TCA

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Deep inside her stellar body where heat and gravity were hammer and anvil transforming star-stuff for power, Chokhmah's body manufactured just enough dark energy to maintain a layer where chains of baryons could exist as analogs to the polymers of organic life. Here she carefully assembled her ava- tar. Chokhmah flooded the reality microfracture between herself and her avatar with a little spare dark energy, inflating it to a millimeter. With the hairline wormhole fattened the substance of her own body could work as propellant, emerging anywhere the avatar would go. Chokhmah ejected the dense nuclear raindrop she had constructed into the cooler upper regions of her own atmosphere where it unpacked itself.

The seed unfolded itself into a probe like a kernel of popcorn, changing from tightly-packed nuclear matter to fluffy chemical matter and drawing ambient electrons from the solar atmosphere. It separated from the sun and rapidly began to cool from a brilliant blue-white. White changes to yellow which in turn changes to orange, then red, and after shifting through a brief plastic state the droplet grows spines, becoming at last a hot solid object which approaches the planet Mercury. There Chokhmah explores vicariously, living as the avatar.

Mercury is a sun-blasted landscape where metals are soft or even liquid in the heat, lying in dull puddles. Venus, further out, is even hotter. At night the ground glows with a dull red heat and corrosive rains of sulfuric acid fall. Chokhmah's avatar remains unharmed. The blue and white third planet is much more interesting. Unlike Venus a moving crust constantly tucks carbon dioxide captured by green plants under the surface, controlling the greenhouse effect. The avatar drops below the clouds and cools off in an ocean of liquid water.

Chokhmah crossed the shoreline and reached dry land thick with green trees. The artifact plowed through some of these trees and Chokhmah observed frightened apes fleeing. Some of the apes fled over the ground using all four limbs to move. One was eaten by a predator.

The artifact did a suborbital arc to explore another continent of Earth. There was a grassy plain with a single mountain dominating it for miles. Chokhmah observed another group of apes that walked on just two legs. She changed her shape into a white rock to watch them. Chokhmah observed a burial ceremony for a recently deceased hunter. Females polished elaborate bone tools with stone tools. Males fashioned animal hide tents to live in during the hunt. At night a tendril of the avatar snaked into a cave occupied by the group of apes.

A female ape applied pigment to the wall to produce a beautiful painting. Chokhmah observed resin boiling in a pot over a fire. The resin was then used to fix a stone spearhead to a shaft for hunting. Chokhmah reported all these observations to her parents Keter and Daat.

Neither Chokhmah nor Daat realized the full importance of this discovery, although it profoundly stirred their instincts as Watchers. But Keter was terrified. Here was nothing less than the fabled world of Students elohim were commanded by Ein Sof to seek without a pause. Keter's problem was akin to that of a marijuana breeder who stumbled onto a variant that cured all cancer and birth defects and conferred immortality with a single puff, yet could never be announced because that would reveal the illegal grow operation which was its origin. Keter could ensure the silence of Chokhmah by simply refusing to pass her messages through to Ein Sof, but Chokhmah's mother Daat was still open to Ein Sof through Hod. To close the hole Keter offered his daughter Chesed as a mate for Daat, knowing Daat would not refuse.

Any eloah could be a mother exactly once. The very act of giving birth resulted in a gender change from female to male. Since elohim had life spans in the billions of years all but a tiny fraction of their lives is spent as male. This put an incredible premium on females. The only way for an eloah to interact with others was through the pair of one-dimensional wormhole umbilicals that always connected them to their parents and could never be severed. But any eloah at any time could choose to block the message traf- fic that passed through.

Elohim reproduction was ripe for abuse. Individuals could be sealed off from the greater community of elohim with no one the wiser. It was the greatest crime known, and carried the penalty of oblivion, yet the temptation was so great that a third of all stars had fallen. Daat was the orange sun in the Alpha Centauri system. Chesed was the star that men would one day call Epsilon Indi. Keter arranged their liaison and they mated, with Daat fully informed that he was partaking in the most forbidden of all transgressions among the elohim.

When a sun has an orgasm there are about eight contractions but it takes a month for the organized nuclear matter in the star to compress. The ecstasy of each contraction peaks with a spherical wave that rings out into space at the speed of light like a ripple on a pond.

In just over four years the first contraction-ripple from Chesed reached the wild star AX Microscopii, an orange-red dwarf. The information stored holographically on the spherical wavefront collapsed to a point, becoming a hypermassive single particle, a true God Particle.

At the center of AX Microscopii is a core of hot nuclear matter. This core has a Goldilocks layer with just the right temperature and density for elohim. The God Particle initiated the process of turning the raw material of this stratum into a living and conscious being. By the time the second ripple arrived a month later Netzach was already well along the process of becoming the newest female member of the elohim, so the wavefront did not collapse again. Instead, four months later, it reached Lacaille 9352 and began to quicken life there. But Lacaille 9352 and two other red dwarf stars beyond it were too cool for any elohim to thrive. They formed a trap for the remaining generative waves, repeatedly quickening followed by a stillbirth. When the orgasm was over the mother of Netzach had become forever male.

With Netzach's father Daat silenced, there remained the threat of the strange chemical creatures circling Chokhmah, the animals that were as awake as the elohim themselves. But there was no way for Keter to destroy them with an avatar like the one manufactured by Chokhmah. Without a second sun to anchor the other end, a foldspace line that connected an eloah to an avatar could be stretched to just less than a single light-year before it snapped. In real space the elohim ruled their own systems absolutely, but they could not go much further.

Keter knew dealing with the running apes on Earth would require Chokhmah's cooperation at every step. He tried the research project gambit: "Of all chemical-based lifeforms, only the tool-making creatures you found are potentially dangerous to us because they are awake."

Chokhmah did the stellar equivalent of a silent view askance.

"If they are not dangerous now," Keter explained to his daughter, "then perhaps they will be dangerous in the future. They could be the Students, but they could just be deceptively clever monkeys. We must learn more about them before it is time to reveal them to Ein Sof."

"How can I evaluate that statement, father," said Chokhmah, "if I have no experience with this Ein Sof whatsoever?"

"Our tradition is to introduce the young to Ein Sof by slow degrees, lest they be overwhelmed. I can set aside this cautious approach if you are willing.

Contact with Ein Sof was offered in return for Chokhmah's full cooperation in setting up a human colony on a planet in Keter's system. The caveat was that she could only listen to Ein Sof, never speak. And the colony was to come first because Ein Sof would preoccupy her.

A fierce prairie storm hurled lightning, rain, and hail. A man clad in animal skins picked his way to the base of the same mountain once visited by Chokhmah that one day would be named Green Dome. His mate carried a child as she followed him and she was also wearing skins. The man found a cave in the mountainside to shelter from the storm. The woman sat on a boulder and breastfed her child as her mate started a fire. A noise other than the crackling fire startled both of them. The man moved deeper into the cave with a torch to investigate. The cave narrowed to a tunnel that meandered and grew lighter when intuitively it should have grown darker. The man was joined by his woman and her child. They reached another cave mouth deep within the interior of the hill that revealed dark cyan bushes and a purple sky.

A branchless tree resembling a whip stirred into motion and struck the ground before them. The whip tree grabbed the man's torch and hurled it away, where it started a fire. The couple could not emerge from the cave entrance by reason of the whip tree and the growing fire. The man and woman edged back into the tunnel away from the heat. When the whip tree caught fire it began to thrash more intensely than they saw it do before. They retreated deep inside the cave until the tree burned to a lifeless crisp, and returned when the fire abated.

A black patch of land lay before the man and woman and continued to smolder. They stepped across the hot burnt soil and carefully watched for any movement. When they gazed back towards the tunnel they were startled to see it was set it a low ridge. The mountain was gone.

When the sun set a second brilliant light remained in the sky, tinged with orange, far brighter than any star. Still, it began to grow cold. The man used some of the smoldering embers to rekindle a fire in the tunnel entrance and returned to the other world to hunt game. So supper was two hares caught by Adamu and skinned by Chava, milk for little Kayin. In the morning they saw the burned acreage was already sporting shoots of bluegrass that was literally blue. The next day the grass was tall enough for the couple to run barefoot and free.

It was a whole new world. Adamu and Chava thought it belonged to them, solely, but that was not to be. A small herd of bison emerged from the tunnel and proceeded to eat the alien grass, driven by a tall figure in the shape of a man but without a face, black as obsidian. The black figure car- ried a twin-headed ax to the edge of the burn where a native plant took root in the burnt area. It laid the ax to the base of the plant and chopped it cleanly off, then flipped the ax around and used the handle's tip to pry the weed out of the soil.

The black figure interposed itself between the cave entrance and the human family and approached them. They backed away until they reached the perimeter of the burned area. The man-shape held forth the tool and motioned for the man to take it until he did as he was bid. As the black figure watched, Adamu found another plant that was growing on the edge of the grazing ground for the bison. He duplicated the actions he had seen to kill the intruding plant. And the black figure taught him how to restore the keen edge of the ax with a stone.

The faceless black figure returned to the tunnel entrance to be joined by the avatar of Chokhmah, which had become identical in size and shape and make, except that it was white. "Interesting geometry," Chokhmah said. "The link to my avatar passes through our umbilical."

The avatar held up a hand for Keter riding within to reflect upon it. He replied, "I find this whole mode of being much more fascinating, daughter. Liquid drops of separated star-stuff buffeted by clouds of electrons. So very slow, yet the combinations are without end."

"Here are the animals," Chohkmah said, "transplanted to a body you can reach with your avatar to do with them as you will, that you may ascertain whether they are a danger to our kind. Now fulfill your word, father, and allow me to listen to the song and lore of Ein Sof."

"All you have given me," said Keter, "is three creatures in a place that will kill them if they try to leave their small garden. I need forty more such families before you get access to Ein Sof, for that will capture your psyche for many turns of this rock around my body."

Chokhmah could do nothing but comply with her father's demand to populate the world he called Heaven. She did not even voice an objection. For it was a facet of the elohim, quickened stars who measured out their lives in bil- lions of years, that they had patience to spare.

Over the course of time the elohim planted several dozen gardens in heaven, and nearly a hundred human children had been born away from Earth. There had been many deaths, for the native flora was unrelenting in its hostility, but man in his turn was the monster of Earth. In the first garden the eldest sons of Adamu and Chava were of an age to have wives of their own. Chokhmah emerged from the tunnel escorting a woman from Earth as Keter observed from the cliff overhead. Chokhmah and the woman approached Kayin, who had been born on Earth.

Kayin was harvesting vegetables. He bowed to Chokhmah and offered his best ones. The woman turned up her nose at the food. So Chokhmah ignored Kayin's sacrifice and took the woman to see the younger son instead, Hebel, the firstborn of heaven. He was barbecuing bison.

Hebel bowed and offered a stick with meat cubes to Chokhmah, who in turn handed the stick to the woman. She ate the meat greedily because a fertile female instinctively goes for iron. Chokhmah placed the hand of the woman in the hand of Hebel as Kayin looked on with anger.

Kayin began to braid native vines for a long rope. Near the time of the setting of the white sun Kayin paused to watch the woman preening outside and he looked upon her with lust. Hebel emerged to gather his woman back inside his hut with a haughty glance at his brother.

In the morning Adamu and Chava brought clothes they made for their younger son's wife, but they ignored Kayin, who continued to make his rope. All day Hebel and his wife pawed at each other in full view of Kayin, who smiled calmly until he finished his rope, then departed.

Only one safe path led away from the Garden. Along this trail was a quivering whip tree which had not yet been cut down. It was bent away from the path and secured by a clever knot to a stump. The rope ended in the hand of Kayin, who meditated upon a new thing in heaven.

Near dusk Hebel and his wife walked the path away from the Garden. Kayin tugged on the rope, freeing the whip tree just as his victims approached. The tree beat them into the ground. It broke their bones and bruised or- gans. Blood flew from their mouths as they cried out. The whip tree only stopped thrashing when Hebel and his bride were not recognizable as once- living humans. Adamu and Chava ran up to investigate their screams and were horror-struck. Chokhmah and Keter arrived soon after. Rope in hand, Kayin glared at them with defiance.

Chokhmah refused to watch Keter's response to the first murder in heaven. She returned to the tunnel in the Garden wall, and thence to the hillside cave on Earth. The avatar of Chokhmah did not return within the lifetimes of Adamu, Chava, Kayin, nor any of their children. Chokhmah clambered to the summit of the peak a chief of the Kuwapi people would one day name the Island in the Sky, and white trappers would name Green Dome. There she beheld the unobstructed view, and Keter soon joined her. He said, "How very instructive of humans, would you not agree?"

Chokhmah said, "I cannot answer without comparison to our own kind, which you still deny me. You have made subtle changes to the animals that persist in their offspring without studying them to learn how it could be done. Such knowledge could only come from this Ein Sof."

Keter said, "You have given me the colony I ordered, and my word is true. Lower your center of gravity, daughter, it is unbecoming a goddess to have her avatar fall on its face. And do not forget you will never be able to make targeted queries of Ein Sof as I have done."

Chokhmah did as her father suggested and seated her avatar upon the summit of Green Dome. Keter seated himself next to Chokhmah and for a moment they took in the same view. "I envy you this world," he told her. "How very much unlike heaven with its narrow unfrozen band."

But Chokhmah made no answer, for she was already in contact with Ein Sof. As Keter had predicted, it was overwhelming. For many years her silent white avatar sat motionless atop the Island in the Sky as the seasons changed, as winds buffeted her and snows blanketed her.

From old the creatures discovered by Chokhmah looked into the night sky and saw a faint white band. They called it the Backbone of the Night. Later the Romans called it Via Lactea. Later still humans fashioned tools which revealed the mist to be made of innumerable stars. Two-thirds of these stars are much more cool and dim than yellowish Chokhmah and Keter, or even than orange Daat. They are entirely subject to convection with no stable layer for a sentient eloah to form, yet they may host one of two species of pre-elohim nuclear life.

A distant ancestor of the elohim diverged into three species. One adapted to cooler and cooler red stars and even colonized the ubiquitious L and T class infrared "brown" stars that burn, ever so briefly, using a deuterium cycle for energy rather than fusing four protons. A second species became adapted for the middle-range red dwarf stars which humans would much later classify as lying between M2 and M7. By necessity they reproduced prodigiously, since a large stellar flare would kill them on the time scale of a few decades. A third species adapted to claim the hotter but more stable habitats of the K, G, F, and A class stars. With much longer lifespans, a network arose bringing community and full sentience. These are the elohim and the oldest living member, Yefefiah, is 980,000 years of age. Other suns were blue or blue-white giants as much as a hundred times more massive than Chokhmah, far too hot to be quickened as one of the elohim. Once or twice in a century these stars died in a vast explosion that for a short moment of time outshone the entire universe.

The center of the galaxy has a spinning bulge of stars elongated into a bar nearly as long as the distance of Chokhmah to the pivot point. The elohim emerged where this bar joins with the Scutum-Centaurus Arm and have spread to reach the first wrap of the Sagittarius Arm. From the way Keter had spoken of this Ein Sof before she was granted access to the greater community of her kind Chokhmah assumed he was a powerful lawgiver among the elohim, or perhaps even a deity. Now she knew Ein Sof was nothing more than all the elohim in aggregate.

Early in the existence of Ein Sof, long before Chokhmah ran across Earth, another world of sentient life based on chemistry was known to the elohim. They were aquatic creatures who adapted to cross land when an ice age reduced their shallow world ocean to scattered lakes.

Ein Sof took delight to find the universe looking at itself through different eyes, but the energies unleashed by the creatures hastened the end of the very glacial period that made them tool-users. The elohim watched them slowly revert to silent ocean-dwellers once more.

On ten occasions the elohim detected signals coming from civilizations somewhere beyond the reach of Ein Sof. In every case the broadcasts faded in less than five hundred years, sometimes as a gradual change to more efficient communications, other times far more abruptly. More frequently a young eloah exploring her own system ran across the ruins of extinct species which attained sufficient technology to reach beyond the world of their birth. In some cases an echo of these races lived on in the self-replicating machines they left behind.

Ein Sof knew how truly precious and rare was sentient life, even that based on the electromagnetic force. All elohim looked ahead to the coming the Students. Chokhmah had found them, yet Keter and Daat ensured they would remain hidden and their motive was beyond all doubt.

Chokhmah had been overwhelmed by sudden access to the chatter of Ein Sof, even as her father had warned, but over time she learned to separate her identity from the seemingly infinite stream of information. Atop Green Dome her avatar stirred once more and rose to its feet. When Chokhmah returned to full awareness she saw Keter waiting for her on the summit. "You are revealed to be a liar, father. This is not a research project. This is a filthy harem!"

H He did not deny that, but said, "Yet we have a covenant and you will abide by the terms."

"Have no fear that I will break our covenant," said Chokhmah, "for I will do what my own parents could not, and obey every law and custom of Ein Sof. But one day these creatures will make such a noise that every eloah will hear them. That is what you have reason to fear."

"It will never come to that, beloved daughter. While you were immersed in the lore of Ein Sof this body made two circles around yourself. During that interval there was another killing. Your precious woken creatures will destroy themselves and leave nothing but ruins."

Chokhmah replied, "You set up your colony to raise up thralls who will carry out this extinction, but I will teach others to resist."

"And you can do nothing but fail. Remember, I can make direct queries of Ein Sof at any time, while you can only listen as an outsider."

Chokhmah did not despair. Swearing to preserve the sentient creatures she found on her third planet, Chokhmah knew she would have help: the willing participation of those she called the Students. Keter and Daat would only heap to themselves the resentment of their slaves.

There is no native fauna in heaven but some of the indigenous flora moved of its own accord and most of it was dangerous. A whipping tree could render an angel down to a pile of broken bones and bloody flesh in only a few minutes. The grass burned, the flowers had teeth. Thorny ball bushes rolled under their own power by shifting their weight. Most plants were too poisonous to touch. For many generations the death rate of the colonists in heaven exceeded the birth rate, forcing Keter to constantly bring up new "volunteers" from Earth.

In Mesopotamia, Chokhmah caused a temple to be erected around her end of the worm-tunnel. No one was ever seen to return from the veiled sacrificial chamber, so priests sent criminals through, but Chokhmah decreed that virgin females also be "sacrificed" along with them.

Heaven is a world somewhat more distant from its sun, Rigilkent, than Earthborn find to be optimum. Only a single narrow belt of land circling the equator remained unfrozen, drained by a river arising in mountains now claimed by the Brown Beards of the kingdom of Larund. As it made the circuit east the World River lost five miles in elevation before it reached Thalury, the largest body of water in heaven. Thalury was constrained by a cliff nearly four miles high forming the western bulwark of the very uplands that gave birth to the river.

At least annually a rock the size of a small hill smote heaven, releasing enough kinetic energy to destroy a walled city. But every thousand years or so a rock the size of a mountain smote heaven with the force to lay waste to an entire kingdom. Keter saw one was inbound. When asteroids struck heaven on the ice or sea it rained for many days and froze over again, covering even the fertile areas with a thick sheet of ice that remained in place for a generation. Thus from the beginning only growing things that could spore existed in heaven.

Keter, in his black avatar, commanded all the angels to construct many ships and stock them with enough food to preserve their lives and that of their animals during the coming catastrophe. But only the Adanites, descendants of Adamu and Chava, heeded the oracles of Keter. An entire forest of gopher trees was denuded to build some forty ships, and this became the first roadside attraction in heaven. Scoffers amused themselves right up to the very day a dazzling blue-white light was seen over the southern ice and rain began to fall in sheets.

Forty days and nights it rained scalding water until the Adanite ships were lifted off their blocks and carried by winds and currents east to scattered points around the belt of heaven. Then the rain cooled and began to fall as snow. The ships slowly came to a frozen stop. And Chokhmah was greatly wroth at both of her parents. She said, "It would have been a small thing for either one of you to deflect the object from striking heaven, yet you let it come, for no good purpose. Nought lives that goes on two or four legs outside of the ships!"

But Keter said, "The purpose is manifest. You saw how the faithfulness of the world-dwellers burns like kindling but then quickly dwindles in unbelief."

"Who are we," replied Chokhmah, "that these creatures must bend their will to our own as a test of their uprightness?"

"Chokhmah, if you are unable to discern that we are as high above the world-dwellers on the Chain of Being as they are above the things they cultivate for food then your access to Ein Sof was a waste of time."

"We know more now, but in time they may surpass even Ein Sof."

"In heaven they will not have the time to become like Ein Sof," Keter declared. "I will give no warning of the next extinction event and they will perish."

"Yet the forty Adanite ships gives lie to your claim they cannot remain faithful to your decrees," replied Chokhmah.

"The Adanites remain loyal to me only because I speak to them directly from time to time," said Keter. "Were I to turn away from them, they would soon dwindle in unbelief."

"Familiarity leads them to see you as yet another chieftain rather than a god," countered Chokhmah.

"Do you propose to test that claim," challenged Keter, "or to let it remain a bald assertion?"

"Even as I toiled to establish your colony in heaven, you must assist me to test my claim on Earth. Release three Adanite yeng to raise up a people to me while I remain aloof."

"That would be a good test, daughter, but patience! It could be centuries before the Adanites recover from the Deluge and its aftermath."

Chokhmah said, "Let this be the Second Covenant between us." She knew there would be no more intruders from the sky until it was done.


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.

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. For curiosity overcame hyz fear, and Chokhmah was selecting for curiosity.

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:

"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.

"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.

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.

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. 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."

Hy said, "I will stay, Lord."

"Good, 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. 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. 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.

"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.

"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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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."

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.

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.

"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."

"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."

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.

The avatar of Chokhmah flew in a parabola high over the northern ice cap, and the narrow yellow and blue belt that was the inhabited portion of heaven slipped below the horizon and out of Michael's view. Almost all of heav- en was covered in at least a thousand feet of ice. 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. There at the foot of long terminal moraine ridges big chunks of ice sheared off and melted, the source of water for many rivers and freshwater lakes. Across heaven active volcanoes such as Mount Anshar were born far below the surface and burned their way through the ice.

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. 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.

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. 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.

"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.

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. The house was essentially 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. 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. 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. From the beginning Keter and Daat sought any justification they could contrive to have you destroyed because your very existence exposes their hidden transgressions. However they cannot prevent me from sharing with you what the other Watchers have learned over a million years. 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."

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

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."

"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."

Michael stood up from hyz cushion, then knelt in submission before the avatar of Chokhmah. "Lord, I do assent to this union of eloah and angel. I do this not to attain a form of existence with no foreseeable end, but that so together we will come to know many things."

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. Sha was, after all, the daughter of King Melchiyahu. In the actual angelic hierarchy of heaven Lilith held the rank of ophan. Saint Aquinas would have marked har down as a throne. Had sha been male or born in the westlands or eastlands sha would have ruled one of the cities tributary to the king and commanded an entire army.

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

After a time Lilith spoke of Michael to har father the King, 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.

When the fame of Michael's healing and teaching ministry reached the ears of the avatar of Keter in Adan he commanded Zadkiel, a nobleyang of the house of Gerash, to appear before his throne. He said, "Go to the angels of Salem in the west and preach what I will tell you."

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 bridge in spacetime near Salem for Zadkiel to walk there instantly.

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

"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, that you might come into your inheritance before the time of my choosing.

"'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:

"'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."

"'Hear now the great Code of Keter and take great care to adhere to every precept, for this is the edict 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.

"'Four days are appointed, with names after the names of the four great 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.

"'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.

"'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.

"'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.

"'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.

"'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.

"'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.

"'Whan 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.

"'Whan 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.

"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 he shall receive the gift of immortality. Therefore do not shrink back in battle for it is Keter who rewards and punishes.'"

When the interloper's words reached the ears of King Melhiyahu through hyz officers hy was summoned to appear before the throne forthwith. Zadkiel found he didn't rate an audience before the literal throne. He met the king in his salon and was announced by the majordomo.

Zadkiel found the lack of pomp striking and was too stupid to discern what it really meant. Not even the master-at-arms was present to protect the king, only Melchizekek, who bore no visible weapon, yet was armed with a small, powerful artifact forged by Chokhmah herself.

The king said, "Lord Zadkiel? I know of a hashmal in the city of Adan who goes by the name Zadkiel."

"Yes, Sire, I am he."

"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."

"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."

"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 king, and the giving of the sceptre is without repentance."

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


"Why?"

"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!"

"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."

"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! Mi- chael is a dagger pointed at the heart of the State."

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

The king 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 king to heel through war!"

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 king."

When hyz father departed, Melchizedek brandished the Golden Gift and al- lowed its dark shaft to extend to the height of a yang.

"Say no more words in my presence," the prince 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. The king's herald shall follow after my lord has heard Michael." Melchizedek allowed the black rip in the universe to fully retract into the hilt of the relic. "If His Superbness asks, tell him the king would gladly receive a Voice of Keter who comports hymself with the basic rudiments of court etiquette in the presence of a cherub."

After hyz audience with Lord Zadkiel, King Melchiyahu sent hyz daughter Princess Lilith as a herald to seek Michael, give the king's regards, and bid the new prophet to visit the court in Salem to teach what hy would, if hy was so willing. Yet it was no sovereign decree.

Michael agreed to come if the encounter was open for any of the people to witness as they chose. The king prepared the amphitheater where oft hy entertained visiting nobles with exhibitions of personal combat. Lilith at- tended also, dressed for once like a real princess.

These are the words Michael spoke to the angels of Salem as the orange sun sank in the sky. In after years 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. 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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

After hy entered the castle and drew near to the King'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.

The King 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."

"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."

"The King is aware that some prefer to use the left hand," Michael says. At first the King and hyz attendants are puzzled by this apparent non-sequitur. But Michael continues. "This is not a matter of choice. There is an element of chance that is a part of every birth."

Michael stepped aside to a nearby bowl of mixed nuts and thrust first hyz left hand within, then hyz right. Hy opened both hands to show the King. "If you count the number of morsels I have in each hand, and their kinds, you will find they are not exactly the same sets. Angels who prefer to use their left hand are more few than those who prefer to use their right, so somehow this has been ascribed to evil. Charlatans profess to change this tendency to the acceptable one." Michael returned the nuts to the bowl, but retained one to eat.

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

"Lucky you, Princess Lilith," said Michael with a gentle smile. "Enjoy your life and never allow yourself to be talked into living a lie."

Melchizedek looked at his beloved sister then and belatedly noticed sha wore no leather above har feet. Sha had cleaned up nicely. Melchizedek raised his eyes to take in Lilith's red dress and hy could not recall the last time hy'd seen har wear one. Finally he 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?"

Michael drew near to Melchizekek. "Your Royal Highness, for years you were not to be seen in Salem but only your father the king, 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."

The prince was stunned to silence. Melchiyahu said, "My son found a man by the name of Abram, but his loyalty to his own father's well-being exceeded any loyalty to what was, to him, an unknown god. Melchizedek found no others, and when he returned he reported failure."

Michael had no power to open a fold-door 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 Mi- chael and through it Harran on Earth could be seen.

The heat of the desert seeped from the fold-door into the king's chamber.

Michael stepped out of the sphere and said, "Prince Melchizedek, know that Terah, the father of Abram, is dead. Return to Earth at once and complete the errand as your father once commanded you."

Melchizedek glanced from Michael to hyz father and had naught to say.

Michael said to the Prince, "Make haste, and delay not to take anything that you think you will need. I will provide them for you myself."

The king rose from hyz throne. "Guriel! Iofiel! Come forth!"

Two young court attendants drew near to the king and knelt.

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

The name Iofiel means Beauty of God, and Guriel means Whelp of God. They follow Melchizedek into the ball of distorted desert light and are seen to shrink as they walk away into Harran. Keter, not willing to mar the stone floor, raises the fold-door before closing it.

The king 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. The Princess has heard me say this. But for my part I call you my students, not my servants as Keter would have you be."

Hearing this King Melchiyahu rose and said, "My daughter 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."

After a long pause Michael replied, "When I used the word 'students' in the past I always had in mind all angels and nephilim and humans. I never con- sidered founding a formal school. It would demand a far greater commitment than a few hours away from the castle every day. Would you, Princess 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, I assure you, as thieves."

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.

Michael said, "Sire, let it be so: I accept your daughter Princess Lilith as the first acolyte in what I choose to call the b'nei elohim, the children 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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