Forever Young

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  • Published: 22 Dec 2015
  • Updated: 27 Jul 2016
  • Status: Complete
Darla is most definitely not a human.

She's one of the Ashki, an immortal race who have lived alongside humans from the very beginning. But friendships don't survive that long, and her contacts with her fellow Ashkine people are practically non existent, humans just tiny little pieces in the jigsaw of time. And an old enemy is back, proposing changes to the way their society has run and developed, and destroying the Ashki in the process.

Now Darla must gather her friends together to save themselves and their souls. But after so many millennia, is time finally running out for the Ashki?

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29. Armour

Kay came to apologise at twelve noon.

"I'm sorry," he said, looking sincere. "I shouldn't have blown up at you. I just - I've had all this stress about Darla, and I'm worried about her and she's acting, well, like a different person, really, though I guess I kind of am too, but I just, I'm so sorry, I really am.

"You've been so nice, you know, even though I'm a guard and you really aren't under any obligation to be kind to me." He ran a hand through his mop of messy brown hair. It looked black at night, and I thought that maybe that it was all a trick of the light, and my mind had made him up for me in my dreams. "So, I guess, I should thank you." He shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, an almost sheepish smile on his face. "Thanks."

I laughed, though I didn't truly feel like it was funny. "It's alright," I said, not truly meaning it. Dogs barked somewhere in the distance, howling out their despair at the moon's absence. "Just... You don't really believe that I'm a spy for Keda, do you? Because I'm not. I'm not a traitor, and anyone who thinks I am should get a sodding good punch in the mouth."

"Woah, lion girl, calm down a little," Kay chuckled. "And no, I don't, not really." I exhaled a breath, let it out like a flood of water bursting through a dam wall. "Now, there's something you need to see. If you really are on our side, we have a little bit of a, um, process." He smiled weakly. "Don't worry, it's not, um, painful or anything, it's just that, well, my colleague, you'll be meeting her soon, she isn't exactly the most trusting person. So you need to properly prove your loyalty. If that's okay. I mean, assuming that you want to, um, join us, not just go off on your own." His hand was run through his hair again, as he smiled.

"Well, what is it that I have to do? I mean, to 'prove my loyalty'?"

"Well, that's really all up to Sarise. That's my colleague by the way." He nudged my arm softly. "Come on. Let's get it done soon. You do have the afternoon to spare, right?"

"Yes," I told him. "Though Keda wants to be with us for something that's happening tonight. Stacy won't tell me what, though."

"Stacy - your lieutenant? The one who likes bacon?"

"Yeah," I laughed. "That's the one."

He grinned. "Well, I'll make sure to bring back any bacon we find."

When we found Sarise, in a backstreet far away from the castle, she was with a woman who was lying on the ground, and bathing in a pool of her own blood. Which was lovely.

"Help me!” the woman cried, clutching an oozing red wound. "Tell me where my queen is, and please, please help me! She said she'd help if anybody needed it! Tell me where she is!"

Sarise laughed cruelly, like the woman was the most pathetic person she'd ever encountered. "Shut up, or I'll kill you slower." I don't know why she would have wanted to drag it out; surely she had better things to worry about? For example, me and Kay.

"Sarise!" Kay bellowed, and she turned around, startled.

A wicked smile licked across her ruby lips, and joy salsa danced in her eyes. "Oh, hello there my darling boy!" she laughed, without a hint of humour in her voice. "I wasn't expecting you!" Her laugh was like smoke rising from burning coals, and her hair smelt just the same as she sashayed over to us. She wrapped her arms around Kay, who reciprocated in a somewhat awkward fashion. Giggling fakely, she pulled away, and turned to me, discarding the woman she'd been torturing, using only a flick of her hand.

"Oh, sorry about that, dear! Who are you?"

"This is my friend," Kay said, putting an emphasis on the word 'friend', "Calynn. She wants to join us."

"How long has she been your friend, Kay?" she asked, rolling her eyes lazily. "Tell me honestly."

Her voice dripped with syrup in a patronising flavour.

"Um, a few days," Kay said, and Sarise snorted.

"Real good bond you've got going on there, sweetie." She turned to me, looking at me the way a lion might look at a zebra. "Now, as for you, I don't know if Calynn is your actual name. Is it?"

"It's Lady Ari," Kay said. "But I refer to her as Calynn."

A flicker of doubt shadowed Sarise's face. "Why?"

Kay shrugged. "It's our... Thing. Like me being Kay, not Kaden."

Sarise frowned, but seemed to accept this as a halfway decent answer. "Very well then, Ari, Calynn, whoever the hell - oops - you are, you will have to prove your loyalty. You realise this, yes?"

"Of course. My friend," I too put emphasis on that word, purely to see the pissed off look on his face "Kay, has already told me all about it. Well, obviously not all about it, but I'm sure you know what I mean."

Sarise laughed, and cut Kay an almost jeering look. "Okay. Now, do you want to come with me or not? Kay, you trot along with us, too. I'd hate for you to feel left out."

He grinned like a cat, and Sarise led us away, heels clicking on the ground.

We were led to a small door in a narrow street, painted a peeling green, and Sarise leant against it nonchalantly, pulling a mobile phone out of her jeans pocket. "Let's see, password. Aha! Say this after me, you two: Claustra inferni, aberta sunt." We murmured the words, and the door swung open, Sarise stumbling slightly as Kay stifled a laugh. "Now, come in. And, Kay, please wipe that stupid smirk off of your face before I push you against that wall."

He seemed to contemplate this for a moment, before he rolled his eyes and said, "Whatever," and guided me through the door to follow Sarise.

It was dark inside the building, and it seemed to only have one room on the bottom floor. Sarise clapped her hands twice sharply, and lights flickered on. The room was larger than I had thought before, and was lined with bookshelves full of not only books, but ornaments of owls and ravens and dragons and in all honesty it was really, really weird. There was a white lamp on a bright green desk, with a notebook lying open on top and a quill sitting in a small pot of ink.

"Sorry it's a bit messy," Sarise said, but she didn't sound very messy. "My housemates, well, she aren't exactly two of the neatest people in the world."

There were a few questions I could have asked her then, but the first one was, "Why do you have housemates?"

"To have sleepovers with," she sneered, rolling her eyes. "Now, they're upstairs just now, please don't make any sort of sudden moves. And don't be loud, for all of our sakes." She then proceeded to yell, rather hypocritically, "Raven! Circe! We have visitors."

"Recruits, do you mean?" a sugary sweet voice sang back.

"One recruit. The other's Kay."

There was no reply, but for two hushed voices and the faint pitter patter of feet. A short woman with black hair slid down the banister, while a taller, slim woman tiptoed down, her red hair coiled around her head. "I'm Raven," said the short one in a grating, harsh voice. "Collector of souls, friend to Death."

"And I'm Circe," said the tall one, her voice sugary sweet. "Very pleased to meet you." Circe stuck out her hand, and brought out an apple she'd been holding behind her back. It seemed to glitter, like it was covered in a thousand red rubies. "Want a bite?" I took her hand, but not the apple.

She shrugged, and bit into it herself, smiling and staring at me all the while.

"Calynn," Sarise said, a hint of glassy sharpness in her voice. "These are my ... housemates. Raven and Calla." She turned to the two of them. "Calynn is Kay's friend, and she's come to be initiated into our resistance. She wants to help us take down Keda." Circe's eyes lit up.

"Will this involve my skills, Sarise, my dearest friend?" she asked, batting her long lashes. I shivered slightly. "I have been waiting to try out a new method of communication."

Sarise laughed a cold, high laugh. "Of course it will, Circe. Raven, you too."

"Wonderful," Raven sighed. "How long will it take?"

"Only an hour or so. Kay, will you stay here with your friend, and I'll have a little chat with my housemates here. Just a couple of details. Okay, darling?"

"Uh huh." The three women sashayed up the stairs, and Kay mouthed to me, 'Darling?' I snorted.

"Do you know, exactly, what happens here? Like, what they're going to do to me?"

"No idea, actually. But I'm sure you'll be fine. And I highly doubt that they'll end you like they did the last one - you're my friend."

"End me, did you say?"

"Yeah, but, I mean, not like that. They just sent him away, out of the city. Ended his time here." He saw me still looking uneasy. "You'll be fine, Calynn. Trust me."

Raven, Sarise and Circe came down the stairs. Raven's hair fell over her shoulder and spilled onto her deep black gown, her yellow eyes narrowed like a cat's, roaming over my body with her animalistic presence. Circe was smiling, skipping like a child, wearing a short green dress like a fairy. And Sarise in the middle, wore tight leather trousers, and a tiny red top.

"Sorry we took so long," Circe chirped.

"We had so much to discuss," Sarise added.

"This is kind of a big deal, for all of us."

"You especially, though I don't say that to alarm you." Sarise grinned sadistically.

"Though we don't mean to frighten you, of course."

"If you can't stomach it, then you can leave."

"The door is that way, if it helps," Circe smiles.

"But time is important."

"And we'd hate to waste any more of it."

"So if you're leaving, leave now."

"Though you can have a little chat with Kay, if you'd like."

"No, you really must, actually."

Raven glared at me. "But for the sake of my own sanity, be quick about it."

The three of them grinned eerily. "We'll leave you for a while," Sarise told me.

"But not too long though, dear," Circe started to dance across the room.

"We'll be through the door over there." Raven pointed to just underneath the shadow of the staircase. "Be quick."

They all entered through the door, and I turned to Kay. "You know, it's custom to tell your escort your secret right now."

"Is it really?"

"Sadly, yes." He smiled faintly. "Your biggest secret - it's part of the initiation. Even I had to do it."

"And what was it you told your escort?"

"That is something you can only know after you've joined us. You must tell me your secret first."

I smiled and leaned against the wall, and all reality seemed to slip away for a moment. "My real name isn't Ari, or Calynn. I'm not really sure if I'm allowed to tell you this, but right now, yeah. Yeah, it is my biggest secret. I'm not who you think I am, and - "

Circe's head poked out through the door. "That's enough for now," she sang, and spun towards us, kissing each of us briefly in turn, which made my cheeks burn slightly. Stupidly. "Raven's getting impatient, and I can't wait until our Calynn here is a sister of the fires! Come on, quickly! Kay, no following. This is a very strict ritual." Seriousness fell upon her face like a mask for a second, before she laughed. "Let's go."

She took my arm in hers, and pulled me across the floor, to the door. "Bye, Kay!" She blew him a kiss and giggled, as we disappeared through the door.

My mind was drawn back to me secret. I tried to finish the sentence, but I couldn't, and Kay wouldn't have been able to hear me, anyway.

Circe let me go as I sank into a velvety armchair, and she sat on the right of Sarise, across a mahogany desk from me. The ceiling was covered in dark fabrics and silks, hanging down, and candles lined the stone walls.

"Calynn." Sarise said, and I stared at her.

"Calynn," Raven echoed.

And then Circe, "Calynn."

"You wish to join us? In our search to weed out the dark forces walking this earth, to destroy Keda and her followers and serve justice to all the peoples of this world? Yes?"

"If you say no now, we will have to kill you," Raven snickered.

"Yes. Yes, I do."

"Wonderful!" Circe cried. "Now, let us open your mind. Um, not literally, that might not look great. But you probably knew that! Sarise will talk to you first."

"We will see your intentions, to prove your loyalty now. This is a requirement. Do you understand."

"Of course."

"Good. Now, I deal in justice, Calynn. Delicta ostende mihi. Let me see your crimes."

She touched my hand, took it in her own, and it was like a thousand stars had died so that this moment would burn inside of my mind.

Visions raced before me, like wolves on a hunt for blood. Fire, shattered glass, arrows piercing hearts, blood on the floors, a tidal wave of rage to swallow a civilisation whole, furious energy, plagues of fear, stolen curses on stolen lips. A hammer, falling, crushing another.

And it stopped. Sarise frowned at me for a moment, before she turned her palms up to the ceiling. Fire danced between them, and her words fuelled it like coal. "You have passed justice, my Calynn." She turned to Raven, and gave her a pointed look.

"I deal in deliveries, bringing souls to their rightful places, showing where they will end up. Sors ostende mihi. Show me your fate."

There were trees, and the trees were on fire. They burned like falling stars, and my soul burned with them, as I faced Keda, and the shadows that lurked behind her. "Pretty little darling," she crooned. "You aren't scared, are you? Scared of what might become of your ..." she paused for a moment "allies?"

She cackled, and I cackled with her.

My hands grabbed the desk, nails like claws digging into its wood. "You have passed," Raven said, sounding bored. "Just." She held my gaze for a moment, until Circe squealed.

"It's my turn!" I thought she was about to explode into confetti, she seemed so excited. "Now, Calynn," she giggled. "I deal in monsters. Metus ostende mihi." It was like a song, the way she said it. And an enchanting song, at that. "Let me see your fears." She giggled again, and I fell.

A ragged beast ran through the mountains, jet black fur matter by the rain. It turned to me, eyes glinting, and it had fangs, such razor sharp fangs, it was like I was already pierced.

And I was still falling, still falling, into water, deep deep water and I ask below the waves and let it take me over, welcome me into its dark embrace. I tried to scream, but there was no sound, until I was ripped out of the waves, thrust onto the craggy rocks. I was bleeding.

Rough hands pushed me over, and I stared into familiar faces, made foreign by hatred. Lara sneering, Kaden glaring, Adrien snarling, Keda telling me that yes, yes I had been betrayed.

Lara saying I was evil, twisted, Keda laughing manically, Adrien whispering stories of a witch burnt at the stake, and Kaden saying nothing. Like he wasn't even there, until he picked me up and hurled me onto rocks, again and again and again and then Death smiling at me like a angel sent from hell.

Circe laughed, and broke me from the cage and the bonds of my nightmares. "You've passed, Calynn!" she squealed. "You are officially one of us." She bounded over to me, enveloping me in a tight embrace.

"Circe, please let her go," Sarise sighed. "This room is closed now. I am proud you are a sister of ours now, but I believe that you are wanted by Kay out there."

"You do have a mobile telephone, don't you?" Circe asked. "I know that he doesn't - Kay, I mean - and really, it's so inconsiderate. It is such an easy way to get in touch, but it is a little different than what you may be used to, so I'm unsure really."

"Yes, I have a mobile phone."

"Wonderful! Let me put in our contact numbers, it's very important. We only get in contact with Kay because Sarise here can't keep him away." Even Raven cracked a smile, miraculously. I handed Circe my phone, unlocked, and she typed in the numbers quicker than I could breathe, and handed it back. "Now go, go! I have a feeling you are needed."

She pushed me out of the door, albeit gently, and Kay took me from her. "The bells just tolled, and it is definitely not the right time. That means Keda has summoned someone, and by the guards screaming your name on the main streets, I'd say it's you."

He ushered me down the streets, telling me to keep moving quickly, until we took a route that led us to the main streets. "I have her, Ronan," he said, pushing me towards the other guard. "Hope it wasn't inconvenient."

"Not at all. She is a friend of the queen, and she is exempt from any anger because of that. It was not urgent, but there is a ball to be held later - you are to go too, guard Kaden." It felt strange to hear him called that. I suppose that's how Keda wanted him with her, and it made my stomach churn. "Quickly, now. You need to get fixed up for it."

My 'initiation' had filled me with a sort of giddy ecstasy, that made reality and logic fade away. That's a good explanation for what happened, anyway.

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