Draft59

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CHAPTER 59


In the middle of the clearing between the thirteen tents of the Rem- nant a fold-door appeared, bending light in a way that made them ap- pear to be a sphere of crystal. Two tall figures were seen within, and they remained even as the fold-door itself ceased to exist.

The men of the Remnant had never allowed their vigilance to lapse in the slightest amount since the attack that cost the life of Lael. Ja- bez and Rimon let fly with arrows, but these were a clean miss. Zethan fired one of his own, and it too missed, but he saw why it was so. Zethan's arrow had flown true, but in the instant before it struck the taller of the two strangers it was knocked aside as though by an in- visible hand. The less taller one, a nephil, said in halting Hebrew, "Hold! We are come in the name of the God of your fathers!"

The archers ceased firing and the people gathered more closely around the two strangers. Both were swart like the Adanites, yet one was a nephil, a rarity in the House of Gerash. Che stood a head taller than the Laelites and had no beard. To the humans che looked to be a boy.

The people of the Remnant noted the hips of the nephil were a bit too wide for a young man, with small breasts under hez raiment. On after- thought che looked to them to be a young woman, but with cropped hair. It was said the nephilim never needed to cut their hair.

The other stranger was a beardless angel who appeared to be older than hyz nephil companion, though he might in truth have been a decade younger. "I am Remiel," said hy. "I am come with my kinsjen Gabriel to bear aid to the refugees gathered by Lael of Adjara."

"Lael my father is dead," answered Rosh, "yet we have read what he has written in the White Scroll, how a servant of God named Gabriel Shy- bear made the will of God known to him in Adjara to gather a remnant of the fallen kingdom of Judah and travel to this place."

"I am che who met Lael,' said Gabriel, and the people of the Remnant thought it would be impossible to say if hez voice was that of a man or a woman. When Gabriel spoke it was as though che listened to an inner voice and belatedly repeated what che heard.

"I am the eldest son of Lael," said Elam, lest the newcomers think Rosh spoke for them. "Wheresoever the Ark of God itself would have us go, we do go, yet in all other matters I lead the Remnant."

"That is well,' answered Remiel. "If you would have us depart, so be it. But the death of your father Lael is hateful to our God and your God. We have been charged to thwart angels led by Da'at himself in the flesh, the seraph Belphegor, who would seize the Tablet of Abraham's Covenant after hyz lackeys have already tried and failed."

"God would have willing servants," said Gabriel, "not unwilling thralls. But God also knows in the ninth hour of this day you will be assailed. Look to the B'nei Elohim as chieftains for a short time, and we swear the lives people of the Remnant will be preserved."

Elam's impulse was to reject the aid of the B'nei Elohim and rely on his own strength, but again he saw how his followers would take it to be a great impiety, so he was constrained. "Let it be as you have said," he allowed, "and God grant that it is for a short time indeed."

Gabriel was sufficiently pleased with that answer that che broke out into a smile and reached into hez pack for a leather pouch. Che said, "In the other world, they call me The Magician." Che inverted the pouch to show there was nothing inside, then restored it again. Then Gabriel reached inside hez little leather pouch and withdrew a small loaf of warm bread. Che split it open and offered it to Remiel, who had seated hymzelf on the ground. Remiel applied butter to the bread with a knife, and gave it to the first willing hand.

The Laelites were delighted by the miracle. Gabriel and Remiel repeat- ed the 'sign' until everyone had eaten their fill. They were all tired of the fare of salted cuts of lamb they had eaten as they had skirted for many leagues north under the precipice of the Wall of God.

Then, after all the people had eaten, Remiel put away the butter and his knife. Hy stood up, and catching the eye of Elam, asked, "Where is the Ark of the Covenant?"

Hyz eye followed the line formed by Elam's outstretched arm to the most elaborate tent of the Remnant. Remiel and Gabriel saw it was twice as large as any of the other tents of the people, with curtains of fine linen overlaid with multicolored animal pelts, walls of fine wood with many gold and brass accoutrements, and even a jewel-adorned wooden table set up at the entrance.

Gabriel said, "God did not command you to make such a tent for the Ark, nor did such even enter his thoughts."

"Do we in truth serve the same God?" Elam asked hem. "The God of our fathers is a holy God. What is more holy than the tablet made by the very hand of our God?"

"Yes, our God is holy. Holy means entirely other. Our God is a living God, yet his life is wholly different than our life. Do you think God has forgotten this, and you must remind him with a tent for what is little more than a document commemorating a covenant?"

Elam grew visibly angry. "What you call little more than a document is how God converses with our high priest, and it seemed good to our forefathers to carry the Tablet of the Covenant in an Ark covered in gold rather than a saddle-bag, and they also built a Tent of Meeting."

"But that tent became a temple of stone after time, which raised the Tablet by degrees into itself a kind of god. Da'at also thinks this way, and when Belphegor comes to this camp looking for the Ark hyz problem is much smaller if you keep it inside such a tent. Hide the Ark, therefore, in one of your own tents, so Belphegor must search each one in turn, and that under fire."

Elam knew he must comply or be held faithless. He said to his brother Rosh, "Move the Ark and the table to my own tent, and my goods to the Tent of Meeting."

After the people aided Rosh in carrying out the new commandment of their chieftain to move the Ark of God into Elam's tent, Remiel said, "I see that some of the women among you are with child. Send all of the women into Shaula Wood with your flocks. They shall not fight."

In the noon hour the women of the Remnant gathered their livestock and made ready to drive the animals into the forest, but they lingered, perhaps, more than to the liking of Remiel and Gabriel, since neither they nor their men knew the nature of the enemy that was coming.

Gabriel told Sariah, the widow of Lael, "Go under God's protection, and take the flocks by whatever paths you may find in the forest, and do not turn about. Pause only when it is dark or when you are come again to the other side of Shaula Wood, where the men will await you."

When their wives had departed, and even the sounds of the animals trodding through the forest could no longer be heard, the men who had been left behind were instructed by Gabriel. "Your foe numbers eight mounted yeng of Haaretz led by Belphegor and hyz chief lieutenant, Malphas."

Elam made a noise of derision. "We slew seven on the face of the Wall of God, and that without any warning of their attack."

"It was a valiant deed, but you lost your father in that fight. God has laid upon me that not one man or woman more of you should die."

"These are eight pikeyeng," Remiel added. "Your swords will be of no avail until they are unhorsed. And Gabriel did not number Belphegor and Malphas with the eight, as they are from Magodon and not the Saiph League. So the ones who will come against you number ten in all."

"When last our enemies came seeking the Ark," said Jemuel, "they learned we have archers among the Remnant. "

"And now these yeng and the horses they ride are well protected from your darts,' replied Gabriel. "Can your archers hit the open face of a foe at full gallop?"

When Jemuel could not answer, an arrow flew from the quiver of Ze- than to Remiel's hand. Hy said, "God did not send the B'nei Elohim merely to pull forty loaves from a small pouch. There is no cause for despair, but tell me, how many bows are found among the whole Remnant?"

This Jemuel could answer. "There would be found among the men who fol- lowed Lael four bows of good make, and two others." When he saw aston- ishment on the faces of Gabriel and Remiel he went on to say, "Mark you, there are only four among us who are skilled in the bow."

"This will not be an unsurmountable burden," said Remiel, yet hyz face said otherwise. "The important thing is to get your darts in the air and flying toward the enemy, and I will take it from there. Give the two bows that are less good, therefore, to men of you who bear only swords."

"Alas!" said Zethon, one of the archers of the Remnant, with his hand against his face. "Our travail is not with the bows, but the arrows. We had cast some of our fallen enemies over a precipice, whether liv- ing or dead, without removing the shots we had fired from their flesh."

"Do not be afraid," said Gabriel. "Bring to me every arrow possessed by the men of the Remnant."

Then Gabriel reached into hez little leather bag, with a different hand this time, and withdrew another small loaf of bread, as warm as the others had been, for Tobiah to eat.

What che did was deemed magic by the men of Haaretz, but Gabriel knew the secret of it. Che knew it was entirely natural, as all things must needs be. The bag was only to conceal the way hez hand seemed to dis- appear, which could disturb some watchers.

Jabez returned to Gabriel with a bundle of arrows. "We have sixteen darts, no more," he said, "some are good, but some are hardly fit to be used. Our hope when we reached this forest was to make more, but now you say there is no time."

Gabriel received the arrows to inspect them.

Remiel looked over hez shoulder to help examine them. "Get rid of the ones with black feathers Cousin Gabe. I can't do much with those."

Gabriel replied, "I don't like this pair either, Cousin Remy."

Discarding all those, che had but eleven acceptable arrows.

Then Gabriel put the bundle of eleven arrows into hez little pouch of skin, which seemed far too small to accept them, to the wonder of the same men who had recently eaten their fill of bread from the same pouch. Che reached in with another hand and pulled them out again.

This che did again two more times, until he had three identical bun- dles of eleven arrows each, which che gave to Jabez. And Gabriel said to him, "Who are the three other men among you skilled with the bow?"

Zethan, Rimon, and Asher came forward and were similarly equipped.

Then Gabriel said to Elam, "As the chieftain of these men you must choose which two shall lay aside their swords and take up the bow in- stead for the fight that will soon overtake you."

Elam named his brothers Rosh and Jemuel. Gabriel gave them each the three and thirty arrows.

Remiel said, "When the signal is given to fight, the archers must fire their arrows at the foe as quickly as possible, without delaying over- much to take aim. The rest of you must hurl stones at them as you can. I counsel collecting piles of stones outside your tents now."

Rosh asked, "What then shall be your signal to fight?"

"Three blasts of my horn," said Gabriel. "You must all be waiting in- side your tents before the ninth hour."

Young Asher's hand reached out to squeeze the black rubber bulb of Gabriel's horn, but che said, "Don't."

"I for one will not skulk inside my tent," said Elam. "I will meet these horseyeng on my feet with a sword in my hand."

"That is well," said Remiel. "Both Gabriel and myself shall stand with you. Belphegor is one of the Holy Ones and B'nei Elohim custom demands a suitable reception."

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