TC1K

TC1K-REFUGEES

Haziel stumbles west with the defeated forces of House Antero, Bellon and a regiment of Fallen Angels for days before sha shakes off har own self-pity over the loss of har precious Khondiel and realizes there are injured people around har who need the knowledge and skills of a healer. So sha begins to carry har own freight long before reaching the first major Antero city of Jelaket. As Haziel walks without the benefit of riding in har avatar or even on horseback sha learns directly in the muscles of har legs and in the soles of har feet what a large planet Barbelo truly is.

Baron Bayard Sala tells hyz serving wench Aliwe Halil to walk close to Lady Haziel and that har smallest whims are to be taken as direct commands. The two seem to quickly develop a language of their own and speak of many things that are incomprehensible to the Baron when hy happens to catch a word or two, tales of swarms and moons, of things called micros and other things called macros. And after Aliwe’s first words with har the Baron and soon everyone else notices that Haziel has begun to smile again and seems to shed all vestiges of har grief at last.

The forces of House Antero has horses, yet they use them only as beasts of burden to carry supplies, and the yeng walk beside their horses that they might stay and protect Haziel. Baron Priam Antero had fallen in battle, but King Brogan and Count Berek yet live.

None of the House of Larund walk with them save Lady Irus, for har husband Count Raddai had also fallen at the Nine Mile Wall, yet Lady Irus never shows the level of grief that afflicted Haziel with the loss of Khondiel. For Irus and har husband had freely come to aid the Brown Beards, and when sha saw Raddai consumed by the fire of the dragon har heart was salved against the pain of losing him with the pride of knowing hy fell after a most valiant stand.

At Jelaket the ranks of the stragglers begin to thin, but the rest press on across the heart of the West Lands to the Antero capital of Vaska. As they draw near the subjects of King Brogan send trains of supplies to aid their march, including many horses, for Jelaket has none, having sent nearly all of them with the forces that had come to aid Rumbek.

In Vaska when King Brogan and Count Berek have been welcomed home by the people of the city, Haziel is bid by the king to stay and rest for as long as sha would like. But Brogan laments the faithlessness of hyz daughter Keri, which had brought all of this grief down upon them.

HAZIEL
Or so Thaumiel would have you believe, Your Highness. Thaumiel takes pleasure in turning the things we love against us, King Brogan. In time the shame you feel over your daughter will be transformed into anger against Thaumiel. And after that, perhaps your anger will be transformed once more, but into pity. For Thaumiel is well embarked on a path toward his own dissolution and is indeed to be pitied. Great has been his fall heretofore, and greater still the depths he has yet to fall. Thaumiel might succeed in gaining direct control of all of Barbelo one day, but the one who controls the world, whatever it is, will not be of the elohim or anything like us.

BROGAN
Then what do you council for House Antero?

HAZIEL
House Antero is unfortunately in a most precarious position, for there exists no natural barrier except distance between your city of Jelaket and downfallen Elketz in Magodon. Next year Lord Kirodiel will arrive here demanding tribute. Hy will begin to build garrisons throughout your land and Demonstroke will darken your skies to protect them. Behind him will be the combined might of House Gerash and House Bellon in a newly-doubled army of Thaumiel. You have no hope of succeeding if you offer resistance. So I council that you do not resist. Pay the tribute. Aid Kirodiel in building hyz garrisons, as hy will demand.

BROGAN
And the honor of the Red Beards will never be retrieved again.

HAZIEL
Yes, King Brogan, that is true. But in return, you will preserve the lives of your people and the lives of House Larund beyond yours. You will find that the Law of Thaumiel has prepared the White Beards to assail any resistance until it breaks, but after it breaks this law flounders, and when presented by no resistance at all, the death culture it fosters slips into the inactivity of confusion, which is why we were not pursued after the war. You see, the one thing Thaumiel cannot teach the people to do is to simply live. So lay down your self-respect, King Brogan, and live, that you may know a deeper victory over your foe.

BROGAN
It will be made so. And yet, Lady Haziel, there remain tokens of the shame of House Antero I can no longer bear to have in my keeping.

The King unrolls a rich black cloth on hyz table so Haziel can behold the glittering broken shards of Dragonthorn.

BROGAN
Take these far away from my kingdom, I beg you.

HAZIEL
It will be as you say, King Brogan.

And Haziel commits the relics to the keeping of Aliwe.

After a month in the house of the king, Haziel and har dwindling group ride to Gerazan to winter over. Then together with Aliwe, Lady Irus, Baron Bayard, and a brigade of Fallen Angels, Haziel crosses the ice bridge that leads from the far west of the West Lands to the far east of the East Lands. They are almost precisely on the other side of Barbelo from Thaumiel’s capital city in the center of the Middle Lands. For all their journey they are never assailed by Demonstroke as Haziel feared they would be. Thaumiel had essentially forgotten all about Haziel.

Bereft once more of horses, the party spends the entire (albeit short) planting season on the move, so Haziel knows nothing but bitter white cold for the better part of a year. But harvest time is unusually warm, almost hot, and sha is in good spirits as they come down off from the ice to the outskirts of Belen. Here is the very source of the River Bandar, emerging from the face of a melting glacier. Every hour or so, a portion of the ice melts, releasing a boulder, sometimes the size of a house, into the vale below. But the stream is too wild to survive running it in a raft. The journey, by necessity, remains by foot, parallel to the river.

At length, Haziel’s group arrives in the city of Locotin in the center of the Black Beard lands. They have come to the end of their walking travels. Lady Irus commissions a barge and floats with Haziel down the River Bandar to the capital city of Peshast, where the people marvel to see the wife of Count Raddai returning from a battle beyond the end of the world.

The Black Beard commitment to the war had been relatively meager, due to the great distance involved, so King Garand bears no resentment toward Haziel for the defeat.

HAZIEL
Of the three houses that remain opposed to Thaumiel, House Larund has the best disposition. You have flown in my avatar, King Garand, so you know Barbelo is in the shape of a ball, and the lands of House Larund are furthest from the Middle Lands. On the west you are protected by a great natural wall. On the east are two ice bridges and a friendly House. I do not think you will be subject to invasion, but for a time, I believe you might face raids from the dragon controlled by Joy. Therefore I council that you convert all the dwellings in the land of the Black Beards into houses of stone.

GARAND
Certainly Demonstroke will be able to flatten even these.

HAZIEL
What you say is true, King Garand, nothing can withstand a direct assault from the dragon, not even the fabled Nine Mile Wall was proof against it as we saw. Yet your cities as they are presently constructed are little more than so much stacked dry timber to be kindled by Demonstroke in a single strike. Why make it easy for Joy?

GARAND
Your counsel is good, Lady Haziel. You have traveled far. I offer a wing of the castle to be a home for yourself and your Fallen Angels, if you would abide here in Peshast. Many of our people have assigned their loyalties to Chokhmah rather than Thaumiel, much as House Sala has done and here you would have much to teach and do. Your reputation as a healer is well known.

HAZIEL
I thank you deeply for your offer, King Garand, and indeed I will avail myself of it for a little while. But Peshast will not be my final home. My daughter has summoned a woman of the b’nei elohim named Victoria to come to our aid, and I must wait here until she arrives.

Baron Bayard is bid to stay in Peshast as well. This had been hyz home when hyz mother Queen Aurra had exiled hym in punishment for hyz taste in women and yen of low station. And the baron’s servant girl Aliwe was fully occupied, but more often than not her task was simply trying to keep Bayard’s hands away from her slender body.

Thaumiel has a dragon, but Binah has a woman who can fly. Her name is Victoria and she is a third-generation b’nei elohim. Yeshua got the idea of a flying woman from that one time when che departed from hez followers in Jerusalem and ascended into the sky. On the summit of Mount Olive che had summoned a worm-tunnel mouth, stepped into it, and had remained entirely visible to the disciples as che physically moved the bubble into the air, riding along with it. The same mechanism was used to allow Victoria to fly on Earth and also on the Earth’s moon, the only difference was that Binah handed full control of the position of the worm-tunnel mouth to her.

Haziel asked to borrow Victoria after learning of har existence during har long talks with Aliwe. Indeed, it was Aliwe who first explained to Haziel that her daughter would, far in the future, possess the body of a jen named Yeshua and freely traverse time. And Aliwe served as the link to convey the historical Haziel’s request to the future Yeshua.

And so Victoria immediately comes to Barbelo through the Sacred Pool. She drops to one knee before Yeshua.

VIC
Command me, Lord.

It was written by Paulus that every knee will bow at the name of Yeshua and every tongue confess that Yeshua was Lord. The b’nei elohim consider themselves to be the greatest servants of Yeshua.

YESHUA
I need you to kill an errant dragon.

Not for an instant does Victoria blanch.

VIC
Such a simple thing, Lord? I would love to whack a dragon for you, of course, but there is one small hitch. I can’t fly on Barbelo.

Yeshua then orders the Ark of the Covenant to be brought out and propped just above the dark wooden decking that surrounded the Sacred Pool.

YESHUA
Touch one of the cherubim on the cover of the Ark.

For the Ark, as the only remaining avatar of Chokhmah on Barbelo, is also a receptacle for the end point of a one-dimensional fold-space line. Chokhmah uses the physical structure of the Ark as a reference to keep the end-point of the worm-line positioned within. But after Victoria touches the lid of the Ark, that worm-line begins to track on her body like an invisible piece of string cheese she can never shake loose.

Now Victoria is the Ark, for all practical purposes. For the time being, the original Ark is just an inert piece of gold-covered wood, with no connection to the elohim at all.

YESHUA
The fold-line cannot act as a tunnel, that requires a continuous flow of dark energy and I’m only budgeted for the one that connects to this pond of water. But the end of the fold-line you now possess can balloon out like a pod, just big enough to contain you, and of course you can now control where that pod takes you, in the usual way.

VIC
Which is to say, Lord, I can now fly on Barbelo. Where shall I go?

YESHUA
Haziel is waiting for you in the King’s castle in Peshast, the capital city of the Black Beards, east from here and over the Wall of God. There sha will give you the weapon you will use to kill Demonstroke.

Victoria bows.

VIC
Thank you, Lord Yeshua, for giving me this opportunity to bring glory to our divine Father.

YESHUA
Chokhmah doesn’t need glory, Victoria, he just needs the dragon dead. But I will say to you that you are entirely welcome for this opportunity to have more fun than any member of the b’nei elohim has ever enjoyed before.

The demigod Victoria, daughter of Ariel, granddaughter of Robyn, exults as she flies in the violet sky of Barbelo. Victoria soars over the River Armak, which flows west from the place where it was joined by the river Arhena. She continues to fly along the River Arhena east, always east, as the awesome Wall of God begins to loom as a barrier before her. Victoria looks down and sees trees with leaves of many colors, red and green, yellow and gold, such that the land looks to be perpetually in the full glory of autumn as it was known on Earth. Yet Barbelo’s trees are never bereft of leaves, for there are no seasons as there are on Earth. Instead the leaves fall from their trees individually after a span, and are replaced by another. The source of the River Arhena is a perpetual rain that falls as a mist in the center of the Wall of God. Victoria becomes thoroughly soaked as sha flies through this heavy drizzle. A little more than halfway up the dark Wall of God, at 10,000 feet, the mist becomes a solid white sheet of falling water. This is the greatest cataract known by humans and nephilim to exist.

At 19,000 feet Victoria flies over the rim and turns horizontal once again, and alights, for the ancient agreement is that Binah can only operate her end of the fold-line within the boundaries of the land that one day, centuries from the current point of view of Haziel, would be named Haaretz. On foot, Victoria follows the chief waterway of the Black Beards, the River Bandar, east through high hills to the city of Peshast.

VIC (to the guards of the castle)
I am Victoria of the b’nei elohim. I was summoned here by Haziel herself, gentlemen, so please take me to her.

Victoria is brought to Haziel in the council chamber, and as she had done in Canterwood she kneels in worship, for any one of the b’nei elohim are much more aware of the awesome difference of the elohim than most other humans were. Haziel welcomes Victoria and tells her to rise.

VIC
My Lady, I am called Victoria. Binah told me you have a weapon to kill Demonstroke.

HAZIEL
Aliwe, please do the honors.

Aliwe unwraps the black cloth from around the broken pieces of Dragonthorn, the blade Kari Antero once used to command Demonstick.

HAZIEL
This is the only heirloom we possess with which we can hope to even the odds against the dragon and it is nothing more than a pile of sharp baubles.

Victoria steps forward to gather up the diamond shards. The one still attached to the hilt could serve as a long dagger, or very short sword.

VIC
I think I can fly behind the dragon and ram this into hyz brain.

BAYARD
The covenant says she who wields Dragonthorn must be a virgin woman. Otherwise the dragon will not be mortally wounded.

Which was the Baron’s way, of course, of saying hy was interested in Victoria and wanted to know more about her. Hy wasn’t quite sure where a b’nei elohim female fit on the spectrum between commoner and noblewoman.

VIC
I have never known man.

She doesn’t mention the crazy lesbian sex sha once had with her aunt Ariel. Maybe that skirted the intent of the virginity requirement, but it was the elohim, after all, who made their demigod servants such utter horn dogs.

After Victoria officially joins Haziel’s group they ride down the river Bandar to the town of Vesa, where the Fallen Angels camp outside the city. The royals reserve an inn. There, after supper has finished, the conversation turns to strategy.

VIC
Where, actually, is this dragon located?

Baron Bayard asks the innkeeper if there is a map of Barbelo at hand. When servants post it on the wall of the dining hall, Baron Bayard walks up to it.

BAYARD
Behold the Wall of God. The woman Joy is said to keep Demonstroke in an aerie high above the Valley of Ten Thousand Creeks that come together to form a river, approximately here. You can see this is a fairly wild region but there are scattered settlements of Gold Beard colonists, and even the houses of a few Black Beards here and there.

VIC
Hell. In the morning I can find this aerie myself and dispatch the dragon as I have been commanded.

HAZIEL
That will not do. I have no doubt you can do precisely as you have described, but it’s no good if you just kill the dragon in secret. People have to see you do it. That’s what this is really about. People have to see that we are resisting Thaumiel.

VIC (bowing her head)
As you say, Lady Haziel.

BAYARD
Some of you might have surmised that I intend to use the Catwalk to reach this land from here.

VIC
And what dear Baron is this Catwalk of which you speak?

BAYARD
The Catwalk, Lady Victoria, is a path carved into the stone face of the wall which drops four air miles in one hundred Catwalk miles. But it is precarious beyond belief. There are places where the Catwalk is no wider than one of your feet is wide.

ALIWE
M’lord Baron, please tell me this Catwalk comes with a safety rail.

BAYARD
The Catwalk comes with no rail. We must take our own precautions. Oh, did I mention that one part of the Catwalk entails a rope traverse?

VIC
Naturally I do not fear this Catwalk. But do have caution, all of you. If anyone falls, I will not be able to stave off your death. I can carry little more than this blade which I intend to use to slay Demonstroke.

HAZIEL
I do not doubt the courage of anyone in this company to continue, but it may be the case that not everyone will be mentally prepared to negotiate it, as the Baron describes it. Let everyone turn it over in their mind as we ride to the rim tomorrow, for it shall be there that whoever freely elects to end their part of our quest must remain behind while the others go on.

An awkward silence falls as everyone contemplates how they would react when they see the Catwalk.

Haziel turns to the commanding officer of the Fallen Angels who is also present at the inn.

HAZIEL
Tell the dolls what they’re facing tomorrow and make the same offer. I am not ordering any of them to accompany me to Haaretz. But if they elect to stay behind here in the lands of House Larund they must disband as Fallen Angels, and by that I mean they must not even form veteran societies. I will not have King Garand troubled by the presence of a regiment of foreign troops in hyz realm.

From Peshast, Baron Bayard Sala leads Haziel’s dwindling party west through a maze of footpaths that winds through the hills that border the Wall of God. With the baron goes hyz commoner servant Aliwe, and from time to time Bayard stoops to pick up an agate and hands it to the girl. Victoria notices that hyz fingers linger on Aliwe’s hand as she takes the stone from hym, and the expression on the girl’s face is hard to decipher.

For the first time since joining Haziel’s group, Victoria looks at Aliwe very carefully and is surprised to see that the girl’s face has features that strongly remind Vic of her own. But there are also things in Aliwe’s appearance that remind her of Baron Bayard. Vic doesn’t know what to think.

The quest moves at the pace of the oldest and slowest person among them, Count Berek Antero, who is entirely aware that hy is holding everyone up. Hy also misses hyz wife Losna who has stayed behind at Gerazan, and hy is not entirely sure hy is prepared to endure the Catwalk as Bayard has described it. Yet hy is a thoroughly honorable yang who wants to aid Haziel in every way that hy can. So hy is torn by an internal debate as hy trudges along.

Victoria looks at Haziel and sees how har legs have become muscled and wiry. The walk has aged har a decade. Haziel is more handsome now than beautiful. Victoria and Haziel both know full well that beauty has a sellby date. Haziel regrets only that sha would never grow old together with Princess Khondiel.

Behind them goes a single company of Fallen Angels, only about two hundred forty yin now. Two of every three have elected to stay behind in Peshast and disband, and gloomy Berek warns Haziel that some of the yen who elected to tag along are certain to fall and die. The law of averages would claim them and there is little anyone could do.

At length the Baron leads them south on a footpath that gently climbs up a long wooded ridge. It looks like a simple trail, but Baron Bayard assures them it will become the Catwalk when they walk a little bit further. They all look back down the way they have come. They are now at an altitude where the trees are stunted and sparse, so the views east are unobstructed and spectacular. But at the summit of the ridge the view west is absolutely beyond belief.

Nineteen thousand feet below them lies the land in its entirety, even to the great sea known as Thalury. In one glance they take in both the Northern and Southern Ice, walls little higher than the Wall of God itself, racing west and drawing together until both they and Thalury slip over the horizon. Nowhere else on Barbelo is the spherical shape of the world so apparent.

To the south the trail slips below the ridge and becomes an ice-carved wall almost concrete smooth, and the travelers can see how the trail transforms into the infamous Catwalk, a lip only three feet wide where the cliff juts out and falls once more. As hy feared it would be, all of this is far too much for Count Berek Antero.

BEREK
I am deeply sorry. I have already delayed the quest, but now I see I cannot go on.

ALIWE
I would say that you have made a noble decision, Highborn.

Not a few Fallen Angels come to the same wisdom as Count Berek. Haziel’s party whittles down to some one hundred fifty souls.

Haziel suggests that they make camp and embark on the Catwalk in the morning when everyone is well fed and fully rested. But rest will not come for many of them. In the morning there is little speech, for the enormity of the task ahead has weighed in everyone’s mind all night.

After they reach the Catwalk the law of averages begins to take its toll as Berek had warned. About once every hour or so the silence of the trek is broken by the terrified scream of a yin somewhere far behind Haziel slipping off the Catwalk and falling to har death. Waiting for the next one to fall becomes a constant and living horror that none would ever be able to banish from their memories for as long as they lived.

There comes a moment in the quest when Baron Bayard makes a move to fondle Aliwe, and Aliwe tries to back away from hym. The problem is there just wasn’t much backing-up room on the Catwalk, and she, like some of the Fallen Angels behind her, slips off the face of the Wall of God.

There is no scream but Victoria sees everything and flies down after her, not even taking the time to think that Aliwe’s weight would be too much and there really is no saving her. Didn’t she say as much before they embarked on the quest?

Below the Catwalk the Wall of God is not perfectly vertical. Victoria cannot stop Aliwe’s fall but she can push Aliwe out of the way of any stony outcroppings as she approaches them. Aliwe tells Victoria to let her go, and reluctantly, Victoria has to arrest her own descent and let Aliwe slip away to impact the broken talus at the base of the cliff.

Victoria continues down at a smaller pace, trying to estimate where Aliwe’s body bounced so she can attempt to bury her. But when she finds her, Aliwe is smiling, none the worse for wear. She is standing in a small woody glen at the base of the Wall of God. They were at least three thousand feet below the Catwalk where the rest of the party waited for any sign of them.

Victoria finally guesses that Aliwe is b’nei elohim like herself, but one she never knew.

ALIWE
I’m the daughter you haven’t had yet. Hi Mom.

VIC (smiling back)
It makes sense. I thought you had my cheekbones.

ALIWE
And I have Baron Bayard’s eyes.

She knows the implication of that statement has sunk in when Vic stops smiling.

ALIWE
Sorry I ‘slipped off the Catwalk, but I had to get Bayard to turn his attention to you. Otherwise the ick factor would have been too much and I wouldn’t be born in this loop. Besides, as you can see, my own particular talent is indestructibility.

VIC
Like Mike?

ALIWE
Similar. I can heal myself with supernatural speed but I can’t heal anyone else. Aren’t we superheroes all supposed to have a weakness, like Kryptonite? And even Mike can only fix so much.

VIC
Let’s see. Bayard is a yang, so I guess that makes you an ambi?

ALIWE
A very feminine jen, actually.

VIC
You are here so it means we win, right? Binah and Chokhmah survive?

ALIWE
We win, they live, Thaumiel dies. This quest is still important. Thaumiel has this weird passive-aggressive thing going on with his dragon where he can assail any city or army on Barbelo and its all Keri Antero’s fault for getting laid and breaking the Dragonthorn. After you kill the dragon he has to decide whether to use his first avatar in the same way, but either way, he loses. If he uses it, people stop following him because he’s a violent and malevolent god. If he doesn’t, then there’s peace on Barbelo. Win, win, for us.

VIC
So why are you back here?

ALIWE
Yeshua wanted me to improve the outcome for Haziel’s group. Its already paid off to an extent. On the original loop Kari killed Kirodiel with Dragonthorn. With no need to escape with her lord still living, Joy simply had the dragon burn down everyone at the Council, which meant of course that I was the only survivor.

VIC
So who is that Joy woman? I’ve never seen her up close.

ALIWE
Joy is really your aunt Ariel, killed in the Moon War and living out her afterlife here. She’s not doing very much to impress Yeshua, if you ask me. Joy has been possessed by Jill, and even before that Jill went completely over to Thaumiel, so don’t hesitate to kill the dragon even if it means Joy dies too, which she will, and when she does she’s basically screwed because Yeshua wont give her a third chance.

VIC
As long as I don’t fuck Bayard before it happens. Rules you know.

ALIWE
That whole virginity thing was part of Thaumiel’s scam all along. Its all lies. You could fly straight out of a week-long orgy and still kill Demonstroke with that shard.

VIC
One thing still bothers me. You said on your loop Joy killed everyone at the Council except you. So if she killed your father, where the hell do you come from?

ALIWE
I should have said she killed everyone who came to the council chamber when the Queen summoned us. Dad was still in his own chamber having sex with Luzea. I don’t blame him for that, actually. Luzea ain’t one of the b’nei elohim but she sure has a natural born talent! On your timeline I interrupted them because Luzea is all mine, and then Dad went back to see Gramma Aurra. All this was before you got here, but you’ve heard the accounts of this loop so you already know I saved Kirodiel’s life by intercepting the diamond blade with a metal tray. On my timeline Dad was the only surviving noble on the planet, outside of the Middle Land. He became something like a renegade while House Gerash started to take over the world.

VIC
So how did I meet him on your timeline?

ALIWE
Pretty much the same way you did this time around, Mom, except the quest was just you and him. You took the Catwalk, went to Menkant, the dragon shows up, and you fought Joy pretty much the same way you will again. As for how you fell in love with Dad I don’t really know, and do you know what? I don’t even want to know!

VIC
I find it impossible to believe that you will result from our union again, when there must be a trillion factors that will be different this time. The timing is crucial. This sperm and not that sperm, fifty you’re a boy instead of a girl and very few of the events that formed your memories on your timeline will be present again in this timeline.

ALIWE
You are absolutely right, Momma, but even if you and Dad have nothing but boys that will have nothing to do with me, because you did have me back on my timeline. But all I want to do right now is get back to the talented Luzea. Now this next part is going to seem strange to you, because I know you but you don’t know me, but here goes.

And Aliwe pulls Victoria close for a kiss and a hug.

VIC
I love you, baby. Will we meet again when it’s all over?

ALIWE
I hope so Mom, but this is a new loop. It rhymes, but its not the same.

Then Aliwe leaves to pick her way down the river, a trip that would kill a less hardy person. On the coast she will try to find someone willing to take her to Saharad.

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