Declan alighted on the ridge once the site of Nemisin’s mountain palace, he who was First Father to the Valleur, first Vallorin and first Enchanter. This world had long been dead, a world avoided for its killing deserts and extreme heat, and was now made new, a promise Saska, wife to Torrullin and the previous Lady of Life, made only to herself. It was a promise she kept, for herself, for Torrullin- the latter to prove she was his equal in some things- and because she thought it imperative to the manner in which the Valleur were viewed universally. She prevailed upon her successor, the Lady Lily, to bring all her renewal talents to bear on a sterile world, and Lily, challenged, achieved a wondrous miracle. Xenian scientists helped, as well as biologists from other worlds, and Nemisin's world today shone like a green jewel in space.
Declan walked over to the edge of the ridge and peered down. Once only rock, sand and nothingness shimmered in the heat below; now he stared in awe over a vast green plain, grasses waving in benign temperature, and in the distance he could make out the tell-tale glint of a broad watercourse. Massive trees dotted the landscape and there were wild animals grazing where before there was no life at all, not even a microscopic bug. It would never be a jungle, this world, not even a forest, but it was so green it hurt, and the wild expanses of glorious silence beckoned a visitor to peace. Huge mountain ranges were purpled by distance and were no longer hot rocks of sterility; they hosted lakes and waterfall, great birds and scrub that was a-flower all year. As was the mountain he stood upon. As far as the eye could see there were flowers, low grass and trickles of fresh, clean water. The cries of eagles, falcons, hawks, owls, ospreys and many others sounded far off and filled the silence with music.
He stared up. The sky was sapphire blue, the sun a bright disc overhead. It seemed unlikely it could ever rain here- and had not for thousands of years before life was coaxed back- yet water there was on the fertile plains and gathered in the embrace of the mountains. He knew, for Saska told him, this world had two seasons, both generally hot; one was dry, the other wet, and that was all. He now spied roiling thunderclouds on the horizon and realised it heralded a thunderstorm, but perhaps it would not travel this far before dumping its load. It was not yet the wet season.
He turned around. The cool mountain abodes had been reopened, shored up, excavated where necessary; the entrance lay before him. According to Saska, and that was ten years ago, the palace in the mountains required years of labour to restore to former glory, but the attempt was in progress and she had chosen to live on the site of the renovations. Five years ago she sent Lily away to her other duties, for the planet had achieved a state of self-sustenance, and proceeded to concentrate her energy on the world inside the mountain. Caballa, he heard, had joined her. And perhaps there were others now.
He crossed the ridge and entered the blessed cool and was astonished. He expected darkness and found mural walls, a tinkling fountain, and plants healthy in lovely urns and bowls. Pebbles shone through the water of the fountain like jewels. Beyond were more chambers- for one could not call them caverns- and each was as welcoming and attractive as this one. Bridges spanned canals filled with cold mountain water and the tinkle of liquid bliss was everywhere. Lifelike, painted renditions of creepers vied for space with the real thing and in all hues of green one could imagine. Dainty roses tumbled from beautiful containers and daffodils and cornflowers spilled from verges alongside the canals.
As Declan walked open-mouthed into the palace that was older than he was, he discovered sunny courtyards, cool squares, green lawns, bright ponds, more bridges, realised the canals teemed with tiny, bright fishes, saw more flowers than he had seen in years of visits to other worlds, and was utterly astounded. He came to a halt in a large chamber and stared up. Sunlight poured through open domes in the rock, but was filtered by crisscrossing vines and creepers, and tiny birds flitted in and out of the foliage. The stone underfoot was polished to a mirror sheen and the walls rendered in lifelike landscapes. The whole was so peaceful he wanted to lie down in its embrace forever. A tear slid over his pale cheek and his wings quivered with emotion. It was a true haven. Torrullin would find peace here. This was a Throne-room for a god.
(This excerpt is from Sacred Space, Volume IX of the Tales, and hasn't yet been published. A teaser for you- it's coming soon)