Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Ravella is a blighted world, riven and sundered before man ventured into space. The race or races responsible are hopefully dust as well, because the fury they vented upon this planet was breathtaking in its totality. But whoever – or whatever – held Ravella dear was not to be deterred by the apocalypse visited upon them. They adapted.

It was sheer luck that put an imaging satellite over the Gorge that day. It was a coincidence of timing and position that made everyone involved shake their heads and glance about nervously. They were puzzled by chill pangs of a supposedly long-dead thing that used to be called superstition.

On a world ravaged by winds that howled across glassy tundra that spanned whole continents, a single rift sheltered a planet’s ecosystem. Aligned so perfectly that it was illuminated right down to its depths regularly enough by sunlight, yet concealed from discovery by anything except a lone viewer high above, at a precise time and place, for only a few minutes each day. Outside of that, the Gorge was shrouded in shadow and easily discounted as another barren, mile-deep crack amongst the many.

In the Gorge, the craggy, precipitous walls were festooned with flora that hung, sprawled or clung to surfaces you would have thought impossible for anything to thrive upon. Down in the depths, a floor was swept by a swift river that whirled past dozens of islands. Each cluster of islands exhibited differing habitats. Within those habitats, creatures that could not thrive in another environment lived alongside the visitors and predators from the walls. Some species had evolved to use the walls as their hunting grounds, but they were few. The sheer scale of the place was baffling. The scope of the ecological planning involved to balance this entirely artificial, two-hundred-mile long preserve has driven experienced ecodesigners to tears of joy and frustration.

Amidst this abundance of flora and fauna, there is only one trace of those who created it. On a single island, set at the westernmost end of the Gorge, a great boulder had been sliced in two – without trace of method. On one smooth face, graven eight inches deep, is a lexicon of stunning complexity. Once translated, it gave meaning to the paragraph graven upon the opposite face.

“Let the cause and participants of the conflict be unknown. Let that which we forgot be the thing that is remembered.”

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