been killed in combat. Britain opens the detention camps on Cyprus and thousands stream into Israel by ship, many having already been trained in the camps by the Haganah.

On the first full day after Independence is declared, Iraqi troops cross over the Jordan River. Simultaneously, Israeli troops raid Lebanon to delay their entrance into the war. Syria comes down from the Golan heights with thirty tanks and advances to the sea of Galilee. Two 65mm artillery pieces check the Syrians at the kibbutz known as Deganya, then the guns are rushed south to attack the Iraqis besieging the old British fort overlooking Gesher on the Jordan River, who then flee.

On the second day Transjordanian and Egyptian troops join the assault. Saudi Arabia sends a company of troops who fought with Egypt. And Egypt even lands troops on the beach at Majdal between Gaza and Tel Aviv. The first Egyptian attack is against the kibbutz of Kfar Darom, seven miles south of Gaza, where thirty settlers hold off elements of the Muslim Brotherhood with grenades. When their grenades ran out, they put explosives in bags and hurl them at the attackers. When Egypt rolls in tanks, the settlers fire anti-tank weapons at the lead tanks, destroying them, and causing the other tanks to withdraw.

Egypt bypasses Kfar Darom and moves to kibbutz Nirim, five miles away. Twenty defenders are killed there but the rest hold on. Not even an air attack the next day broke their will.

In January 1948, the first state-sponsored forces from Syria began to make raids, and in this instance, the Jews are aided by counter-attacks from the Royal Air Force, for the British still considered themselves the rulers of Palestine, on paper.

When the Haganah completely abandons the coastal highway running south from Tel Aviv, Lilith’s kibbutz at Yad Mordechai is completely cut off. Only two private aircraft maintained contact between north and south, carrying basic supplies and newspapers.

Lilith is part of the Gahal, or immigrant soldiers. Most of the children in the kibbutz are called Sabra. That is, they had been born in Palestine and knew no other home. Lilith is their guardian when their parents work the fields, both before and during the war.

Lilith’s kibbutz lies just west of the road that links Gaza to the Egyptian beachhead at Majdal. Egypt hurls two infantry battalions, one armored battalion, and an artillery battalion against them one dawn for an attack that lasts five days. It is Lilith’s baptism by fire, the battle that forges her into a fierce warrior. She would go on to fight in every one of her country’s conflicts until orthodox Jews prevailed to remove her from the front lines, and after that she would personally train Del, the daughter of Haziel, to become the even more legendary commander of Bravo Battalion.  It is Lilith’s unwavering belief that the Yishuv, the People, always come first.

Much enemy armor is taken out with the PIAT (Projectile, Infantry, Anti- Tank). Those Arab tanks which manage to breach the Yad Mordechai perimeter are set alight at close range with Molotov cocktails or attacked with hand grenades whose fragments would enter the tank through the view slit, wounding the crew and forcing them to retire. Other tanks are taken out with mines, and still others break down and are dragged out of range by armored cars.

But there are just too many Egyptians, and the shelling never ceases. After five days the settler’s ammunition is spent. Lilith helps bury their dead, and then helps carry the wounded through the Egyptian lines under the cover of darkness, along with all the remaining settlers. Yad Mordechai is abandoned, and in the morning the Egyptians burn it to the ground. But during those five days of resistance Tel Aviv is saved from being overrun. The stubborn defense at Yad Mordechai gives Tel Aviv time to bring in reinforcements and firm up the defensive line on the road between the city and Gaza.

On June 11, a truce called by the United Nations goes into effect and lasted until July 9. In nearly one month of war Israel lost 900 soldiers and 300 civilians.

Between the first truce and a second one is ten more days of fighting. The IDF captures Nazareth, the home town of Yeshua, which has grown much larger than the original five hundred souls. The second truce lasts until October 15, and is followed by one solid week of fighting against Egypt. On the first day of that week Israeli warplanes bomb the Egyptian air base at El Arish on the Mediterranean coastline of Sinai, and also cut the railway from El Arish to Rafa.

After the third cease-fire takes effect on October 22, Lilith and the Polish settlers who had taken her in move back into the ruins of Yad Mordechai and begin to rebuild. There would be renewed fighting in the winter, and a fourth and final cease fire, but Lilith judges that the continued existence of her new nation is no longer in doubt.

On her collective farm after the War of Independence Lilith Gervasi immerses herself in honest toil cultivating the fields and garden crops and occasionally defends the settlement from gunmen who infiltrate from the nearby Gaza Strip to kill Jews simply for being Jews. Sometimes these attacks on Yad Mordechai are followed up by fierce IDF reprisal raids. Lilith is mobilized as a sergeant in the IDF reserves to help guide the counterattacks.

Apart from her trusty British-made rifle Lilith owns very little in the way of personal possessions. She has only her clothing, a radio she shares with the others in the Women’s House, and other such modest things. There are tractors and jeeps, but they belong to the whole community. All the profits of the kibbutz are pooled together for the needs of the laborers. The children eat and sleep apart from their parents, and Lilith, who is attending university part of the time, helps to educate them.

On July 23, 1952 there is a coup in Egypt deposing King Farouk, who has ruled his country since 1936. One of the coup plotters named Colonel Gamal Nasser steadily rises in influence to become the usual President-for-life.

Lilith graduates from Hebrew University in 1953 and is commissioned a second lieutenant in the IDF. During her physical examination the IDF doctors noted the mass of keloid whip scars on her back, which limits her range of motion somewhat.  They also note the six numbers tattooed on her arm and know exactly how she had been disfigured.

In the fall, Lilith returns to Hebrew University to begin her academic work for a Master’s degree. She is interested in the newly-revived Hebrew language, which had been essentially a dead tongue (like Latin) for more than two thousand five hundred years. After the Babylonian Vacation it fell out of everyday use by the Jewish people, and this was true even in the time of Yeshua, who had spoken the Syrian tongue called Aramaic. Over those twenty-five centuries Hebrew became a rather specialized language spoken only by the scribes and elders in synagogues, and in the Diaspora, when many Jewish communities lost contact with each other, the pronunciation of Hebrew naturally drifted somewhat.

There were marked differences between the way the Shephardi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews spoke Hebrew, and there had been some infiltration of influences from both Russian and Yiddish. When the Zion project was conceived, and European immigrants began to settle in the Levant with the aim of creating a Jewish homeland, the “official” pronunciation of Hebrew was decided by a committee. But it was wrong at many points, and Lilith knew this because from time to time she speaks to Haziel, who remembers how “biblical” Hebrew had really been spoken. It only remained for Lilith to prove it. This was the challenge that formed the heart of her Masters’ Thesis.

Soon after obtaining her advanced degree she received an elevation in rank to seren, which corresponds to captain.

On July 26, 1956 Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal, seizing control from the British. He closes the Straits of Tirin in the Red Sea, which effectively puts the southernmost Israeli port of Eilat under a blockade. At the same time he refuses to allow any ships bound for Tel Aviv or Haifa to transit the canal. The United Kingdom and France lay plans to take the canal back by force, and they are interested in getting Israel involved in this operation. Israel was already leaning toward a tussle with Egypt, the question was not if but when. Cross-border fedayeen raids from the Gaza strip had never ceased over the eight years Egypt had occupied it.

The French begin to arm the IDF, especially the air force. And in the third week of October Nasser moves part of his army into Gaza, including a number of artillery pieces, which are used to shell the Israeli settlements near the border, of which Lilith’s kibbutz of Yad Mordechai is the closest. Nasser also moves troops into the Sinai Peninsula, supplied with the latest Soviet military equipment.

On October 29 four Israeli World War II vintage P-51 Mustang fighter planes fly into the Sinai and cut, with their propellers, all the telephone lines connecting the Egyptian forces in Sinai to their home office in Cairo. On the same afternoon, 395 IDF paratroopers are dropped at Mitla Pass, only fifty miles from the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, a force commanded by Colonel Ariel Sharon crosses the border and seizes (after very hard fighting) three Egyptian positions along the 150 miles from Israel to the pass. Sharon then disobeys orders to halt and proceeds to take Mitla Pass, at a cost of 38 Israeli lives.

On October 31 an Egyptian frigate fires two hundred shells into Haifa from the sea, but a French destroyer drives it off. Two Israeli destroyers then chase it down and open fire, and later two Israeli warplanes damage it with rockets. The Egyptian ship surrenders, and it is boarded and towed into Haifa.

Israel fights a fierce series of tank battles for Abu Ageila, and after two days the Egyptians withdraw. From this position, Israel can supply its troops in the central Sinai without an attack from the rear.

On November 2 the IDF seizes El Arish on the Sinai Mediterranean coast, which completely isolates the Gaza Strip. By that same evening, the Egyptian governor in Gaza surrenders. The Israelis penetrate to within ten miles of the Suez Canal and take possession of forty Soviet-made T-34 tanks and sixty armored vehicles which had been left behind there.

Seren Lilith Gervasi’s part in the war begins at Eilat and runs down the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. The objective is to seize the guns at Sharm el-Sheikh and lift the closure of the Straits of Tiran. Her commander is Colonel Avraham Yoffe, and she is part of a motorized infantry brigade of 1,800 soldiers and 200 vehicles. Their route is along a camel track that was never designed to be used by wheeled vehicles. At one point at Wadi Zaala they all break out their spades, dig their vehicles out of deep sand, and push them uphill.

At Dahab Oasis they have their first firefight against the camel-mounted troops of the Egyptian Frontier Force. They also are supplied with fuel from boats sent down the Gulf of Aqaba from Eilat. Meanwhile, a detachment of Ariel Sharon’s paratroopers advanced in a pincer movement down the Gulf of Suez, nearly doubles the size of the Israeli assault force.

At Sharm el-Sheikh a huge battery of naval guns are positioned to block all shipping to Eilat. There, 1,500 Egyptian troops with their mortars and artillery hold off the Israelis for four hours of intense fighting, and it is over the course of those four hours that Lilith puts forth her supreme fighting effort in this war.  The big guns of the fort are disarmed by 9 AM that morning. The water route to Eilat is open once more. Israel achieved all of her war objectives in just one week, which is fortuitous, because the American President Dwight D. Eisenhower threatens to essentially bankrupt France and Britain if they do not wrap things up. IDF losses are 172 killed and 817 wounded.

Having lost the war, Egypt is compelled by the terms of the cease-fire to allow Israeli shipping to pass through the Suez Canal once more. Immediately, an Israeli destroyer squadron passes from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea to support Yoffe, his battalion commanders, Seren Lilith Gervasi, and all their infantry at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

Not by word, correspondence, telegram, or phone call does Lilith Gervasi appraise her father in England of any of the things that she had achieved since she parted from him, nor any of the historic events that transpire daily around her. But after the war, when the reserves were being demobilized Haziel came calling to visit before Lilith had exchanged her Seren’s uniform for the clothing appropriate for a collective farm. And Lilith marvels once more that Haziel appears to be precisely the same age as when they first met on the beach at Underhill on the Isle of Wight in 1946.

Haziel embraces Lilith, then stands back a bit to regard the woman with a friendly but appraising gaze. She says, “Your father Benjamin will not live forever.”

Lilith loses her smile, for she knows what Haziel is asking her to do. It is something Lilith has dreaded for years. “I’m not ready to tell him everything,” she says soberly.

“No, but you are, I think, ready to tell him something, and that is a vast improvement.” Sha holds out her hand. “Come. Please.”

Then Haziel whisks Lilith back to St. Catherine’s lighthouse on the Isle of Wight in the same manner she had once whisked the girl to Yad Mordechai twenty-one years prior. So it had not been a dream or a hallucination after all.

“Will you tell me who and what you really are, Haziel?” Lilith asks as they walked toward the lighthouse that was so familiar to her.

“I will tell you everything,” Haziel assures her. “Everything! But only after you have also told your father everything.”

Lilith stops in her tracks. “Why Haziel? Why must it be so?”

“Have you not discerned by now that I am healing your soul?”

After a long pause, Lilith nods her head, then resumes her walk.

“Good!” Haziel tells her. “That too is a sign that what I have been doing is working.”

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Chapter 53

For a number of days Lord Kirodiel completely bypasses the hard target of Rumbek. Hyz army destroys the villages of Teal and Olivus, then fans out through all the surrounding hills. By the end of the third day the city of Mandakar lies in smoking ruins, and the entirety of Sealiah Island lies under the boots of the invading House Gerash.

At Mandakar the Gerash forces roll forward a prefabricated bridge and swung it out on a pivot to connect Fanon Island to Sealiah Island once more. Supported by many small boats the bridge swings across during a lull in the naval engagement when the forces of Rumbek have pulled back many ships to reduce the alarming losses from Gerash suicide commando swimming parties. The bridges from Fanon Island to Krone Island, and also to the main city on Liban Island, are preemptively sunk by Count Zelus to limit their losses.

This new intensity in Gerash violence is a set piece put on for High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel, who is now physically present on the battlefront rather than leading from behind as is often hyz preference.

Princess Khondiel stands long atop the ramparts of the walls of the city of Rumbek, and to har martial mind it is apparent that House Gerash is steadily gaining the advantage against House Bellon by sheer dint of numbers, and the hate by which the Gerash warriors flung themselves into battle. So Khondiel bids Haziel to immediately journey with har west beyond the Nine Mile Wall while the route is still clear. Sha says to Haziel, “I perceive the siege of Rumbek will soon grow strait, and the Brown Beard navy will be tasked to defend the city itself, letting the invincible Nine Mile Wall, undefeated in war, defend the rest of Magodon. But should Rumbek fall and Lord Kirodiel besiege the wall, none will then find their way through it, be they friend or foe.”

Haziel agrees with Khondiel. Sha asks leave of Count Zelus Bellon, which hy grants with great deference, and sha leaves with these words: “King Arman is surely dead, or captured, as you have surely guessed, and that is a grievous loss, my Lord, and if we had time I would mourn with you and the people as is fitting. Yet King Arman’s sacrifice is not wholly in vain, I deem. The house of Bellon does not stand against Gerash alone, and the king may have won for you the time you needed for the house of Antero to march to your aid from the west.”

Zelus says, “I thank you for the spirit in which you intend to say these words to me, Lady Haziel, but if Rumbek is destined for a dark and bloody fate, I consider it my duty to share in that fate full-willing, and it pains me to say so, but false words of hope are worse than none at all, I deem.”

Haziel says, “Count Zelus, it is the farthest thing from my mind to throw you a line of hope and then fail to tie off my end. Little do you know of my labors to bring hither aid from House Bellon. If Rumbek can hold out for yet a little while more, then High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash may find hy has stepped into a trap. Then all who crave peace might win through to the day when King Arman is laid to rest in honor, and you are crowned king in this city. Farewell!”

Princess Khondiel has judged well the time of their departure. Mere hours after sha and Haziel depart Rumbek and take the bridge to the narrow strip of land at the foot of the Nine Mile Wall, the Brown Beard navy rallies all their ships around the Isle Liban. This leaves Lord Kirodiel free to pull all hyz troops off Sealiah except those directly involved in the Rumbek siege, and those troops are ferried across the channel to the bench of land nigh to the Wall almost on the very heels of Haziel and Khondiel.

The beautiful dwellings and public buildings of Krone Island, isolated now from Liban, are burned to the ground in a blaze kindled by Lord Kirodiel hymself. After the fire consumes everything and the flame abates, Kirodiel scattters the embers in the sight of the defenders of Rumbek looking on from across the strait and hy also sprinkles the ground with salt. “Even so shall Rumbek be wasted utterly,” hy cries in a loud voice. And the hearts of the folk of Rumbek fall.

The peninsula of Magodon is ringed on three sides by cliffs of sandstone which rise from the sea some four hundred feet, but at the Nine Mile Wall yeng erected masonry that made that tall cliff purely vertical, slotted in many places with holes for observation and to shoot arrows or pour boiling liquids. The wall is higher than the face of the cliff, so that it could face west as well as east, as the need might be. Between the face of the wall and the face of the natural cliff which it encloses are many platforms and stairs and catacombs filled with weapons for the bane of besieging armies and stores to supply defenders for many days of battle.

When Princess Khondiel and Lady Haziel are admitted through the Wall they climb many steps and ramps until they arrive on the plateau of Magodon at the top, where they behold the banners and ranks of countless troops from the House of Antero. Then Haziel knows har long labors have born fruit. For sha has kept har avatar at a remove lest Israel force the tangle with hyz dragon too early, and so Haziel did not known of the presence of the Red Beards until sha saw the host with har own eyes.

Bellon troops who are rallying to the aid of Rumbek from across the land of the Brown Beards have also come to the city with the forces of the House of Antero. Already many of these are filling positions on the Nine Mile Wall to turn back the Gerash invaders.

But there in the sight of everyone under arms Demonstroke arrives on the east wind. The flying beast releases from its left claw something resembling a star that falls from the sky burning like a torch, and it strikes the ground near the center of the Nine Mile Wall with great violence, such that it digs a deep pit therein.

And Demonstroke releases from its right claw another projectile that falls directly into this new pit, and there follows a blast under the ground of such a magnitude as had not been seen on Barbelo since the fall of the asteroid that brought the world flood, and never in living memory.

The bottom half of the Nine Mile Wall nigh to Rumbek blows straight out, and the masonry of the Wall above the blast collapses in ruin, and in place of a sheer wall there is now a ramp of sand, but many besieging Gerash troops also die, or are buried alive by the debris.

Lord Kirodiel pays no mind to hyz own casualties. Hy commands hyz remaining generals to charge up that ramp with their divisions to the Magodon plateau above, and they immediately began to comply.

Then Demonstroke himself drops from the sky and crashes to the battle plain behind the wall, and smoke rises from its black carcass like the smoke of a great furnace, and the orange sun is darkened by reason of the smoke. And the dragon rises again out of the smoke glittering with black armor as smooth as glass, and its teeth are rockets which are loosed against yeng, and the sound of its wings are like a great waterfall. And Demonstroke has a flexible tail like a scorpion, and there is a gun in that tail which kills yeng with rounds as thick as a thumb.

Demonstroke descends among the ordered ranks of the allied families like a storm, killing yeng at will, and scatters them in disorder before they can make a counter-charge down the new ramp in the Nine Mile Wall.

When Khondiel sees all this sha holds Haziel’s hand and squeezes it, and Haziel says to har, “Alas, our enemy Israel is come.” And Haziel knows the dragon has the power to snatch har victory away when sha is on the very cusp of attaining it, and that was reason enough to summon har own avatar, but sha finds that neither victory nor defeat means much to har now. A new thing has come to dominate Haziel’s consciousness. When sha looks upon Khondiel sha sees har anew, as though gazing upon har for the very first time. Haziel finds that Khondiel has suddenly become the most important thing in creation to har, and sha is desperate to get Khondiel away from the field of battle.

A living star has fallen in love with a planet-dweller.

Demonstroke alights near High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash on the battle plain. Joy and Lord Israel dismount from the beast. They come before the Gerash Patriarch, who bows to Lord Israel deeply. After hy pays obeisance the three of them witness the avatar of Chokhmah also landing on the plateau of Magodon close to them, and Israel says to Joy, “Destroy the avatar of Chokhmah immediately!”

“Yes, my Lord!” Joy bows her head in acknowledgement and runs back toward the waiting dragon.

Khondiel guesses the time is very short now. Sha says, “Speak plainly to me now, Haziel. What do you want me to do?”

Haziel says, “My avatar will take you far away from this place. I want you to go. No, I need you to go. Something happened to me just now. Khondiel, you are now the most important thing in heaven or Earth or Barbelo to me.”

But Khondiel says, “If I leave in your avatar, House Bellon and House Antero will have no defense against the dragon. Forget about me, Haziel!”

But Haziel recalls Khondiel’s own words at the Battle of Salem when sha saw har naked in a cage and Haziel told Khondiel to forget about har. Haziel repeats the words again for Khondiel now, tearfully, “Don’t you know by now that’s the one thing I can never do?”

And Khondiel openly weeps, because for the first time sha knows har undying love for Haziel is truly being reciprocated at last, and they are mostly tears of happiness.

Haziel says to Khondiel, “All those things I preached to everyone about love were really just so much straw, because I didn’t know what love really meant until now, neither as Haziel nor as Chokhmah, nor as both, neither as nephil nor living star.”

Khondiel still wants to protest, but sha can see the dragon is now rising above the battle plain, and sha can see that Haziel desperately needs har to do this thing. So sha kisses Haziel and climbs inside the avatar like sha has done many times before.

Then the avatar of Chokhmah leaps in to the sky with fire and smoke and noise, and Khondiel, pressed against the rear hatch, feels harself to be too heavy to move, and once again sha is deeply terrified, which is an extraordinary thing, for Khondiel leads the Fallen Angels. But her terror is not rooted in har own personal safety. Khondiel is afraid that the love that has been acknowledged at last by Haziel will never now take root and flourish. Such a good thing! And it wasn’t going to happen. No. Khondiel of a surety knows that now.

Demonstroke lumbers into the sky after har and smites the avatar with a fearsome white flame directly from the heart of the orange sun, a flame that pours from its open mouth, and the avatar is destroyed, which is no small feat, for it had been made deep in the belly of Sol. And Princess Khondiel, riding inside, instantly dies and is lost forever to Haziel.

Binah tells her parent there is simply no scenario by which history can be changed on Barbelo to save Khondiel.

Thaumiel feels the fold-line that once linked Chokhmah to the avatar retract through the fold-door that he keeps open in his capital city, never to return again.

In that very moment Haziel knows Khondiel is dead, and the world seems to turn empty and gray to har. Sha refuses to speak a word until long afterwards, for sha is utterly lost in har grief. In a daze, Haziel falls in among the forces of House Antero as they return to the west, fighting (along with the stragglers of Bellon) a fierce rear-guard action against Lord Kirodiel.

Joy flies the dragon back to her master Lord Israel. Hy praises her for removing the thorn of Chokhmah’s ancient avatar from Barbelo, but hy also laments, “There remains a second avatar in the Land of Haaretz called the Ark of the Covenant, and it will be such a small thing for Chokhmah to enlarge his link with that avatar and cause the seed of one or more new avatars to pass through it and unwrap, and thus attempt to hinder me on Barbelo yet again.”

And Joy is astonished, because she discerns that Israel does not know a certain thing that she is free to reveal. She says to hym, “It may please the Lord to learn that since the conception of Binah, Chohkmah is no longer free to construct an avatar within his body, nor may Binah construct an avatar within hers, for the life of both elohim share a single sun, and to build an avatar now within this shared sun would kill one and perhaps also the other.”

Then Israel literally rubs hyz hands in evil glee, knowing the course of action that now lies open to hym. “The Ark of the Covenant is the only remaining avatar of Chokhmah, and if we destroy it, neither Chokhmah nor Binah shall have the means to antagonize me on Barbelo again!”

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Chapter 52

The eleven remaining disciples of Yeshua hide in the place where they shared the first Banquet of God with hem. The door is locked because they are afraid of the Jews and the Romans. Miriam of Magdalen comes to the room, knocks out Shave and a Haircut, and is admitted into the room. She says to Kephas, “I have been to the sepulchre where they buried the Lord. He is no longer there!”

Shimon, called The Rock by Yeshua, locks the door behind her and says, “So they moved his body.”

Miriam shakes her head. “We saw a woman with white skin and white hair, in white raiment. She said the Lord is risen!”

As the disciples debate what this news means a worm tunnel appears in the midst of the room. Yeshua floats through it, and the tunnel disappears again. Yeshua stands there and greets them all with great joy, but they can hardly believe their eyes. Yeshua says, “The peace of God be with each of you.”

But at first they are very frightened because they think he is a ghost. So Yeshua says, “Do not be afraid! Look at my body and see that it is truly myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see me have.”

But che has no holes in his hands or feet, nor scars from the Roman whip, and some of the followers do not believe it is really che. Yeshua then tells them certain things they had once shared that only hez disciples would know. Then they acknowledge it is indeed Yeshua, but they still think che must be a ghost. So Yeshua asks for something to eat. They give hem a piece of broiled fish, and Yeshua eats it in their presence to prove che is not a spirit.

Then Shimon remembers how he fled from Yeshua’s side in hez darkest hour and how he denied that he knew hem when he was in the house of Caiaphas. Shimon sinks to his knees and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

Yeshua assures Simon he is already forgiven, and che says, “Indeed, soon I will depart from all of you, and return to my father, but you are eyewitnesses of all these things. Now you are no longer disciples but my apostles. I now send you forth to preach the forgiveness of sins and to bring the Banquet of God to all the nations of the world, beginning here in Jerusalem.”

Yeshua leads them out of the city as far as Bethany. The tunnel appears again beside hem. Yeshua withdraws from the apostles and enters the globe. The globe is lifted into the sky, and the apostles watch until they can see Yeshua no more.

After that the apostles return to Jerusalem to begin the work that Yeshua has trained them to do, with much prayer and thanksgiving, and ever they come together to eat the memorial feast established by Yeshua on the evening that che was arrested. And they have no more fear of the unbelievers, for their master has suffered the most cruel death men can devise, yet che is now risen to a second life, and for those who are baptized and come to believe, the same is promised to them.

“And so it begins,” Caiaphas the High Priest says when he hears of the growing new movement, “just as we feared it would be when the body of this Yeshua went missing. Now these men and those of like mind will go among the people and tell them this Yeshua is risen, and stir them up to vain superstitions.”

Yet the apostles, despite the fears of Caiaphas, are not really of like mind. The Yeshua movement snaps in two barely out of the starting gate. One faction, led by Yeshua’s half-brother Yakob the Righteous believes the movement is nothing more than a new take on orthodox Judaism and proposes to work towards an accommodation with authorities such as the Pharisees and Saduccees and even the occupying Romans. Yakob’s group decides to remain in Jerusalem close to the levers of power.

The other faction, led by Kephas, remembers how the authorities ruthlessly executed both Yohanan the baptizer and after that Yeshua himself. They are not remotely interested in making peace with any enemy save Death, which Yeshua has shown through his resurrection can be conquered by anyone who makes the rule of God present in the world. In time, Shimon’s group migrates north, first to their original home near Galilee, then they move farther north to settle in Antioch.

A third faction called the Ebionites stays behind in Galilee when Kephas moves to Antioch. And a fourth faction called the Gnostics more or less cashes in on the momentum of the other three movements, but they bring along a host of new ideas that Yeshua never taught.

Yeshua hemself samples the progress of his apostles at various points in time, appearing to remain young even as his apostles wax old and die. At first, aside from the odd “miracle” to prod things along, che does not interfere. But standing on Mount Olive the summer exactly forty years after che had been crucified, Yeshua witnesses the end of the Second Temple and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Che knows Judaism is finished as a religion of the temple. From that point going forward personal adherence to the purity code of Moshe, as taught by rabbis in synagogues, would atone for personal and corporate sin which had previously been absolved by animal sacrifices.

Spot checks farther up the timeline confirm to Yeshua that no third temple would ever be constructed. What troubles Yeshua is that over that same span of time his followers never take his message of the Banquet of God to anyone other than the Jews. In that timeline, with the fall of Jerusalem his own movement is rapidly extinguished as well. Yeshua goes back to the 30s to see what he can do.

Early on the Jewish aristocrats and religious authorities realize the new “Way” of Yeshua is a tumor growing on their power structure. They think the only way to stop it is to escalate to bloodshed. The first victim of this new policy is a deacon of the Jerusalem mother church named Stefanos, who has been selected to aid the apostles in attending to the physical needs of the people while they focus on preaching. Stefanos is particularly fired up for Yeshua, and it is easy to manipulate a mob into interpreting his preaching as the provocation of a Jewish apostate and stone him to death.

This mob violence is witnessed by a certain Pharisee named Saulus of Tarsus, and he heartily agrees that Stefanos deserved to die. He volunteers to become the chief thug for the orthodox Jewish side, and goes around the country kicking in the doors of Yeshua-followers and dragging them, men and women alike, to prison.

When Herod Agrippa I takes command of Judea, appointed by Emperor Claudius, the Jewish authorities tell him that Yeshua was a man who had deemed himself to be God, and had drawn many followers to him, and these followers continue to make converts even after Yeshua has been executed. Herod is a good Jew and this deeply offends him. He takes the violence to a whole new level by arresting Yakob Boanerges, the brother of Yohanan, and puts him to death by the sword.

This seems to have the desired effect. The followers of Yeshua’s way goes underground in Jerusalem, but Saulus hears they are still openly preaching in Damascus, so he goes there with letters written by certain rabbis authorizing him to find Yeshua’s disciples and bring them to Jerusalem in fetters.

When Saulus is well on his way to that city, Yeshua causes the mouth of a wormhole from the Land We Know to fall upon Saulus. It is the first “alien abduction” in history. Night is transformed to day. There is a warm alpine meadow with many different flowers, and stunted trees, and the biggest mountain Saulus has ever seen, covered by dozens of glaciers. There, seated in the meadow on a log, is Yeshua, who says, “Do not be afraid, Saulus.”

Saulus asks in reply, “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Yeshua, the son of the living God. I am the one you are truly afflicting when you arrest my followers, for they are my hands and feet in the world.”

Saulus sinks to his knees and says, tearfully, “Forgive me, Lord.”

“There is nothing to forgive, Saulus. You honestly believed my followers were turning the children of Israel away from our God. I honor your zeal, but I have a better use for it.”

“Anything, Lord,” Saulus says. “What would you have me do?”

Yeshua smiles at him, “After you have been baptized men shall no longer call you Saulus. After that you shall be Paulus, and you will be my missionary to the Gentiles.”

“The Gentiles, Lord?”

“I know it’s very ironic. You studied the Code of Moshe under Rabbi Gemaliel and your observance of it is impeccable. You are the perfect Jew, Saulus, but it turns out that is all the Code of Moshe is really good for: making Jews flawlessly unlike anyone of the neighboring nations and kingdoms. But the written law doesn’t make you objectively righteous to my Father because God can see inside your heart and loyalty has to begin from deep within. Do you see?”

“I do, Lord, there is the kind of righteousness based on the fear of being caught, and there is the righteousness which springs from the desire to please one’s master.”

Yeshua laughs. “Clearly you are going to be the brains of my organization, if you join me, Saulus. No doubt you have heard of the man I left in charge of my flock back there, Shimon, son of Yona.”

“I understand you renamed him Kephas, or ‘Rock’, Lord.”

“That’s true, but you may not know why I did that.”

“The rumor is he is a man of great strength, Lord.”

“I named him Kephas because he is as dumb as a rock. Nevertheless, if I turn you loose without putting you into the proper relationship with Shimon and my brothers and my other followers, you will run where I do not want you to go.”

Yeshua, speaking these words, stretches out hez hands and touches Saulus’ face. Instantly, he is filled with dismay and says “Save me, Lord, I cannot see!”

“Others will guide you to Kephas,” says Yeshua, and Saulus does not see how he is returned to the place where he has been taken from.

Saulus, blinded by the touch of Yeshua, is led the rest of the way to Damascus by his traveling companions. Before he enters that city, they are intercepted by Ananias, a disciple who has been alerted by Yeshua. Ananias takes them to his house in the city. There Saulus is baptized, and following the command of the Lord he begins to call himself Paulus.

After a number of days, they journey again to Jerusalem, where Ananias tries to get the brethren to accept Paulus, but everyone is afraid of him, and fear he is trying to infiltrate their cells in order to betray them to the Jews.

In the end it falls to Barnabas, an old friend of Paulus who studied with him under Rabbi Gemalial, to meet with the man and find out what his story is. Barnabas is one of the earliest converts to Yeshua. He had been a wealthy landowner who sold his holdings in Crete and used the money to fund Kephas’ ministry. So Barnabas has the ear of Kephas, and after a long talk with Paulus he believes his friend really has met the Lord somehow and converted to the Way, just as he said. Yet it seems incredible, and it would be a hard sell, for as Saulus he had been the worst enemy of the nascent Church.

Through the mediation of Barnabas, then, Kephas comes to Paulus, who is still blind, and it is entirely within the power of Kephas to leave Paulus thus and remove a thorn from the Church. But Kephas is preaching a gospel of forgiveness, and he knows that Yeshua would scorn his hypocrisy if he did not try to heal the man. So Kephas touches his eyes, and something like scales fall away from them, and Paulus can see again, but his vision would never be nearly as good as it was before he met Yeshua, and Paulus would require the services of an assistant to write all his letters. Yet that, too, was part of Yeshua’s plan to mold his character. For years after that Paulus would beg the Lord in prayer to remove this impediment, and Yeshua would always answer, “No.”

“The Lord Yeshua spoke with me,” Paulus says to Kephas. “Not in a vision, but man to man, just as I am speaking with you now.”

“So you say,” Kephas replied. “He spoke with me too, after he was raised up from the dead. He spoke with me for years before he was put to death so I actually know the Lord. Can you say the same?”

Paulus shakes his head, conceding the point. “The Lord said I was to be sent to the Gentiles.”

“And what will you tell the Gentiles?” Kephas asks. When Paulus again has no answer to that, Kephas says, “I see that Yeshua has left it to me to teach you his doctrine. Gentiles you say? Did you know that some of the apostles, even the Lord’s brothers, insist the Gentiles must become good Jews before they can be baptized in the name of Yeshua? That only the circumcised can come to the table of the Banquet of God?”

“The Lord Yeshua made it very clear to me that is not what he intends.”

Kephas nods. “I’ve been trying to find some middle way. But now you come along and say you will go to the Gentiles, and not receive them as Jews first. I tell you that is the sort of thing that can split our Way irretrievably in two.”

“‘Come now, and let us reason together’, says the Lord,” cites Paulus from the prophet Isaiah.

And so they take the issue to the whole church at the Council of Jerusalem, convened by Yakob, the brother of Yeshua. Paulus is not permitted to speak, but Kephas pleads his case before the council, and his position as the chief apostle carries much weight. But Kephas does not have the ultimate authority over whole the Church that would be enjoyed by the Popes much later.

Although he is not allowed to speak, the astonishing transformation of Paulus from enemy of the Way to a wannabe apostle carries much weight. So the final verdict of the Council of Jerusalem is that Gentile converts to the Way of Yeshua do not have to be circumcised or adhere to the whole Code of Moshe, but a handful of commandments which Jews believed have been binding on all men since the time of Noah are retained. Paulus is not totally happy with the compromise, but few negotiators ever are.

Paulus is ordained the Apostle to the Gentiles, while the original apostles are to bring the children of Israel, scattered throughout the world, to the Banquet of God.

Finally Yakob the Righteous, the cousin and step-brother of Yeshua, deigns to speak to him. “Remember, Brother Paulus, that here in Jerusalem we are burdened with many poor. Do not forget these people when you preach to your more affluent Gentile flocks of Yeshua and the Banquet of God.”

And so, with the blessing of the whole Church, Paulus begins to make a series of travels throughout the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and he stitches together a network of a dozen new Churches in Greece and Asia Minor. Paulus benefits from his Roman citizenship, which comes to him by virtue of being the son of his father. His father had purchased Roman citizenship upon becoming a successful tent-maker in Tarsus. This is a trade that Paulus has learned from his father, and a trade he relies on to support himself as he engages in his missionary activity.

One time when Paulus returns to Jerusalem with financial contributions he collected from his constellation of Gentile churches a vicious rumor sprang up to the effect that Paulus is teaching Jewish Christians not to obey the Torah. Yakob doesn’t believe it for a minute, but he suggests that Paulus ritually cleanse himself in Herod’s temple to lay the questions to rest, and Paulus takes this advice.

With everyone walking on eggshells over this point, an opening is seen by the enemies of the Church. After the death of the Roman procurator Porcius Festus, in the short span before Lucceius Albinus replaces him, the High Priest Ananus moves quickly during the power vacuum and assembled the scribes and priests and Sadduccees. Yakob is invited to attend this “hearing”.

Ananus says to him, “We, as well as all the people, know you are a just man, and partial to none. Therefore we ask you to restrain your people, for they have gone astray in their opinions about your kinsman, this Yeshua, and hold that he is the Messiah. Stand, then, upon the summit of the temple, that from that elevated spot you may be clearly seen, and your words clearly audible to all the people. For it is Passover, and all the tribes have congregated here, and some of the righteous Gentiles are here also.”

Yakob ascends to the pinnacle of the temple as he was asked, but there he declares that Yeshua sits in heaven at the right hand of God, and that che that shall come again on the clouds of heaven with all the holy angels to judge the living and the dead.

The members of the council in great wrath throw him down from the temple, so the people would see this and be afraid. But Yakob is not killed by the fall, only crippled. So the members of the council began to hurl stones at him. In great pain he struggles to his knees under the bombardment and prays, “I beg you, Lord God our Father, do not hold this against them, for they do not know what they do!”

Finally a textile worker takes the staff he uses to wring out the garments he dyes and hurls it directly at the head of Yakob, which smites him dead.

A huge fire breaks out and destroys a tenth of the city of Rome. Rumors begin to spread that the Emperor Nero himself started the fire to make room for his new palace. To diffuse these suspicions, he puts a few Christians under torture and gets them to “confess” to arson to stop the agony. Based on this “testimony” hundreds of known Christians are placed under arrest and fed to dogs, or crucified, or turned into screaming human street lamps. Kephas is arrested, flogged, and crucified on Vatican Hill. Paulus is a Roman citizen and cannot not be flogged or crucified so instead he is beheaded on the Ostian road just outside of Rome.

After that a revolt against Rome breaks out in Judea, centered in Jerusalem. Nero appoints General Vespasian as military commander over three legions to put down the unrest. At first Vespasian has some success in Galilee, but when Nero is forced to commit suicide the Empire is plunged into civil war. Vespasian takes some of his forces to Alexandria to secure the Egyptian grain supply, and ultimately he is declared Emperor himself by the Senate. He leaves his son Titus in charge of the final assault on Jerusalem.

The city is defended tenaciously by the Jews, but four Roman legions surround Jerusalem with mighty earthworks. The outcome is never in doubt. After a siege of five months the entire city, including the temple which has always been central to Judaism, is pillaged and razed to the ground, except for three towers and the Western Wall, which are retained on the orders of Titus as a reminder to the surviving Jews of their lost glory. Yeshua watches this from the summit of Mount Olive.

Jerusalem, one of five Patriarchal Sees in the universal Christian Church, ceases to exist, even in name. The Romans eventually turn it into a colony named Aelia Capitolina.

The mother of Yeshua passes away peacefully while living in the house of Yohanan Boanerges in Ephesus, Asia Minor. Yeshua sends Issacharite women to gather her body and bury her near the Sacred Pool in Canterwood. No one sees her body removed. Yohanan knows only that before she could be buried her body was not to be found, and no one on Earth could have possibly taken it. Thus begins the cult of Miriam that would persist for ages.

When Yohanan dies, bringing to a close the Apostolic Age, the leaders of various Christian communities began to assemble biographies of Yeshua, and all of these are forgeries, attributed to various deceased pillars of the Church to add a vernier of authenticity. This soon gets out of hand. The bishops of Corinth and Carthage complain that someone is writing false epistles using their name to discredit them and promote their own agenda. In Rome, two men lay claim to the bishopric at the same time, and the controversy does not end until the Roman Emperor Maximinus Thrax exiles both of them to Sardinia.

Some emperors are a bit more harsh. Valerian orders that all Christian bishops, priests, and deacons, including Pope Sixtus II, must sacrifice to the Roman gods, under penalty of death. Many of them chose death. Decius extends the persecution to the Christian laity. He issues an edict requiring all citizens to sacrifice to the emperor in the presence of a Roman official and obtain a certificate proving they had done so. Most Christians comply rather than incur fines or even death.

Other emperors, however, are more tolerant. Emperor Constantine even converts to Christianity on his deathbed and Julian the Apostate is the last non-Christian emperor. Emperor Theodosius I makes Christianity the state religion of the empire, and eleven years later he outlaws most pagan rituals.

In the Seventh Century, a rival monotheistic religion called Islam arises to challenge Christianity, but the empire resists the Muslim onslaught until the Fifteenth Century when Constantinople finally falls to the Ottomans. This marks the final end of the Roman Empire.

During the long twilight period leading up to that, the Popes call for a series of seven Crusades, all of them brutal wars of conquest against the Islamic empire by Christendom. During the seventh Crusade the latest incarnation of Thaumiel comes to Yeshua in Canterwood and hands hem a sheaf of parchment. Hy says, “This is a papal bull titled Ad Extirpanda from Pope Innocent IV. Note in particular Law 25, where he authorizes the use of torture against heretics.”

The head of state or ruler must force all the heretics whom he has in custody, provided he does so without killing them or breaking their arms or legs, as actual robbers and murderers of souls and thieves of the sacraments of God and Christian faith, to confess their errors and accuse other heretics whom they know, and specify their motives, and those whom they have seduced, and those who have lodged them and defended them, as thieves and robbers of material goods are made to accuse their accomplices and confess the crimes they have committed.

Thaumiel says, “I can assure you, Yeshua, having made something of a study of this, there are things that can be done to human beings short of killing them or breaking their limbs that make even the agony you endured in Judea pale in comparison. Twelve hundred years, Yeshua, and this is what has become of your ‘Banquet of God’. So I think I can say, without contradiction, that I have won.”

Yeshua concedes the point, but he says the game is not over.

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