It could not be hidden for long that the first space flight initiated by nephilim from Barbelo had been a suicide mission to avert an approaching comet and prevent a second Great Deluge. Nor could it be hidden that Thaumiel, incarnated as the Gerash High Lord Patriarch Sartael, had prevented news of this comet from getting out to the other families. And the simultaneous secret flood preparations by the elite among the greater Gerash family also did not escape notice.

The rumor that elements of House Sala and Larund had conceived and carried out this flight to save Barbelo did much to win secret converts to Chokhmah. Some even said that Haziel harself had led the mission and had died in a successful attempt to divert the comet. All in all, Thaumiel had sustained a terrible propaganda defeat.

As Haziel herself had foreseen at the time of the flight, the event marked a major turning point in the history of Barbelo. From that day forward, Thaumiel was viewed as evil even by many members of Family Gerash, especially by those who were deemed unworthy to receive the same warnings that were given to the purebred family core. Thaumiel would still be obeyed from fear, but there would never again be any loyalty based on awe and respect. The incident ignited a deep and broad conspiracy lasting many decades to unseat family Gerash by any means. This conspiracy reached even into Thaumiel’s own armed forces.

Into this toxic mix was added also the Beaters.

Beyond frozen, airless Hippo lies the so-called Eggbeater, a vast collection of asteroids and comets left over in lieu of the gas giant planets that never formed in Thaumiel’s twin star system due to gravitational perturbation.

The Eggbeater is actually two separate belts of debris, each orbiting its respective sun, but these belts merge when the orange and yellow suns approached each other in periastron. Sometimes this results in collisions that populate the Eggbeater with smaller chunks in greater numbers, but mostly there are only near misses that alter the orbits of the mixing objects to various degrees.

Very rarely, one of the larger objects in this vast pinball game hurls toward Barbelo. The Navy keeps a close eye on these, but they are not the only watchers. The families Antero, Larund and Sala will not tolerate another conspiracy of silence when it comes to comet-fall.

To compare distances, if Barbelo was in the Solar System, and its orange sun was in the position of the Earth’s sun, the brighter yellow-white sun would occupy the space between Saturn and Uranus. This is close enough for the other system to be explored by robotic probes, but somewhat beyond the ability of the humans to make the crossing themselves without an extreme effort. Typical flight times would be on the order of three or four years, but this would be markedly improved when Ithuriel’s macros were retrofitted on nephilim ships.

Hundreds of small bodies in the Eggbeater were settled by wave after wave of pioneers from Barbelo, and after a time the settlers had established themselves well enough to become multiple sources of many new waves. Few of the colonists obeyed the Cupel system of testing or any other precept in the Law of Thaumiel.

Religious and political unity shattered in the new frontier of space. Some of the “Beaters” (as the colonists of the Eggbeater came to be called) were peaceful adherents of Hazielism, but many of them were quite warlike, especially after the Navy came calling from Palato and the Eyes found their devotion to Thaumiel to be wanting.

In the very low surface gravity of the asteroids it is considered more practical to have four hands rather than two hands and two feet. Genetic engineering begins to blur what it meant to be nephilim, and this practice is disgusting to Sartael.

Other Beaters dabble in techniques for changing genders within a few days. The procedure is reversible and complete, right down to a functioning uterus for men, very useful for new colonies where breeding females were at a premium. Such a thing is absolutely incompatible with the system established in the Law of Thaumiel that treated women as little more than property. So Sartael vows perpetual war.

The Beaters are happy to oblige him.

After Edgar Shybear provides Sartael with the specifications and procedures for copying the Golden Gift, it takes nearly a year for the engineering division on Palato to get tooled up to produce them. In the meantime the High Lord Patriarch takes Edgar into his household as an adopted son.

The four widows of the late, unlamented Hogarth are also taken into Sartael’s household, but only as servants. They are ordered to provide Edgar any service that he wishes or needs, except (and they are strongly counseled on this point) for the one thing a healthy young man of his tender years really wants and thinks he really needs.

Since Edgar is not emancipated under the law of Thaumiel, he is not required to attend weekly worship.

Worship among the White Beards does not carry the same meaning that it does on Earth. There is something more direct and honest about it. Edgar learns the essence of Thaumiel worship from reading the sacred scriptures of House Gerash:

Five days are appointed, with names after the names of the Five Families. They are Larunday, Anteroday, Bellonday, Saladay, and Gerashday.

Three days you shall eat, on Larunday, Anteroday, and Bellonday, and on the fourth day, or Saladay, you shall eat a double portion. But on the fifth day, or Gerashday you shall eat nothing, and drink only water. For this is the fast appointed by Thaumiel. Only soldiers on campaign are exempted from the Fast of Thaumiel on Gerashday.

Three days you shall work, and the income thereof shall be for your own use. Saladay you shall work also, but the income thereof shall be for the temple.

But Gerashday is the day of worship, you shall not work on that day, neither you nor your whole household.

On that day you shall enter the Temple of Thaumiel if you dwell nigh to the Mountain of Thaumiel in the Middle Land, or you shall enter the local shrine of Thaumiel if you dwell in the colonies in the Westlands and Eastlands or far away from the Mountain of Thaumiel in the Middle Kingdom.

There on Gerashday you shall worship Thaumiel. None shall be exempted. The elderly or infirm shall be transported to worship Thaumiel by their families. Only soldiers on campaign shall be waived from worshiping Thaumiel on the fifth day.

And this is the essence of worship: You shall give one-fourth of your income to Thaumiel. A holy priest of Thaumiel shall receive your worship on behalf of Thaumiel.

And the procedure for worshiping Thaumiel shall be to present to the priest your worship card made of crackerwood sealed in a leather pouch, together with all the money you have earned on Saladay.

The priest shall inspect the seal, unwrap the worship card, and inspect the pattern of recent punches. If the money and the punches are in order, the priest shall make a new punch using one of five different punches drawn by lots, a star, a square, a triangle, a circle, or a rectangle.

Then he shall store the worship card back in the leather pouch, add a seal, and return it to the worshiper, but the money he shall put in the temple treasury.

Yen however, shall not worship, nor shall a yin be found in the Temple of Thaumiel nor any shrine of Thaumiel, upon pain of death. Neither shall a yin or a doll be permitted to earn income. The head of a household shall count a dirk’s income as his own for worship purposes.

If a yang’s worship card is falsely punched, and it is proven that hy did not worship by consulting the temple accounting books, that yang shall be put to death.

If any yang loses hyz worship card and no audit is pending, then there is no guilt; the yang’s worship card shall be replaced.

But if a priest of Thaumiel suspects wrongdoing and requests to examine a yang’s worship card, and the yang claims it is lost, then his guilt shall be assumed; hy shall be put to death.

Sixty-four punches shall fill the worship card. In the five festival days of New Card Week the priests of Thaumiel shall issue new worship cards. New Card Week shall be a time of re-dedication to Thaumiel, and the new year shall be met with fresh hearts.

Employers shall send to the Temple or to the local shrines of Thaumiel information on the wages of every yang and dirk in their employ. The priests of Thaumiel shall use this information to ensure that each yang is worshiping Thaumiel in the correct amount.

For Thaumiel knows that yang are faithless and weak and do not always seek to conform with the will of Thaumiel in all things. That is why the Eyes of Thaumiel must always keep watch. They are the sentries of the priesthood of Thaumiel.

The House of Gerash is indeed organized as something of a republic, as the High Lord Patriarch once indicated to Queen Aurra at her council. The Middle Land is divided into three provinces, and the whole land of occupied House Bellon to the west is taken to be the fourth. In two thousand years the ice bridge that once separated Rumbek from Salem melted away, leaving no physical barrier between the White Beards and the Brown Beards they had conquered.

Each one of the four provinces are governed by a Popular Assembly comprised of three Freelords and one Lord Advocate, except Thaumiel Province, where the High Lord Patriarch presides in place of the Lord Advocate. The Popular Assemblies conduct the daily business of the Republic.

The four provinces are further divided into three departments each. Twelve Freelords, with one vote each, preside as chief judges over their own departments and vote with the Lord Advocates to elect the successor to the High Lord Patriarch in the event of his death. Inevitably their choice becomes possessed by Thaumiel (or by that entity that still calls itself Thaumiel) so the whole affair amounts to a hereditary monarchy in substance.

Freelords are elected by the people, directly.

The Lord Advocates have two votes each. One Freelord in cahoots with the Lord Advocate can dominate the Popular Assembly. Conversely, all three Freelords arrayed against a Lord Advocate can swing the province their way.

In the State Council, which conducts war and distributes taxes, the Lord Advocates only have a single vote. The High Lord Patriarch has two votes as the Head of State, except in the event of the passing of a Lord Advocate, and electing a new Lord Advocate from among the Freelords, when the Gerash Patriarch only has a single vote to prevent a tie.

One Lord Advocate allied with the High Lord Patriarch can sway the State Council. Alternatively, all three Lord Advocates combined against the High Lord Patriarch can steer things their way, at least on paper. Generally it was not a healthy thing to do so. The dreaded Eyes of Thaumiel, the secret police, serve only the current incarnation of their god.

In the theoretical republic of White Beards, every citizen is theoretically on a level one with one another. In practice, some citizens are more equal than others.

The right to elect freelords is conditioned on military service, either in the Army, the Eyes, or more recently the space-going Navy of Thaumiel. And military service in the House of Gerash is a twisted combination of incest, polygamy, and an ancient, pervasive death cult.

When a dirk reaches the Age of Initiation and chooses to serve Thaumiel in the armed forces, hy enters the rites of the Cupel system of testing. Under the Rites hy wagers hyz sister in a ritual fight to the death with another dirk. This combat is called Laraji. The boy who survives Laraji takes the sister of hyz opponent, and hyz own sister, to be hyz wives. And hy becomes one of the ishim in the lower echelon of the armed forces of Thaumiel. Later the ish might advance to malak and even ravmalak based on hyz valor in combat.

Thaumiel didn’t set this up on a mere whim. There is a certain logic to the system. The incest brought out to the surface any genetic defects, and the death combat eliminated the boys who carried those defects. After two thousand years of this artificially accelerated evolution the people of Barbelo have diverged sharply from the humans of Sol. Thaumiel now calls his people the nephilim. They were not truly a separate species from man, for they can still interbreed, but the nephilim are well embarked on the road to speciation.

If a ravmalak desires to attain to the middle echelon of the forces of Thaumiel hy is required to wager hyz two wives against the wives of another ravmalak in the second ritual killing of the Cupel system of testing. The yang who survives the second Laraji takes the two wives of hhyz opponent, and retains hyz own two wives. Hy is called a sar in the middle echelon, and again hy may advance to erel and hashmal based on his valor in combat.

If a hashmal desires to attain to the upper echelon hy is required wager his own four wives against the four wives of another hashmal in the third and highest ritual killing of the Cupel system of testing. The yang who survives the third Laraji takes the wives of hyz opponent, and retained hyz own wives, for a grand total of eight wives. And he becomes an ophan in the upper echelon of the armed forces of Thaumiel. The way is clear for hym to advance to cherub and even seraph based on his valor in combat.

For the span of time that Edgar lived as a son in the house of Sartael there are many opportunities for candidates of every rank to advance based on meritorious service, for it is an eventful year.

The Beaters start throwing rocks. In a devastating large-scale surprise attack, the Beaters cause a large meteor to all but destroy Dartarus in the eastern kingdom of the Gerash Middle Lands. This is a city of three hundred thousand people which lies on the southern shore of the estuary of the river Kelang, where it flows into the Eastern Sea.

At the same time, they invade Palato and take possession of it. They are able to do this because Sartael has chosen to take nearly the entire Navy deep into the Eggbeater in a show of force to remind the colonists there of their obligations under the True Religion.

The avatar of Thaumiel remains, and takes to the skies of Palato, but Thaumiel can do very little. The Beaters use the largely Gerash population of Palato as nephilim shields to protect their ships and ground forces from retaliation. Some of these captives are the wives of Hogarth. Ithuriel is not present, hy has gone along with the fleet as an observer.

The grounded and camouflaged Beater ships, reduced now to little more than expensive pillboxes, beat off several attempts at orbit-to-surface precision strikes against them. Finally Thaumiel withdraws his avatar to provide cover when the first elements of his navy return from the Eggbeater.

With his avatar, Thaumiel can repel any ship-to-ship attack, but the gun and rocket emplacements clustered all over Palato take a terrible toll on the warships when they draw near.

Still, a sufficiently large fraction of them survive to enable a counter-invasion of Palato with infantry. The Beaters succeed in burning their ships before the Army of Thaumiel can seize them, and the surviving attackers take to the hills in vacuum suits.

In Beater propaganda, they claim that more Gerash cities would now be destroyed in retaliation for the Patriarch’s attempt to reclaim Palato by force. In reality, the meteoroids had been set in motion weeks before, because Thaumiel is nothing but utterly predictable.

The cities of Ganelon and Sastrom in the mountainous areas of the central Middle Lands are subsequently destroyed. The nephilim of the city of Thaumiel flee into the countryside in a great panic, for they can only be next on the Beater target list.

Although none of the other families had been threatened by the Beaters, Family Sala consider themselves safe due to a fundamental change that had been initiated by Queen Aurra two millennia prior. The people are organized into “Faith Communities” of about twenty-five people each, spaced at regular intervals across the plain irrigated by the river Loenna. Each Faith Community is self-supporting in most things, and for those goods they cannot obtain, they would trade with neighbor cells.

The entire nation had abandoned urban conglomeration and spread itself out so thinly and evenly there remains no viable targets to hit. A meteor would destroy at most a handful of random Faith Communities. It is also not lost on Family Sala that they are similarly protected from Thaumiel’s nuclear weapons. They farm the breadbasket of Barbelo and embrace Haziel as a feminine creative spirit, having turned their back on Thaumiel worship once and for all.

There is little Thaumiel can do to reverse what Queen Aurra had done at the behest of Haziel. Family Sala remains quite capable of defending their lands fiercely through guerrilla warfare, yet there are no high-value targets the Gerash Patriarch can threaten to extort compliance. The best Thaumiel can hope for is to contain the spread of Hazielsm, and prevent the concept of Faith Communities from taking hold in the other families. But in years to come there are many secret adherents of Haziel among the nephilim, even in the upper ranks of Thaumiel’s military forces.

Aided by the strikes from orbit the citizens of Palato revolt from Beater occupation and pursue the invaders into the rugged mountains between the major settlements. Remnants of the Beater forces are hunted down for months. Some vengeful yeng who had lost entire families in the strikes on Barbelo sought Beater stragglers out personally and devised particularly gruesome forms of justice.

Yet there would be many more Beater attacks, and still more cities would be destroyed. In time it was begrudged to the Salas that their strategy of radical decentralization was probably the wisest course.

The extended period of general peace that had existed since the Techno War was transformed into the Long War as House Gerash settled down to an endless period of low-level conflict against the Beaters, punctuated by brief spasms of total chaos. Under these circumstances the existence of the Imperial Navy and the harsh Cupel system of military training he had decreed was more than justified. And that suited Thaumiel just fine.

At length the research department on Palato, using Edgar’s guidelines, duplicates the macro effect. All middle and upper echelons of the forces of Thaumiel are issued silver copies of the Golden Gift, putting them in complete parity with the B’nei Elohim. Then High Lord Sartael summons the dirk.

You have done what you said you would do, Edgar Shybear, so I take your oath of loyalty to be fulfilled.

Thank you, my Lord!

You are not of the House of Gerash, yet I consider you like a son. And I would consider it a terrible waste to pit you against another dirk who has trained for his entire life to survive the death combat. So I will take your torment at the hands of Hogarth, and his subsequent execution, to be the struggle you surmounted to attain the rank of ish. There remains only the question of who is to be your wife.

And Sartael summons before his throne the four widows of Hogarth, Ananael, Yelena, Jabniel, and Nedra, who had been Edgar’s servants for nearly a year,and bids Edgar to choose any two of them. Then Edgar sees the wisdom of Sartael in having them function has his servants for these many months, for it gave Edgar the opportunity to come to know the four yen, and judge whether he could love them or only despise them.

Lord Sartael is very generous to his servants, but if it pleases the Lord, let only the one woman Jabniel stand by my side, and send the others away, for in their term of service it was plain for me to see that three of them could not hide their resentment as they toiled for me.

Then Jabniel, at the command of Sartael, moves to stand next to Edgar, and Lord Sartiel, as Thaumiel, god of Barbelo, declares them joined together as husband and wife. They seal the impromptu wedding with a kiss.

Abanael, Yelena, and Nedra are dismissed from their servitude in the house of Sartael, yet all four of the former wives of Hogarth smile, including Jabniel, for each of them receive exactly what they are hoping for.

Now it remains only to find you a place of your own here on Palato, that you may begin work on developing my macro bomb.

I beg the Lord’s indulgence this one final time. In the year that I have lived under the Lord’s roof I have closely watched those nephilim he calls the Eyes of Thaumiel, as perhaps only an outsider truly can. They are an ancient order, and if they were once a noble and efficient organization, I fear that the centuries have taken its toll on them. I say this not as a resentful victim of Hogarth’s torture, but as an honest appraisal of my Lords official investigative body.

I appreciate your candor, young Edgar. Do go on.

My Lord, never have I seen such a lethargic mass of bureaucratic back-biters and back-stabbers and pole climbers outside of perhaps the Roman Curia that governs the Catholic Church on Earth, which is nearly as old. The internal politics of the Eyes of Thaumiel remind me of nothing so much as the bickering in any run-of-the mill harem, my Lord! That you tolerate such a festering hen party is a wonder to me. It is a good thing that I already knew the principle of the macro. I doubt I could have focused long enough to stumble on it under the insufferable conditions I find here on Palato. I know of a surety I would find it impossible under the same conditions to achieve a macro that produces unstable dark matter. The distractions would prove too great. So I beg you, Lord Sartael, send me and Jabniel far from here, to any point in your realm that is not quite so thick with the moral rot of palace intrigue.

And instead of becoming wroth, Sartael breaks into a bout of laughter, for no one has dared to say what he himself had concluded about the Eyes of Thaumiel for many years now.
I will provide for you a ship, and stock it with any such equipment as you direct. You may use this ship to journey to any point in my empire and there build your research facility. Yet do not take yourself to be completely immune from the Eyes,for they will be sent from time to time to collect the results of your work, as you agreed. I ask only that you accept a new name. That way your B’nei Elohim may never learn where you are and what you are doing for me.

Ithuriel bows, and his new wife Jabniel takes this cue to bow along with him.

If it pleases my Lord, let my name be Ithuriel, which means brilliant one of God. He neglected to tell Sartael that Yeshua had already chosen that name for him. And the name does please his Lord. But Ithuriel has earned the eternal enmity of the Eyes of Thaumiel.

Long ago, well before the time of Talishi, Thaumiel struck a bargain with Chokhmah to mirror the permanent worm-tunnel that terminates at the Sacred Pool with another larger one that terminates at Jupiter, the fifth and largest planet of Sol. Yet he does not call in this marker until the nephilim have learned to penetrate into space and can make the second tunnel useful.

Since the tunnel is to be operated entirely by Thaumiel himself, he needs only to associate the Sol side of the fold-line with a physical object that serves as a constant position reference. Chokhmah links his side of the line with a spacecraft that is named after the man who first discovered the moons of Jupiter. After this spacecraft becomes the first man-made object to be placed in orbit at Jupiter, Chokhmah’s involvement with the project is done.

Thaumiel balloons out the Sol end of the line and sends yeng through to begin construction of a structure he calls an ID Grid. This object looks a bit like the towers of steel that carry high-voltage electricity over the land on Earth.

The fold-door is detached from the Galileo orbiter as a reference and locked instead on the newly built structure. The ID Grid is a physical gate that identifies each vessel before passage. An identical ID Grid is constructed over Palato. Only warships of the Navy of Belial, or freighters and passenger vessels registered with the Navy of Belial are permitted to cross after passing through this Identification Grid.

The Solar ID Grid is permanently positioned near the moon Hyperion, which becomes the location of the largest Jovian base of the Navy of Thaumiel.

At Sol two-way radio communications are not possible with Barbelo. It would take more than eight years for each response. So in that system the colonists begin to feel themselves to be more Solarian than Centauri, and they soon lose their connection to the great families of their roots.

So it is that the Bellon and Gerash families who settled Ganymede mix together and produce a new family that calls itself Krenek. The Larund and Sala families merge on Callisto to form family Ushnel. It works this way on the other moons as well. Family Antero settles Io but soon shatters into many smaller clans that eventually are dominated by Family Sonad. Europa starts as a Gerash project that is divided into many clans as well, but no unified order emerges there.

Thaumiel could never swallow the independence of the Jovian League, so he harasses them constantly with raids by warships arriving through the FoldGate, but for a number of decades he cannot amass sufficient forces to bring the colonies back under his complete control.

But Thaumiel thinks long-term, and he thinks incremental. Every passage of a tanker or passenger liner to Jupiter is accompanied by one or two fighters, or a bomber, or possibly even a corvette, all for security reasons and none of these spacecraft return to Palato.

Solbrig is made Prime Minister of the Federal Assembly to remedy rates of inflation which rises as high as 28 percent under the Jovian Leagues fiat currency, a local version of Thaumiel’s stater. All members of the Jovian League unanimously agree to give this wildly successful financier complete powers of reform.

After an astonishingly deep but relatively short economic depression and other painful measures, Solbrig puts inflation and interest rates back in check. The economy of the outer Solar System achieves a long-term pattern of gradual, stable growth.

But after a devastating large-scale and simultaneous surprise attack with the corvettes, bombers, and fighters which had slipped the notice of the colonists, the Navy of Thaumiel invades Ganymede. Survivors with the means to do so try to flee into space, but these refugees as well as the entire Jovian League fleet is bottled up in low orbit by Barbelos naval forces.

A large fraction of the Jovian colonial fleet had been underway on widely separated maneuvers and was caught off-guard by the Imperial attack, but ironically this preserves that portion of the fleet from destruction. When these stragglers return to wartime readiness, Callisto, Io, the smaller moons, and the Ganymede government in exile place themselves under the direct military rule of the cherub Leonor.

After a long period of quiet the Imperial naval base at Hyperion is suddenly fortified by the Emperor with many large warships. The Jovian League grows disgusted with Leonors complacency in the face of this buildup, and made an alliance with Ariyama (The Fair), a disgruntled ophan in Leonor’s force.

Ariyama vows the expulsion of the Empire from all Jovian territory. Each ally is to contribute a quota of ships and money. Ariyama assesses the tribute at 2 billion staters at first but the money is poorly supervised and even more poorly spent. Every month the tribute Ayiyama demands goes up until the Jovian League begins to tap into a fund laid aside for extreme contingencies. They have little choice.

Suddenly the Emperor sends his swollen fleet against every site of military value on Ganymede, Io, and Callisto. By the time the Jovian delegates can agree to so much as declare the peace broken, Ariyamas fleet was already a smouldering orbiting demolition alley of lifeless wrecks and every Jovian city lies at the mercy of being nuked from space.

Memmar Krenek, Patriarch of Ganymede, proposes to carry on the conflict with guerrilla tactics, laying waste the entire moon. But the provincial governors, hoping to protect their territories, force him to take a stand at the broad Memphis Facula plain, where together with the levies from the house of Ushnel and the house of Sonon the Jovian League is completely defeated by Lord Sartael.