King Melchizedek with the aid of Khondiel and har Fallen Angels prevailed in the Battle of Salem, but the king knows time is not hyz ally. It cannot not be hidden (and indeed Kirodiel wants it to be widely known) that the full might of House Gerash is now drawn up against Salem. The roads to the east are blocked, the vale of the River Dashok and the shores of the Rammon Sea north and south are occupied, and only the island where Salem lies remains free due to the vigilance of the Fallen Angels.
Melchizedek considers abdicating the throne, but no one believes the High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash would seat Princess Khondiel on the throne to succeed him, and a successor more to the liking of Kirodiel is unthinkable to everyone who now dwells in Salem. So the king commands Haziel, Khondiel, the Fallen Angels, and all who would go with them to embark on a quest long in preparation.
The king proposed they sail from Salem across the sea until they reach the far shore in the uttermost west of the Middle Lands. Thence they are to ascend the foothills and mountains that lead ever up to the great ice barrier where many provisions are laid up against the day of a second world flood. But in the caves and tunnels of the ice fierce battle is assured, for the stores are defended by the vigilance of the Patriarch’s forces from any that would raid them, no matter from east or west.
If they prevail in the battle for the caves of ice, then continuing west for many more leagues the ice ends, and descending once more the travelers would come to the West Lands and the fastnesses of the seafaring Family Bellon. For the Brown Beards are no friends of the Gerash patriarch, and their king has often boasted hy would welcome any refugees from the Middle Land. So steadfast is this enmity on the part of House Bellon that Haziel is willing to commit the other three families to the council before she even speaks to the Bellon king.
Haziel thanks King Melchizedek for his lifetime of faithfulness and service to Chokhmah on two worlds, and takes har leave of him, knowing full well they will never meet again.
We part, and I have a debt I can never repay, for I have made far more and greater demands on you than you have made requests of me.
There has been a spring in this city. It has lasted far longer and tasted far sweeter than we dared to dream. If winter is now to come at last to Salem, let it be that such a spring might be known in the West and East lands as well.Go in peace, Lady Haziel!
The final parting between Khondiel and har brother is bitter, for they are of that rare class of siblings who not only shared the obligatory familial love, but who actually shared a great mutual fondness all through childhood and into adulthood as well. With Khondiel goes all of the Fallen Angels, and hundreds of others of both nephilim genders who had made their homes in Salem when the teachings of Haziel struck a chord in their hearts.
The prophet Zadkiel comes before Thaumiel Incarnate in the person of High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash and abases himself on all fours. Hy brings bad tidings of hyz defeat in the Battle of Salem and the escape of Lady Haziel. Zadkiel fully expects to be decapitated at any moment, and the only thing that surprises hym is how long hy can still see and hear and feel things after hyz head is separated from hyz body.
Kirodiel is unhappy about the defeat but hy remains sanguine overall. Hy has held back a greater part of the armed forces of family Gerash in reserve, and hy knows also that King Melchizedek and especially hyz sister are formidable opponents, so the initial setback is not unexpected. Kirodiel makes no move except to garrison the roads leading to the city. Only the actual island upon which Salem sits and the way west over water lies open, but this leads ultimately to a Gerash stronghold in the ice already continuously well-garrisoned and provisioned from an earlier age. Kirodiel waits for Haziel to make har move.
The Fallen Angels Azarael and Jael make their way through the ice tunnels of the Gerash stronghold by stealth. So far they have only been discovered by three soldiers, one alone by accident, and by another two who formed a roaming pair of sentries. The bodies of the three yeng are stuffed far down side tunnels where they quite probably might never be discovered.
The yen find the location of the main storeroom of grain. Not even Chokhmah herself knows the exact position of that space, which indeed is the purpose of sending Khondiel’s best lieutenants on the mission. According to Haziel’s instructions, Azarael leaves Khondiel’s headband, a gift from Haziel, inside a container near the center of the ice cave in such a way that it would not likely be discovered and moved, even if the storeroom was being actively drawn down, which it obviously was not.
After that Azarael and Jael retreat down side tunnels far from the central space, for they have also received instructions to remain at a safe distance until such a time as they detect a (as Haziel put it, using extreme understatement) “disturbance”.The two yen are not sent as suicide raiders. They would never starve amid a bounty of Gerash stores. But it was always cold. Fortunately, they had a good remedy for that never got tiresome. In the cosy little rat’s nest they make for themselves Jael slips nude between fur blankets and purrs to Azarael to come to har.
The avatar of Chokhmah descends from the sky and makes landfall outside of the city for the final time. Lady Haziel climbs inside together with Princess Khondiel. Within the avatar there is room enough for several persons, and Chokhmah has prepared her avatar to support life high above Barbelo where there is no air. The avatar lifts into the heavens in a great arc intending to make made landfall again in the far west of the East Lands, which is home to the Gold Beards.
Soon after the avatar leaves, and the ships carrying the rest of the exiles move out of the harbor and west over the horizon, the entire island of Aramel is discovered to be unguarded. In short order Aramel is taken by the Gerash Army. Outside of the city walls, Salem is beset on all sides.
Khondiel has flown within the avatar many times before, so the terror of the flight no longer holds any sway over har, if ever it did. For a few minutes at the top of the arc, Haziel and Khondiel are wonderfully free of the forces that pressed them into their seat during the ascent, forces which will become present once again when the avatar begins to descend to Barbelo. For that brief time at the top the yen find much amusement bouncing off of the walls and each other.
What is the source of the fires that lift us into the skies over the world? Your avatar never seems to require replenishment of its fuel as a campfire would.
The fires that propel us come from within my own body. No flatulence jokes please. They are the fires of a living sun, channeled through a fattened fold-space link in the same way people are able to pass from Earth to Barbelo and back again.
Forgive me if I sound like a little doll on the eternal ‘what’ chain but what is the source of that fold-space link?
It is something elohim are born with. Perhaps in the same way you were born with a voice. There are six fold-space lines going out from me. One line links me to my father Milcom. The second one links me to my mother Thaumiel. The third one links me to this flying avatar. The fourth line links me to a humanoid avatar I no longer use and is presently dormant on Earth. The fifth line links me to this body.The sixth line links me to the headband I once gave you, which you in turn gave to your spies, so that I may know where they are at any time.
Azarael and Jael!I wonder where they are now.
They have reached the central repository of food and left the headband there. I know this because it hasn’t been in motion for more than a day. If they had been captured or killed, the headband would be in the hands of the garrison commander and would be moving about.
Unless the commander has taken the headband and stored it in his office somewhere.
Yes, I considered that. The end effect will be essentially the same.
You said these lines are natural things that you are born with, like a voice. What happens if Thaumiel decides not to listen to your voice?
Neither Thaumiel nor Milcom can refuse to listen, for absolutely nothing in reality can break the lines between us short of my own death, my death as a sun mark you, not my death as a nephil. But having listened, they can refuse to answer, much as Milcom has decided to do. And they can refuse to pass on my speech to other elohim up their fold-lines, as both of them have decided to do.
So that means Thaumiel cannot disable this avatar on a whim.
No he cannot. Think of my link with this avatar and my body as like a hatch on a ship with two ropes passing through it. He can never close the hatch as long as the ropes are still there.
Ah yes, but perhaps if Thaumiel physically destroys this avatar and your body then those two ropes, at least, will no longer block the closing of the hatch.
You are absolutely correct, Khondiel. A wormhole that stretches from a living star to a very distant place requires the existence of some physical object as an anchor. Consider, for example, this vessel. Barbelo itself is rotating, and revolving around the sun that is Thaumiel, and that sun is moving relative to Sol. From instant to instant, all those movements are communicated back to me down the fold-link, which is the only way I can keep the end-point inside this vessel. But if Thaumiel were to destroy this avatar, there would be no longer be a shape for me to grasp.
But what about the passage that you once summoned to take my brother to Earth?
Ah yes, now that is an entirely different case. That kind of folddoor requires the active cooperation of two Elohim to maintain. It is nothing more than the birth-link between myself and Thaumiel. But we have an ancient bargain. Thaumiel keeps his end of the fold-door open at his mountain in the heart of his city, and I keep my end open at another mountain on Earth. Some day, perhaps many years from now, there will be another such passage created to fulfill yet another bargain.
The avatar lands at the city of Saharad. Haziel and Khondiel emerge from the avatar of Chokhmah in the full sight of many witnesses, and afterward they are taken before the Matriarch of House Sala to take counsel.
Princess Khondiel speaks to Queen Aurra Sala of her victory at Salem, and of her spies in the city of Thaumiel who report that Kirodiel contemplates immanent war against all of Barbelo.
After Khondiel speaks, Haziel talks to the queen.
Kirodiel’s strategy is to pick off each family off one at a time using his full strength to overawe each in turn. By the time the remaining families take thought to form an alliance against him it will be far too late!”
Lady Haziel, Princess Khondiel, I propose to convene a council of all the Houses arrayed against Family Gerash to consider your words, and also to discuss other important matters. Such a council has never been convened in the long history of the world.
That is a sound proposal, Your Highness. I deem the Queen’s council should take place in Rumbek, the capital city of the House of Bellon.
Barbelo is a very large world. It will be difficult to persuade the nobles of four Families to travel to Rumbek, sticking their neck out after an arduous journey to a place where the axe of the White Beards is assured to fall first.
I will carry all the participants who are willing to travel to Rumbek aboard the avatar of Chokhmah, which can bring them thither in a very short span of time. It has brought myself and Princess Khondiel hither before the rest of our people have traveled much west of Salem by ship.
To this the Queen agrees. Then after Khondiel and Haziel converse much more with Queen Aurra Sala and Haziel heals many of the incurably infirm in the city they return to the western shore of the Ramman Sea to await the sailing ships. From time to time the avatar of Chokhmah takes to the sky to fly over the small fleet and point in the direction where Haziel and Khondiel have set up their seaside camp.
A number of days later the ships arrive, and the people carried aboard have debarked along with all their stores.As they journey overland and toil up slopes of broken ice and rock the avatar of Chokhmah takes Khondiel and Haziel to Peshast, the chief city of the Black Beards in the far east of the Eastern Lands. There they meet King Gerand Larund.
Haziel relays to hym Queen Aurra Sala’s call for a general council of all the Houses of Barbelo less House Gerash, and offers to transport the King to Rumbek, as well as any others he wishes to attend with hym, using the same avatar she used to arrive in his own kingdom. To these counsels the King joyfully agrees. Again, in gratitude, Haziel heals many of the sick in Peshast, then the avatar whisks Haziel and Khondiel back to the head of their forces marching west.
On the final trip by avatar Haziel and Khondiel must part. The Princess insists on this. For they have reached the ice at last, and hard fighting in dark caves and tunnels lie just ahead.
Haziel journeys alone to the land of the Red Beards, to their capital city of Vaska. There she confers with King Brogan Antero. To hym Haziel relays the same information sha has already told King Gerand concerning the queen’s proposed counsel, and sha makes the same offer. King Brogan finds it impossible to refuse, especially when she effects many miracles of healing before the eyes of the King.
That leaves only the Brown Beards of House Bellon. Haziel does not avail herself of the avatar of Chokhmah again to speak to hym. Rather she plans to come before the king himself after marching overland with Khondiel, the Fallen Angels, and the other disciples. There in the Bellon city of Rumbek, or so sha hoped, the four Families would come together to draw up their plans against Thaumiel.If House Bellon refuses to participate, it would not be such a difficult thing to fly the other three sovereigns and their courtiers to another place.
As King Melchizedek had foreseen, the storehouses in the ice caves are strongly defended, and Khondiel’s force cannot remain hidden for long as they attempt to fight their way through. All the tunnels lead like the spokes of a wheel to the central chamber, and there the garrison commander draws back the bulk of his troops to make a stand. Hy knows he has interior lines of communications.Should Khondiel and har forces emerge from this tunnel or that, hy would be able to shift his soldiers at will to meet the threat.It is impossible that Khondiel could attack the central space simultaneously from more than a handful of tunnels, on account of the layout of the ice stores.
As the Gerash soldiers lie in wait in the chamber, it begins to rain. Everyone looks up. A distant thunder grows louder. The icy ceiling of the chamber high above them is melting.It glows red, then orange, then yellow, and finally explodes.
Unmelted blocks of ice as large as houses come crashing down upon the yeng. The ones who perish by being crushed are far more fortunate then the ones who somehow escape. For the avatar of Chokhmah drills into the chamber with all engines skewed, some pointing up, some pointing down, others turning from side to side, and all the motors are spouting fierce fusion fire from the heart of Sol.
The water the yeng are standing in begins to boil, and they scream with agony such as none of them have ever known.They continue to cook even as the water is turned to steam.Ultimately the water is gone and they are crisped by the raw flame. None survive, and even their ashes are scattered.Then the avatar of Chokhmah rises once again through what was the ceiling of the chamber and into the sky once more through a vast hole it had cut perhaps a thousand feet deep into the ice.
Khondiel and her leading lieutenants stand at the ragged end of several tunnels and try to force their minds to encompass the chaos of the scene below. Far across the chamber at another tunnel stands Azarael and Jael, quite safe. The applause of the two yen echoes across the suddenly silent space.
After passing through the rubble that is the food cache of House Gerash in the midst of the ice barrier, the refugees from Salem march down to the shore of the Eastern Sea of the West Lands and gaze at the dark and distant profile of the Isle of Sealiah. Haziel and Khondiel are brought by ship to the city of Rumbek, where they present themselves before King Arman Bellon, the Patriarch of the Brown Beards. The King asks first of all why the famed Lady Haziel is in exile from the Middle Land whence she comes.
Because I brought the truth to family Gerash. But they hated the truth, since it was like a bright light, and the truth threatened to reveal the dark things they do in secret.
What is truth?
We know truth when our mind conforms with the way things are.
What do you ask of me, Lady Haziel? Shall I protect the purity of your truth?”
If what I teach is so very fragile that I must seek aid to shield it from contamination, then what I have cannot be the truth. The warriors of Thaumiel fight to convert others to their truth and wage holy war against other truths. They fight because what they call ‘truth’ is too weak to sell itself to all who seek the truth with sincerity. Since they are certain they already possess the truth, they refuse to investigate reality and delight in self-deception.”
Then what, dear Lady Haziel, is your truth? What is the ultimate truth?”
Only this The noblest activity is unending love.
And Haziel accompanies her words with a mighty sign of her authority, for at that moment the avatar of Chokhmah flies over the Bellon capital city at great speed, but the people see only a streak of light in the sky, and a terrifying noise like thunder breaks many windows in Rumbek. Then King Arman welcomes Haziel and all har companions to his land, and a place is found for each of them on the Island of Sealiah. They become his protected subjects.
Haziel, Khondiel, and the Fallen Angels all take residence in the north of Sealiah. Then Khondiel begins to teach their new friends and neighbors among the Brown Beards, individually and in small groups, the doctrines of Chokhmah. But Talishi herself refuses to teach anyone, lest the king thinks he has taken a troublemaker into his land.
Privately Talishi speaks to the king of Queen Aurra’s proposal for a council of the four Houses, and of her commitment to transport the nobles of those families to Rumbek to gather together. To this King Brogan agrees, and a date is set to convene the council.Haziel travels to the various capitals to convey this date of meeting.
In Salem where the siege has grown very strait, King Melchizedek hears rumors that the people are finally resorting to cannibalism and he decides that nothing House Gerash could impose as a penalty on the city could possibly be worse than that. So he walks out of the gate of the city unarmed, with hands held open and high, only to be dropped by many arrows. His people on the ramparts of the city witness the unhappy death of their beloved king, but really they are mourning the passing of their former way of life.
Then the army of Mastema marches into the city unhindered. Kirodiel Gerash appoints a new king over the city, one who lays a heavy tax on the people in penalty of their rebellion. For it is the Law of Mastema that in every five-day week the people could keep the fruit of their labor from three of the four workdays. And the increase of one day is to go to the maintenance of the Army of Mastema and the Eyes of Mastema, as well as his temple priests.
But upon the people of Salem is laid a second yoke, for the fruit of the labor of yet another workday is to go the upkeep of the new forces that garrisoned the city. Thus the people can only keep half of what they earned.
The Eyes of Mastema multiply in Salem like flies, and there appears hundreds of checkpoints throughout the city. Many people, even children, are put to torment for the smallest transgression, yet none are permitted to depart to other cities in the Middle Land. So matters would remain until that whole generation of Salemites has passed away, according to the decree of Lord Kirodiel, but ever after men who spoke with the accent of Salem would bear a stigma among the White Beards.