The Ageless Sword



Chapter 9: Terris, land of tradition


No matter how Tavia thought about it, there was no making sense of the situation. Evos refused to elaborate, only repeating that they would have time for questions and confusion later, when they weren't trapped in RIOAR with a mysterious group of attackers and their murdering child-leader. Though she burned to understand how he could make such a ridiculous claim, she understood it was probably for the best. It would be all too easy to get caught up in the particulars of how a person could also be a sword. Or maybe it was that a sword could also be a person?

That didn't mean she was content without answers, or that she was going to let Evos off without answering her, only that she agreed there was a time and place for discussions of that kind, and trapped inside an office when a crazy boy capable of controlling minds was on the loose outside was neither the time nor the place. So, she kept the questions locked away in her mind and worked to Evos to find a way out of the institute that didn't involve running into Ikarios again.
Having no better options, Tavia and Evos chose to follow the emergency exit signs that had lit up after the explosion. Evos didn't know his way around RIOAR any better than Tavia did, so it, so they kept their eyes on the signs. Hopefully, they wouldn't lead them straight into a trap of some kind.

They followed the signs to the back of the institute. Considering the exit signs were pointing this way, there was likely to be an exit in this area, but it would still be a floor down. First they would have to find the stairs without being seen, and that was the tricky part, of course.
Wardens, as Ikarios had called them, patrolled the hallways. It was clear they were searching for something, and Tavia had a bad feeling the silver haired man accompanying her had to be at least part of their objective. For Evos's part, he kept a watchful eye out for any sign of someone approaching.

They didn't run across anyone else from the institute, and she wasn't sure if that was good thing or not—at least there weren't any bodies. On more than one occasion, they spotted small groups of men and women in dark brown robes searching through the labs and offices they passed. Whenever they found such a group, they would backtrack and find another way around. The second floor was almost labyrinthine, which meant it was easy to get lost in, but at least the winding hallways gave them a variety of routes to take.

What were they looking for? Could it be the Ageless Sword? If that was really the case, Ikarios would have most certainly have told his people where he had found it. Despite that, there hadn't been anyone in the vicinity of that small office, and after leaving it, Tavia had seen Daina's body at the end of the hallway. They weren't far from where she had encountered Ikarios.
Evos hadn't said anything about what had happened to Ikarios—if they were lucky, he'd been knocked out by the same force that had done in Tavia, but if she was awake, it was best to think he was too. In that case, did that mean only Ikarios had been looking for the sword? Were the other Wardens searching for something else?

After several long detours and nearly being spotted too many times to be healthy for her heart, Tavia and Evos found the stairs at long last. But what should have been the hopeful sight of possible escape ended up being a dismaying sight, and they stopped well short of the stairs.
A pair of men, wearing the robes of the Wardens, but the hoods pulled down to reveal their faces, were standing guard by the door. Tavia grabbed Evos and pulled him into the nearest room with an open door. She waited at the edge of the door, listening for any sign that they had been heard.

"Well, that's not...unexpected," Evos said. "I should have guessed they'd guard the stairs."
Tavia glared at Evos, and he fell silent. A moment passed, and there was no commotion from the direction of the stairs. They were lucky, it would seem the men hadn't seen them in the brief moment Tavia and Evos had been exposed.

"An Althiest and a Martial?" Tavia muttered as she shifted her posture to lean against the wall beside the lab door.

She couldn't see the men from here, but she could see a decent length of the hallway. If they got curious for any reason and approached, she wanted to know as soon as possible.
Evos stood across from her, and at her words his eyes flicked towards the door. It wasn't a large lab, and didn't even seem to be in use. The equipment was all covered with black cloth, and a layer of dust had settled on everything. The Wardens probably hadn't even bothered to check in here.

"You figured that out that quickly?" Evos asked. "We only saw them for a moment."
What was he talking about? There had been plenty of time to see that the man on the right had a sword in a sheath buckled around his waist, and the other man was holding a large, leather bound tome in one hand. Besides, when stationing guards, it made more sense to put an Althiest with a Martial. They would cover for each other, assuming they knew even the rudiments of teamwork.

"How are we going to get past them?" Evos asked.

"You're an Artifact, aren't you? Can't you do something?" Tavia asked.

Evos leveled her with a disgusted stare.

"You don't even believe me," he said. He looked away for a moment, and muttered something to himself.

"Well now would be a really great time to prove your...magical qualities," Tavia replied.

He was right. She didn't believe him, but at this point, she was willing to take anything she could get. Even if that meant asking for help from a strange man claiming to be a sword.

"Pretty sure turning into a human counts as 'magical'," Evos replied, "but if you're asking if I can do something to get rid of those two, then the answer is no."

Tavia sighed. Well, she probably shouldn't have expected anything, really.

"How about turning back into a sword?" Tavia asked.

"What, do you plan to fight your way out?" Evos asked.

It was clear from his tone that his answer was no, but she retorted anyway.

"I know how to use a sword," she said.

"But not an Artifact," Evos replied.

Tavia grimaced but didn't disagree. That part was true enough, and no matter how good she was with a normal sword, trying to challenge an Althiest armed with a grimoire and a Martial-Althiest armed with an alther weapon without any magic to back her was a bad idea. Even if Evos was some kind of special, magic sword, it wasn't as if Tavia could use it.

"Then what do you suggest?" Tavia asked.

"Is there any way to distract them?" Evos asked. "Get them to leave their post long enough for us to run through?"

"Um," Tavia said as she tried to think.

It wasn't like she knew the institute. What sorts of things were stored in the labs around here was just as much a mystery to her as it was to Evos. But she didn't want to just give up here. The Shields were sure to be on their way, but her vox still wasn't connecting, so there was no way to know how long it would take. Even if they tried to hide, the Wardens were turning this place upside down in their searching, it was too likely they'd be found.

Tavia walked about the lab, dragging her fingers through the dust as she tried to find something, anything, she could use. The only things here were dust, old consoles, and what looked like the control box for the power in this block of the institute hanging on the wall beside the door. She stopped before the box, it was the only thing of remote interest in the room.

Although the box had a lock, it wasn't locked. That was careless, but Tavia wouldn't complain in this situation. She opened the lid, revealing a thick slab of dark alther, engraved with an exceedingly intricate spell. The lines of the engraving glowed with the cyan light of Althier.

"What's that?" Evos asked as he looked at the contents of the box over Tavia's shoulder.

"It's the spell-set that controls the power for this entire area of the institute," Tavia explained.

"I thought the lights and stuff could be turned off in each lab," Evos said.

Tavia looked back at Evos, trying to figure out if he was making fun of her, but the expression on his face was honest interest. Well, if he really was a sword, maybe commonsense things like this were out of his scope of knowledge. Spell-sets were used for the complicated magics, like powering entire sections of buildings, creating illusions, and even her vox had a minuscule spell-set within it. Each individual engraving on the alther was a spell, and they were woven together in a specific order and combination to keep them from interfering with each other but still taking up the smallest amount of space possible. The spells were balanced in a precise manner to achieve the desired effect, in this case controlling the flow of Althier used to provide power in the building.

Spell-sets like this were the pinnacle of Althieology, but at the moment, the care and skill that had gone into creating it was a distant second to figuring out how she could make use of it.

"There's light switches in all of the labs and hallways, but if this gets turned off, none of those switches or any of the other devices will work," she said.

"So if we turn this thing off, it'll turn out the lights?" Evos asked.

She looked back over her shoulder to stare at him and nodded. If it was dark, they just might stand a chance.

"Hmm," she replied. "Now, we just need something to make some noise."


A note from GracelessLiar

Solving the mystery will have to wait. For now it's time to get out of this dangerous place. How do you think you'd escape?

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