With sedate movements, as if he didn't feel an danger at all, Abram moved around Tavia and Ikarios to come and stand beside Dieos. Standing together, their familial resemblance was obvious, but the man at Abram's side wasn't his son any longer. It was Dieos, and his glowing eyes destroyed any normalcy the image might have had.
"How did you get in here?" Ikarios asked.
"It wasn't too difficult to keep tabs on our mutual friend here," Abram replied with a gesture to Tavia. "And then I just needed to wait for one of your lackeys to leave so I could see how to get inside. That Meridian woman was quite accommodating once I eliminated a few of the people with her."
Ikarios's small body shook, and Tavia tried not to think about whether Audri was safe or not. Audri was strong
"Why are you doing this?" Tavia asked. "Didn't you say Dieos was dangerous? But you...you lied to us. What are you after?"
"Of course I lied," Abram said with a small chuckle. "Though, things didn't end up quite like I hoped, this result is good enough as a start."
"Do you really think you'll be able to use Dieos for anything?" Ikarios asked.
Abram glanced over at Dieos. The Demi's stoic expression hadn't shifted even a little.
"The results I'll get from studying him are worth a few sacrifices, don't you think?" Abram asked.
"There's so much to learn from a Demi of his stature."
"Enough," Dieos said. "Why fight it Ikarios? Just what do you plan to do here? You aren't a fighter. You never have been."
"We stand a better chance of stopping you than anyone up there," Ikarios said as he pointed above him.
Tavia had almost forgotten they were underground, but if Ikarios was pointing up, then was he saying Tavia was the best chance at stopping this monster? Her fingers shook as she tried to hold the hilt of the Ageless Sword tighter, but that was an unreasonable expectation no matter how she looked at it.
Abram opened his mouth to say something, but Dieos held up his hand. With a scowl, Abram shut his mouth and took a step back, hiding behind Dieos.
"It doesn't look like your friend agrees with you," Dieos said.
Dieos was cold and serious, and as his red eyes fell on Tavia, she shivered. She lifted the tip of the Ageless Sword up, towards Dieos. Evos filled her with tension and worry, but also encouragement, as if he actually thought she stood some kind of a chance.
The red-eyed Demi tilted his head to the side and then sighed.
"It's always like this," he said. "I suppose you won't learn unless I prove you have no hope."
A mighty pressure fell on Tavia as Dieos finished speaking. It was like being trapped deep underwater, the weight crushing down on her. Tavia struggled to stand and breathe. Dieos's eyes flashed again, the red so bright it was almost blinding, but this time, nothing happened.
Dieos sighed again, his expression twisting into a glower.
"That black coat," he said. "Getting in the way every time; the Ageless Sword truly is vexing."
The coat? He was upset about it? Tavia resisted the urge to look down at it, but she could feel the soft weight of it on her shoulders. Was it protecting her?
Agreement from Evos.
"Well, even if I can't touch you myself, there are other ways to deal with you," Dieos said.
Power swirled through the room and then moved upwards like a sluggish beast. It had to be Althier—there was no other force that could perform magic—and from what Tavia understood, even Demis, logic defying beings that they were, still used Althier. But, it didn't feel like Althier. It felt stiff and harsh, like it was dying. Maybe... was it corrupted Althier? But corrupted Althier shouldn't have been able to be used for magic either.
The ceiling above them began to tremble, and small shards of the black stone fell to the ground, shattering in fragments as they stuck the ground.
"What?" Tavia asked as she looked up.
"Are you planning on bringing down this entire place?" Ikarios asked. "That'll kill you too."
Dieos didn't reply; he was too focused on forcing his power into the ceiling, but behind him, Abram was watching the ceiling with a tight expression on his pale face. Tavia grimaced. He could manipulate time, right? So did that mean he was trying to decay the ceiling? But it was made of stone, and that would take decades, maybe centuries before it collapsed. He was making that much time pass in mere moments?
If Dieos was able to get to the surface, if he got into Edelheiss unchecked, what would happen? If he could make stone crumble, what would he do to the skytowers? To the people inside them?
The city wouldn't be able to function if Dieos was set free.
A chill settled over Tavia's shoulders. She had to stop him. She couldn't just let Dieos get away and hurt other people. Ikarios had stopped her from escaping for a reason, maybe he didn't care about the people above them, but he seemed to care about stopping Dieos, and since Tavia had the Ageless Sword, maybe she really was the best person to fight Dieos.
Tavia raced forward, her sudden movement startling both Ikarios and Dieos. Ikarios let out a small cry, and Dieos just turned his attention to Tavia. He stared at her for a moment, and then looked up at the ceiling.
Tavia followed his gaze by reflex, and it was lucky she did. An Ikarios sized chunk of stone fell from the ceiling, and Tavia stopped her charge, halting her feet just in time to avoid getting crushed. The stone shattered as it struck the ground, cracking the floor and leaving behind a crater.
She grimaced and took two steps back to avoid the now unsteady ground and charged at Dieos from the side this time. A sigh, emanating from her target, accompanied her renewed movements. He followed her figure with his gaze, his movements slow and methodical.
Tavia was a single step away from him, and she raised the Ageless Sword high over her head, but as his eyes met hers, she hesitated for a moment before bringing the sword down. Dieos frowned in that moment, and then Tavia was forced backwards by the sheer pressure of the corrupted Althier building up around him. The energy tainted the air with red, and as she struggled to regain her footing, Dieos pointed in her direction.
The red pressure shot towards Tavia, the force enough to tear her from the ground and fling her through the air and onto a couch. She let out a grunt as she flipped over the couch and landed on the ground behind it.
"Tavia!" Ikarios called out.
She heard his footsteps begin and then halt. She struggled to right herself, her chest aching and pounding from the blow.
"Out of the way Ikarios," Dieos said. "You're an old Demi, like myself; I have no desire to waste my energy on you."
Tavia grabbed the back of the couch and used it to pull herself up. Her chest heaved as she tried to regain her strength.
Dieos flexed his hand once again, looking down at his fingers. There was a slight trembling in his hand, and his face was growing paler and more gaunt with every passing moment.
"This vessel is not ideal," he said. "But it has been so long since I have had one, it will have to do."
"Then why don't you give up and try to find another more ideal vessel?" Ikarios asked.
Abram was scowling at Dieos, but he kept still and silent as Ikarios spoke. Tavia couldn't see Ikarios's face from where she stood, but she could hear the venom and tension in his voice.
"We both know an ideal body is nearly impossible for me to find," Dieos replied. He spread his hands out. "I just need to stretch a bit after my long sleep. Once I'm accustomed to this vessel, it won't hold be back."
The way he said it, Tavia was sure his version of stretching was not the harmless kind.
"I won't let you—" Ikarios started to snarl, but Dieos's eyes shone with malicious intent and Ikarios choked back his words.
"I'm curious to see if you can stop me," he said. "But now isn't the time."
The ceiling shook, causing the walls and floor to tremble as well. Ikarios lost his footing, falling to one knee, and Tavia only managed to remain standing by grabbing onto the back of the couch.
Stone tumbled from the ceiling, forming a deadly curtain of falling debris between Ikarios and Dieos. Ikarios backed away, holding up an arm to protect his face from the dust.
The shaking stopped and the stone ceased to fall. As the dust settled, Tavia hopped over the back of the couch to stand beside Ikarios. When she could see again, Dieos and Abram were nowhere to be seen.