The Prince and the Altmer pt. 2 (Rei Ginsei’s Saga, ch. 8)
December 18, 2017
I must have you all to myself Feel the full weight of your skin I’ll hollow out my insides To place you in.
-Jewel Kilcher, Enter from the East
Clavicus Vile lay sleeplessly in the bed he’d created for Rei Ginsei, a bed that had seen no other being in their time together. Rei wasn’t the first of his sentient playthings, not by a long shot, nor was he the only one at present, but he was his favorite, and he was unique. No other could claim their own world in his plane (well, of his own volition). No other could claim his power. Vile had been without him for a much longer time than usual, thanks to Barbas forcing his own banishment, and he’d begun pining dearly.The last thing he had expected to see when he was finally able to be summoned was a pet accompanying his love.
Too many things had happened in a short period that required serious consideration. Things that required responsibility. His Rei Ginsei, his precious creation, was in possession of his emotions, and that in itself was more than he had imagined (in spite of his easy access to the rest of Rei’s soul). It was wonderful to hear the expression behind his ‘thank yous’, wonderful to feel his actual passion, and when the words “I love you, Clavicus,” escaped his lips, he felt he could die and be happy, were it possible.
But those emotions were carried by that blasted seahorse. That seahorse who was as lovely as the sun’s perpetual orange trail as it set the ocean ablaze. That seahorse who was simply too perfect and sweet. Naturally, if something had to bind itself to his Rei Ginsei it would be something too pure for its own good.
His stomach clenched. It all could have been fun, he thought. For his treasure he wanted to try. And nobody could say that he didn’t give it his best shot, could they? He’d even deigned to suck its cock; how much harder could he have tried?
All of a sudden Rei started to cough and choke. “Clavicus!” he hissed.
Suddenly Vile was aware of Rei’s claws scrabbling at his forearm, and, with a shock of terror, yanked his arm away from his neck.
“What’s wrong with you?” Rei coughed, trying to keep quiet so as not to wake the remarkably deep sleeper beside him.
“I’m sorry, Rei Ginsei. I just got lost thinking about something.”
“Sabrael?” Rei asked as he rolled over.
“I have to take a piss. Want to go for a walk after?”
“Please,” he answered quietly. He watched his love shimmy carefully down and off the foot of the bed and take up his spot by a gnarled tree that overlooked a small inlet, a good distance away from the pavilion. Vile was feeling too insecure, though. He left the bed and jogged to where Rei was tending his business and slid his arms around his shoulders.
“You’re such a creep,” Rei chuckled. “You couldn’t wait until I finished?”
“Obviously not,” he answered, kissing his cheek.
After shaking off, Rei Ginsei turned to him, a look of the same melancholy Vile was feeling on his face.
“What can I do, Clavicus?” he asked. “How can I make you happy?”
“You don’t want to know what I think,” he answered. “Have I ever denied you anything, Rei Ginsei?”
Rei shook his head.
“I know it makes no sense now, but I only ever wanted for your happiness.”
“And the souls I brought you.”
“Alright, fine, and the souls. But you’re the only one of my inventions that didn’t backfire in some way. Barbas is a boring spoilsport, and Umbra…well, you remember Umbra.”
Rei nodded as they walked along the shore. Vile put his arm around his darling’s shoulders while Rei put his around his waist.
“Did you know that sword was supposed to have been a gift for you?”
Rei shook his head.
“Could you have imagined?” Vile asked wistfully. “My Soul Devourer and his soul devouring sword. Two entities bearing my power as one. But I suppose it’s for the best it never saw its way into your hands. Imagine if Umbra had broken free and taken you with it. There would have been none of me left.”
“I wish I could have properly cared for you,” Rei said.
“You did what you could. I was happy for your presence.”
Rei nodded. “Could I ask you something?”
“You could,” Vile answered. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer.”
“You seem to like me with my emotions intact, or at least as intact as they can be at the moment.”
“That wasn’t a question, but yes.”
“Why did you take my soul, then?”
“Many reasons, I suppose,” he sighed. He sat down on the packed sand by the break, and Rei joined him. “I suppose I let slip just now that you are a part of me.”
“I suppose so,” Rei laughed quietly. “I feel a bit stupid for not knowing.”
“You shouldn’t. I tried very hard to obfuscate that little tidbit.”
Vile took a deep breath and squinted his eyes for a moment as he braced himself. “Because I didn’t grant your wish. I granted mine for your love and your servitude and gave you a piece of myself. You’re immortal, Rei Ginsei, just as you wanted, and invincible. It wouldn’t matter if you stopped bringing me souls. You’re frozen in time. I can’t kill you. Nobody can. If you died right this moment, you would be reborn by my throne. I worried that if you ever found out, you would escape the way Umbra later managed to. It would devastate me in so many ways. Without your soul, without your knowing, I could at least count on your admirably soul-transcending vanity to keep you devoted as I fed you small tastes of the souls you brought me.”
“You didn’t seem to be that worried about Barbas or Umbra.”
“When you first began making your offerings to me, of course you know I took notice. I would check in from time to time, getting to know the man who was so graciously and patiently entreating me. You’re a man after my own heart, Rei Ginsei. You knew what you wanted, you knew what you liked, and damn anyone who got in your way. I was in lust with you, at the very least. I was obsessed, for sure.”
“I don’t know how I would’ve felt in the beginning,” Rei said. “But with all this to look back on, and seeing you now…I shouldn’t be feeling this way, but nothing can take me from you. Nothing will.”
“Why shouldn’t…oh,” Vile said, looking pointedly away as his heart clenched. “Your seahorse.”
“Why won’t you say his name?”
Vile sighed and lowered his head. His elbows were resting on his knees, and he slid his hands through his hair to hook them over the base of his horns. He pulled a little, finding some relief in the oddly pleasant feeling it elicited. “Because he’s nothing.”
“What would you have me do?” Rei Ginsei asked again.
“I told you, you don’t want to ask that.”
“I would have you wring the life out of him with your bare hands!” the Prince snapped. “He would be sent back to whatever common plane he came from, and then I could make you whole in a way that he never could. And you would be mine again.”
“I was never not yours,” Rei insisted.
“I couldn’t ask you to do that, anyway, Rei Ginsei. It would be a punishment for you, and ultimately I don’t suppose you did choose to have some filthy sea creature steal part of you.”
“Don’t be that way.”
“Allow me my jealousy,” Vile said. “The death of your seahorse would damage you and breed resentment towards me. If I will allow you your pet, you must allow me my jealousy.”
Rei got to his knees and lifted Vile’s head to kiss his lips.
“Would that I could have seen this coming,” he lamented. “How could I have not noticed that one fragment? I was too eager, I suppose. Even if I did notice, a big part of it all was to keep you from falling in love with somebody else, anyway. Whatever the method, you were soulless, and I suppose that was the goal.”
“But I couldn’t even fall in love with you,” Rei said.
“That’s not what mattered.”
“Look at me, Clavicus.”
Vile sighed and obliged him.
“You took care of me, deception or no. With my feeling back, I can make up for all this lost time! Where Barbas and Sabrael would try and block our fun, I will break through and demonstrate the power of Clavicus Vile.”
Vile smiled. “So your seahorse is your Barbas, hm?”
“He has his moments.”
“He doesn’t like the way I kill. But it’s so much more fulfilling now, Clavicus! The blood and the fear, the ability to really show my power. It’s the way it used to be, but better, somehow. Yesterday morning I was in my element. I’d made a game, and he killed one of my playthings, just to make me stop.”
“And yet there he lies, perfectly content and asleep.”
“I love him,” Rei sighed. Vile was happy to note the conflict. “I was so afraid he’d leave me over it. But in the moment I could have killed him right where he stood.”
“What he does doesn’t matter, Rei Ginsei. I do things that mortals and other lesser beings would deem hideous, and you’ve never judged me for it.”
“I really couldn’t, though.”
Vile rolled his eyes. “Fine, fine. But would you have? Would you leave me now?”
“Of course not,” Rei said.
“Because you and I, separate or linked, know our value and our power over those beneath us. The world needs a god like me, a harbinger like you. It’s because of us that mothers tell their children to be careful what they wish for, because of us they tell their daughters that beauty is as beauty does. We, you and me, remind them when they forget, chastise them when they disregard good advice and decide they’re not happy with what life hands them.
“Even without your soul I saw you stalk prey as you would seek water. You did it because that’s who you are, Rei Ginsei; it’s embedded in your bones. I was born of Sithis, and thus are you, and you embody all that is its perfection. Would you ask your seahorse not to swim?”
Rei shook his head, looking downwards, arms draped over his knees.
“Then why should he tell you not to do what you were put on Nirn to do? How can he claim to love you if he wants to change that which makes you, yourself? He can’t.”
“And it’s the plague of water elementals,” Vile pressed. “They yearn to cleanse what they feel is the dirt around them, and that’s what you are to him, Rei Ginsei. You’re something covered in dirt, and he won’t really love you until you’re scrubbed clean, stripped of what makes you perfect.”
Vile watched as Rei contemplated this new information. He was not one given to snap decisions, and not one to simply take someone’s word as the end-all. Vile wasn’t remotely hopeful that Rei would just quit the seahorse then and there, but the seed of uncertainty had been planted, and that’s all there needed to be.
“You know all that I said earlier wasn’t just bedroom talk,” Rei said finally. “The past few days have been so tiresome and intense. I wasn’t planning on meeting up with you so soon after regaining feeling, and I certainly didn’t know what to expect. I can appreciate the part of you that is a part of me, now. And though I never thought I’d say this in my life, let alone twice in a week, I do, very honestly, and with all my being, love you.”
Vile sighed as his creation sniffed and looked away.
“I feel so out of control,” Rei moaned. “Was I like this always, and I forgot? I’m not some twelve-year-old girl noticing men for the first time, am I?”
“Come with me,” Vile said gently. With the tiniest thought, he had whisked Rei into his private room. All was ebony wood furniture, dark plum bedclothes, and black stone walls and floor, lit only by blue magefire. In a cabinet he had never allowed Rei Ginsei to open sat the sacred case.
“Do you still feel?” Vile asked.
“I don’t feel anything anymore, no,” Rei answered, his tears suddenly gone. “Why did you take me so far away from Sabrael?”
“Because I have a gift, my love.”
Vile put his hand on Rei’s back and nudged him gently toward the cabinet before opening it to reveal a glass case where a black soul gem glimmered on its red silken bed.
“Ah-ah,” Vile chided, gently grabbing the arm that reached out towards the case. “Security, you know. Wouldn’t want you to lose a hand.”
He rested his hands against the upper edge of the case, closing his eyes as he worked up his nerve. There were theories to test, important ones. “So you were serious when you said that you loved me, that there would be no others above me?”
“I never would lie to you, Clavicus.”
Vile nodded, and began working the locks on the corners enabling him to lift the heavy glass top from its stand. He saw Rei appraising the gem, saw the vacancy in his eyes that he’d grown so quickly accustomed to not seeing. “Pick it up,” he said softly.
Rei did as he was told and held it up to his face to see the ancient whorls of his being.
Vile carefully took it back and pressed his lips to his creation’s. Rei returned it the kiss, as he always did, but once again there was nothing behind it. And that was good. There couldn’t be any interference.
Please, please, please… he thought as he pressed the gem to Rei Ginsei’s bare chest. A little magic, a little concentration, and Vile saw the emptying of the gem’s contents back into its owner.
A sharp breath filled Rei’s chest, and he reached up to grab Vile’s wrist. “You gave it back,” he said with a shaking voice. “Why?”
“Because you need it. Because I need you to have it.”
Rei shook his head questioningly.
“I love you, Rei Ginsei.”
“I love you, too, Clavicus,” Rei said. “Of course I do.”
“What about your seahorse?”
“What about him? I love him, too.”
Vile sighed heavily and sat on the edge of his bed.
“Were you hoping I somehow wouldn’t?”
“Actually, yes, I was,” Vile answered, sharply.
“You gave me back my soul just so you could turn me against Sabrael!?”
” ‘Turning against’, please. I was trying to do you a favor.”
“A favor!” Rei protested. “Why couldn’t you just take me at my word that I loved you?”
“Because, let’s face it, Rei Ginsei, a man not known for his compassion suddenly professing his love to two others in a week is a bit suspect.”
“I know it is, Clavicus, that’s what I was saying! I didn’t expect you to use my soul as an experiment.”
“It seems like something you should have expected, to be honest,” Vile smirked.
“But you never treated me that way before.”
The correctness of that observation stung more than Vile was prepared to cope with.
“How was this stupid test supposed to even work, anyway?”
“When a soul bind is done completely, both beings become one. Almost literally. They’re so intertwined that some pairs can only speak in unison. Partial binds like yours don’t happen except by accident or some enterprising elemental twerp stealing part of a soul, and when a partial bind happens, depending on how much was bound, emotions get muddled and it’s hard to tell whose belongs to whom.”
Rei Ginsei blinked at him disbelievingly. “You were hoping that I was just confusing his love for me for my own feelings.”
“That was the desired outcome, yes,” Vile admitted.
“I don’t know what else I was expecting,” Rei sighed, leaning back against the cabinet and very deliberately looking away. “You say you want for my happiness, and then you treat me like some garbage mortal asking how to turn water to wine.”
This time Vile felt the hateful heat of tears on his cheeks. He climbed up onto his bed and curled into a ball, covering his head with an arm. “Can’t you appreciate how painful this is for me?”
“I wish you could have just taken me at my word and let me figure this out on my own.”
“But you’re mine. Not that seahorse’s; mine.”
He felt the mattress dip as Rei crawled up next to him, lifting his arm to be close.
“Clavicus,” he said quietly, “I don’t know how else to tell you what I’ve been telling you all night. If you doubt me, tell me what to do, and I will do it, if it would prove to you my love and devotion.”
“If I told you to kill him?” Vile ventured.
“If that is what my master wishes.”
Vile looked properly into his creation’s eyes. “Truly?”
Tears spilled instantly down Rei’s cheeks at the thought, but his gaze was firm and deadly. “Yes, Master. Nothing. Is. Above. You.”
“My treasure,” he sighed, stroking his face. “I said before I couldn’t ask you to. You know I keep my word.”
“And I understand and would allow you your jealousy. I’ll even give you my soul back if it would make you feel better to have it.”
“I don’t want you to have to bring your seahorse along for ’emotional support’ every time you visit. It’s past time you were allowed it back, in any case.”
“Thank you, Master,” Rei smiled softly.
“Don’t ever leave me, Rei Ginsei.”
Vile gathered his creation into his arms and held him jealously. When Umbra had broken free its bonds, he had been crippled to a very large extent. Rei had wanted to go and try to subdue the creature, but it was too great a risk.Vile didn’t think he would break free, too, but there was that chance, especially in dealing with what amounted to a sibling. Both of them being gone at once would have been more than he could have borne, but he suspected it would be Rei Ginsei’s absence that would have done the most damage. He almost wished he could reverse time so he never would have told Rei the truth about his being.
“Do you think we have time, just you and me?” Rei asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“Your seahorse can wait,” Vile smiled.
It was wonderful to make love to his treasure alone again, and this time to feel his undivided passion. He knew better when to give and when to take, when to throw restraint to the wind and when to simply let the moment happen. And the love, oh, the love! With every kiss, he wondered how there ever could be doubt.
“You are my grandest creation, Rei Ginsei,” he said as they lay, spent, on the soft sheets. “Think of what we can do together, now, with your joy and your lust. Think of the souls and the ‘ill-fated’ bargains…”
Rei laughed fiendishly. “Speaking of which, let’s get back to my island and I’ll show you something wonderful.”
Vile grinned and kissed him before whisking them back to the pavilion. The seahorse was nowhere to be seen, though.
“Sabrael!” Rei called, running towards the shore. “Sabrael, where are you? I can feel you!”
Vile felt his throat clench and his lip curl, wondering in the back of his mind how wonderfully quickly security tended to evaporate. There had to be a way to sever that link that didn’t involve murder.
“Rei?” the seahorse answered, running from the inner part of the island. He was paler than normal in his panic. “Rei! Oh, thank the tides…”
Rei swept his pet up into his arms and held him, the seahorse’s human legs wrapped tightly around his bond’s waist.
“I’m sorry, my beauty. I didn’t want to wake you, is all. You were sleeping so hard I couldn’t even feel you.”
The seahorse giggled quietly. “Where did you even go? I looked all over.”
“Clavicus and I had some things to discuss.”
The seahorse studied him a moment. “He gave you your soul back!”
“You can tell?”
He nodded emphatically. “Yes, yes! I thought you felt different! You feel…well…different. Like there’s more of you.”
Vile watched his creation laugh. Part of him could look past the jealousy to appreciate Rei’s happniess in this situation, but it was a very small part. He recalled the seahorse saying that watching him make love to Rei was beautiful, that it made him feel wonderful, and he spat on the ground.
“Come along, then,” he interrupted the happy reunion. “You know how I love presents.”
Rei set his seahorse down and made his way back to the pavilion where he knelt by his satchel, carefully producing a rather large object covered in linen cloth. Vile took it as it was offered and lifted a corner, revealing part of a curved tendril and a moonstone accent. His heart skipped with glee.
“You never did!” he exclaimed, pulling back the flaps of cloth as quickly as he could, until he could see enough of it to be disappointed. “But wait, this is a black gem. It’s also broken. How can this be the real thing?”
“It’s real,” Rei Ginsei assured him. “Azura sent me to find it, herself. Or at least a priestess of hers.”
“So, what’s the story here?”
“A Dunmer mage by the name Malyn Varen thought he’d corrupt it in order to live forever. So he turned it black, and it looks like he’s in there. Not just his soul; him, I think.”
“But what things does a soul comprise, hm, Rei Ginsei? And who would want to live in a soul gem?” Vile mused. “What a silly person. Still. I’m sure there’s something to be done with this.”
“Tell me what to do,” Rei said.
“Well, I can’t do much with it broken.”
“I thought you might be able to fix it.”
“I like souls and the gems they fit into, but I’m, alas, no expert in the finer mechanics. This is also Azura’s little treasure, which means it’s got that extra layer of uniqueness. That there is a soul inside while it’s so broken speaks to its power and the difficulty of its repair.”
“The mage I spoke with who pointed me in its direction seemed to know a good deal,” Rei said. “He was also very keen to ask that I not return it to Azura.”
Vile cackled. “Oh dear, oh dear. But how fortuitous our first foray as a proper entity is the opportunity to muck about with our stuffy darling Azura! Go find this mage again, Rei Ginsei. See if he has any ideas on how we can fix this.”
“Shall we try and keep it black?”
“Is the sky blue?”
Rei laughed and took the Star back, pressing his lips to Vile’s.
Vile smiled, content for the moment. He felt confident in his creation’s devotion, and, indeed, he felt that with Rei’s soul now completely intact, they could properly act in tandem, that their activities would be more exciting and fulfilling, whatever, and wherever they might be. The seahorse would still have to go, but he was something Vile knew he would have to tolerate, for now. There would be a solution, but he could wait until a scheme presented itself.