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Jacki Dice
Hello again. Thank you all for reading my previous thread, Champion of Madness. As I posted before, I felt the story was in need of a lot of work. First off, titles are one of my weakest points. I have to admit, it took me hours to come up with "Champion of Madness" (sad, I know) but it just didn't feel right, not to mention the fact that it didn't work with the upcoming Oblivion Crisis. Other than that, there were characters issues, plot holes, and world building issues that I felt could only be dealt with by starting fresh, with a better idea of where I was going.

That said, I'd like to welcome you to the revamped version. I hope you all enjoy it ♥

PS....I made a typo in the title... I sure feel silly now -_- Please ignore it.


~~~~~♥~~~~~

Prologue



Wrothken didn't even flinch as a deafening roar erupted from the arena. He remained in his seat at the bar, his head slumped over a cup of tea that had long since gotten cold. He sat listening to the dull buzz of quiet conversations, his ears searching for specific words. He knew he shouldn't. If he happened to overhear something that he didn't want to hear it would send him into an even deeper pit of despair or rage, like when that jerk the other night asked Kirsty if Wrothken's "Uncle Flo" had been in town. Wrothken knew what that implied as did the rest of the bakery. And many people found it hilarious up until Wrothken nearly beat that man to death with a chair.

Chop. Chop. Chop.

He could tell Kirsty was right in front of him. He could smell lavender lingering under the scent of fresh bread, cinnamon, and ham. He heard her sigh softly. He knew she wanted to help. She even tried getting him rip roaring drunk and then taking him to a brothel. Oh, what a fiasco that had been. The drink only magnified his sorrow, causing him to bawl like a baby in the middle of the street and then once he was with the working girl his body wouldn't cooperate, no matter what she did. Though she had shrugged it off, claiming to have seen that a thousand times, it wasn’t exactly something that a man ever quite lived down, drunk or not.

Kirsty sighed again. "You're only letting them win."

Wrothken raised his head slightly. Behind his curtain of Bravil-water blond hair, he saw her tiny hands holding a large knife and slicing up some ham. He brushed the hair from his face and looked up all the way. She was such a mess, but cute in a way. When she opened up that morning she had been wearing a nice, clean turquoise blouse. Now, even though she wore an apron, it was covered in white and brown powder. Her dark brown hair wasn't long enough to braid, so she wore it in a simple ponytail, though as the day went by the short locks that were once bangs escaped. Her cool brown eyes were on the meat, though she occasionally glanced up at Wrothken.

Wrothken stared at the ham. Its scent was suddenly the most captivating thing in the world and his stomach announced it loudly.

"What was that?" Kirsty asked, setting the knife down. The bright blush across his face told her the answer. "What have you eaten today?"

Wrothken shrugged. He hadn't been feeling hungry lately but when he had, the thought of food sickened him. The very act of chewing and swallowing seemed like just too much effort.

Kirsty huffed and set a cinnamon apple muffin in front of him. The crumbly top beckoned him, the sweetness he knew he would find seducing him. Yet the thought of eating turned his mouth sour. Still, if he didn't eat it, Kirsty would probably jump over the counter and shove it down his throat. He bit into it, trying to catch the crumbles before they hit the floor.

"That's better," she said, continuing to chop up the ham. "You look like you've lost weight actually."

Wrothken grunted. Atrea had been pestering him to lose weight for years. He was broad-shouldered and a bit "snuggly," as Kirsty put it. It was almost funny how the pounds began to shed after he caught his intended in bed with another man. A thigh slapper really.

"Great," he finally said. "Now if I could just lose all my body hair, maybe I could win her back."

Kirsty crinkled her nose. "No, don't do that. That's just...weird. Have you ever seen a hairless Nord? It would look off and I bet you’d hate the feeling. And besides," she looked at him, wagging her knife as she spoke. "If you take that girl back, so help me, Wrothken, I will beat you with my rolling pin until the sense comes back in your head."

He believed her. She didn't like Atrea much before but now it was full on hate. The feeling was mutual. Not that she ever admitted it, but he knew Atrea was insanely jealous of Kirsty. He didn’t think she should have been, but he could understand why. Kirsty built herself up from a grape picker for Tamika to a little pastry cart by the markets to an upscale bakery. She was as strong, persistent, and smart as she was beautiful, and Wrothken happened to work late with her most nights. Not that anything happened. He had honor. He was faithful.

"Have you given any thought to my idea?" She asked.

He had, but he didn't really want to go through with it. "I won't run away," he said quietly. He would rather drop dead than give them the satisfaction of knowing they ran him out of town, tail between his legs.

"I never said to run away," Kirsty said. She glanced back at an hourglass atop the oven. The pink sand was almost all the way at the bottom. She swore under her breath and began chopping faster. "I said take a break. Go on a trip for a while to help clear your head. Maybe meet some new people while you're at it."

"But they'll think I ran away!" He protested. He could imagine them laughing about it after a good romp in the sack. His stomach churned at the thought.

Kirsty set her knife down again, exasperatedly saying, "Who gives a flying guar what they think? They aren’t worth the filth under your boots. Why are you going to let them control your well-being?" She chopped furiously. "Do you really think it’s healthy to just hang around here forever? Or avoid places because you're afraid to run into them?"

She had a point. Kirsty always had a point and she would nag and push and prod until the point was not only seen, but agreed with.

"Where would I even go?"

"Well," she looked at the hourglass. It was empty. She opened the oven and pulled out a batch of flaky croissants. "You're from Bruma. Why not start there?"

Wrothken's slapped the counter. "I'd sooner hunt mudcrabs while skyclad!"

Kirsty laughed a bit.

"I'm serious!" Wrothken said, shoving the rest of the muffin in his mouth. "If I set foot there, my ma will bludgeon me with 'I-told-you-so' until my ears bleed! No way am I going back there like this!"

"Okay," Kirsty said taking out a bread knife. She took each croissant and cut it in half before slathering on creamy butter. "How about the Imperial City? There's lots to offer there. In fact, I'd like to move there one day..." She trailed off for a moment as a slight smile grew on her lips.

He agreed on that point. The Imperial City was the center of everything. A man could make his fortune there just as easily as he could lose it. All kinds of opportunity was found there.

"And I'm not saying forever, either." She continued, placing the sliced ham on the bottom halves of the croissants. "Just a week or two. Just enough time to clear your head."

"But what about you?" He asked.

"I'll be fine," she said as she started to slice bright tomatoes. Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop! Wrothken was amazed that she never sliced a finger off with how quick she was with her blade. "If I could get from Valenwood to Skingrad on my own, I'm sure I can handle a few drunken oafs. Besides, it’s just for a little bit. Worst case, I can see if Yyaevannte can come by now and then. He’s not as big as you, but he’s Fighter’s Guild."

Wrothken could see that she wasn't going to let up. As much as he wanted to just go back upstairs and sulk in bed, she would just push it later, over and over and over until he went mad. Women. Why did they have to be such nags?

"Fine, fine," he sighed, getting up. "I'll get my gear then."

"Hold it," she said. "It's not enough to just go. This is a chance for a new beginning. Once you leave those gates, I want you to think of it as the first day of the rest of your life. No thinking of her. No thinking of him. Now, you are going to reclaim your dignity. Just promise me that."

He nodded. He didn't remember ever seeing her so serious before. "Alright, I'll do my best."

"Good! Now, come see me before you leave. I'll pack a lunch for you. And write to me once you get there."

"I will."

"No, promise me. I know how you are. You'll forget the moment you find something interesting. In fact, I'll even write a little reminder for you."

SubRosa
Oh my, you retool you certainly did. Whatever writing elixir you tapped for this, please send some my way! Your descriptions in just the first few paragraphs alone are simply magnificent! The roar of the crowd, the sound of Kirsty chopping, the smell of her lavender, mixed in with that of the bread and other sweets, etc... All combine to pull me right down there to the stool next to our poor Nord snowman.

It was almost funny how the pounds began to shed after he caught her in bed with another man. A thigh slapper really.
I love how this drips with bitter sarcasm!

I also see in this version, Wrothken is not blind to Kirsty's curves. That is interesting, and adds a new dimension to the story.

"I'd rather hunt mudcrabs while skyclad!"
Such a wonderful phrase, not only ES friendly, but pagan-friendly as well!

Why did they have to be such nags?
Could it be because men are to lazy to get off their sorry asses until women nag them to? wink.gif Seriously, an excellent example of man-think.

I am so looking forward to seeing the rest! Both the completely new episodes, and the old ones. Story, Good, More! smile.gif

btw. I never thought Champion of Madness was a bad title. I always liked it. Sometimes the simplest and most direct titles are the best, imho.


nits:
He agree on that point.
Looks like that beyotch Awour swiped the "d" from Wrothken's agreed.
D.Foxy
Am I seeing double now? Oh, Mad Nell, Hep me enslave my elf!!!

blink.gif
Grits
She had a point. Kirsty always had a point and she would nag and push and prod until the point was not only seen, but agreed with.
Sheís not bossy, she just knows what he should be doing. smile.gif

I love Wrothken and Kirsty!! I canít wait to read more!!
Jacki Dice
SubRosa~ I love how this drips with bitter sarcasm! Lol that's me! It gets me in a lot of trouble (mostly with Wrothken tongue.gif) but this is such a good outlet for it all smile.gif

D. Foxy~ Yes tongue.gif It's not just Sheogorath messing with your head wink.gif

Grits~ She’s not bossy, she just knows what he should be doing. Exactly. smile.gif Its best to just listen and accept it


~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter One: A Door in Niben Bay




"Your money or your life!" The Khajiit snarled with one hand on her steel mace. It was well worn, probably from several violent robberies.

Just this morning, Wrothken would have simply walked by, hoping the bandit would end it quickly. Bow it was different. He promised Kirsty that it was a new beginning. It had to start now.

"Why don't you take that mace and shove it up your tail?"

The Khajiit growled. "You know what? I'll just take both!" She swung the mace at him. Well worn or not, it looked like it would be decent enough with some minor repair. If he could disarm her, he would take that on the road with him.

He dodged her blow and punched her in the face. She reeled back, grabbing her nose with her free hand. Her eyes were on fire and Wrothken knew he had to be quick. She roared, swinging the mace as hard as she could, barely missing his shoulder. Wrothken noticed her overstep, and he grabbed her wielding arm with one hand, pulling her in, and he thrust his knee hard into her stomach. As she cried out, Wrothken was able to wrench the mace from her hand. In one quick move, he slammed it against her side. She moaned in pain, clutching it. Wrothken wasn't sure if it was in his head, but he swore he heard a crack on contact.

"Jekosiit!" She hissed. Quickly, she ran from him.

Wrothken's heart thudded as he watched her take off, cursing at the top of her lungs. It felt good to get some of his aggression out. He almost wished the fight would have gone on longer. However, he was wasting precious sunlight standing out there so he hurried away.

As he walked, he looked south to Valenwood. He briefly considered heading in that direction instead of the Imperial City, to start his new life but then he remembered all Kirsty had told him. The government was in ruins. They were distrustful of other races, so a Nord would be unwelcome and likely alone in the society. Oh, and she said something about them eating other people occasionally. That indeed was a dealbreaker. After all, he could easily feed a family of four and then some. He also didn't know if Bosmer had a preference toward "white meat." Shaking his head, he continued on the Gold Road.

With a sigh, he realized that he didn't think about the loneliness factor when he allowed Kirsty to talk him into his journey. He was by nature a very chatty person. He looked back, barely able to see the faint outline of Castle Kvatch. He wanted desperately to go back and convince Kirsty to go with him, but he couldn't. For one, the afternoon was slowly giving away to evening and she hated traveling by night. The other thing was that she would never leave her bakery. Not after all the blood, sweat, and tears she poured into it. Kvatch would burn, and she would remain, rebuilding with her own tiny hands if she had to. Trying to accept his isolation, he turned to his own mind for conversation.

He looked around as he crossed Skingrad. "I wonder what it would be like here in Wine County..." He envisioned himself in a house with cultured friends over, sampling the latest Surilie Brothers concoction with fine cheeses. He laughed out loud. That was no place for him, except for the cheese. He was more the type to guzzle ale in a loud, seedy tavern.

Soon he saw a woman standing in the middle of the road. She was a Dunmer, wearing only simple clothing. When he got closer, he noticed dirt stains on her knees and leaves in her hair. Her stubby fingers were caked with soil. He smiled. "Afternoon," he said, longing for a decent conversation.

"A perfect tomato... one taste, and it is gone forever. And then... a lifetime of searching for the next one," she said sadly. "Undena Orethi. I am a pilgrim in search of the perfect tomato. It is my grail, and I shall follow it all my life."

Wrothken didn't know what to say. He wanted someone to talk to, but really? Tomatoes? He gave her a nod and continued on his way.

As the path took a sharp curve, a thought came into his mind suddenly. Kirsty was right! I haven't thought about Atrea all day! Then he stopped. "Dammit!" he shouted, stomping his foot. Those thoughts were always counter productive, as his mind always became flooded with memories of the Altmer. Anytime he closed his eyes, he swore he could feel her golden hair on his cheeks. He could still see her pale green eyes staring at him, though he was miles away from her. He still smelled her flowery scent--

"Stop it!" he said aloud. He forbade his mind to bring her up again. Obviously Skingrad wasn't far enough.

He glared at the ground as he walked until a round stone caught his eye. It was white and smooth, just laying on the path. Curiously, he nudged it with his foot. It rolled over, greeting him with empty eye sockets and a malicious grin. A skull. He instantly felt a chilling numb throughout his body. He nudged it again, turning its gaze elsewhere. Only a few minutes had passed when he came across another. He ignored it, forcing himself to keep his head held high, though it was hard to resist the urge to slink back to Kvatch.

"Stop it," he repeated, this time in a harsh whisper. "She is not worth it. I'm stronger than this. Kirsty was right, I can beat this on my own." His heart pounded angrily in his chest. "Traitor," he growled.

He stomped up the path until he came across two headless skeletons in front of a cave. On either side of the cave was a stake with three skulls impaled on them. More skulls hung from ropes alongside the rickety door. Contrasting them were heart-shaped leaves with budding violet flowers, wrapping beautifully around the door and even on the poles holding the skulls.

Curiosity was almost overwhelming him. He put his hand on the knob, pressing his ear to the door. He could hear shuffling and throaty grunts and whispers. He couldn't make out any words. As he twisted the knob, a saying popped into his mind: Curiosity killed the Khajiit. He considered skipping it and heading back to the path, but he remembered that Kirsty always added: But satisfaction brought it back.

He took his hand from the knob and took his torch from his back. He concentrated hard, feeling warmth in his heart. The warmth blossomed within him and felt as if it was trailing down his left arm and bloomed in his hand. He used the small flame to ignite the torch. He didn't know what exactly was in there, but with his mace drawn and a pounding heart and quivering legs, he burst in.

A pair of goblins were a few yards ahead of him, apparently arguing over a fresh rat corpse. However, Wrothken's arrival brought them a new source of food, or so they thought. They both ran at him, one holding a rusted dagger, the other a wooden club. Wrothken had heard of people getting extremely sick from rust-infected wounds, so he focused on the bladed one first.

He was thankful for his steel cuirass. Even though it had seen much better days, it reduced the pain of the whacks he got from the club, as he attacked the first goblin. After it went down, he turned quickly, giving the second goblin a well-earned beating. The goblin chose to remain and take it until Wrothken's final blow. As it fell, Wrothken heard a clinking noise. A few gold coins and a lock pick fell from its rags. Seeing as how the goblin no longer had use for either, Wrothken picked them up and continued inside.

The first room was quiet. Most likely the two goblins were in the area before the rat came along. The first thing Wrothken noticed was a large mound in the corner with bright silver veins wrapping around it. Excited, Wrothken searched the area for a pick. Maybe if I harvest enough silver, I can convince Atrea to come back! he thought. "No, no, no!" he shouted, hitting himself on the head with each exclaim. He wasn't going to allow himself to crawl back to her. But the silver... oh, yes, he would show her. If he could get enough silver, he could show her exactly what she lost. If only he could find a pick!

In his hunting, he stumbled over a small, wooden chest. He knelt down, setting his mace down in front of him, and tried to open it. He sighed in relief as it opened without the objection of a lock. However, he was disappointed to find no pickaxe. He was rewarded with a handful of gold. "Least it's something," he muttered. With a forlorn glance at the tempting silver, he continued on.

He was caught by surprise when a goblin smacked him in the stomach with an iron mace. It must have heard him in the next room. The blow caused him to stumble a little, but when he got his bearings back, he retaliated, burying his mace in the goblin's gut. The goblin squawked angrily and tried to bite Wrothken's arm with his noticeably sharp teeth. Wrothken quickly withdrew, since his arm was unprotected and he slammed his mace into the goblin's forehead.

He wasn't sure if it killed it or just knocked it out, so he didn't take his sweet time surveying the room. It was a dead end anyway. The only thing of interest was another silvery vein and a chest. Wrothken looked at the goblin and poked it with his foot. It didn't stir. If it was alive, it wouldn't return to consciousness for awhile. Wrothken went to the chest, dismayed to find out that it was locked. Lock picking was never his strong point. Just as he predicted, his first and second attempt failed. The third attempt, he got lucky and the chest opened up. It contained a little more gold, two lock picks, a head of lettuce, and a filthy fork. He wondered why goblins would bother locking that up, but he figured it was silly to expect reason from those creatures.

Wrothken headed the other direction and entered what looked like a primitive kitchen. An empty pot sat over an open flame. Nearby, there was a table with disgustingly dirty utensils. Some sort of meat sat on the table along with a few potion bottles. He was wary of anything created by goblins, so he left them behind.

Suddenly a pot whizzed by his head. He turned and saw a goblin wielding a ladle with suspicious looking fuzz sprouting from the spoon. The goblin angrily picked up a chair and threw it hard at Wrothken. He fell back, crushing the potions and dropping his mace. The goblin recognized the weapon and dashed, snatching it up before Wrothken could get back up. The goblin hit him while he was still down, creating large dents in the armor.

He couldn't tell where it was going to hit next because he was trying to shield his head with his forearms, though he could feel the goblin moving down near his legs, still swinging as hard as it could. Wrothken roughly kicked it and it landed right in the fire pit, the fire quickly engulfing it. It squealed loudly in pain. Wrothken looked at it and felt sorry for the poor creature. He picked up his mace and used a well-placed hit to put it out of its misery. The room was already starting to fill with the stench of roasted goblin. Wrothken felt ready to leave when a larger goblin strolled in.

It held a staff with a severed goblin head attached to it and wore a feathered headdress. It looked at the carnage and then at Wrothken, then back again. It gave Wrothken a look of fury, then turned on its heel and ran. Wrothken was bewildered. Surely that was the chief! Why was it running away? He thought about going after it, but he didn't know how much time he'd spent in the cave. Since he wanted to be in bed at a decent hour, he let the goblin run away and he headed to the door.


Twilight greeted him with such an eerie silence that he wouldn't have been surprised if the headless skeletons rose up and came after him. Paranoia encouraged a quick glance at them and thankfully they remained on the ground.

White-Gold Tower was glowing like a pearl in the distance. Wrothken knew there was no way he was going to make it to the Imperial City before nightfall. His best bet would be to find an inn and set off in the morning.

He felt as if a dark cloud loomed over his head as he continued on his way. He couldn't figure out what he had done wrong. Atrea never mentioned any problems. He didn't know if he should take it as a warning and be happy it ended before they actually married or if he should try harder to get her back, despite Kirsty's threat of beating him up. He was so conflicted. His thoughts were so consuming that he forgot about the path and just headed straight.

He longed to hold her cool, soft figure against his once more. He wanted to bask in the glow of her amber skin. He needed her silken hands-- A fireball zoomed past his head, interrupting his thoughts.

The imp let out chirping sounds, which Wrothken interpreted to be laughter. Did it understand? Was it mocking him? With a guttural growl, Wrothken tried swatting it with his mace. It dodged each blow, tweeting joyfully. It is laughing at me! he thought with clenched teeth. It fueled his rage and he began swatting harder and faster. Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, he grazed it enough so it fell to the ground, though still alive and alert. Before it could do anything, Wrothken picked it up by the legs and threw it into the forest. It took him a few minutes to feel the slightest bit guilty about it.

"Great," he said, looking around. He was deep in the woods and it was already dark. White-Gold Tower was no longer easily seen. The night was growing chilly. Wolves howled in the distance. Wrothken was tired and he knew that would be a hindrance if confronted by a hungry pack, be it wolves or bandits. "There has to be an inn somewhere..." he said, looking around. Then again, he wasn't sure if he wanted to spend the rest of the night looking for one. He decided to head back toward Skingrad to get his directions straight.

"Hmmm..." He stopped. After about a half-hour walking, Wrothken stared at the Ayleid ruin ahead of him. He turned to a stone fort, which wasn't too far away, and said, "Now, I vaguely remember that...but this wasn't here before, was it?" How he wished Kirsty was with him. She was much better with directions. Sadly, he was left to his own instructions. "Maybe if I head this way..." he said, walking where he thought was southeast.



He knew his feet hated him. If they could, they'd probably jump off his ankles and run away. With each throbbing step, Wrothken knew they'd pay him back tenfold in the morning. He trudged along until he caught a buttery scent. He could tell it was something baked. His stomach growled loudly, scolding him for not eating since gobbling up the sandwiches Kirsty had packed. He no longer cared about the inn. All he wanted was a taste of that food. He followed his nose until he was able to see a point of light.

It didn't flicker, like a campfire. Instead it was steady, telling him it was likely a building. For the first time in ages, his heart rose. Ignoring the burning protests of his feet, he broke into a run. Even when his torch finally blew out, he didn't stop. He followed the light as if he were a moth.

A modest building soon came into view. Two windows were lit. A single horse sat outside the door, under a swinging sign. It read: The Inn of Ill Omen. Suddenly Wrothken was a little put off. Ill Omen? Did the owner want to scare off customers? Still, it was late and the scent was stronger than ever. He opened the door, almost wanting to sleep right there on the entrance floor.

"Well, I'll be a spotted Snowbear," the man at the counter exclaimed. "A customer!"

Wrothken nodded wearily. Atrea used to refer to him as her "snowbear," but he pushed the thought away before it could distract him further. He sat at the counter and asked, "What is that smell? Whatever it is, I'd like some."

The man paled. "Oh... you mean S'Jirra's potato bread?"

Wrothken gasped. "Potato bread? Sounds wonderful!" His mouth watered just thinking about it.

"Ahh..." the man rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Well, the thing is, I don't sell it here. It's actually the inn up the road..." He trailed off.

Wrothken groaned. It was so tempting, seducing him with not just fresh bread, but potatoes... He loved potatoes! But he was so worn out. "You know what, I'll just eat here. What do you have?"

The color flushed back in the man's face. "I can fix you up some crab's meat! Just add some spices and it'll be the best crab you've ever had!"

"Fine, and I need a drink."

The man nodded, heading to his stove. "Name's Manheim, by the way." He didn't give Wrothken a chance to answer. "And as you probably saw, this here's the Inn of Ill Omen. Funny name, I know." He took out a leek and chopped it up. "But it's too late to change it now." He put the leek in a pan, along with some crab meat and a sprinkling of cheese. "Say, you wouldn't happen to need a room, would you?"

Forcing his eyes to stay open, Wrothken answered, "Yes, actually, I do."

"Great!" Manheim set the food on a plate and gave it to Wrothken, along with a bottle of ale. "I have one upstairs. You interested?"

"Yeah, I'll take it." He took a fork and began shoveling the food in his mouth. He was done in what felt like seconds.

Manheim laughed. "Now that's what I like to see! A man with an appetite!" Wrothken paid for his meal and the room, glad he found extra coin in the goblin cave. Manheim pointed up the stairs. "Alright, first room on your left. The washroom is down the hall to the right."

Wrothken nodded and walked up the stairs.

The room was no bigger than a closet with a bedroll on the floor. He was almost irritated that he actually paid for this instead of just sleeping outside for free. He stripped out of his armor and his shirt, then he sat on the bed. He swished the bottle around for a few moments as he thought. No going back now. Tomorrow, I'll begin anew. He wasn't sure what, but the Imperial City had to have something for him. He raised the bottle up, as if toasting to himself, and chugged it down.

He crawled into the bedroll, clutching the pillow tightly. Almost instantly, he drifted to sleep.

SubRosa
A fight with a bandit that ends with them running away rather than fighting to the death with suicidal intensity? Yaay! It is so nice to see a touch of realistic behaviour from the characters in a fan fic. It shows us that Wrothken's world is a real place, and not a game.

However, he was wasting precious sunlight standing out there so he hurried away.
This reminds me of an old John Wayne cowboy movie (The Cowboys?) "We're burning daylight!"

He also didn't know if Bosmer had a preference toward "white meat."
laugh.gif

Kvatch would burn, and she would remain, rebuilding with her own tiny hands if she had to.
This feels prophetic, given the circumstances...

Undena Orethi was a cunningly placed piece of foreshadowing. Very thoughtful of you to place an encounter with her on Wrothken's path. She is a harbinger of the madness that waits for him.

A wonderful description of Wrothken's spellcasting!

a ladle with suspicious looking fuzz sprouting from the spoon
Ewwww! wacko.gif

All in all, lots of fun to see my favorite spotted snowbear back!
mALX
QUOTE

Well, I'll be a spotted Snowbear," the man at the counter exclaimed. "A customer!"



I went into Manheims one day and he got stuck on that line, just kept repeating it over and over again - I thought it was funny the first time, but after a while it drove me nuts! It was either leave or kill him and reload the save, lol.

Now ... GAAAAH!!! Why are you stopping Champion of Madness? GAAAAAH!!!! You can't improve on perfection !!!!

Great Write ... but .... GAAAAAH !!!!
Thomas Kaira
Man man man man manly man man man...

Wrothken sound so much like your typical male... burly, scruffy, and always thinking with the stomach or... you know... that other thing. I like him already. hubbahubba.gif hubbahubba.gif

As the path took a sharp curve, a thought came into his mind suddenly. Kirsty was right! I haven't thought about Awour all day! Then he stopped. "Dammit!" he shouted, stomping his foot. Those thoughts were always counter productive, as his mind always became flooded with memories of the Altmer. Anytime he closed his eyes, he swore he could feel her golden, hip length hair on his cheeks. He could still see her pale green eyes staring at him, though he was miles away from her. He still smelled her flowery scent--

And down the slippery slope you go! Start thinking about a woman and there's almost nothing in the world that can make you stop.

He wasn't going to allow himself to crawl back to her. But the silver... oh, yes, he would show her. If he could get enough silver, he'd be as rich as the emperor himself! Oh, he how he would rub her nose in it, like dog after soiling the carpet. If only he could find a pick!

Bad breakup?

"A perfect tomato... one taste, and it is gone forever. And then... a lifetime of searching for the next one," she said sadly. "Undena Orethi. I am a pilgrim in search of the perfect tomato. It is my grail, and I shall follow it all my life."

Sounds like this girl's a bit mad, don't you think? tongue.gif
Jacki Dice
SubRosa~ That's always been a picky thing for me in TES. Why wouldn't bandits (and even some animals) run so they could fight (steal) another day?

mALX~
QUOTE
Now ... GAAAAH!!! Why are you stopping Champion of Madness? GAAAAAH!!!! You can't improve on perfection !!!!

Aww that's sweet of you to say. Basically, there are some things big and small that I really thought could use some improvement. You'll see what I mean once I hit Kirsty and Lilitu wink.gif

Thomas Kaira~ Meeeeeeen!!! (not a bad show tongue.gif) The thing with Undena Orethi was so convenient. In my Wrothken save, I actually had him walk from Kvatch all the way to the gate. Undena was just the first person I came across. Must have been fate tongue.gif


~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Two: It's Raining Cheese! Hallelujah!


Worthken woke with a horrible taste in his mouth. There was nothing quite like the combination of morning breath and sour ale. He stood up a little too fast, clutching his head to try and stop the room from spinning. When things slowed down a bit, he picked up his armor and shirt and headed to the washroom.

Like the bedroom, the washroom was nothing special. Just the basics in a very small, yet clean, space. When he realized that he wasn't craving a bath, he knew his misery-wallow had gone too far. Sure, he wasn't obsessive about cleanliness, but he did enjoy a bath daily. He felt filthy otherwise. The fact that he spent part of the previous day in a cave should have given him that "I-need-a-bath-now" feeling. Stripping his pants off, he ran the water in the tub.

When he got out, he felt like a new man...almost. He could feel scruff on his face. He looked in the mirror, rubbing it. It was scratchy and he noticed that when the light hit it, it was actually bright red, instead of blond like the rest of his body hair.

I'll have to take care of this soon, he thought. Ever since the first hairs sprouted on his face at the age of fifteen, he was vigilant about keeping his face baby smooth. He was about to get dressed when he caught a glimpse of his full body in the mirror.

He was tall, even taller than a lot of Nords. He wasn't tanned at all. In fact, he was almost ghostly, save for the reddish freckles on his shoulders. And as people said about most Nords, add just two more hairs and he'd be a bear. Okay, maybe not a bear. He saw men whose chest hair was more like a fur coat. His wasn't that thick and for that he was thankful. He imagined it had to be like wearing a constant blanket. He got dressed and headed downstairs. It was around midday, so he still had time to eat before heading out.

"...just appeared right there in the bay!"

Wrothken heard an excited voice coming from downstairs.

"Yes, yes, but what about that orange sludge coming from the sky?" Manheim asked.

The other man laughed, but not in amusement. "Cheese! Can you believe it? It was raining cheese!"

Wrothken saw them sitting at the table. Next to Manheim was a Redguard woman and an Imperial man. He was the one reporting the raining cheese.

"No!" The woman exclaimed. She looked out the window, as if she wanted to see for herself.

"I swear on my grandmother's grave," the Imperial said with his hand over his heart.

"What's going on?" Wrothken asked, taking a seat by the woman.

"A strange door opened up in the Niben Bay a few hours ago," the Imperial said.

"And it rained... cheese?" Wrothken asked.

"It did! By Mara, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't tasted it myself!"

Wrothken looked out the window as well. As hard as it was to believe, the Imperial seemed serious. "The Niben Bay?" He asked.

"Yes! See for yourself!"

Maybe he would. After all, raining cheese wasn't an everyday occurrence.

"Alright, where do I go?"

"It's straight down the path. Just don't stay too long. Who knows what'll happen next..."

He walked out the door, expecting to be able to smell it. Instead, the air was as crisp as ever. He strode down the path, almost breaking into a run when he finally saw it. Oily orange clumps decorated the water and some of the shore. A poor mudcrab was covered in it and had a hard time moving. He had to know. He took some from the mudcrab's shell and sniffed it. It smelled like cheese. It felt like it, too. Only one way to be sure, he thought.

He put the clump in his mouth. "Cheddar!" he exclaimed. He grabbed some more and began eating, wishing he brought some bread with him.

He sat on the shore as he snacked, looking to the strange island ahead of him. That had to be the door. Curiosity sparked in him again. It wasn't too far off, though he wished he had a water walking spell. He was reluctant, but in the end he couldn't skip it. He just had to know what was there, otherwise it would drive him crazy. After all, how often did doors just appear in lakes? Especially ones that brought cheese with it. What if it led to a whole world made of cheese? No way he could just pass that up! He'd check it out and then come back. He took off his armor and set his torches down on the shore before jumping into the water.

The water was cool and surprisingly free of slaughterfish. Maybe it was the cheese, he thought, as some clumps of cheese were slowly sinking into the water floor. One in particular that seemed to change shape as it went, caught Wrothken's eyes. He stared at it falling until he noticed something strange. The island was not exactly an island. It didn't start at the ground, it just floated there. It made him a little wary, but he was so close, a lot closer than he was to the shore. He reminded himself that he'd check it out quickly and then get back to the path. Like the Imperial said, who knew what would happen next.

As Wrothken climbed onto the island, he was amazed by the plant life, though it too sported cheesy decoration. There were bright red mushrooms large enough for him to sit on. In a little pond, strange green pods bounced with the water. Long, thin stalks rose even taller than he was. He saw lavender, pear-shaped fruit hanging from a bush. However, all the plants were nothing compared to the stone figure at the top.

It had two pairs of eyes and formed three faces. They were the same bearded man bearing different expressions. On the left, he seemed to just be staring outward. The right on was grinning, though Wrothken thought there was something malicious in his smile. The center face had his mouth gaping open and glowing bright blue.

Two other people stood outside. A guard with his hand glued to his hilt and a Khajiit muttering incoherently. Wrothken was about to ask the guard what was going on, when the guard cut him off.

"Can't talk now. That door has been making noises again. No telling what's coming out," he said, turning toward the door, which in fact had started making gurgling noises.

Within seconds, a dark elf came out, wearing a shirt with overly puffy sleeves and discolored pants. He was laughing hard, yet crying at the same time. Wrothken noticed a look in his eyes. Something was very wrong with him.

"It’s not right. Madness...why? WHY? Everything is wrong," he said. He grasped his head firmly. "It can't be done!"

Wrothken's stomach churned with pity for the poor man. Obviously something went wrong in there. He took a couple steps toward him, when the elf shouted, "Stay away from me! I won't go back. You can't make me go back! I'll kill you all! You’re all going to die!" The elf pulled out a dagger from his belt and started toward Wrothken.

Wrothken instantly put his hand on his mace, though he wasn't sure if he could do it. The elf wasn't right. He probably didn't even know what he was doing.

"Stay back! This one's violent," the guard commanded as he stepped in between them. With only a few swings of his sword, the elf was freed from madness.

Finally able to talk, the guard approached Wrothken. "I say steer clear of that door. Nothing good to be found on the other side of it. Of that, I'm certain."

Clearly it wasn’t going to be some sort of cheese portal. Even if it was, that display ruined his appetite. With a glance at the slain elf, Wrothken was about to head back when he heard a booming voice. "Unworthy, unworthy, unworthy! Useless mortal meat! Walking bag of dung!"

Wrothken looked around. The Khajiit was huddled in a ball, still rambling to herself and the guard was watching her like a hawk. There was no one else on the island, so who said that?

"A nice effort though," the voice said, as if he was taking back what he just said. "A shame he's dead. These things happen."

The voice was coming from the door. He turned at stared at it, wondering if the statue was actually alive.

"Bring me a champion!" It commanded. "Rend the flesh of my foes! A mortal champion to wade through the entrails of my enemies!"

Wrothken's brows furrowed. A champion? He wasn't... he couldn't... Then why were his feet leading him closer to the door?

"Really! Do come in! It's lovely in the Isles, perfect time for a visit."

He found himself right in front of the blinding light. No, I can't go in there, he thought. Look what happened to that guy! What if it happens to me? He looked up at the teeth, wondering for a second if it was a trap and the teeth would crunch down and eat him up. "What if I just take a quick peek? I'm sure I'll be fine. Just a peek," he reasoned.

He tentatively raised his foot and stuck it through the door. When he quickly pulled it out, it was still there, same as always. He tested it with his hand, and as before, it came back normal. With his eyes squeezed shut, he took the plunge and went in.



The area was not what he expected at all. Then again, he didn't know what to expect. The room was dark. The only light came from a single candle, only illuminating the immediate area. Physically, it was warm, but the dark stone walls and floor made him feel colder. In the center of the room, by the candle, a man sat at a table. He looked like he was middle-aged, due to the loss of hair on top of his head and worry lines in his face and bags under his eyes. A metronome on the table ticked loudly. The man had a book in his lap and he set it down, looking as if Wrothken had interrupted him at a cliffhanger.

"Was that you doing the hokey-pokey?" he asked.

Wrothken's cheeks flushed brightly. He didn't think anyone would see that.

"Just take a seat," the man said, motioning to another chair.

Wrothken sat down, looking around.

"What can I do for you?" He asked Wrothken.

"The door leads here?" Wrothken asked.

"Yes, you have entered the door and now you are here. Amazing, truly."

Wrothken narrowed his eyes a little. Was he being sarcastic?

"What is this place?" he asked, trying to ignore it.

"You approach the Shivering Isles. Through the door behind me lies the realm of Sheogorath, Prince of Madness, Lord of the Never-there. I am Haskill, chamberlain to His Lordship."

Wrothken nodded. "So, why did the door show up in the Niben Bay? And what was with all the cheese?"

"Because my Lord wills it to be so. It poses no danger to Mundus; no compact has been violated. It is a doorway, an invitation. Perhaps you will accept it for what it is." He paused, then added, "The cheese was merely a special touch. Surely you can't expect the arrival of Sheogorath's doorway to have gone on unnoticed. He was sure the cheese would catch someone's attention."

It sure did, Wrothken thought. Then he remembered the people outside. "What about that dark elf and the Khajiit?"

"They entered this realm and were ill-prepared. Their minds are now the property of my Lord."

"But, can't they be cured?"

"Cured?" Haskill seemed almost insulted. "You speak as if they are diseased! They live now in another state of being. Perhaps it is you that needs a cure."

Wrothken shrugged. He sure did for something, but he doubted Haskill could help with that. "When I was out there, I heard someone say 'Bring me a champion!' What was that about?"

"My Lord seeks a mortal to act as His Champion. As for His intent... to attempt to fathom it is a foolish endeavor. His will is His own; His reality follows suit. You are here because you chose to enter; you were not summoned."

Was he not? Wrothken remembered the pull the door had on him, the way he moved forward even as his mind protested.

"So, what now?"

"You do as you will," he said disinterestedly. "You may leave the way you entered. Your life will be none the worse for your time spent here. Or, you may continue onward, through the door behind me. If you can pass the Gates of Madness, perhaps the Lord Sheogorath will find a use for you."

"And if I go back?"

"Who is to say? There are always choices to be made. The Realm of Madness is no different in that regard. Your choices are your own. Enter or do not, but make your decision. I've other duties to which I must attend. Speak with me again when you have made up your mind. The anticipation is almost too much to bear." That time Wrothken knew he was being sarcastic.

Wrothken sat in the chair, and thought. A Daedric Prince might have a use for me? I wonder what... But this is ridiculous! People come out of here warped out of their minds! What if the same happens to me? Oh, who am I kidding? I'm already mad! ....wait, if I'm thinking that, then I can't be mad. A crazy person never doubts their sanity... His head had begun to hurt.

Haskill cleared his throat loudly. "Well? Have you made up your mind? The tension is almost palpable."

"I'll do it!" He said. Even as the words left his lips, he didn't know what he was thinking. He had a thousand questions for himself, but for once he put them to the side. It was supposed to be the start of his new life, after all.

"Fine," he said, almost sounding disappointed. Wrothken had a feeling that Haskill was going to be a royal pain. "I'm sure my Lord will be most pleased, assuming you ever manage to see Him. You'll want to pass through the Gates of Madness. Oh, and mind the Gatekeeper. He dislikes strangers to the Realm. Enjoy your stay."

Haskill stood up and walked to the door. The moment he touched the handle, butterflies materialized from the walls. Thousands of them flew up into the air, revealing the Isles to Wrothken. He was breathless.

"That was amazing!" He said, but Haskill was gone. Wrothken was alone on the hill. "Well, so far, so good."

SubRosa
He just had to know what was there, otherwise it would drive him crazy.
And it might just do that anyhow! wink.gif

Once again I loved the rain of cheese that heralded the arrival of the strange door in Niben Bay. That was a good touch. So very Sheogoraic. Also again I liked how Wrothken is drawn to the door like a lodestone. He makes excuses to just go look, but it is clear that something deeper is drawing him in.

Well, Wrothken sure knows how to start a new life! But I don't think this was quite what Kirsty had in mind! laugh.gif


nits:
Wrothken was about to ask the guard what was going on, when the guard cut him off
You have a repetition of guard here. You might want to replace the second instance with something like soldier, or swordsman, other man, etc...
mALX
I'm so glad you kept the cheese in there - that was one of the first clues to me that your story was going to be AWESOME !!!
Jacki Dice
The cheese rain was a huge thing since I thought the arrival of the door was just too plain for Mr. Rain-of-flaming-dogs. And Wrothken does love his cheese... smile.gif


~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Three: We're All Mad Here



Wrothken felt like a child filled with wonder as he walked the path in the Isles. Even though it was daylight, the sky was littered with golden stars. Sometimes when he walked, shimmering bursts would appear, swirl around in the air and then vanish. Of course, he knew it couldn't be all stars and sparkles. The plane of Madness had to have a few undesirable things about it, which made him happy that the door leading back to Cyrodiil remained, just in case he had enough.

It wasn't long before he came across... something. It was short and green. It looked like the result of a love affair between a goblin and a slaughterfish. Wrothken noticed it had pants on. Maybe it's a resident? It looked appropriate given the area. The creature didn't seem to notice him, so Wrothken walked over to it. "Good day," he greeted.

The creature replied by taking out a primitive-looking dagger and growling. Wrothken felt a flutter in his heart as he realized he left his armor back in Cyrodiil. He still had his mace, so he took it out and swung. The creature was quicker than him. It spun and slashed his arm deeply. He didn't feel it at first, so he kept swinging, eventually hitting it mid-spin. When he finished, he started to feel the stinging in his arm.

He closed his eyes, focusing on a cooling feeling in his heart. It wrapped down his arm, and he soon felt it heal. He sighed. First thing he needed to do was get some armor.

He winced, staring at the blood oozing from his arm. He cursed himself for not bringing along a health potion. He focused his magicka again, just the way his grandma had taught him so many years ago. Feel love in your heart. Think of all the love I have for you and grab it! As soon as you have it, I want you to release it, like I'm giving you a big kiss! The memory made him smile and he did so, only until it stopped bleeding. If it scarred, it was fine with him.

The path was long and winding. On both sides there were broken pillars. When the pillars were new, it must have been majestic, he thought. At night it must be really beautiful... It brought to mind evening walks, which reminded him of strolls with Atrea after a date. He sulked, remembering how she used to swoon over some of the actors when it was Theater Night at the arena. There was the first sign of the issue that he just didn't seem to notice. It wasn't that he objected to her finding other men attractive. That was natural. The problem was that she would do it so blatantly, and then proceed to describe just how much more handsome and perfect they were in comparison. In fact, he recalled her going through a similar phase when meeting Bacchus for the first time. "There's nothing more alluring than a man in metal," she had said, batting her long eyelashes. He felt so stupid. He should have known.....

He stopped in the middle of the road. They didn't matter. He was in a new place. Time for the new life to begin. He took a deep breath, picturing in his mind a small figure sweeping out a large pile of garbage, symbolizing his memories.

Now that he stopped that destructive thought process, he started remembering what Haskill had said. In order for him to see Sheogorath, he needed to go through the Gate of Madness. In order to do that, he had to get through the Gatekeeper, who apparently disliked strangers. Perhaps he can be reasoned with, he thought.

He entered a small settlement. There were only a handful of tumbledown shacks, all around a larger building. So many people were around it that he figured it to be an inn.

A Redguard walked up to Wrothken with a big smile. "Hello, I'm Shelden. I've been here the longest. That's why I'm the mayor of Passwall. That, and because I'm the best at being in charge. Welcome to my town! The place was pretty deserted when I got here. Of course, once I was here, others followed. Can't say I blame them."

"Oh, you're the mayor?" Wrothken asked. "So you'd know about the Gatekeeper, right?"

"The Gatekeeper?" A nearby dark elf asked. He was a few feet away, so he had to raise his voice in order to talk to them. "He's pretty scary, isn't he? He's actually about to destroy a group of adventurers right now. Let's watch him in action."

"Wait, what?"

Sheldon and the dark elf ran up the hill. Wrothken ran to catch up with them. He froze when he saw the Gatekeeper. It was two, maybe three times his size. It had a head, but no face. Just soft tissue where the eyes, nose, and mouth should have been. Instead of a right hand, it had a large, bloody sword attached to its arm. It wore a metal collar that connected to a piece going down the center of its chest and then wrapping around its stomach. In its chest, Wrothken could see scabs shaped like large keys.

A group of adventurers clad in steel armor, stood by the Gatekeeper, barely reaching his knee. The Orc leader commanded them to fight and they obediently did so. Wrothken was horrified as the Gatekeeper threw them around like rag dolls. He had to help. He rushed in, beating the Gatekeeper's leg with his mace. The Gatekeeper didn't even seem to notice. It continued to crush the adventurers until they were motionless. Only after they were dead, did it look down at Wrothken. He didn't wait for it to attack. He ran down the stairs, stumbling over his legs. The Gatekeeper followed him only to the last stair. It grunted, standing as if to show where its territory begun.

Wrothken panted hard, trembling.

"Pretty scary, huh?" The dark elf said. "Jayred Ice-Vein's planning on killing him. I don't know how... the Gatekeeper looks indestructible to me."

"Well, good luck to him!" Wrothken said. He didn't want anything to do with it. It was unbeatable!

He entered the inn, taking a seat at the counter. The publican was an Altmer, who also happened to be blond. Wrothken pretended not to notice, though it made his heart sink.

"Hello, I'm Dredhwen," she said. She had large bags under her eyes. "No one was running this place when I got here. They left plenty of things behind, though. What do you need?" She asked with a loud yawn.

"Nothing, now," he said, attempting to gather his thoughts. As he looked around the room, his eyes were caught on a bust of a mustached man and the piles of lettuce and yarn around it.

"Hey."

Wrothken turned to see a brown haired Nord standing behind him. The Nord knelt down to whisper to Wrothken. "I haven't seen you 'round these parts. You here about the Gatekeeper?"

This must be Jayred, Wrothken thought, recognizing the last name as of Nordic descent.

"I was," Wrothken said. "But after seeing him--"

"Before you get scared, let me tell you something. The Gatekeeper had a brother."

Wrothken folded his arms. "Oh, did he?" He had no idea how that was supposed to dispel his fear.

"Yes, but he's dead now. His bones have spoken to me." He sounded almost seduced. "And they've told me how to kill the Gatekeeper!"

"....his bones spoke to you?" Wrothken shook his head. "Are you--" He was about to ask if he was insane, but then remembered where he was. "I mean, how can the bones help?"

"They say the Gatekeeper is magical. I don't believe in magic, but I do believe in bones. And the best way to kill something is with the bones of its own. I can see the bones of a dead Gatekeeper in the courtyard of the Gardens of Flesh and Bone. Come with me and I'll show you how we can kill him."

Wrothken stared at him hard. Any other day, if a crazy person would have asked him to accompany them anywhere, especially with a name like "Gardens of Flesh and Bone," he would have run, not walked, away. However, there was something about Jayred that seemed sincere, though a little creepy.

Finally, he asked, "Why are you willing to include me in this? Why not do it yourself?"

"Because I'm an archer. The Gatekeeper doesn't allow for long-range combat for too long, so I would be unable to take him on by myself. But you!" he grabbed Wrothken's large arm. "I know this isn't just bone! With the two of us, I bet we could take him easily! So what do you say?"

"Alright then, show me this garden."



"Here we are!" Jayred announced. It wasn't much of a garden. It was a large fortress with skeletons piled up in the enclosed yard.

Jayred ran up to the gate, reaching toward the bones. "I know, I heard your calls. I'm here now. Shhhh...." He said under his breath. He turned back to Wrothken. "Hurry! Pick that lock open. I can hear them in there! "

"Pick? You never said anything about it being locked!"

"Well, of course it is! If it wasn't, I would have had the bones already! Think logically, man!"

Wrothken fumed. A man with a bone fetish was telling him to think logically? Still, he needed his help. First he tested it, shaking the gate hard. He noticed the bottom hinges on the left side were loose. He sighed in relief. He was no Gray Fox, but he was sure he could pry the gates open. He pointed out the hinges to Jayred and together they were able to pull the gates open enough for them to crawl through.

"Here I am!" Jayred cried, rushing past Wrothken once they got in. He sat by the large skeleton, rubbing his hands all over it. "Yes, yes, you knew I'd come, didn't you?"

Jayred spent plenty of time delicately gathering up the bones. Before adding each one to the pile in his arms, Jayred would coo to it and occasionally giving one a kiss. Please don't let me turn out like this, Wrothken thought.

"Alright," Jayred said, acting as if his behavior was the most normal in the world. "From these bones, I can make the arrows. Just give me a few hours and I'll be ready."

Wrothken closed his eyes, trying to force away the hideous image of what he suspected Jayred might be using the "few hours" for. "Right," he said. "See you then."

Jayred headed back to Passwall. "I've been waiting so long for you. Let me get you in my nice warm house..."

Wrothken shuddered. If this was just the fringe of madness, he was almost afraid to see what would happen once he got to the heart of it all.

Thomas Kaira
Jayred headed back to Passwall. "I've been waiting so long for you. Let me get you in my nice warm house..."

Come on man, it's just a bone... err... I think it is at least.

Wait, that totally came out wrong... huh.gif

Umm... he's... boned?

Oh gods, get out of my head, Dhertee Innu-Enndo! rollinglaugh.gif

Haskill was always my favorite character, simply because he is so used to the Madness of the realm he's bored of it. Such contrast always got a good grin from me whenever I spoke with him.

I especially look forward to when Wrothken starts having fun summoning him. biggrin.gif wink.gif cool.gif
D.Foxy
See? I told you I was catching!!!

:meh:
Grits
He was about to get dressed when he caught a glimpse of his full body in the mirror.
hubbahubba.gif

Wrothken felt like a child filled with wonder as he walked the path in the Isles.
Exactly how I feel reading this story. I havenít been to the SI yet, and your descriptions make me see it in my mind! smile.gif
haute ecole rider
TBH, I found the Shivering Isles and the whole Madness questline to be quite disturbing. I've only played it twice, as it's hard for me to swallow my own moral constraints and give myself up to the game. Both characters that I've played SI with were amoral folks who just didn't care. Probably for that reason, I didn't care so much about them.

I know many people find this place a wonderful world, and the plants (especially on the Mania side) are so amazing. Yet the undercurrent of insanity that marks Sheogorath's realm makes me very uncomfortable. My hat's off to the game developers for pulling this off so well, and I have only respect for those who make it as interesting as you do. As the only sane person in a world full of insanity, it's mostly incomprehensible to me. Yet it's ironic, really - isn't that exactly how insane people feel?

I enjoyed Wrothken's confusion with Jayred's bone obsession. To continue in TK's and Foxy's vein, I suppose there are women who share the same obsession for bones. Heh.
*ducking and running*

That scene with the Gatekeeper really recaptures my feelings the first time I saw the creature. I remember thinking now HTF am I supposed to get past that? Then someone tells me Jayred has an idea, so I go to see him. I found him in his house, and yikes, is that creepy or what? Bone decor?? I ask him about his idea, and he starts talking about bones. WTF?? Yes, you brought back plenty of memories in a pretty vivid manner, all right.

Sometimes I think Haskill is the only sane person in a world full of insanity. Makes me wonder if that makes him abnormal by SI standards? I do wish I could have his blasť attitude toward the goings-on in this world.
D.Foxy
To continue in TK's and Foxy's vein, I suppose there are women who share the same obsession for bones. Heh.

Well, mah deah, your own avatar is swallowing his tailbone...


...


blink.gif


EEEEEEK!!!


He's GAY!!!

panic.gif
mALX
EW! Kisssing the bones! Blech !!! I'm still laughing at Wrothken's getting seen doing the "hokey-pokey"
SubRosa
I really enjoyed your description of Wrothken's healing. Using his grandmother's love as a symbol for it was truly inspired. you not only gave one of the most basic acts in the game a real measure of depth and interest, but you also showed us a little bit about Wrothken in the bargain.

His later musings about Awour were also a good bit of realism. When you have a bad breakup like he did, it is not something you just forget overnight. Once more, his concentrating on the symbol of cleaning up the garbage was an excellent touch! Your own knowledge of Witchcraft really shines in this segment. smile.gif

if a crazy person would have asked him to accompany them anywhere, especially with a name like "Gardens of Flesh and Bone," he would have run
Sounds look good survival instincts there!

Wrothken fumed. A man with a bone fetish was telling him to think logically?
biggrin.gif


nits:
Not really a nit, but instead of saying that Jayred has a fetish, you might want to go with another word, like fixation or obsession. Fetish often means something sexual, a meaning I can see some of the other commenters are fixated upon themselves... wink.gif
Jacki Dice
Thomas Kaira~ I think there was a show or a movie in the 90's where someone would say "Bonerific" I believe Jayred would describe it that way tongue.gif And I love writing Haskill. His sarcasm and seriousness in the Isles is pretty hilarious.

Foxy~ Dirty Mind? Clean it up with Orbitz! -fanfare- For a good clean feeling, no matter what! tongue.gif What shall we call the outbreak of dirty thoughts? Maybe Foxy-flu?

Grits~ I'm glad you can imagine it clearly. I often wonder if I'm descriptive enough but your comment is assuring smile.gif

Haute~ I thought the same thing when I first saw the Gatekeeper. I expected a person or something not a giant orange thing... That'll teach me to expect something reasonable while in the Isles...

mAlx~ Well, I was going to have him do worse with the bones.... but I decided to leave it to the imagination wink.gif

SubRosa~ Aww there you go making me blushy... happy.gif I've actually done the imagery with the lady sweeping garbage away when I can't sleep. It really helps! And the fetish thing...well, Wrothken does suspect something funny going on when he says he'll need a few hours alone with the bones ohmy.gif



~~~♥~~~
Wrothken <---New picture smile.gif

~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Four: Gatekeeper Gets Boned



While Wrothken waited for Jayred to finish, he stared up at the sky. It was almost pitch black, spattered with clusters of stars of every color. He wished the sky in Cyrodiil looked that way. If only he could have shared it with-- No, her name is not allowed, he reminded himself. A deeper, uncontrollable part of his mind retorted with, Yes, but you can't stop me from showing you...

He saw her again. He always felt he was lucky to find someone ready to settle down so quickly. Elves especially tended to wait longer, since they had much longer to live. At first, they just seemed to fit. Sure, there were a few changes he had to make. She didn;t care much for his temper, but that was fair. And he worked on it. Perhaps too much. After all, he didn’t grab her lover and beat him in the streets as he would have done once upon a time. Maybe that was her real problem. Maybe she wanted someone she could push around.

He grunted, violently shaking his head. He didn't want to remember! He just wanted to forget it all and be done with it! Jayred's taken long enough, he thought.

After getting directions from Sheldon, who bragged that he knew where Jayred lived because he was the mayor, Wrothken headed straight to Jayred's house. He banged on the door.

"Uh... Who is it?"

"It's been hours," Wrothken snapped. "Are you done yet?"

"Oh, sure, sure!" Jayred opened the door and let him in.

Wrothken expected some sort of strangeness, but not to the extent it really was. Skulls, rib cages, and all sorts of other bones sat carefully arranged in bowls and on shelves. His table seemed to be constructed entirely of bones, along with a set of matching chairs. When he looked closely, Wrothken noticed that the bowls were actually skull caps. When his eyes drifted toward what he assumed to be the bedroom, Wrothken wondered if he would find a complete skeleton lying in the bed. He shuddered.

"The arrows are ready," Jayred announced, showing him the two bundles before sticking them in his quiver, on which Wrothken saw tiny bones forming a design of a larger bone. Wrothken had to admit, they looked pretty good.

"You don’t seem like an archer, so let me give you something else," he said, heading to a large chest in the corner of the room. He opened it and motioned for Wrothken to look inside. The chest held a full set of steel armor. "I was going to use it to model some bone armor, but since you'll be up close, I think you'll need it more."

Wrothken looked it over. It was in good condition. Since he and Jayred were a similar size and build, he thought it would fit well enough. He wanted to ask where Jayred had gotten it, but something told him it would be better not to know.

"Now, let's go kill the Gatekeeper. We might die. But there's worse things."

Wrothken couldn’t think of anything more horrifying than him dying and his bones becoming the immediate property of Jayred.

"Just remember to keep the Gatekeeper off me. The key to killing him are these precious bones."

Jayred led the way up the hill, just as a Dunmer woman in an extravagant black dress was walking the opposite way. She was sobbing softly into a napkin. Wrothken wondered if she had lost her husband to the Gatekeeper. She glanced at him and her molten eyes clearly said "Stay away." He did so, continuing up the path with Jayred.

The moment they crossed the invisible line that separated the town from the Gatekeeper's territory, they heard a roar. The Gatekeeper rushed toward them.

"I'll take your bones!" Jayred yelled, as he started shooting his arrows.

The Gatekeeper howled as the arrows sunk deep into its flesh. It was a disturbing muffled noise, as he had no true mouth. As it turned toward Jayred, Wrothken struck its knee with his mace. Unlike last time, the mace made a difference. The Gatekeeper grabbed its leg, howling miserably. Before he knew it, Wrothken was hurled into the air. As he hit the ground, he saw the Gatekeeper running after Jayred. He dragged himself up, trying to focus. Thankfully, even with blurred vision, he was easily able to make out the giant orange mass.

Wrothken stood behind the Gatekeeper, beating its legs. He learned to duck underneath it anytime it turned. Eventually, he scored a lucky his and shattered one of its kneecaps. The Gatekeeper let out a piercing cry, so loud that all of Passwall emerged from their homes to watch.

Wrothken knew he had to hurry. He had no idea if Jayred was running low on arrows. He looked around, and suddenly had an idea. He ran to one of the trees and started climbing.

"What are you doing?" Jayred shouted.

"Just trust me! I need you to get it over here."

Jayred grumbled, but did as he was asked. He walked backwards, shooting hise arrows at the Gatekeeper, until it was close to the tree Wrothken sat in. When it was close enough, Wrothken jumped from the tree, grabbing onto the Gatekeeper's collar. He pulled himself up and used all his strength to whack the Gatekeeper repeatedly on the side of the head. As the Gatekeeper was falling, Wrothken realized that he didn't think it through enough. He had nowhere to go, except down with the giant.

The ground sent a flash of pain throughout his body. He sat up, throbbing. He desperately wanted to heal himself, but couldn't focus enough to do so.

"We did it!" Jayred cried. He slapped Wrothken hard on the back. "Congratulations! I was afraid it would be your bones coming out instead of his. Don't worry, though. I would have taken good care of them..."

Wrothken didn't answer, for fear of snapping at the Nord for hitting him so hard.

"Anyway, the honor of taking the keys from his corpse is yours."

Wrothken looked at the dead Gatekeeper. "Actually," he said to Jayred. "There are two keys. Why don't we each take one?"

"Sounds like a plan to me!" With gusto, and probably some bone fondling, Jayred ripped out a large turquoise key.

Wrothken was a little more hesitant, and even more so when the crying dark elf from earlier threw herself on the monster's body. "My baby!" She sobbed. "My poor, poor baby!"

He tried to be discreet as he reached in to drag the other key out. "You beast!" The dark elf fumed. "You'll rue this day, I swear it!"

Wrothken wasn't sure how to respond when she burst into tears again, cradling the Gatekeeper's head against her chest. He picked up the red key and looked at the two doors. He was about to go through one of the dark walkways when Haskill appeared behind him.

"So, you've managed to kill the Gatekeeper. Pity," he said, looking at the slain beast. "Well, you'll now be able to enter the Realm proper. You'll notice there are two doors. One leads to the lands of Mania. The other to Dementia. Your key leads to Mania, which is the door on your left. The lands are quite distinct, but both are Sheogorath's domain. You'll want to seek out Lord Sheogorath. I believe He has plans for you." He looked Wrothken up and down, adding, "Try not to disappoint Him. You will find Him in New Sheoth, in His palace. It is best not to make Lord Sheogorath wait. His whims are fleeting, and should He decide you are no longer necessary, it would be to your detriment."

Wrothken felt the urge to punch him, but he resisted. "Where can I find New Sheoth?"

Haskill sighed exasperatedly. "Must I do everything? Here, take this." He handed Wrothken a map. Passwall was on the western part of the Isles and New Sheoth was far to the east. "I'm sorry that it isn't colored. It's all I have."

Wrothken thought he saw a very slight smirk as he growled. He turned and entered the gates to Mania. It was time to see what Sheogorath had in mind for him.

SubRosa
Goddess what a title! laugh.gif

He wanted to ask where Jayred had gotten it, but something told him it would be better not knowing.
I am with Wrothken on that!

Wrothken wondered if she had lost her husband to the Gatekeeper.
Not quite! An excellent addition of Relmyna here.

A rousing battle with the orange giant. For a moment I thought Wrothken was climbing up the tree to finish it off with with a a diving head butt

I'm sorry that it isn't colored. It's all I have.
I love Haskill! Also a nice dig on your part, at how the vanilla maps are not colored. wink.gif


nits:
he scored a lucky his and shattered one of its kneecaps.
I think Haskill stole the "t" in hit, and replaced it with an "s".
D.Foxy
Mah Dear Jacki....have you take a look at exactly HOW Wrothken is holding his ... 'Mace' ???

Freudian-Drawing now are we?

Hmmm, as I said before, Jacki Dice may be in the "House" or it may be... hee hee... the other way around!!!

whistling.gif
mALX
I love the new drawing of Wrothken !!!
Thomas Kaira
Goddess what a title! laugh.gif

I take full responsibility, Dhertee Innu-Enndo is a highly infectious beast. indifferent.gif

Haskill sighed exasperatedly. "Must I do everything? Here, take this." He handed Wrothken a map. Passwall was on the western part of the Isles and New Sheoth was far to the east. "I'm sorry that it isn't colored. It's all I have."

Well... mine's colored! biggrin.gif Nevertheless, I'm with Rosa on this one, loved the little shot at the maps.

Wrothken felt the urge to punch him, but he resisted.

No, don't do that! Just wait until you can summon him, Wrothken. Imagine the revenge you can take on him [/i]then.[i] laugh.gif
mALX
QUOTE(Thomas Kaira @ Jan 21 2011, 11:53 PM) *

Goddess what a title! laugh.gif

I take full responsibility, Dhertee Innu-Enndo is a highly infectious beast. indifferent.gif

Haskill sighed exasperatedly. "Must I do everything? Here, take this." He handed Wrothken a map. Passwall was on the western part of the Isles and New Sheoth was far to the east. "I'm sorry that it isn't colored. It's all I have."

Well... mine's colored! biggrin.gif Nevertheless, I'm with Rosa on this one, loved the little shot at the maps.

Wrothken felt the urge to punch him, but he resisted.

No, don't do that! Just wait until you can summon him, Wrothken. Imagine the revenge you can take on him [/i]then.[i] laugh.gif



I used to summon him over and over just to tick him off, lol.
Jacki Dice
SubRosa~ biggrin.gif Well, you have to admit the title is quite fitting... After all, Jayred uses bone arrows tongue.gif

Foxy~ It was innocent! I promise! whistling.gif

mALX~ Thank you! THe last one, he came out looking so skinny! And feminine... hopefully he's a bit manlier looking now. Too bad my camera doesn't get good pictures of the TV :/

Thomas Kaira~ Too bad Haskill doesn't really do anything. Could you imagine summoning him in the middle of certain things? I bet the dialogue would be priceless biggrin.gif




~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Five: Madness Incarnate



The path of Mania looked colorful from the distance, but the path in Dementia looked like it was a quicker trip. He would have time for sightseeing later. It was nearly midnight when Wrothken reached the entrance to New Sheoth. A tall, slender woman stood at the gate. Her skin was a creamy blue, like a Dunmer, but she had light blue eyes, like Wrothken's. He could tell that she wasn't man or mer because her pupils were slit, much like a serpent. Her helm looked like metallic hair slicked back into jagged spikes and the rest of her armor reminded him of a dragon’s scales.

"Madgod's blessings," she greeted. Her voice reminded him of thick syrup.

"Thanks." He consulted the map. "Is this New Sheoth?"

The woman smiled at him. "Yes. We Mazken guard Crucible in New Sheoth. We ensure the Demented remain orderly and respectful of our Lord Sheogorath. "

"Crucible?"

"New Sheoth is a symbol of our Lord; divided, yet perfect. The southern half is known as Crucible." Wrothken felt like he could listen to her talk all night. Unfortunately, his body ached and demanded sleep. Daedric prince or not, Sheogorath would have to wait until morning.

"Is there an inn that I can stay at tonight?"

"Head straight through the gates and it'll be the first door on your right."

"Ah.. Thank you," he said opening the large doors.

"Walk with our Lord."

Wrothken was surprised by the appearance of the city. It gave off a feeling of such depression, like the rest of the path of Dementia, though he wondered if it was because of how late it was. He was pleased to see that the inn, Sickly Bernice's Taphouse, was just where the Mazken said it was.

It was large and would've been borderline fancy, if not for the dust bunnies and cobwebs in the corners. The entryway was dimly lit, with more light coming from downstairs. He heard a woman cough and the clinking of glasses, so he knew someone was down there.

He followed the sounds and saw a middle aged woman behind the bar. She wore a deep violet corset with long sleeves with black fringes on the cuffs. The hooped skirt was layered with the black fringes as well. The poor woman looked miserable and she kept coughing into her sleeve. Her face was etched with lines, though none indicated smiles. Her face told a story of constant worry. That had to be Sickly Bernice.

Seated at the bar was a woman who made Wrothken's heart skip a beat. She had jet-black hair that cascaded down to her wide hips. Her skin was a smooth caramel color. Her outfit was much simpler than the proprietor's; a tight band across her chest, as if she was trying to flatten herself, and a pair of dingy brown pants. When Wrothken entered, she turned for a moment and he noticed her bright green eyes. He couldn't stop staring at her. It was as if Atrea stepped into a mirror only to come out looking like her opposite.

Wrothken glanced at her repeatedly as he approached the bar. When he sat down, the older woman cautioned, "Don't get too close now, dearie. You might catch what I have."

"Oh," he said, scooting back a little. "Are you sick?"

The girl next to him chuckled a little and his face went red.

"Be nice now, Rheyna," Bernice said. "He's never been here before, so he doesn't know yet." She turned to Wrothken and said, "Well...it seems I am dying.” Her voice cracked a little. “Yes, these may be my last days in the Shivering Isles. That is unless someone like yourself could help me find the cure. But no one has taken me upon my offer, even with the promise of a reward.” She sighed. “Ah, well it's been a good life I suppose..."

He knew what she was getting at. She seemed like a sweet old lady, but he was so tired. He didn't think he could stay awake long enough to even remember any directions given to him. "Can I have a room please?"

"Oh..." She sounded disappointed. "Alright then. There's one upstairs, first on the right."

"Thank you, “ he said, placing his money on the counter. He wasn’t sure he wanted direct contact with her if she was as sick as she said. “Maybe you can tell me about the cure in the morning."

"Oh, sure, sonny. That is, if I make it..."

Wrothken felt bad, but he knew it would be better hearing it when he was fully awake. He took a final glance at Rheyna and headed upstairs.



Right when he woke up, Wrothken headed back downstairs to talk to Bernice. It was more crowded than it was the previous night and it smelled of strange flavors. He was surprised to be disappointed that Rheyna was nowhere to be seen.

"Good morning, dearie," Bernice said as soon as he sat down. "Fancy a quick meal?"

He looked at the other plates, but didn't recognize anything. "Um..."

"Oh, silly me. I forgot that you're our newcomer." She coughed violently into a handkerchief. "Excuse me. Now, how about I get you some grummite eggs with some toast? Though I really shouldn't cook it. I might pass my sickness on to you..."

"Wait, Bernice about that. Can you tell me about the cure? I'd be willing to help."

She looked surprised for a moment. Maybe she didn’t think he would actually ask about it. "Well, it's the miracle remedy for any disease! I was told about this wonderful solution by a recent patron of my establishment. He said if I let him stay for free, he'd tell me how to cure my sickness! How fortuitous, right?”

“That certainly was convenient.”

“There's only one place in all the Isles to get the cure for what I have... Knotty Bramble. There, on the lowest level of the place, is a pool containing the cure: aquanostrum. Legend has it that it bubbles up from an old statue."

"Knotty Bramble,” Wrothken said nodding. “Is that a store around here?"

She started to laugh and cough at the same time. "Oh, no, dearie. Here, do you have a map?"

He nodded and pulled it out. "It's right about here," she said, drawing an "X" near the road coming from Passwall. "Apparently it only exists at the bottom of that cave. So close, yet so far."

Wrothken looked at the marker and nodded. "It's really not that far out. I'll go out there soon."

For the first time, he saw her face light up. "Really? Oh, thank you so much!" She sounded like she wanted to hug him. Handing him a silver flask, she said, "Now, how about I fix you up your breakfast. You'll need it if you're going to be heading out to Knotty Bramble. Oh, and dearie?"

"Yes?"

She leaned in slightly. "Be careful."

Wrothken stiffened. "Are there creatures down there?"

She laughed. "Oh, come now. You defeated the Gatekeeper, didn't you? A few grummites shouldn't be a problem for a strapping young man like yourself!" She lowered her voice a little. "I saw you looking at Rheyna last night. Don't give me that look; I'm sick, not blind. There's something strange about that one... Just promise an old woman you'll be careful."

Wrothken looked around, noting everyone here was a bit strange, though he wondered if they must have each thought themselves normal. "Alright, I promise," he said.



The palace of New Sheoth was the most beautiful place he had ever seen. The castle and walls were made from smooth gray stone. The right side was lit with blue fire and Mazken walked around. On the left, gold dominated the area, with bright flame and gold skinned women wearing gold armor. In the center of the area, there was lush green grass. A couple benches sat at the edges, one of them occupied by a Redguard with his nose in a book.

Though it was silent and serene, Wrothken sensed hostility. He watched the women carefully, noticing the hate in their eyes any time they looked at each other.

"Mortal!"

He jumped, seeing a golden woman walk up to him. She was nothing like the Mazken he spoke to before. Her golden eyes were filled with contempt. "What business do you have here?"

"Sheogorath--"

"Lord Sheogorath to you, mortal."

"Okay..." Wrothken said, irritation present in his voice. "Lord Sheogorath wants to see me."

She huffed. "Are you the one who slew the Gatekeeper?"

He nodded.

"Very well. He is in the center doors of the palace. Now go."

Wrothken stared at her as she walked away. Who spit in her whiskey? he thought walking down the path to the doors. There were two of them with a woman from each group standing guard. The Mazken smiled at him as he approached, and the other one glared. He walked to the Mazken.

"Do not allow them to bother you. Their attitudes are most disgraceful to our Lord Sheogorath." She sneered at a passing gold woman. "The so-called Golden Saints will one day be expelled from the realm once Lord Sheogorath finally recognizes their bull-headed stupidity." Her final words were accompanied by a sneer to the Golden Saint opposite her.

He nodded and entered the castle. If each Golden Saint could be replaced by a Mazken, he would be highly pleased.

Just like outside, the interior was divided. The right side had yellow flames and the carpet leading to the throne was bright red. The left was lit by blue fire and had black carpet. Even the stained glass windows were opposite designs, the right bright, colorful, and cheery, the left all doom and gloom. "Well, look who's here! You! How about that?" A man seated on the throne cried. Wrothken recognized his voice from the door in Cyrodiil. Haskill stood at his side, his expression dull and indifferent as ever.

He was clapping as Wrothken approached. He appeared to be a wise man, with gray hair neatly slicked back, a distinguished beard, and a few wrinkles. However, one look in his amber eyes told him he was exactly the opposite. He wore a silk suit of purple and gold, though the colors swirled into each other so much that it almost seemed like a whole new shade. He jumped up, seeming to be as spry as a sixteen year old, though he walked with a cane. The top of it looked suspiciously like an eyeball.

"A new arrival!" He shouted, clapping him on the back. "A shame about my Gatekeeper. I'm so happy, I could just tear out your intestines and strangle you with them."

Wrothken felt a chill inside and he wanted to take a step back, but he was held tightly in place.

"I suppose an introduction is in order. I'm Sheogorath, Prince of Madness! And other things. I'm not talking about them." He said, folding his arms and pouting childishly for a moment. "You've probably figured that out by now. Let's hope so. Or we're in real trouble... and out come the intestines. And I skip rope with them! But, perhaps now's not the time. You've made it this far. Farther than anyone else. Well done! Take this trinket of mine. Perhaps it will serve you well. Or look lovely on your corpse." He handed Wrothken a silver amulet with a gem that flashed red, blue, or gold, depending on the angle it was held in. It felt warm and when Wrothken put it on, he felt a slight tingling sensation around his skin. "It'll protect your delicate future-corpse from burns, frost, and shock. Enjoy it."

Sheogorath didn't wait for Wrothken to say anything before continuing. "I've been waiting for you, or someone like you, or someone other than you, for some time. I need a champion, and you've got the job," he said, poking Wrothken in the chest. "Time to save the Realm! Rescue the damsel! Slay the beast! Or die trying. Your help is required. A change is coming. Everything changes. Even Daedric Princes. Especially Daedric Princes."

"Change?" He asked. "What kind of change?"

"Daedra are the embodiment of change. Change and permanency. I'm no different, except in the ways that I am. The Greymarch is coming. And you're going to stop it."

"The what?"

"The details aren't important.” He waved his hand dismissively. “At least not right now. Eternity is on a rather tight deadline. We'll get back to that later."

Wrothken's head was spinning already. To say this man was off-balance was an understatement. He wanted something stopped, yet the details weren't important? He didn't press because he wasn't sure what would happen, what with talk of skipping rope with intestines.

"Okay, so what should I do now?" Wrothken asked.

"Now? You run an errand for me. An important one. Of course, anything I tell you to do is important. My Realm, my rules. You're going to Xedilian, one of my favorite spots in the Isles. It's a little place I use to take care of unwanted visitors. And some are more unwanted than others."

Wrothken wasn't sure if he had been one of those "unwanted visitors," but if it would keep his innards in place, he was willing to do anything.

"What's in Xedilian?"

"The Gatekeeper took care of most of the unwanted, but he's dead. We'll have to remedy that soon, as well...." He cleared his throat. "Anyway... there are those that have other ways into my Realm, and they're on the move. We don't want them here. Trust me. So, you're going to get Xedilian up and running. Here's a little book to tell you how, and the Attenuator of Judgment. You'll need that, too." He handed Wrothken what appeared to be a tuning fork and a book. "Of course, you can always get more details from Haskill. He's a detail-oriented type of person. A big help. And a snappy dresser. Now, get going. Before I change my mind. Or my mind changes me."

Wrothken looked at Haskill. There was no way he was going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he was confused.

He opened the book and headed back to Crucible.



The book caught Wrothken's full attention. Not only did it explain what exactly to do, it showed a few sides to Sheogorath. The writer seemed almost fearful of any consequences he might pay for the slightest mistake. Just as he was about to turn the page, he collided with someone, knocking her to the ground.

He gasped, seeing Rheyna glaring up at him. She was dressed the same way as before, only her pants were rolled up, exposing her toned legs. "Oh.. I'm so sorry! Here," he said, holding his hand out.

She ignored it, and got up on her own. Her eyes were like daggers, saying everything her mouth wasn't. She turned and headed away from him. It took a while to realize that he was staring after her. He regained control of himself and shook his head violently. Maybe it was her stark contrast to Atrea that was attracting him to her, but he promised Bernice that he would be careful... though there was no harm in looking, right?

He sat down outside a shop and pulled out his map. Xedilian was a ways away, located southeast of Passwall. He was happy to see that Knotty Bramble was on the way. As he folded up his map, he heard someone call to him.

"Hey you!"

He looked over at a blond man hiding around the building's corner. "Come over here. I need to talk to you."

Wrothken looked around and walked up to him. "Yes?"

"I've got a proposition for you. Best not to talk about it here. Meet me at the sewer grate northeast of the Sheogorath statue. Come after dark. Come alone." He then walked away.

Wrothken stared after him. What was the proposition? And why did he want it alone and night? Well, there was the obvious... But he didn't think it was that. The man looked and sounded miserable. He shrugged. There was no time to think about it now. He had a few important errands to run.
Thomas Kaira
I see you didn't make too many changes to the Madgod's dialogue, but you know, does it really need to be changed? He's such a character, and it was great to see how Wrothken reacted to giddy insanity. laugh.gif

Good job capturing the differences between the Aureal and the Mazken, and the animosity that is brought about by it.

Could we have a potential love interest here? It seems Wrothken has caught the luv-bug for Kalila! biggrin.gif

Nits:

I've noticed some word repetitions:

QUOTE
He followed the sounds and saw a middle aged woman behind the bar. She wore a deep violet corset with long sleeves with black fringes on the cuffs.


You have "with" twice in the same sentence here. Watch those prepositions, they have a nasty tendency of sneaking up on you from time to time.

QUOTE
On the left, gold dominated the area, with bright flame and gold skinned women wearing gold armor.


In this sentence, "gold" has been used three times in a row, which is a bit much. Using the same noun too many times in the same sentence lends it a stagnant feeling and because this is Mania you're describing, it does not really fit. Perhaps this would work out better with something like this?

The left side was dominated by brilliantly yellow grass and amber leaves, with bright flames and honey- skinned women wearing golden armor.

(I was a little unsure if you meant for "flame" to be singular or plural here, as well, so I pluralized it. If you prefer it to be singular feel free to ignore that.)
mALX
Your rendition of Sheogorath is so apt, lol. I loved his character - tried to assassinate him a dozen or more times in different ways with some fun results, lol.

EW! Sickly Bernice cooking the eggs, coughing over them - I pictured that dying woman from the movie "Michael" while reading that, lol.

Ok, summoning Haskill at an awkward time:

*POOF* "Er, Haskill ... I seem to have run out of tissue paper, could you bring me a roll please?" - ROFL !!


Great Chapter!! You have really captured the essence of the Madness in the Isle!!
SubRosa
A fun introduction to the capital of the Shivering Isles, and especially to the head lunatic!

So Wrothken met his first Mazken. I am with him. I can listen to their voices all night too. Not to mention do other things...

There's something strange about that one.
I think that advice goes for everyone Wrothken will meet in the Isles! laugh.gif

Who lit the fuse on her tampon?
laugh.gif I always think the same thing when I have to deal with the Aureals! You really capture the diametrically opposed natures of the Aureal and Mazken well.

Eternity is on a rather tight deadline.
This has always been one of my favorite Sheo lines
Jacki Dice
Thomas Kaira~ I love writing with Sheogorath. He's so animated. Its a shame there's no body language in the game. It would have brought him to life in such a wonderful way.

mALX~ laugh.gif I was shocked at what happens when you hit Sheogorath. It gave me a few laughs!

SubRosa~ The funny thing is, my Wrothken actually likes the Golden Saints better! They remind him of valkyries. Never mind their snotty attitudes... ugh!


~~~♥~~~
Kirsty and Lilitu

Dolce


~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Six: Desperate Times



Kirsty wiped the counter impatiently, though she had just cleaned it fifteen minutes ago. Wrothken had been gone for a few days and not one single letter from him, letting her know he was okay. He was a big boy and could take care of himself, but still. He promised.

She watched the courier and his sack of letters pass the bakery yet again. She huffed and threw the rag down hard. As soon as he came back, she was going to beat him silly.

A sweet, spicy scent filled the area, letting her know that the sweet rings were done. She carefully took them out and set them in a basket that sat on the counter. A few people were already starting to gather and in moments they were sold out. Some left disappointed that the latest favorite was gone, but Kirsty was happy to sell them chocolate filled croissants or strawberry muffins instead.

She almost forgot her sour mood when Atrea entered with one of her friends. Kirsty took a deep slow breath, trying hard not to fantasize about jumping over the counter and beating some sense into her. Atrea didn't dare ordering anything, which was good. Kirsty wouldn't risk her shop by poisoning her, but there were so many other vile things that could be done to a person's food.

The pair sat at one of the tables in the center of the room. "I still can't believe he left like that," the other girl said.

Atrea shrugged. "I almost couldn't either, but then again, he wasn't much of a man in the first place. Now, Bacchus..." She smiled. "Now, that's a man! You know he left last night for the Imperial City? He's training to be a legionnaire."

Kirsty's heart pounded. If Wrothken and Bacchus were both were heading in that direction and happened to run into each other, then there would be a new reason to call it the Red Road.

"Least Wrothken did something good, though," Atrea continued.

"What?"

He left these," she said, lifting her hair up to reveal a pair of diamond earrings. "And this," she said, showing off a topaz ring. "I'm gonna go sell them tomorrow, though." She laughed. "He ran away and he doesn't know that he'll still be supporting me!"

The two of them laughed loudly.

"Excuse me," Kirsty said, her ears burning. "After all the hard work he put into saving up to buy that jewelry for you, you're just going to get rid of it like that?"

Atrea scoffed. "Look, I know you're friends with him, but what I do with my things is frankly none of your business."

Kirsty shook with rage. She had a point. Like it or not, they were hers to do with what she wished, but after the weeks of saving and scrimping Wrothken had done...

"Speaking of," Atrea continued. "Where is he anyway? His clothes are way too big to fit Bacchus and I don't want them cluttering up my house anymore."

"Your house? He's the one that bought the place!"

"And he's also the one that ran off without and word and with his tail between his legs, so by default, the house is mine now, along with all the stuff that I can sell off."

The tremors in her body were visible to anyone watching. She glanced at her chopping knife, wishing with all her might she could teach her. Wrothken was a great man, with a heart that was obviously too big for his own good. If he wasn't so brotherly toward her, she would've scooped him up immediately.

"You know what? I know one thing for sure. Once he's recovered from your selfish betrayal, he's going to be glad you did what you did, and he's going to find someone a lot better than you. Not that it's going to be difficult. You set that bar very, very low. Now you, and the trash you brought with you, can get out of my bakery before I call the guards."

Atrea stood up with her jaw clenched. She knocked over her chair and then she and her friend left. Kirsty's sour mood had turned completely bitter.



By late evening, Kirsty was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she repeatedly mixed up orders. Most people were understanding; they thought she wasn't used to working alone. In reality, her conversation with Atrea made her really stop and think about the black and white in which she had previously saw stealing.

Her entire life she was taught that with hard work, you could have anything. Her mother died during childbirth, so her father had to work twice as hard to support his young daughter. He was often gone from the time she was awake until she had fallen asleep at night. When he was home, he had to fill the role of father and mother. Through everything he did, he was able to give her a comfortable life. She always ate and had beautiful clothes.

When she was old enough, she decided to move to Cyrodiil. She lived close, so the journey wasn't expected to be hard. Her problem was surviving when she got there. Her first job was harvesting grapes for wine near Skingrad. Eventually she saved enough to have a little cart so she could sell pastries outside of the arena in Kvatch. After years of skipping meals just to have enough spare septims to make more pastries and perfect her recipes, she finally bought the Iron Champion bakery, conveniently located across the road from the arena. In all that time, she never resorted to stealing. In her not-quite-so-humble opinion, the Gray Fox, if he was indeed real, should hang. She said it often and believed it...until now.

When the bakery first opened its doors, Wrothken was there to ensure that things stayed under control because, when a busty Bosmer with a high-pitched voice tells a group of drunken idiots to shut up, they laugh and pay her no mind. When a tall, broad shouldered Nord says it, mouths shut and drunks magically sober up a little. It wasn't his dream job, but he never complained. In fact, he was happy to do it so that he could buy little gifts for his beloved. It made Kirsty sick to imagine them pawned off so she could lay about all day. As much as she hated to do it, she needed expert help with what she was about to do.

After locking the doors behind her, Kirsty set off for the alleys in the west side of town. She draped a cloak over herself with the hood covering her face as much as possible without blocking her vision. More than a few people glanced her way, as if they could sense and interloper. Kirsty quickly averted her eyes, keeping them at the ground.

She walked to a man laying on the ground in ratty clothes. "Um...excuse me," she said. "Are you a beggar?"

The man snorted and rolled over, facing away from her. "Listen, I need to speak to the...." She cleared her throat. "The Gray Fox. Can you tell him that I need some things stolen?"



Cheers, clinking of glasses, and roars of laughter echoed in the Dancing Minotaur. It was the same every night, but special to each of them none the less. Each night symbolized another day survived and a chance to drink away their worries until morning when they returned.

Lilitu Serano sat at in the center of the room, toasting not just to another day, but to her new position in Kvatch.

A drunken Redguard lifted her glass high and said, "To never again having to take a long trip with our goods!"

The crowd roared, toasting up their glasses and bottles.

"Hey, hey!" The Orc woman behind the counter called. "Don't forget today is Little Frankie's birthday!" She nudged a quiet Breton, smiling shyly behind light brown waves.

The crowd cheered as she brought out a small cake with nineteen candles in it. Frankie blew it out and as everyone toasted once more, Lilitu asked, "Did you make a wish?"

"I did, can you make it come true?"

"Depends. What'd you wish for?"

He blushed and smiled. "A kiss from you."

Everyone hooted and hollered as Lilitu gasped in mock indignation. "Oh, aren't you smooth!" She winked. "But alas, Armand Christophe has banned me from bedding anymore guild members."

"He banned you?" The Orc asked. "Good grief, what did you do to those poor men?"

Lilitu smiled slyly. "Who said anything about the men?"

As the room resonated with laughs, Lilitu caught sight of a robed person speaking to a beggar. Something about it looked off to her. An Imperial joined Lilitu, staring out. "That's Kirsty," he said. "She's got a bakery on the other side of town."

Lilitu looked at the Imperial. He was slightly shorter than her and very stocky. He had auburn hair that fell around his face in a way that suggested he just got out of bed that way. His light skin was spattered with red-brown freckles. While he stared at Kirsty, his eyes seemed to set on fire.

"How do you know her?" Lilitu asked. "And if she lives in that upscale area, what's she doing talking to a beggar? And who are you anyway? Not Thieves Guild, I'm guessing."

"Name's Capaneus. Capaneus Tempestius. I'm not with the guild, but believe me when I say I know everything there is to know about everyone around here. 'Cept you, of course. Not yet, anyway." He grinned widely, a smile that would have charmed Lilitu if the statement didn't creep her out. Last thing she needed was another stalker. "I've had my eye on Kirsty since she came here.... I'm not sure what she wants with that guy though. Maybe he stole something of hers."

"It would make more sense for her to call the guard when it happened, not wait until now." She put her hand on her hip, squinting. "He looks like he's getting irritated. I better have a look."



Stubborn old goat! Kirsty had done everything from throwing coins at him to pleading, but he wouldn't tell her where to find the Gray Fox! With every second wasted, she became increasingly aware of people staring at her. If she shouted, would the guards hear her over that seedy tavern across the road?

"Listen, I really need help with this and he's the only one that can do it!"

"Listen," he spat. "I ain't got time for your little troubles! If you don't get away from me--"

"What's the trouble?"

Kirsty nearly jumped, hearing the other voice. It belonged to a Dunmer, who walked next to the beggar.

"This little busybody keeps pestering me about the damn Gray Fox! Everyone knows that's just a myth, don't they?"

"Of course," she said, winking to the old man.

"Please," Kirsty said. "I just need to speak to him!"

"Why?" The Dunmer asked, her eyebrows arching up.

"I need him to steal something for me."

“Do you now?" She said thoughtfully. "Alright, just come with me."

Kirsty hesitated. "Where?"

"To discuss this privately. After all, the Gray Fox isn't the only one with eyes and ears, if you catch my drift."

"Right," she said.



The house wasn't as grand as the ones near her bakery, but it wasn't as worn down as the houses in the seedier parts of town. It was slim, sandwiched between others like it, and made of dark stone. There was a small yard enclosed by a wooden gate.

The dark elf knocked twice on the door. "Dolce, unlock."

After a moment, there was a loud click and she opened the door. "Good girl!" She cooed. A short dog jumped onto the dark elf, her tail wagging with delight. However, once it saw Kirsty, it barked ferociously, her hackles raised.

"Dolce, no!" The dark elf said. "Get in bed."

The dog growled softly, but turned and went back inside.

"Sorry," she said. "Dolce is like a man in that the only way to her heart is through her stomach. Anyway," she said, offering Kirsty a seat at the table. "We haven't been properly introduced. My name is Lilitu Serano. And you are...?"

Kirsty hesitated.

"I know you're trying to be anonymous, with that...outfit, but seriously, if I posed any danger, I'd rob you and lock you up in the basement and no one would say a peep." Kirsty went numb at the very thought. "Just think of this as an ordinary business transaction."

"Okay, I suppose. I'm Kirsty," she said, removing her hood.

Looking around, Kirsty was surprised at how much red the Dunmer's house contained. Red curtains, red table cloth, red candles, red cushions on the reddish couch. In the light of the house, Kirsty noticed that her hair was red, though her black eyebrows revealed that the color was unnatural. She wore a red corset with black pants. Her lips were stained dark red. The only gems on her jewelry were rubies.

"Oh wow..." She said. "It's so...."

"Red?" Lilitu smiled. "Well, except Dolce's things. They're all blue." Lilitu stroked the petals of a red flower in a silver vase. "Someone once told me that colors can attract certain things. Blue is said to be calming and protective. My precious Dolce is my protection and the gods know she needs to calm down some."

"And red?"

"Desire, energy, excitement..." Her eyes glittered for a moment. "But about the items you want stolen..."

"Aren't you going to tell the Gray Fox?"

Lilitu laughed a little. "If people knew where to find him, he'd be in a lot of trouble. After all, people can easily infiltrate to spy on us. It happened all the time back in the Imperial City. What usually happens is someone contacts a doyen, and the doyen picks out a thief to go do the job."

"Oh." Kirsty was surprised to see that it was somewhat organized. "And are you a doyen?"

"Not yet," she said. "I'm a fence. However, as the doyen here is... occupied, to put it politely, why don't you tell me what it is you want and I'll pass the word on?"

"Right, well, they're in town. It's just a couple items that I'm concerned about. A pair of diamond earrings and a topaz ring. The problem is, I don't know if she sleeps with them on or not."

Lilitu nodded, twirling the curled end of her ponytail. "Don't worry, our thieves are highly talented. Who's currently in possession of the jewelry?"

"Her name is Atrea. She's got really long blond hair, longer than yours even, green eyes--"

"Today, was she wearing a light green dress, with long sleeves and silver trim around the cuffs? An attitude problem? Accompanied by a brunette woman most of the day?"

"You know her?"

"I wouldn't say know her... I just moved here a couple days ago, but I did meet her this morning. She caused quite a scene earlier. She was rather insistent petting Dolce. My precious baby doesn’t like strangers very much and, well, she almost pulled back a stump. Then she had the nerve to try and report her as a dangerous…. mutt." The word seemed to bring out a certain anger in Lilitu. “Anyway, I’ve been looking for just the right way to pay her back, so I'll take care of it myself. You'll have the jewelry tomorrow morning."

Kirsty stood up. "I… Thank you." She went to the door, pausing to say, "You know, I never thought I'd ever do something like this."

"You think I pictured myself working for the Gray Fox? Some things just happen. Just one thing, though."

"What's that?"

"I need to know where she lives."

Kirsty led her outside. "It's that house there," she pointed. "The one with the purple curtain."

"Great. See you tomorrow."

Kirsty nodded and went back to her bakery. She couldn't help smiling as she passed Wrothken's house. She envied Lilitu. She would've sold her soul to be the one to rob Atrea blind in the middle of the night.



When Kirsty left, Lilitu found herself staring after her. That girl is certainly blessed by Dibella, she thought. Dark, shiny hair, cool brown eyes, a cute little beauty mark above her plump lips. And that figure! She'd kill for it. She sighed, shaking her head. Some girls have all the luck, she thought.

She opened her curtains and placed a chair so she could keep an eye on Atrea's window. First step was waiting for her to fall asleep. Shortly before meeting Kirsty, the chapel bell rang ten times. Sadly, without the opportunity to watch her for days, she had no idea what time she usually went to bed or if she slept alone. She considered asking Capaneus, but she knew if she went back to the Dancing Minotuar, she'd get caught up in the merrymaking and forget all about Kirsty's request.

Lilitu couldn't tell how many minutes had passed, but she knew that she couldn't stare at the window too much longer. She was starting to get antsy. Her favorite book sat on the table by the couch. She leaned over and grabbed it, opening it up to where she left off.

Before she knew it, the bells chimed twelve times. She set her book down, wondering where eleven o'clock went. She must have been so focused in the book that she didn't notice. Atrea's window was dark, but she wasn't sure for how long. She smiled, opening the book back up. Just three chapters and she'd get ready. That was plenty of time for Atrea to sleep.

Three chapters became four, since Lilitu couldn't stop once it got good. She didn’t just read books, she devoured them.

She went up to her room and slipped into more comfortable clothing. She pulled her hair back into a bun and put a cowl on over it, to avoid letting any red strands loosen and fall to the floor. After grabbing her lock picking set and a silver ring enchanted with night eye, she left the light on in her bedroom to make it appear that she was still home. She blew Dolce a kiss, as she always did before leaving her alone in the house. Not only was it a way of saying goodbye, it let Dolce know that it was time for guard mode. Dolce sat in front of the door, ready to do her job. As she exited the house, she put her lips to the door. "Dolce, lock." After a click, she whispered, "Good dog."



Not many people were on the streets so late at night. The occasional guard passed by, but they paid her no mind. No one would likely even recognize her in the morning if they passed each other again.

When the area was clear, she stopped in front of Atrea's door. She placed her hand on the knob and barely twisted. It was locked. She looked around to make sure no one was around. She double checked and then took out her pick. Slowly, she slipped it into the lock, gently moving it around to get a feel for the pins inside. She laughed softly, when she realized that it wasn't even that strong of a lock. Sometimes she enjoyed low hanging fruit. She made quick work of the lock and after looking around once more, she went in.

She slipped the ring on, cursing in her mind as it was still slightly too big. Damn her skeletal fingers. She balled her fist tightly to keep it from falling off. When she blinked everything was light blue.

The place was simply furnished. A loveseat in front of the fireplace, a little table next to it. In the kitchen, there was a small, round table and two chairs. The flowers on top were wilting and brown. A short shopping list was pinned to the wall. Something about it touched Lilitu's heart. It seemed so cozy, though very cluttered. Dishes sat on the kitchen counter and there was trash strewn about.

She proceeded up the stairs into the bedroom. The door was unlocked, so she sighed in relief. She didn't want to spend too much time sneaking around. Her book was waiting.

The first thing she saw was a large bed with Atrea sprawled out in it. A large axe hung up on the wall. Lilitu had a hard time imagining Atrea even lifting it. She tiptoed over to the slumbering Altmer. She slept with her hair in a braid, leaving her ears visible. No earrings. If she didn't need to be silent, she would have sighed in relief. Yes, the Thieves’ Guild had talented members, but that didn’t mean it would have been easy to pry the jewelry off a sleeping person and not get caught. No ring on her fingers either. She looked at both night stands and neither of them had a jewelry box on them.

There was a large chest under the window. It was locked, but Lilitu managed to open it quickly. All she found were men's shirts that were twice as wide as she was and reached her knees. She put them back and shut the chest.

She was about to check the wardrobe when a sparkle caught her eye. On the desk were the earrings and the ring along with a note. Clearly she had been shopping around for the best prices. She must not have been done with the comparisons.

Lilitu picked them up, note included and stuffed them in a small pouch. She turned to leave when she noticed a small mountain of ripped or crumpled papers by a wicker basket. Lilitu glanced at Atrea. Did she just come across potential blackmail fuel? She picked up a few of the crumpled ones and smoothed them out.

Love notes. All of them filled with the sweetest wishes, dreams and hopes for the future. Thankfulness for a relationship budding into something stronger. All of them signed “Wrothken” at the bottom.

Lilitu was breathless. Some of them were so sweet that she wanted to weep. What in Oblivion were they doing crumpled on the floor? She looked a couple of them over once more, recognizing the name at the bottom as a Nord’s. She looked back at the axe and remembered the giant shirts. Obviously, the two had ended things. Her bias made her want to believe that Atrea was at fault, but she had no way of knowing for sure.

Lilitu walked over to the bed once more, staring down at Atrea. She shook her head. To let go of a man who could write like that... if that was what happened.

Atrea stirred in her sleep, cuddling up with her pillow. Lilitu took that as a sign that it was time to go. When she was out, she carefully walked down the stairs. She felt her way toward the door and opened it slightly. A guard was passing by, but he didn't notice the door opening a crack. He continued down the street, turning at the corner. Lilitu slipped out and casually walked back to her house.



After pouring ylang-ylang oil into the bath, Lilitu sat in the steamy water, remembering the notes. Each time, she felt her heart quicken. She wanted to know where he was. She heard of people who can decipher everything about a person based on their handwriting. All Lilitu could tell from the writing alone was that it was likely written by a man. She had also heard of people who can hold something belonging to someone and then connect mentally with the person. If only she had that power.

In her life, she had loved only twice. A hopeless romantic, she yearned for the feeling once more to be loved, cherished, caressed... It had been for too long, she thought.

The thoughts accompanied her to bed that night and she couldn't help but wonder if one day, someone with a heart like Wrothken would as well.
D.Foxy
This time I caught the nits first!!!

She almost forgot her sour mood when Awour entered with another other girl

Awour didn't dare ordering anything


Getting careless, are we? And this your second time around, too! fie, fie!!

nono.gif

tongue.gif
haute ecole rider
hello, Dan Fogelberg fan! I remember him well (okay, so I'm nearly as old as Julian). He had some pretty cool stuff out when I was much younger!

I remember you introducing Lilitu the first time around and enjoying it quite well. She's the kind of self-reliant woman I can't help but respect. Kristy is endearing in her own way, and I loved how she had to restrain herself when Awour came into her bakery (meow!). The fact that she is so protective of a big guy like Wrothken just makes me smile. He's pretty stupid for not seeing the differences between the two women.

I look forward to more!
mALX
I love the drawings (and pics, Dolce) you are incorporating into your story now !!!
SubRosa
If Wrothken and Bacchus were both were heading in that direction and happened to run into each other, then there would be a new reason to call it the Red Road.
laugh.gif

Wrothken was a great man, one of the last "nice guys" that she knew. If he wasn't so brotherly toward her, she would've scooped him up immediately.
Aww, who's Kirsty trying to fool? She won't jump Wrothken's bones for the same reason Awour is dumping him. He's one of the last "nice guys". The kiss of death for a straight man.

When a tall, broad shouldered Nord says it, mouths shut and drunks magically sober up a little.
Yup!


Lilitu smiled slyly. "Who said anything about the men?"
Hawt! The whole scene in the Dancing Minotaur was excellent addition. Not only because we got to see Liltu enjoying her promotion (to fence?) with other members of the guild, but we also had an introduction to Capaneus as well. Now I can see why you wanted to go back and rework things. Additions like this make it worth it!

It also fits in perfectly with Kirsty's fumbling attempts to find the Grey Fox from a beggar! tongue.gif

Dolce unlocks the door for Liltu! I love it! And the way you tied her into the Sirens of Anvil was perfect!
Jacki Dice
Foxy~ -sniff, sniff- I can't believe that got through! And I spent the most time on that chapter specifically! For shame!!!

Haute ecole rider~ I love Dan Fogleberg!! My mom has one of his records and I would play Longer to death! -swoon-

mALX~ Thank you! I figured since the story was getting redone, the pics should too!

SubRosa~ This was one of the biggest things I wanted to re-do. After awhile it hit me that I didn't touch on any other thieves! It didn't make sense to me. And I needed Capaneus to have a bigger role in it smile.gif


~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Seven: Cures and Crystals



As Wrothken walked the dreary path toward Knotty Bramble, he finally had time to think. Sheogorath chose him as his champion. How he would love to go home and shove that in people's faces. Champion of a Daedric Prince. A completely insane one at that! That had to come with perks and boy, would Atrea be sorry then!

He imagined strolling down the walk in Kvatch dressed in the fancy suits several men in Crucible wore, Rheyna on his arm-- He blushed, thankful no one was around to see it. What could it be about her that drew him in? Sure, there was the parallel to Atrea, but was there anything else? Kirsty constantly told him that the best way to get over anyone was to get under someone else. He smiled, knowing that he wouldn't mind one bit finding that out, this time without the aid, or detriment, of whiskey.

He looked down at his map and saw that he was close to Knotty Bramble. He looked to his left and saw nothing. He walked over a hill and was just about to leave when he caught sight of a round spot attached underneath the tangled roots of a tree. The circle was covered in shiny bumps that didn’t look like it could be a natural part of it. It had to be the entrance to Knotty Bramble. Remembering Bernice mention creatures called grummites, he took out his mace and raised his shield, and he went in.

The interior was among the strangest places he'd ever been to. Inside the tree, other plants flourished, as if the tree were merely a host. Everywhere he turned, he ran into giant mushrooms, or glowing orbs as big as his head. He came to a fork in the tunnel, but one was blocked off by thick roots. He tried hammering his way through, but they were too strong. He had no choice but to go the other way.

As he headed into the depths of the tunnels, he came across one of the goblin-fish creatures. Those must be the grummites, he thought. It was walking toward him when their eyes met. The grummite ran up to him, wasting no time as it began to hack at the air between them. Wrothken watched it and when its arm was down, he gripped the mace tightly and slammed its arm and then hit its head.

Two more waited for him further down. The moment they saw him coming, they rushed him, slashing him so fast that he could barely get any hits in. They're quick little bastards, he thought. He kicked one of them hard and focused more on the one still in front of him. As it became worn down, the other came back, but it was easier to deal with a quick one and a weakened one than it was to deal with two of them at their prime.

He wandered around until he came across another door similar to the one outside. Once he opened it, he heard the sound of rushing water.

His heart rose as he followed the sound. He was on a higher level with the pool directly below him. For a second, he considered just jumping in, but he decided against it due to his armor and not knowing how deep or shallow it was. Instead, he continued through until he was able to reach the pool.

A few grummites took notice of him and after beating them, he took out the flask and he made sure to fill it to the top. He closed it tightly and put it away. "That was simple enough," he said, walking back to the exit. Then he noticed several egg sacks floating in the water. He frowned, realizing that the grummites were probably just protecting their eggs. He felt slightly bad, but he knew he couldn't beat himself up over it. If he didn't defend himself, the grummites would have killed him without any remorse at all.



Daylight greeted him as he stepped back outside. He wondered for a moment if he should run back to Crucible and give Bernice her cure, but he decided against it. There wasn't much of a point to walking all the way back to Crucible and all the way down to Xedilian. Hopefully Bernice's illness could be just a little patient.

As usual, while he was walking, unbidden thoughts crept into his mind. He wondered if Atrea noticed he was gone? She must have, he thought. You don't go from seeing someone daily to not seeing them at all and not wondering about it. He also wondered if Atrea did anything to set Kirsty off.

Wrothken remembered when he told Kirsty what happened. He had been crying so hard that his words were incoherent so he had to repeat himself several times, which just made him cry more. Someone once said that redheads have the worst temper. Whoever said that obviously never met Kirsty. Either that or they made her so angry that they never had the chance to tell the tale. The short brunette was livid and Wrothken only stopped crying because he didn't have the strength to bawl and hold her in her chair. He begged her not to do anything but she wouldn't promise. She swore up and down that if Atrea said one word or even glanced at her the wrong way, she was going to beat her into the next era.

It wouldn't have been so bad if Atrea had just been honest instead of sneaking around. He didn't even know how long it had been going on. Part of him wanted to go back and ask, but he was afraid of the answer. He didn't want to hear that it went on for months or with multiple people. He didn't want to worry that it was his fault or that he just wasn't good enough. He had been far too scared to find out the truth, even though he hated asking himself why or what he did to cause it.

He shook his head, remembering that he banished her from his mind. Besides, there was plenty of other fish in the sea. Of course, the first image to pop in his mind was Rheyna. He could tell she didn't like him, but what he would give to spend some time with her and get her to give him a chance. Maybe it was the fact that Bernice had warned him about her. It gave her the "forbidden fruit" appeal. If he could get Rheyna to go to Kvatch with him and rent a room somewhere.... Oh, that would get Atrea's panties in such a twist! She was jealous enough over Kirsty, but if he was openly with someone else? It gave him momentary happiness, but then his heart sank as he realized that she probably wouldn't care. After all, she was the one who left him, not the other way around. Even still... he thought. He knew he wanted to get close to Rheyna, if not to make Atrea jealous, then to at least keep his mind, and body, occupied.



The bridge leading into Xedilian was guarded by a grummite. Wrothken was taken by surprise. He had been expecting adventurers, if anyone, to be there instead. After taking care of it, he proceeded inside.

It was nearly black inside. Wrothken was faced with the choice of using a torch or using his shield. He set his shield down by the door and hoped he wouldn't need it. Torch in hand, he walked up to a door. He tried pushing it open, but it wouldn't budge. It was metal, not wood, so he couldn't break it down. "What in Oblivion...?" he muttered, feeling the door for a knob. Eventually he came across a brick with a red face sticking out slightly. He pressed it and the door opened up right away. He made a mental note to keep an eye out for more of those.

The old fort looked like something he would have seen in Cyrodiil. Old tapestries hung on the walls. They looked like they were once fiery red, they were now covered in mold and dust, faded with time. At one point, a gold crest decorated the bottom of each tapestry, but he could only see the faint tracings. Every corner was home to a large, smelly mounds that Wrothken tried his best to avoid, as he didn't want to imagine what it was for.

It wasn't long until he came to a room with three grummites inhabiting it. Two of them wielded daggers and the other simply disappeared before Wrothken's eyes. He was so surprised, that he didn't react in time to the two quick ones. They nearly backed him into a wall with their attacks. He tried focusing on one at a time, but it was harder than he thought, as they kept bouncing up as they hacked at him. He finally finished them off and looked around for any sign of the invisible one. He got his hint as soon as he was struck with lightning. His body tingled painfully as he caught sight of the last grummite. It held a long spear with a jagged crystal at the end of it. A focus crystal, he thought. The book had instructed him to use those to activate something the writer called Judgment Nexuses. That would reactivate the Attenuator of Judgment and restart the “heart” of Xedilian. He ran over to the grummite holding the crystal, not even caring about the mound of filth it stood on, and he took it out with a blow to the head.

He picked up the crystal and looked around, trying to find where it belonged. He found it in the next room, where a conical fountain, made of intricately carved purple-gray stone sat with a bright glow at the top. That had to be a Judgment Nexus. He placed it on the glow and it floated there, making a soft humming sound.

One down, two to go.

He headed down the stairs where he saw three more grummites. They were facing a fire pit with three large totem poles in the center. They bowed and occasionally made movements as if they were having seizures. Wrothken tried looked beyond them to see if there was a way he could sneak around them, but it was too dark to tell. His only choice was to go in and look for himself.

Like he expected, the moment the grummites saw him, they rushed to attack. Two of them came at him with their daggers and the third remained behind as it readied its bow and arrows. This time, he was more prepared. He was able to get good hits on the first one, taking it down quicker. The other one required more time, and it was happy that the other grummite obviously couldn't see him, as the arrows flew feet away. Once he took care of the second one, he headed for the archer. It didn't even try to run away as he bludgeoned it to death.

As he walked, he started feeling a prickling in the back of his neck. It felt like something was behind him, but each time he turned, there was no one. It made him wonder if there was another invisible grummite silently stalking him, waiting for the perfect time to strike. He could almost see it every time he started walking.

"Oh, snap out of it!" He said. "Stupid place is making you paranoid."

He came to a split in the path. Two metal doors were on either side and a push block was directly in front of him. He looked at either one, wondering which it opened.

Only one way to find out...

He pressed the button, only to feel the floor vanish from beneath him. He landed hard on his back, crying out when he saw the body of a dead grummite.

He sat up, clutching his throbbing head. It took him a few moments to focus properly in order to fully heal himself.

There was no way to get back up to where he was, so he walked around, hoping for the best. He was half relieved when he found another trio of grummites, one wielding a crystal staff. He almost laughed when the staff user was in such a hurry to attack, it accidentally shocked one of the grummites to death. This time, Wrothken took out the staff user, just to ensure it didn't turn invisible on him. After that, he took care of the other one. Once again, he attached the focus crystal to another nearby altar. Just one more.

The halls led him to another room with a couple of grummites. He was starting to get used to them and found it a lot easier to dispatch them. Inside the room, there was a flight of stairs leading to nowhere, leading Wrothken to think that it might have been a throne room once. He was about to leave when a sparkle caught his eye from the top of the stairs. Curious, he went to check it out.

The sparkle came from a round topaz. His heart sank. He used to call Atrea his precious topaz, due to her golden skin and hair. He chucked it across the room.

The next place he came to was a large door that opened normally. He wanted to be relieved that he was almost done but the topaz, and the memories associated with it, was bothering him. Instead, grummites relieved him, since he could easily take his anger out on them instead.

He bashed them in repeatedly until the halls were cleared. With the last crystal in place, let out a loud sigh of relief. All he had to do was tune the crystal and he could go and relax. After glancing down at his beat up armor, he added something else to his to-do list.

Walking down the hall, he heard the all too familiar croaks of grummites. Three of them guarded the resonator at the end of the room. He was so tired, but the thought of a hot bath at Bernice's gave him the drive to go forward and fight. The first two were dagger-users and the last was an archer. The two grummites hopped up in his face, repeatedly slashing at him. At that point, he stopped trying to focus on one at a time and just delivered the beatings to whoever was closest. The archer remained where it was, pelting him with arrows. He wished he had the shield with him, but he knew that wishing it wouldn't get back it to him. Luckily, arrows that hit him bounced off the armor. Clearly grummite arrows weren’t the best quality. They would probably be better off used as small spears.

Just like the last archer, it didn't run or switch weapons. It took the beating until its death.

Wrothken took out the Attenuator of Judgment and hit the cluster of crystals once. Immediately, it began to hum loudly. The sound was so pleasant that Wrothken strongly considered taking a nap underneath it. He wanted to sleep so badly, but since he was finished, he was ready to leave Xedilian.

To his right, a door opened up, revealing a red glowing tile. He went to look at it, hoping it was an exit, but there was no door underneath it. He was going to head back, but the door shut behind him and wouldn't budge. He banged on it repeatedly until he remembered the red push block from when he first entered. All he had to do was push this one and he would be home free! Since it was on the floor, he assumed it would need a lot of weight to activate it. He stood on it and suddenly, he only saw bright red shimmers before him. Time to relax, he thought happily.
SubRosa
How he would love to go home and shove that in people's faces.
I loved the entire first paragraph! That has to come with perks indeed! biggrin.gif

My most recent character in the Isles - Morrigan - always made it a point to take every Grummite egg she could find. Even if she could not use it to make any potions. She just hates them.

Someone once said that girls with red hair have the worst temper.
They must have met Teresa, or Athynae! biggrin.gif

she was going to beat her into the next era.
I love this phrase!

Again, you show us Wrothken's turmoil very well. He is walking through one of the strangest places in the multi-verse, and thinking more about his ex-girlfriend than anything else! Which is to say, just like any real person would. Good job bringing Wrothken to life here. His finding the topaz in Xedillian, and then throwing it away because it reminded him of Awour was wonderful!



Nits:
When we last saw Wrothken he was reading the book about Xedillian and bumping into Kalila. You said that the book told Wrothken what to do. But you never told us what that is. Now he is gathering focus crystals, but we the readers do not know what they are for (Well, us who have not done the Shivering Isles MQ). Perhaps you should go back and put in a sentence or two explaining how he needs the crystals and activate the resonator with the attenuator, etc... Or work something like that in this chapter.
TheOtherRick
I haven't read the whole story yet. As a matter of fact, I have only read the prologue and the first chapter. But I had to post anyway, and I am going to catch up before you know it. This story is AWESOME!
mALX
SubRosa already caught my favorite line:

"she was going to beat her into the next era."


Great line !!! Wrothken's meandering mind and desire to sleep under the red light seem to be leading him down the path to the madness that is a part of Shivering Isles - Huge Write !!! Great Chapter !!
Grits
The short brunette was livid and Wrothken only stopped crying because he didn't have the strength to bawl and hold her in her chair.
What an image!! laugh.gif

She said she couldn't and then started to rant about how girls like Awour were the reason she can't stand to be around other women.
Preach it, Kirsty!!

He shook his head, remembering that he banished her from his mind.
Mmm hmm. Until he sees a topaz. rollinglaugh.gif

Time to relax, he thought happily.
I like him so much! smile.gif
Jacki Dice
SubRosa~ I didn't even think about that! I edited it a bit, so the book becomes more helpful. smile.gif

TheOtherRick, mALX, and Grits~ Thanks so much ♥ smile.gif


~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Eight: Decisions, decisions



When he opened his eyes, he expected to see the beautiful sky and the path that would lead him back to Crucible. His eyes widened and he looked around, halfway hoping that he did actually go to sleep beneath the resonator, and was just dreaming. Sadly, his aching body told him otherwise. Instead of being outside, he saw that he was still inside the fort, only there was a Dunmer with him.

He walked up to Wrothken with a wide smile and said, "Finally, Lord Sheogorath has sent someone to assist me! But where are my manners?" He cleared his throat, muttering, "Must get into my professional tone..." He cleared his throat once more and spoke in a deeper, more even voice. "Welcome to Xedilian, I'm the dungeon caretaker, Kiliban Nyrandil."

Wrothken sighed deeply. "Why am I still in here?"

"Xedilian would normally have sent you back to the entrance when you stepped on the pad in the Resonator Chamber. Since you're up here, I can only surmise that adventurers are already entering the dungeon as we speak." Kiliban seemed almost pleased.

"That's nice, but that doesn't really explain why I'm still here."

"I'm afraid until the adventurers are dealt with, Xedilian will keep you here. Even I can't will its doors to open. To put it bluntly, you're stuck here for the moment. No disrespect intended."

He sighed. His bath would have to wait. At least this man was polite, unlike certain chamberlains... "Alright. How do I deal with them? Should I just go out there and tell them to shoo? I warn you, I'm too damn tired to fight off a bunch of adventurers."

"Oh, heavens to Betsy, no!" Kiliban laughed. "The adventurers must go through a cycle. All you need to do is decide what becomes of them. Will you drive them insane or will you pull the life from their bodies?"

Kiliban held his arm and led him to a transportation tile. They arrived in another area overlooking a large room with a small tree-creature. It was nothing like the spriggans found in Cyrodiil. It looked like a dead tree with three roots for legs and strange white berries on its head. The room itself must have been another section of Xedilian. It was clean and save for the tree-creature there wasn't anything in sight.

"Now, these adventurers seek a place to live here in the Isles," Kiliban explained. "Since that horrid Gatekeeper isn't around anymore, it's become easy for just anyone to stroll in and set up shop. As you know, Lord Sheogorath only welcomes those He sees fit for residency. Now, it's up to you to decide whether or not they're worthy." He patted him on the shoulder. "I bet you're just tickled pink! Now, about the buttons. When you push the appropriate button, an event will unfold for the adventurers to experience. One is physically harmful, usually lethal traps or creatures, something relished by the residents of Dementia. The other choice is more mental. They are designed to make the adventurers lose their grip on reality, much like the residents of Mania."

"What?" Realization hit Wrothken like a bucket of ice water. He pulled out the book, flipping to the end pages. "Oh, no...." He said, his eyes widening.

"Oh, I see you have my book!" He said. "Oh, my stars, I can't tell you how flattered I am that you've read it."

Wrothken wasn't too fond of the available options as described in the book. What had those poor adventurers done to deserve death or even madness? He couldn't help but wonder what would have happened to him if he hadn't had to fight the gatekeeper, but come through Xedilian. What would the one in charge have chosen? "Why don't we just talk to them and judge from that?"

"A splendid idea indeed," Kiliban said, patting Wrothken's shoulder. "But I'm afraid it can't work that way. This is how Lord Sheogorath desires it and far be it from me to disobey Him. He'd have my head....literally! Oh, look! Here they come!"

A group of three men entered. The first was an Orc in a suit of Orsimer armor. He carried a large claymore on his back. The second to enter was an Dunmer wearing aqua robes, and the last was a brown-haired man. Wrothken couldn't tell what race he was.

"...now keep your weapons ready and watch your backs. Do what I say, and we might just get outta here alive." The Orc said to the other two.

They stopped and stared at the small creature. The Orc began to laugh.

"Awwww.... ain't it cute! What in Oblivion is that thing?" He continued laughing.

"This is one of the 'horrid guardians' of which the stories spoke?" The third man asked.

"Be careful," the Dunmer warned. "There may be more to this creature than meets the eye."

Kiliban nudged Wrothken. "Press a button," he whispered.

Wrothken looked at both of them. One was smiling and one was frowning. The book explained that the frown was the physical torment and the smile was mental. Self-defense was one thing, but he couldn't bring himself to decide to kill them just for fun. Was it any better than causing them to lose their mind though? It was a purely selfish thought as it made him feel guilty being the one to take away their sanity. Sure, they’d be alive and likely find themselves a home in the Isles, but doing this was quite the burden to place on him. He didn’t think being Sheogorath’s champion would have this kind of a cost. Obviously, he didn’t think it through all the way. He was too distracted at the thought of rubbing people’s noses in his newfound status. Figuring it was better than murdering the newcomers, he pressed the smiling button.

"What a joke," the Orc said, walking past it. "Let's be rid of this thing and continue on our way."

Wrothken heard a faint hiss, but he didn't think they could hear it. The other men did double takes at the small creature.

"Are my eyes playing tricks, or is the creature growing?"

It didn't look any bigger to Wrothken. He looked at Kiliban, who was smiling widely. "The button you pressed released hallucinogenic spore gas into the chamber. It's tricking them into believing the gnarl means to kill them. Don't worry, its bark is far worse than its bite." He chuckled at his little joke.

Wrothken looked back at the chamber where the men were scrambling, desperately trying to get away from the gnarl. The hissing soon stopped. The adventurers calmed down and the gnarl crawled into a corner, likely more afraid of them than they had been of it.

The Dunmer panted hard. "All this time it was merely an illusion," he said wiping sweat from his brow. "How clever."

The Orc turned around and walked slowly toward the other man. "Wait... what's wrong with Lewin?"

Lewin was on the ground, desperately trying to crawl as far away from the gnarl as possible. He stared after the creature. "...ma-makes no sense...should be d-dead...what...who..."

The Dunmer frowned. He walked over to the Orc, placing his hand on his shoulder. "I think this place got to him... perhaps we should leave."

The Orc shook his head. "We'll pick him up on the way out. He'll have to fend for himself."

The remaining men entered another room, leaving Lewin behind.

"Watching them run from the little gnarl gets me every time," Kiliban said happily. "Another chamber, another victim to eliminate. Hurry, the anticipation is overwhelming!" He led Wrothken to the next platform.



The first thing Wrothken saw was a pile of gold and jewels the size of Kirsty's bakery. Instantly, he made a mental list of all the things he could buy with such a large amount. The only problem was that it was locked up in a large cage. When the Orc and Dunmer entered the room, Wrothken knew they were thinking the same thing.

"Look!" The Orc pointed. "I told you! Treasure! Let's have at it, Syndelius."

They ran up a flight of stairs leading to it. The Orc grabbed hold of the bars and shook them hard. "Blast! The cage is locked. If only Lewin were here... he could get us through this in no time."

Syndelius reached through the bars, but he couldn’t reach even a single coin. "Do you think you can pry the door open?"

The Orc descended the stairs. "Forget it! This is obviously a trick! Let's get out of here."

Wrothken looked at Kiliban, who nodded his head. He pushed the smiling button. Surely they wouldn’t think the gold was going to attack them, right?

"To be so close, and yet so far,” Syndelius lamented. “If only we had the key! Wait.. do you hear something?"

A vague jingling sound started to grow louder and louder until hundreds, maybe thousands, of keys spilled onto the floor.

Syndelius whooped loudly. "Look! Keys! One of them must open the gate! We're rich!"

The Orc folded his arms. "Let's get out of here, Syndelius. This is obviously a trick to waste our time!"

Syndelius ignored him. "I'll know it when I see it!” He picked one up and rushed to the lock. “Yes... it must be here!" The key must not have worked, because he dropped it and headed back to the pile.

The Orc grabbed his arm. "They're all fake! Just come with me, now!"

Powered by his lust for gold, he wrenched free and grabbed a fistful of keys. "...find it... yes... I must find the key... rich beyond all my dreams..." He laughed under his breath.

"Bah! Suit yourself!" The Orc shot him a dirty look and walked off.

"Must find the key! Must find the key!" Syndelius sang as he started testing each one.

“Too bad none of those keys fit the lock...” He burst out into laughter. “Last chamber... this should be entertaining."



After getting on the pad, Wrothken was transported to a room that looked like it had been taken from nightmares. The floors and parts of the wall were stained with blood. Rotting corpses were hanging from their neck or attached to the walls. Some were scattered across the floor. Wrothken had to fight to keep his breakfast down.

The Orc walked down the stairs, obviously a little disturbed. "Steady, Grommok... steady," he said to himself. "You've been through worse before. What more could this place possibly throw at you?"

Wrothken was horrified of what it would do, but he pressed the smiling button. Purple light flashed and Grommok froze.

"What!? How in Oblivion can I be dead? This is impossible! Nothing killed me!" He cried out a little, looking at his hands and then around the room. "I didn't even get a chance to fight! No chance to defend myself? No chance for battle? Why?”

Kiliban nodded. “One of my favorites,” he said. “It’s a spell that makes the target translucent in their own eyes. Grommock here believes himself to be a ghostly victim! Incredibly unsettling, wouldn’t you say?”

It had to be more than just unsettling. Grommock was beginning to panic. “Impossible!” He cried. “This is impossible... Grommok has never lost a fight! Never!" He knelt down, clasping his head. "No! This is all wrong! This isn't how it's supposed to be!"

The light flashed again and Grommok jumped, but he kept mumbling to himself.

Kiliban patted Wrothken on the back. "You've made short work of the intruders. Sheogorath should be proud to have such an efficient apprentice." He led him to the last pad.

Sheogorath could be proud, but Wrothken felt terrible. This was far from what he thought Xedilian would be.



They arrived in another room that was near the entrance. Kiliban stood in front of a large chest. "As is the tradition, you are to be awarded a focus crystal as a token of your fine work. I'll have it sent to the palace and placed in the main hall, if you wish to take a look at it."

"Alright... and you mentioned some earnings?"

"Oh, yes... of course. It seems a most unusual weapon was recovered from the Orc warrior, Grommok. Never seen anything like it, but perhaps his journal can give you some useful information. Beyond that, take whatever else you need from the recovery chest... you've earned it!"

Wrothken opened the chest, hoping the unusual weapon would be a battle axe or a hammer. He was disappointed to see a large claymore with a violet gem on the guard. He held it up, admiring its beauty. It was a lovely weapon and though he had no use for it, at least he could sell it for a decent price. Among the other treasures, he found an amulet, gold, some lock picks, and a strange black cube with swirling blue patterns all over it. He decided to leave the journal behind. He didn’t want anything that would further guilt him for destroying Grommock’s sanity.

"You're free to go at any time of course, just up that hallway," Kiliban said shaking his hand. "Good luck to you!"

Wrothken nodded and was relieved to be able to go home and even more relieved that he had to fight the Gatekeeper rather than endure the same trials as those poor men. As he walked down the hall, he heard a harsh, metallic scraping. Before his eyes, a large crystal rose from the ground, looking like a giant version of the focus crystals he took from the grummites. He found it strange, but he kept going. Within seconds three armored beings ran at him. It looked as if their armor and weapons were made from the crystal. They didn't utter a sound as they descended on Wrothken, attacking with long lances. Kiliban must have heard the commotion as well. He gasped when he saw them and began flinging spells at the men. Once they were down, Kiliban rushed to check on him.

"That was quite a battle. I hope you are uninjured."

Wrothken looked at his armor. It was dented and cracked badly. "I'm fine, I guess. Who were those people?"

"You've not heard the legends? How could that be?" Kiliban looked at the men in disgust. "Those 'people' as you call them aren't people at all. They are the soulless abominations known as the Knights of Order," he spat.

"Knights of Order?" Wrothken tilted his head.

Kiliban didn't answer. Instead, he pushed him toward the door. "You must proceed to Sheogorath at once and tell him the Knights have returned! Quickly now... go!"

He pushed Wrothken out and slammed the door shut. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach. The Knights of Order must mean very bad news.
SubRosa
Sadly, his aching body told him otherwise.
I really liked this line. So very simple, but elegant.

He couldn't help but wonder what would have happened to him if he hadn't had to fight the gatekeeper, but come through Xedilian. What would the man in charge have chosen?
Uh oh, feeling empathy for others is not a good idea for a Champion of Madness... I think Wrothken is going to discover that he has gotten far more than he bargained for by coming to the Isles.

I always drive them insane too. It seems like the lesser of the two choices. Besides, it is the Realm of Madness after all, not that of Murder. I always thought the keys trap was a good touch.

And finally the Knights of Order. The end of the world is on a short timetable indeed!
mALX
I absolutely hated this quest - first time in any game I entered a dungeon and couldn't get out without doing something distasteful first. Couldn't kill innocents, so I chose the madness route too - but GAAAAAH!!! You did a Great rendition of Wrothken's turmoil at having to be the one to make the choices!!

Jacki Dice
SubRosa & mALX~ I always drive them insane too. I think I killed them once just to see what the traps did, but I reloaded and drove them mad instead. It is the lesser of two evils and it will help them fit in perfectly with the rest of the residents smile.gif

~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Nine: Duality



By time Wrothken made it back to Sickly Bernice's Taphouse, he felt like collapsing right in front of the door. His entire body throbbed in sync with his thudding heart. Beads of sweat lined his hair, slowly falling down his face, burning into his scruff. When he sat down, his thighs felt the familiar, pleasant burning throb of a good workout.

"Oh dear," Bernice said frowning. "Your cheeks are so red! Have you caught a fever?"

He shook his head. He didn't tell her that he ran most of the trip, fearful that more Knights would show up. Instead, he pulled out the silver flask and set it before her.

"Oh my stars..." She whispered, lifting it up. She swished it around. Her face lit up as she opened it, taking a whiff. "My savior!" She grasped Wrothken's hand for a moment before gulping it down. The gray pallor washed away from her face immediately, being replaced by a cool ivory color. "Thank you, thank you!" She smiled widely.

Wrothken would have enjoyed her happiness more if he wasn't so dead tired. "You're welcome, Bernice. Can I have a room for a couple hours?"

"Dearie, you can have a room whenever you want. No, put your gold away, I won't accept a single coin. You saved my life! In fact, I want you to have this." She took a ring from a box of Septims. It was a dark band with a soft green gem in the center. "It's supposed to boost your immunity up. Didn't work for me, obviously, but you're younger so maybe it'll help you."

It was far too small for his middle or ring finger, but it barely fit on his pinky. "Thank you, Bernice," he said, looking at the jade.

"Don't mention it," she said. "Really, don't tell anyone. I wouldn't want someone to get too close and get me sick all over again. Now, you go on up and rest. Afterwards, I'd recommend that you go see Cutter, just up the road. She can fix your armor up for you. Do be careful, though. She's a bit of an odd one..."



Rested, bathed, and finally shaven, Wrothken felt wonderful. He gathered up his armor and mace and walked down to Cutter's Weapons.

A flash of butterflies fluttered about in his stomach when he entered and saw the bloody stains on the floor and table. Standing in front of a blazing furnace, was an incredibly pale wood elf. Her jet hair made her appear almost ghostly. She had large green eyes heavily shadowed with black powder. Her smile gave Wrothken chills.

"They call me Cutter," she said, in a soft, slow drawl. "You must be the new boy. I bet your blood would taste delicious..."

He set his armor on the table, keeping his distance. "Bernice said you'd be able to fix this up?"

She held up the cuirass, licking her lips as she traced her finger over the gashes. "I bet you bled all over the place." She looked at the other pieces and set them aside. "I can fix them for fifty gold."

Wrothken raised his eyebrows. He was sure he didn't have that much, but then he remembered the items he received in Xedilian. "Do you buy things too?"

She nodded.

"Good," He said. He set the claymore down, noticing the purple gem had turned orange. It had to be a trick of the light. "I'm not sure what this is, but maybe you can find a use for it," he said, setting down the black box.

Cutter gasped. "A matrix! Are you sure you want to sell it?"

"Maybe." He picked up the box. "What's a matrix?"

"Let me show you something," she said. She took his arm, the iciness of her hands piercing through Wrothken's shirt, and she led him to the other side of the room, where two sets of armor were displayed.

They were made from the same material, one built for a man, the other for a woman. It was an almost sickly, dark green color. A vision of a tortured soul was etched on the cuirass, and a monster's face on the shield. The helm was something that the face of evil would wear. Wrothken placed his hand longingly on the glass. That armor was scary enough to strike terror in the heart of any enemy, be it a grummite or a Knight of Order. He had to have it.

"It is made from Madness Ore," Cutter said, picking up what looked like a large, black thorn from the table. "Spirits of ancients souls are trapped in the Ore. Find it in ancient ruins. Grummites are also especially attracted to it." Wrothken briefly remembered seeing the thorns in Xedilian, but at the time he didn't think anything of them. "It's a supple and flexible ore, yet it holds a good edge. I can shape the sharpest of blades with it. I can also create magical items."

She set the ore down and took the box she had referred to as a matrix. "Tradition dictates before each master smith dies, she hides these magical molds in the world, like pouring salt deep into a wound.” She ran her fingers slowly down her arms. Wrothken noticed raised scars all over her forearms, some jagged, some swirled, even some spelling out words. “Over time they soak in magical energies from the world around them, the way you suck in blood from a cut." She ran her finger slowly down his arm, causing him to shudder. "Bring me two pieces of ore, and I will forge you a new set of boots and bleed the magic of the matrix into it."

"Alright," he said, excited by the thought of new armor. "How much will you need?"

She took a paper from her pocket. It was covered in soot and dried blood smears. "Here is a list of everything I would need for whatever piece you would like. Now, I will get to work on your armor. It may take awhile, so you may leave if you'd like and come back later. Since you sold me a fine weapon, we'll call it even, hmm?"

"Alright, I'll be back soon," he said. He didn't want to keep Sheogorath waiting.

As he was heading to the palace, he felt a strong grip on his arm. He almost expected to see a Golden Saint scowling down at him, but was surprised to see Rheyna. She pulled him back, making him face her. His heart raced so hard, he was sure she could hear it.

"You shaved." She said. Her voice was almost like the Mazken, only lacking warmth. "I like it. It makes you look..." She leaned in. "Younger....fresher. Much more innocent." She smiled, her eyes shining with mischief. "You look nice this way. I like it."

His entire body tingled with her every word simply because she was talking to him. He tried to speak, but his voice cracked as if he were fifteen again. He simply nodded.

"Anyway, I have to go see Cutter now. Maybe we can get together later..." She released his arm and turned on her heel, leaving Wrothken to gaze after her.



"Well now," Sheogorath said. "What news do you have to report?"

"First of all, I was attacked by Knights of Order."

"So soon?" He seemed genuinely concerned for a moment. "Not a surprise, I suppose. We'll get to that later. No need to burden your little brain with it now," he said, waving his hand. "And Xedilian? Since you're standing here, I assume you've succeeded. Or you're terribly confused. Or really lacking in good judgment."

"It's been fixed."

"Wonderful!" He said, standing up and clapping. "Time for a celebration... Cheese for everyone!" Wrothken smiled widely. He loved cheese. "Wait, scratch that. Cheese for no one. That can be just as much of a celebration, if you don't like cheese. True?" Wrothken sighed, looking down. He was looking forward to another rain of cheddar. "You've run a maze like a good little rat, but no cheese for you yet. Well, maybe a little," he winked, patting Wrothken's head. "I've granted you a new spell - the ability to summon Haskill, my Chamberlain, to aid you in your travels. He knows a lot. More than he knows. In fact, give it a try. Summon our friend to you now. I'll wait."

Wrothken looked over at Haskill and chuckled. Summoning, or any magic, was never his strong point. Luckily he knew enough to know that he just needed to focus his magicka and reach deep within himself and extract it. When he did that, Haskill materialized at his side.

"Ah... our Lord has granted you the power to summon me. How wonderful," he said, looking more irritated than ever. "When summoned, I can offer advice on your current endeavor. I imagine it's up to you what to do with my wisdom. Do try to use your power sparingly. I have duties to which I must attend. Rather more important than shepherding you around, I'm sure." With his lecture over, Haskill vanished and appeared back at the base of Sheogorath's throne.

Sheogorath cackled loudly, slapping his thighs. "Isn't that a hoot? I love it, myself. Best part of being a Daedric Prince, really. Go ahead, try it again. He loves it!"

Wrothken smiled and repeated the spell.

Haskill sighed. "Ah, summoned again. My Lord does so enjoy that, as is His prerogative. I'll assume you're done for now."

Wrothken flexed his hand. He was going to have a lot of fun.

"Just don't expect to summon dear Haskill anywhere but in the Realm. He dislikes leaving My presence. I get that sometimes."

Wrothken smiled, imagining what would happen if he were able to summon him to Kvatch and Haskill gave Kirsty his sass. He actually began to laugh as he envisioned her beating him with a rolling pin.

"Good thing you've mastered that. You'll need all the help you can get if you're going to defeat Jyggalag and stop the Greymarch."

"Who's Jyggalag?"

"The Daedric Prince of Order. Or biscuits..." He paused, tapping his lip with his finger. "No. Order. And not in a good way. Bleak. Colorless. Dead. Boring, boring, boring!" he cried, grabbing a fistful of his hair. "And not a fan of My work, I can tell you!" He wagged his finger. "Hates it. Hates Me. A bit single minded, if you take My meaning. You've seen his Knights. Not the warm and cuddly sort. Not a bit of original thought in their lifeless husks. So, you're going to help Me stop him."

"Alright, how do I do that?"

"Again with the niggling little details! Hold your tongue. Or I will," he added in a menacing tone. "We'll get to that, all in due time. For now, you've got other work to do."

Wrothken exhaled deeply. Just how was he supposed to stop it if he didn't know what it was? "Fine. What would you ask me to do?"

"Ask? ASK? I don't ask. I tell. This is My Realm, remember? My creation, My place, My rules. Look at you," he said, lifting a lock of Wrothken's hair. "No concept of what you've stumbled into. No sense of place. You don't even really know where you are, do you?" He grabbed a hold of Wrothken's dark blue shirt. "I suppose few really do,” he said, releasing Wrothken and shrugging. “But that's beside the point. We're going to give you a taste of where you have found yourself. You're going to learn."

Wrothken's blood felt like ice. Was he going to be driven insane like the men in Xedlilian?

Sheogorath continued, holding up two fingers. "Two halves, two rulers, two places. Meet and greet. Do what they will, so you know what they're about. Thadon, the Duke of Mania and Syl, the Duchess of Dementia. Seek them out, and let them show you what New Sheoth is. You might be surprised. Once you understand what My Realm is, you might understand why it's important to keep it intact. And maybe you'll make some friends along the way. That's always nice!"

"So you want me to speak to each of them, and they'll help me understand things here?"

"Isn't that what I said? Don't tell me your ears have been clogged with cheese. You'll attract rats that way!"

Wrothken raised his eyebrows, taking his answer as a yes. "As you wish," he said. First things first, he needed his armor.

"Ta!" Sheogorath said, waving. "Come visit again, or I'll pluck out your eyes!"

The image of Sheogorath adorning himself with Wrothken's eyes planted itself firmly in his mind and refused to go away. "I promise to visit again, real, real soon."
SubRosa
Once again, I loved Wrothken's reaction to seeing the Madness Armor. I want it! biggrin.gif

I loved seeing Cutter. She is one of my favorite residents of the Isles. You would think there would be more goth people there, but she seems to be the only one. And Kalila makes an appearance, in what I believe is an all new scene? rawr! I wonder what she might be doing with Cutter... wink.gif

Wrothken flexed his hand. He was going to have a lot of fun.
I loved this! Haskill, karma is a umbrella seller! laugh.gif

He actually began to laugh as he envisioned her beating him with a rolling pin.
This had me laughing out loud!
mALX
QUOTE

They call me Cutter," she said, in a soft, slow drawl. "You must be the new boy. I bet your blood would taste delicious..."




EW !!! Cutter wouldn't speak to my character, her husband had just died or something, and she would tell me to leave her alone. I never was able to make her speak, so if she had a quest (I didn't get it), lol. I should not have eaten before reading the part about her, YUCK !!! GAAAAH !!!


Great Write, Jacki !!!
Jacki Dice
SubRosa~ I love Cutter too smile.gif She says the starngest things. Ad Kalila was there before, though I think I changed some of the wording. ♥

mALX~ Did you happen to visit the Orc in Bliss first? They get upset if you visit the each other. Cutter flat out threatens you I think ohmy.gif

~~~~~♥~~~~~

Chapter Ten: Raining Cheese, Indeed!



Kirsty could hardly sleep at all. Her stomach was knotted with worry. After lying in bed and thinking about it for a few hours, she couldn't believe that she allowed some stranger to break into Wrothken's house and take jewelry. Maybe Lilitu-- if that was even her name-- wasn't a thief after all, but an undercover guard trying to put a stop to the Thieves Guild. Or maybe she and Awour were old friends, looking to catch Kirsty in something, just so they can report her later. Maybe she really was a thief, but was going to run off with the spoils.

Realizing that sleep wasn't going to come to her, she decided to get to work.

She walked downstairs to the bakery and stood at the counter with a quill and parchment, checking her sales for the previous day. She made around fifty sweet rings yesterday, but didn't have enough for everyone who wanted one. She could try for seventy-five...but then again it was Tirdas. For some reason, Morndas always sold more sweets than any other day. "Sixty rings," she decided, writing it down.

Immediately she set to work. She found a large bowl and emptied a sack of flour into it. She was so happy to have left Valenwood. Flour, since it's grain, is forbidden by the Green Pact. Instead, they used bonemeal. It wasn't bad, but it didn't give the bread that fluffiness she loved. She took out a jar of honey and mixed it in, creating a thick paste. After forming the rings and soaking it in wine, she put them in the oven.

While she waited for them to cook, she started preparing some croissants and chocolate muffins to be baked as well. By time she was finished, her apron and any unprotected part of her dress was covered in powder.

A knock on the window caused her heart to rise, then sink instantly. Lilitu wasn't outside but Yyaevonnte was. She felt guilty at her lack of excitement. Why should she be less disappointed to see her best friend than a thief?

She let the Redguard in, locking the door behind him.

"Kirsty! I was worried about waking you up, but I forgot that you're always up this early," he said, taking a seat at the bar.

Kirsty shrugged.

Yyaevonnte leaned back. "Just got back from one hell of a mission. A group of guys went exploring in some goblin cave and got in over their heads and lost their healer. I had to fight four of them off the poor girl and by then she was shaking so bad, she accidentally healed the dead goblins!" He laughed. "Should have seen the looks on their faces! They were dead but the wounds healed and everything! She nearly wet herself!"

"Hmmm," Kirsty said absentmindedly.

He leaned in. "Then we stripped the goblins down and had ourselves a good old time!"

"That's nice," she mumbled. "Wait," she looked at him. "What?"

"Testing you. You didn't hear a word I said before, did you?"

Kirsty shook her head. "Sorry, Yyaevonnte. I'm just a little stressed."

"Why? Wrothken still gone?" He sighed. "Why did he go anyway? If you ask me, he should have beat Bacchus out of his bed and put Awour out on the street!"

"I know... I thought he should clear his mind, though I'm still waiting on that letter from him!" She sighed, laying her elbows on the counter. "Yesterday, I heard Awour say that she was planning on selling some jewelry Wrothken gave her."

He shrugged. "So?"

"I couldn't let her do that so..." She bit her lip and wringing her hands.

Yyaevonnte narrowed his eyes. "So what?"

"I... I kinda hired a... a thief--"

"You did what?" Yyaevonnte jumped up. "You didn't!"

Kirsty looked away, starting to mince some strawberries. "I couldn't let her do it. Not after all Wrothken did for her."

"Kirsty, that's illegal! A thief? Oh, dear gods!"

"Oh, like you've never broken the law before," she hissed.

"Not like this! Nothing really harmful!"

"It wasn't harmful," she said, pouring the strawberries into a bowl. "I hired her to steal not kill."

"And what do you think happens on the roads outside of town? Never stops those thieves from killing."

"Shut up, will you? And don't you dare breathe a word of this to your guildmates! Last thing I need is for all of Kvatch to know." She huffed, folding her arms defensively. "Besides, it was the only way I could get them back for Wrothken!"

"Oh? And where is the jewelry now, huh?"

"That's the thing," she sighed. "Not here yet."

"Why am I not surprised?" He buried his face in his hands for a moment, then ran his hands through his buzzed black hair. "How long ago did you...?"

"Late last night. I know I'm probably being paranoid--"

"And with good reason."

"But," she said with a growl. "It is still pretty early in the morning. She's probably still asleep."

"Makes sense," he said. "Not like thieves have any sort of honest work to do."



After the breakfast rush, though Lilitu still hadn't shown, a man carrying a sack full of papers walked in. Kirsty's heart raced. Did Wrothken finally send her a letter?

"Morning, miss," he said, handing her a copy of the Black Horse Courier. "Special edition," he said with a nod.

He walked away as Kirsty caught the headline.


IPB Image

SPECIAL EDITION!
Ricotta Rain! Transdimensional door appears! Coincidence?


An ordinary, peaceful morning on the Niben Bay was suddenly turned upside down when a downpour of cheddar cheese coated the immediate area. Locals from Bravil and the Imperial City scrambled to get a basket of the cheese, but by time they got to the area, guards had been sent to keep people from consuming it until it could be tested for poisons.

At the same time, it was reported that a strange door opened up on a mysterious island in the bay. Plants not found anywhere on Nirn were discovered, prompting a mass gathering of mages to examine and gather them up for potions. Several adventurers arrived on the scene as well, seeking to find out where the door came from and what its purpose is. Few have come out, and those who have seem to be driven mad by whatever is inside.

A guard from Bravil, who has been posted at the door, was quoted, saying, "I keep telling them that nothing that enters come out right. They don't listen. Stupid kids got their heads filled with ideas of fame and fortune. Guess who gets stuck cleaning it up."

The obvious madness in the victims has caused many to wonder if the door is something from Sheogorath. However, because all who have entered have become too disturbed to talk, it has been difficult to confirm.

Chana Mona, the priestess in Bravil's chapel of Mara, has been conducting her services outside by the bay, warning people to stay away. At first her words were unheeded, but seeing as how most have either gone insane or haven't returned at all, more are gathering to listen to her sermons.



"Can you believe this garbage?" Kirsty said, looking at Yyaevonnte. "What's next? Strawberries in the sewers? Corn from the clouds? I certainly hope they figure out who printed this joke and send a retraction!"

Yyaevonnte scanned it. "I don't know. Those boys are usually on top of things. Besides, while I was in that cave, one of the guys mentioned it. I thought he was just drunk, but..." He tapped the paper. "There's only one way to find out. I'll check it out if this thief ever shows up."



Lilitu couldn't remember her dream, but she saw glimpses when she concentrated. A slender blond wrapped in soft sheets. A kiss before rushing out of the house after a secret night together. Such a soft kiss... Vivica... Lilitu remained wrapped in red sheets, her lips longing for another brush from those soft petal lips, but she knew it would only happen in dreams. She would just have to settle for that. She sat up and found the poem lying next to her, right on her pillow. Could that have been the cause of her dream? With it being the only explanation, she locked it in her nightstand, though not without reading it once more.

She hadn't even got out of the bed when Dolce bounded in, jumping up on the covers. She panted heavily, filling Lilitu's nose with the stench of morning-doggie breath. "Off!" She said, pointing at the floor. "By the Nine, your breath is awful! Remind me to give you some parsley before bed."

After Dolce returned to the floor, Lilitu got up as well, pulling a red robe over her nightgown. She went to the kitchen and chopped up some beef. Dolce quivered as she tried to refrain from jumping up on the counter. Lilitu set the beef in a blue dish on the floor. Dolce immediately pounced, greedily eating it as if she hadn't been fed in days.

While she ate, Lilitu got dressed. "Come on, Dolce," she said, after she finished. "Time to make a delivery."



When Kirsty finally saw Lilitu, she felt a wave of relief, along with a slight flash of jealousy. Lilitu was wearing a red high-necked corset top, which recently became fashionable in the area. Kirsty had been highly disappointed to find that it was impossible to stuff herself into one and a custom made top would have been far too expensive. She looked down. Sometimes the blessing so many girls envied and men lusted for was much more of a curse.

"There she is," she whispered to Yyaevonnte.

"The red one?" He raised his eyebrows. "Damn...she doesn't look like a thief! I thought they were...you know, dirty. Scruffy. She must be pretty damn good."

"Why do you think I hired her?" She said, trying to regain a sense of control of the issue.

Lilitu smiled, taking a seat in front of her. Without prompting, Dolce sat down as well.

"Special delivery," Lilitu said, handing Kirsty a small coin purse. She opened it, gasping sharply when she saw the earrings and the ring nestled inside. "You look surprised."

"No, I just..." She couldn't admit that she thought Lilitu would deceive her.

"She thought you were gonna skip town with them," Yyaevonnte piped up.

"Figures," Lilitu said, without a trace of anger. "Most people who hire thieves for the first time don't expect the merchandise to come, especially if they have no experience with the guild. And you are?"

"Me?" Yyaevonnte stood up. "I'm Yyaevonnte, Swordsman of the Fighter's Guild and fastest man in Tamriel..." he leaned in, suggestively wiggling his eyebrows. "At everything."

Lilitu's eyebrows raised. "That's not exactly something to be proud of."

Kirsty's cheeks reddened, and not from Yyaevonnte's most-used and most-unsuccessful pick-up line. She had worried herself silly over nothing. "Here, I know you wanted to do this for free, but at least take this, on the house." She handed Lilitu a fresh sweet ring.

When she took a bite, Lilitu's cherry red eyes suddenly seemed to glaze over and she moaned softly. "What is this?" she asked, quickly taking another bite.

"Just some sweet rings. I haven't come up with a good name for them just yet."

"I can think of some, but they're more suited for the bedroom than the kitchen. This is amazing!"

Kirsty reddened a little. She was usually too busy to hear people's compliments. "Um.. here's something for your dog, too." She stepped from behind the counter and set down a slab of ham.

Dolce sniffed it curiously and took a hesitant lick, as if she wasn't sure she could trust it. She looked up at Lilitu, who nodded. "Go ahead, baby." As soon as permission was granted, Dolce ate it up like she hadn't eaten in weeks.

"Something wrong with your dog?" Yyaevonnte asked. "I've never seen an animal question meat before."

"She was poisoned once," Lilitu said, her eyes blanking for a moment, as if lost in the memory. "She was sick for days after, even with potions."

Kirsty gasped. "That's horrible! I'm so sorry," she said, placing her hand on Lilitu's.

"Not to worry, she recovered and the man who did it is rotting away in prison as we speak."

"Huh..." Yyaevonnte said. "I didn't know it was illegal to kill a dog."

Lilitu's eyes twinkled. "It isn't."

Dolce just panted, wagging her tail happily. Kirsty stiffened as Dolce hopped onto the counter, rubbing her wet nose on her hand. "Don't worry," Lilitu said. "Remember what I said last night? Her heart is in her stomach. She'll love you forever now."

They were quiet for a moment before she said, "So, I'm just going to come out and ask. Who's Wrothken?"

"Wrothken?" She asked. "He's my brother."

Lilitu raised her eyebrows. "Your...brother?"

Kirsty shook her head. "Not exactly. I mean he's been like a brother. You know, looking after me and helping me out with stuff." She set her head on her hand, sighing. "He helped me run the place. Drunks listened to him more then they did me."

"Was he intimidating?"

Yyaevonnte laughed. "He's more like a big teddy bear, but people don't know that. All they see is a giant Nord with hands big enough to squash them like roaches!"

"I see. So, he's your brother, who lived with the high elf, and you wanted me to steal jewelry from their house." She looked outside. "She broke his heart, didn't she?"

Kirsty nodded. "He caught her in bed with another man."

Lilitu continued to stare outside. "How sad. Where is he now?"

"I suggested he go to the Imperial City to clear his head...but he was supposed to write me when he got there, and I haven't gotten anything yet."

"I still say he should've just thrown her out the door..." Yyaevonnte said.

Kirsty nodded in agreement. "He should've, but if we list all the things that should have happened, we'll all go insane."

"Hey," a voice behind Lilitu said.

She jumped, seeing Capaneus behind her. "What... Hi," she forced out. "What are you doing, sneaking up behind me like that?"

He just smiled, looking at Kirsty. "Did you break into Awour's house last night?"

Kirsty looked like a deer caught between a wall and a starving bear. "Oh...well, you see..."

Lilitu exhaled loudly. "She didn't break into anything. Why?"

He shrugged. "Awour's furious. Seems someone broke into her house last night and stole some jewelry. In fact, she was just at the Dancing Minotaur demanding that the doyen of the Thieves' Guild present themselves. Of course, she got laughed out of the place when she suggested that you did it."

"She what?" Kirsty shrieked.

"Calm down," Lilitu said. "First off, she has no proof it was anyone. The guards won't waste their time on speculation, especially since officially, we don't exist. Second, even if she did have proof, no way would I turn you in. There is honor among thieves."

"She's right," Capaneus said. "Turns out she knows exactly how far the Guild would go for anyone they consider an ally," he said, winking at Lilitu.

She narrowed her eyes. She knew what he was getting at, but how did he find out? Creepy, nosy fetcher.

"Hey there," he said, noticing Dolce. The moment his hand lowered with the intent to pet, Dolce barked loudly, snarling and trying to back away as far as she could.

"Dolce!" Lilitu said, hoping to calm her down. For once, Dolce ignored her mistress, continuing to bark. "N'chow!" She swore, looking at all the patrons staring at them. "Just give her this," Lilitu said, placing a slice of ham in Capaneus' hands. Capaneus threw it to Dolce, but she refused to acknowledge it. "Damn," she spat. She led Dolce away, saying to Kirsty, "I'm so sorry, she must be cranky. Just don't worry, everything will be fine." She nudged Dolce, saying, "Come on, baby."

Dolce growled the entire way out the door, staring hard at Capaneus. As soon as they were outside, Lilitu knelt next to the calmed dog and scratched behind her ears. "You don't like him, either?" She asked. She knew animals, especially dogs, had a sixth sense when it came to danger. People included. Dolce had been right once before. Lilitu couldn't help thinking that Dolce may have had good reason for her reaction to Capaneus.



"What in Oblivion was with that?" Yyaevonnte asked, looking back at Kirsty.

Kirsty shrugged.

"Probably lack of real training or maybe I just smelled funny," Capaneus offered.

"Maybe," Yyaevonnte said. "Well, I'm off, Kirsty. I'm gonna go check out that cheese. I'll see you later."

As soon as Yyaevonnte left, Kirsty felt more alone than ever. She licked her lips nervously, glancing up at Capaneus who remained at the counter. Something about him offered comfort, though she had never met him. She smiled weakly and was rewarded with glistening brown eyes and a grin that made her knees weak. He reached over and took her hand in his and suddenly, she didn't feel alone anymore.
haute ecole rider
Oohh, smooth operator!

And Yyaevonnte (now how on Nirn do you pronounce that??) and Lilitu and Dolce up and left Kirsty alone with that slimeball?

Believe me, the dog knows best.
Grits
"Maybe," Yyaevonnte said. "Well, I'm off, Kirsty. I'm gonna go check out that cheese. I'll see you later."

Just one of many enjoyable lines from Yavon... Yevonn... Yyaevonnte! rollinglaugh.gif

I love how Kirsty makes a mess of herself when she bakes. Somehow it's endearing. smile.gif
SubRosa
Instead, they used bonemeal.
When those wood elves shout: "I'll grind your bones to make my bread!" - they really mean it! biggrin.gif

"Then we stripped the goblins down and had ourselves a good old time!"
Kinky! I like Yyaevonnte already. I can pronounce the name (I think), but it sounds like a girl's name. I guess his parents were like Julian's, and gave him a name of the opposite sex to toughen him up. wink.gif In any case, I think he was a good addition to the story. Little things like him make starting over worth it.

btw, you can post inline images here, so you might want to add in the BHC logo to your copy of the broadsheet. Just reply to this and copy and paste the code below:

IPB Image


So Vivica is it? Yum! I like how you juxtaposed Lilitu's erotic dream with waking up to Dolce. As ever, her canine sidekick is simply adorable, morning doggie breath and all!

Lilitu's eyebrows raised. "That's not exactly something to be proud of."
Exactly what I was thinking! laugh.gif

All in all a fun episode bursting with extra flavor that the original lacked. You have introduced us to more new characters, making Kvatch feel like a larger place. Also underscoring the tragedy in store for the city on the plateau.



nits:
Plants not found anywhere on Nirn were found
You have a repetition of found. Perhaps you could change the second case to discovered or observed?

Chana Mona, the priest in Bravil's chapel of Mara
Unless Chana has a surprise under her skirt, I think you mean priestess?

Kirsty looked like a dear caught between a wall and a starving bear.
You have the wrong kind of deer here.

Creepy, nosy b*stard.
You might think of replacing this with an ES term like fetcher, or bounder.

The moment his hand lowered with the intent to pet, Dolce barked loudly, snarling and trying to back away as far as she can.
You have a change of tenses at the end, going from past to present. You ought to change that to could, to keep it all past tense.
mALX
What a great twist you threw in there with Kirsty, and the BHC article was Awesome !!! I think Cutter did threaten me, so I must have talked to that Orc for whatever reason, lol. Great Chapter !!!
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