It turns out that Stormrider flesh is quite palatable when cooked. I still wasn’t entirely sure that I had believed everything that Benebarak had told me before he met his end, but I found myself hoping that he was at least somewhat truthful as I bit into the last fragments of his fingers. At this point, I’d have taken any shard of extra power available. I knew I was going to need it if I was going to make my way back home.
I looked over at Star, remembering briefly how we’d met and why I’d given her that moniker. I hadn’t thought about Ellie in a while and for that, I felt guilty. I couldn’t remember a time when I had gone so long without her crossing my mind. I touched the bracelet still dangling from my wrist and with all my might, I hoped that she could feel it. I hoped that she was okay. I needed her to be okay. Ellie was going to be my lifeline if I was ever to come back from this.
With my stomach full and the fire well-tended, I gathered my clothes as well as Benebarak’s rags around me. I had suddenly become very tired and decided that it was probably best to try and sleep so that I could begin my journey back in the morning. I tossed a few more pieces of kindling on the fire and leaned back against the round end of a protruding rock, closing my eyes.
Dreams found me quickly that night. I’d never had dreams so vivid, so bright and real. I was on earth, but it seemed that it was before the great storms had made the surface unsafe for people. I could see the sun, a sight that nearly made me giddy, though even in my dream as I tried to look at it I was afraid that it would make me blind.
I walked around, taking everything in. The air was fresh, the sky was blue. There were birds chirping and small animals hiding in the green grass. I had only read about these things in books. The surface I had walked upon was varying shades of brown and grey, and the wind and water had worn any beauty away long ago.
I paused for a moment, breathing in the sweet air when a loud, screeching sound forced me to jump out of the way. What I presumed to be a huge truck came barreling toward me, its exhaust causing me to choke. It was followed by another and then another until all I could breathe were their fumes. I thought I would suffocate watching the world grow dark around me.
“That’s wot she felt.”
His voice was voice was unmistakeable. Benebarak grabbed my hand, pulling me back into the light.
“Ye did listen, undergrounder. Good on ye.” He chuckled as I stood looking at him, confused. “We warned yer people, my kind. Warned ’em if they didn’t change th’r ways the great mother’d have no mercy. Gave ’em the chance to fix thin’s.”
I was completely engrossed in what he was saying. He was explaining to me a history that I’d read only portions of and I didn’t want to interrupt him.
“The great mother, she don’t much care fer loud thin’s, dirty thin’s. But yer people were dirty and loud. And they din’t know how to list’n to ’er when she spoke. So she spoke louder.” He waved his hands toward the sky and clouds began to cover the sun. “Ya understand now, undergrounder?”
I didn’t understand, not entirely. “You said your kind tried to warn them. How? Where do your powers come from?”
Benebarak laughed. “Yer po’ers now. Ye took me into ya. My po’ers are yers.” He waved his hand again, clearing the clouds. “My kind came from up ther’, the skies. Watched yer people destroy the great mother fer centuries, watched ’er grow mad. We tried to help, to fix ’er, and fer our effort, she bless’d us. And ’cause you listen’d, undergrounder, yer bless’d too.”
“So my people did this? Caused the great storms, made the surface uninhabitable, forced us into the skies and under the ground? And your people are what? Aliens? Gods who tried to stop us?”
Benebarak smiled, taking my hand and raising it toward the sky. “Like this. When you want to call the lightnin’.”
I looked up and a large bolt crashed to the ground. I looked back over to Benebarak, reaching out to thank him for, well, everything, but he was gone. I stood there in the middle of the field, staring at my hands and reveling in the feeling of the electricity flowing through me. I thought that I might be happy to stay there forever until I felt Star nudging me with her nose. The trees behind us were on fire and we needed to leave.