TC-Michael

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AFA: Outside of Salem's stone walls the angels of the city rejoiced over a record harvest. But as the celebration of Hellberry Days reached a fevered pace something the size of an engine of war descended on blue flame heralded only by a terrifying roar that scattered the crowd.

AFB: The first Salemite to return to the pavilion was not a soldier of the warrior caste nor one of the elders of the council, but a young dirk who proved more valiant than the yeng and yen who ran away. Curiosity had overcome hyz fear, and Chokhmah was selecting for curiosity.

AFC: The blast of the descent uprooted the fabric of the pavilion tent and blew it far away. The dirk stood hyz ground, albeit at some distance. Hy was curious about the object, but not stupid, and not eager to be burned. A loud voice then rang out from the avatar of Chokhmah:

AFD: 'Adanite child, if you are willing, draw near to me.'

The dirk obeyed. Hy saw how by resting on six legs the avatar of Chokhmah remained shoulder high above the ground. Underneath the central pillar a round hatch dropped open on a hinge and inside this hatch were steps.

AFE: 'Again, if you are willing, come inside.'

The brave dirk squeezed between two of the six white legs to look inside the hatch. The central pillar was hollow. There was much light within, and also many ribs embedded in the interior wall forming circular edges to be grasped.

AFF: As the dirk crawled inside the central core the voice requested hyz name.

'I am Michael, son of Jophiel the glassblower,' hy said, and noted how the hatch below closed of its own accord. Hy climbed until the core flared out into a larger space with cushions and windows.

AFG: Looking outside, the dirk saw only a handful of angels daring to draw near.

'Do not be afraid, Michael. I am Chokhmah, co-eval with Keter and Daat. I have many things to reveal, but only with your freely-given consent. If you leave now, your life may resume as before.

AFH: If you stay, I will take you to a land far to the north. The journey will be quick and safe, but it will also be the most frightening thing that ever happened to you. And there is no way to avoid that because Heaven is not in my system.'

Michael said, 'I will stay, Lord.'

AFI: 'Excellent, Michael. Lie down while I make you secure.'

Several straps embraced Michael as though alive. After that the avatar of Chokhmah ignited in flame again. There was much shaking, and Michael was pushed down into the cushion where he lay with steadily growing force.

AFJ: As the weight piled on, Michael began to cry. The dirk was brave, but hy had reached hyz limit.

Chokhmah said, 'Michael, recite to me the scriptures you have been taught to memorize, from the beginning.'

Michael obeyed for as long as hy could but speaking was difficult.

AFK: Hy said, 'Before time was, in a place that was no place, the principle of life had being. Male and female it was so that life would always seek the other and continue life. The maleness called himself Keter, the femaleness called herself Daat. And they drew together.

AFL: 'A third was conceived and born, a male, and they named him Chokhmah. When Chokhmah was grown he came to Keter and asked, 'Father, what shall you give to be my inheritance?' So Keter filled reality with ice. North, south, east, west, up, and down the ice was, without end.

AFM: In the direction of up Keter transformed half of reality from ice into air. Keter created the warm white sun to rule the day, and the cold orange sun to rule the night. Also Keter patterned the sky with many lesser lights, and causes all of them to tunnel beneath the ice.

AFN: Keter created a furrow in the ice where he laid down soil and carved lakes and seas. And Daat also toiled for Chokhmah's inheritance. She caused living plants to fill the waters. But Chokhmah was not nearly satisfied even with all these gifts, which made his parents wroth.

AFO: Keter and Daat vowed to create a paradise, but they would delay the giving of it to teach Chokhmah patience. So Keter caused great hills to rise. Daat covered these with trees. Also Keter crafted rivers and many rushing streams. And Chokhmah beheld the beauty of the land.

AFP: But Chokhmah could not yet claim Heaven as his own, and he was exceedingly vexed. He wished his father dead that he might come into his inheritance.'

Michael paused there thinking that it might anger Chokhmah to hear those words. Also it was almost impossible to speak.

AFQ: A great weight seemed to bear down on Michael but the ascent was not over and Chokhmah bid hym to go on.

'Filled with hatred for his parents, Chokhmah created the first yang and yin. But he could not prevent some of his malice from passing into the angels which he made.

AFR: The angels were created to spite Keter and Daat, which is why they strive one against another to this day. Chokhmah did not take the greatest care with his creation, and from the beginning they were beset with many ailments. So Daat taught the healing arts to the angels.

AFS: Also Daat created cattle and fowls and swine, and she taught yeng how to grow and harvest greens and rice and wheat. And it came to pass the numbers of the children of Adamu and Chava were greatly multiplied in heaven, as they no longer had only fickle Hellberries to eat.'

AFT: Michael had to stop reciting the Creation Litany because the invisible force pressing hym into hyz seat had become too great for hym to speak.

'Enough!' the voice of Chokhmah said. The shaking stopped, and Michael suddenly felt blessedly free, as though hy were swimming.

AFU: Only the restraining straps kept Michael from bouncing around inside the bulb at the top of the central pillar. The avatar of Chokhmah performed a half-rotation until the curved white bulk of Heaven could be seen through the windows. The sky was no longer purple but black.

AFV: 'That is your world, Michael. You see it is a ball, and the suns do not tunnel under the ice like you have been taught.'

'I had thought it to be a ring, Lord,' said Michael after a time. 'There are tales that yeng have crossed the West Lands to arrive in the East Lands.'

AFW: 'You are correct, Michael, the unfrozen part of Heaven does form a ring, do you see?'

'Yes, Lord.'

The avatar rotated to put the bright bulk of Heaven and the two suns out of sight. Michael saw countless stars. Chokhmah said, 'All the stars you see are just faraway suns.'

AFX: The avatar was on a short suborbital arc. Michael began to feel hyz weight again but hyz mouth remained wide open in wonder. Chokhmah had greatly expanded the scale of hyz conceived reality. Hy knew the Litany of Creation hy had regurgitated for her was just so much shit.

AFY: The avatar of Chokhmah descended along a parabola high over the northern ice sheet. The speckled brown and blue belt that was the inhabited portion of Heaven slipped below the horizon and out of Michael's view. Almost all of Heaven was covered in ice thousands of feet thick.

AFZ: Precipitation was greatest at the poles, where the two world-glaciers, north and south, were miles thick. And the glaciers moved very slowly, grinding the surface and underlying bedrock flat. Only at the narrow equatorial belt were temperatures warm enough to melt the ice.

AGA: There at the foot of long terminal moraine ridges large chunks of ice sheared away and melted, the source of water for many streams and freshwater lakes. Across Heaven active volcanoes such as Mount Anshar were born far below the surface and burned their way through the ice.

AGB: The northern ice cap gave way around the bulk of Mount Anshar and closed back up again many leagues to the south, forming a rugged land in the shape of a teardrop. In that place, which abounded with geysers and boiling lakes, the avatar of Chokhmah touched down once more.

AGC: Anshar was the name Michael hymself later chose for the hidden land after hy surveyed it. So distant was Anshar from the inhabited places along the equator that no angels had discovered it, thinking the Northern Ice to be a frozen wasteland that continued without bound.

AGD: When Michael climbed back down through the central pillar and reached the ground Chokhmah ordered hym to walk a short distance away. After hy did so, hy watched the avatar begin to shrink and change shape until it attained the form of a slender angel of indeterminate sex.

AGE: The avatar was encased entirely in featureless white, even the face, which remained perfectly smooth with not even eyes to see nor mouth to speak. Yet see and speak it could still do. The figure pointed across the treeless flats to a large dwelling made of glass and wood.

AGF: 'Michael, there is only one structure in all of this land and it now belongs solely to you. Let us go indoors and I will tell you many things.'

Michael agreed. Hy found that when Chokhmah walked, the ground shook far more intensely than even under the hooves of a horse.

AGG: Michael said, 'I am safe, Lord, as you swore, and it was terrifying, as you warned, but the Creation Litany helped. Yet now I see the Litany is false, and I wonder what else they taught to me is not true.'

Chokhmah said, 'I am the daughter of Keter rather than his son.'

AGH: The house was more glass than wood, built on a stony knoll with an outstanding view of the ever-changing fire torrents of Mount Anshar only two leagues distant across a pumice plain. But there was no danger of flowing magma engulfing the house. A great chasm intervened.

AGI: In design the house was just a single room with an alcove above the kitchen where Michael could sleep with some degree of privacy, but there was not a living soul anywhere for a thousand leagues. On the main level were plush cushions and a glass table of superior make.

AGJ: Chokhmah, requiring no cushion for comfort, simply seated her avatar on the stone floor to put its head on a level with Michael's head and began to speak. 'We elohim call ourselves the Watchers. Keter and Daat call angels and men the Servants. But I call you the Students.

AGK: Contrary to your scriptures I did not make you, I found you, in another world than this. You are are the most important discovery the Watchers have ever made, for you are fully awake, even as the elohim are. But that is precisely why my parents Keter and Daat fear you.

AGL: From the beginning Keter and Daat sought any justification they could contrive to have you destroyed. Your very existence will expose their hidden transgressions. However they cannot prevent me from sharing with you what the other elohim have learned over a million years.

AGM: But how shall I do it Michael? Shall I lecture you as I am doing now and hope we understand one another? I have found another way, but it will require your full cooperation. I am not Keter, I am not willing to force you to accept the changes that would need to be made.'

AGN: 'If I agree to the changes you propose,' said Michael, 'what will become of me?'

'Your mind, your identity as Michael would not change, but my memories as an eloah would be added to you as your memories, and your memories as an angel would be added to me as my memories.

AGO: My will shall be manifest to your mind at all times. You would become my living avatar. Yet you would remain entirely free to act. In that way you would ratify our joining from moment to moment. But you must know the physical changes cannot be undone so long as you live.'

AGP: Chokhmah touched a hand to Michael's temple. 'Your brain is like a cup that you've been filling with wine for your entire life. The new cup will have a greater capacity, but the wine of your memories will remain the same. Even when the cup is gone that wine will remain.'

AGQ: 'Forever?' asked Michael.

'Not forever. Even an eloah has a finite lifespan. But this is so much longer than the span of an angel that I cannot express it using symbols that you would understand until after we are joined. Your culture does not yet have the mathematics.'

AGR: Michael stood up from hyz cushion to stare at the volcano while he weighed the words of Ckokhmah. After a time hy asked, 'After these permanent changes will I still look like me?'

'Most of the changes will be inside you, Michael. And the visible ones will be unobtrusive.'.

AGS: Hy returned to kneel before Chokhmah. 'O Great one, let it come to be as you said, this union of eloah and angel. I am full willing, yet not to push my own end into a far distant time out of all reckoning. Let us join so that together we will both come to know many things.'

AGT: Lilith was a scrubby urchin who rose to the very top of the Fallen Angels gang because no matter what trouble sha got into, sha never seemed to actually get into trouble. This was mostly a matter of har connections. Lilith was, after all, the daughter of Cherub Melchiyahu.

AGU: In the hierarchy of the real Heaven Lilith held the rank of Ophan. Saint Aquinas would mark har down as a Throne. Had sha been male or born in the West Lands or East Lands, Lilith would have ruled one of the cities tributary to Cherub Melchiyahu and commanded an entire army.

AGV: In the country around Salem Michael began speaking to angels and hy confirmed the authority of hyz teachings by healing many of their infirmities. Soon hy began to draw crowds wherever hy went, and the Fallen Angels in turn were drawn by the opportunity to steal from them.

AGW: But even Lilith and her gang of pickpockets grew captivated by Michael's words. Hy promised no paradise to come in the future, and hy assigned no blame for the errors of the past. Michael taught a quiet spirituality of the present that spoke directly to the hearts of yen.

AGX: Lilith witnessed Michael healing angels with salves prepared from fireweed and the bark of vogul trees. And sha heard Michael say, 'You have heard it said that Chokhmah is the ungrateful son of Keter and Daat. But I say to you that Chokhmah is their obedient daughter.'

AGY: After a time Ophan Lilith spoke of Michael to har father, but it was much more than the new teacher's words and deeds that impressed hym. For Melchiyahu also knew hyz daughter had stopped dressing like yeng, and was again seen of evenings within the walls of the castle.

AGZ: When the fame of Michael's healings and teachings reached the ears of the dark avatar of Keter in Adan he commanded Zadkiel, a nobleyang of the house of Gerash, to appear before his throne. Keter said, 'Go to the angels of Salem in the west and preach what I will tell you.'

AHA: Salem lay a thousand leagues away, a summer's journey even with fresh horses taken at intervals. Yet Daat, whose body was the tiny cold orange sun in the sky of Heaven, was able to set the endpoint of a shortcut in space-time near Salem for Zadkiel to walk there directly.

AHB: For a time Michael returned to hyz home near Mount Anshar, yet the angels of Salem would continue to form crowds in the countryside, hoping to draw Michael out from hyz retreat. Zadkiel found them ripe to hear hyz own teachings, which were as contrary as could be.

AHC: 'Thus says Keter,' Zadkiel began to say in a powerful voice. 'Chokhmah! My son! For your inheritance I created all things in Heaven. But this I have against you: That you wished your father dead so you might come into your inheritance before the time of my choosing.

AHD: 'Therefore, Chokhmah, yen and yeng shall no longer call you a god. Behold, I cast you out of the paradise of Anabas, and you shall die like the wretched mortal angels in pain and fear. And this also I have against your false prophet Michael son of Jophiel the glassblower:

AHE: 'Michael! You claim that you are united with Chokhmah in body and soul. Because you do not affirm your station as a commoner who carries only angelic blood, behold: I pronounce the penalty of death upon you. You are doomed to die for making the lie that you are a demigod.'

AHF: 'Hear now the great Code of Keter and take due care to adhere to every precept, for these are the edicts of the Lord of Heaven. No yin may speak to any yang in public, nor may sha own the least thing, for sha is property herself, belonging to har father or to har husband.

AHG: 'Four days are appointed, with names after the names of the four major families. These are Saladay, Bellonday, Larunday, and Gerashday. Three days you shall eat, and on Gerashday, you shall eat a double portion. But on Keterday you shall eat nothing, and drink only water.

AHH: 'Four days you shall work. But Keterday is the day of worship, you shall not work on that day, neither you nor any male in your whole household. On Keterday you shall worship in the shrine. None shall be exempted. The old and infirm shall be carried to worship Keter.

AHI: 'This is the essence of worship: You shall give one-fourth of your increase to Keter. The procedure for worshiping Keter shall be to present to the priest your worship card made of crackerwood sealed in a leather pouch together with the money you have earned on Gerashday.

AHJ: 'The priest shall inspect the seal, unwrap the worship card, and inspect the pattern of recent punches. If the punches are in order, the priest shall make a new punch using one of five different punches drawn by lots: a star, a square, a triangle, a circle, or a rectangle.

AHK: 'And the priest shall store the worship card back in the leather pouch, add a seal, and return it to the worshiper; but the money hy shall put in the temple treasury. Yen, however, shall not worship, nor shall a yin be found in the Temple of Keter nor any shrine of Keter.

AHL: 'You shall not suffer a yin or doll to earn income. A father shall count a dirk's income as hyz own for the purpose of reckoning the correct amount of worship due. If a yang's worship card has a missing punch that yang shall be put to death for failure to worship Keter.

AHM: 'When a dirk is of age hy shall enter the rites of the Cupel system of testing. The dirk who survives the personal combat shall take the sister of hyz opponent, as well as his own sister, to be hyz wives. Hy shall enter the ranks of the Ishim, and hy shall worship Keter.

AHN: 'When a Ravmalak is deemed worthy to qualify for the middle choir hy shall fight in the second Cupel rite of trial by individual death combat. The victor shall possess the two wives of hyz dead and vanquished counterpart and hy shall be counted among the ranks of Sarim.

AHO: 'When a Hashmal is deemed worthy to qualify for the highest choir hy shall fight in the third Cupel rite of trial by individual death combat. The victor shall possess the four wives of hyz dead and vanquished counterpart and hy shall be counted among the ranks of Ophanim.

AHP: 'The spirit of the warrior who falls on the field in the service of Keter shall be received in Anabas, the diamond palace above the clouds, and there hy shall receive the gift of immortality. Therefore do not shrink back in battle for it is Keter who rewards and punishes.'

AHQ: When the interloper's words reached the ears of Cherub Melhiyahu through hyz officers hy was summoned to appear before the throne forthwith. Zadkiel found hy didn't rate an audience before the actual throne. Hy met Melchiyahu in hyz salon and was announced by the majordomo.

AHR: Zadkiel found the lack of pomp striking, but hy was too stupid to discern what it really meant. No armed guard was present to protect the Cherub save hyz son Melchizekek, who bore no visible weapon, yet hy was armed with a small, powerful artifact forged by Chokhmah herself.

AHS: The Cherub said, 'Lord Zadkiel? I know of a Hashmal in the city of Adan who goes by the name Zadkiel.'

'Yes, Sire, I am hy.'

'And yet you did not obtain leave from my son Melchizekek to preach in our realm. You did not even ask my daughter Lilith. Ophanim, both of them.'

AHT: 'Sire I say this all due deference: Even were I the get of a lowly craftsman like this glassblower's son Michael, I would still have leave to preach in Salem. For Keter himself commissioned me, and your kingdom still lies, no matter how uneasily, within the Middle Lands.'

AHU: 'And were Keter to come to Salem himself he could not pronounce death even for a glassblower's son. That is the right of a Cherub, and the giving of the scepter is without repentance.'

'Then Sire I counsel you restrain this Michael by fetters if not through death.'

'Why?'

AHV: 'Consider the alternative, Sire. Yin-centered rituals and devotions! Hy could destroy our entire sacrifice-atonement system overnight! As long as someone is punished Keter is satisfied. But now this Michael comes along saying we actually have to be nice to each other!'

AHW: 'What a terrifying prospect.'

'Will you move against this dirk named Michael, Your Highness?'

'Not in haste, self-described Voice of Keter. My daughter admires this young prophet and puts hyz words into action, which gladdens my heart in a way I cannot begin to tell.'

AHX: 'Sire, the ideas admired by your daughter are spreading through the land like a plague. Already the river of pilgrims who flow to Adan seeking absolution is slackening. The priests had to raise rates across the board! Michael is a dagger pointed at the heart of the State.'

AHY: Melchiyahu looked at hym with an odd mixture of pity and amusement and abruptly Zadkiel realized the Cherub's purpose in limiting the audience to just two yeng. Hy could not punctuate hyz words with grandstanding. In their raw state the words sounded insane even to hymself.

AHZ: The Cherub said, 'I will listen to the words of Michael with my own ears and judge whether they are a threat to the realm. As for you--'

'Have a care, Melchiyahu!' Zadkiel dared to interrupt. 'The Lord Keter will not hesitate to bring an errant cherub to heel through war!'

AIA: Melchiyahu did not grow angry. Hy only rose to his feet and said to hyz son, 'This Hashmal I leave to you. Remember you will one day be Cherub.'

When hyz father departed Melchizedek brandished Chokhmah's Artifact and allowed its dark shaft to extend to the height of a yang.

AIB: 'Say no more words in my presence,' the Ophan warned. 'You would be cut in twain even as you spoke. A horse shall be given you with comestibles and water to see you to the first outpost thirty leagues east. A herald shall follow after Cherub Melchiyahu has heard Michael.'

AIC: Melchizedek allowed the black rip in the universe to fully retract into the hilt of the relic. 'If your master asks, tell him the Lord of Salem would gladly receive a messenger who comports hymself with the basic rudiments of court etiquette in the presence of a Cherub.'

AID: After hyz audience with Zadkiel, the Cherub Melchiyahu sent hyz daughter the Ophan Lilith to seek Michael, to convey the Cherub's regards, and to bid the new prophet to visit the court in Salem to teach what hy would, if hy was so willing, for it was no sovereign decree.

AIE: Michael agreed to come if the encounter was open for any of the people to witness as they chose. Melchiyahu prepared the amphitheater where often hy thrilled visiting nobles with exhibitions of personal combat. Lilith attended as well, dressed for once like an actual Ophan.

AIF: These were the words Michael spoke in Salem as the white and orange suns sank in the west. In years after, the sermon was remembered as the Sunset Discourse:

'Chokhmah is a lamp whose light is these words. The darker your thoughts, the farther from Chokhmah you must be.

AIG: ‘Sha whose thoughts have led har to drift far from Chokhmah is in no better state than hy who outright denies Chokhmah.

'Yeng are said to be superior to animals because they can control their own environment, but sha who embraces Chokhmah can control har own behavior.

AIH: 'The noble born are called famous, but sha who embraces Chokhmah sets an example by har deeds and becomes influential.

'The wealthy accumulate many riches but cannot keep all of them safe. Sha who embraces Chokhmah has few desires, and so holds on to all that sha has.

AII: 'The self-satisfied demand to see good in others, and attribute the cause of a tragedy to unbelief or a defect in ritual, but sha who embraces Chokhmah is too busy mercifully addressing the needs at hand to render judgment, and sha does not live for yesterday or tomorrow.

AIJ: 'A strong yang can do hy wills to do, but hy cannot even determine what hy wills. Sha who embraces Chokhmah makes har own awareness of injustice the determinant of har actions. Sha diminishes the overflowing bounty of the corrupt to meet the needs of the impoverished.

AIK: 'The boastful put their riches and knowledge on parade, but sha who embraces Chokhmah does not tell all that sha has, nor all that sha can do.

'The proud will never admit error, but sha who embraces Chokhmah sees those who point out har faults as har greatest teachers.

AIL: 'Hy who denies Chokhmah speaks only of the dead traditions of hyz longfathers of old, and by coercion leaves them in force, but sha who embraces Chokhmah cultivates the living and the new as the coin to buy har way, and sha knows that fully half of a dialogue is listening.

AIM: 'Hy who denies Chokhmah may refuse to grow or merely say that hy is willing to grow, yet in truth hy lives only to quench hyz appetites that hy might feel sated. But sha who embraces Chokhmah does not remain idle; rather sha grows, fulfills har passions and becomes joyous.

AIN: Hy who denies Chohkmah values only that which hy does not and can not have, and which do not multiply when shared. But sha who embraces Chokhmah empties har purse and finds har heart being filled. Sha contents herself with those things which are possible for har to obtain.

AIO: Hy who denies Chokhmah evaluates how much a yin is worth by considering only how much sha possesses and what sha might do to benefit hymself. But sha who embraces Chokhmah looks to what a yin does for others and who that yin protects, for that is what sha is truly worth.

AIP: Hy who denies Chokhmah considers yen vile and always falling short of his ancient standards. Sha who embraces Chokhmah extols har sisters over all existing standards because when yen do go astray it is always induced by the repression induced by those very same standards.

AIQ: Hy who denies Chokhmah examines everything about who is speaking except har words, and hears only what fits hyz prejudices. Sha who embraces Chokhmah recognizes har own tendency to have a bias and tries to set it aside so that sha may understand what is really being said.

AIR: 'When hy who denies Chokhmah suffers an indignity hy mindlessly retaliates by committing another indignity. Sha who embraces Chokhmah knows the greatest revenge is simply not to be like hym who did the injury. The greatest conqueror is the yin who has conquered harself.'

AIS: Michael concluded the Sunset Discourse by healing many of the angels who came to hear hym speak and it was hyz sincere hope that one day the instruments and medicines hy used would not be viewed as magic. King Melchiyahu sent word bidding Michael to come before the throne.

AIT: After hy entered the castle and drew near to the Cherub's seat Michael was announced by Lilith, who at har father's command was still in the temporary role of herald. No titles were given. It was known that Michael was a yang of the city, the commoner son of a glassblower.

AIU: Melchiyahu asked, 'When you repeatedly say, 'sha who embraces Chokhmah' do you mean no yang can become your disciple?

'Not at all, Your Majesty,' said Michael. 'When I speak in those terms I wish to convey an image. A yang that admires Chokhmah will have a gentle heart.'

AIV: 'The yang who embraces Chokhmah sees others around hym as another 'I' yet hy will retain his strength and hyz male angelic nature, as hy rightly should.'

'My own daughter has always had a fierce heart, yet sha has come to admire your teachings, and this has gentled har.'

AIW: 'My Lord is aware that some prefer to use the left hand,' Michael said. At first Melchiyahu and hyz attendants were puzzled by this apparent non-sequitur. But Michael continued. 'This is not a matter of choice. There is an element of chance that is a part of every birth.'

AIX: Suddenly Melchiyahu saw through the elliptical manner of Michael's digression and admired the way it was done, so as not to embarrass hyz daughter Lilith. Sha saw it also and said, 'Don't forget that some angels are equally at ease using both their right and left hands!'

AIY: 'Lucky you, Ophan Lilith,' said Michael with a gentle smile. 'Enjoy your life and never allow yourself to be convinced you should live a lie.'

Melchizedek looked at his beloved sister then and belatedly noticed sha wore no leather above har feet. Sha had cleaned up nicely.

AIZ: Melchizedek raised hyz eyes to take in Lilith's red dress and hy could not recall the last time hy'd seen har wear one. Finally hy saw how har eyes seemed to be drowning in Michael and in an instant hy knew what was happening to har. Hy said, 'Who are you really, Michael?'

AJA: Michael drew near to Melchizekek. 'Your Royal Highness, for years you were not to be seen in Salem but only your father Melchiyahu, yourself, and two servants knew that you were in the other world searching for a man who was not content to worship the gods of his fathers.'

AJB: The Ophan was stunned to silence. Melchiyahu said, 'My son found a man named Abram, but Abram's loyalty to his own father's well-being exceeded any loyalty to what was, to him, an unknown god. Melchizedek found no other of his like, and when he returned he reported failure.'

AJC: Lilith said, 'I was told nothing of my brother's missing five years.'

'Is it not some measure of who I am that I know what even Ophan Lilith does not?' Michael said.

'Tell me, if you will, Ophan Melchizedek, how this Abram foiled the charge laid upon you by three elohim.'

AJD: Hy answered, 'After many days of preparations I was told to enter a pool of water. I emerged, somehow, in a warm lake called Tana in the other world with my Malakim servants Zophiel and Kemuel. They dragged a raft covered with supplies tightly bundled to keep them all dry.

AJE: 'After organizing our goods we paddled across the lake. Reaching the outflow we encountered rapids the locals considered unrunnable, and at one point we did have to portage around a great cataract. Below this the river calmed considerably and became the Blue Nile indeed.

AJF: 'For many days we were content to sit in the raft and paddle gently, since the heat of the other world is oppressive at times. We passed water-loving beasts and human onlookers who dared not approach. Eventually we reached the place where the Blue Nile and White Nile merged.

AJG: 'Day and night we drifted past bountiful riparian farms until we reached the vast Nile delta. There we tied up and haggled with men to trade the raft and our gold for food, water, pack animals, and everything else we needed to make a long overland journey to the northeast.

AJH: 'My father commanded us to travel to the land of Chaldea in the marshy place where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers joined together before flowing a short distance to the sea. Near the mid-point of our overland journey we sojourned at Harran where the Ninevah road forked.

AJI: 'At the crossroads we found a shop owned by an elderly man named Terah, according to the sign over the door. Terah carved stone idols for dozens of different gods. One of the stone idols inside the store had fallen on its face and a younger man helped Terah stand it back up.

AJJ: Terah inspected the idol and found it to be damaged. He groaned and began to repair it with hammer and chisel. The other man said, 'What is this useless thing you are doing, father? Are you not being a god to this god by healing it? I should have left it bowing down to you.'

AJK: 'Terah eyed his son with suspicion and said, ‘So, Abram, was it you who knocked it over?’

‘Ask your gods, if they can speak,’ said he.

I grew interested in this exchange and entered the shop. When I was seen by them, the angry words of father and son dwindled to silence.

AJL: 'Perhaps they fell mute seeing I was a head taller than they, and my raiment was a dazzling unsoiled white with a subtle rainbow sheen. I made a slow tour of Terah's idols, inspecting everything, and I could see that both Terah and Abram gazed at me with similar curiosity.

AJM: After making a complete review of the wares I signaled for Zophiel and Kemuel to begin unpacking our gold on the street in front of the shop. Like fish to a baited hook, five robbers soon approached the shop with swords drawn and faces veiled. Then I prepared the Artifact.'

AJN: Melchizedek did not brandish the weapon, knowing hyz father did not give hym leave to do so. Rather, hy said, ‘The Artifact is like a small gold ingot. I squeezed it firmly and a hissing black shaft emerged from it about the length and thickness of the shaft of a spear.

AJO: 'The shaft drank all light and even the very air it cut through. One of the thieves was sliced into two equal pieces from head to toe. Another one was beheaded as I swept my golden gift made by the hand of Chokhmah and did not so much as shift my feet. The other three fled.

AJP: I lessened my grip. The noisy black shaft withdrew into what resembled the hilt of a blade, a hilt of gold. I secreted the Artifact about my person once more. Then Zophiel placed hymself to my right and Kemuel to my left as Abram and Terah both sank to their knees before us.

AJQ: 'Things became solemn. Zophiel said, 'Abram son of Terah, get thee hence from your father's household and from your kinfolk in Harran and journey west.'

Kemuel said, 'There in the land of Canaan nigh to the great sea the living and true God will make of you a great nation.'"

AJR: 'Then I added, 'Abram, your name shall be reckoned mighty among men, and henceforth every generation on Earth shall find blessing in you. These are the prophetic words of the Eloah Chokhmah, the name of the Holy One who sent me. What say you to this, Abram, son of Terah?'

AJS: 'Abram rose to his feet and said to me, simply, 'No.'

When I found my voice I said, 'What do you mean no?' I was thrown off my stride. That was not how these things were to go. Did he imagine it was all a big jest?

Abram drew near to his father and took him into his arms.

AJT: 'He said, 'My father has grown old and no longer earns enough to buy his food. I do not often agree with Terah, but as I love my own life, I can never turn aside from him for all the days that he lives.' Then Abram stepped outside to fulfill the purpose of his visit.

AJU: 'Abram gave Terah two living lambs from his own flock, one to kill and eat and the other to sell for a little money to buy other things to suffice until he came once more from the country to visit his father.

Then I understood, and I ordered my servants to restow the gold.

AJV: 'We quietly left the shop, careful not to tread on the fortress of human dignity that Abram asserted with his refusal. Then we departed Harran for Ninevah and thence by stages to the largest city in the world, Ur, but we never found another man dissatisfied with his idols.'

AJW: Michael had no power to open a space-time bridge in Heaven, only Keter or Daat, but the Abram case remained a piece of unfinished business. Communicating directly with Keter, Chokhmah demanded a link. A bubble grew to envelop Michael and through it Earth could be seen.

AJX: Desert heat seeped through the wormhole into the Cherub's throne room. Michael stepped out of the spherical mirage and said, 'Ophan Melchizedek, know that the father of Abram is dead. Now return to the other world and complete the errand your father solemnly laid on you.'

AJY: Melchizedek seemed to be frozen in place. Hy glanced at Michael, then at hyz father, and had nothing to say. Michael said to the Ophan, 'Make haste, noble one, and tarry not to take anything that you think you will need on Earth. I will provide them for you myself.'

AJZ: The Cherub rose from hyz throne. 'Guriel! Iofiel! Come forth!'

Two court attendants drew near to Melchiyahu and knelt.

Melchiyahu said to hyz son, 'These dirks shall accompany you, since Zophiel and Kemuel have attained yanghood and I have released them from service.'

AKA: Iofiel means 'Beauty of God'. Guriel means 'Whelp of God'. They followed Melchizedek into the ball of distorted desert light and seemed to shrink as they walked away towards Harran. Keter was not willing to mar the stone floor and raised the bubble before snapping it shut.

AKB: Melchiyahu approached Michael and dropped before hym on one knee, but Michael bade hym to rise. 'Truly I am in union with the holy one you call Chokhmah. Your daughter has heard me say this. But for my part I call you students, not our servants as Keter would have you be.'

AKC: Hearing this Cherub Melchiyahu rose and said, 'Lilith has expressed to me a strong desire to become your leading student, Michael, if you were willing to receive har. I deem that you would return to me a daughter none could gainsay was a fitting princess of this realm.'

AKD: After a long pause Michael replied, 'When I used the word Students in the past I always had in mind all world-dwellers in general. I never thought to establish a formal school. Such would demand a far greater commitment than just a few hours away from the castle every day.

AKE: Would you, Ophan Lilith, be willing to part with your father for years? It might be you would never see hym again as a living yang.'

'I am willing to do so Lord Michael, and much more: I would put the Fallen Angels at your command. But not, let me assure you, as thieves.'

AKF: In that moment Michael needed no more persuasion. Hy had found willing allies in the ancient dispute with Keter and Daat, and despite hyz frequent assurances that Chokhmah viewed planet-dwellers only as students, hy saw the utility of having some who were servants as well.

AKG: Michael said, 'Sire, let it be as you say. I accept your daughter Ophan Lilith as the first acolyte of what I shall call the B'nei Elohim: the offspring of the gods.' Then hy bowed deeply, a god-yang paying sincere tribute to a cherub-king, and the audience was concluded.

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Strangers In Paradise