I take liberties with the layouts and populations of towns and cities in the games I play for reasons which are probably obvious. So the answer is, “Yes I know that’s not how it is in game.”
Misguided angel, hanging over me,
Heart like a Gabriel, pure and white as ivory
Soul like a Lucifer, black and cold like a piece of lead
Misguided angel, love you to death.
̶Misguided Angel, Margo & Michael Timmins
After that first night, Rei made his way with Sabrael back around the lake and into the town of Falkreath, proper; it seemed a good idea to take a few days to regroup. Before setting out, he had loaned Sabrael some of his clothes to wear until they were able to source proper ones. They were long in the legs and arms and tight in the chest and waist, but with some makeshift work, they would suffice. Rei himself was only barely tolerated without a hood, let alone with his tail left to sway free; Sabrael’s hair and horns weren’t any better without adding his nakedness on top of it.
“How are you not cold?” Rei asked as they walked along the shore. Sabrael, clad in a linen shirt and thin hide leggings, sat happily astride Baku’s saddle as Rei, wrapped in his cloak, led him along.
“Cold doesn’t bother water daedra too much,” Sabrael answered, “and if they come from the salt, like I do, they’re a bit more resistant. Personally, I like it.”
Rei smiled. He found he enjoyed Sabrael’s chirpiness, and he liked the light, buoyant joy that lifted every word, indeed, like the lazy pulse of dying waves.
“You didn’t actually live in that lagoon, did you?” he asked. “It’s awfully shallow.”
“I mostly hid along the reef. On warm nights I would swim into the lagoon itself, though, and just lay in the shallows, looking at the moons.”
“It might just be suggestion, but I do have vague memories of somebody talking of a monster off the shore.”
“I always tried to be careful, but sometimes you get caught. I’m a bit hard to miss in my natural form.”
“What are you, anyway? I don’t recall seeing anything like you in my parents books.”
“I’m just a daedra. I’ve heard that mortals call daedra like me ‘kelpies’, though.”
“Whoever thought of that was certainly imaginative.”
Sabrael giggled. “What would you call us, then?”
“I’ve never been good at naming things,” Rei answered. “You know what you are to me, and that’s good enough.”
“I love you.”
Rei closed his eyes and took a deep breath to enjoy Sabrael’s happiness. Switching Baku’s lead to his outside hand, he reached back with his other to clasp his kirin’s fingers.
They made the rest of the short journey in an easy silence that was occasionally broken by small talk and flirting. It was nice for Rei to have his actual charm back. Even after many decades of honing his acting skills, it still took a decent amount of work to feign such interests, and to feel himself slot right back into his place was a relief and joy in itself. There was some aspect of it that was missing, or seemed to be. Rei couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but it seemed reasonable that if he only had access to a part of his soul, perhaps there would be nuances that were missing, if not entire ranges of feeling.
Regardless, it was much easier to insinuate himself into the town when even a disingenuous smile could be more easily made to look sincere. He was more than happy, therefore, to be stopped at the town gate by one of the guards keeping watch.
“Oy, stop here,” the guard said, stepping into their path. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“My companion and I are simply in need of supplies and rest,” Rei explained, sprinkling his words with saccharine supplication.
“Right. Just like the hordes of other daedra that come by here on a daily basis.”
“Rest assured, sir, I am no daedra. I simply ran afoul of one. Surely you can understand the plight of my unfortunate appearance.”
The guard looked at him, suspiciously narrowed eyes only just visible through the slit of his full-face helmet. “How do you explain him, then?”
“Sabrael?” Rei asked as if he’d only just remembered his company. He looked up at Sabrael amiably, subtly kissing the air when his kirin cast a worried glance back at him. “Why, he’s my familiar.”
” ‘Familiar’. You’re some high-falutin’ mage, hm?”
“I’ve been known to dabble. But I assure you, I wouldn’t dream of causing trouble, and Sabrael is the gentlest soul you could ever meet.”
“Hmph,” the guard grunted. “Go on, then. I’ll alert the other guards to your presence and tell them you’re to be watched.”
“I wouldn’t expect any less from a capable town guard,” Rei drawled, offering a small bow.
“Go on,” the guard said again, adding under his breath, “elf flit.”
Rei smirked at the poor attempt at hiding disdain and continued to lead Baku and Sabrael into the town. When they reached the stables, Rei reached up and helped his kirin down from the saddle, stealing a quick kiss before preemptively tipping the stable hand whose look of revulsion at the act magically disappeared when he felt the weight of coin in his hand.
“I don’t have high hopes,” Rei said to the hand, looking around the town, “but I don’t suppose there’s a tailor here?”
“There’s Signe, she does all our sewin’. Nothing fancy like what you’re wearin’, though.”
“Well, if I could teleport myself to Alinor we wouldn’t be speaking, would we? Where’s this Signe?”
“All the way down the road,” the boy said, pointing. “Just past the alchemist’s on the right.”
Rei fished another coin from his purse and flipped it towards the stable hand with his thumb, before turning and pulling Sabrael roughly against him as they began to walk towards the establishment of the woman who did “all of Falkreath’s sewin’ “.
“You have a lot of money,” Sabrael observed.
“Don’t ask about money, Sabrael,” Rei admonished lazily. “It’s rude.”
“I’m just curious where it comes from.”
“Keep on, and I’ll have to teach you some manners.”
Sabrael chuckled. “I’m willing to take a few lessons.”
“We’ll have to see about that,” Rei grinned. “Where do you think I get my money?”
“Not a sixth sense for trading, I suppose.”
“People will give you lots and lots of money if you kill someone they don’t like.”
“Are you still going to do that?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, you’re with me, and you can feel things.”
Rei looked down once they’d stopped outside a door which bore a sign reading “Stitches by Signe”.
“This really isn’t a conversation we should be having right here,” he said, “and I’m sure you wouldn’t like what I have to say on the subject. Come on, let’s get you some clothes that fit.”
The seamstress’ shop was pleasantly dim and warm. It smelled of nutmeg, making Rei realize he was starving. It was pleasant in its unpleasantness, being able to anticipate food and imagine the taste of something hot. The dried goods he kept with him were fine, and being able to actually taste the salt which cured the meat was wonderful, but they weren’t the same as a proper meal. A passing worry crossed his mind that the joyful reunion between him and food might not be a passing novelty. It was irrational, but the thought of losing his physique caused a very real shudder to shake through him.
“Can I help…” a woman, presumably the fabled Signe, asked, appearing from a back room and trailing off when she saw her customers.
“Us?” Rei answered. “Yes, I certainly hope so. My companion here, as you can see, is in need of clothes that fit.”
“…Oh. Yes, yes I can see that.”
Rei felt Sabrael shrink back just a little as a creeping shyness filled him. He stroked his kirin’s hair in a way he hoped would be soothing.
“Is there anything you can do for us quickly? We only have a few days before we must move on.”
Signe, wringing her hands, looked between them. “It’s just him?”
She nodded. “I have some ready-made that would only need to be fitted. They’d fit him, but we’d be a bit up the river if a…a man like you needed something.”
“Oh, yes, I couldn’t in good conscience ask anyone to fit me in a rush. Not outside Summerset, anyway.”
“There’s…I mean, if you need anything there’s a couple of high elf girls in Solitude that get a lot of business with the Thalmor and their ilk. If fancy clothes are, well, your fancy.”
Rei smiled patronizingly as the woman laughed nervously. “Good to know, thank you. So, shall we get started?”
Signe looked back at Sabrael again. “He’s not gonna hurt me, is he?”
“Goodness, no,” Rei answered somewhat sharply. He gently put his hand between Sabrael’s shoulder blades and nudged him forward. “He is shy, though.”
“I’m Signe,” she said, offering her hand to Sabrael.
Reluctantly Sabrael took her hand and said quietly, “I’m Sabrael. It’s good to meet you.”
“That’s a prettier name than I was expecting. I mean, I didn’t think it was going to be ugly, but you know-“
Sabrael giggled. “It’s okay.”
“Come on back, then. I’ll get you taken care of.”
“Get whatever you feel you need,” Rei called after him. “I’m going to get us a room in the inn.”
“Please stay,” Sabrael asked, stopping in his tracks. Rei felt his own hands trembling.
“It won’t take long to get his measurements and mark the clothes,” Signe said. “You won’t lose much time if you stay.”
Rei was mildly annoyed, and he saw Sabrael cringe as the emotion hit him. “I’ll stay,” he said. “I’ll just be out here.”
Rei wasn’t terribly thrilled at Sabrael’s clinginess, but he supposed he could live with it. For the most part it wasn’t a huge issue; the first day and most of the second barely saw them outside their room, except to bathe and, at night, to drink. Well, Rei did the drinking. Sabrael initially didn’t know what to make of the noise and revelry and mostly clung to Rei’s arm before Rei managed to coax him into being sociable.
He had no trouble coaxing the people of Falkreath into acceptance, either; the only time anyone could ever have called Rei Ginsei generous in his past was when he was drunk. When Celedaen Aedeus was in his cups, he wanted everyone else to be in their cups, too. It had little to do with generosity and everything to do with making sure he wasn’t the fool, but nobody ever complained then, and certainly the Nords weren’t complaining now that he could feel drunkenness again and thus the desire for company and long nights of excess. Their first and second nights there saw the inn quite raucous, filled with people drunk on the drink they bought themselves and smashed on the drink bought for them by the bizarre and towering creature that had strolled into town.
By the third night, Rei was tired of partying, and it was for the best. Azura’s Star was still something that needed to be addressed, after all, and fun was fun. But still, he enjoyed a pleasant buzz while Sabrael sat on his lap in a set of his new clothes. He held a worn goblet of wine in his left hand, whose arm rested about Sabrael’s waist, and he slid his right hand over the daedra’s thigh, letting his index finger slip into the crease where thigh met pelvis.
“We’re gonna need to get you better clothes,” Rei said with a numb tongue. He wasn’t slurring yet, but he was close.
“I think Signe did a good job,” Sabrael smiled.
“Sure she did. I’m not saying she didn’t, but you’ve got…you’ve got a noble face, Sabrael. Grab my goblet, would you?”
Sabrael did as he was told and held it in front of him. “Aren’t you going to take it?” he asked.
“I think my hand’s fine where it is. Maybe you should just feed it to me. Wait. Not feed it,” Rei snorted with laughter. “You don’t feed drink, do you? Just…Just put it in my mouth.”
“That’s the first time you’ve said that to me,” Sabrael grinned, tilting the goblet.
Rei cracked up just as the wine touched his lips, spraying it everywhere and causing Sabrael to tip the vessel further, splashing his face.
“You cheeky little trollop,” he grinned, pulling his giggling lover down for a kiss.
“You faggots need to keep it down over there,” a gruff voice called from across the room.
“I’m sorry, sir, my ears aren’t that great,” Rei called back. “You wanna come over here and repeat that?”
At the sound of the Nord’s chair scraping back against the floor as he got up, a brilliant surge of adrenaline coursed through Rei’s muscles, and all at once he seemed alive – really alive. Sabrael jumped at exactly the time Rei felt his lips pull back into their old hyena grin. Sabrael’s unease joined the anticipation of violence and made it somehow better.
Finally a large bear of a man was standing over him. He reeked of ale and body odor, and his skin was pitted and scarred. “Now that I’m closer,” he said, “I notice you’re the faggot, and that one’s a sissy little fairy.”
“I had no idea there was such a huge variety,” Rei drawled, letting his head roll lazily onto his shoulder. “I’m glad we have an expert among us.”
“Rei…” Sabrael whispered in a wavering voice.
“You sayin’ I like boys?” the man said loudly. The veins in his hands bulged as he clenched his fists.
“Leave ‘im alone, Ilaf,” the innkeeper shouted from the front of the building. “Thing’s paid my alcohol delivery for two weeks.”
“Yeah, Ilaf,” Rei grinned. “Leave me alone.”
“I don’t care who or what you are, nobody talks to me like that!”
“What are you going to do about it?” Rei carefully pushed a steadily more terrified Sabrael off his lap and stood up, wishing Nords weren’t quite so tall. He still easily dwarfed this one, but it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as he liked.
As if to rub it in, Ilaf wasn’t deterred and stepped closer.
“I thought Nords liked to brawl,” he prodded. “Surely you’re not afraid of an Altmer. You nonce.”
Pain exploded at the front of his mouth, and he slapped a hand over his lips as he registered how quickly his opponent had struck. It wasn’t long before he could taste the metallic tang of blood. Bar fights were never something he sought out, and using his bare fists wasn’t his preferred method, but he certainly could use them, and, favored venue or no, the taste of blood further awakened that liveliness.
Just before he could collect himself, however, his vision went momentarily black as another bombshell of pain went off over his right eye. This time he didn’t need time to regroup. By now the adrenaline was overpowering the pain. With more excitement and anticipation than he could ever remember feeling at the glimpse of his goal, he threw his right fist as hard as he could, connecting with the Nord’s jaw hard enough to feel the joint give.
Ilaf hardly had a moment to cry out and clasp his broken jaw before Rei was on him in earnest. He blacked Ilaf’s eye as hard as he’d gotten, himself, and proceeded to pummel him about the face and head. Blood poured from the Nord’s nose, his jaw hung slack. Rei heard the weak cries and moans as if amplified and fed directly into his ears, and they built up his rapture and fueled his strength and endurance. There was only a little bit to go…
He was vaguely aware that his movements were becoming restricted, and muffled voices began to break through his euphoria. Profound dismay suddenly filled his mind as he heard Sabrael’s voice above those of the other patrons.
“Stop!” he cried. “Stop, Rei, please, you’re killing him!”
It went against every desire in his body, but he reluctantly acquiesced to his kirin’s pleas. As the enjoyment subsided, he realized there were four other men who’d grabbed onto his arms and shoulders, and he shook them off roughly.
“I’d get out of here, if I were you,” the innkeeper said quietly. “Us here ain’t normally to the type to bitch to the guards over a brawl, but, well. You’re no Nord, and Ilaf’s gonna need some serious healin’.”
Rei’s joy had been replaced with anger at Sabrael’s terror, and he turned to see that his love’s eyes were red and glistening.
“I’m going to pay the stable hand and get Baku saddled,” he said, trying to keep his voice even. “I want you to gather our things and meet me there.”
“O-Okay,” Sabrael answered.
Once Baku was saddled, Rei had managed to come completely back down, and was now properly aware of the pain in his mouth and the fact that he could no longer see out of his right eye, whose socket throbbed terribly. He felt around his face, feeling the tender swollen flesh around his upper lip and eye. As he gathered up another collection of blood and saliva to spit onto the ground, his tongue bumped against his right fang. An arrow of pain shot up into his gums, and he grabbed the tooth between his thumb and forefinger. It was still decently attached, but it was too loose to maintain. Taking a deep breath, he yanked downwards, forcefully ripping the tooth from its socket. He bit his lip to keep his pained cry muffled. A burst of laughter bubbled from his mouth and disappeared as quickly as it had come.
“Rei, what’s wrong?” Sabrael asked as he approached from behind.
“Souvenir?” Rei offered, holding out his palm with the bloody fang nestled neatly in the middle.
“Sure? It’d make a rather nice pendant.”
“Can we just go?”
They rode together, Sabrael in the saddle in front of Rei who sat uncomfortably against the rolled-up tent, back around the lake and to Illinalta’s Deep. The moons were bright enough that there was no real need for a lantern, and the fallen structures took on an eerie blue tint. Blue was a nice color, Rei thought. It was the color of night. The color of getting things done.
“Why are we back here?” Sabrael asked. Worry wound through Rei’s bones.
“Because I still have business here,” he answered, helping Sabrael slide from the saddle so that he could follow suit. Once he was down on the ground, he started checking Baku’s cargo for his hardened leather armor. He needed that feeling back.
“Rei, I want to talk to you.”
“I don’t know if you really want to, right now,” he answered, trying to sharpen his annoyance to be especially obvious.
“No, I need to. You’re injured, anyway.”
“I just won’t use my bow.”
“Stop it!” Sabrael shouted.
Rei finally turned. “So talk.”
“I’m scared, Rei.”
“I know. Why?”
“When you were beating that man, you were trying to kill him, weren’t you? You wanted it. You were happy. At first I thought you were just defending our honor or something, but the whole time you just wanted to kill him.”
“To be fair, Sabrael, I hadn’t even thought of it until he said something.”
“So it doesn’t really matter what the reason is, just so long as you can come up with something.”
Rei saw the dismay and fear in his kirin’s eyes, felt it squeeze his heart, and he closed his one open eye and took a deep breath. Sabrael deserved better than Celedaen. “The other day you asked about how I earn money, and you asked why I wouldn’t put aside my ways now that I have feeling again. I wasn’t planning on discussing this, but I suppose it would have come up sooner rather than later. But it’s unpleasant, and I will understand if you don’t want any part of me after this.”
“I started killing when I was about seventeen. That’s when I decided fealty to Clavicus Vile was the way towards my goal. I had no reservations. My first victim was a girl in the next village over. I don’t even remember what it was, anymore, but she’d made some slight against me, and I decided she needed to go. So I found where she lived, sneaked inside in the evening and waited under her bed until she laid down for the night. When her breathing slowed, and I knew she was asleep, I slipped from my hiding place, drew my shiny, new, enchanted dagger and slit her throat from ear to ear. It was the cleanest, most civil murder I ever committed until I lost my soul, and I liked it.Without my soul, without my ability to enjoy it, it was a mechanical act. Sterile.
“I liked the blood, Sabrael, I liked the fear I saw in their eyes. I loved the sounds, and I loved it when they begged. And when I told you I was rough with my lovers, I wasn’t entirely truthful. It wasn’t just a thrill, it was…” Rei let the memory of deep arousal wash over him.”It was perfectly divine.”
A tear slipped down Sabrael’s cheek and glinted in the moonlight. His hands were clasped in front of his chest.
“I liked hurting people,” Rei continued. “All sorts, and for the slightest of reasons. The boy who took care of our horses was horribly in love with me, and he sent letters. Letters upon letters proclaiming his love, trying to win my favor by plaiting ribbons in my mare’s mane and tail. I got tired of it fairly quickly, and I went out in the middle of the day, wearing my heavy armor after a lesson, and I gave him the back of my hand. I broke his jaw, too. And as he lay there sobbing, I leaned in and told him with no small amount of relish, that I was going to fuck the noblewoman next door, whose occasional attentions I’d never bothered entertaining before. And I did. And that dear stable hand, at least for as long as I remained there, never spoke another word.”
“How could you do that to someone?”
“How could others not? I told you I wasn’t pleasant, Sabrael. I know that what I am is abnormal. I know that what I am is abhorrent. And, frankly, I don’t want to apologize for it.”
“I guess I understand why you said you resent being able to relate to those you hurt.”
“It’s a bit like having someone spit on your birthday cake.”
Horror pinged inside Rei’s heart as Sabrael drew back. A deep terror of his own began to surface, as well, tightening his throat.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” he said.
“I don’t know if it was any more or less hideous than anything else you’ve said tonight.”
“I understand if you want to go. Just a few nights ago I said I didn’t want to cause you fear, and here we are. I don’t honestly know what happened tonight, Sabrael. I never picked fights like that in the past; it’s barbaric. I somehow don’t think it’s just me being unused to my old self, either. It feels like things are being reflected.”
Rei shook his head and ran his forearm under his nose. “I don’t know. In any case, I’m not who you thought I was. Whatever that was, to begin with.”
“You still love me, though.”
“Why does that matter?”
“I’m not a kirin. And you’re not perfect.”
“That’s being rather generous,” Rei laughed as he wiped tears from his good eye. “I would imagine in most people’s books being an indiscriminate murderer is more than a matter of not being perfect. Besides, I’m not sure if that’s the same thing as misidentifying something.”
“I’m saying I love you, Rei. I don’t like that you’re this way. Feeling that filthy sort of …of ecstasy…was terrible, but that’s something you can change, right?”
Rei furrowed his brow. Such a thing as changing had never occurred to him. It came so naturally, like breathing. “I don’t know, Sabrael,” he admitted.
“Would you try?”
“You realize I still have to gather souls for my master.”
“Because I’ll die if I don’t. I’m still not entirely sure what he’ll do when he finds out about us.”
“Surely there’s a way you can-“
“Sabrael, I can’t promise that I won’t enjoy the act. At this point it seems about as effective as telling me to stop enjoying sex. But I’ll limit it to self defense or to criminals. Or something.”
Sabrael bit his lips and looked down while he played absently with his fingers.
Rei sighed and fell to his knees and sat back on his heels. His eye throbbed and the empty socket in his mouth ached deeply. His brain was tired from feeling two people’s emotions and from the heavy doses of adrenaline he’d experienced, and his heart hurt like wires had been wrapped around it to cut in on every beat.
He felt one of his arms lifted, and was relieved to feel Sabrael burrow under it to lean his head against his chest.
“I don’t want to leave you,” his kirin said softly.
“Then don’t. Please.”
(sorry for the bad rip, ‘sall I could find with the good version)