No one in the Gervasi Crime Family had ever ridden horses before, so there was a brief period of familiarization before they could set out. Six folks began the journey, but only five animals, because Mike Morrich and Jill Pennell wanted to ride pretty much glued to each other. Jerry Aspin rode alone, but not by choice. The three Family members were led by Ambe Omphal and two of her deaconesses, Maris and Jae, who were human associates of the Fallen Angels. Not that I expect any trouble, Ambe assured them. Most of the bad ones gravitate more toward the Saiph League.
They rode north, taking most of the day to cover thirty miles, with many stops to rest the horses and rub their own sore asses. Ambe did not rush them at all. When the dense forest began to thin out, and great vistas could be glimpsed through them at last, Ambe said this place marked the informal boundary between Hamar and Nath.
Jerry looked back and saw a wide mountain like a very fat tree stump on the horizon, and from the summit plateau of that mountain a shaft of very slowly waning orange light sprang straight up into the white sky, providing the only illumination in the Land We Know. From a base of foothills that were already great mountains themselves, this big mountain sported sheer cliffs of gray stone that were at least ten thousand feet high. Yet there was no snow. Jerry was impressed. Wow, what the hell is that?
That is the Holy Mountain, Ambe said. What the Land We Know is to Earth, the Holy Mountain is to the Land We Know. Lilith’s people already knew the Land We Know was the Purgatory taught by the Catholic Church, among other roles, such as a way to walk from the nephilim home planet of Gorpai to the twin planets of Hybla-Dia by foot. Ambe was saying when people died in the Land We Know, their shades went to the top of the Mountain. But she didn’t explain any further, because she honestly didn’t know more.
The road bent a little to the east and climbed gently down into a broad river valley. Far away to the west they could see a white line which was the sea. Reciting the scriptures she had committed to memory, Ambe told many tales of the Jewish colonists who were brought to the Land We Know while still living, soon after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 587 BCE. She spoke of how some of these colonists remained faithful to El Shaddai and were known as the Roshites, longfathers of the modern day Nathans. She said other colonists gave dual allegiance to Bat-El as well as El Shaddai and became known as the Dishonites, ancestors of all Hamaris. But others fell away altogether, and became implacable foes to both the Roshites and the Dishonites, and these enemies were called Elamites. They comprised the begotten of the Saiph League to that very day.
The travelers reached the city of Shedal well before dusk. The priestly sisterhood of Bat-El had a sort of motor pool with horses there. If they were in a real big hurry they could swap tired animals for fresh ones and keep going, but Ambe suggested they all get lodging for the night instead. She gave the three Family members sufficient coinage and invited them to find whatever suited their fancy. We’ll meet back here in the morning.
Jerry presumed that Mike tore off a piece that night with Jill, but as for himself, after a day staring at the back of Ambe’s slender bare thighs wrapped around her horse, had to settle for a date with Rosie Palms. And that was just not right. What was the point in getting out of prison? It was a situation that needed to be corrected at the earliest opportunity.
The following day was essentially a repetition of the first, but they followed the beach closely for half of the journey, bent due east, then came to Glenah. They were all getting better at riding, and didn’t complain so much. On the third day they bent sharply to the southeast and ascended a gently rising treeless slope of extensive grasslands, making for the city of Linan. Sometimes from the road they saw large herds of cattle grazing nearby. And ever the Holy Mountain filled half of their horizon.
From Linan it was one more stint of forty miles to the capital city of Nath where the heavenly temple of El Shaddai lay, and this structure was far more magnificent than even Solomon’s original earthly temple had been. For Solomon’s temple had been completed in seven years, but work on the temple in Hadal had never ceased in one hundred thirty generations.
Following the destruction of Solomon’s temple by the Babylonian king in 587 BCE, twenty-four colonists were gathered by a prophet named Lael from among members of the tribe of Judah who had scattered to Egypt. There was Lael himself and his wife Sariah; Zethan and his wife Atara; Elam the eldest son of Lael and his new wife Serach; Jemuel the second son of Lael and his new wife Iscah; Rosh the third son of Lael and his betrothed Sela; and Rimon the youngest son of Lael and his betrothed Dinah.
From among the remnant of the tribe of Benjamin, Lael chose Abner and his wife Tabitha; Jabez and his wife Keziah; Asa the eldest son of Abner and his new wife Jemima; Josiah the second son of Abner and his new wife Keturah; Tobiah the third son of Abner and his betrothed Susannah; and Asher the youngest son of Abner and his betrothed Leah.
And it came to pass that the colonists traveled from Egypt to the downfallen kingdom of Judah, which was completely vacant, and every dwelling had been looted by the Babylonians and later by robbers from the neighboring kingdoms. The Judahite and Benjaminite colonists made their way to the charred debris upon the Temple Mount in what had been Jerusalem and stood in the exact place that had been the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and they instantly found themselves on a vacant and wild hilltop in the Land We Know, in the place where they and their descendants would construct a new temple that would never be destroyed.
In the heart of the Heavenly Temple was two chambers, and only the High Priest of El Shaddai, currently Jakun Ardath, could physically enter either one of these, but the elaborate interior of the larger one, called simply the Holy Place, could be seen by the other priests briefly when they prepared Ardath on the day of the Feast of the Atonement. On that day, the High Priest put on certain vestments, and was tied at the end of a rope, for when the High Priest entered the innermost chamber any defect in the ritual would result in his immediate death by El Shaddai, and the priests would need to pull him out by that rope around a corner while they averted their eyes from looking at the open door into the Holy of Holies.
But what all this secrecy really did was hide from the priests the fact that the Most Holy Place was not a second chamber at all, but a solid block of stone, with a false door set into it, and once a year El Shaddai created a wormhole passage for the High Priest to float through until he arrived at the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, on a world that was physically very far from the Land We Know, a world where the High Priest weighed just thirty pounds. But even the High Priest didn’t know was there was a trap door set into the gold-covered wooden floor in one corner of the otherworldly chamber containing the Ark.
When Lilith’s people and their handlers arrived in Hadal, they entered a nondescript house in the heart of the city, and Ambe Omphal carefully inspected the place to assure herself nothing had been disturbed. While Maris and Jae stayed behind to guard the house, Ambe led the way through a narrow winding passage that went from the basement under that house in the direction of the Temple, but in eight hundred feet she encountered solid rock, much like the false door in the Temple Holy Place, and indeed, any unauthorized persons who stumbled on the house would come to the same dead end. But for Ambe and her pilgrims, El Shaddai created something like a pipe, just large enough for a person to enter horizontally. And when the pilgrims entered this pipe they felt no weight, as though they were floating underwater. But after crossing through the pipe they could stand and walk again. They felt light and free, and bounded down the passage with joy.
After the Watergate thing, Lilith took Robyn to a valley about three ridges back from Charleston, West Virginia where she could summon her avatar without undue alarm. Robyn took the flight rather well, with more courage than Khondiel, but Talishi was still the coolest passenger Binah ever had.
Lilith could have hustled, but she chose to stretch out the short hop to the Moon to almost a full 24 hour day. Robyn didn’t mind, and eagerly helped to filled in the dead time with even more variations of their already wildly diverse sex. But this time, in free fall, they needed to wrap large elastic bands around their hips to keep from flying apart when they merged together and got the friction going. Robyn was already pregnant and didn’t yet know. Neither did Lilith.
While John F. Kennedy made a speech before Congress setting a goal for America to put a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth before the 1960s were finished, humans and jan from the Land We Know were walking around the spectacular Taurus-Littrow Valley on the near side of the Moon scouting a location for Binah’s proposed settlement there. The site was on the southeastern edge of Mare Serenitatis where an asteroid hit the Moon nearly four billion years ago and created a basin a thousand miles across. The rim of Serenitatis was a ring of mountains which collapsed in some places to create long valleys like Taurus-Littrow aligned toward the center of the Mare. The pyroclastic flows that filled the “Sea of Serenity” was accompanied by lava fountains which covered the whole area with tiny glass beads with bright colors such as orange and yellow. Some of the priestesses of Yeshua thought the beads were pretty and brought some home.
The outer, southeastern end of the valley butted up against a large mountain called East Massif. In the south, there was a narrow canyon that led to another valley. The west side of this canyon was the sheer wall of South Massif. Crossing north to the other side of East Massif, the advance party found another canyon leading to still another valley. Beyond this were the Sculptured Hills, and to the west of those hills was the North Massif. Between North and South Massif was a narrower exit valley about four miles wide, partially blocked by Family Mountain and a sharp fault ridge about three hundred feet high. Binah’s people followed this scarp north.
The eastern foot of the sharp ridge formed a gentle ramp that led up around the western slope of North Massif to some rugged back country where it was difficult for landing craft to safely land. This high country on the back side of North Massif was where Binah chose to build the city of Taurus.
The staging area for construction was the Taurus-Littrow valley itself, and Apollo 15 Command Module pilot Alfred Worden photographed the area in 1971 from orbit with a large panoramic camera. He captured photographic evidence of what looked suspiciously like tracks of wheeled vehicles and some debris that did not resemble stones at all. But after looking at the photos some analysts suspected the tracks and debris were simply from boulders that had fallen down the face of North Massif in a recent (less than 20 million years) moon quake. In any event, the area looked scientifically interesting. Apollo 17 was designated to investigate the area in December 1972, and the mission would bring along a professional geologist.
The room that doubled as the real Holy of Holies was fairly near to the landing bay for the avatar of Binah. It was there that Robyn and Lilith ran into the party they left behind in the Land We Know: Jill, Mike, Jerry and Ambe. And the original Ark of the Covenant was in the center of the chamber, suspended by two poles which were pushed through four pedestals. Lilith was anxious to show everyone what she’d built on the Moon.
We just got here, Robyn said, when Jerry asked how long they’d waited.
What a coincidence, Lilith said with dry British snark. Just like El Shaddai timed it or something.
It’s what we call a cut-and-cover tunnel, but it’s a big one, Lilith said as the Gervasi Crime Family got their first view of Taurus from the south end, very high up near the ceiling. Five hundred thirty-eight feet wide, just as high, and thirty-two hundred twenty-eight feet long.
How did you cut it then?’ Mike asked.
With this little doodad, Lilith said, and held out something golden that looked like the hilt of a knife, but when she squeezed it hard, a black shaft grew out of one end, making a loud hissing noise.
Does this place have an ecological balance? Jill asked.
Not yet. You can see how small the trees still are. But give it time. It’s only been about eleven years now. We’re on the fricken’ Moon.
Robyn looked at the mostly vacant apartment balconies running along both walls all the way down to the other end, almost a full kilometer away. Is it dangerous here? she asked.
There’s no weather, only moonquakes and meteors. Moonquakes are itty bitty, you’ll never feel a single one. Meteors are a slightly bigger problem but the odds of one poking through the roof are still very small, and even if it does happen we can patch it up before your ears pop from the rushing air. A military attack would be worse, but that’s kind of what we’re hoping for, right? That the United States doesn’t give up on space?
How do we get down there? Jerry asked, growing excited.
Oh, that’s the fun part, Lilith said, and began to strap some wings on all of them. Ambe already knew how to do it and was strapping herself up.
No time for flying lessons?
Wing it! Lilith said. She strapped her own set of wings on and kicked free of the ledge. When she jumped, the excess folds of her fabric wings inflated and Lilith found herself gliding slowly down under gravity at 17% of the Earth’s intensity. It looked like so much fun Jill and Robyn immediately followed her. Like babies thrown into a swimming pool they were instantly required to adapt to the changing circumstances of their flight. Mike and Jerry, big brave men though they were, followed somewhat later.
Ambe Omphal, with the ease of long experience, flew circles above and around Jill to stay close enough to speak. She asked her, Why does Jerry Aspin look at me the way he does? I know you’ve seen it.
Ambe! Didn’t your parents tell you about the birds and the bees?
Jerry is a very naughty boy. He has spent the last eight years confined with other men in a prison.
Slowly, understanding dawned on Ambe’s face and she flew off.
Lilith’s Taurus estate danced under Jerry’s feet. Descending into the compound he tried to finesse his landing with small forced deflations of his wings…too much. Too fast. The four females watched him come down like a bat which was shot out of the sky. There was a swimming pool, screw it…
Later, when Jerry was drying himself off in a large room of Lilith’s mansion assigned to him, Ambe Omphal, high priestess of Yeshua Bat-El, quietly came to him wearing a borrowed two-piece bikini with yellow and white floral patterns, and Jerry thought he had won the lottery or something.