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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28. Trust

The world was dark, and the world was cold. The world was falling down around me, destroying me, choking me with its hands of iron and its black, black smoke. I was falling too, like Alice down the rabbit hole, past memories of friends and memories of enemies and everything burning, blisteringly hot in between. And there was me, falling to the ground the way that I might fall asleep, as if in a state of disbelief and nothingness, where nothing is real but for what I wish to be so.

My screams reverberated off of the walls, trapping me in their own wicked cycle of fear. Falling, yes I was, but Kay caught me.

I lay in my bed, the sun rising through a window and burning over me. There was a knock at the door, and I was woozy, shaking slightly as I went to open it. Kay.

"Good morning, my lady," he sang chirpily. "Rise and shine, for the birds do not always have to wake you up."

"You sound ridiculous."

"You look ridiculous."

I frowned for a moment. "Come inside, Kay. You look like you need to rest for a moment."

"Come inside... Your room?"

"Yes, you dingbat. No, not like that, just to talk. It's the bloody morning! And also, it's you. Yuck."

Kay let out an almost empty laugh. "Why, Calynn, you are so kind to me." Nevertheless, he came inside, and sat down on my silky sheets.

"What's wrong?" I asked him. "You look like you've been attacked." Of course, I knew what was wrong with him but I needed to hear it from him. I needed to hear that he wasn't feeling as bad as he was looking.

"I think I have. Or rather, I attacked someone." He took a long sigh, like he was hoping that he could inhale the hope that the rest of the world shared. "It was Darla. Last night, we've been managing to get her out at night, it's when I'm on guard, well, my friend in the, er, you know, fighting team, she gets sort of jealous of us. And last night, I don't know what she did, but she took us apart, made me hate Darla, though how could I hate Darla when I love her so much? But she had to defend herself. I woke this morning and she was looking half dead in her cage, and I was looking worse, and and..." his voice trailed away, dissipating into nothingness. "I think I hurt her. And I didn't mean to, but I couldn't help it and gods, I feel so, so wretched." Pain ripped out from his voice. "But I can't apologise, can I?" He laughed hollowly. "Not in my job description."

Even I had to crack a smile at that. "No, I don't suppose it would be. But look, how about we talk about something less upsetting. What about your past? With or without Darla." I smiled at him then, and he gave me a weak smile back, a tiny, tinny laugh bursting out of him.

"It's... Complicated," he laughed. "You sure you're ready for the full story?"

"Of course I am." I nodded to back up what is said.

"Well, then. So, we met quite a while ago, I guess. We'd call it Greece now, but it wasn't back then. She was beautiful. She was like the most beautiful star in the sky, standing right there before me in human form. And for years, gods, for centuries, we were so close, not just the two of us, but more than that, our friends, Adrien and Lara, in this big wide massive world." It didn't escape my notice that he failed to mention Keda's name. "But then, gods, I don't really know what happened. It was Keda, twisting my mind, she made me leave her, leave ger like she was nothing, and then... Then I was taken away, I was dying, and then... my lives were halved."

I frowned. "What do you mean, they were halved?"

He took a deep breath, and clutched the edge of the bed as though it was the final rope holding him suspended over a cliff. "There are many areas of a person, right. Different aspects and parts to their personality. Yeah?" I nodded. "Well, I had to save myself somehow. So, the part of me that was dying, I sort of, took it away. Gave it a happy mortal life somewhere, and left this part all alone. It was the human, the mortal part of me that disappeared. I look vaguely normal now, but, well, you haven't seen me at night. I'm a monster, Calynn." He turned to me, something broken in his eyes. "And I think... I think it's all too easy for it to be unleashed on Darla, and I love her, gods, I've always love her, but Keda, she's hurt me, she's made me hurt Darla and I've betrayed her, and I'm so sick of myself for it."

"Kaden - " I began, feeling tears in my eyes.

"Shh." He placed his fingers over my lips. "Just Kay, please. I can't be Kaden anymore."

"Kay, then. If Keda forced you to hurt Darla, if Sarise forced you to hurt her, it's not your fault. You love her, don't you? It's not your fault if you were under someone else's control."

"But that's the thing... I don't even know if I can love anyone anymore. Monsters don't love; they only hate."

"You're not a monster, Kay!"

"Yes, I am. Please, Calynn, don't argue with me on this. I don't want to get angry, I don't want to feel upset with you, I don't want to end up hurting you, too."

"You won't. This is only you here. You, and me.

"Does that really make it any better?"

"I think it does." A sigh escaped me, as I stood up. "Come on, you need to get out, stop holing up your feelings."

"We need to have breakfast. That's why I came here anyway - we'll be late now - and Keda's organised food in the throne room."

"Then we'll have breakfast first, and then go outside. You look like you could really use some food in you."

Kay smiled weakly. "I guess you'd better get changed then. I'll wait outside for you."

"I'll only be a couple of minutes," I told him as he went to stand outside the door.

Grabbing a short skirt and red blouse, I quickly washed and changed, before going out into the corridor and linking my arm through Kay's.

"Let's go, then," I said to him, as he led me down the corridor, and swiftly through to the throne room.

Most people were already gathered at tables, including, I noticed, the little girl, Essie. I frowned, but didn't say anything. How could I have, anyway?

We found seats next to Stacy, who shot me a playful look. "Enjoy having a little heart to heart earlier? I came into get you, but apparently this dashing guard had already beaten me to it." She turned her gaze to Kay. "You're the dashing guard. Take it as a compliment." Then, she continued eating her bacon.

Kay visibly stifled a laugh. "Thank you," he said, a smile crossing his fine features. "Care for some tea?" he asked me, and I nodded.

"Of course I would, just as long as you talk like you aren't the Queen of Britain."

"Done deal, mate," he said, in a deliberately gruff voice, which made me sputter with laughter. Kay poured me tea, and I raised an eyebrow. "Milk or sugar?"

"Little bit of milk, absolutely no sugar."

"Missing out." I watched as he poured what must have been a litre of milk and as much of that in grams in sugar, into his cup, turning it into a disgustingly creamy colour.

"I doubt that's the proper way to drink tea," I told him, wrinkling my nose.

I caught Lady Cho glaring at him from the other side of the table, like he'd just murdered her pet panda. When I pointed it out to him, he just smiled. "Of course she'd be displeased," he reasoned. "Tea came from China, she probably thinks I'm a barbarian. I hope she doesn't see the American idea of tea."

"What's the American idea of tea?"

"It comes in a bottle. Like iced tea, but without the ice." He shuddered melodramatically. "Suppose they couldn't fix it, after they dumped loads of the British stuff into that harbour."

I giggled. "Suppose not."

As we ate, I noticed Keda staring at Kay at times, as though he was a mental puzzle that she couldn't quite piece together. I wondered if his puzzle even had all of its pieces intact. His knee bumped mine under the table, as he made to stand up.

"I'm done," he said. "Are you coming with me?"

"Of course," I replied, with a high pitched laugh. Keda was staring at me, too. I resisted the urge to call her out on it, as Kay and I left the room.

We sat in a swinging bench we'd found near the southern castle wall, overlooking the woods. "I'm so tired, Calynn," Kay sighed, his voice wavering like a tremor had run through his very own Earth. "So tired of everything. It's like I'm going crazy, all these maddening, maddening thoughts running through my mind, chasing my sanity like adders through the trees." The bench swung back and forth, back and forth, a ticking clock with us in the centre of it. "And I can't stand it, even though I try to fight it, heck, I do fight it, but I'm not strong enough, I'm ... I'm going mad." Kay raised his voice and stood, fists clenched, standing before the world in his own fiery storm. "Hear that, world. I'M GOING BLOODY MAD! ISN'T THAT JUST BLOODY WONDERFUL! I'M GOING MAD!"

I laid my hand on his arm, pushing back down to sit next to me. "No, you're not, Kay. Not on my watch."

"Not going mad?" He said it as if it was an impossible theory, like the idea that Keda said, that humans are as strong as we are. "Calynn, I don't think you quite understand. I've already gone mad, years ago. This is just me finally letting go of whatever scraps of sanity I had left in me." He laughed hollowly, and I swallowed back a biting comment. "Gods, I sound like a bloody prat, don't I?"

"No," I told him, truth sputtering and burning out like a dissipating fire. "You sound like someone who's felt the weight of the world upon his shoulders for so many years too long, someone who's lost faith even in himself. And someone who needs to go for a run with me in the woods."

I grabbed his hand, laughing, and Kay laughed, too, such a wonderful, beautiful laugh, like a child's. "Calynn!" he shrieked between choked out laughter. "Calynn, slow down, I can barely keep up with you!"

"Hurry up then!" I yelled to him, though I don't know why, considering how he was just behind me anyways. "I haven't got all day." I pulled him to a stop next to a small clearing. "There's a place I know of, far away from here. I can take you there, if you want me to. It's my home - my real home. A little escape out in the countryside, room to breathe and smile and see the stars above us. I'd love to take you there. You're much too stressed here."

"Why do you care so much about me, Calynn?" he asked me, pulling his hand out of mine, and I didn't try to take it back. "You barely even know me, I barely know you. I don't want to be rude, but... I just want to know. No, scrap that. I need to know, Calynn, I need to know why because there sure as hell aren't any reasons that I can think of why."

"Don't talk like that, Kay. I've - I've heard about you, and you've been so nice, and I just want to be a friend to you. What's so bad about that?"

"I barely know you. I can't help the feeling that you aren't who you say you, that maybe you're just trying to be a spy of a kind, one of Keda's minions."

"Who put that idea in your head? Huh? Your precious little Darla. Well, I can tell you this, she is not who you think she is. I can't say any more, but she's not. You shouldn't be so in love with her. It's weird, creepy. It's just not right."

"I don't care about your opinion on me and Darla," Kay spat. "In fact, I think you should just take your opinion and shove it up your arse, before you get your head stuck in it anno!"

"Listen to me, you - "

He pushed me, albeit softly, and I couldn't be bothered fighting him. "Don't talk to me," he snarled. "Just run along to your little Keda, and tell her the lies. Do whatever you want, have me locked up in a cage with Darla. I don't care."

"I'm not a liar."

"Oh, I think you are."

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