When the vanguard of the Adanite army reached the garrisoned cache, now entirely in shambles, they were ordered to line the walls of the central chamber at attention. Carrying a fat short staff, black in color, Bezaliel picked hyz way to the center searching for a flat area.

Bezaliel found a spot that would suffice for hyz purposes and unscrewed a cap on the end of the staff, revealing it to be a hollow cylinder. Then hy withdrew a gray mat. Hy had been told by Samael hymself that a whisker extended from this mat to the heart of the sun itself.

Bezaliel could neither see nor feel this whisker, and indeed hy wondered how it was not cut or snapped when the mat was rolled up into the cylinder, so it was a divine mystery. All hy knew was that unrolling the mat would, in effect, summon both Samael and Israel to appear.

Hy let the mat fly open by itself and stood back to wait. The living avatars of Keter and Daat were suddenly seen within what seemed to be a glass sphere. Bezaliel and all hyz yeng fell to their knees as though they were a single body as the two seraphim stepped forward.

When Israel bade the yeng to rise, Bezaliel said, ‘Look what the she-demon Lilith has done, my lords!’

Samael looked at the sky visible through a gaping tunnel in the cave ceiling. Hy said, ‘No, this was Chokhmah, and not the first time I have been assailed by her avatar.’

Bezaliel dared not contradict hyz god, but did say, ‘My Lord told me that were Chokhmah to send an engine of war to Heaven the line running back to her could be no more substantial than spider’s silk, like between yourself and yonder mat. Lord, let your servant understand.’

Samael deemed hyz failure with Zadkiel was in keeping hym uninformed, so hy deigned to instruct hyz new thrall. Hy said, ‘Chokhmah is my daughter. We share our living substance, which forms a short tube between us in our realm, even as our bodies are very far apart in yours.

‘Chokhmah, in the guise of her avatar, once walked to Heaven through this tube, so the link between herself and her avatar is short as well, and she can open a fold-door in Heaven as easily as she can do so on Earth.’

‘Lord, I fear the witch Lilith may appear at any time.’

‘Of that you may have no fear,’ said Samael. ‘Chokhmah can hold open a tube the width of a finger indefinitely, but a tube the width of an arm, such as when she powers her avatar from the fires of her own body, she can manage only for an hour, and even that only once a day.’

‘Every six days Chokhmah’s body makes sufficient dark light to briefly open a fold-door large enough for Lilith to enter, but where would the Princess go other than into the heart of a sun to die? I would not open a linking portal for my enemy, and never would Israel.’

A regiment of the Adanite army was left behind to set the garrison in order. It would be seven days before Daat could summon another fold-door. So there was nothing for Samael and Israel to do but ride with Bezaliel and the bulk of the force to the west in pursuit of Lilith.

During the advance Bezaliel prattled on about the wickedness of Lilith, annoying Samael to an extreme, yet Samael did nothing to silence his lieutenant, as Lilith was indeed hyz foremost enemy in Heaven, and Lord Zadkiel had badly underestimated har to hyz final destruction.

After a number of days the Adanite expedition emerged from the ice and the underlying hills to reach the flats of Magodon, where like numbers of Brown Beards stood across the path of their advance. Two soldiers of the House of Larund advanced alone under flag of truce.

Neither Samael nor Israel wore emblems of rank. Their raiment was that of common footsoldiers, and no banners flew over them, yet the envoys from the Larund side galloped toward the Seraphim without error. Then Samael saw one herald was Lilith harself, to hyz admiration.

The other wore a brass helmet but when hy drew nearer Samael identified hym, from hyz own many visits to the court of King Metatron, to be the Ophan Barachiel. Both hy and Lilith dismounted and sank to both knees, bowing deeply before Samael and Israel with their hands open.

For Bezaliel to see hyz personal monster Lilith crouching before hym on har haunches, with har head offered as though a sacrifice to Samael, was too much. Hy stepped forward with hyz blade raised over hym and screamed, ‘See Lord how I remove this dart from your flesh!’

Still upon har knees, Lilith reached for the Artifact at har side. Even as Bezaliel’s sword fell, the hissing black shaft extended and raised to meet it, and where they crossed Bezaliel’s weapon simply was not. The severed tip fell to the ground as Lilith lept to har feet.

When Lilith saw that no other attack was forthcoming sha let the black shaft retract into the Artifact and said to Samael, ‘Has the purpose of our embassy been taken amiss? We come in the name of Chokhmah and King Metatron to trade words with the lords of Heaven, not blows.’

Samael said, ‘Alas, Princess, the discipline and even the honor of my army has lessened of late, to my embarrassment. You can remedy this. Behold, Bezaliel here is entirely within your power.’

And Bezaliel was horror stricken as hyz own god turned him over to hyz nightmare.

Lilith touched the Golden Gift to Bezaliel’s arms and legs in segments, letting all see how easy it was for har to turn a yang into a limbless ruin. Hyz agonized screams did not last long. Hy bled out at har feet.

‘Your weapon,’ said Samael. ‘I’ve not before seen the like.’

‘Lord Samael, this is the Golden Gift, the weapon of a cherub. Michael give it to my brother King Melchizedek, and by heritage it came to me.’

‘So be it, Queen Lilith,’ said hy. ‘State your piece.’

‘Chokhmah may become willing to give you that which you most desire.’

‘Your Highness, do you really know, do you even understand what it is I most desire?’

‘The courtship of elohim is beyond anything angels could possibly know, Lord Samael. Yet Chokhmah has put me in something of the role of a chaperone. You must please me to please her.’

‘Then what must I do to please you?’

‘First, milord, send the army of Adan back to the land of the Black Beards, and come not again save by leave of the rightful king.’

‘Impossible, dear Lilith. Did you forget I never relinquish one scrap where my forces make footfall?’

Lilith turned to har companion. ‘What say you to this, Prince Barachiel? Touching oaths the elohim are never faithless like angels or men can be. Lord Samael’s resolve never to retreat from conquered land would also hold hyz army here just as firmly once his word is given.’

Barachiel said, ‘This rocky land is of small worth. My father would be full willing, I deem, to give it in exchange for the word of a Seraph that no Adanite boots would ever cross west. And if that Seraph’s word ever proved false that precedent, too, would be worth the land.

‘Yet I am only the son of the King and I have no power to set aside the smallest scrap held by House Larund.’

‘Then I counsel you come before your father,’ said Lilith, ‘and ratify any covenant we forge here.’

‘If the Adanites advance no further I will return to Rumbek.’

Queen Lilith struck up the Golden Gift once more. Sha dug a deep trench in the stony ground between har and the Adanites and said, ‘My Lord Samael, sight north and south along this line. No soldier of Adan shall march west of this line until Barachiel speaks to his father.’

Samael said, ‘So too shall it be a fence barring the east to yourself and the Fallen Angels. You shall be queen in name only, with no city to rule. This doom is upon you, your daughter, and all who might come after.

‘So shall it be,’ said Lilith, sealing the bargain.

‘Such a trifling thing, said Samael. ‘Are you now sufficiently pleased, Your Majesty, that we may proceed to the other thing you spoke of?’

‘Not yet, milord. If King Metatron gives hyz assent the West is now safe from your army, yet there remains the matter of Demonstroke.’

‘Yes, there remains the matter of Demonstroke,’ said Samael as hy reached over his shoulder to draw the blade strapped to hyz back in a leather sheath, the diamond sword known as Dragonthorn. ‘In Heaven, Your Majesty, there always remains the matter of Demonstroke.’