Our Dark Lies

Olyxe “Ash” Heregale is not to be messed with. She lives for violence, laughs in the face of danger. She’s driven by a rage so bright and fierce, it’s not wonder she does so many stupid things.

Freeing the prisoners of Isolation, a place haunted by living and dead alike, perhaps the most stupid of all.

With a handful of people like her, Cursed and misfits, she will either change Haven forever or bring the demise of all her kind.

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Author's note

I don’t really know what genre this fits in. It’s a bit sci-fi, with a good dose of dystopia and apocalyptic, and intermingled fantasy and supernatural. Also, a healthy amount of violence and strong women beating up bad people.
AA

6. Masquerades

Chapter V

~ Masquerades~

“This new fire dancing and humming in the marrow of my bones, sweet and strong.”

 

 

 

The plan is simple. Ridser uses his insights on people to better integrate himself in, while Tenjey coerces any guards to let us pass. My job is the backup, if things go haywire, I’m to help us fight our way out. 

Once inside, we spend an enjoyable amount of time sampling the finery. When the seconds start to drag by and boredom creeps in, we move on to “step two,” stirring up trouble. Maybe snatch a few expensive ornaments first. A friend of Ridser’s managed to figure out a way to take over the sound system in the house, and taught Ridser some of their tricks. When the times comes, instead of smooth music the raucous and garish clattering of street bands in the poor neighbourhoods will Lund out of the speakers. 

Brile Farh is an intuitive business woman known to be ruthless in her pursuit of wealth. She has few friends and many enemies, with lots of places to look other than us when people start pointing fingers. Living where I do, I don’t know much of Brile. She’s supposedly a bright-yellow blonde, if the gossips are to be believed. I’m relying on Ridser and his apparently endless knowledge of Brile, the white houses and Rich Districts. 

“There’s five main ones,” he explains. We’re moments from entering, I want to slap him for making me wait. I can already taste the satisfactory sweetness of infiltrating such sacred ground. 

“Yeah, we know. We just don’t know what they’re called or where they’re to.” Tenjey snaps bitterly. I recognize the sheen of fear in her eyes. She’s nervous. 

“Tysta, where we are now, Dinnle, Feir, Sad-mur and Krahss.” He eyes the building before us, finally drawing to a stop. “You might need to know them if it happens to come up in conversation. If anyone asks, we’re from the Feir District. It’s the closest one to this one with a decent reputation.” 

“Yes, Sir!” I declare mockingly, mimicking the stiff posture of a Street Patroller. I remember how their eyes felt when they glided over me the few times I set foot outside of familiar territory—the ramshackle areas with little need for ‘protection,’—and promptly shiver. I feel a fresh stirring of anger deep in my gut, my eyes narrowing and fists curling to fists. 

I’m ready. 

“Let’s go, then.” With a deep breath, as if about to dive underwater, Ridser takes the lead. Tenjey and I follow him blindly up the steps, watching as he raises a fist to knock. 

The door swings open immediately after three poundings. A tall, well-muscled man stares out at us with angry, judgemental eyes. He flicks his gaze up and down, taking us in. I hope the finery and fake jewels are enough to win him over, but at the first glimmer of suspicion Tenjey is prepared to step in. 

While the guard at the door studies us, I seize the opportunity to study him. He’s hefty, but handsome at the same time. His eyes are a watery blue, less vibrant, adulterated by intermingled veins of white. Greying blond hair tumbles into his eyes, falling softly against his cheeks. The scruffy remnants of a beard cover his chin right up the sides of his face. If I were to guess, I’d say he’s in his late forties. There’s something familiar about him, but I can’t quite place it. 

Miraculously, he steps aside, letting us in. I don’t waste the opportunity, darting inside with Tenjey and Ridser hot on my heals. 

“Time to party!” Tenjey exclaims giddily, with enough sense to keep her voice low and hushed. Scampering ahead, she moves with a peppiness I don’t understand. She’s ecstatic over the chance to masquerade as someone wealthy, while my own thrills come from the fierce anger burning steady and hot in my bones. Ridser simply needs a distraction, I crave the rush of adrenaline and inferno raging inside, Tenjey wants to live like the rich, even if it’s for only an hour. 

Take that! My inner voice screams. It’s louder than ever, feeding off the rage that trembles through my body. You think you’re safe from us in your Rich Districts and fortresses of white stone, but here we are. There’s no keeping us away; we’re determined. Pestilent to the very end. If you insist on treating us like a disease needing to be cured, we’ll infect you like the very virus you’ve pitted us as. 

We’re invisible as we sweep through massive floors of polished white. The inside is the same as the outside. Depressingly barren, white and harsh. People drift lazily about, the sound of calm, simple music flowing out of speakers somewhere far above our heads. I enjoy it for the moment, looking forward to the moment we wreak havoc and make our quick escape. From that very sound system the muck of the poor will play, far more harsh and emotionally-driven than the talentless crooning the rich deem “art.”

“Good to see you,” an aging woman declares with a tip of her head. She smiles at us, thin, pale lips pressed thin over teeth that glitter as white as our surroundings. “I assume you are friends of my daughter’s. Please forgive us for the current state of our celebration, we’re awaiting the arrival of more guests before retiring to the much larger gallery. May I ask, where are you from?” 

“The Feir District,” Ridser answers with a stunning smile. His voice is silken, I’d almost believe he’s the manipulative one instead of Tenjey. 

“Ah, I’m rather fond of the Feir. My husband, Brile’s father, was originally from their. Did you know him?” She flashes yet another smile, reaching up to fix a strand of her dull, grey hair that had worked it’s why loose of the pile atop her head. “His name was Ednier Yumanne.” 

“No, I don’t believe I did.” Ridser answers, his violet eyes soft and sorrowed. He’s a smooth actor, a skilled conman. Perfect at playing a role, convincing people he’s something at once. Which raises the question, why is he always so seemingly open when he talks to me? “I’d reckon the same is of my comrades here, Jualli and Naiora.” 

Great, that pestering voice scoffs. What kind of name Jualli? 

“Too bad, he was a great man.” The elder Farh sighs, her milky grey eyes clouding over as memories only she is privy to sweep her away. She eventually shakes herself out of the daze, promptly moving on to the next arrivals with so little as a curt word of farewell. The way of the wealthy, never thinking of someone other than themselves for more than a minute or two. 

“You’ll notice a lot that with the people here, the families take the name of whichever one has more money and subsequently more power.” Ridser explains, leading us to where several handfuls of chittering aristocrats have clustered. 

“Greetings,” a handsome man calls, sliding close to Tenjey. I bristle, ready to spring into a familiar defensive stance. This is how we work, I’m always ready to swoop in and save her. Just like what happened with the man only a few days ago. Tenjey however has other ideas. She flutters her eyelashes and wiggles her fingers, splitting off to go and chat with him. I make sure to memorize his appearance, from the black silt shirt clinging loosely to his muscled frame to the pale hair swept expertly across his head. He’s not bad looking, but possesses none of the intrigue or charisma of Ridser. 

My eyes wander to my left, travelling up his slim form. Despite the effortlessness of his masquerade, Ridser is distinguishable from the other partygoers by the way he holds himself. Proud, determined and confident. All the other men walk around like predators with hungry eyes and oily smiles, relying on their wealth to make up for their lack of personality. 

Ridser smiles at me, gliding across the floor as if his feet don’t quite touch the ground. Those enrapturing eyes lock with mine, a warmth to them I’m unaccustomed to. I’ve had annoyance, anger, even the occasional bout of contempt directed at me but never anything so... gentle. 

“Care to dance?” He whispers silkily. I’m not aware of him closing the gap between us, but suddenly there’s little more than inches between the tips of our toes. 

“Depends on if you let me lead or not,” I answer smugly. My voice comes from low in my throat, a burning within my bones that’s entirely unfamiliar. Not anger, something new and unusual—though not unpleasant. 

“I’d expect nothing else,” he purrs, taking my hands and waiting for me to engage. I listen to the slow thrum of music, getting an idea of the rhythm. The beat is simple, concise with an assumed elegance. Slowly but steadily, I begin to move in tune to the flowing of the melody. 

Underneath the bright light from only the most pricy of fungi, everything takes on a new hue. Ridser’s hair, the black silk having a slightly bronze tint. My own skin, white as the stone the wealthy love so much. Even what my eyes cannot see, this new fire dancing and humming in the marrow of my bones, sweet and strong. It’s energizing in a whole new way, making my body sing instead of pulse, gentle but insistent instead of wild and fierce. 

Ridser’s hand finds its way to my cheek, tilting my face upward so I have no reason to break from his gaze. Sapphire and amethyst, fused together into a stunning gem burning with life. 

Time slips away. Emotions I didn’t think I was capable of feeling rush through me, a few I didn’t know existed. There’s nothing else in the world except for me and Ridser and this new whirlpool of warmth and happiness I can’t understand. There’ll be know comprehending it, I fear, at least not until I’ve already been swept under. 

“You have the most beautiful eyes,” Ridser murmurs, his breath spilling across my neck and raising goosebumps along my spine. I have to swallow the urge to say no, you do. “So profound and thoughtful, polished onyx.” 

“You smell good?” I offer weakly, earning a heart-warming chuckle. He looks at me for a moment, as if ripping back every layer, every barrier I’d constructed and truly gazing upon my soul. I can feel him peeling away my masquerade, then watch as he tosses away his own. He leans in close, until the inches between our skin ripples with electricity. 

“Would you mind,” he pauses, unsure of himself, before continuing in a voice gentle and strong. “If I kissed you?” 

“No,” I answer, raising my hand to rest at the nape of his neck. His skin is like fire beneath my palm, while I shiver. I gaze into his eyes, losing myself in their cold-fire depths. “No, I don’t think I would.” 

He leans in closer, so close our lips graze. The moment stretches out into infinity, my mind whirring with questions, reasons to pull away and reasons to lean in farther. In the end, my body moves on its own accord, slower than I’d thought possible. A week passes, a month, a year and then a decade. An eternity flies by, at once being to little time and far too much waiting. 

Suddenly, there’s a clearing of a throat. Everyone’s eyes immediately snap in the same direction, a hush falling onto the room as the music drops away to nothing more than a faint hum. Ridser pulls away, our hand falling to our sides.

“I’d like to thank you all for coming!” From behind a curtain, Brile Farh steps out. She’s an image of her mother, with light copper hair falling in the same waves, thin lips and identical grey eyes. When she speaks, there’s none of her mother’s humility and gentleness. She demands respect, exuding power and dominance that’s quickly cowed the assembled crowd. Not me, though. She only succeeds in reigniting the anger Ridser had somehow managed to smother with his own strange burn. 

“Thanks for the invitation!” Someone slurs, drunk already off the small samples of Fru, a wine made from rare mushrooms costing more than everything I own put together.  

“However,” Brile continues as if no one had spoken, “we’re running out of space. So if you’d all follow me, I’ll show you to the gallery.” She smiles, thin lips drawn even thinner over a mouth full of teeth. Slowly, head high and stride confident, she turns away and disappears through the gaping maw of a doorway. 

The crowd sweeps behind her, following like a mindless swarm. We’re lead into a darkened hallway, faint sparks drifting up high in the vaulted ceiling. With a jolt, a realize the swirling lights are nothing other than firebugs. They have tiny, shimmering wings and long bodies glowing vibrantly with gold and copper lights, reminiscent of the licks of flames that burn on top of candles. The sight fills me with a resounding joy, I’m swept up into a state of childlike wonder. 

Ridser is suddenly at my side, and I stiffen. The moment passed, the magic fell to shambles and reality came crashing in. He’s still here, though. That can only mean it wasn’t a foolish mistake, there really is a connection between us. 

The gallery is a bright, open space filled with firebugs and flecks of white mushrooms sweeping across the ceiling. Easy to get lost in, weaving through the crowd. I find myself all alone, marvelling at the emptiness I feel without someone by my side. Within my familiar territory, I never feel lonely, or scared. Here, surrounded by strangers and strangeness, I begin to get panicky and anxious. 

I call to my anger for salvation, thankful for the familiar fire that makes me see red. This is the inferno I know, I’m used to. The heat that passed between Ridser and I before was nothing, less than nothing. I’m not meant to feel anything but the vicious blazing of my anger, it’s what’s kept me alive and in one piece all these years. I can’t let myself feel tempted by thoughts gentle and soft, I need to stay sharp as the knife strapped to my thigh if I want to stay alive. 

After all, it’s how Haven works. Stay strong, hard and impenetrable or else it’ll eat you alive. 

It’s what happened to my mother, she got so caught up in fantasies of better places and outside worlds that she let her guard down. Whatever became of her, I hope she at least got to see her dreamscape of a perfect world. 

I wield my rage like a weapon, carrying it like a shield. Never can I allow myself to feel something so pleasant as I did mere minutes ago, it’s a potentially fatal mistake.

But maybe I can enjoy this party. 

 
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