A Sword of Greed and Envy: A Nokturn Rising Novel

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Chapter 15

Well past midnight, I step out of my room to find Ash sitting by the hearth again. As before, he doesn’t seem to notice me until I’m standing next to the chair. His eyes dart to my face and he gives me a lazy grin. I notice a half empty tumbler of amber liquid on the small table next to him.

“Lark,” he says, “Everything alright? You should be sleeping.”

I nod, “I need to talk to you, though,” I tell him.

“Talk away,” he says, giving a wave of his hand as if to say, ‘you have the floor’.

“I’m worried that if I’m bound to you, I will never see my family again,” I say.

His eyebrows are raised in expectation for me to continue as he rests his chin in his palm, his elbow propped on the arm of the chair. He is entirely too handsome.

I digress, “I mean, as things stand, I could always take my chances with escaping. If you bind me, that might not be the case anymore. Will I even have any free will? Will it put a bigger target on my back?”

“Why would being bound to me change anything?” he asks, genuinely confused.

“I’m not certain. I don’t know anything, Ash,” I answer.

“Alright, how can I help?” he asks, keeping a gentle tone of patience, “I will attempt to put your mind at ease.”

“I don’t know. Is there a way for me to see my family?” I ask.

He doesn’t answer immediately, deep in thought, “I suppose I could take you back to Medeor for a brief visit.”

I can tell it is a difficult decision for him, though I’m not entirely sure why.

“Thank you,” I tell him, closing the distance between us and sliding onto his lap, “You don’t know what this means to me.”

He stiffens initially, but then relaxes and his arms slip around me. I wrap my arms around his neck and take in his slightly bloodshot eyes.

“Are you okay?” I ask after a moment.

“I’ll be fine, Love,” he says, “Don’t worry.”

“You don’t look well,” I inform him, pushing his messy hair back from his forehead.

“Your touch is intoxicating,” he says, closing his eyes.

“I think the bourbon might have something to do with that,” I comment with a smirk.

He sighs, looking content, “Do not leave me,” he says, eyes still closed.

“I’m here,” I say, curling into him and resting my head on his shoulder, not willing to promise anything more.

It is a few days’ journey before we finally reach Medeor. I look nervously at Ash as his black carriage carries us closer to my village.

“Are you sure about this?” I ask, “What if they try to hurt you?”

“They cannot harm me,” he says confidently, “They fear me too much.”

I nod, knowing that is true, but my family would be angry that I was taken in the first place. They might not see Ash’s intervention as heroic as I now do. They are more likely to act against him despite knowing they will not succeed. Ash puts his hand on mine as we circle the town center.

“You know this could change things for good?” he questions, raising a brow, “You could be saying goodbye forever.”

I nod, “I need to see them. They need to know that I’m okay.” I just hope that it doesn’t truly mean goodbye.

He looks torn as I give his hand a comforting squeeze as the carriage comes to a stop. I open the door and hop out. People stop to stare, most looking terrified. Ash descends behind me and an older woman screams in terror before sprinting away. I want to run her down and force her to see the good that I see in him, but I know that won’t help anyone. I take his hand in mine as we cross the street to the tavern where my father will be, other townspeople give us a wide berth.

As I step inside, I am overcome with a sense of home. My father sits with Garrison and Taron at their usual table. Taron sees me first and bolts from his seat, running over to me and embracing me, lifting me in the air and twirling me around. My father and Garrison approach more cautiously, having noticed Ash’s presence behind me.

“Where’ve you been?” Taron asks, looking me up and down, noting my high-quality clothing.

“Mortem,” I say simply.

“Lark, that is the future High Lord of Mortem!” my father growls, “What are you doing with him?”

“Do you realize the danger you’ve put us in by bringing him here?” Garrison fires.

“He saved me from being a blood slave in Arcanum,” I tell them.

“Saved you?” my father scoffs, “He took you for himself, for a soul slave. Are you truly that naïve, Lark?”

“Do not speak to her that way,” Ash says, his tone chillingly calm.

“Keep out of this, Reaper,” Garrison barks, moving forward as if to engage with Ash.

I step in front of Garrison, surprising him. He narrows his eyes at me, realization dawning on him.

“You have feelings for this, this monster?” Garrison asks, disbelieving.

I look over my shoulder at Ash whose eyes are locked on my family.

“Yes,” I say, matter-of-factly, knowing as I say the word that it’s true, “I am to be blood bound to him.”

Ash looks down at me with wide eyes, as if he isn’t sure he heard me correctly.

“Have you lost your mind?” Taron says.

“That isn’t possible, Lark,” my father says, “That only happens between Nokturns.”

“Well, father,” I respond, “There is a first time for everything.”

“You do that, then don’t bother ever coming back here,” he tells me.

“Father,” I try to say, but his cold expression silences me.

Tears stream down my face as I realize that I will have to say goodbye to them.

“Mr. Kravinoff,” Ash says, stepping forward, “Can I have a word with you, privately?”

My father looks at Ash with suspicion before giving a nod. They move away from us and I can only make out a little of what they are saying. They return to us a few minutes later and Ash looks broken while my father looks appeased.

“Stay with your family, Lark,” Ash says, his tone low, “I’ll not be the cause of your heartbreak.”

He sweeps out of the tavern quickly and I have to sprint to catch up to him. I move in front of him, blocking his path.

“What are you talking about? Where are you going?” I ask, confused and hurt by his abrupt departure.

“You clearly miss them, Lark. This is where you want to be. I’m not going to stand in the way of that,” he explains, touching my face gently.

“And if I say I want to go with you?” I ask, challenging him.

He sets his jaw, his mouth drawn into a thin line of frustration, “It will change nothing. I do not want you with me,” he grits out, closing his eyes tightly as he says the words.

“You’re lying,” I accuse him angrily.

“You’re human, Lark,” he says, his tone cruel.

“You know that’s not true. You know there’s something inhuman about me,” I whisper, “What about the blood binding?”

“Surely you didn’t think I could ever have real feelings for something so insignificant. I’m a Reaper, or did you forget that?” he asks, his tone sounding forced.

I look at him with as much hatred as I can muster. He has just played to my deepest insecurities and it makes me more confused. I don’t know what is the truth anymore.

“Go back to your family,” Ash says, jerking his head toward where they stand with other town folk, in rapt attention.

Before I can think better of it, I slap him across the face as hard as I can. Though I know it probably doesn’t hurt him much, I can see the shock of the action in his eyes and the slight tinge of gray that rises to his skin. His surprise turns to fury and he grabs both of my wrists firmly, though I notice he is still gentle with me.

“Must you always be so defiant?” he growls, “Just do what you’re told for once! If you trust me and feel as you claim to about me, then please, listen to what I’m telling you, Love.”

He gives me one last pleading look before releasing me and climbing into his carriage, shutting the door in my face. A second later, it moves, carrying Ash away from me forever.

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