"What are you doing here?" Tavia asked as Ikarios stopped before her. She looked at Jaiden," What did you do to him?"
Ikarios looked at Jaiden and then looked around the entryway. He took a few steps forward until he was standing before Tavia, positioned as he was trying to block off the prince.
"I've taken hold of anyone who could possibly interrupt us," Ikarios said. "That includes your nosy mother eavesdropping on you, and any nearby servants." Ikarios looked around. "For such a large place, you don't keep many, do you?"
"You didn't come here to ask me about domestic affairs, did you?"
"I know I said I'd contact you, but I didn't expect you would actually just go home and start entertaining royalty," Ikarios said. "Do you not understand how serious this is?" He crossed his arms, the frown on his face growing.
"What...what do you expect from me?" Tavia asked.
She looked down at the floor. Her right hand curled into a fist.
"You found him already?" she eventually asked.
It hadn't been that long since they lost Abram, just enough time for her to get back, really. Was that...thing already making a move?
Ikarios was silent, and Tavia looked up. He was staring at her, and then he turned his head away as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Dieos made it easy. He isn't even trying to hide from us. Haven't you seen any of the news?"
"The news?" she asked.
She hadn't. When would she have had the chance? Ikarios's frown deepened, and Tavia fished her vox out of her pocket. She connected to corvex and clicked on the news feed she normally watched on her vox.
Videos and images popped up in a projected illusion above the vox. Ikarios moved to stand beside her so he could see as well. Watching the images on a vox from the wrong side could be very disorientating.
Most of the pictures and videos were of the same thing. The views and methods of capture varied—aerial views of the city, as well images taken from a pedestrian's perspective—but they were all of the same subject; a familiar building surrounded by some kind of dome made of wavering scarlet light. There was no mistaking that building, it was undoubtedly RIOAR, and that scarlet light surrounding the building and its immediate surroundings was the same shade of red as the aura and Althier Dieos had made use of. Such a large amount of corrupted Althier wasn't normal, the cause could only be one thing.
According to the quick summary she read, the dome had appeared only a short time ago, but already it was apparent it was expanding. The entirety of RIOAR was already swallowed, and it was beginning to cross the street, encroaching on the nearby buildings, including the little cafe across the street which would soon be devoured by the red glow.
Recent images showed the Shields gathered at a safe distance, watching and evaluating the situation.
"What...is this?" Tavia asked as she watched the images before her.
"I told you he would just get stronger," Ikarios said.
"You said he would need a few days to regain his strength."
"Just how strong do you think he is?" he asked. "At full strength, Dieos will be able to control the time of this entire city."
"You mentioned that before, that he can manipulate time," Tavia said. "What does that really mean?"
"Dieos was once worshiped as a god. It's no surprise, and if I'm honest, he isn't the only Demi who's been treated as such. He is however, a little special. Even amongst the Demis, there are those who think he might actually be a god. He can stop time, reverse it, speed it up, or even erase it completely. All at his whim. The area of his influence is limited, but the area within that sphere of influence is entirely at his mercy."
Erase time? Did Ikarios mean he could make it as if something had never happened? What would it be like, trapped in a place where someone could just change the rules as he saw fit? Where the very end of the day wasn't even guaranteed to happen? How was anyone supposed to fight someone like that?
"Are you sure he isn't a god?" Tavia asked.
"Dieos is no more a god than I am," he said. "He may be absurdly powerful, but he's not beyond our reach. If he isn't stopped, he'll make this place an inescapable prison. No one will be able to escape from his grasp."
A prison? Dieos had already taken over RIOAR, and Tavia could only assume Abram was standing at his side. Did that mean...Was Izak still there? Was he trapped within that dome?
"And what do you expect me to do?" she asked.
"That red dome you see in those images?" Ikarios said. "That's the edge of Dieos's power. It's a barrier of stopped time. No one can pass through it."
He didn't sound as if he was finished, but Ikarios paused and looked over at the frozen Jaiden. He sighed and then looked back up at Tavia.
"The only thing that can break through is the Ageless Sword," he said. "The edge of the sword is made of pure Althier, and because that Althier is controlled by another Demi, it can cause a temporary tear in the barrier."
Ikarios didn't ask. His implication was obvious, but if it had been just a simple question of breaking the barrier for Ikarios, Tavia might not have needed to hesitate. That wasn't what he was really looking for though, and by the way his eyes narrowed as he waited for her answer, Tavia could tell they both knew what he wanted.
"I—" she began and then fell silent.
She looked down at her hand. She wanted to say she would help him, that she could help. But Tavia hadn't even been able to stand a chance against Dieos as his weakest. What did Ikarios expect her to do now that he was getting stronger? What did Tavia expect herself to do?
"Do you think you can just run away from this?" Ikarios asked. "If it wasn't for your actions, we wouldn't even be in this mess. You let that man do what he pleased, and now this is the result."
His tone was sharp. Had he been hiding his anger this entire time? It wasn't really a surprise that Ikarios blamed her, but his words cut deep.
"This entire city is going to die, and you'll be the one to blame," he snarled. "Are you really just going to sit here and watch as Dieos takes control of Edelheiss? I thought Evos had better judgment than this." Ikarios leaned forward as if trying to threaten Tavia, she didn't want to admit how well it was working. "What about your friend? Isn't he inside RIOAR? Do you plan to just abandon him?"
Tavia flinched but didn't deny the words. This might have been her fault, at least some of it, but not once had she managed to use the Ageless Sword the way it was meant to be used. She wasn't strong at all; she had learned that even more thoroughly since getting the sword. Tavia was just leaning on the sword, on Evos, like a crutch. She didn't have the power Ikarios was looking for.
"Please," Ikarios said. "Help me stop him."
Tavia's shoulders began to shake. Her mouth was dry and she could barely breathe.
"I can't," she finally said as she closed her eyes and shook her head. "I can't help you."