Mira cast a quick healing spell on her hands and watched the fresh blisters shrink and disappear.
When was the last time she’d helped around the farm? When she was ten?
Even then, she’d not really helped. She’d been a kid following Mom around the garden; the personal garden Mom maintained for the vegetables they didn’t produce as a crop. For the vegetables she wanted fresh for dinner.
Mira wasn’t used to any sort of labor and her hands had paid for it today. There had been something soothing about helping Mom weed the garden, though. Making sure the fragile leeks and carrots had a chance to grow. There was a peace to the pulling of the feisty pest plants and working between the vegetables. The steady shifting of dirt as roots released their hold sent a soft patter to Mira’s ears. The physical effort required wasn’t hard, until it added up to several hours of constant bending and standing. There was an unexpected comfort to the exertion, though. Mira thought she’d sleep well tonight.
Most importantly, she was spending quality time with Mom. Softening her.
“I think we’ve got them all,” Mom said. She stood, put her hands on her lower back, and stretched.
“Agreed.” Mira stood and did the same. She heard her spine crack in relief.
“You mind?” Mom asked, holding out her hands. She had several small blisters.
Mira gave her a gentle smile. “Of course not.” She waved her right hand, and Mom’s blisters disappeared.
Back in the house, both women washed up at the water basin in the kitchen. Mira checked the time. She estimated they had at least an hour before Father came home. She needed to get answers.
“Tell me about Tara the Younger,” Mira said. She kept her tone light and curious. Encouraging.
Mom’s pale blue eyes lit up. “You really want to know our family history?” she asked. Mira thought Mom’s voice cautious, not wanting to get too excited.
“I do,” Mira said. Mom had pulled out several potatoes and set to peeling them at the kitchen table. Mira sat and joined in peeling.
“I’m sorry I never asked when I was little,” she added.
“She was the youngest, you know,” Mom said. Her voice sounded as lit up as her eyes still were.
“Tara Geonette had three children. Lysona, then Tristand, then Tara the Younger. If I’m remembering correctly, she was four years younger than Tristand. Lysona was a couple years older than him.”
“Did Tara Geonette marry?” Mira asked. She suspected who the father was, but no books had been definitive.
During their research, Katla had found some entries tracing the family tree of the Ashsmiths. They’d been a powerful noble family, known for their magical prowess, starting in the First Era and continuing to today. Bedore Ashsmith had been the youngest of two, expected to follow in his father’s footsteps as an arch mage for the Mages Guild.
He’d disappeared in 2E 584, though, joining what would become the Order of the Fire Queen. The same book claimed he’d become second in command of the order, leading it for a time. It made no mention of him marrying or having children, and claimed he’d died in 2E 592.
Another book, History of the Mages Guild, claimed he’d been involved in a battle of necromancers and guild mages in the Rivenspire region in 2E 596 and died. Mira was still researching the authors of both books, to see if either had been an order member. She suspected false information had purposely been written in at least one of the books. Contradictions had cropped up regarding Lysona Meric in other books.
“Marry? No, she didn’t,” Mom said. “She had all three children with Bedore Ashsmith, but they didn’t marry.”
“Ah,” Mira said, giving her voice a lift. “Wait. Is that where Father’s name comes from? But, he’s a Blaton, not an Ashsmith.”
“Yes,” Mom gave a tentative smile. “Tara’s name comes from Tara Geonette. Mine is from Elayne Moorford. Yours is from Mira Meric. She was Tara the Younger’s sister-in-law.”
Mira made a mental note. Mira Meric had to be a descendant of Lysona Meric. Mom hadn’t answered why Father was named after Bedore Ashsmith, one of their ancestors.
“How’d they meet, Tara and Bedore?” she asked. They’d finished peeling the potatoes. Mira watched as her mom sliced and cubed them carefully into the stew pot she’d been heating over the kitchen fire. She then started chopping carrots. Mira took a few and helped.
“Oh, well, they…” Mom paused and levied her eyes at Mira. Mira found herself catching her breath. She’d never seen her Mom’s gaze so sharp, so focused. Yet, also cautious.
“What is it?” Mira risked asking.
“Your father never wanted me to tell you any of this,” she said suddenly, straightening up, as if she’d made up her mind about something. “Wouldn’t let me perform the ritual on you, either. I understand about Tara, but you should’ve had it performed…” Her voice trailed off and she looked over at the Tara Geonette painting.
“What ritual?” Mira asked.
Mom cleared her throat and squared her shoulders. She finished chopping the carrots, put down the knife and stared at Mira.
“Your ancestor, the great Tara Geonette, started the Order of the Fire Queen,” Mom said. She heaved a sigh, as if she’d lifted a weight off her shoulders by confessing. “Have you heard of it?’
How to answer Mom?
“I’ve come across the name a few times,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be much written, though.” Mira leaned forward and widened her eyes, to feign amazement. “She really started an order?”
“Yes!” Mom said. She beamed. She stood and added the carrots to the stew. Mira watched her pull out a wrapped section of beef, fresh from the local butcher, and start carving it into bite-sized chunks, slowly adding them to the stew. Mira’s stomach grumbled. She was famished.
“Tara Geonette was the Fire Queen,” Mom continued. “It was her own order of powerful necromancers. Bedore was one of its first members.”
“Wow,” Mira said. She hoped she conveyed a sense of amazement. “That’s incredible.”
Mom nodded. “She is the reason our family is so good with magic. Why there are so many powerful mages.” Mom stopped cutting the beef and pointed her knife at Mira, as if to emphasize something. “She did it. She made it happen. She made you and Tara happen.”
Mom’s eyes clouded for a moment, and Mira thought she caught a hint of sadness on her face. Mom shook her head and finished chopping up the beef and adding it to the pot. She stirred the stew and raised the stand, letting it simmer.
She sat at the table, her face suddenly more drawn. Almost like the weight was back on her shoulders.
“You know,” she said quietly. “I didn’t want to marry your father.”
Mira remained still.
“I wanted to marry Tristore Ashsmith. Now, there was a real mage. So powerful, even when he was a child.” Mom sighed. “Your grandfather insisted I marry your father, though. Arranged it all.” She looked forlorn.
“Why?” Mira asked. She reached out a hand and placed it over Mom’s. Mom smiled.
“He said the…” She paused and looked cautious. “…something about the best match.” Mom sighed again. “But the history of the Ashsmith’s and Geonette’s! I wanted to be a part of that lineage.” Mom sighed again, sat back, and pulled her hands away from Mira.
“Anyway,” she said. “Tara the Younger was the youngest. She had red hair and green eyes, just like her mother. Just like our Tara. She married Dunore Meric and they had three children before she…” Mom seemed to catch herself. She shook her head. “The oldest of her children married an Ashsmith, and so forth. Eventually, I was born, and had you and Tara.” She gave Mira a wan smile. Her energy from early in the conversation seemed drained. Expended.
Mira thought. What to ask? Tara the Younger had what? Died? Been a powerful necromancer? Why had Mom held back?
“You said the Order of the Fire Queen were necromancers,” Mira said. “Do you know if they studied…”
“Your father will be home soon.” Mom suddenly stood. “I think that’s enough history for now. Let’s get the table set.”
Father arrived home as they finished setting the table. Dinner was uneventful between them. Father droned on about the sale of some furniture he’d had for years. Mira gave up hope of getting any more out of Mom.
She thought she’d collapse into bed from exhaustion, but found herself writing in her journal all she’d learned late into the night. She then detailed it all again into a letter each for Katla and Tara.
The sun arrived too soon the next morning as she headed into Wayrest to send the letters. Finally, they had more leads to track down.