“I love it!” Tara exclaimed. “It’s…perfect.” She beamed a huge smile at Freta.
Freta leaned in and gave her a lingering kiss. “Nothing like good steel. Check the markings.”
Tara lifted the steel war axe and slowly examined it. Most of the markings were what she’d seen on axes throughout Cyrodiil. Then, she spotted it. A small Dibella statue and her initials, T.B. The weight of the axe felt good in her hands.
“Freta,” she said. “Thank you.” She gave her own lingering kiss.
Tara and Freta had been in Bravil for two months now. Tomorrow was the 30th of Evening Star, and Tara couldn’t have picked a better city for such a celebration, she thought. The end of the year, and celebration of a new one.
Bravil was relaxed. Not as cosmopolitan as Wayrest, or even Anvil, but Tara liked the vibe. It had a poor section, sure, and the crime element seemed worse than Anvil’s dock region. But, it had heart. Something rugged and endearing with its people.
Freta and Tara were renting a room at Silverhome on the Water, near the city entrance. The inn was, much like The Count’s Arms in Anvil, the quality inn, the one “respectable” people stayed at.
They were sharing a room, and a bed. The air and colors were different now. Tara hadn’t been this happy since, she didn’t know when. Freta had promised to show her “wonders” and that’s what the world felt like right now. So much to learn, explore, and experience.
Their only sticking point was magic.
“Forget magic,” Freta had said more than once. “They reject you. They don’t deserve you. Being able to fight is the only skill you need.”
Tara would toss back, “The true Nord way?”
“Don’t disparage my culture, little Breton,” Freta would return.
She was the only one Tara allowed to tease her about her height without the threat of a broken nose.
“As important as fighting is to Nords, magic is important to Bretons,” she’d remind Freta. “Let me pursue my culture.”
The reasons weren’t culture, of course. Tara had opened up a little to Freta about her childhood. She told her about Mira, and the history of strong magic in her family. She’d not been able to talk about the scrolls and…fits. Not yet. She needed more time.
Today was a day off between jobs and Tara wanted to visit the mage shop, A Warlock’s Luck. Freta wanted them to just relax, perhaps stroll the area near the Dibella statue.
“This afternoon. I promise,” Tara said. “This is my first chance to check out the shop.” She gave Freta her most sultry look. “I won’t be long. Then, I’m all yours.” She winked.
They were finishing breakfast in the inn. Freta looked at her as she finished her final bite of food.
She smiled and shook her head. “I can’t say no to you. Go visit this shop. I need to meet with the blacksmith again anyway. Your second axe should be ready.” She winked.
“Hush. You should dual wield axes, which means you need two. I’ve lost enough sparring sessions to you by now to know. The second axe wasn’t ready yesterday, but he promised me I could pick it up today.”
An hour later, Tara entered A Warlock’s Luck. She nodded to the shopkeeper, Envarion. Freta didn’t know it, but Tara had already been watching the shop for weeks. The lead had panned out. Tara had observed a small Breton woman with dark, raven hair and sullen eyes come into the shop most days. Primarily for alchemy ingredients, it seemed. She had to be the one.
Tara browsed the ingredients in the shop, selecting some blue mountain flowers and butterfly wings, so she could make a few healing potions. She’d been working on her alchemy skills when she could. Freta wasn’t bothered by alchemy and the potions had come in handy when they’d both been cut by a rogue, frightened cow on the last job.
Just as she was about to give up on the woman coming in today, Tara’s glacial paced browsing was becoming too obvious, the door to the shop opened and the raven haired woman stepped inside.
“Good morning, Wila,” Envarion said. “Need anything specific today?”
Wila glanced Tara’s way, then turned to Envarion . “Just some taproot and arrowroot, please.”
“Right away.” Envarion scurried about, preparing her order.
Tara stood in line. Envarion looked at her order quickly. “Ten septims.”
Tara paid and left. She sat on the chair outside the shop and waited. Wila stepped outside a few minutes later. Tara quickly stood up. “Excuse me, Wila?” she said.
Wila turned to her, startled. She looked at Tara suspiciously. “Do I know you?”
“Oh no, sorry, you don’t. I, um, don’t mean to impose, but…are you part of the College of Whispers?”
Wila looked Tara up and down. She seemed to be evaluating her. Tara spoke quickly.
“I’m wanting to join. To become a mage. I was hoping to find the College and study there. I already know some magic,” she added.
Wila tilted her head. “Why not at the Synod Conclave?”
Tara paused. Tell the truth? Yes, that felt like the best course of action.
“The conclave in Anvil kicked me out,” she confessed.
Wila laughed. “Bunch of arrogant fools, the lot of them.”
Tara laughed, nervously. “Tomar certainly is.”
“I’ve dealt with him before. Yes, he is. Walk with me.”
Wila headed across the bridge leading over the river, towards the poorest section of town. “I’m not currently active with the college. Working on my own…projects,” she said.
“Any information you could give me would be helpful,” Tara said.
They arrived a few minutes later in front of a small house, shabby, but with a well-kept flower bed out front. Wila said, “Wait on the porch.” She went inside without another word.
Tara bent and admired the flowers. Nightshade, Aloe, and Dragon Tongue dominated.
Wila came back out and handed Tara a small piece of parchment.
“See Algar and hand him this piece of parchment. Keep it sealed. Do not read it. Frostcrag Spire.”
“Frostcrag Spire? Isn’t that…” Tara started.
“Yes, yes. Old legends and rumors.” Wila dismissed the lingering question. “A small group has set up there and it will be the Whispers’ main base. County of Bruma, east of the city. Bring warm clothes. It’s quite a climb.”
“Thank you,” Tara said. “This means a lot.”
Wila gave her a long look. “If you do have a temper…” she paused. “Be careful what you study.” She nodded, as if to herself, turned and walked back inside her home. Tara heard a lock catch.
Well, that was that. Tara looked down at the sealed parchment. The outside simply said “Algar”.
Tara thought better than to try and work the seal and read the paper. Probably had some magic spell embedded in it. She’d come too far to mess up her chance by prying. She tucked the parchment in her satchel with her purchased ingredients and headed back to Silverhome to see Freta. Now, they could enjoy this last, marvelous day of the year 199.
Yes, Bravil really was the best city to celebrate the new year, and a new chance at magic.