Why are you following me?" Tavia asked as she stood before the gated entrance to her family's mansion, staring at the sheepish Evos who had up till now unabashedly followed her home.
A high stone wall surrounded the property the mansion sat on, and like the nearby homes of other noble families it was cold and quiet. Few conveis navigated the streets here, and those that did, floated along the road at a sedate pace. In this area of the city, trees lined the streets, and greenery could be seen over the walls of the mansions, decorating the gardens. It was one of the few places in Edelheiss where the skytowers couldn't be seen breaking the horizon.
Instead, the royal palace, sitting on a hill above the noble district, dominated the skyline with its white towers and arches.
The nearby street lights illuminated the sidewalk they stood on, casting a warm light on the gate before them. The wrought iron masterpiece was flanked on either side by a stone wall topped with lions rampant. On the Lyon houses, a group of seven noble families recognized by the royal family their contributions to Marquest, could have the mythical lion as a symbol, and the Renegardes were proud to be one of the few.
"Is it a problem?" Evos asked.
After their escape from the building, the Shields had arrived and surrounded the facility. There had been some fighting between the Wardens and the assault team from the Shields, but for the most part, the Wardens had retreated as soon as they found themselves under attack.
Tavia had called Izak as soon as she was safe and her vox would work, but in the confusion, she wasn't able to meet up with him. He had been worried that she'd been caught in the lobby explosion, just as she had worried the same. According to Izak the entire lobby had collapsed; they still didn't know who had been trapped in the debris.
After a short, tense conversation with the Shields, Tavia had refused to give an official statement, and Evos had followed her lead. She didn't mind cooperating, but she wasn't sure how to explain anything that had happened. Despite that, or maybe because of that, it had taken hours before Tavia had been allowed to leave. By the time she'd caught a convei—one of the self-steering ones that cost a small amount of money to use—and headed home, it was already well into the evening, and the sun had sunk beneath the horizon. Evos had followed her the entire time, and though she'd wanted to tell him not to join her in the convei, the natural attitude he adopted while climbing into the vehicle with her had stunned her into silence.
"You can't come with me into the house," Tavia said. "I don't even know how I would explain you to my mother."
"If that's the issue," Evos said, "then I have a simple enough solution."
"No, that's not—" Tavia began, but Evos just smiled and cut her off.
"I'll talk to you later."
His body dissolved into a shimmer of cyan light, but as if that wasn't strange enough, instead of dissipating into the air like natural Althier should, it coalesced once more into the Ageless Sword. The sword hung in the air for a moment as the edges of the blade became defined and the last of the light disappeared, and then it fell to the ground, clattering against the stone sidewalk.
Tavia stared at the sword, at a loss for words or even thoughts. Yes, he had told her he was actually the Ageless Sword. She hadn't believed him, who would believe something like that? But seeing the sword lying on the pale sidewalk, she simply didn't know what to do or what to think.
She bent over, picking up the sword with no small amount of unease, but there was no explosion this time. The sword was quiet, no more than a lump of dark alther in her hand. For the first time she was able to feel the comfortable weight in her hand. The sword blade was similar to the old claymores that had fallen out of favor in preference of lighter weapons, but the blade was wider than even those old swords. In the past, people had thought a bigger blade meant it could hold more Althier, meaning it was stronger, but as Althieology advanced, that was found to be mostly irrelevant, since most people couldn't even channel enough Althier to make use of the extra capacity.
The hilt of the sword was a snug fit for her hand, comfortable enough she could almost believe it had been sized for her. She put her other hand on the hilt, and made a slow, sweeping arc with the blade. Well balanced and comfortable, the blade was old, but well made. The hilt itself had a subtle design of dark stones embedded into the metal hilt, but everything was so tarnished, it was hard to tell what colors anything had originally been.
By far though, the strangest thing was that the edge of the blade was dull. The rounded edge wasn't sharp in the slightest, and didn't appear to have ever been sharpened. She couldn't imagine cutting anything with this sword, not even butter. It would be better used a club. At least it was heavy enough for that.
For a moment Tavia considered turning around and just chucking the sword into a nearby hedge, It was going to be trouble, she was certain of it, but she couldn't deny that she was curious about everything that had happened. She sighed, it wouldn't hurt to at least talk to Evos some more before she made a decision.
Tavia pressed the button well hidden on the stone wall beside the gate, and when a voice asked for her name a moment later, she gave it in a tired, matter of fact voice. This system had been set up just for Tavia, normally the gate could be opened just by touching the lion on the left and giving a slight flex of an aura. As long as the aura was one registered, the gate would open, but Tavia didn't have that option. So the button had been fitted into the wall so the gate could be opened from the inside.
The gates swung open, and she stepped inside, lugging the sword with her as if it weighed as heavy as all her worries.
Though the Renegarde family owned a large area of land in the north, in the Scarver wastes, they spent most of their time here in the capital. As such, the mansion here was suited to meet Septia's exacting demands. Beyond the gate late an open lawn with a wide avenue large enough for a convei to pass through. The self-driving conveis couldn't enter a private road like this where there was no guidelines for them to follow, but the road saw much use. Extending on either side of the road was a a lush lawn covered in perfectly manicured greenery. It was less impressive than the gardens around the back of the house, but still beautiful in its own way.
The mansion itself was larger than necessary, but it had been in the family for generations, back when being a noble meant more than simply a fancy family-tree. Built of pale stone with pillars of dark, contrasting wood adorning the front walls, the multi-story mansion had the storied grace of an old building that had been lovingly kept up.
Tavia hated it with the fury of a screaming Scarver.
She arrived at the entry, and pushed open the heavy wooden entrance door. Stepping into the silence of the house, a servant was waiting by the door to greet her, but when the young woman spotted the pensive expression on Tavia's face, she took her leave.
The walls were soundproofed, keeping the sounds of the city out. It was even quiet here than at the mansion up north. Though no one else was lived in the area surrounding the mansion, at least there were always members of the extended family coming and going, causing commotions that kept the place lively. Here though, it was all silence, which meant any disturbance was noticed.
The foyer just beyond the doors was a spacious entryway designed to impress. Dark mahogany flooring that matched the stairway on the right side of the foyer created a sense of wealth and power, and the were decorated with paintings of the family, both immediate and extended. On the far wall, the family coat of arms hung above a large, grandfather clock.
She headed for the stairs, crossing the dark wood flooring quietly, but before she was even halfway across the entry, a voice from the front parlor stopped her. Tavia grimaced as she turned to face her mother who was standing in an archway with crossed arms and a frown.
"What happened?" she asked. "You were supposed to be back hours ago."
"I visited RIOAR with Izak," Tavia said, "and some...stuff happened."
"Some...stuff?" Septia asked. The woman's gaze moved to the sword in Tavia's hands before coming back up to Tavia's face.
It was a clear prompt to explain, but Tavia didn't want to and she tried to convey that in the glare she sent back.
Septia was a tall, refined woman with dark hair she normally curled into thick ringlets, taking the time to tame the frizzy mess she had passed along to Tavia. Her skin was several shades darker than her daughter's, and her ears a little longer and more distinctly pointed. She was half Terrisian, but she was more devoted to serving Marquest as a Knight than most full-blooded Marquestians. Many considered her a good-natured woman, brave and strong, the ideal Knight.
It had been years since Tavia had thought of her mother like that.
"I was told there was an attack on the lab, some crazy group or something called the Wardens," Septia said. "That wouldn't have to do with the 'stuff' you're talking about, would it?"
Tavia tried not to scowl, but she couldn't look at her mother. She heard Septia sigh a moment later, and Tavia looked back at her.
"I don't know why you even care," Tavia muttered.
"Of course I care," Septia said. "What if you got hurt?"
There was concern in Septia's voice, it almost sounded convincing—it would probably be enough to fool just about anyone—anyone but Tavia, that was. She kept a blank face. It was better not to provoke her mother if she could avoid it.
"You should really take it easy," Septia said, putting a hand to her forehead and sighing. "I know you're worried about not making it into Avel'lier this year, but it isn't as if there's any need for you to go."
Tavia's mouth tightened into a frown without her realizing.
"I'm going to Avel'lier," she said. "I'm not going to just live off your charity for the rest of my life."
"You're my daughter, taking care of you isn't charity."
Tavia looked toward the stairs, not wanting to see the worry in her mother's face. Why did she have to care now? Why not when Tavia had actually needed her to worry? No, even now, Septia was probably just pretending anyway.
"When have you ever thought of me as your daughter?" Tavia grumbled loud enough for Septia to hear.
She didn't look, but she could imagine the snarl on her mother's face, the angry flushing of her dark skin. There was no response to her words, and after several moments of tense silence, She glanced back at her mother, but Septia had already disappeared from view. Tavia snorted. It figured she wouldn't even wait around long enough to finish a conversation.
She took a step toward the stairs. She wanted to get upstairs, to her room where she could avoid speaking to anyone else. The sooner she was there, the better. If not, she might just say something that would actually get her into trouble.
As her foot touched the floor, a flash of blue light erupted from the tip of the Ageless Sword. There was a sensation of falling, but when Tavia's vision cleared, she was at the top of the stairs, her left foot firm on the top step and her right foot stepping onto the landing.
"What?" she gasped as she lost her balance and began to tumble backwards.
She dropped the sword onto the stairs and grabbed the nearby railing with both hands, stopping what could have been one nasty tumble. She didn't move for a long moment as she tried to regain her bearings. How—how had she gotten up here? No, it was clearly the fault of the Ageless Sword, but even realizing that didn't actually explain anything. She'd never heard of any device or even an Artifact that could do something like warping a person to another place.
She straightened herself and looked down at the Ageless Sword. It had slid a few steps down the stairs and stopped. First it turned into a person, and now it was moving her through space?
It was really time to find out just what the Ageless Sword was.