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Tough Decisions

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The battle with the rogue apostate was longer and tougher than either of the templars had expected. It took all their combined training just to block the mage’s attacks before Rylen stepped into a shallow hole and crumpled to the ground. Evelyn reacted immediately, jumping in front of her colleague, shield and sword at the ready for the next blow. The mage instead whirled, sprinting off in the opposite direction. Glancing back at Rylen to make sure he was alright, no more than dazed and probably a hit to his pride, Evelyn started off in pursuit of the mage, but a sharp “no” pulled her up short.

Rylen wasn’t looking at her, more intent on catching his breath. “It took both of us just to hold him off, Trevelyan.” His voice was a bit unsteady but no less commanding. “We’re only a few hours from the Circle. We should get back for reinforcements before he gets much further.”

Evelyn hated that he was right. With a sigh, she sheathed sword and shield then turned toward her fallen comrade. “I suppose we’re lucky he didn’t stick around to take advantage of the situation,” she snipped, holding out a hand to help Rylen to his feet.

With a grit of his teeth, he took her offer and almost jerked her to the ground with the effort he exerted. She was on the verge of throwing an insult when he cried out and toppled backward.

If she hadn’t grounded her feet to take his weight, Evelyn would have fallen on top of him at the sudden shift in direction.“You got two choices from here: let me carry you or die out here. Take your pick,” She warned on a low growl while leaning over him as he rolled his ankle to test the pain.

Bright blue eyes met hers in a seething glare. “I can crawl back,” he bit out. “Though to be honest, I would rather die than have you carry me, Princess.” He released her hand, and she let it fall back by her side.

Evelyn rolled her eyes with a chuckle. “On that we can agree, Clachair.” She turned her back on him. “Have fun crawling or dying, whichever you decide on. I’ll make sure to write how brave you were in my report to the Knight-Captain.”

She paced each step, listening to his cursing and the clink of armor as he attempted a poor maneuver forward. A smirk tipped her lips. He would fold and if he didn’t, well, she wasn’t going to leave him to die. It was her duty to get him back to the Starkhaven Circle alive and she didn’t shirk on her duties even when she hated what they might entail. It was bad enough that they had been sent out on patrol together as punishment, but to come across an escaped mage and lose because the overzealous idiot twisted his ankle? Maker, what a bloody mess!

“Dammit, Evie, ya brat,” Rylen gritted through his teeth from his place still on the ground. “Are you really going to make me crawl?”

Her lips pressed together, barely holding back laughter before she answered. “You said you would rather crawl.” She shrugged her shoulders then turned on her heels to look at him. “Or would you like to start over?”

Crossing her arms, Evelyn watched Rylen’s features contort though there was always that twinge of pain as he shifted and tried to stand from his seated position. She wanted to scoff and rant at him, but that would get them nowhere and they were already wasting enough time as it was, though perhaps he had time to beg for her assistance. Enough to stroke her ego. How many times would this situation present itself? Oh mericful Evelyn, please oh please grant me your help, in this, my time of need. I will be forever in your debt.

“Just,” Rylen ground out, “help me stand. There’s no need for you to carry me.”

He held out a hand, but the glare held in his gaze. Evelyn stepped close enough to pull Rylen up but as soon as he put weight on the injured ankle, he toppled again. She was prepared this time and caught him, distributing her weight to keep them both upright.

“Maker, you’re heavy, Clachair,” Evelyn bit out between breaths.

Rylen pushed against her hold until he was standing on one leg. “That so, Princess?” He hopped and almost lost his balance again before Evelyn anchored her arm around his middle. “And your plan was to carry me all the way back,” he scoffed, letting his injured leg rest on the ground for a moment before attempting to put some weight on it.

Evelyn heard the sharp intake of breath as Rylen hobbled forward with her help. She indulged him for a few more painful steps. “It’s going to take too long like this.” He grumbled something under his breath, Evelyn deciding to ignore it in favor of their job. “We need to get back to the Circle to report the escaped mage. The sooner, the better, and you know it, Clachair.”

“I know,” he agreed with a sigh. “But…”

Before he could go on, Evelyn swept him up into her arms. Rylen let out a surprised bark, his arm that was slung around her neck tightening its hold as he was adjusted in Evelyn’s arms. She grinned down at him as she marched forward with little strain. “Much better.” The morning workout routine she adhered to included heavier weights than him, though the armor bit into her and made for an awkward grip.

“Better?!” Rylen spluttered before taking a deep breath and closing and his eyes. “You know,” he started with a quieter tone, “you can’t carry me the entire way back.”

Evelyn grunted. “Is that a challenge?” She’d rather not argue over it, though, knowing full well there might include a few stops for rest. “We’ll still make better time this way,” she huffed, “so please just shut up.” If they went back via the road, someone might pass and they could comandeer a horse or cart.

She ignored the twitch of his lips and her overwhelming urge to drop Rylen on his ass. If he opened his mouth with some smug comment, well, her fingers already fidgeted against his armor.

The words never came.