"Welcome to TOTEM, we're here to help with all your designer god needs! What can we do for you today?" The enthusiastic floor manager greeted all new customers this way.
"Well," began the customer nervously, "I'm sort of in the market for a new household idol."
The floor manager made a face, wrinkling his nose very briefly. "We don't like to use the i-word here. What we do is so much more than that. These are not your grandfather's idols!" He indicated their range of display stock, arrayed on a high shelf all around the emporium. Figures of wood predominated, but there were pewter, iron, silver and gold among them, too, in a wide variety of shapes, all with unique faces.
The customer paused. "Um, forgive me, but these do look a lot like any other ... totems." he said, carefully avoiding the i-word. "What makes them so special?"
The manager launched into his sales pitch. "Our custom process produces the very finest of personalised totems, as you can clearly see. We begin by binding an unformed spirit to your chosen material, then our skilled artisans carve away those parts that do not fit with your personal desires. The spirit itself is changed and shaped as the wood is carved. The end result is a fully personalised totem, perfectly reflecting the very best of you and your values, both spiritually and physically!"
"I ... see. And, uh, what if I don't want it to be like me?"
"Our customisation is based on what you value, not what you are. Your totem will represent what you wish you could be - your highest aspiration."
"No, I mean ... sort of ..." the customer fumbled for words. "Not really customised at all. Something ... genuinely spiritual and real."
"I'm not sure I understand you, sir. Do you mean you would like a ..." the manager struggled with the distaste of the thought "wild spirit?"
"Yes, yes! That sounds more like it! Only it can't be just any spirit. Does the spirit realm have some kind of king or ruler?"
The manager caught his breath and made a warding gesture with his hand. "We do not speak of ... the Low One."
"Oh, no, no, of course not! No, I mean, isn't even he under someone else? Someone good?"
The manager gave a sigh. "Honestly, sir, I have to say I don't know. And if there were such a spirit - a great, all powerful king - our shaman certainly could not bind him to a block of wood."
Oddly, this seemed to make the customer happy. "Yes, of course! You're right! I'm in completely the wrong place!" He gave the manager a handshake and a warm smile. "Thank you so much! You've been very helpful!" and he left, far more cheerful than anyone without a totem had a right to be, at least in the manager's estimation.
The manager took a look around his show room at all the pre-made idols, wondering if it could be true. Was there some spirit king higher and better than these? As his eyes lighted on one totem that had been carved for strength and power, he noticed that one of its tiny fingers had broken off. How could a totem of strength and power not protect itself? He plucked it off the shelf and, in an act of experimentation and defiance, raised it over his head and smashed it on the ground.
Mokalus of Borg
PS - This time I just started from the title and worked out from there.
PPS - And I had to write it on my phone on the train.