Tara watched Mira climb back to her feet for the tenth, or maybe twentieth, time. Mira’s right wrist turned funny and her hand drooped unnaturally.
Mira waved her left hand over it and healing energy surrounded the broken bones. Less than a minute later, she flexed her hand and wrist, as if Tara’s wave had never touched her.
“It’s okay,” Mira called from across the cliff they were standing on. “Good as new.”
Tara nodded. “Give me a minute,” she said.
She turned away from Mira and looked at the Serpent Stone, one of the Standing Stones, like those Guardian ones she and Katla had visited what felt like so long ago. The Serpent Stone stood alone on a small cliff on an icy chunk of land in the Sea of Ghosts, east of Winterhold, and the College of Winterhold. She caught sight of the College in the distance, fading in and out of view as thick fog rolled off the mountains and passed by on its way out to sea.
She and Mira had agreed to practice Tara’s wave focus far from prying eyes, and to make sure Tara didn’t injure anyone. She could let loose and not worry about how strong the waves were. A few horkers had lost their lives so far. The remaining herd had quickly left and swam to another icy chunk of land.
The Serpent Stone was as steady and solid as ever, though. Her first few waves had blown accumulated snow off the stones. Otherwise, it looked the same. Ancient, strong, Nord. Mira said it granted a magical ability to paralyze, if touched. Tara hadn’t touched it. She was glad her waves didn’t seem to affect it. Not that her focus attempts had anything to do with that fact.
She turned back to Mira and studied her sister. She’d broken Mira’s arm, wrist, and ankle with previous attempts. One wave had thrown her off the cliff. Tara had caught her breath at that one. Mira still hadn’t explained what magic she’d used to avoid injury from it. Her robes were worse for wear, with fresh tears in the fabric from the multiple trips to the ground.
How did she feel about hurting Mira? And, why wasn’t the focus working yet? Every wave so far had done something to Mira, even if it only knocked her off her feet. This was nothing like Katla, who’d not been touched by any wave.
Katla was gone. Tara was still in Winterhold. Not going after her.
She’d gotten the code letter. Katla was preparing for the two of them to communicate by letter.
Tara didn’t want that. She needed to find her. Be with her.
Not here with Mira.
“Ready to go again?” Mira asked.
Tara nodded. “We can try a few more.”
“Sure,” Mira agreed. She shifted her feet, balancing herself. “Remember what I taught you.”
“Got it,” Tara said. She shifted as well, setting her feet to feel grounded, balanced. If she were fighting with her axes, this stance would be excellent. Standing like a warrior, always.
Mira cast the conjuration spell, calling forth a skeleton. Tara was to send a wave at it, to focus her anger at the thing she wanted to destroy. Mira theorized Tara could do that, leaving the rest of the wave’s power to gently wash over people, leaving them unharmed. The waves were always waves…energy that spread out from her in all directions, as if she were the epicenter. There seemed no way to narrow that down.
The best she could do was handle the force of them. Aim the emotion, which seemed to be where the power was, at something or someone. The rest of such a wave would be more like a gentle breeze.
A skeleton. Conjuration. Tara tried to focus on the skeleton only, but its existence didn’t sit well with her. Why was Mira using such magic around her? Using it at all? Especially with the history of their family. With what she’d told her about Tara Geonette, how could Mira even consider using such magic?
The skeleton standing there made her feel uncomfortable.
A wave shot out from her, destroying the skeleton. She heard a yelp and watched Mira go flying, landing roughly about twenty meters from where she’d been. At least she was still on the cliff.
She couldn’t do this with Mira, Tara realized. She was still too angry at her for her childhood. Katla had been both right and wrong. Mira had important information. And she’d given Tara invaluable insight on how to learn how to control the waves.
Tara closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. What Mira could not be was her teacher.
I’m too angry at her. At my family, she thought. She didn’t know if that would ever abate.
She opened her eyes to Mira brushing off snow from her robes. Mira looked up at her. Her eyes searched Tara’s face.
“Done for the day?” she asked.
“For good, I think,” Tara said. “I can’t do this with you. Not the practical part, at least.”
Mira nodded. “Must not be easy seeing me hurt every time.”
It would be easy to lie to her, Tara thought. To agree with her statement. Mira needed to hear the truth, though. Or, Tara needed to express it. She wasn’t sure which was more important.
“I’m too angry with you not to hurt you every time,” she said. She watched Mira’s face shift to shock, before she caught herself.
“Ah.” Mira nodded.
“I need to be leaving, anyway,” Tara said. “I have to find Katla.”
Mira walked over to her and they silently made their way down the cliff.
“I need to leave Winterhold, too,” Mira said as they traversed the ice floes that led back to shore.
“You’re not staying to help them with that Nord ruin?” Tara asked.
Mira shook her head. They slowly climbed until they caught the path that met the road back to town.
“I…met the Augur,” Mira said.
Tara raised an eyebrow at her.
Mira gave a small smile. “When you told me about him, well, I couldn’t resist. I had to meet and speak with him. He’s fascinating.” She glanced at Tara. “Magically speaking. Very unique.”
Tara shook her head. “Are you always studying magic?”
Mira nodded. “One should never stop being a student of life.”
They walked in silence for a few minutes. Winterhold came into view. They’d reach the inn within minutes, where Tara was now the one staying in a rented room. Mira had been staying at the College.
“The Augur told me to leave,” Mira said.
“Yes. He…warned me staying would be dangerous. Gave me the sense my life might literally be in danger if I stayed.” Mira shook her head. “Something about there was nothing I’d do to change the outcome. That others approached who’d make a difference.” Mira shook her head again. “I…believe him. So, I’m going.”
They passed the stables and reached the inn. Tara put one foot on the bottom step. “Coming in for a meal?”
Mira shook her head. “No. I want to pack and have one last visit with Mirabelle and Tolfdir. Be on my way early in the morning.”
Their eyes locked.
“This is goodbye, then, I guess,” Tara said. How did she feel about that?
Mira smiled. “For now, little…” She caught herself. Too soon, she’d realized.
“We should keep on a writing schedule,” Tara offered. “Stay in touch about the order and anything else you or I find out about them or Geonette.” Tara had taken to dropping her first name when in conversation with Mira. She didn’t want to hear her own name represented by such an evil woman.
Mira smiled. “I’d like that. Smart.” She cleared her throat. “I’m going to head to High Rock. Go back home.”
Tara felt her face flush.
“I won’t tell them where you are. Or, anything about you,” Mira said. “I want information from them about Geonette. I know they know something.”
Tara studied Mira. Did she believe her? Yes.
“I think they’re my best source on our ancestor’s history,” Mira said. A determination came over her. “I’m going to find out what they know. And research the family history far more than I ever bothered to when we were kids.”
“Thank you.” It burst out of Tara before she could catch it.
Mira smiled. “I figure I’m the best one to research the order more. Leave the hunting down, or hiding from, these necromancers to you and Katla.”
Did Mira know about the red soul gem? Tara realized she must not know. To tell her or wait?
Tara took a step closer to Mira. She reached out and pulled her into a hug.
Their embrace lacked the warmth of their hug so long ago at the College of Whispers. There was a stiffness between them. But, something lingered. Dying embers that could be ignited again.
Mira gave her a sad smile. “Remember what I told you about your focus. Practice as you can. I think you’ll gain control over the waves.”
Tara nodded. “Safe travels.”
Tara watched Mira head up to the College, losing sight of her as the bridge leading to it turned to the right and hid her from view.
She stepped into the inn.
One last night here. Then, off to find Katla.