Write a Review

To Seduce a Northern Lord

All Rights Reserved ©


Once, Rodrik Eeling had a bright future in front of him: one of the most brilliant students of the healing arts, not to mention the son of the man who changed the course of a civil war, he seemed to be destined to be a physician to princes and a power behind thrones. Instead, a great scandal with darkness at its heart lands him in a semi-genteel exile in service to a minor household in the far north. However, what seems to be a place of silent, grave-like peace soon turns out to be anything but. The countryside is still bearing the scars of the war; the hearts are brimming with old grudges, and the woods are teeming with outlaws. Politicking doesn't cease just because of the physical distance from the court, either. And, of course, there is the matter of his new master - a warrior-nobleman who seems to have come into his inheritance mercilessly early. He seems a quiet and capable leader to his men, impervious to pain, but he has scars and secrets of his own...

Romance / Fantasy
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Rodrik has never expected much from an inn this far north.

Indeed, he thinks idly, one can measure the petering out of civilization with those inns. As one goes further up north from the capital, their upper galleries turn from three to two to one; the last time the sheets have been washed recede further into the past; the glass on the windows turns into wooden shutters, despite the cold. Even now, he is shivering. He suspects that the crude painted cloths on the walls have less to do with giving the place a veneer of sophistication by imitating tapestries (the Triad knows, nothing could do that) and more with keeping the cold from seeping through the cracks.

Benches covered with mats and cushions appear to swim, dreamlike, through the faint hearth-smoke. He thinks wistfully about reposing his head on one - or, better yet, paying a full fare for the night and heading upstairs to a mattress. Rodrik knows it’s out of the question - it had been arranged that he is going to sup here, and his escort from Bluegrate to pick him up in the evening - but he has never been a patient man.

Arguably, this is precisely what landed him in this boiling soup.

This journey has been hard enough already. In the weeks that passed, the settlements to either side of the road grew few and far between; even the villages became lean and scarce. At the same time, the air began crackling with frost, despite the clement spring reigning further south.

He is never going to return further south. This, at least, is what they told him, when they thought they were doing him a favour.

A cart with Rodrik’s two trunks is currently standing in the cobbled yard, hopefully with the ostler keeping an eye on it. One contains his tools of trade: surgical instruments in a case crafted from leather and embellished with enamel, a supply of herbs and curative spices to last a year, several books in several tongues and an astrolabe. In the other, there is clothing (most of it probably not warm enough) and personal effects. Deep down, under the layers of wool and linen, under the tightly-packaged cakes of dear Espagnian soap, a portrait is sleeping secretly. Lovingly framed, it depicts a dark-haired young man with blue eyes set deep in his face...

Rodrik is jolted out of this sullen reverie but a sudden storm of cold air. The door of the inn is open, and several men-at-arms walk into the room.

They make straight for him. No wonder - he must be sticking out like a sore thumb here in his maytime cambric.

‘You are Rodrik Eeling, I take it?’ One of them, clearly the leader, asks. ‘His Lordship’s new physician?’

Several curious stares turn to Rodrik. He nods and pays for his wine quickly. Ten minutes later, he is on the road again.

He is riding in silence in the light of fading sunset, and in silence still when the darkness starts falling. It shouldn’t be particularly late now, by all accounts. It seems, however, that in the north, even the heavens don’t obey the same laws.

‘Aren’t we going to take this route?’ Rodrik asks, nodding at the broad and clear path through the forest.

‘No’, the captain of the Finthorps’ household guard replies curtly. ‘We’re going to take a longer route. That one isn’t safe’.

‘The wolves?’ Rodrik asks. He can believe it easily, judging by the woods rising to the left side of the road. The pines and firs are rising into the sky, still powdered with the chilling whiteness of late snows. From beneath the snow-powder, one can see the green-and-blueish tint of their colouring. They are rooted in the ground as firmly as stalagmites in the seaside caves he used to explore as a child. Stone growing from stone.

‘No, His Lordship takes care of that. He has wolf-hunts often enough. It’s two-legged beasts one should be wary of. Wars breed hungry men. Hunger breeds desperate men. Desperation breeds savage men’.

‘The war has been over for years now’, Rodrik reminds him.

‘Wounds don’t close that quickly. Not here, at least. Besides, brothers fighting brothers leaves the deepest wounds of all’.

Rodrik has enough tact and intuition to end the conversation here.

By the time they reach the castle, the stars are already shining overhead, cold and pure as pieces of chipped ice.

The castle is lit sparingly – Rodrik notices that at once. Despite the ancient chill of the walls, the master’s solar seems to be the only place with robust fire burning in the fireplace. In addition to that, more braziers are ignited to warm the bones of Edward Finthorp, the Lord of Bluegrate.

Warming the bones is a wrong expression, perhaps, for the master of the castle is barely older than Rodrik himself.

Another war-made heir?

He is tall, this much is obvious even while he is seated. In the uneven dance of the firelight, Rodrik can discern his raven hair, his proud profile that seems to have been made for minting upon silver coins, his pale clean-shavenness. This one detail is the last thing he had expected to encounter in a lordling of a remote, half-wild northern demesne, but he supposes some men are just stubborn like that.

Handsome in a way, but not my kind, Rodrik decides. I prefer those with a warmer vivacity in their looks.

Julian had little vivacity to speak about, though, his inner voice whispers. Intensity, yes. But hardly vivacity.

His heart contracts at the memory.

‘Please, sit down. I suppose you’re tired after the journey’. Lord Edward is too full of noble-bred courtesy to make the derision for the soft southerner that Rodrik saw in the eyes of his men-at-arms obvious. Though his own posture is erect (not that the backs of these chairs would allow for anything else), Rodrik can detect the bone-deep exhaustion in the curve of his neck.

A recent wolf-hunt, perhaps?

Taking his seat, Rodrik replies:

‘Oh, I’m perfectly fine. I’m but a humble physician, unaccustomed to great comforts’.

‘Hardly so humble as all that’, his tone drops in temperature by a small degree. ‘Your father is His Majesty’s right-hand man. I understand that he has reared you gently, and educated you accordingly’.

My father only rose to that position during the war, through service to King Osbert; through craft and wit and cunning, Rodrik thinks. There is more pride to be had there, not less, than if he had received his fortune by the virtue of being born in the right family.

Of course, Rodrik does not say that aloud. Clever men never say such things aloud. Instead, he smiles:

‘Well enough to serve your family’.

‘I have no family’.

‘To serve you, then’.

The conversation stills for a moment.

‘I have no doubt that the Academy has trained you adequately, Master Rodrik’, Lord Edward says. The glimpses of the firelight catch out the camlet of his doublet. This cloth is warm and practical both. Rodrik cannot help but notice that this breed of camlet seems to have more goat’s hair than silk in its weft, though. ‘I cannot guarantee that you would be able to apply all your knowledge in my service, but my men are going to be glad for your surgeon’s skills’.

He is blunt. There is something of King Osbert himself in him, as far as Rodrik can judge the latter from the visits to court: the same direct ways, the same broad shoulders and dark hair, the same air of tired duty.

Except, of course, Lord Edward is decades younger.

And he is not wrong, overall. Not that Rodrik wants to admit that.

’I do hope I’ve been educated adequately enough to tend to your health, Your Lordship’, Rodrik replies, trying to betray no sign of resentment. ‘I know how to identify an imbalance of humors, and I know my zodiac man. I know how to remove an arrowhead from one’s shoulder, or a fractured fragment of one’s skull. I know that the stars of Cancer rule the heart, and that the nectar of poppy dulls the senses’.

’Now I am hoping that you won’t be called to exercise all of these talents here’, Lord Edward notes, and it takes Rodrik a heartbeat’s length of time to realize that he was attempting a joke.

Suddenly, he looks somewhere beyond Rodrik, and his face lights up with affection.

‘Master Morkar’, he says to the unseen newcomer. The glow from the fire reflects in Lord Edward’s hard grey eyes, making them queerly gentle for a moment. ‘I didn’t know you were going to stay up so late tonight’.

‘Neither did I, Your Lordship’, an old man’s voice replies. Rodrik turns, and finds himself gazing in the face of a man who has clearly seen more than seventy winters. He looks as if he is apt to remember the times when one still etched spells on the bones of men and divined the future of kings in the birds’ flight patterns. Master Morkar’s appearance seems to confirm this guess: his hair is as white as frost on the northern trees, and, although he moves with a steady and dignified gait, Rodrik wonders if His Lordship isn’t worried that one of the castle’s draughts might blow his loyal servant to dust.

‘These account books are not going to balance themselves’, Morkar continues. ‘Or, at least, they have shown themselves to be unlikely to do so in all the years I’ve served here. My faith in miracles isn’t boundless, I’m afraid’, he chuckles softly. His gaze turns to Rodrik. ‘I take it you are the young physician we have been awaiting?’

‘Rodrik Eeling’, he nods. ‘I’m pleased to meet you’.

‘Morkar, you mustn’t torment yourself’, Lord Edward says. ‘I’m sure there is nothing in these account books that cannot wait until tomorrow’s morning light’.

This must be a small household indeed. Otherwise, even an old retainer wouldn’t have been able to converse with his noble master or mistress with such ease, especially in the presence of a virtual stranger.

Rodrik recalls his visits to the court while the Academy was celebrating the coming of the spring, and himself witnessing the way chief stewards carried on there. The grand chief steward attending all the councils, both of justice and war; handling the offerings of princes and ambassadors; walking in all the ceremonial processions, his baton upright. Even in the household of the Protector of the South where Rodrik’s father had once stayed as a guest, far down from the world of princely pomp, things were organized differently. For one thing, no one would have dreamed of burdening one man with every duty – these were divided instead between the steward of the estate and the steward of the house. The latter busied himself with household expenditures. The former, however, could hold a court on his master’s behalf, head the council of knights and other worthy advisors who aided him in ruling his lands, and act as his deputy in legal matters. Walking about in robes trimmed with fur must have been nice, too, Rodrik thought back then not without cynicism.

In Bluegrate, evidently, there was no need for such a divide. There is no court to hold, no council to head, no offerings to process. Only the household of one, to be managed by a feeble old man all by himself.

‘I shall show Master Rodrik his room’, Morkar says. ‘After all, it seems we are heading in the same direction’.

Lord Edward nods. The muscles of his neck appear to be cramped and stiffened even to Rodrik’s fleeting glance.

‘My men are going to bring your possessions up shortly. The kitchen is long since cold, but I can send up someone with bread and cheese’.

Rodrik thinks about his answer for no longer than a second. On one hand, his stomach is calling for him to agree. On the other... with men like this, it might be better to cultivate an impression of patient stoicism.

‘No need to bother your men’, he says with an expression of quiet humility. ‘It’s not the first time when I went to bed hungry’.

‘Is it not?’ Lord Edward Finthorp raises his eyebrows. ‘I would have thought the Chancellor’s son to have had a gentler childhood’.

‘I had the best childhood of all possible worlds’. Decorum is decorum, but there is something that Rodrik is never going to allow even the highest lord in the land, let alone this master of a forgotten demesne: to slight the name of his family. ‘But the cookshops around the Academy are terribly expensive, and I have been a frugal student’.

Poor Master Morkar, Rodrik thinks, turning away. He looks like he needs someone to conduct him up the stairs every evening, not just tonight. Without thinking, he offers the old steward his arm.

Master Morkar does not answer, and slowly shakes his head.

True to his word, he leads Rodrik up the narrow flight of steps, all the while stubbornly walking on without assistance. He is holding an oil lamp in one hand and gripping Rodrik’s with the other, as if it is Rodrik who were a feeble invalid to be assisted in the world.

By the door, Master Morkar gives him an old-fashioned bow.

‘Welcome to Bluegrate, Master Eeling’, he says. ‘I hope we would be able to know each other better soon. I have always had the deepest respect for the people of your profession’.

Rodrik opens his mouth to answer, but the old man dissolves in the darkness, like a ghost.

In the room, two prudent candles are illuminating the spartan furnishings. There is a bed, a desk, and a chest for clothes.

There are faded traces of painting upon the chest – a corner of flowing drapery, a jumble of vines. It must have been a wedding chest once upon a time, brought in by some bride of means whose name has been long since lost to history.

Rodrik undresses, if not completely, mindful of the weather outside and the cracks in the walls. He catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, but even his long languid limbs – not unattractive, as numerous acolytes from the Academy might attest – and bright-red hair look somehow alien in this gloom.

Or, he thinks prosaically, perhaps it’s the mirror that needs cleaning.

He climbs under the woolen blanket. Two woolen blankets, in fact.

Any unpacking would have to be done in the morning, in the cool and clear light. Provided, of course, that there is going to be enough of it. The dawns in the north, as is known, are late.

I am not going to be here for long, Rodrik promises himself, swathing himself in the blanket. I am going to survive, and I am going to get out of here.

Continue Reading Next Chapter
Further Recommendations

gwennola: Bonne histoire fluide et pas trop redondante. Bravo

Bayamonesa: There are some unimportant 'blind spots' but it is a sweet story for me! I really like it!

raelynn: This book is good I would recommend to 20+

Kaari: I love the fact that these don't have to be long stories to really get involved with the story and the characters.

Kaari: I'm pretty sure I'm going to be reading all of these back to back great stuff

Pournima Ganapathy Raman: Something new and you can never guess what will happen next

Lisa: I love the story line so far but there needs to be a hit more background on the characters.

Danny: Me re gustó que digo me encantó...Lamentablemente no me gustó que...hayaterminado 😭100/10

kharris370: Entertaining

More Recommendations

sarahdavissd227: This was a beautiful story. It very sweet and to the point. There was no manipulation on anyone's part. Blake and Annabelle has choices to make even though he felt undeserving of her it all worked out in the end. Killian was a great matchmaker and a friend to both. I wished he could have also fo...

Susanne Moore: Love this series, the kids are great. Can't wait for the dragon!!!

Marie julie: Jolie histoire un peu triste au début mais agréable et légère tout le long. J'ai appréciée la lire.

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.