November, 707 CR
—torn asunder. Torn through and splattered across a timeless eternity. Ripped—
And then Yvarra— no, Sarpadon was sitting in a luxuriously appointed room, free of pain.
That, more than anything made Sarp— Yvarra relax into comfort. Luxurious wondrous comfort without the pain that had been her, his companion for so long. The pain of whipping, the pain of battle, the pain of knife and sword wounds. So much pain—
"And now it's time to discuss payment."
Yvarra opened her, his eyes, too luxuriously free of pain to move otherwise. The voice was from long in the past, almost forgotten. It was that of the Lady Tarathana that had hired her, him only— only five months ago? Was it only five months?
"Great deeds never take as long as they seem to in the sagas."
Yvarra watched as the Lady Tarathana sat down on a luxurious padded chair in front of a window through which sunlight streamed. Just like she had before. The brilliant light turned her into a silhouette of shadow and soft angles, shimmered through her pale blue dress and amongst the find strands of her golden hair. And it hid her face.
She, he, realized that she, he'd never seen her face. Ever.
The room was the same as when she'd hired her— him.
Moving slowly, afraid to move any faster and give up the sensation of no pain, he looked down at his old body, male, human. Scarred. Craggy. Full of selfishness and foolish pride. And—
And she realized that this wasn't her anymore.
Uncomfortable in her old body, she forced the dismay from her face. Always bargain from strength, and somehow she knew that she was about to make the most important bargains of her life. Trying to relax she looked around the room, peering from beneath the rim of her fedora. Here was where it'd all begun. Where she'd told her so few truths, and so many lies, and started her on her journey to redemption.
Or had this Lady? She had to know, even though it weakened her position. But then, there were things more important than personal gain. She knew that now. "What happened? Am I dead? Is— is Ansela dead?"
Lady Tarathana cocked her head. "Maybe you have learned something. They say soul follows form— You won. As I knew you would."
"Don't thank me!"
She blinked. "Klepnos—?"
"In the soul so to speak."
She's suspected that Lady Tarathana had been more than she'd seemed. Maybe a Glimmer, or a Devas or on the outside an Archon, but one of the actual Daedra lords? "I— I—"
"The Titan is back in his dreaming prison. The cult is destroyed for another millennium. Kyia didn't have to take direct action so Metamor hasn't been blasted from the face of the world. Everything is back to the way it should be."
She relaxed. She'd saved the world. Everybody was safe. Ansela was safe. But, who was— "Kyia?"
"The eternal guardian of Metamor. She guards the gate you closed, and other things I can't talk about."
"Even us Gods have rules."
She blinked. Now that the important thing was done, she wanted answers! "Rules? Well, I take it your rules include getting out of our deal."
"Then I'll just let you die and you won't be my problem."
"But you haven't. What is it with you, anyway?" She remembered the thing's last pitiful pleads to not be imprisoned alone. "You're painted as evil, and then you send me to do your dirty work of saving the world. What did that thing ever do to you anyway? Towards the end it was begging—"
The Lady Tarathana, Kelpnos, sighed. "Nothing he did. We were jealous of them, so we fought them and imprisoned them. Each alone. And it drove them into what you would call madness. If they get out, they'll destroy the worlds. Our sin, and thus we're cursed to watch them for the rest of time."
She wanted to stand up, but she was still enthralled by the lack of pain. "So you use me to do the dirty work to cover your sins."
Lady Tarathana burst to her feet, still silhouetted in the warm sunlight. "Who are you to judge us?"
"The one who saved your behind!"
"Saved? You didn't save us! You simply saved yourself, and the insignificant mortals! You were the backup, Kyia was the failsafe!"
"Fine! I did that. You hired me, you sent me into the wolf's den, and I did what you needed me to do. So—"
The divinity's voice was calm again. "So. What now? You will be paid, I promised. And paid you will be. The question is how."
Forcing down the fear, Yvarra, slowly moved one hand, and then the other. No pain. A wonderful delirious happiness of painlessness. "As I recalled, you offered me a significant sum of wealth."
"And do you want wealth?"
"I—" She didn't know anymore. What did she want?
"I can give you wealth. I can cure the curse—"
"I was told that there was no cure."
"He offered his followers a cure. And, I can cure you. Or, do you doubt my word?"
"Do I?" She scratched her head, feeling the cold flesh, the flat skull. Her body, her soul ached as she realized, she knew, her alicorn was gone. Sacrificed to the greater need. But gone. "You said you were bound by rules too. And, if the Gods could cure, why not the priests?"
"Because they aren't allowed to! Eli got an exception, a measure of control, but that's it! That's—"
"Not allowed to—"
Lady Tarathana, Klepnos, sighed. "I can give you more wealth than even you can spend. I can restore your humanity, your maleness, and transport you far, far away from Metamor."
"Everything I wanted—" She felt the painful protrusion between her legs and knew that she wanted gone.
She motioned to her male human body. "And why am I like this? Is this my soul, shielded from the curse. Or a trick? I worshipped you, in a sense, but I think I've learned much. And, I've always known of your reputation as a trickster. Now— I think it might be time for us to part ways—"
"Why not? I'm here, I'm your prisoner. But, you should know me well enough to know that I do not bow to authority. That much of me is still Sarpadon. I— I want to go back."
Disbelief filled her voice. "You want to return to being female. To being weak?"
"I want what I earned! I want— I—" Yvarra bowed her human head. A last chance. And yet— it didn't fit. It wasn't her anymore! She remembered thoughts, suspicions. "Maybe— maybe it's something you did. I adjusted to my body, my gender, almost instantly. I don't know how common that is — I'm pretty sure you had something to do with it. I can't complain, it kept me alive. It saved the world— or at least did so in a way that minimized damage." She remembered the thing's last cries, its begging— And yet, yet—
"You're right. I helped. Gave you the basic skills because there was no time. I— tweaked the curse a bit. You were fated to become female, but you needed to become unicorn. It was— easier to combine the two. And— I gave little nudges. Too small to be noticed, to attract attention. Some luck, energy when you needed it—"
"The strength that filled me at the end."
The god nodded.
"I—" He lowered his head and his voice. "I want you to return me. Back into my body. Back—"
"What if that body is dead?"
Yvarra gasped. Could it be. She remembered the pain. The mind searing mind stabbing pain as her essence was hacked from her. But it closed the gate, that was all that mattered. It closed the gate, or so Klepnos said. And, why would he lie about that?
If her body, her true body was dead. Then— did she want to live? Live as male? Take back the life she'd had before? Friendless. Selfish. Short sighted and cold.
She swallowed. "I— If the body is dead, then let me die with it. This— this isn't me any more."
Slowly Klepnos clapped her hands and nodded. "You've exceeded my hopes."
"Silly mortal." I could see her forcing down the urge to pat me on my head as she sat in front of the window. "You call us evil, and others good. We're not. You fit us into your definitions because that's all you can do. And, we let you because your belief gives us more strength than we ever had before. You define us, put us into boxes that are only a fraction of what we are. Remember that, as it applies to all things. Maybe you'll some day attain true wisdom."
Yvarra watched and nodded.
"As to restoring you, your body lives. I made sure. I can put you back into it—"
Yvarra reached up to her forehead knowing what had been there, what was gone—
"Oh don't worry about it! The bud is there, and it'll grow and blossom, and in a few years you'll be what you that form should have been, not what I made it out of necessity. All the magic that is yours will come back."
Warmth and hope filled Yvarra.
"I said your magic. I kept you charged, fed you with power when you needed it. That'll be gone. You'll heal a lot slower, you'll run out of energy a lot faster. Be ready for it."
She could be herself again!
"You will be your new form, but you still have choices. I can return you to where you were. At the gate, in the hands of the tiger. And in the hands of Kyia and the keep's justice. I can do that and give you wealth. Or— or I can restore you and take you far away, out of reach of Metamor for all time."
Could she? Of course she could. But— wouldn't that be a cheat?
The god watched her.
Reaching up, still moving slowly, she pulled off her fedora and looked at it. Clean, new. She worked it with her hands. She tried flicking an ear, but human ears didn't do that. She could run, hide—
She'd never fled from anything in her life, and she wouldn't flee now!
"Put me back to where I left. Put me back to where— to where I belong. And, where I deserve to be."
The god nodded.
"You blessed me, gave me an opportunity to redeem my soul. You made me a unicorn, and I have to live up to that. That means taking what I deserve. That means accepting justice, even if they imprison me, even if they kill me.
"I am a unicorn, and it is time I acted like one!"
Somehow Yvarra had gotten onto her feet. No, not her feet, her hooves. She could feel her ears, see her muzzle, sense her tail whipping behind her.
She was home.
"You are a unicorn. Go with my blessings."
For the first time in her life, Yvarra stood up, turned towards Lady Tarathana, towards the Daedra known as Klepnos, and courtseyed, paying respect to someone other than herself.
"Good luck my child."
"Lady, Kelpnos, I would ask one question—"
She could hear the amusement in the god's voice. "Oh?"
"Could you really have cured me?"
"You doubt the word of a Daedra? But then, I am the Lord of Lies." Klepnos laughed. "Does it matter?"
"The there's your answer."
"Oh, and if Fox Cutter ever asked, the first movie was the best."
Yvarra blinked her eyes open, lying partially on her side on a soft bed in warm sunlight. The room— she recognized it. The gift freely offered. The gift that she'd refused and tried to destroy.
Not it was home.
Just as she was.