The Rest of Forever: Chapter 2
Silver; poisonous to the touch…
A God trapped by a royal family…
Immortals crafting a magical conspiracy…
Dark days dominate the Stemin Kingdom…
A plague rages across the capitol, and as life mysteriously drains from the land, a girl called Ambrose is tasked with following an unexpected path far from the poorer quarters she’s called home. Together with her dear friend Axel, she must journey forth across a perilous land to learn of wild magic, and confront the secret enemy spurring the end of days…
Check out Chapter 1 before Reading!
When Ambrose arrived at the Knuckles Tavern, Matron, or Madam Lorn as she liked to be called, was already bustling about and giving commands to some of her working girls. She was a curvy woman, but she carried herself regally and took no slacking from anyone in her employ. The tavern was popular with people working and living in District C. There was something about the rustic atmosphere and embellishments that mimicked the myths of sea creatures charmed patrons. A playhouse of myth and adult entertainments was Madam Lorn's promise to District C. In a city often bereft of peace, a playhouse was greatly desired to get away from it all.
“Where’s Axel, girl?” Matron shouted at Ambrose.
“He stopped by the blacksmiths to see about extra work again,” she replied as she went to adorn an apron and grab cleaning supplies.
Madam Lorn huffed at that, her braided hair swinging alongside with the scowl on her face.
“He ain’t pleased working at a tavern aye? I gave him a job out the kindness of my heart and look at him running off to burn his fingers making swords,” she chastised.
Ambrose shrugged at that, knowing that Madam Lorn wasn’t really speaking to her. The lady, while kind to most of her younger staff, was really only kind towards Axel cause of their history. The matron had a soft spot for Ambrose’s scarred friend since she knew his mother in school. She hired Ambrose at his request and if she hadn’t, Ambrose would have had to resort to other nighttime work. As she hand washed some of the knitted adornments for the many chairs and sitting areas, Ambrose began to wonder if she would ever be any better than a barely accepted tavern worker under the mercy of her friends' connections in order to succeed. As she looked at the blue and green pillows she washed she thought about a life she wished she had. The door swung open and Axel stepped inside, wearing an apron, to join her in washing the scent of the tavern’s night experiences away.
“No luck with the blacksmiths?” Ambrose guessed.
He nodded solemnly. Axel had been trying for months to find another job. He wanted to leave District D as soon as he could. He reached for a scrape to chip out dried vomit, grimacing as he tried to not tear the pillow.
“I don’t want to be stuck here forever Ambrose. We aren’t doing anything but getting by… Don't you get tired of this limbo we call life?” he asked.
She looked at him, surprised at the passion in his voice and his fiery eyes that sought the same feeling in her.
“I just want to be accepted Axel. I know it’s pathetic but I’m tired of justifying myself,” she responded.
She flinched when he patted her hand.
“It’s not pathetic. I want the same.”
They continued washing again, and Madam Lorn dumped sheets at their feet from an open window above.
“Clean these quick! We open soon!” she commanded.
Later, in the evening hours, at the Knuckles Tavern, Ambrose and Axel were finishing up the last of their work for the day.Hidden from public sight, Ambrose and Axel worked on the growing pile of dishes. Ambrose scrubbed the wooden bowls, still conflicted with events from that morning.
"Axel, I can’t stop thinking about that woman asking me for silver. How did she know my name?” she asked.
A splash of dishwater hit her apron, making her grimace.
“It’s not unusual to see silver beggars,” Axel said as he grabbed a mop and poured water onto the floor.
“It is when they know my name. No one speaks to us unless they need to. People are afraid of us,” Ambrose said.
She dried her hands and grabbed the second mop. The two hurried their work, wishing to end their night as quickly as they could. Patrons and other people enjoying the lively atmosphere of the tavern were rambunctious. Their randy cheers and unsolicited gossip could be heard all the way in the back kitchens,
“Did you hear General Spector was in District C this morning?”
“Another woman disappeared, I hear they took her kid too.”
“More and more every day, collapsing like that.”
“The man who used to beg me for coins by the vendors is gone now too.”
“A cousin of mine didn’t finish school, she collapsed. They took her away.”
“Bodies go missing every day, nothing new eh.”
“It’s a shame we can’t wish off our dead.”
“Has Princess Trinity or Tarea returned to the Obsidian castle yet?”
There were so many voices that echoed into the back of the tavern. As it was every night, people came to drink their wages away and lament another body missing. A short-lived cycle but one that occurred every night. Some of the chefs, exhausted from working in the heat of the kitchens, took off their aprons. A live performance began in the bar. A young woman’s sweet ballad began and a hush took over the crowds. The gossiping patrons were captivated by the melodies of a beautiful woman lamenting a missing lover. Other workers took off to listen and enjoy Madam Lorns' other entertainments. As the door swung open air from the tavern blew through the kitchens, the putrid smell of sweat and must hit their noses.
Axel continued scrubbing the floors as he said, "man the knights of Stemin are a filthy bunch, Ambrose."
He wiped his nose trying to sway the smell away.
"Hey, quit complaining. At least, we get paid for this work without catching a disease," she said giggling at his antics.
Axel shook his head and said, "does the King not give his knights time to bathe?”
The door opened and two knights walked in with General Spector strolling behind them. His cold gaze looked at the both of them with disdain. Frozen, Axel and Ambrose immediately lowered their gaze. Ambrose gripped her mop tightly. Her hands trembled.
"Well lookie here general, a D-rat is talking poorly about our King," The first knight said.
They walked into the room, shutting the door. Smirking to the second knight, the first kicked the bucket of murky water over. As the water spilled over the floor, the general stepped forward, careful to avoid the murky water hitting his silver boots. The knights began knocking dishes and plates down, the cluttering noise loud as the tavern patrons listened eagerly to the disturbance in the kitchen. Madam Lorn stepped down from the stairs but didn’t move to help them. Every dish that hit the ground and shattered made her flinch and the knights delighted in that.
“Please, I didn’t mean…” Axel whispered out as he moved to block Ambrose from sight.
“Didn’t mean to be heard ya rat? Trying to squeak in private with your ugly mug out of sight?” a knight mocked.
The general raised his hands and silence fell upon the two knights terrorizing the kitchens and harassing the now frightened Ambrose and Axel.
"Looks like we have a new addition for the King’s dungeon tonight,” the general commanded.
The knights whistled and a dozen knights came through the tavern into the back room and grabbed Axel.
"Axel!" Ambrose cried in alarm.
Two knights blocked her view.
"Take him away," the general ruthlessly commanded.
The knights marched out with Axel cuffed to a prisoners’ bar. Axel protested but his voice fell on turned away ears. People blatantly looked in other directions as he was dragged away. The knights were cruel, taunting him. The general stayed behind.
"Go home rat. You'll be seeing the ground if you speak again," he said to Ambrose.
Matron came from behind the stairs and into the kitchens to apologize for the problems and dismissed Ambrose with a look that let her know she couldn’t return tomorrow or ever again. Ambrose grabbed her leather knapsack and slipped out the back door as quickly as she could. She looked back once more only to see Madam Lorn groveling for mercy on her knees and the general raising his hands, as his eyes turned silver. Madam Lorn backed up against the wall her hands in defense against the raised hand. He placed his hand on the swinging back door and it collapsed into a pile of silver dust. Madam Lorn looked so frightened as the general put his hand around her throat, whispering words that Ambrose couldn’t hear. His eyes met hers and he raised an eyebrow as his cold eyes flashed silver. Ambrose ran.
As Ambrose ran through the dark streets, her tears slowly fell away into the air. Drunk people were hollering and dancing at doors. She didn’t make any eye contact as she made it to the gate. When the knight checked her identification, she walked out of the light of District C and into darkness. As she passed through the gate into District D, she breathed a sigh of relief. No knights ventured into the district for rounds this late. The truth of their job is that they only protected the wealthy.
The eerie darkness and silence as the moon passed overhead produced a cold feeling. As she walked past the crumbling homes and overcrowded buildings, people would shut their curtains and shutters to hide whatever life they held within. People were afraid and had the right to be. As she progressed through the muddy streets, her feet grew heavy the further she walked. At any moment, she felt she would collapse and who knows, maybe it would be her body the knights took next. When she came up to the small home that rested on the top of the hill, she opened the door to hear her mother humming in the kitchen. A little firelight flickered as her mother turned.
"Ambrose you're…" her mother began.
Ambrose rushed into her arms and wept. Her mother's gentle words were a soothing balm to the fear that had spread in her heart.
"Mom, Axel has been arrested,” she said with her shaky tear ridden voice. “The general…he did something weird and his eyes….they changed colors….they looked like mine.”
Tears continued to fall as her body trembled with fear at this unknown experience. Her mother sat her on the floor and went to close the door.
“Ambrose dear, there is so much I need to tell you, but it can wait…tell me what you saw. Tell me everything,” her mother whispered, joining her on the floor of their cold home.
“Mom why did everything go so wrong so fast?” Ambrose whispered in defeat.
That following morning Ambrose was startled awake. She opened her eyes and saw her mom sitting at the edge of her pallet.
"Mom?" she asked.
"Ambrose, listen. There are many things that are going to change and very soon,” her mother said through strained breaths.
"Mom, what are you talking about?" Ambrose asked, panic rising.
"Hush child! They will come for my body. Go outside of the city and follow the King's road into the King’s forest. Find the vine house and ask to speak with the head of the household. Ask to work there and give my name as a reference. Work for one month. In that time, look for my journal hidden behind the blue book. Do you understand?" she instructed as she clutched her heart in pain.
Ambrose nodded and knelt before her mother.
"There you'll find a way to find your father. He should be able to save those in the Stemin Kingdom."
"My father?" she asked, startled.
"You said he was dead," she questioned her mother.
"I had to dear. If those in power had known he was alive, they would have killed you and tortured me for answers. There is much I needed to tell you. I've taught you everything I could. Your father should be able to help you."
"Mom, what's going on?" Ambrose asked.
Her mother caressed her face tenderly before telling her, “the Kingdom’s disease has taken over. The protection I’ve placed on the house has failed. The silver is too strong. The Queen is stronger than I imagined she would be by now."
"No!" Ambrose cried, tears flooding her vision.
"Shh, it’s my time. Death won’t touch you, my beloved child. I promised him I would tell you everything, but I don’t have the time."
Her mom smiled sadly before continuing, "You are my daughter, but you're stronger than I was when your father was around."
They sat in silence, not yet ready to say goodbye.
"You don’t need to stay with me Ambrose. Go now. The King’s enchanters will send knights for my body. You can't be here when they come."
"No, I will stay with you," Ambrose promised.
She lay on her mom's shoulder. She reached for her mother’s hand and held tightly. The clammy coldness of her hand startled her. Ambrose listened to her mother. Her breathing grew more and more labored. She could feel her mother’s body shudder as it tried to grasp for air.
"I love you, Ambrose. You'll do great things. "
"I love you too mom,” she said softly.
Ambrose watched her mother’s body seize and shake on the ground. Her tears fell endlessly, but she held her hand until the last moment.
Some time passed before she could move from her grief-ridden spot. There was something about these past few hours that didn't feel real to her. She was alone in the world outside of Axel, but even he was gone. Ambrose moved to pack her travel bag. She slowly walked into her mother's room, surveying the little belongings her mother owned with sorrow. She took the hidden money and her mother’s silver handheld mirror. Looking in it, sh saw her own face and her strange silver colored eyes. She stopped moving and listened to the district. The clanging of metal and organized stomping sounded in the distance; it was the sound of the knights. She quickly grabbed her things. She looked back at her mother’s room and grabbed the small painting of her mother and herself as a baby from the table. Then she walked into their kitchen to place rations into her pack. She strapped her knife to her leg and hid the little money she had in the pocket hidden into her blouse. Opening the window, she climbed through and headed to the city.
Ambrose carried the weight of her belongings with her as she walked along the path out of District D towards the King's road. There were no gates to block her way because only miners ventured towards the mountains and carriages towards the land of the nobles. As the path changed from stone to horse trodden dirt, Ambrose knew she would not be able to return; there were no positive feelings left for her in the silver city. The filth that covered the streets of her district were left behind and the air cleared. There was nothing but the path her mother had set for her. Whatever she could find, Ambrose prayed Axel would still be alive by the time she found it.
To be Continued
Note From the Author:
Thank you for reading Chapter 2 of the “Rest of Forever” I am so excited to continue working with my Best friend and artist Middnite Designs on this project! Were you surprised towards the end? Stay tuned for more, You can subscribe to my blog to get updates on my web series and other writing once or twice a week. Tag me @Jadedisland if you share!