Khalad guessed it had only been a mile that they had had to travel, but it had never taken him longer. Looking down at where Berit was slumped on the ground – shuddering and gasping, hunched around his broken ribs, arm in a sling, he suddenly wasn't sure that he had done the right thing. Berit's muttered pleading for the pain to go away had stopped a while back, and it was only the fact that we still upright assured him that he was in fact conscious. Maybe they shouldn't have moved him, maybe this was killing him.
"He can do this" Talen whispered. "He's tougher than he lets on to himself. If we can bear to see him like this, he can bear to do it." How did Talen know he was having a crisis of confidence right now? The blind faith in both his friend and his brother were obvious to see. Despite the fact they hadn't grown up together Talen had slipped perfectly into his place in the family and had apparently come to know his brothers inside and out.
"We've got him this far, what next? We're losing light" He said, a bit louder this time so that Berit might hear.
"We are. First we need to try and keep him warm – grab the spare cloak from my pack would you." Between the rain and the shock hypothermia may be a real danger, despite the days earlier heat.
While Talen was draping the extra layer around their trembling friend Khalad went through his other saddle bag, for the spare herbs he kept there. He took a swig from his canteen of water, gestured Talen to do the same, before swilling the herbs into what was left.
"Drink this, it will help." He held the flask out. When Berit made no moved to take it he put it to his lips and practically poured it down his throat. Unfortunately it didn't have time to take effect as Berit gaged and then threw up. His heaving was unexpected and Khalad's concern spiked as he considered the likelyhood of internal injuries. When he had finished Berit leant his head on Khalad's chest, exhausted and pale.
"Sorry." The young man muttered. "Just a side effect of the spell. It always makes you feel sick."
Berit needed some proper pain relief and some warmth and he needed it soon. Although otherwise fit and healthy, young and strong there was still only so much a body could take. His heart beat felt fine so a heart attack seemed unlikely, but you never knew with how this day had gone.
"Let's get you home."
Berit forced his eyes open and Khalad felt a pit of guilt open up within him at the thought of putting his friend through anything more. But Talen was right, it seemed, Berit was a force to be reckoned with and he wasn't going to give in. Despite what he must be feeling right now he tightened his jaw and braced himself, holding out his good hand. "Help me up then." He asked.
It was difficult and very painful, but they managed to get Berit on a horse in front of Khalad, who held him close with one arm to share body heat. Talen walked in front choosing the best and smoothest path, while the other horses were hitched behind. The light was failing and the risk of a horse breaking a leg in the stretching shadows increased, but they couldn't stop. Normally none of the three would risk injury to their mounts but it was a different risk they were taking today. The sun had set by the time the terrain improved – rocky outcrops making way for gentle grassland and a dirt-packed road.
Khalad nodded at Talen, who took the signal to unhitch a horse and mount.
"Please. Please Khalad I need to stop. Every step is like a red hot poker across my ribs. Please." Berit was begging his voice hoarse. Talen paused in mounting and Khalad wasn't sure what was best to do. Berit's face was pale, forehead creased and teeth gritted against the pain. He couldn't put him through any more.
"Talen help me get him down."
With gentle hands they moved their brother-in-arms to the ground: being as careful as they could he still flitted in and out of consciousness. Once down Khalad rested his head on a saddlebag, and lifted his shirt. He forced himself not to react the mess of purple bruising that he saw on his friends side as he didn't want to scare Talen. It obviously didn't work, looking at his frightened face. If the spell had acted as he had been told this was a result of the ribs cracking and not any internal bleeding, but it was still a nasty looking injury.
"Go" he said to Talen. "As fast as you can."
Without a backward glance his brother galloped off towards the chapterhouse. Talen would run his horse all the way if he had to and bring help back with him. Khalad snugged a cloak closer around his friend – there was nothing else to be done.
"I'm sorry my friend, just a little longer." He whispered, not sure if Berit could even hear him.
Hurry Talen he wished as his brother disappeared along the road.