Authors: D. K. Manning
The Protector of Memories
The Veil of Death series
D. K. Manning
Text copyright © 2014 D. K. Manning
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This second edition of The Protector of Memories
does not include the novelette; The Claiming of The Children.
To my ‘boggled-eyed partner’ who kept her feet firmly on the ground so that my imagination could take flight and create this story.
The Veil of Death Series
The Claiming of the Children
Book One: The Protector of Memories
Book Two: The Movement of Angels
“Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work, but the solidest things we know.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
was in her private penthouse suite of the YoungSkin building, situated in Canary Wharf, when her Bond of Unity was severed from each of her sisters; Thalia and Euphrosyne.
She sat and listened as a new claiming rang out and sneered at the mention of the name, Aglaia - she had cast that name off months ago... three months to be exact when she and her two sisters had been the last of the immortal children to be bound to mortal flesh and bone.
When silence returned, Charity looked into the mirror and gazed upon the extraordinarily beautiful face that no mortal could ever match. Stroking her fingertips across her cheeks, along her jaw line - down the length of her long neck, she was delighted by the smoothness of her skin; it felt like satin.
She smiled back at her reflection and admired the complexion that showed not a blemish, wrinkle, line or variance of colour. “I am why you need your foundations, lotions and creams.” Charity whispered as her fingertips continued to explore her mouth… lips. “This is what you desire.”
She stared into the depths of her eyes; the colour of royal blue and touched the softness of her eyelids and then the skin around her eyes. “I have what you want. I am why you need your inventions of Botox, plastic surgery and make-up.”
Charity leant back into her chair - held the gaze of her reflection that needed not eye-shadow, eyeliner or mascara to accentuate and highlight the dazzling blueness that shone within her eyes. “Your mortals adore me.” She purred to Mother Earth. “I have the very qualities that they crave. It is I that can give to them the promise of Youth and Beauty within their time of now.”
Her thoughts turned toward the silence of her parents.
She looked at the vase of flowers on the dressing table and then to all the vases that filled the entire room.
It was not the array of colours from the roses, lilies, fuchsias, sweet peas and faunas that she focussed on, but the stillness of the waters within the vases.
The emotion of sadness filled her and before it had a chance to take hold, she turned it into anger.
Where are you?
She questioned her mother’s quietness;
you who commands the energy born from words and echoes.
Charity thumped the table’s top at the thought of her mother having done nothing over the course of these last few months.
Her anger turned into rage and snatching up the vase, she hurled it across the room.
“Your silence is all that you give me!” Charity yelled, raising her voice over the noise of crashing glass. “Your silence and stillness_” but she had shouted so loud, it hurt her voice-box.
She took some deep breaths, calmed the anger that was always simmering beneath the surface and casting her sights over toward the window, Charity looked up at the realm of Earth’s sky. “The mortals treat me with the respect that I deserve. They attend to me. Me! I am their Goddess of Youth and_.”
Charity’s mobile rang.
The noisy intrusion did nothing to ease her anger.
She snatched it up, read its display and rolled her eyes toward the ceiling when she read the name ‘Faith’. “Not now Faith. I am busy being a mortal.”
She pressed the ‘stop’ button to cut off the sound of her sister’s voice. She did not want another lecture on the dangers of what would happen if she continued to manipulate the energies from the human beings. “For Christ sake…” she seethed, “what is the point of these energies if we cannot use them to our own advantage? If not for my…” and she hooked her fingers into rabbit ears, “ambition. What do you think would have happened to us? Joy, laughter and merriment is not the currency of this world. It does not get us anywhere on this planet.”
She felt her anger spiralling and closing her eyes, Charity counted to ten - but she reached only the number four.
The door opened and in walked the young girl - whose name she could never remember and whose voice always reminded Charity of a yappy little dog.
“What do you want?!” Charity shouted and narrowed her eyes in annoyance at the sight of the mortal as it walked toward the spilt water and shattered glass. “Leave it!” Charity snapped and read the time on the wall clock; 10.30.
She realised that she had a little over an hour before the photographers from ‘Celebrity Stars’ magazine would be arriving. “Where is Maurice?” Charity demanded. “He should be in here adorning my hair with pearls.”
The young girl said something.
“Just get me Maurice.” Charity hissed and returned her gaze back toward her own reflection. “What the…” her words trailed away as she widened her eyes in horror at the sight of her face.
Wrinkles etched so deep into her skin you would think they had been there for years; puffy bags the colour of black and purple hung underneath her eyes; vertical and horizontal wrinkles marked the skin around her lips, forehead, cheeks, chin and neck.
Charity leant closer toward the mirror and gasped at the sight of the black hairs and ugly moles that had formed in clusters about her face.
And then she felt the sensation of hot breath blowing on the back of her neck. It caused her to look beyond her unsightly reflection and onto the face of the young girl.
“Get out.” She hissed with coldness.
The young girl did not move.
“I said get out! Get out…” Charity stood, marched over to a side table, picked up another vase and threw it at the young girl. “Get out you yappy little thing!”
Alice ducked - screamed - raced out the door and slammed it shut narrowly avoiding glass, water and flowers;
what do I do? What do I do?
She was into her tenth week out of a twelve week college work placement as part of her Health & Beauty Training. And Alice was usually thrilled to be training with Charity’s Health & Beauty Guru – Maurice Stanton, but thrilled was not what she felt right now. Maurice had not turned up for work and he was the one who always dealt with Charity and her tantrums. As for Charity ageing right before her very eyes! Nobody had told her how to deal with situations such as that.
Oh God… what do I do?
Alice’s stomach felt as if it had turned to jelly and she put her hands over her stomach to stop the sickness rising up.
Something very heavy hit the other side of the door.
She screamed, lit up a cigarette, and, dialled ‘M’ for Mum on her mobile.
She’ll know what to do.
Charity’s mobile phone rang again.
“Faith,” she hissed. “If you dare lecture me on the dangers of ambition I swear I’ll…” she hesitated raised her voice and shouted into the phone. “Leave me a message!” She dropped the phone onto the table but within the next moment, she picked it up again, hurled it across the room and watched as the phone’s casing hit the wall.
She looked over toward the full-length mirror and saw that her jaw line was nowhere to be seen, the skin around her neck hung loose and baggy, and, her hands were gnarled, inflamed and covered in brown spots.
And then she felt the skin on her entire body loosening and sagging. Charity opened her dressing gown and realised what it meant to be that of mortal flesh.
Charity had prepared for this moment when her immortal abilities would be lost… hence the carefully planning of building up an Empire – a celebrity status and a rock solid reputation as a ‘miracle worker’ – a ‘scientific genius.’
But it had never occurred to Charity that she would age so rapidly. “You give to your mortals’ decades of youth and I get a few months!” She screamed to Mother Earth.
The mortal time of seconds lived, died - journeyed into minutes; time was running out.
Thirty-five minutes remained before she was due to have her photograph taken and give to the world her first public interview. She closed her eyes, focussed in on her own emotional energies and tried to re-sculpture her body back into the image of a young and beauty woman.
But when she opened her eyes, she caught sight of herself in the mirror; a witch-like woman acting as if she were crazy. Her arms and hands were flailing about, and her lips muttered to… nothing.
No sighting of her own emotional energies?
“No!” Charity screamed into the room. “I care not that I am a mortal. But I am entitled to be young and beautiful!”
Silence hit the room.
Charity broke it. “Give me back my image of youth!”
Silence arrived again; heavy, deep and loud.
She slammed her fist into the mirror; shards of glass showered down and around her.
“I would rather have death than live in this rotting decaying slab of meat that you call life!”
Her thoughts veered sharply unto Hera. “I hope you have been severely punished for what you have done you vindictive bitch!”
But now Charity’s thoughts turned onto the silence and continued stillness of her parents. “Why don’t you do something_?”
There was a knocking on the door.
Charity narrowed her eyes as she listened to the sounds of yapping words saying, “Is everything alright?”
“Go away!” Charity shouted.
Her mind was racing; she cannot be seen with this body image. All those weeks of ‘playing the mortal game’; evidencing, researching and proving that her ‘miracle product’ would not cause harm, allergies or illnesses.
Charity laughed out her bitterness as she listened to her own thoughts;
rapid ageing… that will be the legacy of my creams and lotions.
Her eyes fell upon the clock; twenty minutes remained.
I will not lose my celebrity status… my reputation
. She had worked hard at gathering a team of people, manipulating them so that they attended to her every need.
Charity narrowed her eyes in anger at the thought of what would happen to her. She would be laughed at, ridiculed and even worse… pitied.
I will become a freak of nature and when the mortals have finished with me they will turn me into human waste.
Looking beyond the door, Charity thought about the young mortal;
only she has seen me like this
A smile arrived on her dry, cracked lips as a plan began to formulate within her mind.
She got dressed, rushed out of the room and into the office area.
But it was empty.
Where is she? What is her name?
Charity rushed around the desk, grabbed up the diary and flicked it open to today’s date and saw the words; ‘Alice on work replacement’ scrawled upon the page.
“Alice?” she called, “Alice…”
Charity smiled at the sight of the young girl and licked her lips to moisten their dryness. “Alice. You are going to drive me away from here…” she paused, “but first I need a drink. My throat is so dry.”
Alice followed Charity into the kitchen and was convinced that her mum was right about the creams having been sabotaged in some way. “Don’t you think we should ring the police_?”
“Drink this.” Charity interrupted and handed to her a glass of orange juice.
“But I don’t like_.” Alice caught the angry look on Charity’s face and drank the juice in one go. “Yuck,” she said and pulled a face. Her thoughts then recalled what her mum had said; ‘take a photograph’.
“I’m just checking me messages.” Alice said.
A ‘click’ sounded softly.
Alice held her breath but it seemed that Charity had not heard the sound. She lowered her phone and continued to stare at Charity’s face;
she could be my grandmother.
Charity caught the look of pity on Alice’s face and loathed the spotty faced mortal even more. “I need to get out of here before the photographers arrive. Drive my car.”
“But I haven’t had many driving lessons_.”
“Hurry up.” Charity snapped and walked out through the door, into the lift and down toward the car park.
They finally reached the staff car park and the continued whining and yapping finally got on Charity’s nerves. “Will you just do as you are fucking well told?!” She screamed at her. “It’s an automatic. A trained monkey can do it!”
Alice stared in horror at how Charity had just spoken to her;
why does she want me to drive?
“Why should I drive?” She asked and added, “And I don’t like the way you are talking to me. I’m only trying to help you.”
Charity looked over the roof,
see what happens when I am no longer beautiful?
She took a deep breath, stood quietly for a couple of seconds and held onto the temper that she wanted to hurl at the young girl. “Alice,” she said in a tone of vulnerability. “My skin feels as if it is on fire. Whatever has been put into my creams burns… like acid, I cannot drive. Help me? Please you have got to help me?”
Alice put her hands to her mouth at the thought of Charity’s skin burning, “I’m taking you to the nearest hospital and then I’m coming right back to pick up a sample_.”
“Alice!” Charity snapped, held her hands up. “We are running out of time. Please just do as I say. Get in the bloody car and drive me out of here before the photographers arrive.”
“Yes…” Alice mumbled, “Sorry.”
Charity settled herself into the passenger side and quickly instructed Alice on how to drive the car.
After it had lurched backwards and forwards a couple of times, Alice eventually drove out of the car park as Maurice came driving in. “It’s Maurice.” Alice panicked, “What should I do?”