BENEXUS episode 10 – Jungle Dream

14:53 minutes

 

“Oh, Iah. The blinkin’ red light is on!” Driver said pointing at the console.

What?,” Iyo said. The red light only ever lit as an emergency alarm. Sometimes a yellow light blinked if sensors detected motion. But the red light never blinked.

What does it mean?” Driver asked.

Iyo scanned the surface images from the periscope. A young woman sprinted through the ruins, hefting a bundle in her arms.

She’s got a baby,” Iyo said.

That’s no baby. It’s too big. Must be a wounded soldier,” Driver replied.

Iyo frowned at his little brother and nodded. “You’re right. Let’s signal her.”

What’s she running from?”

Iyo examined the screen. “I dunno.” He twisted the knobs. The woman wore hard to identify desert coverings.

She’s marathoned wearing desert clothes,” Iyo muttered, “–from way past the desert ledge.”

An enormous robotic monster burst through the crumbling wall behind her. Old stone crumbled to the ground. The young woman curled her body around her bundle. Small shards of rubble danced across her back.

Oh man,” Iyo breathed. “Driver, you see her braids?”

Driver was silent.

The mark of a royal bodyguard,” Iyo thought. The mechanical beast stopped. The statuesque girl stood resolute and still. Flawless. The girl stared up like a boxer at the machine’s pilot. The spindly vehicle stood twenty Imperial units above the ground.

Robot’s royal origin, too – from the markings,” Iyo said.

Behind the deadly machine, the crumbling wall cracked and broke again. A small troop of Queen’s Bloodguard poured out with bayonet rifles gleaming

The bodyguard lowered her held bundle to the ground. The Bloodguard’s rifles raised up. Her palms went up in surrender. The enemy weapons trained on her. A Bloodguard tossed a pair of shackles toward her. They clanked on the hard surface.

Shoot the mechanical,” Driver said pointing at the robot.

OK,” Iyo said. The defense guns up top swiveled under his command. He targeted the large machine beast. His steady hand squeezed the trigger. Iyo anticipated an explosion.

The projectile ricocheted off the wall behind The Bloodguard.

“Direct miss,” breathed Iyo.

The braided bodyguard seized the nearest distracted man. She whipped him in front of her pushing him as a shield while charging the rest. Her rapid punches and kicks toppled armored guards like limp dolls. Seven lay on the surface. The fight was over fast.

Whoa,” Driver exclaimed — saying what Iyo was thinking. The girl tore away her desert disguise, revealing a blue officer’s uniform. Blue like the flag of Shiloh. As the loose material fell, it caught on the golden hilt of a hidden sword. She drew the sword from its scabbard – and rushed the vehicle. The robot scuttled away from her crab-like on four multi-jointed legs. The girl pounced forward with new energy slicing through a metal robot limb.

Whoa!” Driver repeated. The walker’s automatic guns fired spasmodically. The rounds getting closer to the bodyguard. She rolled underneath the machine and skewered the front end. Black lubricant spilled out like gored blood. The frantic pilot maneuvered the mechanical beast. In one slice, she hacked off the front two legs and slid back to her bundle. The mechanical beast toppled forward cracking onto its head. A puff of vapor filed the pilot chamber. Then flamed.

Driver, give her a signal,” Iyo barked. Driver flicked a switch and looked into the periscope. A laser dot blipped to life in front of the bodyguard. She froze. But then relaxed, if the laser light was hostile she knew she’d already be dead. She scooped up her protected bundle. Driver spun the dot – a Scarab rebel-militia signal. The sign said, friend. Her shoulders relaxed as she sheathed her sword. She looked for the unseen source.

Show her where we are,” Iyo said. Driver moved the joystick in a more jagged movement meaning underground. The bodyguard furrowed her eyebrows and looked around again.

I don’t think she’s Scarab,” Driver muttered.

Yeah,” Iyo said. “Try something more public.”

Driver signed for food then pointed at a maintenance cover. The young woman didn’t hesitate. She pulled the lid cover off with little difficulty. Tired, but strong. Something only years of training could do to you.

Ok, she’s coming,” Iyo stood up, hands sweaty. “It’s OK. Driver, run to the mess hall. Get people prepping the medics station.”

Yes-sir!” Driver grabbed his bag and ran down a short hallway to an elevator. Iyo headed in the opposite direction towards the entrance of their hidden bunker. Dim lights and creeping wall moisture gave the hallway a green other-world color. He sputtered to a halt as he reached the ladder. The bodyguard dropped to the ground, bundle held in one hand, long five-barrel pistol in the other. Iyo suspected she was a blonde on the night vision screen. But standing before him in living-color was a redhead. A tall muscular redhead holding a gun.

State your name and rank,” She said and cocked the pistol hammer. And that’s when Iyo felt deep trouble. Her beautiful voice sent his heart into a flurry. He cleared his throat.

Forward Scout Iyo of the Scarab militia,” He said, straightening up. “Also an enemy of Queen Lamia and the Bloodguard.”

I know what the Scarab militia is,” The bodyguard said, not lowering her gun.

I sent another scout to prep the med room,” Iyo said embarrassed. Of course, she knew what the Scarab militia was.

Lead the way… Iyo.”

I’m unarmed,” He said raising his hands in surrender. “You don’t have to point that thing at me.”

She hesitated.

I saw you take down seventeen guys and a giant robot, you don’t need a gun. You could kill me with your ankles,” Iyo said.

She smirked then released the hammer and stuffed the pistol into a holster at her back. “Does that intimidate you?” she said.

He was silent – love struck.

She wrinkled her nose. And sneered.

BENEXUS: Episode 9 – Desert Slave Ship

8:43 minutes

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.

Iyo startled

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?”

Yes, sir.”

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.”

Yes sir.”

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.

What is it he will teach you?” Somer asked.

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.”

Yes sir.”

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.

“Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good

instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild

Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an

endangered species.” from Dr. Clarrisa Pinkola Estés, author of “Women Who Run With the Wolves: myths and stories of the wild woman archetype.”

BENEXUS: Episode 8 – Mind of Arrow

5:55 minutes

BENEXUS: The Mind Touch

I searched for authentic rare intimacy. But feared finding it.

I endured rejection for being odd and different. Experiencing the pain of abandonment.

Fear of heartbreak held me back.

Deep down I always wanted someone to push past my walls and get closer.

Analyzing observed information I made future mental predictions.

Would I ever discover alignment on a deep soul level? And feel secure connecting?

I felt connections even at far distances. Strong energy made me aware of the things I loved about myself on a profound level.

My newfound faith made me insecure. I now believed in things logic told me not to. Painful and vulnerable and dangerous things. It’s who I was now.

My intensity came from a never-ending desire to find in everything hidden depth.

I hunted the bigger why; seeking meaning. What I do makes a difference. I could read others. I “saw behind the mask” they wore.

I sensed I’d never be the same – a significant destined shift in my inner landscape.

It intrigued me that I was forgetting the world around me.

I was becoming a living contradiction. I wanted something but was pushing it away and avoiding it.

Before I feared being vulnerable. Fear of having people reject me and who I am.

It only made me crave intimacy more — and the tension and unhappiness in my past.

I now trusted people in difficult and painful ways. Connecting to them keeps me in touch with infused life energies – and the lessons they teach.

The imprints they left on my soul weren’t erasable. I couldn’t forget them. Sharing each other’s deepest pains, listening without judgment, and with empathy.

Age, nationality, culture, race, profession, and status are irrelevant. Soul connections have no limit.

I often need time alone. Time to process everything inside my mind. My alone time draws others closer during our time apart. Reuniting is more special.

I didn’t want to be distant from people again. The intimate energy exchanged always delivers lessons I most needed to learn.

When alone inside my mind, I think about the people I love and care for.

I don’t need to be around someone all the time. A strong connection from a distance. Closeness and intimate even when apart.

We’ve bonded beyond the surface. They pierced through the facade of my constructed identity.

The stress of opening up and having my heart broken fades. A state of wholeness and wisdom prevails.

I open up. Exposing the personality layers I keep hidden inside.

Being my true self, even when it feels scary, liberates me.

Vulnerability without fear. Safely sharing who I am and what I think.

I had thoughts and emotions I hadn’t been aware of deep within. It was hard finding balance.

I open up when I am trusted and feel safe. I’m safe when someone doesn’t criticize me for being different.

BENEXUS Episode 7

6:34 minutes

Lost in time, gulls struggled to circle overhead in a gusty dark storm. Anchor wandered across an immense flat rock atop a black stone cliff. A precarious spot for the fragility of youth. Whipping wind froze her scant garments tight around her shivering skinny body. Mother Earth was rumbling. She prepared to crush Anchor’s youthful tenderness to untraceable bits. Roaring tons of water hit the cliff-side. The drenching impact soared into chilling air. Its arching destination of fury was obvious … supernatural Anchor.

Anchor looked into the watery death. And exclaimed her miraculous sentence, “You die first, Mother of Creation!” and the waters lost all primal force. Ashamed, water splattered like soft rain on the black slate rock, tears at Anchor’s feet. From that day forward, Anchor was a healer, a prodigy, a tribal shaman. Feared as a witch; a forlorn term that made her laughter timid. Clinking her ever-present powerful vials and potions stored in her pockets reassured her. Power was always loaded at her magic fingertips.

Mother Nature never chose Anchor. She was strange. Anchor survived Nature’s foolish attempt to obliterate her. Nature then became Anchor’s slave – or so people believed. The people erected a religious obelisk at the site of the ocean miracle. But within a year, the foundation eroded to a powdery crumble. Sabotaged by the salty sea. The entire monument toppled into the deepest depths.

Anchor dressed unadorned and lived alone in a cliff-side cave, a rock nest. She was an anchoress; a woman retired to a solitary life of religious seclusion. It was primitive and unsettling for people.

Most guess the tossing sea Anchor’s only rightful parent. They are wrong. That mock battle was a mere rivalry between the Ocean and Anchor. Her true mission had been long secluded. The enigma of Anchor was beyond even her exotic strangeness. Inklings, premonitions, dreams touched her. But Anchor’s destiny began when she was 17-years-old. Her fortune concealed. Now the season came. She wasn’t ready, but Shiloh awaited. A transformation required not only of the Golden City but of the very hearts of her people.

At the crossroads, a walled-up stone city harnesses a boiling, raging, hot storm. Outside, all appears quiet and content. Inside, dwells a harsh ordeal of gasping sorrow. This suffocating, dark city belongs to the corrupt. It is Shiloh; a barren and destructive place. Shiloh’s repression yields only unproductive confusion; spinning in circles and circles again.

Filth and dirt of the sordid quarantined in Shiloh. Here they caged all discarded dreams. But Shiloh’s wall of remorse soon cracks at its seams. Too much crude corruption to wallow in forever. Outside freedom awaits. A military society, the SCARAB military rescuers, will transform Shiloh. Breaking down its exterior brick walls. Shiloh’s walls are a prison. No longer a deceptive haven.

Like the ancient Egyptian scarab beetle, the SCARAB rebel militia destroys to create. Shatter the walls and grind it into the sand. There is no more enemy. Set yourself free.

BENEXUS episode 6: Bennu

7:08 minutes

Smoke curled around Iyo as the Phoenix emerged from his obscure nest. His beak and talons glowed like liquid metal.

“Mark Skorn,” The Phoenix’s voice vibrated through the air. Iyo sunk to his knees. His exhaustion from climbing the mountain dropped him. He felt the overwhelming presence of the Phoenix. He wanted to say something. But he couldn’t find the words. Tears welled in his eyes and he looked at the stony earth beneath him.

“Mark,” He said again. Iyo brought his gaze to the Phoenix. “I am Bennu. I am as I was at the founding of the ocean. You know me.”

“I do,” Iyo said in a strained voice, “You taught Somer Krest.”

His voice caught as he said his dead mentor’s name. Bennu towered over Iyo, he splayed his wings. White smoke swirled around the mountaintop. Warmth enveloped Iyo from the Phoenix’s chest. He felt the pain in his heart fade to a dull ache as love covered him.

“Somer rests now with the fathers of Ahten. He served this nation well. You fear the loss of him. But, the princess and Arrow are not lost from you forever. Your friend betrayed you, he has his reward,” Bennu’s words rattled Iyo’s chest. “Fear not. You are not alone. I am still here. Even when you feel alone and are in the deepest despair, I am with you.”

“I don’t deserve that,” Iyo breathed. “You shouldn’t hang on to me.”

“I chose you and you are mine. Don’t be afraid. From now until the restoration of the ocean, do my work in bringing about the salvation of Shiloh. I remember the promises I made to the people of Shiloh. The sand will yield fruit. It will prosper renewed. Do what I say and follow my words, Mark Skorn, and you will live to see the flowers bloom in Shiloh again.”

“I ruined everything,” Iyo said. “How can I be the one to fix all this after trusting Yew Rue and losing the princess? Driver is dead. Somer is dead. The people who could help me most are gone. I’m lost.”

“Was it not I who first brought the ocean?” Bennu boomed.

“Yes.”

“Do you not believe I can do it again?” He continued. Iyo pressed his hands to his face and took a deep breath. Bennu spoke again, “Do – you – believe?”

“Yes,” Iyo said, dropping his hands.

“That is enough,” The Phoenix stretched out his broad wing bringing the white feathers close to Iyo’s face. “I touched Somer under his eye when I chose him. The Benexus I made then is the one I make now with you. I see you, Iyo and your soul is bare before my eyes. Now you will see me as I truly am.”

The bristles of Bennu’s longest wing feather tickled Iyo’s cheek. Brilliant white light blinded him, blocking out all in the world. The universe seemed to dissolve around him.

“This,” Bennu said quietly. “Is Benexus.”

 

BENEXUS: Episode 5 – Ashes

6:07 minutes

Far in high rocky terrain, Lamia’s men chased three Scarab soldiers. Burdened by bulky sacks and a loaded supply sled, the Scarab struggled in the brisk wind and snow. Snow, ice, and earth exploded. Lamia’s men launched nitromite.
“Alright Yew, if you’re gonna pull one of your classic tricks – now is the time!” the large man pushing the sled yelled. The young man he hollered at was carrying two sacks of provisions. The shapeless fur pelts masked his broad shoulders and tight muscular build. Long dark hair whipped across his face as he turned to see the pursuers.
“Classic trick – unoriginal,” he snorted. He’d seen close calls and scraping by with his quick thinking and motor reflexes. But nothing came to mind with this hard-and-fast chase. “I … I’m … thinking!”
His pace quickened as the enemies drew closer, his voice bouncing as he leaped.
“Zingara knows this place best, Bol,” He shouted. “Got any ideas for us, Zin?”
“Stop … calling … me … Zin,” Zingara yelled back. She was most beautiful when yelling at Yew Rue commands. “And no, just stop yelling. The bridge is up here.”
A skinny outcropping of rock allowed travelers to pass from one side of the mountain to another. They crossed it sneaking into Lamia’s camp. Now they urgently needed to cross back.
“Ok, I got it,” Yew said excitedly. “I’ll not stop yelling. This is going to work.”
Yew Rue ran faster and his comrades responded picking up speed. Bol out of respect and Zingara because she wanted to. Not because Yew Rue told her to.
“Hey, Zin, here’s your big chance to deliver an awesome one-liner, what do you say?” Yew Rue asked, keeping pace with her.
“I’d say; “Leave me alone Yew Rue or I’ll throw you off this mountain.”
“No. That’s way too long,” He shrugged it off between breaths. “What about you, Bol?”
“One chance?” Bol panted.
“Yeah. Last chance.”
“Man. I dunno. Maybe a pun,” He suggested. Yew Rue considered this as he panted.
“That might work for me. Here! The bridge! Zin, you first.”
“Stop yelling,” Zingara cautioned and took the lead. A close nitromite blast erupted. Yew Rue shielded his friends.
“Yelling is the whole plan,” Yew Rue shouted. Bol made it across. Yew bolted across the skinny bridge. He tossed the sacks in front of him. Diving across. He waited. Lamia’s men arrived on the ledge. With all the might in his lungs, Yew roared; “See you on the other — slide!”
The three men froze, frightened. The snow above trembled and began to cascade. They screamed. Helpless, they slid down the mountain. Yew Rue winced. He glanced back at his friends.
“Slide? Get it? Punning was the right choice,” He said sheepishly. Zingara rolled her golden eyes.
“You’re an idiot, Yew Rue,” she said scornfully.
“Do you prefer idiots?” Yew Rue grinned cheekily. Bol laughed. Zingara turned sharply and marched on the trail toward camp. Her raven black hair swished behind her. With no immediate danger, Bol and Yew Rue ambled back.
“She likes me. Can you tell?” Yew feigned whispering.
“Oh yeah. Definitely,” Bol said unconvinced, “She hides it under her — disdain.”
“Exactly,” he elbowed his big friend, “Now, you get it.”
“You need a dose of reality, man,” Bol said. “You could have any young woman in the whole Scarab army. You’re a fool chasing after the only one who hates you.”
“Hate is a strong word, Bol,” Yew said, “She’s angry for me being the only person as beautiful as her.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Men are handsome.”
“Either way, women aren’t prizes won. Or things that I get from being good looking. Women are just like us. But so much more,” Yew mused, “And Zingara’s a rarity. She’s strong and passionate. I wish she was passionate about — me.”
“Y’know Yew, say these things to her face. You might have a chance,” Bol chuckled.
“It’s not as fun as teasing her,” he said. His white teeth contrasted against his dark skin. “Besides, I’m not out here to find love. I’m a warrior. I’m here for the war. I’ll cut off the snake’s head.”
“You seem overconfident.”
“Yeah, I’ve talked to people about that before,” Yew said as they entered the camp. People already stood around Zingara cheering. They rejoiced more when Bol showed up with a full sled of supplies. Yew Rue dropped his bags down for the soldiers to take and stock. He looked up to see a tall, dark man standing in front of the three of them.
‘Report,” The man said in a gnarled voice. He had olive skin from spending years in the sun. His basalt gray beard was forked. The dark color stayed over his temples but bled out into snow-white into his shoulder-length hair. His hair was close-cropped on the sides. He had two scars on the right side of his face, both large and lighter than his dark skin. One ran along his cheekbone and the other over his eye down to his lip.
Yew Rue thought Zingara would report. But she was looking expectantly at him with her gorgeous golden eyes. The old man’s eyes had the same shade of gold.
“General Krest, sir,” Yew saluted. “We were in and out. No difficulties until three armed guards spotted us. They gave pursuit. We lost them over the bridge. And discovered puns make well-timed jokes.”
Krest scowled at Yew’s flippancy.
“How much did you bring?”
“At least another month’s worth, sir,” Yew replied, still in salute. A smile broke over General Somer Krest’s stern face.
“Good man!” He clapped Yew Rue on the shoulder and Yew dropped the salute.
Somer hugged Zingara. “And you kept my precious daughter safe, too. Well done.”
“Your daughter, she kept me safe, sir,” he said with a half-grin. Bol snorted.
“Of course she did,” Somer put a hand on Yew and Zingara’s arms. “I’d like to see you both in the war tent. Five minutes tops.”
He squeezed Yew’s shoulder then left. Yew Rue punched Bol in the arm. He quickly accompanied Zingara as she followed her father.
“Can I walk you to the tent?” he asked.
Zingara let out a sigh.
“Fine,” she said. “That’s where we’re both going anyway.”
“You’re such a peach,” he beamed.
“OK. I changed my mind. Walk with someone else,” she said.
“Zingara, no one could … There is no one I’d rather be with.”
Zingara laughed and immediately pretended a cough. “Allergies.”
“What? Are you allergic to sincere, heartfelt honesty?” he asked, matching her stride.
“No, I’m allergic to the bull roar you speak. If I had a sign that you were being sincere, I might consider letting you walk with me more. Oh look, we’re here,” She held the tent flap open for him. “After you.”
“I’d like to complete this conversation … soon,” he said in a gentle whisper. Zingara let out a short breath and followed him into the war council tent.
“Excellent time,” Somer said, sitting at the head of the table. “Good soldiers, responding immediately.”
He gestured to his daughter and Yew Rue. They made it to the tent in under a minute when they asked to be there in five.
“Well you know us, sir,” Yew said with a twinkle in his eye.
“That I do my boy, please sit.”
Zingara and he found seats opposite each other. Several important leaders in the militia were there. Yew Rue had never attended a meeting like this before. He’d been to important meetings. But never one with all the leaders at once. Well, all the available leaders.
“I’ll cut the formalities and get to the point,” General Krest said gruffly. “Last night the Phoenix was reborn. This means it’s now time to begin our march on Shiloh.”
“Sir,” one of the captains spoke.
“Yes, Captain Whesk?”
“There is only a small segment of men who believe in the Phoenix. How will you convince the non-believers to join in the march?”
“Oh for iah’s sake Captain. If they do not march then they are not part of the army. And if they aren’t for the saving of Shiloh, they are against it. They’re in the cold without our resources. Please consider the logic of questions before you open your mouth,” Somer held a wiry hand to his head.
“Sir, Captain Whesk has a point,” a woman spoke up. “There’s no proof the Phoenix exists. It’s hard rallying troops around something fictional.”
“Is there anyone in here who doesn’t care if the Phoenix is fake or real?” Krest asked. The room was quiet.
“I don’t sir,” Yew Rue chimed in. “The point is, it’s time to take Lamia. The symbol is that we will rise from the ashes of the destroyed Shiloh and create a new one. So forget the exactness of the Phoenix. Let’s focus on what it represents.”
The room went silent again. Somer Krests eyes crinkled with a smile.
“Well said,” Then he was back to the business of war. “Whatever the reason for the march, I’m deploying five squadrons to cross the desert. They converge at the first wall of Shiloh. Thanks to Lieutenant Rue, we now have enough supplies to endure the trip. Fourteen raids on Lamia’s camps. It’s a miracle he and his men kept our camp secret.”
“Please, sir. It’s my men doing the work,” Yew Rue said, giving them credit.
“Either way. I’m promoting you to Captain of the First Squadron. Lead us straight across the Ahten desert. Pack immediately. Take a small team down to Jocer, the well town near the mountain base. I have a strong feeling about this Yew. Take Zingara with you. Go get everything you need now. Dismissed.”
“Yessir,” Yew Rue said in bewilderment.

BENEXUS Episode 4 – Caves+Braids

7:36 minutes

BENEXUS Episode 4

She massaged water in Iyo’s hair – brushing it with her fingers.

“Wish I had a comb. That’d be easier…” She gathered his hair and began braiding. “Iyo is your battle name. What’s your birth name?”

Silence.

“Promise you’ll protect it?” he asked.

“I won’t tell a soul,” she said, “Names have power.”

“Mark Skorn,” he said.

“Mark? Mark Skorn,” she repeated in a quiet voice. “Do you swear your life to the true crown of Shiloh – and promise everything in your power to keep it safe?”

“What?” Iyo asked.

“The braids are oaths,” Arrow explained. “I told you this earlier remember?”

“I thought you were joking. Can’t you give me a haircut without owing my life to the princess?” He turned around gazing at her. She leaned on his chair. Her face close to his.

“Look at this mess, Iyo,” she held up his tangles. “You’re unable to think straight. You don’t know why you’re fighting this war. Your dark hair is an expression of your soul – your inner mystery. It’s a tangled confused mess. It’s time to change. Come be a Royal Bodyguard to the princess – with me.”

He looked into her eyes, her face still inches from his. She didn’t break deep eye contact. Iyo without forethought grasped her strong hand.

“Yes,” he said, “I’ll be a Royal Bodyguard – with you.”

He turned, stopped, and glanced over his bare shoulder.

“Braid me,” he breathed in a low seductive voice. She inhaled a quick breath.

“Don’t say that,” the smile on her face disappeared into a scowl.

“It’s a joke,” he said.

“Yeah. OK,” Arrow took his long hair in her hands. Her razor glided close to his head. Clumps of hair fluttered to the cave floor. A stubble ran from the base of his neck to the crown of his head and around to his temples. His long top hair dangled. Arrow straightened his hair once again with her fingers.

“Mark Skorn, swear now your life to the true crown of Shiloh – and promise to keep it safe.”

“I do,” he said with a nod. She finished the main braid. Power surged in his chest.

She continued now braiding a smaller braid alongside the first,

“And do you swear to protect me, your sister in arms and fellow bodyguard?”

He paused and exhaled.

“Yes. I do.”

She moved to the other side of the large braid to make an identical smaller one. “Do you swear to protect your brother, Driver, as if he were royalty?”

His eyes stung. She included his little brother in this solemn pledge.

“I do swear it,” he uttered with pride.

She finished the traditional braiding.

“It’s done. You are no longer Mark Skorn,” Arrow pronounced.

Arrow tied all braids together. “Rise. Stand a new man – and a servant of Shiloh.”

He closed his tired eyes, a slow smile creeping across his closed lips. And she overwhelmed his smile with a spirited kiss.

BENEXUS episode 3 – Yew Rue: The Betrayer

6:04 minutes

She was too late.

“Father, you need medical attention,” Zingara said. In the darkness, she knelt with a bright chemical torch. Blood pooled around her knees.

“The closest medic is dead,” whispered Yew to Zin.

“Both. Take … the packet … my right breast pocket,” Krest wheezed.

Yew Rue pulled out a bloody wad of stuff and shoved it in his war kit. The perforated packet punctured by a finger-sized stone projectile.

“Zin, goodbye, my Desert Princess,” Krest breathed out.

“What to say?” said Zingara. As she spoke this dismal finality, Somer Krest, the wise old man, never inhaled again.

Dusty silence dispersed.

Zingara didn’t say farewell. It wasn’t right. Nothing glamorous, mere explosives on the door. Boom! He’s dead.

Zingara smothered her grief hating who wired the door: Lamia’s goons.
Her father helped Zingara discover her beauty and intelligence. His gift of confidence to succeed at anything. Now, her precious feelings gone in an instant. Her eyes closed tight. Angry blood vengeance must lie on this same cold white marble floor.

“You, men. In here,” commanded the solemn Yew.

A white carrying cot presented to remove Somer Krest’s broken body.

“Wait,” commanded Yew Rue. He withdrew a shining red feather from a secret pocket sewn in his pant leg.

“I return this sacred talisman,” he said. He spread a handkerchief across Krest’s silent chest. Folding Krest’s hands, he placed the long feather there. The warriors stared at the shiny feather in disbelief.

“It’s always been true,” whispered one.

“It’s the flight feather of Benu,” breathed a young uniformed woman.

“We never doubted the legend, sir,” said the drill leader.

“It’s more than legend now,” said Yew Rue, “Bury The Wise Old Man in full battle dress. The feather bears testimony of his sacrifice. Any questions?”

“No Sir.”

“His spirit guides us still!” Yew Rue shouted.

The soldiers memorized the moment, “The Wise One’s spirit guides us still!”

And outside a spontaneous battle chant grew and repeated, “Guides us still. Guides us still.”

Zingara noticed the new boldness in Yew’s voice. Returning the generous Phoenix feather was an honor. No desert man ever bestowed such a gift. She was in shock. Her trained military composure eroded in turmoil. A sob welled up deep inside.

Sad yearnings echoed in the silent vacuum. Her knees collapsed as she spoke, “Daddy, don’t go.”

Yew stepped among the assault team … and stood in the middle … in the proper teaching stance.

“I am Yew Rue. My battle name means sorrow. Here, you and I, we all, sorrow the loss of our valued leader – together. Our mission is to liberate this golden city. We will make Shiloh free again – or die.”

In silence, gloved fists began to rise, showing soundless battle consensus. So, promised by all: freedom – or death. And, without a word or struggle, Yew Rue became the unanimous chosen as new battle leader.

His eyes gleamed. The corner of his mouth curled in a treasonous smirk of treachery.

BENEXUS episode 1 – Zingara: Desert princess

6:29 minutes

Dusty carved leather covered the antique book – front and back. Zingara couldn’t read the cover’s strange cultist symbols. Dead fungus stained the worn leather a whitish powdery color. Inside, on creased pages, the faded words were old speak. Hard to unravel – but better than the blood-rock writings of the ancients.

The stained title page said, The First Book of War. A bloody thumbprint smudged the dogeared corner.

It smelled musty – and magical.

Scrawled inside the cover page some numbers detailed topical contents. She scanned down the list.

Here it is,” she said to herself, “Benexus.” She caught her breath speaking the word. A taboo word she’d heard whispered in hushed voices. Was it evil?

Why did she tremble? Excitement? Dread?

Benexus? included in a war book? Strange,” she thought. A hidden book buried underground beneath the earth for centuries. Was it forbidden language? And what did it mean?

And then – here now in front of her wide green eyes. Written in big black ink letters.

Benexus: The mind touch.”

Zingara pulled the candlelight closer and squinted at the letterforms.

She whispered, “Benexus is a telepathic technique. The minds of two individuals become a single entity.”

She stopped and puzzled. “Telepathy?” She wondered, “Thought transference? How?”

She scanned down the tan page and turned another crumbly paper leaf.

Benexus: The art of being present, being together. Deeper unspoken conversation when souls and minds speak direct between partners.”

This smacks of love poetry,” Zingara thought, “Not battle language at all. Foolishness,” she snorted.

Benexus: a bond or connection.

The conversation between partners involving body language, eye contact, emotional awareness, and rhythm.

1. The first definition of Benexus is “to be manifest.”

2. The second definition is “to come in sight.”

3. The third is “to appear in proper character.”

4. The fourth is “to appear without disguise.”

Without disguise — how curious?” she thought, “Did that mean unprotected? Armor-less?”

This didn’t sound like warriors. Wrinkles crossed her forehead and she scowled. “Vulnerable?”

Uncomfortable she read more.

Benexus means “to show yourself in your true guise,” or “to show your soul to another,” or “to make your spirit manifest to another,” or “to show your true SELF to another.”

Her lip curled in disgust.

It also means deep resonance or flowing together.

Now she tasted a taint of bitter in her mouth. “Warriors don’t do Benexus,” she scoffed.

Benexus is a conscious choice to manifest your spirit in a spiritual dimension.

Benexus requires trust in oneself. And the courage to be vulnerable when revealing one’s soul without disguise.

Benexus is a blessed joining.

She slammed the book shut.

A marriage word! Absurd.

The slow cloud of dust drifted and settled. In disgust, she stomped out of the dark library.

Mind rot,” she shouted back at the closed book, “The truth of Benexus is weakness! There’s no power here.”

Zingara was dead wrong.

Talent

Voice-over-artist: Chloe Wigmore

Illustration: Levi Teare