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AAA: Deep inside her body where heat and gravity were hammer and anvil transforming star-stuff for power, Chokhmah manufactured just enough dark energy to maintain a layer where exotic baryons could exist as analogs to the polymers of organic life. Here she assembled her avatar.

AAB: Chokhmah flooded the space-time microfracture between herself and the avatar with much of her spare dark energy to inflate it to a millimeter. With the hairline wormhole fattened the substance of her own body could become propellant emerging anywhere the avatar would go.

AAC: Chokhmah ejected the dense nuclear raindrop she had carefully constructed into the relatively cooler upper regions of her body where it drew ambient electrons from the solar atmosphere and expanded like a popcorn seed into a much larger structure of pillowy chemical matter.

AAD: The avatar separated from the sun and rapidly cooled from brilliant blue-white to a dull red. As it shifted through a brief plastic state the probe grew spines, becoming at length a hot solid object which powered its way directly toward the nearest large body orbiting Sol.

AAE: Chokhmah explored the surface of the planet vicariously, as though the avatar was her body now flying free in space. She found the world to be a meteor-blasted landscape where metals were butter-soft and often liquid in the relentless heat of day, lying in dull gray puddles.

AAF: Chokhmah shared with her parents Keter and Daat all the things she learned, and spoke to no others, for it was the way of the elohim to allow a newborn living sun to fully develop a personality of her own before letting her be immersed in the cacophony of the City of Stars.

AAG: The next further planet was even hotter, because it had a thick atmosphere to trap infrared photons. At night the ground glowed dimly with a dull red heat, and corrosive rains of sulfuric acid fell. Chokhmah's avatar remained unharmed, but Venus was as lifeless as Mercury.

AAH: Chokhmah's survey seemed to sit well with her instincts. Keter explained that all of their kind were the Watchers, and their highest purpose was to find living beings who were awake even as the elohim were, but existing with a physical nature far different than stars.

AAI: The third planet was far more interesting. Carbon dioxide captured by green plants was tucked under the surface by a planetary crust in perpetual slow motion, controlling the greenhouse effect. The avatar dropped below the clouds and cooled off in an expanse of liquid water.

AAJ: Chokhmah's probe emerged from the ocean and crossed over a land thickly covered with green trees. The artifact plowed through the vegetation and Chokhmah observed frightened apes fleeing over the ground using all four limbs to move. One of these was taken down by a predator.

AAK: Her avatar executed a suborbital arc to explore another area of Earth. She reached a grassy plain with a single mountain dominating it for miles. Here Chokhmah observed another group of apes that walked on just two legs. She changed her shape into a white rock to watch them.

AAL: Chokhmah observed a burial ceremony for a newly-deceased hunter. Afterwards the apes polished elaborate bone tools with stone tools and repaired animal hides they slept within during their hunt. At night they entered a cave. A tendril from the avatar snaked in to watch them.

AAM: 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.

AAN: Keter had taught Chokhmah to look for the Students as all elohim were similarly brought up, and never believed for an instant that she would find them. For his part Keter would simply refuse to pass along to El Elyon his daughter's observations. But Chokhmah had two parents.

AAO: Daat could reach El Elyon through the eloah named Hod. Revealing the Students would unleash a level of scrutiny from El Elyon that Keter was entirely unprepared to endure. Keter knew he must immediately tempt Daat into the same transgression as his own to ensure his silence.

AAP: The three facts of elohim life:

Any eloah could be a mother exactly once.

The act of giving birth changed her from female to male.

The only way for an eloah to interact with others was through a pair of space-time umbilicals that always connected one to their parents.'

AAQ: Add into the mix the simple fact that no quickened star on the main sequence has died a natural death in the nearly million years the species has existed and the result is a premium on females that defies belief. With such peculiarities elohim reproduction is ripe for abuse.

AAR: Individual living suns could be made incommunicado and entirely sealed off from the greater community of elohim. Two male elohim could conspire to set up a kind of harem. They could take turns mating with each other's offspring, or even their own as Keter had done with Daat.

AAS: Daat's mother Hod had been one of those trapped females, allowed back to the City of Stars in return for mating with Keter. There was a kind of non-disclosure agreement in force. Hod could never speak of her captivity, but nothing would forbid her speaking of the Students.

AAT: Keter knew Hod would enjoy announcing the discovery of the Students to El Elyon as a certain way to bring about the judgment and unnatural death of Gevurah and Keter, the elohim who had imprisoned him, without violating the letter of the agreement that existed between them.

AAU: Daat was an orange sun in the triple Alpha Centauri system. Chesed was another orange sun that humans in the far future would call Epsilon Indi. Keter arranged their liaison and they mated with Daat fully aware that he was accessory to breaking the highest law of the elohim.

AAV: 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.

AAW: 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.

AAX: At the center of AX Microscopii is a core of hot nuclear matter. The region has a 'Goldilocks' layer with just the right temperature and density for elohim. The God Particle initiated a process of turning the raw material of this stratum into a living and conscious being.

AAY: 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.

AAZ: But Lacaille 9352 and two other red 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 Chesed, the mother of Netzach, had become forever male.

ABA: As Chokhmah waited in vain for even the simple acknowledgment that she had discovered the fabled Students, she thoroughly explored the rest of the third planet, then took to space again to examine a cratered and somewhat smaller airless and lifeless body that orbited nearby.

ABB: Half again as distant from herself as Earth was, the fourth planet was not so cold as to remain perpetually frozen, but its gravity was too feeble to retain the atmospheric pressure required by the life she had already found, and there were no open bodies of liquid water.

ABC: From two to four times the distance of the third planet from Chokhmah was an expanse that perhaps should have had a planet, but it did not. The largest body she found was smaller than the single satellite of Earth in the same ratio that satellite was smaller than the Earth.

ABD: At five times the distance of the third planet Chokhmah found a gaseous body that was some three hundred times more massive than Earth, circled by four large satellites. In some ways this one was like a baby sun in itself, a failed star, with its own family of planets.

ABE: At nearly ten times the distance of Earth Chokhmah encountered another gaseous body somewhat smaller than the fifth planet, with only a single large satellite, but there was also an extensive field of brilliant water ice debris orbiting in many thousands of concentric rings.

ABF: The seventh planet was twenty times more distant from Chokhmah than Earth. It had a unique axial tilt that was essentially perpendicular to its orbital plane and a set of small satellites. There was a blue twin of this planet at thirty AU, and that one had a large satellite. ABG : Chokhmah brought her system survey to a close at this eighth planet. Beyond there seemed to be only widely scattered balls of ice, and then the stars. From here she looked at herself and saw that she, too, had become essentially another star, albeit still the brightest one.

ABH: But neither Keter nor Daat had said a word about the Students. Chokhmah had seen that some of the stars had shifted in their position and so knew their distance. She said to her parents, 'It would be easy to keep going with my avatar until I reached one of the other suns.'

ABI: Keter said, 'You will find it impossible. Without another sun to anchor one end, the umbilical between yourself and your avatar grows too thin to be a conduit for propellant when it has reached the distance light travels in the time your third planet makes a complete orbit.'

ABJ: Chokhmah did the stellar equivalent of a sidelong glance.

Keter said, 'In real space we rule our own systems absolutely, but no further. If it were not so, I would now be preparing avatars to cross space myself and destroy these living creatures on your third planet.

ABK: 'Help me to understand, Father,' said Chokhmah. 'Did you train me to look for the Students only so that you would order me to destroy them?

'Even if they are not dangerous to us now,' Keter explained to his daughter, 'perhaps they will be dangerous in the future.

ABL: 'Why do you say that, Father? Something within me says these are not our enemies.'

'Of all chemical-based lifeforms the elohim have encountered, only the tool-making creatures of your third planet are potentially dangerous to us because they are awake as we are.

ABM: 'And does not their very uniqueness suggest they are something precious to be treasured, and not cast away?'

'The risk they present must be evaluated before we make the announcement to El Elyon. Will you assist me in bringing some of them into my own reach?

ABN: 'But something just occurred to me, Father. It may be true that I cannot brake my avatar at another star, but certainly information is not so constrained. After all, I can speak freely with yourself and Daat. So I can see there, and I can use any propellant I store within.'

ABO: 'I cannot imagine what good you think that will do.'

'My avatar will perform a fly-by of a living star and thrusters will keep a directional transmitter pointed at him. I will speak of the Students. It was you who instructed me to listen for the Students on the radio band.

ABP: Keter knew Chokhmah's threatened action would of a certain be his undoing. He said, 'You are too young to understand the responsibility that has been thrust upon you by your misfortune of being the home sun of these creatures. You have not been granted access to El Elyon.'

ABQ: She said, 'The oversight can be corrected any moment you choose to do so, Father.'

Keter replied, 'It is the way of the elohim to introduce our young to El Elyon in stages, after they have developed a stable personality. But I judge you are now ready for this.

ABR: So Chokhmah entered into the First Covenant with Keter. Full contact with El Elyon was offered in return for helping establish a human colony in Keter's system. But she could only listen to El Elyon, never speak. And she must never guide an avatar out of her own system. ABS: 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.

ABT: 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.

ABU: 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.

ABV: 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.

ABW: 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.

ABX: 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.

ABY: 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.

ABZ: 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.

ACA: 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, as black as obsidian.

ACB: The black figure carried 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 sharp tip to pry the weed out of the soil.

ACC: 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 avatar held out the tool and motioned for the man to take it until he did as Keter bid him to do.

ACD: 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. Then the black figure taught him how to restore the keen edge of the ax with a stone.

ACE: 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.'

ACF: The avatar controlled by Keter held up a black hand as he reflected upon it. He replied, 'I find this strange mode of being even more fascinating, daughter. Liquid drops of separated star-stuff buffeted by electron clouds. So very slow, yet the combinations are without end.'

ACG: 'Here are the animals,' Chohkmah said, 'transplanted to a world 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 El Elyon.'

ACH: '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 El Elyon, for that will capture your psyche for many turns of this rock around my body.'

ACI: Chokhmah complied with all of her father's demands to begin populating the chilly world he called Heaven, entirely without voicing an objection. For it was a facet of quickened stars who might measure out their lives in billions of years that they had patience, and to spare.

ACJ: 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 from Earth.

ACK: 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.

ACL: 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.

ACM: 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.

ACN: 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.

ACO: 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.

ACP: 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.

ACQ: 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 organs. Blood flew from their mouths as they cried out.

ACR: 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.

ACS: 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.

ACT: 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?'

ACU: 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 El Elyon.'

ACV: 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 El Elyon as I have done.'

ACW: 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.'

ACX: But Chokhmah made no answer, for she was already in contact with El Elyon. 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.

ACY: 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.

ACZ: 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.

ADA: A distant ancestor of the elohim diverged into three species. One adapted to cooler and cooler red stars and even colonized the ubiquitous L and T class infrared 'brown' stars that burn, ever so briefly, using a deuterium cycle for energy rather than fusing four protons.

ADB: 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.

ADC: 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.

ADD: 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.

ADE: 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.

ADF: From the way Keter had spoken of this El Elyon 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 El Elyon was nothing more than all the elohim in aggregate.

ADG: Early in the existence of El Elyon, long before Chokhmah encountered 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.

ADH: El Elyon 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.

ADI: On ten occasions the elohim detected signals coming from civilizations somewhere beyond the reach of El Elyon. 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.

ADJ: 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.

ADK: It was inevitable that the elohim must cross paths with sentient chemical life once more, but the next time, it was collectively vowed, the elohim would not sit idly by as the creatures' technology brought about their own extinction. They would be made aware of the danger.

ADL: El Elyon knew how truly precious and rare was sentient life, even that based on the electromagnetic force, and looked ahead to the coming of the Students. Chokhmah had found them, yet Keter and Daat ensured they would remain hidden. And their motive was now beyond all doubt.

ADM: Chokhmah had been overwhelmed by sudden access to the chatter of El Elyon, 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.

ADN: 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, merely part of your harem!'

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

ADO: '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 El Elyon. But one day these creatures will make such a noise that every eloah will hear them. That is what you have reason to fear.'

ADP: 'It will never come to that, daughter. While you were immersed in the lore of El Elyon this world made two circles around yourself. During that interval there was another killing. It is clear your precious woken creatures will destroy themselves and leave nothing but ruins.'

ADQ: Chokhmah replied, 'You set up your colony to raise up thralls who will hasten their own extinction, but I will teach others to resist.'

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

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

ADS: There is no native fauna in Heaven but some of the 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 a few heartbeats. Some of the leaves formed clenching mouths with teeth.

ADT: Thorny ball bushes rolled under their own power by shifting their weight and selectively gripping the ground. Most plants were deadly to touch. For centuries the death rate of the colonists in Heaven exceeded the birth rate, mandating a steady stream of new 'volunteers'.

ADU: In Mesopotamia, Chokhmah caused a temple to be erected around her end of the bridge in space-time. No one was ever seen to return from the sacrificial chamber, so priests sent criminals through, but Chokhmah decreed that virgin females also be 'sacrificed' along with them.

ADV: 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 later claimed by the Brown Beards of the kingdom of Larund.

ADW: 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.

ADX: Several times a year rock the size of a hill smote Heaven and released a blast sufficient to destroy a walled city. But every century a rock the size of a mountain smote Heaven with enough force to lay waste to an entire kingdom. In the main these collisions went unnoticed.

ADY: Most strikes occurred on the uninhabited ice sheets that covered the vast majority of the surface of Heaven. But if a large rock struck the band along the equator where the ice terminated it would rain for many days, then freeze, and cover all Heaven in ice for a generation.

ADZ: Only plants that could spore would survive. Keter commanded the angels to construct ships and stock them with enough food to preserve their lives and that of their animals during the coming catastrophe. But only the direct descendants of Adamu heeded the oracles of Keter.

AEA: 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.

AEB: 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.

AEC: And Chokhmah was filled with anger 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 that goes on two or four legs lives outside of the ships!'

AED: 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 proof of their uprightness?'

AEE: '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 granting you access to El Elyon was a waste of time.'

'We know more now, but in time they may surpass even El Elyon.'

AEF: 'In Heaven at least they will not have the time to overtake El Elyon,' Keter declared. 'I will give no warning of the next extinction event and they will perish.'

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

AEG: '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.

AEH: '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.'

AEI: '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 surprise rocks from the sky until it was done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael said, 'I will stay, Lord.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Yes, Lord.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGQ: 'Forever?' asked Michael.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Yes, Sire, I am hy.'

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

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

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

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


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

AHW: 'What a terrifying prospect.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two court attendants drew near to Melchiyahu and knelt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AWA: By conversing with the high priest and shaping facts on the ground Chokhmah was able to gradually increase their influence until, culminating in Eli, they became judges over the whole confederation of tribes. But contact was limited to a yearly basis and hence inflexible.

AWB: What Chokhmah wanted was a prophet, but not like Zadkiel, who had gotten hyz marching orders while groveling at the feet of Keter. What she did instead was use a small fold-door to leave a gadget the size of a grain of rice inside the head of a young man named Samuel.

AWC: Then she would tell Samuel to go around saying things like on a certain day at such-and-such a valley the Philistines would be swallowed by the Earth, and sure enough, a sinkhole would open under the feet of a company of Philistines, making them easy pickings for archers.

AWD: On occasion, very rarely since Chokhmah was not nearly as cruel as Keter, the Philistines would be the victims of Divine Fire. More frequently, she would relay to Israelite army commanders, through Samael, intelligence on enemy movements. By degrees Canaan fell in line.

AWE: Chokhmah communicated to Samuel that the religious function of the meeting tent, or tabernacle, should be transferred to a permanent structure to fulfill her original promise of making Canaan the permanent home of the children of Israel. She chose the city of Jerusalem.

AWF: It took twenty years to build the temple and Samuel did not live to see its completion. But when it was finished the chieftain of the Judahites, Rehoboam, thought it lent a sufficiently beautiful and glorious ambiance to Jerusalem that he declared himself to be a king.

AWG: Not to be outdone, Jeroboam of the Ephraimites put on kingly robes himself. He built up his capital first at Shechem in the saddle between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, but them moved his court to Penuel east of the Jordan River where Jacob once fought Israel to a draw.

AWH: To prevent the people from going down to the new temple in Jerusalem to worship there, Jeroboam set up a golden calf at Bethel and told everyone it was God Most High all along, and the feast days for the golden calf were timed to coincide with the feast days in Jerusalem.

AWI: Nadab succeeded Jeroboam upon his father's death and reigned as king for two years before falling prey to a plot among the officers within his own army. He was slain by Captain Baasha of the tribe of Issachar, who made himself king and waged war against Judah continually.

AWJ: Baasha was succeeded by his son Elah, but Elah drank to excess and was slain by General Zimri, who commanded half of his charioteers. Then Zimri destroyed the whole house of Baasha, leaving no male heir alive. He ascended to the throne himself in yet another palace coup.

AWK: But when news spread that Zimri had set himself up as king in Elah's stead, the army proclaimed General Omri as the true king of Samaria and marched from Gibbethon to lay siege to Tirzah for a week. Zimri let the palace burn around himself rather than be captured alive.

AWL: But the Israelites of the northern territories outside of the two tribes of Joseph held forth that Tibni was their king rather than this Omri. Civil war raged four years until Tibni was slain, but following this bloodshed was a long peace even with Tyre and the Judahites.

AWM: King Omri was strong enough to make Samaria the greatest power between the Nile and Euphrates rivers during the time of turmoil when the Bronze Age made an uneasy transition to the Iron Age. Omri ruled for twelve years and when he died he left the kingdom to his son Ahab.

AWN: Early in his reign Ahab forged an alliance with the Phoenicians by gaining the hand of Princess Jezebel in marriage. Her father was both king of Tyre and a priest of the fertility goddess Astarte. Jezebel herself had been trained to attend to Baal, the consort of Astarte.

AWO: The rot started small. Queen Jezebel needed a shrine to keep up her Baal priestess certification so Ahab caused one to be made for her in the city of Samaria. But Baal looked so lonely there all by himself, not moving an inch. He needed a shrine for his wife Astarte too.

AWP: By slow degrees the Phoenician shrines multiplied in Samaria, and with them their attendant priests and priestesses. There was a new prosperity that came with the alliance and the people grew willing to accept the religious encroachments of their glamorous new queen.

AWQ: When King Jeroboam first set up an image of a golden calf at Bethel and told his subjects it was El Elyon, or God Most High, there wasn't much Chokhmah could say about it. A ban on making images wasn't part of the original Abrahamic covenant and even the ark had sphinxes.

AWR: But bringing over from Tyre the priests and idols of pre-existing gods was too much for Chokhmah to stomach. And a man named Elijah thought so too. He made it a hobby to get in the king's face about the issue and constantly reminded His Majesty that his God was Yahweh.

AWS: At last Queen Jezebel got tired of the insolence of this Elijah and convinced her husband to bring matters to a head with a public demonstration. Two altars were prepared with slain bulls. The first priest who could get his god to magically light a bull on fire wins.

AWT: Jezebel, who considered religion as a political tool, thought it was much more likely that neither god would actually strike fire, in which case the arrangement was for Elijah to speak no more to the king of Yahweh and allow the people to choose which would be their god.

AWU: When Baal seemed to be taking his own sweet time setting his bull aflame his chief priest called in forty reinforcements to wail and plead and rip their garments and pluck hairs from their heads and beards. Elijah called for jugs of water and completely dowsed his bull.

AWV: Then it was show time. Chokhmah opened a tiny fold-door inside her bull and allowed a small burst of hot plasma from the upper layers of her stellar body to slip across. It was enough to kindle the fat in the bull and get it burning despite being entirely soaked in water.

AWW: There is nothing like a spectacular public miracle to renew a people's loyalty to their god. The spirit of the crowd was such that Elijah was able to incite them to deadly violence against the priests of Baal standing there, although Chokhmah never asked him to do it.

AWX: Neither was Chokhmah able to much influence the ebb and flow of Levantine geopolitics. Two major defeats at the hands of Aramean kings brought Samaria under a foreign yoke, only to be reversed when Damascus was defeated in turn by the resurgent Assyrians of Mesopotamia.

AWY: During the forty-one year reign of King Jeroboam II Samaria attained the greatest prosperity it had ever known. The population grew to 350,000 people. They worshiped the golden calves at Bethel and Dan but at least they paid lip-service and called them images of Yahweh.

AWZ: But a massive earthquake that killed many thousands of people seemed to herald a decline in the fortune of Samaria that was concurrent with the rise of the Assyrians into the first true empire the world had ever seen and the model for all empires which would follow.

AXA: By order of the Assyrian king the people of the tribes of Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Issachar, Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh were relocated to lands far to the east. The planning for the move took longer than the actual transfer and the logistics were flawless.

AXB: No one was marched east at the business end of a whip, and many even went willingly. The Israelites were a remarkably literate people, and there were positions to be had in the Assyrian civil service. But they were relocated according to a plan that disturbed Chokhmah.

AXC: The exiles were assigned plots in locations chosen such that when it was time for their children to find mates it was easier for them to run across one of the locals rather than their fellow exiles. No one was compelled to intermarry, but the end result was the same.

AXD: Twelve years later Sargon II completed the conquest of Samaria. The remaining people of Manesseh and all of Ephraim were exiled to Medea. The northern kingdom had entirely ceased to exist, leaving only the tribes of Simeon, Benjamin, Judah, and some Levites in the south.

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