Relentless the tide that brings men ashore.
The night was dark, and the wind was livid, and the sea was whipped to frenzy by its fondest lovers, both moon and sky alike. Lightning glinted angrily against the dark, rumbling threats of thunder into the vice. Clouds billowed against the light, revealing the faces of the angry gods that marred the sea and sky with tenacious anger. A fury directed at the powerless, the foolish, the bold.
Aimed directly at man.
Beneath the sky, and the storm, and the sea was another though.
Benevolent. Kind. The goddess of the tides is gentler than all that. Gentler than anger, and fury, and rough strikes of the hand. Her hands were nothing like those angry gods. They were softer, intentional. Pressing against the waves, pulling against the sea’s grip, propelling ships beyond the appetite of rage that clotted the sky—
This was the goddess of the tide.
Men shifted uneasily in their ships. Feet sliding against the slick waters of the sea’s frothing fangs, they skittered against their decks, helpless in the grip of the angry gods. Desperate to stay alive, they buoyed themselves to the mizzen, shouting prayers to the gods below and above, the gods that were no longer holding onto things like devotion. Like patience. Like mercy. They prayed to the rabid men-god of the sea and sky alike, and all they heard in response was thunder and pounding waves. Roaring sea and foaming sky.
This endless river would flow over them, the waves promised. This sky would not stop hungering until it was fed, the lightning foretold. This night would not see them through, the gods vowed.
They would all drown.
That was the reply of both sea and sky on this dreadful night.
What whipped them into such a frenzy? None can say, because none know. It might be a mystery to even the gods themselves, so vast and strange and unknowable are both sea and sky. But something had set them to war against the ship and its sailors, and they hungered for breath.
The breath of men, to be precise.
But, under all the turmoil, and the anguish, and the screaming of sky and sea and man was that other one.
When the ship cracked, it was so loud that it felt like lightning. Like thunder. Under the pressure of a great wave, it bowed until it halved itself, ready to be done. All the fight going out of the old wood with a crash. The wood splitting as it had when it first fell in the forest.
The sea—it took so many.
She watched, heart burdened, by the sight of the sea whisking men beneath her grasp. Pulling them from her fingertips, dragging them into the dark. She watched as eyes shot open with horror, and mouths fought to stay shut, and lungs gave out to inhale sea water that burned like fire.
Even if they survived, they would never recover from that.
Despair drained the goddess. How could so many die for nothing? What had they done wrong? She couldn’t understand. She couldn’t sit and do nothing, save no one. She couldn’t just—
In the dark, something floated just above the waves. Just barely afloat. The goddess recognized the billowing of a shirt, the cuff of a pant leg, the strange knob of toes.
He was still alive.
Hope blossomed in the dark sea. A hand reached upward, gently folding over the body before it. Carefully, she folded him within her grasp. Held him above the point of drowning. Kept his head from the sky’s wrath. And then, with all her might, she took him away.
Dragging the man along with her, she hastened. She would not let him die. She wouldn’t. She was determined.
And she was victorious.
The man washed up on the shore. Battered, and beaten. Barely able to hold his head up, but still.
He was alive.
On shore, her goddess form became more human. More real. Instead of waves and sea water, she was curves and blue eyes and dark hair crisped by salt water. She was a strong back, and a sturdy grip, and hips that swayed in the breeze. She was glorious, goddess-like, and she was dragging the sailor to shore when he realized she was there.
“Beautiful,” he coughed, voice raw from dragging salt up and down his throat.
“Rest,” she encouraged.
And that was all he saw of her.
When the sky bled with sunlight, the man stirred. Enough so that some passersby noticed him and took him to a bed somewhere. An inn maybe, or a doctor.
Confined to the tide, she couldn’t be sure.
But, she saw him again. A month or so later, on a different evening. The sun was giving in, too tired to hold it’s head up any longer, and the sky purpled like a bruise as the light lost its fight. When the stars began poking against the vast sky, he stood at the shoreline.
And he spoke.
His voice was gravelly. Waves cascading against rock, against cliff, against time. The goddess found it had such melody to it. An oddly beautiful voice, man as it was. It rumbled through her pleasantly, giving her a strange sort of thrill, despite the words he spoke.
“Forgive me, I don’t know who saved me. Whether it was sea or sky. Either way, I thank the god who gave me mercy. With everything I am, I thank him.”
And with that, he tossed a gold locket into the ocean as offering. With interest, he watched the waves take it before he sighed and left. Disappointed, perhaps, that the god didn’t rise to greet him.
But, why would he?
The god had meant to drown him, after all.
The gift was not really for him.
And the sea recognized this. Immediately so.
He turned to the tide.
“You save men, and still, they give you no gratitude,” the sea god rumbled beneath the shore, his voice deep like a trench as it rocked through the tide. Creaking and rumbling like a thousand drowning ships. “Your heart breaks over and over again for these creatures. You long to give mercy when I deem them unworthy. They return with gifts for me—the one who would curse them—and your name never rests against their lips. As I break the bows of their ships, they break your heart and still you would save them. I see it happen time and time again. You save, and they forget, and you weep into your own current.”
It was true.
All of it was true.
How could she withhold feeling from the men she saved? Is that not an act of love, in and of itself? They do nothing to garner it, they do nothing to earn it, and still, she gives it anyway. The sea god was not wrong. Every man she saved left the shore with at least a little bit of her love.
And they broke her heart.
The sea cradled the tide, comforting. Voice still dragging secrets of the deep in its wake as it beseeched her.
“Why save them?”
He was a wonder left in wonderment. Truly invested in the answer.
He wanted to know.
The tide smiled, deep and moving. Current quickened in response, like a heartbeat recognizing a lover, and the creatures of the ocean delighted in the pace.
“It is not for their sake that I save them.”
There is no glory in love, you see. Only the swiftness of the tide, the deep current that carries through the dark. A road that has no pavement, no signs, no indicators. It stretches destinations through the vastness of the sea, and it hides from the open terror of sky.
Love is the current, though the ocean does not know it.
The god huffed, displeased. Not with the goddess, but with man. His arrogance, his selfishness. The goddess deserved better, the sea was sure.
In the far reaches of the ocean, another storm kicked up. Frenzied by the god’s bitterness at man’s foolish and frivolous hearts. Their cowardly ways, and their ignorant minds.
Such narrow-minded things, the god thought, and stirred a whirlpool into action. Turning with the fury of a spurned heart as the god boiled.
He didn’t understand. She forgave the sea god because she knew this. He was only trying to ease his sympathy. Relieve some of their pain. Even as she heard the call for mercy, pleas reaching her heart, she forgave the sea god because she knew why he did it, and she understood.
It didn’t stop her.
Relentless the tide that brings men ashore.
Her love is the kind of legend. The boldest. The truest. The purest.
May she one day find you.
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