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"Are you quite finished?" Abram asked when he saw he had everyone's attention. "There are people working, and your shouting is a distraction I will not allow."

There wasn't anyone else in the waiting room with them, and Tavia didn't really think they'd been loud enough to disturb anyone outside the room. Either way, Abram's dark gaze was enough to make Audri turn pale.

"Sorry Doctor Abram," she said. "These two just got a bit...heated. They've gotten it out of their system, though, haven't you?"

She looked at Izak, and then at Tavia. Her blue eyes glinted with a threat, and Tavia nodded, not wanting to see what Audri would do if she didn't. Izak wasn't ready to let go of the subject, but when Audri's eyes fell on him, he shut his mouth and glared in Tavia's direction.

"Good," Abram said. "Yesterday was enough of a distraction for us, I'd hate to see the projects in this area fall even further behind because of you."

"It's amazing everyone is back to work already," Izak said. "Aren't they worried about the building, or another attack?"

"Not everyone," Abram replied. "Only project leaders, or those on urgent projects came in, and we'll be shutting the lab down over night. We can't afford to put off certain matters."

He looked back at Evos who was still standing behind Tavia. Evos hadn't spoken a word during the entire argument. Tavia wasn't sure if he just didn't care, or if he just thought it wasn't his place to interfere.

After a moment, Abram's gaze slid back to Tavia.

"It's good to see you escaped unharmed," he said. "I can't say the same for some of the others of my team."

Tavia grimaced and looked away from Abram. She had been trying not to think about Daina. So far she had done a good job distracting herself; there had been plenty of other things to think about anyway.

"Tavia, what's he talking about?" Izak asked in a low voice. "How do you know Doctor Abram?"

"I met Tavia yesterday," Abram explained without giving Tavia a chance to answer. "She was waiting in my lab yesterday when the attack happened. It seems the so-called 'Wardens' who attacked us yesterday were after many things, the Ageless Sword among them."

"They managed to steal something?" Audri asked. "I hadn't heard anything was stolen."

Tavia heard Evos shifting behind her, but he wasn't speaking up. Then again, what was he going to say? Announce he was really the Ageless Sword, and no, he hadn't been stolen, just attached himself to some random girl? Yeah, that would probably go over well.

"Well," Abram said, "I'm not sure they really managed to steal it."

Abram looked at Evos once again, and for just a moment, a sly smile spread across his face. Evos uttered a small cough, but he still didn't speak. Abram wasn't trying to say he knew who Evos was, right? There was no way he could know something like that. Who would honestly think a sword could turn into a human? Tavia hardly believed it herself, and she had seen the proof several times now.

"Then what happened to it?" Izak asked. "My mom said it was gone, but is that something that can just get...lost?"

"Maybe it ended up in the hands of someone who can put it to good use?" Abram said.

This time his gaze was on Tavia. She scowled; he couldn't possibly be more direct, could he? But how did he know?

"And what kind of use would be considered 'good'?" Tavia asked.

Abram chuckled and then smiled. He didn't seem upset that Tavia had the sword, or surprised the sword had turned into a person. Well, he was an Artificer, so this was probably quite fascinating to him. He wasn't saying anything though, not outright at least. Tavia would have expected him to be dragging her into a lab for tests and questions, but not only was he not doing that, he wasn't even telling anyone what he had figured out.

Was he being considerate?

"I can't really speculate on that," Abram said. "But if they were around, I would certainly ask them for assistance."

"What kind of assistance?" Evos asked.

Tavia looked back at him; his silver eyes were narrowed, and he was watching Abram with a small frown. That was the first thing he had said, and not only Tavia, but everyone in the room was surprised by his joining in.

"Well, it's not something I should involve a group of children in," Abram said.

"We are not kids," Audri snapped.

Tavia suppressed a snicker. Couldn't she tell Abram was trying to get that exact reaction from her?

"That's not what I—" Abram began.

"That's what your face is saying," Audri snapped.

Tavia bit her lip, but she couldn't stifle the small giggle that escaped her throat. Had...had Audri really said that? Evos sighed, though Tavia didn't know if the sigh was directed at herself, Audri, or Abram, or maybe it was the entire situation. Izak just looked horrified that Audri was talking to Abram like that.

"Um, well..." Abram seemed at a loss for words. Tavia wasn't sure if it was just part of his act, or if he was actually stunned at the ferocity of Audri. "I guess I can tell you. I don't believe the Wardens found what they were looking for. They weren't able to search the entirety of the institute before the Shields arrived and put an end to their...exploration."

"You know what they were looking for?" Evos asked.

Abram shrugged, the casual movement at odds with the grim lines on his face.

"I have a few guesses," he said, "but most importantly, I don't think we've seen the last of them. If their leader is who I think he is, he isn't likely to give up."

"You know Ikarios?" Tavia asked.

She said it without thinking, but the moment the words left her mouth, Tavia regretted it. Not only was Abram looking at her with even more interest than before, but Izak was scowling in her direction.

"Ikarios?" Izak asked.

"Ah, yeah, did I forget to mention that I met the self-proclaimed leader of the Wardens?" Tavia asked with an awkward smile and a shrug.

"Slipped your mind, did it?" Izak grumbled.

"You...saw him?" Abram asked. "So you know what he looks like?"

Tavia didn't want to admit it, but really, in this situation if she didn't everyone would just know she was lying. She looked away, towards the empty area of the waiting room and nodded.

"I see," Abram said, letting out a breath. "In that case, maybe I do have a favor to ask you."

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A note from GracelessLiar

I just want to take a moment and say thank you once again to everyone who has read this far. If you're enjoying my work, please consider leaving a comment or a rating. I'd really love to hear from you!


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