4E 199 – Healing Flames

“Hey! Watch it!” Tomar growled. “Healing spell, not flames!”

“Sorry,” Tara said, as an errant lick of flames came within inches of Tomar’s robes.

“Pay attention! You have moss stuffed in your ears or something? Study healing today!” Tomar, a high elf originally from the Summerset Isles, gathered his robes, lifted his head high, and walked back to the alchemy table.

“Ignore him,” Barlin said. “He’s a cow’s backside.”

Tara snorted a laugh. Thank Dibella for Barlin.

“Buuut, that was supposed to be a gentle healing spell. Are you reading the correct book?” He asked.

Tara looked back down at her Healing Spells For the Novice book. It was worn, old, clearly read by many in the past. Why was this so difficult?  She had no idea why a flame spell erupted from her hands.

She and Barlin were the only two novice mages at the Synod Conclave. Mira hadn’t been wrong about them not teaching.

First Adjunct Riser Farris, a Breton, had begrudgingly taken her in.

“If your sister wasn’t who she was…” he liked reminding her daily.

Barlin had arrived a week later, the son of some Imperial noble in Skingrad, where the local scholar and mage had recently died. The noble insisted his son develop his skill so he become court mage one day. Tara got the impression a large donation to the conclave had helped move Barlin’s education along.

Currently, they were down in the basement, where they could practice without risk of hurting anyone. Well, except Tomar. He was keeping an eye on them while he worked on some potion that smelled like dead slaughterfish.

“Why don’t you try again?” Tara said to Barlin. “I’ll watch and see what I’m getting wrong.”

Barlin stood up. He was tall, even for an Imperial, and thin, downright wispy. He had rich, brown hair that sat in a lazy mop on his head. He was unassuming, and Tara imagined had she been attracted to men, his gentle charm and humor would have prompted a date request.

Fortunately, he’d been respectful and they’d bonded quickly as friends. He made her laugh. Tara had needed that more than she realized.

She watched his hands come alight with a soft, warm glow that slowly swept up his arms until it briefly enveloped him completely. A small smile crossed his face, as if a minor pain had been erased.

He sat on the bench, as some sweat appeared on his forehead. “Whew,” he said. “That took most of my magicka reserves. Go on, try again.”

Tara stood up and walked slightly away from everyone. She was amazed how effortlessly Barlin had been able to produce the spell in both hands.  If she could at least get it in one.

Holding out both hands, she closed her eyes and focused on her left hand, calling forth what she’d learned from the book. A warm glow started in her left hand, and she inwardly smiled. She then felt a warmth start in her right hand. This heat was different, intense…and…she liked it.

“Tara!” Barlin yelled.

Tara opened her eyes to a weak, healing orb hovering in her left hand. Her right hand held a tall, growing flame spell. She knew the slightest nudge would send it flying wherever she pointed.

“Put that out. NOW!” Tomar shouted from the alchemy table.

Both spells extinguished immediately, and Tara was hit by a sudden headache. Her magicka reserves were gone. She sat on the bench by Barlin and rubbed her forehead.

Barlin looked at her in stunned silence. Tomar was glaring…no, his look was different. His mouth was closed tight, and he seemed to contemplate her.

“You’re both done for the day,” he said. “Enough practice. Finish reading your healing book and get started on Enchanter’s Primer.” He left the basement quickly.

“Your flame spell was intense,” Barlin said. “How do you do that? We haven’t even started destruction magic.”

“I don’t know. It just happens,” Tara said. She rubbed her forehead more as the headache receded. Barlin looked at her doubtfully. “Maybe I picked up a thing or two from my sister,” she lied.

How did that happen? No one had taught her a flame spell. Mira had gone out of her way to avoid teaching Tara any magic, actually. Outside of some pointers on restoration magic, which she said might help around the farm. Not that it’d helped with Tara’s weak healing spell.

And, her magicka reserves. They were low; she was still developing them. How had she had such intense flames, while also holding that healing spell? She didn’t have the reserves for all that. Almost like the flames had come from somewhere else.

“Your healing spell is really coming along,” Tara said to Barlin, as they walked up from the basement and headed to the study area outside their rooms. “You’ll be healing others in no time.”

Barlin smiled. “Yeah. I really like restoration. Feels so natural to me.”

As the flames do to me, Tara thought.

As they climbed the steps to the study area, Tara noticed Tomar speaking quietly to Riser. Riser glanced her way, then turned back to Tomar.

Ugh. Not good. She could feel it.

“Want to read Enchanter’s Primer together?” Barlin offered.

“Sure thing,” Tara said.

Don’t worry about Tomar and Riser right now, she thought. You’re learning magic. That’s the important part. You’re in. You’ll learn and grow. Some schools are easier than others for everyone. Destruction might be the perfect school for me, that’s all.

Yes. That had to be all it was. When given the chance to choose a focus, she’d pick Destruction magic. She’d become a battle mage. She could do that. She’d have a purpose, then.

4E 199 – Tears and Letters

A tear fell on the letter. Tara wiped it away before it could smear the ink. She moved the letter slightly to the right, so the falling tears would miss the precious paper.

When she’d arrived at The Count’s Arms inn in Anvil, the letter was waiting. Mira had written.

A month before leaving home, Tara had written her older sister, telling her of plans to be in Anvil before Rain’s Hand. She’d hoped Mira would receive the letter in time and write back. Tara knew she was travelling in Black Marsh, but not much else. Couriers were something about finding people.

Tara read the letter a second time, as her tears dried.

“Dearest Tara,

            Little sis, I’m sorry for Father’s treatment of you. In many ways, we’ve lived different childhoods. Perhaps I should’ve paid more attention when I visited these past years.

            On to more pleasant things. Cyrodiil! What a beautiful province in the Empire. I think its beauty explains why so many Imperials are a bit, how to say, high on themselves. If you get the chance, visit Chorrol. It’s my favorite city there. Beautiful lands, and not nearly as cold as Bruma gets.

            As to your quest to study magic. We’ve discussed this before and you know I wish you’d pursue other interests. I do know how stubborn you are, though, so I am writing the First Adjunct at Anvil’s Synod Conclave. I will encourage them to accept you in, as a personal favor.

            But, dear Tara, they are harsh with their rules, very particular, and my influence only goes so far. I’m also not sure how much teaching they really do these days, especially for one who is, I mean no offense by this, a bit old for developing magical abilities. Again, you know my feelings about your pursuit of magic. I do wish you luck with them.

            I wish this letter could be longer. There are so many exciting things happening here in Black Marsh. We must make the time to visit each other.

            Much love to you. Stay safe. Most importantly, stay calm.

Always your big sister,


Tara wiped the last of her tears away and carefully folded the letter. She tucked it into the small pocket of her leather satchel. She washed her face in the basin, hoping to remove all traces of her crying.

“…most importantly, stay calm.”

Why had she ruined the letter with that sign off? That…pain.

Mira. The one she’d admired so much. The one who left home when Tara was only eight. Their twelve year age difference had made closeness a challenge.

Not just age, of course. Mira was the gifted one. She’d shown strong magical abilities at a young age, before Tara was born. Tara’s first memories included knowing her big sister was studying with Wayrest’s best mage. Then, she was traveling all over High Rock, while Tara learned to work the farm. Someone had to help Mom.

Father worked the store, their main source of income and status. The farm had been in Mom’s family for generations and she’d refused to sell it when Father hit it big with his general goods store, The Rest’s Finest.

Tara learned to chop wood, manage the livestock, including killing chickens for dinner, and tend the crops. All while Mira expanded her skills and renown, starting in Wayrest, expanded to all of High Rock, and, finally, left home when she was twenty, and Tara eight, to travel throughout Tamriel. She visited when she could, of course, mostly the holidays.

Those visits were joyous breaks from Father’s watchful eye, and Mom’s indifference. Someone did love Tara, and accept her for who she was.

Almost. Tara pushed the thought away.

That “stay calm” was Father’s doing. His influence.

Then why doesn’t she apologize? Why doesn’t she make it right? She was the one who cast the spells…

“No,” Tara yelled to herself. Mira loved her. All that was the past. Mira was helping her now, writing the Synod. Yes, she was making up for the past. That’s what mattered.

“I need a drink,” Tara said to herself. Drink away some memories.

And celebrate! Tomorrow morning she’d head over to the Conclave and inquire. They’d have received Mira’s letter by now. Would be expecting her. With such a famous mage as her sister, they’d have to be at least curious about Tara and her possible abilities.

Tomorrow, new adventures awaited!

working the family farm

4E 199 – Innkeepers and Chickens

Tara pulled off her gloves and wiped sweat from her brow. A few strands of hair dropped in front of her green eyes – if one more drunk patron told her she had “smoky, smoldering green” eyes, someone was going to lose a body part – and she tucked them back into her bun.

She leaned on the shovel and admired her handiwork. The Brina Cross Inn’s garden, which provided much of the food offered within, had needed serious weeding and care. It’d been a long week of hard labor, plus caring for the chickens and one cow, but it was work Tara knew. There was comfort in the familiar. The required focus and downright exhaustion at the end of each day was what she’d needed. Too tired to think, or mourn.

The potatoes now looked strong, and almost ready for harvest. Same with the leeks. The inn would be set for a bit, thanks to her. Coins earned.

Time for a bath and to be on her way. With this week’s earnings, she was on her way to buying a set of enchanted mage robes, on top of having plenty of money to rent a room at an inn in Anvil for a few days. Anvil was so close, Tara could taste it.

Had it only been a month ago since she’d left home, made her way across Hammerfell, turned eighteen, and had now been in Cyrodiil for just over a week? Hammerfell had been a delight of new sounds, smells, and people. Rihad had been her favorite city, with its tattooed camels, gleaming towers, and the Brena River right there. And across the river, Cyrodiil! Her future.

When she got to Anvil, she’d finally see a real Imperial style city, and could compare it to Wayrest. Most importantly, she could find the local Synod guild (were they calling themselves guilds?) and learn magic. That’s why she was in Cyrodiil. The mages in Wayrest had rejected her, but Cyrodiil wouldn’t. Couldn’t.

Tara tossed out some extra feed to the chickens and headed into the inn’s basement for her bath.

Anvil and magic awaited!

Colin Marane watched Tara head into the basement for a bath. He chuckled and pulled out an empty coin purse.

“Don’t do it, Colin,” Lorena said.

“Shut up and serve drinks, Lorena. Isn’t your business,” he growled.

“She’s just a kid.”

“Eighteen. Plenty old enough to learn some life lessons,” Colin said. He put a few septims in the coin purse. Half of what he’d agreed to pay Tara. Another stupid kid he’d gotten to work for him for scraps. A few more fools and he’d make a handsome profit this season.

Shortly, Tara came up, dressed in worn hide armor, a satchel across her shoulders. Ready to move on.

“Here you go,” Colin set the coin purse on the bar.

He held a smirk as Tara lifted the purse, frowned, opened it and counted. He watched her eyes flash in anger. His smirk faltered.

“This isn’t what we agreed to,” Tara said. Her intense eyes bored into his. He flicked his gaze away.

“It’s what you’re getting,” he said.

“This. Is. Not. What. We. Agreed.” Tara said. Her jaw tensed tight. Colin saw her right hand drop and lightly touch the iron war axe hanging on her hip. He’d seen her chop wood all week. For the first time, he wondered about her fighting skills.

He cleared his throat. “This is what I’m paying. You try anything with that axe and I’ll call in the guards.”

He watched muscles twitch in Tara’s jaw. Without another word, she put down her satchel and walked outside.

“Dumb bitch,” he mumbled. He pulled a few more coins out of the purse. Teach her to not take his offering.

Suddenly, he heard loud squawking outside. Then, silence. Lorena looked at him nervously. Even his one patron, a very drunk Nord, looked up.

The inn’s door burst open and Tara walked back in. Her right hand held a now bloody axe, and in her left, Colin counted six dead, beheaded chickens. All the chickens he owned.

Tara dropped them on the bar and stared at him.

“Pay me what we agreed,” Tara said, quietly. Her jaw stayed rigid and green eyes locked on him. The axe remained firmly in her right hand.

A soft patting sound started as blood from the chickens ran across the bar and began dripping onto the floor, right in front of his feet.

Without a word, he grabbed handfuls of coin and stuffed the purse.

“Take it and get the fuck out,” he grumbled. “I better never see your face again.”

Tara took the purse, picked up her satchel, and grabbed one of the dead chickens. She waved it at him. “Thanks for the chicken dinner.” She smiled as she turned and left the inn.

Lorena burst out laughing, as did the Nord.

Colin felt his face flush.

“Stop your laughing and get these chickens plucked and cooking before the meat goes bad!” he yelled at her. “It’ll be the only thing on the menu tonight.”

Why’d she kill them?

Tara watched the chicken roast over the open fire she’d built a little ways off the Gold Road. She’d walked a short ways toward Anvil; far enough from Brina Cross Inn to make sure Colin didn’t send any guards after her.

Then, she’d stopped to quickly pluck and clean the chicken and get it cooking before it spoiled.

Why did she kill innocent animals? They were only chickens, sure, but to kill six animals over some coin? It’d happened before she realized what she was doing. When he’d tried to cheat her, her mind had just…blanked. She’d gone cold, turned, and was outside killing each one, unable to stop herself. For a few minutes, it felt like she’d been another person. Like all the times she’d lost her temper as a child.

What she’d really wanted to do was bury the axe in Colin’s face, of course. Killing a person, though. No, she couldn’t up and murder someone. Break a few noses, yes, she’d done her share of that in Wayrest. But, kill? She didn’t want to be a murderer. Some cold-hearted soul. Those kind ended up in the Dark Brotherhood, worshiping Sithis. She’d never be like that.

“Get your temper under control,” she said softly to herself. “Before you get yourself into a heap of trouble.”

​She sighed and rubbed her face. So much anger. Too many days, it felt like it bubbled just under the surface. She needed to learn to let it go. Let the past go. Then, perhaps, so would the anger.

She ate half the cooked chicken, wrapped the rest, and started toward Anvil. It wasn’t long before she could see the sun glinting off the keep. Magic awaited!

4E 199 – Leaving Home

Tara reached the high point of the road and turned around for one last look.

The farmhouse looked small from here, tiny already, though she hadn’t walked that far yet.


Correction; what had been home for nearly eighteen years. Now, it’d become her source of pain. Time to go and build a life without pain. Her life. Her way.

A gentle breeze pressed strands of her hair across her nose. She twitched slightly and tucked the auburn hairs back into her loose bun. The scar tissue from the errant fireball still itched from time to time.

She blinked back sudden tears, drew in a deep breath and turned away from the farmhouse and her family. She walked.

If calculations were right, she’d turn eighteen just as she crossed into Cyrodiil. Her satchel felt scarily light for the journey. She had her camping gear, enough food for a few days. And, hopefully, enough septims to buy more food at inns along the way. And bribe a guard or two, if any gave her trouble crossing the border. And if septims would satisfy their wants.

She touched her steel dagger and then the woodcutting axe she’d stolen from her father for reassurance. She was strong for her size, and the years spent chopping wood, and chickens, had given her skills with the axe. Plus, Hardan, the old Great War veteran, had taught her a thing or two about fighting.

She was going to miss him. If anyone understood why she was leaving, it was him.

“No matter how much family loves you, they cannot always see past their nose,” he’d said during her last visit.

“Forgive him, Tara,” he’d added. “He will come around one day. Have patience.”

Stones crunched underfoot as the road dipped low and curved southward. The rising sun burst rays across her face.

Forgive her father? No. Not now. Maybe not ever. Patience was something she lacked. Just ask half the boys in town with bloodied noses; earned when they made moves after she said no to advances. You, at best, got one response from her. After that, the temper took over.

“You have more fire in you than the dragons of legend!” Hardan had once joked.

Tara snapped herself out of memories and paused to adjust her satchel across her shoulders. She was glad for her strength and the muscle definition that broadcast to others she wasn’t easy prey. She hoped. Being a Breton, she was short. Not a big deal in Wayrest, or the whole province of High Rock, of course, as this was home to Bretons. The rest of Tamriel would see her as small. She needed to remember to display her strength however she could.

She touched the axe again and picked up her pace. She wanted to grab a boat in Koeglin Village that would take her to Hammerfell today. Wayrest’s docks had been out of the question. Too many of her father’s loyalists would have brought her back home.

Take this in, she breathed. She looked around as she walked, admiring the tall grasses spreading across the land.

Enjoy the beauty here. Commit them to memory, she thought. You may never see it again.

By the grace of Dibella, she hoped she would one day.