Sunlight broke across the horizon, coating the morning in warmth, brilliance, and hope.
Today was the day. Tara was leaving home and heading for Cyrodiil. For a new life.
She finished tossing extra feed out for the chickens. Would Mom or Father feed them on time later today? Did they even know when to feed them? Tara had been doing it all these years. Who would take care of everything now?
Not your problem.
No, it wasn’t. They could hire some sap to do the chores for all she cared.
Tara put the feed away. What other tasks to do before she left?
None, she thought. She needed to get out of here.
She crept back in the house. She could hear her mom’s snoring, but not Father’s, as was typical with them every morning. Tara was always the first awake due to her chores. And Mom could get a loud snore on.
Back in her room, she double checked her satchel and camping gear. Everything in order. There wasn’t much to take. She’d travel light and earn more coin on her way to Cyrodiil. To the closest Synod Conclave; the one in Anvil. She only needed to grab one more thing on her way out. Father’s axe, though she really thought of it as hers.
How many logs had she split with it over these years? It belonged to her. A simple woodcutter’s axe. It’d do as a weapon until she could buy a real war axe. She had the iron dagger from Hardan, too. His gift to her, on their last visit.
“I hope you never use it, Tara,” he’d said. “Except for skinning game you’ve hunted.”
Hardan. She’d finally trusted him enough to tell him about the beatings three months ago. About why she wanted to learn to fight. If only he’d left well enough alone. She’d write to him. When she was far away and safe.
Tara stepped out of her bedroom. The house was quiet. She listened for a minute, then heard Mom’s snore again. Good.
She stepped into the kitchen and set the letter on the table. She’d kept it simple.
“I’m gone for good. Don’t try and find me.
I’ll write one day. When I’m ready.
They didn’t deserve more than that.
He grabbed her by the neck from behind, just as she reached the front door. Where had he been hiding? She hadn’t heard a sound.
Tara felt herself lifted off the ground and thrown backwards. She landed hard and slid several feet, into the nearest wall.
Get up. You have to get up.
Father reached her in two strides, grabbed her by the top of the head, by her hair, and dragged her up.
Before she could finish the word, he threw her forward, into their living area. She crashed into the small table and chairs, knocking both over as she fell. The books on the table scattered, surrounding her on the floor. She scrambled to her feet in time and backed away from Father.
His face was the same shade of red as the red flowers she loved to pick.
“Where do you think you’re going?!” he bellowed. He lunged for her.
Tara hopped over one of the collapsed chairs and avoided him.
“Get away from me!” she shouted.
“What is going on?” Mom had appeared.
“Get a scroll,” Father said to her. He was blocking the front door. Broad shouldered and barrel chested, he had always been imposing. More so now as he blocked Tara’s escape.
“Tara? What’s going on?” Mom looked confused.
“Our daughter is trying to leave,” Father said. “Get a scroll.”
“Let me go!” Tara said. They stood at a stalemate. Tara had put another piece of furniture between her and Father. She now stood behind one of the chairs parked in front of the fireplace. Father stayed planted in front of the door.
“You want to leave?” Mom asked Tara. “I don’t understand.”
Tara didn’t take her eyes off Father.
“I’m leaving. Tell Father to let me go,” she said to Mom. Could Mom convince him? Maybe. Or, maybe distract him long enough for her to slip out.
“Get a calm scroll!” Father yelled. Mom jumped at that, as if wakening for the first time.
Turning to Tara, he said, “You’re not going anywhere.”
“Get out of my way. You can’t stop me,” she spat back at him. She felt heat rise in her face. She wasn’t afraid of him, she realized. She was angry at him.
“By the Gods, woman,” Father said to Mom. “Get a calm scroll now!”
Tara risked taking her eyes off Father for a moment. Her heart sank. Mom had that look. That obedient, far off look. Mom turned to get a calm scroll.
Why hadn’t she thought to find all the scrolls and destroy them ahead of time, Tara thought. Stupid.
She couldn’t let Mom read one. Thank the Gods Mom had stopped using magic years ago. And Father had never been good with magic. They relied exclusively on the scrolls to calm her now, with Mira long gone. She had a chance.
“No scrolls,” Tara said. “I’m leaving. Don’t make me hurt you.” Her voice had trailed off on that last sentence. Too timid. Too unsure of herself. Too…she didn’t want to have to hurt them.
Not angry enough.
Father took a chance with Tara distracted by Mom. He launched himself at her.
She almost got away. She dived to her right, but his hand latched onto the strap of her satchel, which she’d draped across one shoulder and across her chest. He pulled hard, and Tara flew into the back wall of the room. The impact knocked the wind out of her and she slid to the floor, trying to catch her breath. Her head swam. She must’ve hit it on the wall.
Father stood above her, pulling back his arm, fist ready to fire. He was going to punch her, going to beat her again. Mom would use a calm scroll and that would be that.
Tara let the wave fill her and release. The heat in her face had cooled. This wasn’t anger. This was fury.
The force from the wave knocked Father off his feet, onto his back. Mom screamed as all the dishes on the table near where she stood, now holding a calm scroll in her hands, shattered and flew at her.
The dining table and chairs slid several feet and toppled. Tara heard shattering from the other rooms. Perhaps she’d knocked everything off the walls.
She climbed to her feet. Father matched her. He took a step towards her.
She let another wave loose. He was lifted off his feet and landed hard on the floor again.
The house shook, Mom shrieked again, and all the furniture in the living area toppled over.
“I’m leaving!” she said. She just needed to get out the door away from them.
Father was on his feet again. Mom had unrolled the scroll. Cuts dotted her arms and face. The shattered dishes had found their mark.
Tara pointed her left hand at Mom. It came so easily. She knew what she needed to do, and it happened.
The flame shot from her hand and caught the scroll, setting it ablaze. Mom screamed, this time in real pain, not fright. The flames had caught her, too, and Tara winced to see her hands burning.
Mom scrambled to the bucket of water they always kept near the sink. Tara heard the sizzle from the dying flames. She didn’t want to see what Mom’s hands looked like.
Father lunged at her. Some sound, some guttural rage, exploded from his mouth.
Tara dodged, ducking under his grasp. Like Hardan had taught her, she rolled, efficiently, to where she wanted to be.
She was at the front door.
Father looked posed to lunge again. His face now an even deeper red, almost purple, with rage.
Tara held up her right hand. A fireball danced in it.
“I will burn you alive,” she said. She’d never sounded so cold.
He stared at her, then the fireball. Fear had crept into his eyes and Tara had a moment of glee.
Mom’s moans of pain interrupted.
“Better help Mom,” she said to Father. “Get her to a healer. Get her to Arkan.”
She opened the door and stepped out.
The rich, pink light of sunrise greeted her and she hurried down the path, to the barn, to the woodcutter’s axe.
She had it in her hands within a minute and turned to get to the road. To get out of here. To get out of this place that was no longer home.
Father stood on the path, in front of the house, which Tara could now see had shattered windows. She’d blown them all out with her waves.
He was blocking her path to the road, unless she turned and cut across their fields, their crops, which had been freshly planted by her these past few weeks.
“Get out of my way,” Tara said. She brandished the axe.
“You’re going to pay for all of this,” Father said, pointing to the house. “For what you did to your mother.”
“Get. Out. Of. My. Way.”
“Everyone will know,” he said. A sneer had crept into his voice. “I’ll tell everyone. Spread the news. How violent you are. How unprovoked this all was. How you can’t be trusted with magic.”
“I don’t care.”
“No one will teach you. I’ll make sure of that.” Father was smiling. “I’ll use all my connections to tell everyone what a horrible daughter you are. Have been all your life. The sacrifices we made to keep everyone safe from you. To protect them from the damage you cause.” He gestured at the house. As if it presented the best proof.
“I don’t care!” Tara screamed at him. An idea crossed her mind. She shouldn’t, but…
I’ll give him proof I’m dangerous, she thought.
Don’t do it.
Tara turned away from Father, from the path, and headed for the fields. Yes, she’d give him proof.
Just cross the fields to the road. You don’t need to do anything else. Get to the road and leave.
Tara turned back to Father. He was following her.
“I’ll give you proof!” she yelled as she kept walking.
She stopped at the open gate of the fence; the loosely built fence that separated the crop fields from the yard. They didn’t need much of a fence, as the animals left the crops alone most of the time.
“Tara! Don’t!” He’d realized what she was about to do.
Tara closed her eyes and let both her hands come alive with fire. She touched each of the gate posts. The wood caught immediately and flames shot along the fence line, greedily chomping on the wood.
She didn’t turn to look at him. She kept walking, now crossing the fields, moving angled toward the road, and away from the burning fence.
As she walked, she shot fireballs at the crops. There was no stone wall to shatter and hit her in the face now. Nothing to bounce back and harm her. The fireballs either landed harmlessly in the dirt and died, or caught a young sprout, just emerging from the ground, and consumed it, hungering for more.
She’d shot no more than twenty fireballs before she could see the fields catching on their own, the fire spreading. Wheat, potato, leeks. All were falling to the flames.
A blast of heat hit her, and she realized she could stop. The fire would feed itself and continue spreading, catching all their crops, all the food she’d planted. All the food that was to feed them for the coming year, and the excess they were supposed to sell for profit.
She wanted to stop and stare. To admire her handiwork. She was, what? Proud?
Proud of the magic. All those fireballs. How easy she’d created them. No headache. No magicka drain. They’d felt so natural.
She tore her eyes away from the growing inferno and looked back. Father had stopped at the burning fence. For the first time, he looked small, defeated. Confused. Weak. There was no way for him to save the crops. Even if he got Arkan and others from town here fast enough, much would be lost. This year’s crops would be a total loss.
Flames were still spreading along the fence. She needed to move before they cut her off from the road.
Tara ran and climbed over a section of fence that hadn’t caught yet, the approaching flames were still a good ten meters away. As her feet connected with the road that led away from Wayrest, and towards Hammerfell, she allowed herself one more look.
Father had disappeared. Gone to get help, probably. Hopefully, for Mom as well, for her burnt hands. Tara felt a pang of guilt. She hadn’t wanted to hurt Mom. Not like that.
She turned away from home and headed down the road.