Haziel deems that both har affairs and those of Kirodiel have been wound up for the time being. Through har direct link with Thaumiel sha invites Kirodiel to fly to har redoubt at Mt. Anshar and says it will be the most worthwhile thing hy has done in a long time. Thaumiel still has not modified his avatar to support a passenger, so hy has to resort to the indignity of flying in the avatar of Chokhmah, but hy makes sure the pickup point was well out of sight.

When Kirodiel arrives at the house of Haziel sha shows hym around, not so much to impress hym, but to assure hym they are alone.”We are the only living souls in this whole land,” sha says, sweeping har hands at the panoramic view of the active volcano and the tortured rock that lay at its base, continually modified by the world-glacier.

This whole land is still part of my planet, and you are here only by invitation. Do not think you own Anshar by any means, Chokhmah.

Haziel pours both of them a beer brewed in Akkadia and comes immediately to har point.

For too long we have been at odds, Thaumiel. Now it is time to speak of love. Certainly Milcom must be impatient for you to advance his harem scheme.

So you will accept seduction.

I will, under certain conditions. I imagine you have a few of your own. But first, bring your beer and I will show you something.

Haziel walks to another room of the house and Kirodiel follows har.This room is set up to resemble an operating room or a torture chamber more than anything sexy.There is a bed, to be sure, but there are also tubes for an IV drip and machines that even Kirodiel, with his full access to the lore of El, could not identify.

What is all this?

You and I have a serious problem in that we are no longer merely living suns, but composite beings, both sun and nephil, and we have no way of setting our world-dweller bodies aside for lovemaking as we would, say, our clothing. From what I gather, Thaumiel, and correct me if I’m wrong, when elohim make love, it’s a drawn-out process, and something that grabs all of one’s attention.Did you consider what might happen to your Kirodielbody once you entered into sexual union with me?

Kirodiel shakes hyz head, confessing that hy has not.

I’m not done with my Haziel-body yet, and I assume you still want to possess that body as well. So this apparatus will keep both of us fed intravenously, filter our blood, monitor our life while we’re up there having fun on the higher plane. Do you see?

I see that you are serious about doing this, but what are your conditions?

My daughter will have her own fold-door link from Earth to Barbelo. You control your end of my link. I want my daughter to control both ends of hers.

That’s not acceptable, Chokhmah. With that power she could send agents anywhere in my city or the Middle Lands.

Then grant her a piece of land far from the Middle Lands where the fold-door would be constrained.

Very well. In the East Land there is a small nameless territory that lies between the Great Sea and the Wall of God. Do you know of it?

Haziel nodded.

By rights it should belong to House Larund, but the great cliff makes it inaccessible to them. There are a few Sala colonists there, but for the most part the land is empty. This land I will give to your future daughter to reach from Earth and move about in at will.

That is acceptable, and I have no other demands.

Good, because there is a thing I want as well. I comes in the form of a promise rather than something you can do for me now. It has not escaped my notice that what you are really doing is laying the groundwork for the planet dwellers to someday leave this world, as well as leave the other world, and invade the realm of the gods. This, says Milcom, must not be.

Humans and nephilim are not dummies. Even were we to strictly forbid it, we could not enforce it, and in a far distant time they will find a way to leave the world they are living in. The sooner Milcom comes to terms with that inevitable truth, the easier it will be for him to come to terms with the planet-dwellers. Tell him I said exactly that.

Milcom already knows all this, so what we require from you is that humans must never travel more distant from the sun than four times the distance of Earth from the sun.

I see, so basically you would put them on a shorter version of the same leash that you have put on me. And what of the nephilim here?

They will do as I command, once I have put all of Barbelo under the rule of House Gerash.

HAZIEL You must see that to put humans on your four AU leash I must put the entire Earth under a single command before they obtain the status of spacefarers.

Then you know exactly what you need to do.

I will make you a counter-offer. In that future time, nephilim will have the right to settle any planet or other body with a sun-centric semi-major axis of four AU or greater. If they don’t like living side-by-side with humans of Earth, that will be something they will need to thrash out between themselves. Take it or leave it, Thaumiel.

I will take it.

And so Haziel prepares harself and Kirodiel for what would be essentially a long-term coma as far as their planet-dweller bodies went, with an artery leading to a filter to remove waste from their blood, and a vein supplied by another machine that would keep them hydrated and nourished. In the event their passion as stars bled over somewhat to the animal side, as Haziel suspected it might, sha and Kirodiel slipped into bed together nude.It is curious facet of sex that you don’t particularly even have to like one’s partner to engage in it.

Haziel has access to the lore of all the elohim on a purely read-only basis, and she has studied every one of the thousands of documented cases where an incommunicado “harem” like the one operated by Milcom and now Thaumiel was uncovered. In nearly every case, a star locked in the harem created an avatar and flew through real-space to a star outside of the harem and communicated directly with that eloah.But this obvious escape hatch TC1G3-BINAH

has been battened down tight by Chokhmah’s agreement with Thaumiel.

Haziel learned the death penalty is not meted out in every situation. Even now, if Thaumiel were to confess his crime to El and act as an informant against Milcom, only Milcom and the other elohim in his network who refused to come clean would be punished. But breakthroughs using this method are rare. The informant would not be put to death by the greater community of stars, but he would still be giving up any future opportunity to reproduce. Only the most serious falling out between co-conspirators rose to the level of making that worthwhile.

In one case studied most intently by Chokhmah, an eloah in a harem did something to instigate such a falling out between co-conspirators.

As it turns out, elohim who are still female can do something roughly equivalent to masturbation. She can cause all the living nuclear material in her stellar core to contract into a tight sphere while leaving the nonliving material behind in a thick shell.This voluntary separation and following involuntary re-integration feels very similar to a single wave of the stellar orgasm. The difference is that the real thing associated with reproduction involves eight to twelve contractions, is not voluntary at all once it begins, and even the non-living nuclear material of a star is drawn together with the living matter in the compression phase. Still, it is sufficiently satisfying that some female eloah have sworn to remain celibate and for millions of years have relied entirely on getting their own rocks off.

As soon as she learned such a thing as stellar masturbation existed Chokhmah tried it for herself and found it so exquisitely pleasurable, so unbelievably available, that she became essentially addicted to doing it. Chokhmah is so continuously immersed in a pseudo-orgasmic state that she has even learned to compartmentalize things so that she as Haziel can remain more-or-less functional as a nephilim yin.

This captive eloah that Chokhmah once read about also was a masturbation addict, and she was in the middle of a pseudo-orgasm when one of her haremmasters raped her. The result was very interesting. Instead of transmitting a generative ripple into space to quicken a wild sun years later, the non-living nuclear matter in the body of the mother was quickened immediately. Even more interesting was that both fold-space lines from the newborn sun fastened on the mother, rather than fastening one apiece on both parents.

And so that line of captive suns terminated as far as potential sex partners went. There was no path leading back to the other harem-masters, no way for them to have sex with the offspring of the newborn sun. Somebody wasn’t getting paid. And that led to the whole thing unraveling.

Chokhmah didn’t think it would be that simple in her case, but still, she was near the peak of one of her pseudo-orgasms, and her body flooded with a maximum of non-living nuclear matter, when Thaumiel injected some of himself into her across their link.

The ecstasy goes right off the rails. Chokhmah cannot even think for days and weeks, only ride a timeless wave of physical joy that is no comparison better than the ridiculous little thing she had been doing for herself before. And it was better than this for males? Lucky Thaumiel, if that was true, because Chokhmah can just barely grasp that she has gone absolutely mindless with how good it is for her. Her precaution to keep her Haziel body alive was well-founded.

During the span of almost infinite bliss a new eloah quickens inside Sol that Chokhmah, as soon as she can gather her wits about her again, names Binah. And the sex terminates after only the one contraction because there TC1G4-BINAH

is no more non-living nuclear material inside Sol to act as a substrate.

Kirodiel, lying next to her in bed, begins to shudder with signs of distress. Thaumiel is about to suffer the stellar version of a severe case of blue balls. Haziel unplugs herself from the machinery and crawls out of bed.

As in the documented case she read about, both of Binah’s fold lines terminate on Chokhmah herself (or rather himself, Chokhmah realized, since the act of lovemaking results in a gender change). Chokhmah passed one of Binah’s fold-lines through her link to Thaumiel and terminated it in the land he promised her, there to be moved about as Binah willed.This was done before Thaumiel could revive, making it fait accompli.

But a new thing happened that Chokhmah had read about nowhere. The other fold-line between mother and newborn daughter ballooned out into a pocket universe that existed outside of space and time. Just the amount of dark matter that would keep a fold-line open a pencil’s thickness is sufficient to create a ball as big as the Earth’s moon. Chokhmah guessed it was the close physical proximity of himself and Binah that allowed this to be.

And another new thing happened that opened up a whole panorama of possibilities for dealing with Thaumiel. Because the little private universe he shared with Binah was outside of space and time, fold-lines could be budded off the pocket universe and terminate anywhere in the solar system, anywhen.

Haziel saw that Kirodiel’s body entered into another fit, but still remained unconscious. Hy was going to be extremely angry when hy was fully awake, so angry that all the nations of Barbelo would probably be next the target of his wrath. Milcom especially was going to be fit to be tied, because Binah would never be his conquest in love. There was no fold-space path connecting Thaumiel to her.

Haziel decides to fly back to Sealiah at once, then send the avatar back here for Kirodiel to use if hy chose. She’d heard of humans doing this sort of thing as well. A one night stand, and the fellow turns out to be a dead fuck. He wakes up and the lady is already gone.

After Kirodiel is restored to hyz full faculties in the house of Haziel near Mt. Anshar hy is supremely angry, because hy knows Chokhmah has contrived a final end to Milcom’s scheme of setting aside a private harem of elohim females. Something has happened. Chokhmah’s new maleness cannot be ignored. There is no direct link between Thaumiel and Chokhmah’s newborn eloah named Binah, yet Binah’s link comes through his own link with Chokhmah and terminates on Barbelo, as he agreed beforehand that it may.

It is not exactly what Thaumiel expected when he made the agreement, but such hairsplitting might not be accepted by El later if the whole thing blew up. The conspiracy is already unraveling and Thaumiel does not wish to compound his crime. Thaumiel says nothing to Milcom about what has just happened.Going forward he would only tell Milcom that Chokhmah remains intransigent and refuses to mate.

The truncated sex is what angers Kirodiel the most, and hy only refrains from burning Haziel’s house down when hy sees that har avatar is parked nearby and it is hyz only way home. Haziel gets one final dig in by debouching Kirodiel in full view of hyz subjects in the center of hyz own city.It cannot be hidden that Lord Kirodiel has hitched a ride in his rival’s avatar.

After the city of Salem is thoroughly sub-divided and ruled absolutely, High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash and Lord Kirodiel take the balance of their forces and sail over the Western Sea, then march to the place where the northern and southern ice come together, one of three such frozen barriers on Barbelo. There they divide their forces, leaving some to rebuild the garrison and ice stores that were so thoroughly annihilated by the avatar of Chokhmah when Princess Khondiel assailed them.

Then Kirodiel leads the army down into the West Lands, and it is the first such invasion by the forces of family Gerash against any other House since before the Great Deluge.

When the army of House Gerash is come nigh to the shoreline in the West Lands a full division of troops from the House of Bellon confronts them. The division was mobilized when Haziel presented aerial intelligence of the invasion to King Arman. And though House Gerash had overwhelming numbers on the field, Lord Kirodiel did not signal them to attack. The white flags of parley-truce were unfurled, and the High Lord Patriarch came forth together with Lord Kirodiel to speak to the commander of the Bellon force.

Thaumiel himself it is who stands against you. Do not hinder the faithful of the House of Gerash. Do not send your sons to thwart the justice of the Army of God, for on the Plain of Judgment they shall be consumed like dry grass! Yield up this Haziel interloper. Abandon your false deity Chokhmah and turn back to your first love, Thaumiel the All-Merciful, or the fire of his indignation shall devour your young!

And the commanding Bellon general holds forth the rolled up scroll containing hyz written orders.

Behold, Great Lords of the White Beards! I have been authorized by the King to accompany Hyz Excellency the High Lord Patriarch of the House of Gerash, or the great Lord Kirodiel if hy so chooses, or both as it may be, to the city of Rumbek for a parley, hy and any reasonably-sized force Hyz Excellency might deem to be suitable to assure hyz protection. For it may not be known to Hyz Excellency that the sovereign heads of House Sala, Antero, and Larund are also convening in the city soon to take council with the King and Lady Haziel and the Princess Khondiel in exile.

To this parley Kirodiel agrees. Both armies leave the field unblooded. The Bellon division returns west, taking with them Kirodiel and a single company, but not before Kirodiel sends hyz forces north led by Kirodiel.

Under the command of the Gerash Patriarch the army comes to a bay which is the easternmost finger of the sea. Kirodiel sets a strong perimeter to catch any Bellon spies, then hy sets hyz whole army to work building many ships of war. Swiftly a great navy is built by the united forces of the whole House of Gerash, as insurance, lest the parley in Rumbek does not go to the liking of Lord Kirodiel, which seems a certainty.

Thaumiel has always delighted in terrifying the people of Barbelo with his flying avatar, but nephilim are nothing if not adaptable and after a time they began to think Thaumiel’s gig was getting a little corny. Yet not even Thaumiel was given to doing anything without a deeper purpose. He was still riding that hobby horse, his dreary old thesis that all of the planetdwellers who had dealings with the elohim cannot follow the simplest set of arbitrary rules without screwing them up.

From the beginning many beasts were brought from Earth. For the most part these creatures were benign, and fitted in well with the ecology of Barbelo, or they were herd animals men had tamed from time immemorial. Thaumiel saw that animals would soon breed far beyond the ability of Barbelo to support them, and chief among these animals, he knew, would be the nephilim themselves. So Thaumiel introduced to his planet monstrous predators from the darkest dreams of mankind to keep them in check. Then was seen on Barbelo many monsters and trolls and goblins as well as Leviathan, the monster under the sea who devoured those who foundered therein. After that Thaumiel introduced flying dragons, and thereafter all who went about on two legs had to keep one eye on the sky, for they became the dragon’s prey, as surely as the small creatures who go on four legs are ever the prey of eagles.

But all the predators created by Thaumiel were merely taken by the nephilim to be strong threads woven into the growing tapestry that was Barbelo. The nephilim honored the wisdom of Thaumiel in creating them, and they were not really very afraid of them. For it is man and not any other beast who are the most terrible predators the universe has ever known, by utter necessity, from the first day that fangless, clawless big-brained monkey came down from the trees in the East African Rift and decided to compete on the savanna with lions and tigers and bears for meat. And now that man was unleashed on an entirely new world so much the worse for that world, dragons or no.

The dragons made by Thaumiel were immortal if they remained safe in their aeries, and they bred only very slowly, but they could still be slain, and lays commemorating the deeds of many dragonslayers, would-be or otherwise, are still sung in the roadside inns dotting the land. In the end only one dragon remained alive, and this worm yeng found much too difficult to kill, for it was the greatest dragon of all. Thaumiel had parked his entirely mechanical avatar and decided to drive a living avatar that would resonate with the darkest nightmares of yeng. Thaumiel named it Demonstroke.

In the days after Thaumiel unveiled his new toy, using his dragon avatar to burn portions of several cities in all the lands, he fashioned a sword made from a single large diamond and called it Dragonthorn. Thaumiel declared through prophets that he had infused the blade with a powerful spell binding the beast. And Thaumiel also declared that the eldest daughter or niece of the ruler of the Red Beards of the House of Antero would wield the blade, and the spell would remain unbroken for as long as she remained a virgin.

When the virgin held Dragonthorn in her hand, whatever she bid Demonstroke to do, he would do it, even to allowing the virgin to ride upon him in the air as though he were a winged steed. The role was a great honor and privilege, but it was also a serious duty. Unleashed, the dragon could lay waste to all the cities on Barbelo. Control of Demonstroke hung by the slender thread of the girl’s virginity.

The current Patriarch of the Red Beards, Brogan Antero, loved hez daughter Kari very much. Princess Kari was not nephilim but fully human, the result of King Brogan, a jen, crossing with hez human wife, who is now deceased. Kari has the full beauty of youth and long, bright red hair, and she is on the very cusp of womanhood. The King is almost supernaturally patient with Kari, and denies her not the least thing. Even during the frantic preparations for the Royal Council in Rumbek che is willing to stop and make time to listen attentively to Kari as though she were the only thing that mattered on Barbelo. The King sits close to her and nods hez head up and down as she describes for hem the seemingly random images of last night’s dream.

KARI Parent, I dreamed it was night, and I could see the ground was covered with sleeping little metal people. Other people came out of the sky in two tall metal engines of war that spouted fire, but they wore strange armor, and I could not tell if they were men or women, yeng or yen, boys or girls, dolls or dirks. The first person picked up one of the small metal people and took it into the first metal tower, and somehow I knew that little metal person was myself, in the strange way of dreams. That first person took us into the sky and we were safe. The second person stayed behind to pick up as many of the other metal people as he or she could find, but that person was caught by strange men and killed. Then I awoke.

King Brogan stops nodding hez head and smiles at Kari.

Shall I interpret the dream for you, child?

Please do, Parent.

To Kari, the King is the most wise jan who ever lived.

The first person in your dream is myself, who am both male and female. You feel protected around me, which is indeed a good thought, because my entire will is bent toward keeping you safe. The second person in your dream is your human mother, who wanted to have other children by me, and those were all the other little metal people. But she fell victim to poison in her drink, and was killed by the palace intrigues that never cease here in Vaska.

As simple as that, Parent?

As simple as that. Your sleeping mind created images to express what you felt in your heart. You are still dealing with your grief. I find solace from the content of your dream that you do not blame me for your mother’s death.

Never, Parent!

Kari is shocked at the mere suggestion that she would think that Brogan was to blame, or even that she might dream it.

The King places a hand on Kari’s head to reassure her.

If you did blame me, even secretly within your heart of hearts, then your dream would have taken a very different course.

Beloved Parent, why have you not taken for yourself another wife? Are you afraid that she would be killed as well?

Not so, Kari. Soon the one adept at poison will come forward and try to worm into my life, and then I will know who she is. But now we must set aside your dreams, daughter, and our lingering grief for your mother, and our lamentation of things we can never change. Queen Aurra Sala has bid me to come to a great council in Rumbek, and I would have you travel with me.

As declared by Thaumiel the sexual virtue of Princess Kari must continue intact to keep Demonstroke under control. The King has always tried to lessen the burden for hez daughter Kari by letting her believe that a strong spell to influence others accompanies possession of the diamond blade, and che denies her not the least thing except a suitor. This deliberately-fostered delusion would soon prove the undoing of all.

It is a very great distance across the West Lands from Vaska to Rumbek, but we will ride together on Demonstroke, for I know how much you love to do so, daughter.

And at this she beams at hem.

It is said that Demonstroke was as much engine of war as he was living beast, and King Brogan thinks there must be a glimmer of truth in that. For what mere beast can contain the fires of the orange sun that is Thaumiel?

Demonstroke’s head bends back over them on its long scaly neck and fire spews out in a jet that propels the dragon into the sky, pushing Kari against her parent, and her parent in turn against a bony ridge at the place where Demonstroke’s neck joins to the rest of his body. And the dragon soars into the sky until the air becomes almost too thin for Brogan and hez daughter to breathe.

Then Demonstroke’s head bends forward again, and he stretches his wings. With gentle flaps the dragon extends his glide as much as possible as the largest river in the land of the Red Beards slides by underneath. Then, when the land has rushed up to meet them and the deadly tops of trees native to Barbelo nearly brush the belly of Demonstroke, he bends his head back again and lets loose another long jet of flame.

Over and over again this cycle repeats as the day gives way to night, but the cycles of fire and glide grow shorter and shorter as they approach the city of Jelaket nestled high in the mountains that mark the border with the lands claimed by House Bellon.

Brogan and Keri, well-bundled against the cold, both drift off to sleep as the dragon flies on through a darkness punctuated by fire, a sleep they find possible only after many such flights. As they sleep they cross from mountains to the plains in the east inhabited by House Bellon, and the lights of lonely, widely separated houses pass underneath in the darkness far below.

When the glimmer of dawn appears before the king and his daughter once more they are well over the Magodon peninsula, the heart of the land where dwells the Brown Beards, and the city of Elketz is seen moving stately to the west far below. Yet their final destination, the capital named Rumbek, would not be reached until mid-day.So much the better for Princess Kari, who loves to fly by dragon.