"Oh," Omago said then, "this part of the world already has a life-form much like some of those we've encountered on other worlds."

"Could you be just a bit more specific, dear heart?" Ara asked. "Exactly what is this creature?"

"It's primarily a bug, dear," Omago replied. "It has six legs, a sort of shell to keep other creatures from eating it, and a tendency to live in caves. I very briefly touched what passes for a mind, and this bug-creature is very ambitious. It wants this entire world, and it's creating children by the thousands to take this world for it. It calls itself 'the Vlagh,' which most probably means 'mother.' I'm quite sure that any creatures we make will have to deal with it."

"I've been considering this for quite some time now, dear heart," Ara said to Omago some time later. "You and I aren't limited to this particular world. Things have a way of popping out when we least expect them, and if some emergency breaks out on another world, we could very well have to go deal with it no matter what's in the wind here."

"It's possible, I suppose," Omago conceded. "I take it that you've come up with an answer?"

"I think we need children, dear heart," Ara replied.

Omago's face suddenly turned bright red.

"Is there some sort of problem with that?" Ara asked with wide-eyed innocence.

Omago blushed even more, and Ara laughed with pure delight. "Are we having some problems with the idea, dear, dear Omago?" Then she fondly touched his face. "We don't necessarily have to do it that way, you know. We have alternatives available to us. I can call them up with a snap of my fingers—and they wouldn't be of much use if they were infants anyway. Once they're in place, you and I can sort of fade back and let them deal with any ordinary problems while you and I take care of more extraordinary ones."

"I don't know, dear heart," Omago said a bit dubiously. "If we give them absolute power, they could make some disastrous mistakes."

"Not if we put some limitations on them, they won't. 'No killing' should probably be at the top of the list, wouldn't you say?"


"Of course, if we don't permit them to kill, that would mean that they won't eat."

"We can get around that if we have to," Omago said. "They can absorb light instead of food."

"Very good," Ara agreed. "Then too, they'll need to be awake all the time as well. Emergencies crop up without much warning, so I don't think they should need sleep."

"No creature stays awake eternally, Ara."

"I'll work on that and see what I can come up with."

"It won't work, dear heart," Omago said when Ara described her concept of the god creatures who would rule the Land of Dhrall.

"What's the matter with it?" Ara demanded.

"Females are very pretty, but I think we'll need males as well."

"What for? They aren't going to have children."

"Would you be contented if I wasn't around?"

"Bite your tongue!" Then Ara felt just a little foolish. "For some reason it just never occurred to me that we'd need males as well as females."

"Something else too, dear," Omago continued. "I think we should give some serious thought to producing ordinary creatures who'll closely resemble these gods. We want the gods to have a sense of responsibility. That in itself will keep them from wandering off."

"Now that's a very good idea, Omago," Ara agreed. Then something came to her. "You do realize that we'll be creating an entirely new species, don't you?"

"So?" Omago replied blandly.

"You're making this very complicated, dear heart," Ara complained.

"That's all right, Ara. Complications make things much more interesting, don't they?"

Ara glared at him for a moment, but then she laughed.

Chapter Three

Ara was quite sure that Omago's form and hers should also be the forms of the gods of the Land of Dhrall. "The time may come when we'll need to speak with them, dear heart," she told her mate, "and they won't be disturbed if we resemble them to some degree. Then, when we create their worshipers, they should also resemble their gods—and us as well."

"Not a bad idea at all," Omago agreed. "The time may come some day off in the future when we'll need to blend in with the worshipers and their gods, and it'll be much easier if we all have the same number of arms and legs. Shall we begin?"

"Why don't you make the bodies, dear? Just the general shape. I'll build their faces, and then we can both work on their characteristics. We'll want them to have individual identities and personalities, wouldn't you say?"

"You're very creative, Ara," Omago observed.

"Details, dear heart. Fine art grows out of details. In a certain sense what we're about to conjure up will be fine art. They'll need awareness as well as bodies, and we'll want them to think like we do as well as resemble us."

"A thought before we begin," Omago said then. "They should probably have memories when they become conscious. I think they should believe that they've always been here, and that this day is just an ordinary day like one of several million others." Then he frowned. "They may think that they've lived for thousands of years, but you and I will both know better. They will live for a long, long time, but eventually the years will catch up with them, and they'll need to sleep for quite some time to refresh their minds."

"Who's going to mind the Land of Dhrall when they drift off to sleep, dear one?" Ara protested.

Omago scratched his cheek. "If we do this right and don't permit any weaknesses to crop up, I'd say that they'll be good for about twenty-five eons, and then they'll have to sleep for the same amount of time."

"There goes our grand plan," Ara observed.

"Not really, dear one," Omago said with a sly grin. "All we'll need is a second generation to take over when the elders start to snore. We decided that four gods would be sufficient, but it seems that we were wrong. We'll need eight instead. The first four will tend to things for about twenty-five eons. Then they'll go to sleep, and the second four will take over. If they pass it back and forth like that, they should all survive for a long, long time, and that's what this has been all about. You and I must not be tied down here. We have other responsibilities as well as this one. Let's get started, dear heart. This might take a while."

Omago was nice enough not to protest when Ara declared that she would name the gods—both the elders and the youngsters. Omago was not particularly poetic, but Ara could weave names by the dozens. After much thought, she named the elder gods Dahlaine, Zelana, Veltan, and Aracia. There was a musical quality about those names that Ara found very attractive. The younger gods—when the time came for them to wake up—would be Balacenia, Vash, Enalla, and Dakas.