“Where is she?!”
How was she here?
Why was she here?
“Tara…” Mira started.
“Where is Katla?!” Tara roared at Mira.
“Keep it down in there!” Dagur, owner of The Frozen Hearth Inn, yelled.
Tara tried to steady herself. She hadn’t stopped trembling since she burst into the inn, after leaving The Midden. She’d gotten a dirty look from Dagur from that arrival. Guess he’d tired of her busting into the inn, and not spending any money.
It’d been three days since she’d seen Katla. She’d respected her wishes. She’d studied, spoken to Tolfdir some more, then made that trip to The Midden. She’d been down there a day, apparently.
She’d come straight here, after that ominous warning.
Now that you’ve failed the one, do not fail the other.
Tara thought of Freta and her warning, so long ago, but so fresh in her memories.
When you fail the one, don’t fail the other.
Who was the “one”? Freta had said Rigmor was one of them.
Was Katla the other? How had she failed her?
“Where is she?!” Tara asked Mira again, keeping her voice down this time.
Why was Mira here? How did she know Tara was here, in Winterhold? At the College? Had Mirabelle written her after that wave incident? Had Katla?
No. Why would Katla write Mira? She knew Tara’s feelings on her sister. She’d respected them.
But here Mira was. In Katla’s room.
Okay…deep breaths, Tara thought. Figure this out.
She inhaled slowly and let her eyes take in the room.
Katla’s clothes and backpack were not in sight. Instead, a different backpack sat on the bed. Cleaner, yet older. As if its owner traveled frequently, but in places where the backpack wouldn’t get dirty. In cities, towns, and inns. Not the wilderness Katla and Tara had spent so much time camping in. It had to be Mira’s.
An ache crept into Tara’s chest. A steady throb surrounded her heart, and threatened to shift and amplify.
No, no, no, no.
Mira was sitting in a chair at the small table in the room. On the table rested Katla’s bow.
Katla’s bow was shaped like a common hunting bow, but its steel tips were a slight blue, and the wood of the bow was a rich, dark wood instead of the blonde wood Tara saw around Skyrim.
How many times had Katla saved her life with that bow? How many times had they saved each other?
The ache added a stabbing pain.
A letter sat on top of the bow.
Tara shifted her eyes to Mira. To the sister she hadn’t seen in a year and a half. The new year was only a week away.
The time since they’d last seen each other seemed so much longer. So much had changed.
By the looks of her, much had changed for Mira as well.
Her hair was longer now, styled in a way Tara had never seen before. Mira had grown out her bangs, and much of her deep black hair was pulled back in a ponytail to rest on the sections left unbound. Some standout strands hung in front of her face.
The overall look made her seem younger. She still looked serious. Mira had always looked serious, but somehow, they didn’t look twelve years apart in age.
She looks more relaxed, Tara thought. As if a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
Tara supposed it had been. All that shame during their final fight atop Frostcrag Spire.
“Katla asked me to tell you to read the letter. That we should speak afterwards,” Mira said. Her voice and tone were the same as always. No humor. Matter of fact.
No, not quite. There was an edge of softness to it. Tara flashed back to the good months they had together at the College of Whispers. To the bonding and kindness Mira had shown. Before the truth had come out.
Mira stood. Her icy blue eyes pierced. They, too, had a softness rare for Mira. “I’m going to step out. Grab some food and drink at one of the tables,” she said. “Come find me when you’re finished reading the letter.”
She lightly touched Tara’s arm as she left the room. She closed the door behind her, leaving Tara alone.
Strength left her legs and Tara found herself sitting in the other chair at the table. The one she’d sat in normally when Katla and she’d rented the room initially.
The stabbing pain picked up its pace.
She reached out and caressed the bow. Her hands trembled and ignored her requests to stop.
She’d started crying as well. No way to stop that.
She picked up the letter and read.
“Tara, my love.
I will be back for my bow. This is not goodbye. Unless that’s what you want. I hope you can forgive me.
I’m sorry. I should’ve told you about Mira. I got so angry with you for keeping things from me, and here I am. I did the same to you. What a hypocrite I am.
I love you.
I remember the moment I realized I loved you. Not just crushing on you. That happened the moment I laid eyes on you back in Falkreath. Your soul shines through your eyes. And touches mine. I don’t know how to describe it. You’re amazing. Not just gorgeous. Amazing as a person.
I knew I loved you, really loved you, when I woke up the morning after that crazy night outside of High Hrothgar. I woke up to you sleeping next to me. I felt so safe. So comfortable. And then you opened your eyes and I knew it. I loved you.
I love you, but I can’t be near you right now. Your waves terrify me. Magical power scares me. You and magic scare me. For the sake of us, I need to be away from you until you figure out magic for yourself.
You’re a warrior, Tara. You need to come to that conclusion yourself, though.
Mira. Right. I need to explain. Please forgive me.
I wrote her two months ago. No, not about your waves.
When we couldn’t find out more about your ancestor, Tara Geonette. I was scared. Frustrated. I wanted answers. I thought Mira might have them. Your family suppressed your magic when you were little. Maybe they’d kept information about Tara from you, too.
I took that chance. Talk to her. She has things to tell you about your Fire Queen ancestor.
Then, please, for me, let her help you.
I know what she did was terrible. I can never understand that level of violation.
But, for me, let her help you now. Let her fix what she helped create.
Don’t try and find me. Write me.
Take care of my bow. Use it to keep yourself safe. By the time you read this, I will have my father’s ebony bow in my hands. I hid it well years ago. I’m ready for it now.
Talk to Mira. Then, write me. We’ll go from there.
I love you, Tara.
Tara read the letter again.
The stabbing in her chest settled into an ache. A constant pain, enough to tell you it was there, but not enough to stop you. A reminder of a wound.
She folded the letter carefully and set it back on top of the bow. Katla’s bow. Hers for now.
Katla was gone. Tara had failed her. She was no longer protecting her.
No more magic.
No more Katla.
What was she supposed to do?
Talk to Mira.
Tara looked at the closed door.
She’d talk to Mira. For Katla.