4E 200 – The Girl of My Dreams

Tara woke with a start. She reached out next to her…no Freta.

Sitting up in the tent, she rubbed her eyes and got her bearings. They were camping near Fort Farragut outside of Cheydinhal. They’d been camping a week. Cheydinhal was getting expensive and jobs hadn’t been as easy to come by. Three months into the new year, and they needed to decide where they were heading next. Tara had been angling for Bruma. She still had the sealed parchment Freta didn’t know about.

The weather was turning warmer, so heading north wouldn’t be a problem, she’d argued. Chorrol was also an option, and where Freta was leaning. Though, Bruma was closer to Skyrim. Tara wondered if Freta was leading up to that topic…wanting to go home to Skyrim.

If she did, then what? Tara wasn’t ready for Skyrim. Nords didn’t trust magic. She didn’t even know if there was a mage guild or college there. Here, in Cyrodiil, there was the College of Whispers. Tara was going to get into it. That was her priority.

She stumbled out of the tent to see Freta tending a fresh fire and skinning a rabbit. The sky was the gray of pre-dawn.

“You’re up early,” Tara said.

“Couldn’t sleep,” Freta answered. She looked at Tara for a long moment. “You tossed and turned a lot.”

“Sorry.”

“Cut up some potatoes. Help me with breakfast,” Freta said.

Tara started on the potatoes and they worked quietly for a short time. Once the rabbit was roasting on the spit and the potatoes were boiling in the small pot, Freta spoke again.

“You said her name again last night.”

“What? Who?” Tara asked.

“When you tossed and turned. You were dreaming. You said her name again.”

“Oh,” Tara said. She thought for a minute. She usually didn’t remember her dreams. Well, except the ones of fire, but, normally, she didn’t remember them.

Except, now she did remember last night’s dream. Freta was right. The girl, woman, had been in the dream, as she’d been in one a month ago.

“It’s a premonition,” Freta said, flatly. She was watching Tara with a mix of tenderness and worry.

“Come on,” Tara said. “I’m not a soothsayer. Or witch. I know magic runs in my family, but…”

“Describe her to me,” Freta interrupted. “How did she look in last night’s dream?”

Tara thought for a moment. She almost started speaking in poetic words, caught herself, and kept it simple.

“She has brown hair, long, past her shoulders. Eyes are brown, I think. And scars on her face. And body. Somehow, I know she has scars on her body. She was wearing armor in the dream.”

What she really wanted to say was the woman in her dream had long, luscious brown hair. The kind you couldn’t help but run your fingers through. And her eyes. The eyes are what drew you in. Her eyes were a golden brown, hazel, with the depth of someone who’d overcome a great loss. There was a soul in them; a soul that called out with pain and strength. To Tara, the woman was beautiful, though she imagined many would be turned off by the scars. In her dream, a long thin scar ran along the woman’s left jaw line, stopping shy of her chin. A shorter one was high on her left cheek. They were old, as if from a battle years before. And, without ever seeing it, Tara knew the woman’s body carried many more scars. Scars that told a story.

“What were you doing in this dream with her?” Freta asked.

Tara closed her eyes to remember. “I’m guarding her? Protecting her, somehow. Not alone, though. There’s someone else guarding her. And, there’s a child? Maybe she’s the child? It’s…hard to tell. Maybe we’re in a valley. I’m not sure.”

“It’s a premonition,” Freta said, firmly. “Exactly how you described her and the dream last time.”

“You really believe in premonitions?” Tara asked. She’d always been skeptical of them. The idea that some people could see the future seemed strange. There was no magic spell for peering into the future. Wouldn’t there be one, if people really had premonitions? Then again, she knew Khajiits believed them and many sought guidance from soothsayers.

But, her, Tara, have a premonition? Why would the Divines bless her with that gift, yet leave her struggling with magic?

That’s not why you struggle with magic.

“There is much the Divines do we cannot comprehend,” Freta interrupted her thoughts. “I’ll never understand why they show these futures to some. Doesn’t change anything. Whoever this Rigmor is, she’s in your future.”

Tara thought on the dream more. All she could remember was the sense of fighting, and protecting. And the sound of a young child, a girl. She couldn’t get a sense of where they were, when they were, or of the other person she knew was there, offering protection. Whoever that person was, there was something powerful about them. She did have a sense of that from them. Otherwise, they were faceless.

“Well,” she said to Freta. “Without more details, I have no idea when or what the future holds with this Rigmor. But, I know my immediate future is this breakfast. Let’s eat.”

After much back and forth over breakfast, Tara gave up the argument, and agreed they’d travel to Chorrol next. Spend a month or two there, then travel to Bruma.

“We don’t want to go to Bruma until the weather’s warmer,” Freta said. “Closer to summer.”

She is going to want to go to Skyrim, Tara thought. That’s why she wants it to be summer. The mountain pass that leads into Skyrim would be easier to traverse by then.

When to tell her about the College of Whispers? Tara wanted to go to Bruma and setup a place for them to stay awhile. Then, go to the college, start training, and spend time with Freta in Bruma when not training. She hadn’t run any of it by Freta yet. Freta wasn’t going to like the college idea. But, if she could find steady work in Bruma, maybe they could work it out. Maybe, after Tara finished training at the college, they could go to Skyrim. That’d be the angle she’d work.

Are we doomed to split up? Tara wondered. She loved Freta’s practicality, her steadfastness. Her strength. What she’d learned from her about fighting, hunting, and, well, other things, had given Tara a confidence she’d been missing after so many years at home, being judged for what she wasn’t. Who she wasn’t. Freta had opened the world up to Tara.

She hadn’t lost her temper with Freta once. She had patience for the first time in her life, at least for one person. That was its own miracle.

I don’t want to lose her, or us, Tara thought. We’ll figure the magic issue out.

They broke camp, studied their map, and decided on a path towards Chorrol, using The Red Ring Road to pass the Imperial City and catch The Black Road to Chorrol from there. They could help a farm or two along the way, hopefully replenish their diminished savings with small jobs over the next week of travel. Part of the savings was so they could buy a horse. Traveling would be so much better when they had a horse. There was still so much in Cyrodiil to see. They hadn’t visited the Imperial City yet. Or, Leyawiin. A horse would make travel faster and they could really take their time in some cities, Tara thought. Getting to Skyrim would be far easier, too, if that’s where they ended up heading.

As they made their way down The Blue Road to connect with Red Ring, the sun finally burst over the horizon, lighting up the lands in a rich, yellow light. The sky shown a clear blue with only faint clouds. The weather would be glorious for the long walk.

They never made it to Chorrol.

4E 199 – Good Steel

“I love it!” Tara exclaimed. “It’s…perfect.” She beamed a huge smile at Freta.

Freta leaned in and gave her a lingering kiss. “Nothing like good steel. Check the markings.”

Tara lifted the steel war axe and slowly examined it. Most of the markings were what she’d seen on axes throughout Cyrodiil. Then, she spotted it. A small Dibella statue and her initials, T.B. The weight of the axe felt good in her hands.

“Freta,” she said. “Thank you.” She gave her own lingering kiss.

Tara and Freta had been in Bravil for two months now. Tomorrow was the 30th of Evening Star, and Tara couldn’t have picked a better city for such a celebration, she thought. The end of the year, and celebration of a new one.

Bravil was relaxed. Not as cosmopolitan as Wayrest, or even Anvil, but Tara liked the vibe. It had a poor section, sure, and the crime element seemed worse than Anvil’s dock region. But, it had heart. Something rugged and endearing with its people.

Freta and Tara were renting a room at Silverhome on the Water, near the city entrance. The inn was, much like The Count’s Arms in Anvil, the quality inn, the one “respectable” people stayed at.

They were sharing a room, and a bed. The air and colors were different now. Tara hadn’t been this happy since, she didn’t know when. Freta had promised to show her “wonders” and that’s what the world felt like right now. So much to learn, explore, and experience.

Their only sticking point was magic.

“Forget magic,” Freta had said more than once. “They reject you. They don’t deserve you. Being able to fight is the only skill you need.”

Tara would toss back, “The true Nord way?”

“Don’t disparage my culture, little Breton,” Freta would return.

She was the only one Tara allowed to tease her about her height without the threat of a broken nose.

“As important as fighting is to Nords, magic is important to Bretons,” she’d remind Freta. “Let me pursue my culture.”

The reasons weren’t culture, of course. Tara had opened up a little to Freta about her childhood. She told her about Mira, and the history of strong magic in her family. She’d not been able to talk about the scrolls and…fits. Not yet. She needed more time.

Today was a day off between jobs and Tara wanted to visit the mage shop, A Warlock’s Luck. Freta wanted them to just relax, perhaps stroll the area near the Dibella statue. 

“This afternoon. I promise,” Tara said. “This is my first chance to check out the shop.” She gave Freta her most sultry look. “I won’t be long. Then, I’m all yours.” She winked.

They were finishing breakfast in the inn. Freta looked at her as she finished her final bite of food.

She smiled and shook her head. “I can’t say no to you. Go visit this shop. I need to meet with the blacksmith again anyway. Your second axe should be ready.” She winked.

“Freta…”

“Hush. You should dual wield axes, which means you need two. I’ve lost enough sparring sessions to you by now to know. The second axe wasn’t ready yesterday, but he promised me I could pick it up today.”

An hour later, Tara entered A Warlock’s Luck. She nodded to the shopkeeper, Envarion. Freta didn’t know it, but Tara had already been watching the shop for weeks. The lead had panned out. Tara had observed a small Breton woman with dark, raven hair and sullen eyes come into the shop most days. Primarily for alchemy ingredients, it seemed. She had to be the one.

Tara browsed the ingredients in the shop, selecting some blue mountain flowers and butterfly wings, so she could make a few healing potions. She’d been working on her alchemy skills when she could. Freta wasn’t bothered by alchemy and the potions had come in handy when they’d both been cut by a rogue, frightened cow on the last job.

Just as she was about to give up on the woman coming in today, Tara’s glacial paced browsing was becoming too obvious, the door to the shop opened and the raven haired woman stepped inside. 

“Good morning, Wila,” Envarion said. “Need anything specific today?”

Wila glanced Tara’s way, then turned to Envarion . “Just some taproot and arrowroot, please.”

“Right away.” Envarion scurried about, preparing her order.

Tara stood in line. Envarion looked at her order quickly. “Ten septims.”

Tara paid and left. She sat on the chair outside the shop and waited. Wila stepped outside a few minutes later. Tara quickly stood up. “Excuse me, Wila?” she said.

Wila turned to her, startled. She looked at Tara suspiciously. “Do I know you?”

“Oh no, sorry, you don’t. I, um, don’t mean to impose, but…are you part of the College of Whispers?”

Wila looked Tara up and down. She seemed to be evaluating her. Tara spoke quickly. 

“I’m wanting to join. To become a mage. I was hoping to find the College and study there. I already know some magic,” she added.

Wila tilted her head. “Why not at the Synod Conclave?”

Tara paused. Tell the truth? Yes, that felt like the best course of action. 

“The conclave in Anvil kicked me out,” she confessed.

“Why?”

“My temper.”

Wila laughed. “Bunch of arrogant fools, the lot of them.”

Tara laughed, nervously. “Tomar certainly is.”

“I’ve dealt with him before. Yes, he is. Walk with me.” 

Wila headed across the bridge leading over the river, towards the poorest section of town. “I’m not currently active with the college. Working on my own…projects,” she said.  

“Any information you could give me would be helpful,” Tara said.

They arrived a few minutes later in front of a small house, shabby, but with a well-kept flower bed out front. Wila said, “Wait on the porch.” She went inside without another word. 

Tara bent and admired the flowers. Nightshade, Aloe, and Dragon Tongue dominated.

Wila came back out and handed Tara a small piece of parchment. 

“See Algar and hand him this piece of parchment. Keep it sealed. Do not read it. Frostcrag Spire.”

“Frostcrag Spire? Isn’t that…” Tara started.

“Yes, yes. Old legends and rumors.” Wila dismissed the lingering question. “A small group has set up there and it will be the Whispers’ main base. County of Bruma, east of the city. Bring warm clothes. It’s quite a climb.”

“Thank you,” Tara said. “This means a lot.”

Wila gave her a long look. “If you do have a temper…” she paused. “Be careful what you study.” She nodded, as if to herself, turned and walked back inside her home. Tara heard a lock catch.

Well, that was that. Tara looked down at the sealed parchment. The outside simply said “Algar”.

Tara thought better than to try and work the seal and read the paper. Probably had some magic spell embedded in it. She’d come too far to mess up her chance by prying. She tucked the parchment in her satchel with her purchased ingredients and headed back to Silverhome to see Freta. Now, they could enjoy this last, marvelous day of the year 199.

Yes, Bravil really was the best city to celebrate the new year, and a new chance at magic.

4E 199 – Stars and Moons, Passion and Fire

Freta sat on a stump on the other side of the campfire, across from where Tara sat on a similar stump.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked.

“Fire.”

Freta studied her. “Not the campfire.”

“No.” Tara took a deep breath. “Burning scrolls. Old arguments. Sorry.” Tara ran her fingers through her hair. She heard Freta’s breathing change. Tara’s heart skipped a beat.

She looked up at the sky. Tonight, cloudless, the stars shown bright. They were camped outside Fort Variela, which lay abandoned, like so many Imperial forts after the Great War. Tomorrow, they’d enter Bravil, and Tara would get her first glimpse of the city, the one citizens in Skingrad had made disparaging remarks about. Freta had a lead on a job that could keep them busy for weeks. Tara had her own lead to follow. Rumors were a mage from the College of Whispers lived in Bravil, and she intended to find them.

Tonight, though, away from any city lights, even the Imperial City’s lights faded this far away, the stars took over the sky. Masser was rising, with Secunda soon to follow. A lifetime under the moons, and Masser still took her breath away. Its red surface and size simply demanded attention. Tara wondered if it really was the sundered corpus of Lorkhan, as the books said.

“Tell me about these burning scrolls,” Freta interrupted her thoughts.

Tara studied her, deciding.

Freta wore a white merchant’s shirt. She’d loosened the strings around the collar, and Tara caught glimpses of cleavage in the firelight. Freta also wore leather pants and thick, cuffed boots. The pants outlined her long, muscled legs. Tara made herself glance away, but not before Freta gave her a knowing look.

They’d been traveling together for two weeks now and Tara could feel the attraction between them growing. Tara had never met a woman like her. The confidence; the boldness. Matched only by her physical size. She was at least half a foot taller than Tara, and was all muscle and gentle curves. She kept her honey blonde hair tied up in a loose ponytail most days, only releasing it to spill over her shoulders in the evenings. Tara preferred her own hair be caught up in a bun. It was also much shorter, falling just above her shoulders in relaxed waves.

True to her word, Freta was training her to use her axe. In between the two jobs Freta had arranged in Skingrad, one was killing timber wolves harassing a nearby farm, the other escorting a merchant along the Gold Road to just outside Kvatch, Freta had shown her the essential arm swings and footwork that made the axe powerful. They sparred often with thick, shortened branches Freta had carved to simulate basic axes. She still lost every session to Freta, but she was getting her licks in now, knocking her down once or twice. She’d win soon enough, she knew. She had a speed Freta couldn’t keep up with for long.

The sparring got Tara’s blood flowing, and not from battle excitement. Tara had always known she was attracted to women. That emotional pull towards them was part of her earliest memories. There were no words to distinguish who one was attracted to, of course, you simply liked who you liked and most people did not care. Unless you were nobility.

Nobles were expected to have children. To pass on the name, lands, power, and money of the family. And giving birth to children was something same sex couples couldn’t do. Which was part of the pain with her father and his obsession with nobility.

Tara looked back at Freta. No, she wasn’t ready to discuss that part of the old arguments.

“Burning scrolls,” Tara said. “Did I tell you Barlin tried to give me scrolls as we left Anvil?”

Freta rested her chin in her hand and gave her a soft gaze and smile, settling in for a long story.

“You did not.”


The morning after agreeing to travel with Freta, Tara had gone to see Barlin. She wanted to tell him the news, maybe setup a schedule where they wrote to each other every few months. They’d been staying in touch after she was kicked out of the Synod, hanging out near the docks, or strolling the streets in the merchant district.

She’d quickly caught him outside that morning, she didn’t want to step inside and see Farris or Tomar again, especially after what she’d done to Lucas. Tomar had given her the nastiest of looks while healing Lucas’ hands and nose. Barlin had agreed for them to meet again that night, have dinner and another stroll. Tara would be leaving the next morning.

Dinner had been wonderful. Barlin was progressing quickly now, and was considered Adept level in Restoration magic. He even showed Tara his newest mage hood, enchanted for restoration, which gave it a soft, golden glow.

They strolled along the docks, Tara wanting to breathe in the sea air, something she’d never gotten enough of at home in Wayrest. Tara had just taken some letters from Barlin, promising to deliver them to his parents when she got to Skingrad.

“I’ve got some things for you, too,” he said. “To help you on your adventures.” He pulled out four magic scrolls from his satchel and held them out to Tara, smiling.

“Barlin! You shouldn’t have,” Tara said, taking them from him and examining them. Magic scrolls could be useful. When one had no magic ability, or, didn’t know a particular spell, a scroll could be read to produce the spell written on it, just once. Tara hadn’t advanced her magic at all, she was still stuck on a minimal healing spell and, well, whatever her natural fire abilities were. That she’d been afraid to test further.

She smiled initially as she studied the scrolls. He’d given her a master level Healing spell, a Heal Others spell and…Tara paused. Then, frowned. She realized her hands were shaking.

He doesn’t know. No one does. He doesn’t realize what he’s done.

She steadied her hands as tears filled her eyes. He’d given her two scrolls of Calm.

Her voice caught. “Why…why did you give me these?” She looked at him, as the tears slowly flowed down her cheeks.

“I…thought they’d help. You know, against any wild animals you might encounter. Lots of wolves and bears about, even this far south.” He gave her a confused look. “Why are you upset? I don’t understand.”

Of course he didn’t. Tara wondered if any mages truly understood what using these spells did to people. To her. They should know. Mira should’ve known. Tara felt her anger build.

“Promise me you’ll never use a calm spell on a person. Ever,” she said through clenched teeth.

Barlin stepped back. “Tara, I don’t plan to, but, as part of my training, I might…”

“Never. Promise me, Barlin.”

Barlin studied her, fighting against a sense of indignation at her request, but wanting to understand.

“Tara,” he said softly, “I don’t understand what the big deal is…”

“Promise me!” she roared at him. She ignored the dock workers who looked their way.

“All right. I promise. If it means so much to you.” He held his hand out. “Just give me the scrolls back and…”

He jumped back as Tara lit her hands afire. The scrolls burst into flame and turned to ash. The dock breeze blew the ashes into the water, where they floated briefly, the fading sunlight turning them into dark specks on golden water, before sinking below the surface.

“That was uncalled for!” Barlin said. “It took me hours to create those for you.”

Tara glared at him. How could she make him understand? Anyone? She tried to steady her voice.

“Barlin. There is magic worse than necromancy. Magic you all study as if it’s not. I better never learn you’ve used calm, or fury, on anyone.” She held his gaze in hers, hoping the message was getting through.

“Fine! Whatever! I don’t care for illusion spells anyway,” he said and started walking away. “Just, give my letters to my parents, please. And, good luck on your ‘adventures’.”

He left her standing at the docks.

Tara hadn’t tried to write him yet. And had arranged a courier to deliver the letters to his parents.




Tara paused in her story and stared into the campfire.

Freta didn’t care much for magic. She’d told Tara early in their travels she was a “true Nord” and magic was something to be left to the Divines.

“So,” she said. “What was so terrible about those scrolls?”

Tara looked up at her. Freta gave her a quiet look. She was studying her, yearning to understand, without judgement. Maybe she could trust Freta. She needed to tell someone, didn’t she?

“When I was…” Tara paused and felt herself on the edge of tears. “I’m sorry. I can’t,” she finished.

Freta stood up and walked around the fire toward her. She sat down on the stump with her. Her hip pressed against Tara’s. Tara felt her heart race.

Freta reached out her hand, touched Tara’s face and slowly turned it towards hers. They gazed at each other. Tara felt she was swimming in the glacier blue of her eyes. Freta’s hand lightly moved towards her hair and brushed a strand behind Tara’s ear. Tara’s tears stopped and her nerves took over.

“I…” she started.

“Shhhh,” Freta said. She kissed her.

Tara’s nerves vanished. She leaned into the kiss with a different kind of fire.

(shout out to froztee for Shield Sisters Re-Imaged mod) 

4E 199 – Honey Blondes and Wooden Swords

The Nord woman removed her helmet and Tara felt her heart skip a beat.

“Where did a Breton like yourself learn, ‘The Dragonborn Comes’?” The Nord asked. She set her steel helm down on the table where Tara had just sat and grabbed the other chair. Blonde hair, the color of honey, spilled down her shoulders. She wore steel armor. Like the helm, it looked worn, with nicks along the surface. Nicked, but well cared for, as candlelight bounced off the rich shine.

“I, uh, learned it in a book, then, um, heard it in a tavern somewhere. I think,” Tara stammered.

By Dibella, the woman’s eyes were the icy blue of deep glaciers. She had a strong jaw and sharp nose. She looked as tough as the land she was from. Or so Tara had heard. She’d never been to Skyrim. Only read about it in books.

“I’m impressed,” the woman said. Her voice was smooth, silkier than the finest cloth. “Not many non-Nords can put such passion in the song.” She lifted her mead and saluted Tara, before taking a large swallow.

“Um, thank you,” Tara took a big swallow of her ale, then coughed half of it up as she mistimed her breath and started choking. Gods, get a hold of yourself, woman, she thought to herself. This was embarrassing.

The woman laughed. “Have I made you nervous?” she winked.

Tara recovered from her coughing. “No…I…well, yes,” she admitted. “Nice armor.”

The woman burst out laughing again. “Forged it myself,” she said. “Can’t beat good steel.”

Tara reached out and lightly touched the helmet. She liked the feel of the cold smoothness under her fingers. “Are you a warrior?” she asked.

The woman shrugged, “Bit of a sellsword. I help the locals as I travel around and see the world.”

She drank more mead. “And, you? Bard?”

Tara laughed. “No, no. Not a bard. Just a woman who likes to sing.”

The woman waited and held Tara’s gaze.

“I, um, came here to study magic,” Tara said, finally. Those eyes.

“Breton. Of course.”

“But, I’m done with that now,” Tara added. “Been training with the Fighter’s Guild.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Any good?”

Tara shrugged. “I’ve a lot to learn.”


Tara had been at the Fighter’s Guild for over two months. She had learned a lot. Mostly, how to fall and dodge. Ser Mikhail led the guild and had taken her in, grudgingly, on Farris’ request. Unlike Farris, Mikhail had liked her anger and encouraged it in training.

“Anger gives you strength in battle!” he’d said. “As long as you keep your wits about you at the same time.”

Therein lied the problem.

Two months in, Tara could dodge and use her shortness to avoid every guild member, be it Mikhail, Fronton, Lucas, or Mirebella. Mirebella was a dark elf, the first Tara had ever met, but the rest were Imperials, eager to prove themselves tough. None of them could hit her with a sword, mace, or axe. She even dodged practice arrows well.

The problem was putting a weapon in her hand.

Mikhail insisted she start with a wooden sword. She wanted an axe, even showed off the iron war axe she’d bought in Hammerfell. She wanted to be good with an axe. Using one in a fight wasn’t the same as chopping wood, or chickens. She knew it was what she could excel at, though. She felt it deep in her bones.

“Learn the sword, Tara,” he’d said. “All armies require it. Plus, it’s usually the handiest, most common weapon. Every blacksmith can forge, or repair, them. Axes take more skill. Use the weapon you can get your hands on.”

So, she had. Well enough to be ready to spare with someone, instead of the endless pounding on dummy targets she’d been doing for weeks.

Lucas had been the unlucky soul.

Early morning on the 17th of Hearthfire, they’d been chosen for the first sparring session. Fortunately, with wooden swords. The goal was simple, they were to use a series of attacks and blocks to hit each other. Whomever knocked the other down three times, or got them to submit, would “win” the session. The main goal was practicing footwork, balance, and attack moves.

Lucas was of medium build. A foot taller than Tara, but not the brute Fronton was. Lucas had the look of a knight, certainly, with wavy brown hair, a strong face, and kind eyes. He’d been respectful since Tara joined and seemed earnest to eventually become a knight in a count’s court.

They’d started slowly, circling and sizing each other up, under the gaze of Mikhail, and with the rest of the guild watching. Lucas had lunged first, and Tara had used her quickness to easily avoid him. She’d also taken the chance to whack his backside with the sword as she turned and weaved behind him. Some teasing had been sent Lucas’ way.

“You letting a girl kick you in the ass?” Fronton had said.

“Stop flirting with her!” Mirebella had added.

Mikhail had given them a look and stayed stern. “Don’t be sloppy, Lucas. Don’t lunge without the ability to block. Good job, Tara.”

Lucas had gotten her back a few moves later. She’d dodged a high lunge from him, which he’d used to distract. He’d swung his leg and knocked her off her feet.

The move had been the same Shum gro-Ulfish had used those months ago. Tara felt that familiar heat rise in her face as Fronton cheered the knockdown. “There you go! She didn’t have far to fall, anyway!”

They all knew about the fight at The Count’s Arms. Fronton had been the first to bring it up. Shum still walked with a limp, two months later, and Fronton had seemed unable to believe Tara was the cause of it. He seemed determined to prove she shouldn’t be in the Guild, and did not miss an opportunity to tease about her height, wanting to set her off. So far, Tara had resisted the bait.

“Lucas gets one knockdown,” Mikhail had said, ignoring Fronton’s tease. Tara knew he was watching her, though. Anger and wit. She could do this.

It took longer, but Lucas knocked her down again with another leg sweep. For all her dodging of weapons, she was missing key defensive moves against his feints. Lucas knew her weakness.

“Plan your moves, Tara,” Mikhail was saying. “And get aggressive! This isn’t a fistfight for you to bob and weave. Take out your opponent with your sword.”

Lucas was on his back a minute later. Tara had feinted high, he’d stepped wrong to block, and she slammed her shoulder into his midriff, knocking him down.

“Tara, one knockdown. Lucas, two knockdowns,” Mikhail said.

“Don’t let that little Breton knock you down!” Fronton yelled. “Just because you want her on top,” he laughed at his own joke.

Tara bit her lip. Ignore him, she thought. Just…get Lucas to submit or two more knockdowns.

Lucas lunged hard and blocked her counter attack. They feinted at each other, but no one made a mistake. Fronton kept up his harassment.

“Are you dancing with her?” “Oh, come on! Should have had her.”

Tara knocked Lucas down again, with her own leg sweep during one of his attempts to fool her with a high swing.

“Both of you have two knockdowns,” Mikhail said. “Next one decides the winner.”

Tara wiped sweat from her face. She was exhausted. Lucas looked it, too, sweat freely poured off his chin. Tara’s feet felt like steel ingots were tied to them. She lunged and back stepped, hoping to draw Lucas in, but he held his ground. Lucas tried to get behind her several times and failed.

“Stendarr’s Mercy!” Fronton yelled. “Just charge her! She’s tired and too small to stop you! Get the bitch on the ground!”

Lucas charged.

Maybe it was because she was tired. She was never sure what made her snap in these moments. Fronton was the one taunting. Maybe it was the height jokes; too much like Shum. Calling her a “bitch”, of course, had upped her anger. The sexual harassment, too. Or, maybe she was making excuses for something there was no excuse for.

Tara remembered Lucas charging right after Fronton’s “…bitch on the ground.” Then,

“I SUBMIT!”

Tara blinked and Lucas was on the ground, his face bloody from his shattered nose, his hands held up defensively, one of them already swelling from obviously broken bones. Tara realized she was holding up her sword, about to strike him again. She dropped it.

“Lucas, I’m so sorry,” she stammered and dropped to her knees to help him.

He scurried back from her, frightened.

Before she could move, she was pulled by the back of her leather armor. Mikhail lifted her off her feet and tossed her roughly to the ground several feet away.

“Fronton, help Lucas inside, get a healing potion or three in him. Mirebella, go get Tomar from the Conclave. Probably going to need his help fixing Lucas’ hand,” he ordered.

After they left, Mikhail turned to Tara and stared at her.

“I told you to keep your wits about you when angry. That’s how you use anger. Not whatever that was,” he paused and studied her. “Farris warned me about you.”

“About my temper?” she asked. She’d been slowly getting off the ground from his toss. She finished knocking dirt off her leathers.

“Yes. How uncontrollable you were. How you are too angry to teach.”

Tara laughed, shaking her head.

“What?” Mikhail asked, taken aback.

“Everyone likes to talk about me behind my back. Never to me.”

Mikhail answered, “Everyone sees Shum walking around town with a limp, and wonders how a young Breton woman, you’re barely of age, takes down an experienced Orc. A young, short woman, who is neither mage nor warrior permanently injures a well-known sellsword. Over an insult or two. Why would they risk talking to you to your face?”

Tara stared at the ground for a moment. Permanently injured? She hadn’t realized…

“Look,” Mikhail said. “I like your rage. It’s powerful. I don’t care where it comes from. I don’t care about whatever sob life story you have. Or, the crap the men give you. World’s tough. Deal with it.”

Tara couldn’t decide if she disliked him, or respected him more, for that answer.

“But you have to learn to use it properly. Or, you’re going to get yourself killed. Or, others you don’t mean to kill.” He nodded his head towards the Guild house. “You may be a fighter, but you’re not a killer. Don’t go down that road early.”

In the two weeks since that sparring, Mikhail had kept Tara on archery, shooting targets. No swords, and certainly, no axes. Everyone else had avoided her like she had Cholera.


“A lot to learn, eh?” The Nord woman said. “And, you think you can learn a lot at the Guild?”

Tara took a sip of her ale, and, thankfully, didn’t choke this time. “I don’t know.”

“What’s your name?”

“Tara. Tara Blaton,” she answered.

“Well, Tara Blaton, I have a proposal for you,” The woman said.

Tara raised an eyebrow.

“How about you travel with me, Freta Snow-Shield. Help me with the jobs I pick up, and I’ll train you to fight like a true Nord does. Not whatever nonsense sword play that passes for training at these guilds.”

“What? Really?” Tara asked. She hadn’t planned to stay in Anvil much longer. She intended to leave and explore, maybe head east to Skingrad, and then south to Bravil before winter set in. See if she could find a College of Whispers. There was another place to learn magic in Cyrodiil. Farris had cut her off from the Synod, but she wasn’t done in her search. The Fighter’s Guild had been a place to pick up some skills, and be a place to sleep, but, now, with them all avoiding her, she’d felt aimless and more alone than ever.

“Why would you want me with you? We just met,” Tara asked. “I…”

Freta smiled. Her eyes lit up and she leaned in. Tara’s breath caught in her throat. Freta reached out and lightly touched her hair.

Softly, she said, “With your hair of fire and emerald eyes, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on. Keep me company. Let me show you…wonders.”

Tara felt the world fade away. She remembered to breathe.

“Okay,” she answered, just as softly.

(shout out to froztee for Shield Sisters Re-Imaged mod) 

4E 186 – Calm and Fury

Little Tara

Mira watched the sunlight flash off of Tara’s hair and felt a pang of jealousy. Such a striking red, as if fire and passion had melded into one. Mira’s own black hair felt dull in compassion.

She watched her little sister giggle and point at the chickens in the yard. “Chick! Chick, chick!” she giggled and chased the nearest one, which squawked and bolted across the field.

“Yes, chickens, my little Tara,” Mira told her, smiling. “You shouldn’t chase them. They won’t lay eggs for breakfast.”

“Eggs!” Tara agreed.

A loud shattering came from behind them, and both Mira and Tara quieted and looked back at their home. Mom and Dad were still fighting. Mira had hoped they’d settle down by now. She’d brought Tara out to “play” and avoid the worst of the fight almost an hour ago. The same fight, on a different day.

Turning back to Tara, Mira said, “Let’s go pick flowers!”

“Flowers!” Tara smiled. Then, frowned and looked again at the house. Her lower lip stuck out in a pout. She pointed at the house. “Mom, Dad, fight?”

“Yes. But let’s go pick flowers!” Mira said. She grabbed Tara’s small hand in hers and they made their way down the road, outside their property. Wild red and yellow flowers dotted the edge of the fields surrounding them. They’d be a good distraction. Plus, Mira could bring some back for her alchemy lessons with mage Arkan Woodborne. Gods, she was ready to go back.

Tara plopped down in the dirt and started picking red flowers, her favorite. Mira sat next to her and slowly picked the yellow ones. She laughed to herself at the dirt quickly gathering on Tara’s dress. She fought Mom every morning about wearing them, though she had no choice. Dresses were all her five year old sister had as a clothing option. At least they weren’t just hand me downs any more. The store had taken off and Mom made a point to buy new dresses for Tara, though she tore them up just as much as Mira’s old ones.

They picked silently for a while, Tara’s occasional laugh breaking through, or the call of birds as small flocks flew overhead. A rabbit burst across the road at one point and Mira had to grab Tara before she chased after it.

The sun was warm and perfect for the spring day. If only inside the house had been as peaceful. If only Mom would budge and sell the farm.

After a time, with the shadows reminding Mira she needed to leave, she stood up and collected all the flowers into the small basket she’d brought with them. Time to get back to the center of Wayrest and more lessons. She spent four days in town, learning with Arkan, then three days at home, generally watching Tara, and practicing magic when she could.

“Time to go home, Tara,” she said. Tara skipped ahead of her, happy and holding a small bundle of the flowers. Mira smiled and shook her head again at the way sunlight danced off her red, auburn hair. No one in the family had hair like that. One of the paintings of a great…Mira wasn’t sure how many generations back…grandmother had the same color. Tara’s namesake, Tara Geonette. She’d been part of a local witch coven, if Mom’s passed down stories were to be believed.

The house was quiet when they stepped inside. Mira immediately noticed several plates missing from the shelves in the kitchen, the shattering from earlier, no doubt.

“Mommy, flowers!” Tara yelled and headed to their parents’ bedroom.

“Tara, don’t…” Mira started, but it was too late.

She came up behind Tara, who had stopped in the doorway of the bedroom. Shadows draped the room, but Mira could make out their mother’s slim figure, huddled in a chair. The lit candle on the night stand revealed the fresh bruise across her face. Their father stood by the wash basin, drying his hands. With his barrel chest and wide shoulders, he cut an intimidating figure. Mira noted a fresh cut under his eye.

Tara had stepped into the middle of the bedroom and now dropped the flowers she’d been clutching. Mira saw tears spring into her eyes, and felt herself on the edge of tears. No wonder she always wanted to be in town learning magic. Did they fight like this every day she was gone? Was Tara left alone to listen and see this?

“NO!”

Startled, Mira, her Mom, and Dad all looked at each other.

“NO!” Tara yelled again. Mira had never heard her like this. There was almost a boom coming from her little body.

“What the…,” her Dad said and stepped toward Tara.

“NO!” Tara yelled again. This time, there was a boom. Mira felt herself pushed backwards, away from Tara. Her Dad stepped back, too. Mom nearly fell out of her chair.

“Tara?” her Mom said, standing up.

“NO!” Tara yelled again, her hands balled into tiny fists. A stronger wave emanated from her and Mira felt herself pushed up against the wall of the bedroom. Her mom quickly fell back into her chair, while her father gripped the side of the basin to balance himself.

Tara screamed suddenly, and another wave hit. The flowers on the floor scattered, and a vase on the nightstand shattered. The candle blew out. Mira found herself sitting on the floor, as if a hand had shoved her to the ground.

“Tara! Stop this right now!” her father yelled. He stepped towards her again, but a fresh scream and wave from Tara sent him to his knees. A painting fell off the wall and Mira heard dishes break in the kitchen. Outside, the chickens could be heard clucking nervously.

“Calm her!” Mom said to Mira. The chair had broken in one of the waves and she, too, was sitting on the floor.

“I…I don’t want to do that,” Mira said. “You know Arkan said…”

“Do it!” her father yelled. “She’s going to bring the house down.”

As if to confirm, Tara screamed again, her fists still clenched, but her eyes now closed tightly. She didn’t seem in control of any of this. The fresh wave did shake the house, and more dishes broke in the kitchen.

“Now!” her father demanded.

Mira focused and reached her right hand toward Tara. A blue glow stretched between them and surrounded her little sister. Tara’s eyes popped open and a sudden sadness appeared within. She sobbed and looked at Mira.

Mira fought back tears and kept the spell on her. The sadness left and Tara suddenly looked sleepy. She sat on the ground and her eyelids drooped. Mira stopped casting. Within seconds, Tara was asleep on the floor, curled into a fetal position. Mira wiped tears from her own face. She felt disgusted.

“I’ll put her to bed,” Mom said. She stood up and picked up Tara gently, cradling her, and stepped out of the room.

Mira slowly stood up and looked at her father. “You need to stop making me do that.”

“Have Arkan send more calm scrolls to the shop tomorrow,” he said, ignoring her. He slowly bent and picked up the fallen painting, examining the damaged frame.

“Dad…”

“Do it. Neither your mom or I have strong enough magic anymore,” his dark eyes gave Mira a hard look. “You’re getting better and better. Which means you’ll be home even less, I suspect. We need a way to control her when you’re not here. When she has these…fits.”

Mira watched him hang the painting back on the wall, fidgeting with it as it refused to stay straight.

Without another word, she left the bedroom and walked into the one she shared with Tara. Tara was fast asleep, her little chest rising and falling slowly. Mira estimated she’d hit her hard enough with the spell for her to sleep the rest of the day and through the night. Tara’s hair was now tousled, strands falling across her little freckled face. Fire and passion indeed, Mira thought.

She found her mom in the kitchen, picking up the broken dishes. Mira picked up the flower basket. A few had fallen out and were strewn across the table. She put them back in.

“On your way back to Arkan?” her mom asked.

“Dad wants me to get more calm scrolls from him,” Mira said. She didn’t want to drop the subject.

“It’s a good idea. We probably need at least four.” Her mom avoided her eyes.

“You can’t keep doing this to her,” Mira started.

“Your father’s right. We need enough for the days you’re not here,” Mom cut in. “It’s…,” she paused.

“Mom…” Mira said gently.

“No,” her mom seemed to steel herself. “It’s the only way. Get more scrolls. It’s the only thing that works.” She nodded, as if to convince herself she was correct. She finally looked at Mira. Her gaze was determined and…distant.

Mira sighed. She needed to be away from this house. “I’ll have them sent to the store. I’ll see you all in a few days.”

She walked out and headed up the road, toward the west gate into the city proper.

The sun dried her lingering tears.


*(special thanks to TKAA Renewal. Little Tara is Annika from the mod)

4E 199 – You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry

Tara confronts Shum gro-Ulfish inside tavern.

“Shut that Breton up!” bellowed the Orc.

Tara stopped mid-verse of Ithguleoir. “What did you say?” she asked.

The Orc, Shum gro-Ulfish, stared at her, “I said, ‘Shut that Breton up!’” He took a swig of his drink, mead by its amber color. “Tired of your mongrel voice.”

“Tara. Don’t,” Barlin said to her. “He’s twice your size. Maybe three times.”

Barlin went pale when she glared at him. “Sorry.”

“Hurt your feelings, little girl?” Shum sneered at her.

Tara and Barlin spent a lot of their free time at The Count’s Arms, drinking along with other patrons in the tavern section of the inn. They’d once stopped by The Fo’c’s’le, over by the docks, but, clearly, they weren’t welcome by the more questionable patrons there.

Shum had been a regular in this tavern since before Tara had first arrived in Anvil and rented a room. Over the course of the past four months here in Anvil, she’d learned he was a sellsword, usually hired for extra security detail at the docks, or to escort nobles and merchants around, when they wanted a big, strong orc to help them feel safe.

The mutual dislike had been immediate. She knew she shouldn’t judge Orcs as lesser. She was trying to unlearn all the distrust history lessons had pounded in her head about Bretons and Orcs. Too much fighting over the same lands over millennia. And their culture, if you could call it that, felt so foreign and basic compared to the art, music, and refinement of Breton life.

“I’m a snob,” Tara had thought. She wasn’t even all that impressed with the Imperials’ ways. “That’s your father’s obsession with nobility speaking,” she’d reminded herself on many occasions.

Shum hadn’t offered any assistance to improve relations. That first night in Anvil, when Tara had come out of her room to grab a meal, he’d been sitting at the bar, talking with a couple of Imperial men, who looked to have enjoyed more Cyrodilic Brandy than was good for them.

The group had left the bar and were headed for a large table in the corner, passing by Tara, who was sitting alone at a small side table, reading.

They’d stopped, Shum had tilted his head and looked at her with a slow grin. He’d then patted the top of her head. “Look, boys, I think Bretons are getting shorter and shorter. Goblins are going to be taller than them in another generation.” Shum and the Imperials had burst out laughing.

Tara had felt heat build in her face from embarrassment for a split second, before she’d punched both Imperials in the groin. They’d gone down with whimpers.

Shum, obviously an experienced fighter, had stepped far out of the way of her swing. With a swift swing of his leg, he’d knocked Tara on her backside. She’d looked as ridiculous as the groaning Imperials.

“Don’t start what you can’t finish,” he’d warned her.

“Knock it off, all of you,” an Imperial guard had spoken up before anything else happened. The guard was clearly off-duty and wanted to drink in peace.

Tara had avoided Shum successfully for the remainder of her stay at the inn, but not the stares and murmured laughs from some of the regulars. She’d hoped these frequent visits with Barlin would ease the lingering embarrassment. Singing had helped, until now.

Tara loved to sing. She knew she had a good voice. Maybe not good enough to be a bard full time, but, pleasant enough for a few drunk patrons in a tavern. When Shum wasn’t there, and the bard was taking a break, she’d, nervously at first, sing a Breton classic or two. She’d been received well and felt…happy.

Tonight had started out happy. Lessons had gone well earlier in the day. Barlin was now able to use healing spells on others, plus stronger wards. He was a natural. Tara was well behind, of course, but today had finally produced a healing spell in both hands and cast it for a full minute. The headache from her magicka drain hadn’t been too bad, either.

When they’d first arrived at the tavern, Shum wasn’t there, and Tara assumed he was still off on some job. He’d be gone for days or weeks at a time on jobs. The Count’s Arms was relaxed and safe without him.

Tonight, he’d arrived when Tara had just started the Battle of Glenumbra Moor. That one was a crowd pleaser, giving her a robust round of applause. The bard, Evelyn Verres, had nodded positively and indicated she should sing another. She clearly wanted to finish her drink before returning to work.

Tara shouldn’t have. Shum hadn’t said a thing while he grabbed a drink and sat at a table in the back. His eyes had remained firmly on her, though. He hadn’t applauded.

Now, here they were.

Tara turned her gaze back to Shum. She’d gone cold. Her face was not flushing with heat.

“Why don’t you shove that mead up yours and crawl back to whatever forsaken Oblivion plane Malacath lives in,” she said to him. Her voice sounded loud. The tavern had gone quiet when he’d interrupted her.

“Come closer and say that to my face,” Shum stood up.

“Tara. Don’t,” Barlin pleaded again.

Tara ignored him and stepped towards Shum. The top of her head barely reached his lower chest. Orcs were huge. Shum looked above average. She couldn’t imagine what a sight this must be; her straining her neck to look up at him.

“Why don’t you shove that mead up yours and crawl back to whatever forsaken Oblivion plane Malacath lives in,” she repeated.

She was ready for him. He swung his left fist at her. She stepped wide left and ducked under. She then stepped close to him and, in a move Hardan had taught her, kicked the side of his right knee with her left leg. Her lower body held much of her strength. Hardan had taught her to use her lower center of gravity and lower body strength to her advantage against taller opponents.

“Use your strengths. Your Divine given skills,” he always said when she overreached and fell against his tall practice targets. “Short stature is not always a disadvantage.”

Shum collapsed as his knee gave out. Tara heard tendons pop. His screams of pain startled her. Somehow, there was sorrow in them. She’d hurt him more than she planned. Her anger vanished in that moment, as she realized he wasn’t going to be walking any time soon without some serious healing.

“I’m…I’m sorr…” she started to apologize.

His fist connected with the side of her head and everything went black.


Tara awoke in her bed at the conclave. Barlin was sitting in the single chair in the room, watching her.

She sat up slowly. “My head. Did a horse kick me?” She rubbed the side of her head. She flinched as she touched the sensitive bump where Shum had punched her.

Barlin remained quiet. He looked close to tears.

“What?” she asked.

“Riser wants to see you,” his voice caught. “He said the moment you woke up, I needed to bring you down to see him.”

Tara drew in her breath. “How’s Shum?” she asked.

“Tomar healed his knee, mostly. He won’t be walking for a few days.” Barlin said. He stood up. “Half the city knows what happened.”

Tara tried to sound indignant. “He started it.”

“I was there. I know what happened.” Barlin’s tone was flat.

Tara looked down. “Yeah. I should’ve listened to you.”

Barlin sighed. He sounded tired. “You scared me. You were so…nevermind. Come on.”

Riser was sitting at his desk, an ornate beauty that looked to be extremely old. He was dressed in Synod robes, a dark blue with gold trim; the trim to designate his status as First Adjunct.

His gray eyes caught hers. “Sit,” he said and pointed to the chair on the right in front of his desk.

“Leave us and close the door,” he said to Barlin.

Barlin gave her a quick glance and left.

Tara sat and waited.

Riser studied her for a full minute before speaking.

“I didn’t want to take you in,” he said.

“I know. I…” Tara started.

“Silence.”

Riser stood and paced behind his desk.

“I didn’t want to take you in,” he repeated. “Your sister, Mira, is an excellent mage. I was visiting Chorrol awhile back when she was spending time there, helping citizens during an outbreak of Blood Lung. She was skilled and kind. Showed leadership beyond her years.”

He stopped and faced Tara. “She was calm. Always level headed, no matter how emotional and intense the citizens were. No matter how demanding the nobles were. Nothing phased her.”

Tara swallowed.

“You are nothing like your sister. In demeanor or magic abilities.” He paced again.

“In all my years, I have not seen a Breton so terrible with the most basic of magic skills.”

Tara started to protest.

“So impertinent,” he spoke over her. “So ambitious without cause. Stubborn. Impatient. All things a skilled mage cannot be.”

He stopped again, directly facing her.

“And angry. You have a depth of rage within you I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Tara looked away and bit her lower lip.

 “Mira warned me you had a temper,” he said, quietly.

Tara was shocked. How could she? Why would she do that?

Riser sat down. “She wanted me to try and help you learn to calm yourself. Seemed to think learning even some basic magic from me, us, might help you.” His voice, for the first time since she’d met him, softened.

“I don’t know where your anger comes from. What’s within your past that drives its intensity.”

He sat back, his face sad. “I can’t help you with it, that much is clear. I will not teach an angry person, with or without magical abilities.”

Tara felt sudden tears stream down her face.

“I can learn to channel it. I seem to be good with destruction…”

“NO!” Riser shot back up from his chair. “I will not lose another student to…” he stopped.

“No. You’re not good enough and never will be. Even if you were, angry people become dangerous mages. They go beyond the goals of destruction magic. Too many of them end up studying the blackest of arts. Things worse than necromancy. Things the Daedra tempt them with for their own amusement.”

He sat back down. “No. You are done here, Tara. I’ve sent letters to the other Synod Conclaves to not let you join, either. We will not be responsible for creating another dark mage.”

Tara closed her eyes for a moment, but the tears still escaped. She didn’t bother to wipe them away.

Riser’s voice softened again. “Get to the bottom of your anger. Understand where it comes from. Perhaps study fighting, if you want to channel it productively.”

He half smiled. “What you did to Shum was impressive. He had it coming, from what I can tell. Tomar has healed a few too many broken bones out of that tavern.”

Tara tried to smile through her tears. It didn’t work. She was being kicked out. Over her temper.

Riser stood. “You may stay here for another week. No magic practice, though I encourage you to read more on enchanting or alchemy. There are excellent books in the library. Then, find yourself a room at the inn, if they’ll take you back, or somewhere else. I’ll even put in a good word for you at the Fighter’s Guild, if you’re interested.”

Tara stood. “Thank you,” she managed through lingering tears. “I’d appreciate that.”

Riser nodded and led her out.

Barlin was waiting outside the office. He gave her a hopeful look. Tara shook her head.

“Don’t follow me,” she told him and rushed outside.

She needed air.

Tara in mage robes, about to leave the conclave.

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,


Mira”

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.

Home.

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.