A Sword of Greed and Envy: A Nokturn Rising Novel

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Chapter 14

For the next week, I spend a lot of time alone in my room. Ash had to leave the castle on business and wouldn’t be back for a few days. He encourages me to read in his absence. This is a perfect opportunity for an escape. I contemplate it on several occasions during his absence. It is on the third day that I find myself stir-crazy enough to venture out of my room, despite risking the consequences.

Snow is falling heavily outside in the courtyard and I look up, closing my eyes and feeling the cold flakes land on my face.

“Making an escape?” Ash’s voice startles me and my eyes find him in the lighted doorway leading back into the castle.

I shake my head, “No. You’re home earlier than I expected.”

He smirks, “Home,” he says, taking a few steps toward me, closing the distance between us.

“I missed you,” I tell him without thinking, feeling my face heat with embarrassment.

He looks surprised as he puts his hand to my cheek and I lean into his touch.

“What are you doing out here in the cold?” he asks.

“Just enjoying the fresh air,” I tell him, taking him by the lapels of his black wool coat, “I was going a little crazy up there. What are you doing back already?”

“I can only handle so much talk of politics in a week,” he says with a shrug, almost seeming ashamed, “And I was eager to get back here, to you.”

I blush at his words, “You don’t seem very invested considering you will eventually be the High Lord of Mortem,” I say.

“It’s hard to feel passionate about something you’re uninterested in,” he explains, “I hate the underhanded dealings and the back-stabbing and plotting against one another. Though I know it is inevitable that I ascend the throne one day, I will only do so because leaving my father there is a detriment to everyone.”

I nod as if I understand, though I truly don’t, not fully. The politics of the Nokturns are much more involved and complex than that of humans. They were always arguing with one another and I imagine it is because they all pose an equal threat to each other, so constant war is inevitable. Humans are at the bottom of the food chain so they forget about us until they need us for sustenance.

“Sometimes, I just want to walk away from it all, denounce my title and live on my own somewhere,” he says.

“Then why don’t you?” I ask.

“I have someone I’m responsible for other than myself,” he says, “It would be too risky to leave now.”

“Serena?” I guess.

He furrows his brow, “Serena? No,” he shakes his head, laughing a little, “You, Lark.”

“Me? Ash, you don’t owe me anything,” I tell him, “I don’t need to be kept or protected. I can easily go back to surviving in the woods.”

He shakes his head in disbelief, “You don’t understand. Maybe one day I will be able to explain it to you.”

He nods and I rest my head on his hard chest. His arms wrap around me, holding me closely to him.

“Tell me about your family,” he says.

I tense up, unsure how much I should really reveal about them.

“My father is kind of a leader, but not in the same way that Nokturns have High Lords or anything. It’s not that official. I also have an uncle, Garrison, and a twin brother.”

“Garrison,” he says, deep in thought, “You’ve mentioned him to me, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” I say, “He is the one who trained me.”

“He must be a very skilled man,” he comments.

“He is. They never want to tell me anything though,” I say on a sigh.

“What do you mean?” he asks, his arms tightening around me.

I pull back to look him in the eye, “Any time I ask about my mother or anything about her side of the family, they clam up and just, I don’t know, shut down,” I tell him, “They don’t include me in anything though I am probably more capable than my brother, not that Taron isn’t amazing in his own right. They just think that I’m only good to hunt.”

I feel the rise and fall of his chest against my cheek. As a Reaper, his heartbeat is nonexistent.

“I cannot change the way they treat you, Lark,” he says, sorrowful, “But, I can promise you, I will not treat you as if you are incapable, or weaker than myself. I have seen what you can do. I knew from the moment I saw you, I knew you were special.”

“Why were you there anyways,” I ask him, “At the pub that night?”

“I often frequent pubs in rural parts of Maldara,” he says, “To be inconspicuous when drinking away the sorrow.”

“What do you have to be sad about?” I ask him, not understanding what problems a Nokturn of his stature could possibly have.

“I was drawn to you from the very night I saw you,” he says, “Before that, I had long since lost every shred of humanity left in me. When I first became a Reaper, my ability to care about others, to love, to feel happiness, all of it was ripped away from me.”

“Wait, you weren’t born a Reaper?” I ask, confused.

He shakes his head, “No, I was once human.”

“I didn’t know that,” I say, stunned, “I just assumed. Does that mean Allister and Neena aren’t your birth parents?”

“They are, but I do not like remembering the past of my human life, Lark,” he says, warning me away from asking questions, “It was a very short twenty years. My point is, when I saw you at the bar, it was like a beacon calling to me in the darkness I’ve lived in for over eight hundred years. You awakened something in me.”

I had noticed the same magnetism toward him. He was the only person who could calm me, the only person who made me feel safe besides Taron, despite the fact that I don’t know him very well.

“Is it just me?” he asks hesitantly.

“I’ve felt it,” I agree, “I just thought I was crazy, getting too wrapped up in everything.”

“I believe that fate works in mysterious ways, but that everything happens for a reason,” he tells me, “I was meant to find you that night. It led us here,” he says, lacing our fingers, “To this.”

I have trust in Ash, but not completely. I am not naïve and I know how quickly one person can turn on another.

“Lark, I need to ask you something,” he says nervously, “And it isn’t something to be taken lightly, you understand?”

I nod, “Yes, what is it?”

“Well, do you remember when Killian was here and he asked if I had blood bound you?”

“I remember,” I say, unsure what his point is.

“I was wondering, if you would be willing to let me do that,” he says, not meeting my eyes.

“What, exactly, does that mean?” I ask, gripping him tighter than before.

“I can only ever bind one person to me, Lark,” he tells me, “It’s the equivalent of marriage to humans.”

“Oh,” I say, surprised and suddenly terrified.

“Binding you with my blood will protect you from almost all Reapers. No others would be willing to disrespect me by trying to feed from you,” he explains.

“Will that change me?” I ask, fearful.

He shakes his head, “It won’t change you, your personality, nothing. It simply binds you to me. You might feel a little sorrow when we are apart, but truly I can’t be certain of the specifics as I’ve never bound anyone.”

I stand silently in his arms, unmoving.

“Just say you’ll think about it, okay?” he pleads, his voice strained.

I nod in response and he relaxes slightly.

“Can we go inside?” I ask with a shiver that isn’t to be entirely blamed on the cold.

He nods and leads the way back upstairs. He releases me to my room where I shut the door and sink to the floor. Bound to a Reaper? What the hell am I going to do?

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