"Hm. This coastline won't do. I see what Tethys was going for, but... not with the tides we have planned. Not over the long term, at least. A hundred million years, certainly, but that's barely a blip."
Nubium took careful, measured steps. The patience would have been breathtaking for a mortal to watch, the vast and mighty ebon dragon pondering for what seemed like minutes at a time between each rise and fall of his gigantic island-dwarfing paws. When he moved, he moved with certainty and conviction, but it was a conviction born of thought and planning. It was a conviction that let his strong muscles tense and relax with supernatural precision to ensure his limbs each moved exactly the right amount and not a single inch further. His very walk itself was part of his efforts to terraform the gestalt mixture of dirt, stone, magma, water... His toes pressed into the crust with a satisfying and soft crunch, massive walls of soft silt pressed up around the finely-scaled digits and tumbling into place as if it was simply how they were meant to be. The furrows of his broad prints across the globe blended into the surface so naturally that it would take quite some study to even realize they were not natural formations- or rather, it would in the literal billions of years of erosion and weathering it'd take for sentient life to form on this world.
"Clever, though. Tethys does know her oceans. I can see how the grand northern coral reefs she planned for the 4.2 billion-to-4.335-billion era would have carved this coastline into place, but I cannot imagine it surviving long enough to reach that point without changes." He turned to stare into the distance of space, his gaze traveling along some invisible path across the stars. His eyes shone pure white into the void, looking not at finite points, but across time and space in enveloping swathes. "The asteroid passes but does not strike... The alignment of orbits pulls slightly during each 2,923rd pass of the eighth planet... Perhaps... No. Not if we give BOTH the second and eighth planets a single moon." He shook his head. "Certainly if it were just one or the other, but, we're relying on their pull to offset the resource-rich meteor shower in 2.6 billion years..."
Decision made, he turned back to the world beneath his mighty paws. His long furry mane ruffled gently above the (lack of) atmosphere, silky dark strands flowing elegantly along his spine and tail, little motions that only another deity would have recognized as yet more precision work. A pebble rolled here which would inexorably grow into a mountain, the oceans rippled there to inevitably unseal a deep-sea vent that would goad a single-celled organism further towards shore. Even on his massive, world-shaping scale, his every act shaped the world's finest details. If it meant a single shift of one of his draconic toes might take him a week, he thought nothing of it. What was time to a God? What was time to one who shaped not only life itself, but the foundations and flow of life?
It was still of utmost importance. But that importance was expressed far differently than it might be for a being who only lived a mere ten thousand years.
Nubium raised a clawed finger to his muzzle thoughtfully, its obsidian surface glinting bright in the white luminance of his divine gaze. "That crater. I'm not sure I mentioned to her that I would be adding that crater on this world's moon in 1.3 billion years. Perhaps if... Yes. An indentation... Another asteroid? No, best to use an existing mountain that resists the crater's formation slightly. Yes. That should fix things."
His decision made, Nubium remained motionless. After all, he needed to continue standing in his current spot for another minute and a half, to let his celestial weight compact the plate just right. It needed to shatter quite violently to kick up enough ash and soot in 3 billion years, and it especially did not need to shatter in 4 billion years, to be sure... But he did not let that stop the needed change from taking place. Time was important, and time was also malleable.
In the 'near' distance, the surface of the moon both did and did not shift slightly. The changes took place, but were only visible when one looked at the vast stone orb rotating around Nubium's perch separately from its current position in space and time. To this universe at large, they were not changes, they were not even differences- they were already how things had always been. One able to stroll across the web of histories and futures, however, would know otherwise.
In the present, a small pile of unattended stones on the moon's face started to rise upwards, mass accumulating and drawing from its surroundings in specific furrows and trails. It grew and melded seamlessly into the rest of the surface, towering dozens of feet high, then hundreds, then thousands, never for a moment appearing to be anything but the original and actual design right from the start. As it neared a mile at the peak, it finally paused, little specks of moon dust rolling down from the tip and extending the last few needed ledges and bumps just right. This new-yet-old mountain had a very specific shape- not distinct or interesting to a shallow glance, but, specific all the same. One which could lead to but a single future, a future planned and prepared by divine hands.
In the ancient past, Nubium slid the exceedingly fine point of a single fingerclaw across the surface of the moon in extremely precise, extremely thoughtful, extremely repetitive motions. With a patience beyond the greatest of Bonsai masters, Nubium calmly and carefully made miniscule adjustments to a city-sized span of the crust, giving each stroke the utmost attention for hour after hour after hour. Sometimes he waited for his newly-shifted pile to settle, motes of dust tumbling here or there, and other times he proceeded to the next stroke at once, aligning each degree of the circumference of the mountain in turn. There was no hurry. He had all the time he needed. It was laid out before him like a utensil on a craftsman's workbench, the very concept of linear cause and effect one of the finest tools in his repertoire.
In the present, Nubium nodded confidently, admiring his own future handiwork already displayed upon the orbiting fraction of his domain which he had not yet performed, his actions to be which would occur in ages past. "Excellent. I believe that should conclude matters on my end. How do your plans fair, Tethys?"
I believe I could use your assistance in an examination, Nubium, my love.
Nubium blinked. And then noticed the sun was a glowing golden metal, rather than a glowing golden plasma sphere.
Tethys' body sprawled before him, her magnificent form beneath the world like a distant land above which the earth floated- the entire system floated. Her scales gleamed and glittered in the light of her celestial jewelry, prismatic sparkles of pink-tinged glow so dazzling that it took his breath away. Her dark dress provided cover and contrast to her brilliant visage, leading down her long legs to her distant paws and up her long torso to her curved chest, fading into the texture of space as if they were one and the same. Her necklace, her faux sun radiating faux rays of light, shone with all the glory and power of the real thing, its beams of matter rather than solar radiation. It hovered perfectly in place, matching the inestimably vast patience of its bearer, aloft betwixt and above her breasts. There was not even a distant jingle of its chains bouncing and settling, the loops of gold simply in their proper places and holding fast.
Spirals of flowing hair, pure white and fine, flanked the necklace, guided the viewer. The smile of Tethys loomed, her eyes far larger than the globe upon which Nubium stood. They shone with sacred power, and grand mirth. She watched as Nubium gawked, her beloved momentarily unsettled by the rapid shift in reality. The entire system was upon her, spinning in its eternal orbits, bathed in her scale-shine. They took little curves and waves in their motions as needed to pass around her features, although most simply continued on in perfectly-positioned gaps in her curls and her clothing and her jewelry.
Nubium had to catch himself before he stepped forward, undoing all his precise standing and planning and waiting of the past few minutes. "My beloved, your radiance is eternally glorious. Come what may across the eons, both forwards and back, I don't believe I shall ever tire of these sights."
Her head turned, moving both slowly and swiftly at once. The graceful, gentle sweep moved so little to the goddess, yet shifted so much to the worlds upon her. The shine of her glowing eyes settled fully upon Nubium as his perch floated in its wide curving path, tracking his motions as she watched him back. Wonderful, my Nubium. It sounds as if I have your approval in this grand design.
As the world's orbit continued, Nubium found himself drifting behind a floating curl of hair. As it drew near, he reached out a hand and ran it through the thick strands, claws gliding smoothly between, feeling her warmth and power even through the ivory tendrils. "Fully and earnestly, Tethys."
Special thanks to VDO for writing the rather wonderful above story, inspired by this picture.
Tethys and Nubium are quite the professionals. Well, they try to be. But occasionally, it's just that tiny bit too tempting to just sneak in a little bit of teasing in, and just completely loom over the other one while the other's at work.
Tethys here seems to have replaced the sun with her necklace when Nubium wasn't looking, which is going to make for a very interesting orbit for the planet he was working on... not that he minds. He really could get used to views like this!
The previous poll actually ended in a two way tie for second place, and as such. This is actually one of three pictures that will be getting coloured from the poll. Also, the alternative versions of this picture are rather subtle, so I've included them all in the same upload.