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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 waited.

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. Immediately 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 parabola directly for the land of Magodon.

Leliel always joined them on such flights now, if only for the peace of mind of Lilith. Sha 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.

'Lilith can take care of harself, but assail my baby doll, or send others to assail har, and all covenants between us are void, El Elyon be damned. Why should I know better? How should I know our covenants are unbreakable? I've been isolated from all the other living suns.'

'Breaking our covenants would only cause El Elyon to ratify your isolation, should you contrive to reach across space and make contact with an eloah. You would be shunned for undermining the sole basis for enforcing agreements between ourselves: our absolute word-bond.'

'Do you really believe I would be shunned, Father? After all, news of the discovery of Students would dominate the chatter of El Elyon like none other, and the Students originate in my system. The City of Stars will never content itself with your pitiful colony here.

'And did you know, Father, that on two occasions I've sent a time signal to myself here? On a tight beam, of course, nothing that would violate our agreement. But now I know the precise distance that separates you and I in real space, and the rate of our relative motion.

'That gives me one leg of a triangle. Then I pick a star, let's say grandmother. I carefully note how much grandmother shifts against the background stars both here and on Earth. That gives me the whole triangle. So by all means send a squad to Anshar to kill Leliel, Father.

Because the very next thing to happen will be my avatar accelerating on a course that will bring it very close indeed to dear old Gevurah sitting there at the apex of that triangle. Can you imagine what she will say after learning what a naughty dirk her Keter has been?'

It was a rhetorical question and Michael expected no answer. They all knew that if and when this harem caper was exposed to El Elyon it would mean an immediate trial and extinction for Keter, Daat, Chesed, and any other co-conspirators isolating elohim and the Students.

So with Keter and Daat duly notified that an attack on hyz daughter would be a certain case of murder-suicide, and with the greatest warrior in Heaven, Lilith, unwilling to let Leliel out of har sight, Michael knew hyz daughter was as safe as any angel in Heaven could be.

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 continuous 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,' said Michael in reply. '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 connecting 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,' Lilith said, bordering on disbelief. 'And Leliel almost too big to carry.'

'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 open and airy 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.'

They began to ascend the hill, with ever an eye to the summit to assure 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 hotter.'

But these creatures could not endure long, because the hotter fire within demanded more food than they could find, and so they perished 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 Vennor. 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 carry 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 valley that led from hillside Vennor to the well-ordered fields stretching 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 mother'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.

Michael 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 out-think 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.

At dawn when they awoke they went outdoors to the rail of the boat to watch its slow approach to the seaport. Everything Lilith had heard about Rumbek was true. Har eyes could not be denied. This capital of the Larund kingdom was by far the largest city in all of Heaven.

The Great Sea of the West Lands is divided into a pair of lobes by the Magodon Peninsula, which is as large as Florida on Earth and anchored to the mainland on the west. But sheer cliffs rising as much as four hundred feet guard every approach to the peninsula by sea.

This wall is sheer sandstone and cannot be scaled by any army. Where it is eroded by gullies the streams fill the entire channel. At the foot of this bluff around the peninsula lie impassible swamps and sinkholes that would swallow horses and trap the wheels of chariots.

Also none can pass by land around the Great Sea to the north or to the south. There roaring waves run nigh to the Ice, and often frozen slabs melt and slide into the sea with great thunder. No permanent road can be carved and no tunnel bored to permit passage east or west.

Between Seliah Island and the city of Rumbek lay the much smaller Krone Island and Fanok Island, walled suburbs linked by a network of bridges. Even the smallest islet, Krone, was covered with dwellings and fortifications that alone made it greater than all of Salem.

The mainland was little wider than the road that traversed it. But behind this rose the Nine Mile Wall, that part of the cliffs ringing the Magodon Peninsula which was fortified by angels and nephilim and men. The Nine Mile Wall and the City of Rumbek were one and the same.

The dwellings of the city were carved into the wall, connected by tunnels with endless ramps and stairs. Where these dwellings faced the open air they boasted a fa├žade of ornately-carved harder stone. Rumbek was so large it even spilled over onto part of Seliah Island.

Where Tala Strait met the shoreline road there existed many warehouses and piers for the ships of merchants and for the peerless navy of King Metatron. On the other side of the road, at the base of the Nine Mile Wall, there were storefronts and market stalls beyond number.

A rare mood of unhappiness overcame Lilith when sha saw these shops and this distressed Michael in turn when he saw it. 'What is wrong, beloved?'

'I can't excape the memory that I used to extort shopkeepers for their money, when I already had everything I could ever need.'

'That was before you embraced Chohkmah,' Michael said. 'You are ashamed because cannot fall back on the justification others make that they fell in with the wrong sort of friends.'

'I was always their leader,' sha acknowledged. 'I was the wrong sort of friend for them.'

Michael took out hyz little leather pouch of diamonds. 'I know it hurts, Lil, but you can let it go. The shame you feel now is sufficient punishment for the misdeeds of your past. Take three deep breaths! Good. Now, will you help me choose something to purchase for Leliel?'

The tip of a large knife depressed the skin at Michael's neck. The yang holding the blade said, 'Give to me what you hold in your hand or I'll let flow your life's blood!'

This would have seemed sadly familiar to Lilith's brother, Melchizedek, who was accosted in Harran.

'Scout!' barked Lilith. 'Run away!' And such was Leliel's training that sha immediately obeyed har mother as though it were a battle command, despite being only two years of age.

The robber scowled at Lilith but dismissed har as any threat. Sha was standing too far away.

Michael carefully offered the bag of precious stones, knowing hy could always make more. While the attacker greedily grasped the pouch a terrifying hiss began to be heard. Lilith, standing well away from Michael, extended the dark shaft of the Golden Gift as long as a pike.

Sha sliced the attacker's own weapon in twain, leaving only the hilt and letting the blade clatter to the ground. That was Lilith's idea of a warning shot, but it was a hint hy did not take. Hyz other hand stashed the diamonds in hyz pocket and fumbled for a second blade.

When the weapon came out Lilith swept the black shaft closer to the yang's wrist than the first sweep had been. Hy screamed as his hand and the blade it was holding fell to the ground together. Michael kicked the bloody mess away as Lilith brought the Golden Gift to repose.

'Hold out your arm and I'll help you,' Michael told him. The yang brought out the gushing stump from under his armpit and Michael laid on hyz hands to staunch the wound. 'You should be grateful. The way the relic cuts leaves arteries wide open. Only a flame would seal them.'

Lilith drew near to them. 'No rebuke from my teacher?'

'It was a good deed,' Michael admitted. 'Hy could not have killed me with hyz blade for the same reason he's not dying from yours. Hy seemed set on hyz unprofitable course of action even when you offered hym a way out.'"

When Michael was satisfied the robber would survive hyz wound hy stood up and looked around. Leliel still had not returned from the place where sha had made har escape. Michael noted that many onlookers had witnessed the robbery attempt and the healing of the attacker's arm.

Lilith darted off to look for har daughter. Shortly Leliel came to har father alone, showing off har new talent as soon as sha had learned from har mother that it was safe to come back. 'Where did you go?' hy asked. Sha pointed to a place high above in the Nine Mile Wall.

'You did well to obey your mother so quickly.'

'Thank you father!'

After a long interval that spoke of Leliel's new speed, Lilith rejoined them. 'Five levels over our head my Scout was,' said sha. 'And sha got there so quickly sha was able to watch all that transpired.'

'One good thing will come of all this, at least,' Michael said to har. 'You have been seen wielding the Golden Gift. The Ophan Barachiel has seen you do the same on the frontier and has no doubt spoken of it to many. We should have our audience with the king soon.'

True to Michael's words troops arrived and began questioning the crowd that had gathered around the scene. The robber attempted to scramble to hyz feet but Lilith pushed hym back down, digging in hyz pocket for the pouch of diamonds, which sha returned to har husband.

The troops were commanded by a yeoman of the king's court who addressed Lilith as respectfully as hy could while yet being unsure of har identity. 'I am Gruen, a humble servant in the court of King Metatron. Do I have the honor of addressing Har Majesty the Queen of Salem?'

'I am Lilith, yes, the rightful ruler of Salem. Yet I am dispossessed of that city.'

'Your Majesty, you shall be received by the king at mid-morning tomorrow. A messenger shall be dispatched to Ophan Barachiel in the Dul Valley expressing for the Ophan to return hither."

'Meantime the king bids you to lodge together with any who travel with you within chambers in the highest level of hyz castle. I assure you these lodgings are second in opulence only to those of the king hymself.'

'I would be honored to stay at the castle with my family.'

Gruen looked unfavorably upon the prisoner as hy was bound. 'Were you but common travelers from Adan I would still be filled with shame for what this yang tried to do.'

Lilith said, 'Do you think the king will listen if I tell hym the yang has already been amply punished?'

'Probably not,' Gruen replied, 'and more's the pity. No doubt hyz missing hand will argue with hym should hy ever again consider robbery.'

'But you should try,' said Michael. 'Reckless forgiveness is all I ever had to teach at the Sunset Discourse, and nothing more.'

The Nine Mile Wall angled south and east for half its length, then abruptly changed direction to march south and west. At the pinnacle a razor-thin ridge of sandstone half as high as the Wall jutted into the Strait. This was the skeleton of the castle of King Metatron.

The flesh and bones of the castle were hard stone on the whole exterior, and what windows existed were only large enough for archers to fire their darts upon attackers below. There were three hundred ninety steps to the top, yet Lilith and Michael did not ascend them.

Instead they were ported individually to the top in seats carried by staves. Thirteen teams of servants handed their passengers off to another team after ascending thirty steps. And all the while Leliel walked beside har parents, summing everything up with one word: 'Lazy!'

Their lodgings were everything Gruen had promised. Lilith said to the attendants who waited upon them, 'My daughter shall need at least five times the amount of food you would guess a child har age would need, and har chamberpot must be emptied with corresponding frequency.'

The castle stood straight out from the Nine Mile Wall and when day became night the lights of the dwellings of the city stretching north from them burned for a time. Michael extinguished the lights in their own dwelling to let Leliel marvel at them, but sha soon fell asleep.

Leliel was gently put to bed. A side-effect of Leliel's new talent was sha tended to sleep much more than sha ever did. Michael and Lilith saw an opportunity to share intimacy, one that that had been delayed for many weeks. Michael and Lilith kissed and began to disrobe.

When Lilith laid aside har weapon, har brass, and the leather that protected har, as well as the mental armor that lay beneath all these, there was revealed, to har husband alone, a yin of exquisite tenderness who could not deny har sex. Michael this found very provocative.

Michael thought the changes Keter wrought in some of the humans brought to Heaven to be one of his better ideas. Two organs of joining rather than just one. When Michael went down on Lilith only one of the two would first trigger har climax and neither hy nor sha knew which.

Michael reached a hand around one of Lilith's magnificent thighs to pleasure the upper nub while rolling the inside of har other leg to feast on the lower one. Lilith was plunged into a wall of sensation that steadily rose beyond all reason. Sha went crazy under har husband.

Lilith threw har head into the pillow, arched har back and crushed hyz shoulders between har knees. Michael knew which crease sent har over first and clambered into the other. They moved together expertly as har second climax and hyz first arrived with stately inevitability.

Michael thought there was nothing better in life than to have a happy lady lying under hym while hy enjoyed har body for as long as hy wished, but there was always a little selfishness to that, as though Lilith had diminished from a person to an object after har orgasms.

But the ecstasy that was evident on har face, the little sounds sha made, the touch of har fingers, even har special scent communicated directly to Michael's body that Lilith needed hyz affirmation on the deepest level. Blameless, hy boiled over with hyz own second peak.

After this they lay together holding hands, limbs entwined, watching the pattern of light on the wall of the chamber slowly change as the king's subjects who dwelt in the Nine Mile Wall extinguished the lights of their own homes as they would. Sleep quickly overtook them.

In the morning after a leisurely breakfast a gentle knock on the door announced the return of Gruen, who inquired how they had fared overnight. Hy was come to escort them into the presence of King Metatron. 'What has come of the yang who accosted us yesterday?' asked Lilith.

'Hyz Majesty is incensed,' Gruen replied, 'and hyz view of justice is that the punishment should ever fit the offense. Hy is in the place where he did the crime and there is a knot of rope that obsesses this yang more than your gems or the goods of any other of his victims.

'The yang hangs by one arm, you see. Hy could untie the knot and release hymself of hyz torment if only hyz mouth weren't gagged to free hyz teeth, or if only hy had a second hand to grasp the knot. And so hy remains, because the king has not said hyz suffering should end.'

To this Lilith said only, 'Let no one question the wisdom of the Larund King.' But Michael could see, as they gathered Leliel with them and departed their guest chambers with Gruen to come before the throne of the Cherub Metatron, that Lilith was troubled in har heart.

The King received them at the end of a long, narrow colonnade exposed to the elements, where hyz throne had been set with its back to the very face of the Nine Mile Wall. From here hy often enjoyed watching the doings of hyz subjects in the streets of the city far below.

Lilith was brought before Metatron with har daughter Leliel in hand and with Michael at har side. Sha found the Larund sovereign to be like an echo of har beloved father of happy memory. It was as though both yeng were the angelic incarnation of a couplet of rhyming verse.

And yet, Lilith was forced to acknowledge to harself, if the greatness of a lord was reckoned by the realm over which hy was sovereign, Metatron bordered on the status of a seraph. All the angels of Adan at the heart of the Gerash lands would fill a mere burough of Rumbek.

Sha saw that the king's son, Barachiel, sat at hyz right hand. So hy was neither dead nor in fetters, which told Lilith that hyz father had accepted the conditions of the truce hastily worked out on the field of battle between har and Samael. Metatron noted har glance.

'I am not certain I should welcome you to Rumbek, Queen Lilith,' said hy, after Gruen made the formal introductions. 'My son Ophan Barachiel told me it was you who gave a fair portion of my land to the Black Beards in such a way that I must either ratify it or go to war.'

'Your Majesty,' replied Lilith, 'Ophan Barachiel was at a disadvantage even with my Fallen Angels fighting at hyz side. It would have been a rout and your new frontier with the Adanites would be that much closer to this city. The King no doubt understands battle decisions.'

Metatron grunted dubiously. Then: 'It is said you are exiled from Salem. How come you to such a strait?'

'I spoke truth to yeng of the House of Gerash, but they hated the truth because it was like a bright light that threatened to reveal the dark things they do in secret.'

The king's next question was sharp and to the point. 'What is truth?'

Lilith glanced at Michael, then said in reply, 'Your Majesty, truth is the way things are. We know this truth when our thoughts and deeds echo the world as it plainly is, without a single contradiction.'

'What do you ask of me, Queen Lilith? Shall I put my armies at your command? Shall I use force to protect the purity of your truth?'

Lilith said, 'Nay, Your Majesty. If what I teach is so fragile that I must shield it from contamination, what I have cannot be the truth.'

'The Eyes of Keter fight to convert others to their view and make war against other views, because what they call truth is too weak to sell itself to those who seek the truth with sincerity. They are certain they already possess the one truth and refuse to look at reality.'

'If truth comes to those who seek it with sincerity, then tell me, Queen Lilith, what is the most sincere truth?'

'Only this, your Majesty: the noblest activity is unending love.'

Metatron pondered this silently.

'There is a yang who tried to rob my husband yesterday.'

The king emerged from hyz reverie to search the face of Lilith. Sha went on to say, 'Your Majesty, what hy tried to take from Michael was of little account. If hy chose Michael could flood both Heaven and Earth with so many diamonds they would be like so many wooden beads.'

Hy said, 'Yet it has come to me that your own daughter had to flee for har life.'

'Sha did so at my command, in the event the attacker threw hyz blade. I severed the hand of this yang to preserve the life of my husband. And that, I think, is a most extravagant punishment.'

Metatron saw to the heart of Lilith's words to hym. With great tact sha was trying to balance hyz absolute sovereignty in Rumbek with the radical graciousness sha had learned from har husband and teacher. 'Gruen!' barked the king, and hyz yeoman sunk to hyz knees before hym.

'Gruen, tell the malik supervising this yang's punishment that in my desire for justice it did not enter into my mind to be excessively cruel. Let hym be released from hyz suffering and let hym be cleaned and fed. Go in haste!' The king's yeoman bounded to hyz feet and fled.

Lilith made a small feminine gesture of respect from one Cherub to another. 'Hyz Majesty is merciful and wise, yet a far greater thing weighs upon my thoughts than the chastisement of this thief. Some four hundred yen, exiles of Salem, are stranded on the frontier with Adan.

They cannot return east under the same covenant that stays the forces of Samael from marching west, and even now their meager supplies are running out.'

'Queen Lilith, have you again established conditions on the field that leaves the House of Larund with little choice?'

'Nay, Your Majesty, at the last throw Queen Aurra has offered to settle the Fallen Angels in Rammon, yet this would have the effect of disbanding them as an army. What an army they are indeed that Samael has mustered all hyz warriors to drive them out of the Middle Land.'

'It is well that House Sala has opened their gates to you, yet I deem it would be a journey of at least two years to reach Rammon. Is that what you crave of me, Queen Lilith? Provender for your four hundred Fallen Angels, and leave to pass peacefully through Magodon?'

'Nay, Your Majesty. Give the word, rather, and to a yin my Fallen Angels will become your most loyal subjects.'

'Yet as an army they would be of no use when I march east to regain the lands occupied by Samael. You said yourself they are forbidden to cross the new border.'

'That is true, Your Majesty, but for such an endeavor you would no doubt muster your whole army to strike the Adanites. The Fallen Angels could patrol your western marches, lest those of House Bellon or perhaps even rebels within Magodon itself covet your unguarded lands.'

'And let us say I did not make your Fallen Angels my subjects,' Metatron suggested, 'nor send them provisions, nor give them leave to cross my land. What then?'

'In that event, Your Majesty, the avatar of Chokhmah would come into play. May my husband address the king?'

'By all means let the consort of the Queen speak freely,' said Metatron. 'I would learn of this avatar, and of those things which converted the whole House of Sala to follow Chokhmah, and which tamed the heart of a warrior yin.'

'Your Majesty is gracious,' said Michael.'

'An avatar is an object not made by angels nor nephilim nor men. If Your Majesty is willing to accept this, an avatar is made in the heart of a sun that is the body of an eloah, yet it can fly free, and part of the mind and will of the eloah is bound with this artifact.'

'But mere words concerning an avatar will not suffice. If Hyz Majesty will come to the edge of hyz colonnade hy will soon see the avatar with hyz own eyes. It was set into motion from an idle state just moments ago.'

And indeed Metatron did rise from hyz throne to watch.'

A streak of rushing fire appeared in the sky over Tala Strait followed by two thunderbursts so loud it seemed to Metatron hy would be knocked over. The fire streak, the king could see, formed behind a small dark object that raced across the sky almost too quickly to follow.

'Behold, Your Majesty, the first avatar of Chokhmah. With this contrivance world-dwellers were discovered on Earth, whom the elohim name the Students. The same artifact once whisked me to a hidden place to be brought into full union with Chokhmah as a kind of living avatar.'

'Tell me, Lord Michael,' said the king, 'are you like Samael and Israel? In times past they have appeared before me, unheralded, and seem to have the power to come and go as they will heedless of my castle guard. Samael calls hymself a seraph, a master even of cherubim.'

'I was the first angel to join with an eloah, Your Majesty. As Chokhmah I taught the art to Keter, and he in turn taught Daat. I have the same power to move about Heaven at will but a covenant with Keter restricts my use of this power to the lands west of the Wall of God.

'Here I must resort to riding within the avatar. It brought me to Seliah with my wife and daughter and if needs be it can bring supplies to the Fallen Angels and the Fallen Angels themselves to Rammon, if aid is refused. In Magodon you rule absolutely, even over a seraph.'

'You need not resort to your avatar,' said the King, 'for any of the yen willing to swear fealty to the Crown. A choice land will be given to them in my realm. They shall have whatsoever they might need to begin to become productive subjects, and you shall dwell with them.'

Lilith was visibly relieved. 'I am grateful beyond all telling, Your Majesty, and the Fallen Angels who look to me will be much gladdened. Yet if you say they must lay down the sword, so shall it be, for this too would be their fate scattered among the ringhouses of Rammon.'

'Nay, Queen Lilith,' replied Metatron, 'let them grasp the sword even so, and see that you train them well. Samael is faithless. I portend his army will one day pour through an overlooked loophole in the covenant and then your Fallen Angels will repay me a hundredfold.'

Michael said, 'I am sure Samael will never directly assail you with the main bulk of hyz army, Your Majesty. Elohim cannot break the bonds of even the smallest concession. Yet hy can still send assassins and spies, and arm all your enemies, both within Magodon and without.'

'And Samael will continue to foment hatreds between House Larund and the other houses, that you would remain at each other's throat, so that hy might sell hyz remedy in the form of arms, first to one, then the other. Queen Aurra and King Uriel have said this must end.'

'Give the word of assent, Your Majesty, and I will bring the rulers of House Sala and House Bellon hither to take counsel with the aim of forging some form of peaceful union between the kingdoms of Heaven.'

'A council as you describe would be a good thing,' agreed the King.'

'And it would be, I think, the first such council ever taken in the history of Heaven. But for now let us find a land to settle the exiles of Salem, and watch for a time whether Samael will break the truce hy made.'

Michael bowed and said, 'Let it be as the king commands.'

'Your Majesty,' said Lilith, 'when we came to your realm we touched down in a fair valley that runs south through the middle of Seliah Island and we fell in love with the place at first sight. There are some houses and farms but it seems to be lightly settled in the main.'

'You speak of the Living Valley,' said the Ophan Barachiel, who turned to face Lilith. 'It is near to my own castle in the Dul Valley, though a high ridge intervenes. The high hills run nigh to the water, so it is difficult to bring the increase of the valley to Rumbek.'

'The Fallen Angels shall dwell in the selfsame vale,' said the king.'You, Barachiel, my son, shall extend generous hands until the Salemites are able of their own to work the land. This is the labor I lay upon you for your part in what Queen Lilith named a battle decision.'

Barachiel bowed hyz head low. 'It shall be as you command, my father and liege-lord. But meantime, Queen Lilith and har family shall stay in a wing of my own house until a dwelling is built for them in the Living Valley. Alas, I cannot extend the same to har four hundreds.'

Then Michael, Lilith, and Leliel departed from the presence of the cherub Metatron. They were taken to dwell in the Dul Valley for a time while the Fallen Angels were supplied by goods carried by the avatar of Chokhmah and made ready to settle the land apportioned to them.

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Strangers In Paradise