After delivering his message, Izak left, making a beeline for the Althiest department and his next class. As Tavia watched him go, hurrying down the white stone paths as he wove through a crowd of Artificer students, she noticed Evos was standing beside her, looking in the same direction. His expression was stiff and awkward, but no matter how long he stood there, staring after Izak even long after he passed, he didn’t say anything.
“Something wrong?” she eventually asked.
Evos jerked his attention away from the long gone Izak, and looked down at Tavia, but the stiff expression was gone, and he shook his head.
“I didn’t know your siblings had tried to call you,” he said.
“It’s not like I share everything with you,” she replied.
Even if it was Evos, Tavia had her limits. He was involved in almost every aspect of her life at this point, and she wasn’t entirely certain what to do about that. Evos’s true form was the Ageless Sword — the physical body he had now was only maintained by using the Althier Tavia provided him, and she had to replenish his reserves every few days or so. It wasn’t as if just anyone would do either; according to Evos, only a null-aura like Tavia would be able to provide him with Althier. Without her, he’d just go back to being a sword, and he’d likely fall asleep, just as he had during the two hundred years before she picked him up.
It wasn’t just Evos who benefited though. The Ageless Sword gave Tavia something she’d never had before, strength — her own strength — and though Tavia wasn’t able to casually use it, it wasn’t something she could just… give up. Aside from a very few devices, like her vox, Tavia couldn’t use any devices or magic. The Ageless Sword was the only thing made for someone like her. The only thing in this world made just for people like her.
“Well, you’ll at least introduce her to me, right?” Evos said, giving Tavia a lopsided smile.
“Yeah, yeah,” she replied with a wave of her hand. “You should head back to the dorm.”
“I have to visit Alvis after this,” Tavia explained, “and we both know he hates you for some reason.”
Evos scowled and looked away.
“Evos, please?” she didn’t want to deal with an upset Alvis on top of the news that Melora was visiting tomorrow. Her head still hurt from where she’d hit it earlier, and after meeting with Alvis, she’d still have a mountain of homework to get through. Listening to Alvis complain that she had brought Evos along wasn’t going to make her day any easier.
“I shouldn’t be long, and I’ll meet you back at the dorm as soon as I can.”
Evos looked away and then nodded without meeting Tavia’s gaze.
“Just… stay out of trouble, alright?” he said, looking almost like a forlorn puppy.
Evos was turning out to be just as much of a mothering worrywart as Izak. It was almost suffocating having both of them looming over her all the time. She might have some difficulties, but it wasn’t as if she was a complete invalid.
Tavia shooed Evos away, and he shuffled off down a branching path, looking as if separating from Tavia was the most painful thing he’d ever done. It wasn’t. She’d asked, shortly after they met, if there was some kind of limit on how far they could be from each other, but as long as Evos had enough Althier to maintain his form, he said their connection couldn’t be broken by mere distance.
Tavia watched him for a moment to make sure he didn’t try to double back when she wasn’t paying attention, but other than a single glance back at her, Evos didn’t make any odd movements. She turned down the main path and continued onwards towards the Martial department.
Though the Martial-Althiests were the smallest group of students at Avel’lier, because they were also the only ones allowed to walk around carrying weapons, there was no doubt they were the most noticeable. As a sub-set of Althiests, Martials specialized in close range combat using special weapons engraved as conduits. Spell-sets set in the very weapon itself allowed them to enhance their physical abilities to super-human levels or cast spells. Though their repertoire of spells was smaller due to the limited space on the weapon, the durability of the conduit was far superior to a grimoire, and spells-sets could be triggered as needed as long as the Martial held the weapon. Though Tavia was studying a different course, because of the Ageless Sword, she could be considered a Martial as well. Even if she was the only one who knew. Tavia’s roommate was a Martial, as was pretty much the entirety of her family. The Renegarde Ducal family was among the most esteemed Martial families in Marquest, and most members of even the extended family were granted a position as a Knight.
Most of the time, Knights were responsible for fighting the Scarvers, the giant insectoid beasts in the north of Marquest, but they had been known to be dispatched elsewhere, either as support for the army or the Shields who were responsible for peace in the cities. Being recognized as a Knight by the queen was considered the highest honor a Martial could achieve, one granted only to a select few every year.
Despite their impressive abilities, the number of Martials dwindled every year. Training to be an Althiest or Martial was a long road, with their time in Avel’lier simply the culmination of years of training. The jobs were both glamorous, but all told amongst the general public they accounted for less than ten percent of the population combined. Even in Avel’lier, the two groups made up only a quarter of the students, with another quarter being the Artificers and the remaining students belonging to Avel’lier’s general studies program.
Turning down a smaller path, Tavia followed it past a small group of buildings, heading for a slightly smaller, more worn down collection of buildings at the very end of the path. Hardly larger than a single classroom, the buildings here were the labs designated for Artificers belonging to the twenty combat squadrons.
She made her way to the most run-down looking of the buildings, pausing just before she opened it to spare a glance at the grimy fourteen etched into the door. The labs were divvied out based on ranking, and having been the worst combat squad for several years now, the Artificers of the 14th had long been relegated to the worst of the buildings. Because the lab buildings were actually old, disused classrooms, they had old-fashioned key and tumbler locks. These days, most people found those impractical, but Tavia preferred them over the aura-activated modern locks she couldn’t open at all.
She turned the rusty door handle and entered without bothering to knock. Even if she did, Alvis wouldn’t hear her. Even if he did hear her, he wouldn’t be bothered to respond. The door swung open, and Tavia braced herself for what she knew was going to be a rough afternoon.