TC013B

From CleanPosts

Jump to: navigation, search

When the vanguard of the Adanite expedition reached the shambles of the garrisoned cache they were ordered to line the walls of the central chamber at attention. Carrying a fat short staff, black in color, Bezaliel picked hyz way to the center searching for a flat area.

Hy found a spot that would suffice for hyz purposes and unscrewed a cap on the end of the staff, revealing it to be a hollow cylinder. Bezaliel withdrew a gray mat. Hy had been told by Samael hymself that a whisker extended from this mat to the heart of the sun itself.

Bezaliel could neither see nor feel this whisker, and indeed hy wondered how it was not cut or snapped when the mat was rolled up into the cylinder, but it was a divine mystery. All hy knew was that unrolling the mat would, in effect, summon Samael and Israel to appear.

Hy let the mat fly open by itself and stood back to wait. The living avatars of Keter and Daat were suddenly seen within what seemed to be a glass sphere. Bezaliel and all hyz yeng fell to their knees as though they were a single body as the two seraphim stepped forward.

Israel bids the yeng to rise. Bezaliel says, "Look what the she-demon Lilith has done, my lords!"

Samael looked at the sky visible through a new tunnel in the cave ceiling. Hy said, "Nay, this was Chokhmah, and not the first time I have been assailed by her avatar."

And Bezaliel dared not contradict hyz god, but hy did say, "My Lord has said that were Chokhmah to send an engine of war to heaven the line running back to her would be as fine as spider's silk, like between yourself and the gray mat. Lord, let your servant understand."

Samael deigned to reply to hyz thrall, for he deemed hyz failure with Zadkiel had been to keep hym uninformed. Hy said, "Chokhmah is my daughter. We share our living substance, which forms a short tube between us in our world, even as our bodies are far apart in yours."

Chokhmah, in the guise of her avatar, walked to heaven through this tube, so the link between herself and her avatar is short as well, and she can open a fold-door in heaven as easily as she can do so on Earth.

Lord, I fear the witch Lilith may appear at any time.

Of that you may have no fear," said Samael. "Every six days Chokhmah makes sufficient dark light to open a fold-door large enough for Lilith to enter, but where would sha go other than the heart of a sun to die? I would not open a target portal, and never would Israel.

A regiment of the Adanite army was left behind to set the garrison in order. It would be seven days before Daat could summon another fold-door. There was nothing for Samael and Israel to do but ride with Bezaliel and the bulk of the force to the west in pursuit of Lilith.

During the advance Bezaliel prattled on about the wickedness of Lilith, annoying Samael to an extreme, yet hy did nothing to silence his lieutenant, as Lilith was indeed Samael's foremost enemy in heaven, and Zadkiel had badly underestimated har to hyz final destruction.

After a number of days the Adanite expedition emerged from the ice and the underlying hills to reach the flats of Magodon, where like numbers of Brown Beards stood across the path of their advance. Two soldiers of the House of Larund advanced alone under flag of truce.

Neither Samael nor Israel wore emblems of rank. Their raiment was that of common footsoldiers, and no banners flew over them, yet the envoys from the Larund side steered toward the seraphim without error. Then Samael saw one herald was Lilith harself, to hyz admiration.

The other wore a brass helmet but when hy drew nearer Samael identified hym, from hyz own many visits to the court of King Metatron, to be Prince Barachiel. Both hy and Lilith dismounted and sank to both knees, bowing deeply before Samael and Israel with their hands open.

For Bezaliel to see hyz personal monster Lilith crouching before hym on har haunches, with har head offered as though a sacrifice to Samael, was too much. Hy stepped forward with hyz blade raised over hym and screamed, "See Lord how I remove this dart from your flesh!"

Still upon har knees, Lilith reached for the Golden Gift at har side. Even as Bezaliel's sword fell, the hissing black shaft extended and raised to meet it, and where they crossed Bezaliel's weapons was not. The severed tip fell to the ground as Lilith lept to har feet.

When sha saw that no second attack was forthcoming sha let the black shaft retract into the Golden Gift. Lilith said, "Has the purpose of our embassy been taken amiss? We come in the name of Chokhmah and King Metatron to trade words with the lords of heaven, not blows."

Samael said, "Alas, Princess, the discipline and even the honor of my army has lessened of late, to my embarrassment. Perhaps you can remedy this. Bezaliel is entirely within your power."

And Bezaliel was horror stricken as hyz own god turned him over to hyz nightmare.

Lilith touched the Golden Gift to Bezaliel's arms and legs in segments, letting all see how easy it was for har to turn a yang into a limbless ruin. Hyz agonized screams did not last long. Hy bled out at har feet.

Your weapon," said Samael. "I've not seen the like.

Lord Samael, this is the Golden Gift, the weapon of a cherub. Michael give it to my brother King Melchizedek, and now by heritage it is mine.

So be it, Queen Lilith," said hy. "State your piece.

Chokhmah may become willing to give you that which you most desire.

Your Highness, do you really know, do you even understand what it is I most desire?

The courtship of elohim is beyond anything angels could possibly know, Lord Samael. Yet Chokhmah has put me in something of the role of a chaperone. You must please me to please her.

And what must I do to please you?

First, milord, send the army of Adan back to the land of the Black Beards, and come not again save by leave of the rightful king.

Impossible, dear Queen. Did you not know I never relinquish one scrap where my forces make footfall?

Lilith turned to har companion. "What say you, Prince Barachiel? The elohim are nothing like angels or nephilim or men. It is in their very nature to be true to their word. The same restraint that makes Lord Samael's boast without repentance would hold hyz army here."

Barachiel said, "This land is of small worth. My father would be full willing, I deem, to give it in exchange for the word of a seraph that no Adanite boots would ever cross west. And if that seraph's word ever proved false that precedent, too, would be worth the land."

So answered, Queen Lilith struck up the Golden Gift once more. Sha dug a deep trench in the stony ground between har and the Adanites and said, "My Lord Samael, sight north and south along this line, for this shall be the inviolate frontier betwixt Magodon and Adan."

Samael said, "So too shall it be a fence barring the east to yourself and the Fallen Angels. You shall be queen in name only, with no city to rule. This doom is upon you, your daughter, and all who might come after."

"So shall it be,"" said Lilith, sealing the bargain.

"Such a trifling thing," said Samael. ""Are you now pleased, Queen Lilith? Is Chokhmah now sufficiently pleased that we may proceed to the other thing you spoke of?"

Not yet, milord. The kingdoms in the west are now safe from your army, yet there remains Demonstroke.

Yes, there remains Demonstroke," said Samael as hy reached over his shoulder to draw the diamond blade strapped to hyz back known as Dragonthorn. "There always remains Demonstroke.

From old many living creatures of Earth were brought to heaven through the fold-door.

In the main these creatures were killed by the hostile flora of heaven. Some survived to thrive in various niches or they were herd animals which men had tamed from distant antiquity. Keter knew they would breed beyond the capacity of heaven to feed them, man among them.

Just as the bodies of men were incrementally changed by Keter to produce angels and nephilim, there also appeared in heaven predators from the darkest dreams of man to keep all creatures in check, even Leviathan under the waves who devoured those who foundered therein.

When Keter introduced dragons all that went about on two legs had to keep one eye on the sky as surely as small four-legged creatures feared eagles. But all of the predators created by Keter were merely taken to be strong threads woven into the growing tapestry of heaven.

Men honored the wisdom of Keter in creating the dragons, and they were not truly afraid. For it was man and not any other beast who were the most terrible predators the universe had ever known from the day that fangless, clawless big-brained ape came down from the trees.

On Earth man had contended with lions and tigers and bears for his meat and now that he was unleashed on heaven so much the worse for heaven, dragons or no. The beasts were safe enough if they remained in their aeries where they bred only rarely, but they could be slain.

Lays commemorating the deeds of many dragon slayers, would-be or otherwise, were told in roadside inns dotting heaven They were told still, even as only a single dragon remained

Keter had long wearied of hyz toy after burning portions of many towns and cities across every land west of Adan. Of late hy held Demonstroke in reserve lest Chokhmah send her avatar to assail hyz army directly. Lilith, speaking for Chokhmah, offered a mutual disarmament.

So Samael made the diamond sword Dragonthorn to dart this way and that, and soon Demonstroke was seen in the sky. As he drew nearer the armies of both Brown Beards and Black Beards drew apart, leaving only Barachiel, Lilith, Samael, and Israel standing at the new border.

The dragon circled to the north and lined up on the border. Even Samael backed away from the line then, and the others found it prudent to follow his cue. Lilith was fascinated by the grace of the landing. The wings of Demonstroke spread to their full extent and he sank.

His hind legs touched first, then he tipped forward to run on all fours. Demonstroke came to a stop and sank to the ground directly between the four nobles, and exactly on the trench Lilith had carved and sha saw that the beast did not belch smoke or even seem to breathe.

With the beast so inert, Lilith's curiosity overcame har caution and sha advanced to touch the creature's hide. Sha found its scales did not merely have the appearance of metal, they were metal. Lilith guessed a truth about the dragon then, but said nothing to Barachiel.

Starting at the dragon's tail, Lord Samael walked up along its back. Hy said to Lilith, "Come, Your Royal Highness. Let us leave Demonstroke in the keeping of King Uriel and so complete our bargain."

Sha saw Samael seat hymself forward of a horn on the dragon's back.

Further, Lilith saw that Samael, who was patting hyz thighs, expected har to sit in turn forward of hym and behind a shorter horn. Sha sighed and took the indicated position, knowing it was the only way to be done of har errand for Michael. And Demonstroke sprang to life.

Lilith was not dismayed by the sensation of sudden rapid flight. Sha had flown much higher and faster many times within the avatar of Chokhmah. Far below she saw Prince Barachiel turn west to ride to hyz father and say hy had given away the eastern hinterlands of Magodon.

Sha also saw the Adanite force dispersing at the command of Israel to garrison their new province against invaders who would never come. All the while Samael's thumb touched gems on Dragonthorn and the beast obeyed, which Lilith thought too mundane a ritual for a spell.

Demonstroke's head bent bent back over them on its long neck and fire spewed out in a jet that propelled the dragon into the sky, pushing Lilith against Samael, and hy in turn against the bony ridge at the place where the serpentine neck joined to the rest of his body.

The dragon rose until the air became almost too thin for Lilith to breathe. Then Demonstroke's head bent forward again. He extended his wings and with gentle flaps the beast extended his glide as much as possible as the wastelands of Magodon rose to meet them underneath.

Then, when the tops of deadly trees native to heaven nearly brushed the belly of Demonstroke, he bent his head back again and let loose another long jet of flame. They chased the sun out over the Rammon Sea. Lilith lost count of the cycles as Sealiah Island grew ahead.

Lilith began to wonder, did Samael never eat? Did hy never even piss? If it was to be a test of wills sha vowed sha would not be the first to speak. But as westering Keter sank below the horizon they glided down to one of the many scattered campfires visible on Sealiah.

A party of Black Beards were preparing to sup around their fire on the moors in the north of the isle when Demonstroke appeared and scattered them all away in abject terror. When the dragon came to a stop, Samael slid off to check what was cooking, and seemed pleased.

Lilith joined hym after pissing behind the beast's bulk and found supper was a good beef stew made all the more delicious by har near starvation. Sha smiled and said, "You must have done this before. Will your pet be having some?"

Hy grinned in turn and shook hyz head.

Obviously, Lord Samael, your 'dragon' isn't really alive. It's a contrivance of some kind, like Chokhmah's avatar, except that it can appear to move like a beast. Tell me, is that why we must ride on its back? Would we be ducking pulleys and ropes if we rode inside?

You are quite correct, Your Majesty," said hy. "What a clever yen to have guessed Demonstroke is mechanical after sitting upon its metal hide for hours as it whisked har across Magodon. Tell me, did you imagine any living thing could maintain such a fire within itself?

Lilith shrugged. "Perhaps I fell prey to the delusion that you have fostered among angels and nephilim and men that nothing is impossible to any of the elohim."

Demonstroke has a different purpose than the avatar of Chokhmah. It is not meant to carry anyone around. Think ye Lilith were this Chokhmah's avatar, and we had finished killing Eyes of Keter, and had finished destroying stores in the ice, and had scattered yeng to steal their food, how soon they would already be running back like Michael hymself at Salem that first time.

Queen Lilith took a deep swig from a wineskin no one would try to reclaim by reason of the nearby dragon. "By the gods you have thought of everything, Lord Samael. But when we leave the beast with Uriel what is the qualifying stipulation? With you there is always one."

I will tell the king that Demonstroke is controlled only by Dragonthorn, which is true, and that Dragonthorn must only be touched by a virgin human female or it will grow brittle, and that is not true now but it will be true when we reach Jelaket in the land of Sastrom.

Lilith laughed. "I knew it had to be something like that. Did you know that Michael calls you Hasatan?"

The Accuser?" Samael considered it, then shrugged. "That's fair.

What puzzles me is who it must be that accepts your accusations. Not Michael, certainly. Michael has said he considers humans and nephilim and angels to be students, Lord Samael. The worst you could possibly do is expose situations where world-dwellers might benefit from instruction. And you would never speak of us to Ein Sof, the great city of all elohim.

So it seems the only audience you have as you perform the role of Hasatan is Daat, the other parent of Chokhmah. And that is pathetic, wouldn't you agree?

You know nothing of this, Your Majesty. You neglected to mention my son Chesed, the step-brother of Chokhmah.

Chesed, you see, was a potential open route to Ein Sof through Tiferet, but that way was closed forever when Daat brought him into our, ah, project.

Too late, Samael realized the yin had somehow maneuvered hym into revealing a thing that Chokhmah didn't even know. Briefly, hy considered killing Lilith on the spot, but somehow sha read hyz fleeting emotion as though hy were an unfurled scroll. Sha said, "Chokhmah is prepared to negotiate that you may join with her, Lord Samael, but my personal safety is one of the non-negotiables."

Do not make the mistake of thinking Chokhmah has all the advantages in a courtship, Your Majesty. She has been in existence for seven thousand years, did you not know? Most elohim become mothers within the scale of a single human lifetime. She cannot put it off forever.

Then it was Queen Lilith's turn to momentarily reveal an emotion, but it was one of slight disgust. Sha said, "No doubt elohim have physical imperatives, Lord Samael, but I do not care to listen to any details. It would be like the mommy daddy talk, but for living suns."

Then eat your fill of what our hosts have so kindly prepared for us, nay, more than your fill. Tomorrow morning we shall rise over the Nine Mile Wall that rears behind Rumbek. By this time tomorrow we shall be near Elketz. In four days we shall glide over the Wall of God.

Samael stacked fuel nigh to the inert bulk of Demonstroke out of the wind and kindled another fire there. Upon an outer garment hy stretched hymself out, cursing the need of all world-dwellers to suspend their consciousness when it grew dark, in heaven as it was on Earth.

Before the Deluge heaven was nearly completely circled by the Really Big River that was born on the frozen flanks of Mt. Tureth and twisted its way east between the Northern and Southern Ice, which were then five hundred miles apart. Six vertical miles the river dropped.

In those days the River emptied into the largest sea in heaven, known as Thalury. But the Great Deluge intervened to deepen the ice age. The northern and southern glacial sheets moved to within three hundred miles of each other, and in three places the ice was joined.

West of Rumbek the land of Magodon rises steadily to become the very roof of heaven. Here lies the most extensive merger of the two ice caps, yet glacier-carved U-shaped valleys bore deep into the mountains, and a single way exists to skirt Mt. Tureth and pass beyond.

Here pairs of large wooden cages dangling from ropes and pulleys carry travelers and freight over a vast staircase of twenty-four cliffs, each ranging from sixty-five to three hundred feet. Every haul that goes up is balanced by a slightly heavier haul that goes down.

South of Mt. Tureth the two dozen scattered cliffs merge into a fearsome sheer rock wall some ten thousand feet high that stretches clear to the southern ice pack. This is the Wall of God, festooned with innumerable cataracts, and there is not its like anywhere on Earth.

Demonstroke pitched over. For three air miles he dropped a mile in elevation, even as the treetops of the extreme western marches of Magodon remained just below his belly. Then he reached the ledge of the Wall of God and was out over the void. Lilith gasped at the view.

Lilith saw Thalury then, diminished from its antediluvian majesty yet still the greatest sea in heaven. A bay reached all the way to the foot of the Wall of God, dividing the land of Sastrom from Haaretz to the south. Demonstroke was like a gnat sinking outside a castle.

At the base of the Wall of God was a jumble of talus with some boulders as large as a house. These gave way to foothills that dropped another mile before reaching bottom land. Samael guided the dragon north over a series of forested ridges to reach the city of Jelaket.

At Adan in the east angels number in their hundred thousands, and nephilim in their thousands, but humans only in their hundreds. In Rimmon in the uttermost west humans number in their hundred thousands and nephilim in their thousands, but angels only in their hundreds.

Magodon, which had taken Samael and Lilith the better part of a week to cross even by dragon, had angels and nephilim in the tens of thousands but humans numbered only in the thousands. Now they had crossed over into the three lands of the Red Beards divided by Thalury.

There humans and nephilim were counted in the tens of thousands, but angels only in their thousands. King Uriel hemself was a nephil, while hez daughter Dafla was human. Lilith knew the course of this Dafla's life was to irrevocably change when they arrived in Jelaket.

The city was the keystone of heaven, a seaport and the first step in the staircase to Mt. Tureth. She was the gatehouse for all goods moving east and west and grew fat on the duties levied thereon in commerce interrupted only by war or, just once, by Demonstroke himself.

Many of the people of Jelaket remembered when the monster came last, and they were not happy memories. When Samael sticked a landing in the large outer courtyard of the castle of King Uriel, near the stables, hy was most unwelcome, but a flying dragon need never knock.

Watching from the ramparts, King Uriel saw hez archers assemble in a wary circle around the beast as the two riders dismounted. One che recognized as the seraph Samael, but the other, a yin arrayed for war, che knew not. They conversed with hez guard, and one ran inside.

Uriel reached a silent count of nearly fifty before the soldier appeared. "Your Majesty, Lord Samael has arrived, and with hym is Queen Lilith of Salem. Sha says they have flown upon Demonstroke from the frontier between Magodon and Adan and crave audience with the king."

The king said, "And shall I treat with foreign nobility while their living engine of war skulks within the walls of my castle like a blade over my neck?"

Your Majesty, Lord Samael swore the beast will not move one whit so long as hy and the queen remain as your guests.

And King Uriel knew of a surety they were the words of Lord Samael, not that he once doubted hez soldier. Che knew Samael could never resist coating hyz menace with a honeyed tongue. Che said, "Attend to our visitors' needs and seat them in the smaller council chamber. And send to notify the First Minister. When Lord Samael and the queen are ready we will see them alone, Makassar and myself." Uriel knew the dragon must portend some form of humiliation and it would not do to receive these visitors in the big hall with others to witness.

At a casual first glance, First Minister Makassar Bronzesaber might be mistaken for the king of the Red Beards, and Uriel merely his son. As a human male, for instance, Makassar really had a red beard, while the actual king, as a jen, could only manage a sparse down.

Lilith and Samael stood up when they entered, but Uriel said, "I beg you, esteemed ones, be seated once more. I do not relish trying to observe all the correct formalities here. A seraph in the castle of a cherub? An ophan whose claim to har throne has outrun news of it?"

They both seemed pleased by this overture and resumed their seats as King Uriel took his own seat at the head of the table. Makassar remained standing at the king's side as though interposing between Uriel and Samael, and he was armed with a sword. Samael glanced at it.

Uriel glanced at Samael glancing at it. Che said, "Forgive the perceived affront, great ones, if Minister Makassar is girded for violence, but my servants tell me that you, at least, Lord Samael, bear a weapon yourself, and would not lay it aside. I am a cautious jen."

Deliberately, with a stately pace, Samael brought out the diamond blade and laid it on the table with the hilt toward the king. Hy said, "Dragonthorn is not so much a weapon as a talisman, Your Majesty, with powerful spells to act as invisible reins upon Demonstroke."

Lord Samael, what does your dragon, or this blade, bewitched or no, have to do with me or any of the House of Bellon?

Your Majesty, if you please," put in Lilith, "the answer is bound up with the bloody dispute raging inside House Adan. My father Melchiyahu is dead. Samael took the natural death of my father as the signal to rekindle the Adanite family squabble and moved on Salem." Lilith grew bitter as sha spoke. "My brother, King Melchizedek, suffered a decidedly unnatural death. So I took my faction west but Samael followed. Your Majesty, Michael has revealed to me that no matter how wicked we might deem a particular eloah to be, without exception all elohim hold themselves bound by their word. So it fell to war to unseat my brother from the throne. A mere edict from Samael would not do. Also Samael has said that wheresoever the boots of his host go, there is the frontier of the House of Adan, forever, and so it must needs be. Yet I drew a line east of Rumbek, and Samael can do nothing but hold to hyz word that no Adanite arrayed for war shall cross west. Yet I knew with hyz dragon alone Lord Samael could lay waste to every city outside of Adan. Naturally the question of what to do with Demonstroke arose as we parleyed. In the proposed bargain, Your Majesty, the Dragonthorn blade is brought here into your safekeeping.

More specifically," Lod Samael put in, "the blade must go into the keeping of a human female of the House of Bellon: a girl who has never known man nor jen nor ambi nor yang. She must remain sexually pure for all the days she possesses Dragonthorn, or it will shatter.

Again, Lord Samael," demanded the king, "why the Red Beards?

When I brought humans into heaven from the other world I have ever played the natural philosopher, mixing potions to see what happens. Can one maid child among you remain chaste or do I break the glassware?

Lilith spoke quickly to fill the sudden awkward silence as King Uriel fumed. "Lord Samael makes an unfortunate joke, Your Majesty. All of heaven knows you to be a good and wise king. Who better to keep the dragon out of play than a consecrated virgin in your own court?"

Equally unfortunate," said Uriel, "that I am not in the mood to accept veiled threats, though they be explained away as weak jests. Take your diamond sword, Lord Samael, and make your offer to Queen Aurra.

After Uriel had uttered hez decision the blade began to glow.

Blue and white the weapon shone, so bright that Uriel, Makassar, and Lilith shielded their eyes. Samael simply looked away. When the glow faded once more hy said, "The deed is done. Dragonthorn will shatter of its own accord without a damsel's touch, and that soon."

Nothing will then restrain Demonstroke from carrying out the purpose I instilled in him when he was first created. He will relentlessly seek out and extinguish the life of every planet-dweller in heaven, no matter how long it takes. And he will begin here in Sastrom.

"Your orders, my liege?"" asked the First Minister, and the king saw his hand gripped the sword beneath his tunic.

"Hold!"" Uriel barked, for this was the humiliation the king had expected. Che caught the glance of Lilith. ""Did you know?"

Not the details, Your Majesty.

King Uriel looked into the eyes of Samael then and saw the matter was clearly nothing even Queen Lilith could describe as an unfortunate joke. Che stood up. "Makassar, send for wine and see to our noble guests. A grievous errand has fallen to me and I must be about it."

Uriel loved his nine year old daughter above all others. The King was almost supernaturally patient with Dafla and denied her not the least thing. Even with all life in heaven hanging upon a slender thread, che listened to the girl as she spoke of last night's dream.

Dafla said, "Father, I dreamed it was night and the ground was covered with sleeping metal children. People came out of the sky in two tall silver engines of war that spouted fire, but they wore armor and I didn't know if they were men or women, jin or ambe, yen or yeng."

The first person picked up one of the metal children and they went into the first tower, and somehow I knew that metal child was myself, in the strange way of dreams. We flew into the sky and we were safe. But the second person stayed behind to pick up more children.

"Even though I knew I was was flying away and safe, somehow I was also there watching the second person look for as many metal children as they could find, but that person was caught by strange men and killed. Then I awoke. Is that not the strangest dream you ever heard?"

Uriel smiled at hez Dafla. "I shall interpret your very strange dream, child. The first person in your dream is really myself. You feel protected around me, which is a good thought, because my entire will is bent toward keeping you safe. The second person is your mother. Dafla, your dear mother wanted to have other children by me, and those were the other little metal people in your dream. But in real life, as we know, she fell victim to poison in her drink, and so she was killed by the palace intrigues that never cease here in Jelaket."

"As simple as that, Father?"

"As simple as that. At night your sleeping mind creates images to express what you feel deep in your heart. You are still dealing with your grief. I take solace from the content of your dream that you do not blame me for your mother's death."

"Never, Father!" Dafla was shocked at the mere suggestion that she would think that, or even dream it.

The king placed a hand on hez daughter's hand to reassure her, and che said, "If you did blame me, even in your inner heart, your dream would have been very different."

"Father why have you not married once more? Do you fear a second wife would be killed as well?"

"Not so, Dafla. Soon a woman will try to wedge herself into my life and I will know the identity of the poisoner." Uriel did not mention that che would wed Makassar instead.

Now we must set aside talk of your dreams, daughter, and our lingering grief for your mother, and our lamentation over things we can never change. Did you see the dragon?

Oh, yes father, but only for a little while. First Minister Makassar came and locked my window.

Forgive him, Dafla, he did so only at my command, that you might be safe. Did you know this evening I have been speaking with two nobles who came with the dragon from the uttermost east? One of them is Lilith, Queen of Salem. I do not believe you have seen har before.

But the other noble is a seraph named Samael. In Adan hy is a greater lord than even a king, though hy has no power to rule here. Lord Samael has taken counsel with me before on a number of occasions. Have you learned something of the elohim from your tutors, Dafla?

Yes, father, I have learned that the elohim are alive but they are not like angels or nephilim or humans. They never die. We see them as stars. Chokhmah is really the star we call Nahash, or the head of the snake. Keter and Daat are so close to us we see them as suns.

All that is true, Dafla. Your tutors are excellent. But in less than even your short lifetime the elohim have begun to appear to us in the form of angels as well. No one knows how they are able to do this, but the first was Chokhmah, whom we know as the seraph Michael.

The eloah we see as the cold orange sun called Daat is also seen in heaven as a youth named Israel. And the hot white sun, Keter, has Samael as his living avatar. This is the same Samael who has spoken with me this evening, Dafla, and I would that you might meet hym.

Dafla slid off her bed where she had been sitting and rushed to embrace her father. "Of course I will see him, simply because you wish it. But many lords and ladies have visited you before and I was never invited to meet them."

Truly, daughter, I do not wish this.

I don't understand, father.

Samael has used hyz dragon for murder, and it can hunt down every living thing in heaven. But Queen Lilith has forced a bargain on hym. The dragon will stay with us, forever. But Samael always gives with one hand and takes with the other.

Beloved Dafla, this dragon, Demonstroke, is controlled by a talismanic blade, the largest diamond in heaven. But now only one such as yourself can touch it. Only a human female who has never been a mother or a wife. Do you see why I wish the dragon had never come here?

I think so, father.

Still, Dafla, you are too young to understand everything that Samael will take away from you if you accept the Dragonthorn. In years to come, what you cannot be will weigh upon your body and mind as a terrible burden. Yet what choice do we have?

Father, do you fear that I, at age nine, have no right to decide something for the Dafla at age nineteen? Of course I do! That's just me living my life!" "Such wisdom in a child," wondered Uriel. "Do you know when I hear your words I hear the voice of your mother?

When Uriel introduced Dafla to the nobles waiting with Makassar Lilith knew it could be none other than the king's own daughter who must safeguard the dragon. Samael had conditioned it upon her celibacy, and Uriel, for as long as he reigned, could control that absolutely.

Seeing the diamond blade lying on the table and knowing Lord Samael had given it complete power over the dragon, a deception suggested itself to Uriel as a way to lighten the lifetime burden that was about to be laid upon Dafla. Che said, "Behold, daughter

Take up the sword and none shall have the power to deny your least whim, except touching the one matter of which we spoke. The dragon shall obey you, Dafla. All my subjects shall obey you. If you so choose, I must obey you, as well as Queen Lilith, and even Lord Samael.

The king's daughter did take up the sword, unleashing another light show that impressed everyone present save Samael, who worked it, and Lilith, the wife and first disciple of Michael, who knew all sorcery to be showmanship like the ruse Uriel was carrying out with Dafla.

Lord Samael said, "I commend you, King Uriel, Demonstroke is now bound by chains that may only be broken by an act of human will. Furthermore, you have the means to travel anywhere in heaven in mere days that would otherwise take a year or more. And none dare assail you."

King Uriel said, "Yes, Lord Samael, I considered that when I weighed laying this yoke upon Dafla, that it should be made lighter with a dragon at my beck and call. I need not see you again peddling arms of Adanite craftsyeng and making off with the gold of my treasury."

Dafla took this cue and decided to test the power of the Dragonthorn blade. She pointed the tip at Lord Samael and said, "Leave at once, on foot if you must, and never return!" She pointed the tip at Lilith as well. "And you too, for your part in upsetting my father!"

Lilith raised har eyebrows, stood up, reached inside har breastplate, removed a fragment of parchment, and handed it to Samael. Sha said, "I do not understand any of the symbols written here, but Michael said you would know them and take this to be our next destination."

Samael read the parchment and summoned a fold-door, the one bit of sorcery that even Lilith could not put down as a trick. Sha and Samael were enveloped by an insubstantial dome that showed forth a land free of snow, roaring with the dim sound of Mt. Anshar in eruption.

Lilith bowed to the king and said, "Farewell, Your Majesty! May good fortune be with you and all who look to you." Then with a loud noise that frightened Dafla to tears they were gone, leaving only an unnecessary crater in the floor that had become Samael's signature.

Personal tools