Marcos knew he would not tire easily, but Rhys—Evander, that was Evander under that unassuming exterior, a marvel that would never fail to astonish him—undoubtedly would.
After watching him for hundreds of years, both keeping near to him, and also keeping his distance, Marcos was still not sure how reduced his power was.
Marcos knew he’d retained some of the magic he’d possessed before, but unlike when he’d been the Guardian of Secrets, now, he was clearly more particular about how and when he used it.
“We should stop for a rest,” Marcos said, after they’d been walking all night and partway into the day, almost without pause.
They’d stopped once, to fill their waterskins at a cold, bubbling stream. They’d long since left Beaulieu behind, and they had not even passed through a single village. Out of choice, Marcos had assumed, but it still surprised him that Evander kept to the disguise of Rhys.
Surely now that Marcos had revealed himself, Evander would let the shape of unassuming, gruff Rhys melt away until he finally was himself again.
Except not once, as far as Marcos knew, had Evander taken his normal shape since he’d been banished.
But now, now that he was with Marcos again, surely the subterfuge was unnecessary.
Rhys glared at him. Even after all these hundreds of years, watching Evander be someone else, he was not used to seeing Evander stare out at him through someone else’s face. “Do you need to stop?” he asked.
“No, of course I do not,” Marcos said. “I am a Guardian, I could walk all the way up the North Mountain without stopping. But . . .”
“But I am no longer a Guardian,” Rhys interrupted him. “Your point is clear.”
But even if it was clear, Rhys was obviously annoyed that Marcos had brought it up.
He doesn’t trust you, he thinks you’re to blame, which isn’t all that surprising, and now he thinks you’re patronizing him.
It was not the most auspicious beginning, but Marcos still held out hope that maybe they could forge a partnership, even after all this time had passed.
He just had to stop himself from saying the wrong thing and angering Evander—he is Rhys, Marcos reminded himself—even more.
So far, he had not managed even that.
Rhys stopped when the sun reached its zenith in the sky, finding a shady grouping of trees, with a large fallen log they could rest next to.
“Is this sufficient?” There was still a bite to Rhys’ words.
“Perfectly sufficient,” Marcos said, taking care to make sure there was no additional inflection to his words that would anger Rhys further. He certainly was not going to be stupid enough to remind the ex-Guardian that he did not need to rest at all.
Rhys settled down against the log. He looked tired. Perhaps if he changed forms, back to Evander, he might find additional strength. Maintaining a different form could be a strain on his power reserves.
Marcos would have suggested it but the silence that had fallen between them, and Rhys’ defensiveness every time he made even the simplest suggestion, kept him quiet.
He waited until Rhys closed his eyes, and then shut his own, sure that Rhys, who was obviously exhausted, would fall asleep quickly.
But a moment later, Rhys spoke up. “You did not mean to reveal yourself to me.”
Marcos had never been as accomplished a liar as Evander had been. He’d never needed to be. Fighting was often straightforward, with little need for deception, and he’d never gotten into the practice of telling falsehoods well.
He could lie, but it was unlikely Rhys would believe him, and the chances of Rhys being even angrier at the lie were considerable.
“No,” he said carefully. “No, I did not mean to reveal myself.”
Rhys looked like Rhys, and not anything like Evander, not like . . . not like the Guardian he’d known for so many years . . . but Marcos’ heart beat faster anyway when he opened his eyes and Rhys was staring at him—like he was trying to figure Marcos out, still.