The Origin of the Peoples
Now, it had been about a week since the Flameraven had finished cleaning up the world that she'd found floating in the river. That's another story and I'll tell it to you at another time. She'd had a hell of a time drying it out and cleaning it off, and a lot of it was still covered in river muck and water, but it looked real pretty, so she was happy.
The Wildserpent, he comes along, and he asks Flameraven what she's got. She tells him that it's a world that she found. Wildserpent asks if he can hold it and, not knowing any better, Flameraven says yes.
With a flick of his wrist, Wildserpent has the world spinning and flipping and doing all kinds of tricks. And every time he catches it, forests grow up where his fingers touched and bits of his old skin fall onto the world and become beasts. He runs around, playing with the new toy, Flameraven running after him, all day until she says, “Wildserpent, this isn't a toy for you to play with, it's a work of art and I spent a lot of time on it!”
Now, Wildserpent realizes that he's made a mess of something that Flameraven's worked real hard on, and he feels very sorry. “What can I do to make it up to you?” he asks her. She tells him that the place is never going to be completely clean of all the living things that he put on there, so it needs some people to make sure everything stays in check, and the plants and animals don't choke the world.
Wildserpent agrees that this is a good idea, so together, the two of them start to working. They make the orcs, strong and stubborn, out of trees. The goblins, crafty and hardheaded, they make out of the rocks. The gnolls, brave but ambitious, they weave out of clinging vines. The trogs, cunning and smelly, they build from the ferns that grow on the riverside. And, lastly, they take some pretty pigments from Flameraven's medicine bag and paint the dragons to watch over them all.
While all these new peoples are still wandering around, the great spirits put on a big show so everyone will gather together. They tell everyone, “hey, we've got this nice world here and we'd like you to take care of it for us.” It's a choice, though; when you're fed up with all the work it takes to keep this world whole and running smoothly, you can just shuffle off to your afterlife without anyone's permission but your own. That's the last thing they told the new peoples; there aren't any folks with a right to tell you what to do unless you want them to.
We're on this world to see to the plants and the animals and to make sure it all stays working together the right way, and there aren't any of us more special than the others in this task. If you spend your time trying to control others instead of controlling the world, then you've got it all wrong. Life is a great responsibility, but it's not slavery; every breath is a gift from the great spirits, and not even they plan to take it from us. We're here to guard the world, but we're not a slave to it.
When Darkness Fell
Have you ever watched the rabbits scatter when they see the shadow of a hawk crossing along the ground? They don't really know what's going on, but they know that something dangerous is coming. For a time before the coming of the great Metal spirit, we knew the same fear.
We don't know where he came from. Maybe he went from place to place, collecting worlds. Maybe the last place he was, they drove him off. Maybe he was just mad at the freedom our great spirits gave us, and wanted to make us understand how to be slaves. Have you ever seen a chain? That's what metal's best at; all it takes is one strong man to eventually destroy any bindings of leather, stone, or wood, but metal can stand up to an army.
And an army is what we made. Once we realized the danger that was coming, all the tribes united and stood against the invader. He was strong. His touch twisted the animals and plants of the world into dangerous beasts we'd never before seen. He ripped the ground and burned the skies. Countless numbers of us fell against his metallic spirits. For a time, our world hung in the balance, but it's always difficult for invaders to defeat those that have a bond with the land and know its mysteries. Like many invading forces, he was eventually defeated. Flameraven and Wildserpent smote him down upon the earth, and with his final breath he cursed us all. Wracked with agony, our forms were warped and twisted.
Yet we accepted our burden, and worked with the spirits in the slow process of healing the rents in the world that he had caused.
But even the corpse of a great spirit can prove dangerous.
The bones of the Metal spirit were now spread beneath the earth, and his rotting flesh rose into mountains and hills. Time passed, and some of the peoples forgot the terrible appearance of the metal spirits. They unearthed strange minerals from the deeps, and found them to be alluring, enchanting, and unusually strong. Some began to use them to make tools and ornaments. As they used these things, they grew complacent in them. As they grew complacent, their curse seemed to fade, and they grew certain of the value of these items.
Others watched in horror as the metals slowly drew away the souls of its bearers. They could no longer choose between right and wrong; their minds dwelt only on the ethos of the dead spirit to grow, to claim, and to own. They ceased to live in balance with the wilderness, but forced their will upon it. They ceased to live in balance with the animals, but penned them in and harvested them. They ceased to live in balance with their peoples, but claimed that they knew better than the others.
And they began to war upon us. Their freedom was stolen by the spirit, and they began to think with his dead soul. His last thoughts were of our destruction, and they endeavor to make it happen, claiming that we are the ones that are evil.
Their might grows, and we become increasingly marginalized and spread apart. Our medicine is strong, and our great spirits still live, but their metal tools are powerful, and they each channel a unified will and the remaining wonders of the dead spirit. Far more dangerous, though, is the allure of metal. Each year, more of our people ignore the danger, and begin building with the bones of the dead spirit, losing their souls for temporary ease in their lives.
Our greatest fear is that, should enough souls be sacrificed, the Metal spirit will live again. And this time, he will have a native army of his own to send against us.
Beware the allure of metal.