Tara startled awake. She sat up and looked around. Frostcrag Spire was dead quiet. Everyone was still asleep. What woke her? The dream. She’d had that dream again.
She laid back down on her bed; finally, all of them had beds to sleep in now, no more sleeping cot. She stared up at the high, round ceiling. She could hear Rahi’s steady breathing somewhere nearby. The only sound on the entire floor.
Go to Skyrim.
That was different. It was the same premonition. Of the woman, Rigmor. As before, Tara had a sense she was protecting her, along with someone else. There was fighting, she remembered the sound of swords clashing against each other.
She wasn’t going to Skyrim. Not yet. She wasn’t ready to visit Freta’s grave. Besides, Mira was here now.
Mira had been here for three weeks. Tara thought back to the last time they’d spent so much time together. When she was, what, eight? Mira had left home for good when she was twenty, Tara eight. Since then, she’d only seen her sister for a week or two, once, maybe twice a year. That had stopped when Tara was fourteen.
Things here at the spire had been awkward at first. As children, they really hadn’t spent enough time together to bond. The age difference, Mira always off to lessons in town, Tara working the farm as soon as they could put a rake in her hands.
And the waves. You remember what happened.
Tara pushed that thought away. They’d warmed back up to each other, and Tara was enjoying the stories of Mira’s travels. In a way, they were now bonding for the first time.
Later in the morning, Mira came down from Algar’s laboratory, where she’d been spending most of her time.
Mira smiled at her. “I’m finished with my primary research on the teleportation pads. I have some spare time now. Mind if I work with you on your lessons?”
Tara’s face lit up in a smile, broad and radiant, contrasting the subtle, cautious one Mira had expressed.
“That would be fantastic!” Tara exclaimed. “I’ve been practicing cold spells and…”
“I want to work with you on Restoration,” Mira interrupted.
“Oh,” Tara said, confused. “I…”
“Algar told me you struggled with it,” Mira interrupted again. “I believe I can help your Healing improve, and help you learn Heal Other, plus get your ward spells started.”
Tara was confused. “Algar said I didn’t need to study that anymore. I’m clearly not cut out for it.”
Mira tilted her head. Her gaze was steady. Her mouth in a firm line.
“Little Tara, you can learn. Restoration is important for anyone studying Destruction. I know what I’m doing. Let me help.”
Maybe Mira could help her. Maybe this was Mira trying to make up for refusing to teach her when they were kids.
She did more than refuse.
Tara nodded. “Okay. I would like to learn…” her voice caught. It still caught these months later. “I’d like to learn Heal Other. It’d mean a lot.” Her voice faded on the last sentence.
Mira gave a slight nod. Tara had told her about Freta. Not everything. Not the burned scrolls. Not yet.
Mira did know what she was doing.
Within two hours, Tara was better with Healing. Mira’s teaching style clicked for her. Stern, steady, and quick to the point, she passed on information and small tips that helped Tara understand the spell in a way Banris’ efforts, and no book, had. She could now save herself if seriously injured.
After lunch, Mira helped her with Lesser Ward. Again, small tips led the way and Tara was able to produce a small ward. It wouldn’t really protect her from any magic, but being able to see the small, bluish circle of symbols in front of her had been exhilarating.
They sat together on a bench while Tara’s magicka recovered. The headaches from the draining were still ferocious and quick to arrive.
“You’re doing well,” Mira said. “I’m proud of you.”
Tara nodded. There was a touch of amazement to her voice. “I’d given up any Restoration. What you said made sense, though.” She smiled. “Thank you. Truly.”
Mira stood up. “Let’s get Heal Other off the list, then.”
They went outside to the practice courtyard.
“Now,” Mira said. “I find no one can learn Heal Other unless there’s an actual injury to heal.” From her belt Mira pulled out a dagger, a simple iron one. Tara hadn’t even noticed it, the folds of Mira’s mage robes had hidden it well.
“I’m going to make a small cut on the top of my hand,” Mira said. “Just do your best.”
Tara felt her lungs cinch as Mira drew the dagger across the top of her hand. The cut was as minor as one could be, a thin line of blood ran from the cut, but it was no more than a cut one might get cutting up vegetables for dinner.
Tara stretched out her right hand, hovering it over the cut. She couldn’t take a deep breath, her lungs remained tight. Just try, she thought. She knew the words, had the knowledge from the spell tome she’d read before. Nothing happened.
“Keep trying,” Mira said. “Imagine the cut closing.”
Tara found her eyes focused on the thin line of blood. So thin, almost harmless. So like the thin line of blood that had run from Freta’s mouth as she died.
Tara dropped her arm and stepped back. Tears were forming. She blinked them back.
“I can’t,” she muttered.
Mira hovered her hand over the cut and it healed instantly. “We’ll give it a moment and try again,” she said.
Tara listened as Mira gave some tips, about how to focus differently for Heal Other versus Healing, how to imagine taking away someone’s pain, the importance of staying calm under stress. Tara felt herself twitch on that last part. Calm.
Always trying to calm you. Always suppressing you.
“Ready to try again?” Mira asked.
Tara nodded silently and took a deep breath. She did want this. She could do it.
Mira cut her hand again. Tara reached out with her right hand. Her lungs cinched again. The thin line of blood on Mira’s hand became Freta’s. Now, Tara could see all the blood pouring from Freta. The river of blood from the neck wound. The river of blood that was too much for anyone to lose. Tears rushed her eyes and Tara couldn’t stop them.
“Just concentrate…” Mira started.
“I. Can’t.” Tara felt herself tremble.
Mira’s face was flat, watching. “Little Tara, you…”
“Don’t call me that!” Angry. She was suddenly angry. “I can’t do this.” She felt herself tremble again.
Mira healed her cut quickly. “I’m sorry, Tara.” That last bit had a tone of condensation, as if she was angry for being told to drop the pet name. “But, I know you can do this.”
The image of Freta bleeding, and shaking her head that minuscule amount at Tara one last time wouldn’t leave.
“I can’t!” Tara stepped back. She felt another tremble and more tears. “I couldn’t…” She felt a sob escape.
“Couldn’t?” Mira asked. She looked confused. And scared. She’d seen the trembling.
The tears and sobs wouldn’t stop. Neither would the image of Freta, of reaching for her face and hair one last time. “I couldn’t save her. I should’ve saved her.” Tara was on her knees.
“Don’t blame yourself,” Mira’s voice was quiet, and she knelt down with Tara. “There’s nothing you could’ve done.”
“I could have saved her. The scrolls. If I hadn’t destroyed them.” The trembles were getting worse. She could so clearly picture the burning scroll of Heal Other.
“Scrolls?” Mira sounded confused. She reached out her hand and put it on her shoulder. “I don’t understand. Calm down and tell me.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down!” Tara shouted. A small wave escaped her. Mira flinched. Or was pushed. Tara didn’t know.
She was angry, so angry. Why did Mira always tell her to calm down?
Because your rage destroyed those scrolls. Your rage killed Freta.
But Mira didn’t know that part. And Mira wasn’t who she was angry at right now. Not really.
Tara took a deep breath. “I…I had scrolls. Barlin had given me scrolls. One of them was Heal Other. I destroyed them all. I should’ve had it with me. I could’ve used it on Freta.”
She looked at Mira with imploring eyes. “Don’t you see? I could’ve saved her, if I hadn’t destroyed it. Hadn’t destroyed it when Barlin tried to give me those Calm scrolls.”
Understanding dawned on Mira’s face. “Oh, little Tara.” Her voice was soft, so rare for her. “I’m so sorry.”
Tara felt Mira’s arms envelope her. She gave up holding back any tears or sobs and released the guilt that’d been eating at her for months.
Mira held her tight. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t need to.