Even as Keter and Daat aided Chokhmah to establish a covenant people on Earth they were implacably opposed to her doing the same thing in Heaven. The interloper named Michael had made Salem and the surrounding country a lost cause but troops were sent to contain the plague.
Ophan Lilith and har Fallen Angels had proven remarkably efficient at shielding Michael from being abducted or killed, but as a consequence Salem had effectively been sliced out of intercourse with the rest of the Middle Lands. Michael wished to bring these things to a head.
Lilith and Michael had flown in the avatar of Chokhmah to Anshar many times but never before to the city of Adan where Keter ruled the house of Gerash directly through his own avatar seated on the throne. The Ophan Lilith was known to many, but by law sha could not speak.
Nevertheless by an awkward and complicated arrangement involving one of the wives of Lord Zadkiel who then spoke to hym in private, that Hashmal was made aware the Ophan Lilith came in the company of one Michael, the prophet who had been giving Keter such grief of late.
The wheels Michael and Lilith had set into motion moved slowly, but they moved. Michael took Lilith to a park in the heart of the city that marked the place where humans were first brought to Heaven. A statue of a Cherub with a flaming sword stood over the eastern entrance.
Michael showed Lilith the ridge on the north side where the fold-door would open, and the field where Hebel grazed his bison. A stand of trees was laced with paths leading to the place where Kayin committed the first murder. ‘Was it always this beautiful?’ asked Lilith.
‘It was less beautiful, then,’ said Michael. ‘It all began two thousand years ago, you know, and a thousand years ago there was an intervening flood that reached even here in the heights.’ As hy spoke, yeng of the secret police known as the Eyes of Keter surrounded them.
So after much effort Michael managed to get hymself arrested after all. Hashmal Zadkiel suggested there be a public tribunal to allow Michael to incriminate hymself by hyz own words so there would be no doubt among the people that Michael blasphemed the god of House Gerash.
Michael said, ‘Let there be such a tribunal, but Ophan Lilith must speak in my defense.’
To this Hashmal Zadkiel said, ‘That is impossible. You know it is the eternal law of Keter that no yin may speak in public, nor to any except har close kin. Choose from among the yeng.’
‘Nevertheless, Her Royal Highness will represent me at the tribunal, or I will speak no words.’
Michael was shown yeng suffering the most terrible torments Keter could devise, but none made hym blench. So the law forbidding Lilith to speak on hyz behalf was set aside.\
In a twisted parallel to the Sunset Discourse, the tribunal took place in a gladiatorial arena. The charge was insurrection. Specifically, Michael was accused of inciting infidelity to Keter. As in any theocracy, to sin against God is exactly equivalent to breaking the law.
As the tribunal wore on Zadkiel attempted to trip Michael with riddle-words, but hy was dealing with an advanced composite being, both eloah and angel, and Michael had a suitable answer at every turn. It was a back-channel way to bring hyz teachings to the people of Adan.
Even prior to hyz union with Chokhmah Michael could have handled Zadkiel, who was too stupid to realize hy was being soundly beaten by rhetoric. But Michael knew it would not matter in the end. The outcome of the tribunal was fixed. The sole purpose was to discredit hym.
Zadkiel turned to the words of the famous Sunset Discourse in Salem which had been preserved in a growing set of literature called the Sayings of Michael. Hy brought up a thing even Cherub Melchiyahu pondered. ‘Interesting that you always say ‘Sha who embraces Chokhmah…
Do you imply that only yen can be your disciples, and no yang can ever be?’
Michael said, ‘By these things a yin excludes harself as my follower: Sha grows annoyed at things sha cannot help, and so is perpetually angry. Controversies that divide the people attract har.
Sha is caught up in every fad and does not affirm har own uniqueness. Such a yin does not truly embrace Chokhmah. But any yang who does not do these things is on the firm path to becoming one of Chokhmah’s followers, though hy may not even be aware that such is the case.’
Zadkiel said, ‘And yet, contrary to the Code of Keter you employ yen, your so-called Fallen Angels, in productive labor. Some even go so far as to say the Fallen Angels are, in fact, a standing army of females. Such an absurdity has never existed in the history of Heaven.’
‘The Fallen Angels only scatter the wealth and gather the people.’
‘So you espouse income redistribution?’
Michael replied, ‘I espouse giving yen work that draws them together in service of their own sisters. But have no fear, there is no overlap with the work of yeng.’
‘Their own sisters! And just where do yeng fit into your schemes, Michael?’
Michael said, ‘Just as the angels were called out of humanity to have a closer relationship with the elohim, Chokhmah has called yen out of the angels that they may unite and nourish one another.’
‘You imply certain things which are unnatural in all our ancient traditions.’
‘It is natural to stink, Lord Zadkiel, yet none suggest falling back to neglecting personal hygiene. To yen who follow Chokhmah the word ‘unnatural’ simply means ‘not on the level of animals.’
Zadkiel ran out of arguments and waved for Lilith to cross.
When Lilith spoke there was a stir from the onlookers shocked to hear a yin’s voice in public, but as the tribunal continued the novelty wore off. Har line of defense was that the Law of Keter itself was a novelty.
After spitting Zadkiel’s own words back at hym from when hy first began to preach in Salem Lilith argued that the Code of Keter had become known only after Michael’s ministry had taken root at Salem, and might even have been introduced purely in reaction to hyz teachings.
‘At no time in our history have we condemned anyone for committing actions that were made illegal after the offense,’ sha said. ‘Such a thing has always been anathema to our concept of justice.’
Zadkiel shot a glance at the Cherub Kirodiel, who presided on behalf of Keter.
As hy would do throughout the tribunal, whenever Lilith got any traction and Zadkiel needed a lifeline, Kirodiel ordered har to end har line of questioning and use a different one.
Lilith swallowed har frustration and said, ‘There is still the question of jurisdiction.
‘The Code of Keter is the law of this city, I will grant you, but Michael is a subject of my father the king of Salem where hyz will alone holds sway. Melchiyahu has already found this yang to be innocent of any wrongdoing.’
Once more Zadkiel signaled Kirodiel for help.
In a bored voice Kirodiel instructed Ophan Lilith to move on to har next objection. Sha was being worn down but Michael took it with equanimity. Hy knew the outcome was predetermined. More important was that the angels in the gallery saw the injustice of the whole farce.
Lilith had one more card to play. ‘Michael, despite all the evidence we have heard for the charge of impiety toward Keter you still maintain your innocence. How can this be?’
Hy said, ‘Most yen in Adan are faced with a stark choice: Remain with their husband or starve.’
‘In the same way, it cannot be a powerful decision to worship Keter anywhere in the Middle Lands, because the alternative is a mock trial and execution.’
‘So you contend that piety compelled by law is false?’
‘Any such ‘piety’ is as phony as the love of most marriages.’
‘How much more vital is the love of two angels who are utterly free to stay or part yet who still choose to stay together!’
‘That sound risky.’
‘Indeed. It is the risk of losing things, especially our lives, that makes them dear.’
Lilith nodded to Zadkiel. ‘Your witness.’
In cross-examination Zadkiel said, ‘So your claim is that living dangerously is the missing ingredient in Adanite marriages?’
Michael replied, ‘The fear of losing a thing is what lends excitement and significance to that thing, from a marriage bond to our very lives.’
‘Keter once told Chokhmah that to take fate into one’s own hands was to rise beyond good and evil. In truth a rock and tree are beyond good and evil, and so is every angel who will not, or is not permitted, to make a free choice. Ethics simply does not apply to them.’
‘So you deny that the Lord Keter has the authority to decree what is right and wrong in our world?’
Michael replied, ‘Not that Keter or any other power ought to legislate morality, but that they literally cannot do so. It’s logically absurd, like a four-sided triangle.’
In that moment Zadkiel was certain hy had sprung hyz trap and told Kirodiel the state rested. Lilith, too, thought that Michael had finished on a high note and said the defense also rested. Kirodiel did not even make a pretense of deliberating. ‘Judgment for the State.’
No one was surprised except the Ophan Lilith, who was allowed to pay one final visit to har client in the dungeons beneath the Temple of Keter before the sentence was to be carried out. The first of their last few moments was spent in an awkward embrace though iron bars.
Lilith glanced around the dungeon, assuring harself that their privilege of private counsel, no matter how brief, was still inviolate. Sha said, ‘Guilty! A sentence of death! What’s your plan now?’
‘There is no plan.’ Michael reached through the bars to touch har face.
‘I watched you send my brother and his two squires to the other world,’ Lilith objected. ‘Could you not summon another such bubble and take yourself out of harm’s way?’
‘Only Keter and Daat can open a fold-door in Heaven. Here I can only manage holding one thin fold-line.’
‘They’ve been planning this tribunal for a long time. It all stinks of Keter moving behind the scenes. He wants something big from me but he’s taking his time laying it all out in the open. He has another, much easier way to communicate with me but he refuses to use it.’
‘Then in the absence of your plan I say we go forward with my plan.’
Michael narrowed hyz eyes. Hy said, ‘Lilith, don’t do anything stupid. Better yet, don’t do anything at all!’
They were interrupted by Lilith’s escorting guard, a kind but unswervingly loyal yang.
Hy said, ‘I’m sorry, that’s all the time I am permitted to give you with the condemned.’ Then hy gestured for har to leave the chamber, unwilling to touch an ophan unless sha made things difficult.
Michael called out after har. ‘Lilith! Just drop it, do you hear me?’
Michael’s next visitor was Hashmal Zadkiel, who moved very close to Michael’s iron cell to look directly into hyz eyes. After studying hym quietly for a time hy said, ‘Keter sends his regards, Chokhmah.’
Michael smiled. ‘I made no secret of the union, and you denied it.’
‘The Lord Keter knows that you put on something of a conjuring act just before he opened a fold-door in Salem to whisk Melchizedek away. Only Chokhmah could have timed things so.’
‘How wonderful,’ said Michael. ‘Now that you and your god have come to belief, what is next?’
‘Certain actions and non-actions will be required of you,’ said Zadkiel. ‘And you have no choice but to comply.’
‘Keter knows well I can choose to end my life at any time. No threat of death or torment can compel me to do his bidding, let alone the whim of his slave.’
Zadkiel smiled and said, ‘Oh, a martyr is really the last thing we want, Chokhmah. Unfortunately, Princess Lilith has har mind quite made up. Do you really think the Eyes of Keter are not aware of the preparations sha has made to rescue you?’
‘What does sha have in mind?’
Zadkiel said, ‘You will be amazed when you see it unroll, Chokhmah. Fallen Angel sleeper cells, guards taken out with a head twist, secret disguises, body doubles, safe houses from here to the edge of the city! But as you’ve probably surmised by now, it is doomed to fail.
‘That way we catch Lilith in the act, scoop up key Fallen Angels, and crush your whole movement over the span of a single night. Then this glassblower’s son’s body will be broken and braided on the hub of a windmill with no one left to rally around the spinning corpse.’
‘I think you are grossly underestimating Lilith and har Fallen Angels if you think it will be that easy to roll them up.’
‘You may be immune to pain, Chokhmah, but of a certainty Lilith is not. And all har co-conspirators, too, would be subject to torment without mercy.’
As a matter of fact, Lilith had indeed been prepared by Chokhmah to be immune to pain, but Michael did not disabuse Zadkiel of his notion. The battle between them had been joined, and battle relied on operational deception. But the other Fallen Angels were vulnerable.
‘Lord Keter has a far better idea. If you agree, your sentence of death will be set aside. The Ophan Lilith and har friends will have no reason to carry out their suicide pact. Instead, we shall parade you captive in a cage through every settlement from here to Salem.’
‘That would discredit everything I have taught,’ Michael said, but hy knew it would really have precisely the opposite effect. ‘I’ll let myself die the moment you display me in a cage.’
‘Chokhmah, you must not refuse, because the alternative is Lilith, remember? Har plan?’
Michael sighed, and made a show of hanging hyz head in defeat. ‘What are Keter’s demands?’
‘One, you shall not will yourself to die until the people of Salem have seen the humiliation of their would-be god, Chokhmah, the offspring of Keter dressed up in the body of a yang.’
‘It will require backtracking on your part, Zadkiel. Or have you forgotten you heralded Keter’s decree of my death for presuming to teach the angels of Salem that I am the living avatar of the eloah named Chokhmah?’
Zadkiel curled hyz lips. ‘The rabble have short memories.’
‘So I must not perform an End of Cycle,’ Michael said. ‘Is that all that your lord Keter requires of me?’
‘No, you must share with him the secret of merging with a yang as a living avatar, as you have done.’
Then Michael understood at last the true purpose of the tribunal.
Hy said, ‘I can teach Keter how to achieve the union, but you should remind him to use a light touch. The temptation would be to take full possession of the world-dweller but that will only backfire when his entire psyche becomes that of a yin or yang. He risks dissolution.’
‘Let the Lord Keter judge if what you say is true.’
‘As you wish, Zadkiel. When my mother and father have sent the Ophan Lilith safely home to Salem by fold-door I will conform to these demands.’
Hy chuckled. ‘Chokhmah, you are in no position to make demands of your own.’
‘Very well, Zadkiel, I will now shed this container of meat, and after that I will let Keter know how close he came to learning the trick of having one of his very own, before you and your incompetence ruined it.’
‘Hold! I will bring your request before the Lord himself.’