Tara leaned against the towering pine and grimaced.
Welcome to fucking Skyrim, she thought.
She looked down at her right arm to assess the damage. Ribbons. Her skin looked to be tattered ribbons. The bear’s claws had cut deep. Her shoulder was pounding in pain. She needed to heal herself fast. Blood was pouring out, a stream of loss she couldn’t survive long.
She used Healing on herself and felt tendons and muscles stitching themselves back together. She screamed with the pain. Even for her, this amount of damage was too much to stay stoic and tight-lipped.
The pounding headache from the magicka drain was intense and Tara let another scream escape, this one of frustration. She examined her arm again.
She was still bleeding profusely, but her arm, and what she could see of her shoulder, had assembled themselves back in some remnants of order. She still had deep cuts down her arm, but she could feel that it would function, the muscles were as they should be.
She needed her backpack. She had a couple of minor healing potions in them. They’d help a lot. The pack sat against a tree, a good ten meters away. She’d have to walk around the dead bear to get to it.
She stumbled to her feet, then promptly back down to her knees. Her head swam, and the world shifted sideways.
“Don’t pass out”, she muttered. She’d bleed out for sure.
Holding her right arm against her chest, she slowly crawled and half slid the ten meters to the pack. She spared a glance at the dead bear, and her axe sticking out of its skull. The other axe lay on the ground closer to the backpack, dropped when the bear tore into her arm.
Reaching the pack, she dug in, found the two potions, and drank them. The bleeding stopped and her skin finished closing. Bright pink streaks of new skin ran across her shoulder and down her arm. Great. More scars.
Tara leaned against the tree with the backpack and stared at the dead bear. No warning growl, it’d been on her before she’d heard anything. She’d been making her way to the small pond in the clearing, to refill her water skins and freshen up. She’d just put down the pack when it attacked. Luckily, she’d still had her axes on her, and not attached to the pack. A reminder her instincts were correct…keep the axes on her at all times.
How long had the battle been? Felt like forever, but time slowed down in these situations. It must have been only a minute or two. Thank Dibella she was fast on her feet and the bear had landed only the one swipe.
No time for rest, she thought. She needed to get her axe out of its head, clean them both, skin the bear, take some of its meat, and then clean herself up. She looked down at her clothes. She was soaked in drying blood, her sleeveless leather armor coated, and she could feel the cloth underneath drenched as well. Skinning the bear would be messy, but its hide would be valuable, and she could use the money. She knew not to let good meat go to waste, either. Take what she needed, and leave the rest to the forest and other hungry creatures.
She also needed to get moving. A dead animal would attract scavengers.
Two hours later, the job was done. Tara stripped naked and slipped into the pond that had been the cause of it all. As she removed blood from what felt like everywhere, she thought about the past weeks.
After Mira left, she’d lasted less than a week with the College of Whispers. Algar had questioned her relentlessly, but Tara kept telling him it was a family matter and would not discuss it.
Rumors flew, though, and Tara could tell she was blamed for everyone’s favorite new person having left so suddenly.
Then, Mira punched her in the gut by letter. Algar received it three days after Mira left. He brought Tara up to the side balcony, the one level with his lab and confronted her.
“I can’t let you continue to study magic here. Not with what I know now,” he said, waving the letter at her.
“What is it you know?” Tara asked. She gave up any pretense of staying calm. The murmured rumors, sideway glances, the continued denial of being able to study Destruction magic had become too much. She was angry. This, too, she could blame on Mira.
“Your sister has explained her concerns about you studying Destruction magic, and the situation overall. Your…lack of control due to childhood events.”
“Childhood events?!” Tara was incredulous. “And did she ‘explain’ her part in those ‘events’?!” She felt a wave building. Mira, again, was denying her.
Algar’s face was still as stone. “I don’t need the details to understand the danger you present,” he said, quietly. His gaze felt like he was studying an interesting gemstone. An object.
“Danger. That’s all I’m told I am,” Tara said. She knew she sounded bitter. “Through no fault of my own, you all refuse to teach me what I want to know. You tell me I’m dangerous.”
She then said what had been eating at her. “No one trusts me to learn to control myself.”
Algar seemed thoughtful for a moment, then glanced back at the letter. He gaze returned to stone.
“I know many things about magic. What happens to you is something I’ve never witnessed, nor heard of. I will not risk this cynosure, or any mages within, to these uncontrollable ‘waves’, as you call them. Your sister is your best bet for assistance with them.”
So, Mira had told him about them.
She should’ve made an effort to stop it, though Tara doubted it would have made a difference.
A wave emanated from her and knocked Algar back. It forced him to sit down on the bench he was next to. Shock, awe, and fear took over his face. He seemed briefly torn with fascination at what had happened. He then stood back up, defiant.
“You proved your sister’s point,” he said, letting anger enter his tone. “You need to leave. Now.”
“I…I shouldn’t have allowed that,” Tara started.
Algar cut her off. “You’ve assaulted me. That wave is no less than a punch to my face, a fireball aimed at my head. And proof of what first happened when you arrived here. You can’t control yourself. You are no longer welcome here.” He went back inside and left her on the balcony.
Packing up to leave, the stares from everyone only intensified. As Tara made her way out the front entrance of the spire, she let tears freely flow down her face. She had proven Algar right in that small moment. She knew it.
Outside, at the bottom of spire, just as she was about to turn onto the path and make her way down the mountain, a hand gently touched her shoulder. She turned around to see Shara. The one person who had not stared, gawked, or muttered things behind her back.
“College of Winterhold,” she said.
“What?” Tara asked.
Shara gave her a quick smile. “The College of Winterhold. It’s in Skyrim.”
“I…thank you,” she said. They hugged, briefly.
“Follow your dreams, Tara. I believe in you,” Shara said. She gave one more flash of a smile, then turned and went back inside.
Tara had made her way to Bruma and spent a few days at the Tap & Tack. It’d been good to see Colin and Eris again. She bought a map of Skyrim from a local merchant and studied it. She made a plan. Winterhold was across the province from where she’d cross the border. It could take weeks to get there. She’d stop in Falkreath first. Visit Freta’s grave, and parents. Maybe.
I’m finally going to Skyim, Freta, she’d thought. It felt good. She was ready to pay respects, then start this next adventure in life. Cyrodiil had been a bust, in so many ways. Maybe a college of magic so far away from any others was the perfect place to learn. And grow.
She’d gathered supplies and headed for the border.
Tara climbed out of the pond and shook off as much water as she could. She laughed for a moment, a real laugh for the first time in a while. If anyone wandered by this instant, they’d get quite a show, she thought. Thank Dibella she’d maintained her fitness. If she hadn’t kept up axe practice in between lessons at the College of Whispers, the bear would have been even more of a problem.
Tara dressed, packed, and laughed at herself again. Should have filled up the water skins before bathing, she thought. She wasn’t about to use the pond right now as a source. She listened to the forest, closing her eyes.
What little of Skyrim she’d seen was majestic. She was off the first road that had split away from the border road. Rich, deep pines surrounded her. She could hear the wind swaying the tops of the pines. A hawk called out somewhere high above. Then, she heard it. A bit distant, but she heard the rushing of a stream somewhere nearby. She could fill up the water skins there, and maybe camp for the night.
She’d been headed to Falkreath, but being unsure of the distance she’d decided to take that break and detour to the pond. Now, it was late afternoon and she didn’t want to be on the roads in this new land, alone, at night. She still wasn’t sure how safe the roads were for a single, little Breton woman.
The stream sounds brought her more northeast, away from Falkreath. She found it after a short hike, bubbling happily with cold, fresh water. Filling the skins, she looked around for a good place to camp. She found a flat area, at the edge of where the trees gave way to an outcropping of stones. It was a defendable position and not an area anyone would pass through, she figured.
As she setup camp, she looked at the map. She wasn’t too far from Helgen, a fort and town noted on the map. Perfect. She could stop there in the morning, get more supplies, including more healing potions, sell the bear hide, and then head to Falkreath. Maybe splurge and get another set of clothes. She was doubtful she’d ever get all the blood out of her cloth shirt. And she didn’t have much spare clothing. Hide armor, leather armor…which needed a deeper cleaning, and her mage robes, which she had no intention of wearing until she got to the College of Winterhold.
Yes, Helgen would be good. She could meet some local Nords, get refreshed for the journey, and feel more presentable when she got to Falkreath to visit Freta’s grave and find her parents.
As night came on, Tara studied the stars. She could make out the constellation of The Warrior. Appropriate for Last Seed, she thought.
The night was quiet and Tara had no dreams.