The familiar black blade, broad surface covered in spell sets sat in an unfamiliar case, separated from Tavia’s reach by thick panes of glass. It sat in a narrow stand, holding the blade upright, tip down, and a plaque made of mahogany sat just above eye level, giving name to the sword. The lights shining down on the sword, cast its pristine edges and engravings in a soft light, one that seemed to enhance the mystery and appeal of the most famous blade in Marquestian history.
“Well, in your… experienced opinion, how similar would you say it is?” Alvis asked as he leaned forward, inspecting the replica secured behind glass.
When Tavia didn’t answer, he looked back over his shoulder at her and Evos and smirked.
“No, I guess you wouldn’t really be able to tell,” he said. “And I haven’t gotten a good enough look myself at the real deal to see how accurate it is.”
As he spoke, he continued looking the sword over, as if trying understand the scores of spell-sets engraved into the alther, muttering to himself about compound spells and resource allotment, all subjects well beyond Tavia’s understanding.
Beyond the sword, visible through the glass case, were paintings and images, all allegedly depicting the Ageless Sword. Melora and Khristi were staring at the images, having already gotten their fill of staring at the replica that took center stage in the small, dark room.
The National History Museum was a sprawling building that set snug within the arts district of old Marquest. Surrounded by a small park, the museum itself was considered a building of historical value, one of the few structures that had survived the war with Terris two hundred years ago. It was a regal building, lacking the austere functional design of war-era buildings, it instead featured the sinuous curves of Jito architecture and spiraling spires reminiscent of the ancient Terrisian Empire. The inside was a multistoried, multi-winged museum that covered most any topic about Marquest’s history. Wide windows allowed the early morning sunlight to stream into the museum, illuminating the dark floorboards, made of the silvery wood of breachwood trees, and making the stained glass windows decorating some rooms glow in a rainbow of light.
The had arrived at the museum well before normal opening hours, Tavia’s decision on whether or not to even come made for her when Alvis insisted on joining his sister in the museum, and Tavia having no real choice but to follow along as his guard. Melora had been delighted to see her disembarking from the convei along with Alvis, though her joy was somewhat diminished when Evos exited right after her. There was no helping it, without Evos, Tavia was utterly useless in keeping the Wardens at bay.
Jaiden had claimed to have some sort of inescapable obligation, and Tavia was left with no way out of the museum visit. She’d tried to dissuade Alvis from going, claiming it was risky to leave the campus while the Wardens were after him, but he said he’d rather deal with that then disappoint Khristi.
As Melora had said before, the exhibit they were to visit was on ancient weapons. A docent had guided them from the museum’s opulent entrance up to the second floor and the entrance of the exhibit. It was still a few hours before the museum officially opened, meaning they had the exhibit to themselves, a feat Melora had no doubt used her family’s name to accomplish. Though, considering how many of the items displayed bore the Renegarde name as the donator, Melora probably hadn’t even needed to push to get a private trip through the exhibit.
“I didn’t realize your family were historians,” Evos said when he noticed the Renegardes listed on almost every item in one particularly long stretch of hallway.
“We aren’t,” Tavia muttered. “Mel loves history, but for the most part, it’s just that our family is old and rich. We’ve been piling up weapons for years; that’s the only thing we donate.”
The exhibit was comprised of displays of weapons, all carefully stored behind glass, safe from curious hands, but along with the physical artifacts, there were also paintings and tapestries and a myriad of other objects that had been decorated with warriors and weapons. For the most part, Tavia’s eyes glossed over those, her eyes barely even lingering on the actual weapons.
In the end, it was all just old junk, irrelevant to her life now. Rather than be here, she would have rather been back at the dorm, studying, or maybe even getting her first fighting lesson from Jaiden.
“You aren’t interested at all?” Evos asked as Tavia walked past a rack of polearms.
The plaque on the wall beside them dated the crumbling weapons as being nearly six hundred years old. Unlike modern weapons, only the tip of the weapon was alther. The rest of the spears were wood so deteriorated they looked as if they’d dissolve at a touch.
“If you want a history lesson, go bug Mel,” she said. “I’m sure she’d be happy to oblige.”
Evos glanced at Melora, who was absorbed in watching an illusory about alther smithing in the years following Marquest’s founding. Khristi sat at her side, seeming to be just as interested. In comparison, Alvis was more focused on the actual weapons, though he was paying them hardly any more attention than Tavia.
Eventually, they arrived at the final room of the exhibit. Unlike the other rooms, this one was dark, the windows covered with curtains, and the lights dimmed, creating an atmosphere that encouraged hushed voices. It was a wide open space with glass cases containing a spectrum of artworks scattered about the room. At a glance there were nearly twenty different cases, each holding a unique, and very old, looking object. Sitting in the center, surrounded by pieces that seemed to celebrate its many exploits through the years, sat the focal point of the exhibit, the replica of the Ageless Sword.
“Did you know there would be an exhibit on the Ageless Sword?” Tavia asked after Alvis was done inspecting the replica.
“You mean you didn’t?” he asked. “It’s been all over the news. The replica was made back when RIOAR had the Ageless Sword. Even if it’s just a fake,” he glanced over at Evos, but Evos was looking away, “people will still flock to see it.”
Her distaste for history aside, even Tavia could understand that. Children in Marquest were raised on bedtime stories about the Ageless Sword and the Grand Hero. Until it had actually been found in the Grand Hero’s tomb, many had believed the blade to be a myth. So for many people, it was like a fairytale come to life. Melora had practically screamed her excitement when the sword first came into view, followed by the much more subdued, but still excited, Khristi.
“Didn’t think I’d be getting to see the replica after having seen the real thing, though,” Alvis said.
“I don’t think that’s something to be excited about, do you?” Tavia asked. “It’s not like you have the leeway to be so relaxed.”
All things considered, Alvis was being rather nonchalant about his own safety. It wasn’t that he wasn’t taking it seriously, but it was clear it wasn’t the most important thing to him. It was irritating that he was prioritizing following his sister around over his own safety.
“What’s it like to use it?” Alvis asked, he then grimaced and shook his head. “No, I suppose you wouldn’t have a good reference for that.”
He was probably referring to how she couldn’t use normal conduits, and she nodded. It was similar to how when Elijah had asked what being a null-aura was like Tavia hadn’t had anything to give but a sarcastic reply. How was she supposed to describe it when it didn’t even feel like she was missing anything?
“Well, Evos handles most of the magic side of things,” she said. “I just channel and swing the sword.”
“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” Evos said. “But is it really all right to talk about this here?”
He nodded his head towards Melora and Khristi, but they were far enough away, and talking amongst themselves with enough volume, they wouldn’t hear anything Tavia was saying unless she shouted.
Alvis looked at the sword again, falling silent for a moment. He reached out, fingers almost touching the glass, and then pulled his hand back.
“My father used to tell me stories about the Ageless Sword when I was a kid,” he said. “They’re the best memories I have of him, it’s why I wanted to become an Artificer. The things the Ageless Sword and the people who used it accomplished were so… mystical.”
He grimaced at his own choice of words, and then shook his head.
“I want to create things that can save people too,” he said.
“But, you’ve seen what RIOAR and their Artificers do to create new magic, do you really think you could do that and claim you’re saving people?” Tavia asked.
Alvis shook his head.
“I’m going to do it without relying on Demis,” he said. “Without copying their abilities. Truly new and unique magic.”
“I didn’t think you were such a bleeding heart,” Evos muttered.
He shot Alvis a dirty look, and then walked away, heading for the exit just as Khristi and Melora began to head out as well. Alvis watched him follow the two girls into the next room, a scowl spreading across his face.
“What the void is wrong with him?” he asked.