Tides of Alabaster and Onyx

            Alongside a great sea there was a small village. The people of the village lived simple lives; they fished for most of their food and fought to protect themselves from the occasional attack by wild animals or raiders. This small village would be unremarkable save that they occasionally saw the tides of alabaster and onyx.

            The alabaster tide would come at dawn, the water white and glowing softly in the morning sun. There was magic in the waves. Calling upon the generosity of the alabaster tide could grant numerous gifts. As the snowy water invaded, power flowed from it and granted amazing blessings.

            The onyx tide would race in that same day as the sun died in the west. Ebon water poured up the beach, replacing its ivory counterpart. Unlike the generosity of the alabaster tide, the onyx tide was a thing of loss. Where the tide of white granted blessings to those who waded into it, the evening tide took away. And so the alabaster tide was loved while the onyx tide was feared.

            A boy lived in one of the seaside villages where the tides flowed in. He was approaching the age of maturity and longed to become a man. The next time the alabaster tide washed in, he strode into it. He asked the tide to make him strong. He implored it to make him confident. He begged it to make him impressive. In all, he wished it would make him a man.

            He left the water with strength; his body was muscled. He returned to the village confident; he strode with all the pride of a fearless hunter. He walked the streets in impressive fashion; all his neighbors could not help but watch in awe.

            Still, in his heart, he knew that the alabaster tide had not made him a man. In all of his actions, he still felt like the boy he thought he had left behind. Even the looks of awe were empty. They were impressed not by a man, but instead by a boy who could so well do the things of men.

Confused, the boy wandered down to the shore as the light faded. The onyx tide washed in, flowing around his ankles. In a wave of despair, he gave up all that the morning had bestowed. Gone were the power, the pride, and the awe. The dark waters sucked away all the day’s boons, and he sat down on the sandy shore.

            And still, somehow, he became a man.

            Years later, that man wished to become a leader of his village. At the next alabaster tide he walked to the shore where the pearly surf waited for him. He asked the tide to make him the wisest of all men. He implored it to give him a powerful voice. He begged it to make him well-loved. In all, he wished it would make him a leader.

            As before, he left the shore with his gifts. His mind was sharp and wise: all those in town considered him the greatest of sages. He returned to the village with a commanding voice; his words could move the most stubborn of people. He walked the streets adored by all; his neighbors could not help but love him.

            Still, in his heart, he knew that the alabaster tide had not made him a leader. In all of his actions, he still felt like the simple man he thought he had left behind. Even the adoration of the people was not enough; they admired him, but none asked him to be their leader.

            Again confused, he wandered down to the shore as the sun set. The onyx tide appeared, flowing around his ankles. In a wave of despair, he gave up all that the morning had bestowed. Gone were the wisdom, the voice, and the love. The dark waters sucked away all the day’s boons, and he sat down hard on the sandy shore.

            And still, somehow, he became a leader.

            Many more years passed, and that man grew into an elder, wizened and frail. He had many

grandchildren and was the oldest of his village. He was respected, but his joints ached and his mind was troubled and sometimes unclear.

            So when the alabaster tide graced the shores once more, he tottered down to the beach. He asked the tide to grant him strong joints. He implored it to give him a clear mind. He begged it to give him security. In all, he wished it would grant him peace.

            As with the two previous visits, he left the shore with the gifts of the alabaster tide. His joints were strong and flexible again: he could walk and move without pain. He returned to the village with a clear mind; his thoughts no longer ran away from him. He walked the streets certain of his future and the future of his family; his legacy was set.

            Still, in his heart, he knew that the alabaster tide had not given him peace . In all of his actions, he still felt like the old man he thought he had left behind. Even the security of his family did not provide the hoped outcome; in the end, these things could not give him peace.

            And so he wandered down to the coast for the final time. The onyx tide was building, surging toward the shore. In frustration, he gave back the strong joints, the clear mind, and the security.

            One final time he collapsed into the sand, but this time he finally understood. In his youth, the onyx tide had taken away the strength, the confidence, and his impressive mien, but it had also stripped away his childhood naivete, his brash recklessness, and his pouting indifference. Free of these, he had become a true man and had then earned the strength, the confidence, and the respect of his peers. The onyx tide had made him a man.

            He knew that his second trip to the black water had taken away the wisdom, the commanding voice, and the love of his town. Only now did he understand that it had also removed his selfishness, his unwarranted pride, and his need for power. Loosed from these weights, he had risen to be a great leader, gaining wisdom, command, and love through his own trials. The onyx tide had made him a leader.

            And now, as he fell into the dark surf, a final realization sprang to his mind. He had lived a life of great rewards and great burdens. He had given his village the best chance they had and left his family an example to follow. Slowly the tide took away his fears, his strength, and his last clinging thirst for a life now over. The waters rushed over him and in a final surge took his last breath.

            And so, as it had made him a man and made him a leader, at the end, the onyx tide gave him peace.

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