(A/N: Usual disclaimer here, Oblivion belongs to Bethesda, etc etc.)


Next time Lord Sheogorath came up with a stupid idea (like getting a mortal champion, for instance), Haskill was going to punch him. Screw rank, screw being civil, Haskill was going to sock him, as hard as he could manage, the execution spell be damned. Actually, stuff that – Haskill was plain going to punch him next time he showed up.

And there would be a next time, Haskill told himself, as he tangled his fingers together and fidgeted in the chair in his room. His empty wine glass stood beside him on the windowsill. Sheogorath wouldn't be away forever. He couldn't be. Not when this land had been his for so long…

He'd asked a mazken how to punch people, once. When he was in one of his more neurotic moods. There was no way he'd deign himself to asking the new "Sheogorath." The new Sheogorath preferred her swords, and was never around anyway. No wonder the damn Isles were crumbling politically.

But she'd been around that day. The day he'd asked the mazken, who'd frowned a bit in response. They weren't used to the stable rock that was Haskill acting this way. It was strange – the Madgod had tried for so many years to make Haskill as insane as the rest, and finally, it was his absence that threatened to push him over the edge…

"Alright," said the mazken. "You have to make a fist, like this – no, my Lord, keep your thumb outside your fist or you'll break it. And when you swing, you put your arm and your weight into it, like," she grunted. "this – oh, oh. Apologies, Lord Sheogorath. I did not see you there. I apologise for being so blind…"

The Champion had glowered at her. "Make sure you don't do it again," she snapped, and went on her way, hair swirling behind her.

The mazken blinked after her.

"She's remarkably friendly," said Haskill. It was the first time in a while he'd felt his old humour come back.

--

If only they hadn't been pressed for time. If only the real Lord Sheogorath had opened the portal in Nirn a few weeks before. If only he hadn't chosen the first Champion to cross his path.

If only the first Champion had died. Then it would have been too late. Then Haskill could have hid, as he always did whenever the Greymarch came, along with whoever happened to survive, and Lord Sheogorath – the real Madgod – would still be here. The halls would still be alive with whatever harebrained scheme of his he'd pulled out of the air. The court dancer wouldn't be exasperated from boredom; there'd still be a duke of Mania and a duchess of Dementia. Well, probably new ones, since they never survived the Greymarch, but they'd be there.

The Champion – he'd never call her Lord Sheogorath, except out loud – was never here. Months after the Greymarch, there still wasn't a duke and duchess, and the Champion had only dropped in twice, and only for a couple of days at a time. Haskill's schedule was suddenly ten times busier than it had ever been, and he couldn't even do anything without the authority of the only person who could give it.

Was it selfish of him to have preferred the realm wiped out, so long as he could still stand by Lord Sheogorath's side?

--

Eventually, Haskill grew sick of waiting and took matters into his own hands. Two new dukes took care of Mania and Dementia, and with the subtle power of delegation, Haskill found himself with a lot more time on his hands. That felt better; it gave him more time to think – but the extra time weighed him down with sullen, depressed silence. He noticed himself start to talk reasonably instead of giving his sarcastic quips. He didn't even treat the Champion with his dry attitude, however much he longed to irritate her. She liked it when he did that.

She didn't deserve it.

Still. Time went on, and the wannabe-Madgod dropped in rarer than ever. The only plane of Oblivion under the control of a mortal went on, if a bit shakily, straining and scrabbling to recover from the disappearance of the only person who had ever mattered. Haskill began to spend his days with a wine goblet – always empty, he never refilled it after the first drink of the day – sitting in a chair, staring out of the window. He could be still for hours.

He never knew what he looked at, or even what he thought. Time was empty, now. Immortality meaningless. He felt numb. People had to shake him to get his attention, now. He felt like a dog without a master. And he felt horribly pathetic for it.

Jyggalag never came back. The last person whom he had talked to was that damned Champion, not Haskill, and that stung. It stung worse than not knowing whether Sheogorath had intended to truly fight against the Greymarch if they hadn't run out of time, or if he had always planned to leave Haskill alone.

He hoped not. More than anything.

--

The tall crystals in the courtyard stood as testament to the absolute bastard who came up with the monumentally stupid idea in the first place. The throne sat empty, untainted by that bitch who thought she could do Sheogorath's job. The thought made Haskill snort – she was the most incompetent of them all.

When Haskill wasn't depressed, he was angry. Furious. He'd decided early on he hated Jyggalag. Despised him. Once upon a time, he'd merely disliked the git that had a penchant for destroying the Isles once in a blue moon, but now he abhorred him.

Jyggalag had been wrong. So, so wrong, and it had cost the Isles. What was it he'd called Sheogorath? A "raving lunatic" or something. Treated Sheogorath like the Madgod was merely a skin he slipped into, instead of a real person. No wonder Sheogorath had been pissed off at him, in his rare lucid moments.

And now he was gone. Jyggalag would not have negociated – and Haskill felt terribly guilty he hadn't tried. That he'd stood there, frozen at the palace window, as the Greymarch attacked the city. He felt humiliated that she had been the one to go out and face him and his army.

If only there had been a way to banish Jyggalag forever, and keep the Madgod. At least the Madgod had known what he was doing. At least back then, the palace hadn't been the ghost town it was now. A quiet place it was now, full of whisperings instead of demented yells, of paranoia and secretiveness instead of mad banter.

But like the Greymarch, time would determinedly stride on. The new Madgod would die, and she would pass on her mantle to another mortal. And so a string of mortals would pass, and Haskill doomed to serve each one of them.

In the past, there had been times when Haskill would abhor his position for months on end, times when he'd despised and resented Sheogorath. Most of the time, however, he'd had a grudging respect and patience for him, built up over centuries of midnight awakenings and stupid ideas Sheogorath had cooked up to give the place a bit of spice.

And all the times he'd tried to drive his chamberlain to madness, from being trapped in rooms with starving rats and being kept awake for days on end…

But he'd always been there. All that time. With the exception of the times when the Greymarch had occasionally beaten the land to a pulp, Haskill had seen his master every day – sometimes fleetingly, sometimes for hours – and stood beside him and helped him turn his business decisions from something totally off the planet to something only marginally insane.

And now, after all those days, years and centuries, with the Madgod gone…

Haskill had seen the widows in Dementia. He wasn't a widow – anything but – but he knew from them that the wound would never completely heal. The widows had been lucky that they'd known their spouses for decades at most.

Half of him was gone, now. And no matter what, Haskill knew he'd never be whole again.