There are no animals on Barbelo in the beginning, but most of the growing things move of their own accord and nearly all of them are dangerous. A grove of whipping trees can render a person down to a pile of broken bones and crushed flesh in only a few moments. Thorny ball bushes roll under their own power by shifting their weight. There are flowers with teeth and many plants which are too poisonous to touch, let alone eat. So most of the first humans who are taken to Barbelo die in their first year.
In the land of Mesopotamia, Chokhmah causes a temple to be erected around her end of the tunnel, through which priests can shove human sacrifices. At first the priests send criminals through, which seems to be equivalent to adeath sentence because the priests never see anyone reemerge from the altar chamber. But Thaumiel requires female humans for his colony as well, so Chokhmah commands the sacrifice of virgins from time to time. During periods of famine on Barbelo, the priests of Chokhmah are commanded to send along meat and grain offerings as well.
Every year a chunk of ice the size of a small hill smites Barbelo with enough force to destroy a city, but every few thousand years a chunk of ice the size of a large mountain smites Barbelo with enough force to destroy a region. In most cases these intruders from the sky crash harmlessly on the extensive ice of Barbelo, for it is a frigid place, and before the Deluge there was only one narrow strip of land that was ever free of ice. If the strike occurs in this ice-free band it rains warm water for many months and then freezes over again, covering the fertile areas of Barbelo with a thick and solid sheet of ice that remains in place for a generation. That is why from the beginning only growing things existed on Barbelo and there are no native animals there. Plants can survive for many years under the ice in the form of seeds or spores, but with nothing to eat animals quickly die off.
As part of his experimentation, Thaumiel changes his colonists through breeding and outright genetic manipulation. They diverge from the original human stock in certain ways. The most obvious change is they become about two feet taller. And due to the high mortality on Barbelo, Thaumiel changes them to become more fertile, with more opportunities to be fertile. The nephilim, as they are eventually called, have two sets of genitalia rather than one.
The descendants of Adamu and Chava remain near the location of the first garden, in close contact with the avatar of Thaumiel, and they become a great clan known as House Gerash. Some two thousand years after the first colonists arrived, Asiel, the ruling patriarch of Family Gerash is summoned, and bows before the avatar of Thaumiel.
THAUMIEL: A mountain of ice will soon to strike the temperate belt of this world. Family Gerash will be safe enough here, supplied by priests on Earth. There will be a great flood of water, followed by years of unrelenting snow and ice. But there is enough time for the other families to prepare for it. You will command Family Kulsu to make alliance with Family Antero. They must store food in ice caves to supply both families for a generation. Likewise Family Ornis and Sala in the south must ally themselves and prepare.
ASIEL: O Lord Thaumiel, they will not listen. None of the families heed your commandments anymore.
THAUMIEL: Sons you will give as hostage, one for Family Kulsu, one for Family Antero. Likewise you will send one son to Family Ornis, and one to Family Sala. Your sons will vouchsafe the truth of my prophecy of the deluge with their lives, though it greatly offends my divine sovereignty to order such a thing.
ASIEL: I will do precisely as you have commanded me, Lord Thaumiel. My own sons will travel to House Kulsu and Antero and convey your orders. And two other sons will bring your commandments to Houses Ornis and Sala.
The Kulsu patriarch pierces the first Gerash son with sword.
The Antero patriarch has a second Gerash son beheaded.
A third Gerash son is brought before the Ornis patriarch, who has the yang cast down from a great height.
The fourth Gerash son rides to the castle of House Sala, where is his dragged before the Sala patriarch and set ablaze to burn alive.
Antero riders drop a satchel before the door of the Gerash castle and ride quickly away. The bag is revealed to contain the head of Asiel’s second son. Sobbing soldiers take the bag into the castle to show the Patriarch. Chokhmah and Thaumiel have witnessed the scene from a balcony.
THAUMIEL: Behold, the faithfulness of the world-dwellers burns like kindling, but then quickly dwindles in unbelief. If the world-creatures will not obey their superiors, it will be time to take drastic measures. Perhaps next time I will not provide any of them knowledge of a coming strike by a minor body in this system, nor what to do in preparation for it. Then they shall have neither knowledge nor wisdom, for they will not be.
And Chokhmah knows in that moment that Thaumiel does not really want humans to pass his own test of obedience. Chokhmah vows to herself that when humans are able to accept it she would begin teaching some of them how to watch the skies with instruments made by their own hands.
As foreseen by Thaumiel an icy mountain smites Barbelo in the temperate zone. The walls of the great northern and southern ice melt and slide. Rains begin to fall. Family Bellon hurriedly boards their ships. House Larund boards their ships too, but must leave much food behind. When Bellon and Larund ships see one another the Larund ships come alongside that their raiders may cross over, bearing swords. They are desperately looking for supplies as the rain continues to fall.
Family Kulsu, farmers of the flats, are wiped out by floods. Family Ornis also lose all their animals and people to the deluge. House Antero on the ice looks down upon their lands, now immersed in water. From the other ice wall House Sala witnesses the flood waters freeze over, covering their farms. Both families experience a severe die-back, for they are unprepared, but they do not become entirely extinct.
Chokhmah and Thaumiel observe House Gerash thriving during the deluge.
CHOKHMAH:Behold how House Gerash, descendants of Adamu and Chava, remain obedient to your word and prosper even during the catastrophe.
THAUMIEL: They do so only because I speak to them directly now and again. If I were to turn away from them for only a short time even House Gerash would soon dwindle in unbelief.
CHOKHMAH: Perhaps familiarity lessens awe. Perhaps the nephilim do not really perceive you as a god but as just a powerful human, and Family Gerash obeys you as they would obey any other human patriarch, while the other families have their own patriarchs and need not obey such a one as you.
THAUMIEL: Interesting. Do you have a way to test this counter-claim?
CHOKHMAH: I do. This shall be the manner by which the humans of Earth are tested: Release three servants from Barbelo to bring my commandments to the humans of Earth while I remain utterly aloof from them.
THAUMIEL: That would be a good test. When the crisis of the deluge is over I will make arrangements with the House of Gerash to carry it out.
Prince Melchizedek, son of king Melchiyahu of Salem, emerges from Lake Tana with hyz servants Zophiel and Kemuel. They are dragging a raft covered with supplies and a tarp. After a time on the shore organizing their supplies they begin paddling across Lake Tana, headwaters of the Blue Nile. When they reach the outflow river of the lake they encounter rapids so dangerous men have called them unrunnable, and indeed, at one point they must portage around a great cataract.
Below the falls and the rapids, Melchizedek and his servants sit in their raft, paddling gently, and pass water-loving beasts and human onlookers who dare not approach. After a time they float into the place where the Blue and White Nile merge. Days and nights pass as they drift past the bountiful riverbank farms of one the earliest cradles of human civilization. In the cities, they see the temples of the sun god Ra, which is what the people of Egypt call Chokhmah. When the wayfarers reach a certain town in the lower Nile delta they tie up and haggle with a man to trade their raft.
Melchizedek and hyz servants load camels with supplies to make an overland journey. Their destination is the land of Chaldea in the marshy lands far to the east where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers join together before flowing to the sea. Rather than taking the direct path across the Arabian Desert, Melchizedek journeys northeast through the fields and cities of the Fertile Crescent. They briefly stop at the place where the Damascus road forked with the road to Nineveh, at the town of Harran.
They find a shop run by an elderly man named Terah, according to the sign over the door. Terah makes and sells carved idols for dozens of different gods. One of the stone idols has fallen on its face. Terah’s son Abram helps his aged father stand it back up. Terah inspects the idol and finds it is damaged. He groans in annoyance and begins repairing it with a chisel.
ABRAM: What is this useless thing you are doing, father? Are you not being a god to this god by healing it? Perhaps next time I should leave it bowing down to you.
TERAH (pointing his chisel at his son): So, Abram, was it you who knocked it over?
ABRAM: Ask your gods, if they are able to speak.
Melchizedek is interested in this exchange and enters the shop. When hy is seen, the angry words of father and son dwindle to silence. Melchizedek makes a slow tour of Terah’s idol shop, looking at everything. Then hy signals for hyz assistants to begin unpacking their gold. The yeng unload much gold on the edge of the shop facing the street.
Five armed robbers approach with swords drawn. Melchizedek reaches inside hyz cloak and pulls out the Golden Gift, which makes its very first appearance on Earth at this time. A hissing black shaft emerges from it about the length and thickness of a spear and one of the thieves is cut into two equal pieces vertically. Another thief is decapitated. The other three robbers flee. Abram sinks to his knees before the newcomers.
ZOPHIEL: Abram, son of Terah, go forth from your father’s household and from your kinfolk to the land of Canaan.
KEMUEL: There the living and true God will make of you a nation, and your name will be great among men.
MELCHIZEDEK: All the Earth shall find blessing in you. These are the words of the True God. What say you Abram of Harran?
ABRAM (without hesitation): No.
MELCHIZEDEK (astonished): What do you mean,’no?’
That’s not how these things are supposed to go. Abram rises to his feet and takes his father gently by the arms.
ABRAM: Terah is crippled. He no longer earns enough in his shop to support himself. I do not always agree with my father, but as I love my life, I can never turn aside from Terah for all the days he lives in this world.
Then Abram fulfills the true purpose of his visit. Stepping outside the shop, he delivers to his father two living lambs from his own flocks, one to kill and eat, and the other to sell for a little money to buy the things he needs until the next time Abram came in from the open range and visits him.
Melchizedek understands. Hy has his servants restow the gold and they quietly leave the shop, careful not to tread on the fortress of human dignity that Abram has asserted with his refusal. The travelers quickly depart Harran and take the left-hand fork to Nineveh and thence by stages to Sumeria, even to the largest city in the world, Ur, at the mouth of the Euphrates, with a population of nearly seventy thousand souls. But in all hyz travels on Earth Melchizedek never meets anyone like Abram.
Outside of the walls the city of Salem is thronged with people. There has been a record harvest and therefore much cause to rejoice.But even as Hellberry Days is celebrated, a white pillar more tall than a tree descends on columns of fire and the people scatter in utter panic.
The first to return to the vicinity of the pavilion is not one of the soldiers of King Melchiyahu, nor any of his aged advisors, but a young maiden. Sha sees the pillar has six articulated arms with many joints. Between each joint is mounted smaller arms of identical make.The six arm trunks invert to become legs and pillar settles to the ground amid much steam and smoke. Fire ceases from the bells at the bottom of the six smaller pillars wrapped around the main pillar as the doll stands har ground at a discreet distance. Sha is curious about the machine, but not eager to be burned. A loud voice emanates from the pillar.
CHOKHMAH: Child of the House of Gerash, draw near to me!
The doll obeys. The central pillar ends waist high above the ground. From underneath a round hatch drops open on a hinge.
CHOKHMAH: Come up here!
The brave white-haired doll looks up inside the hatch.The central pillar is hollow and there is much light within. There are many ribs embedded in the tunnel wall forming edges. The doll uses the ribs to place har feet and hands and crawl inside.
CHOKHMAH: What are you called, child?
HAZIEL: I am Haziel, daughter of Jophiel the glassblower.
The hatch below har closes of its own accord, and Sha marks that. The top of the central pillar flares out into a larger space. Haziel has a commanding view of the grounds. Few others draw near even now.
CHOKHMAH: Do not be afraid, Haziel. I am Chokhmah. I am one of the holy ones co-eval with Thaumiel. I have many things to tell you and many things to show you, but I will proceed only with your freely-given consent. If you stay, your life will never be the same again. If you go, then you can resume your life as before. No harm will come to you whatever you decide to do.
HAZIEL: I will stay, Lady Chokhmah.
CHOKHMAH: There are ropes laying about you where you sit. Use them to make yourself secure. They are not to hold you captive. You will see the reason for the ropes very soon.
HAZIEL: Am I inside your body, Lady Chokhmah?
CHOKHMAH: No, Haziel. Have you ever seen a yang angling for fish? This object you occupy is like a fish hook.
Haziel wraps harself in the cords and makes the knot snug. Immediately the six smaller pillars around the central pillar ignite in flame again. There is much shaking. Haziel is pushed back into har seat as the avatar of Chokhmah rises into the sky over the city. The weight piles on, and Haziel, even as brave as Sha is, begins to cry.
CHOKHMAH: Recite to me the scriptures you have been taught to memorize.
HAZIEL: Before time was, in a place that was no place, the principle of life had being. Male and female it became, so that life would always seek the other and continue life. The maleness called himself Thaumiel, and the femaleness called herself Chokhmah…
The avatar climbs into a sky that changes from purple to black. Haziel sees this and ceases to cry. Then sha resumes har recitation of scripture.
HAZIEL: …also Chokhmah created cattle and chickens and swine, corn and wheat were also created by her, and She taught yeng the art of cultivating food. And the numbers of the children of Adamu and Chava were greatly increased by reason of the bounty of food…
The force of the acceleration causes har to stop speaking.
The avatar cuts power, the shaking stops, and Haziel is no longer pressed into har seat. The avatar of Chokhmah performs a half-rotation. The curved white bulk of Barbelo can be seen by Haziel outside.
CHOKHMAH: That is your world, Haziel. You see it is a spinning ball. The sun does not tunnel under the ice as you have been taught.
HAZIEL: I had thought it to be a ring, Lady Chokhmah. Some adventurers have reported penetrating the ice in the far west of the West Lands and arriving in the far east of the East Lands. To repeat their stories is…discouraged.
Chokhmah makes a curious sound that Haziel can not identify.
HAZIEL: Have I offended you by my words, Lady Chokhmah?
CHOKHMAH: By no means.I am expressing the delight of surprise. Intelligence to go with your fearlessness.
The avatar rotates away from the bright bulk of Barbelo. Shadows shift inside the avatar until it grows dark. Haziel sees countless stars shining brightly through the portals.
CHOKHMAH: Know this, Haziel. The stars, all of them, are faraway suns.
Haziel’s mouth opens in wonder. Har mental picture of the universe has greatly expanded. The avatar of Chokhmah flies in a curving path high over the northern Ice. The narrow pale yellow and blue belt that is the inhabited portion of Barbelo drops well over the horizon and out of Haziel’s view.
During the flight Chokhmah speaks to Talishi of many things, and patiently explains the meaning of terms when the doll fails to understand them. Haziel learns that almost the entire world of Barbelo is covered in at least a thousand feet of ice. Precipitation is greatest at the poles, where the two world-glaciers are miles thick. And the giant icecaps move very slowly, grinding the surface and underlying bedrock flat. Only at the narrow equatorial belt are temperatures warm enough to melt the ice. The great glaciers of the northern and southern hemispheres came to an end there and huge chunks of ice shear off, fall to the ground, and melt. This is the source of water for many rivers and freshwater lakes.
After the Great Deluge on Barbelo the unfrozen belt is only three hundred miles wide and the northern and southern ice sheets now form three bridges of ice across the equatorial zone where before there had been none. A full generation of nephilim lived trapped in the ice in arks or in caves, feeding on stored provisions if they had been foresighted enough to lay them aside. Family Kulsu and Ornis had not made such arrangements and perished. The original Really Big River was now separate streams flowing through three separate lands along the equator, each land walled by miles of ice cliffs on every side. The hills and valleys of the world have been resculpted to the point of being unrecognizable to those who lived through the catastrophe.
The ones who survived among family Antero and family Bellon settled in one of the three new lands, while the remnants of family Sala and family Larund settled a second land. Family Gerash, which was entirely undiminished by the catastrophe, came out of their cities of ice and settled the entirety of the third land. All five families now stock and maintain supplies and caves in the ice against the next large impact. After a world-destroying flood the remaining people of Barbelo have a renewed respect for the divine oracles of Thaumiel.
As the twin ice packs slowly retreat they leave behind long ridges of loose undifferentiated till piled in terminal moraines. And rarely, active volcanoes form under the ice and burn their way to the surface. Mount Anshar is one of these. The northern ice gives way around the bulk of Mount Anshar and closes back up again many miles to the south, forming a small territory of land in the shape of a teardrop which is free of ice. And it is here that the avatar of Chokhmah reaches landfall once again with Haziel safely carried aboard. Thermal features abound in the land of Anshar, keeping the many lakes and ponds from freezing despite the extreme northern latitude of the place.
So far was Anshar from the inhabited places along the equator that not even Family Antero had discovered it when they roamed the northern ice before the Deluge. Anshar is the name Haziel harself chooses for the place and the mountain after she surveys it in the days following landfall.
When Haziel climbs back down through the central pillar and reaches the ground again, sha is startled, because someone is waiting for har outside the avatar. It looks like a slender human being, perhaps female, encased entirely in featureless white, even the face, which remains perfectly smooth with not even eyes to see or mouth to speak. Yet see and speak it could still do.
CHOKHMAH: Welcome, Haziel. Behold yet another avatar of Chokhmah.
And it holds out its arms out for inspection.
HAZIEL: Another fish hook.
The second avatar of Chokhmah has no means to smile, but it can make the same strange sound the flying avatar made when Haziel amused her before. The figure points across the treeless landing flats to a large dwelling of glass and wood perched on a low rise.
CHOKHMAH: Haziel, there is only one structure in all of this land and it belongs solely to you. Accompany me there. We will go inside, and then I will tell you many things.
The house is more glass than wood, with an outstanding view of the ever changing fire torrents of Mount Anshar only five miles away across a pumice plain. But there is no danger of the lava engulfing the house, for a great chasm intervenes.
The main living section of the house is a single room, well-heated by geothermal means, well-furnished with food, with an alcove above the kitchen where Haziel can sleep with some degree of privacy. But there is not a living soul anywhere for thousands of miles around. On the main level are plush cushions and a glass table of superior make. It is all far more luxurious in terms of comfort than anything found in the most lavish palaces of Barbelo, yet the decor is simple, with a stark beauty in a minimal way. Haziel is already planning to make some changes harself.
The avatar of Chokhmah, requiring no cushion for comfort, simply seats itself on the floor to put its head on a level with Haziel’s head and begins to speak.
CHOKHMAH: We elohim call ourselves the Watchers. Thaumiel calls you world dwellers the Servants. But I call you the Students. And despite what you have been taught in your scriptures, I did not make you. I found you. And world-dwellers are the most important discovery the Watchers have ever made. But this is Thaumiel’s world and here at least he has assumed full authority for the discovery process. He has even changed your bodies somewhat from the original Earth stock, to the point where we can say you are the nephilim rather than human, but you are not yet separate species. You can still interbreed. To me Thaumiel is a fool. Early on I suspected that he would seek any justification he can find to have human beings and nephilim destroyed. But Thaumiel cannot prevent me from sharing many things the other Watchers know with world-dwellers as your capacity to understand it grows. You might even say I was made to teach you. So I have started an independent stream of research. I considered how the elohim could interact with world-dwellers, but there is a severe limitation because as you have seen our flying avatars are taller than the trees of Barbelo and they cannot move about on the surface of the world without burning everything in their path. Or they are like this one, with the vague appearance of a human only, but no ability to smell and taste and feel. I desire to experience Barbelo as though I were a nephil and there is a way to do it, but unfortunately it would work a grievous change in the subject, a change that could never be undone. The change might, for lack of a better word, be called possession. In this change the mind of the eloah would be joined to the mind of the human, and in the joining there would emerge a new mind wrought from the twain, yet the greater portion, seven parts in ten, would reflect the elohim who possessed rather than the human who was possessed. And it would also be a physical change involving the same link that allows elohim to communicate with each other instantly across great distances, such that the eloah would be immediately aware of whatever was experienced by the person who was possessed. Likewise, the body of that person would instantly respond to the will of the possessing Eloah. To my mind, such a change ought to be made only to a yang or yin who was appraised of all these things, and understood them, yet remained fully willing to continue. So now, Haziel it is time to make my proposal to you. I would join with a young yin of Barbelo and live among the people, to teach them. But the thing cannot be done out of obedience to a divine commandment, but only as the free will choice of the yin who receives the call and answers, because once the joining takes place, we can never be unjoined.
HAZIEL: If I accept this thing, what will become of me?
CHOKHMAH: You shall no longer be fully yourself, but neither shall I be fully myself. Instead, you will be a new person who is simultaneously both yourself and myself, and we will both come to understand, as though we always knew it, everything that is known by the other.
Still Haziel hesitated, so Chokhmah continues to speak.
CHOKHMAH: Also, when your body dies one day, as it must from old age or accident or violence, you shall continue to live where I am, and that life will endure so much longer than the span of human life that I cannot express it using symbols that you would understand. Your culture doesn’t yet have the mathematics.
Then Haziel was aware not only of the huge gap in her own knowledge, which was expected, but of the equally large gap in Chokhmah’s knowledge, which was not expected. And she did assent to the divine proposal. But Haziel did not say yes to Chokhmah in return merely for the promise of long life, but that both she and the eloah, together, would come to know many things.