The Flavors of Paranoia (Rei Ginsei’s Saga vol. 2, Ch. 11)
September 14, 2018
‘Kay so I just have to accept the fact that I’m on a roll with this particular story and forcing the other two is not a smart thing to do. This is a pretty tame chapter; with Ondolemar gone probably you won’t have to worry about sexual violence or anything, at least not on any sort of regular basis. But now we are well and truly on our way to glory! So do enjoy this happy-sex-filled romp and Tauryon nearly outing himself to Delphine and ruining everything!
“But wouldn’t he just arrest her when he realized?”
Aha, he and Rei have plans, don’t you worry 😉
Rei awakened the next morning, smiling. He was feeling much better, just as Valgus had promised, and on his right side was a small little turquoise-haired daedra curled up beside him and holding on, sleeping like a rock, and on his left was his oldest friend, laid on his stomach, breathing shallowly as always, his arm draped over Rei’s chest. After the events of the past two days, Rei couldn’t ask for more. And why had he ever? He sighed as he thought on his continued follies.
“Rei Ginsei…” a voice in his head echoed.
He didn’t want to wake the others, so he attempted to speak likewise: “Azura, my Mistress, please forgive me. I know the path I chose was the wrong one.”
“You are prideful,” she said. “I knew that from the beginning. Prideful, greedy, and covetous when it comes to recognition and power. You had the world in your hands as a youth, in spite of your difficulties, but you sought more, and continually you bring harm to yourself and those around you. One would hope this last incident will teach a lesson that will stick.”
“I…I know. I don’t want to be that way. I tried not to, but this gift that Akatosh-”
“Is it possible there are other applications, Rei Ginsei? Is it possible this precious gift is meant for greater things than the glory of one people?”
“Like what?” he asked.
“Do you seek redemption? Not just from me, but as a person?”
“I seek…Mistress, I just don’t want to hurt my friends and loved ones anymore.”
“Continue on your path, Rei Ginsei,” Azura answered. “It is the path laid out for you, although, as you have seen, there are diversions. Do not be led astray again, Silver Star. Think before you act.”
“I will try my best.”
“I should hope so. My patience with you grows thin. I granted you a great favor, and I expect greater things in return.”
A sudden emptiness signaled the Prince’s absence. Rei’s stomach cramped as he wondered what could lie ahead to tempt him away again. Continue the path, She’d said. So he still was expected to go to Riverwood. That’s what they would do.
He felt a little hardness against his thigh and teeth gently tugging the gold loop in his earlobe.
“Mm, good morning, beautiful,” Rei moaned quietly. “I’d turn to face you, but you both have me trapped.”
Sabrael giggled. “That’s okay. I’m not trapped. And nobody’s around to stop me anymore.”
Rei kissed him deeply before Sabrael’s lips worked their way down, sliding slowly over the head of his cock before the tip of a wet tongue slid down his shaft and over his balls. Oh, it felt better than divine. He did unintentionally come when the healer was working on him, and it felt remarkable, free from those terrible spikes, but this time, outside such a strange setting, it was even better, and he tried hard to be quiet as he felt warmth envelop him. He reached down and stroked his kirin’s mussed hair, feeling his muscles melt as the sensation of Sabrael tugging himself filled him.
“So that’s what that motion is,” Tauryon said sleepily.
Rei smiled and kissed him as he turned onto his side. “What can I do for you, my precious?”
“Oh, I don’t think I want much,” Tauryon sighed, smiling gently. “I think I’d like to just watch you two lovebirds take care of each other while I pull myself.”
“I like that,” Rei sighed. He felt the head of his cock slide past his kirin’s soft palate. “You have such a nice piece, Tauryon.”
“It certainly likes you two,” he chuckled.
Tauryon kissed him, and he kissed back as hard and as passionately as he could. He wasn’t going to last very long, between Sabrael sucking him, the feeling of Sabrael’s masturbation, the thought of Tauryon’s masturbation coupled with the feeling of his arm moving back and forth, and just all the contact, in general.
As he drew close, the vibrations of his kirin’s small moan shivered up the length of his cock. “Oh, Sabrael, you’re so close.”
Another pleasant, tangible sigh.
“Let me feel you come, beauty,” he said.
Two ecstasies twined together and filled him, warming his core. He felt Tauryon lift his head to kiss him again, and he eagerly kissed back as he heard Sabrael start to whimper while his toes curled so hard his arches began to cramp. He moaned deeply and took the hand that had been stroking Sabrael’s hair and moved it to begin tugging Tauryon’s sac. Rei came first, much as he’d tried to hold back, and it was beautiful, punctuated by the noisy sigh of his kirin, followed by the second climax as Sabrael let go, never once ceasing his pace as he, too, lost himself in two ecstasies.
“You both are so lovely,” Tauryon moaned. “Would you just squeeze me, just a little harder?”
Rei happily complied. It was a little more difficult now than when they’d first reunited, his seed not nearly as voluminous or forceful, but that was alright. A man didn’t need to move quickly as he and Sabrael did, a man didn’t need to shoot his load to any great length. All that mattered was-
“Oh, yes,” he gasped.
Quickly Sabrael scrabbled up to be with them, and held Tauryon’s waist while he began kissing his neck and his ear.
“Oh, precious, oh gods!”
“Yes, my love,” Rei breathed, and as soon as the words left his lips, he felt Tauryon lean back to push his hips up. It was a hard, long orgasm, and Rei just held him and smiled as he saw him through it, sighing at the warmth of his passion as it leaked in rapid spurts onto his hand.
Tauryon sighed as he leaned his head back, taking Sabrael into his lap, who maneuvered such that he could snuggle with Rei, too.
“So what’s next on this little journey?” Tauryon asked after the afterglow had properly settled.
“More sex?” Rei asked.
“Well, I know your situations, but I’m hardly the young man I was,” he chuckled. “Recent though that may have been.”
Rei smiled as his kirin giggled. “We’re to head to Riverwood and ask to rent their attic room.”
“Well that sounds cozy.”
“It would if it existed. It’s just code to out me as the Dragonborn.”
Tauryon narrowed his eyes as he ran his hand along Sabrael’s thigh.
“Yes, I know it sounds like a trap, and it probably is, but you know I can handle myself if things go south.”
“I know how you handle yourself, and if you go lopping off heads left and right, I don’t think your apparent thaneship here will do you much good.”
“Look, we’ll just see how it goes, alright?” Rei said, trying hard not to snap. “I do actually possess some modicum of common sense, believe it or not.”
He saw Sabrael exchange a glance with Tauryon, and his tail bristled. “Now what was that?” he asked.
Tauryon looked down and took a deep breath. “When I knocked you out that night, Sabrael told me about how you nearly beat a man to death in a tavern, right in plain view of the gods and everyone.”
“So? That was before I was in control of my emotions. I was defending Sabrael.”
“You just have a history lately of being impulsive,” Tauryon explained slowly. “You can’t keep doing it.”
Rei felt his upper lip quivering and he tried to stop it and the action it heralded. Quickly, he got out of bed and found some clothes he could throw on quickly. “It’s been months!” he said. “It’s been months, and the only people I’ve hurt are ones that do bad things. I’m. Trying.”
“Stop calling me that!” Rei yelled. “You say you love me and then you turn around and lecture me on how I’m not good enough. I didn’t live this long to spend more time with my father.”
“Rei,” Sabrael said, “he was only trying to help.”
“How? How does telling me I have no common sense help? I’m going to Riverwood. Don’t follow me. Either of you.”
Tauryon and Sabrael watched as Rei slammed the door. The sound of his boots stamped loudly on the stairs.
“He’s feeling something I don’t know,” Sabrael said. “I’ve felt it before, too, when he was with Clavicus and everything went so bad.”
Tauryon placed the tip of his tongue on his upper lip, thinking on the right way to say things. “He’s paranoid. He’s been paranoid since he was a youth. That’s what you’re feeling.”
“I can’t say, for sure, and I’m sure I have no business saying, at all, but his parents were both quite hard on him. His father, Arteano, had been a highly decorated Gryphon Knight. Cel- Rei’s fears of heights and the water brought him nothing but derision, especially since he was ostensibly meant to go to Auridon for training to be a knight, as I was and did. And his mother just sniped. When the people closest to you – the ones above all others meant to love and protect you – do neither, it’s easy to start seeing other people as equally bad. I believe that’s why he never spoke much. To him everyone was scheming or backbiting or just simply thinking ill of him.”
“But he knows neither of us would do those things to him. I mean, not now that Clavicus isn’t encouraging him.”
“He does, and he’ll calm down and come back around, but he sees criticism as personal attacks. He felt you and I were calling him inferior or somehow inadequate rather than actually taking the message to heart, which I think he likely knows, and that’s probably not doing much to quell his pique. And to him, that’s two people he loves betraying him.”
Sabrael sniffled. “Are you sure he’ll come around?”
Tauryon laughed softly and pulled the little daedra close. “He’ll come back, little one. Don’t you worry.”
“Rei?” Vallinalda called, running after the long-legged mer. “Rei, wait up!”
“What?” he asked, turning around sharply. His eyes were red.
“Have you been crying?”
“What does it matter?” he answered, storming out of the gates.
“It matters because you’re leaving the city alone, without Captain Camorin and Sabrael, and without me, which is arguably more important.”
“Says the Thalmor officer who’s in charge of you!” she said.
“Doesn’t Tauryon hold rank over you, lieutenant?”
“That’s lieutenant commander, and until he tells me you have free rein, you’re going to answer to me, whether you like it or not!”
Rei narrowed his eyes – those honestly upsetting eyes – and raised his lip. Vallinalda swallowed. She had her sword on her hip, even if she wasn’t armored, but somehow she didn’t think it would do her much good.
“So you’re saying he’s not on leave, as he told me?” Rei asked. “He’s commanding you? He’s keeping watch over me through you?”
“I don’t know if he’s on leave or not,” Vallinalda said too quickly for a woman of her station, and she dug the nails of her left hand into her palm to try and keep her heart rate down. “But he’s still Captain Camorin to me, and what he says to me is what happens. He’s a hero, besides, a founder of our current order. I can’t ignore what he says.”
There was a silence. What Vallinalda expected to happen, she wasn’t sure, but finally she asked, “I only sent for him because you asked for him after everything went wrong. Given the situation I thought it was important to get him here. How he went about it is his business, not mine.”
Rei still looked suspiciously at her, his left eye squinted just a bit more than the right.
“So what are you doing?”
“I’m going to Riverwood as we’d planned.”
“Come on, then,” she said, walking past him. When she didn’t hear footfalls behind her, she stopped and turned. “I said: come on.”
Rei’s chest rose and fell, and he looked back toward the city. He was clearly distressed, but, as much as she wanted to, Vallinalda didn’t dare approach to comfort him.
“Why are there people just everywhere?” he asked, running the inside of his wrist under his nose.
“It is a city,” she said. “Do you want to try to find a quiet place?”
“Why? Why do you want to get me to a quiet place?”
“I just mean…I…” Vallinalda stuttered. “You mentioned people everywhere and you look like you’re about to burst open.”
She licked her lips and carefully held out her hand. For all the charm he’d shown her, it seemed he had a rather unsettling side, one that reminded her of a scared and potentially aggressive dog. Luckily, her hand wasn’t bitten, taken instead by a long, slender hand with strange red claws. She took him back into the city, and they walked around until they came to the cemetery. At the moment there was one old woman placing flowers by a headstone, but otherwise it was empty, and they sat on a bench that was placed along the city wall. Vallinalda crossed one leg over the other, hooking her foot around the opposite calf. Rei sat on the edge, leaning forward, his fingers dug into his hair while one knee bounced.
“Does this help?” she asked.
“It would help more if I was alone,” he said frankly, “but I suppose I must take what I’m given.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust you-”
“Just be quiet,” he said. “I’ve had enough of people pointing out my shortcomings.”
“Who did that?”
Rei looked over at her disbelievingly, his head favoring its left side. That side had the eye with the big pupil, and they were in a very heavily shaded area. She wondered if he could see better with that one, and if earlier the sunlight was hurting it.
“I’m sure they weren’t intending to,” she ventured. “I’ve seen you and Captain Camorin together. I know he wouldn’t say something just to put you down. Honestly I’ve never heard him do that with anyone he wasn’t interrogating. And…he loves you, I can tell he does. If he won’t put down a clumsy ensign who spilled tea on his cloak, he certainly wouldn’t put down someone he loves.”
The knot in Rei’s throat bobbed as he swallowed.
“And Sabrael killed a high-ranking Thalmor officer for you! Why would somebody risk their own life for a person they’d only put down later?”
“You’re right,” he said, shrugging. “I know you are. Clavicus Vile was the only being I ever trusted completely. Nobody else has ever had that.”
“Because Clavicus coddled me and told me everything I wanted to hear. I know that’s not how it should be, but mortals, and Sabrael, they don’t do that, and for other reasons, besides, I feel it hard to believe a person has my best interests at heart when they tell me I’m not good at something.”
“We can’t be good at everything,” Vallinalda offered, wishing she hadn’t.
“No. But some things we have to be good at, lest bad things happen.”
Vallinalda looked at her hands, picking at her nails. “What did they say to you, if I might ask?”
Rei looked over at her with that one eye, the one she found far more uncomfortable than the other, studying her. Finally he looked back to the ground and said, “They said I don’t have good common sense. Or at least good self-control.”
“No,” he admitted. “No, I don’t. I’m impulsive and I’m violent and volatile. I used to be so patient. Since Sabrael, since I got my soul back, that seems to be the one thing that just won’t come back.”
She didn’t really know what most of that meant, but she ignored it. “You just have to practice at it,” she said. “Just like you should practice at realizing the people who care about you aren’t out to get you when they say something that’s not entirely complimentary.”
They sat in silence for a while. There was a single bird up in a tree making the same piercing call over and over. “So,” Rei said finally, “were you the ensign who spilled tea on Tauryon’s cloak?”
Vallinalda laughed and nodded. “Me and his then-fiancee were in the same class at the academy. I was so very jealous; Captain Camorin was so beautiful back then. It took far too long for me to realize that for a mer who looked sixty to be a captain was unheard-of, and that if he was a founder he’d have been quite the warrior in the womb.”
“He’s beautiful, now,” Rei corrected her. “Even without his regimen.”
“Well, I mean…you know.”
Rei chuckled quietly. “It’s different when you’ve known someone your whole life.”
“I guess so,” she said. “Anyway there was a reception after our graduation ceremony, and Captain Camorin was all dressed up to the nines, with those gorgeous riding boots the founders all have with the knee guards, and he was with Aicanath and some others, and I just wanted so badly for him to notice me, I thought up a reason to talk to Aicanath. So I forgot to leave my teacup, and I carried it with me, and I tripped over my own boot and spilled tea all over Captain Camorin’s cloak.”
Rei laughed. “What did he say?”
“He made an awful joke. He said, you know, in the way he talks, something like, ‘gracious, it looks like you took quite the spill!’ Everyone of course groaned. I think that might be the only one I’ve ever heard him make. But ultimately he simply said not to apologize, the Thalmor like black for a reason.”
Rei was smiling, finally, though his posture hadn’t changed. “I should go find them.”
Vallinalda nodded as she stood with him. She let herself be turned with one of his hands and returned the brief kiss.
“Rei?” she said, building up the conviction to say what she needed to.
“I hope you know I’m not, you know, expecting anything. It kind of seems like you’re married to two men. I’m sure that’s a handful.”
Rei smiled and sighed, running a hand over her cheek. “It’s been a turbulent few days, Nalda. I want you, but it’s just going to have to happen when it happens.”
“I know, you’re right. I just get eager sometimes. And my father is the only person to have ever called me ‘Nalda’.”
“Oh,” Rei answered, pulling his head back. “Oh, no, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she grinned, running a hand over his chest. “I like it coming from you.”
Vallinalda drew close, glancing around surreptitiously. Her outside arm slid over his shoulder while her inside slipped down and began unlacing his trousers.
“When I said it’d happen when it happens I didn’t expect it would be so soon,” Rei grinned.
Vallinalda giggled as she pulled him out, gasping at the length and thickness.
“Good enough for you?” Rei asked.
“Glad I’m just starting with my hand.”
He laughed and pushed his hips forward, and she began working him. She’d already bragged about her skills, and now she needed to deliver, but twisting her hand around to stroke the whole thing was a new one. Still…
“Good gods,” he breathed. “Play with my balls. Be rough.”
She looked up and kissed him deeply as she complied, tugging him and squeezing as they stood not just in the open, but in a cemetery. That was okay, though; she felt his sac tightening slowly. His cock felt so nice in her hand. The skin was like silk, the veins soft little bumps on her hand’s repetitive journey.
His arms were around her, pulling her close as he suddenly began fucking her fist.
“That’s it,” she breathed. “Do you like how I handle you?”
“You’re something else,” he panted.
“Come for me, Rei,” she smiled.
Suddenly Rei turned slightly back towards the bench, holding her hand as he thrust into it just a few more times. She bit her lower lip as she heard his quiet, strained grunt and watched him blow his load like nobody else she’d ever pulled off. She found herself counting. Eight jets that flew almost to the wall, followed by eight more much smaller spurts that just leaked from the rather long slit. It was too tempting. Vallinalda dropped to her knees and began sucking the head clean.
“Now don’t start that, or we’ll be here for ages.”
Vallinalda giggled as she stood and watched Rei put his member back where it belonged.
“That was brilliant,” he sighed. “Gods above.”
“Glad to have been of service.”
“I do need to go back and find my family,” he said, pushing her hair back and kissing her forehead. “I’ll make sure you’re repaid.”
“In your own time,” she said, resting a hand on his cheek. He wasn’t the sort of mer to fall in love with; she’d seen enough to know that was a truth among truths, but, especially knowing he liked women, too, she felt a bit crestfallen that he’d never feel for her the way he did for his husband and Captain Camorin. The latter made it sting just that little bit more, even if she knew he only liked men.
That tidbit took her an embarrassingly long time to realize, as well. He just didn’t seem that way…but she was young then, and came from a sheltered upbringing. But of course she’d find herself falling for another man who liked other men, and who, she strongly suspected, preferred them, to say nothing of the bond he shared with Sabrael. It was nice the allowance for him to dally, but that’s all she was going to be.
She sighed as she watched him stride in his long, noble way towards the plaza, and told herself that she could be happy with that. They were friends, it seemed, anyway, and that was more than enough. He wasn’t even the first like that…it’s just that this time she’d have to ignore that “L” word. It would be okay.
Rei felt Sabrael before he entered the inn. His husband was worried and scared and sad, and before he opened the door, he focused his love and his presence. He felt terrible for the way he’d left, and he braced himself for Tauryon’s disapproval.
“Rei!” Sabrael cried when he stepped through the door. The tavern was mostly empty, and he and Tauryon were having breakfast on the far end. Sabrael nearly fell over his heavy oak chair trying to run over to him.
Rei caught his kirin in his arms and picked him up, holding him close while his legs wrapped securely around his waist. “I’m sorry, beauty,” he said.
“Tauryon told me you’d be back,” Sabrael said. “I mean, I knew you would be, but you left so angry…”
“I know, and I shouldn’t have gotten so upset. You and Tauryon were trying to help.”
“I just want you to be safe and not get in trouble.”
Rei felt that twinge. “I know, sweetheart.”
He carried Sabrael back to the little alcove where he and Tauryon had been eating and gently let him down so that he could take his seat once more, and so that Rei, himself, could join them. He was hoping Tauryon would say something, but he didn’t.
“I’m sorry I stormed off,” Rei said finally.
“I understand why you did it,” Tauryon answered. “Rei, you must understand that you have to learn to take criticism from time to time.”
Rei closed his eyes against the reflexive anger.
“And I’m not saying that you’re not already brilliant. We all have things we must work on. And I know I’m already sounding uncomfortably parental, but if we didn’t love you very much we wouldn’t be telling you these things. It’s because we want you around. You’re mortal, now, and you’re not as strong, and for whatever reason you’re far more impulsive than you used to be. We don’t want you in prison, or, gods forbid, on the chopping block or simply killed.”
Rei took a slow, deep breath. “I know. And, honestly, the past few days have taught me a few things about making decisions. Vallinalda says I just need to practice at being patient.”
Tauryon nodded. “Yes, I would agree. You had it before. I know it’s in there. Not to touch a sore spot, but I think you’re mourning Vile and your behavior is rather stuck there, where it was towards the end.”
He knew it was true. The mourning part, anyway, but, “It’s been months now. How can I still be mourning?”
“I still mourn my husband,” Tauryon said. “Every day. You never stop when you lose someone to whom you were close, no matter how destructive it all was. I mourned you, even, when you went away. It just takes time to dull, is all. Time and patience. In the end you did realize what you ultimately were to Vile, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was all you knew for the vast majority of your life, and that, when you regained your soul, he gave you the comfort you’d wanted for so long.”
Rei swallowed and wiped burgeoning tears away with the heel of his hand. “I wish I still didn’t feel the need to cry all the time,” he forced a laugh. “Of all the things to lose, it’s my patience, while I still cry like a child at the drop of a hat.”
“What do you mean?” Sabrael asked.
“Oh, this didn’t come about with you,” he said, pulling his handkerchief from his pocket. “I think I spent more time crying as a young man than I did anything else.”
“Well, everything was just…bad. At the end of the day I’d just feel so defeated sometimes, what else was there to do?”
“There’s no shame in crying,” Tauryon said. “Sometimes it’s all we have.”
Rei offered him a weak smile, and he offered his own warm one in return.
“And I’m sorry for all the ‘Celedaen’ business. That’s just who you are to me, especially after Vile.”
“Don’t be sorry. You can call me that, if you like. Maybe it’ll help with the tempering. Earlier it just, well, it was kind of like rubbing salt into a wound, even if that wound was one I made up.”
“Are you hungry, Rei?” Sabrael asked. “You haven’t eaten yet.”
Rei shook his head. “I’ll wait until lunch. We need to go to Riverwood sooner rather than later. Vallinalda’s out browsing the market, if one of you will fetch her, I’ll start packing our things.”
“I’ll go,” Tauryon said. “Leave the young men to do the hard work.”
Rei smiled and kissed him before taking Sabrael’s hand and walking upstairs to their usual room.
“You know,” Sabrael said, “even if you react a bit…angrily to criticism, you seem more able to collect yourself than before. That’s a step in the right direction, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I have to be honest, I spoke to Vallinalda, and that helped, and then I let her jerk me off, and that really helped.”
“Ohh really?” Sabrael asked. “Outside, in public?”
“If someone had walked by they would have seen basically everything.”
“Was it nice?”
Sabrael giggled. “I’m getting hard feeling you think about it.”
“I wish you could’ve seen it, even if you don’t like women.”
“I’d only have to look at your cock,” he grinned. “Think maybe we could do it in public sometime?”
“Ooh, are we a little exhibitionist?” Rei laughed.
“It sounds fun, that’s all I know.”
“I’m sure an opportunity will come our way, beauty. And I’m sure it’ll be worlds better than that one with Nalda.”
Sabrael nearly squealed and jumped into Rei’s arms. He wondered, as they kissed, how he could have ever accused such a sweet little creature of all those ugly things then and now.
Once everything was packed and the stable owner paid, everyone began walking their horses along the jack-knifing road to the small town of Riverwood. Tauryon’s horse, that beautiful black gelding Scandalon, was shaking his head and champing his bit restlessly. He was following easily enough, but Rei feared something had happened while he was boarded.
“Tauryon?” Rei called across Vallinalda. “How’s Scandalon?”
His friend pressed his lips together as he held the bridle. “I fear it’s the first stages of colic. His hooves are fine, everything else is fine, and he weathered the night after all that exertion. His stomach is delicate. I know I told the stable hand in Solitude to keep him on hay and grass, but perhaps he got into something or…”
Rei sighed sympathetically.
“It wouldn’t be the first time. And I’m certain not the last. Will it, old boy? We’ll get you fixed up.”
A tug on his sleeve caught Rei’s attention, and he looked the other way over at Sabrael.
“What’s colic?” he asked.
“It’s stomach pain,” Rei said. “Low stomach pain. Figuring out why is often a problem, and it takes a fair number of animals if they don’t get the right treatment.”
“I guess Kelpies don’t have it?”
“Daedra don’t get sick except in cases of mortal intervention, or when something that keeps them healthy has gone away.”
“Like water, to you.”
When they reached the town, they tied their animals to a fencepost that ran along the front of the inn.
“You three go on ahead,” Tauryon said. “I need to keep an eye on Scandalon.”
“With all due respect, Sir,” Vallinalda offered, “perhaps I might be better suited in case-”
“I might be old, but-” he said sharply before he paused and looked at Rei before clearing his throat. “No, you’re right. I’m in no shape to handle him if he has a fit. Sabrael, would you stay with her? You’re small, but you’re strong. You could be of help.”
“Sure thing!” Sabrael chirped, hopping over to Vallinalda’s side.
Rei opened his left arm, and Tauryon walked into it so they could walk side-by-side up the stairs to the inn’s porch. “You see? Even I have to practice all these years on.”
“That did make me feel a bit better.”
Tauryon chuckled quietly and opened the door, motioning for Rei to enter first. It was dim and smokey, not unlike the other inns he’d visited in Skyrim. The fire pit was a mass of orange starburst in his left eye, but as long as he avoided that, all was fine. Not too long after they entered and the door had shut out any sliver of outside light, they were approached by an older, blonde Breton woman with a severe countenance. She looked at Rei as if she’d seen him before, and he suddenly suspected she had been Farengar’s mystery consultant.
“What can I do for you two…gentlemen?” she asked.
“I’m looking to rent your attic room,” Rei answered. “I’ve heard it’s cozy.”
“Attic, room, hm? Well, you heard wrong, but if you want, that room over there on the left? I’ve been told that one’s very cozy. Especially since you’ll be sharing that bed. Care to see?”
Rei stepped past her and entered the room. He’d left his swords wrapped up on Baku’s backside for the purposes of keeping suspicions down, but there was a nasty dagger hidden away in a sheath just inside the back of his waistband. He wasn’t worried. Tauryon joined him, assuming his noble and militaristic posture despite being clad in everyday clothing.
“Now,” the woman said, closing the door behind her and producing something from a satchel around her waist. “You’re probably looking for this?”
She tossed the object over, and Rei caught it. It was an ancient ram’s horn.
“The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller?”
“Not entirely. You blew a hole in the cave wall.”
“Can’t please everybody,” the woman shrugged. “Regardless, you’re apparently the creature they’re calling ‘Dragonborn’.”
“Come with me. Your friend stays behind, though.”
“You’re an Altmer who’s done something to look like that, and he’s an Altmer who’s clearly seen military service. If you weren’t who you say you are, I’d kick you both out.”
“We’re both over four hundred years old,” Rei said in a way he hoped would appease her. “I ran afoul of a Daedric Prince, and Tauryon was simply a knight in the old kingdom.”
The woman blinked slowly, looking back and forth between Rei and Tauryon. “I guess old habits die hard?” she asked Tauryon.
“Oh, yes, I suppose they do, yes.”
“He’s also of a very old high-born family. He was slapped quite hard by his etiquette tutor when his posture slipped, weren’t you?”
Tauryon only laughed. Rei was getting the distinct impression that if this person found out Tauryon was of the Thalmor, things could go badly, and very quickly.
“Fine. Come on.”
“Look more like a civilian,” Rei hissed, holding his friend back.
“I don’t already?” Tauryon breathed. “And why?”
“She’s suspicious of our people. If she finds out you’re with the Thalmor I suspect I won’t get answers and I’ll have to exercise that self-control thing you talk about.”
Tauryon nodded, and they left the room quickly to catch up with the woman who’d walked into what appeared to be her own personal bedroom.
“Close the door,” she said sharply. “No need to advertise. Bad enough I’m allowing your friend with you.”
Rei watched as she opened her wardrobe. He already had the horn; what else could she possibly be looking for? Before he had time to think any further, she slammed the clothes inside to one side and pressed against the back of the large piece of furniture. It gave under her touch, and with some effort, she pulled it to one side, revealing a set of stairs.
“Oh we had these back home,” Rei said.
“Yes, we did, as well,” Tauryon answered.
“You what?” the woman asked.
“Well, they’re for servants. We never had any hidden doors in wardrobes, but there were passages all through our mansions so the servants could go from one floor or room to another without being seen. The doors simply blended into the walls.”
The woman looked at him strangely. “I’m starting to believe what you said about your friend there. You both seem like you never left the islands.”
“I assure you, we’re just traveling companions on our own little journey,” Rei smiled.
Rei and Tauryon followed her down the dark stairwell and into a small room filled with shelves of potions and alchemical ingredients, the odd weapon here and there, and, taking up most of the space, a large table in the center with a map laid out on it. Rei recognized it instantly as the map she and Farengar were poring over.
“So that was you in Dragonsreach,” Rei said, “discussing dragons with the court wizard.”
“Yes, that was me,” she answered. “My name is Delphine, and I’ve been looking for you – or someone like you – for a long, long time.”
Rei heard Tauryon take a sharp, subtle breath, and when he looked over, he saw this his friend’s eyes had narrowed and his lips had pursed as his tongue moved over his teeth. Rei stepped gently on his foot, and he cleared his throat.
“A Dragonborn, then,” Rei said as if nothing had happened. “Why?”
Delphine had absolutely seen Tauryon’s facial expression change. “Because,” she said slowly, “the dragons are back, and only a Dragonborn can truly kill a dragon.”
“I killed that one at the Western Watchtower.”
“So they say. So you can do it, then. You can devour the soul of a dragon?”
“Excellent. Luckily, you’ll be able to show me very soon.”
“Wait, wait,” Rei said. “Why should any of this involve you?”
“Because I know what nobody else does,” Delphine said, leaning forward against the table. “The dragons aren’t coming back. These aren’t new creatures come to avenge the old. These dragons are coming back to life.”
“Preposterous,” Tauryon said sharply. “What being could be said to truly come back to life? Necromancy can only raise a shell. Nobody can raise the dead and say with any truth that what was raised has a soul!”
Rei put a hand on his friend’s arm and was glad to feel a hand cover it.
“These aren’t just any beings,” she said. “These are the children of Akatosh himself. They’re almost demigods. And if you want proof, do like I did and visit the old burial mounds. You’ll find several of them are empty.”
“So what is it you want me to do?” Rei asked.
“Prove your title. According to what patterns I’ve been able to figure out, the next attack will be in Kynesgrove. That’s where we’ll be headed.”
“And if I say no?” Rei asked, wondering on what Azura had said about diversions. He had the horn now; what was this woman’s angle?
“Then you can go back to the Greybeards and watch the world come to an end with the rest of us.”
“Wait. The end?”
“Dragons being raised from the dead is not something that just happens.”
Rei looked over and Tauryon met his gaze. There was so much in those eyes Rei wasn’t sure what to make of it. He reached up and brushed some hair from his face, watching him relax just a bit.
“Alright. I’ll do it.”
“You’re making the right decision, er…I don’t believe I caught your names?”
“I am Rei Ginsei. My companion here is…” he paused. The Thalmor certainly were in play here, and a suspicious woman who could spot certain characteristics could also know names. He settled for: “Tauryon, and there are two more outside the inn tending one of our horses.”
“Two more Altmer?” Delphine asked worriedly.
“One is. The other is a Daedra, my soul bond. He’s friendly.”
“Alright. Give me some time to get ready. I’ll meet you outside.”
Once they stepped out into the painful sunlight, Tauryon pulled Rei to a place the others couldn’t hear them.
“What’s wrong?” Rei asked. “There’s something wrong with her, isn’t there?”
“Paranoia, and damn well earned paranoia.”
“What do you mean?”
“You were right about her. That woman is one of the Thalmor’s most wanted. She’s one of two remaining members of the Blades, and we’ve been hunting her down for years.”
Rei took a deep breath and looked around to make absolutely sure they were alone. “Look, I have this feeling, one Azura gives me. Something important is going to happen in Kynesgrove. I say, depending on what happens, we get as much out of her as we can, and then we turn her over to face justice. If all goes as it’s seeming to, she’ll be our prisoner without ever knowing. I have a feeling she’ll fall right into your hands before you know it.”
Tauryon smiled. “This reminds me of the way we used to scheme in our little shack.”
“Oh?” Rei grinned, pulling close and putting his hand on the back of his friend’s neck.
Tauryon kissed him and began rubbing him through his suede pants. “How I’d stake out targets you’d picked and tell you about them.”
“How well do you know Skyrim?” Rei asked.
“Fairly well by this point. Why?”
“Is Kynesgrove a city or…”
“It’s a mining town.”
“With an inn?”
“Yes,” Tauryon grinned.
“Excellent. Because as soon as what needs to be done is done, I propose we all stop for a while and you and I have some time alone.”
“I don’t know if I can last that long,” Tauryon laughed, “but I’ll surely try. I do so love having you to myself when I can.”
Rei smiled and leaned his forehead against Tauryon’s. “We’re going to have some fun, you and me, and something tells me it’s not just going to involve our cocks.”