At Tavia’s firm words, Izak’s stiff expression relaxed and he nodded. His concern was touching, it really was, but she couldn’t live her entire life coddled like a fragile family heirloom. There were things she couldn’t do, but Tavia was here to learn about what she could do. Aura or not, there had to be a place she could belong, and it wasn’t back in that house.

“I get it, look, it’s just—“ Izak ran a hand through his hair and glanced over at Evos.

Evos stared back, and for a moment, the two men locked eyes, as if caught up in some unseen struggle. Tavia frowned and shook her head.

“Evos, can you give us some space?” she asked.

Crestfallen, he turned his silver eyes on Tavia, but he only hesitated a moment before nodding and moving away to stand out of easy earshot. Still standing on the courtyard path, they were all in the way of the crowd dispersing from the knoll in the center of the courtyard, so Tavia and Izak stepped out of the way, moving closer to one of the buildings while Evos took a seat at a nearby table, staring their direction with a relentless force.

“I don’t like him,” Izak muttered. “What’s his relationship with you? Is he your boyfriend or something?”

Tavia took a moment to glance Evos’s way— he was glaring at them both — and then shrugged.

“So he’s not then,’ Izak said, but before Tavia could even protest, he smirked and added, “You’re as contrary as you are stubborn. If you aren’t going to snap at me for that, then there’s no way it’s true.”

Tavia scowled back at her friend. Just what did he think of her?

She and Evos were spending a lot of time together, and as a pair they were hardly nondescript. She’d need to find something to tell her few friends. Evos might be able to pull off appearing as an older student, but why even an older student would be hanging around Tavia to begin with was questionable.

“Forget Evos,” Tavia said. “What are you doing here? The Althiest department on the far side of the Martials. What, is it crash the Artificers day?”

Izak’s gaze moved to the woman who’d caused the earlier scene. She was still collecting herself, but at least the crowd was gone.

“I don’t know why she’s here,” he said, “but I came looking for you. It’s been almost impossible to get through to you lately.”

“You could have left a message with Audri,” Tavia suggested.

Lately Izak had been spending most of his free time around Tavia’s roommate, his intentions weren’t subtle at all, but rather than get flustered at Tavia’s subtle jab, he just scowled back at her.

“I don’t want to leave a—“ Izak gave a frustrated groan and then folded his arms across his chest. “Why aren’t you answering your vox? Both of your siblings have been bugging me about it for days now.”

He fished his vox out of a pant pocket and tapped on the screen. The thin device fit perfectly in his hand. Not even as wide as Tavia’s pinkie, the tiny device was as ubiquitous in use as it was complicated in design. The voxes were used by most everyone, Tavia included, allowing for instant communication and connecting to the corvex, a information dissemination system that ran most of Marquest’s operations. After a moment, he turned the screen to face Tavia, the bright visuals were created by a intricate set of spell-sets casting dozens of illusions simultaneously. Instead of a view of his default home screen, what she saw was a series of messages from her brother Erent pestering Izak to check on Tavia. After a moment, he slipped the vox back into his pocket, and sighed.

“I didn’t say anything when you came to stay at my house — my mother was delighted actually — and I’m not saying you need to make up with Septia or anything, but you should at least tell the rest of your family you’re all right,” he said.

His words weren’t wrong, and it wasn’t as if Tavia really wanted to make Erent and Melora worry, but every time her vox began to chime, it brought with it memories and a deep seated guilt she didn’t know how to handle.

General use conduits like the vox were known as devices, and they were used by everyone, and for everything, but all but the most simple devices needed an aura to work. Tavia could manage to turn on lights with a switch, but anything more complicated than that was honestly beyond her. The vox she carried, was a special case. Erent had commissioned it special for her, and unlike other voxes, it ran off of an internal charge of Althier she had to have someone replenish for her every few days.

Advances in Althieology, and the devices created from it, had allowed society to flourish, granting cities the ability to create the skytowers that stretched into the air, looming over the older parts of the city. Medical devices saved lives and made the populace healthier. They were everywhere in daily life, and their uses were as myriad as there were people in the city.

Artificers were responsible for devices, whether it be in repairing malfunctioning devices, or creating new ones, they were the driving force behind the advances Marquest— no, the world— had seen in the last two hundred years.

New magic wasn’t developed out of nothing though, they were based on relics, Artifacts, from ages past. Or at least, that’s what the Artificers claimed. Tavia had believed that lie once, but she knew better now.

“Yeah, I’ll make sure I call them,” she said.

She had discovered the dark truth supporting her entire world just before starting school. New magic and devices weren’t based off something so innocuous as ancient artifacts. Rather, they were based on the unique abilities of a group of beings known as Demis. Human in appearance, the Demis were born with innate magic, magic they could control without the need for a conduit of any kind. As if that wasn’t enough though, the abilities the Demis showcased was often impossible for human magic to imitate, at least not without proper study. She hadn’t really believed it was possible at first, but Tavia had already had several encounters with at least a few Demis, including one she hoped never to encounter again by the name of Ikarios.

A note from GracelessLiar

Spell check hates all of my made up words, and even a few of my non-made up words. All those red squiggles. Such is the life of a fantasy writer.

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