"Well, this is a mess," Izak said.
They had just left the institute and were standing outside the doors when Izak voiced his complaint. The street-lamps illuminating the road provided the only bit of light to see by, and everything else was darkness. Even the skytowers in the area were dim, only a few of the windows glowing with a light from within.
It was already very late. Tavia hadn't planned on being away this long, and every moment they wasted here was another moment that risked her mother realizing she'd snuck out. Strictly speaking, she didn't have a curfew, but she was expected to have a reasonable explanation for when she was out late, and she wasn't sure if any of this was reasonable.
She stopped and looked back at Izak. Abram had sent them away after requesting they return in the morning to watch over the lab; he claimed Ikarios was unlikely to attack again that evening, and considering how easily the boy had retreated, they had all agreed. Tavia had been eager to leave, but just as they left the building, Izak stopped and looked at the institute.
"Is something wrong?" Audri asked.
She was a few steps ahead of Tavia and Izak, and she stopped and turned to face them. Tavia sighed. It was late, and cold, and the longer she was gone, the more likely it was her mother would realize she had snuck out.
"Do you really think we should be doing this?" Izak asked.
"He said he wanted to it be us," Audri replied. She folded her arms and frowned.
"Us, or...?" Izak looked back at Evos.
"Is something the matter?" Evos asked.
Tavia glanced at him. His expression was stiff.
"Who are you?" Izak asked.
"I already told you that," Tavia said. "He's—"
"You don't think I believe he's a cousin, do you?" Izak replied. "Which of your cousins do you actually get along with? And besides, this guy is suspect. He showed up after the Wardens attacked RIOAR, and he knows more about what's going on than anyone should know."
Audri tilted her head to the side as if she had never considered any of that before, and then nodded.
"I—" Evos began, but Tavia held up a hand and he stopped.
She looked up at Izak and frowned as he returned her gaze.
"Are you trying to say Evos is with the Wardens?" Tavia asked.
"Well, doesn't that seem likely? He knew who that Dieos thing was, and he knows about Demis too, right?"
Izak wasn't exactly wrong in suspecting Evos. Tavia would probably have been suspicious if their roles were reversed. But, would explaining make it any better? Izak was bound to worry no matter what, and if he knew just who—or what—Evos was, Tavia couldn't imagine he'd be satisfied. If he even believed her. Izak was already having a hard enough time wrapping his head around the whole situation; that was the real reason he was lashing out against Evos. Izak was too logical to be comfortable with this talk of Demis. Still, seeing his reaction when she told him the truth might just be worth it, and maybe she wasn't giving him enough credit Considering the night they'd had, maybe he'd really believe it.
"He's the personified identity of the sword used by the Grand Hero," Tavia explained.
"Is that alright to say?" Evos asked.
He didn't actually seem all that concerned despite asking. Tavia shrugged, and then watched Izak. His mouth opened, closed, and then opened again, hanging open as if he had forgotten how to speak. Eventually he shut his mouth and looked away.
"That's even worse than the cousin story," he said, not meeting her eyes.
Tavia glanced at Evos. He had turned away, his shoulders hunched. Would he be willing to change back to a sword if she asked? Was that something she should even ask? She decided against it, she wasn't sure how far she could push Evos, and he didn't seem particularly pleased to have the subject of conversation be about him.
"One of them is true," Tavia said. "Take your pick."
Izak grumbled something about the cousin story, and then crossed his arms and looked sour.
Tavia sighed. She had told the truth; it wasn't as if this was really any harder to believe than some time-devouring monster out of legend. There was no need to concern herself with his stubborn attitude.
"So, moving on," Audri said. "What time are we meeting tomorrow?"
She was keeping a very straight face, making it hard to tell if she believed Tavia about Evos, or if she was just trying to hold back her laughter.
"Tomorrow?" Tavia asked. "Oh, Scarver stones, tomorrow is the try-outs."
It had completely slipped her mind even though it was her entire reason for coming here. There had been so much going on, and then Evos had volunteered her without giving her a chance to even process anything. Tavia put her head in her hands and groaned. She had already agreed to help, but this was her last chance.
"You really planned on going?" Audri asked. "I kind of thought you were joking about that."
"Magic sword," Tavia replied, gesturing at Evos.
She lifted her head in time to see Audri and Izak glance at each other, followed by Evos's chuckle.
"Do you really need to do it?" Izak asked. "I'd bet if you asked, Abram would give you a recommendation in exchange for helping out. And a letter from him should be enough to get you in for sure."
"I don't want to do that," Tavia said. "He's an Artificer, and clearly one who has been researching some weird and clearly dangerous things. I don't want his help to get into Avel'lier."
"It isn't as if anyone besides you and the admissions board will know," Audri said. "Why do you dislike Artificers so much?"
Tavia frowned. This wasn't her favorite topic, but from the way Evos was peering at her, an innocent expression of wonder on his face, it was clear he was curious too.
"I have my reasons," Tavia said. "Artificers are always more concerned with results than the people they hurt. Just look at Abram; he almost lost his own son to his research. I don't want anything to do them. But if I can get in as a Martial, none of this will matter."
"Not all Artificers are evil, you know," Izak muttered.
Tavia ignored him. Lenore was an exception, and certainly not the rule, but she was in the maintenance side of things and from a family full of Althiests. Cut from a different cloth then other Artificers.
"The exam tomorrow is in the afternoon," Audri said. "I guess you could always leave just for that, and then come back after. He probably won't try to attack when there are people around, they did that once and it didn't work, but once RIOAR is closed for the evening, thing'll be different."
"Do you think Abram will be alright with that?" Izak asked.
Audri shrugged. "Probably not. He seemed to really be interested in Evos, and I'm guessing Evos will be going with you, right?" she asked the last part while looking at Tavia.
"That's correct," Evos said. "I would like to get the chance to see what kind of fighting style the Martials here use, and Tavia will need me there as well."
"Not a Renegarde for sure," Izak muttered.
Izak really did spend too much time around her family. The Renegardes had their own style of swordplay, and Septia often touted it as the best in Marquest. Watching how others fought wasn't encouraged unless it was to study an enemy. Though Tavia's training might not have been as throughout, or gone on as long as that of her siblings, she was still competent enough with a sword to handle herself in a fight.
"Magic sword," Tavia said.
Izak's face flushed and he scowled again. Tavia grinned. This was kind of fun.
"Just make sure you have your vox on and nearby," Audri said. "We'll contact you if something comes up."
Tavia nodded. She would only be gone for a of couple hours at most. There would barely be any time for something to happen, but she would be listening for a call anyway.