There are fates worse than death…
Welcome to the serialisation of Accidental Immortal. Chapters will be published four times a week so the serialisation will be completed at (roughly) the same time as on Wattpad, if not a little sooner!
If you would like to start from the beginning, please head over to chapter one. There is also a contents list at the bottom of each post.
Chapter 12 – Modesty
Lynsey felt ill at ease as they arrived back at the house. What Illyara had said about following them was right, but it didn’t make it any less hurtful because of it. It felt like one of the cornerstones of her new life had collapsed. She’d thought that she could rely on Illyara but it felt like she couldn’t. But then again, she did save her by getting Arkan to the house. Oh, she didn’t know what to think. She hardly noticed when Arkan knocked on the door but she saw with satisfaction how the butler’s eyes widened as he saw the trio. She was missed then. The man ushered them into the reception room.
Illyara perched on the edge of the settee and Lynsey moved to sit on the other end. She bit her lip. It didn’t feel right being upset with her friend. She glanced at Illyara and almost chuckled at their body language. Their knees and torsos faced away from each other. This was ridiculous.
The whisper of material made her look up to see Arkan stride past them and take his customary place at the window. The silence, only broken by the ticking of the clock and their quiet breathing, was broken moments later by a maid clattering into the room. Three short glasses filled with an amber liquid jostled together on a small silver tray she carried. The maid offered the first drink to Arkan, who picked up the glass without hesitation. He held the glass in his palm for a moment, swirling it with a slow, lazy movement. He bent his head and his dark curls fell forward as he sniffed the contents before draining it in one draught.
Next, the maid crossed the elaborate pattern in the beige carpet to offer Illyara, the second glass. She shook her head at the invitation.
“You really should. It’s a good quality brandy, it will settle your nerves after today.”
Illyara and Lynsey exchanged glances and Lynsey shrugged her shoulders at her. Illyara picked the nearest and Lynsey grasped the third glass from the tray at the same time. The brandy smelled rich and reminded her of Christmas. She almost laughed out loud.
“Lynsey, you are in shock.” came Pico’s concerned thought.
She sobered at the intrusion. It was hard to get used to him doing that. She tilted the glass at Arkan and gulped it, letting the liquid burn her throat as it went down. Seconds later, Illyara bent her dark head forward and took a sip.
“Is there anything else, Sir?” Arkan shook his head at the maid’s question and she withdrew from the room, taking the two empty glasses as she went.
Luna burst in through a second door.
“I am so sorry.” She pleaded, lurching straight to Arkan. She looked slightly drunk.
What was Luna playing at? The woman was all over him. And, more importantly, why did she even care what Luna did? Not taking her eyes off the pair, Lynsey grabbed the other glass from between Illyara’s hands and downed it. Warmth flooded her bones. This really was good stuff. She couldn’t help but notice how Luna’s dark beauty matched his. They would make the perfect couple, Lynsey thought, bitterly.
After hearing what must be the tenth sorry, Lynsey was getting irritated. Why was Luna apologising to Arkan so much? He didn’t own them. They were perfectly within their rights to have a walk if they wanted to. Granted he did rescue them but given time, with Pico’s help she was sure she would have escaped on her own.
He kept looking at her over Luna’s shoulder with those puppy dog eyes. God, he is so damned gorgeous! If they had been back in London she had to admit, he would have been her type. She loved the combination of long shoulder-length curls with matching brown eyes. He had a strong jaw and his muscles! If he was back home, he would have spent hours in the gym to get those pecs.
He’s crowing, she realized. He’s feeling like my knight in shining, bloody armour and I’m just supposed to simper at his feet now am I? I don’t think so!
Across the room, Luna had turned to observe her two house guests. She arched her neck to see Arkan was also looking with an expression she hadn’t seen before. So that’s the lie of the land is it? She sighed. Luna knew she could never keep him anyway but she thought her rival would have been some provincial girl with less brains than a Hreshat. This girl didn’t deserve him, she was reacting so strangely. It was like she didn’t want to be rescued. Maybe she didn’t understand what would have happened to her, Luna reasoned. She acted like everything was a game.
Over the last couple of days, Luna had watched them as they had shopped and moved around Ghinari. There was no point showing your true face until you knew what you were dealing with, but they had to be worth the risk. She had always liked an underdog. Lynsey was tough, there was no denying that. She reacted differently to anyone that Luna had met before, yet she had a soft quality. A combination hard to resist for most men. Would she be able to keep Arkan’s attention? Time would tell.
Luna twisted to get a better look at Illyara. Her friend was also interesting. There was the question of how she got away from the kidnappers. Luna’s brows furrowed. No one had seen her come back into the house earlier and she had posted guards on all the doors as soon as she realized they had gone.
“We should probably go to bed.” She heard Lynsey say.
“Oh no, darling.” Luna purred, moving away from Arkan to take her hands. “Don’t you see? We have to go to the banquet now. It will be safer if you do. The king has tried to kidnap you. If you want to be safe, you will need to be presented to court in the most ostentatious way possible. Everyone must be talking about you and your connection to my family. Everyone must know you exist!”
Arkan nodded his head in agreement. “You need to go now more than ever. Luna is right as always. Do you have everything you need?”
Lynsey stared at her rescuer and benefactress in dismay. “I don’t want to go out now. I’ve just been kidnapped! All I want is a bath and bed.”
“You shall have both, the first now and the second tonight AFTER the banquet. I will send my personal maids to you to make sure that you will make an entrance that this city has never seen before. The only safety for you now is notoriety and I am the perfect person to show you how to get it!”
Luna rang the bell dangling on a powder-blue leather rope beside her and Tar opened the door, his eyebrow gently raised. Luna gestured to Lynsey and her friend.
“Send Mari and Tegan to their rooms. I want them to look fabulous for tonight.”
“My lady.” He replied and withdrew making no sound.
Lynsey looked at the faces surrounding her and sighed. They were right. All she wanted to do was snuggle into bed at home with a pint of ice-cream – low fat of course. No, dammit, Cornish cream and as many bars of chocolate she could stuff in her face. Her stomach growled audibly. She hadn’t eaten a good meal for days and just maybe the food at this dinner would be worth it.
Lynsey rose to her feet and Illyara pulled her to the door, leaving Luna and Arkan talking. When the door was closed and Illyara was sure no-one was listening she grabbed Lynsey by the hand. Her other hand lay on the rail at the foot of the stairs.
“You know I had no choice, you have to understand that.” Illyara began.
“I know, but I can’t help feeling that you left me behind. How did you get away? One minute you were there the next you weren’t.”
“I did tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“That I can disappear – like your bracelet.”
“No you didn’t!” I would have remembered that!”
Illyara sighed, I did but you weren’t listening. It is an ability that my people have. We would have been wiped out during the time of the pyramids if it weren’t for it and in fact we were instrumental in the uprising. We have to be very careful not to show it. If anyone outside of the family knew what we could do, our children would not be safe.” Illyara made a second check around her. Lynsey blinked and she was gone. Before she had time to register surprise Illyara was back again.
“Why are you telling me?”
“You are my friend and I think we are more alike than you think. We are a peaceful people and don’t like confrontations but we will protect our own and that includes our friends.”
Lynsey returned Illyara’s smile. “When you put it like that. I suppose if they had knocked you out as well, we might still be there.”
“I don’t know, I saw you fight. That was amazing. I wish I could do that but it is against the ways of my tribe. It was amazing to watch though.” Illyara’s eyes were practically shining at the memory.
The route to their room was marked by large cloth paintings hanging from strips of wood attached to pristine white walls. Lynsey knew they were near their room by the sultry depiction of a lady atop a horse. She seemed to smile at them with her hands raised as though to brush her jet black hair away from her eyes.
Through the open door, she saw two maids were busily arranging objects ready for their transformations.
“I hope they have proper baths here.” Lynsey said as she closed the door behind her.
They did have baths, in fact there were two in the same room. The air was humid, suffused with the smell of the most gorgeous bath salts she had ever experienced. A heady mix of, what was it? Oh, lavender! …and something else was seeping into her soul, making the events of the day start to feel a little further away than it had just moments before. Lynsey revelled in the feeling. It had to be citrusy, no, it was earthier than that. She shrugged her shoulders and laughed at herself. Did it matter? She gave up trying to identify the second smell and she couldn’t be bothered to ask Pico.
She brushed her hands over the water to find the water was warm enough to get into but not too hot. She groaned with relief as she lowered herself into the water an inch at a time. The salts softened her skin as soon as her body touched the water and the heat felt like it was melting her troubles away. She cupped a handful and splashed it over her front, the temperature was perfect.
This was the best thing to happen since she had got there. She dunked her head under the water and brought it up again to see Arkan at the end of the bath grinning at her through the dripping fan of her hair.
Lynsey’s heart jumped and she screamed, grabbing the towel that the maid had left on the stool beside the bath. She hastily arranged it around her exposed body.
“Do you mind!”
“Not in the least. Your body is quite delightful!”
“That’s not what I meant. You shouldn’t be in here!”
“I need a bath as well after that rescue.” He brushed some imaginary dust off his shoulder with his hand. “That place could have done with a clean and brushing up against dirty walls before a King’s feast is just not done. Did you not wonder at the other filled tub?”
Lynsey looked where he pointed. There were curls of steam rising from the bath. A spare green towel was folded neatly on the stool beside it. As she had climbed in to her bath she had assumed that it was for Illyara. He followed her gaze to the bath, to the door and back again, guessing what she was thinking and grinned again.
“Illyara is choosing what to wear.” You will need both Mari and Tegan to get you ready while you are being made beautified.” He looked at her up and down in admiration, “…which won’t need that much, Illyara will be having her bath while you are being attended to.”
“You can’t have a bath while I’m in here!”
“Why ever not?” Arkan asked. Taking off his shirt, he revealed broad shoulders and an athlete’s body. She saw with concern, small white scars criss-crossed his front. She crushed the impulse to trace them with her fingers.
“Because, I’m in here and I’m naked!”
“You are worried about being naked? You shouldn’t, you are actually quite beautiful.” He replied while hopping to get one trouser leg over his foot. “Are you worried about that kind of thing where you are from? Where was it again?”
Lynsey blustered. “Earth and we don’t have baths in front of strangers!”
“We’re not strangers. We have known each other for a couple of days now and haven’t I just rescued you from a dread fate?”
She caught a glimpse of his rear as he climbed into the bath before she closed her eyes. Yes, but this was a whole new dread fate. Pico chuckled in her mind.
“We are not prudes, we just don’t like showing our private areas to all and sundry.” She breathed in and out letting the heat and smell of the bath soothe her. She wasn’t going to be riled by him. In fact she was going to ignore him. That was the way to deal with this sort of person.
She lay back in the bath, keeping her eyes closed and crossing her arms. She began to count the good things that had happened since they arrived. Even Pico was keeping quiet. She felt his amusement as he stirred in the depths of her mind. Come to think of it. Pico was very like a phone. Constantly there, reliable, all the information you could want at your fingertips if you want it. He could even be used as a compass! The only thing he couldn’t do was get stolen. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. She would never get lonely with Pico. Maybe if she just thought of him as a flat mate but instead of a flat, he was in her head.
Arkan began whistling beside her. She ignored him. He was just trying to get her attention. She sneaked a peak at him and he was looking at her with that insufferable grin. She turned away.
This time he started singing with some whistling accompaniment
“There was a young lady from Earth,
Who wouldn’t show her smurth
A man crept up beside her…” There was a splash.
Lynsey’s eyes shot open but he was still in the tub with that same grin. That is enough! She wasn’t going to take anymore. She pulled the already soaking towel and wrapped it around herself while standing. She clambered out with as much grace as she could muster, almost dropping the towel in the process. She stood for a moment realigning the material, and her dignity and ran out of the room to him roaring with laughter behind her.
Illyara stared at her with incredulity as she rushed back into their shared common room. Water dripped over the floor. Lynsey swiped her hair from her face, over the head, drenching the bedspread through the open door with scattered bath water behind her.
“That man is incorrigible!”
”Insufferable, annoying, up himself, pain in the neck…”
Illyara face showed no emotion, “What happened?”
“He had a bath beside me.”
“He had a bath beside you and that made you leave the bathroom without drying properly. Your world must be a strange place.” Illyara stood up gracefully and threw a towel at Lynsey. I am going to have my bath now. Tegan and Mari are in the receiving room. They have got a gorgeous dress for you.”
From a person who came from a culture of different tents for different sexes, Illyara was acting really strange. She would have acted a lot worse if it had happened to her. Then again Arkan was still in there. Lynsey shook her head. Maybe she didn’t know Illyara quite as well as she thought she did.
Hung up on the clothing rail that lined the room, a dress made her stop and catch her breath. It was indeed beautiful. On Earth it could easily be a, if slightly unusual, wedding gown. She ran her fingers along the material, it felt like silk. The ivory outer layer was inlaid with small pearls sewn into the bodice material. An inner lining of fuchsia pink was offset against the outer layer to peek through. “It’s the same colour as that plant we saw in the desert.” She mentally sent to Pico.
“Of course. The barygsre was – or should I say is, also used as a dye.” His voice took on a curious tone. “I agree. The dress is visually pleasing.”
Mari, took the dress down and the long skirt pooled against the floor. Lynsey breathed out gently. It was what she would have chosen if she ever got married. It was her dream dress.
“Do you like it Ma’am? Illyara chose it from the dresses sent over this afternoon while you were out. Mr. Blade ordered them especially.”
“Arkan chose this?” She pointed at the dress.
“Yes ma’am and several others but we thought this would be the one for you to wear for your first presentation.”
How could she reconcile the Arkan from the bathroom with the soul who could choose something as stunning as this dress? Lynsey touched the soft silk again with reverence. Whatever she thought of him. The guy had taste.
The door from the corridor opened with a slight whoosh and Tegan breezed in offering another towel to Lynsey. She didn’t say a word but her eyes pointed to the droplets on the floor from Lynsey’s waterlogged hair. Lynsey felt heat radiate from her cheeks. She quickly dried and the maids handed her clothing one by one They layered the garments. Underwear first, then petticoats and a bustier was hauled tight until she squeaked. Finally the dress was pulled over her head and she was drawn over to a mirror.
“You look lovely Ma’am but we haven’t finished.” Tegan pulled Lynsey with her as she was backing away. “Mari is the best hairdresser in all of Duat! The king has tried to lure her for his mistress. It was probably more the mistress than the king though.” Tegan winked at her. “I can’t imagine that the king is that troubled with her hairstyle.”
Lynsey sat by the dresser as Mari began to work on her hair. What could loosely be described as a dead rat’s tail that had gone through an electric shock followed by a gale became an elaborate hive of defined curls with pearls and diamonds dripping through like the tributaries of a river. She noticed everything was done to accentuate her blond hair.
“Mari, why is everyone so obsessed with blond hair here?”
“Are we? I never thought about it like that.” replied Mari, taking a clip out of her hair and slipping it into her apron. ”It’s just rare. I heard there were blond people centuries ago but most people had brown or black hair and when they married and had kids, most of the babies had brown or black hair. Eventually there were no blond children. I think people just like what is different. The exotic if you like. It’s nice. You will be feted tonight. You might even be courted by the King! You will be the most exotic creature there.” Then she added a second later in a lower tone, “Which will put a great big dent in Mistress Frassill’s nose.”
“Who is Mistress Frassill?”
“The King’s mistress of course. Thinks of herself a little above her station in my opinion.” The maid’s expression in the mirror was not flattering.
“You don’t like her then I take it?”
“She was the Queen’s handmaiden and took her chance. She wasn’t nice before the King took an interest in her. Now she could make even Set look like a neteru.”
“What’s a Neteru?” She asked Pico.
“Angels.” He supplied.
“She must be beautiful then.”
“There is no denying that, but she has a dark heart. There,” Mari twisted the final strands and secured it with a clip, “she doesn’t hold a candle to you tonight”
“Indeed.” Arkan strode in and balanced against the corner of a nearby table, crossing his legs. “We will have to come up with a story. It is inconceivable that a blond has emerged and no one has heard about it for twenty years.” He cocked his head as if in thought.
“I think she may have been the daughter of Baron Redcher. There was talk of a blonde boy going back a few generations. Surely it is a possibility that another could happen? Unlikely but possible.”
“What happened to him?” Lynsey leaned forward to hear better, exposing a little cleavage.
Arkan coughed and shuffled his position. “The Baron went missing about thirty years ago, travelling around the islands. He was an explorer, you know. He’s probably dead by now but maybe he had a child with a local woman.”
Lynsey followed Arkan’s gaze down to her chest and gave an inward smile.
“He is biologically interested in you.” Piped in Pico.
“I can see that.” She shifted slightly so he could get a better look.
“Why are you doing that? You didn’t like it when he could see your body in the bathroom.”
“This is different, Pico. This is called flirting. It’s fun!”
“I don’t understand.”
“That’s alright, you don’t have to but if I’m going to be stuck on this god forsaken planet with no internet, books or television then I’m going to have to find some other way to have some fun.”
“You are playing with fire!”
“Without fire, we’d still be living in caves.” She felt Pico slink off to a corner. Round 1 Lynsey 1, Pico 0, she thought with satisfaction.
“I like your idea Arkan. It would explain my lack of knowledge of how things work – of your manners and history.”
“Perfect, then that is settled, we shall do that.”