“Your voice is soooo smexy,” Tara hiccupped at Colin, owner and proprietor of the Tap & Tack Inn and Tavern in Bruma.
“THAT’S IT! Off to bed with you,” Eris, Colin’s wife, said. She grabbed Tara firmly by the arm and pulled her off the bar stool she’d been sitting on.
“Hey!” Tara hiccupped again. “I’m usually the rough one. Watch it!”
Eris ignored her and half-dragged her to her rented room in the inn. To Colin, she shouted over her shoulder, “No more Ye Olde Special Brew for her. Ever.”
In her room, Eris sat Tara down on her bed. She stood in front of her, crossed her arms, and said firmly, “You need to sleep that off. Don’t come back out until you sober up. Tomorrow.”
Tara furrowed her brow and squinted. Eris was not in focus. And the room kept shifting. A burp escaped her. She then saluted Eris. “Aye, aye, Captain,” she managed before another hiccup happened.
Eris sighed and knelt down, getting eye level with Tara.
“Honey, I know you’re hurting. You can’t drink it away.”
Tara frowned. “I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. Half of Bruma can tell,” Eris said. Her voice was maternal. “Besides, I spoke with the priest.”
Tara teared up. She didn’t want to think about him. Or why she needed to visit him.
“I’ll go with you in the morning, if you’d like,” Eris said. She stood up. “For tonight, sleep it off.” She left and closed the door.
Tara let the tears come and sobbed herself to sleep.
In the morning, she used a mild Heal spell on herself to reduce the worst of the hangover headache. Not the way to start the day.
She came out of her room, and sheepishly looked at Colin.
“Hi, Colin. Um, I’m sorry for last night,” she said. She wasn’t even sure what she’d said or done.
Colin gave her a rich, deep laugh. “Forget about it. Ye Olde Special Brew knocks men twice your size off their block.”
Eris came over to her. “Want some breakfast?”
Tara’s stomach gave a warning lurch.
“No, not yet. Maybe…after.” She smiled at Eris. “Thank you. I’m sorry.”
Eris nodded. She’d probably dealt with drunk women being all over Colin before.
“Need company?” she asked.
Tara took a deep breath. “No, but thank you. I need to do this by myself.”
The walk to the chapel was blissfully short, as it sat across from the Tap & Tack. Tara stepped inside and immediately felt a moment of peace. The chapel was lit in a soft glow, and shrines to the eight Divines each had their own alcove on the far end, with matching tall stained glass windows bringing in the light. She noticed one alcove sat empty, with no shrine; its window plain stained glass with no design of a Divine. No doubt, it had once been for Talos, the Divine the Thalmor banned from worship. Tara touched both amulets she was wearing.
The priest approached her with a calm smile. “May I help you?”
“I’m Tara. Here about…” she paused and collected herself. “Freta Snow-Shield. I need to finish arrangements for her to be sent home.” She swallowed.
The priest nodded. “Yes, please follow me and sit.”
He led her to two benches near the front. One bench was small, and perpendicular to the rest of the benches in the chapel. He sat in it and indicated she should sit in the one closest to it.
“We were able to contact her parents in Falkreath. The caravan transporting her will leave tomorrow. Will you be joining for any of the journey?” he asked, softly.
Tara shook her head. Now, more than ever, she wasn’t ready for Skyrim. One day. One day, she’d travel there and visit Freta’s grave. Not right now. Everything was too…fresh.
“I have this letter for her parents,” Tara said and handed the sealed letter to him. She hadn’t known what to say to them. What does one say to grieving parents? Especially coming from someone they did not know, and Tara assumed did not know was involved with their daughter. She’d kept it short, but finished it telling them “…died valiantly and honorably, defending those she loved”.
Valiant Nords went to Sovngarde after death, to feast eternally in the Hall of Valor, all created by Shor, as Tara understood it. If anyone deserved that eternal life for their soul, Freta did. Tara had started reading Children of the Sky and a few other books, to better understand their culture. There were striking differences to Breton life.
“Her greatsword and armor,” the priest was asking. “Those are to go with her?”
Tara nodded again.
“Yes. Thank you. The sword is a family heirloom and should be returned.”
As for the armor, it wouldn’t fit Tara, of course, and was of heavy steel, which did not suit Tara’s plans. She hoped to never need to wear heavy armor. Such armor was for warriors. She was going to be a mage.
“I believe we have everything we need,” the priest said. He looked at her for a moment. “Would you like to see her one more time?”
Tara felt her eyes start to tear up. She nodded yes.
The priest led her to the undercroft, to a coffin in the center of the main room. “Come back up and see me when you’re finished,” he said and left her to be alone.
Tara reached out with one hand and rested it on top of the coffin. With her other, she touched her Dibella amulet, for the Divine she worshipped and said a short prayer. She then reached under her shirt and touched the other amulet, the one banned in Cyrodiil. The one item from Freta she’d kept. She’d never prayed to Talos before, but she sent up a quiet prayer for Freta to him while touching his amulet.
“Talos guide you.”
She let tears silently stream down her face and thought about the past few days.
When she’d woken in the clearing, after that worst of days, the sky shown the first rays of dawn. Freta lay dead next to her, and the five dead bandits’ bodies were strewn around the now destroyed campsite.
It’d taken a few minutes of looking at the devastation before she’d realized what had happened.
The bandits’ bodies seemed partially crushed and were spread far from where they’d fallen. Countless trees were down, in a wide circle for hundreds of meters. The tent was a tangled mess, and it took her an hour of searching to find their supplies, blown around by her waves.
How long had it been since she’d had such an event? Almost two years. She called them anguish waves. Mom, Dad, and Mira had simply said she was having a “fit”. That was on the rare occasion they’d acknowledge to her they existed. They seemed to believe Tara didn’t remember when waves welled within her and burst out. She’d not pushed the topic, in the hope she’d overhear her parents talk about them and what the local mages said they were.
Either no one knew, or her parents had successfully kept the secret so far.
After picking up the pieces of the campsite, Tara had started the hard process of preparing Freta for travel. She wasn’t going to Chorrol. Fucking Chorrol. If only Freta had agreed to go to Bruma instead, maybe none of this would’ve happened.
If you hadn’t destroyed that Heal Other scroll, she might still be alive.
She’d wrapped Freta in the remains of the tent, and the blanket and furs they had. She’d used branches from one of the downed pines to fashion a sled of sorts, so she could pull her and the meager supplies as she walked.
The trip to Bruma had been long and quiet. When she first hit snow and ice as she came close to the city, Tara had rejoiced in the numbing cold. It matched her insides. She wanted to feel numb. Anything less, and she felt like she was drowning.
The people in Bruma had shown her nothing but kindness since she arrived. She hadn’t met the count or countess, of course. No reason for a nobody such as herself to meet with them, but the guards had helped her the moment they saw her hauling the sled.
Two of the vendors at the outdoor market near the chapel had also helped. Colin and Eris in the Tap & Tack had been nothing but helpful, kind, and patient. Even the local Orc, Tugan (or was it Tulan? Ugh, she still hated Orcs), had been, well, not rude.
The circumstances that had brought her to Bruma were terrible, but even in the midst of her sorrow, Tara could see what good people the citizens of Bruma were. She liked them and the city.
Tomorrow, it was time to leave, though. Frostcrag Spire and the College of Whispers waited. She would watch the caravan leave with Freta in the morning, then head towards the Spire. The locals and map indicated it was a good hike away, near the edge of the county. She thought she’d caught a glimpse of it in the far distance when she briefly went out to the stables to inquire about the cost of a horse. She couldn’t afford one yet, but now at least knew how much to save.
Tara wiped the lingering tears from her face, bent and kissed the top of the coffin. One last kiss for Freta.
“Talos guide you, my love.”