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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14. Death Valley

 

I was sitting in an old, rickety wooden chair. I had just woken up; my head was spinning like it had spent the last twenty four hours riding a carousel. Tilting my head upwards, I saw a man sitting in front of me, a somber expression on his face. His eyes were a sort of muddy brown, and his hair was dirty blonde, sticking up like a nest of ash covered bones. I shuddered.    

"She awakens," the man said dryly, not taking his eyes off of mine. "Funny, I would have thought that we immortals were all strong enough to last a day. Seems you're less than even a human, Darla. It's quite a shame."   

He clasped his hands together, leaning forward on his elbows, which were resting on a metal desk. "Tell me," he laughed. "What on earth did you do last night?"  

"I don't know, what on earth did I do last night? I think I might have ridden a humpback whale, or maybe eaten a baby koala for my supper. Oh, wait, don't tell me, I was eating a koala, while riding a humpback whale, delivering a baby, and creating hydro energy in the process. Am I right?"  

"Be serious."  

"Fine. I'll tell you everything I remember." He nodded for me to proceed, either ignoring my eye roll or being blissfully ignorant of it. "Okay, so my two friends and I, we've been in a spot of trouble with Keda, you know, the one who tried to destroy the world a couple of centuries ago. Anyway, she's been recruiting some mortals to try and get rid of us, maybe to build up an army to destroy every other immortal that she hasn't already killed. She's evil, but I guess you've been told that already. We were trying to find some of these mortals that she's recruiting, but I got separated from my friends in this club that they were in. I found them, but there was a mortal girl with them, and Keda. They were tied up, and she killed the mortal, or somebody anyway, hopefully not me, although Death's female, so I guess not. That's what happened."  

His forehead wrinkled. He cocked his head to one side, examining me from an angle that was not at all comfortable. My palms were beginning to sweat. "Are you sure? That's all."  

"That's all."  

"Right." The man stood up, his lips forced into a tight, pale line. "Excuse me for a moment." He left through a door I didn't know had been there, and I took a moment to look around.    

There was a window to my right, but it was locked and far too small for me to get out of anyway, though I might have been able to fit through with a lot of effort. I walked over to it, looking out. The sky was a bright, clear blue, and the sun shone somewhere I couldn't quite see. It was midday, though I could have worked that out from the clock on the wall. Below the window was the ground, but it looked too far away for a jump, and even if I'd survive it would injure me for long enough to be caught up to. Stretching out further into the distance was a park, a luscious green expanse littering with trees, benches and chattering groups walking hand in hand, arm in arm, oblivious to anybody else's presence, and blissfully ignorant of the world.  

This really had been thought through.  

As footsteps approached, I sat back down. With a start, I realised that if this was midday, it must have been at least twelve hours since Keda had killed that girl, and for someone reason I couldn’t remember anything that had happened after that. It was wrong, and though I must have been knocked out at some point, it shouldn't have taken a quarter of that time for me to come to.  

I decided with a sudden resolve that I needed to find out what the hell had happened.
The door opened, and I straightened in my chair. The man returned, this time with a woman in tow, a women who I recognised somehow, though I couldn't quite put a name to her dark face. "Darla?" the woman said softly. "I'm Fer, and this is my partner Darren. You may recognise us as part of the Ashki High Council. We just need to ask you some questions, and then we'll take you to meet some people."  

"Are they people I know?" I asked, well aware of my bored tone.  

"Yes," the woman - Fer - replied in a clipped voice. "They were with you last night, the night of the mortal girl's murder." Ah. So it was Angel who had been killed. "Now, Darren says you told him that Keda, a fellow Ashki, has been recruiting mortals to overthrow us all, and that you were trying to stop her, correct?"  

"Correct." I agreed.  

"And, just so we can get more of a picture on what happened, can you remember any of the other mortals there?"  

"There was a boy," I told her, perhaps too quickly. "His name was, I can't remember his name, um, Keda killed him too. I saw a few others, who seemed to be friends of him, I don't know where they are, they might still be alive, or they could be dead. I'm not sure, if I'm honest, though. And there were others, too, but they were just there, not important." I smiled.  

"Thank you," Fer said. "And, just this last question - are you sure you didn't kill any mortals?"  

"Yes. Yes, I'm sure I didn't kill any mortals." A lie, but a kinder one than the truth. Killing, death, was just a kind of normal now, but I didn't enjoy thinking about it, the way that they all moved on while I stayed still, like a river rippling around a steadfast, steady mountain. I didn't want to be a mountain for too long, though - they were all eroded to nothing, in the end.    

"Thank you," Fer repeated herself, a cherry blossom pink smile painted onto her lips. "We'll take you to meet the others now. Please, try not to attack anybody, for your own safety."   

I laughed soundlessly, instead pressing my fingernails into my flesh. "Of course."


I felt coarse hands on my arms, hoisting me out of my chair. A hit came to my head and a bit back a gasp, not entirely sure if the darkness was from my being unconscious, or because a blindfold had been placed over my eyes. Judging by the cat-like scratching of my skin, I decided that it was a blindfold instead. It came down over my nose, and it smelt like a disgusting combination age-old urine and vinegar coated sardines.  

I tried not to gag.
  My feet dragged on the floor for simply hours, my hands clenched into fists at my sides like I was strong, like I was taking a stand against the dumb ass Ashkine High Council, a rebel whose face would one day be painted on cinema screens, eyes seared into the hearts of the people. But right now, my fear was all too real. It was the worst kind of fear; an acrid, bitter poison that curled itself around my wrists, restraining me as it burned me away to nothing.

My ears pricked up at the sound of an opening of a door. It sounded heavy, probably grandly decorated, like the opening doors to a castle. A castle with a great dungeon, inside.   

I bit my lip, wondering if there was some way I could get my blindfold off now, run away and evade the tight grasp of Fer and Darren. And if I could, a chance that itself was incredibly slim, did I even have half of a hope of overpowering the two of them in a fight, of overpowering the other guards probably milling around here somewhere, just waiting for something to kick off so that they could finally get in some much sought after action.


  Clammy hands brushed through my hair as they untied the blindfold, causing me to shudder despite myself. I blinked once, twice, my head pounding slightly at the brightness filtering through the window. I'd been forced to face it directly. 

"Turn around," came Fer's voice. I obliged.  

The face I looked into was Keda's, and it was all I could do to hold back my scream.   It wasn't her that caused me to scream, but her face. Her once beautiful, silvery eyes were now steely grey, but even duller, like old grey rocks, beaten and battered until they're warped entirely into a mask of grotesque stone, like a gargoyle frozen on a top of a tower. That wasn't even the worst part. A web of pink, puffy burns stretched over her right cheek, and her nose was warped into a sort of narrow curve, flesh visible in spots where the skin had been burned away. Her lips were barely visible, though that could have been because she hadn't had time to apply her usual layer of lipstick.


"What happened to you?" I barked out, a small hint of a laugh teetering out of me like a tightrope walker dancing onto the stage. 

For a second, Keda didn’t say anything, simply glared at me with an ice cold scathing. "You," she snarled eventually. "You did this to me."

  It surprised me how she seemed still calm, in a way. Although I despised her in every sense of the word, I had to admit that she was far smarter than I gave her credit for, than any of us have her credit for, in fact. Yes, she was a tad bit insane, and if she was a mortal she'd already be locked up in an institution, and yes even before she went crazy she was always late to meet us, for our meetings, and came across as quite unapologetically disorganised, which she saw as a brilliant advantage, she was incredibly shrewd, and I wouldn't be surprised if she was even smarter than me.   "I don't quite understand what I've dome?" I laughed. "You're the murderer." The word felt like flaky red paint on my tongue, and caused a shudder to run through my body, course through my veins like acid and poison, dancing a melancholy dance of death and wine.  

"You destroyed that place, Darla," Keda hissed. "You destroyed it with me in it and the silly mortal in it and with Adrien and Lara and Jes and Ronan in it, and you are the one who ruins everything." She sounded more whiny now, like a petulant child all too ready to grow up and meet fate's warm embrace. 

  I wanted to tell her to stop being a bitch, but instead I asked, "Who's Ronan?"   

A shadow crossed her face like a black cat, but it cleared just as quickly as it came. "A friend, colleague even. But he doesn't matter, you'll meet him ... you'll meet him soon."   

She didn't sound like she was very certain about that, but I suppose no one ever is.  

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