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Nine Powers Stories

Repentant Oxbow

After the Six Splendid Trees were poisoned, all the people who drank from their river became ill, wicked, and violent. Yarnspinner was uncorrupted, but did not know what to do. So he summoned the wicked people before him and spoke harshly to them. They cowered before his voice. Only one wept, a small Bergtroll.

The Creator appeared. "Cease, Yarnspinner," The Creator whispered. "They have been forever tainted by the polluted water. They are corrupted. They need their doom, not a scolding."

Then The Creator spoke to all the people who had drank the water. The Creator did not excuse their wickedness but explained that they could not be allowed to remain in their evil. "Yet," concluded The Creator, "You are my creations and I cherish you. I cannot kill you. So I would make your into a new thing: clouds. As clouds your selfishness will cause no harm. You will absorb by your selfish nature. You will also learn to release. You will try to devour each other when you touch. You will also learn beauty in relaxing in many sizes and shapes. Your taint will slowly lessen though centuries of clean water."

The Creator's speech had no anger, but the doom was heavy. All the people who listened bowed their heads under the weight of those words. Except for one, that same small Bergtroll, who held his head high. He accepted the doom, so its weight upon him seemed small. And again he was the only one to weep.

When his pronouncement was complete, The Creator approached the little Bergtroll and asked him, "Do you know that you alone are repentant?"

The little Bergtroll said, "I am little and can only see my own heart. I have revelled in selfishness and violence. Even as you spoke, my thoughts wandered and delighted in contemplating more selfishness and more violence. Yet I grieve that I am so. When I am a little cloud, will those who see me know to despise me?"

The Creator answered, "None shall despise you. You shall not become a cloud, for you alone are repentant. Instead, I will give you oversight over those are trying to improve. I will give you the power and wisdom needed to watch over them and guide them."

The little Bergtroll answered quietly, "Who am I to do such work? Who am I to guide another?"

The Creator continued, "Not all selfishess is adversarial. Not all violence is destructive. Not all competition is combative. Not all absorbtion diminishes. You will learn about these lessons deeply, and I will empower you to embody their teachings."

The little Bergtroll repeated, "Who am I to do such work? Who am I to guide another?" And he lowered his head.

The Creator asked him, "Why is your head lowered? It is not from doubt."

The little Bergtroll whispered, "No, I do not doubt. I do not doubt that you have chosen me. I do not doubt that you will provide the power and wisdom your servant needs to complete the task you assign. I do not doubt you have given me the great of honor. But...I do not want to do this."

The Creator asked, "What do you want?"

The little Bergtroll sighed and seemed to shrink. He answered, "I do not know what I want. Will you ask me again in a year?"

Then The Creator laughed and the glare of The Creator's glory increased until the little Bergtroll could see nothing else. All the other people became afraid and backed away. But the little Bergtroll remained still, even as he worried if he was forever blind.

Then The Creator said to the little Bergtroll, "I will give you what you ask. Once the Age of Greatness has drawn to a close I will still speak to my creations but I will no longer show myself visibly—except to you. Each year I will appear before you again, so visible and close that you will again be blinded for many days. And I will ask you again if you know what you want. Eventually a year will arrive when you will know what you want."

The little Bergtroll wept for a third time, and bowed his head to the ground.

The Creator touched the little Bergtroll with one hand and said to him, "You will be my second Power. Take comfort. Surprisingly soon you will learn to love those under your care. Then you will watch and guide them because of your affection and mercy and empathy, rather than because it is a task I have assigned to you. And that is why no one shall despise you, even though all will know that long ago your heart was as corrupt as any heart could be."