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?


23. Long Way Down

 My room was nice, but I didn't care. I knew what this 'other business' was that Keda had spoken about. Did she really think that no one would remember?   

It was growing darker now, there wouldn't be light for long. Even so, Ari - the real Ari - was being held in a prison cell, presumably underground. No one would see me.      

Keda's face was bathed in light, spare for the corner of her eye, which was soaked in darkness. Her voice was harsh and cold, to match her snarling face.  “Darla. How lovely to see you. I trust my boys have taught you a little lesson or two?"  

Ari's voice was shaky, alarmed by the unnerving hint of sympathy in Keda's voice. She was a dark woman, a swirling mass of blackness, twisted. Evil. But she could act like nobody's business. "Hello, Keda," she said, slightly more confidently than I would have expected, “how do you do?”

  “Perfectly well, Darla, thank you for asking,” she sang, and I caught a faint glimmer of a smile on her lips. The sight was unusual even to me, even from before she turned on us. I could see why.  


It was as though she was just fading away, tiny little pieces, one at a time, eating away at her eyes, her hair, her skin. The things that she'd been put through - I shuddered to think about it.   

  I glanced at a guard, whose face was paling by the second. “Your - your majesty,” he stammered. “I'm not sure it's safe here for you. The girl - the traitor - she seems edgy, more so than before. It would not do for you to come to any harm."   

Keda sighed. "Ronan, please leave us now."  

"But, miss, she - "  

"Now, Ronan!"  

"Of course. Sorry."  

I darted across the corridor as fast as I could, dipping behind a curtain. The guard didn't notice me, thank goodness.   

"Now, Darla, speak to me. What tortures did they expose you to, exactly?"  

Lady Ari did not respond and as my fear began to growl and grow, Keda cackled, sounding like nothing I'd heard her laugh like before, just a kind of harsh echo of humour. "What did they do to you, Darla?” she demanded, voice wavering slightly as Ari turned her piercing stare onto her. I must have been mistaken, but she seemed almost... Frightened. Worried. "Tell me!" she shrieked, and I jumped slightly, before my breathing settled back into its usual calm pattern.    

But then suddenly, a kind of darkness came over me. It was like I was not there anymore, like I was drifting aimlessly in limbo.   

Keda's voice was a low hum; I was able to hear it, but could not make out the words. Everything was just a blur, a mash-up, a collage of sounds and sights and smells and tastes and textures. They were all there together, but as one confusing whole, and I could not distinguish anything in the strange arrangement of senses.  

  Suddenly, in a strange moment of clarity, Keda and Ari were the collage, a blur of two women fighting. It jarred me back into reality like a brake on a car, as I stumbled and ran to the wall, a sudden fear gripping me in its iron fist as I clung to red velvet curtains.  

"What are you doing?" Keda shrieked, tearing Ari off of her. "You're my prisoner, and I've tried to treat you as best I can! Let me go, Darla!"  

Clearly, Ari wasn't used to being addressed like that. She lost her grip on Keda and was pushed back towards the wall, pinned up against it. Handcuffs leapt to her skin, and clamped on to her. She howled in pain, but Keda didn't say a word. Keda simply snarled,  fire burning in her eyes.  

“I'm sorry, Dars,” Keda said quietly, and I silently urged Ari to protest against the stupid nickname. She must have been too wrapped up in her own thoughts, trying with all her might to disentangle herself from the web lies cross crossing the narrow slit windows.  

“Are you?" Ari laughed. "Are you ever sorry, Keda. For anything? You're a witch, an evil, venomous little witch. You deserve all that's coming to you, you know!” Her pale finger trembled slightly as she pointed its accusatory tip at Keda. "I hope you die," she spat.   

  “Well, I thank you for your concern, old friend.”  Ari slowly withdrew her hand, and it was plain to see that she was being careful not to make any sudden movements, in case they  could potentially cause an outburst of anger from Keda.    

And then, I saw it. Before she even moved, I saw it flashing across Keda's eyes, dancing across her body, and I froze in terror.   

As a bright light flashed in front of her – and me – I raced towards the wrought iron bars, petrified I would not reach them in time. A figure screamed as sharp fingernails were raked across her cheek , though the sound faded quickly to a simple whimper. And then, nothing.    

"Who was that?” Her voice shook slightly. Keda's lips turned up in a cruel smile, and I shuddered. Oh, I knew that it was Keda who did that, even if she was questioning the nothing. "Show yourself to me now!"    

Above me, I heard the sound of shattering glass, and stifled a cry.   

"Stop!" Ari cried. "Stop, please, Keda, stop it! Stop!"   Her voice ripped through the air like a knife, slicing the tapestry of time. Then it went silent.    

Their breathing was synchronised, a symphony of quiet ghosts. The air was cold on my cheek as it drifted towards me, and I welcomed the relief from the fire that was rising in my eyes. My hair caught the scent of vanilla, weaving the sweet aroma into my dark locks. I turned to see that the wall had disintegrated into a translucent veil swirling white clouds. Recognition shot through me, bittersweet nostalgia, memories too strong to dabble in without fear.     

"You,” Keda snarled, though there was no one to be seen. “Why are you here?” Silence met my ears, just as blindness met my eyes. Her words echoed around the corridor, longing and tired.  A refreshingly cold wave of an indescribable texture swept over me, serene and calm. In front of Keda, as I turned again, stood a girl I had not seen before, scared and weak.    

Nausea swept over me. Keda had scared her, had she not? “Sorry,” she whispered, sounding oddly gentle.“I thought you were someone else.”    

"What do you mean by ‘someone else', your highness?" she asked, feigning innocence. “Someone other than you, or someone other than who I am?” Before Keda had a chance to speak, she had grasped her wrist. “Please help me. My - my parents are ill, and I wanted you to help but they told me I couldn't come to see you and this is the only way I knew how to find you - my name's Essie by the way, Essie Charing - and I'm really really sorry but I'm scared and my little brothers are crying and I'm really really scared and they say that there's a prisoner here and she's going to hurt us and - and-" the little girl burst into tears, while Ari sat in the shadows, watching with a cold smile. For some reason, it felt like she was watching me.     It was wrong. Seeing my face staring back at me in such a way, seeing myself wearing an expression like that. That wasn’t my face, not really; it was the face of someone else, made to look like mine until Ari's shadow faded from the eyes. But could I really have smiled so coldly, so cruelly? Could I really have been seen cloaked in the darkness as I watched a little girl cry. Could I really look so much more malevolent than Keda did?  

Keda stared at the little girl, looking just as nauseas as I felt.

"Yes.”   She crossed the room to her in a few confident strides, eyes blazing with liquid fire. In that moment, I was so afraid, so, so afraid. It was irrational, but I felt like a knife was being twisted inside of me, making me silently scream in agonising fear.   “Of course I'll help you, as soon as I can. Can you show me where you live?” I bit my lip. Would she come this way, towards me? I hoped not.  No doubt that if she did, she would not like what she saw.    

But I couldn't move. Somehow, I'd become entangled in the veil, which was more like a web now, and my heart began to pound.  

Thump. Thump. Thump.  

My legs were stuck. Thump.  

My arms were stuck. Thump.  

I turn my head and struggled and my shoulders were stuck too.


I knew I had to change. Disappear.


My hair changed to black, my eyes to green, my skin to deep brown.


My legs grew shorter, my chest grew smaller.


My dress changed to a small flowery drape.


Keda turned and saw me.




"Are you okay?" she called, frowning. "Do you need any help?"  

"I - I'm fine, miss," I stammered, hoping I sounded young. "I - I just got lost, b - but I'm sure I - I'll be fine i - in a minute, m - mi - miss." I gave a weak smile.  

"Okay, dear, if you're sure. Though I'd really rather you came with us, to be safe." Her eyes darted to Ari, who was lying slumped on the ground. "Just in case."  

I nodded furtively. "Th - thank you, miss,"  

She gave me her hand and opened the iron gate of the cell. "Now, I'll take this sweetie home first to help her family, then you can show me where you are. Okay?"   

We both nodded this time. Essie turned to me, and said very quickly, "What's your name, mine's is Essie if you didn't know and I'm a fairy and what's your name in case you forgot what I asked you apparently I talk a lot but I don't think so even though mummy and daddy do and so does my big sister Miara she's very tall and pretty and she can fly really well too I can't fly yet though but I'm trying to what about you?"   

"Um, m - my name's Lea," I lied.

"That's a pretty name, I quite like that name actually." Actually, it seemed like the name made her want to burst into tears, but I was already beginning to accept that as normal, so I suppose it didn't really matter all that much.     

Keda moved us swiftly through the castle, occasionally smiling at a few of the more attractive guards, but otherwise she was just about running, which was in a way rather scary in the darkness. We burst out of the castle and Essie grabbed her hand, pulling her in the direction of what I presumed was her home. "Quickly, quickly, my little brothers'll be worried if I take too long!"  

If I'm honest, it did rather astound me how Keda had built herself this little sort of city from scratch, had attracted so many outcasts here. I didn't even know there were that many criminals in the world, at least not our world. There were little twisting tunnels and cobbled stones and Tarmac and what looked like they could be mortal roads, with wide pavements and  houses to fit in dozens each.  

To my disgust, I thought it was actually rather beautiful.   

Essie came to a stop halfway along one of the narrower streets. "This is my house now," she smiled shakily, and pushed open the door. "The queens here!" I heard at least seven people gasp. "She's going to help mummy and daddy so they can get better and look after us."  

"Where are they, Essie?"  

"Upstairs," she said, sounding hopeful. "Come on."  

Keda burst into the room, Essie in front and me at the back of her, but she stopped abruptly as she saw their pale faces. "Oh, Lordy," she whispered. She rushed to their bedside, and put her fingers on their wrists. A sob erupted from her throat.   

"Essie, Essie, dear," she said, shaking. "How did this happen?"   "They ate dinner with us, and suddenly they fell over their plates. They always eat before us, so I was helping to make our dinner while they are, and then they got I'll so I had to get you. We haven't eaten yet."  

"What did they have to eat?"  

"I don't know exactly. It was something my little brothers got them from a man selling things. It was called Ivy something, and lots of people bought some, and we made it for them to eat." She frowned. "Was that naughty?"  

"No, dear, it's not your faults. But this - I'm not sure if they're just ill. Sweetie, is there anyone older here?"   "No, Ciara's not living with us anymore, she lives in Ir - o - land. Why?"  

"Sweetie," a shadow crossed Keda's face, "they didn't just get ill. They were poisoned. And if I'm right, they're not the only ones."

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