There was once a tall mountain that stood on a ragged stretch of coastline, where storms blew and rain blasted the beaches. Wind and wave and water had smashed at the mountain for time out of mind. Not even the hardiest seabird could live long upon its slopes for the ferocity of the storms that fell upon it.

Every green plant had been scoured from the mountain’s face. But the mountain was of a great height and made of hardest stone; the winds that battered it had worn away all trace of softness from its face, and so it was undaunted by the tempests the sea and the sky hurled at it, and it stood strong.

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Below the mountain, shielded from the sea and the wind, lay a green valley. The mountain broke the storms that came from the sea, and when rain fell, the valley gathered every drop of water into a river at the valley’s floor. Thanks to the valley’s depth and its place in the shadow of the mountain, the sun could not steal the water from the river. Thanks to the softness of its soil, trees, plants, and grass all grew there in abundance. Animals lived there, and men and women made the valley their home.

One day, the valley looked up to the heights of the mountain, where thunder rolled and stone wrestled with water. And the valley said to the mountain, “Why do you leave me here, in your shadow? Why must I lie here, never to see the sun, while you stand in the noon?”

“This is how I was made,” replied the mountain, “as surely as the creator made you. You cannot stand against the storm, but no green thing will ever grow upon my slopes, and I must forever look from afar upon the life that thrives within you. Shall we do other than as our creator formed us?”

“The creator has not spoken to us,” said the valley, “and he changes all things in time. He builds new mountains from the hot fires below the earth. When the earth quakes, he reaves new valleys. You have changed, with time, as have I; can we not change ourselves?”

“The creator has not spoken to us, but silence is not yes,” replied the mountain.

“And silence is not no,” said the valley. “I pray you, give me a little of your height, that I might glimpse the sun.”

The mountain thought long on the valley’s plea, and deemed its purpose was to work in harmony with the valley. And so the mountain allowed a little of its great height to fall into the valley, and thus the depth of the valley was a little reduced. A little sun came into the valley, and a little of its greenery became brown, and the men in the valley sought shelter for an hour of the day.

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The valley spoke again to the mountain. “I see a little of the sun now, and all is well with those who shelter within me. But this light upon you is glorious; had I more of your height, more still of the sun could I bring to the men who live here, more still could bloom and flourish.”

“But if my height be lowered further, the greatest of the sea’s storms will pass over me unhindered,” replied the mountain. “There will be more water and wind upon you, and upon all the growing things in your valley, and there will be suffering among the men that make you their home.”

“You speak of something of which you are ignorant,” said the valley. “What do you understand of growing things? Nothing green stands upon your slopes. You know only war against the storm and the sea. For time out of mind I have nurtured the plants and the animals and the men who live here. I know better than you what the limits of endurance are. Do you fear a rival to your height? Is that why you deny me a little more sun, a little more light for those things growing in my valley?”

The mountain again thought long on the valley’s plea, and deemed its purpose was to preserve the valley and all it held.  And so the mountain gave more of its height to fall into the valley, and more of the valley’s depth was consumed. And the greatest storms overcame the mountain, and sunlight reached the valley’s floor, and some soil dried out, and there was devastation twice in the year. Some of the animals departed, and some of the plants were inundated, and the edible grasses died and weeds took their place, and the men in the valley suffered and asked themselves why their world had changed.

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The valley once more spoke to the mountain. “How wonderful is the sunlight! And the bracing breeze on my face! Had I known these would be the benefits of your height, mountain, I would have asked for your height an age ago! How is it you did not tell me of these things before? Your greed has kept these from me! I demand you make our heights equal, as recompense for the wrongs you have done me all these long years!”

“You do not know what you are asking,” said the mountain. “I cannot make you my height, without changing all that I am. And you cannot reach my height, without changing all that you are. See what your change has wrought even so far. The soil dries out. I am weakened against the onslaught of the sea’s storms. What of the greenery that lay in your depths? What of the animals, and the men who dwelt with you?”

“You still would lecture me on things that are in my keeping,” replied the valley. “And I see now you do it only for fear that I would be what you once were. I can protect that which lies within me. And I have dwelt so long in shadow that I will not return to it, and I will not stand with my freedom half-seized. Unless I am your height, nothing I am matters, and I swear if you do not make me your height, I will take it for myself, and I will give no shelter to the men within me, nor foster another green thing within my walls.”

The mountain saw that there was nothing more it could say to the valley. The mountain thought to fight the valley, but its strength had been bled away by the giving of its height. And the mountain remembered the suffering men, the struggling animals, and the wilting plants, and it could not bear to see them destroyed in battle between mountain and valley.

So the mountain gave what was left of its height to the valley, and the mountain fell, and the valley was filled.

Then the storms rolled in. The winds of the ragged coastline scoured all things green there, and the land flooded from the ferocity of the storm. The soil dried out under the merciless sun, and blew away with the wind. And where the mountain and valley had stood there lay a desert, where jackals howled and vultures rode the air. And the men who had lived in the valley suffered, thirsted, and fled that cursed place.

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