Evos's dislike of the boy wasn't exactly unexpected. He had told her almost the moment they met not to trust Ikarios, but Evos had yet to express a strong opinion on anything else so far. Seeing the tense folds between his eyes and the scowl on his face was enough to make Tavia realize he wasn't quite as docile as he seemed.
"What do we do?" Tavia asked.
If Ikarios had noticed Tavia and Evos, he wasn't showing any sign of it. They were on the other side of the street, and though there were lights above the cafe, they were probably too far away for him to even notice.
"What do you mean?" Evos asked.
"Wait here for the others, or...?" Tavia trailed off. Putting it into words made it seem like a bad idea—it probably was a bad idea—but Evos was willing to finish the thought for her.
"Or chase him?"
Tavia nodded. There was still quite a bit of time before they were supposed to meet up with Abram, and Tavia doubted Audri and Izak would be arriving any time soon. If she just left Ikarios be, what kind of trouble would he cause?
"Is he alone?" she asked.
Evos shrugged. It wasn't as if Tavia had really expected him to know, she was just thinking aloud. There weren't any other shadows with Ikarios, and as he neared the door, Tavia tensed.
"Let's follow him," she said as she pulled her vox from her jacket pocket.
Evos watched her type out a short message to send to Izak. Just because she was about to do something stupid, that didn't mean she had to be stupid about it.
"Are you sure?" Evos asked as they watched Ikarios enter the institute.
Tavia paused. No, she wasn't sure this was the best option, but just standing out here while she knew Ikarios was in there? That wasn't something she could do. It wasn't that she thought she was the best person to stop Ikarios—actually, she was probably the worst. Right now though, she was the only person here. And someone had to do something, right?
Tavia's answer to Evos was simply rise from her chair and head across the street to the institute. Ikarios had already disappeared into the institute by the time Tavia had reached the door. Evos followed, and as she continued to question her decision, she opened the door and they slipped inside.
Following the boy wasn't difficult. The dark halls of RIOAR were silent, and Ikarios's footsteps echoed through the building. It was like he didn't even care if he was noticed, though considering there wasn't supposed to be anyone else here, he probably didn't need to care.
Following Ikarios led them up to the second floor, up the stairs Tavia and Evos had made a mad dash down only the day before, and then they continued to follow him up to the third floor.
At the top of the stairs, Ikarios hesitated, looking at each of the halls before finally deciding on a direction. After letting him get a little farther away, just in case he changed his mind, Tavia continued to follow him. It was dark here, and as long as they stayed far enough back and just listened for his footsteps, Ikarios wouldn't be able to see them even if he turned around. Even so, they still needed to be careful, just relying on the sound of footsteps made it hard to tell if he was coming or going, and she didn't want to run into him if he backtracked.
After a few minutes of following him, they saw Ikarios turn down a dead end. Tavia hesitated at the corner, peering around the wall to watch as Ikarios walked to the end of the hallway. There was only one door in the hallway, the one at the very end.
Tavia squinted into the darkness, trying to make out the boy's figure, but there wasn't nearly enough light to see by. The small windows in the walls were barely enough to see by during the day; at night they let in almost no light whatsoever. She wasn't looking to engage him unless it looked like he was about to do something he shouldn't. What exactly that was, she wouldn't know until she saw it, but until then staying silent and out of sight was her plan.
The footsteps stopped, and there was silence. And then Ikarios's voice cut through the darkness.
"Aren't you going to show yourself?" he asked, his voice calm and measured.
Was he talking to Tavia? How did he know they were following him? Tavia frowned, but she didn't step out into the hallway. Maybe he was just bluffing. She looked back at Evos, and his grim expression was enough to know that she was being too optimistic about this.
There was a sigh, and then the lights overhead turned on, bathing the hallway in a brilliant glow. Tavia gasped and covered her eyes with her hands as the sudden light blinded her. Scarver shit, that burned. She lowered her hands and squinted into the light.
"I've known you were following me from the very beginning," Ikarios said. "You might as well come out, Tavia."
That was a little too specific just to be a bluff. Tavia grimaced, and as her eyesight began to clear, she looked over at Evos again. He was frowning, but when he realized Tavia was looking at him, his expression turned serious and focused.
Tavia took a deep breath and stepped out into the hallway. Ikarios was at the far end, waiting for her, his arms crossed and a small smile on his lips.
"How did you know?" Tavia asked.
They'd been quiet and careful. Sneaking up on a child shouldn't have been this difficult.
"It's obviously because I—oh, so he is awake now." Ikarios switched from almost civility to a voice dripping venom as Evos followed Tavia into the hallway.
"Ikarios," Evos said.
The chill in the air as the two stared each other down was enough to make Tavia shiver.
"So, you've decided to follow this around?" Ikarios asked, gesturing at Tavia.
"That's none of your business," Evos replied. His words were clipped and short, as if he didn't even want to waste the breath it took to speak on Ikarios. "What are you doing here?"
Ikarios's mouth twitched and his nose wrinkled in disgust. He looked back at the door behind him.
"I'm not sure why you think I would tell you," he said. "Of course, it doesn't have to be that way."
Tavia frowned. It was very clear they knew each other, but she couldn't understand how. Ikarios was twelve at most, and hadn't Evos been sleeping or inactive or something until he woke up when Tavia touched the sword? They shouldn't possibly be able to know each other.
Evos was silent, and then Ikarios shook his head. He turned his eyes on Tavia, and she tried not to meet his gaze. His eyes were the same as before—dark and silvery.
"This isn't something you of all people should get involved in," he said. "Do you have any idea what lies behind this door?"
"No," Tavia said. "How could I?"
Ikarios sighed, his ears twitching.
"I'm really not interested in making an enemy of either of you," he said. "But I don't think you're going to back down here without a struggle."
Tavia heard footsteps behind her, and she looked back over her shoulder. Three women, all wearing the same robes she had seen the Wardens wearing the day, before had blocked off the hallway behind her. One carried a long rapier, and the other two carried grimoires. She turned to face them. That put Ikarios behind her, but he didn't seem to be armed. As long as he didn't do that mind control thing again, she was better off worrying about the three people with weapons.
"You do seem resistant to my control, which considering you managed to wake him up, makes more sense," Ikarios said, "that just means things will be more difficult for you. Even if I have to get violent, I'm not going to let you stand in my way."
"Evos?" Tavia asked as she began to back away from the three armed Wardens.
"I think you'll have to fight," Evos said. "Remember what I said about channeling Althier into the sword?"
"I don't know how to do that," Tavia said, panic twisting her voice into a high squeak.
"I guess it's time to learn."