Katla turned in her chair and looked out the window. Morning sunlight had hit, dragging beams of light across the apartment in the Imperial city.
Time to wake her up.
She looked over at Tara, who was mumbling in her sleep. Her forehead was furrowed. Even in sleep, the woman wasn’t relaxed. How long had she been sleeping this poorly?
So much had changed since she’d been pulled into that realm. Within Tara and between them.
“Tara,” Katla said softly. “Time to wake up, honey.”
Tara’s eyes popped open and she was sitting up in a split second. On alert.
Katla watched her eyes scan the room, looking for danger. When her eyes found her, Katla felt her breath catch. Those eyes and soul within them. The sadness in her eyes.
“Your shift starts soon,” Katla said.
Tara gave her a soft smile. “Never enough time together.”
“Never.” Katla returned the smile. It felt strained.
Katla had arrived in the Imperial City two weeks ago. This was only the second time the two of them had spent a night together. At least last night had been better than the first night.
They’d fought when Tara left Solitude. Some decisions had been easy. They’d agreed to keep the Lucky Skeever home. Eventually, Tara wouldn’t be a bodyguard to the queen any more, and both of them wanted to return to Skyrim.
Another easy decision had been Katla agreeing to let Tara find her a safe apartment in the city to live in. The apartment was small, but comfortable, furnished in an Imperial style. Functional furniture with more soft fabrics than the Nord furnishings Katla was used to. Thick drapes covered the windows, which were a stained glass, blocking anyone from easily looking inside. The apartment faced a back street, away from the busy crowds. There was a courtyard nearby and water flowed through a garden just outside her door. Katla couldn’t have asked for a more private and pleasant location.
Katla had ridden her horse, Dusk, alongside a caravan traveling to the city. The Redguard merchants had two Orc body guards and plenty of room to haul Katla’s belongings. Considering the gold Tara had paid them, they’d been more than happy to escort her.
Their travel had been slower than Tara’s solo trip, giving Tara time to arrange the home for Katla before she arrived. Weather had been clear and warm during the trip, allowing them to make good time. When the caravan stopped in Bruma for a night, Katla had enjoyed a visit with Colin and Eris at the Tap & Tack.
Once in the Imperial City, two Penitus Oculatus agents had greeted Katla at her apartment. She’d been disappointed Tara wasn’t one of them. She’d written ahead of time, so Tara would know what day she’d arrive.
One of the agents had said something about guarding the royal family requiring Tara and Commander Marius being with the family at all times.
Still, Katla had wanted to see her. Her first night in the city had hit her with a loneliness she’d not expected. She’d had an ache in her chest for a while. That first night in the city had brought it to the forefront. Tara had been distant since the Oblivion realm. Somehow, Katla’s first night alone in a new city had amplified their distance. Tara was physically close, the palace wasn’t far, but the fight in Solitude had lingered, and arriving in the Imperial City to no Tara had punched it up somehow.
Tara had come by two days later.
“What’s she like?” Katla had asked.
“Rigm…our queen?” Tara’s face had grown thoughtful. “Strong. Like you, it’s obvious she’s been through much. I didn’t need to read reports on her to know it. It’s all over her face. In her eyes. Like in my premonition.”
They’d been lying in bed, talking after spending time reconnecting.
“She’s not like you in personality,” Tara’s face had remained thoughtful. “She’s not like any nobles I had to put up with as a kid, either. If you think I have a temper…”
Tara had smiled and given her a wink. “Our lady Rigmor has one, too. She’s not mean with it, just…impatient. I get the impression people try to coddle her and she’ll have none of it.”
Tara’s smile had deepened. “I like her.”
Queen Rigmor and The Dragonborn had left for Bravil, without Tara or her boss, Commander Marius. This is what had given Tara time to visit.
That first visit had been going well. Katla thought the argument in Solitude forgotten.
Until Tara told her it was nearly time she leave and start her shift watching the princess, Kintyra.
Then, Katla had ruined it. She’d asked about Oblivion. And mentioned Mira. The subjects they’d argued about in Solitude.
“I want to visit Mira soon. I was hoping you could tell me what else happened in, you know…”
The speed with which Tara had gotten up, changed into her armor, all without saying a word, had startled Katla.
“I just think it’ll help Mira and I find…” Katla had started.
Tara’s green eyes had seemed to shoot flames.
“Stop saying her name.” It’d came out as a growl.
“You can’t expect me to just sit here and not see her. Not continue our research.” Katla’s voice had risen sharply. Had she been angry at Tara for her reaction or at herself for bringing the topic up?
“Of course not!” Tara’s face had flushed.
“If I knew more about what happened to you…”
“I told you what happened!” Pain had edged Tara’s anger, quelling Katla’s own. The topic was still too raw, too sensitive. She shouldn’t have pried.
“I just thought…” Kata had started. If she could explain, maybe Tara would understand why she wanted the details, painful as they might be.
“I’ll be in touch,” Tara had said. Her eyes had held a shine, a fighting back of tears.
She’d left without another word.
The next morning, Katla had received flowers from a courier. A mix of red roses and blue mountain flowers, her favorite. Tara’s note had been short.
I’m sorry for how I left. Something’s happened in Bravil, so I’m not sure when I’ll be by again. I’ll try and see you soon.
I love you.
Not sorry for how she’d reacted to Katla’s questions. Only sorry for how she’d left. Katla couldn’t argue with it.
Now, it was a few days later. Tara had come by late last night and spent the night. They’d both apologized to the other, and not discussed Oblivion or Mira. They’d mostly discussed what had happened in Bravil. The Dragonborn and Rigmor had survived an attack by assassins. Others hadn’t been so lucky.
“If they’d let us do our job, this wouldn’t have happened!” Tara had been pacing the apartment, agitated.
“If you’d gone, the assassins might have killed you,” Katla had said.
Tara had stopped and given her a soft look. “Worried?”
“Always. You have a dangerous job, you know.”
“Marius would have been with me.” Tara had paced again. “If the Dragonborn had let us do our job, and go ahead of them, I know we would’ve found those assassins before they hurt anyone.”
She’d glanced at Katla. “My first day on the job and our Majesty doesn’t let us protect them.” She’d stopped pacing. “Why am I here if not to do my job?!”
“A woman, Alana, and her fiancé, Antonius Maro, are dead. Didn’t have to happen.” Tara’s voice had quieted. She’d shaken her head.
“Maro?” Katla had asked “Your old boss…”
“Yes, this Antonius was his younger son.” Tara’s voice was almost a whisper. “I hear they were at odds, but still…” She’d sighed. “He didn’t deserve this.”
“So, the assassins killed two people because…”
“They killed Alana,” Tara had interrupted. “Somehow tied to Rigmor and Kintyra. A writ had been taken out on her. Antonius…” Tara’s eyes had gained an intensity. “…couldn’t live with her death. News came in this afternoon about him.”
Tara had pulled in a breath. “Please. If anything ever happens to me…”
“I won’t, Tara,” Katla had said. “I won’t kill myself. You have to promise me the same.”
“I promise,” Tara had said. Their eyes had lingered on each other.
They’d spent the rest of the night on happier topics before falling asleep.
Now, it was morning, and time was moving too fast.
“What’s on your agenda today?” Katla asked.
Tara washed her face. “The ambassador from Morrowind arrives soon. I’ll be escorting him to the throne room.” She gave Katla a small smile. “I’m curious how this is going to go down.”
Katla smiled back. “Do you have time for breakfast?”
“No,” Tara was already dressing in her armor. “I’ll grab something in the palace kitchen.”
Katla took a deep breath. She didn’t want another argument, but she needed to say something.
“I’m going to visit…her.”
Tara’s eyes flickered, like sparks catching on wood.
Katla held her hand up. “I just want you to know what I’ll be doing.”
Tara sighed and nodded. Her eyes cooled. “Okay.”
“Like in High Rock, we’re going to research together. Complete the list of families still in the order. Track them down. Maybe I can bring you the list, in case the Penitus Oculatus wants to investigate them?”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Tara said. “As long as I don’t abuse my authority, I can have someone look into it.”
“I’m going to show her the soul gem,” Katla said. She waited.
Tara didn’t explode, though. Instead, she shook. She rubbed her arms, as if suddenly cold.
“Don’t let her touch it,” Tara said. Her eyes had dropped to the ground, but were now raised and focused on Katla.
“But we’ve touched it,” Katla said.
“Can’t change what we did,” Tara said. She shook her head, no more than a twitch. “No matter what, don’t let her touch it. Promise me.”
All this anger at her sister, yet this felt like a moment of kindness, of love, for Mira.
“Is this because of something that happened in Oblivion?”
A flash of anger. “Promise me, Katla. She can’t touch it.”
“I promise,” she nodded. “I won’t let her.”
“I have to go.” Tara adjusted her armor. “I don’t know when I can come by again. Things should get busy, if our queen and majesty have learned from the disaster in Bravil. I expect them to keep Marius and I close now.”
Tara turned and was gone.
Katla sat in her chair awhile, watching the sunlight continue its track across her apartment.
Tara was still so far away.
Work with Mira, get more names. Maybe by then, Tara would open up again.
( 11/5/23 – thank you all for the patience on this post. I hit a block I wasn’t expecting and it took time to pull this one together)