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

5. Flare

Chapter IV

~ Flare ~

“Imposing, glistening and starkly white they scrape against the stone ceiling like bones jutting up.”

 

 

Tenjey paces, only ever taking her glare from the floor to toss it my way. A scowl ruins her soft mask of innocence, twisting her face into one harder than I’d consider normal for when we quarrel. 

“I can’t believe you, Ash! I don’t know if I can trust you or not, but here you are, demanding this huge ‘favour!’”

“It’s not a ‘favour,’ Ten. It’s an invitation.” Her head snaps up, staring me directly in the eye with so much frigidity I can’t disguise my shiver. I haven’t called her Ten in forever, not since our first months free of Isolation. A pet name I’d used to console her whenever her mind involuntarily yanked her back into her torture. We don’t speak about it, but I know she spent a fraction of the time I did in those dreadful catacombs, and feels she doesn’t warrant any sympathy from me. 

“An invitation to get myself either killed or faced with the Isolation Law, once again because of you.” Her scowl deepens, I find myself pinned by the force of her anger. “I’m no fool, Ash. You only want me to tag along because of my ability to compel people.” 

“I didn’t kill him,” I insist meekly, tired after what feels like the thousandth time of protesting my innocence. “And I want you with us because I need you, not your ability to compel.” 

“What if I don’t want to go?” She mutters a cuss, dropping her eyes to glower at her feet. “What if I told you I couldn’t care less about you or how this latest scheme plays out, because you’re nothing but a bother. You hear me, Olyxe? Nothing but a self-absorbed nuisance.” 

“Well, I’m feeling particularly bothersome now.” I crack a grin, not the one I shared with Ridser earlier but a wolffish baring of my teeth. “So quickly change into something... darker and let’s be in our way.” 

I’d changed shortly after Ridser elaborated on his plan to get us into the house of Brile Farh, exchanging the sturdy, practical clothes for my one and only dress. A short  sheathe of black fabric, with a stiff leather bodice tightened with slim iron chains and thin silk skirt clinging tightly to my hips, coming down no farther than mid thigh. I’m not foo,ish enough to leave the rest of my skin exposed, I wear tight lace pants to cover op my legs while the dress is long sleeved and I wear leather gloves, elegant other than the steel chains dangling at the wrists. The gloves swathe my skin up to my elbow, a necessary precaution with the pooling sleeves of the dress. Over my chest, more lace, attached to a slim black leather chocker with a single gem of onyx gleaming from an elaborate steel frame. 

Tenjey is not nearly as extravagant, and far brighter in colour. She wears bright greenish brown pants and a loose white shirt of a fabric so soft, I can imagine it’s gentle touch without actually running my hand over it. How I envy her, not having to cover every inch of skin in harsh, hard fabric. 

“I don’t remember agreeing to this,” Tenjey mutters angrily and storms off somewhere. She lives in a space slightly larger than my own, but made of the same cheap, weak clay. 

“You didn’t,” I respond in a singsong voice, something within me warming at Tenjey’s answering laugh. It ends sharply with a pang of guilt for revealing her to Ridser and dragging her along in this potentially catastrophic plot, which I quickly smother. She could’ve refused, I tell myself. She didn’t to agree to go, it was her choice. 

“No, but I couldn’t let you go off and have this much fun alone.” She reappears, holding black cloth. Shaking out the fabric, she holds it up to reveal a simple yet artfully crafted black silk. There’s a plunging neckline, the garment so short I can’t figure out if it’s a dress or a shirt. Black gems, likely fake, glitter along the waistline. She displays the shirt-dress as if it is a piece of art, wearing a subtle smile of smug satisfaction. “Is this to your liking?” 

“Very much so,” I coo, sweeping my gaze over the length of fabric as if assessing its worth. Really, I’m imagining what it would be like to wear such a piece. The softness Of silk, the nakedness of having so much skin exposed. Even now, with more of my body visible than I’m used to, I’m still covered. The lace is my protective cocoon. The black pattern of twisting and blossoming shapes disguising the scars. 

“I’ll be there in a moment,” she excitedly hurried away, undoubtedly to dress herself, adorn her arms with jewels and sweep her hair onto her head where it will glisten in mahogany hues like another one of her gems. 

Fake gems. Meant to mislead, as much as her mask of beauty and innocence. Much like her bracelets, Tenjey is a fake gem. 

When she returns, I feel as if I’ve lost hours to the haze of emptiness I slip into whenever I feel threatened by an onslaught of memories. As she jars me out of my fog, there’s a few precarious seconds where my brain perches on the edge of total stillness and the distraction of reality. This is when I’m vulnerable, and as many painful knives try to dig into my heart as allotted for in the half-second. My mother’s face, the empty eyes of skeletons buried in Isolation. A prison for the living who they want to forget, a tomb for the dead they eventually will. Someone said that once, but I cant remember who. The words have stuck with me, though. Seared onto my brain, unable to leave my memory even if I wanted them to. 

The first day I was brought to Isolation, as much a city as it is a prison or a tomb, I was paraded around. There was no one to witness the parading, no one other than the stoic and silent guards that held me through the thick fabric of a jacket. It was not for their benefit, but for mine. So I could see the full extent of atrocities buried below Haven, all the bones blanched white, polished and stacked where they gleamed in white and orange torchlight—there are no laws of safety in Isolation—like sculptures carved from the finest pearly stone. 

“Olyxe? Ash?” A soft whisper brushes against me, fully bringing my battered mind back to reality. I slowly turn my gaze on Tenjey, hoping to see my friend and not one of the monsters of my past. 

“Y-you look the part,” I have to strain against heaving a sigh of relief. Tenjey is herself, albeit far more glamorous than her usual patched together style of garish, gaudy  colours tossed haphazardly together on her slim form. It turns out she’d been boasting a dress earlier, even though the silken garment is probably better suited to being a shirt. It takes every ounce of my self-control not to hungrily devoir every inch of bare skin, a jealousy burning in me so bright it dims everything else. 

Tenjey has no scars. Not a one. Almost as if the guards who so delighted in horribly maiming my body considered it a shame to destroy a work of art like Tenjey. If only it’d been Fenly, who’d likely seduce at least half of them only to stab them in the back and watch them bleed out across those cold, hard floors... 

Part of me wishes Fenly had been there instead of Tenjey. Fenly is strong, stubborn and venomous while Tenjey is softer, delicate even. If it’d been Fenly in a cell rather than Tenjey, there likely wouldn’t be much left to anyone or anything that caged her. 

No scars. Sleek, unmarred planes of bronze skin. No curse to destroy everything she touches. In my mind, one of those alone is enough to feel this consuming navy towards Tenjey. Both of those combined, I should absolutely loathe her. Yet for some reason, she’s my closest friend. 

In the distance, the whirring of machinery grinds against my ears. A deep reverberation rockets over the city, shaking the walls and deafening anyone unlucky enough to be caught close to the Tower located directly on the middle of Haven. It’s an alert for those who bother to care, announcing the lights will begin dimming in about an hour.

I glance at Tenjey, she’s finishing pulling her hair up into a bun. Her eyes are alight and eager, her posture regal and every inch of her shouting I’m ready to go! I hope I have the same air about me, that there’s no visible sign of the fear quaking inside of me. 

What have I gotten myself into? 

The words echo in my head, unanswered. I can only wait and see, only able to let the future unfurl, a tide going out and dragging me into the frothy sea. I’ve no choice but to give myself up to the flow or be pulled open. 

Grinning like hungry wolves, we stalk out of the small prison with crooked clay walls. We each have a different way of walking, Tenjey and I. While she moves silently, padding around with grace and ease, I move with a purpose. I am a shadow, a wraith, but there’s always been a fierceness to my gate Tenjey has always and will always lack. She’s the charmer, the one made to use words not weapons. 

Ridser is waiting at us at the end of the road devising rows of houses. He is unlike I’ve ever seen him before. Regal and demanding, in simple black clothes but with an entire new mask in place. His expression hovers between boredom and vague disinterest, walking the line artfully well. 

He runs a hand through his hair, pushing lustrous locks back and out of his eyes. Though not particularly curly, whatever wax he’s used has made his hair coalesce into tiny, springy waves I can’t help but find cute. 

“Olyxe,” he dips his chin, wither acknowledging my presence or making a show of respect for Tenjey’s benefit, to earn her trust. “And your friend...?” 

“Tenjey,” I snap defensively, while Tenjey bats her eyes at Ridser who delights in every second of her clear attempt at flirting. “She’s the one who excels with persuasion, Ten-jay.” 

I can sense Tenjey’s discomfort the same way as I’m aware of my own heartbeat. I hate to have caused her misery, to continue to be that cause. She immerses herself in chatting with Ridser, but I easily recognize her flirtatiousness to be hollow, empty and tactless. A game, something to do to pass the time. 

I spend most of the walk in silence, wrapped up in my own thoughts. With considerable effort, I commit the path we take to memory. At least, somewhat. I’ve far from a keen sense of direction, and we’re currently heading into the heart of unexplored territory riddled with enemies. 

Tenjey and Ridser will have the least difficulty in masquerading as normal, Tenjey with nothing to obviously discern her from any other mundane person, Ridser’s eyes easily assumed to be navy in the blue glow of Haven. If you weren’t looking deliberately, you wouldn’t notice anything amiss with him. I, on the other hand, struggle to hide my charcoal-platinum hair. Currently, it’s piled upon my head and sprayed with a sticky liquid to tinge it with brown. I don’t know how long it’ll last for, though. In the past, my hair has tended to be rather uncooperative and will likely fall out of the dramatic twist and be back to its natural colour. 

Finally, tall buildings loom on either side of a wide stretch of barren stone. Imposing, glistening and starkly white they scrape against the stone ceiling like bones jutting up. 

“Where are we?” I ask, gazing with wide eyes at the splendour. The buildings are meticulously perfect, every last detail. The blocks of white stone are aligned with deliberate precision, polished and so clean there’s a wrongness to my presence here. You don’t belong here, a small voice scolds. Turn back, get out. I’ve never set foot in a prestigious neighbourhood, barely even glimpsed the white homes from a distance. 

“The Tysta District,” Ridser answers, moving with an unusual ease. It’s boggling how he so seamlessly adjusts to the foreign social structure. “Brile Farh lives around this bend.” 

Finally, my nerves flare. I’d kept distracted before, now the fear sinks it’s claws in. I bask in it. Each tremble of adrenaline, my body preparing itself for the hours ahead. An anger brews, a sparking and spattering fire broiling deep in my gut. It doesn’t take much to ignite my rage, this time it’s the sheer injustice of having to live in shame and fear of the people who live in these houses. In their immaculate oasis of white stone. They hold the power, the control while other people, Cursed or not, live in filth with barely enough to get by. 

I revel in the anger, draw strength from it. The pressure of a sheathed blade against my inner thigh no longer terrifies me; it invigorates me. I latch onto the fire, letting it race through my veins until there’s nothing else left in the world but me and this fury. 

Tenjey and Ridser have fallen awfully quiet. They too are feasting off their own private fuels, be it hatred or envy. I doubt either of them possess an anger quite like mine, and if I’m being honest, that scares me. The intensity, potency is utterly terrifying. Yet at the same time, electrifying. Every nerve is alive, my blood singing and a tension in my muscles I know will release in flashes of sheer joy with every movement once the fighting starts. 

With this much anger, there’s bound to be fighting. 

I can’t help but grin, a manic sight. If anyone happened to pass by our small party, they’d run as fast as they can in the opposite direction. We each wear our masks well, but right now those costumes are discarded. There’s no need, not until we reach our destination. Which looms ahead, tiny fireworks or adrenaline erupting in anticipation all over my body. 

This is going to be fun, alright.

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