Chapter Twelve

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".... will you stop it? You're going to give her a heart attack."

Her heart caught in her throat when she heard Treyan's familiar voice. She rushed over to the side of bed, knocking back a member of the Council, maybe two – she didn't care.

Treyan lay there in rough-sewn leather armor, his hair out of its ponytail, and with his face looking a complete mess. At first glance, nothing seemed wrong with him, but then Alex looked at his right leg. The pants were charred away and from his thigh down to his calf, and the wound was the caliber of at third- degree burn. The skin oozed with blood and pus, and in a few places she could see down to the muscle, or worse. Trying to maintain her composure, her survival instincts began to kick in. Rolling up her sleeves, she began to take charge as she turned to the hooded Council members. They hadn't moved an inch since she arrived, so she decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. She didn't want to know what happened – she just wanted to make it better.

"You," she pointed to the first Council member. "Get me warm water and soap."

"You," she turned to the second. "Get me cool clean cloths."

"And you," she directed the third. "Dry bandages. Now."

Without hesitation, the members bowed to their Empress and went to find her the supplies she needed without complaint.

"I knew you were a natural..."

"And you," she scolded as she turned back to Treyan. "What were you thinking, going out there by yourself?"

"I wasn't by myself," he insisted, wincing as he tried to sit up. "I have an empire to defend, Empress."

"And now you have an Empress to answer to, so sit still." She sat on the edge of the bed and pushed him back down by his shoulder. She knew he was watching her as she began untying his armor at the shoulders, and when she leaned over him to untie his opposite side, his arms came around her and embraced her in a strong hug.

"I'm sorry," he whispered into her hair.

She allowed herself to remain in his embrace for a moment. "Don't do it again," she scolded, but she closed her eyes and returned the hug, almost allowing her emotions to get the best of her, but then pushed herself up to look him in the eye. "I mean it. You don't go out there again without telling me, do you understand?"

He bowed his head in assent. "Yes, Empress."

"Good." She returned to untying his shoulder guard, keeping her focus on the stubborn knot between her fingers instead of the frustrating Prince in the bed underneath her. 

Whether he truly meant what he said or not, she would consider it another time. 

The Council members soon returned with the items she requested, and she dismissed them from the room just as quickly as they arrived, but only after instructing one to return to the Councillor to let him know of Treyan's situation. She didn't know if she could, in fact, make anything better, or if she truly knew what she was doing, but she was not going to stand by idly while those silent sheep just stood there, waiting to be told what to do.

She didn't give them another thought. Once Treyan's armor was off and his jerkin removed, he remained in a pair of heavy leather pants. They appeared to have thick laces that ran up both legs, secured by a belt at his waist. It would have been an easy task, but the pants looked as though they melted into the wound itself, so removal was going to become very awkward and every painful very quickly.

Treyan was silent the whole time, watching her every move- she couldn't tell if it was out of amusement, or sincerely respect. Finally, Alex looked up to him and met his gaze. "This is going to hurt."

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