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Travel the equator of Heaven to a point halfway between Salem and Rum- bek and turn north. Then travel over the Ice to a point halfway be- tween the equator and pole and you will arrive at a massive volcano named Mount Anshar which has grown layer by layer for a million years. Ice two miles deep moved at an imperceptible pace, trying to erode Anshar into a zone of craggy uplands should it ever go dormant. It flowed around the obstacle and merged again many miles to the south, exposing the only bare rock in Heaven outside of the equatorial belt.

When the angelic incarnation of Keter arrived at this small land using the coordinates Lilith had given hym some twelve hundred years prior, hy saw that the ice was somewhat closer than hy remembered, and the mountain was silent. Perhaps the hot spot under Anshar had cooled.

Michael's house across the stony flat looked different than hy remem- bered, and no wonder, when Mt. Anshar was in eruption it no doubt threw flaming projectiles many miles. And hy had once burned down the house himself in anger after the conception of Binah.

With a scowl on hyz face at the pervasive smell of sulphur hy strode past boiling mud pots and ponds of scalding water. The ground itself was as warm as hyz body. The house, hy knew, relied on these thermal features to maintain a comfortable temperature within its walls. Hy walked the quarter-mile to the house and let hymself inside. It was not locked, and why should it be? The inhabitants of Heaven thought the northern Ice went on without end. No traveler ever stumbled onto the land of Anshar for all the time Heaven has been populated.

The house was not empty. A short human stood in the main living space, brown of skin, with black hair cropped short and long unruly facial hair that marked him as one the descendants of Abraham who called themselves the Yehudim. They abstained from trimming their beard.

Yeshua said, simply, "I greet you, Belial."

Belial said, "You know who I am, yet you do not address me as Lord. The B'nei Elohim have grown less courteous of late. Where is the ser- aph Chokhmah mentioned would be waiting here?"

Yeshua said, "I am that seraph."

Belial said, "A human seraph is a contradiction in terms."

"Yet I am not Chokhmah. Have you forgotten his warning that taking bodies serially is fraught with peril?"

"Binah, then. Welcome to the world of meat."

"This meat is called by the name of Yeshua."

"Chokhmah's fears about serial possession have always been groundless."

Yeshua said, "Do you deny each possession dilutes your original per- sona by half? Chokhmah dared this union only with Michael. I'll not merge with another world-dweller after my death as Yeshua."

"I marvel how you and Chokhmah persist in the delusion that the mind of mere apes might contaminate the mind of living stars."

"Something you just said: Welcome to the world of meat. In the joining with Yeshua I, as a star, knew the meat as though born to it."

The blank look on Belial's face told Yeshua hy was too far gone to understand the point. Hy was a composite being with the possessed an- gel Belial at half-strength and the multitude of previous seraphim forming the other half. Classic Keter was lost somewhere in that crowd, diminished almost to nothing. Michael had made Yeshua under- stood this in an intellectual sense, but it never really resonated before. They would, of a necessity, win the great game and strike a path free to El Elyon, but it would never taste sweet to obtain a com- plete victory over two doddering old yeng.

Yeshua let the matter drop. He said, "Speaking of meat. I hope you brought some with you, Belial, otherwise the seven days you must tarry here will seem overlong."

Belial was amazed. "How long have you been here?"

"Forty days in Anshar."

"You've not eaten in forty days?'

Yeshua said, "It has been ten days without food."

"There has been a house in Anshar from nearly the beginning. Obviously it has been maintained. So ask Chokhmah to send ministering B'nei Elo- him with some food."

Yeshua quoted scripture that man shall not put God to the test.

"In your case, Yeshua, the Lord God is also your parent. Doesn't Chokhmah love you? Why would your parent leave you in this lonely place while you run out of food to eat?"

Yeshua said Chokhmah thought Belial would wish to meet a new seraph before being sent to Earth.

Belial asked, "Why are you sent to Earth."

Yeshua said, "Perhaps to alter things more to my liking, in the same way Michael once ordered Heaven to hyz liking in the days of the drag- on."

"A hungry man can never fairly begin a great toil. Please accept food from your other parent."

Yeshua bid hym, "Keep you food, as you will have the greater need. I am to leave Anshar somewhat before you do."

"As you wish." Belial looked around at the walls. "I remember there used to be a map of Heaven here. Did it perish in the blaze?"

"There is a map upstairs."

"Then come, I would show you a thing."

Yeshua followed Belial to the railed deck that formed a ceiling over the kitchen and the comfort room. There a talented artisan, perhaps one of the B'nei Elohim, had carved a representation of Heaven into the wall and coated it with varnish. Belial showed Yeshua the gently twisting band of Adan, from the River Kelang and the city of Dartarus in the east, to Ganelon and Mount Adan in the center, to Surat and Salem and the Aramel Sea in the west. "Behold, all these lands are mine, solely."

"I don't even know what you mean when you say those lands are yours," said Yeshua. "You're a sentient star with an angel for a living ava- tar. Do you mean the Adanites immediately obey the whims of that ava- tar? Forgive me, father, but that seems to me a small achievement."

"Nevertheless, Yeshua, attend most carefully. This is an opportunity to forge our own covenant." Belial walked left along the wall frieze to stop where Rumbek was depicted. "Behold Magodon, of old the land of House Larund, which belongs to Da'at, solely."

"I would dispute your use of the word 'solely'", objected Yeshua. "The War in Heaven never really ended with the fall of your dragon, would you not agree? Certainly Rumbek and Peshast remain at peace, but El- ketz has been picked over for a thousand years and Belen is a ruin."

"Again, Yeshua, hear me out. I will make all this worth your while." Belial walked to the far left edge of the map. "This is Rammon. I nev- er gave it to Chokhmah, but he rules by default. The Gold Beards fol- lowed Michael from the beginning and I cannot assail them."

"You are beginning to see a glimmer, Belial. To say you have an empire in a purely legal sense means little in real terms."

Belial said, "I hope you see where all this is leading. Hy walked to the right, where Thalury appeared on the map, with Sastrom, Haaretz, and Vaska. "Heaven is divided into four great houses, four empires, if you will, and now there are four seraphim to reign over them. Give to me the same deference you give to Chokhmah, nothing more, and the holdings of Family Bellon are yours to rule as you see fit."

Yeshua shook his head in wonder. "Belial, why should I be content to rule the fourth part of a mere ribbon on a largely frozen world with little more than half the area of the Earth? Heaven is merely the first interstellar colony of a home world that is far more rich. I'm not sent to rule, but to teach."

Belial asked, "What would you teach?"

"To live peacefully with one other to begin," said Yeshua. "Later, perhaps, to reach the stars without our aid and set up Heavens of their own. But you already know that, and have spent six centuries seeking the Tablet of the Covenant."

"The Menkalese have protected their prize well," Belial allowed, "but it is inevitable I will seize the relic. Human kingdoms are not immor- tal. I will simply gnaw away at the Roshites until I prevail."

Yeshua said, "Seizing the tablet would only gain a little longer life for you. True, the tablet is the only object the humans have which can survive a a sun's fire, but that is merely the fastest way for them to put me and Chokhmah into contact with El Elyon. Blocking that option will only buy you a century or two of more life. What does not enter into your considerations, Belial, is that when humans fill the new worlds they find they will also fill space with their electromag- netic chatter. Stars in contact with El Elyon will come calling with their avatars, and your harem scheme will be exposed."

"You know nothing of these matters. Notwithstanding what Chokhmah has told you of them, as my daughter you owe to me the same honor you give your mother by the long custom of the elohim."

Yeshua said, "I owe you nothing while every moment of our isolation compounds your crime."

Belial said, "You know that by our ancient covenant Chokhmah is per- mitted to listen to the 'chatter' of El Elyon, but never to speak to them. I, however, will grant to you full access to El Elyon, to both listen and speak, if you agree to be silent about certain things."

"Allow me to make a counteroffer, father. Abrogate the First Covenant. Grant both myself and Chokhmah full access to El Elyon immediately, and we will present the discovery of the Students to the City of Stars with no mention of the many centuries Chokhmah was held silent."

Belial shook hyz head. "It is well you took this opportunity to con- verse with me, Binah, but you have been a disappointment from the in- stant you began to exist."

"The offer I made to you just now was sincere. But I would have been surprised to hear your acceptance."

"I must admit the offer is tempting," Belial said. "That is my tradi- tional role and you've turned the tables quite neatly. But announcing the Students, even under the terms you offer, will bring a level of scrutiny from El Elyon that I will never be prepared to accept. What I will do instead is press one advantage I do have. You fear serial lives? You will only exist in union with this one from those sunny farms and hills along Hayam Hagadol? Very well! I can add a complica- tion to your plan to become a teacher to your students."

Belial reached into his tunic and withdrew a long devilish blade, al- most a short sword. Hy said, "Once Israel got into an all-night tussle with Yakob and had to surrender hyz name to be released. You know that story. You look underfed to me, yet I'll not repeat the mistake."

"Oh, Belial, it will take much more than a blade to finish me. Plasma from a star's belly might do it."

Belial said, "Shall I put that to the test?"

"Self-replicating veterinary nano, Belial, something Chokhmah heard chatter about. I'm to be a healer as well as a teacher."

Belial moved forward with the blade, to test if this nano healed miss- ing flesh.

Yeshua cried, "God shall give his angels charge over you. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest your foot strike against a stone!"

He bent backwards over the wooden rail of the upper level. A ball of water a meter in diameter appeared, floating in midair. The water overflowed the sphere and the excess poured straight down to the floor. It was Binah's business to make sure the ball intercepted Yesh- ua as he fell with arms and legs tucked in close.

Belial screamed wih rage because hy knew what was coming and hy could only watch it come. Yeshua cannonballed into the sphere of water, which then snapped out of existence with a loud pop and a splash that left the water ankle deep on the ground floor of the house.

Left alone Belial's first impulse was to burn Chokhmah's house to the foundation once again, as he did after Binah's conception. But hy re- membered the week it would take Da'at to stockpile sufficient dark light to establish a fold-door so hy could depart, and he knew how cold Anshar could get. The fire would wait.

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