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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15. The Phoenix

  The darkness swirls and dances around me, crashing down like a fallen shelf of rule books with ink running from the pages, or delicate little devils on the rampage through my heart, in front of my vision and taunting me with its dark, dark promise of infinite space and seductive beauty. My hands are shaking. I'm scared of falling, and fear is curling around my heart like a melting iron bar, twisting to fit its own mould of a wilted flower. I can feel my lower lip trembling, but won't let my tears spill over from my eyes.  

But they fall,      

          as tears always do,          

               and I must try so hard                  

                      not to scream out loud.          

But, to my dismay,          

      I still can't stop it         

             from ripping madly                        

                      out of my throat.  

Like a knife      

       being wrenched,              

                 out of my bleeding,                    

                       betrayal battered back  

The guttural cry breaks even my heart. It won't stop. I'm breaking. I'm breaking.  

I'm breaking.  

"Darla," a voice whispers. I ignore it. "Darla," it says again. "Please, please, stop screaming. She's gone. Stop screaming." For a moment it's all silent in my mind, but then it's shattered by a voice that grates on my mind, and my eyes prickle.   

"Darla!" he shouts. My vision tumbles, my heart thumps. My head spins and I try not to fall, to tumble down the staircase of longing and desire.   

Keda's eyes turned red. It was the only colour I could see through the ever creeping darkness. Red. Like a sudden bubbling of blood from a single bullet wound, tiny, but painfully so, and fatal should you turn the wrong way. At first glance her eyes looked solid, as solid and strong and the ground we were raised from; looking closer they changed, more a dark liquid like wine, swirling around like a storm at sea. I stared into them hopelessly searching for even the tiniest little remnant of a soul, that I realised they were more like poisoned apples, really.

She smiled, corners of her mouth pulled upwards like they dangled on the edge of puppet strings, into a broken, twisted mockery of a grin. Her smirk gave way to an empty laugh, which echoed through the room and resonated in my soul.

I pulled my gaze away to the boy in front of me.   His hair was brown - just brown, no green or blue or purple - and his eyes matched, toffee and caramel slapped together into a warm, chocolatey mixture.

For a moment I was lost in the black hole of his pupils, stripped away of all pretences until I was just a poor little girl on the streets of what is now Greece, laughing at my own eternal failure until he appeared, a smile plastered on his warm, welcoming face. I whispered a curse word into the air, and it didn't sound like the clanging of iron fists on iron tables, or the hissing of a snake as it slid into my soul. For a moment, as it hung in the space between us, it was as holy as a a god.
A glimmer of a laugh ripped through his teeth, and he was forming my name with his soft - oh, so soft - lips and his smile sends a shiver down my spine like a sliver of silver shard ice, and I need the warmth he once would give to me so freely, and every feeling I've ever pushed away comes bursting through the dam of my mind and I'm numb with the cold from my heart and I'm trying I'm trying so so hard but I'm starting to panic now and my palms are sweaty and my forehead is beaded like a tiara of tears hangs over me and his crooked grin is so easily twisting the knife in my back.

I begin to spin - so fast I can feel the wind nipping at my splayed fingers, an ethereal veil the only thing keeping me from touching him because everything has suddenly fallen away because I can tell, he looks different and if I've only got this one life left why the hell shouldn't I let a little bit of love into it? Almost accidentally, I let my eyes drift to his and realise that for all I have felt in the last minute I haven't moved, haven't changed at all but for the sense of ecstasy swelling in my chest.

He speaks with an almost drunken voice, words rolling over his tongue like water cascading from a tap and flooding a basin. "What happened?" he drawled, the sound of his voice filling the room until it is only us, just the two of us together in a lonely, lonely hall.

Laughing.

And maybe it was too beautiful, the thunder that barked from our lips like a lion roaring as it roamed the plain, plowing down everything in its path with a crazy, crazy joy that was to be found only in madness.    Then, Darren coughed. The image faded, but he was still there.   "If we can get back to the trial, please, we do not have time for the trivial matter of friendship. This is about war."

He stared at me then, really stared at me, his eyes full of disappointment, with a glimmer of underlying sadness, fists clenched, shoulders soft. "I'll talk to you later," he murmured, and cast his eyes to Keda, who was fuming.   

I wondered, with a dawning sense of hope, if she could find it in her to love. If she could, I imagined he would love this - love the adrenaline coursing through my veins and the wonder and the utter thrill that comes with the gnawing fear, the pain crawling like spiders over my heart, and then the sheer, sheet miracle of it leaving me. I doubted it, and her eyes told me that the next words she said would haunt me forever.   

"You should be dead!" she screeched. "You, you, you should be dead!"   

My pulse raced.  

"Order!" Darren shouted, but nobody cared.   

His eyes darkened.

"Why? Why should i be dead, tellme?Because you need your stupid little schemes to follow through, because you found someone who could do what you want and you don't want me to ruin it and be a good person? Maybe you should be dead!"  

"We need some order here!" Darren roared, but his words fell onto death ears.   

"Darla!" Keda screeched, voice echoing in my heart. "Speak to me! Answer my questions!"   He was gone. My words caught in my throat.

"What did you ask me?" I asked, trying to keep my voice even. "I - I didn't quite hear."  

  Keda narrowed her eyes. "I asked you why you think that you are so much better than me?" she spat. "Why you seem to think that you are perfect, like you don't have any issues or anything at all wrong with you, like you're the model girl, the inspiring immortal who breaks all the rules but is looked up to for it because you're a manipulative little bitch? Why do you have to shove your own ideas down everyone's throat, convince everybody else that they should love you, that there's no reason why they shouldn't! It's wrong!"  

"What's wrong? What have I ever done to you?"  

"You abandoned me! You wouldn't let me speak, let me say what I feel, it just betrayed me, over and over and over again and I just don't understand what I've done wrong! All of you, you were my best friends and you abandoned me! Thousands of years together and you all just abandoned me, and then you have the nerve to ask me why I hate you! I thought it would be obvious!"  

"That doesn't excuse what you did."

  "What did I do?"  

"You killed almost our entire race! You let thousands of mortals die, you burned cities to the ground because you couldn't stand the sight of us, just because you are evil." I spat the last word, and something like emotion flickered in her eyes.  

"You believe that?" she asked lowly, casting her eyes to Darren and Fer, who were both standing to my right. They looked confused. I frowned.  

"Believe what?"   

"That I actually killed all these people. Look around you - do you really think they're all mortals. They're not." She laughed a high, high laugh. "I killed three, and they were dying anyway. Hell, they didn't even die properly - I just turned them mortal." Keda shook her head, as my legs began to shudder. "I'm not evil." Her voice was surprisingly soft.  

I hated it.  

"Don't lie," I hiss. "I know when you try to, and it doesn't work. You can't lie to me!"  

"And I say I can." Her eyes glinted with steel.  

I would think that Keda is alive, but it seems she can't be. Before her betrayal, I always thought of her as the most human of any of us, maybe the only one of us who could be considered as a good person. But now, her face mangled as if moulded by the calloused hands of a careless god, and her eyes devoid of all emotion, it's hard to imagine her as being human. And even if she was, there's one thing she was missing, something stripped from her the day she came into our lives. Her soul.  

Her crudely shaped mouth contorts into a crooked smile, as I hear a door bang open.  

A light is sparking in her eyes as she looks towards the source of the noise, and I can hear the furied glee that pirouettes in her fingertips and leaps over her heart. Lara and Adrien are marched into the room, and I feel a sort of anger that they got to come in together.  

Darren claps his hands and smiles. "So we've all arrived here then? That's brilliant, we're all on schedule now. I've let you two have a bit of a go at each other, sorry for any inconvenience by the way, just gotta liven up the mood, all part of the job." There are titters from a small crowd above us, like he is a master of the art of words, come to chase away our blues with his touch, both lethal and glorious in its own right. "But, down to business, you may already have a fair idea of why you are in here."

  "Is it because she is a compulsive liar and is trying to destroy the world?" Adrien suggests cheerfully.  

"Well, that has come up already, mister Adrien."  

"I'm not a mister, but thanks for the title. Really, I prefer 'Your Greatness' or 'Your Coolness'."  

"Or 'Your Blueness'," Lara mutters.

  "Please, don't let us get sidetracked," Darren sighs.  

"Sorry," Lara apologises, casting Adrien an irritated glare. "Please, carry on. And if you would tell us what you want us to do, that really would be brilliant."  

Fer sighs, and moves to stand just in front of Darren. Interesting. "We're here today to inquire about the deaths of a mortal boy and girl, Angel Ramone and William Lake, as well as the collapse of a club in West Manchester. You four were all there, and although mortal police are getting nowhere, we think if best to hold a trial for you all, in order to discover the true murderer, or murderers. Whoever is the guilty part, will be exiled, and if it comes about that Keda here, is not the guilty party, then her previous exile will be revoked." Her harsh gaze grated on my face, as my cheeks burned a deep scarlet.  

"Now, may we begin?" Darren's smile was not friendly.

"Of course."  

I couldn't remember quite how the Ashkine Courts worked, but they were definitely different from the normal human courts. For one thing, everybody was allowed to speak freely as long as there was no physical violence involved. For another, there was only ever one trial for each case. If you don't win, you don't win, you're out and you're probably never going to come back. Great news. 

  I twiddled my thumbs. People were speaking around me, nonsense words from officials thrown around like basketballs. 

  "She just can't handle herself!" Adrien shouted, gesturing to Keda, who looked shocked at the accusation. "I mean, even just look at her, at her face! Can't you see that's not the face of a sane person? She looks mad, isn't it so obvious?"

  "I'm not crazy!" Keda screeched. "I get it, you guys all have it against me that I didn't want to be a part of your little 'club'! It was so many years ago, just get over it, for God's sake!"  

"You betrayed us, and you killed that girl because you still want your so called revenge on us for not forgiving you! I finally got some sense talked into me, but it seems you don't have the brain capacity for that!" I hissed, my blood curdling.  

"No! Because you're wrong! And before you say anything else, it was you that killed Angel, and William, too. It's all black, ashy, from the fire you created! No one else could make a fire that powerful, and everybody knows it because you never shut up about how great your bloody fires are! And you killed William, too, there's loads of mortal witness, but you don't care about them!"  

"They won't understand our courts if we ask them!"  

"Then don't introduce our courts!"  

"That doesn't even make sense! And you know what, I wish you were one of the mortals, I really really wish you were. You know why? You'd be able to kill yourself!"  

Silence greeted me, until Adrien clapped me on the shoulder.   

"She's right," I heard Lara chortle. "I don't see why you haven't tried it already."  

"Will you all shut up!" Keda screamed. "The point of this is to see who killed the mortals, and it was you!"  

"Because I am the kind of person who could do that, obviously. Not you, who destroyed cities and killed mortals in their thousands out of anger. That's you, not me."  

"Yeah," Lara agreed. "You're the one out of us who has actually killed mortals before. And you wonder why we don't believe you."  

Keda was speechless. She just glared, as we turned to Darren, who wore a thin lipped smile on his face.

    "Are we done now?" he asked. Keda looked like she wanted to protest, but we nodded, and Fer smiled approvingly. "Then, we have to come to a conclusion. Who believes it is Lara here who is the murderer?" No hands. "Adrien?" Again, no hands. "Darla?" One rogue hand snaked its way upwards, but it fell down as it found no companions. "So, we are all in agreement that Keda is in the wrong, here?" Every hand in the room shot into the air. "Good. Keda of the Ashkine." She gulped, shaking. "As a punishment for your crimes, as exile has already been put into place, we must take the next step - you shall be stripped of all but one power, and your immortality. You may keep a power of your choice, if you focus on it during the removal. If you are found guilty of a crime once more, the price is your immortality. And if you go too far, if you hurt one mortal soul like you have these others, then you will pay with your life."  

I breathed.

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