As soon as Meridian’s voice rang out, Tavia flinched and jerked to a halt. Evos and she were in touching distance, that was close enough, but she didn’t reach out for him, and he continued to keep himself still. As of yet, the Wardens hadn’t done anything dangerous. They were surrounded and outnumbered, and considering Meridian was watching Tavia like a cat ready to pounce on her prey, it was best she stay put for now.

Elijah glanced at Meridian, confusion on his face, but then he turned back to Alvis.

“There’s something I need to retrieve from your mother, but she isn’t being very cooperative, I’m hoping you can help us in her stead,” Elijah said.

His tone made it sound as if this was a request from a sensible person in a sensible place.

“So you ambushed me and dragged us into the woods?” Alvis asked. “Why would I help someone like you?”

“Alvis,” Tavia lowered her voice as she glared at him. Why did he have to try and pick a fight with these people of all people? “These are the Wardens.”

Alvis’s face grew pale and his eyes wide and round. He stared at Tavia, and then looked around at the group surrounding them.

“I’m not looking for anything difficult,” Elijah said. Despite Alvis’s antagonistic tone, Elijah continued to speak in a soft, controlled voice. “I just need to know where she hid the piece of my soul.”

“Hid your soul?” Tavia wasn’t sure if she’d really heard it right, but when Elijah nodded, she was only more confused.

Demis were beings capable of things most people thought impossible even with the use of magic, or rather, what was possible with magic was only so because a Demi could do it first. Still, how could someone steal away the soul of another person?

“Why would I know something like that?” Alvis asked. “Why don’t you ask my mother?”

For some reason, Alvis didn’t seem near as confused as Tavia, a fact that alarmed her, though for a different reason than the glare Meridian was still sending her way.

“I tried already, she wasn’t very forthcoming, but perhaps you could convince her to share that information,” Elijah said. “I’m not planning on harming anyone. I simply want to be whole.”

“Too bad for you, she’s not here right now,” Alvis said. “I guess you’re going to have to wait.”

He gave a cocky smile, as if he’d already forgotten his alarm at learning the identities of their captors. What was wrong with him? Why did he have to taunt the Wardens? Or did he not think they would actually harm him?

“That’s not an option,” Elijah replied.

“We know you’ve been to the cages,” Meridian said. “You must have some idea.”

“The cages?” Alvis thought a moment, and then understanding dawned on his face. “Ah, that place— I’ve been, but you don’t really think I’m privy to the Artificers’ secrets, do you?”

“Then if you aren’t any use, we can just take you captive and force that woman to spill where it is,” Meridian said.

Elijah stared at her, his brow furrowed, but despite his unease, he didn’t stop her.

“Just let us go,” Tavia said. “If you cause trouble here someone will notice.”

“No one will be seeing anything,” Elijah said. He gestured to one of the nearby hooded figures, from the frame, she seemed to be a woman, and then said, “We have a friend who can create illusions no one will ever see through.”

“Stay out of this,” Meridian snapped. “There’s no need for you to get involved.”

“I think I already am though,” Tavia muttered to herself.

She reached out to Evos as he, already aware of her intentions, reached out to her. Before their hands could even touch, he had shifted forms. As the cyan glow faded, Tavia was already holding the Ageless Sword in her right hand, her body draped in the black coat.

Shocked cries emanated from everyone other than Meridian, who just looked dismayed. She snapped orders for the Wardens to fall back, and stepped up to stand before Tavia, her hand resting on the sword on her hip.

“Is that… the Ageless Sword?” Elijah asked.

His gaze was locked on the sword’s vibrant blue edge, but after a moment, his focus shifted to Tavia.

“To think you of all people would have it. No wonder Ikarios was so wary of you,” he said.

Tavia frowned. She wasn’t sure that wary was really the right word. Bothered or annoyed, maybe even slightly concerned, but there was no way Ikarios felt even the slightest bit wary of her existence.

“That… you…”

Alvis’s stumbling words reached her ears, and Tavia looked back at him.

“Just stay behind me,” she said. “I’ll… get us out of here.”

Alvis stared at the sword in her hands and then nodded, swallowing back the hundreds of questions clear on his face. With the Wardens no longer surrounding them, he was free to move to behind Tavia.

Evos urged caution, but at the same time, he whispered faith and trust. It was nice to know at least one of them didn’t feel entirely out of their depth here.

“Planning on standing in our way yet again,” Meridian snarled. She drew her sword, and then sent a scowl at her fellows. “Stay back, I don’t want anyone else getting involved.”

Standing in their way? Hadn’t Tavia helped them deal with Dieos before? Well, Meridian hadn’t been present for that, so maybe she didn’t know.

The other Wardens shrunk back, but there were murmurs of confusion. Only Elijah seemed to understand the reason behind her order, as he gave a nod and fell back as well, joining the Wardens who moved to surround him in a protective ring.

Tavia raised her blade, holding it with two hands, and braced herself for a fight. With a frown, Meridian channeled, her maroon aura surrounding blade and hand. She pointed her sword at Tavia, almost as if declaring her target.

“Here I come.”

A note from GracelessLiar

I think the last time Tavia fought Meridian, things didn't go so well. I wonder how it'll be this time around...

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