Tara breathed deeply, searching for that wood and leather scent she missed.
Was it here, lingering? Maybe.
Or, maybe I’m fooling myself, she thought.
Standing inside The Lucky Skeever, her new home, she desperately wanted some sign of Katla. She would’ve been gone for at least two weeks by now from here.
Tara let out a sigh and explored. Not all the furniture was to her taste, but she was impressed. The furniture was not Nord, instead full of woven woods and softer fabrics. Not practical for harsh Skyrim winters. Thin drapes hung about near the front entrance.
Of course, this was also Solitude. The most un-Nord of all the cities here. Downright cosmopolitan. Some of the buildings bore a look that hinted at the closeness to High Rock.
To Tara, there was no question High Rock had the most distinguished, most noble, look to its architecture in all of Tamriel. Certainly, compared to Cyrodiil and Skyrim.
One could just look at any major city in High Rock and understand the depth, and deviousness, of the politics there.
Cyrodiil had the Imperial City, with the White-Gold Tower. Impressive, but, to Tara, it paled to the Adamantine Tower, also known as the Direnni Tower, on the Isle of Balfiera, the oldest structure in all of Tamriel. And it existed in High Rock.
Tara had been lucky to see the Tower once, when the family took a trip to Glenumbra, on a rare happy, holiday adventure. She’d been ten, Mira was visiting, and the illusion of a peaceful family had allowed Tara time to be stunned by the history and power of the Tower.
Solitude had its domed Blue Palace. Tara had spied the top of the dome when she first arrived. It sat across the city from her, as it rested across the grand, stone arch over the Karth river that so much of Solitude sat on. Tara had read up on it, and Solitude. Solitude had long taken over as the seat of power in Skyrim, where the High King, or Queen, resided. The Blue Palace seemed to reflect that, even from a distance.
Need to check the balcony, see if I can see the palace from it, Tara reminded herself. What a view that would be.
Katla had picked a good home. There was the front entrance, which was a heavy iron door that had taken some extra strength to open. The balcony hung over the central courtyard of Solitude, close to the front gate into the city. The design left no way for someone to climb up to it, and the constant traffic from such a busy part of town would discourage any stealth attack.
Tara, or anyone, would be visible from the balcony. An archer or mage could take a shot. Tara would also have a clear view of anyone, though. She’d have to stay mindful when on it.
Several shops sat across the courtyard from home. Tara made a mental note she’d have to find the main market, and local blacksmith. One of the shops across from her looked to be a clothing store. It was probably time to get some fresh clothes. Something more fitting a citizen of Solitude, instead of a wandering adventurer.
Was that what she was now? Some no name citizen in a city. Or, a no name adventurer, looking for their next job, their next coin?
What was she? Who was she?
Lonely, that’s what she was. She wasn’t just alone. She was lonely.
Tara sat in one of the chairs surrounding the stone fire pit, which was built into the floor. She should build a fire, give the place some warmth, light, a lived in feel.
Had Katla sat in this chair? Was this a favorite spot for her while she’d stayed?
Tears sprouted and Tara let herself sink deeper into the chair. She should get up, grab some firewood from the nearby stack near the kitchen. She should explore the kitchen, see what food provisions there were. Make her way upstairs and see what was up there.
That all took energy and Tara realized she had none right now. She had nothing. She was nothing.
“Stop looking for her. Find your next purpose.”
Tara sat upright. Freta stood across the fire pit, a smile on her face.
“Start a fire. Let’s talk.”
Once she got a fire going, Tara studied Freta. In the dancing firelight, Freta looked almost solid. A glow surrounded her, a light cast around her, giving her a softness Tara couldn’t put into words. Had she looked like this back at High Hrothgar? It’d been so dark then, so cold. Tara couldn’t remember.
What she could remember was the scent of Freta, the mead, leather, and musky smell she carried. She still wore her steel armor, and her hair was down again.
“I’m always as you remember me, my little Breton,” Freta said. She knelt in front of the fire, ignoring all the furniture. She rested her head in her hands and stared at Tara, as if taking in the view.
“It’s good to see you again,” she said.
Tara felt the sob swell inside and couldn’t stop it.
“I miss you so much,” she said. Tears rained anew, eliminating the nothingness she’d felt minutes before. “I…I wish we were together again. Back before…all of this.”
Freta stood and came over to where Tara sat. She knelt down again, setting herself so they were eye level.
“We cannot go back in time, love.” She reached out her hand and touched Tara’s face, as if to soothe her. Her hand passed through and Tara caught her breath as a chill enveloped her.
“Don’t wish for the past. Its light is always more golden seen from afar. It’s a shore you cannot return to.” Freta rested her hand in her chin again. “I am not your future. I never was.”
The chill lingered where Freta had touched her, a cold spot on her forehead, where, in times past, Freta would have brushed back a stray hair that always found its way out of her bun.
Tara bit her lip. “Life was simpler with you.” It came out a whisper.
“You were the love of my life, Tara.” Freta paused, and her eyes gained a sadness. “I was never going to be yours, though.”
“No, I loved you…” Tara started.
“Of course, my little Breton.” Freta smiled, but it held onto the sadness. “Couples don’t love evenly. Someone always loves more deeply. If they’re lucky, they realize that.”
Tara wiped her eyes. “I miss her so much.”
“Find your next purpose.” Freta’s eyes had returned to the look Tara remembered so well. Somewhere between a wise observer, and dancing happiness when looking at her.
“She’s not in Skyrim any more, is she?” Tara asked.
Tara nodded. She was alone.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. How am I going to protect her from afar?”
“When you fail the one, don’t fail the other.”
“What does that even mean?!” Tara stood, suddenly angry. She found herself pacing. Freta stood, crossed her arms and watched her.
“What good is this premonition if I have no idea when and where I meet this Rigmor?!” Tara threw her hands in the air. “What has she got to do with finding Katla?”
“Find your next purpose. So you don’t fail the other.” Freta’s voice was matter of fact.
Tara stopped pacing and looked at her. Firelight seemed to increase her glow. Or, perhaps she was more faint than before.
“Are you happy where you are?” Tara asked.
“I am, my little Breton.” Freta smiled deeply. “I don’t know why the Divines give me the gift of seeing you again,” she said. “These moments with you are a joy within joy.”
“Find my next purpose,” Tara said.
“So you don’t fail the other,” Freta said.
Tara felt tears sprout again. “I guess I’m to trust in the Divines?”
“I always did.”
Tara wiped her face. “Find my next purpose.”
Freta nodded. She looked faded. Her smile widened. “I love you, my little Breton.”
Tara’s voice caught. “I will always miss you.”
Freta was gone.
Tara sat back in the same chair as before Freta’s visit. She looked toward the window next to the balcony door. Light coming through it was dull, the dim of early twilight.
Find her next purpose. Somehow, that would lead her to Rigmor, and Katla again.
Tomorrow, she’d start the search for that purpose. Explore Solitude, and finish getting situated in her new home.
She watched the fire in the fire pit until it turned to low embers. She fell asleep in the chair, dreaming of Freta and her favorite memories of times with her.
(The Lucky Skeever mod is available on the Nexus here.)