Elementals-Chapter 8

From: Cheryl Baumgartner(C Baumgartner, Posted Date: Sep 24th, 2011

Benai wanted to scream, but there was no sound.  He tried to rip the arrow from his body, but he had no hands to grab it with.  In fact, the arrow was no longer there, and neither was his chest.   

He felt nothing but a soft coolness, a welcome relief from the scalding heat he’d just been surrounded by.  He had no eyes, but he saw darkness.  It wasn’t total darkness.  There was a slight glow behind it, allowing him to make out shapes, shadows, forms all around him.  The forms were vaguely human, but without distinct features.  He couldn’t recognize any of them. 

By the Gods, Danik was right!  Bloody bastard!   

Benai would use this to his advantage if it killed him.  Killed him.  That was amusing.  He would have laughed if he’d had lungs and vocal cords.  So now what? 

He couldn’t control anything.  How long would he have to wait?  He remembered that Danik hadn’t had any concept of time when he was here.  If and when he came out of this….place….it may be only minutes, or perhaps years, from when he left the living world. 

And would he remember who he was when he returned? 

He would remember.  He would REMEMBER! 

If he’d had eyes, he would have squeezed them shut while repeating the phrase over and over with the lips that didn’t exist. 

A pulling, rushing, cold feeling bathed him.  The darkness disappeared, only to be replaced by the brightest light he’d ever known.  But he could not block it out.   

Suddenly, it felt as if hard thick walls slammed into him from all sides.  He looked down and noticed that he now had a body.  Wow, so that’s what it felt like!  

And then the heat also struck him.  Heat on his back, heat in his new lungs, heat in his eyes.   

The bright light faded to show stone, above and around him.  He lay on sand and breathed dusty air.  He reached up a hand to feel his neck.  Yes, there was his pulse!  Amazing! 

And he knew who he was!  He called forth as many memories as he could: playing games as a child; his mother and father; his school; Klea and Grik; his life as a fugitive; Sarni; Vila; the Order’s attack on his planet; the city he was building here on…. 

What was this planet called?   

Strange that while he’d been alive, he’d never thought to give a name to this place. 

The sweat beaded on his forehead in the old familiar way and he inhaled hot air deeply.  The feeling inspired him to a name. 

He chuckled, then choked on the dustiness of the place.  Fire.  It was so simple.  Fire.   

And their neighbor would be, of course, water. 

But why was he wasting time naming things?  He had to get back to his city, find out how long he’d been gone, plan his revenge.  Oh, the things he could do now that death was no longer the end.  

He sat up and shook the dirt from his hair.  Examining his surroundings, he noted that he was in a natural alcove carved into the side of one of the small hills on this planet.  Through the opening, he saw the flatness of the sand, broken only by the occasional dune.  From the blurred air rising from the ground, he deduced that it must be the hottest part of the day. 

He’d stay here in the shade until it cooled just a bit. 

But that was outside. 

Inside his cave he now noted other people stirring, two on his right, four on his left and one behind.  They were all starting to sit up and look around as he had just done.  There were five men and two women among the group.  He didn’t recognize any of them.  Had they been any of the shadowy forms he’d seen in the dark place? 

“Hey, you” he said to the nearest man, “Who are you?” 

The man looked at him with a puzzled expression.  After a few seconds of thought, he said “I don’t know.  Do you?” 

Benai smiled.  “Yes, I know you.  Your name is Farin and you work for me.” 

“Oh, thanks.” 

The others had heard their short conversation and moved closer. 

“Do you know my name?” asked one of the women. 

Benai furrowed his brow.  Was he the only one who remembered anything?  Danik, Duke, had remembered himself, but his servants had not.  So then, only a few were given self-knowledge in their resurrection.  Fine with me. 

“Yes, you are Vashti” he told the woman, “You also work for me.” 

One by one, he named his companions and reminded them of their allegiance to his cause.  Within a few minutes, they were dedicated to helping him find and build his city, and destroy Duke. 

When the heat had waned a little, he led them outside.  He was still wearing the same clothes that he’d had on before being killed, and that included his weapons, his canteen, and the telescope.  The latter he used to scope the area from the top of the nearest dune. 

To the South, he saw the beginnings of a city, and then another one to the Southwest.  Juxtaposing their positions in his head, he knew that the first was his and the second was Duke’s.  Benai’s city was only 2 miles away.   

Interesting.   

So, what determined where people woke up when they came back from the dead?  Did they always return in the same place?  Could they control where and how they ended up or was it random? 

And, more importantly, how many times could you die before you failed to come back again at all? 

Benai rubbed his chin.  Burn that bridge when we come to it. 

He and his party set out Southward.  He checked his telescope every few minutes to see if Duke was aware of their travels, but it appeared that no one at his building site paid attention to anything but their assigned tasks.   

At least neither city looked much different as far as upward progress being made.  Good, that meant he hadn’t been gone too long. 

By the time they reached his construction, his companions were dragging their feet and panting, but still very eager to do his bidding. 

Benai went straight to where he saw his foreman hauling a metal slab toward a crude steel structure.   

This would be one of his balloon gondolas! 

“Graint” he called. 

The large man startled and dropped his slab, causing a huge cloud of dust to billow out. 

Suck on a snake!  Boss!  I thought they killed you!  They showed us your body.  Had a nasty lookin’ arrow stickin’ in it.” 

Benai grinned.  “I’ll tell you all about it later, Graint.  How long have I been away?” 

“Six days boss.  That prick over there….” he pointed to Duke’s city, “…..came to try to get us to build for him instead, after showin’ us your corpse.”  Graint grinned.  “Naturally, my boys and I talked him out of it.  Gave him a few of his own corpses to take back with him.  In fact……”  He now looked at the people following Benai.  “A couple of these kinda look like……” 

“Excellent Graint.” Benai interrupted, “I knew you could keep things under control.  And our new project looks like it’s getting off to a great start.” 

“Oh, yeah” Graint leaned down to pick up his slab again.  It’ll be done before you know it boss.” 

“How’d you like to help me with a little payback?”  Benai winked. 

“All over that!” Graint swung his metal in a wide arc that would have beheaded anyone in its path. 

 

 

 

 

Benai stood at the entrance to the tunnel, watching his men dig.  They whistled as they worked, enjoying the shade of the enclosure and the echoing of the sound.  They had started in the alcove where Benai had awoken, and then, on his order, had begun digging out and shoring up what would become a tunnel between the two cities.  He wanted the space to be large enough for four men across, with at least a pace to spare overhead. 

It would take time, but here on Fire, time was in abundance. 

Right now, they were more than sixty paces in and working fast. 

Benai was pleased.  So pleased in fact that he actually picked up a spade himself and joined them. 

 

 

 

 

Duke sat at the opening of his tent, cup of water in one hand and blueprints of the next floor of his city on the small table in front of him. 

“My Lord!” one of his workers called, rushing up to him.  The man stopped so abruptly to kneel in front of him that he sent sand flying into Duke’s cup. 

Sighing, Duke decided not to kill anyone today.  “Rise and report” 

“A group of twenty are coming from the Northwest, Sir.  Should I…..” 

Duke had his telescope to his eye and turning in that direction before the man could finish.  Sure enough, a small group plodded through the dunes.  They weren’t close enough yet for him to recognize who was among them, and many of them were hooded. 

“Yes” said Duke immediately, “Have the archers take positions.  We’ll pick them off one by one if they turn out to be…..unfriendly. 

The worker ran to obey his command.  By the time the invaders were within range, his men with their bows were poised, hidden behind turrets on his tower.  These could be Benai’s people, whether or not Benai himself had returned yet from this planet’s limbo. 

Or they could just be more of the dead from the crash who had come back and just homed in on the first sign of civilization they found.   

Or they could be…… 

He started to see features on the faces at the front of the party.  At least the first three of them were men he’d lost in that last skirmish with the brute that was heading Benai’s builders. 

Aha!  They were his own people returning. 

They wouldn’t know they were his people yet, but he’d let them know. 

He motioned for his archers to lower their arrows, but stay in their places. 

“Who’s in charge here?” called the man at the forefront of the group, coming to stop about ten paces from the tent. 

“I am” said Duke. 

The visitors all kneeled at once.  Duke didn’t react outwardly, but smiled a bit on the inside. 

“We wish to join your city” said the man, gesturing out toward the dunes, “we woke up out there and wandered until we saw you.” 

“Of course” Duke replied, “Do you have names?” 

The man looked a little sheepish.  “We don’t know Sir, but……” 

He was cut off by a shriek coming from the tower.  Duke whipped around and saw one of his archers struggling with an unseen assailant.  There was something around his neck that suddenly yanked him backwards, out of Duke’s sight.  Another archer on the other side of the tower jerked as blood spewed from his mouth, collapsing into a heap. 

The remaining two archers panicked and pointed their arrows behind the c