Dawn breaks over the horizon, painting the sky with shades of yellow and pink. I did not sleep. Instead, I found myself plagued with thoughts of what would come after we managed to take Arcanum.
“I never thanked you for coming for me,” I say, reaching over and placing my hand over Ash’s, startling him.
“I will always come for you, Lark,” he says, turning his hand over to lace his fingers with mine.
“I hope so,” I say, more to myself than to him.
“Do you miss it?” he asks.
“What?” I ask, looking at him.
“The freedom,” he says
“Freedom?” I ask, then shake my head, “What freedom? I’ve never been free, not truly.”
“Do you wish you could go back to the girl you were in Medeor?” he asks, “Do you wish you had not bound yourself to a Reaper? I realize now that it was selfish of me to ask it of you. I’ve taken away your chance at a normal life.”
“Honestly, I don’t know that I would want to go back. In the beginning, sure,” I say, “But now, I’ve discovered so much and have people that I care about. Plus, Maldara needs change. Had I not been chosen for the Arena that day, this might not have happened. I’m glad I am bound to you. There’s something that connects us, deep down, to our very souls. It’s something I cannot explain, but I know it’s there. It’s always been there, even before we were bound.”
“It was nerve racking, watching you that day,” he admits.
“I guess I really should be thanking Elliot instead of hating him,” I say.
“Why is that?” Ash asks.
“Because, had he kept his word and volunteered,” I say, “I might not have been able to kill him, and I know for a fact now that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill me, no matter what he might say to the contrary. He’s a coward.”
“That was his betrayal,” Ash says, sounding more like a realization than a question so I just nod in response.
“My Lord, My Lady,” a scout rides up to us, “The Scarlet Army is on the move, from the east.”
They were ruthless blood-suckers who would devour any and everything in their path.
“They’ll be here within a couple of hours. We better get moving,” Taron says.
Rain begins to fall as we approach the Arcanum capital from the west, staying to a lesser-traveled path in order to avoid a run-in with the legion of Vampires. The streets are quiet, void of life. It’s suspicious and the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
“Something’s not right,” I say and Ash gives me a worried look.
We approach the Arcanum castle with caution, dismounting our horses and leaving them with a small group of soldiers. We walk up the steps and push through the doors. There are no guards on duty as we make our way to the throne room.
Pushing through the doors, I see the grand space as it should be, without all of the decorations or festivities. It is very plain without the scarlet flowers everywhere and lighted orbs draped on strings overhead. When my eyes land on the throne, I’m surprised to see High Lord Lucian himself sitting there.
“I knew it would not take long for you to come for me,” he grumbles.
“We can go about this peacefully,” Ash says, “diplomatically.”
Lucian snorts in disbelief, “You think you are the only one playing at this game?”
“I’m not ignorant, Lucian,” Ash scoffs, “I simply didn’t expect to be the first one to reach you.”
“You weren’t the first,” Lucian says.
“Then, I’m surprised to find you still…animated,” Ash replies.
“That’s because I made a deal with him,” Lord Killian steps out of the shadows.
Blood stains his normally spotless attire. There is blood smudging his lips and he grins wickedly at me.
“Killian,” Ash says, tensing beside me, “What are you doing here? What game are you playing?”
“No games, I came to make a bargain with my father,” Killian says, moving closer, “You didn’t think I would be out with the legion, did you? I mean, not with knowing you would be paying a visit so soon.”
“What deal did you make?” Ash questions.
“I allowed my father to live in exchange for something very valuable,” Killian says with a sinister look.
“And what might that be?” Ash asks.
Killian’s eyes shift to me, then back to Ash, “The throne.”