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Wise Men
    by Orson Scott Card

1st Place - Best Interior Art - 2010

Wise Men
Artwork by Nick Greenwood

I got control of Lytrotis, a half-Greek adviser to King Herod of Judea, in the year 734 of the Roman Republic. It was the 27th year of the Peace of Augustus. It was the last year of Herod's life.

My control over Lytrotis was complete. He had thought I was a god, and that I would make him great -- never guessing that the only power I had was the power to take control of his body, shunting him aside.

He discovered how I had lied to him within moments of my taking possession, but it was too late for him then. I was too strong for him, too experienced. He screamed with all his might, he wrestled with me day and night, and to me his screams were the bleating of a lamb, and his writhing was the fluttering of a moth.

Eloi, my enemy, had given poor Lytrotis what he had denied to me: a featherless biped body to dwell in, with all its pleasures and pains, with those clever little hands, with eyes that saw so clearly and yet saw nothing at all, and with a mouth to speak . . . so that lies could be told.

Lies! Ah, how sweet to tell lies again. During my time between bodies I felt like a prisoner, able to communicate only as we evyonim do in our bodiless state, showing memories to each other, utter truth, so that we stand exposed before each other, all our memories and motives known.

As I stood exposed before Eloi on that terrible day six thousand years before, when he cast us down into the Earth. The featherless bipeds had already spread themselves throughout the world, had already acquired the rudiments of language and the making of tools. They were ripe to be possessed by us, the evyonim, the massless wanderers through the darkness of spacetime, but Eloi had a plan to make these bipeds immortal, the bonds between beast and evyon permanent.

"They are not to be exploited," he said, "they are to be elevated. Your bodiless aeons are over. It is time for you to become like me, if you can -- tied to the physical world again, yet masters of all things. If you can."

His plan was a foolish one. Full of chances for failure. The bodies were too delicious. Once we had tasted them, we would not want to let them go. Yet most of us would lose them. I had seen it before, hadn't I? On the world of the cherubim, the world of the seraphim, the world of the nagidim, the world of the yaminim -- only a tiny fraction of the evyonim were able to keep the beast they rode, and all the rest were given a stunted, crippled, broken version . . . because that's all that Eloi thought that they deserved.

"This time," I said, "we will do it my way. I will not discard them the way you do. I will save them all."

How they rejoiced! But Eloi only looked at his beloved, his darling of darlings, his chosen one, his Beyn, he whose real name I am incapable of saying and whose face I am forbidden to see.

"I will live and die for them," he said. "I will save all who master the beasts and then live to serve the good of all."

"The weak, you mean," I said. "The ones who cower. When I have mastered my beast, I will not cower." I was so brave, and all who saw my courage were rapt with admiration.

In that moment the evyonim chose, and because we cannot lie, Eloi could sort us all at once. One-third of them were mine, two-thirds his. But even if nine-tenths had chosen me, he would have done the same, for the evyonim are nothing to him unless they grovel to him. He cast me down, and my one-third with me, and kept the rest as his darlings, and then he gave them beasts to ride, one by one as they were born.

But they were weak and I was strong. I took whatever beast I wanted. I could not expel the darlings whose beast I usurped -- they remained there, watching me with terror and admiration as I rode the beast the way it was meant to be ridden. And when I was done with it, I discarded it -- they could have the ruins of it for whatever days or weeks or years it might have left. They had seen what greatness could do with a featherless biped; their own life was pitiful by comparison.

Yet every beast I used, I knew I could not keep. The day would come when all his darlings had their beasts, and then he would bind them, the ones he chose: evyon to biped, inseparable, immortal, filled with irresistible power, and yet still the pitiful, cowering, subservient, rule-bound darling without a spark of self-will in it.

And I would have nothing.

One chance I had, and it was now. For I saw the preparations -- they could not be hidden from me. The bodiless darlings who sang to the shepherds, unable to hide their joy. The baby that plunged into the world. I knew who it was inside the little beast. He was here to do what he had promised -- live and die for them, and then rise with the power to make the beasts immortal and bind them to the evyon, so it was no more hungry, but filled now; not evyon but immortal and inseparable ish, beynim like the Beyn.

The despicable darlings.

But if he failed, then all of them were broken, all of them were lost.

When he cast me down everyone thought that I was finished. But he hasn't the power to destroy us. He can deprive us, cut us off, leave us hungering forever, but he cannot make us cease to exist, just as he can't create a single one of us. We can only be found and named, located and led, linked to beasts and thus empowered. We don't belong to him! We are not his property!

I was cast out, but I knew that when they all saw the failure of his plan -- not just the evyonim, but all the ones he had made immortal, who carried out his orders -- they would see that he was wrong.

It is the thing they will not bear, you see. They will not follow him then, if his plan fails. It all falls apart. Chaos is reborn out of his miserable, pinched-off order when they cease to trust in him.

And so I watched and waited all those centuries, until the time came at last. I watched the starships dart between the worlds, the convergence of the beynim. I saw how it all led to now, to here, to Judea, to the people he had fooled into thinking they were chosen but had really enslaved to his niggling laws and then abandoned.

I stood afar off, unable to look directly at the entry of the Beyn into this world. But I knew the nature of the beast.

A baby. Weak. Killable.

Now that Eloi was committed, there was no second chance. This was the only body that his beloved Beyn could ever bind with. If I killed it early, before it came into its power, then his darlings could never be bound. Their beasts would stay in their graves. None would rise. They would be lost forever.

Like me.

Eloi knew the danger, of course. And so he hid his Beyn from me. Somewhere in Judea. Somewhere in the lands ruled by Herod. That's all I knew.

So I came to Lytrotis and studied him, all his desires and dreams. Then I began to reach inside him and kindle little fires, wakening and strengthening the hopes and wishes that were useful to me. He felt my presence and thought that all those fires were promises. Did he want a little power? I showed him his own dreams of taking life and giving death. Did he want honor? I showed him his own face wearing the majesty of kings. He wanted all of it. I never lied to him. I showed him his own darkest desires and he lied to himself, convincing himself that if he let me in, I would give it all to him. I never said.

Fool, Lytrotis! Let me in, and your beast will have it all, but I will be the rider. Are there pleasures? Yes, you'll feel a pale echo of what I, the master of this body, feel. But the choices are all mine, until I tire of this beast and let you have it back.

Until that day, Lytrotis had been a hanger-on, one that Herod tolerated because he was a flatterer and because he was young and attractive. But now, with me inside and in control, with a tongue, with language, I began to be able to lie in earnest. Not flattery, but good advice, based on my thousands of years of learning how the darlings can be controlled.

Herod had long felt his kingdom slipping away. The Romans loomed and circled like vultures: Die, Herod, they seemed to say, and your kingdom will drop into our hands, no matter how you buttress it.

Herod built the Jews a temple, and they still despised him. He built cities and filled them with Greeks, and they looked down on him. He killed his wife and three of his sons when they conspired against him and still he was not safe. As his body aged and sickened, he had nothing left.

Then I took over the body of this sycophant and suddenly Herod began to hear wisdom.

The good news I promised him came true. My warnings saved him several times. All I said to Herod was the purest truth. The only lie was this: that he could trust me.

"In my old age, to have such an adviser as you," he said once. "If I had known you earlier . . ."

But if I had known earlier that this was the time and place, the kingdom would have been mine, and Herod a discarded corpse somewhere.

As for taking him over -- what good would that have done me? He was nearly a corpse already. Sick, in constant pain. His beast would die too soon. I had to use Herod's power to kill the Beyn, and Lytrotis gave me the means to do it. Herod listened to me. Herod trusted me. Herod did what I told him to do.

I set his agents to searching Judea from end to end -- as well as other places heavily infested with Jews, like Galilee and Syria and Egypt. I learned when the baby had been born, but no names, and the parents could have taken it somewhere else by now, for all I knew. Then Eloi tipped his hand.

Three travelers came into Judea, and my agents brought me word before Herod knew of them.

"They're strange men," said Jerubbel. "I thought that they were kings, but they claim not to be. Merely educated men. Sages."

"But strange -- what do you mean by that?"

"Foreign, but not from any place we know of. None of the kingdoms of Parthia -- they speak Persian and Aramaic, but they aren't from any place in Parthia. Names of farther places have been spoken to them, but they claim not to be from any of them. Not India or China, not Samarkand or the Isles of the Sea. 'From the East,' is all they say."

"What do they look like?"

Jerubbel shook his head. "I stare at them intently, but at once my gaze shifts away and I can't remember what I saw. When I don't focus my eyes on them, I can see that there are three -- two tall, one short. They ride on dromedaries, with six more camels behind them, laden with supplies. They have servants who can be looked at -- ordinary men. Those I can tell you about; I talked to them. Two Assyrians, a Babylonian, an Elamite, an Armenian. But they all say the same: I don't know what they look like, or where they're from, or what the language is that they speak among themselves."

"Aren't the servants afraid to be with such strange men?" I asked.

"They are," said Jerubbel. "But the pay is good, and these 'wise men' are mild-tempered and never beat them. So the servants stay, and talk of these marvels to men like me."

"Take this report to Herod as soon as you can," I said, "but don't speak to him of how you can't actually look at them. That will frighten him, and he'll either want to kill them or refuse to see them. Speak to him when I am at his side."

Jerubbel did what I asked, and when Herod heard of these wise men from unknown lands, he sat in thought.

"What a great opportunity," I said.

"Why?" he asked.

"They come from lands that Rome has never heard of," I said. "And yet they came to you."

"But they haven't come to me."

"They entered Judea," I said. "You are king here. Send for them. They will come."

"I don't want to see them," he said. For sometimes Herod had more wisdom than was useful to me. "They don't belong here."

"They don't belong here," I agreed, "which is why you must meet them, so you can learn their business. How can a king be safe with strangers in the land?"

So Herod's men went out and within two days the Wise Men walked into his court and I laid eyes on them for the first time.

I almost laughed aloud.

Of course they could not be looked upon by these beasts. They were not of this species of featherless biped, not even of this planet, and did not want to be known for what they were. A seraph, a yamin, a nagid. The seraph's wings were hidden under a cloak, but I could see them moving as he walked; the yamin's nearly spineless movements made him seem to seep across the floor like something liquid; the nagid hobbled, trying not to move in the great two-footed hops that are native to his race.

All of them chosen as beasts for evyonim to bind with because they were like enough to Eloi: A large brain, language, hands that made tools. All of life on every planet bent itself to creating beasts that Eloi could employ as mounts for those who served him, as Eloi himself once mounted such a beast on yet another world, and bound to it, and made the thing immortal.

It stops here, I thought, as seraph, yamin, and nagid approached. I was not bound to Lytrotis's beast, so I was not blinded as Eloi's darlings were, seeing only the beast-face and never the evyon within. I could not be deceived by their fendings and shadowings. I was not yet trapped within the brain.

The seraph was the one called Asdruel. The yamin was not known to me, but that is because they are not comfortable at such low gravity and rarely come to the world where I have been imprisoned. The nagid was a little pest named Lemuel who liked to write sentimental poetry and have it translated into every language he could find. Such vanity -- supposedly against the rules, but apparently his poems pleased Eloi and so the poems continued to slither their way into every culture.

And because of who they were, and what they were, I knew why they were here. The Beyn would not have power to raise his body from the dead unless they began the transformation now, the deep binding that no other of Eloi's darlings was pure enough to undergo without destroying the body in the process. It had to happen before the baby came into its language, preferably before he began to walk upright. They would have the chemicals, the bioforms, or as these bipeds would say, the potions and the spells.

They would also have the little baby's home address.

No, I could not follow them. They would know me then. But here in Herod's court, I could hide inside Lytrotis and not be recognized.

I could see that Herod was in a mood to be surly and abrupt, but oil was what we needed now, not vinegar. "Be kind and helpful to them, my king," I whispered in his ear, "and they will tell us all we need to know."

By now Herod took my counsel almost before I gave it.

"Why do such esteemed ambassadors come to my poor kingdom?" asked Herod, his voice soft and meek.

Ah yes, thought I, this is the Herod who somehow got both Octavian and Antony to back him, so he could keep his kingdom no matter which of them might triumph in their civil war.

"We come in search of him who is born king of the Jews," said Asdruel, for his mouth was best suited to framing the speech of these bipeds. Herod understood him easily, as did all the court; only I could hear how strained his voice was to make such difficult sounds.

"You may speak to me in Greek," said Herod. "Or Aramaic."

"It is Hebrew in which the prophecies were written," said Asdruel. "We saw the star of the newborn king blaze brightly in the east, and we have come to add our poor selves to his worthship."

"Judea we knew," added Lemuel, his voice squeaking. No one seemed to notice, or if they did, they did not care. Always these "wise men" deflected from themselves whatever they did not want the bipeds to notice. But I was not deflected. I could not be fooled. "Judea, but not where in the land. It is larger than we thought."

I leaned to Herod's ear. "Your own wise men will search out the answer."

"Small compared to Rome," said Herod. "Towns and villages, where Rome is nations and cities. Yet we also have the Law and the Prophets, and men skilled in the searching of them. Perhaps we have a book you have not read, a prophecy you do not know. Stay here and dine, and wash yourselves from your journey. Before your meal and bath are over, we will have whatever answer can be found."

I was amused at the thought of a yamin washing in plain water -- it would osmote every vital mineral right out of his body. So defenseless, the yaminim. Not that he could die -- these three were already dead and then restored, made immortal on their own worlds. But the water would boil away from him and it might be hard to conceal completely from the bipeds.

"We will eat, and bathe," said Asdruel. "And eagerly we await your counsel."

Within a few minutes, Herod had all the Hasmoneans and Sadducees that always lingered in the court, hoping to be the next one named high priest. "Find me where this 'king of the Jews' is supposed to be born," said Herod to them, not oily now, but full of vinegar. "And when you find it, tell me why I was never told of such a portentous birth."

Wise Men
Artwork by Nick Greenwood

"O King," said one of them, "if we told you of every rumored Anointed One, it would take you hours every day to hear of them. They're country bumpkins, most of them, with delusions. Their neighbors and families hush them up or hide them away. They do no harm. They are possessed."

It was true. I let many of my followers amuse themselves by taking over the bodies of mental weaklings and then pretending to be the Beyn. Why not? It amused me and confused his darlings.

Apparently it wasn't hard to find. Several of these priests and scholars had suggestions within the hour, but they were too farfetched. Yet in scarcely more time than the idiotic ones, the right prophecy turned up.

And so Herod had the young scholar who found it read the words aloud. "'And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes, for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people.' Who can the governor be, except the Anointed?"

The Wise Men seemed content with that, nodding and smiling. "Yes," said Asdruel, "that is right."

"We feel the rightness of it when it's . . . right," screeched Lemuel.

Oh yes, that one was a poet.

"Then I, who am Idumean," said Herod, "who serve as king only until this long-awaited one is born -- my life's work is complete and I can die content."

Asdruel and Lemuel and the yamin bowed -- though the yamin was already so near the floor as to make no difference. "Your faithfulness as steward of the newborn king will not be forgotten."

I was sure of that.

"I beg you to tell me now," said Herod, "what day the star you saw appeared, so that we can learn his age and help you find him."

The three of them looked from one to another. I almost made Lytrotis laugh aloud, for of course they couldn't say -- they had been on other planets, where other time-systems were employed."

"We have been so long upon the road," said Asdruel, "and started from three different kingdoms. We expect the child must be nearly one year old by now."

I could see Herod's skin begin to flush. Because he was a suspicious old fool, he thought he was being lied to. "It is often so," I whispered, "in people of their country. They do not have the calendar of Julius, you see."

"Ah," said Herod softly, nodding, the color fading from his cheek. "Of course it is hard to know the day, when you do not have that excellent calendar."

"We will find him," said Asdruel. "Easily, now that we know the name of the town. We beg your permission now, O King, to leave your presence and greet the baby who has been born among the Jews."

"Go, yes," said Herod -- for he needed no prompting from me, when the course was obvious. "Go and seek out the little boy. Only do me this kindness, I beg of you, noble visitors. I am old, and travel little from this home that has become the prison of my declining years. But for this glorious event I will -- I must -- set out from here so I may prostrate myself before the One for whom I have kept such long vigil."

Oh, yes, Herod, that is well-played, I said, without letting the words slip out. I do not have to teach treachery to you.

"Of course we will return to you," said Asdruel.

The ability to lie, I thought, of course it rose with you, Asdruel, when you claimed your new immortal body from the stone where your old dead one had lain. A liar like me, that's what you are, only I'm condemned and hated for it, and you're one of his loftiest Messengers, entrusted with an errand such as this.

The Wise Men rose up and went away, the whole procession of them.

Since I knew they were not coming back, I sent three men to follow them, so they could note what house they entered.

But that was just to satisfy old Herod, who thought he knew my plan.

I did not follow them. I ran ahead -- myself, using the legs of Lytrotis's beast, which had not run in years. But he was young, and if these years of luxury had sapped his strength, I had the power to drive the beast as Lytrotis had never bothered to drive it. I was there when they arrived. I saw them pass through the streets. I felt the little dagger in my sleeve. I had practiced with it. I knew that it would drop into my hand when I needed it.

They deflected the eyes of others -- all knew of their passing, but had no memory of their faces, their misshapen bodies, the strangeness of it all. Only I could see. And so I followed, always keeping a building between us, so they did not see me, could not have guessed that I was there.

It was a little house -- the kind that is rented to a young family starting out. A tall and quiet man who worked with his hands, of a social class that Lytrotis barely knew existed. But I knew him -- one of Eloi's favorite darlings. And the mother! She came out and tucked herself under her husband's arm, and I knew her well. These were strong, and faithful to Eloi -- they would never have let me in the way Lytrotis did. Nor could I have stayed inside them if they had -- there was no place in them where disharmony left space for me to tear them open from the inside. Maddening, that the only evyonim I could work with were the vain and stupid ones, the easily deceived, the greedy ones who dreamed of things that would destroy them if they ever got them. Lytrotis.

He felt my despising him and seethed in the corner of his old self where I still tolerated his presence.

There was no room for these Wise Men in the house, still less for their servants. But they could go into the garden of the larger house next door, and so the young mother ran to the neighbor and asked consent. Apparently it was given, and the mother returned.

Through the garden gate the Wise Men went, and their servants followed, carrying the gifts that they had brought with them to honor the newborn king.

Only I knew what they were. A small chest of the kind commonly used to transport frankincense; a largish covered phial in which the waxy form of myrrh was often carried. And a dozen small bags, tight-knotted and carried in a larger bag; by the weight, it could only be metal, and I knew that it was gold.

The gold was useless -- it was only there to deceive.

As for the frankincense and myrrh, they were anything but that. Philter and bioform, that was what they held. The tools to transform the baby into the kind of being who could only die if he permitted it, and never lost the connection with his body even if he did.

The gifts -- the tools of the operation -- were laid out upon a low stone table in the garden.

Meanwhile, the father and mother had gone back into their house, and now they came out again, a toddler in their arms. I could not be sure of his age, for I could not look at him. I could sense his heft, his size in their arms, but I am forbidden to look upon the Beyn, either through the eyes of a beast or with my own perceptions. I am blind to him. But not to his presence.

If you drive a dagger deep, and slash with it, the body of a baby is so small you are bound to hit something vital, and inflict a fatal wound.

So as the parents carried him from house to house, I drifted among the neighbors, sliding ever closer.

At the gate, when they stopped to pass through single file, I was close enough.

I reached out my hand as if to caress the babe, as several of the neighbors had already done. There was no knife in my hand; I would not let the blade appear until my fingers were already close. None would see the blade, not even as I made the first deep slashes. My hand would cover it from sight. The connection of Beyn to bipedal corpse would be severed in that moment, never to be restored, the body never to be taken up again. All in ruins, all his plans. Vindication. Vengeance. Breaking up and tearing down. What I had lived for all these centuries.

The blade was dropping into place; I felt it against my palm; and then there was something cool against my forehead. Cool, and yet it burned. I would have recoiled from it but I could not, for it did not hurt the skin of the body that I occupied; it was me it hurt. The hidden me, that no one here had seen.

It was the hand of Asdruel against my brow.

And then the hand of the creeping yamin cupping my knee, and the hand of Lemuel the nagid poet on my chest over my heart.

But not my brow, not my knee, not my chest, not my heart. Lytrotis's. Miserable puny weakling fool that he was, he was the darling that Eloi had bound this body to; he was soothed and calmed by their touch, while I was set aflame and felt torture and tearing beyond anything that I had known before.

"Lytrotis," said Asdruel softly. "I am Asdruel."

"Lemuel," screeched the nagid.

And the voice of the yamin rasped his name: "Hhasah."

"In the name of the Beyn," said Asdruel, "we command this spirit to come out of him."

The knife was in my hand. I am the strongest of my kind. The Beyn was trapped in a baby's body, and seeing only what the babe could see and knowing only what the babe could know. He could not bring his power to bear against me. And they did not know my name.

I gripped the knife. Though I burned white-hot at every point where my immaterial evryon self connected with the beast, I pushed the blade forward.

The baby gurgled and laughed. The baby said a word.

"Or," he said. It once had been my name. Yet it might just as easily have been a random sound, no word at all.

"Or," whispered Asdruel. "Once you were of the mighty, a son of the morning. But here you have no power. This body is not yours. In the name of the Beyn, and by his power, which he put in us, we command you to come out."

But I could not obey them. For as they spoke, I was already gone.

Not gone -- I was still there. My boundaries, as far as they could be detected at all, were entirely contained within the body of the beast called Lytrotis. But I did not connect with the beast at any point. It belonged to Lytrotis entirely.

I could sense how he flowed again into every corner of the beast and made it his again. A homecoming it was for him. And in his joy, relief, and gratitude, he wept and sank to his knees.

"Rise up," rasped Hhasah. "Come in and see what we do here."

But Lytrotis did not rise.

"Why are you afraid?" screeched Lemuel. "You are free now."

"I fear it will come back," said Lytrotis, "and take me again."

"It will not," said Asdruel. "We have forbidden it."

And it was true. I could not even hold the thought of taking Lytrotis's beast again. It fled my mind each time I tried to think of it; finally I gave it up so I could think at all.

Lytrotis rose to his feet and let himself be drawn inside the garden. As he went, Hhasah reached up into his sleeve and took the knife and then pushed it hiltfirst into his own body -- such malleable flesh, these yaminim, with nonce pockets wherever they needed them, for as long as they were needed.

I could not ride in Lytrotis now. I was outside the gate. I could not pass through it. The barrier was impenetrable. And I was blind to it. Whatever went on inside, I could not sense it. For where the Beyn was, I could not, an unprotected evyon, go.

But I did not have to see. I knew. The bioforms were introduced to him as he was anointed; the philter was used to lave his body, and it entered him at pores and mouth, and he inhaled the fumes.

Inside the beast, the links to the evyon of the Beyn were made firm and eternal. Mortal, yes, the body still was that -- it could be killed. But only if the Beyn was willing to let it happen.

I should not have done it myself. I should have trained someone, told him to avert his gaze when it was time to kill.

But these were the darlings, after all. Even the greedy fools like Lytrotis were Eloi's darlings, or had been, once. When they came close enough they would withhold the blow. It would not even take the hands of the Wise Men to stop them. Only when he allowed it would they touch him violently, and pierce him, and slay him.

The shock of it faded. The grief. The disappointment. All that was left to me was rage.

But rage could not exist for long so close to him. He didn't like it, and now I had no beast to hold me in one place upon the surface of Earth. I felt myself pushed away as if by the blow of a giant's fist, and then I was on a mountain top, far from Bethlehem, far from Judea, far from Rome. A mountain covered with ice.

Too late now to stop him when it would have been the easiest. But I would find a way.

Meanwhile, I had foreseen the possibility. I am not so vain as to deny the possibility of being beaten, and so I had my plans already laid. Herod's order was already given. The soldiers were already marching. There were eighteen babies under two years of age within the village, and another six in nearby homes. They would die at the first light of dawn.

And one of them would be the Beyn. Bound up now so that he could rise again, but deprived of all his opportunity to teach them how to prepare for death so they, too, could rise. This or that piece of Eloi's plan might be carried out, but not all. They would see it, all the evyonim, all the beynim, all the seraphim and cherubim, yaminim and nagidim, they would see.

I know. The story is already familiar to you.

How the Wise Men left in darkness and went home another way, where Herod's men could never find them -- for they boarded their starship and flew off in a starlike blaze into the night.

And the parents and the baby, they were also warned, and while they had no starship to carry them away, they had the dromedaries and the servants of the Wise Men, and gold enough to pay them.

Gold enough to live in exile for ten years in Alexandria, among the Jews and Greeks of that city, with all the learning of the world to draw upon in his education.

And I was left with the bitter knowledge that every step of mine had been foreseen before I took it. Gold! I had not guessed its purpose. It was his armor; it was gold that supported the Beyn and his parents in Egypt until the atrocities of Herod were forgotten, and no one looked any longer for the babe that had been visited by the strange, unseeable Wise Men from the east.

What was left to me? To act out my part in the plan. And what was my part?

To tempt him and fail to introduce impurity into him.

To use the teachers and scholars to trip him up and confuse him and expose the fact that Eloi cared nothing for these people; but always he had an answer, and the common folk continued to follow him and listen to his words.

And finally, when it was time, when he allowed it, to have him killed.

Useless. Worse than useless -- essential to the plan I hated with all my heart.

Yet as he died, I was there, inside a Roman soldier, and they heard me cry out in his voice: "Yes, take that, you Beyn of Eloi!"

But even those exultant words of mine, as I rejoiced in his suffering, were written down another way, as if I were testifying of him; as if I were afraid.

Worst of all, when he put himself together again, eternal evyon with domesticated beast, he changed you all, all the darlings. We could not possess your bodies any more, not as we used to; you could fight us now and keep us out. Even when the evyonim succumbed to us, we could not feel the passion and the pain of the beast, not as we used to. Otherwise you would have known the bitterness of captivity within a beast controlled by someone else, by me. The Beyn has protected you all your life, and you never knew it, and didn't care.

All this you see so clearly now, because you are separated from your beast, and now I cannot lie to you. But you recognize me, don't you? You know how often I have whispered to you, I or one of those who serve me. You know how I played upon your worst desires -- or your best, when that served my purpose.

I could not stop the Beyn, I never could, I know that now. He was too strong for me, and Eloi watched over him.

But you I can stop. I have stopped you. See how unclean you are? I taught you how to be this thing of filth, and you learned my lessons well, and went beyond them to become a master of self-indulgence and destruction.

Now you see me naked and you know the truth about us both. Do you think that he'll accept you now?

This is not my story and it never was. It is our story.

You belong to me.

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