Draft75

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CHAPTER 75

On the Ark of the Covenant figures of two winged sphinxes were graven on the lid. One these images was driven by a hidden mechanism to point in whatsoever direction the Remnant of Laelites should go, and it set to spinning when they should halt. After Gabriel and Remiel departed with an injured Belphegor, this Director led the Remnant out of Shaula Wood to skirt along the northern shore of Lake Enkaa.

In time the Remnant and their flocks reached outskirts of the city of Mizal, but the Director did not indicate they should stop, but rather to continue ever west. And indeed, the land around that city seemed overgrazed, and there was in evidence much other livestock. Elam and Jemuel entered the city to assay what prices they might fetch for their animals, it it seemed to them a pittance. So Elam resolved to continue west in the direction urged by the Director on the Ark.

But Jemuel lifted his eyes and beheld a large mountain that lay across their intended path, and he inquired as to the name of the peak. "Mount Naratha," came the reply from one of the city dwellers, "on the border between Alodra and Nath."

Then Jemuel remembered the curse of Gabriel. After Remiel had wrested the blade from Jemuel's hand as he moved to slay Belphegor, Gabriel had told him, 'On the shoulder of Mount Naratha the sword of your foes shall go through the camp, and you shall be cut down in the flower of your youth.'

Now Jemuel begged his brother to turn aside from the way the Ark was leading them, either north or south.

But the city dweller told him the tribe of Reuben lay south, with much cultivated land, and they would not look kindly upon wanderers grazing their flocks there. Beyond the lands of Reuben was the kingdom of Alo- dra, which had been a mere province of House Bellon in the days of the dragon, but now boasted a king of it's own. And the king had decreed all travelers among the children of Israel must hold fast to the es- tablished roads.

So Elam made the decision to turn north. It only remained to see what Rosh would do, as he had vowed to obey Elam in all things except touching which direction to travel, when he would obey God himself as made manifest by the Director. But when Elam and Jemuel returned to the Remnant, the Ark was already pointing north.

They journeyed with their flocks over a broad saddle between Mount Naratha and a smaller mountain to the northeast, until they were come to the outskirts of Linan. Here the lands were even more arid and im- poverished, and the Reubenites of the city turned them away before any could enter, and they would favor Elam with no parley.

"Much lessened is the welcome we received from the House of Reuben when father Lael first brought us here," Jemuel said ruefully.

The Director continued to point at the city, but they were clearly not welcome to go on. Rosh said, "I will go where my chieftain leads."

At first Elam led further west, but after a number of days a vast for- est loomed across their path. And Elam remembered the curse of Gabri- el, who told him, 'You shall be driven into Eliath Wood to wander for a generation.' Not wishing to rush his doom along, he steered the Remnant south and west.

But the grass was brown and poor provender for the animals. They were fed some of the seed grain they were carrying just to keep them alive. The land began to rise once again. Against Jemuel's deepest wishes they reached the western flanks of Mount Narutha, and there in the dead of night the Remnant was waylaid by a band from the Saiph League, who sought to obtain the Ark of the Covenant for their paymaster.

The night watch was vigilant, and the men of the Remnant were aroused in sufficient time and order to fend the ruffians off, but during the Jemuel was struck down by a foe's blade even as Gabriel had portended. Sariah the mother of Rosh and Elam was struck to the quick, because she had lost her second son so very soon after losing her husband Lael, and all the Remnant grieved with her for many days.

And still the Ark gave no counsel which way to turn.

Elam led the people north and west beyond the frontier of Alodra and Nath into lands of Haaretz that none had yet claimed. Yet the grass on the golden hills was still to poor to sustain the flocks, and the Rem- nant suffered another raid that took the lives of three of the women. The Ark was still safe, but Elam saw he was constrained to strike north and seek the sanctuary of the forest.

Elam said to Rosh, "You, my brother, are the high priest of the Lord our God. Could you not persuade him I am contrite for my sin against him at Shaula Wood? My hands cannot now rightly hold a blade. I've lost a brother. Every day we are in danger of losing the Ark of God and the lives of everyone gathered by our father to protect it."

"This have I done," said Rosh, "and much more besides. I reveal now what God has said to me, 'I do not hold everyone to be in service to me, but of those whom I have set aside to commit my blessings and my oracles perfect obedience is demanded. Know you, then, as night fol- lows the day, when I am antagonized I will retaliate.'"

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