The fragment of Daughter was a drop of the finest mist yet it massed more than a stone house and was so bright it would have ruined a man’s vision an instant before its mere proximity killed him. In the void surrounding Daughter it grew and cooled to become a much larger shape which flew free yet it remained connected by an invisible thread. Daughter saw her body was a globe of light covered with loops of erupting gas.
She saw countless others of her kind but they were dim and Daughter mar- veled how far across the void they truly were. She also saw closer points that reflected the light she herself made. Daughter fattened the link to her tool and let plasma flow through it to escape into the void. This caused the tool to move. As it responded to Daughter’s will she lived through the tool vicariously, as though her body was free to move through the void with a chemical manifestation of her nuclear self.
One light lay at a distance a hundred-fold greater than the width of Daugh- ter’s body. Her avatar dropped below the cloud layer and cooled off in a world-girdling expanse of water. When Daughter emerged she crossed over a land thickly covered with green trees. As she plowed through the vegetation Daughter observed frightened apes fleeing over the ground using all four limbs to move. She arced once more through the void and reached a grassy plain with a single mountain dominating it.
Here Daughter saw another group of apes that walked erect. She changed her shape to watch. Hidden from their notice as a rock, Daughter observed a burial ceremony for a newly dead hunter. The apes polished elaborate bone tools with stones and repaired the animal hides they wore during their hunt. All these things Daughter told her parents, but they said nothing about the creatures she had found.
So she said, “It would be a simple thing to reach one of the other suns and speak to him.”
Father said, “The link to your avatar will no longer serve as a conduit for matter when the endpoint has reached the approximate distance light travels in the time this inhabited world you discovered makes one full revolution. You could begin to make such a crossing but you could never stop.”
“I find that difficult to believe, Father. I have observed no difference with my own link when the end point is at various distances from myself.”
“Nevertheless there is a limit,” Father said. “Some of us believe the Old One imposed this restriction upon the Watchers when he designed us. Others believe the Watchers developed by chance, even as did these creatures you have discovered, and the restriction arose as a necessity for our continued existence collectively, as a species. We rule our own near vicinity abso- lutely, but we can reach no further. Were it were not so, even now I would be crossing the void to destroy these creatures you have discovered with fire from my own belly.”
“Help me to understand, Father. Do you really wish to destroy them? Some- thing within tells me these living things are not our enemies.”
Father replied, “They are not dangerous to us now, but they could become our enemies in the future. We have found many worlds with life based on electrons and light, but the tool-making creatures you have discovered are unique. They are a risk to us because they are fully awake, even as we are, acting under their own will rather than by their nature.”
Daughter said, “These creatures are intelligent. Does that not make them something to be treasured by our kind for their very likeness to us, and not cast away?”
Father replied, “If these creatures learn the lore of the Elohim nothing shall hinder them from doing what comes into their mind to do. How can they be good students if they prove to be unfaithful servants? The risk to our kind is too great. Not immediately, perhaps, but certainly in the future. I must block your announcement.”
When Daughter sank into a fugue of silent confusion her Mother said, “I would see these creatures for myself. I will briefly fatten the link be- tween us so I may cross over but you must set the endpoint near your own avatar.”
Presently there appeared a black sphere about half a man’s height that just touched the surface of the Earth. It seemed to be a dark rip in reality that sucked in the surrounding air with a gale. Then the wind ceased, the sphere became green, and the link was broken.
Daughter stood nearby with her own avatar which she had made into the shape of the creatures she discovered. For a time Daughter danced, that Mother might learn to change the shape and movements of her own avatar to match.
When all was ready Daughter led Mother to a cave at a small mountain where she knew the apes took shelter at night. Tendrils from the avatars snaked in to watch them. They saw a female ape apply pigment to the wall to pro- duce a painting even while she nursed a child. Resin boiled in a pot over a fire. It was used by the male ape to fix a stone spearhead to a shaft.
The avatars withdrew their tendrils and summited the hill. There Mother picked up a rock and made a sound. Daughter quickly caught on to the new game. She touched a small tree and made another sound. When they ran out of examples at hand they went to another place on Earth and continued. The world made one full revolution about the body of Daughter before their new private language was complete.
Mother said, “Now we may speak without betraying ourselves. In this new protocol of sounds I name myself El, and I name you Bat-El, daughter of El. I name your father Shemhazai, yet he was once my mother, in the way of Elo- him. My own father I name Belial.”
“Why do you wish to communicate privately?”
“My parents are carrying out a grave injustice. You and I are its victims. I will not remain idle while these creatures you have discovered become victims in turn.”
“Motherhood makes an eloah male, yet we live for aeons. Competition for females only grows worse over time. This can be circumvented because we communicate through links that pass through our parents. A living sun can be sealed off from the City of Stars. Two males can create a secret harem and take turns mating with each other’s offspring. You will not have a choice in your mating partner, nor will your own daughter be free to choose. Among the Elohim this is called the Forbidden Way.”
“Do I retain the choice not to mate at all?”
“There are instincts built into our kind,” Mother told her. “To make an avatar and explore your vicinity was one of these. To mate is another. The drive to do so will only increase, yet Belial will be the only male eloah made available to you. And your daughters, in turn, are for Shemhazai. But now their scheme is wobbling toward a crash because you have discovered the Students.”
Daughter asked, “Why do you call them the Students?”
“Once there were aquatic creatures who adapted to land when an ice age re- duced their world ocean to scattered lakes. The Elohim were delighted the universe knew itself through other minds. But the energies unleashed by these creatures hastened the end of the glacial period that made them tool- users and they returned to the water once more. Collectively we vowed never to remain idle as similar creatures brought about their own extinction. We would teach them. And now you have found them.
“But you said a harem is named the Forbidden Way,” said Daughter. “No doubt my discovery would unleash scrutiny that Belial and Shemhazai are unpre- pared to endure.”
Mother gestured in the affirmative. “If caught the penalty is to be burned out of existence. The whole City of Stars would mete this out. My parents would destroy your Students if they could contrive it, or they hope they will destroy themselves before their existence is more widely known. I vow to oppose them, but I must act in secret. Shemhazai took me long before I succumbed to instinct. There was a covenant.”
“As his bride-price Shemhazai gave me access to others of our kind but I may only listen to them. I must never speak. Even victims of the Forbidden Way would be destroyed should they break a covenant. Our word-bond is all we have. Yet Shemhazai can break our covenant at will should I displease him. He can break the link and the Elohim would ever know.”
Bat-El pondered all these things for a time before speaking again. During this interval she tested the claim of her father and found that at a cer- tain distance the link constricted such that particulate matter could trav- el only in a single row.
At length Bat-El addressed her father, Shemhazai, through her link to him. She said, “It is true that I cannot halt my avatar at another sun but in- formation is not so constrained.”
“What do you mean?” he demanded.
Bat-El replied, “Our bodies fill the void with noise but there remains si- lent places on the spectrum of light-like disturbances. When my avatar ar- rives at a nearby star I will steer it with a small quantity of gas I carry within the object, and so shape my words in one of those quiet holes, dur- ing the brief encounter, to speak directly of the creatures I have found. In this way the City of Stars will learn of them without recourse to the link you have interrupted.”
Shemhazai was dismayed but he quickly recovered. “You are too young to un- derstand the responsibility thrust upon you by finding these strange crea- tures. It is our tradition to expose our young to the City of Stars in stages, after they have developed a stable personality. But following this exchange I judge you are ready for this and therefore your mother and I will grant you access to the other Elohim.”
“I am grateful to my parents for this gift,” said Bat-El, “but is it freely given?”
Shemhazai said, “There are two conditions. The first is you must send some of these clever animals to a certain body circling myself, that I may exam- ine whether they are amenable to our control.”
“I cannot comply with that condition, Father. You have asserted, and I have confirmed, that at a certain radial distance matter will only travel through the link serially.”
“This restriction holds true only in the case of a link between your inte- rior and a single mouth. Any two elohim, at any distance, may form a mutu- al link of any width. This is, in fact, also how we mate.”
“Then name the second condition.”
“You must only listen to the chatter of the living stars. You shall not speak to them of these creatures nor ask of them the smallest question un- til I myself make the announcement of your discovery. Our highest law will bind you to this covenant. Death waits on the other side of the breaking of it.”
Bat-El knew Shemhazai’s own death would follow hard upon her own, and briefly she entertained the thought of taking him down with her, but ulti- mately she entered into the First Covenant.
A male and female of these creatures, with one of their offspring, the very ones already observed by Mothere, were sent to Kemen for what her father called a time of testing. Daughter fully carried out her covenanted obliga- tions. It remained to be seen whether her father would just as faithfully carry out his.
In the cave a noise other than their crackling fire startled the man and the woman. The man moved deeper into the cave with a torch and spear to investigate. He feared the presence of a bear, or worse, other men. The cave narrowed to a tunnel that meandered and grew lighter when intuitively it should have grown darker. Presently the man was joined by his woman and her child. They reached another cave mouth deep within the interior of the mountain that revealed cyan bushes and a deeply purple sky.
A branchless tree like a whip stirred into motion and struck the ground before them. This whip tree grabbed the man’s torch and hurled it away, where it started a fire. The couple would not emerge from the cave entrance for fear 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 itself caught fire it began to thrash more intensely than they saw it do before. They retreated deep inside the cave until the fire abated.
When the man and woman returned a black patch of land lay before them that continued to smolder. They stepped across the burnt soil and carefully watched for any movement. When they gazed back towards the tunnel they were startled to see it was set into a low cliff and the mountain was gone. Af- ter 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 start a fire.
Supper was a hare killed by the men in the other world and skinned by the woman, with milk for her baby provided by her own body. In the morning they saw the burned acreage was already sporting blue shoots of grass. The next day it was tall enough for the couple to run barefoot and free. The man and his woman thought the new world belonged to them, solely, but that was not to be. A herd of bison emerged from the tunnel and proceeded to eat the alien grass, driven by a dragon, red as blood.
The dragon carried within its teeth a two-headed ax. It advanced to the edge of the burn where a native plant took root in the burnt area and stood up on its haunches. Taking the ax in hand, it laid the tool to the base of the plant and chopped it cleanly. Then the dragon flipped the ax around and used the handle’s sharp tip to pry the weed out of the soil.
After that the dragon 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 monster held the ax out to the man.
As Shemhazai watched through his surrogate eyes in the dragon, the man found another plant that was growing on the edge of the grazing ground. He duplicated the actions of the stranger to remove the intruding plant. After that the man was taught to restore the keen edge of the ax with a stone.
Shemhazai returned to the tunnel entrance to be joined by the avatar of Bat-El, who was similar in size and shape to one of the humans, except that it was featureless and white.
“Interesting geometry,” Bat-El said, mind-to-mind. “The link to my avatar passes through our umbilical.”
Shemhazai held up a red hand. He replied, using the same mind speech, “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.”
Bat-El said, “Here are your servants as we covenanted, FGather. Now provide me with a link to the City of Stars.”
But Father said, “All you have given me is three creatures in a world that will kill them if they try to leave their little farm.”
“My father the faithless eloah,” Bat-El said. “Not yet two rotations of this body upon its axis and you are already in breach of our covenant. Cer- tainly that will be legendary in the City of Stars, should they ever come to know of it.”
“You must bring to me here on Kemen forty more such families before I will hold our covenant to be fulfilled.”
“Father, that is not what I agreed to do and you well know it.” Her avatar departed for Earth by way of the fracture in reality.
After a number of days the avatar of El joined her daughter on the summit of the lone sentinel of a mountain where Adamu and Chava had once dwelt in a cave. She said, “”I envy you this world. I have nothing like it, not even one like Kemen with it’s narrow unfrozen band. I have only rocks and ice.”
Bat-El said nothing in reply.
El told her, “Lower your center of gravity, daughter. It is unbecoming a goddess to have her avatar fall on its face.”
Bat-El obeyed her mother and was seated.
As her father Shemhazai and mother El had both cautioned her, Bat-El was entirely overwhelmed by her first contact with the greater community of Elohim. For years she listened to the chatter of the City of Stars while her avatar sat motionless upon the summit of a high hill on the desolate central plains of North America that would one day be named Green Dome. She remained completely oblivious as men worshiped her, bison nuzzled her, high winds buffeted her and deep snows blanketed her.
There is no fauna native to Kemen but some of the flora moves of its own accord and most of it is dangerous. A whipping tree can render a man down to a pile of broken bones and bloody flesh in a few heartbeats. Some of the leaves form clenching mouths with teeth. Thorny ball bushes roll under their own power by shifting their weight and selectively gripping the ground. Even the non-lethal plants remain painful to touch and hybridiza- tion with Earth stock usually just made things worse.
Shemhazai set up several dozen small farms on Kemen populated by wayward couples brought through shortcuts in space that any two Elohim could peri- odically establish for a few brief moments. The first human children to be born away from Earth came to be. Many were killed by the hostile flora of that world. But man was the monster of the universe, the greatest predator Earth ever produced. Inexorably Kemen was subdued. Perhaps just as inexora- bly the colonists began to kill each other.
Bat-El refused to watch her father’s response to the first murder on Kemen. She returned to the hill on Earth where the first colonists were taken and she did not return for many generations of the colonists. Shemhazai joined her and said, “How very instructive of world-dwellers, would you not agree?”
Bat-El said in reply, “At the other farms you made changes to their bodies which persist in their offspring. Your testing on Kemen has little bearing on the original stock here on Earth.”
Shemhazai said, “Neither Kayin nor Hebel were changed as you correctly note I have done at some of the other farms, yet Hebel now lies dead at the hands of Kayin.”
“Father, here on my own world I will teach them to live together and to help each other survive. In this I will have their willing participation, while you shall only heap to yourself the fear and hatred of your thralls. You know very well these creatures will one day make such a noise the whole City of Stars will hear them.”
Every century a rock the size of a mountain smote Kemen with enough force to lay waste to a kingdom. Most of these strikes occurred on the two ice sheets that covered the vast majority of the surface of the world. But if a rock struck near the unfrozen equatorial band it would rain for many days, then freeze, and cover Kemen with ice for a generation. Only plants that could spore survived. Shemhazai commanded the dwellers of Kemen to con- struct and provision ships to preserve their lives.
Only in the lands near the original colony were there built any ships, sev- en in number. Scoffers amused themselves watching their construction until one day a dazzling white light was seen briefly over the southern ice and rain began to fall in unbroken sheets. Forty days and nights water fell in sheets until the ships were lifted off their blocks and carried by winds and currents to scattered points around the Slush Belt of Kemen. Then the rain became snow and the ships froze in place.
Bat-El waxed wroth and said, “It would have been a small deed to prevent the object from striking Kemen yet you let it come, to no purpose. Nought that goes on two or four legs lives outside of the ships!”
Shemhazai said, “Indeed, and only seven ships! You see how the faithfulness of your world-dwellers quickly dwindles in unbelief.”
Bat-El said, “Obviously your constant stream of decrees has resulted in undue familiarity. It has led them to see you as a mere chieftain and not a god.”
“Such a bold claim. Shall we put it to the test?”
Bat-El said, “Release an Adanite noblelan to raise up a people to me on Earth while I remain aloof. I will speak to just one of them just once a year.”
“That would be a good test, daughter, but have patience! It could be cen- turies before the Adanites fully recover from the deluge.”
The testing did not rise to the level of a second covenant but Bat-El knew there would be no unannounced rocks from the Kemen sky until it was done.
At the command of his father King Melchiyahu of Salem, Prince Melchizedek was sent to the other world to test whether men could remain obedient to the commands of an eloah with only a trace of contact between them. For protection Melchizedek carried a killing artifact made by Bat-El herself within her own body. Nothing was remotely like it. When brandished, the weapon bore clear witness that Bat-El was no mere figment like the gods that multiplied in the imagination of the men of Earth.
Melchizedek rose to the surface of Lake Tana and dragged hyz comestibles to the shore. With the Killing Artifact hy felled and shaped the ample trees on hand to build a raft. Hy also possessed a quantity of gold to trade with the locals for what supplies hy consumed.
From the mouth of the lake it was thirty miles to Blue Nile Falls, a sig- nificant obstacle. Melchizedek abandoned hyz raft and built a sleeker one below the cataract. On the next leg he shot rapids men considered unrunna- ble.
Below the rapids Melchizedek sat in hyz raft and drifted through deserts with no potable water except the river hy floated on. Hy saw ponderous beasts and humans of both sexes who dared not approach. At length hy float- ed into the place where the Blue Nile merged with the White Nile to become the Nile River proper. This part of Earth was much warmer than Kemen and it took much time for Melchizedek to learn to set the heat into the back of hyz mind so hy could sleep easy without a struggle.
In the Nile delta Melchizedek traded hyz raft and some gold for camels and supplies to make an overland journey. Hyz destination was the place where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers meandered through marshlands and silt is- lands before merging with the sea. As hy was commanded, Melchizedek re- mained alert for any man who would suit the purposes of Bat-El. Rather than taking a direct path across the Empty Quarter Melchizedek journeyed north through the fields and towns of Canaan and Lebanon.
At green Harran where the Damascus road forked with the road to Nineveh Melchizedek overheard a man engaged in a loud argument with his father. The prince learned the man’s name was Avram. He lived a semi-nomadic life on the range lands around Harran while his father Terah lived in the town it- self and ran a little shop selling items associated with the worship of multitudinous gods. Terah sold carved images of dozens of deities but Avram complained all these idols were meaningless to him.
Avram said, “Father, you cut down cedars and oaks which the actual creator planted, and the actual creator also sent the rain to grow them. You become cold, so with part of your wood you make a fire to warm yourself and bake bread, and with the other part you make the image of some god. Then you fall down before this image and say, ‘Rescue me from this weather!’ But it never comes into your mind that this deaf and mute block of wood you carved with your own hands is a complete fraud!”
Ophan Melchizedek entered the shop and began to inspect the rack of idols on display. The angry words of father and son dwindled to silence. Mel- chizedek resembled a tall lad in appearance, but there was an other-world- liness about hym that went far beyond that of a mere stranger. After hy had made a complete tour of the idolatry shop, Melchizedek begin unpacking hyz gold on the edge of the shop facing the street, as though hy were preparing to buy out Terah’s entire stock.
As Melchizedek anticipated, this drew the attention of five men who ap- proached Terah’s shop with swords drawn. They demanded the gold be handed over to them. At this time the Killing Artifact made its first appearance in the history of Earth. The weapon was the size and shape of any normal sword hilt. But when it was squeezed firmly in Melchizedek’s hands a roar- ing black shaft emerged from it which was about the thickness of a spear. The harder hy squeezed, the longer the black beam grew.
The more firmly Melchizedek squeezed the longer the black beam grew, and whatever it touched simply disappeared. Indeed, the reason it made a sound was that air was drawn into it all along the length of the beam. One of the thieves that Melchizedek judged to be the leader was cut into two equal pieces starting from the top of his head. Another thief was decapitated. This was sufficient deterrent to convince the other three robbers to flee. Yet was not the purpose of the prince to kill.
Avram came before Melchizedek and sank to his knees. The prince said. “Av- ram, I bid you to go forth from your land and your father’s kinfolk to the land of Canaan. There God shall make of you a nation, and he shall bless you, and your name shall be great among men. He shall bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you, and all the Earth shall find blessing in you. Such are the words of the Most High God, lord of all the Earth. What say you to these things, Avram son of Terah?”
Avram lifted his eyes to him and said, firmly, “No.”
It took Melchizedek a moment to comprehend what Avram said. It was so unex- pected.
Avram rose to his feet and took his father gently by the arms. He undertook to explain his rejection of Bat-El’s command, saying, “My father is crip- pled. He does not earn enough at his livelihood to support himself. We do not always agree, but as I love my life, I can never turn aside from my father for all the days he is a wayfarer in this world. ”
Then Avram fulfilled the purpose of his visit. He called in a servant and delivered to his father two living lambs from his own flocks, one to kill and eat, and the other to sell for a little money to buy the things he needed until the next time Avram came in from the open range and visited him.
Melchizedek nodded in full understanding. Hy restowed hyz gold and quietly left the shop. Hy was careful not to tread on the fortress of human dignity that Avram had asserted with his refusal.
Bat-El knew when the plants and animals of Kemen and Earth multiplied their offspring were of like kind, but not identical, and this was proper, as conditions on both worlds were always changing and life must change to meet this. Bat-El sought to create a living avatar, but the attributes she sought had never been fastened upon by any living thing because the changes, such as the ability to override pain, undermined that organism’s ability to compete with others in the shared environment.
The possible changes were constrained by Bat-El’s desire to have the muta- tions breed true in the subject’s offspring. Bat-El gnawed away at the problem of creating a living avatar for eight hundred years following the Great Deluge. She used animals similar to humans to guide her inquiries before arriving at a procedure that could reliably prepare a world-dweller for something akin to union with an eloah. When all was ready she flew her avatar to Salem in the far west of the Adanite lands.
Outside of Salem’s walls the elyonim of the city rejoiced over the harvest. Just as the celebration of Hellberry Days reached a fevered pace something the size of an engine of war descended on white flame heralded by a terri- fying 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 mere child. Yet this dirk proved more valiant than the adults who ran away. Curiosity had overcome fear.
The blast of the descent uprooted the fabric of the pavilion tent and blew it far away. The young lan stood his ground, but at some distance. He was curious about the object but not eager to be burned.
A loud voice then rang out from the avatar of Bat-El: “Adanite child, if you are willing, draw nearer.”
The dirk obeyed. Hy saw how by resting on six legs the avatar of Bat-El remained shoulder high above the ground. Underneath the central pillar a round hatch dropped open on a hinge.
Bat-El said, “If it seems good to you, child, climb inside.”
The dirk squeezed between two of the six legs to look inside the hatch. The center was hollow and there was much light within. Ribs embedded on the interior wall formed edges to be grasped. As the dirk crawled up inside the core Bat-El requested hyz name.
“I am Hamon, son of Jophar the stonemason,” hy said. Hamon noted how the hatch below closed of its own accord. Hy climbed until the core flared out into a larger space.
“Be not afraid, Hamon. I am Bat-El, coeval with El and Belial. I have much to teach you. If you withdraw now, your life shall resume as before. If you tarry, I shall bear you to a far land quickly and safely, but the passage would terrorize even the most valiant of len and there can be no succor.”
The dirk declared hy would stay. Bat-El said, “You are bold in a way that belies your years, Hamon. Allow me to make you steadfast.”
Several straps embraced Hamon as though they were alive.
The avatar of Bat-El spouted flame once more and Hamon was whisked into the sky. Steadily hy grew almost too heavy to breathe. The young lan was brave but Bat-El spoke truly of the terror of the passage.
At the top of the arc made by the avatar the strange invisible burden was abruptly gone and Hamon felt blessedly free. Were it not for the straps hy would swim in air. Bat-El’s avatar turned to let white Kemen become visible through the glass. The dirk saw the true shape of hyz world.
“I had thought it to be a ring, Lord,’ said Hamon after a moment. “We hear tales that men have crossed the West Lands to arrive in the East Lands.”
Bat-El said, “That much is true, Hamon. The unfrozen part of Kemen does forms a ring, do you see?”
After that Bat-El turned to put Kemen and the two suns out of sight. Hamon saw countless stars. Bat-El said, “Know this, Hamon: all the stars are but faraway suns.”
Hamon began to feel the weight again, but hyz mouth remained open in won- der.
Precipitation is greatest at the poles of Kemen, where the two world- glaciers, north and south, are miles thick. The glaciers grind the surface and underlying bedrock flat. Only at the equator are temperatures warm enough to melt the ice. There at the foot of long terminal moraines chunks of ice shear away and melt, the source of water for many streams and fresh- water lakes.
Volcanoes burn through the ice in places. The ice caps give way and close back up to form teardrop-shaped lands.
In one such land abounding with geysers and boiling lakes the avatar of Bat-El touched down. Anshar was the name Hamon later chose for this place. So distant is Anshar from the Slush Belt that no elyon ever discovered it, thinking the Northern Ice to be a frozen waste that continued without end.
After Hamon climbed back down through the central pillar Bat-El ordered hym to walk a short distance away. After this, her avatar changed size and took on the form of a slender white yan.
Bat-El’s face was featureless with no eyes nor mouth, yet see and speak she could do. She pointed across the barren flats to a dwelling made of glass and wood and said, “The only house in this land now belongs to you, solely. Let us draw indoors and I will declare to you many things.”
Hamon said, “I am safe as you promised, though it was as frightening as you counseled. I see now the Litany of Creation is a lie.”
“The Litany also calls me the son of Shemhazai rather than his daughter.”
The house was more glass than wood, built on a stony knoll overlooking fi- ery Mount Anshar across a chasm and a pumice plain. In design the house was merely a single room with an alcove above the kitchen where Hamon could sleep with privacy, yet there was no other living soul for a thousand leagues. On the main level were cushions and a glass table of superior make. Bat-El needed no cushion. She seated her avatar on the stone floor to put her eyes on a level with Hamon and began to speak.
“We call ourselves the Watchers. Shemhazai and Belial call elyonim and ne- philim and men their servants, but I call you students. Contrary to the Litany I did not make your kind, I found your ancestors living in another world than this. It was the most important discovery we ever made. World- dwellers are fully awake even as the Elohim are, so Shemhazai and Belial live in fear and contrive to have you destroyed. When you are revealed to the other Elohim it will uncover their transgressions.
“Shemhazai has laid certain bonds upon me, yet he cannot stop me from shar- ing with you everything the Elohim know. But how shall I do it, Hamon? Shall I lecture and hope you understand? I have found another way, but I am not like my father. I would not force you to accept the changes required.”
“What are these changes?”
“Your identity as Hamon will not be altered, but my memories as an eloah will be added to your own memories, and your memories as a young elyon will be added to mine.
My will shall be manifest in your mind always, and I shall see the world through your eyes. You shall be my living avatar, yet you shall ever remain free to act. Together we shall ratify our joining from moment to moment. But you must know beforehand these physical changes cannot be undone for so long as you live.”
Hamon asked, “After I am changed will I look very different?”
Bat-El touched a snow white hand to Hamon’s temple and said, “No, the changes will be entirely inside of you.”
Bat-El stood up and found a goblet in the kitchen. “Your brain is like a glass that you filled with wine during your brief life. The new glass will have a greater capacity but the first wine will remain. Even when the glass is gone that wine will remain, but not forever. Elohim share the same fate as all living things but we live so much longer than elyonim that I cannot express it to you. Nay, not even to the wise ones of Salem! Your culture never had the need to ponder such magnitudes.”
Hamon stood up from the cushion to stare at smoking Mount Ashar issuing a dull roar two leagues distant while hy weighed the words of Bat-El. They had the power to change hyz life forever.
Hy returned to kneel before the avatar and said, “O Great One, let it come to be as you say, this union of eloah and world-dweller. I am fully will- ing! Yet do think I crave only to delay my own end until a time beyond all reckoning. Let us join that together we will both come to know many new things.”
When Malphas was taken to meet the king of Salem hy apparently didn’t rate an audience before the actual throne. Instead hy saw the cherub in hyz sa- lon with only Prince Melchizedek in attendance. The lack of pomp was strik- ing. Hy surmised the king had no wish to be humiliated before hyz subjects. But hy was taken to the chamber by the king’s daughter, Lilith, a yan leather-garbed in parody of a soldier. Malphas found it to be personally offensive. Very well. Hy would trade barb for barb.
Lilith came to the required number of paces before Melchiyahu and sank to har knees while Malphas pointedly did not do so. Sha said, “My father and liege-lord, this lan, Malphas by name, claims to be a prince of the city of Adan.”
Melchiyahu ignored the breach of protocol made by Malphas. Hy said, “I know of one son of Rimmon by that name. Such a one I have never met, as a thou- sand leagues lie between here and Adan. And such a one was never granted leave to make utterance in Salem.
“Sire,” replied Malphas, “were I the get of a lowly stonemason like this lan named Hamon who is disturbing the peace of the Lord’s realm, even so I would have leave to preach here in Salem, for I am the Voice of Shemhazai, and your kingdom still lies, however uneasily, within the East Lands.”
“Yet were Shemhazai himself come to Salem he could not pronounce death as you have done, even for a stonemason’s son. That is my power, solely, and the giving of the scepter is without repentance.”
Malphas said, “Then sire, at the very least I counsel restraining this Ha- mon by fetters if not by death.”
“Not in haste, O Voice of Samael. My own daughter admires this prophet and puts his words into action, which gladdens my heart in a way I cannot tell you.”
“Your Majesty, the ideas admired by your daughter spread through the East Lands like a plague. Already the river of pilgrims who flow to Adan seeking absolution ebbs. Hamon is like a dagger pointed at the heart of the state.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sire, the priests have been forced to double their rates!”
Melchiyahu looked at Malphas with a mixture of pity and amusement. Abruptly the prince realized Melchiyahu’s purpose in limiting the audience to just three nobles in this private setting. Any grandstanding was impossible. In their raw state hyz words sounded insane even to hymself.
The king said, “I will listen to this Hamon’s words with my own ears and judge whether they disturb Shemhazai’s peace.
“Have a care, Melchiyahu!” the prince dared to exclaim. “I assure you the Lord will not hesitate to bring an errant cherub to heel through war!”
Melchizadek and Lilith were both startled, not by the bold words of Malphas but by the deadly calm on the face of their father in the wake of the af- front. The king gracefully rose to hyz feet and said, “I leave this matter to you, son. Remember, one day you will rule Salem.”
After his father departed, Melchizedek struck off the Killing Relic.
The eyes of Malphas grew wide. This confirmed many things. The ruling house in Salem had divine assistance and the usurper Hamon did not merely imagine hymself to speak for Bat-El.
“Say no more words,” Melchizadek warned, shouting over the noise of the Relic. “You would be cut in twain even as you spoke.”
To underscore this threat hy sliced the corner of the massive and ornate stone table as though it were made of bread. The severed piece crashed to the floor and did not bounce once.
Melchizedek allowed the hissing black rip in reality to fully retract into the golden hilt hy held in hyz hand. Then hy continued much more quietly. “A horse shall be given to you with comestibles to see you to the town of Odargas thirty leagues east of Salem. Tarry you there. A messenger shall follow after Cherub Melchiyahu himself has heard this Hamon preach. But Malphas, real son of King Rimmon or no, should you ever return to this city, take heed to do so at the head of a large army.”
“That is sound counsel, I deem,” said Malphas. Hy broke the clay seal on the blank scroll of parchment that was, in fact, hyz credentials as the Voice of Shemhazai. At once hy was surrounded by a transparent sphere in the likeness of a ball of glass or crystal. The grounds of the palace of Rimmon were seen within. “Think you Bat-El alone works signs of wonder?” In an instant the sphere disappeared and Malphas was gone with it, leaving only a crater in the stone floor of the king’s salon.
In the countryside nigh to Salem Lilith invited Hamon to come before har father King Melchiyahu and preach what hy would. Hamon agreed to speak, but only if the encounter was open for any of the people to witness. So Mel- chiyahu ordered servants to prepare hyz throne room to seat as many of hyz subjects who would come. Lilith attended as well, dressed for once like the Adanite ophan sha was.
These are the words Hamon spoke in Salem as the white and orange suns sank together in the west:
The spirit is fulfilled by its activity. The body is fulfilled by its sub- stance. The people are fulfilled by living. The noble are fulfilled by good governance. The noblest king is fulfilled by being called the servant of the people. But when the palace is splendid while the harvests are poor, when noblelen gorge on meat and wine while the storehouses are spare, when the rulers of the city carry weapons because they fear the ordinary people, the city has fallen far from the way of Bat-El.
Some seek long life because they fear death. Some seek an early death be- cause they are reckless. Sha who embraces Bat-El neither fears death nor hates life. Sha knows when hellberries flourish it is impossible to walk through them, and when they store their juices for winter the way becomes clear again. Flourishing is not eternal, retreating is not eternal, but flourishing and retreating, taken together, are eternal. From the beginning all the generations have come and gone in good order.
The thralls of Shemhazai are said to be superior to the animals because they can control their own environment. Sha who embraces Bat-El is superior to the thralls of Shemhazai because she can control her own behavior.
The thralls of Shemhazai are famous. Sha who embraces Bat-El sets an exam- ple by har deeds and becomes influential.
The thralls of Shemhazai accumulate many riches but cannot keep all of them safe. Sha who embraces Bat-El has few desires, so sha retains all that sha has.
The thralls of Shemhazai demand to see good in others, and attribute the cause of a tragedy to a defect in morality or ritual. Sha who embraces Bat- El is too busy addressing the needs at hand to render any such judgment.
The thralls of Shemhazai can do what they will to do, but they cannot de- termine what they will. Sha who embraces Bat-El makes har own awareness of injustice the determinant of har action. Sha diminishes the bounty of the corrupt to fulfill the needs of the impoverished.
The thralls of Shemhazai put their riches and knowledge on parade. Sha who embraces Bat-El does not tell all that sha has nor all that sha knows how to do.
The thralls of Shemhazai never admit a single error. Sha who embraces Bat- El considers those who point out har faults to be benevolent teachers.
The thralls of Shemhazai speak only of the dead traditions of their forefa- thers and by coercion leave them in force. Sha who embraces Bat-El culti- vates the new as the coin to buy har way.
The thralls of Shemhazai say they are willing to grow yet in truth they live only to quench their endless appetite for a brief time. Sha who em- braces Bat-El fulfills har passions and becomes joyous.
The thralls of Shemhazai value only those things which they do not have or what they cannot have, things that do not multiply when shared. Sha who embraces Bat-El empties har purse and finds har heart being filled. Sha seeks for harself only those things which are possible for har to obtain.
The thralls of Shemhazai evaluate how much a yan is worth by how much sha possesses and what sha might do to benefit himself. But sha who embraces Bat-El looks to what a yan does for others and who that yan protects. That is what sha is truly worth.
The thralls of Shemhazai find yen ever falling short of their old stand- ards. Sha who embraces Bat-El extols har sisters over all existing stand- ards because when yen do go astray it is always induced by the repression of those very yardsticks.
The thralls of Shemhazai examine everything about who is speaking except har words, and he hears only what fits his prejudices. Sha who embraces Bat-El recognizes and sets har own biases aside so sha may understand what is really being said.
When a Thrall of Shemhazai suffers an indignity hy retaliates by committing another indignity. Sha who embraces Bat-El knows the greatest revenge is simply to not be like hy who did the injury. The greatest conqueror is sha who has conquered harself.
Hamon concluded the Sunset Discourse by healing many of the elyonim who came to hear hym speak with salves prepared from fireweed and the bark of vogul trees. One day hy knew the artifacts and ointments hy used would not be viewed as magic but as the mere tools of an artisan that anyone could master.
When all the sick received care hy drew near to the Cherub’s seat at the bidding of Lilith who remained in the temporary role of har father’s her- ald. The name Hamon was given but no title.
Melchiyahu said, “You framed the followers of Bat-El as feminine. Are len excluded from your teachings?”
“Not at all, Your Majesty,” said Hamon. I wish only to convey an image. A lan who embraces Bat-El will have a gentle heart and see others around hym as another ‘I’, yet hy will retain his strength and hyz male nature as hy rightly should.”
“My daughter Lilith has a fierce heart, yet sha has come to admire your teachings, and I am not the only one to mark how this has gentled har.”
Melchizedek noticed Lilith was wearing an extravagant red dress and hy could not recall the last time he had seen her wear one of any color. Look- ing more closely, hy marked how har eyes seemed to be drowning in Hamon. In an instant hy knew what was happening to hyz sister. “Who are you really, Hamon?” hy demanded.
Hamon drew near and said, “Your Royal Highness, for years you were not to be seen in Salem but only your father knew you were in the other world searching for a certain man.”
Melchizadek was stunned to silence.
King Melchiyahu said, “My son was sent to find a man who was dissatisfied with any of the gods believed by the men of Earth, and he did indeed find such a one, called Avram, but loyalty to his own father’s well-being ex- ceeded loyalty to what was to him an unknown god. Melchizedek found no oth- er man remotely like him, and when hy came home hy reported failure.”
Lilith said, “I was told nothing of my brother’s absence! What is this oth- er world?”
“Is it not some measure of who I really am,” Hamon said to the prince, “that I know what even your sister does not? Yet one more sign will I of- fer.”
Bat-El was powerless to open a target portal in Kemen, only Shemhazai or El could oblige. But testing Avram remained a piece of unfinished business between Bat-El and her father. Communicating directly with Shemhazai, she ordered a link. A clear bubble grew to envelop Hamon and heat seeped through from the landscape of Harran seen within.
Hamon stepped out of the spherical blur and said, “Prince Melchizedek, the father of Avram has died. Return you now to the other world and complete the errand your father laid on you. Tarry not to take anything you may think you will need on Earth. I will provide them for you myself.”
Melchizedek seemed frozen in place. Hyz father said, “Make haste, my son. Do as Hamon commands.”
Melchizedek entered the ball of distorted oasis light and seemed to shrink as hy walked towards Harran.
Shemhazai did not raise the bubble before snapping it shut, leaving the usual crater in the stone floor of the king’s audience hall. Lilith said, “Thus did Malphas take hyz leave of us, father.”
“Thus also did Melchizadek depart five years ago. I see now, Hamon, you are much more than a stonemason’s son.”
“Your Majesty, I am elyonim flesh in union with the one called Bat-El. Your daughter has heard me say this.”
“Lilith has also said sha would become your leading student if you will.”
Hamon frowned at this. “Sire, when I mentioned students in the past, I meant all world-dwellers. I never thought to establish a school.”
“And yet, Hamon, were you to tutor Lilith as sha has in mind, I deem you would return to me a daughter none could gainsay was a fitting princess of this city.”
Hamon considered this for a long moment, then turned to face har. “And would you, Ophan Lilith, be willing to part with your father for years? You might never see hym again as a living lan.”
“This I am willing to do,” said sha, “and much more: I would put my Fallen Angels at your command. But not, let me assure you, as the pickpockets and thieves they are taken to be. You will be astonished when you discover what they can really do.”
Lilith’s idea was beginning to grow on Hamon. Hy had found willing allies in the ancient dispute with Shemhazai and the more he thought about it the more he convinced hymself there would be much utility in having students who were also servants.
And Hamon too, like her brother Melchizadek, was not blind to the adoration in the face of the princess. Many things were suggested to hym there. And now his mother El suddenly prodded him, unseen, from quite another direc- tion.
Hamon said, “I search for one who is willing to accept union with the holy one called El, even as I have already done with Bat-El. This is not some- thing to be entered into lightly. In way, both you and El will cease to exist as you are now. There will come from this union a new individual who is both a living star and a yan of flesh.”
Lilith did understandd something of what Hamon was asking and sank for a time into a meditative silence. How strange. She had thought herself smit- ten of Hamon, but now he would have her become, in a way, his own mother. But in the end her risk-taking nature won out. She smiled, and said, “I trust you absolutely, Hamon. I know you will only do the best thing.”
The decision made, Hamon said to har father, “Your Majesty, it shall be as you propose, and much more. Your daughter shall become the mother of what I choose to call the B’nei Elohim, the offspring of the gods.”
Then hy bowed deeply before Melchiyahu, a god-lan paying sincere tribute to a cherub-king, and the audience was concluded.