Tara and Katla sat outside the Sleeping Giant Inn, eating an early dinner. Tara wanted them to go to bed early, so they could leave first thing in the morning.
They’d spent the day on errands. Well, after Tara had scoped the town out several times to make sure they hadn’t been followed to Riverwood. Nearest she could tell, they were safe. Everyone in the small town seemed to know each other. Tara and Katla were the only visitors.
First stop had been the Riverwood Trader. The shopkeeper, Lucan, was efficient, if obsessed with something. He kept talking to his sister, Carmilla, about a claw and whether he thought that adventurer would actually come back with it.
“It’s been days,” he said to her. “Probably got killed by the bandits.” He eyed up Tara. “Say, you wouldn’t be interested in a job, would you?”
“No,” Tara said. Katla was enough on her plate at the moment.
They still hadn’t talked yet. They’d agreed to run errands, then have their little questions and answers conversation. Tara needed to know things, understand how much trouble Katla was really in.
Be open with her. It’s the only way she’ll open up to you.
Tara wasn’t looking forward to telling her too much about herself. Not yet. Trust did work both ways. She didn’t want to scare her off with any sob stories, though. She certainly wasn’t ready to talk about her waves.
After Riverwood Trader, they went to the blacksmith, Alvor. Tara sharpened her axes, while Katla bought some arrows from him. He chatted with them amiably. His young daughter, Dorthe, was full of energy. Tara smiled at that. Alvor seemed a good father.
The rest of the day had been spent wandering the town and enjoying the perfect weather. Winter was coming soon enough, but today was a warmer than usual autumn day. Tara’s eyes kept being distracted by the gigantic mountain Riverwood sat in the shadow of. She’d thought Frostcrag Spire was high in the sky in Cyrodiil. But, this mountain was, well, there weren’t words for its size.
The Throat of the World, it was called. It was the highest point in all of Tamriel. Tara had read about it, but to actually see it in person. To be in a town next to it. Books could not do it justice. She couldn’t even see the top of it, unless she lay on her back. And near its top, High Hrothgar, where the Greybeards lived. The men who taught the Way of the Voice. That yell-shout magic thing she’d heard about in Helgen. How could anyone live up so high above everything else? It had to be permanent winter up there.
“Guess I should start,” Katla said. They were finishing up their beef stew. Tara swallowed her last bite, took a swallow of mead, leaned back, and waited.
Katla’s velvet eyes fixed on her. “My parents died when I was seventeen, a few days before I turned eighteen. They were murdered.”
“Oh, Katla…” Tara started.
Katla held up her hand and shook her head. “Let me finish.”
She looked away from Tara and gazed up at the sky. The light was a blend of pink and blue; evening light making its first appearance. She turned back to Tara with wet eyes.
“You ever think you know someone, someone you love deeply, and then find out something about them that changes everything? Knocks them off the pedestal you had them on?”
Tara thought of Mira. And her parents.
She nodded. They looked at each other, confirming the other was telling the truth.
Katla continued. “My parents were involved in black arts. Necromancy.” She swallowed.
“I still don’t understand it all, and I’m not ready to discuss what I do know.”
“Not until I understand it more, at least,” Katla said. “Please.”
Tara nodded. She couldn’t expect everything spread out before her. They’d only known each other, what, two weeks? It felt longer.
Katla continued. “They were killed for something they had. Something some other necromancers wanted.”
Katla sighed, and gave Tara an intense look. “I have that something. That’s why they’re after me.”
“What is it? I saw you give Farenger…”
“I asked you to wait outside his study.” Katla’s tone wasn’t angry, though.
Tara shrugged. “I couldn’t help but peek a little. So, what is it?”
Kara opened her mouth, closed it, and thought for a moment.
“I’m not ready to say.” She patted a pouch on her belt. “Maybe it’s safer you don’t know yet. Or, at least until I know more.”
Tara frowned. “I should know what it is. You’re asking me to risk my life for it.”
“I’m asking you to risk your life for me, not it.” Katla paused. “I know. That’s a big thing to ask.”
She leaned forward. Tara instinctively leaned closer, as well. Anyone watching might have thought they were about to kiss. Tara felt Katla’s warm breath on her face. Something about it was comforting.
“I really like you, Tara,” she whispered. “It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I am drawn to you like no one else I’ve ever met. If you’ll have patience with me, I’ll reveal all.”
“I’m not very good with patience.” Tara confessed, her voice low. “For you, I’ll try.” She swallowed. “I’m drawn to you, too.”
Katla leaned back. “It’s in this pouch, which I keep on me at all times.” She patted the pouch again. “I need to learn more about it, see if it is what I think it is. If you’ll stay with me, you’ll learn with me.”
She took a sip of her mead. “Now, questions for you.”
Tara took a drink of her mead. She suddenly felt nervous.
“You said you were kicked out of the Synod Conclave in Anvil. I want that story.”
Tara sighed. “By the Gods, start with a big question, why don’t you.”
“I will.” Katla winked. She was more relaxed. Tara realized for the first time in days.
“The short answer is I beat up a local orc,” Tara said. “I hurt him severely, more than I realized at the time.” Katla’s face had gone still. She was watching her intently.
“We got into a fight at the tavern. He was a sellsword. Kept harassing me, teasing me. One night, it got to be too much.” She took a swallow of mead. “News got to the conclave, they tried to heal him, but he still walks with a limp.” Tara sighed. “I was having trouble controlling fire magic, and learning any other magic. Plus…my sister had warned them I had a temper. The combination of all these things…well, Riser didn’t want to risk teaching me anymore. Thought I’d become a dark mage.” Tara looked at Katla.
“Will you?” Katla’s look was still intense.
Tara shook her head. “No. Never. I’m not that kind of person.”
“But, you’re still pursuing magic.”
“Yes,” Tara said. “I, my family, has a history of being good with magic. Mira, my sister, is tremendous with it.” Tara swallowed. That brought up sudden pain.
“I…I could be good, too. I…need extra help learning it.” Tara swallowed again. Why was there a lump in her throat?
“I’ve always dreamed of being great at magic. The College of Winterhold is my last shot at learning.” She wiped her eyes. She didn’t realize tears had formed.
Katla’s face softened and she looked at her for a minute.
“Have you ever lost your temper at someone you cared about?” she asked. “Ever hurt them?”
Tara looked at her. What was the correct answer to that?
Tara sat back and looked up at the sky. Evening had fully come and gone, the stars were glittering in the deep blue of early night.
“My family also has a history of violence,” she finally said, still gazing at the sky. “I left home before eighteen for good reason. I’m not ready to discuss those details.” She turned back to Katla and leaned forward.
“I won’t hurt you,” she said, dropping her voice. “I’m not that kind of person, either. I don’t beat the ones I love.” She bit her lower lip. “I’m working on my temper. I know I have a ways to go.”
She leaned back. “When I was with Freta, I had infinite patience. I felt…calm. I think it’s the same, or will be, with you.”
Katla studied her. Tara watched her, waiting.
Katla finally took one last drink of her mead, finishing it.
“I believe you.” She laughed. “Well, we’re both full of happy stories.”
Tara laughed. “We’re pathetic.”
“Let’s get our pathetic selves to bed, then,” Katla said. “You insist we share a room again?”
Tara stood. “Yes. I’ll take first watch in that gods awful chair.”
The night was quiet and calm.