The Ageless Sword



Chapter 43: Their contest went through the night


Evos was waiting for Tavia, perched on the edge of the bed. He took one look at her face, and then smiled.

"I'm not sure what happened," he said, "but that's a good expression you have there."

She sighed, shaking her head, and gave him a brief explanation of the events he had missed. Upon hearing Ikarios had visited, his smile clouded up, but hearing he had left without causing any trouble erased the frown on his face.

"So," Evos said. "What now?"

Tavia didn't answer right away. She crossed the room and took a seat on the bed beside Evos. She leaned back on her hands and looked up, staring at the deep red fabric of the canopy above the bed.

"I still don't think I'm the best person for this," she said. "But I don't think Ikarios is wrong, at least not entirely. I'm sure there's someone else out there who would be better for this."

Tavia stared at Evos, gathering her thoughts, but he said nothing. Maybe he sensed she wasn't finished?

"But right now, I really am the only person you've got," she said with a self-deprecating smile." If I don't stop Dieos, there isn't anyone else who can, is there?"

Evos's expression was grim. Tavia had never seen him look at her like this, as if he was weighing her, judging her. Had she said something wrong? Was she wrong? No. She knew this was the right answer. She might not be the right choice, but she wasn't going to let that stop her. At least, she could say she did everything she could. She met Evos's gaze, staring back at him without looking away. She wanted to rescue Izak too, but this was about more than just him. This was about protecting her city and the people that lived here.

Evos grinned at Tavia.

"Took you long enough," he said.

"I'll stop Dieos and Abram, and I'll rescue Izak too," Tavia said.

She shivered as she spoke the words, even as hearing herself declare her intentions filled her with strength. Evos nodded.

There was a soft knock at the door. She turned to look at the door as it began to open without her saying anything. She leapt up and crossed to the doorway in a rush. There was a soft flash of light from the bed, and then the door swung open and Septia stepped into her room.

"What do you want?" Tavia asked, when she saw the disapproving frown on Septia's face.

"An Artificer?" Septia asked.

"You were listening?" Tavia asked, though she had already known her mother was listening in. Even if Ikarios hadn't told her, Tavia would have assumed she was.

She hadn't needed to ask, but the guilty flinch on her mother's face was worth it. Surprise and sadness filled her mind. That was from Evos? He could share his feelings even when they weren't in physical contact? But why was he upset?

"You can't be an Artificer," Septia said. She folded her arms and stared her daughter down.

Septia wasn't taller than Tavia. In fact, of the two, Tavia had just a little bit more height, but despite that, Septia could make Tavia feel so small. The look in her eyes, the slight creasing of the skin between her brows; Tavia hated those small things that made her feel as if she was still ten years old.

"Why not?" Tavia asked.

Her tone was harsh, and Evos was in the back of her mind, trying to soothe her. Tavia shook her head, trying not to let him distract her. This was a fair question.

"It's—" she stumbled over her words for just a moment, "A member of a Lyon house can't become an Artificer," Septia replied, her voice growing in volume. "Can you imagine what people would say if you become an Artificer? It's bad enough you're—"

Septia stopped herself, her face growing pale. Tavia stared at her mother in silence for a long moment while the woman looked away.

"It's bad enough I'm a cripple?" Tavia asked. "It's bad enough you hid me away from everything for four years? Are you afraid people will find out about that? That you eldest daughter is defective?"

"I have never called you a cripple," Septia's voice was taut and strained like a string about to snap.

"No, but you've thought it," Tavia said. Her hands shook, and she tried to still them by hiding them behind her back and clasping them tightly together. "I haven't even decided if I'll accept the prince's offer, but you're certainly helping me make that decision. Tell me, Mother, if being an Artificer isn't good enough, then what can I be?"

Septia gave a firm shake of her head. "You can't be an Artificer!"

Tavia gritted her teeth. Here she was, worrying about going off to fight a monster who could control time itself, and her mother could only think of her own reputation. What would Septia think if Tavia told her what she had been doing these last few days. Would she be proud? Would she be angry?

Tavia didn't know, and really, she didn't care. In that moment, the anger drained away, and what was left in its place was...nothing. She just didn't feel anything at all. Being angry was nothing but a waste of her time and energy.

"I don't care what you think," she said. "I'm going to get out of this house, and you can't stop me."
Tavia turned away from her mother. She grabbed the Ageless Sword off her bed and turned back to the door. Septia saw the sword in Tavia's hand. Her dark eyes narrowed as she moved her gaze from the sword back to Tavia's face.

"What do you plan on doing with that?" Septia asked.

"I have something I have to do."

She tried to move past her mother to the door, but Septia grabbed Tavia's shoulders.

"I don't know what you intend to do, but if you leave the house now, don't expect to be welcomed back," Septia said. "I won't stand to have you embarrass us."

Tavia froze, the words hitting her with more force than the Scarver's tail had. That was funny; she didn't care what her mother did or said, right? So then why...why did this hurt so much?

"I have never done anything to embarrass you," she choked out.

She met her mother's eyes. Staring into them, hoping to see some kind of regret there, but all she could find was anger. There was a bitter taste in her mouth, and a stinging in her eyes. Concern drifted from Evos into her mind, followed by support and faith.

"You can rest assured," Tavia said as she pulled herself free from her mother's grip, "no matter what I do, I'll make sure no one knows it has anything to do with you or this void-ridden family."

Septia gaped at Tavia, but if she had anything to say, Tavia didn't wait to hear it. Before Septia could recover, Tavia pushed her way out of the room, and stormed down the stairs, taking the steps two at a time just to get out faster.

With an aching chest, tight with a flood of emotions she left the house. As she slammed the front door closed behind her, she fought back the dark feelings trying to spill from her eyes. Her heart was pounding like she had just fought the Scarver all over again, but if anything, this had been the harder fight.

She didn't have time for this. She closed her eyes, focusing on the darkness behind her eyelids. She didn't have the energy to spare. She took a deep breath, and buried her feelings. They would have to wait until this was all over.


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