As the glass vial shattered, viscous Althier burst forth, coating the man's pants and feet. His aura flickered, a golden-green, and the Althier began to glow as if it was being used to cast a spell. But the cyan glow quickly darkened, becoming a sickly scarlet. Savin's aura flashed with a violence Tavia had never seen in an aura, and then, like the Althier, it began to change color.
Savin screamed as if he was burning alive as his aura became the deep red of blood. Brilliant scarlet light surrounded his body, and his voice tore through the room.
Audri leapt to her feet, ready for a fight, but she was shaking as she watched the writhing Savin. Tavia was drawn in by chilling sight before her, too absorbed in the sight to even remember to draw the Ageless Sword. Evos's fear encroached on the back of her mind, sending chills down her back and mixing with the dread already making her heart pound.
Ikarios stood and faced Savin as the man's body began to shake, twisting within the ropes binding his body.
"This is bad," Ikarios said, backing away from Savin.
Savin's aura flashed one final time, a blinding red light filled the room, and then his screaming and shaking stopped. His expression was still and serene. Tavia couldn't look away.
Savin opened his eyes. She didn't know what color they had been before, but now they were the same scarlet shade as his mutated aura. There were no whites to his eyes, and they glowed, as if they were lit from within. It wasn't a solid red, there were darker and lighter sections moving in concentric circles. It was mesmerizing, but a jolt of alarm from Evos made her look away.
The man in the chair smiled. It was smooth, like oil, and Tavia shivered.
"Dieos," Ikarios said. He looked over his shoulder at the others in the room and said with cold urgency, "Run."
"Wha—?" Tavia began.
Before she could even finish her question, a heavy force pushed her back, flinging her against the wall. Audri struck the wall beside Tavia, and Ikarios slammed into Audri's chest. The two Wardens, already close to the wall, weren't as affected by whatever power had thrown everyone, and Meridian was back on her feet in a moment. She flung the door open, and grabbed Ikarios's arm. She threw the boy through the doorway, and then followed immediately behind.
The other Warden was next out, followed by Audri. Tavia was last, but as she turned to shut the door behind her, she caught sight of Savin—no, Dieos—standing up. Scraps of rope littered the ground around him. She had a feeling shutting the door wasn't going to be any help at all.
"What was that?" Audri asked once the door was shut.
The Wardens who had been eating at the table scrambled to their feet, faces pale as they realized something had gone wrong. Ikarios ignored them, staring at the door behind Tavia with a scowl.
"That was just a greeting," he said. "What we're afraid of comes next."
Ikarios looked at Meridian. "Evacuate the Wardens," he said. "Don't let anyone stay behind."
"What about you, sir?" she asked.
"I'll stay behind, buy you the time you need."
"What about us?" Audri asked.
He frowned at Audri, and then shook his head. "You go with them," He turned to Tavia nest. "You stay with me."
"What?" Tavia and Audri asked in perfect unison.
"You can't stand against someone like Dieos," Ikarios said as he turned his dark eyes on Audri. Her lip curled into a snarl, but before she could protest, he added, "Tavia has the Ageless Sword, she'll be fine."
Fine? She would be fine? There was no way that was the case. An inhuman pressure was rising up from the door behind her, like something was about to spill over, and her instincts were screaming for her to run. That pressure wasn't anything a human could stand against, and how would having the Ageless Sword change that?
"This isn't up for discussion," Ikarios snapped at Audri. "If I have to force you to leave I will, but that would only make what I have to do here harder."
Audri's wide eyes stared at Tavia, as if she couldn't think of anything to say. Meridian grabbed Audri's shoulders and dragged her away. Tavia took a step forward to follow them, but Ikarios caught hold of her arm.
"I can't do this alone," he said.
His dark eyes stared up at her. He was being serious. Completely serious. Why was that more terrifying than the monster in the other room?
Tavia grasped the hilt of the Ageless Sword, and with shaking arms drew the blade. She held it before her and channeled. The edge of the blade flared into life and Ikarios nodded. They both turned to face the room Dieos was still hiding in.
The door flew from the hinges, tumbling through the air to land somewhere behind Tavia. Dieos wasn't visible, but something seeped from the room in his place. It made the air dense, muddled. It choked and curdled the space around them. Tavia panted for breath, but the air moved slowly, as if not responding to her breathing.
The world around her spun until Ikarios reached out and grabbed her arm again.
"Focus," he said. "Dieos can manipulate time. If you lose grip on your own time, he'll win."
How were you supposed to maintain a grip on time? Was that even something you could hold on to?
"It's no fun if you spoil the surprise," a smooth, cold voice said.
The man who had been Savin stepped through the doorway. He stopped just within the room, and looked about. His face was stiff and harsh, but the expression in his red eyes was boredom. Dieos lifted his hand and stared his palm, flexing his fingers with deliberate slowness.
"You aren't thinking of fighting me, are you?" he asked as he continued to stretch his body.
"I'm not letting you leave here," Ikarios said in a low voice.
"And what are you going to do to me?" Dieos asked. "We both know you can't even touch my mind."
Dieos turned his gaze to Tavia. Being the sole focus of that red-eyed stare was like being stared down by a hungry Scarver. Tavia shivered and held the Ageless Sword before her.
"Ah, I should have expected you would be here," Dieos said. "You look terrified though. You don't think someone like you can stop me, do you?"
"I—" Tavia's voice trembled even on the first word, but she didn't get to say any more than that.
"Don't be foolish," Dieos said. "An insect like you is nothing to me."
His eyes flashed, and the world around Tavia disconnected. She could see Dieos walking towards her, his steps calm and measured, but though Tavia raced to react, her motions were slow. Only, they weren't slow. She didn't feel slow at least, but Dieos wasn't moving fast either. It was as if the world around Tavia and the world around Dieos were moving at different speeds.
Was this what Ikarios had meant by manipulating time? How was she supposed to fight something like this? Her mind was filled with desperation; it was hard to separate her own feelings from Evos's. Wasn't there something she could do? Anything?
The Ageless Sword sparked with a cyan flash, blinding Tavia for a moment, and when she could see again, she was moving at the same pace as Dieos. Dieos halted his steps and grimaced as he stared at Tavia. She didn't know why, but she wasn't going to waste a moment.
Tavia reached out and grabbed Ikarios—they needed to get out of here. Like Dieos, he was staring at Tavia, but his expression was grim determination rather than the annoyance on Dieos's face.
Ikarios jerked his hand free of Tavia's grip, and that was when Tavia realized there was something strange about her arm. She hadn't been wearing long sleeves had she?
Tavia looked down at her body. A black coat, knee length with a simple button closure from waist to neck had appeared on her body. The cuffs of the sleeves glowed cyan, as did two sections of the coat on either side where the black fabric was cut away from the waist down. The fabric was smooth, like silk, but there was a slight tingle against her fingers. There was a hood—Tavia could feel its weight on her back, as well as see a slight glow from the edge of the hood.
"We can't run away," Ikarios said. "This is our best chance to stop him."
"How are we supposed to fight that?" Tavia asked, waving her hand at Dieos.
She wanted to ask about the coat. The look in Ikarios's eyes had been close to recognition, but for now she had bigger things to worry about than the appearance of a strange coat.
"Fight? You don't really think you can stop him, do you?" another voice joined the conversation.
Tavia looked over her shoulder. Abram was behind her, entering the room through the door she had originally arrived through. Looking far too calm for the situation, he surveyed the surroundings, a self-satisfied smile spreading across his face. Ikarios made a snarling noise when he saw the man, but Abram ignored him, looking Tavia over with disdain.
"Well, you really are full of surprises, aren't you?" he said.