Beyond the doorway was an elevator. This was the only door in the entire hallway, which meant the whole hallway had been built just to lead to the elevator. As Audri and Izak bickered about entering the elevator, Tavia and Evos watched the hallway behind them in case Ikarios came back. There was no sign of him returning though, and as Audri entered the elevator, an overhead light flickered on, lighting up the small space.
It wasn't very large, and just getting the four of them into the elevator together was a tight fit. Tavia huddled in the middle, as far from the walls as she could get and avoided touching anything. It was one thing when she was using light switches or the stove in her home, those things were made to be used with or without an aura, but complicated devices like the elevators, or the spell-set she'd destroyed the other day didn't tend to react well to her.
"There's only one button," Audri said once they had all gotten on.
Tavia peered around Audri's shoulder. Next to the door there was indeed only one button. It wasn't labeled.
"Should I push it?" Audri asked.
"At this point why are you even asking?" Tavia asked.
Audri looked back at Tavia, grinned, and then jammed her thumb onto the button. Izak uttered a strangled noise, but it was too late to protest. The doors closed and the elevator began to move. It took Tavia a moment to realize the only direction it could possibly go was down. The third floor was the top floor of RIOAR, there was no way to go up any higher.
"Audri," Izak said as the elevator continued.
"Yes?" Audri replied.
Her tone was stiff. She probably knew what Izak was going to ask next. It wasn't as if it was hard to figure out.
"Wasn't that door locked?"
"Weeell..." Audri said, drawing out the word as if to buy herself time to think. "Yes. Yes, it was locked."
"How did it get unlocked?"
"Ah, um, I got lucky?"
"Isn't your dad in charge of the Shields?" Izak asked. "What are you doing breaking into places?"
"At least we got in," Audri muttered.
Izak grumbled something in reply, but dropped the topic.
A full minute passed as the elevator continued to descend, and Audri groaned.
"How long is this going to be going?" she asked.
"Where this is going is a better question," Izak replied, his tone sharp, and Tavia had to agree. It was clear they had already gone below the ground floor of RIOAR.
After another minute, the elevator slowed and stopped and the door slid open, granting them a view of more darkness. Audri led the way off the elevator, but stopped only a few feet into the darkness.
"Void, it's dark," she muttered. "Izak, do you have any spells for making light in that book of yours?"
"Just a fire spell," Izak replied, "and I don't think that's a good idea. What if there's something flammable nearby?"
"We'll just have to look for a light switch," Tavia said as she followed Audri out.
Evos followed her, and Izak lingered in the elevator a moment longer before finally stepping out into the darkness.
"Spread out," Audri said. "I'm sure there's a switch nearby."
Tavia stumbled through the darkness. The area seemed large, and their voices repeated with a faint echo as they talked to each other.
"Found it," Izak called out after a minute of searching.
Lights overhead flickered on. Revealing the vast chamber they had practically stumbled into. It was a vast room, and even with the lights on, shadows lurked in the corners as if waiting to creep back in and douse the chamber in darkness. The ceiling of the chamber was too high to make out, and the lamps suspended from it, hung down far enough to illuminate the floor.
Everything was built of some kind of dark stone. If she were to make a guess, it looked like alther, but an entire room built out of alther was a foolish notion to entertain. Even a smaller room would have been wasteful. Alther wasn't exactly a pricey material, but it was far too valuable to use as a raw building material.
The walls were covered in carvings, reminiscent of the engravings used on an alter weapon, but the carvings were so vast it was hard to comprehend them. For all Tavia knew, they might have just been an abstract pattern.
At the very back of the chamber was a door, recessed into the wall. It was a tall and wide door, like a one used to enter a formal dinner hall, but the black stone making up the door was grooved and pitted, as if years of existing had begun to take its toll.
The chamber was filled with equipment; devices Tavia didn't recognize lay scattered on the floor, and near one end of the room, a massive console system took up nearly the entire wall. There were several vid-screens above the console, but none of them were on.
In the center of the room was a bed. It was such an odd sight—a bed sitting in the middle of a laboratory—that it soon drew the attention of everyone. A man, somewhere in his late twenties, was lying on the bed, deep asleep, with a thin blanket covering him. Devices surrounded him, and he was hooked into them with tubes feeding in and out of his body and sensors attached to his head.
"What is this?" Izak asked as he approached the bed.
The man's skin was deathly pale, his breathing deep, and he didn't react to their presence.
"S-Savin?" Audri asked as she walked up to stand beside Izak.
Tavia approached the bed from the other side. Evos followed her, but she could hear him breathe in sharply when he got close to the bed.
"Dieos," he said.
Tavia looked at Evos. His expression was tight and his hands clenched into fists. When facing Ikarios, Evos had made no attempt to hide his dislike, and that had been surprising enough, since until that point he'd been keeping a tight hold on his emotions. His reaction to Ikarios however, was nothing compared to the hatred in his eyes as he muttered the word, a name perhaps?
"Do you know him?" Tavia asked.
She had directed the question at Evos, but he hesitated and his chance to speak was cut off.
"This is Savin," Audri said. "He was a researcher here until recently, but he disappeared without saying anything."
"No one thought that was weird?" Izak asked.
"Well, he's Abram's son," Audri explained. "So, I guess everyone thought it was fine since Abram wasn't worried."
"So then, what's he doing here?" Tavia asked.
"Savin, you said?" Evos asked.
Audri stared at Evos for a moment, her mouth falling agape.
"You...actually talked to me," she said.
Was that something to really be surprised about? Evos didn't look interested in responding to that; he just stared at Audri until she sighed and smiled.
"Yeah," she said. "Why?"
Evos looked up at the ceiling for a moment and then back at Tavia.
"I think we should probably leave," he said.
"Huh, but we—" Audri began but stopped when Evos shook his head.
"We've seen what's down here," he said. "What more do you want from this place?"
That was a good point. It wasn't as if any of them knew what the devices down here were supposed to do, and Tavia didn't think they wanted to get caught down here. This didn't feel like a normal lab. It felt...secret. Had this been where Abram was going during the attack? If that was the case, this place was important to him. It would be better if he didn't know they had broken in.
"Evos is right, we should go," Tavia said.
Audri sighed and then shrugged, and Izak nodded.
They returned to the elevator, but as they approached it, Tavia saw the door was closed. The elevator was gone, and no matter how many times they pushed the call button, it wouldn't return. After a moment, the grinding of something echoing through the elevator shaft reached the chamber, and Tavia grimaced. If the elevator had gone up, that meant someone had pushed the button to call it, and now it was coming back down. Who was it bringing with it? Ikarios or Abram? Or would it be someone else entirely?