Mother Mindly had made Starfire a cup of hot, brown liquid she called 'quakwa'. The young girl sat cross-legged on the bed. The spicy, smokey flavor of the quakwa was very strong, and she found herself unable to take more than a small sip at a time.
"Who are you, Mother Mindly?"
The large woman laughed. "What a strange question! I hardly know how to answer."
"It is simply that–I hope I am not being impolite in saying this–but you do not seem the type of woman to be involved in..." Starfire trailed off, unsure of what word to use to describe the Secret Sentinels.
"The resistance?" Mother Mindly supplied.
"Well, you're exactly right, dearie. I would never be here if it weren't for my husband. It was him that got the family into this whole business. He was always a good man, Ond, and brave, of course. But rash, with more passion than was good for him. I was angry with him after he joined the Secret Sentinels. How was putting himself in danger, you see, and our son as well, without ever asking me what I thought about the matter. But I soon found that the Sentinels had need of my skills... and it felt wonderful to help them." Mother Mindly's gaze was fixed on nothing, a thoughtful expression on her face. "And after all has been said... I'm glad that Ond dragged us all into the resistance. Poor, obstinate Ond."
A sneaking suspicion stole over Starfire. "Is... is he dead?"
Mother Mindly smiled very slowly. The smile
was soft, almost wistful, but within it Starfire thought she could
detect deep, deep sadness. "No, my husband is not dead.
You'll have a chance to meet him, soon enough."
Starfire wondered what this meant. Had she only imagined the sadness is Mother Mindly's smile?
There was a knock at the door. "Come in!" the woman called loudly.
The door opened and a boy of about eighteen stepped inside.
"Oh good!" Mother Mindly exclaimed, beaming. "Jimmas, I want you to meet out guest. Isn't she pretty? And I gather that she's from another planet. Exotic, don't you think?"
"Yes of course Momma," said Jimmas, sounding flustered, "but, you see, Lady Aleran woke up and she keeps on saying she needs to see the other girl, and, well..."
"Naturally she wants to see her friend. We'll go to her now."
"Yes, Momma, but she won't stay lying down and we kept on telling her she needed to rest but she wouldn't listen and... well..."
"Out of my way!" said a low voice from behind him. He jumped aside as if shocked and Raven strode into the room. Someone had changed her out of her Teen Titans uniform and into a sort of loose fitting grey tunic. She looked strange out of her usual costume, it seemed to Starfire, friendlier and much less witchy.
The expression on Raven's face, however, was just as grim as ever. "Are you alright?" she asked Starfire.
"I suppose that I am."
"Then get up. We're going to see Bentris." Raven turned to face Mother Mindly. "Where is he? Where's Bentris?"
"I'm sure I don't know, dear. He does seem to move about so much, doesn't he? But he'll come to talk to you as soon as he knows you're here, don't you worry. Now, when you interrupted us I was in the middle of introducing your friend here to my boy, but now I realize that I never asked her name! How silly of me!"
"I..." Starfire looked up at Raven. The other girl said nothing, the expression on her face annoyed but resigned. "I am called Starfire."
"Oh, a beautiful name. Don't you think so, Jimmas? And so unique, too. Jimmas?"
The boy blushed and said nothing.
"Forgive my son," said Madame Mindly to Starfire
with a knowing smile. "He's always shy around pretty
This remark seemed to exhaust Raven's patience. "Please, ma'am, there's no time for this. A friend of ours has been captured by the Sentinels and I need to speak to Bentris now."
The effect of this statement on Starfire was like a bomb exploding nearby. She sat, stunned, for only a moment before she shot to her feet, dropping her still half-full cup of quakwa, and grabbed Raven's arms. "What? Are you speaking of Robin? What has happened to him? How did he allow the Sentinels to capture him? What will they do to him? Please, Raven, tell me!"
"I don't know." And in Raven's calm voice was an admonition to Starfire to be calm herself, a reminder that their situation demanded that both girls remain level-headed. "When I came through the portal, both he and Laros were already gone and there was a Sentinel lying in wait for me. I don't know how, but they knew about the Eight Place of the Portals, and that we'd be coming back through it. Somehow, Father knew."
Behind Raven's back, Mother Mindly drew in her breath sharply. "I had never expected! Oh dear... I believe you are right, Milady. You must speak to Bentris as soon as possible. Go and find him Jimmas; there must be someone who knows where he is."
"That will not be necessary." All heads turned to see a very old man standing in the open door.
Bentris led them out of Mother Mindly's room.
"It is a sewer!" said Starfire in surprise.
Raven was looking ahead at Bentris's back. "A bit cleaner than that."
The headquarters of the Secret Sentinels was located far beneath the city. Starfire and Raven were in a narrow tunnel, its walls and ceiling dark and slimy with moss. To the left of them the floor dropped away to a river that foamed by several feet below. The tunnel was dimly lit by lanterns affixed to the walls with iron brackets.
"It's a natural river that runs underneath the City," Raven informed her friend. "It's also where the Azerathi get all their water. See." She pointed out a pipe that ran up from the river to the ceiling. The pipe was as wide around as a barrel and the metal was black with age. There were other pipes, spaced far along the tunnel. "Waste is emptied into the river much farther along, right where it leaves the ground beneath the City. The pipe system dates from the building of the City, so most people don't remember anything about it. They think water originates magically in their faucets, if they think about it at all. Even the Sentinels don't know that there are ways down to the river, so you can see how it's a perfect place to hide away."
"Oh. A bit gloomy, is it not?"
"I like the gloom," said Raven. And she did. Despite her years of exile this underground place was as familiar to Raven as her own room in Titan Tower. It was more her home than her father's apartments had ever been, and the darkness and even the wet, mossy smell reminded her of a time when she felt safe.
Bentris stopped at another door and unlocked it. Inside was a small room containing a table, chairs, and a bed against the wall. He settled onto the bed, his legs crossed beneath him. He made the bed–no more than a low wooden bench softened by cushions–seem like a royal throne. " Black light swept up two of the chairs around the table and turned them to face Bentris. "Sit."
Starfire obediently dropped into a chair, but Raven remained standing. "You're not sick after all, are you?" The old man merely smiled. "Then Laros lied to me?"
"We had to get you here somehow, did we not?"
"You always were a son-of-a-Arek-ai, Bentris."
"It wasn't a complete lie, my daughter. I may
not be on my death bed, true, but I am a very, very old
Raven could see that this was true. Even in the few years since she had last seen him from a man who was old but fit into a frail and twisted ancient. Now his scalp was bald and spotted, and his eyes—she had remembered those eyes as being bright green and scalpel-sharp. Now they were colorless, red-rimmed and blurry. There was a sense, about Bentris, of an old and decrepit building held up only by steel props, as if it was by willpower alone that he kept from collapsing into dust.
Raven sat down and folded her arms. "So what am I expected to do now?"
"The Azerathi love you, Raven. Even before your escape you were their future ruler, their Lady Aleran--a pretty, pitiable thing to be watched and loved by her subjects. Since then you've become a heroine out of a bedtime story. The beautiful princess who was able to slip out from the shadow of her evil father."
"Mother Mindly said you were their hope," said Starfire softly.
"So?" Raven asked. "What does this mean? What do you want me to do about it?"
"What are you to do? Well, you must understand. The Secret Sentinels have been fighting for a long time, a pitifully small force struggling against the giant of Veldrek's legacy. And our fight is hopeless. If we go on like this, we will never win, and the City shall always be held in chains."
"And how am I supposed to change that?"
"Don't you see? The Secret Sentinels can not defeat Hailorn on our own. But, if all the Azerathi of the City rose us and fought with us, we would have hope again."
"Why don't they, then? They must hate Hailorn as much as either of us."
Bentris shook his head sadly. "But daughter, people are weak. They are scared and uncertain and cautious. They would never give their loyalty to someone such as me, or to anyone but you. Only you can command the hearts of the people, only you can stir them into uprising.
"The revolution is coming, Raven, and you will be its heart."