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Anshar may have been free of ice, yet it remained bitterly cold, much more so than Lilith and Samael were prepared to endure with the rai- ment they presently wore. Lilith broke into a sprint toward Michael's home across the stony plain and Samael followed at the same pace.

So Lord Samael was come to the stone dwelling of Michael for the first time. There was much glass, yet natural heating from geothermal fea- tures ensured it remained comfortably warm indoors. Leliel, just four years of age, touched the back of Samael's hand to har forehead.

"Leliel!" said Michael,sharply. "That is Lord Samael. Show us how you greet a seraph."

Leliel released Samael's hand as though it had burned har own and moved back a few steps. Then sha sank to one knee and all the while kept har eyes on the floor.

"Much better, Leliel."

Lilith picked Leliel up long enough to kiss har. "Wait for me in the kitchen, baby doll."

Samael watched har leave, then caught Michael's eye. "Your daughter. Sha knew who you were, just not the proper etiquette. Then Michael and Lilith embraced for a kiss of their own. Samael watched their display of affection with disgust until Lilith broke it off and followed Leli- el toward the kitchen.

"Don't you want to tell Michael what we managed to shake out?" hy called after har.

Lilith glanced back. "Michael is always in contact with me."

Michael said, "Please, Samael, be seated wherever you wish. We have things to discuss while Lilith prepares what might be the last decent meal you and I will both eat for many days."

"What do you mean last decent meal?"

"I see you have given little thought to this mating. As an eloah I am female and therefore I have not yet experienced intercourse, but I do have access to testimony by way of El Elyon, and no doubt you can con- firm, that the experience captures the psyche of an eloah like no oth- er. Do you see how that will be a big problem in our case?"

Samael shook hyz head."Please, I insist," said Michael. "Let us take a seat, and I will explain."

Samael did so, and after hy was seated hy took his first real good look at the home. "You have done well for yourself, yet this is still my world. I never conceded this land."

"You have an interesting way of courting a lady, Samael, threatening to take away her house in the opening gambit."

Listening to Michael refer to hymself (even obliquely) as a lady struck home the ridiculous nature of the whole situation. Samael could not help but laugh.

Michael guessed why Samuel found it funny and nodded. "Alone among the elohim you and I and Daat are in union with world-dweller flesh. So what do you think will happen to our elyonim bodies, left unattended, while we are fully occupied with our lovemaking as stars?"

That wiped the smile off Samael's face. Hy said, "I imagine we would starve."

"We'd perish for lack of water long before that," Michael replied. "Do you tire of that yang's body, Samael? Do you wish to shed your con- tainer? I assure you I am not yet finished with my own."

"I see you have given this more thought," Samael admitted. "I trust you have arranged things so we do not lose our living avatars."

"Yes, and isn't it a good thing you have ended the war in Heaven to the satisfiction of Lilith? Your life will literally be in har hands."

"And what of you, Michael? What remains to be stipulated before we proceed?"

"You have no need of an avatar to move about Heaven since you and Daat can open a fold-door when you have accumulated sufficient dark light to do so. Soon, after my daughter comes into existence, I will have the power to do this as well."

"In that you are very much mistaken, Michael. Daat can open a fold- door in Heaven because we are a relatively close binary star system. But when your daughter comes into existence she will be even more dis- tant from Heaven in real space than you are. How could you not know that?"

"And yet," said Michael, "you permit me to pass a second bridge be- tween myself and my avatar through the bridge that came into existence when you fathered me, which bypasses real space. In this way I am able to power my avatar here with star-stuff when otherwise I could not.

"I see. So you stipulate that your soon-to-be daughter should have an avatar in Heaven as well, living or otherwise, such that you both might open fold-doors here and connect them with a fold-space segment, such as I recently did with Daat to come to this place with Lilith."

"Yes, that is the brideprice demanded of you, with the additional stipulation that my own presence here in Heaven with avatars is made permanent in a formal way. Heretofore it has only been a side effect of what you dubiously claimed to be research into the world-dwellers."

"And what is to prevent you from using your fold-door to send assas- sins or thieves to my palace in Adan?"

"The word of an eloah prevents it," Michael said with arched eyebrows, mildly astonished that Samael had made it necessary to say it.

"It is you who insisted on formality just now."

Michael briefly allowed an expression of boredom to touch hyz face. Hy said, "Samael, you cannot give something with one hand without taking something with the other. I was reminded of that in your dealings with Lilith. So state your limitations on my fold-doors and we will move forward."

Samael said, "You and our future daughter, our very near-future daugh- ter, are hereafter authorized to maintain avatars in Heaven. However neither you nor she may open a fold-door east of the Wall of God nor west of the large bog that marks the frontier between Rammon and Adan."

"I presume those lines extend north and south to the poles.

Samael nodded, then hy said with a smirk, "Yes, but before you ask, I will say this little land north of Adan is not out of bounds. You can still reach your house. I would not want to my put my lady out of the mood for love."

Michael rolled hyz eyes,then said, "So let me hear it. You have given with one hand. Now what, as is your custom, shall you take with the other?"

Samael laid all mirth aside. Hy said, "I know your long game is to have these creatures reach the stars since you yourself must not."

"I warned you of that seven thousand years ago," Michael said. "You might have have forgotten. But it's not a game, long, short, or other- wise. I could do nothing, and these world-dwellers would still, all on their own, reach a nearby star and make themselves known to El Elyon.'

"Yes," hy replied. "And as surety against that outcome, whether it is aided by yourself or no, I insist on bringing in my own watchers."

"I can't believe you are demanding that, Samael. No! I will not have your Eyes of Keter wandering Earth and sabotaging human history."

"Then another place in your vicinity,' suggested Samael. 'Not Earth."

"There is no place in my system outside of Earth where angels would not die moments after you left them there."

"For now, perhaps. Your humans are also far from ready to cross to the stars. I can wait."

"You may be waiting for many centuries," said Michael. "But very well. When you desire a transfer, I will open a fold-door anywhere in my system outside of a sphere that is larger than the orbit of Earth by a factor of four."

"That is not acceptable. Many bodies may briefly pass nearer while they make a circuit around your own body."

"Then I will give you access to any object orbiting on an ellipse which is at least four times bigger on the long axis than is the Earth's own ellipse. Yes, Samael, by all means let your angels swarm through my system, but they must never draw nearer to Earth than its satellite."

"Is that everything?" Samael asked. "Are we finished?"

"Just one more thing," Michael went on. "We both know you can summon a folddoor every five days because you are a bigger star, while I can do it every six days, and little Daat can only do it every seven days. In theory I could open a fold-door for you sixty times in a year. In practice, I refuse to let you monopolize my production of dark light in that manner. So when you send someone through, the next opportunity you will have to do it again is twelve days later, not six."

Samael agreed to this, but hy was annoyed hy could not put a like re- striction on Michael in reply.

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Strangers In Paradise