Evos grabbed Tavia's hand. As she gave Evos a startled look, his form began to grow hazy, fading into a blue light.
"Focus," he said. "You did it before; you can do it again."
And then Tavia was holding the Ageless Sword in her right hand.
"E-Evos?" she asked.
There was no answer. It would seem his many abilities didn't include being able to talk while in sword form.
"Ugh, why does he insist on helping humans?" Ikarios snarled. His eyes were locked on the sword, and his face contorted into utter disgust. "I could use his help, but he just insists one being nothing more than a tool."
What was Ikarios talking about? Helping humans? He wasn't trying to imply that being Terrisian made him more than human, was he? That was beyond even the imperialistic attitude of Terris. Tavia shook her head. She didn't have time to think about that. She had to figure out how to do that channel, if she didn't; she wasn't going to last much more than a few moments in this fight. What had she done before? Evos said it had happened twice. Once when she Jumped, but she had only been angry then, and the other time...well, hadn't she been scared then? Tavia was scared right now too, but that didn't seem to be the key to channeling.
"Are we killing her?" the woman with the rapier asked.
Her expression was cold, her manner all business. Tavia shivered, dreading Ikarios's answer.
"No, Meridian," he said. "She managed to wake the Ageless Sword. She may be useful, so take her alive."
It was nice to know her death wasn't on the table, but being Ikarios's prisoner was terrifying in its own special way. Remembering the feeling of him digging into her mind, controlling her, was enough to make her shudder. That wasn't anything she ever wanted to feel again.
Tavia wrapped both her hands around the hilt of the sword and bit her lip. Meridian was coming her way, confident and calm, her pale eyes full of assurance in her victory. She didn't fear Tavia, and the two Althiest women behind her weren't even preparing for a fight. They kept their grimoires in the straps at their sides as they watched.
Tavia took a deep breath. Althier. That was the key right? She needed to channel Althier. Althier was all around, in the very air they breathed. Devices like her vox performed magic by gathering Althier and casting the spells defined by what was engraved on the alther. This was the same thing, right? Except that Tavia was the one collecting the Althier, and she had no idea how to do that.
She looked down at the sword. When was the last time she had really held a weapon? It had been that time in the lab, in the RIOAR branch, hadn't it? During those tests. What was it the Artificers had said?
Breathe. Tavia took a deep breath. Very good. Now, tell me how you feel.
Sick. Like something had settled in the pit of her stomach. She remembered this feeling. This feeling and the voices telling her to breathe. Tavia's fingers tightened around the hilt of the sword, and her gaze lowered to the floor, ignoring the approaching Martial.
That's right. They had told her so many times, hadn't they? She had never listened, had never wanted to listen, because along with the things they told her, they made her do things. Things that hurt her, things that made her sick.
That sick feeling, slowly turning into a burning feeling, in her stomach and chest—that was Althier.
Tavia focused on that feeling. It wasn't comfortable, but right now she didn't have the luxury to care. She imagined the feeling, the Althier drifting through her body and into the sword through her hands gripping the hilt. She felt something connect, and the sick feeling in her body vanished.
The edge of the sword blazed to life. Althier, dense enough to be seen even in the bright hallway surrounded the entire edge of the blade. It flickered for a moment before stabilizing and the blue glow dimmed to the point of no longer blinding her when she stared at it.
Satisfaction and pride filled her, but it wasn't her own. She was feeling her own kind of glee at seeing the sword activate with her will, but it was distant and unsettled, overshadowed by the urgency of the situation. No, these emotions weren't hers; they belonged to Evos. He couldn't speak to her, but he was still able to communicate in other ways.
Tavia felt more Althier pass through her body. She was no longer controlling it. Was this what Evos meant by replacing an aura? Strength filled her body as Evos used the Althier to activate the spells on the sword. The weight of the sword became inconsequential, and she easily hefted the large weapon with one hand.
She turned to face the Martial. Meridian's expression had gone from unconcerned to grim when she saw the change in Tavia's demeanor and the light in the sword.
"You think some fancy light trick is going to save you?" Meridian asked as she raised her own sword.
Her aura, a golden color, wrapped around the hand holding the rapier. The gold lingered, flickering around her fingers as Meridian began to cast her magic. If what she was feeling was anything like what Tavia felt, then it was a heightening of the senses and weightlessness that accompanied a strength beyond anything normally attainable.
"Watch that edge," Ikarios called out. "You don't want to get hit by that, it's pure Althier. It'll hurt even us."
Even us? Meridian wasn't a Terrisian. She lacked both the dusky skin and the long ears, so what did Ikarios mean by 'us'?
Meridian nodded and then pointed her rapier's tip at Tavia's heart. She charged forward, moving at a speed difficult to follow even with Tavia's enhanced vision. Wasn't Meridian supposed to be trying to capture her? Or was she expecting Tavia to stop the attack?
Tavia brought her sword up to block the blade, but Meridian dipped the tip of the rapier down, aiming for Tavia's stomach instead. Tavia gritted her teeth and stepped to the side, twisting her body as she moved so the woman struck only air.
The Martial's charge led her past Tavia, and she struck at Meridian's back as she passed. She was too slow in her counter attack though, and the woman spun around to retaliate even as Tavia's swing finished its course. They fell into a pattern, weaving their attacks around each other. If Meridian was surprised at Tavia's skill with a sword, she didn't show it, but even if Tavia knew how to handle the sword, she didn't have the skill to handle Althier for long.
A wave of dizziness passed through Tavia, causing her to stumble. Alarm and fear flashed through her mind from Evos.
As she tried to settle the world around her, she saw Meridian swing the edgeless blade of her sword down in a direct path toward Tavia's head. There was no time to dodge, and no time to block. Tavia grimaced, time slowing as she watched the incoming blow. She needed to move, she needed to—
Blue light burned her eyes, and she felt like she was falling through an endless pit. Her senses recovered after only a moment, and her back struck something hard. The impact jarred the Ageless Sword from her hand, and it clattered to the floor. When the light faded, Tavia realized she was at the other end of the hall, closer to Ikarios, and Meridian was still swinging her sword at the empty space where Tavia had been until just a moment ago.
Her head hurt, and her back felt like she had been hit by a convei. She had somehow slammed into the wall with tremendous force. She sank to the floor, the dizziness and pain too much for her to keep her feet. She slid up against the wall behind her, and watched Ikarios who now stood only a few feet away. He was staring at her, his dark eyes wide. His mouth split into a grin and he bent over as he began to laugh.
"What the void was that?" he said between burst of laughter. "Evos, you sure this is the one you want to listen to? She can't even Jump without hurting herself."
Ikarios was looking at the Ageless Sword lying several feet away and well out of Tavia's reach. With the sword no longer in her hands, the strength it had given her was lost. The sword shone, and then Evos appeared in its place.
"That's none of your business," he snapped as he shot a dark look at Ikarios.
"Well, it's not like it matters. I think you'll be coming with us now," Ikarios said, folding his arms.
Tavia looked toward Meridian, trying to still her beating heart, and quell the panic in her chest. Meridian was approaching with wary steps, and the two Althiests behind her were pulling out their grimoires. Tavia was cornered.