Rhyme and Replacement (Rei Ginsei’s Saga vol. 2, ch. 7)
July 5, 2018
It’s time for another Rei chapter! And boy I’ve dug myself into a bit of a hole in terms of things people might hate me for!
Violence – Rei gets to be Rei again and does a cring-y thing involving someone’s wrist and his claws. If you have problems with suicidal ideation and don’t like imagery even similar to it, don’t read beyond Rei entering Ustengrav.
It bears mentioning Ondolemar’s introduction will bring with it sexual situations kin to those involving Clavicus Vile, which is to say, S&M, general sub/dom and similar scenarios. They will be more frequent and at times more intense than those involving Vile as the relationship dynamic is completely different. One thing I will stress is that EVERYTHING IS CONSENSUAL.
So. Welcome to a very complicated part of Rei’s life I guess!
Aria’s next chapter will finally be due in the next week or so!
Rei had initially wondered if putting his last trial with the Greybeards off was wise, but his marriage had loosened something in him, had made him well and truly happy, and so, when it came down to it, simply spending his time with Sabrael and making their leisurely way to Solitude was far more important. And now he stood outside Tauryon’s door, his arm around Sabrael’s shoulders, waiting for Tirwyn to answer his knock.
“Good evening,” she smiled when she opened the door. “Master Tauryon’s just out in the garden. Come with me.”
Rei followed the little Bosmer to the back of the house, smiling as Sabrael’s excitement grew.
“There they are,” Tauryon smiled as he stood from the small, wrought-iron table. Sabrael had broken loose from Rei’s hold nearly the second they exited the house, and Tauryon caught him in a tight embrace. “Darling boy, Rei says he got you a ring, and everything.”
“He did, look!”
“Oh, but that’s lovely,” Tauryon crooned as he conjured a light to properly see by in the waning twilight. “Congratulations, Sabrael, and congratulations to you, Rei. I’m so very proud of you.”
Rei opened his arms to receive his friend’s embrace and happily returned the kiss planted on his lips. “It hasn’t been that long, though it seems like it. I suppose I simply missed you that much,” he said.
“I could say the same, my friend. I could certainly say the same.”
Rei hoped his curiosity wasn’t terribly obvious. Tauryon’s face betrayed a deep exhaustion and it even seemed more lines had appeared in their absence.
“Come, come. The evening is unusually nice, and I’ve come upon some sugared chestnuts from back home.”
“Goodness,” Rei mused as he sat, allowing Sabrael to climb into his lap. “I can’t remember the last time I had these.”
“Funnily enough, neither could I, but a colleague had some shipped and was kind enough to let a small box go.”
“What are they, again?” Sabrael asked as Rei reached for one. Tirwyn returned with tea.
“Chestnuts absolutely drowned in sugar. You’ll love them.”
He held the one he’d chosen in front of Sabrael’s face, smiling as his kirin had some trouble biting through cleanly.
“Ohh,” Sabrael said through his mouthful. “I could eat these all day long.”
“I might let you,” Tauryon said. “They’re a bit rich for my old blood. Rei? It’s not poison, for gods’ sakes.”
“You know better than anyone how much of a sweet tooth I don’t have, and I haven’t had very many sweet things since getting my soul back. You don’t appreciate how large a role that plays in food until you lose it.”
Still, he brought the confection to his lips and bit off a healthy part of the remainder. Immediately, an intense pang, like someone had banged on a piece of metal right by his ear, manifested in the back of his jaw and moved maddeningly slowly down his body. Sabrael cringed in response to Rei’s discomfort and nearly choked on what he was continuing to chew on.
Rei forced himself to swallow and coughed a bit. “Gods above. I guess that answers the question as to whether or not I’ve developed a taste.”
Tauryon laughed. “Those were some amusing faces you pulled.”
“I can only imagine. How are you?”
“I’m getting by,” Tauryon answered. “Finding myself thinking a bit more on things.”
“I don’t know if it’s the ordeal we went through, but I just haven’t felt the same lately.”
“What do you mean?” Rei asked.
“Let’s not delve into dreary subjects just yet,” Tauryon said, waving a dismissive hand. “Tell me about the wedding, Sabrael.”
They frittered away the time, talking about everything and nothing, eventually moving from the garden and into the study. After a while, as Rei and Tauryon drank and reminisced about home, Sabrael, who had been nodding for the past hour or so, fell asleep in Rei’s arms. With a smile, Rei kissed his kirin’s forehead and carried him to Tauryon’s room where he laid him down on the bed, took off his shoes, and pulled the top blanket over him.
“I wish we didn’t have to dance around this with him,” Tauryon said.
“Yes, well. No use upsetting him over nothing if things don’t wind up working out.”
“I suppose not. It’ll be enough to deal with if they do. In any case, you said in your letter you have something that might be of singular use to us.”
“Have you heard the gossip?” Rei asked. “Has it made it this far?”
“Asking if I’ve heard gossip in Solitude is like asking if I’ve seen fish in the sea.”
“Have you heard about the Dragonborn?”
Tauryon narrowed his eyes. “They say one’s appeared, but not much more.”
“Oh, they will,” Rei smiled.
“Are you saying…?”
“I carry the blood that Emperors are supposedly meant to be carrying.”
“My word,” Tauryon whispered. “Not that I don’t believe you, but that’s a very-“
“Come back outside,” Rei said. “I’ll show you. I need a place with things that can be disrupted without much consequence.”
“I’m not sure there is such a place, but come along. I might be able to come up with something.”
Rei followed Tauryon out the front door and up the sloping road until they came to a large courtyard. Only a few braziers burned at the back where a strange structure loomed in the shadows.
“The Bards College celebrated the Burning of King Olaf yesterday and haven’t managed to dismantle what’s left of the eyesore,” Tauryon explained. “A few of her courtiers tried very hard to dissuade the Jarl from allowing this nonsense, but leave it to a child to throw decorum to the wind in favor if pretty words.”
“Well, if you asked me, an Altmer who in no way disrespects the White-Gold Concordat and the Empire, I’d say it’s terribly unbecoming of a young noblewoman to allow a festival which depicts the murder of a king right after a king’s murder. Her husband’s, to wit.”
“Aha,” Rei said. “Stoking patriotic fires?”
Tauryon snorted. “It really doesn’t matter to us one way or the other, but it would be nice if these people would put away their toys. It’s a weekly celebration, now, you know. You should come mingle with the rabble.”
“Perhaps,” he smirked. “But for now…”
Rei approached the blackened skeleton of what used to be the effigy of a disliked king. Holding an arm out to gently push Tauryon back, he thought of the two words he knew. In a second, the ground shook, and the unburned wood of the effigy was blasted outward, collapsing its entire form.
Rei looked over to see Tauryon covering one ear, looking at him as if he’d just seen a ghost.
“And those are just two words,” Rei said. “There’s a third that I’m sure could’ve put a crack in that back wall if I knew it, but I have to finish an errand for the Greybeards before they’ll give it to me. And beyond that? There’s an entire vocabulary, and the more I learn, the more deadly my potential, and the more dragons I slay, the more powerful I become.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Tauryon said. He laughed once as he moved his hand from his ear to scratch his cheek. “Rei, this could prove a real means of moving forward. Do you know how long we’ve been playing inquisitor? Too long. Much too long. Gods above…”
“Oh, Rei, if only you knew!” Tauryon laughed. “I shouldn’t say much more. I’m in no position and anything I say would be speculation, at best.”
Rei grinned. “So you think I’ll be in?”
“I can’t say. Your past will be your biggest obstacle, although to most mer in our organization the important thing is your loyalty to and belief in the Dominion.”
“You think my past will come up?”
“Almost certainly. We can’t simply take anyone, particularly a four-hundred-year-old mer that comes out of the aether looking the way you do. The number of deaths at my hands rivals yours, Rei, and the number of Altmer among them almost assuredly surpasses those Altmer on your list. We do not abide dissidents. We do not abide those of incomplete faith.”
Rei blinked. They’d of course spoken of Tauryon’s profession, but he’d never heard him fall into a militant sort of voice and make threats.
“If you’re asking if I’m committed and willing to prove it, Tauryon, then yes.”
“I only say this now because I know how things work. I don’t want you hurt. I don’t want Sabrael hurt as a result. I don’t want you to do this because of me, either. If you have any reservations…”
“No. I’ll be honest in that a part of this is a hopeful means to exercise my need for violence. I want it directed towards an appropriate cause, however, if only to try and ease my Kirin’s mind. The chaotic nature of my past has to stop, but I need the catharsis. If I can help my people at the same time – if I can help speed the culmination of the Dominion’s true glory – then that is where I should be directing my energy.”
“I’m glad to hear that for many reasons,” Tauryon said, holding a hand out, his palm facing Rei, who pressed his corresponding palm against it and allowed their fingers to twine together. “There’s been a meeting arranged with the emissaries here in Skyrim at the embassy. They’re obviously not the upper echelon, but between them and myself, that’s not bad for short notice.”
“Anything I should know?”
“Ambassador Elenwen reminds me of your mother to an unsettling degree. You will not like her, and I want to emphasize the importance of keeping that tongue of yours to yourself.”
“You say that like I have some issue with authority,” Rei chuckled.
“I know you’re joking, but please try.”
“I will, don’t worry.”
Tauryon smiled gently.
Rei stepped closer and slipped his fingers into fading auburn locks before touching his lips to his friend’s.
“I’m so very glad we worked through all that unpleasantness,” Tauryon said. “It does feel very nice to be in your arms after all this time. I don’t know that I can get enough.”
“It’s something we both earned. If I had taken you as a lover in our youth, it wouldn’t have lasted. I would have hurt you, probably physically and badly. I don’t deserve either you or Sabrael, but if there was any positive to be found in all that mess, it was that I found how much both of you mean to me.”
“I love you, Celedaen. Gods know that I do. I want you to be able to do what you feel you need to, whether it’s atonement, simple love for our home, or even just release. I’ll do everything I can.”
Rei kissed him again. It was different with Tauryon. Kissing Sabrael was new joy and exhilaration; it was urgent and quick to bloom. Kissing his old friend was slow and loaded with complicated emotion, but it was lovely in its own right. For all those actions’ differences, however, Rei thought on how lucky he was, to love, and to be loved by, two wonderful men.
“Let’s go home,” Tauryon said finally. “I hope you’ll forgive me, but I think I’d be happy to just share the bed tonight. I’m very tired lately.”
“Yes, of course. I hope you don’t mind my asking after your health?”
Tauryon simply looked at him with rheumy amber eyes, smiling almost imperceptibly. Rei knew as well as anyone with an ounce of sense that, like his own, his friend’s longevity was unnatural. He didn’t know which route he had gone, but he suspected that whatever it was, he’d stopped.
“Come on,” Rei said finally. “Sabrael has been looking very forward to cuddling with you. If you can rouse him, anyway.”
Indeed, Sabrael was still out cold when they made their way to the master bedroom. Gently, Rei woke him just enough to get his clothes off and to properly get him settled under the covers. Almost automatically, the little daedra gravitated towards Tauryon, making Rei smile as he waited to slip under the covers, himself, and to shape himself around his kirin’s back.
Two days later, Rei, Sabrael, and Tauryon rode the rising path towards the Thalmor Embassy. Tauryon was ahead of them on his black steed, his heavy cloak cascading down his back and over the beast’s backside, and his carefully braided hair painting a dull, yet still somehow fiery stripe down the black wool. He seemed suddenly different. Authoritative and stern.
“So…why are we going to the Embassy?” Sabrael asked quietly. “You’re awfully nervous.”
“I’m hoping to use my status a Dragonborn to join the Thalmor’s cause.”
“You what?” Rei’s heart pounded uncomfortably with Sabrael’s anxiety. “Rei, Tauryon says he does mean things! You can’t-“
“Calm down, Sabrael. I’m not out to be an inquisitor.”
“I don’t know. Just be calm, beauty, please? We’ll discuss this later, if there’s anything to discuss.”
Sabrael looked at him reproachfully, but turned his attention back to the road.
“I’m only doing this for my people,” he said.
Finally they came upon a set of gilded gates that completed the high granite wall that enclosed a large building in the style of the buildings in Solitude. A dark-skinned Altmer in burnished armor pulled the gates open and crossed his right arm across his chest in salute to Tauryon, who casually returned the gesture. A Khajiit bundled in the furs of other beasts was waiting to take their mounts and get them into warmer quarters. Rei wasn’t entirely comfortable with the strange, sterile atmosphere of the compound.
As they approached the steps leading to the entrance, another Altmer in a hooded robe stepped out to meet them. It took a moment of looking at the party before he burst out laughing.
“You must be joking!” he crowed. “Tauryon, you can’t be serious. If you wish to retire, just retire. You don’t need to go to these lengths. I’ll be sorry to see you go, of course, but-“
“I’m not joking, Rulindil,” Tauryon sighed. “This fellow here, the one who tends to duck when entering rooms, is Rei Ginsei. He is the one I told you about.”
“You said he was an Altmer.”
“I also said he was in servitude to a Prince for the vast majority of his life. This is why he looks the way he does.”
“And what of the other one?”
“He is a daedra. He is Rei Ginsei’s soul bond, and his husband.”
The elf called Rulindil studied them with narrowed eyes.
“What is your real name, daedra worshipper?”
“I was once known as Celedaen Aedeus.”
Rulindil’s expression turned to one of intense thought. “Aedeus,” he repeated. “I’m sure I know that name, but I haven’t the foggiest why.”
“I am the last of that bloodline, I’m afraid. You may have heard of my family in passing.”
Tauryon looked over and met Rei’s eyes. There was a very real concern in them.
“Perhaps. Come along, then. The others are waiting.”
Rei felt Sabrael take his hand and hold it tightly, and he squeezed back, trying to send feelings of security to counteract the fear he was feeling grip his heart.
They were led through the building, out into a courtyard, and then into a smaller building where three other Altmer in black robes sat at a large table and four soldiers in the same burnished armor as the gate guard stood around, keeping watch. One of the mer stood and turned to face the guests, an older woman with severely coiffed hair and sharply tilted eyes.
“I see we’ve all arrived,” she said in false and cloyingly sweet voice. It was indeed very much like Rei’s mother when she was entertaining guests she didn’t like, and he tried to keep his face from betraying his disgust. “You must be this fabled Rei Ginsei Tauryon’s told us so much about. And who would this little darling be?”
Rei stroked his husband’s back gently.
“S-S-Sabrael, ma’am,” he said quietly while fidgeting with his fingers.
“Now don’t fidget, my dear; it’s rude. I am Elenwen,” she announced, turning her attention back to Rei. “Ambassador to Skyrim of the Aldmeri Dominion and First Emissary of the Thalmor.”
“Pleased to meet you, Lady Ambassador,” Rei answered, bowing.
“Oh, so formal! I wouldn’t have expected. Please, call me Elenwen. Meanwhile, you’ve already met our Second Emissary, Rulindil, in charge of inquisition, and over there is Ondolemar, Head of Justiciar Operations in Skyrim.”
Rei met Ondolemar’s eyes and discovered he didn’t much like him, either. He was nice to look at, but he had an air about him that rubbed Rei in absolutely the wrong way. Likewise, Rei wasn’t surprised to sense that the feeling wasn’t entirely one-sided.
“Come, let’s sit. The boy will be around soon with refreshments, but time is a luxury many of us do not have.”
Rei obliged, and put his arm around Sabrael when he scooted his chair over.
“So, Tauryon,” Rulindil began, “you said this alleged mer has something that could be of use?”
“I think you’ll find it very intriguing,” Tauryon answered. “Rei, would you?”
Rei suddenly felt awkward. Eyes that, many centuries ago, he would have barely entertained, were boring into him, and what he had to say all at once sounded stupid in his mind.
“I am,” he began, pausing to clear his throat. “I am Dragonborn.”
There was a silence wherein all three of the mer he’d come to see exchanged glances.
“Now, we all are aware of the news that a Dragonborn has appeared,” Elenwen said in her carefully clipped syllables, “but for an Altmer to come in here claiming that it’s him…an Altmer looking like you, at that…well, I’m sure you’ll understand when I tell you that I think you’re putting us all on, and I do hope you know how bad an idea that is.”
“I can vouch for him,” Tauryon said. “Knocked the remains of that silly effigy at the Bards College into Oblivion.”
“Goodness knows your voucher is considered quite valuable, Tauryon,” Ondolemar said, “so I do hope you don’t consider it an insult when I suggest a demonstration for our sake.”
Tauryon waved a welcoming hand.
“So you blew apart an effigy, did you?” Ondolemar asked.
“I did,” Rei answered.
The elf looked all around him before it seemed his eyes fell on an upward-leading staircase. He pointed to one of his soldiers. “You, stand over there, in front of the stairs.”
The soldier, with admirable loyalty, saluted and moved to stand in front of the staircase.
“Knock her over,” Ondolemar said. “Do what you did to the effigy.”
“Rei, don’t,” Sabrael pleaded quietly, grasping his wrist as he stood. “Don’t hurt her.”
“She won’t be hurt,” Rei said, unsure of how much of a lie that would wind up being. He walked over so that his target was properly in front of him. Before doing anything, he turned to the others and suggested: “You might want to cover your ears.”
Breath, thought, shout.
The soldier flew backwards into the stairs and cried out in pain. When it was over, she very gingerly got up and limped back to her post.
Ondolemar chuckled as he watched.
“Well. That was certainly something,” Elenwen said. “It’s a little underwhelming considering the legends.”
“Well, I haven’t learned all there is,” Rei said. “The Greybeards – those monks at the Throat of the World – are teaching me some, but there are others, and with each dragon that I personally slay, I grow more powerful. As I told Tauryon, for example, the Shout I just performed has a third word I will learn as part of my final trial by the Greybeards. The complete Shout is formidable.”
Rulindil, with a finger over his lips, took a breath through his nose before asking, “So, if you were to be inducted, you would be expecting some measure of autonomy, is that correct?”
“I would need to.”
“Please do bear in mind,” Tauryon interjected, “that with a Dragonborn on our side, it can be argued that we have a right of accession.”
“And this one would be Emperor,” Ondolemar snorted with laughter.
“Regardless of who would be Emperor,” Rulindil said, waving an annoyed hand in Ondolemar’s direction, “the title ‘Dragonborn’ has been simply honorary since the Septim Dynasty. It’s a formality now, men don’t literally believe a Dragonborn has de facto right to the throne.”
“That’s as may be,” Tauryon argued, “but you’ve seen plenty of times by now how easily Nords, in particular, can be swayed and distracted by mere symbols of their history. Simply say the word ‘Ysmir’ and watch them go glassy-eyed.”
“I still think you’re being rather optimistic,” Elenwen said. “Is a Dragonborn emperor more important than an emperor that’s not an Altmer?”
“Would it matter?” Rei asked. “There’s a time for waiting, and there’s a time for war. You’ve bode your time for how long waiting for a proper opening while these fools play swordsmen against each other? The Dominion forces have wreaked havoc and asserted its dominance, and now a piece of parchment keeps it at bay while strategists feel things out. How wonderful would it be to have a Dragonborn finally approach the throne and tear the vestiges of man from it? It wouldn’t matter whom you chose to install. What matters is now you have a potential tool for grabbing the root of all our evils and ripping it from the ground. I am the Altmeri Numidium. I am your weapon. Willing. Devoted.”
“Goodness,” Elenwen chuckled. “That certainly is one way of looking at it, isn’t it?”
“What’s your real name?” Ondolemar asked.
“He says it’s Celedaen Aedeus,” Rulindil said.
“You don’t say.”
“How do you know that name?”
“How do you not? You’re the one who lived on the Big Isle,” Ondolemar laughed. “This, this right here is the Demon of Summerset! Oh, that’s brilliant.”
“The Demon of Summerset?” Elenwen repeated. “I never knew he was real. We made rhymes about him to scare each other.”
“I’ve read all about your exploits,” Ondolemar said. “Bravo, well done. And evaded justice for all these centuries. Although I doubt many would have thought to do…whatever it is that you did to obfuscate your identity.”
“I won’t turn down flattery where I can get it,” Rei said, “but I’m sure you have a point beneath all that fluff.”
“I mean, you could’ve gone the military route like I did and satisfied your needs that way. Was it truly necessary to slay your own people?”
“My reasons were my own.”
“Do you regret it?”
Rei paused a moment. What was the right answer? A lie would make everyone happy. But the truth was a source of his pride.
“Are you asking if I regret the act or the target?” he asked finally.
Ondolemar’s smirk deepened. “These are truly the important questions, aren’t they?”
“We can’t have someone amongst our ranks whose reputation includes indiscriminate murder,” Rulindil protested.
“Those days are behind me,” Rei said. “What I did was in service to Clavicus Vile. I have renounced him, weakened him, and am only searching for renewed purpose.
There was silence as the Thalmor members contemplated the beast among them. Rei pulled Sabrael close and rubbed his arm comfortingly.
“I,” Ondolemar said, drawing the sound out lazily, “have a proposal.”
“By all means,” Elenwen said.
“You can take this matter up with the Lord and Lady. Meanwhile, I can give him a bit of a test run. See what he can do.”
And there it was again, language that reduced him to an object.
“I suppose that won’t hurt anything,” Elenwen said. “You’ll have your soldiers with you.”
“Everything will be fine,” Ondolemar smiled.
“Why do I have to stay?” Sabrael cried as Rei gathered his things the next morning.
“Because I don’t trust Ondolemar, and I don’t want you to see or feel things that might hurt you.”
“I don’t like this! I don’t want you to go killing people again.”
“I’m not going to be killing people,” Rei said. “It’s been agreed I’m going to continue to Ustengrav and complete my last trial. It’s draugr there.”
“So what is it you don’t want me to see?”
Rei stopped and took a deep breath. “Ondolemar is just like me, Sabrael.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, for one, he admitted his military service was done to sate his own appetite for death, for another, he told one of his own soldiers to be used as target practice without knowing the exact nature of what was about to happen. And, perhaps more telling, he’s done research on me. It’s one thing to hear about me in passing. It’s quite another to instantly recognize my name when one is barely a century old, if that.”
“So when one researches a person like me, they’re either out to solve my crimes or they’ve taken a rather sick fascination with them. I know you saw the look in his eyes.”
“Are you afraid he’ll try to hurt you?” Sabrael asked. He was so fearful and upset, the muscles in Rei’s hands were aching.
“I believe there’s a decent chance, at least insofar as he will want to assert his power.”
“Let me come with you!” Sabrael shouted. “We haven’t even been married a week, and you want to leave me behind while you put yourself in danger?”
“That’s enough! You’re staying here with Tauryon and that’s-“
“NO! I’m coming with you, whether you like it, or not!”
Rei stumbled back as his kirin pushed him aside and slammed the bedroom door and stood in front of it. Sabrael of course knew that it wouldn’t take much for Rei to pick him up, even struggling, and put him to one side, but still he held his ground, arms and legs splayed to reach either side of the door frame. In his bright violet eyes were unusually stubborn flames that made Rei’s heart ache even harder than it already was under Sabrael’s influence.
“Sabrael,” Rei sighed, dropping to his knees and holding his arms open. Sabrael nearly leaped over to him and fell into them. “My little Kirin…”
“Please let me come with you, Rei? Please?”
Rei wiped the tears from Sabrael’s face with his thumbs.
“If something happens to you I won’t even be able to say goodbye.”
A laugh worked its way from Rei’s chest and he tucked his kirin’s head beneath his chin. “Let’s not be dramatic, beauty, alright? You can come with me, but keep your head low. If there was ever a time where your shyness is welcome, it’s now.”
Sabrael nodded. “And you will, too?”
“I don’t know,” Rei said. “If I were smart, I would. But you know how thin my patience gets.”
“We’ll help each other, won’t we?”
Rei smiled. “Yes, beauty.”
With everything packed up, Rei and Sabrael headed downstairs where Tauryon was speaking with Ondolemar.
“What in Mundus was all that racket?” Tauryon asked.
“Sabrael will be coming with me,” Rei answered.
“I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”
“We’ve already had this discussion, Tauryon. Please, let’s not rehash it.”
“Is it absolutely necessary he come along?” Ondolemar drawled.
“He’s my husband,” Rei said. “So yes.”
“This isn’t a particularly good foot you’re starting out on, Rei Ginsei.”
“He would’ve been with me when I set out for this place whether you were here or not. I am not a member of your organization yet. This is my quest; fate has simply brought you along.”
Ondolemar narrowed his eyes. “Let’s go. If the Demon is as soft now as he appears, I fear I’ll be wasting my time, and that’s not something you want to happen.”
Rei cast a glance over to Tauryon, who simply shook his head stoically.
“Let me just say goodbye to Tauryon.”
Ondolemar swept a hand to the side.
Rei stepped over to his friend and embraced him.
“Come back safely,” he said. “I only have so long.”
Rei wanted to ask again what exactly was going on, and why, but he held his tongue in that regard. “We’ll be back, my friend. I promise.”
Tauryon smiled, turned away and bent to take Sabrael into his arms.
“Oh, Tauryon, please be okay,” Sabrael said.
“You just be safe. Listen to everything Rei tells you.”
Sabrael nodded and kissed him.
Goodbyes out of the way, the large traveling party departed the townhome and walked the streets toward the main gate. Rei, Sabrael, and Ondolemar were surrounded by the Justiciars, and it made Rei feel claustrophobic and a little cowardly.
“It occurs to me that you and Tauryon are about the same age, and you’re awfully close,” Ondolemar mused.
“What of it?”
“I assume you were friends in the past rather than two ancient mer who just happened to meet one day. Was he privy to your little exploits?”
“We were friends and nothing more.”
“That’s none of your concern,” Rei said.
Ondolemar laughed. It was a low, quick sort of sound that originated in the chest. It somehow fit; for an Altmer he was short, short enough that Rei properly towered over him. Rei vaguely wondered how much of that played into his behavior.
“You and I are going to have ever-so-much fun, Rei Ginsei,” he said. “Oh, the things I have in store for you. By the way, is there a name you prefer? ‘Rei Ginsei’ sounds awfully base for a mer of your breeding, looks aside.”
“Call me what you will.”
“How very gracious. Shall I call you dog?”
“If you see me as your pet, you would do well to sleep with one eye open.”
“Aren’t we brassy?” Ondolemar laughed again. “Shall you turn on your master?”
A memory of Clavicus flashed through his mind, and the urge to throttle the officer reared its head. He felt tears actually begin to form before Sabrael laid a hand on his arm.
“Calm down,” he said softly. “Please, Rei?”
As they stopped to load their horses Ondolemar stood back to study Rei for a moment.
“You’re not just married, are you?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re bonded together.”
“So? I never made any secret of it. Tauryon even told Rulindil from the start.”
“Well pardon me for being out of the loop, I suppose,” Ondolemar sneered. “It adds another interesting facet to everything, though, doesn’t it?”
Rei dropped his things and got close, bending to properly look into the officer’s face. “If you or your lackeys lay one finger on him, I will tear you all limb from limb, and gods help anyone who should come after your remains.”
Ondolemar, without meeting his eyes, simply licked his lips and casually raised a hand to push Rei back with his fingertips against his chest.
“My dear Rei Ginsei…my dear Demon…I wouldn’t dream of touching your precious little daedra. You have my word, even, that my Justiciars will not touch even a single hair on his head. Might I be allowed some credit?”
Rei exhaled sharply through his nose and went back to Baku to continue loading his belongings onto him. There was doublespeak at play. He would have to tread as lightly as possible, lest Sabrael be hurt through him.
Silently the party rode through Dragonbridge and into Hjaalmarch to the east. Again, Rei found himself, Sabrael, and Ondolemar surrounded by the Justiciars who traveled with them on foot. It was just as uncomfortable as walking with them was, but thankfully it seemed that Ondolemar had exhausted himself of antagonizing his hopeful compatriot. Rei knew nothing good was going to come of any of this. Even if he obeyed to the fullest extent imaginable, he knew it was all going to come down to Ondolemar’s word – a word unlikely to be flattering.
Ahead of them, finally, was a sort of large cairn; a dome rising above the soft ground. Rei could see tents out front, but before he could see anything else, one of the Justiciars yelled to the others. Rei looked up in time to see necromancers raising slain bandits – the original campers, Rei assumed – and firing bolt after bolt of lightning at the assailants.
It didn’t take long. Between sharp-shooters and agile swordsmen, the Justiciars prevailed, sheathing their weapons and resuming their positions as if nothing had happened.
“That could be you, you know,” Ondolemar said as they continued on towards the cairn. “What records of yours I saw described you as a rather sublime warrior. Dragonborn or not, however, it can only be yours if you play nicely with me.”
“While you abuse me, I suppose?” Rei asked, wondering on the ways in which this whole ordeal could go.
“Abuse you?” Ondolemar laughed. “Whatever would give you that idea?”
Rei helped Sabrael down from his saddle. His kirin’s heart was beating like a rabbit’s.
“Tell me it’ll be okay, Rei,” he said.
“It’ll be fine, my beauty, I promise. Come here.”
Sabrael fell into his arms, and Rei picked him up to kiss him. “I love you, Sabrael, more than anything. No matter what happens, I’ll keep you safe.”
“He’s going to tell you to kill people. I know there’s other people inside.”
“And I’ll try not to be mean, just as I’ve said many times. These are necromancers, Sabrael.”
Sabrael nodded, kissed Rei again, and let himself be lowered to the ground.
“You know the Demon isn’t nearly as terrifying as I’d always expected,” Ondolemar called.
Rei felt the fur on his tail bristle as it swished. “Then let me loose, and I will show you what terror is.”
Ondolemar chuckled. “Justiciars! Keep guard out here. You,” he said, pointing to Sabrael, “stay out here with them.”
“No!” Sabrael protested quickly. He clung to Rei’s shirt, and Rei rubbed his back.
“Your presence clearly influences this supposed weapon. If I’m to judge his worthiness, I cannot have a strange little pacifist daedra tagging along.”
“I don’t know these people,” Sabrael protested. “I don’t wanna let Rei leave.”
Rei turned and kneeled. “It’s probably for the best, beauty, okay? I won’t be gone long.”
“Rei…” he moaned.
Rei stood and addressed the Thalmor officer: “You will give me your word your soldiers won’t harm my husband in any way?”
“Please, I’m no savage, nor are my men. He will be perfectly safe.”
Rei had oped to wear a set of loose-fitting clothing instead of his armor. Draugr were slow, and ease of movement coupled with something that breathed inside a tomb was preferable, he felt, in dealing with them. Around his neck he wore the rough emerald he’d found one day, just visible inside the wall of a cave. Gems weren’t something he was terribly interested in, but this one spoke to him. There was a mining town not too far away, and with the promise of payment, Rei had convinced one of the miners to break it free. It turned out to be very large, and as the miner had begun to propose a different method of payment – namely selling the huge gem and unevenly splitting the proceeds – Rei casually ran him through and left him in the cave. For whatever reason, he felt the unpolished gem brought him luck. It was luck, after all, that led him to it.
He took it off and offered it to Sabrael. “Just keep this with you, and keep it close,” he said.
“Yes. A piece of me that you can hold onto until I get back.”
Sabrael closed his eyes and nodded, closing his hands around the emerald. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Sabrael,” he answered, kissing his kirin’s forehead.
“Come along, Demon. This is officially a military operation. Should’ve kissed your girl goodbye back in Solitude.”
Rei hugged Sabrael briefly, and for reasons he simply didn’t know, he breathed the word, “Maoriel.”
Sabrael smiled finally.
He returned it, unsurprised at Sabrael’s understanding, whether through years of watching his people or through some strange Daedric omniscience. With a deep breath, he turned, ignoring the tightness in his chest as he followed Ondolemar down into the cairn and through the door into the tomb.
“Having second thoughts, Demon?” Ondolemar asked facetiously as they descended a flight of stairs. “You seem awfully reticent.”
“No, I just don’t like you, and I don’t trust you.”
“At least you’re honest.”
A dead man clad in ratty furs lay in their path. Ondolemar wedged a foot beneath its shoulder and rolled it to the side. “The fabled draugr, do you suppose?”
Rei shook his head, listening. There were voices. Without thinking, he grabbed the officer’s arm and pulled him to the side of the stairwell where he could hide and listen.
“Shh!” Rei hissed.
There were other Altmer here; he could tell more by a woman’s unusually thick accent rather than looks, as heavy black hoods hid their faces. Closing his right eye, he could more clearly see their tall, slight builds. There was what looked to have been a cave-in, but a closer, harder look revealed people mining.
“This was a stupid idea,” a male voice said. “These raised corpses of yours move more slowly than an Argonian in a blizzard.”
“By all means grab a pick and join them,” the female answered. “I don’t know about you, but manual labor is beneath me.”
All of a sudden one of the undead laborers collapsed.
“There goes another one.”
“Ugh. Useless in life, useless in death.”
“And they seem to get stupider each time you raise them.”
Ondolemar snorted. “I’d often wondered what would happen if a necromancer raised the same corpse over and over.”
“You wonder about odd things, Ondolemar.”
“Perhaps. Currently I’m wondering how you can handle a group like that. Two…Oh there’s another one! Three necromancers and their little army of increasingly stupid corpses.”
“You doubt me?”
“Well, I spent quite a bit of my life poring over record books and listening to the old ghost stories, and I must say that so far you haven’t lived up to any of it, fact or fiction.”
Rei drew his swords from their sheaths harnessed to his back. “You think I just wander city streets murdering people? A person’s ability to function in society has no bearing on their ability to rip the life out of someone. The Demon of Summerset was a child. You’ll witness the power of Rei Ginsei and cower in my presence.”
Ondolemar smirked and opened his arm towards the group on the other side of the large room. “Your arrogance is charming and bound to get you into wonderful trouble. Go on, then. Show me this alleged power.”
Rei scoffed and scanned the room. It was just dim enough that it made his eyesight maddeningly poor. Just a little darker, and it would’ve been perfect. Still, he flexed his quadriceps and calves, rocking on the balls of his feet as he loosened and tightened his grip on his swords.
“Do it bare-handed,” Ondolemar said suddenly.
“I beg your pardon?”
The officer shrugged. “Seems to me you’d be able to.”
Rei had often killed with his bare hands, but never had he run into a room full of necromancers completely unarmed. There was no good path to sneak towards them, either. Still, these weren’t the dremora he’d encountered in Azura’s Star, and if that’s what this unbelieving prick wanted…
He resheathed his swords and took his harness off to aid his movement. With one final, defiant look towards the mer marked as his handler, he turned back to the hall before him, and with no hesitation, he sprinted in towards the closest sorcerer.
Thoughts of Ondolemar – thoughts of the Thalmor – faded the closer the got, replaced with excitement and joy. He could still feel Sabrael, and thus knew Sabrael could feel him, but without him in the room, he didn’t feel the need to hold back. His targets didn’t seem to know what to do when they noticed him running hard towards the one who had been complaining of their revenants’ speed, and they watched, taken aback as Rei screamed his excitement and leapt onto the surprised man.
They fell to the floor while Rei dug his thumbs into the hollow of his victim’s throat, his claws drawing the faintest trickle of blood. The man fought against him futilely, bolstering Rei’s confidence that he wasn’t all that much weaker without Clavicus’ vestige. As the other two necromancers mobilized their army, Rei dug his claws into that one soft place under his victim’s jaw. That did prove a bit more difficult than before, but soon enough, he felt flesh stretching, then tearing, and he pushed further and further until blood spurted from either side of his neck in regular pulses.
He shuddered as the hot liquid bathed his hands and forearms, warming his core and his nether regions.
But he couldn’t savor it. He leapt from his place on the floor as lightning began to strike around him, aimed to avoid the undead horde. He had to avoid them, too, Rei knew well from experience. To spend time killing that which had already been killed was a waste in more ways than one. There was no pleasure to be had, first and foremost, but they were generally weak and only served as a distraction while their masters did away with their victim. Once their handlers were dead, they would fall.
Still, there were many of these, and while they were providing a momentary buffer, Rei couldn’t stay in one spot forever. Addled, reanimated bandits clumsily thrust their swords at him, sometimes stabbing their comrades-in-arms instead. Rei opted to run through them, pushing them aside, leaping out of the way of their wayward weapons, for a moment bounding from one set of shoulders to the next. It kept him safer from the magicka than if he had gone around, and once he’d made it through, he could see that his two targets were standing side-by-side.
Weaving back and forth in an attempt to avoid their strikes, he sprinted to the closer one, the female with the thick accent, ultimately aiming for her companion, smashing her throat as hard as he could with the side of his hand before using the side of his other fist to slam against the other one’s eye socket. He shoved him to the ground and put his foot down hard on his chest.
“Please don’t kill me!” he cried, cradling his swelling eye. “Please, we weren’t-“
“You’re both going to die, I just want one of you to bleed, and I’m afraid that has to be you.”
“W-Why? Celrende has lots of blood! Just make her bleed and let me go! I’ll even tell you what we were digging for and let you in on it!”
“Celrende’s already half-dead, see?” Rei said. Indeed, the woman’s lips were darkened and her skin was mottled as she slowly lay down on the ground, unable to catch her breath. “Crushed throats will do that.”
“You did that with your fist?”
“I did, yes. Aren’t you thrilled? Imagine what I could do to you!’
The corpses behind him were beginning to fall, partially due to Celrende’s fleeting life, and partially due to this other one’s waning focus.
The necromancer beneath his boot suddenly reached out the hand that wasn’t nursing his injury. Rei only barely saw the blue-white glow before he dropped to one knee and grabbed the focusing hand in both of his and twisted. The sick, hollow sound of small bones grinding and snapping brought goosebumps out on his skin and brought out that precious ache in his thighs.
The necromancer screamed as the rest of his revenants fell. “What do you want from me?” he sobbed.
“Nothing,” Rei said casually, letting the ruined hand drop and adjusting his position to that he could sit on the necromancer’s chest.
“You’ll let me go?”
“But…but you won’t make me bleed like you said, will you? Oh, gods, it hurts…”
Rei figured that he was either too stunned to remember his basic skills or that keeping the corpses alive, combined with the act of firing at him, had drained him of his magicka. In some ways it was a shame, but in a more rational line of thought, he couldn’t stay here forever.
“I’m only trying to decide how to make you bleed,” Rei said, picking flesh from under his claws. “You see my companion over there wouldn’t let me bring my weapons, so whatever I choose will take a while and probably be quite painful.”
“Just make it as quick as you can, please?”
Rei only smiled and tapped his fingers against his legs. A word appeared in his head, one he didn’t know. But he knew its source. It came from that dragon’s soul. He didn’t know what it meant, not in any language that he knew, neither Tamrielic nor Aldmeris, but he had an idea.
Roughly, he grabbed the necromancer’s good hand and tore the sleeve of his robe downwards off his arm before flipping the hand over to expose the inside of his wrist.
“What are you doing?” the man whimpered as Rei raised his left hand and flexed his fingers. “What are you doing?“
“Leaving a message,” Rei said simply as he thought on alien letters.
When he was sure, he stabbed the claw of his left index finger into the flesh of the narrow wrist in his hand and dragged it slowly downward. Blood spurted from the artery as he raggedly severed it. It landed on his other fingers and slid down them, coaxing a moan from his lips and a shudder that started in his shoulders and worked its way down.
Meanwhile, the necromancer screamed shrilly and tried to pull his hand away.
“Don’t do that, precious,” Rei chided. “You’ll only make things worse!”
Another slow mark downward. Blood continued to gush.
Another, and the screaming reached a fever pitch.
This one went diagonally, and there was a dot. Rei took his thumb, joined it with his forefinger, and together carved out a circle in the flesh and network of veins in the pale wrist.
“Gods, please, please, I’m sorry!” sobbed the mer, whose voice was growing more and more hoarse. “Please, stop! Please…Please kill me or heal me, just stop this, please!”
Rei ignored him, continuing to spell the word in his mind. His hand was dripping with blood, and he couldn’t help, when he’d finished, grabbing his erection through his pants and squeezing. It seemed so long since he was last allowed to feel this!
He wasn’t finished, though. There was another word.
Grabbing the broken wrist – to weak, hoarse moans – he began again, drawing phonemes he both could and couldn’t understand. This word was shorter than the other, but even so, the mer beneath him was no longer protesting except through pitiful mewls and vague, weak movements.
By the end, the ragged letters were so filled and smeared with blood, they were hard to make out, but as Rei laid them out, he smiled as he looked at his work:
He didn’t know how long he’d been kneeling there, looking at what was perhaps his most creative work. His victim was still breathing shallowly, but he would stop soon enough. Part of him worried about the fact that Sabrael would be feeling him right now, ravenous, but another part cherished his arousal and was happy to feel this particular flavor again.
“Well, I suppose I misjudged you a tiny bit,” he heard Ondolemar’s increasingly familiar drawl. Rei looked up to see him walking towards him, hands clasped behind his back. “Awfully messy, though. Then again, the Demon wasn’t particularly known for his fastidiousness outside the cleanliness of his tracks, was he?”
Rei stood. “When I want someone to die, they die.”
“And what’s this you’ve done, hm? What are these?”
“…And what does that mean?”
“I’m not sure. It’s to do with dragons. It’s to do with me. Kruziik; that one feels old. It actually has a taste like dust. Feyn I’m not sure of. It feels powerful, although that’s not right.”
“I admire a man who can get his hands dirty. I admire a man who appreciates murder to the degree you seem to.”
Rei smirked at Ondolemar’s obvious glance downward at the protrusion through the fabric of his pants.
“Take it out.”
“Unlace your trousers, and show me your penis. What is so difficult to understand about that order?”
Rei wouldn’t deny his need for release, nor would he deny his physical attraction to the officer he was supposed to be obeying, but even Clavicus never outright ordered him to do things like that unless they were explicitly playing one of their games.
“Come now,” Ondolemar cooed. “Consider this a compliment.”
Rei locked eyes with the officer and complied, loosening his fly enough that he was able to pull himself out. He wasn’t surprised to see he was already leaking precum.
“My, my, that is certainly a nice piece of equipment. And so hard! If that were me, I’d need a moment to take care of myself before carrying on.”
“I’ll be fine,” Rei said, carefully beginning to put himself away.
“I didn’t tell you to put it away,” Ondolemar said. “In fact, I’m issuing an order for you to pull yourself off for me.”
Rei scowled, but the ache was strong, and as much as he hated to admit it, the more Ondolemar pushed him, the more he needed the release.
“Can we at least go a bit farther in?” he ventured. “Sabrael can still feel me, and if I come, he’ll come, and I can’t subject him to that embarrassment. What he’s feeling now is far more than he ought to be in the company of strangers.”
“Hm,” Ondolemar chirped. “I hadn’t considered that, and while I’m certainly curious, I will grant you this one favor. You did please me, after all.”
Rei bowed shallowly, sneering, before going to fetch his swords and slipping the harness back over his shoulders. Once again Ondolemar warned him against putting himself away, and they walked deeper into the tomb. They were quiet, careful, but that didn’t stop the Thalmor officer from occasionally grabbing Rei’s cock, sometimes jerking it quickly and making him moan deeply.
“Are we far enough in, Demon?”
“Yes. I can’t feel him anymore.”
“Good,” Ondolemar said, pressing his lips briefly to Rei’s. “Now, make yourself come.”
Regardless of the situation, by this point, he was all too happy to oblige. His right hand gripped his shaft while his left squeezed his balls. He grunted loudly and unwisely, thinking of Sabrael’s mouth, thinking of blood, thinking of the dying man’s pleas.
“Say my name, Demon,” Ondolemar hissed, drawing near, careful not to touch or be touched.
“Ondolemar,” he breathed without thinking. His hand moved quickly up and down, his forefinger sliding over the slit now and again.
“Good boy. Who’s going to make you come?”
He was in his head now. Rei couldn’t explain how or why, but all he knew was that he would give anything to just be touched, anywhere. On one of his bare arms, his neck, his ears…
“Oh, gods, Ondolemar, you are!” he gasped.
“Come now for me, Demon. Show me your deference.”
There was barely any hesitation. With increasingly quick and intense cries, his forearm straining with the quickness of his strokes, relief crashed into him, and he closed his eyes against the sublime feeling of his pent-up seed bursting from his aching cock in strong, hard jets.
He fell back against the wall, panting as he continued to rub himself, drawing out every lingering spasm that he could.
The sensation of teeth on his earlobe made him sigh.
“So you can listen without being a brat,” Ondolemar said.
“It’s easier when everything’s gone to my cock.”
The younger mer chuckled. “So is this how we have to do this? Must I dangle sex in front of you like a carrot on a stick?”
“Sex or masturbation?” Rei smirked. “Because one gets a lot older a lot more quickly than the other.”
Rei’s hand was taken and placed over Ondolemar’s crotch where he felt a decent hardness beneath the leather robes.
“Make of that what you will,” Ondolemar smiled. “I knew I’d have fun with you. Oh, if only you had any idea…”
“What does that mean?”
“Let’s go. We can’t waste all day here talking about our cocks.”