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When everything was done in preparation for the Council of Royals, there remained only the impending arrival of the Great Personages. Queen Aurra's serving wench, an ambi named Luzea, attained to the astonishing situation of having nothing to do and removed to a nook.

Luzea was perched above the great hall of Metatron's airy castle high enough to see all the nobles when they paraded in to be seated. Che was joined by Gabriel then and they shared a sweet kiss. They had been together for only a few days, but for as many wonderful nights.

For Luzea the wild affair had been entirely bewildering. Gabriel seemed to know everything about hem, and in bed there was not a single wasted move. It was as though they had been married for a lifetime, and Gabriel returned to the very beginning to start all over again.

Whimsical Luzea, who spoke only in terribly bad rhyme, uttered a verse then

"I sing of final days brought by Black Beard.

When noble ones rose against what they feared.

Just close your eyes to watch them meet the king.

Mark two slave jen who observe all unseen."

Actually although Luzea and Gabriel were both nephilim, only Gabriel was a jen, Luzea an ambe. The difference had to do with the order of their two organs of joining, which were, in their case, complimentary, more evidence to Luzea that che had found hez sexual soul mate.

Gabriel said to hem, "If they catch you here avoiding work Queen Aurra will have you flogged until the skin hangs from your back in bloody strips!"

Luzea seemed unconcerned and shrugged. Che saw the procession was beginning and continued to improvise verse on the fly.

Che said

"Now Gabriel is one slave nephil's name

And Luzea Cedarbranch is hez flame.

They shirk toil in Metatron's castle

As Uriel walks before his vassal."

Indeed King Uriel of House Bellon arrived at the Council first accompanied by hez daughter Princess Dafla. They looked none the worse after their flight on the dragon Demonstroke to the city of Rumbek. King Metatron forbade all weapons from the council chamber save for the Dragonthorn alone, the diamond blade in the possession of Dafla, which she wore in a scabbard on her back.

The ophan Jegeduel Bellon followed the king into the chamber arm-in-arm with hyz

Following alone was Hashmal Phanuel, ruler of Atria west of the Wall of God. Luzea said

"Che rules Haaretz where Gabriel was born.

The Queen treats hem without a trace of scorn.

Yet their bitter clash of arms claimed her son

And is fresh in the minds of everyone."

Samael made an unassuming entrance with no pomp and no wasted movements, in a walk that said without mistake that hy was first and foremost a soldier. Hy entered with a somber black-clad, black-haired ambi hy later introduced as Joy. a name that meant nothing in Semitic.

Even in Joy's native tongue it an ironic name. Hez black lips never smiled, and hez black eyes seem to show forth hez icy heart within. It was rumored this Joy was a great sorcerez from Earth who came as both bodyguard and concubine to Samael, yet Michael knew hem not.

Gabriel took note that Luzea was too frightened by this Joy, or possibly too fascinated, or both, to utter any verse.

Samael knew the real aim of the council was the formation of a league in heaven which together would be far stronger than the House of Gerash alone.

If the alliance came to be, an intolerable peace would break out between the reliably warring states. That in turn would spark a truly existential crisis for Adan, which had long shifted over to an economy based almost entirely on supplying arms to the other kingdoms.

Overnight lucrative weaponscraft in the lands ruled by Family Gerash would evaporate unless this nascent league of kingdoms that King Metatron sought to assemble was stillborn. Lord Samael would attend to that directly, and Joy would certainly have a major role to play.

Next the delegation from Rimmon entered the council chamber. Walking beside Queen Aurra was the Royal Consort Duke Evandr. Titles for human nobility differed from the titles of nephilim or angels. Luzea, silent now, would lampoon hez queen later, and come to regret it.

The queen ruled from Saharad on the most fertile plain in all of heaven. Left unchecked, the humans would simply multiply until they outnumbered everyone else in heaven. And all of House Sala followed Chokhmah alone. But Samael did not intend to leave Rimmon unchecked.

Following the Queen was the Countess Ayani, the recently widowed wife of Aldred Firegem, which made her the most eligible bachelorette in heaven. But many at the Council noted the continuous eye-lock Ayani had with the ophan Eremiel, who was already standing at the table.

Something was obviously happening there, and Luzea was slightly disgusted because there had only been two weeks since Count Aldred's death. In Saharad the people were still mourning. Che said

"Make room in the barn of prize stallions.

Ayani eyes two leg medallions!"

Ayani's city of Locotin was near a forest of gopher wood, a type of lumber that was found neither on Earth nor natively in heaven. It was a hybrid of trees from both worlds, used by ships in the Great Deluge, for it is flexible enough not to be destroyed by expanding ice.

But many other valuable goods were made from gopher wood. It was ridiculously easy to cut and work. The entire city of Locotin, in fact, was constructed of structures made of gopher wood set in the branches of giant living gopher wood trees in the hills bordering Gerazan.

Following Ayani was her kinsman Baron Balthazar of Thorgram, who was also eligible for marriage, but it was said his tastes ran more to nephilim than human. When his dalliances annoyed his mother she would send him abroad, and by now he knew heaven better than all others.

Luzea said

"Balthazar is food for many a talebearer.

Women have no chance, he finds ambis much fairer!"

The delegations came into the chamber ordered by lots, lest some thought the sequence represented the opinion of King Metatron of which noble one was the greater.

Hy only decreed that the Bellon delegation must arrive last. So Michael entered, together with Lilith in har best Fallen Angel dress uniform. Sha had dolled harself up and wore another headband Michael had given har set with a brilliant gem radiating pure white light.

Many of the delegates expressed marvel at Lilith's headband, but Michael told them later hy was working to bring about a time in heaven and Earth when such a light would be a mere trinket, and an entrance such as made by Lilith would be taken to be absolutely ludicrous.

After Michael and Lilith took their seats at the table the Brown Beard delegation arrived. The first royal peer to enter was the cherub Metatron, ruler of the city of Rumbek. Luzea said to Gabriel

"Fishers circle Sealiah in a ring

All of them subject to Metatron King."

Everyone had been preceded by Ophan Eremiel of the city of Mandakar, which lay on the west shore of the fertile island of Sealiah and fed most Bellonites. Hy finally took his seat and Luzea said

"The more food from Eremiel's valley

The more toil in Metatron's galley!"

Gadreel of Elketz entered at a stately pace with hyz Ainia at his side. That city lay in cattle country where the animals were driven throughout Magodon to be slaughtered. Luzea said

"Watch your step Gadreel when ready to roam,

I just caught a whiff, reminder of home!"

The final entrants were the stout and yangly Hashmal Uzziel of Peshast, with hyz wife the Lady Irus on hyz arm. Hyz city sat astride rich veins of ore and a trade bottleneck. Luzea said

"Peshast the source of much copper and gold,

Guarded by mighty Uzziel the Bold."

As Uzziel and Irus took their seats at the table in the council chamber the nineteen tall and ornate chairs around the great pentagon of dark and polished gopher wood were filled. The vertices of a pentagram of gold inlay pointed at the greatest noble in each delegation.

On the table before King Metatron lay a bronze bell and hammer. Hy stood up and struck the bell, and the clear, sweet tone brought the low murmuring of the gathered delegates to an immediate hush. Hy said, "In the name of Keter and Daat, lords of heaven, I welcome you."

You have all come to council by means as diverse as the lands you rule. Lord Michael and Queen Lilith took ship with Eremiel from Mandakar. Baron Balthazar Firegem rode hither from Elketz with the hashmal Gadreel and Lady Ainia. I have heard Lady Joy comes from Earth.

Lord Samael has come in an instant, neither by ship nor horse, in the manner unique to the seraphim. The hashmal Raddai, Lady Irus, Queen Aurra, and Duke Evandr all flew through the void within the avatar of Chokhmah. King Uriel and hez daughter Dafla arrived by dragon!

Now respecting this convocation," King Metatron went on, "it is certain that the like has never taken place in the long history of heaven, yet suchlike is long outstanding, I deem, for the question before us is nothing less than lasting peace in heaven, yea or nay?

Not a one here can be unaware that Queen Aurra Firegem and Duke Evandr have come to us at a time when they are still suffering deep grief. The life of their son Aldred was latterly taken on the field, and first it came to my mind to dedicate this council to his memory.

So instead of telling each other soothing yet empty words, let us resolve to find a way to make Count Aldred Firegem's otherwise useless death meaningful in a lasting way.

And with that, King Metatron seated hymself and rang the bell once more. The council had opened.

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