The emergency lights glowed with a vibrant blue light even as the regular light flickered, sending the shadows cast by the only two people standing in the hall dancing across the walls. Though only a few minutes ago, there had been Artificers working in the labs here on the second floor, now they were all gone, having escaped to the first floor. The evacuation announcement continued to ring out every few minutes as if to remind Tavia that it was time to leave, but her way was blocked by the child that stood before her.
The Terrisian boy stood before the body of the Artificer Tavia had been following; Daina had been slain by some strange magic, and as she and the boy glared at each other, another rumble from elsewhere in the institute caused the floor to shake and writhe.
The boy paid no mind to Daina, who was lying still and silent on the ground. She was dead, wasn't she? The blood had stopped seeping from her wounds, and her chest no longer rose and fell with breathe. Tavia raised a hand to her mouth at the sight, trying to hold back the urge to be sick.
What had the boy done? He wasn't carrying any Artifacts or devices, at least none that could have done something as complicated as stop Daina's movement, down to her breathing. A device like that wouldn't be something so small he could hide in a pocket. And without an Artifact, there was no way he could use magic. The Terrisians were known for being skilled Altheists, but even they couldn't use magic without an Artifact or device.
Tavia eyed the knife again. It was made of steel, right? She could see the silvery blade reflecting the light from the flickering lights. Even silver alther didn't have that intense gleam. It wasn't impossible to use a steel item as an Artifact, but metal wasn't very dense, magically speaking. It wouldn't be able to process enough Althier to create any big effects, and it would break after only a couple of uses. Besides, Tavia couldn't see the tell-tale engravings on the blade that would be needed to turn a normal item into a device.
No, he must have been hiding his device somehow. He had to be. The knife was just a distraction. Though the blood on the blade clearly meant he wasn't afraid to use it as more than just that.
"The sword," the boy said. "Hand it over."
She looked down at the sword at her feet. That was what he wanted? He had killed someone for some old Artifact that didn't even work? She looked back up, still trying to decide how best to get out of this mess.
"Were you the one who attacked the lobby?" she asked.
The boy groaned, as if her question was nothing more than an annoyance. "Not me, exactly, but I gave the orders." He sneered at her, but after only a moment, the sneer faded, replaced with the dark scowl of danger.
Orders? So, then there were others here? It was hard to believe the boy before her would have done any of this alone, but knowing that there were other attackers, that this was a planned assault, was disturbing enough to send Tavia's heart pounding. And this boy said he was the one giving orders? He was barely twelve! Did he really expect her to believe that?
Then again, he had just killed Daina, right before Tavia's eyes. She might not understand how he done so, but there was no doubting he had.
Tavia grimaced. What was she supposed to do? Hand over the sword? The thought of handing over the sword, of giving this boy what he wanted made her sick. It didn't seem like there was anyone nearby who could help though, and it wasn't as if she could fight either; even forgetting the knife in the boy's hand, he had that hidden Artifact, and Tavia had nothing.
"Why...do you want the sword?" she asked.
The boy smirked. He held his hands out and shrugged; it wasn't a very childlike motion. His black eyes glimmered with silver light, glowing like little sparks of light hiding in the dark of his eyes. Those eyes were eerie, and Tavia shuddered as his smirk changed to a wide smile.
"Pick up the sword," he said, the stars in his eyes flickering.
Before she even realized what she was doing, Tavia found herself bending over, her hand reaching for the hilt resting against her foot. It was like her mind was no longer her own, like something had taken control, overriding her own will and telling her body what to do.
This was his doing, wasn't it? He had taken over her body. What kind of Artifact could do something like that?
Tavia fought the presence in her mind, silently shouting at her body not to obey. She couldn't speak, her mouth was sealed shut by the boy's will. She couldn't even control her eyes, her gaze was locked on the sword, even as she tried to watch the boy.
Her fingers were just about to reach the sword, but before they touched the dark hilt, Tavia made what felt like a mental shove, and the presence oppressing her was shaken enough that she was able to stand without picking up the sword.
Tavia glared at the boy, and he glowered back. Upset at being beaten? Well, she was upset too. Upset enough to forget about the steel in his hand and the blood on the floor. Not Daina though; she couldn't block the memory of that stumbling, stiff fall, no matter how she tried. And she couldn't shake the feeling that he had almost done the same thing to her.
"What did you do to me?" Tavia asked.
"You resisted?" he asked. "That's...interesting."
"Who are you?" Tavia asked.
She was on guard for any further attempts to seize her body, but so far the boy seemed more interested in watching her.
He straightened his posture and folded his hands, along with the knife, behind his back. It was yet another bit of body language a child of his simply shouldn't do. It wasn't an imitation of an adult's posture; there was none of the awkward motions of a still-growing child.
"Ikarios, leader of the Wardens," he said, tilting his chin up. "Though even if you know that, it won't do you any good."
"Ikarios?" The unfamiliar name was strange to say. Old maybe. It wasn't a traditional Marquestian name, and it didn't sound Terrisian either.
"And you?" Ikarios asked. "I don't find people capable of resisting very often. Tell me your name before I kill you."
Tavia shivered at the chill in his voice. He talked about killing so casually. Tavia had grown up in a family of Martials, but not even her mother had taken the concept of killing so lightly.
"Do you really have to kill me?" Tavia asked.
"I don't plan on letting anyone who knows how to resist me live," he replied. "It's too bad. If you had just gone along with it, you might have gotten out of this alive."
Ikarios took a step forward and then frowned. Daina's body was between them, and he stepped around it. If he was coming closer, then that mean he wasn't going to use his mind control thing again? Was he planning on just stabbing her with the knife?
Well, at least...at least that Tavia might be able to do something about. At the very least, she knew how to use a weapon, and though she didn't carry around a sword anymore—hadn't for years—there was one within easy reach.
She bent down as drew near. He saw her movements, but there was little he could to stop her, and by the time Tavia had the sword in her hands he was almost within range of the long, thick blade. Ikarios charged forward, the knife held before him to attack.
Tavia pointed the tip of the sword towards the boy, trying not let his young appearance sway her. But before they even engaged, the heavy sword began to grow warm in Tavia's hands, and then edge of the blade radiated a brilliant cyan light. Althier, pure and undiluted exploded out of the blade of the sword. Through the blinding light, Tavia saw Ikarios duck away, pushed back by the force, as she herself was thrown backwards.
Unprepared for the sword to practically explode the moment she touched it, she couldn't brace herself for the force, and she thrown into the air several feet before slamming back down onto the ground on her back. Her head slammed against the floor, sending flashing light spinning through her mind and causing the world to tilt and twist around her. Her body became sluggish, and the world turned dark and hazy as her consciousness fled her.