In his defense, he didn’t mean to overhear the conversation between the Knight-Captain and Knight-Commander. Not when they left the door a wee bit cracked and Rylen happened to walk by at the exact moment Trevelyan’s name crossed their lips. But then curiosity caused him to stop out of view and listen in to hear what exactly they discussed about his rival.
He knew it wasn’t his business, but he also knew he’d regret it more if he didn’t hear. What if they also discussed him , he tried to rationalize in his eavesdropping. He and Trevelyan’s names were practically married these days with the way the two fought in the sparring ring together and squabbled outside of it. The lass was skilled, no denying that, but she needed more training if she ever wished to beat him. Not that he saw it ever happening, working hard himself to ensure he remained reigning Champion. He enjoyed that indignant rage in her eyes when she lost; the first time she lost in a real match, he thought she’d tackle him again. But the lass learned from her past mistake and kept her composure, though barely from the hard clench of her fists and the slight quaking from her stilted fury.
“I’ll say this about Trevelyan, she doesn’t ask for special treatment.”
“Unlike some of the other noble brats. At least Prince Sebastian isn’t around anymore with his weekly visits to get his junk healed by the mages.
Rylen’s ears perked up at that. Trevelyan, nobility? He wanted to stick around and hear more, but another templar rounded the corner of the hall, leaving Rylen to quickly make it look as though he wasn’t eavesdropping.
This information was almost too good to just fall into his lap like that. Now to figure out how to use it against her… Antagonizing her grew into one of his favorite past times. Maybe he’d wait until their next match in the ring, but after a few more hallways, he spotted her walking towards him and knew there’d be no waiting. He couldn’t wait to see that dark irate blush that darkened her cheeks almost to the shade of her hair, signaling yet another of his victories.
Great, Rylen. Just when Evelyn thought she was in for a nice, peaceful day, he appeared like an incurable plague on the Circle. All she wanted to do after her long shift with the mages was curl up and sleep for a good couple of hours. She hated overnight shifts and how they set her off schedule for the next day. Lucky for her, she only had them once a week.
Calum, a friend who also shared her grief about the night shift, nudged her in the ribs, lacking all subtlety. “Your favorite templar's heading this way. Ya gonna challenge him to another round in the ring?”
“Maybe if I ignore him, he'll go away.” Her eyes caught Rylen's. She sighed. “I'm too tired for this shit today.”
But Rylen stopped, right in front of her, standing center in the hallway with a grin that spelled trouble. “Trevelyan.”
“Clachair,” she grunted. “Move out of our way, would you? Not all of us have nothing better to do than laze about this morning.”
“Oh, aye. Got somewhere important to be?” A gleam entered his blue eyes as he stared down into her face. “You know, because you're such an important person?”
He knew. Damn him, but somehow he found out her lineage. He knew who she was. She didn't know how, but it didn't matter at this point. Calum tossed her a curious glance in her peripherals, and she realized that her fists clenched tight enough to dent the palm of her greaves. And Rylen, laughing in front of her cause he got her, he had this secret on her, this potential blackmail material.
“You wouldn't dare,” she growled through her locked jaw.
“So tell me, Princess: did your parents chase you out of your castle or did you actually volunteer to slum it with commoners?”
Evelyn's cheeks flamed, a mixture of anger and embarrassment thumping her heart loudly in her chest until she felt she couldn't breathe. “Piss off, Clachair.”
“Oh, aye, but you didn't answer my question, lass.” Rylen blocked her feeble attempts to push past him.
“I don't answer to the likes of you. Now, get out of our way, Clachair.” She shook so hard, with her hands still in fists as she fought glancing to Calum for his reaction. What must he think of her now? What would all of the Circle?
As if hearing her worries, Rylen butted in once again. “I bet you only got here by the weight of your last name. Face it, Trevelyan . You're not cut out to be a Templar like the rest of us who worked to get here.”
Calum stepped up, giving a shove at Rylen's shoulders. “Oi, that's enough.”
In a large sweeping bow, Rylen’s head tilted down with that vicious grin on his face, he complied and moved over to the side. “Whatever Princess Evie wants, she gets, aye?”
Evelyn’s foot came up so fast that she didn't have time to hold herself back from the reflex. It connected with the side of his face in a loud slapping sound, followed by a sharp yell from him as he fell back on his rear. She knew she messed up again before she saw the blood on the tip of her metal boot, glancing up to see Rylen staring at her in shock, his hand covering one eye while blood streamed from between his fingers. Fuck, not again. Why couldn't she control herself around this man? What was it about him that made her lose control like this? This was so much worse than simply tackling him in the sparring ring.
“Evelyn, what did you just do?” Calum asked, voice weak beside her.
“Fuck, I-” She started toward Rylen, then thought better of it. “I didn't mean, he said all that shit and I just… fuck.” Her mind blanked on how to fix this or why she reacted the way she did.
Once the shock wore off, Rylen scrambled to his feet, stumbling a little as he did. “What the fuck is wrong with you, Trevelyan?”
Evelyn hid her wince at the raw anger in his voice. While her thoughts scrambled in her head at how to respond, Calum stepped in. “We need to get you to one of the mages, get that taken care of.”
Rylen shook his head to the best of his ability while keeping his eye covered. “No way am I going anywhere with her.” His one good eye narrowed in her direction. “You’re not cut out to be a templar. What if we had been on duty?” He huffed. “Go home to your castle, Princess.”
Calum tossed her a sympathetic look, but ushered Rylen down the hall, away from where she remained rooted in place.
Was Clachair right? Did she not belong there after all? Returning to the barracks, she stripped out of her armor and laid in bed, but not before scrubbing away Rylen’s blood on her boot. It was no use in trying to sleep, not when her mind raced, every pair of footsteps down the hall causing her heart rate to spike. No matter how she played things out in her head, she knew she was in serious trouble. Someone would come for her sooner or later with a punishment, possibly even to tell her to pack her bags.
Why did she do that? Why did she kick him? Questions and worst case scenarios raced through her mind, making it impossible to sleep, though her body begged for reprieve. But she waited. And waited. And eventually one of the pairs of footsteps lead to the door of the barracks.
“Get up, Trevelyan. Get dressed.” The Knight-Captain glared at Evelyn with her arms crossed over her chest.
Evelyn did as she was told in outward silence, while her heartbeat and thoughts screamed inside her head, loud enough to cause the budding of a headache. She followed the Knight-Captain down the corridors, head hung low. She wanted to ask about Rylen, see if anyone fixed his face. Not that anyone could ever truly cure him of that ugly mug of his.
The taunt followed without warning, and she stifled a snicker.
The Knight-Captain whipped around. “This funny to you, Trevelyan? Injuring one of our own some hilarious game you play?”
Evelyn snapped to attention. “Not at all, Ser.”
The Knight-Captain grunted, then pointed down the hall. “To the Sanctuary straight away. The Revered Mother has your punishment.” She shook her head, glaring at Evelyn. “You’re lucky this time. You won’t be again.”
“Understood.” Evelyn gave a curt nod before hurrying down the hall. What happened? Why were they not sending her home?
She slipped inside the doors to the Sanctuary, where the Revered Mother stood in the center of the room, a bucket at her feet. “Good, you’re finally here,” the Mother said before pointing down to the bucket. “There’s a scrub brush inside. If you can scrub it, then make it spotless. Your cohort has already started in the back office.”
Cohort. Oh, poor Calum, roped into this with her. She didn’t mean to get him involved, not that she intended for any of this mess. The Maker blessed her with one final chance in the Order and she planned to take every advantage of that, starting with learning to curb her temper. That meant she needed to work harder to avoid and ignore Rylen, no matter how hard he goaded her or asked to be hit.
Why did they go easy on her punishment? As Evelyn carried the bucket toward the corner, sloshing water on the floor as she went, she wondered why the special treatment. Did her nobility play a part in this? That would only add kindling to Clachair’s righteous fire about her not belonging there.
She sank to her knees, rolling up her sleeves to begin the task of scrubbing. The details of her punishment ate at her. She scrubbed many floors for the Revered Mother as punishment, but those were lesser offenses. When she laid in bed, there came a certainty she would be sent to a different Circle, or worse, home to Ostwick.
Footsteps echoed behind her, and she turned to greet her friend over her shoulder, apologize for dragging him into this. Instead, she found Rylen carrying his bucket to the corner opposite hers, a frown pressed thin on his lips. Where she kicked him, a large red scar cut from his eyebrow down to the middle of his cheek, the area around his eye a dark bruise. A grimace followed the rough sight of his face, and she spun quickly to appear busy with her work.
His bucket slammed to the ground, and he tossed a scowl in her direction. “Go ahead, laugh it up,” he growled. “I know this must be so funny to you. Just another day in the life of the Princess, aye?” An exasperated sigh followed as he bent to grab the brush from the bucket. “You kick me, and yet, I end up punished for it.”
“About time that mouth of yours got you in real trouble,” Evelyn couldn’t help but gloat. “Maybe next time, you’ll know not to stick your nose into other people’s business. Just a thought.” Her hands applied a bit more pressure to the brush until the circle she wore into the floor sparkled.
“Aye? And where should I be sticking my nose exactly, Princess?” The reply came with a smirk as her new nickname left his mouth, and she bit back the urge to give him a matching black eye. Maker grant her patience to deal with this idiot.
“Anywhere that’s away from me.” She jabbed to her scrub brush in his direction. “I don’t enjoy cleaning duty. And I especially don’t enjoy being forced to stay within earshot of your loud mouth.” With that, she turned to dip her brush back in the water, only to glance up and find him still staring at her with that dumb smirk. “What?”
He gave a small shrug, his lips pulling back into an outright grin. "Why do you hate me anyway?"
"Because you're annoying." Her eyes fell back down to where she scrubbed. Maker, only a small patch and so much left to do. This wasn’t just punishment, it was torture. Perhaps that explained Rylen’s presence. "People like you deserve to be knocked down a peg."
A crack of laughter shot out from his throat, and she resisted the urge to glower in his direction. "People like me? Rich words coming from an actual Princess." He leaned toward her, giving up all pretense of cleaning. "Please, inform me what exactly ya mean by that."
"You think just because I come from a place of privilege, I don't know your type." She sighed, tossing her brush into the bucket to rise to her feet and challenge him more directly. "We had many of your kind in Ostwick, believe me. Arrogant, self-centered pricks, so focused on their own self worth that they think they can do no wrong, that everyone should bow at their greatness." She scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "I see nothing great about you, Ser Clachair."
Heat stained his cheeks, rippling a crimson fire in his new scar. He stepped forward, into her face to glare down at her. "You want to know what I see when I look at you?"
"Not really, no." She spun on her heel to prove her disinterest, but he continued without her approval.
"I see a spoiled brat who chose the templar life cause you thought it'd be more fun than the Chantry. And you're so desperate to prove yourself as more than your name that you get angry at anyone who stands in your way of being the best, like me. Aye, so ya resort to picking fights because you can't stand that ya didn't come in here and instantly dazzle everyone with your charming personality in your fresh start."
Her mouth opened, only for her to close it again. Was she really so obvious that Rylen, of all people, could so easily pick her apart? But she needed to fight back, not let him win this battle. Because she had more worth than the Trevelyan name, didn’t she? "I worked my ass off to get here. I picked this Circle specifically so that I wouldn't receive special treatment, and then you come and mess it all up!"
Rylen performed his sweeping bow, though careful to stay a distance away from her this time. "Oh, good on you. Good for the Princess not picking the easy life. Am I supposed to be impressed?"
Her jaw clenched, fists forming back down at her sides. But no, she needed to do better than before. As much as he assumed, Rylen didn’t know all her reasons for becoming a Templar. She had nothing to prove to him, even though a large part of her felt obligated. She loved this job, and not even Rylen would steal that from her. "You know what? No. No, it's not supposed to impress you because not everything is about you, Clachair. I wanted to be a Templar. I'm damn good with a sword and I'm not going to let some jackass with ridiculous hair and stupid face tattoos try to convince me that I don't belong here because of my bloodline. I earned my place here, and that’s not something that needs your approval."
That shut him up. The two returned to their cleaning, though keeping on opposite sides of the room. Without him to distract her, she moved much faster, getting half of the Sanctuary cleaned before he spoke again, quieter than before. “Aye, you are. Good with a sword, that is. It's why I like sparring with you in the ring."
She damn near dropped the bucket. Did he, Ser Rylen Clachair, just pay her, Evelyn Trevelyan, a compliment? Him? How did one react in this situation? Did she … was she supposed to offer him up one in return?
But her decision-making took too long. Rylen sighed, dropping his scrub brush into the bucket. “Maybe you're a wee bit right. We both are here because we want to be. We don't have to like each other, but I guess … I could try to not antagonize you so much."
Was this a joke on her? She fought the urge to look around and see if there were any witnesses. His attention shifted away from her when she didn’t respond, fishing out his brush from the bucket. Sincerity, from him? Without looking in his direction, she mumbled, “I am sorry about what happened to your face.”
He laughed, his free hand skating over the wound. “Ah, the infamous Trevelyan apology. Rare, but ultimately, meaningless.” But the smile stayed on his face, blue eyes shining bright. “You have a real temper problem, you know that?”
“I come by it naturally,” she joked, then realized that didn’t sound much like regret. “It’s something I’m working on.” She returned to her work, but kept their conversation going. “Does it still hurt?”
“Whatever they gave me numbed the pain. Gonna leave a mess of a scar though.” His laughter returned. “You certainly don’t hold back, lass.”
Guilt churned in her stomach at the reminder, just when the two started a civil conversation, but any irritability he felt faded out of his voice. Which left her the opportunity to ask one of the questions that bugged her. “How did you find out, anyway?”
“Overheard the Knight-Commander.” He tossed a cheeky grin in her direction. “And aye, maybe I went a wee overboard with the insults. Your friend seemed to think so at least. Made sure I landed in here with you.”
And that answered her other question. She didn’t know if she should thank Calum or wring his neck, trapping her in here with Rylen like this. But maybe this wasn’t so bad, the two of them. He still grated her nerves, but at least they could be civil towards one another now, unless that option disappeared when they left the room.
Evelyn left her brush on the ground and stood up to march over into Rylen’s space. “Look, Clachair. Calum’s one person, but I don’t want anyone else to get the wrong idea about me. So just, keep your mouth closed on this. Please. As a favor to me.”
Rylen peered up at her while still scrubbing at the floor. “This is really important to ya, isn’t it?”
She gave a curt nod in response. “It is.” What if every person reacted as Rylen did if they found out? She couldn’t risk it.
“Then aye, consider my mouth shut.” Mischief sparkled in his eyes as a grin grew on his lips. “But I’ll be collecting that favor, Princess. Don’t know for what, but I can promise you that.”
Something told her she’d regret that owed favor.