On time scales comprehensible to humans and nephilim and angels, the elohim are effectively immortal. But when Chokhmah worked out how to achieve physical union with a world-dweller this did not extend the life of the subject by any means, and even tended to shorten it.

After all, the ability to take possession of another body at any time naturally leads one to take less thought to maintenance of the body one already has. When Keter wore out his Samael body, and Daat his Israel body, they moved on to different and ever more ‘containers’.

Just two elohim plowing through the ages and taking new bodies and new names, serially, gave human demonology endless fodder. When Lael’s group were transplanted to Heaven after the fall of Judah, the eloah Keter was known as Kokabiel and Daat was incarnated as Belphegor.

After Belphegor came to Adjara by fold-door it took nearly an hour for his servant Malphas to locate hym. Belphegor crinkled hyz nose at the usual open sewage of human cities but after a time it was bearable. Hy amused hymself watching construction of Chokhmah’s temple.

Belphegor knew the Levites of the city had been attempting to build a copy of the Jerusalem temple for over a century now. From the progress they had made and the techniques of construction they were using, hy estimated it would take at least another century to complete.

Malphas found hym watching a stone block weighing at least a ton being hoisted into position with the nearly imperceptible pace and inevitability of a glacier moving an erratic. Hy sank to one knee and said, ‘My lord, the villa of the B’nei Elohim is near to this place.’

Belphegor motioned for hyz servant to rise, and asked of hym, ‘the B’nei Elohim, are they to be trusted?’

‘The ones at the villa are human,’ Malphas warned, ‘but they claim to be servants of all elohim, not Chokhmah alone. Jashen assures me he will not waste your time.’

Belphegor thought it augured well when the four B’nei Elohim waiting outside the house paid perfect obeisance as was due a seraph. When hy beheld Jashen waiting on the threshold hy saw his features called back to those of the original colonists brought to Adan from Earth.

Indoors Belphegor was treated with more decadent luxury than hy experienced even in Rumbek at the heart of the Larund realm. The wine was cold, the roast beef was hot, the furnishings of such fine make hy said to Jashen, ‘I had not thought such wealth existed in Adjara.’

‘Lord Belphegor, on Earth the lowliest among the B’nei Elohim enjoy better, yet it is not thought to be great wealth. It is only with long labor that we have made this place acceptable for us to dwell in Haaretz as we are accustomed. Yet we are only wayfarers in Heaven.’

‘And what are the B’nei Elohim that you become wayfarers in Heaven?’

A little above man, a little below the gods’ Chokhmah tells us. No doubt you have heard him tell you that he views the world-dwellers as students. And yet from time to time he is of need of servants.’

‘The Lord Belphegor must recall a time seven centuries ago when a weapon called the Golden Gift was an heirloom of the ruling family of Salem. First it was wielded by Melchizedek, then the weapon passed to Queen Lilith, who cut a line between Magodon and Adan in solid rock.’

‘I did witness har cut, Jashen, but what is your errand in Heaven? You told Malphas this would not be a waste of my time.’

‘Milord, I was sent to retrieve the self-same Golden Gift, and so I have done.’ Jashen detached the relic from his belt and set it down between them.

Belphegor said, ‘I see a sword’s hilt covered in gold. How do you know that is Lilith’s weapon?’

‘Milord, it is very similar, in subtle way, to another gewgaw I have collected.’ Jashen set Lilith’s headband on the table next to it, after touching the gem to illuminate it.

He said, ‘Milord, we have heard this light comes from Chokhmah himself, from the sun that is his body. If that is true, there must be an invisible thread that leads from this antique back to Chokhmah, in a way I cannot understand. Two other relics have such threads.

‘One relic, milord, is the Golden Gift itself. The other I will tell you of directly, but first I must speak of this headband and how it defies every attempt we make to destroy it. Witness, if you will, Lord.’

Jashen placed the relic against the corner of a stone pedestal.

In his other hand Jashen held a large hammer. He said, ‘With your permission, Lord Belphegor, of course.’

Belphegor waved for him to continue, and Jashen struck the headband between the hammer and a corner of the pedestal. The brilliant gem never ceased to give light.

Jashen cast the undamaged headband back on the table. ‘We have destroyed tin snips trying to cut the band. Not the hottest forge we can stoke will begin to make it melt, and no wonder, since a living star made this in his belly. Yet is it proof against the Golden Gift?’

Jashen took up the ancient weapon and glanced at his divine guest. ‘Again, Lord Belphegor, by your leave?’


Jashen squeezed the Golden Gift to allow the black shaft of nothingness to lick the headband into oblivion. But he could not avoid damage to the table.

He said, ‘The Lord Keter will affirm that only two fold-lines now extend through his umbilical with Chokhmah.’

‘What you say is of a truth. Now, Jashen, you will deliver this Golden Gift into my hand.’

‘Alas, Lord, such is my own will, but it is not the will of Chokhmah.’

‘What is that to me?’ snarled Belphegor. ‘You say you serve the elohim. It is an eloah who commands you.’

‘Milord, Chokhmah’s power to compel obedience is at the heart of my quarrel with him, and I am not alone in this. The weapon would be of no avail to you in any case.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Milord, over the centuries the B’nei Elohim have gained an understanding of how this relic works. There is an unseen tube that somehow stretches directly back to Chokhmah, and this is held open by a substance we call dark light, made by Chokhmah’s body.

If more dark energy is poured inside, the tube will grow larger. But in this case Chokhmah holds the tube at a certain width so the dark light overflows. Whatever this touches, no matter how hard, is immediately turned into dark substance and it disappears from the world.’

Belphegor pondered this for a time. Jashen’s information alone was worth the trip to the safe house, if hy or Keter could learn how to stiffen the fold-line. Still, Belphegor saw it was indeed pointless to demand the relic. Chokhmah would simply refuse to make it work.

Hy said, ‘And how do you control the weapon if it relies on Chokhmah to operate?’

‘A firm pressure by the hand, milord,’ said Jashen. ‘This is somehow sensed by Chokhmah.’

‘You ignorant fool! The sound of your voice is changing pressure. He is listening to everything!’

Jashen tried to think of a way to shrug respectfully in the presence of a seraph but he could not. Instead he said, ‘Lord Belphegor, we already know he is listening, and it matters not at all. Chokhmah is perfectly aware there are unsatisfied factions among the B’nei Elohim.

‘The controversy is an ancient one, Milord, and I am not the first B’nei Elohim to remove to the enemy camp. A nephil named Ariel once served Keter in the time of the dragon Demonstroke. Samael knew this ambi as Joy.’

‘I knew Joy was B’nei Elohim. There are more such Joys?’

‘There are more than you might imagine, Lord Belphegor. Chokhmah promises all the B’nei Elohim a second life free of any obligations to him, but we find a mere two lives to be insufficient. We have contrived serial lives without end, but at the cost of ongoing servitude.’

‘And you imagine that I can help you out of your hopeless state of affairs, so you made contact with Malphas, and hy with myself.’

‘Milord, it seemed to us the way out is simply to take Chokhmah’s mind away from the obsession that compels him send us on these errands.’

‘And what is it that you think obsesses Chokhmah?’

‘Milord, not a one among the B’nei Elohim is ignorant of the ancient bargain Chokhmah made with Keter never to send an avatar to another star and make contact. But Chokhmah thinks world-dwellers represent a loophole.’

‘If you mean Chokhmah intends to teach world-dwellers to reach the stars and so evade the bargain, we had guessed that in the very beginning. But perhaps Chokhmah hasn’t really thought it out. What would world-dwellers actually do after arriving at one of the other suns?’

‘Lord Belphegor, perhaps it will be something as simple as casting a relic into that new sun. A relic with a link to Chokhmah like Lilith’s headband. A relic that would not be destroyed by the fires of that new sun because it had been forged in the center of the old sun.’

Belphegor was rocked back on hyz heels once more as hy considered what Jashen said. Of course one did not simply ‘cast’ an object into a sun, one must negate its orbital velocity and allow gravity to do the rest, but it could be done. Yes, Chokhmah was planning this.

Hy said, ‘You have eliminated one such relic before my eyes and, we guess, in the hearing of Chokhmah. Yet you speak of another.’

‘Lord Belphegor, the other relic is a slab of stone embossed with the words of the covenant between Chokhmah and the descendants of Abraham.’ “

‘For centuries this was carried about on Earth inside a chest of wood covered in gold leaf. Once a year Chokhmah would speak with the high priest through the slab. Now the chest has been taken to Heaven to keep it safe, but the temple here in Adjara is far from complete.

‘One Lael of the tribe of Levi is the high priest now, milord, and he wanders Haaretz with the chest and the tablet. Lael bore also the Golden Gift and he rendered it to me after I sought him out, for such was Chokhmah’s verbal command to him. Lael was expecting me to come.’

‘So the Golden Gift was put in your hand,’ said Belphegor, ‘and the tablet was nigh, yet you made no move to destroy the relic as you did Lilith’s headband just now.’

‘Milord, had I made the slightest move in the direction of the ark Lael’s archers would have shot me.'”

‘In any event you would have wasted your time even as you are now wasting mine. It is a small thing for Chokhmah to construct another object and link to it.’

‘Your pardon Lord Belphegor, but I see you are unaware of a critical thing that we B’nei Elohim have long known.

For oft Chokhmah sends us east of the Wall of God where he and Binah are forbidden to open a fold-door, and we have begged to use an avatar as Michael was wont to do in the times of old. But that one was destroyed by dragonfire, and Chokhmah says he cannot make another.’

Belphegor searched hyz memory and realized that Chokhmah, in fact, had not plagued Heaven with an avatar since the war, and found it puzzling that hy had never focused on that before. Hy wondered what scheme Chokhmah might be carrying out in hyz full view, as yet unnoticed.

‘Does Chokhmah explain why no more avatars can be made?’

‘Milord, he has said avatars must be made in a non-living portion of a sun that an eloah can nevertheless safely reach. And only a female can compress herself to create such a free space. Chokhmah is now male.’

‘But Binah is female,’ Belphegor replied. ‘Nothing prevents her from creating an object that can survive a plunge into a sun, and – hold! I see this is all a feint! Binah has no covenant with Keter. It is she who will send an avatar to another star and break the interdict.’

‘Milord, you need have no fear that Binah will do what Chokhmah has sworn never to do. She lives in the clear space where Chokhmah used to create his avatars. Binah is a kind of avatar, but she can never be ejected. She is already compressed, and she can shrink no more.’

Belphegor tried to imagine how it must be for Binah. Sexual pleasure for female elohim came from compression during mating which Binah had experienced from the instant of conception. She lived in a state of perpetual physical joy. Hy said, ‘You have spoken true, Jashen.

I have offered only unrelieved hostility, and I would move to reward you for your steadfastness, yet there remains only the question why you beg me to take the tablet from this Lael? Are there no warriors among you in this rebel faction of B’nei Elohim? Why not yourself?’

‘Lord Belphegor, I have been a warrior from my youth on Earth but now I am summoned back there, and none of the other occupants of this house are trained to fight. Nor is it assured other B’nei Elohim of like mind will come to Haaretz. We are sent as our talents are needed’.

‘Yes, I had nearly forgotten that the B’nei Elohim had special abilities unique to each one. Joy could command the dragon, and Victoria could even fly. What, then, is your talent, Jashen?’

‘Tongues, milord. The men of Haaretz are not understood by any others, in the main.’

‘And the B’nei Elohim who resent thralldom to Chokhmah, what do you call yourselves?’

‘The word we use, milord, is ‘groupies’ but there may be no equivalent term outside of our own tongue. It refers to the sexual playthings of a troupe of musicians who travel with them.’

For the first time Belphegor seemed amused. ‘I am sure the explanation for that is interesting but it is enough to know only the name. Ketar and I shall treat only with ‘groupies’. You can tell that to Chokhmah if by chance he is not listening through the Golden Gift.’

‘He is listening, Lord Belphegor, yet I cannot use that fact to summon a fold-door home to Earth. Chokhmah insists we do that only from Nyduly Wood. So I must now take my leave. But you and Malphas shall be honored guests in this house until such time you wish to depart.’

‘Certainly Chokhmah will be greatly wroth that you destroyed one relic and conspire to have the other taken.’

‘Milord, Chokhmah can do nothing to punish me. B’nei Elohim are immune to torment and we surmount even death. But of the tablet I counsel that you tarry not.”

‘The king of the Babylonians took three years to carry out his siege of the Earthly temple using his whole army. Should the heavenly temple be completed here in Adjara it would take a comparable effort and Chokhmah, thus forewarned, would simply remove the tablet to Earth.’

Then with suitable words of obeisance Jashen left Belphegor and Malphas to dwell in the safe house for the seven days it would require for Daat to accumulate sufficient dark energy to allow their departure by fold-door. On horseback he made his way south to Enkaa Dam.

There he traded his horse for a raft made from young logs which were slid over the spillway of the dam and lashed together in the river below. Tipping over one perilous set of rapids after another Jashen paddled down the Armak until he reached Alodra in the heart of Haaretz.

The capital, Atria, lay at the confluence of the Armak with the river Sabik, the greatest stream in Haaretz. Jashen let the river take the raft as he went by foot east up the Sabik to a bridge that crossed into Hamar. He fell under the watchful gaze of the Issacharites.

Not all of the children of Israel living in Haaretz worshiped Yahweh alone. The tribe of Issachar and some others among the Hamarites had begun to give adoration to one they called Bat-El, or the daughter of God. She was different from the mute golden idols of Samaria.

For one thing Bat-El had a small pool deep in the forest. From time to time it would glow with soft white light, and individuals like Jashen would emerge from it. Michael said the traditional way of moving about by fold-doors dry invariably cut deep craters in floors.

It worked the other way too. If someone immersed himself in the pool of Bat-El and Bat-El was willing, the glow would appear and he would disappear. In the case of Jashen, Bat-El (Binah) was willing. When he came to the surface it was in another pool and the trees were gone.

When Chokhmah undertook to teach his daughter how to correctly position the end-point of her first fold-door Binah insisted there was success, yet no fold-door appeared before the eyes of Michael in Rammon. Hy was not willing to believe Binah was deliberately deceiving hym.

It took years to determine the problem, and when Chokhmah eventually unraveled the mystery it was truly astonishing. Binah was correctly locating the end of her fold-door in space, but she was entirely hit-or-miss in time. Binah had a sense that her mother did not share.

While her consciousness remained in the present with Chokhmah, Binah could ‘see’ the past trailing out, offering more territory to drop a fold-door. Merely the air flowing through jostled air that was never originally jostled, and so a second world budded off from the first.

Later still Binah learned to reach back in time and mine unused dark light from the body she shared with Chokhmah. Since she never did that on the original track, it created a second, parallel sun that could be mined in turn. The supply of dark light became unlimited to her.

This and the ability to redact history itself were weapons of such unfathomable power there no longer existed any chance Keter and Daat would prevail. But basic operational security dicated that the enemies of Chokhmah and Binah should never learn their true order of battle.

The world-dwellers Chokhmah had gathered to himself to be servants, the B’nei Elohim, were sent on errands in time past, and no others, since they alone could be trusted never to reveal Binah’s power in word or deed, even the ones who were open enemies of Binah and Chokhmah.

Jashen emerged from the warm water of the pool and was given a change of dry clothing by attendants. He was on the well-illuminated lowest basement floor of a large structure of glass and steel, and the perimeter of the building was in the shape of a regular hexagon.

When he was presentable Jashen stood for a few moments in a small room with doors that opened and closed of their own volition. When they opened again he was in what the B’nei Elohim sardonically called the Hostility Suite on the fifty-fifth floor of the central tower.

No one was there to greet him. Jashen crossed the space to stare out of a large window. It was raining, surprise of all surprises. Six dark green towers identical to the core tower rose in a ring around it, and beyond them was a ring of twelve more. Seattle lay beyond.

Outside of the giant rain-streaked window Jashen could see, through a gap in the two rings of towers, a sliver of the downtown core of Seattle with a low cloud obscuring the tops of the buildings. Through another gap he could see the Space Needle somewhat north of there.

Looking down, Jashen saw how each tower was joined to its neighbor, vertex to vertex, by a sky bridge every ten floors. And at the very bottom was NOLU, North Lake Union, the tongue of land between N 34th Street and Lake Union that once hosted a coal gasification plant.

He heard footsteps and turned to watch his wife and har parents enter the Hostility Suite. Men often boast that their wife is an angel, but Jashen could do so without exaggeration. Seven and a half feet tall, Leliel leaned down to kiss har husband after his long absence.

After they broke their embrace Jashen held out the Golden Gift for Leliel’s mother, Lilith. The queen of Salem was now a human in her second life. She had reddish hair, was shorter in stature than Jashen, and answered to the name of the human who had joined with her: Judith.

Judith put the Golden Gift in a leather sheath at her belt and said, ‘I didn’t need this relic, I just needed Lael not to have it.’

Michael said, ‘And the Oscar for best portrayal of a B’nei Elohim Groupie goes to Jashen Shybear.’ Hy motioned for everyone present to sit.

Jashen squeezed into one oversized chair with his wife as Michael did the same with hyz own. He said, ‘I don’t understand, Lord. What is the…Oscar?’

‘It’s a small statue of gold that is given for…Jashen, have you seen films yet? Have you taken Leliel to the movies?’

For a moment he only stared at Michael blankly. Leliel leaned in and prodded, ‘Galaxy’s Fall?’

Jashen became attentive. He said, ‘Yes! Once I knew only the iron horse and rifles and wires that talked but this new time is filled with wonders beyond count, film best of all.’

Excellent!’ said Michael. ‘So, Jashen, in 1978, on this time track at least, the director of Galaxy’s Fall won the Oscar for the best film. I was giving you high praise for your operational deception, for getting Daat to focus on a MacGuffin.’

‘First Oscar, now MacGuffin?’

‘It’s another film term, Jashen, but it has to do with the storytelling craft. Remember how Galaxy’s Fall was just one long chase to capture the young Empress? Well, now you’ve sent Keter and Daat chasing after the tablet, and they’ll keep on doing that right up to the end.

So a MacGuffin is an invented word that film writers use to mean something that triggers a conflict but it has no intrinsic importance. Keter and Daat now believe I will use the tablet in the Ark of the Covenant to contact El Elyon but in fact El Elyon will be coming to me.’

‘Milord could you not have sent an actual Groupie to tell Belphegor about your Macguffin?’

‘Michael shook hyz head. ‘No Groupie has your talent for language, Jashen. And don’t stray very far. I’m going to shower Keter and Daat with many more Macguffins. This is personal.’