Tavia couldn't meet Ikarios's eyes. He stared up at her, saying nothing. Was he trying to read her mind? If he was, whatever he found there didn't please him. He scowled and looked away and then took several steps, moving away from her side to cross the wooden floor and stop before the door. He stood his with his back to her, shoulders drooping. When he was like this, he just looked like a lost child. For a moment, he just stood like that, as if waiting.
The house was silent.
He took a deep, rattling breath, and looked over his shoulder at Tavia and then looked once again at Jaiden. He shook his head, and then turned away once again. As he stepped over the threshold, he paused once more, this time without looking back.
"I'll be waiting for you," he said.
He'd be waiting forever. She didn't say that, but it was on the tip of her tongue, choked back only by the dark pit of guilt swimming in her stomach. He left without waiting for an an answer, and as the front door clicked closed, Tavia looked away.
"—out you think it over?"
The sudden intrusion of a voice cut through Tavia's thoughts and she looked up, her eyes wide. Jaiden blinked at her, and then frowned.
"I know this isn't what you were expecting," he said with a small laugh, "but I don't think it's that bad of an option."
"Um..." Tavia's thoughts stumbled on their way to her mouth.
Ikarios's conversation had driven out all thought of what she had been discussing with Jaiden. She scrambled to remember as Jaiden watched her, a patient smile on his face. He'd been offering her something, but what was it? After a moment, her thoughts straighted themselves out, and she That was it, he had offered her a position as an Artificer on his team.
"I—" Tavia began and then hesitated.
Jaiden smiled and tilted his head at a gentle angle.
"What do you say?" he asked.
Tavia tried to push all thought of Ikarios and Dieos out of her mind. She wouldn't think about Izak, or the other people she was sure were trapped within RIOAR. She kept her focus on Jaiden, trying to process what he had said.
"You...said I was brave?" she asked.
In her desperate search to find something to say, it was the one thing that stuck out from their conversation before Ikarios had interrupted. Even as she said the words, Tavia winced. Of all things she could have picked to distract him from her inability to answer right away, it was something like that?
"Well, you could have run away—you probably should have run away, but you didn't. Yo stayed and fought," the prince said with a shrug and a smile, "even though you looked like you didn't have a clue what you were doing."
It was hard to say that was really a compliment. It sounded more like recklessness than bravery. Tavia grimaced as she thought back to why she'd chosen to stay.
"There were people there," she said. "I couldn't just...run. I was the only one who could fight. But, I lost in the end, and someone else saved us. So, I don't know why I even bothered."
Jaiden shook his head.
"I guess you don't know, because you didn't wake up until everything was settled," he said. "Help arrived just after you lost consciousness. The two Althiests who ran away did call call for help, and the Shields were fortuitously close by. You may not have beaten the Scarver, but you bought enough time for them to reach us and in the end, they were able to subdue the Scarver. If you hadn't fought?" Jaiden shrugged. "Well, who knows what could have happened?"
Tavia looked down at the floor. They had been saved because she had fought? It hadn't been for nothing? She looked at her hand and slowly closed it into a fist. She took a deep breath, and then looked up at the stairs. What would Evos say? Did he want her to fight too? Did he think she could?
"No one says you can't be afraid, and it's not like if you mess up anyone is going to be upset," Jaiden said. Tavia flinched and looked up. "You'll be learning something new, and we'll all understand if something goes wrong, but don't you think it might be worth a try?"
Oh, he was just talking about his offer to become an Artificer. For a moment, Tavia had wondered if he knew what she was thinking about. Ikarios was the one with the mind reading power though, and he wasn't here anymore. She'd let him go alone. What was he going to do without—
"Tavia?" Jaiden asked. "Are you alright?"
She looked up at him, and chased away her regrets about Ikarios. She needed to give the prince an answer. He made a compelling case, but becoming an Artificer? That was—
She took a deep breath. If she did this, she could escape this place, but that would mean joining the ranks of the likes of Abram and those other Artificers who had done cruel things. Not just to her, but to Ikarios and the other Wardens.
"I don't...know," she said.
"Yeah," Jaiden said. "I thought you might say that."
He wasn't angry. Actually he sounded relieved. He gave her a firm nod and folded his arms across his chest.
"At least you didn't reject me outright. I don't think I could face Alvis if that happened," he said.
Tavia gave him an awkward smile in reply, shrugging her shoulders.
Jaiden looked up, above Tavia's head to the clock at the end of the foyer, and grimaced. His blue eyes widened in surprise, and he looked back at Tavia.
"It's this late?" he muttered. "I...haven't been here that long, have I?"
Tavia shook her head, as if to deny it, but Jaiden was missing at least few minutes in his memory after the visit from Ikarios. He looked back up and scowled at the clock, before looking down again.
"I'm sorry to run," he said. He fished his vox from his pocket, and made a few taps on the screen. A small beep emanated from her own vox. "Here, that's my contact ID. Let me know when you decide."
"Alright," Tavia said.
It was a little overwhelming, and she wasn't sure what she was supposed to say or think. Her thoughts swirled, jumping between Ikarios's words and Jaiden's offer. What was she supposed to do about any of this?
She showed the prince to the door, not that they had far to go, but manners were manners. He muttered a brief apology about not saying farewell to Septia, and then left. Tavia closed the door behind him and took a deep breath. His words rang in her ears, stirring the dark feelings settled in her chest.
If you hadn't fought, who knows what would have happened?