Meridian’s speed was certainly above Tavia’s, but that wasn’t her only advantage. The Warden was a skilled swordswoman, deftly handling the slender blade, and there was no doubt she had years of experience. In comparison, Tavia’s official training had ended in her early childhood, and what she picked up after that had been based on the whims of her family or the pity of her brother. She had the basic knowledge of how to fight with a sword, but knowledge was no substitute for practice. The Ageless Sword might have been the superior weapon, but Tavia didn’t have the skill or experience to put it to proper use.

She put more force into her blocks, hoping her strength would create an opening by increasing the time it took Meidian to recover from her stirkes, but Meridian’s recovery was always brief, and as if the woman could read Tavia’s intentions, she just used her footwork to carry herself out of Tavia’s reach before darting in for another attack.

They moved about the clearing, Meridian carefully keeping Tavia away from Elijah and the other Wardens as they fought. Tavia’s arms burned with the strain of defending against Meridian’s strikes. The Ageless Sword wasn’t particularly heavy and Meridian’s blows didn’t have much power to them, but they had more than enough weight to wear at Tavia’s endurance.

She retreated, trying to escape Meridian’s range and buy herself some time to figure out how to beat the woman before her. As she stepped back, still avoiding Meridian’s sword, her heel caught on an exposed root and Tavia stumbled backwards.

She couldn’t regain her balance in time, and as Meridian’s sword once more stabbed towards Tavia, she dropped to the ground in one last effort to dodge it. The blade passed just above Tavia’s head, and then immediately Meridian pointed her blade at Tavia’s throat, a mere inch from the skin.

Tavia gritted her teeth as she stared at the threatening blade and the red aura flickering around it. Meridian smirked down at her.

“There’s no reason we should be worried about someone as pathetic as you,” she said. “Ikarios was fretting about nothing.”

She looked back over his shoulder at Elijah.

“Let’s just take him with us,” she said. “Ikarios can get the information you need.”

Elijah stared at Meridian before his gaze slid to Tavia. His green eyes glimmered in the light, but his grim expression didn’t match someone who held the advantage.

“We don’t need to go that far,” he said. He finally looked back at Alvis.

All through the fighting, Alvis had stood beside the tree-line, but now that Tavia was defeated, there was no chance of escape. He faced Elijah with a frown, but after a moment, he shook his head.

“I really don’t know what you’re asking,” he said. “I’m not privy to everything my mother does.”

“But you can find out, can’t you?” Elijah asked.

Alvis shook his head. Elijah’s expression took on an edge of desperation, his hands trembling. It was hard to tell if it was fear or anger making him so desperate, but either way, Tavia was certain this conversation wasn’t going to end in a way either she or Alvis liked. She turned her gaze back to Meridian, hoping to find some sort of opening, but Meridian was still keeping close watch on Tavia, her gaze never wavering. Evos urged caution, and Tavia could only silently agree.

“Find out how? My mother just left for Terris yesterday and Marquestian voxes don’t work in Terris. I can’t even call her to—“

“You’ll find a way,” Elijah replied. “Otherwise I’ll have to let Meridian handle this matter.”

Elijah gestured to Meridian, and for just a moment, Meridian took her eyes off of Tavia to glare in Alvis’s direction. Tavia’s fingers curled tight around the Ageless Sword and she leapt to her feet, already swinging the sword in an arc from the ground towards the sky. Meridian’s attention shifted back to Tavia a moment too late. She stumbled back, raising her sword to block the Ageless Sword, but as Evos poured more strength into Tavia’s limbs, the cyan edge cut straight through the blue alther of the blade, sending fragments flying through the clearing.

Meridian stumbled away, holding the hilt of her broken rapier as if she was still ready to fight. Tavia’s chest burned as the desperate energy began to drain from her body. She made her way to Alvis’s side, keeping close watch on the Wardens, but despite their clear desire to defend Meridian, Elijah was barking orders for them to stay back.

“Meridian,” he said. “Fall back, it isn’t worth the risk.”

Meridian didn’t look like she wanted to agree, but the broken sword in her hand left her little choice. She stepped back, moving to stand beside Elijah without looking like it was a retreat.

Why didn’t they send the other Wardens forward? They’d had Tavia completely at their mercy, but despite that, Elijah hadn’t taken advantage of the situation, and now that Meridian was unable to fight, the Wardens continued to stay away from Tavia and Alvis.

“You’re rather lucky she was here,” Elijah said to Alvis. “But I suggest you figure out what I need before the next time I come find you, and there will be a next time.”

He nodded towards Meridian, and though the woman’s face turned sour, she just raised a hand and called for a retreat. The Wardens began to disappear into the darkness of the grove, the lights they had created flickering out and leaving Tavia and Alvis in complete darkness.

Within only a few moments, they were gone so utterly and completely, Tavia wondered if it was the work of the illusionist again. She turned to Alvis, facing the direction they had come from, but the questions she wanted to ask would have to wait until they were somewhere safer and more secure. Alvis’s gaze was on the Ageless Sword, still casting the clearing in a pale blue light.

It would seem they both had questions that needed answers.

A note from GracelessLiar

I lost electricity two days ago. Thank the WiFi gods for wireless hotspots bringing you today's chapter.

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