Ice pinched the equatorial latitudes of Kemen in three places, leaving three unfrozen swaths of roughly equal length. Each land in the Slush Belt was some two thousand leagues long but only a hundred leagues from north to south. The ice bridge between the East and West Lands was the thinnest of the three, and in the centuries to come it would be the first to melt. But the earliest explorers despaired of crossing four hundred leagues of treacherous crevasse-ridden ice and turned back.

The first travelers to succeed in crossing the ice bridge waded through swamps that may have run another four hundred leagues for all anyone knew, as none found their way to the outflow of the vast bog that was the source of the River Loenna. Yet the West Lands could still be reached by traveling the long way around the world. As elyonim and nephilim multiplied on Kemen humans of original stock crossed two other barriers of ice to reach a fer- tile land they called Sala.

The Gold Beards of Sala developed an enduring culture unique in Kemen, based on the Ringhouse. This was a common wooden dwelling with eighty peo- ple at the center of a small circle of cultivated fields. Along the rim of this circle a dozen footpaths entered the forest, but only half of these led to another Ringhouse some leagues away. The rest dwindled to game trails or dead-ended in a grove of lethal whipping trees. The wealth of the whole land of Sala was scattered in this way.

No Adanite would cross the ice and the swamp for such meager booty. What combat, such as it was, came against the capital of Saharad. There were periodic raids by the Red Beards of Gerazan, and more frequently Rimmon appeared to both sides with the newest Adanite arms and left with their gold. But in the main the men and women of Sala embraced Hamon’s teachings to an extent that rivaled the Salemites. Yet Hamon hymself had never visit- ed Saharad. To Lilith’s mind that raised a pressing problem.

When Lilith experienced the portal travel that four times had whisked her brother between worlds, and beheld Saharad, she remembered how few in the land of Sala knew her by sight, and Hamon none at all. “What do you imagine they will do when strange elyonim arrive at the city gate demanding to see the queen?”

“I imagine they will throw us in chains. But I have already given some thought to this, dearest one. My covenant with Shemhazai makes only the land of Adan forbidden to my avatar.”

So it came to pass that Saharad, that great capital city of the land of Sala, knew the terror of the coming of the avatar of Bat-El upon jets of fire from the very heart of Earth’s sun. And when it had safely touched down upon a field of unoccupied land outside of the gates of the city and the flame ceased Hamon walked to stand near it, and Lilith went with him with baby Laylah in her arms. It was there the guards of the city found them when they had summoned the courage to approach.

To a man the Gold Beards they were proud subjects of a powerful queen, Aur- ra Firegem, which thing would be absolutely unthinkable to the Adanites. Queen Firegem canceled what audience her courtiers had prepared for that day to receive instead her unannounced visitors.

With her husband Duke Evander the two made an imposing pair, but the queen was not beautiful in the eyes of many men, as she was broad of face and frame. Her skill with the bow was said to be unmatched anywhere on Kemen.

Lilith felt a little awed in the queen’s presence. Setting Hamon aside, Queen Firegem (or at the very least, the Queen Firegem that was depicted in the words of those who knew her) was the greatest influence in her life. But a more important thing was pressing. Lilith said, “Your Majesty, I re- gret to say my father and my brother were slain by their own kinsmen on a single day. Even as I speak the city of Salem is trampled by the Eyes of Shemhazai and forces loyal to King Rimmon of Adan.”

The queen was shocked almost beyond the capacity for speech. When she found her voice she could only gasp, “How could this come to be?”

“Hashmal Malphas killed my father in a most cowardly way,” answered Lilith. “He appeared even as Hamon tells me Shemhazai has appeared before you, by that bridge in reality only Seraphim can summon. He appeared behind my fa- ther’s back and struck off his head without warning. He left no chance for the king to defend himself. But I will avenge my father.”

After the queen had absorbed this she said, “And your brother Melchizedek? How did he die?”

Hamon spoke for Lilith here. “Your Majesty, Melchizedek knew King Rimmon had brought overwhelming force against his city, and a siege was immanent. He deemed, correctly, that no edict the king of Adan would likely impose upon the elyonim of the city for their long defiance could be worse than their starvation. He went willingly to the enemy camp and Shemhazai admits he died quickly and cleanly.”

“Your Majesty, King Rimmon has already appointed a governor over the city, and he has levied a heavy tax. The Eyes of Shemhazai multiply almost as fast as do the mournful edicts and the checkpoints, and none may depart. And yet for all that, Queen Firegem, Rimmon has utterly failed, because a daughter and a granddaughter of King Melchiyahu remain alive, and both have slipped away from his grasp. I hold Lilith to be the Queen of Salem in ex- ile. Rimmon will come for her.”

Duke Evandr Firegem was moved to speak. “Do you seek safety for your family Lord Hamon? We are eager to have you live with us here in Saharad, and if our city is not to your liking you may dwell anywhere in the land of Sala.”

“I thank you, Sire, but my family aside King Rimmon is pursuing other exiles from Salem even into the land of the Brown Beards. Were I to do nothing to stave off the war that must follow King Galizur would no more welcome them in Rumbek than Rimmon would in Salem.”

The duke said in reply, “Lord Hamon, if war comes to House Larund, know that the men and women of Kemen hold ourselves to be exiles also, and Bat- El to be our only God. We will never turn away any who embrace her.”

“I thank you, Sire,” said Hamon, “and I thank you, Queen Firegem. But if war comes it will not stop at Rumbek. Rimmon means to overawe the kingdoms of Kemen one after the other before they can unite to stop him. Think on this when next he appears before you as a merchant of arms.”


Azarael and Jael of the Fallen Angels slinked their way through caves and tunnels in the ice far to the west of Salem. Only three of Rimmon’s sol- diers ever discovered them. Their bodies were left to be found in such a way that their deaths could be explained as entirely accidental.

There the yen discovered the enemy’s main storeroom of meat and grain. Not even Bat-El knew the exact location of that cache where it lay under the ice, but she always knew the position of Lilith’s headband.

Azarael left the artifact inside a container near the center of the cache in such a way that it would not likely be discovered, even if the storeroom were actively being drawn down, which to her eyes it was not.

After that she and Jael moved some distance away. They went far down one of the tunnels radiating from the central space like wheel spokes, there to remain until such a time as they detected (as Hamon described it, using what he warned was extreme understatement) a disturbance.

“This is not a suicide mission,” Hamon assured Lilith’s two spies when he briefed them. They would not have to wait for long. Lilith rejoined the main body of the Fallen Angels where they camped east of the pass.

Lilith’s spies could live upon the bounty of stores but it was always cold. Fortunately they had a nice remedy that never seemed to get tiresome. In the cozy little rat’s nest they made for themselves Jael slipped nude be- tween fur blankets and purred to Azarael to come to her.


When the Fallen Angels forced the entrance of the ice cache the Adanites fell back in good order to the central chamber while dealing out fire. There they made a stand that seemed impossible to break. As the Fallen An- gels emerged from each tunnel the enemy commander, Bezaliel, shifted sol- diers to meet the threats as they appeared. Lilith found it impossible to attack the core simultaneously from more than a handful of tunnels since the cross tunnels were few and the enemy knew them well.

Raphaela spied a drop of water rolling down Lilith’s cheek. Her lieutenant was shocked at the sight of this, and steeled herself to rebuke her queen. It was one thing to feel despair during a battle, it was quite another to allow that despair to be visible to underlings. But then a large drop of water landed square on Raphaela’s own head. She looked up to see many such drops were falling from the dimly-illuminated ceiling of ice far overhead. As she watched, the drops became a true rain.

The ceiling began to glow with a light of its own and a steady thunder grew. Lilith ordered the Fallen Angels to disengage and fall back into the tunnel. The roof of the ice cave glowed orange before exploding, with the more fortunate Adanite defenders killed by house-sized chunks of ice and the less fortunate ones boiling alive.

The avatar of Bat-El drilled into the supply cache with all six engines skewed, spouting fire from the heart of Sol and turning the ice directly to steam.

Falling ice melted to water, the water boiled away, and the bodies of len were crisped by raw flame until even their ashes were scattered away.

Lilith and her lieutenants walked to the ragged end of several tunnels and looked down, trying to comprehend the chaos of the scene below even as the avatar abruptly fell silent.

Far across the chamber at the entrance to another tunnel stood Azarael and Jael, both quite safe. The applause of the two yen echoed across the newly quiet space.

Lilith dropped to the lowest level and spoke to the inert avatar. “Hamon, if Laylah is in there with you, you’re dead. And if you left her alone in Anshar where Shemhazai can get at her by portal you’re twice as dead!”

The avatar of Chokhmah began to shrink before her eyes until it was a white faceless figure with a head, arms, and legs. It said, “Do give me some credit, Lilith.”

Lilith had quite forgotten that Bat-El could fly her avatar perfectly well without anyone riding inside.


When the ordinary force Adanite army reached the garrisoned cache, now en- tirely in shambles, the len of the vanguard were ordered to line the walls of the central chamber at attention, for King Rimmon, the living avatar of Shemhazai and Lord of all Kemen was come. After he surveyed the damage he bade the len to rise.

Malphas said, “My Lord, look what the she-demon Lilith has done!”

Rimmon looked at the violet sky visible through a gaping hole in the cave ceiling. “No, this was Bat-El. But, Malphas, it was also partly your own doing.”

Malphas became fearful and quickly looked at his feet. “The Lord forbid!”

“When you negotiated the no-go zone for Bat-El’s avatar you were tricked into excluding the ice. You must take great care when making covenant with a seraph. Every word carries import.”

The king commanded a brigade of hyz army to set the garrison back in order while Rimmon, Malphas, and the bulk of the force rode west into the lands of House Larund to pursue the Fallen Angels.

During the ride Malphas ever prattled on about the wickedness of Lilith, annoying Rimmon to the extreme, yet he did nothing to silence his lieuten- ant. Lilith was indeed his foremost enemy in Kemen, and heretofore Malphas had badly underestimated her. It was well that he stoked his own fears now.

When the Adanite expedition-in-force emerged from the ice and the underly- ing hills to reach the flats of Magodon, like numbers of Brown Beards stood across the path of their advance. Two soldiers of the House of Larund ad- vanced alone under flag of truce.

King Rimmon wore no emblem of rank. His raiment was that of a common foot- soldier and no banner flew over him, yet the envoys from the Larund side galloped toward the Seraph unerringly.

Then Rimmon saw one herald was Lilith herself.

The other wore a brass helmet but when he drew nearer Rimmon identified him as Ophan Barachiel. Both hy and Lilith dismounted and sank to both knees, bowing deeply before the living avatar of Shemhazai with their hands open.

For Malphas to see his personal monster Lilith crouching before him on her haunches, with her head offered as though a sacrifice to Rimmon, was too much. He stepped forward with his blade raised and screamed, “See Lord how I remove this dart from your flesh!”

Still crouched upon her knees, Lilith reached for the Killing Artifact at her side. Even as Malphas made his stroke the hissing black shaft of Li- lith’s own weapon extended and was raised to meet it. Where it crossed Mal- phas’ sword the blade simply was not. The severed tip fell to the ground as Lilith jumped to her feet.

When she saw that no other attack was forthcoming she let the hissing black pole retract into the hilt. Then she said, “Has the purpose of our embassy been taken amiss?”

Barachiel said, “Your Majesty, we are come in the name of the Holy One, Bat-El, and from King Galizur, to trade words with the Lord of Adan, not blows.”

King Rimmon said, “Alas, the discipline and honor of my army is lessened of late, to my great embarrassment. You may remedy this, Princess Lilith. Be- hold, Malphas is entirely within your power.”

Malphas was horrified that his own god delivered him to his worst night- mare. With no hesitation Lilith struck off the Killing Relic and flourished the black shaft.

Lilith stood well away from her victim, touching the shaft to his arms and legs here and there, letting all to see how easy it was for her to turn a lan into a limbless ruin. His agonized screams did not last long. He bled out at her feet.

“Your blade,” said Rimmon. “I’ve not before seen the like.”

“Your Majesty, this is the weapon of a Salemite cherub. Bat-El give it to my brother Melchizedek, and by heritage it came to me.”

Her meaning was clear. She was a queen, not a princess. But in truth she was really a seraph of the same order as Hamon or even Rimmon himself.

“So be it, Queen Lilith, state your piece.”

She said, “My Lord. Bat-El is willing to give Belial that which he most desires.”

Rimmon said, “You have not the wit to comprehend what Belial craves most.”

Lilith said, “Indeed, the courtship of elohim is far beyond the reckoning of elyonim, yet Bat-El has put me in something of the role of a chaperone. You must please me to please her. Therefore send the army of Adan back to your own realm, and come not again save by leave of Galizur the rightful king.”

“That is quite impossible, Your Majesty, and you well know it. I never re- linquish one scrap where my forces make footfall. This all in Kemen know.”

Lilith turned to her companion. “What say you, Prince Barachiel? As touch- ing oaths the elohim are never faithless like elyonim or nephilim or men can be. King Rimmon’s resolve never to retreat from conquered land would also hold his army here just as firmly once his word is given.”

Rimmon held up his arms. “See how this land is of small worth!”

Barachiel said, “Indeed it is, and I deem my father would give it in ex- change for the word of a seraph that no Adanite boots would ever across west. And if that seraph’s word one day proved false that precedent, too, would be worth the land.”

“So let it be,” said Rimoon.

Lilith struck up the Killing Relic once more and dug a deep trench in the stony ground between her and the Adanites. She said, “My Lord King Rimmon, sight ye north and south along this line. Henceforth no soldier of Adan shall be found west of this frontier.”

King Rimmon said, “So too shall it be a fence barring yourself and the Fallen Angels from the east. You, and your sons daughters after you, shall be sovereigns in name only, forever in exile, with no city to rule.”

“So be it.” Lilith uttered words formally sealing the bargain as a covenant between elohim.

Rimmon said, “Are you now sufficiently pleased, Your Majesty, that we may proceed to the other thing?”

Lilith said, “Assuming King Galizur does ratify our truce there remains the matter of Demonstroke.”

“Yes, Your Majesty, there does indeed remain the matter of Demonstroke.” King Rimmon reached over his shoulder to draw the blade strapped to his back in a leather sheath, the diamond sword known by the name of Dragon- thorn. “In Kemen there always remains the matter of Demonstroke.”

Rimmon pressed on gems set in the hilt and made the diamond blade to dart this way and that. Then the last dragon in Kemen, Demonstroke, was seen crossing the sky in the north. The dark shape seemed to grow.

As he drew nearer the armies moved apart, leaving only Barachiel, Lilith, and Rimmon standing at the new border. But soon even Rimmon backed away from the line, and the others found it prudent to follow his cue.

Lilith was fascinated by the grace of the landing. The wings of Demonstroke spread to their full extent and he sank. The dragon’s hind legs touched first, then he tipped forward to run on all fours. He slowed to a stop and sank to the ground directly between the three nobles.

The queen noticed that the beast did not belch smoke or even seem to breathe. With the dragon so inert, curiosity overcame her caution. She ad- vanced to touch the creature’s hide and found its scales did not merely resemble metal, they were metal. The dragon was not a he nor a she, but an it. Lilith had flown with Hamon enough times to recognize the avatar of an eloah when she saw one.

Rimmon said, “Come, Queen Lilith. Let us have an audience with King Uriel and so complete our bargain.”

Apparently there was no chamber inside the articulated machine to ride with comfort. King Rimmon seated himself forward of a horn on the dragon’s back. Lilith saw that Rimmon, who was patting his thighs, expected her to sit forward of him behind another horn. She sighed and took the indicated posi- tion, knowing it was the only way to be done of her errand for Hamon.

Demonstroke sprang to life. Lilith was not dismayed by the sensation of sudden rapid flight. She had flown by avatar before.

As Demonstroke rose into the air Lilith looked down and saw Ophan Barachiel turn west to ride home to his father and carry out his unenviable task of explaining why he negotiated away the eastern hinterlands. She also saw the Adanite force dispersing to garrison their new province against invaders who would never come.

The dragon’s head bent back over Lilith and Rimmon on its long neck. Fire spewed out in a jet that propelled the dragon so high the air became almost too thin to breathe.

Lilith was pushed back against Rimmon, and he in turn against the bony ridge at the place where the serpentine neck joined to the rest of its body.

Then Demonstroke’s head bent forward again. It extended its wings and with gentle motions the avatar extended its glide as the wastelands of eastern Magodon rose to meet them underneath. Then, when the tops of trees native to Kemen nearly brushed the belly of Demonstroke it bent its head back again and let loose another long jet of flame.

They chased the two suns out over the sea. Lilith lost count of the drag- on’s cycles. As westering Rigilkent sank below the horizon they glided down to one of the many scattered campfires visible on the island of Sealiah. A party of Brown Beards were preparing to sup around their fire on the moors in the north of the isle when Demonstroke appeared and scattered them all away in abject terror.

When the dragon came to a stop, Rimmon slid off to check what was cooking, and seemed pleased.

Lilith joined him after pissing behind the beast’s bulk and found supper was beef stew made all the more delicious by her near starvation. She smiled and said, “Will your pet have some? Of course not, with only pulleys and ropes inside!”

“What a clever yen to have guessed Demonstroke is mechanical. Tell me, Queen Lilith, did you imagine any living thing could maintain such a hot fire within itself?”

Lilith shrugged. “At least Bat-El’s avatar has provision to ride comfort- ably inside.”

“Bat-El’s avatar can also scatter Larund len and steal their food, but they would already be returning. Not so with a dragon.”

Lilith took a deep swig from one of the abandoned wineskins. “By the gods you have thought of everything, King Rimmon! What a useful toy!”

“But such a toy I am willing to discard, Your Majesty. Tomorrow we will make a gift of it to King Uriel.”

“And when you leave the beast with hem what is the qualifying stipulation? With you there is always at least one.”

“I will make it abundantly clear to the king that world-dwellers must use Dragonthorn to control the dragon, which is true. And I will also impress upon hem that the blade must only be touched by a virgin female or it will grow brittle. That is not true now but it will be true after we reach Jela- ket.”

“I knew it would be something like that! Do you know that Hamon calls you HaSatan?”

“HaSatan? The Accuser?” Rimmon considered it, then he shrugged, because it was entirely warranted.

“No doubt Hamon has also claimed that you are the Students, the ones all elohim are commanded to find. But I am allowing you, collectively, to build the case you are not the true Students. You are not the first creatures of similar kind we have known. There were others, on worlds circling other suns. We spoke to them also, but they did not heed our wisdom. We watched them drive themselves to their own destruction. The true Students will lis- ten to our teachings and obey our commandments.”


The city of Jelaket was the keystone of Kemen. It was a seaport on Thalury and the first step in a staircase ascending the Wall of God. The city was the gatehouse for all goods moving both east and west through Sastrom and she grew fat on the duties levied thereon. Many subjects in Jelaket re- called when Demonstroke came last and none were happy memories. When Rimmon and Lilith landed in the large outer courtyard of the castle of the Cherub Uriel, near the stables, they were most unwelcome, but a dragon need never knock.

From the ramparts of his castle Uriel watched hez archers assemble in a wary circle around the beast. Two riders dismounted. One che recognized as Cherub Rimmon, but the other, a yan arrayed for war, che knew not. They conversed with the guard, and one man ran inside. When this soldier ap- peared he said, “Your Majesty, King Rimmon is come. With hym is Queen Li- lith of Salem. She says they have flown from the frontier between Magodon and Adan and they both crave audience with the king.”

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

“Your Majesty,” said the soldier, “King Rimmon swore the beast would not move one whit, not even so much as breathe, so long as he and the queen remain your guests.”

Uriel sighed. He knew Rimmon always coated his menace with words of honey. He told the soldier to attend to the needs of his visitors and send for First Minister Makassar.

Uriel met the nobles in hez smaller council chamber. Che knew the presence of the dragon, the last remaining alive and the only one ever to cast fire, must portend some deep form of humiliation that che would rather keep pri- vate.

At first glance First Minister Makassar might have been mistaken for the Red Beard king and Uriel merely his son. As a human male, for instance, Makassar actually had a red beard, while the actual sovereign of House Bel- lon, a jen, could barely manage a sparse down.

Lilith and Rimmon both stood up when they entered, but Uriel said to them, “I beg you, esteemed ones, be seated once more. There is no need to observe the usual formalities here.”

Makassar remained standing at the cherub’s side, interposing between Uriel and Rimmon and armed with a sword. King Rimmon glanced at it and Uriel glanced at Rimmon glancing at it.

Che said, “Forgive the perceived affront, but Makassar tells me that you, at least, King Rimmon, will not lay your weapon aside.”

Deliberately, with a pace that gave no hint of the violence feared by the king’s minister, Rimmon brought the diamond blade into view and laid it upon the table with the hilt toward Uriel. Hy said, “Dragonthorn, Your Maj- esty, is not really a weapon but it is, rather a talisman with powerful spells that act as invisible reins upon Demonstroke.”

“Then tell me, King Rimmon, what does your dragon and this blade, bewitched or no, have to do with me or any of my subjects here in Jelaket?”

“Your Majesty, the perpetual family squabbles among the Black Beards do not concern you, that much is true, but should the dragon escape my control it would destroy all life on Kemen. Queen Lilith proposes the talisman that acts as a rein on Demonstroke should go into your safekeeping. More specif- ically, Dragonthorn should go into the possession of a human female who has never known man nor jen nor lan. She must remain pure for all the days she cleaves to the enchanted blade or it will shatter.”

“I will ask only one more time,” said Uriel, “why do you lay this burden upon House Bellon?”

Rimmon answered, “When I brought humans from the other world I have ever played the natural philosopher, mixing potions to see what happens. Will one maid child break the glassware?”

Lilith spoke quickly to fill the sudden awkward silence. “Everyone on Kemen knows you to be a good and wise ruler, Your Majesty. Who better to keep Demonstroke out of play than a consecrated virgin in your own court?”

“Take your talisman, King Rimmon,, and make your offer to Queen Aurra or King Galizur. I am in no mood for your veiled threats.”

After KUriel uttered hez decision the blade began to glow. Blue and white the weapon shone until it became so bright that Uriel, Makassar, and Lilith shielded their eyes. Rimmon simply looked away.

When the glow faded once more Rimmon said, “Behold, the deed is done. Drag- onthorn will shatter of its own accord without a damsel’s touch, and that soon.

Uriel caught Lilith’s eye. “Is this what you intended?”

“I knew only the broad outline of what Rimmon wanted to do, Your Majesty. Not this detail.”

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

Uriel was supernaturally patient with hez daughter Dafla, With all civili- zation in Kemen hanging upon one slender thread, the king took the time to listen to the girl, who was only fifteen years of age, as she spoke of last night’s dream.

“Beloved parent,” said she, “I dreamed it was night and the ground was cov- ered with sleeping metal children. People came out of the sky in two tall silver engines of war that spouted fire, but they wore armor and I could not tell if they were men or women, jin or ambe, yen or len.

“One person picked up a metal child and took it into the first tower. Some- how I knew that metal child was myself, in the strange way of dreams. The tower flew into the sky and we were safe. But the second person stayed be- hind to pick up another child, and somehow I was also back there watching them, again in the strange manner of dreams. That second person was caught by dark iron men who came and killed them. Then I awoke. Parent, is that not the queerest dream you have ever heard?”

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

“As simple as that, Parent?”

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

“Never, Parent!’ Dafla was shocked at the mere suggestion that she would think that, or even dream it.

“If you did blame me,” che assured her, “even in your inner heart, your dream would have been very different.”

Uriel stood up, and walked to Dafla’s window. Demonstroke still lay idle in the courtyard. “Now we must set aside talk of your dreams, daughter, and our lingering grief for your mother, and our lamentation over things we can never change. Did you see the dragon?’

“Oh yes, Parent, but only for a little while. Makassar came and locked my window.”

“He did so only at my command, that you might be safe. I have been speaking with a king and a queen who came with the creature from Adan.”

“Who are they, Parent?”

“One of them is King Rimmon of Adan. He has come here before on a number of occasions. Have you learned something of the elohim from your tutors, Da- fla?”

“Yes, Parent, I learned the elohim are alive but they are not like elyonim or nephilim or humans. We see them as stars. Bat-El is really the star we call Nahash, the head of the snake. Shemhazai and El are so close to us that we see them as suns.”

“Did your tutors tell you the elohim can also appear to us as elyonim?”

“Yes, Parent. They said the first to do this was Bat-El. We know her as the seraph Hamon. And they told me the hot white sun Shemhazai has King Rimmon as his living avatar.”

“The same King Rimmon has just spoken with me,” said Uriel. “He has brought Queen Lilith from the city of Salem far to the East. They demanded to see you, daughter, but truly I have no wish for you meet them.”

Dafla slid off her bed to embrace her parent. “Then send them away! Do you not rule this city absolutely?”

“You do not understand, dearest daughter. Shemhazai’s dragon is capable of killing everyone who lives in Kemen. But somehow Queen Lilith has forced a bargain upon him. The dragon will stay here with us. Demonstroke is con- trolled by a sword that is also the largest diamond ever to exist. But only one such as yourself can touch it. Only a human female who has never been a wife or a mother. One who must never become a wife or a mother! Now do you see why I wish these guests had never come to our palace?”

“I think I do, Parent.”

“In years to come what you must sacrifice will weigh upon your body and mind as a terrible burden. Yet what choice do any of us really have?”

“Parent, do you fear that I, at age fifteen, have no right to decide some- thing for the Dafla at age twenty-five? Or age fifty-five? Of course I do! That’s just me living my life!”

“Such wisdom in a child,” wondered Uriel. “When I hear your words I hear the voice of your mother. But come, let us meet these foreign guests.”

Lilith had known early on that the king’s daughter would be chosen to safe- guard the dragon. Rimmon had conditioned it upon her celibacy, and Uriel, for as long che reigned, could control that absolutely.

Now, once more seeing the diamond blade lying on the table, and knowing King Rimmon had somehow given it complete power over the dragon, a gentle deception suggested itself to Uriel. It would be a way to make bearable the heavy lifetime yoke that was about to be laid upon Princess Dafla.

Che said, “Behold the Dragonthorn, daughter. Take up the weapon and none shall have the power to deny your least whim, save in the matter in which we already took counsel. With the Dragonthorn in hand the beast must obey you. With the Dragonthorn in hand, all my subjects and even these foreign- ers must obey you. If you so choose, daughter, with the Dragonthorn in hand even I must obey you.”

Makassar, Lilith, and Rimmon immediately discerned what Uriel was doing and none dared to contradict hem.

Then Uriel’s daughter did take up the sword, unleashing another light show that impressed everyone except Rimmon, who worked it, and Lilith, wife of Hamon, who knew all sorcery to be mere showmanship like the ruse Uriel was carrying out with Dafla.

King Rimmon said, “The dragon Demonstroke is now entirely within your pow- er, Your Highness. Furthermore, you have the means to travel anywhere in Kemen in a few days rather than many months, and none outside Sastrom now dare assail you.”

Uriel said, “Indeed, King Rimmon, I need not see you ever again, peddling the works of Adanite weaponsmiths and departing with the gold of my treas- ury.”

Dafla took this as a cue to put the power of the Dragonthorn blade to the test. She pointed the tip at King Rimmon and said, “Leave at once, you, on foot if you must, and never return!”

Rimmon rose to his feet.

Dafla pointed the tip at Queen Lilith. “You must leave as well, for your part in bringing my parent so much unhappiness!”

Lilith raised an eyebrow and said, “Indeed.” Sha rose to her feet, but bowed to Uriel while Rimmon did not. The portal formed around them. In ap- pearance it was like an insubstantial ball of glass.

Lilith said, “Farewell, Your Majesty, and in the days to come I hope you will think better of me! In the name of Bat-El may good fortune be with you and all who look to you.”

With a loud report that frightened Dafla to tears they and the portal were gone in the wink of an eye, leaving only the familiar and entirely unneces- sary crater in the floor that was becoming Rimmon’s calling card.


Every million years or so a new volcano burned its way up into one of the two ice sheets of Kemen and broke through. And the ice sheets were always in motion, even if only a few inches every year. For as long as the volcano was active, the moving ice gave way around it.

When the volcano grew dormant, the ice sheets whittled away at its flanks until only the stony central plug remained and the exposed land was closed up once more. In all of Kemen outside of the equatorial belt, only the land of Anshar remained free of ice.

Anshar, however, remained bitterly cold, much more so than Lilith was pre- pared to endure with the raiment she presently wore. Lilith broke into a sprint toward Hamon’s home across the stony plain. The avatar of Belial, a black featureless human-like figure, followed at a more stately pace.

So Belial was come to the stone dwelling of Hamon for the first time. There was much glass, yet natural heating from geothermal features ensured it remained comfortably warm indoors. Laylah, just four years of age, touched the back of Belial’s hand to har forehead.

‘Laylah!’ said Hamon, sharply. ‘That is Belial. Show us how you greet a Seraph.’

Laylah released Belial’s hand as though it had burned har own and moved back a few steps. Then sha sank to one knee and all the while kept har eyes on the floor.

‘Very good, Laylah,’ said her mother.

Lilith picked Laylah up and kissed har. ‘Wait for me in the kitchen baby doll.’

Belial watched har leave, then caught Hamon’s eye. ‘Your daughter.’

‘Sha knew who you were, just not the proper etiquette.” Then Hamon and Li- lith embraced for a kiss of their own.

Belial watched their display of affection with some disgust, but this was not expressed on his blank face. Lilith broke it off and followed Laylah toward the kitchen.

“You should tell Hamon what we have already agreed,” he called after har.

Lilith glanced back. “There is no need. Hamon is always in contact with me.”

Lilith resumed walking away and Belial turned to face Hamnon. “Very well, then you tell me what you think Lilith and Rimmon conceded to one another so there is no mistake.”

“Sha cut a line on the Bellon frontier. Hamon said Rimmon’s forces must never cross west of it. Lilith and her descendants and the Fallen Angels must never cross east. In practical terms, it means Lilith can never return to Salem and rule. But please, Father, be seated wherever you wish. We have further things to discuss as Lilith prepares what might be the last decent meal I will both eat for many days.”

“What do you mean last decent meal?'”

“As an eloah I am female and therefore I have not yet experienced inter- course, but I do have access to testimony by way of El, and no doubt you can confirm, that the experience captures the psyche like no other. Do you see how that will be a big problem in my case?”

Belial said, “I do not.”

“Please, I insist,” said Hamon. “Let us take a seat, and I will explain.”

Belial did so, and as he was seated he took his first real good look at the home. “You have done well for yourself, yet this is still Shemhazai’s world. He never conceded this land.”

“You have an interesting way of courting a lady, Belial, threatening to take away her house in the opening gambit.”

Listening to Hamon refer to hymself (even obliquely) as a lady struck home the ridiculous nature of the whole situation.

“I am an eloah in union with world-dweller flesh. What do you think will happen to my body, left unattended, while we are fully occupied with our lovemaking as stars?”

Belial said, “I imagine you would starve.”

“I would perish for lack of water long before that,” Hamon replied. “And I assure you I am not finished with this elyonim body.”

‘I see you have given this more thought,’ Belial admitted. ‘I trust you have arranged things so you do not lose your living avatar. But recent events have brought something to the attention of Shemhazai. In times past Rimmon had no need of an avatar to move about Kemen. He could open a bridge at any time simply by ordering El to summon a portal. El refuses to do this now, and he refuses to explain.”

“El resents being made accessory to murder. When Shemhazai last summoned a bridge he sent an assassin through to kill King Melchiyahu.”

“I see. El has developed a conscience. But this leaves Shemhazai at a disadvantage. You can retaliate by doing the same trick and sending an assassin of your own. Perhaps Lilith will come to avenge har father.”

“I have never asked El to summon a bridge. He will no sooner bring forth one for me than he would for Shemhazai. Were Lilith to kill Rimmon by the same cowardly trick El’s conscience would be stained that much more.”

“But in the years to follow as our own daughter attains awareness you have the power to do this without the aid of El.”

‘In that you are very much mistaken, Belial. El and Shemhazai can open a bridge on Kemen because they are a relatively close binary system. But when our daughter comes into existence she will be more distant from Kemen in three-space than you are.”

And yet,’ said Belial, “Shemhazai allows you to bypass three-space space by passing a second link through the natural link that formed between yourself and him when you came into existence. In this way you are able to power your avatar with star-stuff in a distant system when otherwise you could not, and in this way you brought us here by a bridge formed between your- self and Shemhazai.”

“I see. So how does Shemhazai propose to remedy this disadvantage he per- ceives himself to suffer?”

“No avatar of our daughter, living or otherwise, will be permitted to trav- el to Kemen. If she attempts to come here despite this ban, Shemhazai will sever the link. This, unfortunately, will also result in your own isola- tion from Bat-El.”

“Heretofore my presence here has only been a side effect of what Shemhazai dubiously claimed to a project to study world-dwellers. If he severs the link he is declaring the research to be concluded.”

“Shemhazai tired of the project long ago.”

“And yet I still have ancillary investigations underway here on Kemen,” Hamon said, and he gestured at his wife and daughter as examples. “I pro- pose raising this to the level of a covenant, Belial. Our daughter will never bring an avatar to Kemen, but my own remote presence here shall con- tinue for the duration of the project.”

“That is not enough. Shemhazai refuses to be at the mercy of El, should he have a change of heart one day in the future and permit assassins to come.”

“Then I hold myself forever bound west of the same border that now re- strains Lilith and the Adanite army.”

Belial said, “Shemhazai accepts your terms. Now, before you ask, I have insisted this little land far to the north of Adan not be placed out of bounds. You can still remain here in your house. I would not want to my put my lady out of the mood for love.”

Hamon went on to the next step, which was to stuff hymself with a meal pre- pared by Lilith. Afterward he would be hydrated and nourished only by in- travenous means.

When living stars mate the male literally extends some of his living sub- stance across the shortcut in space-time that bypasses the parsecs of real space separating him from the female. The sensation is ecstatic beyond all reason but it is only available to him by mating.

For female elohim pleasure comes from her living substance being compressed to accommodate the male, which culminates when their living star-stuff merges to form a third individual. But mating is not the sole means of ob- taining this compression. She can indulge herself.

Put in a more crude way, female elohim could masturbate while males could not. Evolution drove this adaption. The female could postpone having inter- course until she found the most suitable mate. Males, in a perpetual state of blue balls, were motivated to make themselves suitable.

For thousands of years Bat-El had resorted to this expedient, although nev- er while in union with Hamon, since the activity captured her full atten- tion to the exclusion of attending to the basic needs of living as an an- gel. But now it was safe to do so.

Bat-El did the thing once more and felt the organized living nuclear matter that was herself pile up in density, leaving a large area empty in the thin layer of the core where she existed. At the same time Belial pushed into her as well, unaware of the ongoing sabotage.

This is what was supposed to happen:

Eight to ten cycles of Belial pushing his substance into Bat-El over sever- al months, with each cycle culminating in a spherical wave that rang out from the star Sol at the speed of light, seeking a wild F, G, or K sun to germinate.

This is what happened instead:

One cycle of Belial pushing his living substance into Bat-El over the course of three weeks, culminating in the germination of his eloah daughter in the habitable layer of Sol that had been emptied out by Chokhmah by pleasuring herself first.

The deed was done and Hamon, who went into it prepared, was the first to come back to full awareness in Anshar.

Far away hyz half of the stellar body which hy now shared with a daughter was beginning to become permanently male. That brought an abrupt end to the mating.

Lilith helped Hamon remove all the catheters, tubes, and needles, get dressed, then sha gave hym the first hot, solid food hy had taken in three weeks. Hy was pleased to find hy suffered no bedsores. Lilith and Laylah had done well in repositioning hyz body during the coma.

But hyz meal was necessarily rushed. Belial was beginning to realize what had happened and grew more wroth by the moment. The anger would be ex- pressed as a general rampage when the avatar of Belial became fully awake. Hamon did not expect that hyz house would survive, but at least hy and Li- lith and hyz daughter would be safely on their way to Rumbek by avatar when it came to pass.