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!