Tara ducked and dropped to the ground as the stone target burst and fragments flew. She didn’t need another scar on her face. She looked over in time to see Shara do the same.
Well, that didn’t go as planned, she thought.
Shara stood up and dusted off her robes. She looked at the destroyed target, then over at Tara. Her face seemed caught between fascination and anger.
Tara slowly stood up, knocking snow and dirt off her robes. Fortunately, they’d been practicing outside, in a courtyard on the backside of the ground floor. It was walled off with thick, ancient stones, near the stairs Tara had first climbed when approaching the tower.
“Tara,” Shara said, her voice had a veneer of anger and exhaustion mixed in it. “You want to explain that to me? I said a controlled fireball.”
Tara swallowed hard and looked at the smoldering, destroyed target. “I was imagining a fireball, like you said. It didn’t feel big in my hands when I released it.”
Shara stared at her and shook her head. “I’ve told you before. You need to bring forth your magic, any magic, with your eyes open. Closed eyes are for novice amateurs.”
“It’s just easier…”
“I don’t care what’s easy. You can’t control what you can’t see.” Shara barked. “Early on, for those who have a hard time calling forth magic, closed eyes works. You have no problem calling forth fire.” Shara narrowed her eyes and gave Tara an intense look. “Closing your eyes makes you dangerous. Don’t do it.”
Tara nodded and studied the ground.
“Let’s work on lightning spells,” Shara said. She stepped back from Tara, to give her room. Tara admired her smooth, confident body movements. Even under heavy mage robes, Tara could tell Shara had an abundance of curves. Curves reserved for Rajo, it seemed. Rajo was studying Conjuration, was considered adept level. He was a stocky Redguard and had come to the college a few months after Shara, a number of years back. Tara had observed them whispering together in quiet corners of the tower. She’d even heard a rare giggle from Shara.
When Tara had first come to the tower, she’d wanted to avoid Rajo. The memory of the bandits she’d killed, the ones that’d killed Freta, was too recent. She didn’t want to trust any Redguard, much less a male one.
Rajo turned out to be a gentle giant, though. He was soft-spoken and polite to the point of irritation. He and Tara had bonded over the shared childhood experience of one’s parents putting unrealistic expectations on them. In Rajo’s case, as the only son, he was supposed to become a warrior, but had displayed magic abilities early, so had gone on to study magic instead.
“Keep it to the spell Sparks,” Shara said. “Hit the target on the left three times. Eyes open, Tara.” Tara caught her serious look.
“Right.” Tara steadied herself and aimed her left hand at the target. It took more effort, far more than fire, but she managed three quick bursts of sparks at the target, before a sudden headache from low magicka hit her. She sat on the nearest bench to recover.
“Good.” Shara nodded. “Do it again when you recover enough magicka.”
“Sure,” Tara said, rubbing her forehead. “Can I ask you a question?”
“I don’t get tired like this after fire spells. My magicka doesn’t drain the same. Any ideas why?” Tara studied Shara’s face for any reaction.
Shara was thoughtful for a minute, staring at the destroyed target. She then looked at Tara with inquisitive eyes.
“I don’t know,” she finally said. “I’ve read my share of history books of great mages. Have never heard of it. Certainly, all mages have schools they’re better at than others. Nothing like what seems to happen with you.” She turned back to study the target.
“Would you say you have a lot of rage? Old anger? From, I don’t know, some sort of injustice?” she asked.
Tara sighed and studied the destroyed target. She didn’t want to talk about her childhood in any real detail. And certainly no more about Freta’s death than she already had.
You could have saved her.
“I guess some. Wasn’t an easy childhood.” She shrugged at Shara.
Shara laughed. “You don’t lie as well as you think.”
Shara stood up. “Perhaps Algar can shed some light on the possibilities. He’s forgotten more about magic than I’ll ever learn.” She pointed to the targets. “Come on. One more set of three Sparks at the left target. Then, you can call it a day.”
As Tara stood to do just that, Algar stepped out into the courtyard.
“Tara,” he said. “I have a letter for you.” He handed her an opened letter. He stood, waiting for her to read it.
Tara scanned the letter. Note, really. There were only a few sentences on it. She folded it quickly and tried to assume a passive face. She wasn’t sure it worked.
Algar, having clearly read the letter, said, “We’ll prepare a guest room for her on the second floor. She should have plenty of comforts, for a mage of her status. She’ll have access to my laboratory, of course, as she needs.”
He turned to leave, then turned back to Tara. “Based on the date of the letter, she should be here in a few days. You’ll have some allowances on study time, of course. Keep up with your lessons, but you’ll be allowed plenty of time to visit with your sister.” He turned and left.
Tara sat back down on the bench and stared at the letter, in disbelief. Mira was coming to the college.