"Ah, this isn't good," Tavia muttered as the Scarver bared its fangs at her.
The collapsed examiner wasn't moving. Probably out cold, and that meant the Scarver before her was uncontrolled, and it looked angry. It turned to the only people in the arena still on their feet; Tavia, and the two Althiests a short distance away from her. Perhaps the two targets were more tempting, or maybe it just thought they were the biggest threat, but the Scarver turned its dark, multifaceted eyes on the Althiests, and snarled, a wheezing sound half between and hiss and growl. Globules of Althier flew from its mouth, and one of the Althiests let out a small squeal. He dropped his grimoire and darted out of the arena. The other Althiest, betrayed and left behind by her fellow, trembled where she stood, backing slowly away from the creature. After only a moment, she whimpered and followed the other Althiest.
This just went from bad to worse. What were they thinking, running away? If the Scarver wasn't stopped, the Martials, and even the examiner would fall prey to it. Even if they were to call the Shields right away, the Shields weren't really equipped to fight a Scarver; they didn't have the training either, but most importantly, how long would it take for the Shields to get here? Five minutes? How long would it take for the Scarver to devour the people here? Less than five minutes?
Tavia looked up at the stands as the Scarver shook in rage at losing its prey. There were those who debated the intelligence of the creatures—they were clearly more intelligent than the insects they resembled, but how much more was the question.
The prince and his friend were nowhere to be seen. No, that wasn't right, they were still there, she could just barely see them. They weren't moving though, had they been hit by one of the Scarver's Althier attacks?
"This just gets better and better," Tavia said.
The Scarver hissed at her again. It raised its front feet and then lunged at Tavia. She ran to the side, and narrowly missed being squashed by the Scarver as it landed on the spot she had been standing on.
What, she wasn't worth using a blast of Althier on? No, she shouldn't get annoyed; this was a good thing, right? Getting hit by that attack would be enough to take her down too, and then there wouldn't be anyone to keep the Scarver from finishing off its already stunned prey.
Tavia glanced at the sword in her hand. When had she decided she was going to fight the Scarver? Evos sent the questioning thought her way as she stared at the snarling creature. She hadn't decided to fight, she just knew there wasn't any better choice. Why did she keep ending up in situations like this? This was fighting a Scarver, alone. This was way over her head.
Indignation from Evos, and Tavia stifled a chuckle. He was saying she wasn't alone, right?
She took a deep breath, and using the memory of her fight from yesterday and her brief practices from earlier today, she drew in Althier from the surrounding air. The Althier flowed through her and into the Ageless Sword, and as the blade flickered to life, Tavia felt the spells on the sword giving her strength.
The Scarver swung its tail around at her, alerted to danger by the shifting currents of Althier in the air. The antennae on its head were used for perceiving changes in the concentration of Althier, and it was minutely aware of even the smallest changes.
She leapt back, but the tail was longer than she'd thought and the very tip was on a collision course with her shoulder. She raised the Ageless Sword and used the flat of the blade to block the armored tail. She used her free hand to support the blade, but the speed and strength behind the creature's strike was too much. Tavia was sent tumbling through the air. She landed several feet away, and picked herself up, watching the Scarver carefully.
It wasn't about to let her recover, and it swung a dagger like front claw in her direction. The range was shorter than the tail, and it was easier to dodge, but the Scarver followed up with an attack from the other front leg. Between the tail and the two claws striking at her, Tavia couldn't go on the offensive, and she couldn't even get close enough to the Scarver to try.
Did she really need to do anything but defend? The two Althiests who had escaped had surely called the Shields, right? She bit her lip. They had been panicking, so maybe they had, maybe they hadn't. Besides, there was a part of her that couldn't stand the thought of waiting for the Shields. She could do this. She had the Ageless Sword with her now. She could do this. She would do this.
Another swipe from the tail, but Tavia saw it coming, and this time she ducked underneath it rather than block. The Scarver screamed at her, the sound filling the arena with its echoes. It swung at her with both front feet, and she stepped to the side, ready to counter. She stepped in, toward the Scarver's left side and brought the blade up. The glowing edge caught on the exoskeleton, and using her magic-enhanced strength, she tore through the leg.
The Scarver howled, backing away and shaking the stump of its severed leg. Althier dripped from its mouth, staining the arena floor in toxic cyan. She would need to watch her step.
She charged forward, but the Scarver wasn't having it. It lashed out with its tail, the movement too fast to track with her eyes, and Tavia took the full blow. She grunted as it tossed her across the arena floor and she slid across the dirt.
She lay in the dirt for a moment. She just couldn't get close enough. What if she tried that Jump thing again? It hadn't worked too well against Meridian, but she hadn't been trying to do it on purpose. Maybe if she was focused on it, it would work better? It was worth a shot. She just needed to get to the creature's belly, the exoskeleton would be weaker there, and with the Ageless Sword, Tavia should be able to cut through it.
"Let's try that Jump thing," she said.
Alarm, followed by surprise and confusion replied to her words. Well that wasn't reassuring, but after a moment, the agitated emotions disappeared, replaced by agreement. Evos needed to learn to keep his unnecessary thoughts to himself, because he was making her more nervous than she was already. She didn't need him to tell her this was a bad idea. She already knew it was.
Tavia stood and stared at the Scarver. It had turned away from her, searching the arena for something to eat. It probably assumed it had stunned her long enough to not need to be further concerned, but she was sure it would react the moment she moved.
She closed her eyes and tried to remember the feeling of Jumping, the way the world fell away for just a moment and shifted beneath her. She had to make sure it shifted just the right amount. The Ageless Sword flickered, and then the world jerked around her. Tavia opened her eyes, but there was nothing to see in this place between places, and tried to imagine moving towards the Scarver. It was like playing darts blindfolded and trying to hit a target the size of a coin—it wasn't a very precise feeling.
The world returned, almost blinding her with a resurgence of color and sound. The Jump had worked, and she was right beside the Scarver, within its six legs, but even before she could bring the sword up for an attack, the Scarver shook its body. It hunkered amongst its legs and rammed into Tavia. It wasn't a strong blow, but the unexpected shock caused her to lose her grip on the Ageless Sword. It fell to the ground and slid out of reach. She scrambled to grab it, the strength from the sword's spells already leaving her body. Like this, if she was hit by the Scarver it would do more than just send her tumbling and leave her with some bruises. The Althier she had been channeling swirled in her body, stagnating and choking within her, burning her nerves and muscles. Tavia gasped in pain, but didn't stop reaching for the sword.
The Scarver backed up two steps and opened its mouth, and before Tavia could reach the sword, it roared at her. A dense wall of Althier crushed down on top of her. This close to the Scarver, the Althier was at near deadly levels, and she huddled up, drawing her legs up and covering her face with her arms, but the burning sensation, the dizziness and nausea, and the pain she associated with Althier poisoning didn't appear. After the roar ended, Tavia was still conscious and breathing; she uncurled from her position and looked up at the Scarver. It seemed just as confused as she was, but it recovered faster. It brought its tail around, and with a heavy thud, struck Tavia on the side, tossing her away once again.
But this time, her world turned dark and silent before she even hit the ground.