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.
“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.”