Rei Ginsei and the “Kirin”, part 1 (Rei Ginsei Saga ch.2)
November 13, 2017
Well, I really had not planned on doing long form, all-out fanfiction, but here we are! There’s no pictures this time as I don’t have any that are particularly relevant. I’ll be making a post with bonus Rei/Sabrael shots to make up for it 😛 Anyway, some liberties were taken with the quest detailed below, and will continue to be in part 2 for several reasons. Enjoi.
So, as we left off, Rei has been granted his wish for eternal life, but at the expense of his own soul and mortal appearance. He suspects that a bit of Oblivion itself was imparted to him, as he sees more and more of himself change over time. They’re gradual changes, ones he might not have seen for years, but he sees them, in the end. The way his tail hs lengthened and whose coarse fur has thickened, the way his fangs have grown in such a small increment that probably nobody on the outside ever would have known, but Rei himself, not being the sort to rip into food, could tell the moment he slopped more wine down his chin than he normally did with the blasted things.
He didn’t mind his daedric markings, ultimately. The people he met regarded him with suspicion, sure, but he had adopted more stringent common-sense rules for his hunting that ensured suspicion was all it ever was. Occasionally he would find one or two in a town who saw his beauty divorced from the red flags of his features (or because of them), and, if he was of a mind, he would bed them and enjoy their warmth. He preferred men, but he’d rarely turn a woman down if she fit his particular profile.
They would often fall for him, but to their chagrin, his goals were elsewhere. He occasionally considered telling the clingier ones about his situation, to see if they would pledge to wait, with bated breath, for his soul and his real feelings to return. Even before his dealings with Vile, he was known to a few young men as someone who would love you and leave you…unless he really liked you, in which case you might enjoy the honor of being strung along. But he never did tell the ones he met in his travels. It wasn’t the same being unable to properly enjoy the attention.
Decades passed. Centuries. Rei’s favorite part of the day (insofar as he could call anything his favorite, anymore) was any part that found him sleeping, for it was in his dreams that he would almost always revisit that harrowing incident in the ocean. His brain always found new and interesting ways to fill in all the blanks, whether it involved his rescue astride the back of the mysterious beast, whether the beast – which he still called “kirin” – was more humanoid and carried him to shore. There was a warmth in those dreams, something that felt like comfort. It made him feel real again.
But Clavicus Vile wasn’t a bad patron to have, all told. Rei had never physically aged beyond the twenty-five years he had when he first summoned his master. It was, he knew, Vile’s own whims that allowed for it, and that at any moment he could decide that Rei was no longer worth keeping beautiful, especially if there was some amusing benefit as a result. Regardless, he continued to preset mortal souls to his master – young ones – so that he would be granted whiffs of their energy. It wasn’t enough to grant him his feeling, only enough to keep his body refreshed. And that was okay, for the moment.
His travels brought him north to Skyrim, eventually, a land too cold for his liking. Something had been drawing him, though. What, he couldn’t say, but he obeyed the call, and he rode his steed Baku through the forest of Falkreath, over the stark tundra of Whiterun, over mountains and into Eastmarch. He had no trouble gathering souls for his master. There were plenty of people in Skyrim who seemed to enjoy living on their own with nobody around for miles. And bandits? Rei didn’t care one way or another what they did with their time, but nobody else cared about a few dead bandits, either, and there were always plenty of them in pockets.
He and Baku trudged ever northward, unsure of what he would find, only following the call that eventually led him up the side of a mountain, where a towering statue of Azura looked authoritatively out across the land. A set of platforms with stairs leading to the foot of the statue cast a shadow over him. Rei dismounted, wondering at the existence of such a monument in this place, and feeling that pull again.
It was the Star.
With a dry, mirthless laugh, he lunged up the stairs, two- and three-at-a-time, until he reached the top, where he froze, panting. There was a priest up here, wrapped in furs and tending an altar adorned with fir garlands and snowberries.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said, turning as he approached her. She was an older Dunmer woman, smiling as if she was greeting an old friend.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“Perhaps. We are both old, you and I. Who’s to say we haven’t run into each other ages ago?”
Rei narrowed his eyes.
“Ah. I see you aren’t the kind for idle chatter,” she said. “In truth, I foresaw your coming.”
“Azura gave you that knowledge, I presume?”
“Who else? For many years I have seen to this moment and waited, and now that you are here, I must entreat you for a favor on behalf of her.”
“I have no particular love for Azura,” Rei said. “And to be quite honest I don’t hold those who seek to know the future in high regard, either.”
“There’s no need to be rude. Azura merely grants me foresight when she, in her infinite wisdom, sees fit.”
“Indeed. Well, here I am.”
“Azura sees in you her champion. Someone has stolen her artifact and is subjecting it to obscene experimentation. She wishes for you to find and rescue it.”
“The Star, yes? She wishes for me to find the Star of Azura.”
“Should she not?”
“Surely Azura, in her infinite wisdom,” Rei drawled, “would know of whom she’s making this request.”
The priestess, huddled in her furs, smiled wryly. “She does not make arbitrary decisions.”
“And what if I choose not to?” he asked, simply to be obtuse. “Is she now the dictator of my path?”
“You will see things come to pass in one way or another. I do not know much beyond this moment, right now, but what I can tell you is that the Star lies with a mage who can turn the brightest star as black as night.”
Rei felt one side of his mouth raise in a smirk, an automatic response not too far removed from the base act of jerking his hand away from a flame. Surely she knew. The priestess and Azura, both. “Then I suppose we’ll see where fate leads me.”
As he mounted Baku and rode back down the mountain, he made for the town of Winterhold, naught but a mile or two away. It seemed awfully convenient that such a task be set so close to a collective of mages, but he thought it best not to argue.
By the time he reached the town, Rei was well and truly frozen. Through his gloves, his fingers ached, and even his tail, wrapped around his waist and resting on his lap beneath his coat, had long reached equilibrium with his body and was now just in the way. The Mages College was just down the road of the ruined town, but he was hungry, and one more second out in the cold sounded almost worse than death.
After boarding Baku in the dilapidated stable and emphasizing to the stable hand that the only blankets that should ever touch his animal’s hide were the ones rolled up and belted to his saddle, he set foot into the inn, catching bits of an intriguing conversation between the Nord innkeeper an Altmer in drab mage robes.
“I’m sorry,” the elf was saying, “but could you describe the smell?”
“Like…Like a monster was turned inside-out and exploded.”
“My apologies. It was a minor miscalculation, but don’t worry. I’ve already corrected it for future experiments.”
“This,” the innkeeper said, wagging a finger in the mage’s direction, “this is why people have a problem with your college, Nelacar.”
“It’s not my college,” Nelacar protested lazily.
“Well. Mages, then.”
The two men chuckled once, and Nelacar turned to step into a side room, leaving the door open.
Rei figured the opportunity was more important than food, and so, without taking time to remove his outer layers, he made his way to the front of the building where the mage’s room was.
“Can I help you, sir?” the innkeeper asked as he passed by the bar. “Now don’t go in there. Don’t go botherin’ my guests.”
“I have questions I believe your mage friend can answer,” Rei explained in a patronizing tone. “I certainly wouldn’t bother anyone.”
“I don’t want any trouble. Just hold it right there and let my guests be.”
Rei lowered his hood and looked properly back at the innkeeper, who visibly swallowed. He answered, drawing his lips back enough to complete his daedric image, “There won’t be any trouble, if you let me be.”
The innkeeper nodded slowly.
Rei stared him down just a tad longer, making sure his self-imposed authority was properly observed, before turning back and continuing his path towards Nelacar’s room.
“Goodness, aren’t we pushy,” Nelacar said without looking up from his book as Rei entered. “I’m no longer associated with the College, however. If you’re a new applicant, you’ll need…to…”
Rei saw his favorite look as Nelacar finally raised his head, the look of fear and curiosity. The one that often turned into attraction, which was fine. It meant pliability if it was needed, and it had been a while. He could certainly do worse.
“It’s been many years since I’ve practiced magic,” Rei said, “and I don’t intend to pick it back up.”
“What do you want?” Nelacar asked in a smaller voice. “Who are you?”
“I’m called Rei Ginsei. I’m looking for a mage who studies the stars.”
Nelacar walked past him, lightly pushing him aside to close the door. “Who sent you?”
“Well isn’t this convenient? The first person I ask is exactly who I need. And nobody sends me anywhere. I’m looking for Azura’s Star.”
“Oh, no. I knew this would happen.”
“What would happen?” Rei asked.
Nelacar studied him for a moment with wide eyes. “You’re no Altmer,” he said. “Not entirely. Are you…you’re a servant of Azura, aren’t you?”
“Azura wishes I would serve her. My master is Clavicus Vile.”
“I don’t know if that’s much better, but I suppose it improves my odds for survival.”
“Tell me what you know about the Star,” Rei prodded. He took a step towards Nelacar to emphasize his height, pleased to note the slow, deep breaths the mage was taking.
“There’s a Dunmer necromancer,” he said quickly. “Malyn Varen. Many years ago, he began researching soul gems in an effort to preserve his soul and gain eternal life.”
Rei felt a twinge of irritation that he, himself, hadn’t thought of that.
“Naturally, his research pointed him to Azura’s Star. I’m not sure how much you know of this, but the Star is unlike any soul gem found here in this plane.”
“It can be used an infinite number of times.”
“Yes, but the problem Malyn ran into is that in its natural state, the Star can only accept white souls, and so began experiments to corrupt its nature in order for it to hold black souls. Souls like ours. The more he worked, though, the more zealous he became, until one day, in his experimentation, he killed one of his students.”
“To test it, I assume?” Rei asked.
“Well, yes, presumably,” Nelacar answered. “He didn’t bludgeon her with a table leg, if that’s what you’re asking. In any case, a murdered student is a murdered student, and Malyn and his disciples were expelled from the College, and thus migrated to an old fortress called Illinalta’s Deep to continue his work.”
“Well, it’s on Lake Illinalta, between Falkreath and Whiterun Holds.”
Rei shuddered reflexively at the thought of water. The fear itself was no longer an issue without a soul, but he still wasn’t terribly thrilled when he had to deal with water, personally.
“This still was many years ago. As you can imagine, Azura is quite displeased with the fate of her artifact, and so for all this time she’s been inside Malyn’s head, driving him further and further into insanity. There’ve been many warnings issued to travelers and those who live nearby Lake Illinalta to steer clear of the ruins because of countless disappearances, with no bodies ever being found. The Nords claim it’s haunted by the souls of soldiers who died when the fortress’ foundation finally sank too far into the sandy lake shore and collapsed. Nonsense. Malyn has been behind those disappearances, using locals for his work.”
“So if I’m to find the Star, I’m to search there.”
“Indeed. But I must ask one thing of you.”
“And what’s that?” Rei asked, pulling his gloves off, his fingers finally having regained their feeling. He had the information he wanted and was no longer terribly interested in soul gems, so he took the opportunity to test the waters and slid one hand over the side of the mage’s neck, letting his thumb rest just on top of his jaw line.
Nelacar took a long breath and closed his eyes, resting his hand on Rei’s forearm. “Please,” he said, “If you should manage to retrieve the Star, do not return it to Azura, whatever you do.”
“I wasn’t planning on it, but why?”
“She would tell you it’s Malyn’s fault for killing all those people, but I’m telling you their blood is on her hands. If she had left well enough alone, those people may not have met such a fate.”
Rei scoffed. “The man began these experiments on his own, and necromancers aren’t generally known for their compassion. I doubt too much would have changed without her intervention, and in any case, one should know well that Azura’s wrath isn’t something to be invoked, and Varen…that’s a Dunmer name, yes? Who but a Dunmer should have known better?”
“Look, as long as you won’t be returning it, that’s all I care about,” Nelacar said. Rei smiled as the mage seemed to move unconsciously closer. “I don’t care to discuss morality with…with a…whatever-you-are.”
“A ‘whatever-I-am’, hm?”
Nelacar’s eyes suddenly widened. “I’m sorry!” he said quickly. “I mean, I just-“
“What do you think I am?”
“I don’t know.”
Rei smiled and leaned forward. He carefully bit Nelacar’s earlobe before whispering, “What do you want me to be?”
“Somehow I think ‘mine’ is the wrong answer.”
“I like your optimism, but I suppose we’ll see, won’t we?”