On the edge of Shaula Wood, northeast of Adjara, Lael and a small remnant of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin tended their flocks of animals and slowly wandered east into the hills until they were come to the face of the Wall of God, two miles high, and could go no further.
The decorative sphinx on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant rotated to guide them ever north on a maze of paths at the foot of the Wall. Lael knew that by means of the ark Chokhmah had never failed to lead them to good grazing grounds for their little herd of livestock.
As they trundled along often they would meet friendly parties who journeyed south from Sastrom. They used the paths at the foot of the Wall of God to reach Fatho where they could find river passage on the Sabik downstream to cities in Alodra. But few words were exchanged.
One evening when Lael’s group reached a precipitous bench along the face of the Wall and decided there to make camp they encountered a party of seven Brown Beards. Lael was delighted to learn that one among them named Marsayas spoke Hebrew and could be understood by them.
Marsayas begged Lael to grant his travelers leave to make overnight camp nigh to Lael’s group. This, said hy, was laid on hym for want of any other flat place to pitch tents. To this Lael warily agreed, but ever he eyed the ark of God while the two bands shared provender.
Lael told Marsayas that most of his people were newly come to Heaven, and that he knew little of the lands that lay about them, but he led his little migration wheresoever Chokhmah made known to them through the gold-covered oracle Lael and his sons reverently carried about.
Marsayas said this presented a perfect opportunity to tell a tale, and he assured Lael’s company that it was true in every detail, but although it recounted the actions of very foolish men, it was a solemn tale of caution rather than one of mirth, and none should laugh.
Then Marsayas spoke in aside to his own band using the strange tongue of the angels in Heaven. As hy did so, Lael made his sons Elam, Jemuel, and Rosh stand nigh to the Ark while the wives of all the migrants seated themselves in a circle between the fire and Lael’s sons.
Together with Lael within the ring of women sat Abner and his son Asa, and Josiah with his son Tobiah. But Zethan, Jabez, and his two sons Rimon and Asher stayed with the small flock of animals on the edge of the little plateau to ensure they were not lost over the edge.
‘You call this land Haaretz,’ Marsayas told them, ‘but we call it simply The Land We Know. Towards the setting suns lies Thalury, the great Western Sea. Ships ply between ports in Sastrom, Alodra, and the Saiph League, and they sail up the River Sabik as far as Atria.
The coast continues north and south farther than any mariners know, for they ever turn back after sailing for a month or two, yet there are innumerable coves and many of these are settled, it is known, and they survive by trading fish and wares with folk of other coves.
From the beginning of days sailors of the Land We Know heeded the commandment of the gods never to sail out of sight of land. No captain, drunk or otherwise, dared steer his ship so far to the west that the haze caused the Land to fade from the view of the aft lookout.
An order to sail west was good cause for the crew to mutiny and throw the captain overboard. It was an ancient and bedrock article of common law that no such crew returning to port without their captain would ever face punishment if their tale held true under questioning.
But in the days when Demonstroke raged free there was revolution in the Land. The Saiph Republic flourished for a time, and many longstanding laws were overthrown. Reason reigned over custom, and when the time was ripe angels, nephilim and men were found to crew two ships.
These sailors were willing to disregard the strict commandment of all the gods never to sail much west. So stiff-necked were they it was never imagined the gods cared for the lives of mariners. Instead, there spread rumors of a choice but unconquered land far across the sea.
It was spoken among them of a land the gods created for their own enjoyment, a beautiful realm filled with gold, rich in abundant fruit, never without the most select game, and their divine interdict was merely to keep it from being despoiled by angels, nephilim, and men.
The two ships commissioned by the revolutionaries of the Saiph Republic were named Will O’ The Wisp and Fire of the Covenant. They drifted in the slow current with sails unfurled. Down on Thalury the currents move stately to the west, while winds blow reliably to the east.
In two days the gray band that was the Land We Know could no longer be seen in the east by reason of the sea mist which had entirely shrouded it, and some of the older sailors muttered in fear, since the tradition was deeply carved within them, while certain others scoffed.
One night the lookout manning 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 Wisp that he was raising his sails and veering off.
Captain Skulldagger aboard the Will O’ the Wisp did not alter his course until it was too late. With billowing sails Fire of the Covenant barely escaped, but the current became too strong for her sister ship. She was seen to tip over the edge and was never seen again.
The Will O’ The Wisp and all aboard had indeed fallen over the edge of Heaven. In the uttermost west Thalury pours over a great cataract, a vast waterfall with no bottom. Long the ship fell partially submerged within the waters of the sea, which had become a white sheet.
The waters of the sea and even the air fell together with the ship, and there was little breeze. The ship tumbled, resting on nothing, and the crew felt no weight. They floated freely in the air, as though swimming under water, but some floated far away from the ship.
The small but constant breeze broke the sea sheet into globes of water, some the size of a man’s head, others the size of a barn. Fish were seen swimming in many of these balls of water, and when the rations aboard the Will ran out these fish were the only source of food.
But none of the doomed angels, nephilim, and men suffered thirst as is common among marooned sailors of Earth. Thalury is a freshwater sea ever renewed by ice melt. As the crew continued to fall, the dark underside of heaven became visible overhead like the inside of a mask.
So it was seen and understood by the falling sailors that the Land We Know is really just the lowest step in an endless stair, vast beyond all mortal imagination, and there is a second step rising to the east. This step we know from this side of Heaven as the Wall of God.
But the breeze blew the globes of water far apart one from the other and the heat of the two suns caused them to shrink until none of the water globes which remained near the ship held living fish. The survivors began to starve, and they pondered killing each other for meat.
By the time the sailors were desperate enough to become cannibals they were too weak to successfully attack each other or do anything more than make pitiful moans. Then came the final days when they passed from the living one by one, according to their remaining strength.
The sailors found that death was not the end. They awoke in new bodies untouched by any scars of battle or the lash, looking down upon The Land We Know from the very rim of the Wall of God, two miles of sheer and implacable stone which none of the living have yet scaled.
The sailors who tarried at the Wall of God heard feeble voices carried by the wind through a trick of sound reflecting on the stone precipice. Ever they walked the ramparts of Heaven hoping to hear the voices of their loved ones, and when they did they deemed it bittersweet.
As time went on the newly dead found they were forgotten by their friends and even their loved ones sooner than they would have liked. The more impact a person had in their life the more fragments they heard so they lingered more, but the humble accepted the truth sooner.
At great length nearly all the dead came off the precipice and rested on the narrow lawn behind it, before the Upper Sea, waiting, they were told, for a white ship to come and take them east to an unknown destiny. The elohim refused to speak to them of their final fate.
The dead were told only, ‘Great gifts are sweeter when they are but revealed in their fulfillment unspoiled by hasty tidings.’ Within twenty years every member of Captain Skulldaggers’s dead but resurrected crew passed over the Upper Sea to the east, and he alone remained.
Skulldagger has attained a form of immortality through infamy, and never a day passes but that his name is spoken aloud by someone below. Yet more often than not his name is spoken with a shudder, as the story of the Will O’ The Wisp is told again to every new generation.
I tell you all these things not that you should not fear your own death,’ Marsayas said, ‘which indeed is truly nothing to be feared, but that you know what you must do, presently, when each one of you find yourselves resurrected and standing the brink of the Wall of God.’
When those words were spoken Marsayas drew out a weapon and cried out, ‘All glory be to Belphegor, Lord of Magodon!’ Hy thrust forth with a cruel knife that was more like a sharpened pipe with four twisting edges. The blade punched through Lael’s ribs to core out his heart.
As though by a pre-arranged signal the six other yeng of House of Larund withdrew identical weapons and made to assail the men of Lael’s little band of nomads. But immediately they grew dismayed to find the little humans, both men and women, were ready to defend themselves.
Lael’s wife Sariah restrained Marsayas’ arm to prevent hym from striking her husband with a second blow but she was unaware Lael was already bleeding out. The six Brown Beards who had traveled with hym quickly jumped out of striking range of Abner, Asa, Josiah and Tobiah.
But the Judahite woman named Serach and the Benjaminite woman named Sela restrained two of the fleeing Brown Beards by embracing their calves. As they were dragged, four other yeng were free to burst through an open hole in the ring of womenfolk seated around the campfire.
At the death cry of Lael the men who had been watching the animals on the rim of the camp immediately took the bows they carried on their backs and fitted arrows to them. They fired at Marsayas and two of the newcomers, shooting over the heads of the women hindering them.
Still, four of Marsayas’ company were free to make for their real target and rushed toward the Ark of the Covenant to seize it. Lael’s sons Rosh, Jemuel, and Elam had not been lulled to sleep by Marsayas’ tale and had already drawn the swords dangling from their waists.
A fold-door appeared with Lord Belphegor standing within, ready to take possession of the Tablet of the Abrahamic Covenant the instant one of the nephilim were able to seize it. But dark light is at a premium and time was critical. Belphegor could not delay for very long.
Three separate sword duels commenced, and they were far more fierce than any of the yeng had foreseen. This left a fourth yang free to draw near to the Ark and seize it, but Chokhmah entered the fray. When the angel touched the relic hy immediately stiffened and fell dead.
Belphegor shifted hyz gaze to the triple melee with blades and watched the humans vanquish their taller opponents one after the other. Hy was reminded of the tenacity of Jacob when they fought all night, and his distant descendants were proving to be not a whit less valiant.
Every beat of Lael’s heart let out more of his life’s blood and he sank to his knees. The body of Marsayas and two of the yeng in hyz party fairly bristled with arrows. Jemima, Keturah, and Susanna slipped daggers between the ribs of the angelic strangers to finish them.
Atara, Keziah, Dinah, and Leah then dragged the three angels to one edge of the plateau where the men tending the flocks of animals helped cast them over the side, still living or no they cared not. Belphegor saw that Marsayas had failed hym and that hy had ran out of time.
The fold-door, which always resembled a glass or crystal ball taller than a man owing to the way it bent light, snapped out of existence. Belphegor’s first attempt to seize the Ark had failed, and the Laelites knew the Ark was a prize much sought by none less than a seraph.
A grieving Sariah sought to revive her husband, but his life had already slipped away. She held his body throughout the night and when the white sun became visible over the rim of the Wall of God the sons of Lael buried him on the flat of ground where they had made camp.
By that evening the shock of what had happened to them faded. None of the Brown Beards, if any had survived, crawled up to the plateau to renew their attack. So the three sons of Lael began to dispute which one of they would take up Lael’s office of high priest and chief.
Jemuel sank to his knees and said, ‘O living God of Abraham and Yishak and Yakob, if you will, make known what man of us shall be high priest and hear your voice on the Day of Atonement.’ And in reply the graven sphinx decorating the cover of the Ark rotated to face Rosh.
Then Rosh removed the cover of the Ark of the Covenant with his bare hands, yet Chokhmah did not smite him. And Rosh took the White Scroll and found the place where his father Lael had added his own words to the words recorded by Leliel, the daughter of Michael and Lilith.
And Leliel had written upon the scroll in characters unknown to Rosh, but the husband of Leliel, the man Jashen, had copied the words of his wife as Hebrew that Lael might understand them. This same Jashen had been seen by all of them, and Rosh marveled that he never died.
Rosh read aloud the words of his dead father from the White Scroll, ‘On a night without the orange sun I, Lael, went into the wilderness nigh to Adjara to pray. There a nephil appeared to me carrying a torch that cast white light but did not burn, and I sank to my knees.
And the nephil said to me, ‘Rise, for I am no seraph, but a mere erel called Gabriel Shybear. The Seraph Michael has bid me to seek Lael of the Levites, the son of Joiakim.’
‘I am Lael,’ said I, and I rose to my feet as I was commanded. Gabriel drew near with the light.”
‘This was the weapon of my mother’s mother,’ said Gabriel as che held forth a relic. ‘Have a care. Crushing it firmly in your hand will cause it to send forth a black shaft that nothing can withstand. It will drink everything into oblivion, even the very air around it.
‘Know, Lael, the kingdom of Judah has fallen to enemies, and the temple of God is no more. The last living children of Israel on Earth have been scattered from the land promised to Abraham by the unbelief of his descendants yet God would preserve a remnant from among them.
‘It is appointed to you, Lael, to take your wife Sariah, and your sons Elam, Jemuel, and Rosh, and Elam’s wife Serach, and go to the other world to seek survivors from the tribe of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, and the tribe of Simeon, and bring them to dwell in Heaven.’
Then Rosh read the names of the remnant that Lael had gathered to himself from the exiles in Egypt, and he read of the many gifts given to them by their long-separated brethren in the kingdoms of Hamar and Nath, and how even the very Ark of God had been entrusted to them.
‘I will add to this scroll an account of last night’s battle at the foot of the Wall of God,’ said Rosh, turning eyes to his brothers Elam and Jemuel, ‘and of the death of our father at the hand of enemies who would steal the Ark. We will fulfill the charge laid upon him.’
Elam pondered this silently for a time, then he said to his younger brother, ‘God favors you to be the High Priest, that is plain, and so the oracles of God shall be committed to you. But think you strangers will never again attempt to take from us the Ark of the Covenant?’
Rosh shook his head. ‘No, Elam, they will return, and I know of a certainty that you are the most warlike of Father Lael’s sons. But when this yoke was laid upon our father it was the will of God that the office of both priest and judge should be in the grasp of one man.’
‘Let it never be said that I doubt our Lord God,’ replied Elam, ‘yet recall when this visitor Jashen had finished writing in that scroll, how he took the weapon of his wife’s mother from the hands of our father. Had he not done this, mayhaps our father would be alive today.’
Rosh thought to rebuke his brother for his words of faithlessness, yet wisdom prevailed and Rosh knew Elam spoke only from his grief. He said, ‘I loved our father no less than did you, Elam, yet God is the giver of all life and God it is who can withdraw the gift once given.
In like manner, I perceive that God makes alterations to his stated will according to the intercession of the men with whom he treats. We see this in scripture, do we not? Abraham tried to save the life of his kinsman Lot by negotiating with God to spare the city of Sodom.
So let the offices of priest and judge be carried out by two sons of Lael according to our temperament. I will set my foot on the path marked out by the oracle of God, spoken or otherwise, but in all other things, beloved brother, I shall obey as though you were our father.’
Then Rosh set the White Scroll of Leliel within its clay pot and set the pot within the Ark of the Covenant. When he set the cover upon the Ark to conceal them Yahweh did not strike him dead. Therefore Elam was persuaded that Yahweh had accepted the intercession of Rosh.