Draft57

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CHAPTER 57

In the wake of Queen Lilith's parley with Samael the status of the Fallen Angels was left dangling. They could not return east of the frontier, nor would the Cherub Metatron receive them before speaking to Lilith hymself. They made their encampment on fallow land and wait- ed. They lived on what supplies they had filched from Samael's ice cache, but these were finite, and as the days of waiting became weeks, they plowed up the land around their encampment and prepared to gamble the last of their grain as seed for more food. No word came to them.

Lilith was aware of their predicament but sha was preoccupied. Immedi- ately after the ruined mating between Chokhmah and Keter, while Samael was still incapacitated, Michael, Lilith and Leliel escaped in the avatar of Chokhmah on a curve directly for the land of Magodon. Leliel always joined them on such flights now, if only for the peace of mind of Lilith, who worried Samael or Israel might contrive some mischief involving a fold-door. Michael had warned of retaliation should hyz daughter be harmed by the seraphim, directly or indirectly.

For Leliel's sake the flights in the avatar were gentled somewhat, with less of an impulse at takeoff and landing, and more of a continu- ous acceleration and deceleration. This made the period of free-fall at the top of the arc so short it wasn't safe for Leliel to fly free. Instead, Lilith held fast to har daughter and said to Michael, "It occured to me that when we arrive in Rumbek I might have to do most of the groveling. Metatron will accept me as the queen of Salem in exile but I deem hy knows little to nothing of your union with Chokhmah."

"You had little time to appraise hyz son Barachiel of that," Michael admitted. "You were about the business of stopping an invasion." Still, Michael weighed what hyz wife said and altered the path of the avatar to a degree before their weight began to pile up once more.

Pastoral Seliah Island was the breadbasket of Rumbek. Forested uplands ranging between one and three thousand feet high ran the length of the island in two long undulating ridges, north and south, with one con- necting ridge from east to west, thus forming a rough letter 'H'. At the head of the Dul Valley on the north side of the connecting ridge was the castle of the Ophan Barachiel. But Michael choose to bring the avatar to ground on the south side, where gently-rolling slopes of grass were sparsely dotted with trees as benign as any of Earth.

Michael helped hyz wife down out of the avatar as sha carried Leliel, and led them a safe distance away where they could watch the artifact rise into the sky once more. Looking around Lilith expected to see the largest city in Heaven, but there were only scattered hovels. When Michael saw the questioning look in Lilith's eyes hy said, "Something you told me on the flight led me to choose another sort of opening gambit with Metatron than frightening the king and hyz subjects with my avatar. I well remember Chokhmah's first visit to Salem."

"So a seraph and a cherub march from the hinterlands to Rumbek," Li- lith said, bordering on disbelief. 'And Leliel almost too big to car- ry. 'Walk, yes, to begin, but we shall also ride and even float. And there is no need, I think, to carry Leliel. Let's see how sha does.'

The land was wide open with grass kept short by grazing animals and trees that resembled those of Earth in one important way: none of them tried to kill Michael, Lilith, and their daughter. Toiling north and west they gained six hundred feet of elevation in three miles.

Leliel seemed not to tire at all. By noon they reached the place where the connecting ridge joined the west ridge at an elevation of about a thousand feet. Michael indicated a long prominence to the south that rose another thousand feet. "They call that Living Mountain."

To the north Michael indicated a round hill that rose five hundred feet more. "They call that one Yam Hill. Leliel! Let's see how fast you can get to the top! The doll sped off and Lilith was shocked. Sha had never seen even wild animals run so fast after their prey.

Lilith guessed that Michael had changed her daughter somehow, made har swift of foot and tireless, and sha saw the utility of the change. One question remained. "When did you do it?"

"On the flight. I doubt that sha felt anything. The reentry would have distracted har."

Leliel attained the summit of the hill far faster than Lilith would have imagined possible. Sha was waving at them furiously. Michael said, "Let's ascend after har to assure ourselves sha remains safe."

"Perhaps now sha no longer needs such protection as I can give har," said Lilith.

They began to ascend the hill, with ever an eye to the summit to as- sure themselves Leliel remained in view. Michael said, "It was not magic, Lil, what I did to har. Or at least it was a kind of magic that will cease to be magic someday when I can find a way to explain it."

"I am your first student, Michael, and more, I am the mother of that doll. So let us see if you can explain it to me."

"Yes, you are Leliel's mother,' replied Michael, "and so there are things about har that resemble you. Yet if sha had a sister they would not be identical. This is because all living things are governed by both law and by chance. We run so fast and no faster because there is a fire that burns within us that burns so hot and no hotter, and this is a law. Yet of old, purely by chance, some living things burned hot- ter. But these creatures could not endure long, because the hotter fire within demanded more food than they could find, and so they per- ished before they could pass this new law to their young. But Leliel is an ophan, and sha will never want for as much food as she can eat." "And this change you wrought in our daughter that you call a law, will sha pass the same down to har son or daughter when she is of age to become a mother in har turn?"

"No, it is imposed by me, it does not rise up from that which makes Leliel who sha is. Shall I undo it?"

"No, husband, let the change you have made stand. You have seen what a joy it seems to be for har, and if by some misfortune sha runs across enemies who would do harm to har, sha can easily outrun them. And you are right. Leliel, being noble-born, shall never want for food."

They took considerably longer to attain the summit than did their daughter. Michael had started a tradition of giving each member of the B'nei Elohim a special talent, but Lilith started the tradition of giving them an apropos nickname when sha asked, "Are you well, Scout?"

"Yes momma! Look how far we walked!" Leliel pointed far below and far away where they could still see a circle of burnt grass. That was the place where the avatar had landed and taken flight once again. Michael directed their gaze to the west where houses could be seen.

"Do you see? Our walking is nearly at an end. That is the town of Ven- nor. There I will hire a carriage and we will be driven to edge of Tala Strait yonder."

Lilith raised har head and beheld a swath of blue some seven miles distant, and a dark wall of rock beyond the blue.

"And what will you pay, Michael, when you hire this carriage? You car- ry no gold about your person, unless you've hidden it well."

"I have some small diamonds, Lil. I can produce them without limit within my own body. I am speaking, of course, of my body as a living sun."

In town they ate a late lunch. Lilith was astonished to see how much food har little doll Leliel put away. Sha wondered if sha had spoken prematurely to say Leliel would never want for food. But their hosts, amply compensated with a diamond, ever brought Leliel more.

Afterwards they rode within a carriage down the undulating creek val- ley that led from hillside Vennor to the well-ordered fields stretch- ing west to Tala Strait. The hills they passed were lower, and fewer, detached from one another like lone sentinels over the plowed fields.

As they rode past the thinning hills Leliel fell asleep in har moth- er's lap, so Michael and Lilith grew silent, content to stir their own thoughts. And Michael recalled how hyz wife had reminded hym that sha was his first student. That was true, and sha was a good student. Mi- chael loved Lilith as hyz mate and as the mother of hyz daughter, but hy longed for a better student, one who would understand how hy had changed Leliel on the deepest level. This culture did not even have the concept of atoms, let alone machines made from atomic groups. But hy guessed that Lilith would have another child, a son or daughter, and Michael vowed to make a change in that child as well. Rather than being a fast runner, Michael would give the child a greater capacity to understand things than any planet-dweller who had yet lived.

When Keter and Daat suffered their inevitable defeat it would be at the hands of Leliel's younger sibling, a mere angel who would outthink elohim. Michael even had the name picked out for his next offspring, whether it was male or female. Ithuriel, the Brilliant One of God.

The final leg of their journey to Rumbek by sea took place overnight. It was not far, but there was no wind so the ship was rowed. Michael and Leliel slept for the entire passage, but Lilith mostly lay awake, ruing every passing hour with no answer for har Fallen Angels.

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