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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26. Runaway

Red Eyes walked with me back to the castle, his fingers ever so often brushing against mine. "You know, this, Darla of yours," I said, hesitantly. "Are you not aware of, you know, what she does, what she did?" I didn't want to bad mouth myself, of course, but Red Eyes was confusing me. He seemed to be in love with me, or at least who he thought was me, yet how could he know me?

"Yes." His jaw clenched as he turned to me. "I'm aware of what everyone thinks of her. But she is not a bad person. She is not a traitor. I just know it. I've been put in charge of her, and she makes to kind a conversation to ever harm someone."

Gods, it worried me how bad of an actress Lady Ari was. "I know, I know," I said hurriedly. "I don't quite believe it myself, but it is what the 'queen' says, and words may not harm a queen as weapons may, you know." I tilted my gaze to meet his eyes. "Are you not loyal? If you were placed in charge?"

He laughed a hollow laugh. "Are you not asking too many questions? How am I to know you are not a spy anyway."

"I am Lady Ari, of France," I laughed. "If you love Darla as much as you say, you will understand this."

He frowned slightly. "Are you an ally of us?" He paused. "My lady?"

"First of all, cut the lady crap, if you can. Second of all," I leaned in so my lips were grazing his ear, "yes. Keep it a secret now, sweetie."

"I'll cut tphe lady crap if you cut the sweetie crap."

I laughed despite myself. "Deal."

We walked the rest of the way in silence, which was punctuated only by the cries of eagles up above us. As we reached the door, I asked, "Do you know the way? To deliver the message, I mean."

Red Eyes shifted awkwardly from foot to foot. The colour in his eyes wasn't as prominent in the daylight, I realised; it had faded more to a sort of light pink tinge, and a purplish grey colour took its place, though fire still danced there. It was mesmerising, the way the colour shifted and shimmied and danced as though it was trapped in an endlessly beautiful waltz with my very own mind.

I shook my head. He'd replied, but I hadn't made out his words. "Sorry?" I said, hearing my voice jump slightly. "I didn't quite catch that."

He rolled his eyes. Damn. "I said, I have a vague idea, but I don't properly know the way." He stared at me for a few seconds. "That was supposed to be where you offered to show me the way."

"Well, I'm incredibly sorry for the lack of response, maybe you should work on making sense and actually asking properly without relying on me to work out what the hell you're talking about," I snapped.

"Damn. That stung, my lady, it really did." He faked a stumble back, clutching his chest, "I'm wounded, truly. My lady, how could you be so cruel?"

I glared at him, debating whether to plant a kiss on his cheek or a punch on his cheek. Considering that, while the kiss may render him speechless for a few moments, the punch would probably do the same, and be far more enjoyable for me.

"It's in my nature," I laughed. "Also, my lady? I asked you not to."

"Sorry. Lady Ari, then." He thought he was funny, and that pissed me off.

"Ugh, no. It's awful."

"What should I call you then?"

Well, it wasn't like I could ask him to call me by my real name, was it? The very idea was laughable. I thought for a moment. "Calynn," I barked out, without even thinking. "It's - it's what my friends call me, it's much nicer than Ari, though I can't remember how it came about. It sounds like a quiet little maid's name, Ari does. Sweet, but not strong."

"Well then, Calynn, will you accompany me to deliver the message?"

"Why of course I will. If you tell me your name."

"I suppose I haven't said it, have I? Well, I go by many names, but I think this one suits me most of all: Kay. See, I think all our birth names are from this planet, somehow, from the metals that exist only in its core. But the names we choose for ourselves, the lives we choose for ourselves? Those are written in the hearts of dying stars, and they are what really define us. And I think Kay defines me."

"Kay," I repeated. Scottish name, I knew, it meant fire. Yes, fire was definitely something defined him. "It's nice."

"Kay and Calynn, eh?" He laughed. "Brief friends, but friends at least. Do you think it's in the stars or in the core?"

"I think that we might never know."

"I think that is a good answer. Now, come on, we're getting distracted, and I have to reach Darla before dark." I didn't ask why, because I suppose I already knew the answer. Instead, I nodded, and took his arm to lead him to me, Lady Ari, Darla, whatever the hell actually made sense.

Through the castle we walked, no guards daring to stop us, for they assumed we were friends of Keda. "So how long have you known Keda for, Calynn?"

"Long enough," I replied with a hint of a groan. "At least, long enough to know some things about her that most people wouldn't care about."

"Such as?"

"Her hair."

"Really?" Kay seemed genuinely surprised. "What about her hair?"

A laugh soared out of me. "Why, don't you know? It's as black as her soul, and as long as the list of people she's killed. Keeps getting darker, keeps getting longer, and damn, there you have it folks, don't the boys all love a little bit of power in a woman, a little pizazz, a little oomph, you know, that kind of look at me once like that again I'll tear your teeth out because I'm a perfect little lover, aren't I?" I batted my eyelashes as Kay roared with laughter, echoing down the corridor.

"Sshhh," I giggled. "You're being way too loud."

"Oh, I'm ever so sorry." But it didn't matter, anyway. We'd arrived at the doors to the cells, and I knew I wouldn't be allowed down there.

As he walked through the door, Kay flashed me a smile, and his fingertips brushed against mine. If I didn't know better, I'd say I felt something in my heart.

But I didn't have a heart, not really.

No feeble, erratic beating under the thin marrow of my ribs, no blood flowing almost seductively around my veins, no mad, mad visions of frailty to tear away at my mind. No heart. No heart.

I had fire though - oh, so, so much fire. It rippled from the air around me, burned and blackened my bones and my skin and all the world around me, destroying it like I had destroyed myself.

I didn't choose this life, or what is left of it. I never wanted this, not even when I was a child or when I watched myself be thrown away like yesterday's toy and I screamed and screamed for days and days and days until the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and my scream faded into nothing but a bitter taste in my mouth and a thirst for vengeance, a furied desperation for blood on my hands, to feel the warm, sticky feeling of accomplishment.

This life choose me, not the other way around.

Now all I had left is my fire - fire and blood.

I shivered as a guard broke me out of my trance. "My lady, it is not safe. You may wait for your friend, but please do it from a safe distance, so as not to provoke our prisoner."

It sounded like he was talking to me like I was a mortal child at a zoo. 'Stay away from the lions, the might be mean to you!'

"Sorry, of course," I said, voice dripping with honeyed sarcasm. "My bad."

He sighed. It was the guard I recognised as Ronan. I swore Keda had said that name before. "Just get back, please, miss."

But he couldn't stop me from seeing who should be me. Lady Ari.

Her hand shook violently, the way the world does when a volcano is about to erupt.

A ringing echoed in my ears, the way church bells toll in a memory of drunken midnights, and my stomach swan and tumbled through a never ending put of nausea.

Her body began to grow and fuse into a maddening blur, like a watercolour painting gone disastrously wrong.

A silent scream escaped her lips, and I could feel the pain could feel the pain coursing through her body, racing through her veins.

She shifted from side to side, like a wave's furious swaying in a crazed tsunami, not quite stable. I could see Kay's face, too, he looked to be in even more pain than her. It was strange.

My head was bursting from the deafening sound of an explosion of fear and anguish and pain and disaster, and oh gods, oh gods, oh gods, I ould barely look but I couldn't look away then either.

Her knees shook like a China plate, balanced on the teetering edge of a countertop. She fell to the ground like a hammer pummelling a chisel as it tries to break through a piece of splintering wood.

Her head hit the floor with a sickening crack, like it was a rock being forced open and shattering. Maybe it was like her mind; broken. Breaking. What were they doing to her, to me, when I should have been in her place, she saved me and I could do nothing for her?

Kay was trying not to scream, I could see, but Lady Ari's lips moved against his ear. He relaxed slightly, and swallowed visibly.

Turning, he got to his feet and left, locking the cell up and running to me, grabbing my arm. "I'm sorry you saw that, Calynn," he whispered roughly. "You should have just gone."

"Yeah, cause you totally wouldn't have gotten lost. Besides, once I saw what was happening, I thought you might need a - a bit of support." Even to my own ears, it sounded stupid. "Plus, I'm bored."

He gave me a weak smile. "She seems weaker than she used to be. She used to have a sort of attitude, not bad, just entertaining, funny, exciting. Now she's just sort of... Gone. Like someone else entirely has taken her over. I mean, she's a lot kinder, but I don't know. It feels weird. Sorry. I shouldn't be talking about her like this after what she's been put through. I try to minimise the damage but it's hard sometimes. She's only intact in my dreams." He cast his eyes downwards. "Turn to the left, that's my door there."

He opened the door and squeezed inside.

"By the way," I said, reaching for his arm. "What was your actual name. Not Kay, your core name? What was it?"

He smiled. "Kaden."

As he closed the door, I knew what I'd be dreaming of already.

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