Cold hands and blank faces, the kind of hands that didn't care if they hurt her, and the kinds of faces that didn't care if she was scared, were the images most vivid from her childhood. Locked inside a lab and never allowed to leave, those two things had been her unchanging scenery. A continuous series of tests they at first said were meant to help her—meant to fix her. Tavia never knew what exactly the tests were for, but she knew they weren't for her sake, and eventually the pretense had been dropped. No one was coming to get her, and there had been no need to keep up the act.
She understood the pain in Ikarios's eyes, the grim expressions on the two Wardens faces. She knew what it was like to be at the mercy of people who only saw you as a test subject. To almost forget your own name because the only thing anyone calls you by is a number. Tavia understood better than anyone. Lost in a daze of memories, she listened as Audri took her place in the conversation.
"What about Dieos?" Audri interrupted. "Are you going to say he should be allowed to take over Savin's body and run free?"
Ikarios looked back at Savin. The man was half -awake and watching them with heavy eyes. He didn't look as if he quite understood what was happening, but he was listening.
"Dieos is dangerous," Ikarios said. "That doesn't give the humans the right to experiment on him. That's why I brought him here. But I don't intend to just let him roam free."
"He's already waking up," Audri said, waving a hand towards the bound man. "Do you plan on just keeping him tied up? Abram said he was keeping Savin asleep so Dieos couldn't take over his body."
"You don't really think he was telling the truth, do you?" Ikarios asked.
His cold words shocked Tavia out of her stupor.
"What?" she asked.
"That man's son didn't accidentally become Dieos's vessel. He's too old for that. Most Demis prefer vessels no older than twenty or so; the human souls inside them are too strong to overcome otherwise, and Dieos would never have risked losing to a vessel." Ikarios said, as he glared up at Audri. "No, Abram planted Dieos inside the body of his own son, and when his son proved too strong for Dieos to take over, he put them into a deep sleep until he could find a fix for it."
Ikarios turned his gaze on Tavia, and the anger faded. It was hard to read those dark eyes, but his expression was earnest, and the way his ears trembled betrayed his nervousness. Tavia gritted her teeth.
"Even if you...say that," Tavia said, "you hurt people. You hurt Izak."
"Izak?" Ikarios asked. He cocked his head to the side. "You mean that young man guarding Savin in the lab?"
"Who else would it be?" Audri said. "Since you attacked, he hasn't woken up."
Ikarios took a step back and looked at Savin. When he looked back at Tavia and Audri, there was a frown on his face.
"I can't put people to sleep for long periods of time like that," he said. "Maybe if I stayed beside them, but from a distance like this...?" Ikarios shook his head. "No, I did nothing to your friend other than make it so he could not interfere with me while I was in the lab. It wasn't something that would cause him any kind of long term harm though. I said it before, and I'll say it again," he pointed at Tavia, "I'm not your enemy, and I've no desire to make you into one."
Not her enemy? He had attacked her twice, and broken into her home. If they weren't enemies, then what were they? But Ikarios had had plenty of opportunities to kill Tavia, and even now, what was the point in explaining all of this to her? She was in the heart of the Wardens' base, and though she'd found the very person she had come here to find, Ikarios held the clear advantage here. Did that mean he really wanted to convince Tavia to believe him?
Tavia and Audri looked at each other. Audri bit her lip and looked away. If it wasn't Ikarios, then wasn't there only one other possible culprit? Tavia looked at Savin. His breathing was still deep and his eyes still glassy; whatever he had been given to keep him asleep was still working its way out of his system. All of the evidence was right there in front of Tavia.
She should have known better. She should have known not to trust an Artificer. They were liars to the very end.
"So what do you plan to do if Dieos wins over Savin?" Tavia asked.
"That's where you come in," he said. "If it really is Dieos who wakes up, it'll be you who takes care of him."
"Take...care of...?" Tavia asked.
He didn't mean what she thought he meant, did he?
"It shouldn't come to that though," Ikarios said, ignoring Tavia's distress. "Abram hasn't been able to do anything to his son yet. For now, I just need you to not interfere."
"Tavia," Audri said. "Didn't Abram give you that thing?"
Ikarios's eyes narrowed.
"That thing?" he asked.
Tavia had been carrying the vial with her from the very beginning. She had intended to use it at the first chance she got. She was just supposed to splash it on Savin, simple enough, but now, Tavia didn't think it was all that simple.
She pulled the vial out of her pocket and looked at it. How many lies had Abram told? He had wanted her to bring this here, but why? Had he thought she wouldn't actually listen to Ikarios? That might be. After all, he probably thought she would listen to Evos, and Evos hated Ikarios.
Ah, Evos. Tavia hadn't forgotten about him, but she hadn't been thinking about him either. What would he say in this situation? Tavia's fingers tightened around the vial in her hand.
"What's that?" Ikarios asked.
"Abram made this," Tavia said. "He told us it would make it so Savin could overpower Dieos."
Ikarios's eyes narrowed as he looked at the vial in Tavia's hand.
"I'm not an Artificer," Ikarios said. "I can't tell you exactly what would happen to a human if you gave them that, but I do know it's not normally wise to use that much raw Althier on a living person who isn't a Demi."
"That asshole," Audri spat. "He completely deceived us."
She was fuming, her mouth turning down in a violent frown and her fingers clenching into fists before immediately releasing and clenching again. Audri's aura sparked, causing silver light to dance across her gauntlets. She wasn't channeling though, so the light disappeared almost as soon as it appeared.
"Hand that over," Ikarios said, reaching out his hand.
Tavia began to hand over the vial, but then hesitated. Panic, worry, fear. They filled her mind, making her unable to think of anything else. She knew where those emotions stemmed from. Evos had finally decided to make his opinion known.
"Right," Tavia said in a soft voice for herself and Evos to hear.
Relief, a mix of her feelings and his, washed over her, and she gave a small smile. Despite the alien feeling of having someone else's emotions in her mind, it was reassuring to have him back.
"What are you going to do with this?" Tavia asked, holding the vial in front of her.
"I won't use it on Dieos of course," Ikarios said with a grim smile. "I have no interest in living in the same world as him. But if this was made to help Dieos take control of his vessel, I'm sure it will work for other Demis as well."
Ikarios held his hand out again. So he didn't plan to use it on Savin and Dieos, but he'd be willing to use it on another human? Tavia looked at it and then lowered the vial to her side.
"I don't...think I can hand this over," she said.
Ikarios scowled and without any warning, Tavia was struck from behind. The blow wasn't strong enough to knock her out, but she fell to her knees, and the vial tumbled from her hand. Ikarios scooped it up, holding it before him with an arrogant smile on his face.
He watched Tavia struggle to her feet, and that was why he didn't even notice the shimmer of silver light leaping forward to sweep him off his feet. Audri had Ikarios pinned to the ground before anyone knew what had happened.
"Don't move," she shouted to the two Wardens standing near the door.
They froze, watching as Audri used a single hand to keep Ikarios down. Tavia reached down to grab the vial, but it wasn't in Ikarios's hand. She pulled her hand back with a jerk. Where was it? She searched the room, and she wasn't the only one either. Audri's head was scanning the room around them.
"Savin," Audri said.
Tavia's gaze shifted to the man in the chair. The vial had rolled up right next to his foot. It was unbroken, but Savin lifted his foot and set it on top of the vial. He gave his audience a manic smile, and then crushed the vial beneath his bare foot.