It was Ikarios who’d taught her the truth about her world— that Demis were captured by the Artificers of the Royal Institute of Artifact Research, RIOAR, and then tortured to death for their secrets. It didn’t just end with death though, Demis were immortal, and upon the death of their body, they’d simply possess a new human vessel and live again. An undying test subject.

During a chance tour of the research facility’s publicly acknowledged head quarters, Tavia had gotten swept up in an attack led by Ikarios and his Wardens. There had been some good to come out of the mess, she’d met Evos, another Demi, in the ensuing chaos, and with his help, they’d put an end to the revival of the monster from two hundred years ago, a Demi named Dieos.

In the end though, what should have been a grand victory was nothing so sweet. Tavia had learned the vox she relied so much on had been created based on the powers of Ikarios himself.

Simply holding the device in her hand was enough to send her stomach churning as she imagined the kinds of things he’d gone through. Ikarios wasn’t a good person, but knowing the kind of pain he must have been put through to create the spell-sets required to make the vox was enough to make her chest fill with guilt. She still carried it around, but she couldn’t bring herself to answer it, not even when Erent was calling.

Perhaps the hardest part of it all was that she had no one to share it with. Evos didn’t really understand; he didn’t understand why devices were so integral to everyone’s lives. Izak and Audri, Tavia’s roommate, had both known, but just as everything had ended, Ikarios wiped their memories with his ability. There was nothing stopping Tavia from telling either of them the truth, but—

Who would want to know this kind of thing? It wasn’t as if there was really anything she could do about it, so why make someone else feel guilty?

“No need to call her,” Izak said, startling Tavia out of her thoughts.

“But you just—“

“Melora said she’ll be coming here to visit tomorrow with a friend,” Izak said.

He turned a mischievous smile on Tavia and chuckled as she struggled to find the right words.

“She’s coming here?”

“Where else would she go to meet you?” he asked.

“You gave her this idea, didn’t you?”

Izak sighed and nodded. “Well, what else you expect me to do, Tavia? I know you don’t like hearing this, but I am worried about you. All you’ve been doing is studying and—“

“Of course I am! Do you have any idea how far behind I already am in all my classes?”

Tavia scowled at Izak, but the real culprit for her dwindling studying time was the man currently trying to look as if he couldn’t hear a word of what they were saying. He was doing such a good job looking inconspicuous, Izak hadn’t even noticed Evos had crept back up close enough to listen in.

Tavia really was struggling though, and she’d made that perfectly clear to Izak on more than on occasion. It wasn’t really her fault though. Becoming an Artificer hadn’t been her top choice, it hadn’t even been on the list. A year ago, if someone had told Tavia that’s what she would be studying when she entered Avel’lier, she would have thought they were void-mad. But beggars couldn’t be choosers, and Tavia’s options were limited. Bad as being an Artificer was, it was better than staying in that house for another year.

Because of that, and her rather one-sided home-schooling for most of her life, Tavia lacked much of the very specific knowledge even a beginner Artificer should have, and she was scrambling to catch up. She didn’t really have an entire day to waste on her sister’s antics. Mel was well meaning and all, but she didn’t really understand restraint.

“Why don’t you ask Alvis to tutor you? He’s supposed to be really good, or so I’ve heard,” Izak asked.

“I’ve already asked, he said no.”

“Why not?”

“Because he’s an asshole,” Tavia said.

If it wasn’t something that could benefit him directly, Alvis couldn’t be bothered to take a break from his own research. He was the senior Artificer on the squadron Tavia was assigned to, but she was pretty certain he’d only been convinced to join because it meant he’d get a personal lab that was intended for servicing the members’ equipment. He used it for his own research of course, and because he was also the close friend of their captain, no one complained about it.

She was actually supposed to be on her way to meet him, and now she’d be late because she’d stopped to talk to Izak. It wasn’t like it’d make a difference though. Alvis would be grouchy no matter if she was on time or not.

“Well, keep trying, maybe you can win him over,” Izak said. “If that doesn’t work, I can ask my mother.“

Tavia shook her head. “I don’t want to bother Lenore. She already helped me so much when I stayed at your house. She even bought me new clothes.”

It should come as no surprise, but when you were kicked out of your house with nothing but the clothes on your back, you needed new everything. Izak’s family had been generous in helping Tavia get back on her feet. Too generous really; Tavia couldn’t impose on them any further.

“Just keep it in mind, all right?” Izak asked.

Tavia nodded and then glanced over at Evos. She waved him back over, and he returned to standing beside her as if he’d never left. Izak fought back a scowl, but he wasn’t able to keep the corners of his lips from twisting.

“When is she coming tomorrow?” Tavia asked.

“In the afternoon, is all she said. She’s visiting with a friend, so they’re going to see her friend’s brother first since — if you can believe it — it seems he’s even harder to get a hold of than you,” Izak said.

“Please don’t make me into some kind of weird standard,” Tavia snapped. “If it bothers you that much, I’ll answer next time.”

“Good, your brother is a great guy and all, but I’m sick of listening to him whine about how worried he is,” Izak said. “Do us both a favor and give the guy a break.”

A note from GracelessLiar

Any NANOWRIMO people here? I'm going to be participating (and likely failing) this year, so if anyone wants to be buddies let me know! I have the same username on the NANO site!

Remeber! The next chapter will be up on Sunday!

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