TC-H

When the grand conclave of royals hosted by King Arman Bellon actually begins, it quickly degenerates into a sort of trial, with an endless chain of accusations against House Gerash left dangling in the air while Lord Israel attempts to defend against each one of them.

Queen Aurra Sala is the first to give har testimony. Sha says, “I was already in mourning, for the news of the death of my son Count Aldred Sala traveled faster from the battlefield than the bier carrying hyz pierced body. But it wasn’t until I saw the stricken face of my consort Evandr that I submitted fully to my grief. Yet I was surprised to find that Lady Haziel had come with hym. Then I saw King Garand Larund in the procession as well and I asked Evandr, ‘Did we prevail in the battle after all? Is the King our prisoner?’

“But Prince Consort Evandr said to me, ‘Lady Haziel brought hym here. King Garand comes under a truce-bond to offer hyz apologies for the death of our son, and also an explanation.’

“’It is war’, said I. ‘What is there to explain?’”

“But King Garand said, ‘It is a war that never had to be, Your Highness. Lord Israel came to me in Peshast not long ago. Hy rolled out a map, and said the Isle of Danya should belong solely to House Larund, for we had always been mariners, while House Sala had become more the farmers. Israel said that House Sala holding Danya was as though the Gold Beards were sticking a finger in my eye. I accepted the truth of hyz argument at the time. And then very skillfully Lord Israel changed the subject from Danya to the superbow.’ And King Garand brought a superbow out for my inspection.”

King Garand Larund stands up in council to add hyz testimony to that of Queen Aurra. “The superbow is a sandwich of wood between a layer of sinew in front and horn in back, all held together from glue made from boiled horse hooves. The bowstring is made also of sinew from the shoulders of oxen. When Israel showed this my eyes fairly sparked at the sight of it. And when I fitted an arrow to it I deemed that only mighty yeng could draw the string fully back, and when they released the shot, the arrow would fly half again as far as from any other bow. So I ordered a thousand of them. And why not? Haven’t all of us done the same for a century, four Houses against one or a combination of the other, but never all simultaneously against House Gerash?”

Queen Aurra says, “Thank you King Garand. And if you’ll remember, I demanded to inspect the superbow myself, and I showed Evandr the curious mark which is also stamped on every weapon we have purchased of Gerash make. This mark is to be found in every Sala armory.”

King Garand continues. “My cavalry met the cavalry of Prince Consort Evandr Firegem at Fatho. We had somewhat greater numbers, but we faced Gold Beards armed with bows curved in curious shapes which allowed the archer to hold the string back without growing weary. That in turn gave them sufficient time to take a carefully considered shot. I was forced to break off the engagement or face a mutiny by my own cavalry. But it was not soon enough to save the life of your son, your Highness Queen Aurra, to my everlasting regret. Hy fell at a shot from a superbow. As I told you at the time, I am truly sorry. I can never make good your loss.”

“My son is gone, and hy cannot be replaced,” the Queen says. “Yet something you said just now, King Garand, might forge some good out of all this. You said, ‘Haven’t we done the same for centuries, four against a combination of the others, but never all against the White Beards?’ House Gerash has been playing a double game for too long. Your army was driven off by what Israel called a compound bow when hy sold them to us.”

Lord Israel stands up to speak in his defense. “I do not deny the essentials of what Queen Aurra and King Gerand have just related to you. House Gerash is a house of merchants after all. What I deny is their implication that our dealings with House Larund or House Sala are nefarious somehow. Are you noble ones making the claim here today that the pursuit of monetary profit is intrinsically evil?”

“It is not,” says King Brogan Antero. “No one here embraces a planned economy. But as Lord Israel may recall, last year your embassy came to my palace and sold to me a forest of long pikes made from a new alloy that could pierce any armor in the Red Beard inventory, and they assured me it would pierce even the mail of the Brown Beards. And yet during the summer campaign the yeng of House Bellon were not caught by surprise at all. I was met on the approaches to Elketz by Baron Kerresh and hyz entire infantry armed with new plate armor that was miraculously capable of turning aside those very same ‘innovative’ pikes that your representatives sold me. And so friend was turned against friend, brother turned against brother, with no small loss of life, and no one benefited except the arms merchants of House Gerash. It seems that the only planned economy we are really talking about is that of the White Beards.”

Israel says in his defense, “I fail to see any real significance in this tale, King Brogan Antero. The pikes we sold you were indeed invincible at the time we sold them to you. House Bellon merely took advantage of a late breakthrough in metalsmithy. If your house and the Brown Beards insist on carrying out your family squabbles, we are only too happy to provide the means for to do it, as surely as we aid House Sala and House Larund in their perennial warfare.”

The lesser noblemen of the four kingdoms tell similar stories of wars that cross the ice, Larund against Antero, of the whole West Lands united against the entire East Lands, and they even speak of tussles between nobles within the same House. And at every point there is the seemingly omnipresent Lord Israel or hyz representatives selling a problem to one side and the remedy to the other side. The stories with their common elements seem to reach back into antiquity.

Princess Khondiel stands up to relate the rise of the Law of Thaumiel among the White Beards, of the resistance of the city of Salem and the inexorable transformation of family Gerash to a harsh militarism that went far deeper than any seasonal skirmishing between the other four Houses. “And now,” says Khondiel, “the greater part of the Army of Thaumiel is camped in the eastern marches of this very land, not far from this very city. I have seen this host myself from the air. This of a certainty tells me that my father is dead, and the city of Salem has fallen. For of what real import is the controversy between House Bellon and House Antero if House Bellon entire falls to the White Beards?”

King Arman addresses Lord Israel directly. “Do you deny the report of Princess Khondiel?”

“I deny nothing, King Arman. I have come to demand the return of the fugitive and common criminal known as Haziel, and to take into custody the one who facilitated har escape, Princess Khondiel, as well as the hundreds of har accomplices. That is the explanation for my army crossing the Ice.”

A bell rings somewhere in the castle. Queen Aurra Sala slaps har hands sharply twice, and that is the signal for har two serving wenches to serve the midday meal. The Council of Royals have discussed weighty matters indeed that morning, but now they pause to enjoy the hospitality of King Arman’s kitchen.

When Luzea Cedarbranch serves a kingly plate of roast beef to Brogan Antero she ventures to sing to hem:

Born to rule Vaska as her king.
Yet queen-gentle hez words do ring.
Valiant like the yeng of old
Fair like a bust of purest gold.

The King is shocked at first, but then che laughs with self-recognition at the impromptu verse. Queen Aurra is less amused. Sha growls, “Luzea!” But this merely serves as the trigger for yet another verse from the playful Miss Cedarbranch:

Who rules the city of my birth?
Aurra Sala, the Queen of mirth!

This elicits laughter from everyone at the table except the Queen, who points directly at Luzea and says sternly, “Tonight. Twelve lashes!”

Aliwe bursts into tears for her friend, and Luzea herself is suddenly shocked into silence. In fact, there is embarrassed silence all around the table now. Surely the Queen is joking, they think. The whipping tree for such a small thing?

Haziel catches the queen’s eye and slowly shakes har head, as though to forbid it. King Arman weighs the wisdom of publicly contradicting the queen’s command, hy would have no dungeon-style cruelty in hyz own house. But the Queen’s face remains stern and inscrutable. Luzea and Aliwe are finished at any rate, so they return to their niche high above the room.

The incident attracts the attention of Aurra’s son, Baron Bayard, who only recently has come into hyz full inheritance. Hy has been recalled from the border with the Middle Lands upon the news of the death of his brother. In fact, hy had spent many years in virtual exile and had not taken a meal with his mother the Queen for all that time, so hy was not acquainted with the new serving wench Luzea and her “talent”. Luzea Cedarbranch certainly caught hyz attention just now, and hy contrives a way to get with her alone. Bayard clears hyz throat and says, “Your Highness and my mother, I beg leave to speak.”

“State your piece, son.”

“Your Highness may not know it was a hobby of mine on the Ice to contrive certain unusual and severe forms of punishment. Now a flogging is certainly a painful and terrible thing, especially with a whipping tree, but it is also such a common punishment on Barbelo that I feel sometimes it no longer has the desired lasting effect as it undoubtedly did in days gone by. So by your leave, Mother, turn this slave girl Luzea over to me for correction. I can assure you in all truthfulness that she will never forget the experience.”

The Queen knows exactly what hy was up to, and hides har smile behind a hand. It wasn’t like hy was going to come right out and ask har, before all the royals assembled there, “Mother may I be excused from this meal so I can go have sexual relations with your slave girl?” Nevertheless, Queen Aurra realizes har son is on to something. Knowing Luzea’s own preferences, it would still amount to a very severe punishment of both mind and body, and the whole thing would be an effective deterrent for the other serving girl, Aliwe.

The Queen says, “Then I turn Luzea over to you, son. But let me caution you, if she is fit to return to work in less than a week I will deem your ‘punishment far too lenient.”

“Thank you, mother.” Baron Bayard pushes hymself from the table, and signs to the guards that Luzea should be brought along. And when the other guests are finished eating they excuse themselves as well.

When Baron Bayard Firegem is alone with Luzea Cedarbranch in hyz chambers hy commands her to disrobe, but Luzea balks, saying:

The Queen would give me twelve whistling lashes
I fear you more than a hundred slashes

“Nonsense, Luzea, I know you have seen the whipping tree do its work. It may be one of the tamest form of life native to Barbelo but it is nasty enough. Twelve lashes means at least two cracked ribs and maybe even some kidney damage. So remove that dress and let me see what I bought with my lies to my mother.”

Luzea slowly complies, but she is trembling. The baron commands her to lie back on the bed so hy can drink in the vision of her nude body. Luzea is lovely, hy thinks, with that untamed female scent he craves, but her purely animal fear takes all the appeal out of what hy wants to do with her. As well mate with a captive hare.

The Baron sighs, and says, “You commoners are fortunate. You can do as you like but among the royal family of the House of Sala we are only allowed to take wife from among our peers, upon pain of exile. And when the Queen sets her mind to exile sha has options that are truly outlandish.”

Luzea senses that hy is relenting in his enthusiasm for “punishing” her and her trembling begins to subside a little bit.

“Oh, but only if you knew how good you seem to me,” hy laments. “I’m a Gold Beard baron with a decidedly overwhelming preference for unspoiled human women or nephilim yen.”

My Lord endeavors not to let this show
But tell me does your mother the Queen know?”

“Yes, Luzea, she has known for a long time. My taste for commoner female flesh is overlooked as long as I keep things quiet and discreet. But the Queen is beginning to lose patience.”

There is a scratching sound in the ceiling above, and the Baron rolls to one edge of the bed just in time as a thin ceiling panel gives way. Aliwe Halil falls to the bed just then, landing on Luzea’s nude body amid many wooden splinters. One naked leg of Luzea curls around Aliwe almost instinctively with pleasure, a conditioned response from their many sweet nights together.

The Baron smiles, gets fully dressed, and strides toward the door to leave them alone. “I do ask that you put my room back in order when you are done, ladies. I’ll tell the guards to give you an hour alone.”

Before hy leaves hy remembers something and turns to Luzea. “There’s still my mother’s wrath to allay. You will have to feign some kind of injury so horrible that you refuse to speak of it. I think that will satisfy her.” Hy looks at the two of them starting to squirm and tilts his head. “And that should be me there wrapped in your lovely arms and legs, young Luzea!” Then he closes the door.

The Reformed Green Dome Church makes a few changes after departing the mother church. Prophet Klaus Hansen lays down the law. He says no more card playing, no more dancing, and no more Demon Rum. The parishioners star to roll in sawdust on the floor of the barn that is their alternate sanctuary and they babble in tongues to be saved from the fires of hell. A deacon named Paul Bergin is appointed the Apostle to the Whites and he begins to handle snakes during services and go door-to-door in Greendome with tracts promising damnation.

Jerry Shybear put out feelers and arranged a parley. The “sit-down” is between Klaus Hansen and Paul Bergin on one side, with Jerry and Haziel on the other.

Hansen and Bergin are directly descended from families who settled the area in the very beginning. Both men are white, of course, which is a departure from the tradition of the mother Church that the Prophet and Apostle should always alternate between the Red and White wings of the Church, but for the Reformed Church it is unavoidable.

For the sit-down in the Temple rectory the required exposition prayer is made by Paul Bergin: “May God bless this gathering of his righteous believers today, and may the peace that passes all understanding fill the hearts of everyone gathered together here, in the name of Yeshua, God’s only Son.” And there are amens all around. The irony is that God is actually sitting right there in the person of Haziel while the Reformed Apostle offers his prayer.

Klaus Hansen sees that Haziel is wearing a Star of David necklace. He turns to Jerry and asks, “Who’s the kike?”

Jerry says, “If you had the slightest glimmer of who sha really is you wouldn’t dare to speak of har in that way. Sha is the human incarnation of the very God you purport to serve.”

“What happened to Peter Twofeathers and his wife?” Klaus demands, ignoring Jerry’s claim. “Why isn’t Peter here?”

“They are in a better place,” Jerry says.

“What does that even mean?”

“God has called them home.”

“Then how did they die?”

“How did Kim die?” Jerry counters, and Klaus has no answer, so Jerry asks a second question. “Why did you go out from us?”

Klaus can make no objection to the phrasing of that query. He has to admit, after all, it was the Reformed Green Dome Church that walked away. He replies, “The office of Prophet was void when Twofeathers proposed to marry you off to that twat. The union of you and Kim Zinter was a disgusting thought. You’re not only not cousins, you’re not even of the same race.”

“That whole cousin thing was always just a Church tradition,” Jerry counters, “not a dogma or even a doctrine.”

“Our founder, Prophet Mark Lange, believed otherwise. So there was terrible persecution in state after state, and his pilgrimage clear across the United States to this place.”

“The founder was Chief Wanica actually,” Haziel says. “He took the Golden Gift from me with his own hands.”

“Look Paul, the race traitor speaks,” says Klaus Hansen, referring to the fact that Haziel is clearly white, yet sides with the Red Wing. “Captain Smalley would have taken it away from him if Chief Wanica didn’t beg for sanctuary in Mark Lange’s wagon train.”

Haziel and Jerry glance at each other, puzzled by Klaus’ fuzzy understanding of Church history.

He turns again to Jerry. “But we hear Kim is dead now. I can’t say I’m choked up about that.”

“And no wonder,” Haziel says, “you do not even honor your own dead with the Golden Gift. Yet you do not seem overly concerned, even with the salvation of your very soul hanging in the balance. Will you return and seal the breach?”

“Perhaps that is possible now,” Klaus admits. “Kim’s betrothal to Shybear was a living affront to God’s eternal principle of racial holiness.”

“Racial holiness?” repeats God, shaking har head in astonishment.

“What are you talking about?” Jerry demands.

“Thou shalt not amalgamate humans with animals,” Paul Bergin intones, though from what scripture neither Haziel nor Jerry had any idea. Perhaps he had just scribbled it on black crayon on the basement wall. He was calling Jerry an animal.

Klaus clarifies things a bit. “You must know that we do not recognize Peter Twofeather’s authority to change the eternal laws of the Church to allow you to marry the late Kimberly Zinter, may she rest in peace, etcetera. That is the heart of the argument we have with the mother Church. Such sacred things must never change by merely human whim. And there is also the issue of Jerry’s friendship with Hunky and Dory! We know of a surety those two girls have unnatural affections.”

Bergin nods. “It is an ancient sin. The apostle Paul explicitly condemns that particular moral defect in Romans chapter one.”

“Paul was just as deluded as you are,” Haziel says. “He complained that women were exchanging the natural use of their bodies for that which was against nature. But allow me to break the news to you gentlemen: Women are not objects to be used.”

Jerry adds, “This racist streak of yours has divided the Church but it is all just a lot of silly nonsense over nothing. There are no races, Prophet Hansen. There is only one human race. The Bible and the Buron acknowledge only ethnicities. In the Sacred Scriptures we read only of peoples and kindreds and tongues, not Whites and Blacks and Yellow Menaces and the Red Men. The nephilim are called the White Beards and Red Beards and so on, but they are all the same race, and indeed they are the same species as humans, because they can still breed with us, and that will be true for thousands of years.”

Paul Bergin recovers somewhat. “What are you talking about Jerry? There are indeed races. I can see them with my own eyes!”

“You can?” Haziel cuts in. “Then how many races are there?”

“I say there are three races: Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoloid.”

“Really? That makes the dark people in India and Pakistan the same race as the blond people in Scandinavia. And what about the aborigines in Australia? They have Caucasian and Mongoloid genes, but they are as dark as Negroids. If you go by appearance, Jews are identical to Arabs. Mexican people are a mixture of Mongoloid and Caucasian. Even my own child Yeshua is a lovely brown.”

“Brother Paul is right,” Klaus Hansen says, choosing to ignore Haziel’s repeated claims to the Godhead. “I see three races as well. They can be traced right back to the three sons of Noah.”

Jerry catches Haziel’s eye on that remark and winks. “Noah.”

Haziel winks back and says, “The same thing happens with the colors of a rainbow, it all depends on who looks at it. Some see three colors, some see seven, some see even more. But it’s really a smooth continuum, you know. And arguing about where to set the dividing line is the biggest waste of time there is in this universe.”

“We see evidence in the Bible that dark skin is the Mark of Ham,” Paul says, “who was cursed for seeing his father Noah naked.”

“Apostle Bergin, there are different levels of pigments in human skin and that is a good thing. A ginger would not fare so well on the savanna in Kenya. Traits like color, or the epicanthic fold of Asians, are a vestige of the isolation of human settlements in ancient times, but that’s changing.”

“So what is this meeting all about?” Hansen sneers at Jerry, “Blasphemy from your crazy God broad? Airing our grievances and moonbeam theories and going home?” His mouth twists up in a sour expression of disgust, for neither he nor Bergin have taken to heart a single thing Haziel and Jerry have said about race. They refuse to believe they are actually in the presence of their own God, and God is not in the least bit amused by their attitude.

Jerry says, “You left the Church, we stayed. That gives us a bargaining chip. But if one certain condition is met, then I will propose that Haziel name you the Prophet of the reunified Green Dome Church.”

Klaus is on the verge of launching into a tirade against Haziel and the authority Jerry claims that she has, but he realizes it would be fruitless. “What condition?”

“I keep the Golden Gift.”

“The relic needs to switch sides.”

“Take the offer or walk, Mr. Hansen.”

“Alright, but I have a few conditions of my own before I’ll let you make me Prophet again. This idea Twofeathers had that Red and White can get married, we forget he said that. It never happened.”

“Agreed.”

“Two. I’m naming Paul here to be the Apostle. That means both the Prophet and the Apostle are going to be white, from now on, and forever.”

“Fine.”

“Three, this God broad here who pretends to be ancient Haziel from the Buron, I don’t want to see her around anymore.”

“Don’t you worry about that, Prophet Hansen,” sha says.

“Four, the Golden Gift doesn’t leave this temple. I don’t want to find out you’ve been loaning it out to dig more tunnels or some shit like what happened with Kim Zinter’s father. And if I think of any more conditions, I’ll let you know.”

Jerry turns to Haziel, shrugs, and nods.

“Thank you, Prophet Hansen,” Haziel says. “In that case I’ll make it official. You are now the Prophet of the Green Dome Church, and Paul Bergin is the Apostle.”

“Sure, lady, whatever you say.”

After a quarter of an hour, long after anyone would have drowned in the relatively warm waters of the Jordan River, Yeshua comes to the surface again, but che looks strange, changed. There’s no more scraggly beard or any facial hair at all. Hez facial features remain more or less the same, but now they are softened a bit, rounded. Yohanan and his disciples, who have been milling about on the river bank at a loss for what to do are amazed at the sudden reappearance of the jen.

But soon after that they are embarrassed when no explanations are forthcoming from Yeshua, and in a fairly short time the whole incident is nearly forgotten. Yeshua drifts into the crowd of hangers-on who watch from the bank of the Jordan as Yohanan resumes his preaching and baptizing.

But some of the people coming to be baptized are seeking forgiveness of their sins because they
have various ailments, and have come to believe God has made them sick as a direct result of their sin. All Yohanan can do, after his disciples determine they are truly contrite, is baptize them and assure them they are forgiven. He cannot heal.

But now, when these unfortunate people come out of the water, Yeshua lays hez hands on them, and they are indeed healed, exactly as they hoped. Word of this spreads to the lands all about, and soon Yohanan has more dunking business than he knows what to do with. When he passes the plate around it overflows with shekels. Naturally he makes Yeshua his chief disciple.

Now Yohanan does not teach a future reformation solely, nor does he stay on the banks of the Jordan River permanently. He was zealous for the Law and often traveled to the centers of power to attack hypocrites. When Yohanan’s preaching becomes embarrassingly personal, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, has Yohanan arrested and executed. Hearing of this, many of those who hold power in the land breathe a sigh of relief. Then Yeshua takes control of the Baptizer’s movement and accepts Yohanan’s five disciples as hez own.

Yeshua moves upstream to the Sea of Galilee where che chooses more disciples of hez own. The first to join are fishermen named Shimon, Andrew his brother, as well as Yacob the son of Zebedee, and Yohanan his brother. They use the Zebedee family’s boat to haul in the fish of the “Sea” of Galilee (actually a modest lake) with nets.

Later the two sons of Alphaeus Clophas, Yeshua’s step-brothers Yakob and Yudah, also join the movement and call Yeshua their master. But their sister Miriam, their father Alphaeus, as well as Yeshua’s mother, full brothers, and full sister, refuse to become hez disciples. They don’t see much profit in it, and they are of the opinion that Yeshua (and by extension themselves) would be much better served if Yeshua used his undeniable healing powers to turn a shekel or two for hez own family and not some religious group wandering around in the back forty.

In the Galilee region Yeshua begins to preach a message that differs somewhat from the message of Yohanan. Che says it is not enough for people to simply wait for God to usher in a future kingdom by divine force. One must make the kingship of Yahweh present, here and now, and this requires active participation, not just lip service.

To illustrate hez point Yeshua preaches to the people, saying, “A man had two sons, and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And his son said, ‘I will not’, but afterward he repented and went. And the man went to his second son and said the same, and his son said, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not. Which of the two did the will of his father?”

Yeshua meets a man named Matthew, also called Levi, and dines with the man in his house. Although Matthew is a Jew, he is also a tax collector for the Romans. A number of scribes and Pharisees consider Matthew a collaborator with the Roman occupiers, and they loudly object to Yeshua eating and drinking with a sinner.

But Yeshua insists that che is a healer who treats people who are unwell, both in body and soul. Che says, “I come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

And when Matthew asks Yeshua what would be the signs preceding the day of the Lord, Yeshua says, “The kingship of God will not come with signs beforehand that can be verified, nor will people say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘Look over there!’ because the kingdom is already present among you.”

Yeshua underscores to everyone present at the meal that che is not changing the practice of Judaism in any way, shape or form. Rather, che attaches great importance to every item in the Code of Moshe, no matter how trivial. Che says, “Whosoever shall break the least one of these commandments, and shall teach others to do so, shall be called the least in the Kingdom of God. For unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not be accounted worthy to attain to the Kingdom life.”

If anything, Yeshua teaches an even more strict version of Judaism by addressing the interior motives of the heart rather than purely outward actions done under the obligation of the Law. Mere lip service isn’t good enough for Yeshua. Che says, “Not everyone who calls me Lord shall enter into the Kingdom, but only the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

At the conclusion of the meal, Yeshua adds Matthew to his circle of disciples, making a grand total of twelve. Yeshua thinks the correspondence with the twelve tribes of Israel has prophetic resonance.

When Yeshua preaches, the people are astonished at hez doctrine, for che teaches them as one having authority and not merely as one of the scribes. For che claims the ability to forgive sins, which many believe is a power reserved to God alone. But Yeshua accompanies hez preaching and words of forgiveness with a very practical sign: che heals the sick with a touch.

Yeshua heals a leper, and orders him to make the gift to the priest in the temple of God according to the Code of Moshe. But Yeshua is saddened by the case, because the man only has a little psoriasis and is not infectious in any way, yet the priests have required him to live apart from his family, wear torn clothing, disheveled hair, and say “Unclean! Unclean!” for many years.

Great multitudes begin to follow Yeshua as hez fame begins to spread to the point where often che cannot even enter the cities but must remain in the desert. Even so, sick people seek hem out. Yeshua tries to limit the growth of hez fame by telling the people that che heals to remain silent, but this rarely works. Which is to say, they did not do as che commanded them.

It is not only the Jews who received his healing touch. Yeshua heals the male lover of a Roman soldier who is paralyzed, to the dismay of many in the crowd who are suffering under the Roman occupation. Yeshua says, “To make the kingship of God present among you, forget about the differences between Jew and Gentile. If you love your enemies as much as you love your friends, then your enemy will become your friend, and he will be destroyed as your enemy. For I say to you that many Gentiles shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Israel in the second life. But many of the children of Israel shall not attain to the second life, because they do not help to make present on Earth the kingship of our Father in heaven.”

Sometimes Yeshua’s healing touch restores health to the brain of unfortunate people with mental infirmities, for the brain is another organ just like the skin or the liver. But some of these victims display frightening symptoms, such as raving in graveyards at night, and people say evil spirits possess them. Yeshua knows they are only sick, and che heals them, but che does not have the time nor is it hez purpose to teach people there are no spirits, good or evil, and it would not have been accepted in any event.

But some of the scribes and Pharisees begin to hate Yeshua, because hez message is about breaking down barriers between human beings and God, and breaking down barrier between human beings themselves, and their gig depends on being religious mediators and teachers in an intermediate position between the people and God. So they start criticizing everything Yeshua says or does.

And the first thing they comment on is the fact that Yeshua is often found in the homes of sinners and loose women, eating and drinking with them, and the ascetic fasting of Yohanan the baptizer seems to be far from his mind. Yeshua says, “Yohanan came neither eating nor drinking, and you said he had a devil. The Son of Man comes eating and drinking, and you say, ‘look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of Gentiles and sinners, one who dines with whores. Neither fasting nor feasting is acceptable with you, it seems, and worse than that, you assume all women must be either married or prostitutes.”

And the Pharisees began to criticize Yeshua because he cures a man with a withered hand on Saturday, when no work should be done, and healing is obviously work according to the letter of the Code of Moshe. Yeshua can hardly believe his ears. Che says, “What man of you, if his lamb falls into a pit, will not fetch it out on a Sabbath day? Is not a man worth much more than a lamb? So no, being merciful is not forbidden on the Sabbath.”

And when they accuse Yeshua of casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons, Yeshua replies, “That doesn’t make any sense. If Thaumiel is divided against himself, he cannot stand and his kingdom is at an end.”

And after all these things the Pharisees are silenced, for they have been made to look like fools. Then they go out and held a council against Yeshua on how they might destroy him. But when Yeshua realizes what they are trying to do che withdraws hemself from there. Multitudes followed after hem, and che heals them all.

And while che talks to the people, hez mother and hez brethren stand nearby, desiring to speak with him. Then hez sister Salome tells Yeshua his mother and brothers are all waiting for him, but Yeshua, looking hez sister in the eye, stretches forth his hand to his followers and says to her, “These are my mother and my brethren! I assure you that to make the kingship of God present on Earth, even the lines of authority within one’s family must be ignored, let alone the lines of authority found in society at large.”

And some of his followers find this a hard saying, because it is a radical reorganization of traditional roles between men and women, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor.

Hez family begins to quarrel with Yeshua because they well know of his power to heal, and they command him to stay in Nazareth and establish a healing cult with themselves as the toll-taking gatekeepers. But Yeshua refuses. And after his family pushes matters further Yeshua refuses to receive any member of his blood kin at all, and he remains a traveling healer instead, with no permanent abode, precisely because the desire for a fixed location and roles proposed by his mother and brothers run contrary to his vision of the Kingdom of God. To Yeshua, every day should begin anew, with every person in direct contact with each other through giving and receiving of the things they needed, and also with direct contact with God through scripture and prayer.

Then there comes to Yeshua the scribes and Pharisees which are of Jerusalem, saying, “Show us a sign from heaven that you have authority to say these things and to forgive sins.”

And Yeshua replies, “El Shaddai has already forgiven men of all their sins, it remains only for men to accept the truth that it is so. But it is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign when their faith has failed. Therefore there shall be no sign given to you except the sign of the prophet Jonah, who was three days in the belly of the fish and came out again alive.”

This is the first time Yeshua mentions the manner of his coming death and resurrection. From that time Yeshua begins to teach his followers that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. But his followers refuse to believe it. And more to the dismay of Yeshua even his closest followers still accept the terms defined by the scribes and Pharisees. They ask him, “Who shall have the greatest authority in the Kingdom of God?”

And Yeshua calls a little child to him, sets him in the midst of them, and says, “Unless you become as this child, and conform your mind to God’s mind with the same unreserved faith, you shall not recline at the Banquet of God.”

After Yeshua instructs his twelve closest followers with all of his doctrines, che sends them by twos into the countryside to bring the message of the Kingdom of God to the peasants. Yeshua knows he cannot lead them himself, simply because thirteen men arriving in a village together, while the men are working the fields, would be received with great suspicion, as though they were bandits.

Instead, Yeshua commands they should stay no more than one or two days, and accept nothing but food and lodging in payment for proclaiming the vision of Yeshua. For it is written in the Code of Moshe, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Therefore those who proclaimed the Kingdom of God deserved their food and shelter.

Yeshua says, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me, receives the one who sent me.” And the message they were to teach was happiness through freedom: Freedom from desires, freedom from fear, freedom from anger, and even freedom from grief.”

The followers of Yeshua ask those who listen to them, “Who is the true ruler, the one who wants everything and cannot obtain all that he wants, or the one who wants only what he finds possible to obtain? The one who wants the entire known world, or the one who just wants a small and peaceful realm?” And this message was received well, because the peasants already had nothing. The followers of Yeshua said to them, “Be content with what you have, and you will be more free than any king.”

And the followers of Yeshua reach so many towns that even King Herod Antipas hears of hez ministry, and feared that che is Yohanan the Baptist raised from the dead after he had beheaded him. Others say Yeshua is Elijah come down from heaven. But everyone agrees he is a major prophet on the order of Isaiah or Jeremiah.

For a year Yeshua and his followers journey through the hamlets of Lower Galilee and Samaria on the west side of the Jordan river, as well as and Edom and Perea on the east side. Herod Antipas ruled all of these lands.

At the end of the year Yeshua’s ministry takes them into Judea. In the week before the Passover Yeshua and closest followers, male and female, spend their nights in Bethany, at the house of Shimon, a leper who has been cleansed by Yeshua. In Jerusalem many people began to see Yeshua’s famed healing ministry for the first time, because prior to this he always remained in the north country and journeyed from village to village and house to house.

Yeshua goes up into the outer court of the temple and is angered to find the house of God has become a marketplace. Animals fit to be sacrificed are sold at an enormous markup, and money for gifts are changed from Roman coins to special “temple money” conveniently acceptable to the priests, again at a ridiculous profit.

So Yeshua fashions a whip, posts his disciples as bouncers, and goes through the temple courtyard with genuine wrath, flipping tables and saying, “The house of my Father is a place for worship and prayer, but you have turned it into a place to buy and sell religious paraphernalia! You hold the gold that sits in the temple with greater reverence than the temple itself!”

And many of the scribes and Pharisees come down to confront Yeshua, because now he is striking at their very livelihood. A portion of the profits made in the temple are kicked upstairs to them. But Yeshua publicly derides them, saying, “Behold the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at feasts. Truly, they already have their reward!”

Many of the scribes and Pharisees pick up stones to cast at Yeshua, but he tells them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will rebuild it!”

And by this che is speaking of the temple of hez own body. But the priests are offended, because Herod the Great began to enlarge the temple during his lifetime, and even now under the rule of his son the work is still not completed. Three days indeed! But they cannot stone Yeshua for fear of the crowd that has gathered and the disciples who close ranks around their master. So they depart for a time, and they deliberately twist his words and report that Yeshua is saying he will destroy the temple.

Yeshua does not try to correct them. Che says only, “I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes.” Che means only that che has started the process that would lead inexorably to hez execution. But the word begins to spread that Yeshua and his followers planned to set fire to the temple. And hez enemies take council on how they can quietly have the jen arrested and put to death.

That evening in the house of Shimon in Bethany, Yeshua and hez followers are having supper. A woman comes in and pours a box of very expensive ointment on hez head and feet. Yudah Iscariot complains that it is a waste of the ointment, because it might have been sold and the money given to the poor. He doesn’t mention that he normally skims his take right off the top of such gifts. Yeshua tells him to lay off the woman because she is anointing his body ahead of time for the burial to come. Even at that late hour none of his disciples believe Yeshua when he says he is about to be put to death.

With the stinging loss of this potential income weighing in his mind, Yudah approaches the priests and offeres to betray Yeshua in return for a small sum of money. He is already disappointed that Yeshua is not interested in serving as the focal point of a violent revolt against Rome, and he has already resolved to stop following Yeshua, but he also realizes he might at least turn things to his financial advantage.

For the priests’ part, they are not paying Yudah to identify Yeshua to them, because Yeshua’s appearance is well known and che always draws crowds. The priests are paying so they can say the conspiracy against Yeshua began within his own circle. Thus Yeshua would be discredited. And Yeshua, noting the departure of Yudah, is satisfied that che has sufficiently aroused the religious authorities in Jerusalem to bring matters to a head.

With his remaining disciples Yeshua shares the first of an endless series of meals where his followers gather close together and drink wine in memory of his shed blood, and break bread in memory of his broken body, and renew again their commitment to make the kingship of God present in the world. It is, in short, the formal inauguration of the Banquet of God, and its repetition in every land and every age from that moment thereafter would become the central devotion of the people who embraced the teachings of Yeshua and his message of the forgiveness of God.

After the meal Yeshua says it is not enough to simply stop causing more damage, and to know God had already forgiven the offense. His followers must also go out into the world, forgive others of their sins, and help repair the damage that all sin causes to mankind.

That evening in a garden near the city, when the time of Yeshua’s tribulation is nearly at hand and all of hez followers have fallen asleep, che enters into direct communication with his beloved parent Chokhmah and asks for strength. Yeshua knows he will soon experience a level of suffering so great he will beg to be released. Near despair, che says, “Father, if it be possible, let this bitter cup pass from my hand.”

Chokhmah immediately sends a fold door. Yeshua can look into the globe and see the greenery of the Land We Know. Yeshua knows that all che needs to do is walk into the globe to escape the terrible execution that awaits hem. But che also knows if che does so, then che, personally representing both humans and nephilim on two worlds, will have proven the ancient contention of Thaumiel to be correct, that world-dwellers cannot remain obedient to the elohim under dire circumstances.

Yeshua says, “Nevertheless, beloved Father, not my will, but yours be done.”

The globe collapses, and the temptation is over. Yeshua has prevailed. Only the physical consequences remain.

The priests come with many armed men to arrest Yeshua, led by Yudah, and all of his followers flee for their lives despite their many previous assurances they would stay with Yeshua to the bitter end. 

As the keeper of the sword Dragonthorn, Kari Antero is convinced that she has the power to bend the will of everyone around her, even the will of her father the King. At least, this is what her father constantly assures her, to hez ultimate undoing.

Some time ago when King Brogan was away, Kari flew Demonstroke all the way to the city of Thaumiel to put her belief to the ultimate test. Now, while Queen Aurra’s Council is taking a short recess she once again dismisses the guards blocking her way to Israel’s chamber and receives yet again confirmation of her invincible power of persuasion.

Joy, the woman from Earth, is lounging sensuously inside the Lord’s chamber like some exotic black cat. In fact, everything about her is black except her unnaturally pale white skin. Kari tells her she is dismissed also. Joy raises an eyebrow, but leaves quickly without a single word of protest.

“How did you get in here?” Israel demands angrily after witnessing hyz woman being sent abruptly away like some common servant.

“It wasn’t very hard,” Kari says. “I’m very persuasive it turns out. Yet the last time we met, Lord Israel, you had the stronger power, it seemed.”

“I don’t know what came over me then,” hy says. “And Joy would certainly never understand if she discovered the truth of the matter. She has very unpleasant ways of making her displeasure known.”

“I came to see if your resolve to keep our secret has not withered,” the Princess says.

“You must be thinking of the strict sexual purity required of every female entrusted to guard the Dragonthorn blade.”

“The penalty for losing my virginity, were it discovered, would far more terrible than any other punishment in the history of Barbelo.”

“Yes indeed, Princess. A truly terrible fate to contemplate for any creature no matter what their crime, and sufficiently horrible, in fact, that in the past it has never been found necessary to mete out. In a way I’m flattered that you risked that awful fate for a single session in bed with me.”

“So what are your feelings on the necessity to keep the matter secret, Lord Israel?”

“I find that I still have no desire to reveal it to anyone, and even thinking about revealing it to another person causes me to be overcome with a very bad depression that grows worse and worse the closer I come to making my urge into an actuality.”

“It is a shame that it must be so, Lord Israel. When last we met you said that I had a very lovely ass and could not keep your hands from caressing it.”

Israel puckers hyz mouth in disgust. “Princess, right now I wouldn’t reach across your ass to grab a winning ticket in the Salem numbers racket. I resent very much that you have somehow cast this spell against me. But your secret is safe, so be content with that.” There is a long pause before Lord Israel says, “So if that is all you want, Princess Kari, then please leave.”

Kari frowns, pivots on one foot, then marches out of hyz chamber without a sound. When she is well out of earshot Israel begins to snicker. The effort it had taken not to laugh the entire time was almost too much for hym to manage.

“So that was the girl,” Joy says, emerging from behind a curtain. She had doubled back by secret ways and listened to almost the entire exchange. “What a stupid twit, my Lord! It’s a wonder you didn’t have done and unleash the dragon on Vaska the instant she came to you and gave away her so-called virtue.”

“It is not her virginity that controls the dragon,” hy tells Joy, “but the sword. I need only to manipulate her into breaking the sword and then you can take control of the beast yourself.”

“With the sword broken I will have no problem flying Demonstroke. But I need access to his holding pen, my Lord. There’s a limit to the range of my power.”

“My guards can get you in easily enough,” Israel says. “But tell me, Joy, how is it that you can make beasts do your bidding, really?”

“My lord already knows Chokhmah and Binah have what they call the b’nei elohim project going on the side. A little below gods we are, the saying goes, a little above humans. Each one of us has a unique ‘talent’. Mine is to control animals. I cannot control any beast until Chokhmah or Binah prepare it with something like a bead embedded in its brain. Your dragon, however, has already been prepared by yourself, Lord. I will merely tap into that.”

“Good. Then we shall await the moment when Princess Kari breaks the sword. There must be no doubt in the mind of Haziel and all the assembled ladies and lords that what follows is entirely the fault of the princess.”

And though Joy has removed herself to the enemy camp, and serves Thaumiel with her whole body and soul, it never at any time occurs to her to mention that Chohkmah and Binah have discovered a way to manipulate history. The compulsion never to reveal this to Thaumiel, directly or even indirectly, runs to the very inner core of all the b’nei elohim faithful or otherwise.

When the table in the council chamber is restored again to order after the meal and everyone has taken their places, it is Haziel’s turn to state har piece. Sha says, “Thaumiel is Lord of this world that we call Barbelo. That no one denies, and House Gerash has always been especially devoted to him. And yet the nephilim are not native to Barbelo. Long ago they were grafted in from human stock originating on Earth, where I reign with my newborn daughter Binah. Perhaps this is why House Sala has cast their lots entirely with me, and why the other houses of Barbelo, and even the inhabitants of the city of Salem in the Middle Land have varying degrees of devotion between the two deities. This divided loyalty is tolerable to myself, I can assure you, since I have has always called humans and nephilim the Students, and one of the most important thing a student can learn is how to think, not what to think. But I can also assure you that this state of affairs is not tolerable to Thaumiel. I’m quite certain that he has already begun to make his move to bring this entire world to war, and you will soon discover why he has maneuvered to keep the other four house off balance and at each other’s throats. For he does not call human beings students, but rather slaves. I will not attempt to influence the decision of this council, but I do offer a warning that if you decide to present a united face to House Gerash, that afterward you move with supernatural speed, for Lord Israel will then be presented with no choice but to attempt to conquer each one of the other four houses one at a time. And now I would bid good King Arman Bellon to tell his tale.”

The king stands up and says, “Thank you Lady Haziel. Your worlds are weighty and are to be pondered deeply. We here in Rumbek have also played the fool for the arms merchants of House Gerash, despite the formidable water barriers which protect us on three sides, and the Nine Mile Wall which protects us on the fourth. At times during the last century we have campaigned often against the Red Beards and even crossed the Ice to assail House Larund. But for the last twenty years, with only one recent exception, the aforementioned unfortunate incident with Count Zelus, we have been at peace with the rest of Barbelo. That is why when Lord Israel came to me with tidings of House Antero building many portable pontoons designed to bridge the straits north and south of Magodon, I was not panicked into buying the catapults hy was offering to repulse the supposedly immanent attack.

King Brogan Antero says, “Lord Israel did offer to sell us the prefabricated pontoons, King Arman, but I was never tempted to buy any of them.”

“So you said, King Brogan, through your ambassador, and thus we both knew Lord Israel to be a liar. It brought to mind a state visit to the Middle Land I had made some time prior, when I crossed the Ice and passed through Salem to Ganelon and thence to the city of Thaumiel. In Ganelon I saw some of the finest bottom land I have ever seen, better even than the land around Saharad perhaps, with soil so deep and rich it was nearly black, yet there were no crops, save weeds.”

“The Middle Land has a manufacturing economy now,” says Lord Israel with obvious pride, “not a primitive agricultural one like the four monarchies.”

King Arman replies, “Your land is indeed a manufacturing economy, Lord Israel, but it manufactures weapons of war. Solely. Noble ones, let that fact sink in for a moment. Outside of Salem, everyone who makes a living in the Middle Land is either employed to make weapons directly, or they support those do. Their livelihood rests on keeping us at each other’s throats.”

“I will tell you what our economy purchases for us,” Israel counters. “In a legal sense even my guards are on the same level as myself, with the same rights and obligations to the state. Can any of you noble born say the same thing about yourself and any one of your servants? A lowly apprentice could rise to attain to my seat on the State Council. Outside of Salem, as you say (but that is now changing) blood counts for nothing in the Middle Land, only ability and loyalty to Thaumiel. We are a theocratic meritocracy.”

Queen Aurra smiles at this. “Not just individuals but kingdoms, too, may form republics after a fashion, Lord Israel.” Sha stands up and raises har voice. “At this time I propose the creation of an entity I choose to call the Union of Kingdoms. Within each individual kingdom, we royals shall maintain our absolute sovereignty. Yet decisions which have an effect outside of our respective borders, such as concluding treaties or going to war, shall be thrashed out in council chamber with every kingdom fairly represented.”

“I second your proposal, Your Highness,” says King Brogan Antero, standing up again as well. “At this moment you may consider House Antero to be joined to House Sala in a Union of Kingdoms precisely as you describe.”

After Brogan vows to join Queen Alodra’s new Union of Kingdoms, Arman Bellon announces hyz decision to add the land of the Brown Beards to the Union as well, followed by Belen Larund of the Black Beards, whose conflict with the Queen had accelerated this Council of Royals, and whose assent now at the end completes it.

Lord Israel remains sitting. Hy is perceptive enough to know the White Beards are not and never would be invited into this Union. Without looking at any of the nobles hy says, “Review your own history, O privileged ones. Can you remember a single battle between your kingdoms and House Gerash? Or even hearing about one? You cannot, and if you scratch a little deeper you will find that it was not for lack of trying. We clipped your little seedling attacks before they could proceed beyond a simple skirmish and take root. How were we able to do this time after time, you ask? Very simple. House Gerash, you see, always retains the newest and best arms for its own defense.”

“Yet there are unintended consequences to becoming makers of arms rather than customers,” King Arman counters. “We have a continuous warfighting tradition which you lack. Take extreme care, then, lest your attacks sputter to nought in confusion and your forces become our prisoners.”

“No doubt your longfathers of old weighed that very thing in their calculations as well,” Israel counters. “The wise ones refrained from assailing our Republic. The foolish ones made their sorties and were repulsed. So this can be no new warning to you: If ever House Gerash should find your so-called Union of Kingdoms standing at cross-purposes to our interests, beware.”

Princess Kari Antero stands up then, drawing the diamond sword Dragonthorn from its jewel-encrusted scabbard strapped to her back. She was moved to say, “Lord Israel would also do well to remember that the Middle Land is not the only realm which can bring unmatched weaponry to the field of battle!”

“Nay, daughter!” King Brogan admonishes Keri sharply, “Your king now commands you! Stand down and restore the sacred blade to its place!” And the King is very wroth because Kari is the only person allowed to be armed in this chamber, and even that only on a ceremonial basis.

“I begin to wonder for what reason I was really summoned to this Council,” Lord Israel moans in a parody of lament after a chastened Kari obeys her father the King and stows the diamond blade once more. “To receive threats, and weapons brandished in my face, it seems.”

“My daughter’s action was rash, but there is some truth to her words,” King Brogan warns. “The meaning of the creation of our Union of Kingdoms is that we shall never fight among ourselves again. But that must not be construed to mean we shall never fight again. And there are some mighty ones here who are worth many times their number in Gerash soldiery.”

Queen Aurra Sala also says to Israel, “We could have made this a secret Council, and let your people be caught off-guard by a sudden and inexplicable loss of their livelihood. I invited you here for one purpose, Lord Israel. The people of the Middle Land must till their earth again, and make things once more that serve life rather than end it. They will need a huge head start to begin to make the necessary changes before starvation sets in. So you witnessed the creation of the Union of Kingdoms to bring that news to your people in your so-called republic and give them that head start.”

Lord Israel has been holding back his mounting anger for the entire duration of the Council. Now hyz wrath is taken off the leash, and hy launches into a long-winded screed against the monarchies of Barbelo that holds nothing back. As hy rants, hy skirts dangerously near to revealing Kari Antero’s awesome secret, yet without actually crossing the line.

As Israel fully anticipates, the Princess rises from her seat and approaches hym with Dragonthorn drawn from its scabbard once more, in open defiance of her father the Red Beard king. The sword is pointed directly at Lord Israel’s heart. So shocking is this sight all the other royals are struck dumb at the spectacle, even Brogan Antero.

When Kari Stronghammer is standing near enough to threaten Israel once more, she says, “Lord Israel must give account for the loved ones each one of us have lost due to his lies!” And she raises Dragonthorn to strike hym. Aliwe Halil, also standing nearby, freezes in the act of filling Lord Israel’s flagon with wine.

King Arman is furious and finds hez tongue first. “Princess Keri Antero, hold! I gave my word to grant Lord Israel safe passage to Rumbek for the purpose of attending this Council, and my word holds firm. Lord Israel of House Gerash shall be sped to the border with all haste, and I swear that no harm shall come to hym!”

“Stand down, daughter!” King Brogan adds, repeating hez earlier imperative to hez daughter. “Put away your blade. As your king and father I command you!”

“Noble ones of the Council,” says Lord Israel, “I believe I know precisely what it is that is really disturbing the Antero Princess.” But before the human incarnation of Thaumiel can continue to speak, Kari assails the unarmed yang with Dragonthorn, the legendary blade that, they say, cannot be turned by iron mail nor even the hardest stone.

Instinctively Aliwe Halil brings up a silver platter she is using to carry wine as a pathetic shield to try to protect Lord Israel, knowing full well it will just be demolished by the beautiful diamond blade, perhaps sliced in two along with her arm, but Aliwe’s first impulse is to act in such a way that carries out the stated will of King Arman.

But to everyone’s surprise the Dragonthorn shatters against Aliwe’s makeshift silver barrier, and glittering broken diamond shards of the ancient blade fall to the ground at Kari’s feet.

Baron Bayard Sala begins to marvel that this Aliwe girl always seems to be exactly where she needs to be, exactly when she needs to be there. Aliwe replaces Luzea as foremost in his erotic thoughts.

Only Lord Israel finds his voice. Hy says, “You have been remiss in your education as well as in your duties as priestess, my dear Antero Princess. It seems the ones who instructed you did not mention that when the spell is broken with the loss of your virtue, Dragonthorn becomes nothing more than a diamond in the shape of a blade. Beautiful, yes, harder than anything known, but as brittle as glass! My own body mail would have done as much as that servant’s silver plate.”

But far more astonishing to Kari than the destruction of the Dragonthorn blade is Lord Israel suddenly breaking her magic spell of persuasion commanding hym to be forever silent about her seduction of hym once upon a time.

Lord Israel correctly interprets the shock of this development on her face. Hy says, “Foolish girl, you never had the power to persuade anyone to do your least bidding, and if King Brogan thought to make you believe that so your life might be a little more pleasant as you waxed old in your spinsterhood, then more fool che, for the pretense has led to the undoing of you both!”

For no mortal flesh can withstand the pure white fire of Demonstroke and live. Keri is rapidly consumed where she stands as the dragon hovers outside the chamber on great strokes of his articulated wings, harnessed by the dark sorceress will of the mysterious Earthwoman named Joy who now rides upon his shoulders.

It would have been a simple thing for Israel to command Joy to reduce all of the chief Peers of the Land assembled there to piles of ashes, not the least hyz most dangerous foe Princess Khondiel, yet for now Israel has determined that Kari alone should die. In so doing hy shows contempt for King Brogan’s earlier claim that some of the nobles assembled there individually are worth many Gerash soldiers on the field of battle. Lord Israel deems it more important to leave them alive for a time, that their minds might encompass the fullness of hyz triumph and thus fall into despair before he contrives their final end.

Later some of the royals even thought that Lord Israel had done the thing out of a greater kindness, so that Princess Keri would not suffer the penalty of her abomination, and certainly that peculiar tradition of the monarchies filled even Thaumiel with disgust.

With the dragon Demonstroke’s smoking open mouth menacing the royals none dare to stop the hysterically laughing Lord Israel from joining hyz lover Joy on the back of the dragon as both of them make good their escape into the air.