Now we’re gettin’ somewhere. Warning for Black Beauty/Black Stallion/Any Horse Novel in Existence moments.
Delphine was not at all pleased to meet either Vallinalda or Sabrael, which didn’t surprise Rei very much. He was just glad that Vallinalda had, like Tauryon, opted for civilian clothes. He didn’t need Delphine to walk out to be greeted by a towering woman in moonstone armor. But Delphine liked her better than she liked Sabrael, so she wound up sharing Ondolemar’s former horse as they rode at a brisk pace towards Kynesgrove.
Before they’d even left the town, Scandalon was getting fussy, and Tauryon was having to twist and turn to try and keep his animal walking straight and without too much turbulance.
“Tauryon!” Rei yelled as he looked over just in time to see Scandalon fall to his knees and then to his side.
Luckily it seemed the old mer had freed his boots and was able to avoid being crushed, but he still had to try and get away from the animal that was now thrashing on the ground. It was, as he’d said, colic, and the horse was trying in the only way it knew how to relieve the pain, which could have been anything from gas to an actual blockage.
“Sabrael, don’t, stay away!” Rei cried as Sabrael dismounted to try and run towards Tauryon.
Sabrael either didn’t hear him or didn’t care, but Rei leapt from Baku’s saddle just in time to snatch his little kirin away from Scandalon’s huge radius for damage and pull him close while the animal found its feet and sprinted off. “Go to Tauryon,” he said. “I’ll go after Scandalon. Don’t move, understand?”
Sabrael nodded quickly, and Rei mounted back up and slammed his spurs into the join of Baku’s hip and thigh. His steed obediently surged forward, and they chased the ever-shrinking shadow back towards Whiterun City. The city itself was on the tundra, lowlands surrounded by mountains, while Riverwood was built on the ascent towards the base of the Greybeards’ mountain. The grade from tundra to base was too steep for a traveler to comfortably traverse, and so when the road was built leading to Riverwood, the decision had been made to have it switch sharply back and forth with a decent straight run between turns. This made the journey a bit longer, but it was easier on the knees, easier on animals. Because of this design, however, the road was actually terraced, with the natural hill connecting the straights as they ascended.
Spry, athletic people could easily bypass the road, especially going down towards the city, but a panicked, sick horse would be a different story. Rei took the risk, being that Baku was healthy and bred to traverse mountainous terrain. He leaned back to keep Baku’s weight balance, half guiding and half letting Baku pick his path down the hill at a very brisk pace. Scandalon had made it past the last straight going downwards and continued sprinting in his strange, bucking way, along the side of the mountain which housed Bleak Falls Barrow.
Rei was closing in, attempting to head Scandalon off, until the black gelding cut sharply to the right, running directly in front of Baku’s nose, nearly causing a collision. Rei yanked on the reins, but slowed as soon as he got going again, watching in terror as Scandalon tripped over a large rock embedded in the soil, and tumbled off the rocky overhang he’d run onto, hitting the ground below on his neck and rolling the rest of the way down the hill. Scandalon flailed, trying to get back up, and Rei and Baku galloped to where he lay thrashing.
“Shh, boy,” Rei hushed, once he’d dismounted, holding his hands out. “Shh, it’s okay.”
Carefully and very slowly he approached when Scandalon had tired himself out for the moment, keeping himself as much within Scandalon’s view as he could, until he could place a hand on the animal’s cheek. There was so much fear and pain in that one, big eye, and Rei wasn’t yet sure if it was only the colic. He’d calmed, though, and Rei carefully knelt by him, ready to leap back in the extremely likely event Scandalon would try to thrash about again. He looked up and saw the others coming quickly towards them, but turned his attention back to Scandalon and ran his hand from his cheek, down his neck, and over his side, gingerly feeling the ribs on the side he had access to.
“Celedaen!” Tauryon called. “What happened? Is Scandalon alright?”
“He took a spill and wasn’t able to get up. I don’t know if that’s because of the colic or if…”
Rei didn’t have to look up to know Tauryon was paralyzed with fear, and he continued his examination.
“Mara’s mercy,” he said, when he found the problem.
“What? What is it?” Tauryon cried.
Rei pointed to Scandalon’s back knee, which wasn’t immediately visible due to his thrashing and his shaggy black fur obscuring most of it. The shin bone had broken and pierced the skin at the joint.
“Oh, Scandalon,” Tauryon breathed shakily, kneeling and putting a hand on Rei’s shoulder. “We’ll find someone to take care of you, you bet your life, we will, old boy.”
“Tauryon,” Rei said, “I don’t know that there’s a horse doctor at these stables.”
“Then find a healer!” Tauryon snapped. “Vallinalda!”
“Sir!” she answered automatically and sharply, making Rei cringe as he hadn’t yet told her to keep the Thalmor subject low. Luckily it didn’t seem Delphine noticed in all the commotion.
“Go to the stables, see if they have a specialist. If they don’t go to the temple. And hurry! If he has a fit, he’ll only hurt himself further.”
As if to illustrate his point, Scandalon suddenly decided he’d had enough of being still and began trying harder than ever to stand up. Rei pushed Tauryon out of the way and threw himself across the horse’s shoulder in a vain attempt to calm him and keep him still. Scandalon was screaming in pain and fright, and the other horses began shifting uncomfortably, even even-tempered Baku.
“You know I don’t think that dragon at Kynesgrove is going to wait for a lame horse,” Delphine said.
“The maybe someone should break your leg and leave you to rot,” Sabrael snapped. “They might not be daedric like me, but they’re like cousins. You’re a monster if you can listen to an equine scream and simply say it should be left alone!”
“Well said,” Tauryon said shakily as Scandalon wound back down, breathing shallowly.
“Tauryon, we’re not equipped to safely keep him still,” Rei said. “Look at what he’s done to himself.”
The shin bone had shifted and was now very clearly visible. Tauryon looked at it before closing his eyes and turning to press his face against Rei’s neck. Rei wrapped his arms around him as he sobbed quietly.
“My Scandalon,” he said shakily.
“I know, love.”
Sabrael came over and Rei opened his arm a bit further so that they both could comfort their friend.
“I’ve had him since he was broken. He’s been my only real companion for twenty-four years.”
“Vallinalda’s going to be a while.”
Tauryon nodded. “I know what you’re saying. I know you’re probably right, but I just can’t. I know you understand, Celedaen.”
“I do, very much. I wish I could fix it for him.”
Tauryon cried quietly against him, and Rei stroked his hair while Sabrael laid his head on the old mer’s chest and wrapped his arms around his waist.
“If she can’t find anyone,” Sabrael said slowly, “he’s in a lot of pain, and he’ll never be the same.”
“Do you see, Celedaen?” he asked. “Do you see why I worry for you?”
“What are you talking about?” Rei asked.
“I don’t want there ever to be a day where you can’t be saved.”
Rei didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t just make things worse. “He’s your friend, Tauryon. Do you want to wait for Vallinalda?”
“I have to,” he said. “Even if he gets worse, if she finds someone, they can help him.”
Rei kissed his temple before tucking his head under his chin. “Delphine!” he barked. She’d been standing a fair distance away, all but tapping her foot. “Go on to Kynesgrove if you’re that impatient and if you’re not going to help. We’ll meet you there as soon as we can.”
“Fine,” she said sullenly. “Don’t take long.”
“I don’t like her,” Sabrael said as she jogged away. “She’s mean and she’s…she’s horrible.”
“I don’t like her, either, beauty,” Rei answered. “But we need to keep her with us for a while. And, by all means, don’t hesitate to dress her down again.”
“Absolutely,” Tauryon said hoarsely. “Every chance you get.”
Scandalon wasn’t moving much anymore, and after the last fit he hadn’t shown signs of having another. He simply lay there, breathing shallowly.
Finally Rei looked over and saw Vallinalda riding Ondolemar’s horse back up the hill to meet them. She was alone.
“Tauryon?” Rei said. His friend went slack in his arms, and he knew that meant his heart had really broken.
“Scandalon was my first real friend after I was released from prison. I saw him, and he somehow reminded me of my beloved. Why must this happen? Am I not allowed joy without it being ripped from my heart?”
“Nobody knows, my precious mer,” Rei sniffed. “But decisions must be made.”
Tauryon rose and walked over to his steed before kneeling back down, his hand resting on Scandalon’s massive barrel. Then he laid himself across his horse’s body, stroking his shoulder. “I hope you know how much I love you,” he said. “You were always so smart and so sweet. I had prayed to every god that I wouldn’t have to do this again. I know you don’t understand, but please forgive me, my friend. My Scandalon.”
Rei didn’t know what he meant or what to expect, but all he saw was a broken-hearted mer laying across a black steed with a hand over its chest.
Sabrael scooted over and Rei took him in his arms. Vague ribbons of light green swirled around mer and beast, and Rei saw Vallinalda bring the grey horse to a stop before she reached them, watching. Eventually the ribbons grew fewer in number and faded until they were nothing. Scandalon wasn’t breathing anymore, but Tauryon didn’t move, his back shuddering as he cried against the body of his dear friend and companion.
Rei hugged Sabrael close.
“Should we go to him?” his kirin whispered.
Rei just shook his head and put a finger to his lips. Silence was sacred, but he remained where he was both because to move seemed similarly sacrilegious, and because he simply knew somehow that Tauryon wanted them there for when he felt his time with Scandalon was spent. He hugged his kirin more tightly instead, pressing his lips to the top of his head. Sabrael was sad for Scandalon’s death, sad for Tauryon’s loss, with a raging and uncomfortable anger at Delphine. Rei stroked his hair and tried to feel more soothing than he himself could feel. For his kirin’s sake he tried not to think of Brighteyes, his first brush with death. He tried not to think of Rebel’s untimely demise during an accident at a tournament. Sabrael clutched his shirt with one hand and buried his face against his neck.
“I know, beauty,” he whispered. “I know.”
The sun was well on its way down by the time Tauryon pushed himself back up and he looked over at Rei. Rei got up and knelt beside him, leaning his forehead against Tauryon’s. “Please don’t ever make me have to do that to you,” he breathed, exhausted from crying. His eyes were red and swollen.
“What did you do?”
“I stopped his heart,” he said. “It’s a slow, gentle, and painless process. I had to do that to Aicanath. This wouldn’t have been so bad were it not for that. I had to kill my husband. My truest love.”
“Oh, Tauryon,” Rei said, moving to pull him close. He saw Sabrael slipping a bit down the hill so that he could join them and lay his head on Tauryon’s lap.
“If I were to lose you, there would be nothing left for me. If I had to…to…to euthanize you, I fear I would simply die right there.”
“Don’t think that way. What would Sabrael do without you? He would need someone to love him if I weren’t around.”
“I would. I don’t know what I would do without my Rei. I’d need help adjusting.”
Tauryon looked down and stroked Sabrael’s hair. “I hadn’t thought of that,” he said. “Forgive me. I could never let you linger alone, precious one.”
“But we oughtn’t be thinking about this, anyway,” Rei said. “I’m alive. You’re alive. We mourn your friend, a friend I know who loved you as you loved him. His memory is what matters now.”
“Yes, Celedaen,” Tauryon said. “Yes, quite. I don’t know what we should do with…with…”
Rei pulled him close again as his breath hitched.
“What did you do with yours?” Tauryon asked weakly. “I mean, any horse I had that died in battle, I could usually get their bodies cremated or buried, at the very least. Have you ever lost one in the open like this?”
“Well, when I started wandering, you know, sometimes I couldn’t do anything special. Something happened in the middle of nowhere, or some such. All I could do then, depending on what I had with me, was try and move them to an out-of-the-way place, say goodbye. Make sure they knew that, even if I didn’t have a soul to appreciate them, that they were special to me and that I would remember them, and I would leave them and let nature reclaim them. It’s not the best thing to do, but alone it’s hard to move a horse, even with a Prince’s strength.”
Tauryon swallowed a sob and looked over at Scandalon.
“We could arrange to get him to Whiterun,” Rei suggested. “Or we could buy some firewood and do it out here.”
“No,” he said. “No, I like your idea. You’re right, it’s not sanitary. But Scandalon liked to lie under trees. And he’s near one, now.”
“Should we try and bury him?”
Tauryon sighed and looked around them, feeling the earth with his fingers before shaking his head. “The soil is too hard. We’d be here all night. I suppose…” he took a shuddering breath. “I suppose there are wolves.”
Rei nodded. “When you’re ready, then. You can ride with Baku and me.”
“Thank you. Both of you.”
Sabrael raised up and kissed him long and lovingly. Rei kissed his temple and pressed their heads together before picking Sabrael up off the ground and moving over to Vallinalda to let Tauryon finish his mourning.
“It’s probably good he’s on leave,” she said quietly as they got there. “I’d hate to report for duty after something like this.”
Rei nodded. “Nalda, not to change the subject too drastically, but to you, for the forseeable future, and only while Delphine is around, Captain Camorin is Tauryon, and he’s simply a traveling companion. Don’t address him as ‘sir’, don’t salute, and don’t wear your armor. You’re thin enough, you could probably wear some of mine. Understand?”
“I guess so,” she said. “Why are you telling me this and not Captain Camorin?”
Rei cocked his head and looked at her as if she’d gone blind.
“Oh. Sorry, it’s just that that’s a pretty strong order.”
“I know it is, and normally I’d let Tauryon give it to you, but it’s desperately important that, at least for now, Delphine does not know we have connections to the Thalmor.
Suddenly there was a light dawning in her eyes. “Delphine,” she said. “Ondolemar would mention a Delphine now and then with the other higher-ranking officers. An older Breton, about 55…”
“Right. This is her. Tauryon and I have our reasons for letting her roam free for the time being.”
“Come on, if there is actually a dragon at Kynesgrove, you’ll need something to protect you.”
Rei led her over to Baku and dug out the plates for his hardened leather armor. Luckily it all seemed to fit without too much issue, even if it looked a bit odd in places. The thighs were a bit of a chore, but she said they were comfortable once they were on, and the breastplate needed some amount of ingenuity to get it snug, but it all worked out in the end. If Delphine asked, they were all just travelers and armor was whatever they could find.
Finally Tauryon left Scandalon’s side and walked into Rei’s arms. “Ready?”
Tauryon nodded and kissed Rei’s lips softly. “He’s in a better place.”
“Captain?” Vallinalda asked.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t bring anyone. The healers at the temple were too focused on…on…well, other patients.”
“As they should have been,” he said quietly. “That’s not your fault. Not to be rude, but what on Nirn are you wearing?”
“Oh. Rei told me about Delphine. He said my uniform armor was probably not a good idea if we’re keeping a low profile. So. This is his.”
For the first time, Rei saw a smile shape his friend’s lips, and in a moment, he was laughing. “Celedaen thinks of everything, doesn’t he?”
“I’d say so. It doesn’t fit all that well, but he said since we’re all just travelers we just wear what we come across.”
“Plausible, I suppose,” Tauryon said.
“How are you feeling?” Sabrael said, wrapping his arms around Tauryon’s waist and cuddling.
“I’ll be alright soon enough,” he said. “Now come along, all of you. I imagine we’ll catch up to our prisoner soon enough, but in the dark of night, it might be a bit of a chore.”
“I’ve got Ondolemar’s lantern in one of his saddle bags,” Vallinalda said. “There’s spare candles and other lanterns on the pony.”
“Excellent,” Tauryon said. “Let’s get them lit and hung, and we’ll be on our way.”
Soon enough, the horses and the pony were all gathered, and they began their journey east. Tauryon sat behind Baku’s saddle after they’d rearranged things, and Rei felt his arms around him, as much for comfort as security. Now and again he would lean forward, and Rei would feel wetness on his neck and reach back to hold his friend’s head. Nobody said much of anything, and that was alright by Rei.
Delphine had made a good deal of progress; she was just a short way from the city of Windhelm when they caught up to her.
“What is that nonsense you’re wearing, all of a sudden?” she greeted Vallinalda.
“Rei said if there was going to be a dragon I should have some armor since I don’t use magic. This is just what we had.”
“I see. Well, since you’ve done what you set out to do, let me give my feet a rest.”
Vallinalda held her arm out and helped Delphine up into the saddle behind her. Once she was settled, they continued the short final leg of the journey.
“Now, I don’t know the exact timing,” Delphine called, piercing the quiet of night. “Obviously we could see it if it were happening now, but it could happen late in the night or early next morning. Are you going to be ready?”
“Yes, Delphine, don’t worry about it,” Rei answered irritably.
“I’m just making sure you’re all prepared since it seems we’re dealing with a bunch of ragamuffins.”
Rei felt his stomach twist and looked over at Sabrael who was scowling.
“You’re my ragamuffin,” Rei said, holding his hand out towards him.
That was enough to turn Sabrael’s mood, and he laughed, taking his hand and squeezing. “Well, as long as I’m yours, I guess that’s okay.”
“Always and forever, my beauty.”
“We don’t have to spend time together tonight,” Tauryon said softly. “I feel like I’ve been hoarding you.”
“What do you want, my love?” Rei asked. “I will completely understand if you want to be by yourself, and I will make time for you if that’s what you want.”
“I don’t want to be alone, in all honesty. If Sabrael doesn’t mind, I would still like to be with you.”
“We’ll work things out when we get to town.”
They walked up a dirt path into what was the glorified town called Kynesgrove. Rei looked over at the Eastmarch guard leaning against the cooled smelter that sat outside the mine, torch in hand, watching the party pass by, going past the inn and to the meager stables.
“Sabrael,” Rei called as Tauryon discussed boarding with the young stable hand.
His kirin came over and snuggled close. It made him debate telling Tauryon he wouldn’t be available, but he thought of all the times he’d wanted someone with him when he was sad.
“Beauty, Tauryon wants some time with me. I’m thinking of just ordering a bath for us. Would you be okay alone for a while?”
“Tauryon needs you, Rei,” he said. “I know you’re feeling guilty, but it’s not like you’re not going to sleep with me tonight.”
“I know, but this past week has me all sorts of turned around and it seems we haven’t been together very much.”
He only felt understanding from his husband, and he was more thankful than ever for their bond. Something like this would make him suspicious from anyone else, but then he wasn’t surprised. Sabrael was just simply too good for the nastiness of the world. The nastiness that was him.
“And this isn’t like that. Besides, if things get frisky…”
Rei smiled a little. “I wouldn’t count on it, beauty.”
“I know,” he said, looking down. He was properly embarrassed, so much that Rei felt his own cheeks warming. “I guess that wasn’t the best joke to make right now.”
“Maybe not,” Rei said, “but I know you didn’t do it to be disrespectful.”
Sabrael hugged him. “Anyway, be with your friend who needs you. And then we can all go to bed and just be close.”
Rei bent and kissed him hard. “Do you know how many people wish for a mate like you?”
“I know that neither you nor I have to,” he smiled.
The innkeeper almost screamed with joy to see such a large party enter the establishment. Apparently they didn’t see very many travelers, especially since, unlike in a place like the Bannered Mare, there were rooms enough for everyone. The big one for Rei and his own, and two smaller ones for the women.
“I’m yours for the evening, my love,” Rei said to Tauryon once they’d gotten settled. “What would you like to do? Have a bath? Go for a walk so we can have proper quiet?”
“Both sound lovely,” he answered, leaning his head into Rei’s hand. “But it’s far too chilly outside, and I need to wash, besides.”
The bathing room in the Braidwood Inn was clearly designed for the communal usage of families or larger parties, in general – part of some pie-in-the-sky thinking on the part of the owners who’d clearly misjudged the draw of lovely Kynesgrove, sooty from the mine and pockmarked with the stumps of the alleged grove. But it meant a nice, deep tub big enough for two, although, to the innkeeper’s disappointment, Rei only ordered one of the three to be filled.
“Here,” Rei said, handing over a small wooden box, sealed against the weather. It was his shampoo. “You’ll like this. Smell it.”
Tauryon took it, his movements betraying his exhaustion. “Oh, that’s nice,” he said, perking up. “It smells of home.”
“An Altmer merchant was selling things a while back in Cyrodiil. I bought a few of these.”
Tauryon closed his eyes and swallowed.
“Come on, precious mer,” Rei said. “Before the water gets cold.”
Rei got in first and helped his friend in after.
Nothing was said. Tauryon knelt on the bottom of the tub, the water up to his chin, and Rei took the inn’s provided ladle and carefully poured water over his head. He washed his friend’s hair, pressing his fingers into his scalp to get at the roots and massage the skin. Tauryon sighed, and Rei smiled as he saw muscles relax.
Once they were properly clean, they sat on the step-cum-bench that went around the circumference of the tub, and Tauryon leaned hard against Rei.
“I wish I could make it better,” Rei said.
“You have and you are. It’s just, as you know, slow.”
“Yes, it is.”
Tauryon took a deep breath. “I’m thinking of starting my regimen again.”
“And I have a friend who can aid in my rejuvenation, such as it would be. I’d still be old in spirit and bone, but at least my face wouldn’t be so drawn and ancient.”
“I think age suits you.”
Tauryon chuckled once. “I’ll have her take only a few decades off, then.”
“But why start again?” Rei asked. “You said you felt you saw the end of your road.”
“I don’t want you or Sabrael to feel the pain of my passing.”
“Tauryon, you can do what you like, and your reasons are your reasons, and I’m not going to tell you they’re invalid. But, regardless of how we felt as young men, death is just something we must live with. I will mourn your loss deeply if you go before me. But you’ll never leave me. I’ll still have your memory, won’t I?”
“I’d like to think so. I still sometimes feel Aicanath beside me.”
“Doesn’t that make him immortal, in a way?”
Rei watched as Tauryon thought for a minute.
“And you were excited at perhaps seeing him again when you pass. Why would you leave your dearest love waiting in favor of a married couple?”
“I’ve always had so much trouble with death, Celedaen,” Tauryon moaned. “Unable to let go of the people and animals who leave, and terrified of leaving, myself. Terrified of ageing.”
“I read something once, when I was soulless, but it stuck with me.”
“What was it?”
“It was on the tombstone of a young woman. It said: ‘Sleep is a reconciling, a rest that peace begets.’ ”
“If only it were always so soft.”
“It doesn’t mean that, Tauryon, and you know it. It means that for all the pain and all the strife, for all the ill you may have done, peace comes to take all that away and give you rest. You didn’t simply euthanize your husband, as you put it, you were peace, come to grant him rest and take away the hurt. It sounds like the same thing, but it’s not. It’s not.”
Tauryon broke down in crying, and Rei held him close.
“I don’t know what to do, Celedaen,” he whimpered.
“I can’t decide for you, love,” Rei said, stroking his hair. “I mean, I’ll be devastated when it’s your time, but you’re not mine to claim.”
“It’s a decision that has to be made soon, I suppose. You see how quickly I’m reaping what I’ve sown,” Tauryon sighed, touching his face. That wonderfully angular face that, no matter what Tauryon said, Rei felt age could do no wrong to. “But must I think about it now?”
“No, precious,” Rei said softly, holding him closer. “You don’t have to think anything you don’t want to right now. Think of what makes you happy.”
Tauryon took a deep breath and moved a hand to rest on Rei’s thigh. “The hedge maze and topiaries at my estate,” he said. “I pay several professionals to maintain them all even now while I’m away. I hope I see them again, even just once. Do you remember, Celedaen?”
Rei smiled. He did remember. They would make their way to the very center of the maze to plan. Honeysuckle vines wound through the hedges, and in the spring and summer, their sweet smell was soothing and made Rei feel somewhat decadent. One of the help intruded on them one day, however, and that’s when they went in search of a new place to make their schemes. But still, they would wander it, pretending they could get lost, or walk through the topiary garden, filled with indrik in perpetual leap, gigantic cana birds, and even a skeever, created, Tauryon said, because as a small boy he thought they were clever, funny things, and he begged his parents to put one there.
“I do remember,” he said. “It was all very romantic.”
“I told you how I felt,” Rei said. “Perhaps now isn’t the time to mention it, but I would think of you when I masturbated.”
“You would?” Tauryon asked. “Tell me. You told me to think happy thoughts, after all.”
Rei chuckled quietly. His friend’s voice still betrayed his deep sadness, but the interest was a good sign, sexual or no. “It’s silly, but I would think of you and me, in my bedroom, talking as we often did. Except I was on my bed, and you were sitting on the floor between my knees while I played with your hair.”
Tauryon actually laughed, albeit weakly. “It’s not silly,” he said. “It’s interesting. I didn’t know you liked doing that. I suppose I should have guessed with the way you washed it just now.”
“I found with my horses, getting them ready for show and such, that I rather liked it. It was nice, repetitive, soothing. In any case having you there, braiding parts of your beautiful, soft hair, would make me hard, you see, and I would start biting the tips of your ears. And you would moan and start rubbing yourself through your pants, apologizing that you couldn’t help it.”
Tauryon moaned in reality, a quiet, breathy sound. Rei could see through the shifting of the cooling water’s surface that he’d gotten hard.
“And I told you to take yourself out. I told you I needed to see you come. You ripped open your fly, and I saw what I imaged your cock and balls looked like. You were so hard I could see you twitching, and the head was almost purple.”
“Celedaen,” he sighed.
“And I watched you, so desperate, use both hands to jerk yourself, the lower hand moving at times to squeeze your balls. And just as soon as you’d come in my imagination, I’d lose myself in reality. Sometimes two or three times, that fantasy was so delicious.”
“Have I made you this hard, then?”
“You have,” Rei said, kissing his lips. “You always make me hard.”
“I know I’m not the best thing to look at these days, but would you make love to me?”
“Darling, I think you’re lovely, just as I always have,” Rei said, kissing his lips. “And I would love to.”
Rei didn’t want to put too much strain on his friend’s aging joints, so he got down on his knees in the water and positioned himself between Tauryon’s legs, which he rested on his hips.
“Hand me the body oil? It’s there by your head.”
Expensive oil meant for after a bath was about to be used for a much greater purpose, Rei felt as he prepared Tauryon gently with his oiled fingers. Tauryon closed his eyes and reached out to rest a hand on Rei’s shoulder. He worked him, watching his cock twitch, hanging onto every sigh. Satisfied with his work, Rei cleaned off his fingers, stood so that his tool was above the water, and made sure he was well-oiled.
“I’ll never not be a bit nervous seeing that thing,” Tauryon smiled softly.
“Well, you know I’ll be gentle with you.”
Tauryon only continued smiling and leaned his head back as Rei lowered himself again. Once again he raised his friend’s legs, took his cock in his hand, and guided himself towards the momentary entrance. He pressed, then relaxed, pressed, then relaxed, finally breaching the tightness of Tauryon’s anal ring.
Tauryon cried out a little, and Rei stopped.
“Keep going, Celedaen,” he said quickly. “Keep going.”
Rei obeyed, continuing slowly and gently, steadying one hip with one hand and massaging Tauryon’s cock with the other. In and out he slid, slowly and gently, watching as his friend began to arch his back.
“You feel so good on me,” Rei said.
“Can’t be as good as the way you’re handling me.”
“Yeah?” he breathed, squeezing the head.
“I’m so close,” Tauryon moaned.
Rei shuddered. That tight band moving up and down the length of him, watching Tauryon leaned back and breathing quickly. It made his thighs weak. Sabrael was close, too, and he smiled.
“I’m here, precious. I’m yours, just for now, and we’re young again, in my room.”
“On your bed.”
“Gods, I can smell it all,” Tauryon gasped. “Oh, Celedaen!”
The instant Rei saw the pale swirls in the water and felt the unusually hard pulses against his palm, he exploded inside his friend, trying to keep his voice low against the will of his body’s rapture. He leaned forward and laid his torso against Tauryon’s as his hips thrust in short, quick strokes and his legs threatened to give out as pleasure sapped his strength. As Sabrael came in another room, he savored the feeling of his seed building again, pausing almost painfully before bursting from him, filling Tauryon a second time.
“Sabrael?” Tauryon panted, smiling.
Rei nodded and laughed a little as he let himself soften inside the warm sheath. “We have a decent range of connection, me and him.”
“Incredible. I hope every day you thank the gods for such a gift.”
“I do,” Rei said. “And I thank the gods for our reunion.”
“As do I. I also thank them for that brilliant orgasm. Xarxes’ quill.”
“One of the best I’ve had, for sure. And I am talking about the one you gave me, not the passive one.”
Tauryon chuckled. “Thank you, Celedaen.”
“For being with me. For your words and your kindness. For making love to me. I don’t mean making me come, but just performing the act and being so close and so loving. It’s helped a great deal.”
“I’m glad,” Rei said. “Give some thought to your mortality. Whatever you decide, Sabrael and I will respect your choice and love you.”
Tauryon smiled softly, and Rei leaned in to kiss him.
“Come on, love,” Rei said. “Let me clean myself and then let’s get out of this lukewarm Altmer soup and go to bed.”
“A good idea,” Tauryon smiled.
It seemed like Rei had only slept a few minutes when the door to their room burst open. Warm-blooded little Sabrael had managed to kick the covers off of him and Tauryon, so while Rei was still covered, his husband and friend were naked and twined together. Naturally, only Tauryon heard and scrabbled to pull the covers up over his hips while Sabrael simply rolled over, kicking away the bits that touched him.
“The dragon!” Delphine’s blurry form nearly yelled. There was commotion in the common room that Rei was surprised none of them heard, but they were all fairly exhausted.
“Couldn’t you have knocked?” he groaned, rubbing his eyes with his fingers.
“I’m sorry, but I think when a dragon’s attacking politeness isn’t that important,” Delphine snapped. “Besides, it’s not anything I haven’t seen before. In terms of anatomy, anyway.”
If you say so, Rei thought.
“Now come on. Up. Now.”
Rei threw his portion of the covers off him and got up, smirking when he noticed Delphine looking at his equipment. You only wish, sweetheart, he thought again. “Sabrael?” he called. The little daedra squirmed a little. “Sabrael, come on, love. Tauryon? And you, could you give us some privacy, please? Just until we get our things ready?
“Fine,” Delphine said. “Just hurry, for gods’ sakes!”
“Has it landed?” Rei asked.
“No, it’s flying high, circling the hold.”
“Then calm down and get out of here!”
Rei waited until the door closed, suspecting what Delphine really wanted was just to watch him get dressed. “Pervert,” he said.
Tauryon laughed sleepily. He’d finally managed to get Sabrael awake, and he sat up, blinking groggily. “What’s going on?” he mumbled.
“Come on, beauty,” Rei said, “There’s a dragon out there; we need to hurry and get ready to take care of it.”
When he saw Tauryon getting up, he asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes, yes, of course,” he said a bit sharply. “I won’t stand by while my companions run into battle.”
Rei smiled as he pulled on his leggings. “I’ll bet you were the perfect knight.”
“Well, most would tell you so until I helped lead the coup,” Tauryon smirked. “After that I was the perfect soldier for the Third Aldmeri Dominion.”
Once everyone was dressed, they went out into the cold night air. Rei shivered violently, wondering how he could have forgotten where they were. It was too late now, though. Everyone from the town was outside, it seemed, either running erratically here and there, screeching hysterically or standing, looking around the sky with their eyes squinted. Rei wondered why; it wasn’t as if dragons were hard to spot, but then he noticed what looked like an inky blot moving quickly across the sky. He knew immediately it was the dragon that had razed Helgen.
“It’s getting lower!” Delphine yelled over the commotion. “It’s headed for the burial mound!”
“Burial mound?” Rei asked.
“It’s behind the mine, up that hill. Come on!”
The townspeople seemed to scream in a collective at the dragon’s new proximity and fled into the inn.
Rei ran past Delphine up the hill, nocking an arrow as he went, just in time to see the pitch-black dragon descending towards a dirt mound surrounded by stones. Rei had seen cairns like this since coming to Skyrim, but he’d had no idea what they were.
“Why did you stop?” Delphine yelled. “Shoot it!”
Rei grabbed her by the collar and yanked her back as she ran forward, brandishing her sword. “No,” he said. “No, that’s not the dragon. Something tells me you’re about to get the answer you’ve been looking for.”
“What are you-”
The dragon hovered over the mound, but didn’t land. Instead, it looked at the dirt below it and shouted: “Sahloknir! Slen tiid vok!”
The group all nearly fell over at the power of the dragon’s Voice, but just as soon as the words left his mouth, he flew off, and the ground shook as dirt from the mound began to bulge.
“By the gods, you were right!” Delphine said.
A skeletal claw burst from the grave first, and Rei could see the nose of the skull just poking out while a second claw burst forth, and the skeleton began pulling itself up and out of its cairn in earnest.
“Alduin, thuri! Boaan tiid vokriiha suleyksejun kruziik?” the skeleton cried joyfully as it continued to pull itself out.
Nobody moved as they watched the grim spectacle. Rei swallowed, somehow uncomfortable with what was said. Like the word walls, he knew without knowing, and the name “Alduin” sounded unfortunately familiar.
Then, once it was free of its dirt prison, the companions shielded their eyes against the flames that seemed to consume the remains while bits and pieces seemed to materialize out of nowhere to cover it, making it whole again.
“I am Sahloknir,” the creature snarled as he continued to be constructed. “Hear my Voice and despair!”
“We’re not afraid of you, dragon!” Rei called.
“Aha, I see mortals have become arrogant while I slept. But you’re not just any mortal.”
“I am Dovahkiin!”
“Indeed. So this will be a real fight then. Good!”
Without hesitation, Rei initiated, gathering his strength and shouting, “Fus ro!”
Salokhnir recoiled a bit, but no more than Rei himself would have in a strong wind.
“What was that?” Delphine snapped.
Sahloknir laughed. It was slow and guttural. “As I expected.”
Rei saw the beast open its mouth and take a breath. Just as the Shout issued from its throat sending a jet of pure frost towards him and his party, Rei remembered, “Wuld!” and was on the other side of the cairn. He dropped his bow and grabbed his swords, jamming them into the side of the dragon’s tail.
Salokhnir screeched and spread his wings, taking flight and raining a trail of blood. Rei traded his swords for his bow once more, and this time Tauryon, Sabrael, and Vallinalda joined him. The sky was alight with Salokhnir’s frost, Sabrael’s glowing spears of ice, and the brilliant green of one of Tauryon’s inventions. He and Vallinalda fired arrow after arrow while Delphine simply stood watching, unable to help, apparently, as she wasn’t an archer, herself. Rei shook his head.
Eventually, after much dodging and leaping for cover, they had weakened Sahloknir enough to ground him, but, like the dragon in Whiterun, he wasn’t about to give up easily. Delphine was at least able to lend her aid now, and, Rei had to admit, she wasn’t bad. Still, as his lovers’ magicka dwindled, it was his blades that sank deep into the dragon’s throat, silencing it while he pulled them along to the chin. Sahloknir gasped and gurgled, trying to utter his final words before going limp.
For a moment, nothing happened, and a terrible fear gripped Rei’s heart that he wouldn’t be able to feel the power again, but soon enough flames began to consume the beast, and Rei was surrounded by light. It filled him head-to-toe, nestling in his core, coaxing a moan from him as suddenly the word from Ustengraav was made clear. He’d forgotten all about it in the turmoil following, but now the sudden knowledge of becoming an ethereal being entered his head.
“By the Eight,” he heard Tauryon say as he walked slowly and tiredly up to meet him. “What magnificence. That was its soul?”
Rei laughed, giddy from the absorption. “Yes, yes it was.”
“We did it!” Sabrael squeaked, throwing his arms around Rei’s waist.
“We did, beauty,” he answered, putting his arms around his two favorite people.
“That was incredible!” Vallinalda said. “I’ve been in battles that didn’t make me as fearful and full of excitement!”
Rei smiled and kissed her.
“She’s been in battles?” Delphine asked.
“I’m…a refugee,” she answered quickly. “From Alinor. I got tired of fleeing, though, so I did what I could to stop the, er. To stop the Thalmor.”
“I see. Good for you. Regardless, it is you, Rei Ginsei. You’re Dragonborn.”
Rei didn’t like the sudden tone of reverence she’d adopted, but he managed to keep from showing his disgust. “I am. And I think you have more that you need to tell me before we continue.”
Delphine took a deep breath. “You’ll have to excuse all my paranoia. I don’t hate the High Elves. I know you’re not all bad. You three seem fine, anyway. But I am one of the last members of an order called The Blades – dragon slayers sworn to serve the Dragonborn, the ultimate dragon slayer. Problem is, there hasn’t been a Dragonborn in two hundred years, so our position was given to the Penitus Oculatus as protectors of the Emperor, and we’ve been searching for a purpose ever since. Now we have one.”
It all came together, and Rei and Tauryon exchanged glances. “So why are you hiding?” Rei asked innocently.
“Do you honestly not know? I thought that one says she saw the Great War. I’m sure both of you did or at least know what happened.”
“Tauryon and I weren’t on Alinor during the purge. We stayed as far away from the violence as we could. Didn’t we, darling?”
“Oh…yes, yes, quite. It’s not in our blood.”
“Fair enough,” she said. “The Blades had seen the threat of the Thalmor before anybody. Nobody would listen to us. But unfortunately it seemed we were better warriors than infiltrators. We had every race you can imagine in our order, and so a number of the Bosmer and Khaji’it tried to take down the Thalmor from within, posing as soldiers. Well. You people must have a sixth sense for treachery – unsurprisingly – because every single one of our agents was sussed out and beheaded and sent with love and care to the Emperor. The heads were, I mean. And the rest is history.
“Ever since, those of us who survived the Thalmor onslaught scattered and went into hiding. So you’ll understand why I was a little wary of letting two of you into my inn.”
“Of course,” Rei said genially in spite of his offense. He felt someone, probably Sabrael, moving their hands down his tail to try and hide the fact that the fur had begun to stand on end. It wasn’t working, he knew, but it was the thought that counted.
“Actually,” Delphine said slowly, “One of the most prodigious elves involved with our murder was called Tauryon, as well.”
“All due respect, madam, ‘Tauryon’ is a fairly common name back on the Isles,” Tauryon offered kindly. “Besides, you see how old I am. Even thirty years ago I couldn’t possibly have had the fortitude to fight in a war, much less cause such numerous casualties.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Delphine said. “The Tauryon I’m thinking of was much too young.”
Rei was suddenly quite happy for his friend’s rapid ageing. “So what now?”
“We have to find out why the dragons are coming back right this moment, and I have a hunch the Thalmor are behind it.”
“What makes you think that?” Vallinalda piped up, perhaps a bit too defensively. Rei put a hand on her shoulder.
“Well, who stands to gain from Skyrim’s civil war, but the Thalmor? Throw some dragons into the mix, cause some chaos? All while they sit back and watch.”
“Not to offend,” Tauryon said, that noble sort of condescension seeping into his voice, “but how in Oblivion do you think a bunch of Altmer could raise dragons, or at least find one alive who would allow himself to be convinced to listen to them?”
“High Elves have magic you apparently wouldn’t believe.”
“But, in all fairness, I don’t know for sure. We’ll have to find a way to get into the Embassy, root around in their papers, see what we can find.”
Rei bit his lips in an attempt not to laugh and looked over at Tauryon, who was obviously fighting a smile.
“I certainly wouldn’t know how to accomplish something like that,” Tauryon said.
“It’ll be difficult, but just give me some time. I’m going to head back to the Sleeping Giant. Go see the Greybeards, if you’re determined to return the horn, and then come to Riverwood. That ought to give me plenty of time to plan.”
“Absolutely,” Rei said.
“I’m too worked up to sleep,” Delphine said. “I’m going to get my things and head home right now.”
“Brilliant idea,” Tauryon nodded. “The more time you have to think, the better.”
They watched as she ran up the inn steps, and as soon as the heavy wooden door closed behind her, Rei and Tauryon burst into laughter so hard they first had to hold onto each other and then fell to the ground.
“What’s so funny?” Sabrael asked.
“Yeah,” Vallinalda said. “I know this is all a scam, but I don’t see what’s funny about it.”
Rei grinned and leaned against his friend, while Vallinalda took an uneasy step back.
“Oh, but she’s just so clueless!” Tauryon crowed. “She’s just walking right into it, isn’t she?”
“So what do we actually know?” Vallinalda asked.
Tauryon sniffed and continued to chuckle. “Nothing about dragons, obviously. But I have an idea where we can find another Blade.”
“No!” Rei said.
“It might be bad information, but if we can keep stringing that one in there along, it might not even matter. Besides, that friend I told you about is in the same place. Two birds, and all that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Rulindil has been working a few of the less reputable citizens of Riften, trying to sniff out this other Blade, their loremaster, Esbern. If you think I’m old…”
“And you’d want to go anyway for your friend?” Rei asked.
“I’m staying with you, Celedaen. Sabrael. Whether either of you like it, or not. Tauryon Camorin and Celedaen Aedeus!”
“Heretics and those who roam free of the Empire’s grasp will fall before us like flies. And you, Celedaen, you will be one of us.”
Tauryon in a religious ecstasy was something to see. Rei turned his friend’s face roughly towards him, and they kissed deeply while they held each other tightly. Rei could feel Sabrael’s trepidation, and when they pulled away and he looked over, he could see Vallinalda was a more than a little unsettled, as well. They didn’t understand. He knew Tauryon had the lust; he just needed the right push and the right setting, and his conviction in the many and very real causes of the new Thalmor was the one that worked.
“I have some gems on me,” Tauryon whispered, his lips brushing against Rei’s as he spoke. “I’ll send for more come morning, and I’ll restart my regimen right now.”
“Oh, Tauryon,” Rei almost growled. “We have our second chance.”
They kissed again in the cold, forgetting their company as they began to neck in earnest and reveling in their scheme.
Muzzle by The Smashing Pumpkins
My life has been extraordinary,
Blessed and cursed and won.
Time heals, but I’m forever broken
By, and by the way,
Have you ever heard the words
I’m singing in these songs?
It’s for the girl I’ve loved all along.
Can a taste of love be so wrong?