After stumbling back through the woods to the lab, Alvis and Tavia had both decided it was too late, and they were too tired, to have any kind of respectable discussion about the day’s events. Alvis was agitated, his calm demeanor replaced by tension and fear that was finally settling in now that they had escaped. It was as if the danger was just now hitting him. She could understand that feeling herself, even know, Meridian’s red-eyed gaze haunted her every time she shut her eyes, sending small shivers down her back. They settled on leaving the matter be for the night and went their separate ways.

With Evos at her side, Tavia returned to the dorm. Her entire body ached from the fight and her fall, but the coat had prevented any bruising or scrapes. The only real lingering issue was the graze on her side that still stung and throbbed with every step she took. Blood had stained her dark green shirt around the cut— she had to be thankful it was so late and her clothing was so dark. Even if someone saw her, they wouldn’t be able to make out the blood on her. After dragging her tired body across the campus, she finally arrived before her door. She was just about to unlock it when the door burst open and a frazzled Audri darted out into the hallway, almost knocking Tavia over. Tavia jumped back, bumping into Evos who caught and steadied her, his touch on her bare arms sending a slight tingle along her skin.

“Sorry,” she said with a gasp. “I didn’t mean to—”

“What’s wrong?” Tavia asked as she moved to conceal her injury from Audri. The wound was very obviously caused by a blade, and even if it was shallow, Audri wasn’t someone who would just ignore it.

“Someone reported spotting some people who looked like Wardens near the campus gates,” Audri spoke in a breathless rush. “The Shields are on their way, but I’m going out to see if I can find them before they escape.”

“Alone?” Evos asked. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

“It’s not like I’m going to fight, I just want to confirm it,” Audri said.

Tavia wanted to argue more, but a violent jolt of pain along her hip stopped her. She looked back at Evos, and they both stepped aside to let Audri leave. If Audri was gone, it’d be easier to deal with her injury and discuss the night’s events with Evos. As it was, it seemed her head was spinning with all the strange things that had happened.

After entering the dorm, Tavi collapsed onto the couch, groaning as she sunk into the soft cushions. For a moment, she closed her eyes, staring into a comforting darkness that didn’t demand anything of her. When she opened them, Evos was sitting beside her, staring at her wound. His grim expression and pale face were unsuited for the minor injury. With how serious he was, she would have thought she was dying.

“Is it that bad?” she asked with a mocking smile.

Evos glanced at her face, his brows furrowed, before he returned his attention to the cut. He shook his head, but then began to look around.

“There’s a medical kit around here, isn’t there?” Evos asked. “I’m sure I’ve seen Audri use it.”

Tavia pointed to one of the cabinets in the kitchen, and Evos hurried to search it for the simple metal box. It was convenient to have his help at times like this. Unlike Tavia, Evos didn’t seem to feel fatigue from the fight.

“Don’t you ever get tired?” she asked as he continued digging through the cupboard.

He found the box and pulled it out, popping the lid off to check inside before he carried it back over to Tavia.

“Not unless I run out of Althier, really,” he said. “So I guess if you were so tired you couldn’t channel more Althier than you needed to survive, I’d probably have to stay as a sword.”

Tavia stared at him as he began to pull an assortment of objects out of the box. He looked over each one as if he’d never seen them before, but when she thought about it, he probably hadn’t. Medical Althieology had seen massive advances in the last fifty years, let alone the last two hundred.

“I think I’d have to be exceedingly exhausted to reach that point,” Tavia said as she pointed out the useful parts of the kit. “I don’t even notice you taking Althier most of the time.”

Evos shrugged as if to say that was the point. He motioned for Tavia to lift her shirt away from the cut— the blood was already starting to cake and dry, sticking the cloth to her skin— and began swabbing the narrow cut with disinfectant and cleaning away the blood.

With the blood gone, it was easy to see how shallow the wound really was. It wasn’t even the length of her pinky, and not even a quarter as wide. It was dismaying actually, it had hurt so much more than the size indicated it should.

“You’re lucky,” Evos said, almost as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. “It could have been much worse.”

“I’m fine, I’m more worried about Alvis,” she said.

Evos sighed as he secured a bandage over the graze. He then looked up, meeting Tavia’s gaze, and she lowered her shirt.

“Considering everything, it doesn’t seem like Elijah is going to stop aiming for Alvis,” she continued.

The entire encounter had been alarming, but there were some points that concerned Tavia more than others. Elijah’s goal was his soul, but if that was missing, then how was he still existing? Then there was the strange name they’d called Valorie Schwann, the binder, as if it was a title, but what bothered her the most was the way the Wardens had been so reluctant to engage with Tavia. She wasn’t a fool— she knew perfectly well it had nothing to do with her prowess, or rather lack of, with the Ageless Sword.

“Is he the one you met?” Evos asked.

“Who, Elijah?” he nodded and Tavia continued. “That’s right, we met the other day. He was talking to Alvis’s mother.”

“Do you think Alvis actually knows what Elijah is after? Could he have been lying?” Evos asked as he began packing up the medical supplies.

Tavia grimaced. If that was the case, Alvis was playing a dangerous game with foes far beyond his understanding. She couldn’t stand him, but he didn’t strike her as such a reckless fool. If Tavia hadn’t managed to break Meridian’s weapon with that last attack, they would have both been in serious trouble.

“It didn’t seem like it,” Tavia said. “I guess we’ll know for sure tomorrow.”

“Do you really think he’ll be honest about it?” Evos muttered. He snapped the case shut, the metal on metal click echoing around the room.

Evos didn’t often offer opinions on people, but it was clear he didn’t like Alvis. He hadn’t been acting like this the other day, so was it what he’d said earlier, before the abduction? What had he called Evos? That was it— a dog and a creep.

“Don’t let him get under your skin,” Tavia said. “Just ignore what he says. I don’t think he even knows how to be nice to people other than his sister.”

They fell into silence, but it was a comfortable state. Evos leaned forward and placed the medical kit on the table before the couch. He leaned back against the couch and looked up at the ceiling as if trying to memorize the stains and marks left by years of inhabitants. After a long moment, he sighed and then spoke without looking at Tavia.

“That Warden, can you beat her?”

A note from GracelessLiar

Audri always seems so busy...

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