Hey guys. Time for another Rei Ginsei chapter! This should be auto-published at 7am CST 10/05/18…it’s arbitrary, but, eh. This has been sitting and waiting to be published for a while, but I want to leave the computer alone for a while so I can try and ~*~convalesce~*~. I dunno why I’m typing this since if it doesn’t work y’all won’t know lol
Anyway. Sabrael and Vallinalda process what happened where the last chapter left off, and Rei finds out something about being Dragonborn that he wasn’t prepared to know…
Sabrael had trouble sleeping after witnessing his husband and his lover consumed by some strange ecstasy. He knew that feeling from Rei, and he knew that Tauryon did bad things, but he didn’t think Tauryon could share the same predatory lust that Rei did. It seemed like that’s what it was, anyway. He’d taken Vallinalda’s offered hand and let himself be led back into the inn, both of them apparently forgotten for the moment by the other two as Rei pinned Tauryon to the ground and kissed his neck.
“Are you going back to bed?” Vallinalda asked.
Sabrael thought a moment, ignoring Rei’s arousal as best as he could. “Yeah, I guess so. May as well catch up. I feel kinda gross when I’m woken up like that.”
“What about you?”
“Think I’m going to have a drink first. Help knock me out.”
There was a bit of an awkward pause, but Sabrael hugged her. She might not have been feeling out of sorts for the same reasons, but she was, nonetheless, and Sabrael knew that a hug could at least dull the nagging of most ills. Happily, she returned the gesture. “Good night, Sabrael,” she said, raising a hand.
“G’night,” he said, offering a smile before heading back to his room and undressing before getting into bed.
He lay there, wide awake, wondering what he would do when Rei and Tauryon came back. If he would pretend to be asleep, or be honest and see if anything had changed in their moods. Rei’s arousal was dulling, at least, and he seemed much calmer and less like that hyena that seemed to live inside him somewhere. He wished for the first time that he could feel Tauryon. He loved him, but not so much that he would try to soul bond with him. But after losing Scandalon, after being so despondent, now all of a sudden he seemed, well, like Rei.
He thought back to that night they’d first been intimate and the things Tauryon said when explaining his and Rei’s early relationship. He’d said he’d never made any romantic advances out of fear for his well-being, and Sabrael could believe that. But he didn’t go into too much detail about his role in Rei’s murders, only saying that Rei guarded the act of killing jealously as his right and that it didn’t bother him being left out of that aspect. But he was a soldier, and didn’t he say when they had first reunited that government-sanctioned violence was much easier for him to commit?
Sabrael bit his upper lip and hugged his knees to his chest.
Not too much time passed before he felt Rei’s emotions intensify just a bit, and he and Tauryon walked into their room. Rei could almost be described as being drunk, such that Sabrael had to shut his eyes tight against the headiness. Tauryon seemed to be in the same state. How, Sabrael couldn’t say. Could someone get so giddy they actually could be drunk?
“Where did I put that bag?” Tauryon asked quietly. “Gods, I hope we didn’t lose it when…”
“I think we got everything,” Rei said. “Here, is this it?”
“Brilliant, thank you.” There was a rustling and the tiny, delicate clinking of something like glass bottles. Potions? “…three, four, five…That’s enough to last me almost three weeks. It’s going to be a bit touch-and-go, I think, unless our couriers have learned to move faster than Vile could change his whims.”
“We’ll make it through. I gave my supply to Vile long before we ran into each other, unfortunately. You have the other things you mentioned, right? The lotions and such?”
“Oh, yes. They’ll have to do what they can on their own. May as well send for more of all that, as well. You wouldn’t believe this alchemist in Skywatch. She could turn a toad into a prince with just a splash of some tincture or another.”
Sabrael ventured to look over his shoulder and saw Tauryon pull a black soul gem from his small satchel. He closed his eyes and held the gem upright with his thumbs and forefingers on the points, his other six fingers held out to the side like wings. As he brought the gem up to his face Sabrael saw it glow a dull, deep purple, and lavender strands leaving it, enveloping and entering Tauryon’s head. Someone’s soul.
Sabrael turned his head away quickly.
“Sabrael?” Rei asked. “Sabrael, what’s wrong, beauty? I know you’re awake.”
He didn’t know how he could forget that Rei would be able to know, so he sat up to face them rather than try to be dishonest. “I-I don’t know what’s going on,” he said, feeling his throat tighten. “I don’t know what Tauryon meant outside. I don’t know why he seemed like you, Rei. And I don’t know what you just did, Tauryon, or why. Why take someone’s soul like that?”
The two mer looked at each other. Tauryon still looked very old, but he was somehow rejuvenated.
“Mer don’t live that long,” he said. “Rei sought his youth and immortality through Vile, and I sought mine through more traditional methods. Unfortunately those methods involve some measure of necromancy.”
“Who were they?”
“I don’t know, Sabrael. What I do know is the souls are voluntarily given in a sort of ritualistic fashion.”
“What does that mean?” Sabrael asked.
“There are those among us who, when they near death, seek a rather unique form of immortality. It is believed by them that in aiding one mer in their own quest for immortality, they not only live forever, but get a new, different life, as well.”
Sabrael narrowed his eyes. It seemed absurd, but Tauryon, he knew well enough, wasn’t given to lying, and if there was one thing he’d learned in his efforts to leave the archipelago, Altmer were not ones to stop at the absurd when it came to methods of eternal life.
“Does it work?” he asked.
Tauryon shrugged. “I don’t know that there’s any way to tell. I don’t have the voices of hundreds of different Altmer in my head, if that’s what you mean.”
Sabrael actually felt a single, mirthless laugh slip from his throat.
“What can we do, beauty?” Rei asked. “We didn’t mean to upset you. Or Vallinalda.”
“It was just weird. One moment, Tauryon, you’re so sad I worried for you, and the next, you’re talking about being alive again and murdering people. You sounded like Rei did when he first got his soul back.”
“Little one, I-” Tauryon began before cutting himself off, unsure of what to say. “You don’t understand. The Blades are dangerous people.”
“When the last Dragonborn died, they were replaced by the Penitus Oculatus, and no longer had purpose. No dragons to slay, no emperor to protect. They holed up until we began our movement. I suppose they were bored, because they, as Delphine said, saw us as a threat and tried to infiltrate our ranks as if we wouldn’t notice a bevy of new people show up out of nowhere. The Academy had been established; I don’t know why they thought just sticking people into different units where they call roll was the smart thing.
“In any case, the fact of the matter is what few Blades remain want to kill as many of us as they can, and their dwindling number means they’re going after the higher-ranking officers, the heroes, our Lord and Lady. We can’t let that happen, not after all that we’ve sacrificed, and the Blades, who roam the land outside the scope of Imperial law, can do what they will.”
“Even if they kill you or Elenwen or-”
“There may be some form of show,” Tauryon sniffed derisively, “being that we are guests and ostensibly making a token effort to play nicely with the other children, or maybe they would be justly hanged, but regardless, they are Blades, and Blades are not part of the Empire, and they do not fear retaliation for the murders of our people. I’m sure they’d not turn down martyrdom, though.”
Sabrael looked down at his hands as he fidgeted. He didn’t know any of that. He didn’t know how much to believe, or rather, who was the righteous actor. Tauryon did bad things to people, both now and in the past. He’d told him that, that very first night, even if he brushed it aside as philosophical things best saved for later. Why would Tauryon have done that, at all, if the cause wasn’t a good one and he felt as such? But then, why would one of these Blades commit murder, even if it meant being murdered, themselves? Why did this have to be so confusing? In the sea there were no politics or wars. He wasn’t an Altmer, or any other Tamrielic race; how was he supposed to know all the intricacies of these things?
He felt Rei’s arms around him. He felt Rei’s sympathy, and that helped.
“I know all this is confusing,” Rei said, “and I understand why you were unsettled. Tauryon and I, we’re not old enough to have witnessed the subjugation of our people, but there were naturally long-lived mer among us who had. It was a cowardly thing, using a brass construct to slaughter our people out of nowhere, giving us no chance to fight back or do anything but surrender.
“We didn’t want to be part of the Empire. Nords and others can celebrate his efforts towards harmony and uniting Tamriel or such nonsense, but at the end of the day, all he did was stomp on his enemies while keeping as far a distance himself as he could. Do you understand why Tauryon and I have such strong feelings now?”
“I do,” Sabrael said.
“Vallinalda and her peers – they may have seen the Great War and all the battles in-between, but she’s sixty, if she’s a day. The farther out a generation is from the source, the looser the connection. You’ll have the odd one with the fire Tauryon and I have, but for the most part, to them, they’re simply fighting for honor, for our freedom, and a nebulous sense of revenge.”
“We hammer that need for revenge into them as hard as we can,” Tauryon added, “but Celedaen is correct. How do you feel proper righteous fire when you haven’t seen an Altmer with a face melted by flame she did nothing to deserve, or one who’s lame from a broken…from a broken shin that didn’t get healed quickly enough in the aftermath?”
Sabrael sniffed and felt tears in his eyes. What would happen if someone had done that to his collective of Kelpies?
“But we shouldn’t revel in our closeness to justice,” Rei granted.
“I understand why you do, though. Maybe it’s okay to do.”
“That’s a subject with many different facets, my dear,” Tauryon said, “and I’m much too tired for philosophy. Let us get what sleep we can. Celedaen wishes to visit the Greybeards.”
“I wanna sleep next to Rei,” he said.
And so he lay there, Rei in the place of where Tauryon was earlier. Rei’s arm was wrapped around him, with his hand against his chest. He closed his eyes and tried to quiet his thoughts. Thinking of the blue sea and the kelp and the fish. Thinking of paddling idly around with his friends.
It seemed that, at least if they weren’t lulling him to sleep, the calm those thoughts imparted were certainly working on Rei. It didn’t take him long to fall asleep, at all. Sabrael tried just erasing his mind and everything in it. He tried slowing his breathing even further, but nothing was working. How much time had passed, anyway? An hour? Two? The sky outside the window was still dark, but only just. He carefully slid out from under his husband’s arm, biting his lip nervously, but Rei only pulled his arm to himself and turned onto his stomach.
Sabrael put on his linen pajama pants and walked out into the tavern. Some warm milk might help. If someone was still awake, like Vallinalda apparently was.
“I guess the drink didn’t help you sleep?” he asked as he joined her at the table.
She smiled a bit and looked into her flagon. “Honey usually puts me down like nothing else. For hours. This is, er, was my second. At least things are fuzzy now.”
After a moment Sabrael saw a man approaching. The woman from earlier must have been in bed. “Can I getcha anything?” he asked enthusiastically.
“Just some warm milk with honey?” he asked. “Please?”
“How are you feeling?” Vallinalda asked. Her speech was a bit slower than usual. Not slurry like Rei would get, but Sabrael figured she was only a drink away from that. “You look like you’re trying to burn a hole in the table with your eyes.”
“Oh. I’m trying not to think about earlier. I’m trying not to feel. Rei doesn’t sleep as well as I do, and if I feel too much I’ll wake him.”
“Does he get upset?”
Sabrael looked at her properly and saw the flicker of concern in her eyes. “Oh! Oh no, no, nothing like that. I just wouldn’t want to, that’s all. He needs his sleep, even if I can’t get any.”
“Can I ask you something?” Vallinalda asked.
“How does that bond of yours work?”
“Oh. I dunno if I can say exactly how, but we share an empathetic bond. We feel what the other feels. If he’s sad, I feel sad, even if I was happy before. Often we have several emotions mingling together, and we can always tell which one belongs to who. Sometimes we have more physical things that go with them. If we hurt physically, the one who’s not can feel the pain to some extent.”
“Interesting,” she said. “I wish I could experience that, if only to just say I could.”
Sabrael shrugged. “It’s not always very fun. Rei’s feelings can get exhausting, especially when he’s upset. His mind races, and I can feel all those emotions switching back and forth. Rei had a very hard time adjusting to it, too, and that was scary and tiring.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, he didn’t have his soul when we found each other, and when we’re close, he essentially gets part of his soul back, which is what bonds us and gives us this ability,” Sabrael explained. “He’d been without his soul – his emotions – for so long that they were almost painful to him, and having mine on top of them was unbearable.”
“I can’t even imagine,” Vallinalda said. There was another one of those awkward pauses while she fidgeted with her flagon and her cheeks flushed. “What’s he like?”
Sabrael cleared his throat and looked down as a cup of sweetened milk was placed in front of him. Based on everything he knew about Vallinalda, he figured this was the alcohol more than anything making her ask. “Thank you,” he said.
“Let me know if you need anything else.”
“Rei…Rei’s kind of scary,” he admitted. “When he’s nice, he’s the best thing in all the world, but he turns. You have to watch what you say a lot, because he’ll think you’ve betrayed him somehow. And he’s bloodthirsty, and that’s the scariest part.”
“I’m a soldier, Sabrael,” Vallinalda said, “I’ve seen-”
“No you haven’t,” Sabrael insisted, looking her straight in the eye. “And you might think Ondolemar was bad, but I’d say Rei can be just as bad, or worse. He smells blood like a wolf does, and when he’s left on his own, or when he doesn’t care, he does awful things to the people he murders. It’s kind of a sexual thing, he likes it so much.”
“He murders people?”
“Bad people now, people who kill innocents, but it wasn’t always that way. When he was young he and Tauryon would plan kidnappings and murders of innocent people.”
Vallinalda clutched her flagon.
“He’s trying to change, though,” Sabrael said quickly, “Rei is, and he’s doing a good job! He does it for me.”
“So that outside,” Vallinalda said, “that was them…properly reuniting.”
“I guess so.”
“Ondolemar studied Rei, but he never once mentioned Captain Camorin.”
Sabrael shrugged again. “Tauryon says he never actually committed any murders, himself; he was just a scout. And Rei left the island before Tauryon ever did, and that’s when the murders stopped.”
Vallinalda took a deep breath.
“I know you were hoping to hear all the good things,” Sabrael said. “I’m sorry, I just don’t talk to many people outside Rei. None that I trust, anyway. It just all came out.”
“It’s okay. Why do you love him?”
Sabrael swallowed and looked back and forth, searching his mind for words. “I don’t know,” he said finally. “I don’t mean that there’s no reason, it’s just something that is. He’s handsome and always was. And when he’s feeling good, he can be so soft. He always protects me. He’s terrified of water, but he braved a stormy sea to rescue me when Clavicus Vile was trying to kill us all. He stood up to my brother, who can also be kinda scary. He’s just my Rei Ginsei, and even if he has scary flaws, I would never ask for anything more.”
“Maybe one day I’ll find a man like that,” Vallinalda sighed. “Maybe without the violence. If I can ever fall for a man who’s not attached to another man.”
Sabrael giggled uncomfortably.
“I have a sixth sense, Sabrael, you don’t understand,” she laughed. “I can find all the people in the world who I’m fine just fucking once in a blue moon, but the ones I’d actually want to be with prefer men.”
“Rei said you, um…”
“Oh,” she said uneasily. “Yeah, yeah we did. But he’s married to you, he’s got Captain Camorin, and I think he’d like me more if I had a dick, anyway.”
Sabrael actually laughed this time, and it felt good. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly.
“Don’t be, it was funny,” she smirked. “It’s true though, isn’t it? I mean, I’ve got a girlfriend also in the ranks who likes men, but she’ll be with another girl now and again. Nothing wrong with it, but preferences are preferences.”
Sabrael turned his head as he heard the door to their room opening. Rei was walking out in his favorite silk pants. They were Sabrael’s favorite, too, since they sat so low on his hips they made his torso seem that much longer and gave him just the tiniest peek of his pubic hair. He was rubbing his eyes, but he was feeling good. Calm. Happy, but not maniacally so.
” ‘Morning,” he said, leaning down to hug him from behind. “There was a little Kelpie out here laughing. Do you know where he might be?”
Sabrael giggled and sighed. “I dunno. Maybe a kiss would help my memory?”
“If you insist.”
Sabrael leaned his head back to make it easier for his husband to kiss him properly.
“Perhaps it was you? I’d know that kiss anywhere.”
“Stop it,” he laughed as Rei took a seat and welcomed him into his lap. Rei was still clearly riding whatever strangeness he was on last night, but it was tolerable. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“Well, it was a bit of a shock to see you gone, but the sun’s up.”
Sabrael looked out the windows lining the uppermost part of the inn’s walls, and indeed, that indigo that was only just beginning to fade had given way to a blushing sort of orange. “I guess it was later than I thought when I got up.”
“No matter. I’m just glad to feel you happy. Could you not sleep Nalda?”
She shook her head. “I guess seeing a dragon and fighting it rattles the nerves a bit.”
Sabrael felt Rei’s conflict, and he wondered on it until Rei said, “I know Tauryon and I upset you.”
” ‘Upset’ is a bit strong,” she smiled uneasily. “It was just strange, is all. Captain Camorin has never been what I would call stoic, and I have heard him give speeches with no shortage of passion, but he seemed a bit, um. Transported.”
“We’re just excited, me and him, that’s all,” Rei said.
Sabrael sighed and nestled into Rei’s arms, trying very hard not to think on the conversation they all had earlier.
“Well,” Vallinalda said with an odd finality. “Since I didn’t get any sleep, I may as well take a bath. I feel like I wallowed in a dirt pile.”
“Better than another kind of pile, I guess,” Rei said.
She laughed. “Good point.”
Sabrael saw him wink at her, watched her blush and then walk up to the bar to order hot water for her bath.
“What’s on your mind, beauty?” Rei asked. “You’re curious.”
“I…” Sabrael began before stopping, wondering if it was his place to say anything, at all. “Did you know Vallinalda might, you know, be in love with you?”
“Infatuated, you mean. And infatuated is what she means. It seems women like to do that when I give them attention. I don’t say that to brag, either. It’s not like I ask for it.”
“You kissed her the other day when you came to be with me while I swam.”
“She’s attractive, and she wanted to kiss,” Rei said defensively. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Do you have feelings for her, yourself?”
“Outside the very barest friendship? No. And don’t ask me that like you wouldn’t know. If I fell in love with everything that gave me a hard-on I’d be married to everything but the washtub.”
“I just mean, maybe you shouldn’t be fooling around with her and flirting,” Sabrael said. “It’s great and all to have some fun, but if she’s got serious feelings for you, you know she’s bonding every time you’re close that way.”
Rei sighed slowly. He was irritated. “Look, beauty, she and I spoke about this the other day. She knows the situation. She knows I don’t feel that way.”
“But you could get her hopes up. I mean, it’s one thing to play with your cock, but what if you have sex with her? I had a kind of unusual friend back in the sea who mated with someone she wanted to be her partner, but he didn’t like her back that way. It was tolerable at first, when they just flirted and did other things, but when they finally mated she nearly went crazy when he still didn’t respond the way she was hoping he would.”
“That’s about the way it goes here, too,” Rei said, “but Vallinalda’s not that way. Goodness.”
“How do you know? And how have you not been in this situation?”
“Is that a question you really want an answer to?”
Sabrael closed his mouth and thought. “I can probably guess the answer.”
“Probably,” Rei said. “I’ll be careful with her, okay? I’ll talk to her later and make absolutely sure she knows what’s going on.”
“Okay,” Sabrael nodded. “Thank you. I know this wasn’t a conversation you wanted to have, especially not first thing in the morning.”
“It’s fine. And you’re right. I’m sorry I got annoyed, I know it made you afraid.”
“It did, but, all this shows me you’re still trying.”
Rei hugged him close. “As hard as I can, I promise.”
“It’s rather beautiful up here, isn’t it?” Tauryon observed as they hiked up the alleged Seven Thousand Steps to reach the Greybeards’ monastery. “Far too cold for the likes of us who aren’t blessed with a Kelpie’s blood.”
Sabrael giggled, and Rei smiled at the sound. “It’s fine if you don’t look down or to the side,” he said.
“Ah. My apologies, Celedaen, I wasn’t intending to be insensitive.”
“It’s fine. Heights aren’t as much of a fear these days as they are a source of nausea.”
“The depth and distance play havoc with my eyes,” Rei explained. “It’s one thing on the ground when I don’t have to look down, but the height, it makes things a bit confusing.”
“The daylight hurts my left eye and makes things rather dark while my right sees perfectly. So it’s a bit like closing one eye and losing your sense of depth, and then somehow still seeing two completely different images.”
“So that’s how it works,” Vallinalda said. “I had a hunch, but I didn’t want to be rude.”
Rei chuckled. “It’s annoying when you’re outside in the daytime and are used to firing a bow with both eyes open, and it’s a bit of a conundrum when you like the sun but it causes pain in one eye. I’ve learned to like the darkness a lot more than I used to back home.”
“I see,” she said.
“So to speak.”
The others laughed. Rei thought on Sabrael’s words. He was right, he supposed; it wouldn’t be right to do something that might make people with infatuation hopeful. He tended to kill them once he’d gotten what he wanted (gods, did those days seem so far away), and thus never had to worry about unwanted attachments. There were instances of him purposely leading people on, even after being intimate, but he didn’t figure they counted. Especially since he usually killed them, too, once he was done with them. But the lesson, he reminded himself, was that leading Vallinalda on – even if he wasn’t doing it maliciously – would hurt her, and he certainly didn’t wish to do that, not to the woman who’d kept watch over his kirin and who had the patience to hear his problems without trying to fix them. To fix him. She simply clarified things.
Before giving him the best handjob he’d ever received. He let himself hang back a bit to discreetly adjust his leggings. Sabrael looked back and grinned, and Rei took a few longer strides to catch up and scooped him up in his arms, his kirin’s knees draped over one while he supported his back with the other. He noticed Tauryon look back and smirk while he gently pushed Vallinalda forward with his fingers between her shoulder blades.
“Gosh, you’re worked up,” Sabrael whispered so quietly Rei wasn’t sure he could hear him. “I can hardly walk.”
“I know it, sweetheart,” Rei whispered back as he hung back once again, trying to flex his muscles to hold back while he walked. “Think we can last until we get to the monastery?”
“Maybe. Maybe our thoughts and feelings might get the better of us.”
“We’re almost there, but let’s just see.”
Rei adjusted his hold so that Sabrael’s legs were around his waist and kissed him hard. He saw Vallinalda look back, only to quickly look back ahead when she realized she’d been seen. He knew he shouldn’t, but he smirked a bit as his penis throbbed hard against his leggings. Did she know they were essentially making love? Did she think it was just innocent teasing?
“Oh Rei,” Sabrael breathed. “Oh, it’s like you’ve been starving.”
“Always for you, sweetheart,” he panted around their kisses as he let their arousal twine together, making each other stronger and stronger. “I love feeling your lust.”
“Yours is so strong! I’ve never come without being touched before, but I’m about to…”
Rei forced his legs forward as his thighs started to quiver. His balls were so tight they ached, and the wonderful tingling began working through his body. “Beauty,” he whispered as quietly as he could. “My sweet Sabrael…”
His kirin pressed his face against his neck suddenly, biting down on his heavy coat to keep quiet as he burst with nearly unbearable intensity.
The warmth of Rei’s passion was more intense in the cold, and it made his orgasm that much more pleasurable as he pulsed and throbbed in his deerhide prison. And here was Sabrael coming again! And he held him more tightly as he continued to twitch, blowing hard one last time just before he’d completely softened.
“That was amazing,” Sabrael breathed quietly.
“First moment we get I need to fuck you into next week,” Rei growled.
Sabrael giggled. “I like when you talk to me that way. All dirty and kinda forceful.”
“You know, I think when you were telling Ondolemar off might have been the first time I’d never heard you hesitate before saying a sexual word.”
“Heat of the moment,” he smiled. “But when you talk rough like that I get all wiggly in the knees.”
Rei chuckled and kissed him. “Come on, sweetheart. We’re being left behind.”
He let him down and took his hand as they jogged to catch up. A difficult task, to be sure, with the height difference. It felt so nice to just be with Sabrael again, with no need to split his time. Anyone could make him come, but only Sabrael could claim his place as the one Rei loved more than anyone. The only one apart from Tauryon he could ever love, at all, he imagined. Only Sabrael could love him in the way he’d wanted as a young man.
Soon they were at the foot of the monastery. More, fresher things had been laid at the shrine since Rei and Sabrael had first come here, making Rei wonder on the traffic that stopped by, traffic that wondered if their offerings would be accepted by the monks cloistered inside. Rei put his hand on his satchel, suddenly unsure if the horn was still there. He had been afraid, initially, that it was going to be a ram’s horn. A part of Vile. He hated that he still pined for him, even if it was only in short bursts here and there. He wondered about the dream where Barbas visited him and shook his head. Barbas couldn’t dreamstride.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts.
“You’re afraid,” Sabrael said.
“It’s nothing,” he lied while his stomach tied itself in knots. He wished it wouldn’t. The mirror effect, feeling his own discomfort bounce back from Sabrael, created an unpleasant loop, and he tried as hard as he could to stop it. He felt his kirin’s attempts at comfort, though, walking with his arms around Rei’s waist.
“Well isn’t this a cheery structure,” Tauryon observed as they ascended the steps leading to the door. “I worry you’ve taken us to a den of vampires.”
Rei laughed. “You know I don’t let others do my dirty work.”
Tauryon looked back and smiled. Rei caught up and kissed him. He saw Vallinalda turn her head away, biting one side of her lower lip. He wasn’t sure if he should kiss her, too, so that she wouldn’t feel left out, but both that option and doing nothing seemed like actions that would wind up backfiring in some way. He sighed through his nose. Wrong or not, part of what he missed most about Vile was the structure and lack of conflict.
He led his companions through the heavy door and into the soothing dimness. He and his fellow Altmer gathered around a lit and properly flaming brazier almost immediately, while he felt Sabrael’s amusement.
“I still don’t understand how you could have lived in that part of the world and have such a tolerance for cold,” Rei said.
“We’re water elementals,” Sabrael shrugged. “Ice is water but solid. There are probably Kelpies around here, too, more adapted than I am.”
“Wouldn’t that be a lovely sight,” Vallinalda said, nearly dreamily. “Your kind are so beautiful in your natural forms, as I’ve recently come to find.”
Rei chuckled as he felt his kirin’s bashfulness flare.
“Rei Ginsei,” he heard Arngeir call from across the large foyer. “You’ve returned. Do you have the horn?”
“I do,” Rei said, shedding his coat and scarf and pulling the artifact from its temporary home in his satchel. “Here. I went through quite the ordeal to obtain it, to be honest, but I have it, and I give it to you.”
“Most excellent, Dragonborn. Ordeals aren’t always bad things, in the end. They test our will and our strength.”
“I couldn’t have done it without my husband. Without Vallinalda and Tauryon.”
“There is certainly no shame in companionship. Now, the others are gathering for your third and final trial. I hate to send your companions back out into the cold, but it is absolutely imperative that they be outside these walls, lest they face grave injury our outright death.”
Rei looked over and saw Tauryon and Vallinalda widen their eyes in disbelief. Sabrael understood, although Rei felt his uneasiness as the last time he’d only been asked to move to another part of the monastery.
“What does that mean?” Tauryon demanded. “Why should we leave Celedaen…Rei…why should we leave him here to be torn asunder? What are you going to do?”
“Calm yourself,” Arngeir said somewhat impatiently. “The third trial determines absolutely his status as Dragonborn. He must weather the combined magnitude of our Voices. Only a person with the blood of a dragon can withstand that force. Any lesser being would perish nearly instantly.”
“So there is still doubt?” Tauryon persisted. “I will not leave his side.”
“Tauryon, please,” Rei said, turning to him and putting a hand on his cheek. “You know I am Dragonborn. You’ve seen with your own eyes. I’ll be alright, my lovely. Please just wait outside. I’m sure this will only be a moment.”
“He’s heard them shout before,” Sabrael offered. “He’ll be okay, Tauryon, I promise.”
Tauryon’s eyes were ablaze and dangerous. Rei brushed his lips with his.
The old mer took a deep breath. “If you should harm him in any way, I promise that I will make you suffer before tearing each one of you limb from limb.”
Arngeir only bowed.
“Come, Vallinalda. Sabrael,” he said. “We will leave them to their ritual.”
“I’ll be alright,” Rei assured him again. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Celedaen.”
Sabrael hugged him tightly. “You’re Dragonborn, Rei Ginsei. I’ll make sure everyone’s relaxed. Even if I’m a little worried, too.”
“I know you will, beauty. I’ll be out in a moment.”
Once the dull echo of the door closing had dissipated, Rei turned to see the other three, silent Greybeards had taken places at the corners of a large square stone that decorated the center of the foyer.
“Now,” Arngeir said, “Stand there in the middle. We shall perform the rite which will formally recognize you as Dragonborn, should you survive.”
Rei obeyed, swallowing as Arngeir took his place on the square. The monks all raised their arms, palms up, towards him, and in a second his head was pounding as if he were being assaulted with warhammers. It was certainly unpleasant, and despite losing his balance as the ground shook beneath him, he resisted the urge to cover his ears. There was far too much reverb for him to make out exactly what they were chanting, but it certainly wasn’t Tamrielic. He suspected, given everything else, that they were addressing him in the dragon tongue. But there were words that properly stood out: Kyne…Shor…Atmora…and Ysmir? The sentence with “Ysmir” stood out in a way that was odd and disturbing.
Finally the noise stopped. His heart was racing, and his ears were ringing terribly, to say nothing of the splitting headache he’d developed.
“Dragonborn,” Arngeir said, “you have heard the Voice of the Greybeards and have come through unscathed.”
“I don’t know about that,” Rei said. “I feel I didn’t handle that very gracefully.”
“I would be surprised if you had. You have not built up your tolerance, and you’ve not had a chance to. If you are willing, as you have succeeded in all three trials, High Hrothgar, and all the knowledge herein, is open to you.”
Rei bowed slightly. “Thank you, Master Arngeir.”
“It is an honor to know you, Rei Ginsei.”
“Before I go, what did you mean when you said that I am Ysmir?”
“You understood that,” Arngeir said, somewhat amused. “It means that you are the Dragon of the North.”
“I realize this must be difficult, as a High Elf.”
Rei put his pounding forehead in his hand. The ringing was mercifully lessening. “So it’s literal, then. I’m Tiber Septim?”
“You are an aspect of him. Of Talos.”
Rei’s stomach sank to the floor. How could he live with himself? So very many years priding himself on his lineage, despising the Empire as any proper Altmer should, and now he should learn he was an aspect of the very man who caused all that anguish and loss of life. The man worshiped by heathens as a god. A false god whose influence was being slowly eradicated by the Thalmor.
Tauryon could never find out. Nobody could. He had never read much about dragons or the history surrounding them. He knew of Tiber Septim’s dragon blood, but he didn’t know that that blood could be shared. He guessed Tauryon didn’t, either. Something they had rejoiced in as wonderful irony was something filthy and tainted. He felt filthy and tainted.
“Thank you, Master Arngeir,” he managed, trying to hold back those hot, angry tears. “I need to go.”
Arngeir nodded. “Remember, Rei Ginsei, that you are who you have always been. This knowledge hasn’t changed anything.”
“But it has. How can I face my best friend?”
“In the same way you always have. I understand you feel like a hypocrite, but even if you had never learned of this gift, nothing about you would be different. You didn’t ask for this. You never wanted this knowledge before you knew it was there. But you were given this gift for a reason. It is up to you to figure out how best to use it.”
Rei nodded slowly.
“Safe travels, Dragonborn,” Arngeir said. “Return to us should you ever wish to seek guidance.”
“Thank you,” he answered quietly before donning his coat and scarf.
He heaved open the door and stepped outside, wincing at the sun and the cold that assaulted his face.
“Rei, what’s wrong?” Sabrael asked, running to him and throwing his arms around him.
Rei didn’t answer. He couldn’t. His throat was too tight.
“We were really worried!” Vallinalda said. “Sabrael suddenly felt pain in his head and said it was yours. What happened?”
“Celedaen,” Tauryon said quietly, putting his hand on Rei’s cheek. “They hurt you. What did they do to you?”
Rei looked into those precious green eyes. Eyes he’d fallen in love with those centuries ago. He couldn’t know. He couldn’t find out. Although maybe it would be for the best if he did and killed him right there.
“Rei, please,” Sabrael said. “I know your head hurts, but I’ve never felt you so sad and upset. That hurts worse. It feels like my chest is going to collapse.”
Rei looked down at him. Sabrael’s cheeks were wet. His kirin wouldn’t judge him. But maybe he needed judgment. The books he’d read on daedra said that Azura’s wrath is swift, but perhaps she was angrier with him than he’d thought. Maybe he’d been diverted again somehow. He looked back into Tauryon’s eyes, and everything seemed to crumble. He threw the arm that wasn’t holding Sabrael around his dear friend’s shoulders and buried his face in the soft scarf wrapped around his neck as he let everything out, sobbing uncontrollably and grateful to feel Tauryon hold him back and leaning his head against his.
“You’re never going to love me again,” he cried. “You will kill me, and you would be right to do it.”
“What in Oblivion are you talking about?” Tauryon asked.
“I’m Dragonborn, Tauryon. I’m Dragonborn and everything that title carries.”
“What does that mean?” he heard Vallinalda ask. “You knew you were Dragonborn. We all did.”
“I can’t,” he sobbed. “I can’t. I’m everything that I hate.”
He moved his head and saw her take a small, tentative step, and he moved his other arm from Sabrael’s back and welcomed her into their collective embrace.
“Celedaen,” Tauryon said, “there is nothing in this world that could make me want to kill you short of needing to defend myself or Sabrael, and that’s not ever going to happen again. Come on, now, darling. The day is on its way out. Let’s go back to the inn, have some drinks and some food. Get you into a nice hot bath. I’ve got lavender oil. I’ll make things better. Alright?”
Rei took a shuddering breath and nodded before pulling away. “I’m sorry about your scarf,” he said as he saw the residuals of his fit glisten in the sunlight.
“That’s what we have washtubs for, don’t you worry. You’ve raised horses; you know this is barely anything.”
Rei smiled weakly.
“We all love you, Rei,” Sabrael said, taking his head away from its spot nuzzling Rei’s solar plexus. “And that’s not ever gonna change.”
“Absolutely not,” Tauryon said. “Let’s go, then. The cold isn’t doing my joints any favors.”
He moved back to pick his husband up and held him close. Then he looked to Vallinalda and held out his right hand and held it for a little while as they all descended the Seven Thousand Steps.