4E 200 – Frustration

Tara gripped the railing and took a deep breath.

Calm down. You need to calm yourself down.

She could feel waves building up. Can’t let those loose. Not here.

Tara was standing on the top-most balcony at Frostcrag Spire. A small circular balcony, just under the top roof. The view from here was spectacular. She could see clear across Cyrodiil. Bruma looked tiny. So did Cheydinhal. Even the Imperial City was less impressive from this height. The Jerall Mountains blocked her view into Skyrim, but it seemed tantalizingly close from here, as if the mountains were just rough steps one had to climb.

Tara drew in deep breaths of the frigid air. She was grateful to still be wearing the heavy set of mage robes she’d bought months ago. This mountain was so tall, so cold, neither the Synod’s or College of Whispers’ robes were heavy enough to handle it. She was grateful she’d bought some used robes originally from Skyrim. The fabric was heavier and was currently keeping her warm.

Except her lungs. The deep breaths of cold air had numbed her throat and sent icy spikes into her lungs. Just what she needed. Her hands, which had been shaking as the waves built up inside her, now steadied. Tara felt herself calming, no longer ready to burst in anger and frustration.

And sadness.

Good, she’d avoided an outburst. That had been too close.

The trapdoor that led up to the balcony creaked open and Tara turned around to see Shara climbing onto the balcony.

“Is Banris looking for me?” Tara asked.

Shara took a moment to take in the view. “I should come up here more often,” she said. “I forget how beautiful and peaceful it is.”

Turning to Tara she said, “Yes. He wants to get back to your lesson.”

Tara sighed. “Why? I suck.”

Shara chuckled. “We all suck at something.”

Tara grimaced. “I suck at all Restoration magic, apparently.”

Shara was silent for a moment. “It doesn’t seem to suit you,” she finally said.

Tara laughed. “I appreciate the honesty.”

Shara nodded. “I’ll tell Banris you’ll be down shortly.” She disappeared back down the trap door.

Tara leaned on the railing and closed her eyes. The cold, constant wind was numbing her face. She liked it. She needed it. If only she could feel this numb inside.

If only she hadn’t let Banris get to her.

“Try harder,” Banris had said.

“I am trying as hard as I can!” Tara had snapped.

Heal Other is as simple as Heal,” Banris had snapped back at her. “You can summon that spell! Have you read the spell tome?”

Tara had sighed. “Yes! I told you already. I’ve read it twice. This is pointless.” She’d gritted her teeth.

Tara and Banris had been standing in the main training room, which was on the second floor. It was a wide, circular room, like most in this strange tower. Practice targets, some of stone, some of straw, stood along the walls surrounding them.

Tara was supposed to be healing some singed straw. It wouldn’t actually heal the straw, the spell only healed the living, but if she was producing the spell, she and Banris would see a warm glow surround the target.

No matter how she tried to encourage the spell; reaching her hands toward the target, holding them above her head, speaking key words; nothing had worked. Her hands hadn’t even produced the mildest of glows.

“This makes no sense. Unless you don’t want to learn,” Banris had said. He’d been blaming her effort for days. Tara was struggling to keep her temper in check.

“I’m trying! I want to know this spell!” Tara had yelled.

“Are you sure?” He’d spat. “I think you’re just an impatient brat looking to skip on to Destruction.”

Tara had felt the sudden build-up of waves. Her hands had started trembling.

“How dare you!” She’d yelled. Tears stung her eyes. She had to get out of there. She was going to explode.

She had bolted without another word to the upper balcony.

Now calm and leaning on the balcony railing, for the first time, Tara wondered if the grief of losing Freta was blocking her ability to learn.

It’d only been two months. Nights were the worst, when she was tired and couldn’t push away her feelings. Plus, she had to admit, sleeping alone in a bed reminded her of the warm body that was no longer there to bring comfort, safety, and love.

Two months, and the only progress she’d made was improving Healing, the ability to heal herself. The other restoration spells, like Lesser Ward, remained out of reach.

And Heal Other.

She’d destroyed the scroll that could’ve saved Freta. Now, she couldn’t learn the spell that did the same thing.

Was guilt holding her back?

You could’ve saved her. Your temper killed her.

Tara opened her eyes and let the cold wind pull away the tears forming in her eyes. No crying. No waves. She couldn’t have an episode here. Whatever her “anguish waves” were, she didn’t feel safe revealing them at this College. Not yet, at least. She didn’t trust anyone enough. Nor had she found any books that referenced the phenomenon. She needed more time.

Tara made her way downstairs and approached Banris. “I’m sorry for the delay. And for yelling. I’m ready.”

Surprising her, Banris said, “I am finished as your teacher for now. Tomorrow, you start working with Shara. On Destruction magic.”

“What? Really?” Tara bit her lip, to fight back the excitement building in her voice.

“Yes. While you were…taking your break…Algar informed me he wants you on Destruction now.” Banris gave her slight smile. “I think we can all agree Restoration isn’t the school of magic for you.”

Banris paused. The smile dropped and he looked sullen for a moment. “I’m sorry for what I said. About your effort. Shara reminded me of your loss.”

She’d told Shara a few weeks ago about not knowing Heal Other in order to save Freta. She’d not mentioned the scrolls.

Tara nodded. “Thank you.”

She bit her lip again. “Um, yes, okay, I’ll meet with Shara tomorrow. Thank you.” She gave up trying to hide her excitement at being able to quit Restoration. She barely stopped herself from skipping out of the training room to head downstairs, back to the first floor.

Destruction magic! Finally!

4E 200 – Whispers

Algar opened the sealed parchment Tara had handed him and read the message. Tara tapped her foot nervously, caught herself, and stayed still. Algar looked up from the parchment and studied her with his red eyes. Tara couldn’t read his expression.

He looked at the parchment again, then back at her.

“Shara will show you where you can bed and camp,” he finally said. “We’re still setting up a proper place for the novices and adepts to stay on the lower floor.”

Shara was a tall Redguard woman. Her skin glowed with a warm brown-red tone; her eyes were a rich brown.

“Follow me”, she said, her voice as warm as her skin, and led Tara back to the first floor.

On the first floor, Tara took in again the Spire’s lower floor. What had first captured her attention and still stood out was the symbols and writing on the wall. She couldn’t understand any of it.

Then, there were the platforms. Teleportation platforms. Small circles raised slightly off the ground. These tiny platforms, there was only room for one person to stand, took one to the upper levels.

When Tara had first arrived, Rahi, the wood elf mage she’d first met, had shown her how to use them to get to Algar’s laboratory at the top.


Tara had heard of it. Supposedly, some Morrowind Telvanni wizards used them in their mushroom tower homes, to float one up from the entrance to the main floors.

But to fully teleport, materialize elsewhere?  She wondered what other magic existed that she didn’t know about.

“You can set up here,” Shara said, as they got to a corner of the first floor, around a large pillar from the entrance.

Three cots were set up, surrounding a small cooking station. Tara set down her camping gear on the one side of the cooking station with some space.

“When you’re finished, come back up to Algar’s laboratory,” Shara said. “He’ll want to speak to you again.”

Tara unpacked and thought about the past few days.

The long walk from Bruma to the base of the mountain Frostcrag Spire sat atop had been mostly easy. She’d killed a few rabbits for meat, having left Bruma with little of it. Colin and Eris had loaded her up with bread and cheeses, continuing their incredible kindness, so she could’ve even skipped the bunny killing. Wolves had left her alone, though she regularly heard them off in the distance. Plenty of easier prey for them to hunt, it seemed.

There had been a couple of bandits to dispatch. Highway thugs, Tara had thought. They’d accosted her along the road, an Argonian and Nord, clearly looking to take coin and supplies from citizens passing through. They’d been looking to rob, not kill, which had given Tara the advantage in the fight. Now, they were dead. More fodder for hungry wolves.

More kills to add to the count, Tara had thought. What was that, five people? Was there going to be a point when she stopped killing? Or counting?

Wila had not been kidding when she said it was quite a climb up the mountain. The path was narrow, and cold. Tara avoided an orge along the way, a close call. Orges were huge, at least twice a person’s size, and ugly, with clubs that could bash your skull in with one hit. Fortunately, the blue-skinned creatures were also slow and lumbering, and perhaps not the most critical of thinkers. She’d remained quiet and gingerly stepped around it, staying just out of sight until she was far enough along the path to sprint around a corner. She’d not run into anything else. Even the hawks seemed not to want to fly this high.

The spire itself was spectacular. A wide base that narrowed into a spire at top. It fit perfectly on top of the summit. Tara wondered if it was the highest point in Cyrodiil. If it wasn’t, it was a close second.

Tara finished setting up her bed and camping gear and looked around. Rahi was over by the alchemy table, working on something. No one else was on the lower floor. Tara had spotted several people practicing magic when the initial teleportation pad brought her to what she assumed was the second floor of the spire. Algar was on the third floor, the highest inside point, though from the outside Tara had thought she’d spotted a balcony or two near the very top of the spire.

Time to see what Algar wants, she thought. Maybe he’ll tell me what’s in the note.

She stepped on the pad, and again on the one on the second floor, and found herself in Algar’s lab once more. Teleporting was effortless. Blue, shimmering light surrounded her each time she stepped on a pad, but there was no physical sensation. The shimmering light simply faded each time and she was in a new location. She wondered if there were scrolls of teleportation, and how that might work.

Algar stood near some flowers in an interior garden, in the center of the lab. Strong sunlight shone through from a window high above them directly on the well-tended, raised platform of dirt. Numerous plants were growing. She recognized mountain flowers, a few fungi, but not much else. None looked like crops. They all seemed plants for alchemy.

“Ah, there you are,” Algar said when he noticed her. “Come.”

He walked out a door and Tara followed. She found herself outside, on a large wide balcony. She pulled in her breath.

The view!

She could see Bruma off in the distance, to the west. Far south, the Imperial City looked small, though the White-Gold Tower stood ever present and impressive. Looking down, Tara watched hawks circling below. She couldn’t imagine the distance down. Climbing the winding path to the spire had hidden how far up she really was.

Algar interrupted her thoughts. “Which school of magic are you most interested in?” he asked.

Tara paused, not out of actual contemplation, but to avoid seeming too eager.

“Destruction,” she answered. “I seem to be a natural with flame spells.”

Algar looked at her thoughtfully. “Of course,” he said.

Tara furrowed her brow. “Of course? What do you mean?”

“My child…” he started. Tara let that slide. He was a Dunmer, a dark elf, and like all elves, they tended to live long lives, over two hundred years. Any human would seem young to them. Especially a nineteen year-old Breton. “Wila stated in her note that you were kicked out from the Synod Conclave for your temper. Destruction would attract you.”

His tone was that of a man explaining the simplest topic to a toddler. Tara tried not to bristle.

“Since you claim to be a ‘natural’,” he said. “Show me.”

He pointed his long index finger towards several rough stone figures at one end of the balcony. Practice targets that wouldn’t catch fire, or suffer much damage, from magic thrown at them.

Tara faced the targets, closed her eyes, and let warmth build in her hands. How long since she’d attempted fire magic? Outside of one night camping and using a small flame to start a campfire, she’d hadn’t practiced since Anvil.

She opened her eyes to tall flames floating above both her hands. They easily danced as she watched them. With little effort, she pointed her right hand at the right target. The flame flew and engulfed the target briefly, before fading.

With her left hand, she sent its flame to the center target. It, too, was quickly engulfed in flames, before fading to a warm glow from the heat.

Tara breathed deeply in relief. Her headache from the magicka drain was minimal.

“Again, please,” Algar said. “Create the biggest flame you can.”

Tara closed her eyes and imagined flames again.

This time, when she opened her eyes, a fireball sat in each hand, instead of dancing flames. Not her intention, but, they were big. She shot them at the targets, where they exploded and left the stones glowing in their warmth again.

When she turned to Algar, he was watching her intensely. He nodded at the targets.

“Did you intend fireballs?”

Tara rubbed her forehead, as she now had a raging headache.

“No,” she admitted. “I just imagined strong flames, and the fireballs appeared.”

“So,” he cleared his throat and looked briefly outward, as if admiring the view for the first time. “Not that much control. Just a natural at calling up fire.”

He looked back at her with…what? Disappointment? Sarcastic amusement? He was hard to read.

“I guess,” Tara mumbled. “I don’t understand how it works.”

“That much is clear,” he said. “Follow me.”

They stepped inside and Algar stepped on the platform leading back down to the second floor. In a moment of blue glowing light, he was gone. Tara followed.

On the second floor, Algar was walking towards an older, pale, Altmer elf.

“Banris! I have a student for you,” Algar said. Banris was casting a ward spell of some sort. Restoration magic, Tara thought. Not Destruction magic.

Banris turned and looked at Algar and Tara. He stopped casting and his ward spell, it looked like a swirling circle of symbols, disappeared.

“This is Tara Blaton,” Algar said. “A recommendation from Wila.” Banris raised an eyebrow and give her a curious stare. “I want you to start her off in Restoration. Let’s see how she progresses,” Algar finished.

Banris nodded. “Certainly,” he said in a smooth, deep voice. “Welcome.” He gave Tara a slight nod.

Tara looked at Algar. “But, I thought, since I was interested in Destruction…”

“Dear girl,” Algar said. Tara felt her cheeks flush. Why did men insist on saying “girl”? They never called men “boy” unless they were insulting them.

“I have a philosophy,” Algar was saying. “Never start a student on what they want to learn. Start them on what they think they’ll least like. The school of Restoration is essential and not given enough respect. If you intend to cause harm to others, as that is what Destruction magic does, you must first know how to heal those you do not mean to harm. As will happen eventually with Destruction magic. Every mage makes that mistake at least once.”

Tara opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. She had to admit, it made sense.

“You will focus on Restoration. Banris will keep me appraised of your progress. I will advance you and let you move on to another school of magic when I believe you’re ready.” Algar said. “That is all.” He left them, heading back up to his lab.

“Are you ready to get started?” Banris asked.

Tara nodded yes.

4E 200 – Numb

“Your voice is soooo smexy,” Tara hiccupped at Colin, owner and proprietor of the Tap & Tack Inn and Tavern in Bruma.

“THAT’S IT! Off to bed with you,” Eris, Colin’s wife, said. She grabbed Tara firmly by the arm and pulled her off the bar stool she’d been sitting on.

“Hey!” Tara hiccupped again. “I’m usually the rough one. Watch it!”

Eris ignored her and half-dragged her to her rented room in the inn. To Colin, she shouted over her shoulder, “No more Ye Olde Special Brew for her. Ever.”

In her room, Eris sat Tara down on her bed. She stood in front of her, crossed her arms, and said firmly, “You need to sleep that off. Don’t come back out until you sober up. Tomorrow.”

Tara furrowed her brow and squinted. Eris was not in focus. And the room kept shifting. A burp escaped her. She then saluted Eris. “Aye, aye, Captain,” she managed before another hiccup happened.

Eris sighed and knelt down, getting eye level with Tara.

“Honey, I know you’re hurting. You can’t drink it away.”

Tara frowned. “I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. Half of Bruma can tell,” Eris said. Her voice was maternal. “Besides, I spoke with the priest.”

Tara teared up. She didn’t want to think about him. Or why she needed to visit him.

“I’ll go with you in the morning, if you’d like,” Eris said. She stood up. “For tonight, sleep it off.” She left and closed the door.

Tara let the tears come and sobbed herself to sleep.

In the morning, she used a mild Heal spell on herself to reduce the worst of the hangover headache. Not the way to start the day.

She came out of her room, and sheepishly looked at Colin.

“Hi, Colin. Um, I’m sorry for last night,” she said. She wasn’t even sure what she’d said or done.

Colin gave her a rich, deep laugh. “Forget about it. Ye Olde Special Brew knocks men twice your size off their block.”

Eris came over to her. “Want some breakfast?”

Tara’s stomach gave a warning lurch.

“No, not yet. Maybe…after.” She smiled at Eris. “Thank you. I’m sorry.”

Eris nodded. She’d probably dealt with drunk women being all over Colin before.

“Need company?” she asked.

Tara took a deep breath. “No, but thank you. I need to do this by myself.”

The walk to the chapel was blissfully short, as it sat across from the Tap & Tack. Tara stepped inside and immediately felt a moment of peace. The chapel was lit in a soft glow, and shrines to the eight Divines each had their own alcove on the far end, with matching tall stained glass windows bringing in the light. She noticed one alcove sat empty, with no shrine; its window plain stained glass with no design of a Divine. No doubt, it had once been for Talos, the Divine the Thalmor banned from worship. Tara touched both amulets she was wearing.

The priest approached her with a calm smile. “May I help you?”

“I’m Tara. Here about…” she paused and collected herself. “Freta Snow-Shield. I need to finish arrangements for her to be sent home.” She swallowed.

The priest nodded. “Yes, please follow me and sit.”

He led her to two benches near the front. One bench was small, and perpendicular to the rest of the benches in the chapel. He sat in it and indicated she should sit in the one closest to it.

“We were able to contact her parents in Falkreath. The caravan transporting her will leave tomorrow. Will you be joining for any of the journey?” he asked, softly.

Tara shook her head. Now, more than ever, she wasn’t ready for Skyrim. One day. One day, she’d travel there and visit Freta’s grave. Not right now. Everything was too…fresh.

“I have this letter for her parents,” Tara said and handed the sealed letter to him. She hadn’t known what to say to them. What does one say to grieving parents? Especially coming from someone they did not know, and Tara assumed did not know was involved with their daughter. She’d kept it short, but finished it telling them “…died valiantly and honorably, defending those she loved”.

Valiant Nords went to Sovngarde after death, to feast eternally in the Hall of Valor, all created by Shor, as Tara understood it. If anyone deserved that eternal life for their soul, Freta did. Tara had started reading Children of the Sky and a few other books, to better understand their culture. There were striking differences to Breton life.

“Her greatsword and armor,” the priest was asking. “Those are to go with her?”

Tara nodded again.

“Yes. Thank you. The sword is a family heirloom and should be returned.”

As for the armor, it wouldn’t fit Tara, of course, and was of heavy steel, which did not suit Tara’s plans. She hoped to never need to wear heavy armor. Such armor was for warriors. She was going to be a mage.

“I believe we have everything we need,” the priest said. He looked at her for a moment. “Would you like to see her one more time?”

Tara felt her eyes start to tear up. She nodded yes.

The priest led her to the undercroft, to a coffin in the center of the main room. “Come back up and see me when you’re finished,” he said and left her to be alone.

Tara reached out with one hand and rested it on top of the coffin. With her other, she touched her Dibella amulet, for the Divine she worshipped and said a short prayer. She then reached under her shirt and touched the other amulet, the one banned in Cyrodiil. The one item from Freta she’d kept. She’d never prayed to Talos before, but she sent up a quiet prayer for Freta to him while touching his amulet.

“Talos guide you.”

She let tears silently stream down her face and thought about the past few days.

When she’d woken in the clearing, after that worst of days, the sky shown the first rays of dawn. Freta lay dead next to her, and the five dead bandits’ bodies were strewn around the now destroyed campsite.

It’d taken a few minutes of looking at the devastation before she’d realized what had happened.

The bandits’ bodies seemed partially crushed and were spread far from where they’d fallen. Countless trees were down, in a wide circle for hundreds of meters. The tent was a tangled mess, and it took her an hour of searching to find their supplies, blown around by her waves.

How long had it been since she’d had such an event? Almost two years. She called them anguish waves. Mom, Dad, and Mira had simply said she was having a “fit”. That was on the rare occasion they’d acknowledge to her they existed. They seemed to believe Tara didn’t remember when waves welled within her and burst out. She’d not pushed the topic, in the hope she’d overhear her parents talk about them and what the local mages said they were.

Either no one knew, or her parents had successfully kept the secret so far.

After picking up the pieces of the campsite, Tara had started the hard process of preparing Freta for travel. She wasn’t going to Chorrol. Fucking Chorrol. If only Freta had agreed to go to Bruma instead, maybe none of this would’ve happened.

If you hadn’t destroyed that Heal Other scroll, she might still be alive.

She’d wrapped Freta in the remains of the tent, and the blanket and furs they had. She’d used branches from one of the downed pines to fashion a sled of sorts, so she could pull her and the meager supplies as she walked.

The trip to Bruma had been long and quiet. When she first hit snow and ice as she came close to the city, Tara had rejoiced in the numbing cold. It matched her insides. She wanted to feel numb. Anything less, and she felt like she was drowning.

The people in Bruma had shown her nothing but kindness since she arrived. She hadn’t met the count or countess, of course. No reason for a nobody such as herself to meet with them, but the guards had helped her the moment they saw her hauling the sled.

Two of the vendors at the outdoor market near the chapel had also helped. Colin and Eris in the Tap & Tack had been nothing but helpful, kind, and patient. Even the local Orc, Tugan (or was it Tulan? Ugh, she still hated Orcs), had been, well, not rude.

The circumstances that had brought her to Bruma were terrible, but even in the midst of her sorrow, Tara could see what good people the citizens of Bruma were. She liked them and the city.

Tomorrow, it was time to leave, though. Frostcrag Spire and the College of Whispers waited. She would watch the caravan leave with Freta in the morning, then head towards the Spire. The locals and map indicated it was a good hike away, near the edge of the county. She thought she’d caught a glimpse of it in the far distance when she briefly went out to the stables to inquire about the cost of a horse. She couldn’t afford one yet, but now at least knew how much to save.

Tara wiped the lingering tears from her face, bent and kissed the top of the coffin. One last kiss for Freta.

“Talos guide you, my love.”

4E 200 – Anguish

The bandits attacked them from all directions.

Tara and Freta were camping in the Great Forest, near the western edge, having found a small clearing surrounded by the gigantic oaks, pines, and other trees Tara didn’t recognize, that made up much of the forest. The clearing was a ways in, far from the road, so they had a sense of privacy and peace. It was the perfect spot for their final night before heading into Chorrol the next day. The clearing had a gentle rolling hill on one side that the first two bandits came from.

Tara and Freta had just finished setting up camp in the late afternoon. It seemed a better idea to find a good spot and relax a bit, than to keep traveling until nightfall. They wouldn’t have made it to Chorrol today, either way.

The two bandits rushed from over the hill, one of them yelling “Going to split your belly like an old woman’s purse!”. Both were charging with greatswords.

Tara saw Freta draw her own greatsword and run at the one to Tara’s left. She grabbed both her axes and darted towards the one on the right. In one swift motion, she threw her left axe at the bandit and caught him in his right shoulder. He stumbled and fell. Tara was on him a second later and drove her right axe deep into his chest.

The bandit gurgled and coughed up blood. He stared at her as the life in his eyes faded to an empty stare. A young Redguard, he couldn’t have been any older than she was, now nineteen. Tara pulled her axes out of him and stumbled back, nauseous. He was her first kill. For all the animals she’d hunted or slaughtered, this was different. She’d killed a person. One second she’d been at peace, the next, she’d snapped into attack mode and taken a life.

She looked over at Freta, who was pulling her sword out of the other bandit’s body. Another Redguard. They looked at each other. Before Tara could say anything, an arrow clipped her left shoulder and embedded itself in a nearby tree.

“Behind us! Three of them!” Freta yelled.

Tara turned around to see the three, all Redguards. Two were archers and the other charged at Freta with his sword and shield.

Tara charged the nearest archer, ducking and rolling, as he reloaded his bow and shot at her. He wasn’t bad, getting off two shots at her before she swung both axes low, knocking him off his feet, and then buried her right axe in his chest, killing him. Both his arrows had whipped past her head. Good thing she was fast and agile from her Fighter’s Guild training.

The other archer was about fifty meters away, barely past the trees at the edge of the clearing. He was focused on Freta, taking careful aim. Out of the corner of her eye, Tara saw Freta destroying the final bandit’s shield and plunging her greatsword into him. Tara charged at the archer as he fired off a shot. He was lowering his bow, before realizing Tara was almost on him. He turned and started to raise it again, while also trying to pull an arrow from his quiver. Too late for him, Tara buried her left axe in his skull.

Panting hard, she pulled her axe out of his skull. For all the decapitating of chickens she’d killed in her life, pulling the axe out of the man’s skull made her queasier than she thought possible. She’d never had a problem with blood and guts; one couldn’t on a farm where Mom made you kill whatever livestock was up for dinner, or too sick to heal. Killing a person was different, though. She’d just killed three men in a matter of minutes.

She was wiping her axes in the grass, to get the worst of the blood off, when she realized it was too quiet.

“Freta?” she turned and looked where Freta had been fighting the bandit. Freta lay on her back, on the ground next to the bandit’s dead corpse.

“Freta!” Tara was at her side in a second. The arrow from the archer had caught her in the neck. Blood was pouring from the wound, soaking the ground below Freta’s neck, head, and upper body. Freta’s eyes fixed on Tara, and she tried to speak, but only a soft gurgle emerged.

“Hold on! Let me get something to heal you,” Tara said. So much blood. Too much blood. By the Gods, why didn’t she know Heal Other? She could use it right now, even a weak one would close the worst of the wound. But, she didn’t. She still barely knew Heal for herself.

The scrolls Barlin had given her! One of them was Heal Other. She could use it and…

You destroyed all of them.

A sob escaped her. She had destroyed all the scrolls Barlin had given her, not just the Calm ones that had upset her so much. The memory floated up into her mind; her hands catching fire and all four scrolls bursting into flames, right before Barlin’s shocked face.

She’d been so angry at him, she hadn’t paused to only destroy the ones that upset her.

Freta’s hand suddenly gripped her left arm tightly, her fingers digging deep into Tara’s skin.

Through tears, Tara said, “Hold on, I need to stop the bleeding.”

Freta’s eyes were bright, intense. She shook her head a minuscule amount. She knew. They both did. Too much blood.

Shakily, Freta lifted her other arm and reached for Tara’s face. A small smile formed on Freta’s face, as her fingers brushed Tara’s hair. Then, the light faded from her eyes.

Her arms fell to her sides and Freta breathed no more.

“No! No, no, no, no, no!” Tara cried. She held Freta’s head in her hands and bent her face down to hers.

Deer and rabbits scattered before the booming waves and falling trees.

The cries of anguish coming from the small woman in the clearing, alone in the Great Forest, had no words attached to them. The sound was the deep sorrow of animals who know death approaches, the deep sorrow of a mother losing her child, the deep sorrow of a partner losing their love after decades together. The guttural sounds of deep grief cannot be described, only felt by the unlucky few who experience love at its highest level.

For the sentient creatures close enough to hear Tara, the area was suddenly dangerous. Waves of a booming force, an unrelenting push emanated from her. Young saplings fell first, even their flexibility couldn’t prevent them from being uprooted.

Towering pines came next, decades of root systems could not hold them in the ground. Countless rabbits didn’t survive the shock waves. More than a few deer broke a leg trying to escape.

The waves continued for a time, as late afternoon turned to night and the sun set on this worst of days.

Whether physical exhaustion, emotional drain, or the Divines finally taking pity on her, Tara passed out next to Freta. The booming waves ceased and the Great Forest became quiet again, alluding to a peace no longer in existence.

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.”


“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.


“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.


“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.


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,


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?


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.


“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.


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.