Omago carefully planted those names in the minds—and false memories—of the assorted gods, and then he stepped out of sight and stirred the awareness of the four elders.

"What's going on here?" the grey-bearded, but still only three or four minutes old, Dahlaine demanded.

"I was just about to ask you that same question, big brother," the goddess Zelana declared. "As I remember, I was looking at a range of mountains, but they're not there anymore."

"I'm not sure that I'm right, Dahlaine," the youthful Veltan declared, "but it seems to me that you called us together to warn us about something you called the Vlagh."

"Ah," Dahlaine replied, "now it comes back to me. I've spent many, many eons watching insects. I pretty much understand the ones that have been around for a long, long time, but this Vlagh insect seems to have a number of troublesome ambitions."

"That's absurd, Dahlaine," the goddess Aracia declared. "Bugs can't think coherently enough to have anything even remotely resembling ambition. All she wants to do is lay eggs—by the thousands."

"Exactly," Dahlaine replied. "The Vlagh seems to think that if she lays enough eggs, her children will run out and steal the world from us. She seems to think that the whole world rightfully belongs to her."

"Not while I'm around, she won't," Veltan declared. "If she even tries to usurp any part of my domain, I'll tie all six of her legs into a knot so tight that it'll take her years to get unraveled."

"Can we watch, baby brother?" Zelana asked with some show of enthusiasm.

"Feel free, big sister," Veltan replied. "If the Vlagh comes south, I'll climb all over her."

Ara smiled. The memories Omago had planted in the minds of these newly created godlings had convinced them that they'd been around for eons and eons instead of just the few minutes that they'd really been here. "Everything seems to be working the way we want it to, dear heart." She sent her thought to her mate. "The false memories you gave them are firmly in place. Do you think we should make the younger ones as well right now?"

"We don't really need them right now, Ara," Omago replied.

"When do you think we should start making their worshipers?"

"Let's hold off on that for a while," Omago said. "I think these elders will need some time to adjust before we make the ordinaries who'll worship them. There are enough animals here to make these elders know that they aren't the only life-form in this world."

"Are we pretty much finished here?" Ara asked.

"I think so, yes."

"Maybe we should drift around and have a look at the other lands on this world," Ara suggested. "If there are people in those lands, we might need people here as well."

"Let's go look then," Omago agreed.

Omago was more than a little reluctant to set his body aside and revert to awareness only when they left the Land of Dhrall to look at the other lands.

"It's much, much faster, dear heart," Ara advised. "There are several limits involved if you drag your body along. All we need to do is look, and our awareness can take care of that."

"It just seems so unnatural to do it that way," Omago complained.

"What's 'natural' got to do with anything?" Ara demanded. "You and I are from another time and place, so the rules of this time and place don't apply to us. Just try it, Omago. I've done this before, remember? There are—or may be—things we need to know before we make any decisions, so let's get on with it."

"All right." Omago surrendered.

Ara smiled. "See? That wasn't too hard at all, was it?"

They separated their awareness from their bodies and crossed the rolling sea lying to the west of the Land of Dhrall.

"Is that what I think it is?" Omago's thought silently asked.

"Where?" Ara asked.

"Right at the edge of the water," Omago replied. "I don't think it's an animal of any kind."

"It's standing on its hind legs," Ara agreed, "and it does have hands. I don't think any animals have hands. What's it doing down there?"

"I think it might be trying to kill a fish-creature," Omago replied. "That's probably why it's carrying that long, pointed stick. It's probably hungry, but very primitive. Let's move on, dear heart. There might be more advanced people in other lands. If they're all as primitive as this one, I think we can hold off on providing the gods of the Land of Dhrall with worshipers."

They drifted on down toward the south, and when they reached the land beyond the sea, they saw a fair number of collections of what appeared to be rude huts.

"Shelters," Omago surmised. "Protection from bad weather. If they're intelligent enough to build things like that, they almost have to be people."

"And that smoke says that they've discovered fire," Ara added. "They may have found out that fire will protect them from cold weather." Then she peered down at a fair-sized collection of huts. "What in the world is that one doing?" she demanded. "It appears to be a female, and it's got part of some other animal propped up over an open fire."

"It smells quite interesting," Omago added. "I'd say that the she-thing found a way to make animal flesh taste better."

"Now that's something that never occurred to me," Ara said. "Raw meat would probably taste a lot like blood." She considered the notion and decided to try it when they returned to the Land of Dhrall. "I know that you'd rather wait a while before we made worshipers for the gods we've already created, but if the Vlagh tries to usurp the Land of Dhrall, we're going to need people. The gods we just created aren't permitted to kill, but it seems that people don't have that kind of restriction. They might not want to eat the children of the Vlagh, but killing doesn't always involve eating."

"I think you're right, dear heart," Omago agreed. "I thought it might be best to wait a while before we introduced worshipers, but that might have been a serious mistake."

They drifted on farther to the south and saw that the people of that area ate roots and berries and other forms of plant life as well as animal flesh.

Ara was quite certain that they should create man-things as well as gods to inhabit the Land of Dhrall, and, unlike the gods, the man-things would need food. Raw food would keep the man-things alive, but food that had been placed in the vicinity of fire would almost certainly taste better.


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