A Sword of Greed and Envy: A Nokturn Rising Novel

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Chapter 9

I sit in the infirmary for longer than I intend. Ash enters and sits down on the cot beside me. He doesn’t take my hand, nor touch me in any way, keeping a careful distance. In fact, he barely acknowledges me at all. Part of me is glad of it and the other part expected immediate apologies from him. I turn my attention out the window and watch snowflakes fall outside. I had never really seen snow before. This would be my home now. I struggle when I think of how it’s only been a couple of weeks since I was just a normal human girl, trying to get through life unscathed, no different from anyone else. Now, I’ve survived the Arena and I’m a servant to a Reaper Lord I barely know. I would never again reside at my family’s residence in Medeor. Would I ever even see them again?

“Come,” Ash commands, standing and holding out his hand for me to take, “I’ll show you to your room.”

“I have a room?” I ask in confusion as I reluctantly take his offered hand.

“Yes. It is connected to a sitting room that leads to my own quarters,” he explains.

I give him a nod of understanding as he leads me out the door. He takes me up to the top floor of the castle and leads me to the end of a long corridor. Upon opening the door, I nearly gasp in shock. The walls of my quarters are all black and white swirling marble and all of the furniture is black and gray. But the curtains and linens and other items throughout the room are sapphire blue. It’s the most beautiful room I have ever set foot in and I can’t imagine wanting to leave for anything, except the opportunity to return home to my family of course. I run my fingers over the shiny silk of the bed linens and the soft cotton of the curtains. I peek out and see that my room overlooks a courtyard, full of marble statues.

I find clothing is all put away and there are new dresses and outfits that I never would have dreamed of having. Why would a servant need such fine clothing? The washroom is fully stocked with any and everything I might need. At least, if I’m a prisoner, I will be a comfortable one.

Ash has poured himself a tumbler of vika and is sipping it leisurely.

“Are your quarters to your liking?” he asks stiffly, not quite intoxicated yet.

“Oh, yes,” I tell him, “I’ve never seen a room so magnificent. I didn’t expect so many nice things.”

He smirks, “You haven’t seen much.”

He runs his fingers over a stack of books on a table as he moves around the room. I sit on the edge of the large bed, wincing at the movement. He looks at me with concern.

“If it’s any consolation, I am sorry that you were dragged into my mess,” I tell him.

“Apologizing is a very human habit, isn’t it Lark?” he questions, “I believe you’ve apologized more to me than I can count on two hands. I’m starting to question the sincerity of such words. Besides, I should be apologizing to you. Intervening in your life the way I have when I should have let fate run its course.”

“You mean let me die,” I clarify, speaking the harsh words that he avoids.

“Fate is a funny thing, is it not?” he asks, “Our paths probably would never have crossed, yet somehow, you ended up at that pub and I was…”

He trails off and his smirk falls as if he realizes what he’s said and he looks almost apologetic but it disappears just as quickly. He takes a long pull from the glass.

“Can I go down to that courtyard?” I ask, pointing toward the window, changing the subject. I do not wish to think of our first encounter and the events that had followed so soon after.

“Sure. Put on something warm. Your body is not used to the frigid cold of Mortem,” he says, gesturing to the closet.

He leaves through an adjoining door and I enter the massive closet. It is packed with luxurious clothes like none I’ve seen before. I find a thick, black wool pea coat and slip it on. I step back out of the closet as Ash re-enters. He gives me an amused smile before stepping into my closet.

“You do not understand,” he says gently, pulling gloves from a drawer and a knit hat. He pulls the hat over my head, his fingers lingering in my hair a moment. He pulls the gloves onto my hands then nods in approval, “That’s better.”

I limp alongside him as he leads me from the room. We only make it a few steps down the corridor before he sweeps me up and carries me all the way down to the courtyard. As we step outside, I am amazed by the beauty of the snowflakes. Ash puts me down and I stare in awe at the small, yet intricate, frozen flakes as they land on the black gloves. I giggle in delight. I turn and find Ash staring at me with a look of tenderness.

“This is amazing,” I tell him.

“You are amazing, Lovely,” he says to me, sweeping me up and twirling me around.

As he puts me back down on the ground, a wave of uncertainty fills me. He is acting so incredibly human and almost affectionate, but on the other hand, he can be cold and unfeeling. I cannot decipher which is the true Ash.

“Ash?” I question and he raises a brow at me in response, “What exactly am I doing here?”

“I am not going to reap your soul, if that is what your concern is,” he tells me, his tone turning as frigid as the air around us.

“Oddly, I haven’t been concerned about that,” I admit, “Not yet, at least.”

“No?” he looks surprised, “Then, please, enlighten me.”

“I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do, how I’m supposed to act,” I tell him.

“You are not my servant, Lark,” he says, “I do not expect you to do my bidding. I simply wish to have you in my presence.”

“What will your family make of that?” I ask, unsure if I truly want the answer, but knowing I must hear it.

“They will disapprove, but there isn’t much they can do about it. My father thinks he is running things, but that won’t be the case for much longer,” he says.

“Why is that?” I ask, raising a brow.

“Because, my power far outweighs his,” he tells me.

“And you’re going to overthrow him?” I ask in disbelief.

He nods, “I probably shouldn’t have told you that,” he says, as if realizing he shouldn’t be so forthcoming.

“I won’t say anything,” I promise, taking his hand in mine and giving it a squeeze.

“How old are you, Lark?” he asks me.

“Seventeen,” I answer.

“How can someone so young have such morals and goodness in them?” he asks, looking a little baffled, “My experience with those of your age, both human and inhuman, are that of rude, selfish beings.”

I shrug, “How old are you?” I ask.

He looks embarrassed. He doesn’t look much older than me, maybe twenty at most. However, I know that Nokturns stop aging when they reach adulthood or when they are changed.

“I am eight hundred and fifty-two years old,” he says, hesitantly meeting my gaze.

“You look barely older than me,” I tell him, reaching up to touch his face.

He freezes at my touch, “You do not find it revolting?” he asks, incredulous.

I shake my head, “No, not in the slightest. You cannot help it. But,” I begin, “You know I cannot stay here, right? It’s far too dangerous. I am a sitting duck, waiting to be devoured, surrounded by Nokturns.”

“I don’t think I can be without you,” he says, “I find that I look forward to seeing your face. I long to hear your voice. I feel like I’m awake for the first time in centuries.”

“What do you mean?” I question.

“Reapers don’t have the same emotions that humans do,” he explains, “We lose that ability when we cross over into the plane of death and shadows.”

“But, that’s changed?” I ask.

He shrugs, “I think so. Ever since I laid eyes on you, there was a spark of something deep inside me,” he admits, “It’s only grown with time.”

He pulls me close to him, his arm wrapped around my waist. I look up at him, seeing torment in his eyes before he bends his head and presses his lips to my forehead. I tense momentarily before relaxing. The feel of his lips on my skin, sends shivers of pleasure down my spine. I am unsure if he is being sincere or if this is all some part in a much more colossal game for him. After more than eight centuries, I imagine he is bored. Why not entertain yourself with a human girl?

He breaks the contact, resting his head against mine, “I won’t be without you, Lark. I can’t explain it, but I know it must be this way.”

I nod, “Okay,” I relent, promising to figure out a way to see my family again.

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