BENEXUS episode 9: Desert Slave Ship
Aboard the pirated slave ship, Iyo daily meditated on the words of the Phoenix.
With the pinkie ring taken from Princess Anchor’s bag, Iyo conjured small magic.
Hidden, he blew tiny puffs of steam as she showed him. He slid small sand grains over the ship’s rough deck. He progressed in little increments.
“Who’s that?” Iyo shouted to the crow’s nest lookout.
A lone rider appeared behind them on the dusty horizon.
“Man on an Adno lizard,” the lookout shouted down.
“A man on an Adno lizard?” Iyo repeated mumbling.
“Get telescopic glasses at the stern. Find out who this rider is. He may be a scout from our militia.”
“More likely a hostile,” Zingara said.
“A pretty big chance,” Driver added.
“Good point,” Iyo said. “Ready your weapons.”
They waited listening to the whoosh of sand. Quiet and patient.
The sternward scout reported. The man wore desert head coverings. No identification.
He recognized the lizard saddle.
“Arrow rode that saddle crossing the desert,” Iyo said to Yew and Zingara.
“Whoever it is, he’s from the town the militia abandoned.”
“He’s fast,” Driver said.
“No lizard ran so fast for me,” Iyo said, “Here he comes.”
The Adno lizard scrambled up the ship’s smooth side.
The mystery rider accustomed to a lifetime of riding lizards held fast.
The large lizard reared up.
All weapons trained on him.
The mysterious rider removed his head covering.
From under the covering, Somer Krest’s stern gazed peered out at the group.
“Commander Iyo,” Krest shouted down, “May I have a word?”
Iyo swallowed and mumbled, “Yes sir.”
The lizard roamed on deck as they marched to the stern to talk. Somer folded his arms.
“Did you know Zingara was in your company?” Somer blurted.
“Well, sir.. I -”
“Iyo, Zingara is THE confirmed princess of Shiloh. The success of the war relies on her survival.”
“Yes sir,” Iyo looked at the deck.
“I’m here to bring her back safe. It’s unacceptable endangering our future queen at the front lines.” Somer looked around the ship. He paused.
“You commandeered a slave ship?”
“What’s in your head? What are you planning?”
“Well, I thought it faster. We’d catch the ship or convoy with the other princess, sir,” Iyo explained.
“Did any slave traders radio Lamia?” Somer asked.
“No sir, they all perished first.”
Somer raised an eyebrow.
“My crew made sure they died,” Iyo finished.
“Commander, you have a rare opportunity to breech the second wall of Shiloh.”
“I suppose we do. How do we take advantage of this good fortune, general?” He asked.
“The army is half a day behind us. We’ll infiltrate the castle – and have the second gate open when they arrive. I’ll radio Captain Whesk. She’ll know what to do,” Somer decided.
“General, the people on this ship – they don’t have much reason to fight for Shiloh,” Iyo started.
“Of course, they do,” Somer scoffed. “Eliminating the queen will do wonders for them and their country. There should be no quarrel helping us inside the city. Gather them together on the deck.”
“Yes sir,” Iyo said. He relayed the message to Yew Rue. Soon after, Somer Krest stood in front of the crew. His tattered blue shoulder cape revealed Somer’s position and rank. But he introduced himself anyway.
“I am General Somer Krest of the Scarab Militia. I understand you’ve become the ship’s crew and are helping my men. With your help, we can overthrow wicked queen Lamia. As a slave ship, we’ll open the second gate for the Scarab Army. I ask you remain with us – and open the wall. Then you will recover your former homes.”
Awkward silence hung in the air.
“Is this how you feel? Apathy?” He scoffed disgusted, “Freedom. Liberation. Going home to your families. To your children and parents. This is what I offer you. Freedom from the blight of tyranny. You must act. A phoenix is not a weak rebirth, it must rise again. And through the trial of fire, it is reborn! Restore yourselves, restore our country, and the balance between us!
He scanned from eye to eye.
“Are you with me?”
The crew cheered.
“Then set course for Shiloh.”
“Inspiring. sir,” Yew said. Somer laughed a moan.
“I’m tired. We’re lucky they accepted. Good to see you all alive.”
He looked at Zingara.
She rubbed the back of her neck. “Are you disappointed I stowed away?”
“No, I’m mad.”
“General Krest sir, may I have a moment,” Iyo said.
Somer breathed out through his nose.
“Alright commander, you may impose on another moment of my precious time.”
Behind his back, Somer clasped a hand around his wrist. They paced along down the ship’s railing, leaving Zingara, Yew Rue, and Driver behind.
“What is it?” Krest demanded.
“Bennu sir,” Iyo said. “The Phoenix came to me in a vision. He said I’m sensitive to magic and I’m the chosen one.”
“Grandiose. … And?”
“And he wants to restore the crown by placing a royal princess on the throne. He’ll visit me soon. I need to practice my magic – or I won’t be ready,” He explained.
“Something to help defeat Lamia, I imagine.”
“And have you practiced magic?”
“I have no idea what magic is – or how to do it. I’ve relied on Princess Anchor’s ring. I’ve only know the same three magics,” Iyo said holding up his pinkie to show the skinny ring.
“So you want me to show you how to do magic?”
“Yes. I’ve no idea what I’m doing,” He answered.
Somer was silent. He paused looking over the distant sand.
“Alright,” He said. “But we’re not keeping it a secret. Talk to your crew. Let them know what’s going on.”
“Go on,” He said and Iyo hurried back to his friends.
Somer leaned on the railing and interlocked his rough dry fingers. He stared at the rushing shifting sands – then back toward Iyo. The boy possessed an awkward vocabulary. Always stumbling over words to explain things.
Zingara turned to look at Somer. He discerned what she was thinking. She knew hadn’t performed magic since the king died and Lamia took over.
Now he promised to teach a risky novice magic preparations for Bennu’s instruction.
Somer pondered the burden ahead – and he felt so tired.