“I saw it with my own eyes,” Tara said. A mix of shock and anger danced across her face.
She stood in front of Jarl Siddgeir of Falkreath. She imagined she looked a fright, having run directly from Helgen to Falkreath and then burst into the Jarl’s Longhouse with news of the dragon attack. Sweat was pouring from everywhere.
When she’d first come in, she’d been adamant, and animated, insisting she speak to the jarl.
Jarl Siddgeir was sitting on the throne, talking to an Altmer woman Tara assumed was his steward. The guards had quickly blocked her, startled by her sudden arrival. The jarl seemed intrigued, though, and called her forward.
“Speak,” he’d said. His condescending tone reminded Tara of Mira. He finished off the image with the lazy way he’d strewn himself on his throne. Tara wasn’t impressed. It suddenly made sense why bandits had parked themselves on a major road in his hold. This jarl wasn’t trustworthy. By Dibella, let him not be representative of all the jarls in Skyrim.
Tara had told him about Helgen. How it’d been attacked by a dragon and destroyed. She hadn’t seen any survivors.
Two of the guards had burst out laughing. The steward looked unsure. Jarl Siddgeir had remained sitting in his lazy manner, one hand casually rubbed his stubbly chin.
“Dragon, you say?” he’d asked. His beady eyes studied her.
“I saw it with my own eyes.”
His steward spoke up. “You can’t seriously believe this girl, my jarl. A dragon? They’ve been dead for hundreds of years.”
Siddgeir briefly look over at her. “Nenya, dear, why would she lie?”
“I’m not…” Tara started.
“Don’t interrupt me,” Siddgeir said. He sat up on his throne. “You’d speak to a jarl in this manner?”
Tara bit her tongue. Right. Nobles. Protocol.
“My apologies, sir,” she said and bowed her head slightly.
“You really saw a dragon?” Siddgeir assumed his lazy posture again, as if his spine had limited strength.
“I…” Tara started.
“Think someone’s had a bit too much skooma,” one of the guards muttered.
Siddgeir chuckled. Tara tried to keep a calm face. Why wasn’t he taking this seriously?
“I suppose I can send a guard over to check on Helgen,” he finally said. “But, surely, you saw something else? A troll, perhaps?”
By Dibella, this man.
“I know it was a dragon. Sir. Exactly as legends describe them,” Tara said.
“Sir,” one of the guards said. “We can escort her out. Maybe to the jail, so she can sleep off whatever mead she’s had too much of.”
“I KNOW WHAT I SAW!” Tara yelled. She couldn’t help it. This was ridiculous.
She heard a guard draw his sword. The jarl, though, still sat on the throne lazily, as if her outburst was the most fascinating new toy someone had brought in.
The doors to the longhouse burst open, again, and a guard came running in. Everyone turned to him.
“Sir! Helgen’s been attacked! Saw it on my patrol,” he panted. “Everything’s destroyed. Whole town.”
On this, Jarl Siddgeir sat up, finally looking like a man of importance and power.
“Gather a garrison of men and have them head to Helgen now,” he said to Nenya.
He turned his gaze back to Tara. “I guess we owe you a reward. Nenya, be a dear, and pay our guest here a reward for bringing us this news. Thank you for your service. Now, run along.”
An hour later, Tara was ordering a mead at Dead Man’s Drink, the inn and tavern of Falkreath. She’d left the jarl’s presence and headed for the inn to rent a room and drink. She’d glimpsed the cemetery on her way to the inn. Freta was in there, somewhere. A task for tomorrow. Not today, not after seeing the dragon, the destruction, and the jarl’s attitude. How had Freta grown up in such a place?
Perhaps previous jarls were better, she thought. She had to wonder, though, with such a large cemetery, and an inn called Dead Man’s Drink. There was a sadness here. A long running sorrow.
Tara turned away from the bar to find some place to sit. She almost dropped her drink.
…long, luscious brown hair. The kind you couldn’t help but run your fingers through. And her eyes. The eyes are what drew you in. Her eyes were a golden brown, hazel, with the depth of someone who’d overcome a great loss…
The girl in her…no, not her. Not the woman from her premonition. Not Rigmor.
A gorgeous, tall Nord woman stood near the central hearth fire. She was looking around the inn, as if also looking for a place to sit. Her eyes fell on Tara, and they stared at each other for a few seconds; an eternity.
Talk to her.
Tara quickly grabbed another mead from the innkeeper and approached her. She wore a simple, yet elegant Imperial style dress. A rich blue that suited her. Like every Nord compared to Tara, the woman was tall, though she was more slender than most Nords. Not the muscled physique of Freta, or, well, herself. This woman was trimmer, athletic looking, but not a warrior.
An archer, Tara thought. She was built like an archer.
They locked eyes again as Tara approached. Tara sensed a curiosity from her. She put on her widest smile.
“There’s a small table in the corner, over there,” she said, nodding to the far corner of the inn. “Share a drink with me?” She held up the second mead.
The woman smiled back.
“Now that’s how you approach a woman. Have the drink already in hand.” She gave Tara a mischievous grin. “Offer accepted.” Her voice was rich, yet light. As feminine as her dress.
The hum of the inn died down a bit in the corner. The woman sat in the chair which gave her a clear view of the inn’s entrance. She seemed to scan the room as she took a sip of the offered mead. Tara matched her sip.
“Might I know the name of the woman who has bought me this fine mead,” she asked, letting her gaze fall back on Tara.
“Tara Blaton. And might I know the name of the woman I bought a fine mead for?”
A sly smile spread across her face. “Katla Hammerheart,” she said simply. She seemed to be studying Tara, both physically, as if taking in the sights, and…scanning her like the room, as if looking for something.
“What brings a Breton to Falkreath, of all places?” Katla asked.
Tara paused. Ugh, why did that question hit hard? To visit my dead girlfriend’s grave was a bit heavy to start off the conversation. She fiddled with the Talos amulet around her neck. Freta’s amulet.
“To visit a friend,” she answered.
“To friends,” Katla toasted. “New and old.”
Tara smiled and toasted with her.
“Did you hear about Helgen?” Katla nodded out towards the crowded inn. The constant hum included nothing but talk of Helgen.
Tara swallowed. “I saw it. Saw the dragon. And destruction.” Her voice had dropped low, as close to a whisper as she could get. She didn’t want anyone to bother her with questions about Helgen. That’s what the mead was for…to drive the memory of the dead bodies out of her mind.
Katla’s face grew serious. “I’m sorry. That must have been terrible to see.” The empathy surprised Tara.
“Thank you,” she said. Wanting to change the topic, she asked, “What brings a Nord to Falkre…ah nevermind.” They both burst out laughing.
“I am passing through,” Katla said. “I don’t live here.”
“Adventuring in Skyrim?”
“You could say that,” Katla said. “You?”
A lie. She’s hiding something.
“A brief stop here to visit that friend. Then, off to the College of Winterhold. To learn magic.”
“Going to become the greatest mage there ever was?” The sly grin was back on Katla’s face.
Tara smiled, woefully. “No. That honor might go to my older sister.”
Katla gave her a long look. “I can’t seem to avoid sad conversations with you.”
Tara smiled again. “Sorry. You have any siblings?”
Katla shook her head slightly, and took a big gulp of her mead. “Only child.”
Katla finished off her mead. “Next round is on me.” She stood up and headed for the bar before Tara could respond.
Tara watched Katla. Yes, she had the moves of a fighter skilled in…something. Had to be archery. Or something sneaky. Katla scanned the room again, too. Either looking for someone, or to avoid someone.
As Katla approached with fresh drinks their eyes locked, and both smiled. They drank slowly and people watched, chatting about the antics of others they observed. The bard was good, and they both gave tips and healthy applause after every performance. Tara made a mental note to look up some of the songs she’d never heard before.
The night wore on and Tara grabbed the next round. She’d rented a room already, so she wasn’t worried about getting drunk, but she did want to stay coherent enough. She could feel a healthy warmth in her face, and knew she’d need to stop after this round. What she didn’t know what to do yet was how to see Katla again.
“Are you staying with your friend? Or here at the inn?” Katla asked.
“At the inn. Room already rented,” Tara said.
The tavern had quieted down, as most patrons had left, presumably wandering home. The length of the day was starting to sink in. The 17th of Last Seed. So much had happened in one day.
Katla stood. Tara stood as well.
“I am off to my rented room and a comfy bed,” Katla said. She smiled. “One last question for you.”
Tara held her gaze and waited.
“What made a beauty such as you offer me a drink and excellent company?”
Tara blushed. Compliments were so different when offered by women.
“I turned around from the bar and you took my breath away.”
Katla now blushed.
Before she missed the chance, Tara asked, “May I see you again?”
“I would be delighted.” Katla’s smile was wide and her eyes twinkled with a touch of mischief. “I have some…errands in the morning. Perhaps we can meet here again in the evening? I will be in town for a few more days.”
Tara nodded. “Perfect.” She bowed, reached out and lightly grabbed Katla’s hand. She kissed her knuckles as gently as a breeze.
“Until tomorrow,” she said, and headed to her room.
What a day to remember.