(A/N: Oblivion belongs to Bethesda. Unfortunately, I didn't invent Haskill. Or I'd never share him, buahaha!
Anyway. Just a note here. Being a sufferer of mental illness myself, it bugged me just a little that Shivering Isles tended to show joyfully deranged madmen for the most part, or made some people, like the dude scared of falling walls, look a little like something to laugh at. I used to get relatively harmless delusions which scared the royal crap out of me to simply have, and I'm still fighting a few issues I've had for a while, and I'm not the first person to say that it can be downright dreadful.
Also, I'm not trying to offend in this piece. As the God of Madness is more likely to succumb to his illness than fight it, I imagined that it would grow as he fed it, and this resulted, especially as Sheogorath doesn't strike me as the type to think not to do these things. I don't think I portrayed it quite well enough, and for that I'm sorry to those who have to bear something like this. I did do my best, though. This story's meant for entertainment value as much as any other story, more than anything else, keep in mind.)
It was one of those days at the palace. Haskill hated those days. As it was, he'd already been run off his feet. He wished he could complain, but he was just as unfortunate as everybody else in that regard.
He almost dropped the bucket in front of the irritated aureal, who already had one beside her. It wouldn't have made a difference if the water splashed over - the halls were soaking as it was, and Haskill had almost skidded halfway down the damn corridor. The aureal in front of him wielded her mop, her apron creased against her form, and looked far less than happy. Most of the aureals didn't want to wear the bloody aprons, but of course, he had insisted on it.
"Clean water," he said, simply. He was about to turn on his heel, but too late - the aureal pointed at the other bucket beside her. He sighed, resisted rolling his eyes, and wrapped his long fingers around the handle. His back complained as he straightened. His back had done nothing but complain over the last week...
At this rate, the lawn would drown with the amount of water poured on it. But his Lordship was going through one of his Demented phases, and there was nothing to do but ride it out. Long ago, Haskill had been young and dumb enough to try, and that hadn't ended well.
He encountered Wide-Eye in the gardens. As he poured the clear water onto the ground, she hopped from foot to foot, her face as creased as anything with scales could be. She held a single, black box, and he knew what was inside the box. She knew her duty perfectly well, and he knew that too, and he didn't pity the Argonian. But she hovered near him as he straightened up again, his complaining back sending frenzied signals for him to rest. He looked at the bucket with chagrin, his eyes glazing over a little. He'd have to scrub out the damned bucket before clean water could be put in. Sheogorath knew if it wasn't done, and the few unfortunate souls either stupid or new enough not to know to carry out his instructions to the letter had been sent to a certain place a few hundred feet in the sky. A curse of having a daedric prince for an employer.
Curse wasn't actually a word violent enough to describe what working for Sheogorath could be like.
"Um," said Wide-Eye. Haskill internally shook himself, turning his head to give her a stare. "My lord?"
Sigh. Haskill brushed his hands on his front after dropping the empty bucket. "Yes?"
"Does his Lordship show any signs of getting better soon?" said Wide-Eye. The girl looked terrified - and, from what Haskill could tell, tireder than most of the other workers. Had she slept at all?
Haskill exhaled slowly through his nose. "I'm afraid not," he said.
"Oh," said Wide-Eye. And she stood there, in quiet contemplation. No doubt she'd rather be tending to Thadon at the moment. Thadon was a much more joyful person to work for. At least he didn't threaten to pluck out anybody's eyes. Actually, he didn't make much sense at all.
"You'd better deliver that to his Lordship," Haskill nodded at the box clutched in her hands. "I saw him ten minutes ago, getting quite agitated."
"Oh!" There was a reason Wide-Eye bore her name, and she displayed it now. She gave a brisk bow, almost dropping the box in the process. "O-of course, my lord!"
Haskill sighed. He hoped for her own sake that she'd washed both the box and her hands. He picked up the bucket again, and trooped back into the palace. It was about time he checked on his master.
About once every six to eight months, Sheogorath went through a phase where instead of the (relatively) delightfully psychopath he usually was, madness tormented him and made his life miserable. Haskill had too many memories of Sheogorath curled up in a corner somewhere, arms streaming of blood from where he'd scratched himself, to ever take them lightly. Last year, Sheogorath had complained of hearing voices so loud he couldn't think. The time before that had been some kind of social phobia – for an entire month, Haskill was the only person he'd see. The time before that had been the kleptomania. Haskill still wasn't sure where his favourite quill had been hidden, and Sheogorath had never told him.
And now, his obsession with cleanliness was annoying everybody in the palace. If only, Haskill thought, that would make it easier for him to bear.
He tutted to himself quietly. When his master was upset, Haskill was upset (though he bore it stoicly), and not just because this was getting out of hand.
As Haskill entered the palace, he ignored the water that dripped on him from above. A mazken ducked her eyes, her ridiculously long-handled mop still turned towards the ceiling, face twisted into an apologetic and embarrassed grimace. Another mazken knelt and scrubbed the walls, her eyes looking into an imaginary world far from this one. Her wrists must have been screaming.
Really. This was ridiculous. Even the carpet had been pulled out in the last few minutes he'd been away from the palace. An assortment of guards and workers rolled it up as he walked past, and a few others started scrubbing at the floor underneath.
The same haphazard messes decorated the corridor. Haskill ducked a swinging mop handle, stepped casually over a pink, shaven thing. The ensuing double take triggered the shying away of the khajiit he'd just disturbed.
Oh. That was right. Sheogorath had banned fur from the palace two days before. With any luck, he'd come out of it before he demanded Haskill shave his head.
He trotted to Sheogorath's door, but before he could open it Wide-Eye spilled out with the box.
"It's got a speck on it!" she squeaked, before she scurried past Haskill. She sounded so horrified that under any other circumstances, he would have mentally snickered at her. His eyes followed her down the corridor, then he looked to the open door. Bracing himself, he stepped inside.
Sheogorath sat curled up on the floor under his massive window. The room was a wreck – unused duvet half yanked off the bed, clothes scattered on the floor along with a suspicious stain on the floor. Given the circumstances of the palace, Haskill wasn't sure how that got there. Sheogorath rested his forehead on his knees. Haskill pressed his lips into a line.
"Haskill?" said Sheogorath, without looking up. "Is that you?"
"Yes, my Lord."
"You haven't been outside, have you?"
Oh good, he hadn't checked after the chamberlain. Better play along. "No, my Lord."
Sheogorath let out a hiss and curled up into a tighter ball. "Good," he said. "I hope you're clean."
"I changed my clothes three times this morning, my Lord," Haskill lied again. That seemed to ease Sheogorath a little, who uncurled the slightest bit.
"Good," he said, and the Madgod sounded relieved.
"Why are you here, my Lord?" said Haskill. "It's cleaner in the hall. They're even mopping the ceiling, last I saw." The stains on his shoulders were testament to that. They smelt suspicious, too. Haskill wouldn't have been surprised if somebody had enough of a death wish and enough anger to spike the water with something nasty.
"The air blows in from outside when they open the doors," said Sheogorath. He looked up, scowling, and his old self seemed to shine through the grime of his obsession. "It's too easy to get contaminated. I hate getting contaminated, it makes me angry. I told them to wash it again. And they hadn't even touched the carpet, Haskill! Dillbrains, they all are! I should order them washed and hang them out of a window to dry!"
No wonder they'd looked annoyed.
"They're cleaning the hall for the third time, my Lord?"
"Fourth, Haskill," Sheogorath groaned and buried his face in his knees again. "Fourth. You're supposed to keep count."
Haskill bit back his sigh. "Are you alright, my Lord?"
Stupid question of the year.
"My room needs cleaning," grumbled the Madgod. "I thought I saw something crawling under my bed! But they'll mess it up, Haskill!" The Madgod snarled. "They'll go outside before they come inside and they'll get contaminated, and then they'll contaminate my room, and how am I supposed to rest?"
As if the Madgod needed rest. The bed wasn't there for sleeping. All the same, Sheogorath was thinking too much like a mortal right now - he'd completely forgotten that as a daedric prince, he couldn't get sick if he kissed the personification of illness. It wasn't often that Haskill felt sympathy for the Madgod, but right now he felt quite worried. Madness had a darker side, after all, and the few sane people who ever walked through the streets of Crucible saw but a glimpse to the turmoil and suffering that the night brought. Those in Bliss looked like insane fools who were hyper and happy, but as the man who was afraid of walls falling on him demonstrated, mental illness was scarier than having a penchant for cheese and collecting forks. Few people knew that Big-Head kept himself up at night wondering if he'd accidentally "hurt" or forgotten one of his forks. Some people in Bliss were lucky enough they just thought... very differently... and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
Sanity is boring, anyway, Haskill remembered somebody saying once. He thought, what the hell, and sat down beside Sheogorath, resting against the wall. It had to be true. Being in a place where insanity was embraced meant few people hid their true nature, unless they were truly, truly demented. Some people felt a lot happier with themselves as a result. Haskill often complained about his job, but it was better than being back in Tamriel. Every rare occasion he dropped by Tamriel for some reason or other, everybody was quite boring. A dangerous thing, boredom.
One of Sheogorath's pet hates.
"Are you staying, then?" said Sheogorath. He peeped over his knees at Haskill, who slowly swiveled his head to look at him. "You don't smell clean. You didn't change, did you?"
Bloody hell, any day now Sheogorath would figure out how to turn himself into a bloodhound. "No, my Lord," said Haskill, with a slight sigh in his voice.
Sheogorath sighed and curled up in a tight ball. "My room," he murmured. "It's so… dirty."
Oh, heck. "Do you want me to have a bath and change, my Lord?" As if there wasn't a bloody line.
Sheogorath snorted, waved a hand. "What do you think I am, obsessive?"
Ask the hall ceilings, thought Haskill grimly. He rolled his eyes.
"Besides," Sheogorath went on. "You're not contaminated. You're okay."
It was strange, thought Haskill, how Sheogorath seemed to get better around his chamberlain before he recovered from his phases. (If only, thought Haskill, most people were so lucky.) In a week - mark his words - the palace would be grubby and Sheogorath would be sitting on his throne in clothes he'd worn for three days straight again.
"Of course, my Lord," he said, and hid his relieved smile.