Pain split the back of her head as she slammed into the wall, and for a moment, Tavia stared out at the dark walls and ceiling surrounding her without enough focus to even realize she’d somehow ended up upside down. After a second, her body tilted to the side and she slumped over, sliding down the wall that had momentarily supported her body. As she lay on the ground, head throbbing, and a heavy weariness settling into her limbs, she scowled up at the dark ceiling high above.
“I am never going to be able to do this,” she groaned.
Her voice echoed throughout the vast chamber, but there was no one present to respond to her words. She was alone in the wide space, it was just her and the faintly glowing sword that had tumbled from her grasp when she slammed into the wall.
The walls of the chamber were hard and solid, a fact her head knew far too well now, but despite the austere blackness of the walls and the lack of even the barest hint of natural sunlight, the chamber was lit by a severe blue light. The source wasn’t anything as mundane as a lamp or light fixture; the walls themselves were engraved with countless spell-sets, all stacked on top of each other and far beyond Tavia’s limited capability to decipher. The engravings themselves were glowing cyan blue, the color of Althier — the color of magic — as if the raw form of the substance was flowing through the channels etched into the walls. Though they probably hadn’t been intended as the primary light source by whoever created this space, they served to light the chamber well enough for a lone young woman to practice in private.
“It’s like an exercise in futility,” she said, her voice carrying through the darkness.
Though Tavia was alone, her words didn’t go unheard. A soothing feeling rose up from the recesses of her mind, like an afterthought gaining strength. Mixed in with the soothing was the feeling of being gently chided as if she was a spoiled child. Tavia made a face, but the message was delivered loud and clear. She stood up, suppressing a groan as she rubbed the back of her head and retrieved the sword that had skittered away across the stone-like floor that was just as black as the walls.
With a broad blade as wide as her hand, the sword should have been too heavy for a young woman of her slender build to lift with ease, but there were a myriad of strange things about the Ageless Sword, and the way it fit perfectly in Tavia’s hand, both in shape and weight, was the least of them. The sword itself was made of alther in its darkest, most unrefined state, the same as the substance making up the walls around her. Alther was malleable, almost like metal, but had the texture and consistency of stone, a material uniquely suited to holding Althier. The sword had clearly been through some hard times, the edges of the near-black blade were dull and the layers of engravings covering both sides of the blade lacked the hard, crisp edges of a newly inscribed spell-set. The leather-wrapped grip was simple and practical, but beneath that simplicity were traces of ornamentation that had been worn away by time.
When Tavia hefted the sword, the faint glow surrounding the blade, wrapped around it like an extension of the edge, grew in strength until the intensity of the cyan light was almost too much to bear. It was nice to see one of them was feeling motivated.
She turned to face the other side of the room, staring at a point in the distance with all her might. Her eyes, too dark to easily call brown, were narrowed in focus, and her rounded features were twisted in concentration. At eighteen, she was unfortunately done growing, not even reaching five feet and five inches. Her dark hair, tied up in a tail for convenience had come halfway loose, waves of thick hair spilling free and cascading to the middle of her back. She wore a plain outfit, just a shirt and pair black shorts, but they were covered by a long, black coat made of a silky material that seemed to shimmer with every movement she made. The edges of the coat — the cuffs, collar, hood, and bottom — all ended in the same vibrant cyan glow that surrounded the Ageless Sword. Rather than decoration, it was as if the black fabric was fraying into a blue light, revealing that the origins of the coat were far from mundane. Despite its ostentatious looks, the coat had several practical uses, and Tavia was currently making use of its substantial defensive properties to protect herself from anything worse than an aching head.
Exposed by the way she had chosen to wear her hair, her ears came to delicate points, hardly noticeable in the dim light, but striking enough she preferred to wear her hair down to hide them. Her complexion was a dusky gray, but in the cyan light cast by the walls on the swords, she seemed almost monochrome, as if all color had been washed out of her skin.
“One more time,” she said. “I’ll give it one last shot, but if I hit the wall again, I’m never forgiving you.”
Denial this time, strong and insistent, filtered through her mind. They weren’t her feelings, but she understood them intuitively. Deny all he might, Evos was the one who’d forced her into this, and she was certainly going to hold him responsible for the lump already growing on the back of her head.
Tavia took a deep breath, taking in not just air but Althier as well, channeling it into her body where it twisted and burned for just a single moment before the Ageless Sword in her hands siphoned it away.
The Althier settled into the sword, control of the magical energy passed along to it — and Evos — as Tavia braced herself for the Jump.