“You should eat something,” Mira said. “You’re going to get drunk.”
“I want to be drunk,” Tara said. She hiccupped, as if for emphasis.
Katla was gone.
It wasn’t goodbye, she’d said. Might as well have been. She was gone.
And here was Mira. With all those painful memories.
Tara hiccupped again and pulled the bottle of mead closer to her, as if to hug it.
Katla’s bow sat in her lap. Katla’s letter was carefully tucked in her pouch. Maybe if she read it again, she’d catch some clue as to where Katla had gone. She said she’d have gotten her father’s ebony bow by now. Where would that have been hidden for years?
Or, Solitude, where she’d spent the most time? Something to think about. Where would Katla go first? Would assassins be waiting for her?
When you fail the one…
Yes, Tara had failed Katla. She wasn’t protecting her anymore.
…Don’t fail the other.
Rigmor was in her future.
Rigmor didn’t matter right now, though. Katla did.
Tara took a swallow of mead.
“Why are you here?”
Mira sighed. “Did Katla not say in her letter?”
“She did,” Tara said. “Why are you here?”
A small smile broke across Mira’s face, before disappearing. She nodded.
“On the surface, to meet with Tolfdir and Mirabelle about a Nord ruin they’re exploring. The Synod Conclave is hoping to be involved. I’m here as an ambassador of sorts.”
Tara took another swallow. A burp escaped. She waited.
Mira nodded again, acknowledging it wasn’t the real answer. “I think I can help you.”
Tara drained her mead, then waved to Haran, Dagur’s wife, for another.
“You think you can…help…me?” Tara heard the sarcasm drip out of her.
Mira pursed her lips. “I deserve that.” She somehow intensified her gaze. “I deserve all the hostility and anger you’re feeling.”
“Yep.” Haran had brought over another mead. Tara took a big gulp. She didn’t want to be sober.
“I can help you,” Mira said. “I’ve learned some things. I have an idea how to…”
“I don’t want your ‘help’,” Tara said. “You ‘helped’ enough when I was a child.”
Gods, why couldn’t she be drunk already? Better yet, numb. She didn’t want these feelings. This anger at Mira. Why did she have to come back? Dredge up all the pain?
“I can repair some of the damage I caused,” Mira said. A pleading entered her voice. “Please, Tara. Let me help. Let me undo some of what I did.”
“I. Don’t. Want. Your. Help.” Tara stood, then felt herself sway. Not sober now.
“Then, do it for Katla. She begged me to help you.” Mira’s eyes and voice had softened. She seemed so…earnest.
Katla. She’d been the last to see Katla. She’d talked to Katla, for how many days, all while Tara had no idea Katla was leaving her. The anger flared. She wasn’t going to get to a state of numbness. This was too much. No magic future. No Katla. Mira back.
“Don’t…don’t say her name.”
“She loves you so much, Tara…”
Tara threw what was left of her mead in Mira’s face.
The shock on Mira’s face only lasted a second. Then, a sereneness washed over her. A calm Tara herself had never felt seemed to emanate from her. Mira looked down at her mead soaked robes and wiped the worst of the mead dripping down her face with her hand. Then, with that same hand, she turned her wrist slightly, and it evaporated. Her robes were dry, as if the drink had never been tossed.
Tara blinked, swayed, and then sat back down with a thump. What magic was that?
“How…I’ve never seen that before,” she said. She hiccupped.
Mira gave a small smile. “A type of alteration spell. Like a transmute spell.” She paused. “That was a waste of perfectly good mead.”
Tara blinked again. “Did you just make a…joke?”
Mira smiled. “I’m trying to develop a sense of humor. I’m not sure it’s working.”
Tara couldn’t help herself. “Needs work, but not bad for a novice.”
Mira let a laugh escape. “Thanks.”
Tara looked at her for a minute. Mira met her gaze with that new softness Tara wasn’t used to.
“But, for me, let her help you now. Let her fix what she helped create.”
Katla thought Mira could help. And Mira had information on Tara Geonette.
For Katla, she needed to put aside her anger. Her pain. At least long enough to hear Mira out. For Katla, she could do that.
After she sobered up, anyway.
Tara looked at the food on the table. Mira had ordered salmon steak, bread and goat cheese. A bowl of soup, maybe vegetable, was also on the table.
Tara’s stomach growled. She realized she hadn’t eaten in more than a day. Not since before she’d gone down into The Midden.
She tore into the salmon.
“Okay. For Katla,” she managed between bites.
Mira smiled and nodded. “Good.”
While Tara ate, Mira caught her up on the last year and half of her life. She’d stayed in Cyrodiil, finishing her research on the teleportation pads she’d studied at the College of Whispers.
She said she’d been intermittently visiting all the Synod Conclaves for research.
“I’ve never stopped looking for answers; some hint of what might have happened to you.”
Tara swallowed the chunk of bread she’d just bitten into. She coughed. Should have chewed that better, she thought.
She took a swallow of the fresh mead Haran had brought both of them. Now that she was eating, the initial inebriation was wearing off. As long as she drank the mead at a reasonable pace, she could enjoy it.
“Find anything?” Tara surprised herself. She thought she’d snap back to anger about being studied, or the research, but curiosity was winning.
Mira frowned and shook her head. “No. I mean, there are all kinds of stories of weird magic. And who knows what we’ve lost over the ages. Or when the Dwemer disappeared.”
“But,” Tara said. “You think you can help me now?”
Mira’s eyes brightened. “Yes. I think you’ll always have these waves.” She stopped and Tara watched her face shift into a deep sadness. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
How was she supposed to respond to that? Forgive her? No. Not that. Not yet. Maybe never.
Tara waved her hand to dismiss the apology. “Go on.”
“I think you can learn to control them,” Mira said. “I have ideas on that. I believe I can teach you how to only send them at those you want them to affect. And, hopefully, have far fewer of them. Be able to stop them. Or, at least more than you do now. I assume you stop them on occasion?
Tara nodded. Talking to Mira right now about her waves, so dispassionately, was odd. It struck her she’d never talked to anyone about them in any detail. Always only in response to them being found out. After she’d damaged something or someone.
“If I can…calm…myself down fast enough, I stop them,” she said.
Gods, how she hated that word.
Mira leaned back in her chair and took a sip of her mead. She grew thoughtful.
So serious, Tara thought.
“That’s what I thought. Your emotional state is a major factor, if not the factor.”
“My anger,” Tara interrupted.
Mira nodded. “Yes. Your…well-earned anger.” She took another sip. “Not the only emotion involved, though.” She leaned forward. “I think I can teach you a kind of focus that will allow you to direct aspects of the waves.”
“You’re not going to teach me to calm myself down?” This was new.
Mira shook her head. Her eyes held a sadness. Lingering shame, perhaps.
“No, that was a mistake. Whether by magic or asking you to settle down, trying to calm you was the worst thing to do.”
Mira looked away and was silent for a minute. She then turned back to Tara with bright eyes.
“Tara, there’s something different about magic within you. Different from other mages. Different from me. I don’t know how to explain it. Nor, do I understand exactly, but…”
Mira straightened up. She suddenly had an air about her that brought back the memories from their time together at the College of Whispers. When Mira had taught and excited everyone around her. The element of her that Tara had learned to admire and respect. She wasn’t a practical mage as much as a teacher. A true researcher and educational wizard.
“I’m glad Katla wrote to me and asked about Tara Geonette. It helped me come to a conclusion.”
“There is something about our ancestor. Something she did hundreds of years ago that is why you’re the way you are with magic.”
“What…how?” Tara found herself blinking in shock again. What?
“I’m still working it out. I have a lot more research to do, but she did something that affects our bloodline.”
Tara felt her jaw drop open. She closed it.
“I know,” Mira said. “I don’t have much to tell you on that aspect yet. But, as for the Order of the Fire Queen, and whether they’re still around and the ones after Katla, I believe they are.”
“You told Katla?”
“I did. When I got here.” Mira smiled. “You know, she impressed me. You found yourself a strong Nord. She really loves you, too.”
Tears sprouted. “Well,” Tara said. “I seem to have lost her.”
Mira looked concerned. “I…I don’t know what’s in the letter, but I was under the impression she wasn’t breaking up with you.”
Tara wiped her eyes. “I don’t know anymore. I’m…lost.”
“I’m sorry, Tara.” Mira’s voice was gentle. “I could tell magic scares her. That she didn’t like you studying it.”
“If she’d waited a few days, problem solved,” Tara said. She drained the last of her mead. Her mood had soured again. Katla was gone. Everything Mira had bombarded her with didn’t change that reality.
“Why?” Mira asked.
“Because I quit magic. The Augur told me what I already knew. What you all knew. It’s dangerous for me to pursue magic. I accept it now.” Tara shifted. “That’s why I came here. To tell her.”
Mira now had a look of confusion. Her face didn’t seem to know if it should be happy or sad about the news.
“Come on,” Tara said. She stood. “Let me catch you up on things while I pack up my room at the College. And, uh, actually officially quit.”
They left the inn together. Tara kept her hand tightly around Katla’s bow on the walk. Something of Katla’s to protect now and for however long it took to get her back.