It didn't take long for Tavia to understand why Abram had been looking for more assistance. The moment he returned to the lab, he was swamped with demands and requests from the other Artificers, and he wasn't the only busy one. The others were busy as well, running back and forth between the sword and their respective workstations.
The displays on the consoles were covered in numbers and diagrams Tavia didn't know how to read, but the Artificers were hardly paying them any attention. Their focus was on the sword itself, and several minutes passed as she watched the Artificers, Abram included hurry about the lab.
On occasion, one of the Artificers would pick up the sword, close their eyes, and hold it in both hands for a moment before giving a shake of the head and setting it back down. As the Artificers held the sword, the vibrant glow of their auras shone in the space around them, particularly around their hands. It was unusual that every one of the Artificers had a different color of aura. Among Martials and Altheists, aura color was an important factor, as certain shades of aura had differing strengths. She'd never bothered to remember the differences, it'd never really mattered to her.
Abram handled the sword the most often. His aura was blue—a vibrant blue almost the same shade as Althier itself—but around the fifth time he set the sword down he scowled and kept staring down at the sword as if trying to solve a dilemma. They hadn't actually channeled anything into the sword itself despite the many times they'd fiddled with it, or was it not that they hadn't and more that they couldn't. Some Artifacts were know to be highly sensitive to auras.
It was strange though, the people here had a broad range of aura colors, enough to cover the base spectrums. There were a few odd colors left out, like Audri's silver aura, but those were rare enough to not be a factor in activating most Artifacts.
Artifacts, and by extension the devices modeled after them, operated by receiving Althier through the aura of the user, either a Martial or an Althiest depending on the style of the Artifact. The aura allowed for an ongoing connection between the Artifact and the user that allowed them to control which of the spells engraved on the Artifact they wanted to use. Everyone had an aura; you couldn't use magic without one.
Everyone was...supposed to have an aura.
Tavia shook her head. This place was making her think about things she'd rather not. She sighed and looked at the sword once more, anything to distract herself from that line of thought.
Abram had called it the Ageless Sword, and though Tavia hadn't paid it much mind then, the name itself was familiar. Anyone would know that name; it was the sword the Grand Hero had used two hundred years ago to protect all of Marquest. Marquest had a long history, filled with stories of heroic warriors and battles, but none were as famous or celebrated as the Grand Hero. How much of the story was true was up for debate, but Lenore had said they'd found the tomb where the Grand Hero had been laid to rest after the terrible battle two hundred years ago. If the tomb had been found, it wouldn't be impossible for the Ageless Sword, assuming it really existed, to be there.
"This old thing is the Ageless Sword?" Tavia muttered to herself.
Abram looked up at Tavia, and his eyes narrowed.
"You, girl," he said.
"Tavia," she replied as she folded her arms across her chest. Abram didn't understand so Tavia clarified, "My name."
"Tavia, then, what color is your aura?" Abram asked.
Had he...really just asked that?
"What?" Tavia asked.
"Your aura," Abram repeated. "What color is it?"
Tavia stepped away from the wall. The Artificers around the room were still working, but Tavia could see them throwing small glances her way. Was this kind of thing expected from Abram?
"Why do you want to know?" Tavia asked.
"I want to know if your aura is a different color than the people we already have here," Abram said.
That didn't really explain why he wanted to know, but at this point it would be easier to just give him an answer and make him leave her alone. Wasn't he supposed to be getting someone to take her out of here?
"Red," Tavia said.
It was the most common color of aura. There was no way one of the four other people in this room wouldn't have a red aura, and with that, he should stop bothering her.
Abram frowned and ran a finger along the sword.
"Red, hmm? Bright? Or is it dull?" Abram asked.
"What does it matter?" Tavia replied.
"If you're here, you might as well make yourself useful," Abram said. "We've been trying to work with this Artifact for weeks now, but nothing we do has had any effect. No matter what we try, we can't get the Artifact to react to an aura and activate."
Tavia looked over at the sword. It just looked like some, old, worn down weapon. Was it really worth all this work? It probably wasn't even the legendary sword, most likely it was just some broken scrap thrown into the tomb to make things look nice. Abram stepped away from the table and approached Tavia. He stopped within a comfortable range, but Tavia stepped back in reflex.
"So you want me to try too?" Tavia asked.
"Even if you are red, everyone's aura is at least slightly different. It's like a fingerprint. At this point, the only thing I can assume is that the Ageless Sword will activate when used by a very specific aura, so I'm willing to try anyone," Abram said.
"Why are you calling it the Ageless Sword?" Tavia asked.
"The sword was excavated from within the Grand Hero's tomb," Abram replied. "I can't say for sure this is the real thing, but it's the only weapon we found in the tomb, so we believe it's likely to be the Ageless Sword. We probably won't know for sure until we activate though, that being the current issue we're facing."
If it really was the Ageless Sword, this would be one of the biggest discoveries in the field of Althieology since...ever. Althieology, as an official form of study, was relatively new. It wasn't as if Tavia could say exactly when it had first started, but it was certainly within the last hundred and fifty years or so. The Ageless Sword was the most famous weapon in Marquestian history, and finding it would mean solving some of the riddles surrounding the war two hundred years ago and the monster said to be behind it all.
"Well, it's a pity, but I don't think I can help you," she said with a shrug.
"Just try to pick up the sword and activate it, and then I'll have someone walk you out," Abram said.
"I can't," Tavia said.
She looked away from Abram, but not before she saw the annoyance cross his face. Well, he could be annoyed all he wanted. Tavia didn't care. She couldn't help him, and nothing was going to change that fact.
"Is it necessary to be so stubborn?" Abram asked.
He turned his back on Tavia and returned to the table. He picked up the sword, and holding it both hands, turned back around. He held the sword out to Tavia, but she didn't reach out to take it.
"What is the problem?" he asked.
"I don't..." Tavia's shoulders slumped, and she felt her lip curling as she spoke the words, "I don't have an aura."
Tavia could have said she was the Grand Hero herself and the shock on Abram's face wouldn't have been any more. She sighed and rolled her eyes. Even an Artificer of his level was going to react that way?
"A null-aura?" Abram asked.
Silence filled the lab. The other Artificers in the room hadn't been loud, but they had been making some background noise as they worked, but the moment Abram spoke, they stopped and turned around to stare at Tavia in silence.
Yes, yes, stare at the freak. Tavia managed not to say it aloud, but she glared at the Artificers with enough of a snarl on her face they turned back to their work. She looked back at Abram. He was staring at her, his expression thoughtful. Tavia forced a smile and a small chuckle, but that didn't keep the shock and horror in their eyes from stinging.
"Well, that's what you Artificers call it," Tavia said. "Doesn't really matter what term you use for it though; I've heard them all. Cripple, freak, monster, magicless scum, if you've got any good ones, I can add it to the list."