I’d been with the Stormrider for days, and though he was rough around the edges, and mumbled a lot to himself, as long as I didn’t venture too far from his sight, he made no move to cause me harm. The only wounds that I possessed were from manual labor. Blisters, cracked hands, and my face and lips were chapped to the point of rawness because of the constant hammering winds.
He found glee in the ever-changing climate of the planet; specifically, the wind and lightning.
Around day three, I found out that he had a name while I huddled against the damp, cave wall as another storm raged around us.
“Wot they call ye, undergrounder?”
I startled and blinked twice before I could find myself answering.
“Kai. They call me, Kai. What do they call you?”
“Benebarak.” He grumbled as deeply as thunder. “Means bringer of lightnin’ it does.”
I nodded, not sure what to say, nor did I understand his immense pride in having a name that meant such a thing. To the underground civilians, lightning was never a good thing. It meant brown-outs, and fear of never-ending darkness if it destroyed our solar panels.
“May I ask you a question? It’s something I’ve always been curious about.”
“Depends. Ye got any food in ye pack undergrounder?” Okay, back to titles. Cool. “Least ye could do is give me some rations for lettin’ ye live, ’ow ’bou it? Then maybe I’ll give ye yer answer.”
He was right. I was grateful he was letting me live after trespassing in his area, let alone his home. He could have any damn thing I owned except the bracelet from Ellie, my watch, and Star.
I opened my pack and dug through it, taking out only the bracelet and donning it. I never would before for fear of losing it, but I needed to feel hope right now, and she was my supply. Always had been. Once I had done that, I handed my pack over to let him rummage through the contents.
I didn’t warn him that it was a month’s worth of rations; at that moment, I didn’t care. I was doing what it took to survive, I’d find more food and water later if I needed it.
“Wot’s that ye got on yer appendage?”
“It’s a bracelet a friend of mine made for me.”
“A lady friend?” Benebarak grunted, digging out some fruit.
“What makes you say that?”
“Ain’t no man, ‘specially no military man gon’ be puttin’ on no girlie thing like that ’less it’s from a bitch of his kind.”
My temper flared, my anger washed over me like an old friend and I started to allow it to get to me.
He looked up from his machinations and grinned. It was an expectant grin, a dark one.
“If ye don’t wanna go out in ‘at storm, or be tonight’s din-din for me or some other unmentionable out there, ye best be mindin’ ye manners, undergrounder.”
“You’re right. So…” I cleared my throat “now may I ask why you are called Stormriders?”
“Aye,” Benebarak said “We were created by the Great Mother to ride the storms. To both control an’ tame ’em, to bend ‘em to our will in order to keep humans in line. On’y it did no’ work tha’ way ye see. Humans were too stubborn, free will ’an all ’at.”
I listened intently. It was an interesting story. Considering that none of us undergrounders were especially spiritual or religious, nor did we study anything regarding those things. Our main concern was staying alive to the best of our ability.
“Aye, a great people we were! We came as close to tha Gods ye hear or read about on Mt. Olympus tha’ one could we did. Bu’ our glory, she be fadin’ and all because of the humans. ’At’s why Stormriders eat ye as food, payback and yer still lesser ‘an us, even if we aren’ wha we use ta be.”
With that, he left me to my devices and my thoughts while he lumbered to another deeper area of the cave that veered off into tunnels.