@once-youth

       @irxnmaiiden || CONT.

    – – it was not difficult to NOTICE exhaustion & clear vexation that nagged on her custodian’s soul. Oh, how hard these events must have been for the matriarch, the ruler of a now tattered STRONGHOLD. It  b r o k e  her heart to see Suyin in such a state, to bear witness how this HEAVY LOAD weighted down a light-hearted posture, forcing dark shadows to loom beneath vivid eyes. – she had to solve these issues, needed to TERMINATE flaws in their security system.

           I am the Captain of the Guards.
           
Of course it was my  f a u l t.

          if I only had been more careful… 

          Hectic motions came to an abrupt halt as a drawn exhale almost simultaneously left drab lips. && yet HER words managed to stanch this frantic fit, permitting stance to relax & tension to steadily abate. Right fingers mindlessly curled around her warden’s digits. Motions she used to perform as a child. Motions indicating concern for the other’s sole well-being.

       none of this would have happened. 

lockandk3yfiction  asked:

Graylu, heaven? Earthbound? After death?

GrayLu + Heaven

  Gray stilled as he drifted awake to find Lucy sat beside him, smiling softly if not a little sadly as she gazed down at him, her fingers light as they brushed dark strands away from his face. It took his sleep addled mind a couple of minutes to process what was wrong about this scene, and his stomach clenched unpleasantly as he sat up…she wasn’t supposed to be here…she had died, leaving him behind years ago and yet as he reached out to grasp the hand that had just fallen away from his face, she was wonderfully solid and warm. He stared at their hands for a minute, his mouth dropping open as he realised that his own hand was covered in smooth, youthful skin once more, no sign of the wrinkles and age spots that had been marring it when he went to sleep…and his stomach unclenched as understanding began to dawn, confirmed by the small nod she gave as he lifted his head to look up at her.  Finally…finally age had caught up with him, and whilst there was a dull ache in his chest at the thought of his family waking to find him gone, it was overcome by the warmth that came from having her by his side once more and there were tears on his cheeks as he lifted her hand up to kiss it softly.

“I missed you…”

GrayLu + Earthbound

    The sky above them was filled with stars, easily visible at this distance from Magnolia and at any other time Gray would have been able to admire the sight, but for now he only had eyes for the blonde pressed against his side. Lucy’s gaze was fixed on the stars, tears in her eyes despite the small smile on her lips, and as it always did at this time of year, Gray felt fear engulfing him and his hand tightened around hers as though that would be enough to keep her earthbound with him.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said softly, finally pulling her gaze away from the sky to look at him, looking down at their entwined hands.

“Lucy…” As much as it made him happy to hear that, he couldn’t help but feel that he was the only one keeping her here and whilst he didn’t want to lose her, he knew that she missed her magic…missed the Spirits, and that part of her wished she had accepted the offer to return to the Celestial world with them permanently…he was sure that they would still come for her if that was what she wanted, and did he really have the right to stop her? His whirling thoughts were cut off when she leant in to kiss him softly, her eyes clear when she pulled away and there was no hesitation in her voice as she added quietly.

“I don’t regret my choice.”

GrayLu + After Death

   Gray had never really given much thought to what would happen to him after he died, it seemed like a waste of time when he could be focusing on more important things…like staying alive. He had never expected to come back to himself, standing just behind Lucy’s shoulder and watching as he clung to his body, her heartbroken cries wounding him even as he realised that he no longer really had a body to wound. If someone had asked him what the worse fate he could have been faced with was, he would have said being separated from his girlfriend…leaving her behind with no idea of what had happened to her, however, it barely took him three days to change his mind. This…this faded existence at her side, able to watch her falling apart in her grief and hearing her crying his name and being unable to do anything at all to ease her pain, this was the worst thing that could happen…and he had no idea how to escape it. All he could do was follow her day in and day, watching as tears fell down pale cheeks and the spark faded from her eyes, his soothing words falling on death ears and his reaching fingers passing through warm skin, and wish for oblivion.

The Charred Corpse - Part Four

The charred corpse was that of a young woman. The soil beneath her blackened fingers had been raked as she desperately tried to claw her way to freedom. Desperation had driven her on in her folly, as the deep gauges in the earth were filled with dried blood as if she had wounded the very ground. Very little remained of her delicate body but for a few scraps of burnt flesh that still clung stubbornly to the blackened skeletal frame that had once been the youthful and lively girl from Knighton. The arrows had struck her in the back as she fled the town walls. From the barbs still visible in the back her ribcage, it was obvious that she had been struck over and over again as she crawled on her belly. To her credit, she had made it further than any other Soul from that town.

Concluding his examination of the body, Bartholomew stood and gazed at the blackened skeletal frame that had once been the lively town of Knighton. Very little remained of the outer wall. The wooden palisade had burned quickly it seemed, and all that remained was the raised earth before an artificial ditch. From where he was standing Bartholomew could see the inner bowls of the former town. Everything that could have burned had done so. The houses, the market stalls, the shops, the tavern. All of it gone. Now it was just a memory, a memory that he alone now carried.

He breathed in deeply through his nostrils. The overwhelming stench of death was overpowered by the sickening smell of charred meat and ashes.

“This place,” He said, “It reeks of nightmares.”

John and Edmund made the sign of the cross over their chests.

“Perhaps some survived?” Edmund did not sound hopeful.

Bartholomew simply shook his head.

“We should… Bury them.” John didn’t know what he was saying.

“There won’t be much to bury.” Replied Bartholomew.

The trio stepped forwards, not really having any particular destination in mind. There was still a noticeable amount of heat radiating from the smoking wreck, as if still desperately clinging on to some semblance of life. Shock, disgust and horror filled them all as they walked. Past what was once the gate and a pair of watchtowers there was only a pile of ashes, with the remains of the brave men that stood their ground poking up between the charred planks and dust. There was no shimmer of steel; they had been stripped bare.

The town was circular, built in the sharp meander of a river that was the lifeblood of the entire region. It was quiet now, so the men could hear the gentle rushing of the water as it passed by the ruined walls, oblivious to the inferno that had raged only a day before. The Knights of Haven had made their headquarters against the shallow water and was the only structure built of stone. A rectangular building made of simple brick and mortar. Not the grand keep of a lord’s castle, and nothing compared to the awe inspiring architecture of Beaumaris, but it had given the town a sense of security. Now, the stone lay strewn across the surrounding street, the mortar as black as the charred wood that lay around it. Nothing remained.

“Who would do this?” Edmund spoke under his breath. He felt empty. Devoid of any emotion. He had expected to feel many things but there was nothing, just a black pit in his stomach that was consuming everything in his mind.

Bartholomew wasn’t listening. John was retching beside a pair of dismembered bodies that had only been partially destroyed in the flames.

“There was a gaol.” Said Bartholomew, lost in thought. “Under the earth.” He wandered off. Edmund and John didn’t follow.

Edmund walked over to John and put a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry sir.” Said John, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

“Don’t be sorry.” Edmund replied. “Be angry. Be angry for the both of us. Be angry for everyone that once lived here. Look around, this was a market once. It was filled with people, ordinary people, going about their business. This morning they should have been out at their stalls, but they never will again. Be angry John, because people did this. Monsters don’t start fire unless they hold the torch with five fingers.” Edmund felt the blood rushing to his face. “How could they do this?” He spat. “The whole town? And for what, a few trinkets at most! Every one of these people was a human being, with loves, hates, hopes, fears and dreams of their own. That was all taken from them in a single night.”

John stood and looked his master in the eye. “I’ve never seen such cruelty.” He said. His eyes were bloodshot, tears streaked his face.

“Reach for those swords and you’ll see it first-hand.”

The two men darted around, their hands at their swords and their weary hearts forgotten.

“You boys sure are quick. The ones here weren’t quick enough it seems.”

He was stood on a pile of burned rocks, the fletching of his arrow drawn gracefully back behind his ear.

“Who are you?!” Edmund barked. He was crouched, ready to leap the distance, the absurdity of the notion obscured to him by blinding rage.

“Who I am is a hungry man who is leaving, but first you’re going to drop those pretty swords of yours. Oh, and any coin you have of course.” His voice was rough. He was at least seventy yards from the men, but even from that distance Edmund could see he had the impossibly powerful shoulders of an archer who had spent a decade perfecting his craft. The filthy rags of his shirt hung loose around his muscles, revealing a heavy but bruised physique.

With his spare hand Edmund lowered the visor of his steel helm, leaving only a small sliver of sight to his eyes. He trusted his steel shell, believed in it. But he also believed in the old legends, the ones passed down from father to son over the ages. A tale of a certain Battle of Crecy sprang forward in his mind, forcing him to never take his eyes off the steel bodkin of the archer’s arrow.

The archer laughed. “That didn’t save your friends, and it won’t save you unless you do as I say.”

The rushing water was the only noise. The archer’s hand didn’t tremble. The Knight’s hand closed a fraction of an inch more over the handle. The Squire’s eyes flared with murder.

“If that’s the way you want it.” Said the archer.

The archer’s eyes exploded in flames. The deadly arrow sailed off harmlessly to the side as he collapsed to the floor screaming, his hands clutched to his face.

Edmund and John jumped back for a moment, and then ran to the archer with their steel drawn. Holding his blade to the archer’s neck Edmund turned the man over, he didn’t resist.

“Darrow. Darrow the arrow they used to call him.” Said Bartholomew. “He killed four Knights by shooting arrows into the old, familiar places. The armpits, groins, necks. One time he killed a Knight by shooting him through the slit in his visor.”

Bartholomew knelt by the screaming man. He seemed in no hurry, taking care to lower his voice to a menacing whisper that spelled nothing fortuitous for Darrow.

“You recognise my voice don’t you Darrow?” He said, his voice never wavering. “You can’t see my face any more but you recognise my voice.”

“Who is he?” Cried Edmund, his mind racing with confusion and anger.

“Local bandit. We picked him up a few months ago after a year of terror. Criminals are criminals because they couldn’t make money any other way. In the end all they had to do was dress me up in purple and gold and have me ride about for a day, and there he was, waiting for me. I didn’t even have any guards.” He kicked Darrow hard in the ribs, prompting more screams of agony. “Fucking bandit. You could have been master forester, or an officer in some military. You chose the life of a vagabond.”

“Bartholomew.” The man whimpered.

“Yes it’s me.” He replied, and knelt by the man’s head. “Now I don’t know about you Darrow but I’ve got all day. Start talking or I start burning more parts out of you.”

“Please sir no more.” Darrow pleaded.

“No not those words.” Bartholomew kicked him again. “Now you tell me what happened here right now.”

“They came in the night.” He managed. “Just before dawn. I didn’t see…”

“…Didn’t see them approach because you were in a cell. I know that part I put you there. Tell me what I don’t know or I’m going to start showing off in front of my friends here.”

Edmund was silent. John stared at the man’s melted face.

“I could smell the fire right away. People were screaming. There was so much panic, so much fear. It seemed like years before they finally came for us. A man, dressed all in black. He had the keys to the cells. He just opened them and said: ‘Well boys, it’s time for you to do what you do best.’ And then he left.”

“Describe the man.”

“All in black.” Darrow was concentrating hard on not being burned again. “He had blood all over his clothes. No hair. On his head or his face. A long crooked nose.”

“Anything distinctive?”

“He had tattoos on his hands. I couldn’t see them properly in the dark. I’m sorry master Bartholomew I swear I couldn’t see. I was so scared.”

Bartholomew turned to look at Edmund. His face was the utter picture of rage.

“They let you out.” He said. “And you all ran, through the flames and murder. You didn’t stop to help anyone, you didn’t try to save a Soul. Like you always have, you simply looked out for yourself without a thought in the world for what was going on. But then you came back, looking for whatever they left behind. That about right?”

Darrow nodded.

“I said speak!” He kicked the archer again.

“I don’t know what else to say!” he cried.

“A strange story for sure. Probably true as well.” Edmund hadn’t raised his visor. His voice rang with a metallic air.

Bartholomew stood once more and looked off to the sun, now almost approaching its zenith. He sighed deeply and the red rage in his face began to subside.

“Yes.” He said at last. “Yes it probably is.”

Darrow’s head turned around. He cried out one final time as his neck snapped and shattered, and then fell silent forever more.

Edmund raised his blade to Bartholomew.

“Explain yourself!” He demanded.

“Don’t feel sorry for him.” Bartholomew replied flatly. “The hangman was due to break his neck soon anyway. If his story is true, then he was the only man to get what he deserved here in the last few days.”

Edmund spun around and threw his sword to the ground. “What is going on?” he cried out to the Heavens. “How has this happened? There were people here, Knights with decades of service. All wiped out in the blink of an eye. And where were we? Where were you?”

Bartholomew returned his gaze with equal hatred. “You disgust me.”

“I disgust you?” Edmund was equal parts shocked and enraged.

“You’re not angry because of what happened, you’re angry because you weren’t part of it. You want a glorious death? Well guess what, you haven’t earned it yet. You throw your sword to the ground like an infant throwing his toys from the table because his father told him to go to bed but the feast is only just beginning. You missed the fun. The action. The fighting. Years of training building up to your great moment, but you didn’t get to take part. You didn’t get to earn your Valiant title. Accept it. If you had been here you would be dead. Remember your words. Dead Knights can do no more for the world.”

He took a step closer to the Knight. “Now you have a choice. Keep throwing your tantrum, scream to the high heavens and make a vow to take revenge or die trying. Or, you can get out there and be the Valiant Knight that you dreamed of as a child. There is nothing left to do here, not for you anyway.”

“Who are you to talk of Knights and their worth?” Demanded Edmund.

“Who are you?” Bartholomew spat. “You didn’t know any of these people. You grew up on that island hearing the stories of the great Knights that came before you. But I bet you didn’t hear a single word about the ordinary, the common, and the weak. Well, I was here. I heard their dreams, their woes, and their pains. I drank with them, danced with them. I lived with them for longer than you’ve even been alive. All you have is an idea of their lives, well I have their memories.” He tapped his temple. “Up here. They’ll always be here. Because they’re not out here anymore.”

Edmund’s breathing was rapid. The anger swelled up in his throat and his vision flashed. He couldn’t speaks. John simply stood and watched the verbal duel in awe.

“You’re still a Knight.” Bartholomew continued. “You have a job to do. You have a duty to show the world that you weren’t beaten here. Grow up Edmund. Lose the dream. Reality has come knocking and it may have taken your breath away, but such is life. Revenge may not serve anyone’s purpose but your own, but you have vows to fulfil, vows that will take your revenge from you. You have to choose; between what you want to do, and what you know you have to do.”

“He’s right sir.” John had found his courage. “This isn’t the end.”

Edmund raised his visor. “No.” He whispered. “I haven’t even started yet.”

Museum of Youth

Item for inclusion:

The school tie: perhaps an object of latent erotic interest; I once fondled a youth’s tie on the school bus home; we were sixteen; it was the nearest I got to the homo-erotic I think; it was a mutual pleasure that neither of us understood