Chapter IV

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Arabia, 788 B.C.

URIEL HAD NO MEMORY of this state of being.

Then the perspective switched, and she hovered above herself. I am overtaken—possessed in every way—by the Bloodstone, by evil. The perspective switched again and she flew high above it all, watching what happened next.

At the center of her being was a flame. She understood it to be her heart, and just as she understood this, she watched as its light was snuffed.

But it didn't go out. It was merely redefined. What was once light and truth was now darkness and untruth. And there was a difference between untruth and lies, for lies were ultimately creative and therefore, subject to the kingdom of El. Untruth, however, was a simple opposite. And simple opposites were clean and free.

High above, observing, she knew all of that to be blatant fraud, but in her memories she could see how and why she bought it, believed it, why it had seemed sensible, even logical.

Her light became darkness. Therefore, her darkness became light. And now she was free from all restraint, all sense of remorse, guilt, fear, and doubt because there was no tomorrow, no eternity, nothing but what pleasure could be derived in the Now, the Self.

She lived for whim. She was like the wind.

And then—thirst. Hunger. She wanted only one thing. Destruction. The hatred she first felt when she was activated by the Brotherhood now came rolling back over her, a thousand thousand times stronger now, and she knew where she would go and what she would do.

Ke'elei would fall and at her hand.

Uriel was only slightly aware of herself as she swirled down and down, beneath the folds of the ground, entangled with the grasping fingers of the Bloodstone. She had no rest from its wickedness; there was no place to which she could run from him and be safe. Her mind was beginning to bend in unnatural ways now, and her thoughts were beginning to come from somewhere outside herself.

The dual presence moved deep below the City of Refuge and began to spread itself like a disease in the bedrock.

* * *

"NEVER LET IT BE said that our forces lack imagination," said Piankhy, the commander of the armies of the Brotherhood, his countenance lit in red by the presence of the Bloodstone. He brooded over its captivating lust-ridden beauty in the seclusion of his campaign tent on a little knoll in the wood a few leagues from Ke'elei.

This strategy, which he was just now beginning to understand, was new—it was unique.

The Brotherhood horde that had massed itself in its hundreds of thousands at the gates of Ke'elei was only one element of a two-pronged attack. The other element, the crushing blow, would come when the servants of El least expected it, and from impossible places.

Victory was assured. The Fallen, the angels who were not cursed, would become extinct today. This bitter feud would end and the true Nephilim would reign over the earth as it had been promised.

His Nubian armies had subdued the whole of Egypt, and like Alexander would hundreds of years later, Piankhy hungered for more. His mystic enthusiasms had led him to new depths, and his court magicians had uncovered new possibilities for conquest that made the natural world's wonders pale in comparison.

But it came at a price, for Piankhy would not be able to wallow in the selfsame glories as did the previous bearers of this precious stone. No, he would not be Seer. He would be forced to stand off at a distance as the Bloodstone moved and worked autonomously. He didn't understand all the details, but he did know that there was no room for an additional inhabitant now. There was already a confusion of presence in and around the Bloodstone, a duality that at times made things . . . difficult for him.

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