10 – ISRAELITES
The avatar of El Shaddai led the chosen people out of Egypt, concealed inside a moving pillar of smoke during the day, and at night this was seen as a pillar of fire which gave them light to see. El Shaddai did not go straight to Canaan, the land of promise, because she knew when the Immigrants saw the Hittites and their chariots of iron their courage would fail, and they would all run back to Egypt.
The Red Sea separates Egypt and Arabia, and at the Sinai Peninsula it divides into two long fingers of water that resemble the eyestalks of a snail. In ancient times the left eyestalk terminated at what is now called Lake Timsah, or Crocodile Lake. Timsah Lake and the Bitter Lakes are in the ancient depression of this old seabed. Perhaps the land has risen a bit, or the sea level has fallen. But so nearly flush with sea level is this whole area that a simple ditch dug in only ten years was sufficient to link the lakes with the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to create the Suez Canal. This artificial waterway sliced seven thousand miles off the route from India to Europe.
Soon after fleeing Egypt, El Shaddai led her people to make their first encampment on the west shore of that extension of the Red Sea that today is a just a string of lakes. And when it became obvious the Immigrants were not coming back to labor for Egypt once again, nor to return the jewelry and clothing they “borrowed”, Pharaoh took his charioteers and went out after them.
The tide went out. The stretch of sea water that is in modern times the land between Lake Timsah and the Great Bitter Lake became mudflats that were dry enough for those who go on two and four feet to cross to the eastern shore, but those who went about on chariot wheels had more trouble. Pharaoh and his Egyptian cavalry became stuck in the mud, and they could not escape before the sea tide flooded the mudflats once more and drowned all of them.
After the transit of the House of Israel across the Sinai, aided by much food and drinking water transferred from Barbelo, El Shaddai learned that Moshe’s father the king had died, and Moshe was required to return home to take his seat upon the throne of the city-state of Salem in the Middle Land.
Count Michael of the House of Gerash took command of the armed forces of the House of Israel in the place of Moshe and led them west over the Jordan River into the promised land of Canaan. And to him was given also the Golden Gift that had once been wielded as a fearsome weapon by Melchizedek.
Michael led the army against the ancient settlement of Jericho, which was the first continuously inhabited walled city in the world. On the plains of Jericho before the battle was enjoined, Michael shouted to the defenders of the city, “As captain of the host of El Shaddai have I come. Throw open your gates, lay down your arms, and no harm shall come to you! But if you do otherwise, then none who dwell within the walls of the city shall live!”
In response to this the archers of the city loosed a volley at Count Michael, who rendered them harmless with a sweep of the hissing black blade in his hand. Then he gave his lieutenant, General Joshua, detailed war orders. Even as Michael spoke, the mouth of the wormhole tunnel was undermining the walls of Jericho such that they stood with only the most precarious support.
Then the avatar of El Shaddai landed outside the city with much smoke and fire, striking absolute fear into the heart of the people of Jericho. The avatar sent forth a sound like a trumpet that shook the earth, and the city walls fell flat to the ground, permitting the Immigrant army to rapidly occupy the city and carry out Michael’s threat to put every inhabitant to the sword.
Buoyed by the spectacular victory over Jericho, the Immigrants had the animal spirits to conquer the rest of Canaan, even without the direct leadership of Michael and the appearance of the avatar of El Shaddai. Soon the territory of the Immigrants extended from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza and many cities in central and northern Palestine. General Joshua partitioned all these lands among the twelve tribes which still bore the name of the sons of Israel. But the Philistines, Moabites, and Ammonites continued to harass the Immigrants long after they had been dispossessed of their cities, even into the period centuries later when kings ruled the House of Israel.
After the death of Joshua, the House of Israel had no formal ruler, but for the next two centuries a number of major and minor judges found themselves in positions of leadership over one or more tribes as the Immigrants continued to fight a stubborn insurgency by the people they had conquered.
In the latter days of the period of judges, Eli became the first judge to be accepted by the whole House of Israel, but his own sons Hophni and Phinehas were greedy, and contrary to the Law they enlarged their own portion of the offerings made to El Shaddai. Eli knew about this but he refused to rebuke his sons. El Shaddai also knew about this and she didn’t like being short-changed. Mastema might say, “See, I told you so!”
There was a young man named Samuel who also lived in the house of Eli, and Eli considered him almost another son. Samuel was the test subject of a medical experiment conducted by El Shaddai, the second attempt by Elohim to create a direct interface between the world-dwellers and the gods, and one that El Shaddai found much more palatable than the outright possession practiced by Mastema with abandon. One night while Samuel slept, El Shaddai narrowed her fold-door to just a little more than a hairbreadth, and briefly anchored the mouth of this tiny passage inside the head of Samuel. Then El Shaddai inserted a tiny bead about the size of a poppy seed and left it inside buried the young man’s skull.
The next night Samuel began to hear voices. When he brought this to the attention of his patron, Eli recognized that he was beginning to receive revelations from El Shaddai. Eli instructed Samuel on how to listen, and Samuel did all that he was told. But Samuel knew some of the words he heard would be grievous for Eli to hear and he feared to speak them. In the morning Samuel came to Eli, but he was silent, and Eli ordered him to speak. For a little extra weight Eli added, ”May El Shaddai punish you if you do not speak!”
Thus constrained, Samuel had no choice but to repeat the words of the vision and pronounce doom on the house of Eli. He said that many of the descendants of Eli would die by the sword, and of those who escaped this, none would attain to old age. The remnant of his family would beg to be appointed to a minor priestly function that they might have at least a morsel of bread to eat. And Samuel gave a sign so that Eli would know beforehand that this divine curse was coming true, and the sign was this: Both of Eli’s sons would die on the very same day.
And it came to pass in the lands nigh to the sea claimed by the tribe of Ephraim that all of the men under arms in Israel camped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines camped at nearby Aphek. In the battle that followed, thirty-four thousand men among the House of Israel were killed, severely wounded, or taken captive. And Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas were among the dead.
When word of this reached Eli in Shiloh, Eli accidentlly tipped back in his chair and struck the ground, breaking his neck. Thus passed Eli, who had judged the entire House of Israel for forty years. And Samuel, already a renowned prophet, attributed the terrible defeat to the straying of the Israelites after foreign gods, and exhorted them to return to El Shaddai and offer worship to him alone.
So at Mizpah the people renewed their covenanted devotion to El Shaddai and Samuel began to judge all Israel on that day. Under Samuel the Philistines were routed, and the territory from Ekron to Gath was restored to Israelite control. The Philistines were subdued for all the years of Samuel’s life, and there was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
When Samuel waxed old he appointed his own sons Joel and Abijah to judge Israel in his stead, but the young men accepted bribes and perverted justice. So the elders of Israel came to the house of Samuel at Ramah and said, “Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your own example, appoint a king to rule over us.”
And Samuel tried to warn them all about the procedures of a king. He said, “The king would take your sons and make them serve in his army. He would set them to do his plowing and harvesting, and to make weapons of war and chariots. He would use your daughters as makers of ointments and cooks. He would take the best part of your fields and vineyards and groves and give them to his officials. He would take a tenth part of your increase to support his eunuchs and slaves, and over time you yourselves will become his slaves.”
But the elders would not hearken to Samuel’s warning. They insisted that Israel must become just like all of the other nations in Canaan and have a king. So Samuel anointed Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to govern all the people as their first king. And King Saul reigned for twenty years, defeating the enemies of Israel on all sides. He defeated in turn the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the Philistines, Beth-rehob, and the king of Zobah.
But Samuel had developed a personal grudge against the Amalekites over the years, and he still felt he spoke for El Shaddai. Samuel ordered King Saul to attack Amalek. “Spare no one,” he said, “not the king, not the men and women under him, nor their children, nor their infants, nor even their animals and other property.
King Saul duly routed Amalek in the field and put to death all of the Amalekite men, women, and children. But Agag their king he captured alive, and Saul’s troops took possession of the Amalekite animals and other items of worth as war booty in accordance with the war-making norms of the time.
But Samuel was greatly displeased, and said El Shaddai had rejected Saul as king over his people on account of his disobedience of Samuel, which, Samuel claimed, was tantamount to disobedience of El Shaddai.
Then Saul was very sorry for his mistake of allowing his troops to take booty from Amalek, but Samuel refused to forgive him, and ordered that king Agag be brought before him in Gilgal. And Samuel himself killed Agag with a sword, and departed to Bethlehem, where he anointed a youth named David, son of Jesse, to be the new king of Israel.
El Shaddai realized that something had gone wrong with the modification to Samuel. In the absence of actual commands from El Shaddai, Samuel was hallucinating false ones. El Shaddai vowed to look into it and try to improve the design, but Samuel was a lost cause.
11 – BAIT
The trial wrapped up with a judgment entirely against Talishi, to no one’s surprise except perhaps Khondiel, who was allowed to pay one final visit to her client in the dungeons beneath the Temple of Mastema before the sentence was to be carried out.
The first few minutes had been spent in a wordless embrace, as best as could be managed through intervening iron bars. Then Khondiel glanced around, assuring herself that their attorney-client privilege of private counsel, no matter how brief, was still inviolate. She said, “Guilty! And a sentence of death. I can’t believe it Talishi. So what’s your plan?”
Talishi said, “Plan? There is no plan. Look around you Khondiel! Look at this security.” Talishi reached through the bars again to touch her friend’s face. “They’ve been planning this thing for many days. And that trial? It all stinks of Mastema moving behind the scenes. He wants something from me. It only remains for Mastema to lay it all out in the open.”
Khondiel said, “What if you’re wrong? Granted, that’s not very often, but if you are wrong then I say we fall back to my plan.”
Talishi narrowed her eyes and said, “Khondiel, don’t do anything stupid. Better yet, don’t do anything at all.”
They were interrupted by Khondiel’s escorting guard, a kind but unswervingly loyal man. He said, “I’m sorry, that’s all the time I am permitted to give you.” Then he took Khondiel by the arm and gently but insistently steered her out of the chamber.
Talishi called out after her. “Khondiel! Just drop it, do you hear me?” But Talishi sighed, knowing the princess all too well.
After Khondiel was whisked away Talishi’s next visitor was the prophet Zadkiel, who came down into the dungeon and moved very close to the cell to look directly into her eyes. After studying her quietly for a long time, he said, “Mastema sends his regards . . . El Shaddai.”
Talishi smiled. “What gave it away?”
Zadkiel said, “High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel could not help but notice you used for your defense certain private conversations known only to Mastema and El Shaddai.”
“If you have spoken to Mastema you already know only too well that I can choose to end my own life at any time. No threat of torment can make me do his bidding, let alone the bidding of one of his slaves.”
Zadkiel smiled and said, “Oh, a martyr is the last thing we want, Talishi. Unfortunately, your friend Princess Khondiel has her mind quite made up. Do you or her really think the Eyes of Mastema are unaware of the preparations she has made to rescue you?”
Talishi frowned at this, for she herself was in the dark. “What does she have in mind?”
Zadkiel said, “You will be proud when you see it unroll. Fallen Angel commandos! Guards taken out with a head twist. Safe houses from here to the edge of the city. But as you’ve correctly surmised, it’s a trap. That way we catch Khondiel red-handed, scoop up key Fallen Angels, and crush your whole movement over the space of a single night. Then you yourself are to be broken and braided on the wheel with no one left to rally around your rotting corpse.”
Talishi said, “Khondiel may be young and female, but don’t underestimate anyone who has spent three years under my wing. And don’t sell Khondiel’s Fallen Angels short either.”
Zadkiel said, “Well the Lord has a far better plan that will save the lives of Khondiel, and all of her Fallen Angels, and it doesn’t 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. Instead, we shall parade you captive in a cage through every city, town, and village in the Middle Land.”
Talishi, knowing it would do precisely the opposite, bluffed and said, “That would have the effect of discrediting me and everything that I have taught. I refuse.”
Zadkiel broke into a sly grin. “Talishi, you must not refuse, because the alternative is Khondiel, remember? Her plan?”
Talishi sighed. “So no End of Cycle? Is that all Mastema requires?”
Zadkiel replied, “No, the Lord requires one other thing from you, but it comes in the form of a promise rather than something you can do for him now. For it has not escaped the notice of the Lord that what you are really doing with your Fallen Angels is laying the groundwork for human beings to someday leave this world, as well as leave the other world, to invade the realm of the gods. This, says Mastema, must not be.”
“People are not dummies, Zadkiel,” she said. “Even were I or Mastema to strictly forbid it, in a far distant time people will find a way to leave the world they find themselves living in. The sooner Mastema 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.”
“The Lord Mastema already knows all this,” Zadkiel said, “and so the final thing he requires from you is exclusive title to the fifth world in the system that includes Earth, where he can…veto…any future intrusion of the humans.”
“Such a meaningless thing he wants,” Talishi said. “What matter that Mastema owns my fifth planet if he has no means of going there to plant a flag? Certainly his mind has not deteriorated to the point where he has forgotten it requires two Elohim to open a fold-door, or that without cooperation the range where the end-point can be located by each Eloah is very limited.”
“As I understand what the Lord has sketched out,” Zadkiel said, “such access, on demand, would be an integral part of the land transfer agreement.”
In the end Talishi had to accept the humiliation because it really was the only alternative open to her. She had no fear of execution or torture. If her body was destroyed she would live on for many lifetimes of women as the star Sol. For Talishi was no longer solely human, and El Shaddai was no longer solely an Eloah, but they were one hybrid being. However Talishi did have an intense fear that her friends would attempt to rescue her from execution, and knowing the efficiency of the Eyes of Mastema it would mean certain capture and a slow and bitter death for Khondiel and all the Fallen Angels she led.
So Talishi agreed not to commit suicide. She agreed to give Mastema sole ownership of Jupiter and everything that orbited it. And she agreed to allow unfettered access to that planet, on demand, at some future time when Mastema was prepared to set up his colonies there. Talishi knew why Mastema was interested in the gas-giant that people would name Jupiter one day, for it did quite an effective job protecting the inner system by sweeping incoming comets, a kind of protection that Barbelo did not enjoy. It stood to reason that it would be an effective bulwark against anything flying out of the system as well, such as a starship.
To Khondiel this development merely delayed things somewhat. From the day she was ejected from the dungeon Khondiel never ceased plotting to get Talishi free of Zadkiel’s bondage.
Talishi was paraded nude in a small cube made of wooden poles all across the Middle Land of Barbelo, ostensibly to put lie to her teachings about the power of El Shaddai over the hearts of women. It was embedded in the mind-set of Zadkiel and Mastema that such a humiliation made Talishi look powerless, and it never crossed their mind one single time that the very core of Talishi’s teaching was really all about laying down power over others.
After the growing season came to a close she was brought again to the outskirts of the capital city of Mastema. At night, a black canvas tent was put up around Talishi’s cage, with a fire at the mouth of this tent, yet she still suffered greatly, for Barbelo was an icy world that was rarely ever warm.
One night the High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel departed the walls of his city with a small guard. He entered this tent and let his gaze wander over Talishi’s nude form. Talishi said, “If you think to impress me, Mastema, you’ll have to try harder. After what you did to Israel and all the others I hardly need to ask if Kirodiel had any choice in this possession.”
Mastema made a dismissive gesture, as though swatting an insect.
“See, that’s where we differ, Mastema. Talishi agreed to my possession only after being fully informed of the consequences and understanding them. And the changes go both ways you know. If you kill this body I will probably never take on another one.”
“What do you mean?”
“Certainly you must realize, Mastema, that this planet-dweller flesh you inhabit is a composite being whose personality reflects only seven parts in ten of your original self, and three parts in ten remain Kirodiel. I suspect it’s built right into the process and has to do with the way memories are established in these ape brains. The longer your ego remains down here walking around Barbelo as a man the longer this composite being is mapped back onto your Eloah self. And if you engage in a series of such possessions you risk the total dissolution of your original self. I wonder how El would respond after discovering that a planet-dweller had somehow infiltrated their network.”
Mastema quickly changed the subject. “I look forward to meeting your beloved Princess Khondiel on the field of battle one day. I remember and savor my victory over her and you in the courtroom. Are these truly the tools you have chosen for your bid to reach one of the Elohim outside of the harem?”
“Don’t be a reckless fool, Mastema. Khondiel’s girls have been operating in this area for years. Doing good. She’s got a whole network of favors she could call in if you push her head-on. Overnight you could find yourself facing more problems than you’ve ever had to deal with before in your brief life as a human, which would suddenly have an even shorter time-span going forward.”
“No one is that good, El Shaddai. Surely no woman is that good. But it doesn’t matter. Khondiel has at least one fatal weakness. That weakness, of course, is you.” He waved his hands at the cage. “Despite our disagreements I derive no pleasure from seeing an Eloah treated so, for we are both of a higher order of beings than these humans, you and I. But certainly you cannot have failed to discern that you are being offered as bait for the destruction of the Fallen Angels.”
12 – SAMARIA
David served for a time in the house of King Saul, but for ten years following that David became little more than a refugee fleeing before the wrath of the king, for it had become widely known that Samuel had withdrawn the divine mandate of kingship from Saul and had bestowed it upon this youth. Saul had lost the moral authority to be king, but he retained the actual power of kingship until his death in battle against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa.
Upon the death of King Saul, David was anointed king of Israel on the strength of his selection by Samuel, but only the men of the city of Hebron recognized this. Meanwhile Ishbaal, son of Saul, was anointed king over the rest of Israel, and for seven years the land was torn by civil war between the allies of David and the allies of the house of Saul who favored Ishbaal, but David gradually prevailed. When David’s power in Israel finally was unchallenged, all the tribes of Israel came to him in Hebron and offered fealty to David as their king. And David was thirty years of age when he became King of the whole House of Israel.
Then David moved against the Jebusites and captured the city of Jerusalem. To this city David moved his wives and concubines and sons and daughters, and built the city up as the capital of Israel. After David’s victory in the Valley of Salt, the Edomites became David’s subjects as a close commonwealth of Israel rather than merely tributary to it, as befitting their origins as the descendants of Esau, twin brother of Israel.
When David invaded the land of the Geshurites, the Gezrites, and the Amalekites he left no man or woman alive. He conquered Rabbah and Ammon, and put the people of those cities under saws and harrows and axes of iron and made their dead bodies pass through a brick kiln.
David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of a loyal officer named Uriah, and tried to cover it up. When this was in danger of being exposed, David had Uriah killed on the battlefield by other officers in order to obtain Bathsheba as his wife.
When David was on his death bed he shivered all the time. They piled blankets on him, but he was still cold. So finally they rounded up a virgin to crawl into his bed to give him heat, which she promptly did. Some murmured, “David’s wife Bathsheba is nearby, what is wrong with her body heat?” but it was perks like deathbed virgin heating pads that has inspired men to become kings throughout history.
David revived enough to make his final words a command for his son Solomon to whack Joab, because David was wroth with Joab for whacking his son Absalom. David also broke his promise to Shimei not to kill him, and arranged to have him murdered as well.
After reigning over the House of Judah for forty years, and over all of the House of Israel for thirty-three years, King David died and he was succeeded by his son Solomon. And it is written in the chronicles of the kings of the House of Israel that King David did right in the eyes of God, that David was a man after God’s own heart, that he was an angel with a heart perfect with God, and that evil had not been found in David all his days.
When Solomon was elevated to the throne over the House of Israel, El Shaddai caused the Ark of the Covenant to be brought before him. This was a box of Barbelo make, wood overlain with gold and of exceedingly fine workmanship. El Shaddai considered it another type of avatar, even if it was required to be carried about by men rather than capable of moving under its own power. Through the agency of the Ark, El Shaddai could speak and listen to Solomon. She commanded him to construct a temple nigh to Jerusalem to house the Ark. And El Shaddai granted King Solomon one wish.
Solomon could have asked for a chariot driven by lions and made of pure gold, or 72 virgin heating pads, but instead he just asked for wisdom and discernment. El Shaddai was pleased, and granted the request immediately.
After that King Solomon eliminated his rivals and consolidated his claim to the throne. He reigned over a united kingdom in the period of ancient Israel’s greatest prosperity. Solomon introduced a system of taxation, slave labor, and foreign trade that financed the construction of the temple-palace complex on Mount Zion, adjacent to the old walled city of Jerusalem, as El Shaddai commanded. But it was in this temple that Solomon unwisely carried out his father’s order to whack Joab.
King Solomon unwisely had seven hundred wives and he most unwisely had three hundred concubines. Some of these women were the daughters of foreign kings and noblemen, and using their sexual power they enticed Solomon’s heart to unwisely follow after strange gods.
Solomon unwisely adored the goddess Astarte and Milcom the god of the Ammonites. Also, near Jerusalem, Solomon unwisely built a shrine to Chemosh, god of Moab, and to Molech another god of the Ammonites. Solomon unwisely built a shrine for each one of his foreign wives who sacrificed to other gods, all to please them.
Solomon unwisely murdered his half-brother Adonijah for asking his mother Haggith to request Abishag the Shunamite, the young girl who was asked to try to revive David’s virility, to be his bride, even though Solomon promised Haggith that he would grant any request she made. Adonijah was cut down in the sanctuary of the temple where he fled for safety, mistakenly hoping that the awesome holiness of the site would be wisely observed.
When Solomon had reigned as king over the whole House of Israel forty years, he died and was buried in Jerusalem. His son Rehoboam succeeded Solomon as king at the age of forty-one. And it is written in the chronicles of the kings of the House of Israel that Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived.
Upon the death of Solomon the Kingdom was split into two separate states, with the ten northern tribes of the Kingdom of Israel moving its capital to Shechem in the saddle between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, while the two southern tribes of the kingdom of Judah retained its capital at Jerusalem.
Jeroboam I became the first king of the northern part of the broken kingdom that came be called Samaria. He built up his capital first at Shechem, but them moved his court to Penuel east of the Jordan River. To prevent the people from going down to the temple in Jerusalem to worship there, Jeroboam broke with the established religion by introducing the worship of a golden calf at Bethel and in the region of Dan. Jeroboam told the people the golden calf was El Shaddai all along, and the feast days for the golden calf were timed to coincide with the feast days in Jerusalem.
After that it was a steady ride downhill. By the time the Assyrians made their bid to become a regional great power, Samaria was reduced to solely the lands belonging to the tribes of Ephraim and parts of the lands of Manasseh.
In the fourth year of his reign, King Hoshea was summoned to the court of Shalmaneser to explain his failure to pay the thousand talents of tribute required of him. He was imprisoned, and the Assyrians attacked Israel. The province of Samaria became, for all intents and purposes, a vassal of Damascus governed by military officers.
After Sargon II ascended to the Assyrian throne he occupied Samaria and began to deport all the people to the east. El Shaddai asked Mastema to accept Israelite refugees on Barbelo, lest through intermarriage during their captivity by the Assyrians they ceased to exist as separate tribes, but Mastema adamantly refused this request. He was finished with the experiment to prove humans could not remain obedient to the Elohim and considered it a rousing success.
So El Shaddai appealed to her father Belial, who had withdrawn for many centuries and had remained silent. El Shaddai said she would permit Belial to mate with her and restore his original harem scheme if he could pressure Mastema to permit a permanent open link between Barbelo and Earth. Belial jumped at the chance, but Mastema was required to make a solemn oath, which El Shaddai knew would hold him firm, never to block access between Barbelo and Earth.
Now when Belial and El Shaddai came together in the act of love, El Shaddai diminished herself, and withdrew the living portion of herself from half of her sun-body’s own inner core, letting that half return to the state it was in before it woke up and became El Shaddai. Then when El Shaddai and Belial attained their nearly infinite pinnacle of physical joy, El Shaddai’s reproductive ripple found an empty sun immediately, and Bat-El was conceived within the same sun that was the sun of mankind and also the body of El Shaddai. And this act converted El Shaddai into a male eloah.
Belial immediately knew what had happened, because he found he had a link to his newborn daughter Bat-El, a link which lay outside of creation, and it had formed in one instant, not after the months and years it normally took for the ripple to find a fresh sun.
Then El Shaddai spoke directly to Bat-El though their mutual stellar body without using the instantaneous link that bound together the suns, and at the bidding of her mother Bat-El permanently severed her link to Belial in her first act as a conscious being.
Belial was angered, because El Shaddai had contrived a final end to his scheme of setting aside a private harem of elohim females on this line. He knew if he pushed matters any further El Shaddai would simply mate with his own daughter Bat-El, changing her into a male as well, and any females they spawned would also be totally incommunicado to him. So Belial withdrew into isolation once more and said nothing to Mastema about what had just happened.
And though Mastema could not renege on his oath to keep a fold-door open on Barbelo, he could select a place of his own choosing to locate the end-point. He chose a nearly uninhabited piece of land isolated from the House of Sala to the west by Thalury, the largest body of water on Barbelo, and isolated from the House of Larund to the east by a vertical wall of rock some 19,000 feet high.
Now Samaria was comprised of the ten tribes of Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Zebulun, Issachar, Gad, Ephraim, Reuben, and Simeon. They had largely accepted the polytheism of their pagan neighbors and had grown weaker until the king of Assyria, Sargon II, conquered them.
Sargon deported all of the people of those tribes he had captured, and settled them far to the east in Medea, where they slowly lost their tribal identity through interbreeding with the people of that land. For that was the deliberate policy of the Assyrian Empire as a solution to the ancient problem of tribalism. Many of the people of the ten tribes of Israel escaped to Judah and united themselves to the people there, who would later become known as Jews. Only the remnant, which El Shaddai brought to Barbelo, retained their original identity and forms of worship, but this he did to fulfill his promise to Abraham to raise up from his loins a great nation, and he would not be held faithless in his covenant.
El Shaddai selected only those families who rejected the worship of Baal, and who rejected the golden calves that were set up in Bethel and Dan, and also those who disdained cult prostitutes and all other forms of idolatry. Only those with zeal for El Shaddai alone were permitted to colonize Barbelo, and this remnant numbered only about seven thousand. And the place where they settled was called Haaretz.
The tribe of Ephraim built the city of Hadal far in the north and east of Haaretz, in a cool vale between Shaula Wood and the face of the Wall of God, and Hadal became the leading city in the kingdom of Nath.
The tribe of Simeon built the city of Adjara on the western edge of the Shaula Wood and it was a great crossroads in that land, and the center of the weapons trade that came to be in later years. And in time another Temple of El Shaddai would be constructed nigh to this city, and there the Ark of the Covenant would be safely brought to rest within the Holy of Holies.
The tribe of Reuben built the city of Mizal at the foot of Mount Narutha, but the land about was dry and impoverished for the mountain cast a rain shadow. And ever the tribe of Reuben made war upon the Gold Beards of Linan to the north for the rich fruit of the orchards round about that city. At length the colonists prevailed and drove all of their native rivals out of Linan and extended the borders of Nath thither.
The tribe of Gad built the city of Kabark on a rich plain south of the river Armak, but here also the land lacked for water. So they built a mighty work, a dam of cunning stonework upon the river, and backed up the river into a man-made lake called Enkaa. Then the tribe of Gad dug many canals and ditches from the lake toward Kabark, and using this water they planted farms that became the envy of Haaretz.
The tribe of Dan built the city of Fatho at the foot of the Wall of God, where there were many natural caves and mines dug by men, and they reaped many underground treasures buried there. Dan was the fifth tribe that founded the kingdom of Nath in the northeast of Haaretz.
The tribe of Issachar founded the city of Nyduly in the forest known as Canterwood, which stretched along the southern bank of the river Sabik, and they were skilled in felling timber and all manner of woodcraft. But their women were the first to fall away from the exclusive worship of El Shaddai, for they listened to the women of the House of Sala who seduced them to the worship of Bat-El, and the Issacharite women enticed their men to worship Bat-El also. And the sacred pool of Bat-El in the heart of Canterwood was the location Mastema had selected for the open portal to Earth.
The tribe of Asher built the city of Alnitar on the river Nanki, and they too fell away from El Shaddai to follow after his daughter. But this troubled Bat-El, for she greatly honored her father herself, obeying him in every thing he asked. Bat-El never commanded her Samaritan or Jewish followers to abandon him nor his law, although in later centuries her Gentile followers were released from observing the purely ceremonial aspects of the Code of Moshe.
Fish migrated from Thalury to the source of the river Nanki, and many men in Alnitar made a living catching them. The tribe of Zebulun built the city of Eltan far up the valley of the river Nanki, and it was a crossroads in the trade between Kurgan and Hamar. There caravans would unload their goods and be set on rafts made from logs felled from the endless forests covering the mountains to the south. The rafts then were allowed to drift down the river to Alnitar or to Sadl, and after they were unloaded the rafts themselves would be sold as raw timber. Eltan, too, had converted to the worship of Bat-El.
The tribe of Naphtali built the city of Wazol at the very headwaters of the river Sabik, and the Wall of God loomed over it. Wazol was a rival city to Fatho, for it was engaged in mining as well, and if ever one city tried to corner the market in one metal or another, the other city would undercut their prices. Yet the city of Wazol retained El Shaddai as their only God, and looked with disdain on the heretics who followed after Bat-El.
The tribe of Manessah built the city of Menkant in the valley of the upper Sabik between Mount Rasal and Mount Menkant, and it was the leading city among the five tribes in the south, which formed the kingdom of Hamar. And Menkant, like Wazol, remained loyal to El Shaddai alone.
13 – KHONDIEL
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 women from the city of Mastema removed to there, and some of these joined Khondiel’s Fallen Angels, a fierce army of female warriors that was utterly without precedent on Barbelo. Many men went to Salem as well, all those who believed all men and women were on a level, and women should never be treated as mere property. Salem, then, was a “liberal” city home to those who were disgusted and horrified at the sight of Talishi being paraded naked in a wooden cage across the chilly Middle Lands of Barbelo.
As Salem filled up with the enemies of Mastema, the prophet Zadkiel surrounded the city with many Eyes of Mastema in their black livery, and they turned back anyone who were not native to that city and who should try to enter. And when Khondiel had rallied all in the Middle Lands who were sympathetic to Talishi, and bade those who were willing to emigrate to Salem, the time was come for her to enter the city herself, yet she could not travel openly, for the blockade was pursued with vigor.
But one of the farmers who lived nigh to the city concealed Khondiel within a wooden box and drove to the lines of the Eyes of Mastema who ringed the city. There no wagons could pass. But the farmer and three sturdy lads in his employ took the box off the wagon and bore it themselves toward the city using two poles threaded through brass rings in the side of the box, much like the Ark of the Covenant in Hamar, while another young man drove the wagon back to the farm. Yet they were not alone, for many other farmers had to resort to the same expedient to move their goods into the city.
One of the Eyes of Mastema grew suspicious and barked to the men carrying Khondiel, “What man of you be the loadmaster?”
Three of the lads edged fearfully away from oldest among them. “This shipment be mine, lord. I am Sibiel, a farmer of the valley of Odargas.”
The Eye of Mastema asked, “Dost thou make vouchsafement for the goods thou bearest?”
And Sibiel answered, “I do, milord.”
The Eye of Mastema replied, “Yet I would see therein.”
Sibiel suddenly looked crestfallen. Resigned, he told the other men to open the box. Talishi’s closest disciple Khondiel stumbled out, dazed by the sudden change from darkness to the light of day. The other three laborers feigned outrage at the smuggling attempt in an effort to save their own skins.
“Stand ye apart from Sibiel,” the Eye of Mastema proclaimed, “all who value your lives, for contrary to the will of Mastema he bearest aid to the fugitive daughter of King Gordiel to enter Salem.”
But Khondiel was not cowed by the pretensions of this Eye of Mastema. She cursed him in a loud voice, and said, “May El Shaddai send down fire from heaven and smite thee and all thy companions!”
At first the farmers from Odargas thought the princess was joking, but immediately after she spoke, brilliant orange bolts of fire shot down from the clear sky. So bright and hot was this fire that the men thought they had singed their own eyebrows off. The fire from the sky vaporized twelve Eyes of Mastema in a single simultaneous targeted strike, leaving only smoking grease spots where the men once had stood.
And Princess Khondiel, after thanking Sibiel and his farm hands and paying them well, advanced to the ferry to cross to Salem unmolested.
But the priesthood soon noticed the missing Eyes of Mastema, and the true story was wrung out from certain witnesses by threats of torment. The priests knew bolts of fire from the sky had killed the Eyes of Mastema. And when Kirodiel heard the rumor he knew the fire from the sky was direct interference from El Shaddai, the first such meddling that his daughter had dared to do with her avatar. So the High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash commanded Zadkiel thus: “Make the inhabitants of the city of Salem to be a spoil for dogs and all manner of birds, and let the will of Mastema be brought to fulfillment!”
At dusk in the city of Salem, in the castle Brys which was built on a two ji high bluff on the north side of the mouth of the river Dashok, Khondiel presented herself for an audience with her father King Gordiel. She went with two of her chief lieutenants who had preceded her to Salem by many days. The king had not seen his daughter face-to-face for three years, and he longed to embrace her as a father would a daughter, yet this was a formal audience, and further he wished to see what influence Talishi had wrought in her.
After Khondiel was announced, and knelt before him, the King told her to rise. Then he looked hard at Khondiel with a piercing gaze and said, “It gladdens my heart to see you again, Khondiel. I find the counsel of the gods has sundered one from another, and I have been forced to choose between them. And know this, beloved daughter, I have chosen El Shaddai.”
Khondiel replied, “My father the King knows that I embrace El Shaddai and all those who also embrace El Shaddai. And further the king knows his daughter is filled with unbreakable love for him, and is loyal to a fault. Therefore, my father and king, if you will, command me.”
Gordiel said, “The Eyes of Mastema have long pressured me to turn over to them the Fallen Angels who have taken refuge here in Salem. Also they have long 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?”
“Yes I do know, father. There was a kind of demonstration that El Shaddai and I had arranged for the benefit of witnesses. In a show of pretense I called upon El Shaddai to smite the Eyes of Mastema 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 Mastema utterly, such that no evidence remained that they had been living men only moments before.”
“Then it is Mastema himself who is now at war with us,” the King said, “and Salem can no longer be called a sanctuary to you or your Fallen Angels. Soon every hand of family Gerash will be raised against us.”
Khondiel asked, “Then are you to command me and the Fallen Angels to leave the city at this time, father?”
“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 Mastema will arrive seeking vengeance for their missing Eyes of Mastema.”
And this Khondiel eagerly agreed to do.
Many years before war came to Salem, on a hill near the city, King Gordiel 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.
The High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel had heard the prophecy, of course, so when the Army of Mastema drew near the city he found the wagon and laid his own eyes on the famous knot. For several days, while the army camped in the surrounding countryside, Zadkiel tried to undo the knot, but to no avail. Very well, since the wagon was not going anywhere soon, he had Zadkiel’s men lash Talishi’s cage to the wagon of King Gordius. For Talishi had been brought at last to the outskirts of the last holdout city of Salem to taunt her supporters there.
“I am confronted with a pair of dilemmas,” High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel told his prophet Zadkiel that evening in the privacy of his tent. “For just as I, Mastema, have taken possession of this male body and go by the name Kirodiel, so has the eloah El Shaddai taken possession of that woman’s body and goes by the name of Talishi. And yet I have commanded you to preach that I am the only god, and the other gods no longer exist.”
“And you may trust, Lord, that as your prophet I will foster and maintain that belief among the people.”
“You must take the utmost care where Talishi s concerned, for she is indeed El Shaddai, one of the elohim, despite my propaganda to the contrary, which you at least would do well not to believe.”
But even as he spoke Mastema was troubled, because he knew Zadkiel had come to believe that his struggle against El Shaddai meant that El Shaddai himself should be held in contempt, which was the human custom when dealing with enemies among their own order. Yet El Shaddai was an Eloah like himself, and friend or foe, Mastema thought the beings of lesser orders should give him the respect that was his due.
Kirodiel continued. “My other dilemma centers around the narrative I have constructed that women are unwarlike, and to be treated as mere property. Khondiel and her so-called Fallen Angels, who are without peer on Barbelo, contradict this narrative every day. They cannot be permitted to exist, and yet who is worthy to confront them?”
“Surely my Lord makes a ridiculous joke.”
“Khondiel has exactly one weakness,” Kirodiel explained to Zadkiel, as though his prophet had not interrupted. His mouth screwed up in an expression of utter disdain. “Khondiel’s only weakness, of course, is Talishi herself. And so I am willing to tolerate the indignity of the 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. Yet it is also the only thread that will assure the destruction of the Fallen Angels. Now listen carefully, and I will give you your orders.”
At a beautiful blue pool in the mountains ringing the city of Salem, Khondiel and a squad of her Fallen Angels refreshed themselves, then assumed their usual mode of riding slowly on their horses while they watched the greater perimeter of the city for intruders. Suchwise the Eyes of Mastema had also done before they were inexplicably withdrawn some weeks before.
A nearby torrent of water was so loud that Khondiel found it hard to hear her chief lieutenant, Imriel, speaking to her. She told Imriel to repeat what she had just said a bit louder. And Imriel said, “We should be back to the ferry by nightfall, having made a complete circle.”
The waterfall completely blanked out the sound and vibration of onrushing hooves until it was nearly too late. Not even Khondiel’s hypersensitive mare gave warning. Suddenly Gerash horsemen raced up behind Khondiel, Imriel, and the others. At the last second Khondiel’s sword was brought out, only to crash against a mighty iron rod. There were sparks and Khondiel was knocked clean off her horse.
Another horseman decapitated Imriel in one smooth motion. Khondiel was stunned, and grieved for Imriel, but her horse had the intelligence to linger with Khondiel rather than follow her instinct, which was to bolt.
Shaking her head clear, Khondiel mounted up again. Imriel was dead but four of her Fallen Angels survived the assault, and they rallied around her. Lumbering after them, she recognized their battle standard and mouthed the vile name of their general with all the contempt she could muster: “Zadkiel!”
Khondiel chased the cavalrymen like the cold wind that presaged the long Barbelo winter. Khondiel’s companions loosed many arrows even from their full gallop, and one of them slew the iron staff wielder. Two others who blocked Zadkiel from harm also fell, so no one remained to run interference while Khondiel slowly closed in on her fleeing target.
But Zadkiel was too far ahead. Soon he dived into the safety of a vast forest glade guarded by a large armed encampment. Contrary to her every wish Khondiel reared back and brought her horse to a stop, and the other Fallen Angels conformed to her movements. Khondiel scanned all the banners and standards of the army arrayed before her and recognized this as the main bulk of the army of Mastema.
But every indication she had from the path of burning towns said Zadkiel was twelve or fifteen leagues to the west. He must have led his army on a forced march all night. But how did he know to come to precisely this place? “Mastema,” Khondiel muttered, answering her own unspoken question.
Zadkiel ordered that the canvas covering Talishi’s cage be removed, and then Talishi was revealed to Khondiel. It was the first time she had seen her in a year, because after a time she could not bear to look at her humiliation.
“You can kill me where you stand, Khondiel,” Zadkiel shouted, “but that wouldn’t be healthy for Talishi.”
Khondiel stared at Zadkiel with first wide, then narrowing eyes. She rode a bit closer. “Don’t sink to this, Zadkiel. I expect such from Mastema. It isn’t worthy of an unpossessed man of the Gerash.”
Now Khondiel was close enough that Zadkiel could speak in a more dignified tone. He said, “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 Talishi, but that outcome is not assured. To really keep Talishi safe from assassination you will 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 Mastema is held in contempt.”
Khondiel was frustrated by her vulnerability. She thought: Had all her enemies learned Talishi was her one weakness?
Zadkiel seemed to read her thoughts. “Talishi has become a noose around your neck, Khondiel, and the closer you get to her the tighter that noose becomes. How easy it is to make you dance with a few simple threats to Talishi’s life!”
She said to him, “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 woman I care about hostage?”
He replied, “Not at all, but you have left me no choice.”
Then Khondiel got her horse up to full speed and charged toward the heart of the enemy encampment. Moving in a well-practiced dance, a century of Kirodiel’s best pikemen suddenly arranged themselves around Talishi’s cage, with their forest of spikes pointing directly at the approach of Khondiel.
So Zadkiel had put Talishi on display, tempting Khondiel, at the same time making it clear Talishi was completely beyond her grasp. Talishi shouted, “Khondiel! Forget about me!”
Khondiel’s voice broke as she called back tearfully, “Don’t you know by now that’s the one thing I can never do?” But she could do nothing more here. Khondiel flashed Zadkiel with a glance of pure hatred and kicked her steed, turning away to flee the scene.
“She is a true warrior,” Zadkiel told Talishi, earning a wad of spit in his face. He quietly wiped it away. “She knows. The things you love are always used against you. Always! She knows!”
14 – REFUGEES
The ten tribes of the northern part of the united kingdom of Israel had many grievances they left unvoiced during the reign of Solomon, and to his son and successor they demanded many reforms. Instead, King Rehoboam promised to lay an even heavier yoke upon them than his father had. Apparently none of Solomon’s aforementioned wisdom was imparted to his son.
So the united kingdom went into a permanent schism, with the greater part of the tribes of Israel in rebellion against the house of David, but the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to King Rehoboam.
The northern tribes anointed Jeroboam as their king instead. The officials Rehoboam sent to Samaria were murdered when they came north. And so war broke out between the northern and southern kingdoms where once they had been ruled as one state, and this war continued more or less continuously until Samaria ceased to exist.
King Hezekiah removed every vestige of polytheism in Judah, including the high places that had existed under every king since Rehoboam. He even destroyed a bronze serpent made by Moshe, because it too had become an idol.
Hezekiah refused to serve the Assyrian king Sennacherib the son of Sargon II, the Assyrian king who destroyed Samaria. Sennacherib therefore laid siege to Jerusalem and forced Hezekiah to pay a tribute of thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, gems, antimony, and many jewels. Also paid in tribute was carnelian, couches and chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant hides and tusks, ebony, boxwood, and other rich treasures, along with Hezekiah’s daughters, his wives, his musicians, and servants both men and women. King Sennacherib took all of these things to Nineveh.
To prepare Jerusalem in the event of another siege, Hezekiah constructed an aqueduct to bring fresh water into the Pool of Siloam inside the city.
When Pharaoh Neco went toward the River Euphrates to link up with the Assyrian Empire, King Josiah went out to confront him, but he was slain on the plains of Megiddo. And his son Jehoahaz succeeded him, but he reigned only three months in Jerusalem. Pharaoh Neco took him captive at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and demanded a tribute of much silver and gold. King Jehoahaz died in captivity in Egypt, the first king of Judah to die in exile.
Neco then appointed Eliakim, another son of Josiah, as king of Judah. Eliakim changed his name to Jehoiakim. After his defeat at the hands of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II and serving as his vassal for three years, King Jehoiakim revolted against Babylon. But Johoiakim died before the combined armies of Chaldeans, Arameans, Moabites and Ammonites could reach Jerusalem. His son Jeconiah succeeded him.
At this time El Shaddai withdrew the Ark of the Covenant from the temple in Jerusalem, lest it fell into the hands of the Babylonians, for El Shaddai, like anyone else with a modicum of wisdom, could easily guess that Jerusalem itself would soon come under direct attack. The Ark temporarily resided in Nath, on Barbelo, and one day it would return to Earth once more, but it would never again be seen in Jerusalem.
During the reign of King Jeconiah, Nebuchadnezzar personally laid siege to Jerusalem. Jeconiah surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and was taken captive to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar took all the treasures of the temple of El Shaddai and deported the army, the craftsmen, and all the leading citizens of Jerusalem. Only the very poor remained behind to till the land. Nebuchadnezzar appointed Mattaniah, the uncle of Jeconiah, as king and changed his name to Zedekiah.
King Zedekiah also rebelled against the king of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar and his whole army advanced against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. King Zedekiah attempted to escape the city but he was captured and brought before Nebuchadnezzar. The sons of Zedekiah were slain before his eyes, and then Zedekiah himself was blinded, bound in chains, and taken to Babylon.
The Babylonians burned down the temple of El Shaddai, the palace of the king and every house in Jerusalem. The walls of the city were also torn down and the surviving people of the city were taken into exile in Babylon. From that day forward the kingdom of Judah ceased to exist.
Nebuchadnezzar deported about fifty thousand Jews to Babylon. Only a very few of the poorest people and a handful of renegade army officers remained behind in the Judean hills, and these soon fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians, leaving the land entirely vacant.
At that time a man named Lael , a scion of the house of David from the tribe of Judah, went about the countryside in Egypt claiming that he had been taken in the flesh to see the other world with his own eyes. He also said that servants of El Shaddai had given him a task that he must carry out to the letter.
From among the remnant of tribe of Judah, Lael was commanded to seek a man with four unmarried daughters, who was willing to allow them to be trothplighted to his four unmarried sons, even though two of Lael’s sons were yet young boys.
From the tribe of Benjamin, Lael was commanded to match another four young men with intended brides. All of these couples, six from Judah and six from Benjamin, were to be taken to Barbelo, as the world which Lael had seen was named, where they would grow and thrive safe from the Babylonians.
Zethan was the man Lael was seeking, and after the vows were exchanged, all the colonists from Judah were accounted for. There was Lael and his wife Sariah, Zethan and his wife Atara, Elam the eldest son of Lael and his new wife Serach, Jemuel the second son of Lael, and his new wife Iscah, Rosh the third son of Lael and his betrothed Sela, and Rimon the youngest son of Lael and his betrothed Dinah.
From among the remnant of the tribe of Benjamin, Lael chose Abner, who had four sons, and Jabez, who was willing to allow his four daughters to marry them. And so this was the full tale of the colonists from Benjamin: Abner and his wife Tabitha, Jabez and his wife Keziah, Asa the eldest son of Abner and his new wife Jemima, Josiah the second son of Abner and his new wife Keturah, Tobiah the third son of Abner and his betrothed Susannah, and Asher the youngest son of Abner and his betrothed Leah.
And it came to pass that the twenty-four colonists traveled from Egypt to the downfallen kingdom of Judah, which was completely vacant, and every dwelling had been looted by the Babylonians and later completely cleaned out by robbers from the neighboring kingdoms. The Judahite and Benjaminite colonists made their way through the charred debris littering Jerusalem and stood in the place that was called the Pool of Siloam.
Lael led the way. He waded into the Pool and descended the underwater stairs until he was completely immersed, and he came not again out of the water. One by one, the people following Lael overcame their fear and entered the water.
There was the sensation of a twist under the water, and they emerged from the pool again, but things had changed. Instead of an underground cavern, they were now surrounded by many trees, and the sky was violet. Men and women attended to them with dry clothing to replace their soaked rags. These people said they were from the tribe of Issachar, and there was great rejoicing, for Lael and his own people knew they were all common children of Israel who had been sundered one from the other for more than a century.
The Issacharites told the colonists that Barbelo had been home to the ten tribes for many years but now El Shaddai had commanded that Barbelo be settled by remnants of the house of Judah and the House of Benjamin as well. In this way the covenant El Shaddai made with Abraham would be fully restored, and they would never again be faced by Egyptians nor Babylonians nor Assyrians nor Philistines.
As gently as possible it was revealed to Lael and his group from the southern kingdom that not all of the children of Israel in Barbelo worshiped El Shaddai alone. For El Shaddai, so they claimed, had a daughter, and some, including the tribe of Issachar, worshiped this Eloah they named Bat-El. Lael listened to the words of the Issacharites, but he made no reply to them, for such words required much consideration.
On the second day people of the tribe of Asher joined them, having traveled down the vale of the river Nanki from their city of Alnitar. The men of Asher provided shields for the men among the colonists crafted from outlandish trees that grew in the south. These shields were hard enough to withstand the strokes of any axe or blade, for the trees they had been fashioned from could be cut only by fire, yet they were much lighter than comparable shields made of bronze or iron.
The Asherites revealed that they, too, had broken away from the sole worship of El Shaddai and worshiped his daughter as well. This especially troubled the colonists of Judah and Benjamin, who had not thought it possible that El Shaddai would accept some children of Abraham falling away from worshiping him alone. Yet their presence on Barbelo was obviously a divine miracle, and the efforts of the remnants of Samaria to help restore the fallen southern kingdom in another world could not be denied.
There were more visitors to be received before Lael’s journey could begin, and like the Issacharites and Asherites they were also considered by some of the other tribes to be heretics. On the third day men and women arrived down the river from the city of Eltan, home of the tribe of Zebulun, bearing many small tools and other goods that would be useful for Lael’s group to start their colony in Haaretz.
On the morning of the fourth day Lael and his group were led on a journey east until they reached the river Sabik, where they made camp. There Hadraniel the king of Hamar arrived from the city of Menkant to speak with Lael, accompanied by members of his court. And King Hadraniel told Lael that the tribe of Manneseh was, in the beginning, faithful to El Shaddai alone, but that after a century and much convincing evidence they had converted to the worship of Bat-El like the five other tribes in the kingdom of Hamar.
And the king had brought with him a small flock of livestock, which he ordered slaughtered, and a great feast was prepared in honor of the newcomers from Judah.
On the fifth day the steadily growing group crossed the river Sabik and were come to the foot of Mount Menkant. There they were met by travelers from the tribe of Naphtali who came from the city of Wazol at the foot of the Wall of God. The Naphtalites bore gifts for Lael’s group in the form of precious stones for the women and girls to wear and also to serve as easily portable tokens of wealth to be used to purchase the things Lael needed when his colonists reached their destination.
Then there was more fellowship and rejoicing, for since the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians the “lost” tribes in Barbelo had enjoyed no contact with their kinspeople from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin of the former southern kingdom. All the long history of their misunderstandings and conflicts since the division of the united kingdom seemed to be forgotten. And the Naphtalites affirmed that they, also, had converted to the worship of Bat-El.
On the sixth day King Hadraniel and his entourage took their leave, and Lael’s group was led further west, until the Wall of God began to loom over them. They crossed the upper reaches of the river Arhena and entered the lands of the tribe of Dan in the kingdom of Nath. At length they came to the city of Fatho, where Lael and his group were given much silver and gold.
Turning then north and west, Lael’s group crossed a shoulder of Mount Fatho until they arrived on the evening of the seventh day at the city of Kabark, home of the tribe of Gad. The city folk brought forth the bounty of the rich farms of their land that was watered by canals leading from Lake Enkaa like the threads of a spider’s web
On the eighth day Lael and his group arrived at the massive stone wall called Enkaa Dam. From the west, people of the tribe of Reuben came forward bearing baskets of delicious fresh fruit of a kind none of the colonists from Judah had tasted before, for they were native to Barbelo.
On the ninth day when Lael reached Adjara, men of the tribe of Simeon provided pack animals for their goods, and two of these animals bore sufficient arms for twelve men. El Shaddai did not wish to leave the followers of Lael defenseless against the men they might meet in their new colony, whether they be from the House of Sala, or the House of Larund, or even their brothers from the House of Israel.
On the tenth day Lael’s group went a short distance to the west of Adjara to the site of the temple of El Shaddai on Barbelo, which men of the whole House of Israel had been working on for more than a century, and it was still under construction. Yet Lael and his people wept with joy, for it was already nearly as glorious as the original temple constructed by Solomon had been, and the people with Lael spoke of how Nebuchadnezzar had pulled the first temple down to ruin.
King Thausael of Hadal arrived then with his entourage from among the tribe of Manesseh, and they bore with them the authentic Ark of the Covenant which had been given into the keeping of King Solomon. The Ark had been withdrawn many years later when El Shaddai feared the House of Judah was too weak to protect it, and the line of Kings in Hadal had been appointed to be the guardians of the relic.
Yet it was now El Shaddai’s command that the Ark should pass into the safekeeping of Lael and his sons to preserve the commandments of El Shaddai among the colonists, and also to preserve the history of all the children of Israel in Barbelo. Included within was the White Scroll with the Code of Moshe and many writings besides. And King Thausael said it was appointed for Lael and his descendants to preserve on the White Scroll the new history of his colony.
The task was given for Lael and his family to bear the Ark on two staves through rings in the corner of the artifact. And when they were not bearing the Ark Lael’s four sons set the ends of the staves through four stones given to them by King Thausael. The stones had been drilled through with holes. Every time the travelers paused, said the king, these four stones were to be set on pillars of greater stones gathered from the ground around the encampment. The king said the Ark must never touch the ground, and save for the lid the Ark must never be touched by human hands nor brushed by the hide of beasts.
Then the king commanded Lael to journey alone with his twenty-four kin and followers to the west until they reached the far side of Eliath Wood, where a choice land had been prepared for him. But Lael would never be abandoned or forgotten, for the oracles of El Shaddai came only through the Ark, and ever men of the House of Israel would come seeking for them.
15 – PROPHESY
Sibiel, the farmer from Odargas who tried to smuggle Khondiel to Salem, had been fingered by the farm hands he hired when they were threatened with death by slow torture. The Eyes of Mastema elected not to kill him, for it would seem too much a kindness to Sibiel and a waste of good muscle power. Zadkiel’s army was short-handed so Sibiel was instead cruelly pressed into slavery as a simple waterbearer in Zadkiel’s camp.
Having little else to do for entertainment, often the Gerash soldiers would trip him, laughing together with their buddies as Sibiel trudged back again and again to refill his pot.
That night Sibiel wandered off to the edge of the camp where a hooded shape tackled him and dragged him into a small ravine. It was Kandiel! She ordered him to switch their clothes.
He wanted to stay and help rescue Talishi, but after some stern words from Princess Khondiel, together with ample thanks for what he had done Sibiel faded off into the night under a black robe.
Khondiel adjusted Sibiel’s clumsy homemade armor and helmet, which was almost worse than no protection at all. She padded out her womanly curves and put on false facial hair to offset the soft feminine features that always belied her status as commander of the foremost army on Barbelo. Then she drifted into the camp fetching water for the men and searching for Talishi in the area where Sibiel told her she was being held captive.
Talishi was held within the cubical wooden cage that had been moved off the wagon tied to a tree by the Gordian Knot and relocated instead to the center of the camp, guarded by two men. Tonight it was covered with a canvas to keep Zadkiel’s men from leering at the nude young Talishi instead of watching out for Khondiel.
Her Sibiel uniform worked well. Khondiel could swagger with the best of them. The guards permitted her to enter with a ladle of rancid water. She appeared between the canvas and the cage.
For light Khondiel wore a green flexible band of intricate make, a gift from Talishi. In the center it possessed a brilliant white light that allowed Khondiel to move on the darkest nights, and there was none like it anywhere on Barbelo. The canvas covering Talishi’s cage was thick enough that no light escaped to betray the princess.
“Khondiel!” Talishi husked, filled with joy when she saw the face of her disciple. Then she was filled with consternation. “Nice beard.”
“Hush! Take my headband.”
Talishi whispered, “That headtorch was my gift to you, Khondiel, and I never ask for my gifts to be returned.”
Khondiel said in reply , “You will have to make an exception this time,” and she passed it to Talishi between the interlaced bars.
Talishi said, “Do you want me to use it to escape?”
Khondiel replied, with a smirk, “Please don’t do anything stupid, Talishi. Better yet, don’t do anything at all!”
Talishi immediately got the joke and smiled.
Khondiel offered water. “This headband is the only thing I have that says ‘Khondiel was here’ without mistake. Now Zadkiel will come in here and gloat over you like evil warlords always seem to do. At that time I want you to let him see you have my headband. That’s my message to him, and it is a very simple one: That I can come or go at will.”
“It will rattle him good,” Talishi agreed.
Khondiel said, “The more men he has guarding you, the less men he’ll have on the field of battle tomorrow.”
Talishi smiled at her. It was well planned. “I knew you had a scheme for getting me out of here, Khondiel.”
They shared the most heartfelt kiss of their lives, knowing it could very well be the last one. Then Khondiel left, promising to return with an army to get her loose.
At sunrise Zadkiel saw that his plan had worked. He had flushed Khondiel out of the city. But the patriarch had been absolutely right about Khondiel’s network of favors. Accompanying Khondiel was King Gordiel of Salem and all of his men under arms.
Talishi was visible in the center of the camp, held naked and shivering within the giant wooden cage with a heavy guard around her representing a fair fraction of Zadkiel’s available men.
“And that is his own fatal flaw,” Khondiel told her father the king, who was mounted on his own horse beside her. “My ruse has worked perfectly. Talishi has now become Zadkiel’s greatest weakness, a precious jewel tying down a third of his men just as our attack begins.”
So their armies began to clash fiercely, and with the new disparity in numbers the battle gradually began to go against Zadkiel. Khondiel fought her way to the top of the hill behind Zadkiel’s army where the wagon was tied up all by itself now.
Zadkiel spotted what Khondiel was trying to do in the fog of battle and moved to cut her off, lest she solve the Gordian Knot and become the beneficiary of the prophecy, destined to rule all Barbelo.
They both dismounted and launched into an extended face-to-face sword duel. The tip of Zadkiel’s blade slashed Khondiel’s bare abdomen as he attained first blood.
Khondiel feigned shock at the pain and injury and pretended to slow down. Zadkiel, seeing that, let his guard down for just a fraction of a second, but it was enough. Seeing her opening, Khondiel let loose a ferocious kick to his face and Zadkiel was laid out cold.
Khondiel was sorely tempted to finish him off right there, but her eyes settled on the forgotten wagon on the hilltop and she ran to it instead.
She tried to untie the Gordian knot that secured the wagon to a mighty tree, but like many that came before her she made no headway. Meanwhile Mastema’s cavalry was rapidly closing in on her.
Finally, with no time to lose, Khondiel just cut the knot with her sword. The wagon began to roll downhill and she jumped inside, hanging on for dear life. Her war cry gripped the attention of the troops guarding Talishi, and they gaped at the horror approaching them. All of the men fled as Khondiel’s desperate gamble played out.
She ducked inside the wagon and braced herself as the wagon collided with the cage at breakneck speed, shattering both the cage and the wagon to splinters. Somehow they survived the collision. Both women were more bruised and beaten than they had ever been before but Talishi was alive and free.
King Gordiel continued the rout and pursued the scattered remnants of Mastema’s army into the forest. But the king knew this defeated army represented only a fraction of the strength that the Gerash patriarch could bring to bear on him, and its relatively small size had itself been a gesture of contempt on the part of Kirodiel for the abilities of Salem to defend itself. Next time there would be a far greater host. But for now Gordiel shrugged. That was a worry for another day.
When Zadkiel finally regained consciousness he saw his utter defeat from his vantage on the hilltop, and he fled the field alone on his horse.
Khondiel said, “No more adventures for a while, Talishi. I’ve cracked a rib, for starters.”
Talishi accepted a blanket and threw it around her naked form. Being deprived of clothing for so long had caused her much suffering. Gorpai was largely an ice world after all. She said, “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 her part Khondiel was almost at a loss for words. “What do you mean ‘why’? Didn’t you find that cage a little drafty?”
Talishi held up the end of the wagon’s rope. “I’m talking about the Gordian Knot. I’ll admit, cutting it was not what your father’s oracle had in mind, maybe, but now you are destined to rule Gorpai. Fate! The unreformed Khondiel must return now.”
Khondiel said, “Must she? You say Mastema was behind all this, but do you think Mastema will have his way forever? What if the oracle really meant the spirit of the new Khondiel will take over Gorpai? The Khondiel who changed on that unforgettable day when she first met you.”
Talishi was shocked at first, then she smiled as understanding fully dawned. “The new Khondiel? If men and women 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 but you may have turned the corner here today. Once and for all . . . love won!”
16 – JUDAHITES
Not many days after Lael’s death in the new colony in Haaretz, about sixteen years after the migration from Judah, Elam and Lemuel were angry with Rosh for the admonitions of their father that came out of Rosh’s mouth at regular intervals. The old man was dead, may he rest in peace, but here was little Rosh spouting Laelisms as though the old man somehow lived on through his third son.
Rosh’s older brothers eventually sought to take his life because they would not have their younger brother rule over them. Before they could carry out this deed, however, Rosh fled into the wilderness with all that would go with him. Rosh took his own family, and also Zethan and his family, and Timon with his family, and Jared his younger brother who was born on Barbelo, and also the sisters of Rosh.
The Benjaminites however remained in the land of Shedal near Glenah Wood. This was the fertile place that Lael’s group had first settled and farmed after crossing to Barbelo from Earth.
A great religious controversy was born in the parting of Rosh that would result in much bloodshed. For Rosh took the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the White Scroll, and the Ark also possessed a kind of director, which was one of the two decorative cherubim on the golden lid of the box. This director pointed to the way they should go and began to spin when they should halt.
The people in Rosh’s group descended from the broad upland around Shedal southwest to Thalury. When they arrived at a point on the coast where much fish could be obtained, the pointer angel on the Ark began to spin in contentment. Rosh called this area Suhair.
They planted seed on the gentle slopes inland from shore and raised flocks of animals on the golden hills that rose north and east of the sea. Rosh also made many blades of bronze, “Lest by any means the Benjaminites should come upon us and destroy us.”
As El Shaddai had foreseen, many people came from elsewhere in Haaretz to approach the Ark of the Covenant. They came to speak directly to El Shaddai and also to receive her commands. Some of these pilgrims were commanded by El Shaddai to remain among the people under Rosh and mingle their blood with the Judahites.
Then one day it became the turn for Rosh’s brother Jared to write in the White Scroll that preserved their history, because Rosh had grown old and he saw that he would soon die. After the death of Rosh some of the Judahites journeyed up the coast until it formed a narrow strait with the Isle they called Elendal lying off-shore. Some of the Judahites mingled with the indigenous peoples along the way. Most of the native people of the area were Gold Beards of the House of Sala, and they made their homes along the seashore. But Jared and most of the people pushed ever on until they reached a large river that poured from the east directly into the strait. There the Judahites founded a settlement called Akamar.
The White Scroll and the Ark of the Covenant passed down from Jared to his son Jachin, then to his grandson Omar and also to his great-grandson Abidan. And when Abidan had grown old and feeble, it was deemed by the people that Akamar had grown large and strong enough that Abidan’s son Baruch should be acclaimed a king.
With his mighty deeds, and wisdom, with the help of prophets from elsewhere in Haaretz, and by slaying hundreds of Benjaminites, King Baruch established peace in his land. For the rest of the king’s life, there would be peace in the kingdom of Menkal, which was what the Judahites called their homeland with it’s many islands and bays.
King Baruch had a son named Mered, and the king made certain his son received a good education. Mered meticulously studied the laws and histories recorded on the White Scoll, and Baruch told his son that the scroll was the only thing keeping the Judahites from dwindling in unbelief like the Benjaminites on the plateau to the east.
Then came the time when King Baruch wanted to go into retirement. He told his son to gather the people together outside of the city so he could make the announcement. But that would be just a formality. Baruch gave his son the actual reins of power immediately. Additionally he passed on to Mered the Ark of the Covenant.
In the morning the people arranged themselves around the chief gate of the city in tents, with each family separated one from another. The door of each tent was faced so they could stay in the tent yet hear the words of King Baruch as he spoke from a specially constructed tower.
The king spoke of his life in service to the people, and how he even labored with his own hands that the people would not be unduly burdened with taxes. Yet he did not bring this up to boast, only to affirm that he had really been in the service of El Shaddai all along. The King said he served El Shaddai by serving his fellow human beings. And he also said that he only brought this to their mind to remind them that if he, their king, labored much to serve the people, then how much more the people ought to labor to serve one another.
Then Baruch told the people he could no longer be their teacher or their king because he was very close to going the way of all flesh. It was only by the sustaining power of El Shaddai that he was even able to stand there and speak to them without instantly collapsing. He concluded his speech by declaring that his son Mered was already king and ruler over all the people of Menkal.
During the short span after his speech and before Baruch died a detachment of Judahites returned to the plateau east of Menkal for a reconnaissance-in-force of the land they had first settled.
Captain Peresh, the leader of the expedition, went to the king of the Benjaminites, King Arieh, and persuaded him to let them stay in the land. Arieh gave them the land of Glenah after commanding the Benjaminites in that land to depart. The people under Peresh lived peacefully for twelve years, but King Arieh had deceived them and intended later to take the goods they produced by force.
At first the Benjaminites made small spoiling raids, but soon a major battle was fought with the Judahites emerging victorious. Ten years of cold peace followed, until the death of king Arieh, when Arieh’s son King Gruen tried to drive the Judahites out of the land. But the Benjaminites were once again defeated, because Captain Peresh had sent spies to discover the disposition of the Benjaminites and made his preparations accordingly. As part of those preparations, the women, children, and old and infirm were taken to safety.
Upon his death Captain Peresh bequeathed the land surrounding Glenah to his son Parnach and declared him to be a full king. But after a time King Parnach proved to be an evil man who taxed his people heavily, spending the money on riotous living, including a spacious palace and a tall tower to spy out the lands of both Glenah and Shedal. He even encouraged the people to immerse themselves in the same sins that he did.
The prophet Rekem of the tribe of Gad came west to preach repentance to Parnach’s people, but he was imprisoned by the very people he preached to. Rekem was taken in chains before King Parnach and his false priests. There Rekem delivered his final message and was executed by fire. As he was dying he prophesied that Parnach would suffer death in a similar manner.
One of the priests of Parnach, a young man named Neriah, believed Rekem’s words and pleaded with the king to spare the prophet’s life. Neriah was cast out and was forced to hide so that the servants of the king could not kill him.
Neriah taught the words of Rekem to more of the people, and many believed him. He also became a great prophet and religious leader among the rest of the Judahites in Menkal later in his life. Hence, Rekem was successful in his prophetic mission although he died a martyr and only one single man believed his teachings while he lived.
King Parnach’s evil and his oppression of the people continued. He even attempted to assail Neriah and his followers during a sermon. Neriah and his disciples then left the vicinity of Glenah by secret ways in the forest to the east and the king’s army was unable to follow them. Neriah led his people to a land hidden in the heart of Glenah Wood, where they prospered.
A small group of Parnach’s people became angry with him, including a man named Jaanai who swore to kill the king. They fought, and when Parnach saw that he was about to lose he fled to a tower. From the top of the tower he saw that an army of Benjaminites was about to attack and convinced Jaanai to spare him so that he could lead the people to safety.
Parnach and his people fled, but they were unable to escape the Benjaminites. Parnach ordered the men to leave their wives and children behind. Some did, while others did not. They were captured by the Benjaminites and returned to Glenah, where they were taxed one half of all they owned and one half of everything they produced. The Benjaminites then made Parnach’s son, Raddai, the king.
Those who abandoned their families and stayed with Parnach soon regretted their choice. They turned on Parnach and burned the man to death, fulfilling the prophesy of Rekem, while Parnach’s priests ran away and hid in the fringes of Glenah Wood. The men of Glenah then returned, determined to find out what had happened to their families and to avenge them or die with them. So they joined Raddai’s people. But Raddai, after a number of attempts to cast off the Benjaminite yoke, had to accept that he would serve only as a tributary king.
Years later King Mered, the son of Baruch, sent sixteen men led by his son Dishon to discover the fate of Captain Peresh and his followers. Dishon soon discovered the people of Raddai at Glenah and the people of Neriah hidden in the forest and aided them all in escaping from the Benjaminites to Menkal in the west.
Once safe in Menkal, however, Neriah’s son Neriah the younger and the sons of King Mered grew filled with zeal for a strict application of the Code of Moshe. They persecuted Neriah the elder and his movement was called the People of Bat-El briefly, but after a time prophets from Hamar appeared and ordered them to lay off Neriah the Elder. The foreign prophets were sufficiently persuasive that Neriah the younger and the sons of King Merad themselves became full converts to Bat-El.
17 – DIPLOMACY
When the prophet Zadkiel came before Mastema Incarnate, in the person of High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel, he abased himself on all fours and brought bad tidings of his defeat in the Battle of Salem and the escape of Lady Talishi. Zadkiel expected to be decapitated at any moment, but to his great surprise no harm came to him.
Kirodiel was unhappy about the defeat, to be sure, but he remained sanguine overall. He had held back a greater part of the armed forces of family Gerash in reserve, and he knew also that King Gordiel and especially his daughter were formidable opponents, so the initial setback was not unexpected. Kirodiel contemplated waging war in the west for two years, but he made no move except to have Zadkiel post the Eyes of Mastema in an unbroken ring around the city and he garrisoned the road leading to Salem in diverse places.
During those two years El Shaddai incarnate, in the person of Talishi, had not been idle. For the avatar of El Shaddai descended from the sky and made landfall near Salem and Lady Talishi climbed inside together with Princess Khondiel. Within the avatar there was room enough for several persons, and El Shaddai had prepared her avatar to support life high above Barbelo where there was no air. The avatar lifted into the heavens in a great arc, intending to make made landfall again in the far west of the East Lands, which was home to the Gold Beards.
Khondiel had flown within the avatar many times before, so the terror of the flight no longer held any sway over her, if ever it did. For a few minutes at the top of the arc, Talishi and Khondiel were wonderfully free of the forces that that pressed them into their seat during the ascent, forces which would be present once again when the avatar began to descend to Barbelo. For that brief time the women found much amusement bouncing off of the walls and each other.
And Khondiel asked Talishi, “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.”
“The fires that propel us come from within my own body,” Talishi explained. “No flatulence jokes please. They are the fires of a living sun, channeled through a fold-space link in much the same way people are able to pass from Earth to Barbelo and back again.”
“Forgive me if I sound like a little girl on the ‘why’ chain but what is the source of that fold-space link?”
“It is something Elohim are born with,” Talishi said. “Perhaps in the same way you were born with a voice. There are five lines going out from me. One line links me to my father Belial. The second one links me to my mother Mastema. The third one links me to my daughter Bat-El. And Bat-El, at my bidding, has withdrawn the line connecting her to Belial. The fourth line links me to this avatar. And the fifth line links me to the Ark of the Covenant which resides in Menkal.”
“You said these lines are natural things that you are born with, like a voice. What happens if Mastema decides not to listen to your voice?”
“Neither Mastema nor Belial can refuse to listen, for absolutely nothing in reality can break the lines between us short of my own death. But having listened, they can refuse to answer, much as Belial 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.”
“So that means Mastema cannot disable this avatar on a whim.”
“No he cannot,” Talishi said. “Think of my link with Mastema as like a hatch on a ship with three ropes passing through it. He can never close the hatch as long as the ropes are there.”
“Ah yes, but perhaps if Mastema physically destroys this avatar or the Ark then those two ropes, at least, will no longer block the closing of the hatch.”
“You are absolutely correct, Talishi. 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, the Ark of the Covenant. It might be moved from one place to another on a whim. Barbelo itself is rotating, and revolving around the sun that is Mastema, and Mastema is himself moving relative to me. 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 the Ark. But if someone were to burn the Ark to ashes, and melt the gold, there would be no longer be a shape for me to grasp.”
“But what about the passage that goes from the pool of Bat-El back to Earth?” Khondiel asked.
“Ah yes, now that is an entirely different case,” Talishi said. “That kind of fold-door requires the active cooperation of two Elohim to maintain. We have an ancient bargain. Mastema keeps his end of the fold-door under the surface of the Sacred Pool, and I do as I want with my end. Some day, many years from now, there will be another such passage created to fulfill yet another bargain.”
When the avatar landed at the city of Saharad, Talishi and Khondiel emerged from the avatar of El Shaddai in the full sight of many witnesses, and afterward they were taken to the Matriarch of family Sala and took counsel. Princess Khondiel spoke to Queen Aurra Sala of her victory at Salem, and of her spies in the city of Mastema who reported that Kirodiel contemplated war against all of Barbelo. Talishi told the queen that Kirodiel’s strategy was to pick off each family off one at a time using his full strength to overawe each one in turn. By the time the remaining families took thought to form an alliance together against him it would be far too late.
Queen Aurra proposed to convene a council of all the Houses to consider the words of Khondiel and Talishi, and to discuss other matters. Talishi proposed that the queen’s council take place in Rumbek, capital city of the House of Bellon, but Queen Aurra remarked that Barbelo was a very large world and it would be difficult to persuade the nobles of Barbelo to travel to Rumbek.
Talishi answered that she would offer to transport all the participants who were willing to travel to Rumbek aboard the avatar of El Shaddai, which could bring them thither in a very short span of time. Then after Khondiel and Talishi completed taking counsel with Queen Sala they returned to Salem for a brief time, and dwelt together in great peace and happiness.
A number of weeks later the avatar of El Shaddai appeared at Salem again and took Khondiel and Talishi to Peshast, the chief city of the Black Beards in the far east of the Eastern Lands. There they met King Gerand Larund, where Talishi relayed Queen Sala’s call for a general council of all the houses of Barbelo, and offered to transport the King and any others he wished to attend to Rumbek with the same avatar she used to arrive in his own kingdom.
And again a number of weeks later Khondiel and Talishi journeyed to the land of the Red Beards, to their capital city of Vaska. There they conferred with King Brogan Antero, relaying the same information and making the same offer. But as for the Brown Beards of family Bellon, Talishi would not avail herself of the avatar of El Shaddai again. Rather she would come there herself overland with Khondiel and the Fallen Angels. There, or so she hoped, the four families would come together to draw up their plans against Mastema.
Now King Gordiel, with the aid of Khondiel and her Fallen Angels, had prevailed in the Battle of Salem, but the king knew time was not his ally. For he himself waxed old, and he knew his death swiftly approached. Not even Talishi with her healing arts could stay the ravages of old age.
None believed the High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel would authorize Princess Khondiel to succeed him. So the king commanded Talishi, Khondiel, the Fallen Angels, and all who would go with them to embark on a quest long in preparation to sail from Salem across the sea until they reached the far shore in the uttermost west of the Middle Lands.
Thence they were to ascend the foothills and mountains that led ever up to the Ice, the ancestral homes of family Gerash, where many provisions were laid up against the day of a third world flood. But in the caves and tunnels of the ice fierce battle was assured, for the stores were defended by the vigilance of the Patriarch’s forces from any that would raid them, no matter from east or west.
If they prevailed in the struggle, then continuing due west for many leagues, the ice would end, and descending once more the travelers would come to the West Lands and the fastnesses of the seafaring family Bellon. For the Brown Beards were no friends of the Gerash patriarch, and their king had often stated they would welcome any refugees from the Middle Land.
Then Talishi thanked King Gordiel for his lifetime of faithfulness and service to El Shaddai, and took her leave of him, knowing full well they would never meet again. The final parting between Khondiel and her father was particularly bitter.
With Khondiel went too all of the Fallen Angels, and hundreds of others who had made their homes in Salem when the teachings of Talishi struck a chord in their hearts.
As King Gordiel had foreseen, the storehouses in the ice caves were strongly defended, and there was hard fighting before the exiles won through. Barely half of the refugees who had set out from Salem walked down to the shore of the Eastern Sea of the West Lands and gazed at the dark and distant profile of the Isle of Sealiah.
Then Talishi was brought by ship to the city of Rumbek and presented herself before King Arman Bellon, the Patriarch of the Brown Beards. The king asked why the famed Lady Talishi was in exile from the Middle Land.
Talishi replied, “Because I brought the truth to family Gerash. But they hated the truth, because it was like a bright light, and the truth threatened to reveal the dark things they do in secret.”
And King Arman asked, “What is truth?”
Talishi said in reply, “We know truth when our mind conforms with the way things are.”
King Arman asked, “What do you ask of me, Lady Talishi? Shall I protect the purity of your truth?”
Talishi said, “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 Mastema 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.”
King Arman asked, “Then what, dear Lady Talishi, is your truth? What is the ultimate truth?”
“Only this,” she revealed. “The noblest activity is unending love.”
And Talishi accompanied her words with a mighty sign of her authority, for at that moment the avatar of El Shaddai flew over the Bellon capital city at great speed, but the people saw only a streak of light in the sky, and a terrifying noise like thunder broke many windows in Rumbek. Then King Arman welcomed Talishi and all her companions to his land, and a place was found for each of them on the Island of Sealiah. They became his protected subjects.
Talishi, Khondiel, and the Fallen Angels all took residence in the north of Sealiah. Then Khondiel began to teach their new friends and neighbors among the Brown Beards, individually and in small groups, the doctrines of El Shaddai. But Talishi herself refused to teach, lest the king think he had taken a troublemaker into his land.
Privately Talishi spoke to the king of Queen Aurra’s proposal for a council of the four Houses, and of her commitment to transport the nobles of those families to Rumbek to gather together. To this King Brogan agreed, and a date was set to convene the council.
As time went on, King Gordiel of Salem went the way of all flesh and was buried in a lavish tomb, and the people of the city mourned his passing for thirty days, but what they really mourned was the end of their way of life
Then the army of Mastema marched through the city unhindered, and Kirodiel Gerash appointed a new king over the city, one who laid a heavy tax on the people in penalty of their rebellion. For it was 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 was 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 was laid a second yoke, for the fruit of the labor of yet another workday was to go the upkeep of the new forces that garrisoned the city. Thus the people could only keep half of what they earned.
The Eyes of Mastema multiplied in Salem like flies, and there appeared hundreds of checkpoints throughout the city. Many people, even children, were put to torment for the smallest transgression, yet none were permitted to depart to other cities in the Middle Land. So matters would remain until that whole generation of Salemites had 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.
18 – JUDEA
During the exile in Babylon scribes and priests maintained a continuous tribal identity for the House of Judah by meticulously maintaining the written genealogies and histories of the people. They had seen what had happened to the ten “Lost Tribes” and refused to allow it to happen to Judah and Benjamin and also those Levites who happened to live among them.
When Cyrus the Great, emperor of Persia, conquered the Babylonians he instituted a policy of repatriating the Jews back to Palestine. The first parties he sent began the task of rebuilding the temple of El Shaddai. Because of this many Jews in exile regarded Cyrus to be appointed by God.
Later Ezra led a second group of Babylonian Jews to Jerusalem to reestablish the Code of Moshe. He compiled and redacted the Torah from a number of pre-existing source documents including copies of the missing White Scroll, and instituted very exclusive fundamentalist doctrines including a ban on Jews marrying Gentiles.
Decades later Nehemiah, a Jewish servant of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, was sent to Jerusalem with a third group of Jews to complete the temple, repair the royal palace, and rebuild the walls of the city. But when he was finished, the older Jews with him wept with sorrow, for the second temple was a pathetic shadow of the glory that had been Solomon’s original temple-palace complex.
Philip II, king of Macedon, conquered the Thebans and Athenians at Chaeronea and brought all of Greece except Sparta under Macedonian rule. When he died his twenty year-old son Alexander succeeded him and freed all the Greeks in Asia Minor from Persian rule. For the next twelve years, Alexander forged the largest empire the world had ever known up to that time.
After defeating King Darius at Issus, Alexander subdued Egypt and founded the city of Alexandria. The following year, all of Palestine fell under his domination. But Alexander left no heir, and upon his death his generals, called the Diadochi, divided the empire between themselves and became rivals. The Diadochi put on royal crowns, and so did their sons after them.
Ptolemy I Soter, one of the Diadochi, claimed Egypt for himself and defended Alexandria from the other generals. He also founded the Library of Alexandria and became the first Egyptian king of the Macedonian Dynasty of Ptolemies. Ptolemy II Philadelphus succeeded him and brought Alexandria to its peak of power and influence. The Pharos lighthouse was constructed during his reign. Ptolemy III Euergetes extended the Ptolemaic Empire to embrace Palestine, Asia Minor, and the islands of the Aegean. But after his death the Ptolemaic empire gradually began to decline.
A rival Diadochi named Seleucus I Nicator founded a similar empire centered in Asia Minor that ruled the lands conquered by Alexander from Thrace to India. As the Ptolemies weakened, Palestine gradually fell under the rule of this Selucid Dynasty.
At that time many Jews began to adopt the ways of the Greek gentiles who dominated them. They tried to cover the marks of their circumcision and built gymnasiums where they could participate in athletic activities in the nude. They no longer observed any of the ordinances of the Code of Moshe. With some support of these secularized Jews, Antiochus IV Ephiphanes declared Judaism abolished, and dedicated the temple in Jerusalem to Zeus.
Many of the Jews were ready and willing to abandon their old religion and accept the ideas of the Syro-Macedonian king. But the priest Mattathias began a set of terrorist acts to deter Hellenized Jews from sacrificing to Zeus. Jews who were caught breaking the precepts of the Law were killed, and boys were forcibly circumcised. Eventually this campaign, which was based out of hiding places in the desert outside of the cities, became a full-scale revolution to return to the fundamentalist doctrines instituted by Ezra.
Upon the death of Mattathias, his third son Judas Maccabeus took over leadership of the revolt. He defeated Apollonius and Seron, and turned back Lysias who came with half of the army of King Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, and also he re-purified the temple in Jerusalem. But Judas Maccabeus was killed on the field of battle confronting governor Bacchides.
Jonathan, the fifth son of Mattathias, then led the revolt. He renewed battle against Bacchides and defeated Apollonius. After that Jonathan became the high priest of the Jews. Jonathan Maccabeus was taken prisoner and killed after an invitation to meet Trypho for peace negotiations.
Simon Maccabeus, the brother of Jonathan, then began to lead the Jews. He too was the high priest, as was his son and grandson after him. Simon obtained independence for Judea from Demetrius II. He battled Antiochus VII and defeated him. Then Simon was betrayed and killed by Ptolemy the son of Anubus, governor of Jericho, at a banquet in the stronghold of Dok.
John Hyrcanus I, son of Simon Maccabeus, battled Ptolemy, the murderer of Simon, avenging his father’s death. He rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and also battled Antiochus VII. Under his reign, Judah prospered much.
Aristobulus I Judah, son of John Hyrcanus, annexed the territory of Iturea to Judah. During his reign, some of the Jews began to teach the idea that everyone who ever lived on the earth would be raised to life again in a simultaneous general resurrection to witness to sovereignty of God, and after that, all life on earth would come to a violent end.
Alexander Jannaeus, brother of Aristobulus, was the first high priest of the House of Mattathias to call himself King, thus founding the Hasmonean Dynasty. An aggressive warrior, he died in battle. Under his reign the movement of the Pharisees came into existence, which means the “Separated Ones”. The Pharisees opposed the Hasmonean innovation of combining the kingship with the high priesthood in one person. They also believed that the dead would be raised again, but they denied the world would end in a final apocalypse, because that would simply be pointless.
The Pharisees built synagogues in every Jewish city and town where the people could study the Torah under the tutelage in the scribes, called Sopherim, and also offer prayers for the return of the House of David to power in Israel.
After that, Queen Alexandra, wife of Aristobulus, enjoyed a benevolent reign of nine years. During Queen Alexandra’s reign a high priest was chosen from the landed aristocracy of Judea. This elite group was also known as the Sadducees. Their policy was to avoid rebellion at all costs, even to the watering-down of Jewish traditions with Hellenistic and Roman ideas. This policy to accommodate with the world was much criticized by the Pharisees.
King Aristobulus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, reigned until the intervention of Pompey after his conquest of Syria for the up and coming Romans.
King Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, was named ethnarch of the Jews by Pompey and elevated over his brother. Thus Pompey maintained the Hasmonean Dynasty on the throne, but only as his clients.
King Antigonus, son of Aristobulus II, was decapitated by a pretender to the throne named Herod. This Herod was favored by Marcus Antonius and Queen Cleopatra after they defeated Pompey. Mark Antony, acting in his role of triumvir, subsequently declared Herod king of the Jews.
King Herod conquered Joppa and Medeba and captured Jerusalem after a seige of three months. He occupied Samaria and restored the temple to its original glory.
In Egypt the last Pharaoh was Ptolemy XV Caesarion, son of Gaius Julius Caesar and Queen Cleopatra VII. Following the suicide of his mother in the wake of the battle of Actium, Caesarion was executed by Gaius Julius Caesar Octavius and Egypt was annexed by Rome. Herod soon became a client of Octavius, who was later called Caesar Augustus.
In the waning years of the reign of Herod a man named Gabriel, who was a trusted agent of the Fallen Angels of Barbelo, journeyed from the Pool of Bat-El in Canterwood to Israel, in the same way Melchizedech once came to Abraham long before. And Gabriel, knowing his history, was thankful the Nile leg of the journey had been omitted.
Gabriel found a day laborer named Yosef, son of Heli, in the village of Nazareth. This tiny community was in the land that was given to the Israelite tribe of Zebulun in the days of Yehoshua son of Nun, who was the chief lieutenant of Michael. Gabriel chose Yosef and his wife Miriam because both of them were directly descended down the line of David, just as Lael had been.
Gabriel established his credentials as a messenger of El Shaddai with many unmistakable signs. Then taking the couple before dawn to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the mouth of the worm-tunnel appeared under the water, emitting a pale purple glow. Entering the water, Gabriel took Yosef with him to the Pool of Bat-El in Haaretz on the world of Barbelo, and Miriam his wife followed after them.
In Haaretz Yosef and Miriam learned that the tribes of the northern kingdom had not perished from the earth by intermarriage following their exile in the land of Medea. They were still thriving on Barbelo, according to the promise El Shaddai made to Abraham to raise up many nations from his loins, and members of the southern kingdom had been taken to dwell with them as well.
And it was also revealed to Yosef and his wife that El Shaddai had begotten his own offspring after the manner of the Elohim, and it was the will of El Shaddai to send his child Bat-El to the Earth enrobed in the flesh of a male human being.
So Yosef, together with his wife, freely assented to allow their first son, when he was born, to be united with Bat-El. They were returned to Nazareth where they dwelt in peace for a while, and in due season Miriam gave birth to a son. Yosef named him Yeshua and they took the babe into the desert to fulfil their promise.
Bat-El took possession of the babe Yeshua following the process that El Shaddai had once used to take possession of Talishi, but Bat-El went a little further. For it was not only the brain of the infant which was transformed, but also both of his hands became glorified flesh in preparation for the healing ministry of El Shaddai that would commence when he came into full manhood.
Then Yosef and Miriam returned to Nazareth with Yeshua, where the boy had a normal childhood to the extent that was possible for a family living close to starvation in a village stricken with poverty. Yosef and Miriam had other children as well, a daughter named Salome and sons named Shimon and Yosef Junior, who was nicknamed Josy.
As Yeshua grew, the Eloah Bat-El looked at the world with wonder through Yeshua’s eyes. Yeshua learned the stoneworker’s trade that his father engaged in, but it was very difficult and dangerous work that sent Yosef to an early grave.
Under the Kinsman Redeemer clause of the Code of Moshe, the brother of Yosef, a man named Alphaeus, was required to marry his widow and adopt his children, and after that people sometimes called Yosef’s brother “Clophas”, which means “replacement”. Clophas had sons named Yakob and Yudah and a daughter named Miriam, all cousins of Yeshua who, after Clophas wed the wife of his deceased brother, also became Yeshua’s step-siblings.
With the sudden enlargement of the family Yeshua did not have to continue in the harsh livelihood of Yosef to ensure the well-being of his mother and siblings. Instead Yeshua began to make a name for himself in Nazareth as a faith healer, and people in the town and the vicinity would come to his house to be healed by him. Afterward they would leave modest gifts for the support of Yeshua’s family.
19 – DEMONSTROKE
From the beginning Mastema had delighted in terrifying the people of Barbelo with his avatar, but human beings were nothing if not adaptable, and after a time they thought Mastema’s gig was getting a little corny. And yet not even Mastema was given to doing anything without a deeper purpose. Mastema was still riding that ten thousand-year-old hobbyhorse, his dreary old thesis that all of the mammal planet-dwellers who had dealings with the Elohim could not follow the simplest set of arbitrary rules without screwing them up.
From the beginning many beasts were brought from Earth. For the most part these creatures were benign, and fitted in well with the ecology of Barbelo, or they were herd animals which men had tamed from time immemorial. Mastema saw that animals would soon breed far beyond the ability of Barbelo to support them, and chief among these animals, he knew, would be human beings themselves. So Mastema introduced to his planet monstrous predators from the darkest dreams of men to keep them in check.
Then was seen on Barbelo many monsters and trolls and goblins as well as Leviathan, the dragon under the sea who devoured those who foundered therein. After that Mastema introduced dragons, and all that went about on two legs had to keep one eye on the sky, for they were the dragon’s prey, as surely as the small creatures who went on four legs were ever the prey of eagles.
But all the predators created by Mastema were merely taken to be strong threads woven into the growing tapestry that was Barbelo. Men honored the wisdom of Mastema in creating them, and they were not really afraid. For it was man and not any other beast who were the most terrible predators the universe had ever known, by utter necessity, from the first day that fangless, clawless big-brained monkey came down from the trees and decided to compete on the savanna with lions and tigers and bears for meat. And now that man was unleashed on an entirely new world so much the worse for that world, dragons or no.
The dragons of Mastema were immortal if they remained safe in their aeries, and they bred only very slowly, but they could be slain, and lays commemorating the deeds of many dragonslayers, would-be or otherwise were still sung in the roadside inns dotting the land.
In the end only one dragon remained, and this one men found much to difficult to kill, for it was the greatest one of all. Mastema had parked his entirely mechanical avatar and decided to drive a living avatar that would resonate with the darkest nightmares of men. Mastema named it Demonstroke.
After Mastema had made a show of his new toy, using his dragon avatar to burn portions of several cities in all the lands, he fashioned a sword made from a single large diamond and called it Dragonthorn. Mastema declared that he had infused the blade with a powerful spell binding the beast. And Mastema declared that the eldest daughter or niece of the ruler of the House of Antero would wield the blade, and the spell would remain unbroken for as long as she remained a virgin.
When the virgin held Dragonthorn in her hand, whatever she bid Demonstroke to do, he would do it, even to allowing persons to ride upon him in the air as though he were a winged steed. The role was a great honor and privilege, but it was also a serious duty. Unleashed, the dragon could lay waste to all the cities on Barbelo. Control of Demonstroke hung by the slender thread of the girl’s virginity.
The Patriarch of the Red Beards, Brogan Antero, loved his daughter Kari very much. Princess Kari had the beauty of youth with long, bright red hair, and she was on the very cusp of womanhood. The King was almost supernaturally patient with Kari, and denied her not the least thing. Even during the frantic preparations for the Royal Council in Rumbek he was willing to stop and make time to listen attentively to Kari as though she were the only thing that mattered on Barbelo. The King sat close to her and nodded his head up and down as she described for him the seemingly random images of last night’s dream.
Kari said, “Father, I dreamed it was night, and I could see the ground was covered with sleeping little metal people. People came out of the sky in two tall metal engines of war that spouted fire, but they wore strange armor, and I could not tell if they were men, women, boys or girls. The first person picked up one of the metal people and took it into the first metal tower, and somehow I knew that metal person was myself, in the strange way of dreams. That person flew into the sky and we were safe. The second person stayed behind to pick up as many of the other metal people as they could find, but that person was caught by strange men and killed. Then I awoke.”
King Brogan stopped nodding his head and smiled at Kari. He said, “Shall I interpret the dream for you, child?”
“Please do, Father.” To Kari, the King was the wisest man who ever lived.
“The first person in your dream is myself. You feel protected around me, which is indeed a good thought, because my entire will is bent toward keeping you safe. The second person in your dream is your human mother, who wanted to have other children by me, and those were the other little metal people. But she fell victim to poison in her drink, and was killed by the palace intrigues that never cease here in Vaska.”
“As simple as that, Father?”
“As simple as that. Your sleeping mind created images to express what you felt in your heart. You are still dealing with your grief. I find solace from the content of your dream that you do not blame me for your mother’s death.”
“Never, Father!” Kari interrupted. Kari was shocked at the mere suggestion that she would think that, or even dream it.
The King placed a hand on Kari’s head to reassure her, then he said, “If you did blame me, even secretly within your heart of hearts, then your dream would have taken a very different course.”
“Beloved Father,” Kari said, “why have you not taken for yourself another wife? Are you afraid that she would be killed as well?”
“Not so, Kari. Soon the one adept at poison will come forward and try to worm into my life, and then I will know who she is. But now we must set aside your dreams, daughter, and our lingering grief for your mother, and our lamentation of things we can never change. Queen Aurra Sala summons me to a great council in Rumbek, and I would have you come with me.”
As declared by Mastema the sexual virtue of Princess Kari must continue intact to keep Demonstroke under control. The King had always tried to lessen the burden for his daughter Kari by letting her believe that a strong spell to influence others accompanied possession of the diamond blade, and he denied her not the least thing except a suitor. This belief would prove the undoing of all.
“It is a very great distance across the West Lands from Vaska to Rumbek,” he told her, “but we will ride Demonstroke, for I know you love it so, daughter.” And she beamed at him.
It was said that Demonstroke was as much engine of war as he was living beast, and King Brogan thought there must be truth in that. For what mere beast could contain the fires that somehow came from the body of the orange sun that was Mastema?
Demonstroke’s head bent bent back over them on its long scaly neck and fire spewed out in a jet that propelled the dragon into the sky, pushing Kari against her father, and her father in turn against a bony ridge at the place where Demonstroke’s neck joined to the rest of his body. And the dragon soared into the sky until the air became almost too thin for Brogan and his daughter to breathe.
Then Demonstroke’s head bent forward again, and he extended his wings. With gentle flaps the dragon extended his glide as much as possible as the largest river in the land of the Red Beards slid by underneath. Then, when the land had rushed up to meet them and the deadly tops of trees native to Barbelo nearly brushed the belly of Demonstroke, he bent his head back again and let loose another long jet of flame.
Over and over again this cycle repeated as the day gave way to night, but the cycles of fire and glide grew shorter and shorter as they approached the city of Jelaket nestled high in the mountains that marked the border with the lands claimed by House Bellon.
Brogan and Keri, well-bundled against the cold, would both drift off to sleep as the dragon flew on through a darkness punctuated by fire, a sleep they found possible only after many such flights. As they slept they passed out of the mountains to the plains in the east inhabited by House Bellon, and the lights of lonely, widely separated houses passed underneath in the darkness far below.
When the glimmer of dawn appeared before the king and his daughter once more they were over the Magodon peninsula, the heart of the land where dwelt the Brown Beards, and the city of Elketz was seen moving stately to the west far below. Yet their final destination, the capital named Rumbek, would not be reached until mid-day.