TCB


Even as Thaumiel aids Chokhmah to establish a covenant people on Earth, he
implacably opposes her doing the same thing on Barbelo. For years the human
avatar of Chokhmah, a yin named Haziel, has been safeguarded in the city of
Salem by King Melchiyahu, even as Thaumiel positions an army to take Haziel
by force (or kill her in the effort), but now Melchiyahu is dead and hyz
son Melchizedek has returned from Earth to become king. Thaumiel has
stayed his attack, waiting to see what the new king will do.

Haziel wishes to bring matters to a head, and sha wishes to do so without
bringing harm to the city of Salem, so sha counsels Melchizedek to turn har
over to Thaumiel’s mouthpiece Zadkiel. Things would have been difficult for
Melchizedek if hyz sister (and Haziels closest disciple) Princess Khondiel
had been present to protect har good friend and teacher. But Haziel has
sent Khondiel and all har Fallen Angels away to bring a collection of food
to a hungry village far from Salem, and this provides a narrow window of
opportunity for King Melchizedek to send Haziel outside the city gates and
invite Zadkiel and the Eyes of Thaumiel to scoop har up.

Haziel is placed naked in a cubical wooden cage and taken by cart to the
city of Thaumiel. There after many humiliations sha is put through a public
trial to incriminate harself by har own words so there would be no doubt
among the people that har teachings blasphemed Thaumiel, the god of House
Gerash.

The voice of Thaumiel, Lord Zadkiel, serves as the prosecutor, while Prin-
cess Khondiel, through a special waiver in the law of the city forbidding
women to work and to speak, serves in her defense. High Lord Patriarch
Kirodiel Gerash himself serves as judge, jury, and executioner.

The charge is insurrection. Specifically, Haziel is accused of inciting
infidelity to Thaumiel. As in any theocracy, to sin against god is exactly
equivalent to breaking the law.

The ordeal wears on for days as Zadkiel attempts to trip Haziel up with
riddle-words, but hy is dealing with an advanced composite being, both elo-
ah and nephilim, and Haziel has a suitable answer at every turn. Haziel
alone, even before har possession by Chokhmah, would have been able to han-
dle hym. Zadkiel is too stupid to realize hy is being soundly beaten in an
intellectual sense by Haziels rhetoric. But Haziel suspects that none of
this will matter in the end. The outcome of the trial is surely fixed.

Zadkiel turns to the words of Haziel’s famous Sunset Discourse in Salem,
which has been preserved as scripture in a growing collection of scrolls
called the Buron. Hy zeroes in on something that even Melchiyahu had won-
dered about.

ZADKIEL: I find it interesting that you always say sha who embraces Chokh-
mah meaning yin, and obviously excluding yeng. Do you imply that all yin
are your disciples, and no yeng can be?

HAZIEL: Sadly, no, the patriarchal mind-set is not confined to your gender.
By these things you shall know a yin is not my disciple: Sha is caught up
in every fad and does not affirm har uniqueness. Sha grows annoyed at situ-
ations sha cannot help, and so sha is perpetually angry. Controversies that
divide the people and stir up the disciples attract har. Assuredly, no yin
who does these things can call harself Chokhmahs follower. And any yang who
does not do these things may be on the path to considering hymself Chokh-
mahs follower.

ZADKIEL: And yet, contrary to the Code of Thaumiel you employ your disci-
ples at labor, and even call them Fallen Angels, which some say is really
an army of females. An army of females! Such a ridiculous contradiction
has never existed in all of the history of our world.

HAZIEL: The army of a patriarch gathers the wealth and scatters the people.
The Fallen Angels scatter the wealth and gather the people.

ZADKIEL: So you espouse income redistributionism?

HAZIEL: I espouse only giving yen work that draws them together in service
of their sisters. There is no overlap with the work of yeng.

ZADKIEL: Sisters, sisters, sisters! Where do yeng fit into your schemes,
Haziel?

HAZIEL: Just as nephilim were called out of the lower animals to have a
closer relationship with the elohim, Chokhmah has called the Fallen Angels
out of the nephilim that they may unite and nourish other yin and one
another.”

ZADKIEL: Do you mean lesbian separatism? I point out that such a thing
is considered completely unnatural by all our ancient traditions, even if
the commandments of Thaumiel make no mention of it.

HAZIEL: It is natural to stink. It is our frequent bathing and use of per-
fumes that are unnatural. No one suggests turning back the clock on person-
al hygiene. To the Fallen Angels, the word unnatural simply means not on
the level of animals.

Zadkiel runs completely out of arguments. He tells the judge there are no
further questions. The judge orders a recess before the defense can begin.

KHONDIEL (in private): I think I can handle this Zadkiel fellow just fine,
but why do I have to? I saw how you simply conjured up a bubble and sent
my brother to Earth. Why not conjure up another bubble and walk out of
here?

HAZIEL: You dont understand, Khondiel. On Barbelo, Thaumiel controls the
position of his endpoint of the fold-line absolutely. I told him I was
ready to send Melchizedek back to Earth immediately and the bubble ap-
peared.

KHONDIEL: Thaumiel does as you bid?

HAZIEL: In that project on Earth we are united.But in this trial here on
Barbelo we most certainly are not. Do not be afraid, Khondiel. I am confi-
dent that you will do well.

Although sha is not trained to act as a legal advocate, Princess Khondiel
has been a good student of Haziel, and har spirited defense would have been
more than adequate to secure Haziels release in any other court on any
world.

At first sha focuses on the fact that the Code of Thaumiel had come well
after Haziel began to teach, spitting Zadkiels own words back at hym when
hy first began to preach in Salem. Khondiel concluded that clearly the
Code of Thaumiel had come after Haziels ministry had taken root on Barbelo,
and might even have been introduced purely in reaction to her teachings.

KHONDIEL: At no time in our history have we ever condemned a person for
committing actions that were made illegal after the offense. And even if
that is to be the case in this instance, there is still the question of
jurisdiction. Haziel was apprehended just outside the walls of Salem, in
lands ruled absolutely by my brother King Melchizedek. It is said the scep-
ter is given to a king without repentance, short of war, of which there has
been none, which in turn makes this trial itself illegal.

All these objections and many more are allowed to spool out until Judge
Kirodiel grows tired of each one in turn and instructs the princess to move
on to har next one. The unfairness of the situation begins to grind Khondi-
el down, but Haziel takes it all calmly. The important thing is not so much
the outcome, which is certainly predetermined, but that the people in the
courtroom see the injustice of the whole thing.

As the defense of Haziel draws to a close, Khondiel puts Haziel on the
stand and swears har to veracity.

KHONDIEL: Lady Haziel, despite all the evidence we have heard for the
charge of impiety toward Thaumiel, you still maintain your innocence. How
can this be?

HAZIEL: For most wives on Barbelo it is not a powerful decision to stay
married, because har only alternative is to starve. In the same way, it
cannot be a powerful decision to worship Thaumiel anywhere in the Middle
Land, because the alternative is a trial and execution.

KHNODIEL: So my Lady, you contend that any piety which is compelled by law
is invalid?

HAZIEL: Precisely. Such piety is as phony as the love found in many, if not
most, patriarchal marriages, as I indicated. How much more vital is the
love of two people who are utterly free to stay or to part, yet who still
choose to stay together! Does that sound risky? Living dangerously is the
very thing that lends excitement and significance to our lives. Only with
conflict can we flare with incentive to create a new destiny.

ZADKIEL (in cross-questioning): New destiny? Doesnt that go against every-
thing we have been taught about the inexorable workings of fate?”

HAZIEL: Thaumiel once told Chokhmah that to take fate into ones own hands
was to rise beyond good and evil. In reality, a rock and a tree are beyond
good and evil, and so is everyone suborned to the laws of cause and chance.
Rocks, trees, and people who are not permitted, or refuse, to make a choice
are amoral. Not immoral, mind you, but amoral. The entire field of ethics
simply doesnt apply to them.

ZADKIEL: So you dont think High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash ought to
legislate morality?

HAZIEL: Not that he ought not legislate morality to but that he literally
cannot. Its a logical absurdity, like a three-sided rectangle.

Zadkiel stands down.

KHONDIEL: The defense rests.

The trial wraps up with a judgment entirely against Haziel, to no ones sur-
prise except perhaps Princess Khondiel, who was allowed to pay one final
visit to har client in the dungeons beneath the Temple of Thaumiel before
the sentence is to be carried out.

The first few minutes are spent in a wordless embrace, as best as can be
managed through intervening iron bars. Then Khondiel glances around, assur-
ing herself that their attorney-client privilege of private counsel, no
matter how brief, is still inviolate.

KHONDIEL: Guilty! And a sentence of death. I cant believe it Haziel. So
what’s your plan?”

HAZIEL: Plan? There is no plan. Look around you Khondiel! Look at this se-
curity.

Haziel reaches through the bars again to touch her friend’s face.

HAZIEL: They’ve been planning this thing for years. And that trial? It all
stinks of Thaumiel moving behind the scenes. He wants something from me. It
only remains for Thaumiel to lay it all out in the open. He has another
much easier way to communicate with me but he refuses to use it.

KHONDIEL: Khondiel says, What if youre wrong? Granted, thats not very of-
ten, but if you are wrong then I say we fall back to my plan.

HAZIEL (narrowing har eyes): Khondiel, dont do anything stupid. Better yet,
dont do anything at all.

They are interrupted by Khondiels escorting guard, a kind but unswervingly
loyal yang.

GUARD: I’m sorry, thats all the time I am permitted to give you.

Hy takes Khondiel by the arm and gently but insistently steers her out of
the chamber.

HAZIEL (calling out after har): Khondiel! Just drop it, do you hear me?

But then Haziel sighs, knowing the princess all too well.

After Khondiel is escorted away Haziels next visitor is the prophet Zadki-
el, who comes down into the dungeon and moves very close to Haziels cell to
look directly into her eyes. Hy studies har quietly for a long time.

ZADKIEL: Thaumiel sends his regards . . . Chokhmah.

HAZIEL: What gave it away?

ZADKIEL: In the court transcript Thaumiel could not help but notice you
used for your defense certain private conversations known only to himself
and Chokhmah. But that is not the only thing. The Lord Thaumiel has also
learned, after the fact, that you put on something of a conjuring act just
before he sent the fold-door to Salem to whisk Melchizedek away. Only
Chokhmah could have timed things so.

HAZIEL: Point conceded. If you have spoken to Thaumiel then you already
know only too well I can choose to end my own life at any time. No threat
of death or torment can make me do his bidding, let alone the bidding of
one of his slaves.

ZADKIEL: Oh, a martyr is the last thing we want, Haziel. Unfortunately,
your friend Princess Khondiel has har mind quite made up. Do you really
think the Eyes of Thaumiel are unaware of the preparations sha has made to
rescue you?

Haziel frowns at this, for sha harself is in the dark as to Khondiel’s
plan.

HAZIEL: What does sha have in mind?

ZADKIEL: You will be proud when you see it unroll. Fallen Angel commandos!
Guards taken out with a head twist. Secret disguises and safe houses from
here to the edge of the city. But as youve probably surmised just now, its
a trap. That way we catch Khondiel red-handed, scoop up key Fallen Angels,
and crush your whole movement over the span of a single night. Then you
yourself are to be broken and braided on the wheel with no one left to ral-
ly around your rotting corpse.

HAZIEL: Khondiel may be young and female, but dont underestimate anyone who
has spent three years under my wing. And dont sell Khondiel’s Fallen Angels
short either.

ZADKIEL: Well as it happens the Lord Thaumiel has a far better plan that
will save the lives of Khondiel and all of her Fallen Angels, and it doesnt
require you to do physically do anything except refrain from terminating
your own life. If you agree, your sentence of death will be set aside and
Khondiel has no reason to carry out her suicide run. Instead, we shall pa-
rade you captive in a cage through every city, town, and village in the
Middle Land.

Haziel knows that it would have precisely the opposite effect, but takes
the opportunity to bluff.

HAZIEL: No! That would have the effect of discrediting me and everything
that I have taught. I refuse.

ZADKIEL: Haziel, you must not refuse, because the alternative is Khondiel,
remember? Har plan?

Haziel sighs, and makes a show of hanging har head.

HAZIEL: So no End of Cycle? Is that all Mastema requires?

ZADKIEL: No, the Lord requires just one other thing from you, and that is
the secret of merging with a living avatar, as you have done with the body
of this glassblower’s daughter.

HAZIEL: I can give him the secret, but I cannot be responsible if he abuses
it. He risks dissolution.

ZADKIEL: Let the Lord Thaumiel judge if that is true.

In the end Haziel has to accept the humiliation because it really is the
only alternative open to her. She has no fear of execution or torture. If
her body is destroyed she would live on for many lifetimes of yin as the
star Sol. For Haziel was no longer solely nephilim, and Chokhmah was no
longer solely an eloah, but both were a single hybrid being. However Haziel
did have an intense fear that har friends would attempt to rescue her from
execution, and knowing the efficiency of the Eyes of Thaumiel it would mean
certain capture and a slow and bitter death for Khondiel and all the Fallen
Angels sha led.

So Haziel agrees not to commit suicide. Sha agrees to give Thaumiel the
procedure for taking possession of a world-dweller. And he claims the
body of none less than High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash, and thus comes
to rule the house of the White Beards directly.

From the moment sha is ejected from the city Khondiel never ceases plotting
to get Haziel free of Zadkiel’s bondage.

Far in the west of the lands claimed by family Gerash, on the Western Sea
at the mouth of the river Dashok lies the city of Salem. Many yen from the
city of Thaumiel remove to there, and some of these join Princess Khondi-
el’s Fallen Angels, a fierce army of female warriors that is utterly with-
out precedent on Barbelo. Many yeng go to Salem as well, those who believe
all nephilim are on a level, and yen should never be treated as mere
property. Salem, then, is a “liberal” city, home to those who are disgusted
and horrified at the sight of Haziel being paraded naked in a wooden cage
across the chilly Middle Lands of Barbelo.

As Salem fills up with the enemies of Thaumiel, the prophet Zadkiel sur-
rounds the city with many Eyes of Thaumiel in their black livery, and they
turn back anyone who is not native to that city and try to enter. Princess
Khondiel has rallied all in the Middle Lands who are sympathetic to Haziel
and are willing to make the journey to Salem. But now the time is come for
har to try to enter the city harself, yet sha cannot not travel openly, for
the blockade is pursued with vigor.

But one of the farmers who lives nigh to the city conceals Khondiel within
a wooden box and drives to the lines of the Eyes of Thaumiel who ring the
city. There no wagons are permitted to pass. But the farmer and three stur-
dy dirks in hyz employ take the box off the wagon and bear it themselves
toward the city using two poles threaded through brass rings on the side of
the box while another yang drives the wagon back to the farm. Yet they are
not alone, for many other farmers must resort to the same expedient to move
their goods into the city.

One of the Eyes of Thaumiel grows suspicious and barks to the yeng carrying
Khondiel.

EYE: What yang of you be the loadmaster?

The three dirks let fall the box and edge fearfully away from oldest among
them.

SIBIEL: This shipment be mine, lord. I am Sibiel, a farmer of the valley of
Odargas.

EYE: Dost thou make vouchsafement for the goods thou bearest?

SIBIEL: I do, milord.”

EYE: Yet I would see therein.

Sibiel suddenly looks crestfallen. Resigned, hy tells the dirks to open the
box. Haziel’s closest disciple Khondiel tumbles out, dazed by the sudden
change from darkness to the light of day. The other three laborers feign
outrage at the smuggling attempt in an effort to save their own skins.

EYEL Stand ye apart from Sibiel, all who value your lives, for contrary to
the will of Thaumiel hy bearest aid to the fugitive sister of King Mel-
chizedek to enter Salem.

But Khondiel is not cowed by the pretensions of this so-called Eye of
Thaumiel. Sha curses hym in a loud voice.

KHONDIEL: May Chokhmah send down fire from heaven and smite thee and all
thy companions!

At first the farmers from Odargas think the princess is joking, but immedi-
ately after sha speaks, brilliant orange bolts of fire shoot down from the
clear sky. So bright and hot is this fire that the yeng think their own
eyebrows have been burnt off. The fire from the sky vaporizes twelve Eyes
of Thaumiel in a single simultaneous targeted strike, leaving only smoking
grease spots where the yeng once had stood.

In fine, Chokhmah sent fire down from heaven and smote the Eye of Thaumiel
and all hyz companions.

And Princess Khondiel, after thanking Sibiel and hyz farm hands and paying
them well, advances to the ferry to cross to Salem unmolested.

But the priesthood soon notices the missing Eyes of Thaumiel, and the true
story is wrung out from witnesses by torment and threats of torment. The
priests learn that bolts of fire from the sky killed a dozen Eyes of
Thaumiel. And when Kirodiel hears what happened hy knows the attack was di-
rect interference from Chokhmah, the first such meddling that hyz daughter
has dared to do with her avatar on Barbelo.

Thaumiel speaks to his prophet Zadkiel that evening in the part of the cas-
tle where he parks his own flying avatar.

KIRODIEL: I am confronted with a pair of dilemmas. Just as I, Thaumiel,
have taken possession of this male body and go by the name Kirodiel, so has
the eloah Chokhmah taken possession of that yin’s body and goes by the name
of Haziel. And yet I have commanded you to preach that I am the only god,
and that other gods do not exist.

ZADKIEL: And you may trust, Lord, that as your prophet I will foster and
maintain that belief among the people.

KIRODIEL: You must take the utmost care where Haziel is concerned, for sha
is indeed Chokhmah, one of the elohim, despite my propaganda to the con-
trary, which you at least would do well not to believe. The cage is neces-
sary, because I am trying to discredit Haziel as a nephil, and…for other
reasons. The people must not come to believe this yin named Haziel is in
union with an eloah.

But even as hy speaks Kirodiel is troubled, because hy knows Zadkiel has
come to believe that hyz struggle against Haziel means that Chokhmah her-
self should be held in contempt, which is the impulse of the world-dwellers
when dealing with enemies among their own order. Yet Chokhmah is an eloah
like hymself, and friend or foe, hy thought the world-dwellers should give
her the respect that was her due. Thaumiel would not tolerate the slight-
est contempt from Zadkiel in the direction of Chohhmah.

KIRODIEL: My other dilemma centers around the narrative I have constructed
that yin are unwarlike, and are to be treated as mere property. Khondiel
and har so-called Fallen Angels, who are without peer on Barbelo, contra-
dict this narrative every day. They cannot be permitted to continue, and
yet when it comes down to it, who is really worthy to confront them?

ZADKIEL: Surely my Lord makes a ridiculous joke.

Kirodiel continues to explain things to Zadkiel, as though hyz prophet had
not interrupted at all. Hyz mouth screws up in an expression of utter dis-
dain.

KIRODIEL: Khondiel has exactly one weakness. Khondiel’s only weakness, of
course, is Haziel harself. And so I am willing to tolerate the indignity of
a human incarnation of an eloah being caged like a beast, because I assure
you that is the only thing staying the annihilation of this army by the
Fallen Angels. Yet it is also the only thread that will assure the destruc-
tion of the Fallen Angels. Now listen carefully, and I will give you your
orders.

So Kirodiel gives Zadkiel a detailed strategy, but the only thing that
really stands out in Zadkiel’s mind is hyz instructions on what to do with
the Salemites:

KIRODIEL: Make the inhabitants of the city of Salem to be a spoil for dogs
and all manner of birds, and let the will of Thaumiel be brought to ful-
fillment!

At dusk in the city of Salem, in the castle Brys which is built on a two ji
high bluff on the north side of the mouth of the river Dashok, Khondiel
presents harself for an audience with har brother King Melchizedek. Sha
goes with two of har chief lieutenants who have preceded har to Salem by
many days. The king has not seen hyz sister face-to-face since hy was un-
ceremoniously dispatched back to Earth, and hy longs to embrace har as a
sibling would, yet this is a formal audience, and further hy wishes to see
what influence Haziel has wrought in har.

After Khondiel is announced and kneels before hym, the King tells har to
rise. Then hy looks hard at Khondiel with a piercing gaze.

MELCHIZEDEK: It gladdens my heart to see you again, sister. I find the
counsel of the gods has sundered them one from another. Once I was sent to
the other world to serve both of them, but now as king of this city I have
been forced to choose between them. And know this, Princess Khondiel: I
have chosen to stand with Chokhmah.

KHONDIEL: My brother the King knows that I embrace Chokhmah and all those
who also embrace her. And further the King knows hyz sister is filled with
unbreakable love for hym, and is loyal to a fault. Therefore, my brother
and King, if you will, command me.

MELCHIZEDEK: The Eyes of Thaumiel long pressured our father to turn Haziel
over to them when sha dwelt here, and now that our father is dead and Hazi-
el taken, they also demand as prisoners the Fallen Angels who have taken
refuge here in Salem. They have closely watched the approaches to my city
for your own return, but now I detect almost a frenzy in their doings. The
ferrymaster could tell me little. Do you know why they are acting so?

KHONDIEL: Yes I do know, brother. There was a kind of demonstration that
Haziel and I arranged for the benefit of witnesses.

MELCHIZEDEK: Then you have been in contact with har?

KHONDIEL: Zadkiel is stupid and sloppy, brother. I can (and have) get in
contact with Haziel at will.

MELCHIZEDEK: What happened at the ferry dock?

KHONDIEL: In a show of pretense I called upon Chokhmah to smite the Eyes of
Thaumiel when they discovered me and sought to kill the kind farmer who
tried to smuggle me into the city. Then fire fell from heaven and destroyed
twelve Eyes of Thaumiel utterly, such that no evidence remained that they
had been living nephilim only moments before. Forgive me if this has con-
strained your counsels, Sire, but it was the only way to break through the
lines.

MELCHIZEDEK: Then it is clear that Thaumiel will now be openly at war with
us,” the King says, “and Salem can no longer be called a sanctuary to you,
nor to your Fallen Angels, nor any of the people within our walls. Soon
every hand of family Gerash will be raised against us.

KHONDIEL: Then are you to command me and the Fallen Angels to leave the
city at this time, dear brother?

MELCHIZEDEK: Far from it, Khondiel. I would ask you to command your Fallen
Angels in league with the forces of the city, for soon the Army of Thaumiel
will arrive seeking vengeance for their missing Eyes of Mastema.

And this Khondiel most eagerly agreed to do.

Many years before war came to Salem, on a hill near the city, King Gordiel,
the great-grandfather of Melchizedek, hitched a wagon to a tree with a knot
so elaborate no one has ever been able to untie it. At that time an oracle
said (or was commanded by Gordiel to say) that whoever unraveled this so-
called Gordian Knot would rule the entire world of Barbelo.

Zadkiel had heard the prophecy, of course, so when the Army of Thaumiel
draws near the city hy finds the wagon and lays hyz own eyes on the famous
knot. For several days, while the army camps in the surrounding country-
side, Zadkiel tries to undo the knot, but to no avail. This hy does in se-
cret, for it could be construed by Kirodiel as an attempt to usurp hyz power
by fulfilling the prophecy. Very well, since the wagon is not going any-
where soon, Zadkiel has hyz men lash Haziel’s cage to the wagon of King
Gordius. For Haziel had been brought at last to the outskirts of the final
holdout city of Salem to taunt har supporters there.

At a beautiful blue pool in the mountains ringing the city of Salem, Khon-
diel and a squad of har Fallen Angels refresh themselves, then assume their
usual mode of riding slowly on their horses while they watch the greater
perimeter of the city for intruders. Suchwise the Eyes of Thaumiel had also
done before they were inexplicably withdrawn some weeks ago.

A nearby torrent of water is so loud that Khondiel finds it hard to hear
har chief lieutenant, Imriel, speaking to har. Sha tells Imriel to repeat
what sha had just said, but a bit louder.

IMRIEL: We should be back to the ferry by nightfall. We nearly did a com-
plete circle around the city.

The waterfall completely blanks out the sound and vibration of onrushing
hooves until it is nearly too late. Not even Khondiel’s hypersensitive mare
gives warning. Suddenly Gerash horseyeng race up behind Khondiel, Imriel,
and the others. At the last second Khondiel’s sword is brought out, only to
crash against a mighty iron rod. There are sparks and Khondiel is knocked
clean off har horse.

Another horseyang decapitates Imriel in one smooth motion. Khondiel is
stunned, and grieves for Imriel, but her horse has the intelligence to lin-
ger with Khondiel rather than follow her equine instinct, which is to bolt.
Shaking har head clear, Khondiel mounts up again. Imriel is dead but four
of har Fallen Angels survived the assault and they rally around har. Lum-
bering after them, sha recognizes their battle standard and mouths the vile
name of their general with all the contempt sha could muster:

KHNODIEL: Zadkiel!

Khondiel chases the cavalrymen like the cold wind that presages the long
Barbelo winter. Khondiel’s companions loose many arrows even from their
full gallop, and one of them slays the iron staff wielder. Two others who
blocked Zadkiel from harm also fall, so no one remains to run interference
while Khondiel slowly closes in on her fleeing target.

But Zadkiel is too far ahead. Soon hy dives into the safety of a vast for-
est glade guarded by a large armed encampment. Contrary to har every wish
Khondiel rears back and brings har horse to a stop, and the other Fallen
Angels conform to har movements. Khondiel scans all the banners and stand-
ards of the army arrayed before har and recognizes this as the main bulk of
the Army of Thaumiel.

But every indication sha had put together from the path of burning towns
said Zadkiel was twelve or fifteen leagues to the west. He must have led
hyz army here on a forced march all night. But how did hy know to come to
precisely this place?

Thaumiel, Khondiel mutters, answering her own unspoken question.

Almost in answer, the black avatar of Thaumiel roars overhead, insurance
against any more help from Chokhmah.

Zadkiel orders that the canvas covering Haziel’s cage be removed, and then
Haziel is revealed to Khondiel. Zadkiel is strangely disappointed that
Khondiel doesn’t brim over with emotion. Hy has no idea Khondiel has been
in frequent contact with har.

ZADKIEL: You can kill me where you stand, Khondiel, but that wouldn’t be
healthy for Haziel.

Khondiel stares at Zadkiel with first wide, then narrowing eyes. Sha rides
a bit closer.

KHONDIEL: Don’t sink to this, Zadkiel. I expect as much from Kirodiel. It
isn’t worthy of an unpossessed yang of the House of Gerash.

Now Khondiel is close enough that Zadkiel can speak in a more dignified
tone.

ZADKIEL: Yet I find I want you working for me and not against me. Here are
your only options, Khondiel. You can defeat my legions and possibly rescue
poor little Haziel, but that outcome is not assured. To really keep Haziel
safe you must ride at the head of my army and go where I command you in the
East Lands and the West Lands, and in Salem, and every place where Thaumiel
is held in contempt.

Khondiel is frustrated by her vulnerability. Sha wonders if all her enemies
have learned Haziel is her one weakness.

Zadkiel seems to read har thoughts.

ZADKIEL: Haziel has become a noose around your neck, Khondiel, and the
closer you get to har the tighter that noose becomes. How easy it is to
make you dance with a few simple threats to Haziel’s life!

KHONDIEL: Where is the honor in this, Zadkiel? The glory? You want me to
command your army, but do you really want my decisions for you tainted by
holding a yin I care about hostage?

ZADKIEL: Not at all, but you have left me no choice.

Then Khondiel gets har horse up to full speed and charges toward the heart
of the enemy encampment. Moving in a well-practiced dance, a century of
Thaumiel’s best pikeyeng suddenly arrange themselves around Talishi’s cage,
with their forest of spikes pointing directly at the approach of Khondiel.
So Zadkiel has put Haziel on display, tempting Khondiel, at the same time
making it clear Haziel is completely beyond har grasp. Haziel shouts,

HAZIEL: Khondiel! Forget about me!

Khondiel’s voice breaks as sha calls back tearfully.

KHONDIEL: Don’t you know by now that’s the one thing I can never do?

But sha could do nothing more here. Khondiel flashes Zadkiel with a glance
of pure hatred and kicks her steed, turning away to flee the scene.

ZADKIEL (to Haziel): Sha is a true warrior.

This earns hym a wad of spit in hyz face. Hy quietly wipes it away.

ZADKIEL: Sha knows. The things you love are always used against you. Al-
ways! Sha knows!

Sibiel, the farmer from Odargas who smuggled Khondiel to Salem, is fingered
by the three farm hands hy hired when they are threatened with torture. The
Eyes of Thaumiel elect not to kill Sibiel, for it would seem a waste of
good muscle power. Zadkiel’s army is short-handed. Sibiel is issued army
livery and pressed into service as a waterbearer in Zadkiel’s camp. Having
little else to do for entertainment, often the Gerash soldiers trip hym,
laughing together with their buddies as Sibiel trudges back again and again
to refill hyz pot.

One night Sibiel wanders off to the edge of the camp where a hooded shape
tackles hym and drags hym into a small ravine. It is Khondiel! Sha orders
hym to switch their clothes. Hy wants to stay and help rescue Haziel, but
after some stern words from Princess Khondiel, together with ample thanks
for what he has already done for har, Sibiel fades off into the night under
a black robe.

Khondiel adjusts Sibiel’s second-hand armor and helmet, which is almost
worse than no protection at all. Sha pads out har ample curves and puts on
false facial hair to offset the soft feminine features that belies har sta-
tus as commander of the foremost army on Barbelo. Then sha drifts into the
camp fetching water for the yeng and searching for Haziel in the area where
Sibiel told har sha was being held captive.

Haziel is held within the wooden cage that has been her home for far too
long now. The cage is moved off the wagon tied to a tree by the Gordian
Knot and relocated to the center of the camp, guarded by two yeng. Tonight
it is covered with a canvas to keep Zadkiel’s yeng from leering at the nude
young Haziel instead of watching out for Khondiel as they were ordered to
do.

Har Sibiel uniform works well. Khondiel can swagger with the best of them.
The guards permit har to enter with a ladle of rancid water. Sha appears
between the canvas and the cage. For light Khondiel wears a green flexible
band of intricate make, a gift from Haziel. In the center it possesses a
brilliant white light that allows Khondiel to move on the darkest nights,
and there is none like it anywhere on Barbelo. The canvas covering Haziel’s
cage is thick enough that no light escapes to betray the princess.

HAZIEL: Khondiel!

Haziel is filled with joy when sha sees the face of har disciple. Then sha
seems to be filled with consternation.

HAZIEL: Nice beard.

KHONDIEL: Hush! Take my headband.

HAZIEL: That was my gift to you, Khondiel, and I never ask for my gifts to
be returned.

KHONDIEL: You will have to make an exception this time.

Sha passes it to Haziel between the interlaced bars.

HAZIEL: Do you want me to use it to escape?

KHONDIEL (with a smirk): Please don’t do anything stupid, Haziel. Better
yet, don’t do anything at all!

Haziel immediately gets the joke and smiles.

HAZIEL: Point taken.

Khondiel offers the water, such as it is.

KHONDIEL: This headband is the only thing I have that says ‘Khondiel was
here’ without mistake. Zadkiel will come in here later and gloat over you
like evil warlords always seem to do. At that time I want you to let hym
see you have my headband. That’s my message to hym, and it is a very simple
one: That I can come or go at will, which, as you well know by now, I can.

HAZIEL: It will rattle hym good.

KHONDIEL: The more yeng hy has guarding you, the less yeng he’ll have on
the field of battle tomorrow.

Haziel smiles at the princess. It is well planned.

HAZIEL: I knew you had a scheme for getting me out of here, Khondiel.

And they share the most heartfelt kiss of their lives, knowing it could
very well be the last one. Then Khondiel leaves, promising to return with
an army to get Haziel free.

At sunrise Zadkiel sees that hyz plan has worked. Hy has flushed Khondiel
out of the city. But Thaumiel has been proven absolutely right about Khon-
diel’s network of local favors, culiminating in this: Accompanying Khondiel
and the Fallen Angels is King Melchizedek of Salem and all of hyz men under
arms.

Haziel is visible in the center of the camp, held naked and shivering with-
in the wooden cage with a heavy guard around har representing a fair frac-
tion of Zadkiel’s available men.

KHONDIEL (to King Melchizedek mounted on a horse next to har): And that is
his own fatal flaw My ruse has worked perfectly. Haziel has now become
Zadkiel’s greatest weakness, a precious jewel tying down a third of hyz
yeng just as our attack begins.

So their armies began to clash fiercely, and with the disparity in numbers
the battle gradually begins to go against Zadkiel. Princess Khondiel
fights har way to the top of the hill behind Zadkiel’s army where the wagon
is tied up all by itself now. Zadkiel spots what Khondiel is trying to do
in the fog of battle and moves to cut har off, lest sha solve the Gordian
Knot and become the beneficiary of the prophecy, destined to rule all Bar-
belo.

They both dismount and launch into an extended face-to-face sword duel. The
tip of Zadkiel’s blade slashes Khondiel’s bare abdomen as hy attains first
blood. Khondiel feigns shock at the pain and injury and pretends to slow
down. Zadkiel, seeing that, let his guard down for just a fraction of a
second, but it is enough. Seeing har slim opening, Khondiel lets loose a
ferocious kick to his face and Zadkiel is laid out cold.

Khondiel is sorely tempted to finish hym off right there, but har eyes set-
tle on the forgotten wagon on the hilltop and sha runs to it instead. Sha
tries to untie the Gordian knot that secures the wagon to a mighty tree,
but like many that came before har sha makes no headway. Meanwhile Thaumi-
el’s cavalry is rapidly closing in on har.

Finally, with no time to lose, Khondiel just cuts the knot with har sword.
The wagon begins to roll downhill and sha jumps inside, hanging on for dear
life. Har war cry grips the attention of the troops guarding Haziel, and
they gape at the horror approaching them. All of the yeng flee as Khondi-
el’s desperate gamble plays out.

Khondiel ducks inside the wagon and braces harself as the wagon collides
with the cage at breakneck speed, shattering both the cage and the wagon to
splinters. Somehow both yen survive the collision. Khondiel is more bruised
and beaten than sha has ever been before but Haziel is free.

King Melchizedek and the Fallen Angels continue the rout and pursue the
scattered remnants of Thaumiel’s army into the forest. But the king knows
this defeated army represents only a fraction of the strength that House
Gerash can bring to bear on hym, and its relatively small size is itself a
gesture of contempt on the part of Thaumiel for the abilities of Salem to
defend itself. Melchizedek knows the next time there will be be less con-
tempt, and a far greater host. But for now hy shrugs. That is a worry for
another day.

When Zadkiel regains consciousness hy takes in hyz utter humiliation from
hyz vantage on the hilltop. Cursing, hy flees the field alone on hyz horse.
For the rest of hyz life, which consists of little more than hyz long ride
back to Thaumiel, hy contemplates how to explain the defeat to hyz lord.

KHONDIEL: No more adventures for a while, Haziel. I’ve cracked a rib, for
starters.

Haziel accepts a blanket and throws it around har naked form. Being de-
prived of clothing for so long had caused har much suffering. Barbelo was
largely an ice world after all.

HAZIEL: Thank you, Khondiel! But why did you throw away everything you’ve
worked for since you met me and first questioned who you were, just to save
my life?

For har part Khondiel is almost at a loss for words.

KHONDIEL: What do you mean ‘why’? Didn’t you find that cage a little
drafty?

Haziel holds up the end of the wagon’s rope.

HAZIEL: I’m talking about the Gordian Knot. I’ll admit, cutting it was
probably not what your forefather’s oracle had in mind, maybe, but now you
are destined to rule all of Barbelo. Fate! The unreformed Khondiel must
return now.

KHONDIEL: Must she? You say Thaumiel was behind all this, but do you think
Thaumiel will have hyz way forever? What if the oracle really means the
spirit of the new Khondiel will take over Barbelo?” Har eyes brim with
moisture,and har voice breaks. “The Khondiel who changed on that unforget-
table day when sha first met you.

Haziel is shocked at first, then sha smiles as understanding fully dawns.

HAZIEL: The new Khondiel? If people everywhere became willing to do for
each other what you did for me today, then love won today, Khondiel! It may
take many more centuries to play out, on two worlds, but I really think you
turned the corner here today. Once and for all . . . love won!
—————————————————————————
The prophet Zadkiel comes before Thaumiel Incarnate in the person of High
Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash and abases himself on all fours. Hy brings
bad tidings of hyz defeat in the Battle of Salem and the escape of Lady
Haziel. Although hy phrases things in a way that hy practiced on the long
journey from Salem, Zadkiel fully expects to be decapitated at any moment,
and the only thing that surprises hym is how long hy can still see and hear
and feel things after hyz head is separated from hyz body.

Kirodiel is unhappy about the defeat, to be sure, but hy remains sanguine
overall. Hy has held back a greater part of the armed forces of family Ger-
ash in reserve, and hy knows also that King Melchizedek and especially hyz
sister are formidable opponents, so the initial setback is not unexpected.
Kirodiel makes no move except to post the Eyes of Thaumiel to the east,
north, and south of Salem. Hy garrisons the road leading to the city in
diverse places. Only the actual island upon which Salem sits and the way
west over water lies open, but this leads ultimately to a Gerash stronghold
in the ice already continuously well-garrisoned and provisioned from an
earlier age. Kirodiel bides hyz time and waits for Haziel to make har
move.

The Fallen Angels Azarael and Jael make their way through the ice tunnels
of that very stronghold by stealth.So far they have only been discovered by
three soldiers, one alone by accident, and also by another two who formed a
roaming pair of sentries. The bodies of the three yeng are stuffed far
down side tunnels where they quite probably might never be discovered.

The yen find the location of the largest cave in the ice, indeed the main
storeroom of grain. Not even Chokhmah herself knows the exact position of
that space, which indeed is the purpose of sending Khondiel’s best lieuten-
ants on the mission. According to Haziel’s specific instructions, Azarael
leaves Khondiel’s headband, a gift from Haziel, inside a container near the
center of the chamber in such a way that it would not likely be discovered
and moved, even if the storeroom was being actively drawn down, which it
obviously was not.

After that Azarael and Jael retreat down side tunnels far from the central
cave, for they have also received instructions to remain at a safe distance
until such a time as they detect a (as Haziel put it, using extreme under-
statement) “disturbance”.The two yen are not sent as suicide raiders. They
would never starve amid a bounty of Gerash stores.But it was always cold.
Fortunately, they had a good remedy for that that never got tiresome. In
the cosy little rat’s nest they make for themselves Jael slips nude between
fur blankets and purrs to Azarael to come hither.

King Melchizedek with the aid of Khondiel and har Fallen Angels prevailed
in the Battle of Salem, but the king knows time is not hyz ally. It cannot
not be hidden (and indeed Kirodiel wants it to be widely known) that the full
might of House Gerash is now drawn up against Salem. The road to the east
is blocked, the vale of the River Dashok and the shores of the Rammon Sea
north and south are occupied, and only Aramel Island, where Salem lies,
remains free due to the vigilance of the Fallen Angels.

Melchizedek considers abdicating the throne, but no one believes the High
Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash would seat Princess Khondiel on the throne
to succeed him, and a successor more to the liking of Kirodiel is unthinka-
ble to everyone who now dwells in Salem. So the king commands Haziel, Khon-
diel, the Fallen Angels, and all who would go with them to embark on a
quest long in preparation.

They are to sail from Salem across the sea until they reach the far shore
in the uttermost west of the Middle Lands. Thence they are to ascend the
foothills and mountains that lead ever up to the great ice barrier where
many provisions are laid up against the day of a second world flood. But in
the caves and tunnels of the ice fierce battle is assured, for the stores
are defended by the vigilance of the Patriarch’s forces from any that would
raid them, no matter from east or west.

If they prevail in the battle for the caves of ice, then continuing west
for many more leagues the ice ends, and descending once more the travelers
would come to the West Lands and the fastnesses of the seafaring Family
Bellon. For the Brown Beards are no friends of the Gerash patriarch, and
their king has often boasted hy would welcome any refugees from the Middle
Land. So steadfast is this emnity on the part of House Bellon that Haziel
is willing to commit the other three families to the council before she
even speaks to the Bellon king.

Haziel thanks King Melchizedek for his lifetime of faithfulness and service
to Chokhmah on two worlds, and takes har leave of him, knowing full well
they will never meet again.

HAZIEL: “We part, and I have a debt I can never repay, for I have made far
more and greater demands on you than you have made requests of me.

MELCHIZEDEK: There has been a spring in this city. It has lasted far long-
er and tasted far sweeter than we dared to dream. If winter is now to come
at last to Salem, let it be that such a spring might be known in the West
and East lands as well.Go in peace, Lady Haziel!

The final parting between Khondiel and har brother is bitter, for they are
of that rare class of siblings who not only shared the obligatory familial
love, but who actually shared a great mutual fondness all through childhood
and into adulthood as well. With Khondiel goes all of the Fallen Angels,
and hundreds of others of both nephilim genders who had made their homes in
Salem when the teachings of Haziel struck a chord in their hearts.

The avatar of Chokhmah descends from the sky and makes landfall outside of
the city for the final time. Lady Haziel climbs inside together with Prin-
cess Khondiel. Within the avatar there is room enough for several persons,
and Chokhmah has prepared her avatar to support life high above Barbelo
where there is no air. The avatar lifts into the heavens in a great arc
intending to make made landfall again in the far west of the East Lands,
which is home to the Gold Beards.

Soon after the avatar leaves, and the ships carrying the rest of the exiles
move out of the harbor and west over the horizon, the entire island of Ara-
mel is discovered to be unguarded. In short order Aramel is taken by the
Gerash Army. Outside of the city walls, Salem is beset on all sides.

Khondiel has flown within the avatar many times before, so the terror of
the flight no longer holds any sway over har, if ever it did. For a few
minutes at the top of the arc, Haziel and Khondiel are wonderfully free of
the forces that pressed them into their seat during the ascent, forces
which will become present once again when the avatar begins to descend to
Barbelo. For that brief time at the top the yen find much amusement bounc-
ing off of the walls and each other.

KHONDIEL: What is the source of the fires that lift us into the skies over
the world? Your avatar never seems to require replenishment of its fuel as
a campfire would.

HAZIEL: The fires that propel us come from within my own body. No flatu-
lence jokes please. They are the fires of a living sun, channeled through a
fattened fold-space link in the same way people are able to pass from Earth
to Barbelo and back again.

KHONDIEL: Forgive me if I sound like a little doll on the eternal ‘what’
chain but what is the source of that fold-space link?

HAZIEL: It is something elohim are born with. Perhaps in the same way you
were born with a voice. There are six fold-space lines going out from me.
One line links me to my father Milcom. The second one links me to my mother
Thaumiel. The third one links me to this flying avatar. The fourth line
links me to a humanoid avatar I no longer use and is presently dormant on
Earth. The fifth line links me to this body.The sixth line links me to the
headband I once gave you, which you in turn gave to your spies, so that I
may know where they are at any time.

KHONDIEL: Azarael and Jael!I wonder where they are now.

HAZIEL: They have reached the central repository of food and left the head-
band there.I know this because it hasn’t been in motion for more than a
day. If they had been captured or killed, the headband would be in the
hands of the garrison commander and would be moving about.

KHONDIEL: Unless the commander has taken the headband and stored it in his
office somewhere.

HAZIEL: Yes, I considered that. The end effect will be essentially the
same.

KHONDIEL: You said these lines are natural things that you are born with,
like a voice. What happens if Thaumiel decides not to listen to your
voice?

HAZIEL: Neither Thaumiel nor Milcom can refuse to listen, for absolutely
nothing in reality can break the lines between us short of my own death, my
death as a sun mark you, not my death as a nephil. But having listened,
they can refuse to answer, much as Milcom has decided to do. And they can
refuse to pass on my speech to other elohim up their fold-lines, as both of
them have decided to do.

KHONDIEL: So that means Thaumiel cannot disable this avatar on a whim.

HAZIEL: No he cannot. Think of my link with this avatar and my body as like
a hatch on a ship with two ropes passing through it. He can never close the
hatch as long as the ropes are still there.

KHONDIEL: Ah yes, but perhaps if Thaumiel physically destroys this avatar
and your body then those two ropes, at least, will no longer block the
closing of the hatch.

HAZIEL: You are absolutely correct, Khondiel. A wormhole that stretches
from a living star to a very distant place requires the existence of some
physical object as an anchor. Consider, for example, this vessel. Barbelo
itself is rotating, and revolving around the sun that is Thaumiel, and that
sun is moving relative to Sol. From instant to instant, all those movements
are communicated back to me down the fold-link, which is the only way I can
keep the end-point inside this vessel. But if Thaumiel were to destroy this
avatar, there would be no longer be a shape for me to grasp.

KHONDIEL: But what about the passage that you once summoned to take my
brother to Earth?

HAZIEL: Ah yes, now that is an entirely different case. That kind of fold-
door requires the active cooperation of two Elohim to maintain. It is noth-
ing more than the birth-link between my self and Thaumiel. But we have an
ancient bargain. Thaumiel keeps his end of the fold-door open at his moun-
tain in the heart of his city, and I keep my end open at another mountain
on Earth. Some day, perhaps many years from now, there will be another such
passage created to fulfill yet another bargain.

The avatar lands at the city of Saharad. Haziel and Khondiel emerge from
the avatar of Chokhmah in the full sight of many witnesses, and afterward
they are taken before the Matriarch of House Sala to take counsel.

Princess Khondiel speaks to Queen Aurra Sala of her victory at Salem, and
of her spies in the city of Thaumiel who report that Kirodiel contemplates
immanent war against all of Barbelo.

After Khondiel speaks, Haziel talks to the queen.

HAZIEL: Kirodiel’s strategy is to pick off each family off one at a time
using his full strength to overawe each in turn. By the time the remaining
families take thought to form an alliance against him it will be far too
late!”

AURRA: Lady Haziel, Princess Khondiel, I propose to convene a council of
all the Houses arrayed against Family Gerash to consider your words, and
also to discuss other important matters. Such a council has never been
convened in the long history of the world.

HAZIEL: That is a sound proposal, Your Highness. I deem the Queen’s coun-
cil should take place in Rumbek, the capital city of the House of Bellon.

AURRA: Barbelo is a very large world. It will be difficult to persuade the
nobles of four Families to travel to Rumbek, sticking their neck out after
an arduous journey to a place where the axe of the White Beards is assured
to fall first.

HAZIEL: I will carry all the participants who are willing to travel to Rum-
bek aboard the avatar of Chokhmah, which can bring them thither in a very
short span of time.It has brought myself and Princess Khodiel hither before
the rest of our people have traveled much west of Salem by ship.

To this the Queen agrees. Then after Khondiel and Haziel converse much more
with Queen Aurra Sala and Haziel heals many of the incurably infirm in the
city they return to the western shore of the Ramman Sea to await the sail-
ing ships. From time to time the avatar of Chokhmah takes to the sky to
fly over the small fleet and point in the direction where Haziel and Khon-
diel have set up their seaside camp.

A number of days later the ships arrive, and the people carried aboard have
debarked along with all their stores.As they journey overland and toil up
slopes of broken ice and rock the avatar of Chokhmah takes Khondiel and
Haziel to Peshast, the chief city of the Black Beards in the far east of
the Eastern Lands. There they meet King Gerand Larund.

Haziel relays to hym Queen Aurra Sala’s call for a general council of all
the Houses of Barbelo less House Gerash, and offers to transport the King
to Rumbek, as well as any others he wishes to attend with hym, using the
same avatar she used to arrive in his own kingdom. To these counsels the
King joyfully agrees. Again, in gratitude, Haziel heals many of the sick
in Peshast, then the avatar whisks Haziel and Khondiel back to the head of
their forces marching west.

On the final trip by avatar Haziel and Khondiel must part. The Princess
insists on this. For they have reached the ice at last, and hard fighting
in dark caves and tunnels lie just ahead.

Haziel journeys alone to the land of the Red Beards, to their capital city
of Vaska. There she confers with King Brogan Antero. To hym Haziel relays
the same information sha has already told King Gerand concerning the
queen’s proposed counsel, and sha makes the same offer. King Brogan finds
it impossible to refuse, especially when she effects many miracles of heal-
ing before the eyes of the King.

That leaves only the Brown Beards of House Bellon. Haziel does not avail
herself of the avatar of Chokhmah again to speak to hym. Rather she plans
to come before the king himself after marching overland with Khondiel, the
Fallen Angels, and the other disciples. There in the Bellon city of Rumbek,
or so sha hoped, the four Families would come together to draw up their
plans against Thaumiel.If House Bellon refuses to participate, it would not
be such a difficult thing to fly the other three sovereigns and their
courtiers to another place.

As King Melchizedek had foreseen, the storehouses in the ice caves are
strongly defended, and Khondiel’s force cannot remain hidden for long as
they attempt to fight their way through. All the tunnels lead like the
spokes of a wheel to the central chamber, and there the garrison commander
draws back the bulk of his troops to make a stand. Hy knows he has interi-
or lines of communications.Should Khondiel and har forces emerge from this
tunnel or that, hy would be able to shift his soldiers at will to meet the
threat.It is impossible that Khondiel could attack the central space simul-
taneously from more than a handful of tunnels, on account of the layout of
the ice stores.

As the Gerash soldiers lie in wait in the chamber, it begins to rain. Ever-
yone looks up. A distant thunder grows louder. The icy ceiling of the
chamber high above them is melting.It glows red, then orange, then yellow,
and finally explodes.

Unmelted blocks of ice as large as houses come crashing down upon the yeng.
The ones who perish by being crushed are far more fortunate then the ones
who somehow escape. For the avatar of Chokhmah drills into the chamber
with all engines skewed, some pointing up, some pointing down, others turn-
ing from side to side, and all the motors are spouting fierce fusion fire
from the heart of Sol.

The water the yeng are standing in begins to boil, and they scream with
agony such as none of them have ever known.They continue to cook even as
the water is turned to steam.Ultimately the water is gone and they are
crisped by the raw flame. None survive, and even their ashes are
scattered.Then the avatar of Chokhmah rises once again through what was the
ceiling of the chamber and into the sky once more through a vast hole it
had cut perhaps a thousand feet deep into the ice.

Khondiel and her leading lieutenants stand at the ragged end of several
tunnels and try to force their minds to encompass the chaos of the scene
below. Far across the chamber at another tunnel stands Azarael and Jael,
quite safe. The applause of the two yen echoes across the suddenly silent
space.

After passing through the rubble that is the food cache of House Gerash in
the midst of the ice barrier, the refugees from Salem march down to the
shore of the Eastern Sea of the West Lands and gaze at the dark and distant
profile of the Isle of Sealiah. Haziel and Khondiel are brought by ship to
the city of Rumbek, where they present themselves before King Arman Bellon,
the Patriarch of the Brown Beards. The King asks first of all why the famed
Lady Haziel is in exile from the Middle Land whence she comes.

HAZIEL: Because I brought the truth to family Gerash. But they hated the
truth, since it was like a bright light, and the truth threatened to reveal
the dark things they do in secret.

ARMAN: What is truth?

HAZIEL: We know truth when our mind conforms with the way things are.

ARMAN: What do you ask of me, Lady Haziel? Shall I protect the purity of
your truth?”

HAZIEL: If what I teach is so very fragile that I must seek aid to shield
it from contamination, then what I have cannot be the truth. The warriors
of Thaumiel fight to convert others to their truth and wage holy war
against other truths. They fight because what they call ‘truth’ is too weak
to sell itself to all who seek the truth with sincerity. Since they are
certain they already possess the truth, they refuse to investigate reality
and delight in self-deception.”

ARMAN: Then what, dear Lady Haziel, is your truth? What is the ultimate
truth?”

HAZIEL: Only this: The noblest activity is unending love.

And Haziel accompanies her words with a mighty sign of her authority, for
at that moment the avatar of Chokhmah flies over the Bellon capital city at
great speed, but the people see only a streak of light in the sky, and a
terrifying noise like thunder breaks many windows in Rumbek. Then King Ar-
man welcomes Haziel and all har companions to his land, and a place is
found for each of them on the Island of Sealiah. They become his protected
subjects.

Haziel, Khondiel, and the Fallen Angels all take residence in the north of
Sealiah. Then Khondiel begins to teach their new friends and neighbors
among the Brown Beards, individually and in small groups, the doctrines of
Chokhmah. But Talishi herself refuses to teach anyone, lest the king thinks
he has taken a troublemaker into his land.

Privately Talishi speaks to the king of Queen Aurra’s proposal for a coun-
cil of the four Houses, and of her commitment to transport the nobles of
those families to Rumbek to gather together. To this King Brogan agrees,
and a date is set to convene the council.Haziel travels to the various
capitals to convey this date of meeting.

In Salem where the siege has grown very strait, King Melchizedek hears ru-
mors that the people are finally resorting to cannibalism and he decides
that nothing House Gerash could impose as a penalty on the city could pos-
sibly be worse than that. So he walks out of the gate of the city unarmed,
with hands held open and high, only to be dropped by many arrows. His peo-
ple on the ramparts of the city witness the unhappy death of their beloved
king, but really they are mourning the passing of their former way of life.

Then the army of Mastema marches into the city unhindered. Kirodiel Gerash
appoints a new king over the city, one who lays a heavy tax on the people
in penalty of their rebellion. For it is the Law of Mastema that in every
five-day week the people could keep the fruit of their labor from three of
the four workdays. And the increase of one day is to go to the maintenance
of the Army of Mastema and the Eyes of Mastema, as well as his temple
priests.

But upon the people of Salem is laid a second yoke, for the fruit of the
labor of yet another workday is to go the upkeep of the new forces that
garrisoned the city. Thus the people can only keep half of what they
earned.

The Eyes of Mastema multiply in Salem like flies, and there appears hun-
dreds of checkpoints throughout the city. Many people, even children, are
put to torment for the smallest transgression, yet none are permitted to
depart to other cities in the Middle Land. So matters would remain until
that whole generation of Salemites has passed away, according to the decree
of Lord Kirodiel, but ever after men who spoke with the accent of Salem
would bear a stigma among the White Beards.

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 Ki-
rodiel 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 modi-
fied his avatar to support a passenger, so hy has to resort to the indigni-
ty 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 liv-
ing souls in this whole land,” sha says, sweeping har hands at the panoram-
ic view of the active volcano and the tortured rock that lay at its base,
continually modified by the world-glacier.

KIRODIEL: 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.

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

KIRODIEL: So you will accept seduction.

HAZIEL: 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 any-
thing 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.

KIRODIEL: What is all this?

HAZIEL 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 Kirodiel-
body once you entered into sexual union with me?

Kirodiel shake his head, confessing that hy has not.

HAZIEL: 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 hav-
ing fun on the higher plane. Do you see?

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

HAZIEL: 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.

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

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

KIRODIEL: 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.

KIRODIEL: 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.

HAZIEL: That is acceptable, and I have no other demands.

KIRODIEL: 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.

HAZIEL: Humans and nephilim are not dummies. Even were we to strictly for-
bid 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.

KIRODIEL: 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.

HAZIEL: 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?

KIRODIEL: 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.

KIRODIEL: Then you know exactly what you need to do.

HAZIEL: 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.

KIRODIEL: 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 Haz-
iel 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 ba-
sis, 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 ha-
rem and communicated directly with that eloah.But this obvious escape hatch
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 non-
living material behind in a thick shell.This voluntary separation and fol-
lowing 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 suf-
ficiently 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 Chokh-
mah tried it for herself and found it so exquisitely pleasurable, so unbe-
lievably 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 re-
main 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 harem-
masters raped her. The result was very interesting. Instead of transmit-
ting 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 immedi-
ately. Even more interesting was that both fold-space lines from the new-
born 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 part-
ners 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 him-
self 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 be-
fore. 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
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 dis-
tress. 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 termi-
nate on Chokhmah herself (or rather himself, Chokhmah realized, since the
act of lovemaking results in a gender change). Chokhmah passed one of Bi-
nah’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 be-
fore 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 possibil-
ities 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, any-
when.

Haziel saw that Kirodiel’s body entered into another fit, but still re-
mained 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, be-
cause 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.