“Tara!” Mira exclaimed and held out her arms for a hug.
Tara let herself be enveloped by her older sister’s embrace. She closed her eyes and felt the warmth of Mira’s love. For a moment, the world was perfect.
Separating, they held each other at arm’s length and took in the other, memories mixing with the changes in each’s appearance in the years since they’d last visited.
“How long has it been?” Mira asked, smiling. She briefly ruffled Tara’s hair, as she’d done when Tara was small.
Tara took in Mira, noting the changes in her big sister. Still tall and thin. Tall by Breton standards, anyway. Mira looked down on her, even with them both fully grown. Mira’s face was longer and thinner, always carrying a look Tara had thought of as serious. A true student of magic, Tara had once thought. That face belonged to an academic. In this moment, Tara had her first pang of that sternness, that seriousness, coming from something else. It was a tired kind of serious.
Small laugh lines had started to appear on Mira’s face, a tiny reminder of their twelve year age difference. Mira was thirty-one now. She’d always carried a weight of wisdom beyond her years. She looked to Tara both thirty-one and much older.
Her hair had perhaps changed the most. Beautiful raven-hair, the deep black of her hair now had occasional strands of gray, a little less of the blue-black from their youth. Like Tara’s, Mira’s hair had gentle, natural waves, that Mira currently kept a bit longer than shoulder length.
One thing that hadn’t changed was her pale blue eyes, so striking against her black hair. Her eyes drew you in and held you. Tara remembered a young man, perhaps trying to court Mira, once described them as “entangling”.
“Five years,” Tara answered. “Gods, I was only fourteen.”
“I do wonder where the time goes,” Mira answered. As always, her voice had a rich quality, with a tendency to sound condescending. Tara chalked the condescension up to her big sister’s superior magical prowess, and that she didn’t suffer fools.
“Welcome!” Algar said as he stepped forward. “It’s an honor to have such an esteemed mage as yourself here to visit our little cynosure.”
Mira nodded at Algar. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Frostcrag Spire for myself, considering its history. I hope my stay won’t be much of a burden to you.”
“I look forward to conversing with a mage of your talents and knowledge,” Algar said. His tone was eager, almost giddy, Tara thought.
“Did I understand your letter correctly,” he asked. “You’re interested in the teleportation pads and our study of them?”
“Yes, I am,” Mira said. “But, might I be shown my room first?”
“Forgive me. Where are my manners?” Algar said. “Shara!” They’d all been standing at the entrance, Mira greeting Tara the moment she’d stepped inside.
Shara was nearby, near one of the pillars by the entrance, as was every other mage. Tara had been peppered with questions about Mira these last few days, once everyone realized Tara was her younger sister. Tara knew her sister was well-known, and had some sway with the Synod. But the College of Whispers, too? Tara had spent the days awaiting Mira’s arrival feeling more eyes than usual studying her as she practiced. Judging her. Only Shara had been respectful with a complete lack of inquiry.
“Please,” Shara said to Mira. “Let me show you to your room on the second floor.”
Algar, Mira, Shara, and Tara walked towards the platform that would take them up one floor. As they got to it, Algar, who’d been excitedly explaining the basics of it to Mira, turned to Tara.
“Please study alchemy with Rajo down here,” he said. “You can visit your sister at dinner time.”
Tara watched them all teleport up. Mira had given her a slight nod of reassurance before disappearing from sight. Tara bit back her disappointment and went to work with Rajo.
Later, after dinner, Tara showed Mira the top-most balcony. The day’s light was fading behind the mountains. The White-Gold Tower of the Imperial City shone golden in the last light.
“What a view,” Mira said. She wrapped her mage robes around her tightly, against the cold wind, and leaned on the railing. She looked over at Tara with a warm smile.
“It is so good to see you, little sis.”
Tara smiled and stood next to her, also leaning on the railing. “We shouldn’t wait so long to see each other.”
Dinner had been a delight. Everyone’s spirits had been high. Mira’s arrival had brought a vibrancy to the day. She’d regaled them all with tales of her recent visit to Black Marsh, and her time in Elsweyr, visiting Torval and the Tenmar Forest. Tara had leaned back and admired the way Mira could command attention. Her confidence as a master wizard captivated everyone.
Mira nodded. “Yes. Five years is far too long.” Her face grew thoughtful. “Have you written to Mom and Father?”
Tara frowned. “No.”
“In the last letter I received from them, they asked me to tell you they miss you.” Mira looked at her, her eyes searching.
Tara held her gaze, letting her anger at her parents shine through. “I bet I’m missed. No one to do the chores on the farm. And Father can’t try and marry me off to some fucking noble boy anymore.”
Mira sighed and nodded. “I told them you were well. They don’t know you’re here.”
Tara smiled. “Thank you.”
“To a better subject,” Mira said. “I am here to study the teleportation pads. There are scholars everywhere who want to understand them. They may hold a key to revolutionizing travel throughout Tamriel.”
She stepped back from the railing. “But, I want us to spend time together while I’m here. I want to see how you’ve progressed. Maybe help your magic training?”
Tara felt her mouth drop open. She quickly closed it. Throughout their childhood Mira had, seemingly, gone out of her way to avoid teaching Tara any magic. She’d so avoided helping Tara, it’d led to Tara experimenting and eventually earning that scar on her nose.
“Really?” she asked. “You’ll help me?”
Mira smiled. “Yes, little Tara, I want to help.” She’d used “little” the way she had when they were kids, endearingly. “It’s the least I can do.” There was a small catch in her throat.
“Mira…that would mean so much to me.” Tara felt her own throat catch.
Mira’s smiled widened. “Come here.”
They hugged again, this time holding the embrace, letting the distance and time fade away. Once more, the world was perfect.