Pontus Euxinus
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Forgive me for my silence, children. Assembling stories takes time. Tales emerge as slow as the plague of Mekhan. Tell me, what do you want to hear tonight?

It all began a few dozen seasons ago, during an obnoxiously sultry summer. I was sitting near Ovid's statue in what became of Tomis, reflecting on Mal's fables, which were still raw in my mind.

A story of gods? Of course, child. Well, if that is what you desire, you shall receive. Let me tell you of concepts, of ideas and of knowledge. Let me tell you of views and changing aeons, with their essence idle. Let me tell you of those that are looked at as a small piece of things, only to find fractals of facets.

People dripped by in the square. That's when I first saw her, the first one I ever met. Her appearance wasn't remarkable; If it wasn't for the path she took, I would have never observed her sandy hair. With rhythmic steps, she took a sharp turn between the mortuary stones, slithering alone through the Latin inscriptions. A slight, salty breeze blew through the weave of her grey stole as she slipped between the aged bricks, descending on the steep, weed-ridden hill.

Before they gained wisdom, humanity had feared and bowed to the way of things, to ideas and to concepts. They created reflections of these in grand characters, whom they idolised. Most deities of the past have hidden among the descendants of their long-dead followers. The only ones truly lost are those that remained the embodiment of something that is no more. And, despite what you might think at first, children, humanity never truly changes. Their beliefs only change their skins, not unlike their minds. Thus, the forlorn gods have only constrained by the new face of the era. You must understand, their power was not the worship. If it was, they would have been hollow carcasses, mere vessels for man's folly.

I followed the red of her gaiters through the ruins of the thermae. The terminals of the port in the background oddly harmonised with her motion. Striding across the promenade, her nimble figure made the cement and the rusted bannisters look out of place. She paid no glances to the decaying Casino, which stood like an infected ivory wound against the gunmetal sea. The enthusiastic clashing of waves was deafening, their ecstasy propagating beneath the heavy skies.

The Great Waters of Terra were one of the revered gears of nature. For an uncountable amount of grains that drained in the Hourwheel, the untamed waves and fury were feared. Even when most of the old gods had been forgotten, to make way for a loving tyrant, the seas were still viewed as powerful. Even when humans, embarking in their fragile timber, thought of themselves as masters of the oceans, the storms still were their terror. Even when metallic husks were used to tame the wild waves, the waters still claimed lives.

I was already beyond curious. Questions fretted at mind, in my every breath. The woman passed by the Touristic Port, already leaving behind three wave breakers. The dark sands were mostly barren of the usual people at the beginning of August. Sunbeds and parasols were stacked next to the cheap wooden bars on the beach. The only breaks in the horizon were the lifeguard towers and a tall white spar. Splashes of brine damped my clothes as I followed her on the crumbled seashells.

Despite the imminent dangers of the seas, humans still are daring. They reached to the margins of what they knew, in the madness of the waves, looking for golden fleeces, ways home, edges of Terra. They went in the unknown, watching transits and finding riches of the South. They mapped the strange lands they found, by the will of monarchs and accompanied by priests.

I watched her set sail. Her 6-metre, close-hauling to sea, was skipping on the crest of the waves. The yacht did masterful pirouettes. Not even realising, I tried to get closer. I ran along the wave breaker to keep up with the boat. The waves washed the cemented path, with their rhythmic retreats punctuated by the weighty pounding of the rainfall. I saw the spar lean towards the waves, making me skip a breath. And with the same brisk pace, it came back up.

The gods of the seas remained untouched by the swaying beliefs of mortals. They remained as wild as they were before, as tumultous as their realms. As most other deities do, they engrossed themselves in their domain. They sailed, they steered, and they stood proudly, as sovereigns of waters.

I'll admit, I was not the brightest. When the path ended, I climbed the rocks, leaping over the gaps. I got closer and closer to the water, until I could feel the waves batter against me. The woman was moving with graceful precision. The mastery she guided the sails with made me feel like the winds were at her beck and call. Mesmerised by the whitecrests sweeping over the yacht's timber, I made one more step forward.

The ever-changing nature of the seas oddly shows mercy sometimes. Five hundred die in a storm, but the condemned Robinson Crusoe drifts towards the shores. A sailboat is crushed by the rocks, and the sailor wakes in a cave. Despite the usual cruelty, there are clear moments of calm in a storm.

What happened next was a blur. I was hauled by the violent water, and I thought, for a few moments, that was back home. Instead, I woke after what felt like an eternity inside a small wooden boat. It sat idle on the damp shore, which was covered in shell and algae. Seagulls screeched and circled the decomposing clams. There was plenty of debris, most likely brought by the storms. A few metres away from me, the woman with sandy hair sat down, drinking from a cloth-wrapped flask. Around her, broken boards and torn material was cast.

"You owe me a yacht, lass."

Gods of the seas have always been capricious, with the fluidity of water. Both benevolent and malevolent were often full of surprises for the sailors and fishers that earned their existence amid the waves. Raising mists to mislead humans or perhaps protect them from the horrors of the deep, starting storms only to hear the proud cheers of the sailors who overcame it. Sometimes, these erratic acts lead to sparing a mortal or two, only to let them live and tell the tale.

"Who am I? By Alexios, you finally open your mouth outside the water and that's the first thing you do? You ask me who am I?" She took a sip from the flask. "Well, they call me the Black Sea. The Hellenes and the Romans first called me Pontus Euxinus or Axeinos, depending on who you ask. I find it a bit insulting. Heck, most didn't even bother calling me anything else than 'the Sea'. I guess the storms scared them off." After she finished, she continued looking at me with curiosity. Her eyes were a matted gunmetal blue.

Some might say that gods view humans as ants, ephemeral flies. Only a fool could claim that, for the minds of the mortals and their concepts are the only way gods can exist. Thus, they caress civilisation, at least for their egotistical needs of existence. Most gods, however, go beyond that. They become the pillars of civilisation itself and treasure humans as worshipper, friends or even lovers. The many mythologies and religions are proof of that.

She taught me how to sail. Strangely enough, she cheerily did so. She shared the tales of the Argonauts, of colonies, of empires and of wars. She told me of the creatures beneath the waves, and showed me how to fish in salty waters. After a dozen weeks, instead of her drinking grog waiting for me on the docks of the Touristic Port, I found a lone Tayana 55. In cursive, Mal Zamoe was written on its hull. I'd set sail the same day, towards Propontis and the wide, great waters ahead.

Gods don't play with fates of mortals like a Reh game, despite what you might be told, children. Gods merely help mortals to acheive higher, beyond the frayed capabilities of humanity.

I've seen the Great Rift. I've been to the edge of the glaciers in both the North and the South. I've gathered dead corals upon tropical shores. I've seen Vellamo's cow grazing through the mist; I've slipped through the fingers of Nyi Roro Kidul; I've run from the way of Neptune's horses; I've harvested ivory inkcrabs from anoxic waters, accompanied by Kylix; and I've seen the seas crested by selkies. Sometimes, I return to that beach where it all began, and sit on the putrefied planks.

Once, I saw a god make a sacrifice for a mere human.

The small wooden boat still sits in the same place I woke up the first evening, steadily rotting away.

It led to greatness.

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