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As though by a pre-arranged signal the six other yeng of House Larund withdrew identical weapons and made to assail the men of Lael's little band of nomads at the same instant Lael himself was stuck. But immediately they grew dismayed to find the little humans, both men and women, were absolutely willing and able to defend them- selves.

Lael's wife Sariah restrained Marsayas' arm to prevent hym from striking her husband with a second blow but she was unaware Lael was already bleeding out.

The six Brown Beards who had traveled with Marsayas quickly jumped out of striking range of Abner, Asa, Josiah and Tobiah. But the Juda- hite woman named Serach and the Benjaminite woman named Sela restrained two of the fleeing Brown Beards by seizing their calves.

As they were dragged the four other yeng were free to burst through an open hole in the ring of women seated around the campfire.

At the death cry of Lael the men who had been watching the animals on the rim of the camp immediately took the bows they carried on their backs and fitted arrows to them. They fired at Marsayas and two of the newcomers, shooting just over the heads of the women hin- dering them. Still, four of Marsayas' company were free to make for their real target and rushed toward the Ark of the Covenant to seize it.

Lael's sons Rosh, Jemuel, and Elam had not been lulled to sleep by Marsayas' tale and had already drawn the swords dangling from their waists.

A fold-door appeared with Lord Belphegor standing within, ready to take possession of the Tablet of the Abrahamic Covenant the instant one of the nephilim were able to seize it. But dark light is at a premium and time was critical. Belphegor could not delay for very long.

Three separate sword duels commenced far more fierce than any of the yeng had foreseen. This left a fourth yang free to draw near to the Ark and seize it, but even Chokhmah entered the fray now. When the angel touched the relic hy immediately stiffened and fell dead.

Belphegor shifted hyz gaze to the triple melee with blades and watched the humans vanquish their taller opponents one after the other. Hy was reminded of the tenacity of Jacob when they fought all night, and his distant descendants were proving to be no less val- iant.

Every beat of Lael's heart let out more of his life's blood and he sank to his knees. The body of Marsayas and two of the yeng in hyz party fairly bristled with arrows. Jemima, Keturah, and Susanna slipped daggers between the ribs of the angelic strangers to finish them.

Atara, Keziah, Dinah, and Leah then dragged the three angels to one edge of the plateau where the men tending the flocks of animals helped cast them over the side, still living or no they cared not. Belphegor saw that Marsayas had failed hym and that hy had ran out of time. The fold-door, which resembled a glass or crystal ball taller than a man owing to the way it bent light, snapped out of existence.

Belphegor's first attempt to seize the Ark had failed, and the Lael- ites knew the Ark was a prize much sought by none less than a seraph.

A grieving Sariah sought to revive her husband, but his life had al- ready slipped away. She held his body throughout the night and when the white sun became visible over the rim of the Wall of God the sons of Lael buried him on the flat of ground where they had made camp.

By that evening the shock of what had happened to them faded. None of the Brown Beards, if any had survived, crawled up to the plateau to renew their attack. So the three sons of Lael began to dispute which one of they would take up Lael's office of high priest and chief.

Jemuel sank to his knees and said, 'O living God of Abraham and Yishak and Yakob, if you will, make known what man of us shall be high priest and hear your voice on the Day of Atonement.' And in reply the graven sphinx decorating the cover of the Ark rotated to face Rosh.

Then Rosh removed the cover of the Ark of the Covenant with his bare hands, yet Chokhmah did not smite him. And Rosh took the White Scroll and found the place where his father Lael had added his own words to the words recorded by Leliel, the daughter of Michael and Lilith.

And Leliel had written upon the scroll in characters unknown to Rosh, but the husband of Leliel, the man Jashen, had copied the words of his wife as Hebrew that Lael might understand them. This same Jashen had been seen by all of them, and Rosh marveled that he never aged.

Rosh read aloud the words of his dead father from the White Scroll, "On a night without a moon I, Lael, went into the wilderness of the Sinai to pray. There a nephil appeared to me carrying a torch that cast white light but did not burn, and I sank to my knees. And the nephil said to me, 'Rise, for I am no seraph, but the erel named Ga- briel Shybear. Michael has bid me to seek Lael of the Levites, the son of Joiakim.' 'I am Lael,' said I, and I rose to my feet as I was com- manded. Gabriel drew near with the light. 'This was the weapon of my mother's mother,' said Gabriel as che held forth a relic. 'Have a care. Crushing it firmly in your hand will cause it to send forth a black shaft that nothing can withstand. It will drink everything, even the very air around it. Know, Lael, the kingdom of Judah has fallen to enemies, and the temple of God is no more. The last living children of Israel on Earth have been scattered from the land promised to Abraham by the disloyalty of his descendants yet God would preserve a remnant from among them. It is appointed to you, Lael, to take your wife Sari- ah, and your sons Elam, Jemuel, and Rosh, and Elam's wife Serach, and go to Judah to seek survivors from the tribe of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, and the tribe of Simeon, and bring them to dwell in Heav- en.'"

Then Rosh read the names of the remnant that Lael had gathered to him- self from the exiles in Egypt, and he read of the many gifts given to them by their long-separated brethren in the kingdoms of Hamar and Nath, and how even the very Ark of God had been entrusted to them. "I will add to this scroll an account of last night's battle at the foot of the Wall of God," said Rosh, turning eyes to his brothers Elam and Jemuel, "and of the death of our father at the hand of enemies who would steal the Ark. We will fulfill the charge laid upon him."

Elam pondered this silently for a time, then he said to his younger brother, "God favors you to be the High Priest, that is plain, and so the oracles of God shall be committed to you. But think you strangers will never again attempt to take from us the Ark of the Covenant?"

Rosh shook his head. "No, Elam, they will return, and I know of a cer- tainty that you are the most warlike of Father Lael's sons. But when this yoke was laid upon our father it was the will of God that the of- fice of both priest and judge should be in the grasp of one man."

"Let it never be said that I doubt our Lord God," replied Elam, "yet recall when this visitor Jashen had finished writing in that scroll, how he took the weapon of his wife's mother from the hands of our fa- ther. Had he not done this, mayhaps our father would be alive today."

Rosh thought to rebuke his brother for his words of faithless- ness, yet wisdom prevailed and Rosh knew Elam spoke only from his grief. He said, "I loved our father no less than did you, Elam, yet God is the giver of all life and God it is who can withdraw the gift once given. Yet your words strike true, brother. In like manner, I now perceive that God makes alterations to his stated will according to the inter- cession of the men with whom he treats. We see this in scripture, do we not? Abraham tried to save the life of his kinsman Lot by negotiat- ing with God to spare the city of Sodom. So let the offices of priest and judge be carried out by two sons of Lael according to our tempera- ment. I will set my foot on the path marked out by the oracle of God, spoken or otherwise, but in all other things, beloved brother, I shall obey as though you were our father."

Then Rosh set the White Scroll of Leliel within its clay pot and set the pot within the Ark of the Covenant. When he set the cover upon the Ark to conceal them Yahweh did not strike him dead, and Elam was per- suaded that Yahweh had accepted the intercession of Rosh.

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Strangers In Paradise