Meridian’s blade of pale blue alther shone in the darkness, wrapped in the maroon aura that matched her eyes as she rained blows down on Tavia. Compared to the last time they had fought, the Meridian Tavia faced now was leagues superior; it was clear she’d been holding back before.
As their fight began, Elijah called the remaining Wardens back to his side, away from the fighting as he looked on with a grim expression. Tavia didn’t really have the leeway to wonder at the man’s actions, but it was strange he wasn’t using his superior numbers to his advantage. Alvis had moved further back, almost retreating to the tree line, but he didn’t go any further than that, probably aware anything more would force the Wardens to act.
This left Tavia and Meridian with free range of most of the clearing, and Tavia made good use of the space, retreating and pushing forward as she tried to break through Meridian’s constant onslaught of strikes. The Warden’s blade moved so fast through the air, it was hardly more than a blur, even to Tavia’s magically enhanced senses.
The Ageless Sword siphoned away the Althier she channeled, turning it into strength that filled her body, but her speed fell behind. Unlike Tavia, Meridian’s sword was a rapier and well suited to the rapid thrusts and shallow slashes. Compared to the Ageless sword, it was delicate and lacked the strength to land crushing blows, but Tavia didn’t even have time to strike back. She was too busy defending to make an attack of her own.
“You should’ve just stayed out of the way,” Meridian snarled as Tavia used the broad side of her sword to fend off the attacks.
“You’re the ones who dragged me into this,” Tavia muttered in reply, but she couldn’t put much strength into the words.
If she hadn’t been brought along, what would have happened to Alvis? The man might have been a complete ass, but that didn’t mean he deserved being abducted by anyone, let alone by the Wardens.
Though Alvis was clearly confused, he’d still managed to keep his wits about him. He was keeping a close eye on the fight, but the tense expression on his face wasn’t fear or desperation. That was the same look he had when he was deep in thought.
Meridian gave one final thrust, aiming for Tavia’s chest, but Tavia repelled the sword with a downward block, directing it to pass harmlessly by her side. Or at least, that should have been the case. The sheer force behind Meridian’s strike created a sharp wind that slashed through the coat and her clothing beneath. The coat repaired itself in a moment, the Althier it was made from restitching together, but alarm rose up from Evos as a warm trickle of blood ran down Tavia’s hip.
Meridian backed away, flicking her sword to clean it of blood. Tavia remained on guard, not even relaxing enough to check her injury. It didn’t feel deep, hardly more than a graze, but it hurt, the edges of the split skin burning with every movement she made. She took deep breaths, trying to regain her energy for the next round.
“Where’s Ikarios?” she asked, partly to distract herself from the pain and partly to buy herself time to recover. “Or did he let his loyal dog off her leash?”
Evos’s worries flood her mind like warning bells, but it was too late to take back her words.
“The binder’s brat isn’t something he needs to even concern himself with,” Meridian replied.
Though Tavia had expected her anger to grow, instead, Meridian’s voice was cold as a winter morning. Her eyes flashed like brilliant rubies, a trick of the light or perhaps a sign of something more sinister.
“And there’s no need for him to worry about someone like you, either,” Meridian hissed.
“Meridian, don’t be reckless,” Elijah’s voice cut into their fight, but her attitude didn’t change. She just stared at Tavia like a Scarver eyeing its prey.
A shiver ran down Tavia’s back, but she held her ground. If things continued like they had before, she was going to lose. Though the durability of her sword and her strength were superior to Meridian, her strength wasn’t enough to suppress the woman. It was like she was a child fighting an adult, they weren’t even on the same level. She only had one advantage over Meridian, but finding an opportunity to Jump while fending her off was a challenge Tavia hadn’t practiced for.
“Just keep the others away,” Meridian said.
Tavia frowned. Meridian didn’t strike her as a reckless battle junkie, but she was insisting on fighting alone. Not only that, Elijah and the other Wardens seemed to think it was the wise decision. She couldn’t think of a reason why, but she was thankful for it. If they had all attacked her at once, there was no way she could have managed it. She couldn’t let her guard down though, there was always a chance that could change at any moment.
Meridian shifted her stance, the only warning Tavia had the she was attacking once more. She seemed to step in, but that step was actually several steps so fast it was hard to follow with the eye, and she was already bearing down on Tavia before Tavia was even ready for their fight to resume.
Tavia twisted to the side, the wound above her hip sending jolts of pain up her side. She raised the Ageless Sword, blocking Meridian’s follow up attack, and as she continued to block strikes, she tried to recall that strange feeling of being in the void before a Jump. If she could just manage to get behind Meridian she might stand a chance. Her attempts to focus slowed her movements even further, and Tavia began to fall behind in her blocks. With the feeling of a drowning woman being overwhelmed by the waves crashing down on her, Tavia continued to face Meridian, constantly a step behind.