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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24. Heathens

For me, in an almost twisted way, it was fortunate that Essie's parents had been poisoned, for it meant that Keda was to preoccupied with dealing with the issue to notice me slinking silently out of the small house and into the streets. I shivered slightly, as a welcome breeze drifted through the air. There was a clock tower not to far away, that told me it was almost ten o'clock at night. With a slight smile, I spied the castle in the distance, and began to make my way through the streets, until I reached the castle doors. The guards were currently changing patrol, as there was no one standing there, so I creaked the door open with my hand. Nobody came round any corners.

  I grinned.   Creeping along the corridor, I gradually turned back into Lady Ari, ducking into my room at the end of the corridor. Still, sleep didn't come easy, and when it did it certainly was not peaceful.  

 

My heart was pounding. When I turned around, I met a pair of bright red eyes, and it was as if this moment was all I had ever truly known in my life, like every muscle in my body was screaming a coded message that I could not decipher. It was like every single wasteful breath I had taken up until that moment had been leading up to this, to the wild and frenzied feeling that I got in my bones as a callous laughter danced in the air between me and the pair of red eyes. 

The eyes studied me with an unnerving sense of calmness, and a cool, yet rough hand rested on my shoulder, sending shockwaves spiralling down my spine, feeding the poisons of a crazed mania into my veins. 

 

But I knew that, despite the adrenaline and the laughter and the almost cheerful delirium, I was trapped. Perhaps I only knew this because of the vague sense that I was being watched, attacked with no words nor fists, though I was unsure of what I was actually trapped in; a cage, a cell, a prison, or - perhaps most terrifying of all - a noose built from the gathering strings of my own insanity. 

 

And I surrendered myself to the simply vague idea of them all, for what did it matter as long as I could find inside myself the will to escape?

 

There was a staircase rising above me, coated in marble and glossy mahogany, a mash up that meant it could only be from inside these castle walls. Though I wasn't sure where I was, I was sure that I was not in my own body - or Ari's.

 

Indeed, when the possessor of the red eyes spoke, it was not to me, but to another woman, with skin the colour of the sunset, and hair that seemed to come from a coal mine. 

"Do we have progress?" Red Eyes asked the woman in a deep, gruff voice, with an accent I could not quite distinguish, got it seemed to come from the heart of the stars themselves.

 

"Yesss, my Lord," the woman hissed with a snake like tongue. "The others are coming for her, and they will sssoon desstroy this sssacred place."

 

"How soon?" Red Eyes barked, eyes glowing like fire. "There is very little time left while the Ashkine are at war with themselves, I can feel it. We don't have enough time to wait for 'soon' to come around. It has to be now!"

 

"My lord, forgive me," the woman hissed again, "but I can't possssibly control them, they're muuch too powerful. They're blinded by their emotionsss, they're temperamental. Who'sss to sssay if we will ever controool them, or if they can even control themselves and their own ssselfish desires?"

"Maybe you can't." I began to see Red Eyes' form more clearly - he was a man made of ashes and fire, seeming to sink in to his surroundings. "But mark my words, Sarise, I am more powerful than you could ever imagine. If you are lying to me, trying to stall me, it will not be tolerated." 

 

Airisa was shaking slightly, but she nodded.

 

"Now, as for our little... apprentice, here, you have a task to do for me."

 

Without meaning to, I nodded and said, "Whatever you wish for me, my Lord. I am at your mercy." Damn, that sounded like one of the stupidest things I've ever said.

 

"Very good, very good. See, Sarise, our apprentice has more sense than you do." He barked out a laugh. 

 

"Of courssse she doesss," Sarise hissed, voice laced with venom.
 

Red Eyes' hand was still on my shoulder, but he allowed it to slide from my shoulder to my spine as he curled his body around me. I shiver under his touch, which is so burning, scathingly hot that it is like an icy voice, gripping me tightly. “It’s time for your show to start, dear apprentice. Come now. There's something I've been meaning to show you. Believe it or not, it's your fate.”
 

“You sssee, apprenticsse, thisss 'queen' hasss been working on sssomething for a very long time, and it would be a truly atrociousss turn of eventss if sssomething wasss to... Go wrong." Sarise snickered.
 

“Sarise," Red Eyes sighed, hand slowly snaking its way around my waist, "I would appreciate if you allowed me to inform our apprentice of our plan. Considering I am the most intelligent and powerful of us. Don't you think?"

 

"Yesss, my Lord," Sarise hissed once more. "Asss you wish. It jussst that I think - "

 

"Shut up, Sarise, you stupid woman!" Red Eyes' voice is harsh, like the sound of nails grating over a chalkboard, knives running over countertops. He smiles as he turns to me, and flicks a hand at Sarise, who pouts.  Red Eyes takes my hand with the arm that is not around my waist, and leads me away up the stairs, like we are in some sort of enchanted dance, like I'm Cinderella and Sarise is a jealous stepsister who was never given a second thought. As we glide to the top, I cast a look down at Sarise, who glares as though I have stolen her most precious toy. I sneer back at her, and let myself sink further into Red Eyes' warm body. I don't know why, but it's all my body can tell me to do, as if I'm a puppet dangling on a lonely string controlled by a master without a face. 

 

"Sarise!" Red Eyes calls to her. "Come up here as well. This is important for you, too."
 

She rolled her strikingly dark eyes, but she followed us anyway, like a lost puppy follows her master. 

 

Now silent, the three of us crept through a door, which, to my relief, barely even creaked a single bit. Yet I couldn't help but wonder if the other rooms were as easy to get into, if their doors were so welcoming to visitors. Most of all, I wondered what they must have contained, if they weren't, or even if they were. I smiled slightly, considering the mundanity that could lurk beneath the doors, if only I could control my imagination. But then again, was that really possible, for such an imagination to imagine containing itself or being contained, like a blazing star free falling into a black hole, not ever being able to escape, just spiralling into an endless nothing as one does when one has lost such a crucial part of one's mind.

 

No. I didn't want to imagine it any further. Maybe Red Eyes was my black hole, as I was drawn inexplicably closer to him, something I thought to be near impossible.

 

Red Eyes stopped at the edge of a long mahogany bench, which display intricate little flowers painted with gold paint. He sat and pulled me down with him, so close I was nearly sitting on his lap. Sarise pouted and he told her to sit down beside me. At the sight of her disgruntled expression, I laughed, and Red Eyes pulled me closer. 

 

Half of my muscles screamed at me to run, the other half yelled at me to press myself ever closed to him. The latter half won out, as he began to speak. 

"There are two Ashkine - Adrien and Lara. Both of European origin, I believe somewhere in Greece is more accurate. I want you to bring them here, and do everything in your power to do it. I know you will not fail me." Though he was talking to me, he was staring at Sarise, a seductive smirk slipping over his lips. Then, he leaned down closer to me, lips pressed to my ear. He whispered, "You might just have a reward waiting for you, when you complete this task." I felt a surge of pride as I noticed how he said 'when', and not 'if'.

For a dream, if felt scarily real.

Somewhere deep inside me, I think that I knew that this could potentially come to the point of harming Adrien or Lara, or maybe even both. I also knew that if I had to run, to leave, this would be the only time that I could, this was my last chance. But I was too lost in Red Eyes, those two black holes that weren't quite so black, as he smiled a smile that was so cruel and yet so loving, that I knew the deal was sealed.

 

"Of course," I said, somehow managing to find my voice in the tangled mess that was us. "I will do anything for you," I cast a glance over to Sarise, "my love."
 

Sarise said something, but I didn't care. I was filtering out everything but him, and noticing tiny little details that I didn't think anybody could have bothered noticing. The short stubble on his chin, the way muscles were taught and hard and strong under my wandering hand, the way that he sometimes smelt like fire and smoke, and sometimes like vanilla and strawberries and sugar. It didn't seem to matter at first, but I was suddenly all too aware of the fact that he wasn't wearing a shirt, and that his skin was a blazing fire against my cool, bare arms, and that my heart was dancing the tango inside of my chest, and I failed to notice the knife that Sarise had drawn until it was millimetres away from my neck.
 

I gasped, and screeched, and Red Eyes cursed and yelled and knocked the knife out of her hands. "How dare you attack our guest, Sarise! How dare you bring the foul stench of your own vile jealousy into these walls!"

"How dare you act like that in my presssence, and entrussst her with a task you have already placssed into my open handsss!" 

"Get out!" Red Eyes roared. "Get out and don't return until you have found the few scraps left of your sanity and sewn them back together! I can't believe that you would attack me in such a way!"

"It wasssn't you, my Lord," she protested, whining like a petulant child who's gotten in trouble for hitting their brother with a toy truck. "It wasss her I wasss trying to kill."

"So kind of you," I muttered.

"An attack on her is an attack on me. She is a friend and she is a guest, and you will treat her with as much respect as you show me, as your superior."

"You are not my sssuperior," she hissed, eyes narrowing. "I am Sarise, the ruler of the hellish lands, the woman born of fire, and you, Kay, should be thankful I have joined your ranksss. You will regret it if you insssult me ssso again." She turned her gaze on me. "And you, Ashkine," she spat. "You will never be anything more than a ssstupid child who thinksss she knowsss the meaning of power. If you even think about crossssing me, I will show you firsst hand what power meansss."

 

There was a great crash, a clap of thunder, red lightning flashing across the room, and suddenly, nothing. 

When I next opened my eyes, I was laid down in bed, with the sun just rising on the horizon, and I could still feel Red Eyes' hand around my waist.

 

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