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?


25. What About Now

When my eyes fluttered open at dawn, I was hit by the deafening sound of someone banging on my door. My heart jumped a little, as I got up and pulled the door open, mentally preparing for a fight. It was only Stacy.

"We're to gather in the throne room again, m - my lady," she panted, out of breath. "Like, now. You should probably get changed."

"Of course," I said, and turn away to the drawer, where there was a few pairs of jeans folded up, as well as some skirts, tops and dresses. I frowned, confused as to why Keda would be courteous enough to present guests with clothing. Perhaps there was some sort of spell on them. And of course, I decided to try them on, out of curiosity more than anything else. They fit perfectly.

I was wearing the long black skirt and blue and white striped top, with a pair of deep blue ballet slippers. "I'm ready," I told Stacy, running a hand through my hair to try and comb it.

"Good. Now, hurry," she moaned, as I hastened my footsteps.

We were gathered in the same room as the day before, but oy now did I notice finer details, such as the way that Keda's stupid new crown glistened with light from chandeliers, which were hanging from the ceiling.

We all were dressed in the finest of threads, yet there was in no way any sort of sameness about us. Lady Cho, for example, was dressed in a traditional red Chinese dress, with matching heeled shoes, while the Lady from the United States wore feathers in her hair, shorts which were almost too short, a brown top with strips of fabric almost falling from it, and a pair of sandals. Many of us were admiring themselves in the mirrors which had sprung up near us, seeming to be pleased with their new attire. I was bored.

“Quite beautiful, isn’t it?” came a soft voice from the doorway. It took me a while to realise that it was Keda who had spoken.

She looked even more powerful than she had the day before, which worried me slightly. For one thing, she was taller than I remembered, held herself better, and stronger, too. Her chin was held higher now, and her nose was turned up slightly, like there was something with a very disgusting smell hovering beneath it. Her eyes, though, looked still just as ancient as ever. They bored into my soul with a burning flame, piercing my body.

“Well, don’t just stand there,” she laughed, shaking out her dark hair. "Sit down." There was a chorus of scraping on the floor as we al took seats on chairs that we hadn't realised had been there before. Arlana smiled. “There, that’s better. You look much more comfortable here now.”

She smirked to herself and I had to bite back a laugh at her clear smugness. She had nothing to be proud of. She was Keda; plain, ugly and evil.

“I think I recognise a few faces here,” the queen mused, walking past us all. “Lady Cho, of China, of course, Lord Enrique, of Spain, I must say you look rather dashing today, Lord Brovic, Russia, and of course I can't forget the dear Lady Karina, too, dear." Her eyes fell on to me. "And of course, Lady Ari. I must thank you, by the way, for delivering my prisoner to me yesterday. It must have been a bit of a pest, but don't worry. I'll reward you for it.”

One of the ladies looked displeased to be left out, to say the least, though Keda's smug smile slid of her face like as she spoke to her. “My lady?” she said, with a lot of hand gestures just three syllables. “Do you perhaps know of me, and my country?” Keda frowned. “I am Lady Marietta, of Italy, and my main reason for speaking is that I want to make it clear that I will stand by you for as long as you wish me to. There could be very little you could say to convince me that you are not worthy of my utter devotion."

Her smile made me want to be sick.

Keda smiled. “Yes, I do know of you, Lady Marietta, and of your country. I am pleased that you are so prepared to be loyal to me, but I would rather you make an informed decision on your alliance, rather than a quick, rash one. It is not just you who will be allied, but all of your nation. Do think carefully, please."

Keda moved to sit on the throne, smiling fakely down on us.

"Now, if we can go on without disruptions, I should really tell you all what my true intentions are, perhaps in more detail than you are already aware of.” We all nodded, and I noticed Lady Cho turn her back slightly on Lord Raveen, who was still standing, frowning next to her. “Thank you.”

She took a deep breath, and began her tale.

“You all must know of my personal past, first of all, of my, ah, disagreements with others of our kind, of my legendary fights with the prisoner, Darla, and her traitorous friends, Lara, Adrien and Kaden.

"No doubt you also know of my countless victiories over them, the way that I stayed strong despite all the cruelty they showed towards me, how I rose to greatness, how the Ashkine High Council was bribed, biased, hated me for my strength and for my success, stripped me of nearly all my powers, for the simple reason that I defended myself. But, my fellow outcasts, there is much you do not know. Have any of you heard of the Tale of the Wanted Wolves? It was a tale I knew from spending time with old friends, when we imagined the world in our hands.”

Only one lady nodded from the back of the crowd, the rest of us staring at Keda with blank expressions, though of course I di know what she meant.

Keda smiled. “I expected as much. The Tale of the Wanted Wolves, for those of you who do know, is not very well known, even amongst the mortals. I'm surprised that any of you know of it, really. It is said that when this earth was but very young, there were many bloody battles fought between the tribes and the kingdoms, and from the blood spilled there, a new race came forth. Us. The Ashkine."

Of course, no one really knew where we came from, we just sort of came into being on our own, like stars exploding from an expanse of darkness. But Keda continued.

"The very first of us were asked by the stars if they would like to have power over the mortals. They all agreed, but for one Ashki woman, who said, 'No. We may be stronger, but our lives are worth no more than theirs.' All but one was turned into a wolf. And she wept and wept for them, but raised a new breed of Ashkine, who she wanted to be fairer can and sent them out to face the world. I know this is not the favourite idea of where we came from, but it is the one that I believe. I believe, unlike the members of the High Council and their followers, that mortals are our equals. Our lives are precious, of course, because we have power, and strength. But mortals? They're lives are precious because they're running out, because they have so much to do and so little time and it's not in their nature to let their lives be wasted. It shouldn't be in ours either. Which is why," she said, louder now, "we should make a stand against the High Council. We should fight them, show them all their strength, and over power them. We should stop hiding who we are and let the mortals be our friends, we should help them. Countless mortal empires have fallen from the poison of vanity. We shouldn't let our race do the same.

"Furthermore, we shall create an army to keep order and reason, just in case the mortals do not take kindly to us. And this does not only include us Ashki," she adds as an afterthought, "this will benefit the elves, the fairies, all the creatures the mortals have yet to discover. We will all be strong as one."

She took a shaky breath, and stood from her throne. "If you are with me, say 'aye'. If you are not... Feel free to leave. We will not harm you, unless you try to harm us."

Lord Raveen stood, and left the room, calling over his shoulder, "Cho, I hope you know what you are doing. All of you." He stalked out of the door, and it slammed shut behind him.

"Are we all in agreement, then?" Nobody spoke. "Wonderful. There is some time before I would like to see you all again. You may roam the city and the castle's grounds, but keep yourselves safe, please. Thank you."

And just like that, with an elegant wave of her hand, we were dismissed.

I decided to go for a run in the grounds. I quickly changed from a skirt into trousers, and ballet pumps into trainers, and left for the forest outside.

My feet were sinking into the mud like a ship without its sails, as I squelched through the sludge in an almost worriedly irrational haste. Unsurprisingly, I was further ahead than most people could – I couldn’t even see the castle when I looked back - though I knew it didn’t mean I could just simply stop running, or slow down.
It wasn't that I had to - it's that I wanted to. I wanted to let go of all the anger that came with Keda's speech, and the fact that I had to pretend to support her. It, like many other things as I came to realise, sickened me.

Leaves were falling from the canopy above my head, falling in a mix of both elegan t, graceful arcs and wild, disorderly zig zagging patterns. The trees were gnarled, twisted and old, reaching for me with claws of thick, rough brown, trying to capture me in their deadly embrace.
I slipped on some of the wetter leaves, falling at the same time I was getting back on my feet, running, running to my goal without a second thought.
There were footsteps from behind me, and I started runnign faster from adrenaline, though I didn't know why. “I don't know who you are but if you want to race me and beat me or something, it's not going to happen, just saying!” I shouted to whoever it was behind me, my words carried away in the wind.

“I’m not trying to beat you!” a voice shouted from behind. “I want to talk to you!”

“Why'd you want to talk to me?" came my reply, as I kept on running faster.

"I really do! I – I don’t know why you would think I would try to race you or something. but please, can you stop. It's about a prisoner."

That made me stop. I turned around slowly, to face a man I knew already. Red Eyes. Kay.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him, crossing my arms. “What prisoner are you talking about?"

“The new prisoner, the one everyone's calling traitor. Darla, her name is, do you know where she's being kept?" His face was as dark and as smooth as stone.

“Don’t you think it would be the dungeons?" I asked, rolling my eyes at him.

"Yes," he huffed, "but I don't know which one. I - I have a message for her."

"What is it? If you tell me, I'll help you." I made my face look trustworthy as I could.

"Can I trust you?"

"That's a question only you can answer."

He smiled. "The message is - well, the message is that we don't know each other all that well, I know, and that I meant what I said last night (no, I won't tell you what, nosey) and that I already know that I love her. That's it, really."

So it wasn't me in that dream - not this me anyway. It was the real me, soul and body and all.

I didn't know if I liked the way Red Eyes said 'love'.

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