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18+ Cicero Fan Fiction

Discussion in 'Skyrim Fan Fiction' started by Holiday Feartree, Jun 29, 2017.


Do you want to read more of "The Chronicles of Madness?"

  1. I read a little, and I want to finish reading what has been written so far.

  2. I read a little, but it is not my cup of tea.

  3. I read everything on ArchiveOfOurOwn, and I want the author to write more of this.

  4. I read everything on ArchiveOfOurOwn, and I'd like the author to write side stories about Cicero.

  5. Cicero is awesome. Gimme it all and more.

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    C.A.T. - Chp 17

    The day arrives when Cat and Cicero find their way to the old tomb. No thanks to the frost troll, Cicero lost one of his daggers, so for the remainder of the hike, he has his daedric short sword equipped. Entering the clearing, surrounded by snowy mountains and tall skinny pines, the timeworn walls of Volunruud peek above the muddy ground just up ahead.

    “Here it is!” beams Cicero. He grabs Cat's hand and hurries her onward.

    “Yeeeeup,” she says, taking in the tomb's ancient, unsettling structure, “...merry fluffing Christmas.”

    Cat and Cicero descend the winding, stone stairs that lead to the entrance just below. Cicero pushes open the massive iron doors as dust unsettles from their threshold. Once inside, the two are greeted by another set of stairs that lead further down. The tomb is chilly and dank, swirling with an ambient sound that sends shivers up and down Cat's spine.

    “This places gives me the creeps,” she mutters to Cicero. Her voice, as quiet as it is, loudly echoes off the walls and ceiling.

    “Cicero will keep you safe,” he promises. Taking her hand, he leads Cat down the steps. At the bottom, they spy an opening to their left and proceed onward, entering into a small underground clearing littered with light from above. It is not light from the outside, but it is light, nonetheless. As a result, sprawling underground ferns have long since settled in this tiny spot. Just to their right is a wooden door.

    Cicero raises his hand, indicating to Cat that she remain behind him. He opens the door and proceeds inside. Cat slowly follows his lead. Once inside, Cicero steps around thick, gnarled roots which have grown along the cracked, weathered flooring, spreading like a hag's crooked fingers. The roots convene at the center of the room, almost as if they are ushering Cat and Cicero deeper inside.

    In the center of the room, two bodies are slumped against one another. One appears to be a guard, dressed in Imperial armor. The other is a Breton man, dressed in bard's clothing.

    “–Amaund Motierre!” gasps Cicero.

    Cat rushes over, spying the gaping wounds burned through both of the men's chests. Furthermore, she notices a distinct precision to their injuries. Breathing deep through her nose, Cat smells that familiar aroma of fusion cell residue that has since absorbed into charred flesh. It's recent.

    “Cicero!” she panics, grabbing the jester's arm. “We need to–”

    A blast of blue light zaps from across the room – almost like a warning shot. Something strange moves against the far wall, but it's tough to identify. The figure appears hazy and somewhat translucent.

    “Courser!” screams Cat. “Run!” She grabs Cicero's arm and drags him out of the room at top speed. The jester had almost forgotten how strong and fast she is now. Cat bolts up the stairs, rushing back the way they came, powerfully kicking the iron doors right from their hinges. Cicero's feet barely touch the ground during her escape. He yells for Cat to stop – to slow down! But she continues to flee.

    After she gains some distance from the tomb, Cat lugs Cicero behind a large tree, crouching with fear.

    “Wanderer!” yells Cicero, wrestling himself from her grip.

    “Shh!” Cat's eyes are wide and desperate as she grapples with Cicero's clothing, tugging him close, begging him to be quiet. “Stop talking!” she whispers – practically hisses. “Didn't you see him?”

    Cicero shook his head. “Cicero saw a flash of light. That's all I saw.” He frowns. “Well, that and our dead client.”

    “Bastard has a stealth boy!” growls Cat. “He was there! He shot at us, but he missed on purpose.” Paranoid, Cat ducks her head around the tree, glancing to see if anyone is coming. “He's fluffing with us.” Lowering her head, Cat covers the back of her neck with her arms, rocking back and forth like a terrified child hiding from the boogeyman.

    Cicero's ears detect the sound of nearby movement. It doesn't sound like one person, but in fact many people. It was the sound of many feet, stomping and tromping over the crunch of frozen grass. Soon enough, he hears more sounds – strange little whirs, beeps, and buzzing. Voices. Unusual voices with no real emotion to them.

    Cat's eyes pop and she looks up. Shaking her head she says, “No...” Her face drops. “It's them.”

    They were coming. She heard them. She saw their silhouettes marching closer. Synth patrollers – little more than mechanical skeletons wrapped in wires, shuffling along using the force of their hydraulics. They were armed and they were looking for Cat.

    “We have to fight them,” says Cicero.

    “We have to run!” cries Cat.

    Cicero grabs her by her shoulders and looks her in the eyes. “There's nowhere to run, Wanderer. Now get up.”

    The synths approach, spotting the two of them. Laser pistols blast all around Cat and Cicero, shooting the bark from trees and blowing apart scattered rocks. Cicero dodges and rolls, evading the shots with ease. Cat moves less gracefully, but with speed and force. A few of the patrollers are taken down by Cicero who snatches a nearby rock, using it to sneak up and smash apart their lanky, robotic limbs.

    Cat brawls with two others, grabbing each patroller by their necks, flinging them into the trees. Their parts crash and shatter into an electrified pile of metal, springs, and wires. But before Cat can turn her attention to the next pair of synths marching her way, she glances around and sees Cicero kneeling on the ground beside a tall dark haired man. The man wore sunglasses and dressed in a heavily armored trench coat. He extends his firearm, butting the barrel up against the side of Cicero's tilted head.

    “Stand down,” commands the Courser.

    “Don't do it, Wanderer,” says Cicero.

    “Shut up,” says the Courser, pressing the gun harder against the jester's temple. “C.A.T.,” he continues, “it's time to come home. I've been sent to retrieve you.” The Courser looks around. “This place is very far, but we located it in no time. Father will be happy to know of new terrain to explore.”

    “What are you planning to do to me?” asks Cat, her hands in the air, indicating she doesn't wish to fight. “Are you going to kill me?”

    “No,” replies the Courser. “You're a prototype, stolen from the lab. The technicians weren't done with you. You're going back so that they can finish you up.”

    “What kind of prototype?”

    “I don't have time for this,” says the Courser, shaking his head. Using his free hand, he removes a device from his breast pocket and aims it at Cat. Pressing a button, a beam flickers across Cat's body, causing her to go rigid. The Courser lifts the device to his mouth and says, “C.A.T. – Override survival mode, command authorization Alpha-Alpha-3-5-0. Reactivate safety parameters.”

    “Safety parameters reactivated,” Cat replies in her digitized voice.

    “Coordinates logged and uploaded to the Institute's main frame,” continues the Courser. “Initiate memory-wipe.”

    “No!” shouts Cicero.

    The Courser hits him over the head with his gun, knocking the jester from his knees to the ground. Cicero has not been knocked out – he's still conscious, but his skull throbs.

    Cat's eyes change, bouncing back and forth as they do. “Memory-wipe complete,” she confirms. Suddenly, Cat's eyes change color again, this time pitch black. “You cannot erase me!” she groans with an eerily low, guttural pitch, now sounding more supernatural than computerized. A strange black ooze collects around the corners of her mouth, slowly trickling down her chin.

    The device in the Courser's hand scans over Cat. “Something's corrupting her matrix. Some kind of foreign organic material,” he speaks into the device. “Sending her back now. Dr. Holdren will need to retrieve her immediately.”

    A surge of light flashes across Cat's upper body, expanding until the rest of her is barely visible beneath its blinding phosphorescence. Cicero watches through strained vision as his beloved Wanderer is swallowed by the unnatural burst of light. Once the glare dies down, she is no longer there.

    The Courser looks down at Cicero, still aiming his gun. “You're a loose end,” he says. “The Institute just sent orders to eliminate you.”

    Cicero props himself back up to his knees, fearlessly glaring at the Courser. “Cicero is not afraid of death.”

    The Courser smiles, shaking his head. “Then Cicero will get what's coming to him.”

    “Why...” Cicero begins, “...why create the Wanderer? At least tell me that before you kill me.”

    “I don't have the time–”

    “Cicero has little time left as well. Less time than you. Humor a dead man, then be on your way.”

    The Courser sighs. Quickly, he explains, “The Communication Access Terminal – C.A.T. – is a prototype. Not just a gen 3 synth, but something more. More like a comm radio in a gen 3's body. Father planned to use her to gather information – maybe even help terraform should we develop a method to travel off planet. The Institute plans to expand its territory. The Commonwealth is too overrun with warring factions. It's also a wasteland brimming with radioactivity. Father wants to establish more desirable locations. We need C.A.T. to do that.” With a brief pause, the Courser looks around. “This place was discovered by accident. But a welcome accident, indeed. We still have no idea how the prototype ended up here, but the Institute will be coming back.” The Courser flips a switch on his gun. The weapon glows and emits a sound, warming itself up to take a shot. “So, Cicero,” he continues, “you can see why you're a loose end.”

    As the Courser begins to pull the trigger, Cicero feels the ground beneath them rupture and shake, almost as if it had been struck by lightning. The sky rumbles above and the Courser's weapon discharges, quite literally missing Cicero by a hair.

    A harrowing sound thunders its way from the clouds above. The Courser looks up, paralyzed with confusion. Before he can charge his weapon a second time, a massive legendary dragon swoops down through the trees. Its purple scales glint beneath the sunlight above as its jaws unhinge, snatching the Courser up from the very spot he stood. Flapping it's broad wings, lifting rocks and leaves and surrounding debris, the dragon's teeth clamp down hard on the Courser, piercing his body, breaking his limbs, and crushing his skull in a solitary chomp. Satisfied by its mouthful, the beast lifts off, soaring away to the nearest mountainside.

    “I was done with his ranting,” says a voice. “Boring!

    Stunned, Cicero snaps his head around and sees a familiar face.

    “Dragons are so easy to tame,” the voice continues. “Such dumb, simple creatures. Oh! They think they're so smart because they can talk! Well, that man was talking and now he's dead.”

    Stunned, Cicero says, “M–Mr. Theo?”
  2. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    C.A.T. - Chp. 18


    “fluff Sithis,” says Mr. Theo.

    Cicero twists up his face, raises his hands above his head, and screams, “What?!

    Mr. Theo reaches out to Cicero. The older gentleman is still wearing those fancy gloves, still sporting that radiant apparel, and still leaning, ever so gingerly, upon that elegant walking stick.

    Cicero takes Mr. Theo's hand and rises to his feet. He scrunches his brow. “How did you find me? Why are you here?” With the shake of his head, he yells, “What do you mean fluff Sithis?!”

    “Oh pish posh, Cicero!” Mr. Theo pats the jester on his head. “fluff Sithis, I said! fluff him! He claims chaos, but in reality he's dull and has a stick shoved so far up his infinite ass that it's jutting out the other end!” Mr. Theo glares skeptically at Cicero, as if the jester is a dunce of a boy in need of a lecture.

    “What does that have to do with anything!” yells Cicero, waving his arms.

    Mr. Theo sighs, rolling his eyes. “There's no delicate way to explain this to you.” The finely dressed gentleman glances to the sky. “I didn't want to have to intervene like this, son. I really didn't. You were starting to come around on your own. But of course, here I am! Deus ex machina – in the flesh! The oh so contrived flesh!”

    Cicero's voice lowers. “Son?"

    “I underestimated those other-worlders,” Mr. Theo continues. “Should've known they'd show up. Others have been here before, oh yes! They came and took the nirnroot! Fools!” Mr. Theo snorts a laugh. “Who would come all the way for that crap?”

    “What do you mean by son?” asks Cicero, fixating on the word. “Who are you, really? What is going on? Why are you here!?”

    “Questions! Questions! Questions!” smiles the gentleman. “I'm Mr. Theo,” he says. “But some call me – ohhhh... I bet you can guess.” He winks at Cicero.

    Cicero looks the gentleman up and down. There's no possible way he's mortal, not with the power he just wielded over a legendary dragon. There's no way a mortal old man could have waltzed out into the middle of a synth firefight and stopped everything dead in its tracks. The color of his clothing – red and lavender – it matches the stitching on his gloves. He's The Gentleman, Cicero realizes. The Gentleman With a Cane. The Mad God.

    Cicero raises an eyebrow. “Are you... Sheogorath?”

    “I always knew you were a bright one,” smiles the Daedric prince. “But I'm more than that.” Sheogorath takes a deep breath, smirking in a way that makes him appear more insane than amused. “Cicero, I was there when you came squealing into this world. You weren't even planned – you were an accident! Who do you think got that bored, drunk mother of yours pregnant? Sanguine? Ol' Brandy-dick can't even get it up! Oh, did you think it was that vapid, infertile bastard who ran your household? Ha! No! No! No! Chaos bred you, my dear boy. Lovely, maddening chaos. And I showered you with luxuries, all the finest things. Through a whirl of insanity, I made the man you thought was your father rich, rich, rich!” Sheogorath clears his throat, gesturing to Cicero's jester hat. “And this is how you repay me? This is what you're doing with your life?!” He yanks the hat from Cicero's head, flinging it far. The hat goes sailing off toward who-knows-where, disappearing in thin air.

    “Hey!” yells Cicero, his hands are too slow to stop Sheogorath. Having things wrenched from his possession and thrown away forever was getting a little old.

    The Mad God yells, “You strangle one clown and you can't move on? I've strangled fifty clowns! At once! You don't see me dancing around in bells! Ah well, it's not your fault. That not-so-dearly departed stinking corpse of an elf will pay for the corruption she has done to my stupid, beautiful child!”

    Unable to process everything Sheogorath has rambled at Cicero, he simply asks, “I'm... your child?”

    “Yes! That's what I just said! And what have you been doing all this time? Serving that rotted old crone's cadaver? Ugh! Disgusting! Humiliation! I've been so embarrassed for so long that I don't know whether to help you or to gouge your eyes out!” Sheogorath turns, gesturing that Cicero walk and talk with him. He has much more to say. “Sithis,” he begins, “doesn't give two skeever plopss about you or your little brotherhoods or any of that sneaky killing nonsense. Sithis is far too busy wasting space and boring the rest of us to tears!”

    Cicero stares at the ground, walking alongside the tall Daedric prince who insists he is his father. “I thought I was doing what was rightfully expected of me. I served Mother–”

    “Oh that old hag is not your mother!” Sheogorath interrupts. “Such a demanding, bitter old fuzzy kitten she was. Can't even shut her up after she's dead! Kill this person. Now kill that person. Now kill this other person! Blah blah blah. I've fallen asleep on flaming spikes just listening to that miserable shrew drone on and on!”

    Angry, Cicero argues, “But she chose me to hear her message! She spoke to me through the Wanderer! She is the holy matron of–”

    “Enough!” says Sheogorath, raising his hand in an authoritative gesture. “She's the holy matron of boredom. She's bored! She bores everyone up there.” He points to the sky. “When she picks a Listener, we're elated because it means we don't have to listen to anymore of her crap! At least, for a spell. Divines, she bored Sithis so much that she had to kill his rotten children just to keep his interest! But who knows, maybe she might speak to you again, but no longer is she allowed to claim you as her servant! I had a talk with her myself. She's backing off from you. She would, too. The old harpy owes me.” The Mad God laughs and smirks, “Ha! She owes the very spiders that crawled up her crack, putting some life back in her sad old box!” Sheogorath slows his pace and turns toward Cicero. He places both hands on his son's shoulders and says with earnest, “You were meant for greater things my red-headed half-prince.”

    Pausing, Cicero points over his shoulder, back at the spot where Cat stood just before she disappeared. “Did you... did you have something to do with the Wanderer coming to Skyrim? Something to do with the Wanderer finding me?”

    Sheogorath grins. “Your ridiculous worship of Sithis and that fishwife you call Night Mother was holding you back.” He spreads his arms wide and boasts, “Cicero! You're half-daedric! Such things are beneath you! I needed to do something to kick you in your complacency. Get that steel trap of a mind of yours working again. I knew no one in this world would instigate your arousal. They'd either bore you or enrage you – or both! So I looked to other worlds, and oh how many other worlds there are, my son! You have my superior blood pumping through those veins – go visit them for yourself! When I found her, I plucked that lovely thing from another world and delivered her right into your arms.” Sheogorath glances at the ground with a grumble. “But I underestimated the other-worlders' knack for technological adaptation. –Little plopss!”

    “But she's gone now,” says Cicero with a frown. His eyes drop, fighting a brief well of tears. “And she no longer remembers me.”

    Sensing his son's pain, Sheogorath quiets his tone. “Do you love this woman?” he asks.

    “What interest is it of yours?” Cicero huffs. “You're not the patron of love!”

    The Mad God's tone loudly bubbles up again. “Indeed! But I should have been! Love is the ultimate chaos. The ultimate blood sport. You never know when it will reward you or RIP OUT your throat! I should have had jurisdiction over love, not that meek, one dimensional concubine, Mara! She thinks love is this benevolent, nourishing, predictable thing, like a – a glass of water. But it's not! Love is what you think is a glass of water, but it turns out to be good old fashioned poison, with a hint of snowberries! Love blinds you and destroys you, but it leaves a delicious taste in your mouth.”

    Cicero looks away from his father, unable to stomach so much ranting and raving. No wonder he was able to drive mortals to madness.

    “So, answer me child,” says Sheogorath, “do you love this woman?”

    “Of course,” answers Cicero. “Yes.”

    “Then,” says Sheogorath, “I have decided not to gouge your eyes out. I will help you. But should you ever put that insufferable jester hat back on, you better have a damn good reason and you better dance at my next birthday party!”

    Ignoring the jape about his clothing, Cicero places his hands on his hips and asks, “Why would you help Cicero?”

    Me, son. The word is me. Saying your name in the third person is something slaves do. You're celestial royalty – now stop it!” The Mad God smiles. “And I'm helping you because I'm your parent and you are my child. A parent will do anything for his child.”

    “You've done nothing up to this point!” Cicero shouts bitterly.

    “I've most certainly done everything!” Sheogorath shouts back, his mouth agape with insult. Counting on his gloved fingers, he rants off a list. “The schools, the money, the sheer brilliance, the gorgeous head of hair...”

    “Enough!” yells Cicero, disgusted with his father.

    “The young woman,” adds Sheogorath in a quieter voice. “Your Wanderer.”

    Cicero imagines a life without her. His heart breaks at the thought. “How can you help me?” he asks.

    “Tell me, do you keep up with your magic skills? I know you have magic in you, Cicero. You can cast spells.”

    “No, I haven't,” Cicero admits. “I've always favored a blade.”

    The Mad God rolls his eyes, leaning a bit more heavily on his cane. “Truly, you're a fool. I love you, but you're a fool. You have daedric blood in you, and you've wasted it?”

    Cicero's eyes narrow. “It would have helped if someone had TOLD me!”

    Nodding, Sheogorath says, “True. Regardless, you can traverse the holes through the very fabric of Oblivion! See other worlds! Move beyond the expanse of Mundus, beyond the Void itself! You can find your Wanderer, son. You're powerful.You wield magic that the Arch mage himself could dream of.”

    Sheogorath notices the look of confusion on his son's face and adds, “Don't fret. I'll give you a kick in the right direction – as I always have! You can save your precious Wanderer.”

    “Show me how,” says Cicero, his eyes intense. “I'm prepared to learn.”

    “Of course,” says Sheogorath with a nod. “You'll be on your way soon.”

    Cicero and the Mad God continue their walk.

    Sheogorath slows his pace and adds, “And son, do hurry back. I have an entire realm with your name on it.”
  3. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    C.A.T. - Chp. 19

    There's something to be said about teleportation. In Tamriel, teleportation falls under the Alteration school of magic, but few can wield it. The Psijics have always been able to teleport, but in no case has any Psijic traveled off-world through such deific means of magic – the kind of magic one can only be born into. Off-world teleportation is an aptitude set aside for those few who walk the planes of Oblivion and beyond – and return unscathed. It is a technique of the gods.

    It took little time for Sheogorath to teach Cicero. The Mad God knew his child was more than capable – he knew Cicero could be nothing short of brilliant.

    Cicero always had magical abilities, but rarely employed them. Prior to Sheogorath's influence, the jester could, at best, cast magelight or fireball when needed. But now that the Mad God has enlightened Cicero, his magical prowess has more than doubled.

    Teleporting to the Wanderer's location was effortless, to say the least. It took some focus, some energy, but all in all the experience was much like swimming. Yes – swimming through the infinite cosmos, past indescribable shapes and bursts of color that lifted, fell, and spun in untellable directions. Cicero had never felt such a thrill. He was meant for this.

    And now, it has only been moments since he arrived to his destination – the Institute. Upon his landing, the shapes and the colors disappeared, and everything around Cicero became whole again. Crouching against the dark, reflective surface of a laminate floor, Cicero inspects his hands and feet just to make sure everything is intact after such a journey. Satisfied, he stands and begins to cautiously walk toward a bright circular light beaming down from a metal ceiling. Just beneath the light is a console of blinking buttons, and just beyond that is an open walkway leading to a lift decorated with more light from above.

    “Who are you?” asks a voice.

    Cicero freezes. Gripping his short sword, he turns.

    A young man with blond hair, holding a clipboard, dressed in an orange, white, and gray lab coat eyes Cicero up and down. Cicero was about to draw his weapon to silence the man, but hesitates when the stranger continues to speak.

    “Are you,” the man begins, then his voice drops, “–no it can't be.”

    Still gripping his sword, Cicero admits, “I'm here for a synth.” Should the stranger wish to fight, then he'll get what's coming to him.

    The man's eyes light up. “You're here to escort a synth from the Institute?” His tone sounds cautious, but hopeful.

    Clearing his throat, Cicero replies, “Yes. One synth in particular.”

    “You must have received my message I sent to the outside,” nods the man. “The ones I've been sending with the synths I've freed.”

    “Of course,” Cicero plays along. “Are you... him? The... eh... liberator?”

    “I am,” smiles the man. “I'm Patriot. You can call me Liam.” Liam glances down, shaking his head. “I was never sure if anyone intercepted the synths I've helped, let alone received my messages.”

    “Yes,” nods Cicero, pretending to understand. “Patriot. They told me about you. They told me you needed help.”

    “Which synth is your objective?” asks Liam. He sighs and adds, “The more we can send out, the better.”

    “A female,” replies Cicero. “The Wand– her name is Cat.”

    Cat.” Liam contemplates. “The C.A.T.?”

    “Cat,” shrugs Cicero. “Slender. Dark hair. Green eyes.”

    Liam nods, recognizing the description. “I heard she returned. She's been here awhile now. A few weeks. They have her on lockdown in BioScience.”

    “What are they doing to her?” asks Cicero.

    “I don't know,” admits Liam. “The word around the Institute is that C.A.T. returned with groundbreaking data. They must be extracting it.”

    “Can you get me in there?” If he says no, thinks Cicero, then this is where Liam will die.

    Liam glances at Cicero's blade. “Maybe.” He points to the weapon strapped to Cicero's waist. “Are you planning to kill anyone? I refuse to help if that's the case.”

    Cicero slips the sword from his hip, tossing it to the floor. Shaking his head, he says, “It probably won't get Cicer– won't get me very far if I'm strolling around with a deadly weapon.”

    Liam nods in agreement. “Also, you might want to wear something else if you're to avoid detection,” he advises. Setting his clipboard down, Liam walks over to a nearby locker. Opening it, he removes a lab coat of the same color variant as his own. Turning, he shows the coat to Cicero and says, “Grab a clipboard too. Make it look like you work here. So many researchers come and go, so you'll be dressed well enough to blend in.” Liam offers the lab coat to Cicero.

    Cicero reaches for the coat, but Liam doesn't yet release his grip. Tugging on the coat, Liam says, “Promise you will not kill anyone.”

    With a nod, Cicero replies, “Not a soul.”
  4. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    C.A.T. - Chp. 20


    The Institute is an eyesight. Cicero has seen many places and many things, including the cosmos itself on his way here, but nothing feels quite as anomalous as the Institute. It's so very bright – there are lights everywhere! Cicero's eyes almost can't stand it. Regardless, he keeps a watchful gaze on Liam who leads him through corridors, down stairways, and across open areas with running water and trees fixed right in the unnatural flooring. An eyesight!

    Liam walks quickly, making sure not to stop and converse with Cicero in an overt manner. He appears to be very keen on not getting caught. Cicero follows the man through a doorway labeled BioScience. The door slides open, as if it is powered by magic. Cicero tries not to gawk so as to blend in. Once inside, the hall leads to an open laboratory where researchers busily hurry back and forth from one testing station to another. At one of the stations, green leafy plants sit in organized white pots, strategically arranged like test subjects rather than decorations. At another far corner of the lab there's a tall glass wall. Behind the glass are these muscular, hairy animals grazing around on their knuckles. To Cicero, they look similar to trolls, but their color and their facial bone structure is much different.

    “This way,” whispers Liam. He quickly walks toward a doorway beside a wall terminal that requires him to punch in a numeric code. After he keys in the password, the terminal beeps in approval just as the doors slide open all on their own.

    More hallways, more doors with wall terminals, more walking. Cicero wonders if it will ever end. Finally, the two of them reach a corridor lined with a few laboratories branching off through a row of open doorways.

    “It'll be easier if you wait here,” suggests Liam. “I can scope out the rest of these labs to find your synth.”

    Cicero nods. Liam walks off, disappearing through one of the lab entrances. As Cicero waits, his eyes wander to the vacant lab on his right. He spies a large glass containment unit, tall and domed like an egg. It appears someone is inside of it. “Wanderer?” Cicero mutters curiously.

    Cicero abandons the spot where Liam left him and sneaks into the lab. Deep down, he's hopeful that Cat was just inside, waiting for him. Before he makes his way to the domed containment unit, he stops, spying a smaller glass enclosure near the floor. Inside of it, scuttling around in circles, is a mudcrab! Cicero kneels to get a better look. Yes. It is definitely a bonafide, Skyrim-native mudcrab. How did it end up here? Cicero stands, his eyes gravitating back toward the figure on the opposite side of the lab.

    Approaching the larger containment unit, he now sees that the figure is standing with its arms wrapped around its upper body, eyes closed, and chin down. It appears to be female, but it is not the Wanderer. Furthermore, its body and face are unrecognizable. The woman has no skin – only red, shiny muscle tissue wrapped around yellow and white ligaments and bone. Her chest rises and falls with every breath. She is alive, but skinned like a rabbit. She is not yet whole.

    Short of what a necromancer has done when they thrall a corpse, Cicero has never seen anything quite like this woman. He glances around her enclosure. Scanning the immediate area, Cicero notices one of those terminals has been left on. The brightly lit words are visible, flickering on the screen. Wrought with curiosity, he bends down to read what they say.

    We were able to locate DNA blueprints from the prototype's component. That data has been extracted with great expediency and we've been able to grow what appears to be two different lifeforms. The first lifeform is a type of large decapod crustacean. Its behavior is aggressive in spite of maintaining a diet of only plants. The specimen has little else to attack with aside from its claws.

    The second lifeform is far more revolutionary. Our prototype was carrying a DNA blueprint for an undiscovered specimen of humanoid life. The subject, which we've named Julia, has DNA that is not human DNA, but very close. Julia is bipedal and appears to be developing the same organs, bones, and muscle tissue as a human would. However, her skull structure is different, she has less teeth than the average human, and there is an absence of a pancreas. We are still not sure how Julia produces insulin or metabolizes glucose. We are inconclusive at this point if insulin production and glucose metabolic breakdown are even crucial to her bio-chemistry. Julia's eyes have developed, but they lack a pupil or an iris. Julia appears to be capable of understanding our language and she is able to communicate verbally. Some of the subject matter Julia speaks about is challenging to understand. We are still waiting for Julia's outer epidermis to develop. This final step has been taking longer than expected.

    The woman's eyes flutter open as she whips her skinless hands hard against the glass. Startled from the sudden thump, Cicero jolts himself upright, looking over from the terminal.

    Staring, Julia's eyes are pitch black, like a rodent's. She slides her hands down the glass as it squeaks beneath her raw muscle tissue, leaving red streaks in their place.

    Cicero moves closer, enamored by her horrific appearance. There is something familiar about this woman. There is something graceful to her movement, something dark within her expression. Cicero looks her over as if he were trying to recognize an old colleague, and notices her ears' cartilage had begun to develop along both sides of her gory head. Her ears were shaped in a pointed manner, much like the ears of a wood elf.

    Smacking her hands hard against the glass once again, the bloody, muscle-wrapped woman opens her lip-less mouth and hisses.

    “I knew you would come,” she says in a raspy voice. “Sweet, faithful, humble Cicero...”

    Liam stumbles upon Dr. Holdren as he taps away at a terminal. Just beyond the terminal is a glass tank, encasing the synth protoype labeled C.A.T. Thick, black wires zigzag back and forth from Cat to the outer terminal conduits hanging above just above her tank. Dr. Holdren is trying to extract the rest of the data from Cat's synth component, which now lies on a glass microscope slide, having just been removed from her body.

    “Doctor,” begins Liam.

    “I had to take the component from her brain tissue,” Holdren shakes his head. “It's too corrupted. It couldn't handle what little data it stored.”

    “Doctor,” Liam repeats, “you're needed in Robotics.”

    “Alright,” nods Holdren, finishing up. “Can you watch her to see if she responds in any way? Even though the component was removed, I wonder if there's any residual left in her organic tissue. If she says or does anything, make sure to document it.”

    Liam nods, watching the scientist exit the lab. After Holdren is out of sight, he looks back at Cat who stands nude and vacant-eyed, still hooked up to wires. Liam sighs, knowing that he needs to move fast to unhook her and get her out.

    “You were always a good servant,” hisses Julia.

    Cicero does recognize her. He sees it now. He has never heard her voice until now, but he sees it in her eyes, her face – her everything. “Mother?” he asks.

    “Yes,” she responds, slowly nodding. “I remember everything.” Julia watches Cicero as he paces back and forth in front of the glass. She paces along with him, matching his speed. “Your father spoke to me,” she says.

    “I know,” responds Cicero.

    “That fool says he wants me to stay away from you. Tell me, dear Cicero, what is it that you want? Do you not wish to continue to serve me?”

    “Why did you never speak to me?” he asks.

    Julia pivots her head from side to side, chuckling a slow unsettling laugh.

    “Were you trying to break me?” Cicero adds.

    Julia moves away from the glass, turning her back on Cicero. Looking over her bloody shoulder she says, “Daedric children are the hardest to break, but often times, the most rewarding.”

    “You took everything from me,” says Cicero. “You drove me to insanity.”

    “You were already mad!” sneers Julia. “Your father's blood made it so. Do not blame me!”

    “I waited and waited and waited,” Cicero's voice shook. “I waited for you to say something... anything. And you said nothing!” He pauses, looking down at his feet. “You could have said something, couldn't you? You could have done so at any time. Admit that you purposefully chose not to.”

    “I purposefully chose not to,” admits Julia, her back still turned.

    “You ruined me,” growls Cicero. “You turned me into a fool!”

    Julia whips around and shouts, “You've always been a fool! You're a fool to be here! Why are you here Cicero? Is it to rescue your Night Mother? I'm here now! I'm talking! I am FLESH. I am BONE! Take me out of here, humble faithful, loyal Cicero and set me free! Together we will build the Dark Brotherhood back up to the glory it once was!”

    Cicero breathes deep, admittedly tempted by the Night Mother's words. “I'm not here for you,” he confesses.

    Her black eyes narrow. “Cicero is not here for me?” she asks in a mocking voice. Julia slowly breaks into a laughter that is so dark, so sinister that it sets Cicero's nerves on edge.

    Cicero turns away from Julia and walks back toward the laboratory exit. The mudcrab in the glass unit near the floor scuttles back and forth, smacking its shell hard against the glass as Cicero walks by.

    The Night Mother's laughter grows quicker and louder, echoing against her glass prison as it snakes its way to Cicero's ears. All those nights – those lonely nights with no others around, no sounds, no talking, no nothing. Julia's deep, hateful laughter gradually climbs higher in pitch, amplified and derisive, insulting the way the jester used to compulsively laugh himself to sleep all those years ago.

    Cicero continues walking, his chin cocked high, no longer feeling the weight or movement of a jester hat on his head.

    Liam manages to track down Cicero, leading him back to the lab in which Dr. Holdren had been working. He explains to Cicero that there's not much time left – that Dr. Holdren is going to return at any moment. When Cicero enters the lab, he sees Cat wrapped in a sterile white towel, crumpled to the laboratory floor. Liam admits he didn't know where else to place her after unhooking her from every wire and removing her from the containment unit.

    “Wanderer!” says Cicero, kneeling beside Cat. He scoops her into his arms and stands. She feels so light and frail. Looking her over, he sees that they shaved the rest of her head. All of Cat's hair was gone. They removed her ear piercings, and they tattooed a sleeve of numbers and coded symbols down the underside of her left arm. Next to the numbers were red, irritated puncture wounds from many rounds of shots, I.V.'s, and wires inserted beneath Cat's skin. She looked like a lab rat – shaved, sterilized, and probed. Cicero pressed her into him, holding her close. “What have they done to you?” he asks in a whisper, his eyes welling with tears.

    “If you're going to go,” says Liam, “then go now.”

    Cat's head bobs backward as she looks up at Cicero with those sea green eyes. She stares at him as if he's a complete stranger. She says nothing.

    “She doesn't remember me,” Cicero mutters.

    “They're going to be back any minute,” warns Liam.

    Cicero feels that he has no choice. Nodding, he holds Cat close. With a deep breath, the alteration magic flows through him, transferring to Cat as well. The two of them swirl up into a moment, a juncture, transmitting to a ripple in the cosmos that sends them soaring through its fabric, through the Void itself, and back into the world of Nirn – back on the solid ground of the continent of Tamriel.

    Cicero lands in Skyrim, not far from the city of Whiterun. His hope was that something, anything, might jog Cat's memory.
  5. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    C.A.T. - Chp. 21 (final chapter - the story continues in "The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1)

    Cat is still wrapped in the lab's white towel, swaddled like an infant. Cicero holds her close, rocking her, talking endlessly about the time they've spent together. She says nothing and continues to stare vacantly at the wintry Skyrim horizon in the distance. The two of them sit by the side of the road which trails just around the city limits of Whiterun.

    “...there was the time you drank too much wine...”

    “...I sent it away with the redguard servant...”

    With each memory, Cicero cries heavy tears, hugging tight to Cat, resting his chin on her head.

    “...you are the funniest person I know...”

    “...and we laughed and laughed at how angry Nazir was...”

    His volume grows quieter as he rocks Cat back and forth.

    “...we danced and kissed when no one was around...”

    Cicero continues rocking her. Cat says nothing. He wishes she would speak to him. Oh how he wishes she would speak.

    “Please,” Cicero whispers against her scalp. “Please Wanderer... say something.” He breaks into quiet sobs.

    Hours pass and the sunlight dims. Cicero clutches Cat to him, nodding off, weary from everything he has been through. As the night slips by and his brain flips through the channels of sleep, the sunlight rises again, ushering in a new morning.

    In the distance, a trotting horse neighs, moving closer and closer around the bend of the path. The wagon it pulls seats a man and a woman in their late 40's, wheeling fresh produce recently harvested from their crop.

    Cat's eyes are open, watching the wagon approach. It slowly wheels by. The horse's hooves clip and clop repeatedly against the surface of the path. It doesn't move very fast.

    Cat blinks, turning her head, watching the couple as they slowly roll past. Something clicks deep inside and she stands up, wriggling herself from Cicero's sleepy embrace. Her movement stirs Cicero who sits upright, rubbing his eyes. He sees Cat standing in the road, wrapped in her towel, shaven and tattooed, narrowing her scope on the wagon.

    “Wanderer?” he asks, rising to his feet.

    Cat begins walking into the direction of the horse drawn cart. Her face is scrunched with quiet determination. As she walks, she quickens her pace.

    Confused, Cicero begins to walk after her.

    Cat bends down, grabbing a hefty rock from the side of the road, not pausing in her hastened stride. She raises the rock high above her head and chucks it clean through the air, nailing the man sitting at the head of the wagon.

    “You son of a bitch!” screams Cat.

    Grabbing his head, the man cries out. His wife gasps, pulling the reins on the horse, slowing the cart to a sudden halt.

    Cat picks up another rock and throws it even more powerfully at the man, hitting him so hard in the face that he yelps and falls from his cart.

    “WANDERER!” yells Cicero. “What are you DOING!”

    The man writhes on the ground, groaning and bleeding from his head.

    Cat hurries to him, shouting obscenities.

    Cicero is confused, watching as the Wanderer grabs the man by his shirt collar, dragging him across the ground, shouting right in his face.

    Then it all falls into place. “Is that...” says Cicero.

    “You bastard!” screams Cat, kicking the man in the head.

    “Stop! Stop!” cries the man's wife. She jumps from the cart and runs to find a guard on patrol.

    Cicero rushes over to Cat and pulls her off the man. Looking down, he sees who it is that she is pummeling. Loreius.

    “You!” yells Cicero, pointing directly at his bleeding face. He glances at Cat who has instantly recognized the farmer. Then he looks back down at Loreius who is terrified and confused.

    Cicero bends down and grabs Loreius, lifting him to his feet. “You!” he screams again.

    “Back off!” shouts Loreius. “I have a weapon.” He pulls an iron dagger from his belt.

    Ignoring him, Cicero turns to Cat. “Do you remember him?”

    She nods.

    Cicero gleefully cups his hands to her cheeks. “Do you remember me? Do you remember ...Cicero?”

    Cat's eyes lock onto his, processing the question.

    “Y – yes,” she says with a slow nod.

    Cicero turns to Loreius, who is standing with his iron dagger pointed at the two of them. “You...” sighs Cicero, shaking his head. “You wonderful man!”

    What?!” shouts Loreius.

    Cicero takes Cat by the hand, leading her away. Hugging her close as they walk, he kisses her on the cheek. “Wanderer,” he begins, “let me tell you a joke...”

    [​IMG]music: Somewhere Over The Rainbow
  6. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1
    Chp. 1: The House of Mania


    New Sheoth, the capital of the Shivering Isles, was a place of twisted beauty and splendid crudeness, all wrapped up in one. Nevermind the Isles' countryside, littered with mushroom trees, blister pods, grummites, scalons, and baliwogs. Nevermind its Gardens of Flesh and Bone. Nevermind the dilapidated town, just west of the Fringe, called Passwall. And that was quite literally its only function. Mortals went there in order to pass through the wall – if they were worthy. If not, they were dead. The Gatekeeper saw to that.

    No, it was the district of New Sheoth that was to behold. Behold it in all its glory, for it seated the very throne of the very god who willed it to even be a word upon any lips to any ear.

    New Sheoth's palace was divided between two houses – the House of Mania and the House of Dementia. Both were troubled by their own demons, both had dark intrigues lurking behind whispers and plots and schemes. It wouldn't have been an aristocracy without such obligatory nonsense, of course. The Aureals – the Golden Saints – pledged their allegiance to Mania and its district of Bliss, while the Mazken – the Dark Seducers – pledged theirs to that of Dementia and its district of Crucible. Citizens of this realm were tormented in ways that no mortal of Tamriel could fathom. And it was all because Sheogorath, the Daedric prince of Madness, willed it to be so.

    It wasn't too long ago that Sheogorath found his one and only son and heir, a half mortal fool of an Imperial by the name of Cicero. He was a Fool of Hearts who once pledged himself to serve the repugnant Night Mother. She was a wretched crone-corpse that the Mad God would've rather smashed and burned – and in so many ways, he willed that to be so. Sheogorath intercepted his son's lunacy, resulting in the Night Mother's destruction and Cicero's liberation. The Mad God talked sense into his red headed child, easing him into the role of prince – or duke, rather – and at times Cicero was referred to as princeling. The Mad God showed his son the way of magic, true magic, the kind of magic reserved for those who walk the planes of Oblivion and beyond. The jester took to it like a bird to flight.

    Cicero's assumption as duke could not have come at a better time. The priest, Thadon, who was also the former duke of the House of Mania, irritated Sheogorath for the last time. Thadon fluffed the duchess, Syl, on one too many occasions for Sheogorath's liking. The obnoxious, amorous arguing between the two of them overlapped between both Houses of Mania and Dementia, driving the other inhabitants to madness. And such was not the kind of madness that Sheogorath willed. It was the madness of children – the madness of mortals. The kind of madness that bored Sheogorath with its frivolity and its flippant disregard for the Mad God's whims. Beyond that, Thadon was a drunk and a drug addict, too incapable to continue to fill the position as duke. Sheogorath excitedly put Thadon under the knife – Cicero's knife.

    “That's it,” the Mad God told his son. “Nice and easy – slide it right into him.” And a flash of evil spread across Cicero's face in the form of a maniacal grin as he sunk his dagger through Thadon's gaping mouth, piercing the flesh in the back of the priest's screaming throat. The tip of the ebony metal spliced through Thadon's shuddering brain stem and, just like that, the old duke was dead. Brain dead. And dead-dead.

    Cicero took his throne.

    Much to his liking, being duke to the House of Mania was no difficult task for the jester. And yes, Cicero, royalty and all, still dressed as a jester. He told his father that even though he no longer served the Night Mother, he was content with his classic style as it was a trend of peculiarity. Cicero cherished peculiarity.

    “Alright,” agreed Sheogorath, “but as I said once before, you will dance each year at my birthday party.” And little did the Mad God realize that Cicero would dance on any occasion, all year round, no matter who was interested or not. Such was an easy trade-off.

    Now, the old patchy motley the red head wore throughout his travels of Tamriel was removed and burned at once. For the sake of aesthetics, his own father couldn't allow such shabby clothing for the very duke seated upon the throne of Mania.

    “You will have a new outfit, my child,” promised Sheogorath. “You will be a beautiful fool.”

    Cicero wore a jester hat embroidered with a twist of crimson crushed velvet and soft black silk. Silk woven from the conical, finger-like appendages beneath the bulging abdomen of a Diamond Spider Queen, no less. The tips of Cicero's hat were long, hanging downward, extending along the length of his hair, both of which ended at the expanse of his shoulders. The hat's color suited him, matching up exquisitely with the golden, copper hue of his eyes and the deep, red intensity of his thick, luxuriant hair. On the front and center of the jester hat, there was a silver emblem of Sheogorath – the three gaping mouths.

    Cicero's bodily attire was hand crafted by a clothing merchant from Crucible. The under-layer was constructed of studded, fine dark leather that attractively hugged his abdomen, buttocks, hips, and legs. Over his upper torso, Cicero wore a duke's black vest, woven from that same spider silk, buttoned to his neck. Overlaying the vest was a silver mesh of mail, tough as dragon scales, and protective against the assault of lycanthropes and vampires alike. Cicero's pale arms, curved with lean muscle, were left exposed. But his hands donned heavy, dark leather gloves that cuffed past his wrists, nearly to the elbow. “So that Cicero may still kill with ease,” he'd mutter with a grin just before he'd slip them on. And lastly, the jester's boots were sleek and dark, rising mid-calf, offering some extra height in their modest soles. The divine footwear provided ample muffling for stepping quietly like a ghost as it should float through the halls of the dead.

    Cicero did not come to the Shivering Isles alone. Sheogorath knew the jester would bring her – his Wanderer. Cat; the princeling's scientifically engineered true love. The young woman was riddled with trauma, easily seen by the way she appeared; thin, shaven, and wide-eyed with perturbation. Whatever it was that the Institute had done to Cat, the experience surely left its cold-blooded mark.

    Sheogorath couldn't stand the sight of her looking so frail, so bald, and her left arm covered in those strange numeric tattoos. So many ones and zeros – so many barcodes. With the snap of his finger, Cat was adorned with an elegant gown, glittery daedric jewelry, and her black hair had grown to a length that reached the top of her narrow backside. She hated it. Cicero couldn't believe the sight of Cat decorated with frippery, her unusually long hair, and wearing a dress of all things! Cat was utterly disgusted by the whole ordeal.

    “If you live under my roof,” said Sheogorath with the waggle of his finger – and the two of them said nothing more of it to the Mad God. At least not right away. They had only just arrived, so they had to pick and choose their battles. Cat being unexpectedly hurdled onto nauseating levels of femininity was not an immediate priority.

    As for choosing battles, Cat and Cicero had some things to work out between themselves. There were times Cicero tried to make advances on Cat. And therefore, there were many times Cat recoiled from him, still trying to make sense of everything. However, there was always a look in her eyes that convinced the jester she wanted him. His Wanderer was... struggling. Cicero loved her and he adored her to no end. He couldn't force the issue, but damn if he didn't repeatedly try.

    At times, Cicero would feel so sexually pent up that he'd steal off into the night, traipsing through Dementia's district of Crucible. He'd spy a victim walking alone in the street. With urgency, the jester promptly dragged them off to choke and stab and gut in the middle of the night, leaving their body to the bugs in the morning mud. Cicero channeled his sexual urges into bloodlust – what else could there be for a cold blooded killer? Many citizens of Crucible pined for death anyway, but often times feared to attempt suicide. Cicero convinced himself that what he did was a twisted sort community service.

    But of course, given the subject of Cat, the jester still tried. One night, Cicero returned to the House of Mania just after strangling a muttering man who frequently walked circles around a particular mushroom tree. The princeling's urges had not yet been sated. The muttering man must have been suicidal. Cicero discovered no real fight in him. There were too many suicidals out there, each of them hesitant to join the sad, lonely ghosts on the Hill of Suicides. Regardless, Cicero returned home feeling ravenous and spied Cat walking along the conservatory. As she strolled past an alocasia plant, she neared the open door to the duke's quarters – Cicero's quarters.

    In a matter of seconds, Cat felt an excited grip on her arm, and before she knew it she was tugged and pinned to a wall just inside Cicero's room. Light on the wall flickered from the candles that danced in the sconces above. The shadows played across the pallid cheekbones of Cicero's face as it widened to a grin that could charm devils from their deeds. His copper eyes illuminated under the wicks' flames. Cicero smiled at Cat with an all too hungry lust, mixed up with the feverish euphoria of having just killed a person.

    “It has been some time,” he whispered against her mouth. His breath was sticky, warm and sweet, like an oven fresh pastry. His body smelled of sweat, and his clothing smelled of leather, silver metal, and something musky like rotted flowers.

    Cat breathed deep. “Yes,” she agreed with a nod. “It has. I – I think.”

    “You think?” Cicero chuckled softly. He slid a glove up her back, resting it across her spine. His eyes intensified in sync with the further spread of his grin as he leaned closer, hovering his smiling lips beside Cat's ear. He spoke gently, “You know what Cicero wants.” He leaned back, staring down at her. Then, his free hand lifted Cat's dress, sliding up along her inner thigh. She flicked her eyes to his and held her breath. Cicero slowly, lightly brushed a gloved finger up and down the center crease of her groin, teasing Cat's privates through what thin fabric pitifully covered such an area. Her breathing grew heavy as her stomach tensed in anticipation. Cicero drew his lips to her neck, kissing a path along her skin. She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, shrugging the jester off of her as she attempted to move away.

    But Cicero had no plans to let Cat walk away. He tugged her back. She felt him tense and tighten behind her as his sweet breath panted against her collar bone. The tips of his hat dangled forward, sweeping along her shoulder. “Please, Wanderer,” he begged in a low tone. “Cicero misses your skin.” The jester spun her around, forcing Cat's gaze to meet his. She felt a familiar warmth swell beneath her dress, but she ignored it. Cat was scared – not of Cicero, but of the demons that haunted her thoughts; the things that kept her awake at night. That crippling fear was still in her. And so, she contended with the one instinct that she could never shake – Cat wanted to run away.

    Cicero closed his eyes, kissing Cat's neck, moaning softly against her skin as he lifted her from the ground. Her legs wrapped around his hips and so he eagerly pumped himself against her. Leaning away from her neck, Cicero teased Cat with an impending kiss, slowly gliding the tip of his tongue along the curve of her mouth. Her jaw quivered with excitement, but – again – she ignored her fervor. She did not lean into Cicero's kiss.

    “Why are you doing this to me?” he practically growled. Cat's insides went weak with readiness and her thighs felt a firm, prominent shape pressing through Cicero's leathers. Her bottom lip dropped and she breathed a short eager breath ever so quietly – but it was just loud enough to alert Cicero's ears. “Cicero wants to be inside of you,” he teased and his body somehow tightened around her. Lifting a hand, Cicero began unlacing the top of Cat's dress, dragging the strings from their holes with controlled precision. He grinned while doing so, his eyes daring her to just try and stop him.

    With a sigh, Cat looked down and unwound her legs from his hips. “I can't,” she confessed. She did want him – Cicero was wild and wicked and strong and sadistically superb. But – no. It was the same old dilemma for Cat. Too many unanswered questions. Too many problems weighed on her mind. And to top it off, she felt uncomfortable in her own skin – uncomfortable in that god damn dress with all that god damn hair. Placing her feet back on the floor, Cat closed her eyes, feeling ashamed that she denied herself such a simple pleasure, and in turn denied Cicero something that he thought they'd already had; something deeper than skin itself. They did have it, but at the moment they didn't. It was all so complicated.

    As Cat apologetically pushed her way out through the door, exiting the duke's quarters, she heard the jester behind her, pounding his fists to the wall, crying out with a dark frustration that meant all the more throats to be cut.

    [​IMG]music: Fantomas - Book 1, Page 29
    #26 Holiday Feartree, Jul 6, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017
  7. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1
    Chp. 2: The Jester's Spine Mountains


    Cat often took lonely walks to the Jester's Spine Mountains just northwest of the palace. She thought it was fitting, given her relationship to Cicero. Furthermore, it was fitting given his relationship to the throne of Mania. God dammit Cicero, she thought as she walked, what I wouldn't give to go back to the way we were. Amused, Cat hummed the tune of The Way We Were, chuckling at the reference that no one else would've ever understood.

    She missed Boston.

    Cat's memory wipe wasn't successful. So many memories remained, and more and more surfaced as time went on. The Institute failed at being thorough, but then again Cat was only a prototype. Of course things were bound to fail. She was happy to still have her memories of Cicero – the day they met on the road, the nights they spent together, and all of the laughable bullplops inside jokes they shared.

    Cicero is my best god damn friend. A mantra she repeated frequently in her head. It was the truth. It was the only comfort she had in this twisted place.

    Those memories were real. But then there were the other memories; the memories that were false. Cat never lived in Goodneighbor. The local ghouls never taught her how to shoot a gun – like an ace, no less. And to top it off, she never had a younger sister named Michelle. The Institute implanted those memories, likely to manufacture Cat to seem as real as possible. Of course they'd put her in Goodneighbor and of course they'd make the resident thugs teach her how to shoot. The Institute wanted Cat to be a soldier. But did they have to implant the memory of a younger sister? What was the point of that? Cat had no memory of a mother or a father. And why did that never before occur to her as unusual? Cat shook her head. That's what they want, she thought. They fluff with your mind and hope you never ask questions. She was asking too many questions.

    Slowing her pace, Cat approached the distant beauty of the Jester's Spine Mountains. The sunset overhead looked like a painted blend of orange, pink, and blue, daubed together by a broad, celestial brush. Strange moons peeked down from above, but they were lovely in spite of their oddity.

    Something moved in the distance.

    Lifting her hand, Cat veiled her eyes to shield away the sunlight. Squinting, she cocked her head to the side. Was that a – a house? A moving house? Yes. There was a house off in the distance and it stood straight up on two legs, awkwardly trotting through the grass. It moved closer and closer, into Cat's direction.

    “This place gets weirder and weirder,” she muttered. Cat had the instinct to run, but she stood her ground, knowing that running in her infuriatingly heavy dress would have been pointless. She hated Sheogorath's assigned dress. It was bright red, like a fire engine, and covered in layers upon layers of gaudy sequins, glossy silks, and frilly tulle. The upper half of the wretched thing wound around Cat like cherry red mummy wrappings, binding her from navel to neck and from wrist to wrist. And the only thing that held back her breasts, as small as they were anyway, were these useless red laces zigzagging across her chest. The lower half of the dress ballooned out like a fluffing cupcake. Awful. The dreaded thing was just awful.

    The house was very much walking toward Cat. Its legs weren't human, not that the house itself was human in any case. The legs appeared to be the legs of an animal – some kind of bird. They had long, pointed talons that dug into the soil as they moved, kicking up hunks of mud and grass. The thighs were shaped like feathery drumsticks. Black feathers, no less.

    The house itself looked like an old shack. Its triangular roof was dilapidated, and these old, dried up vines clung to its exterior, webbing themselves over a pair of cracked shutters. The door was lopsided, as if it was measured incorrectly to its frame. The house trotted closer, making very little sound; this forced the sight to appear all the more eerie. Once the house stood roughly thirty feet from Cat, it settled itself to the ground, crouching with pointed knees on those downy, inhuman legs.

    The crooked door opened with a slow creak.

    “Well, well,” hissed a scratchy, aged voice, “what have we here?” Through the dark, rectangular shape of the open door, a figure slowly emerged as if fading into view. There was nothing else to be seen beyond the doorway – it was pitch black, darker than night, darker than the darkest cave. No shadows, no shapes, no silhouettes. Was it... the Void?

    Cat's knees locked beneath her cumbersome dress. She drew a breath and held it, taking in the sight of the figure. It was an old woman, hunched forward with a prominent hump along her wrinkled back. Her nose was wickedly long – crooked and pointed like a carrot. Her hair was white and thin, hanging in pitiful strands that did nothing to cover the curvature of her naked, alabaster scalp. She wore next to nothing, aside from a thin blue smock that looked as though it had been eaten by moths. Her long white fingers curved around what appeared to be a large wooden pestle with a dusty old skull stuck to the end of it. The skull appeared to be human. Cat exhaled and shuddered at the realization.

    The old woman continued moving from her doorway, slowly hobbling toward the young woman in the red dress. Cat didn't run, but she wanted to. Instinct told her that running from this woman would have been pointless. She may have been old, but there was an intimidating strength about her. Magic, perhaps. The bottom line? This old lady wasn't fluffing around.

    The old woman reached out to Cat, gripping her cheeks between slender, pale fingers. Her nails were long and sharp, and as white as the rest of her. She scanned Cat's face with eyes that were clouded over with the veil of heavy cataracts. She's blind, thought Cat. How can she see me? How can she see anything?

    But without issue, the old woman saw her. She saw everything.

    “Your blood,” rasped the old woman, tilting Cat's face closer to her scope, “is arranged.” She released her grip, letting go of Cat.

    “Excuse me?” said Cat, softly. “Who... who are you?”

    “Many names,” muttered the crone. “Let us think... which name would you recognize?” The old woman snorted and spit, her mucus landed on the mud. Snapping her fingers, a small fire appeared right where the spit had landed. “Must warm these old bones,” she hissed through clenched teeth. She crouched to the grass, holding out her hands, warming them against the heat of the fire. “Come,” she said. “Sit.”

    Obediently, Cat shuffled closer and sat. She wanted to crack a joke, but she was too scared to say anything. Jokes always made Cat feel more at ease. But her voice had lodged up in her chest like a stone. Cicero wasn't there to laugh with her. Right now it felt like he was a million miles away. Cat was all alone.

    “You should be frightened, girl,” said the old woman. “You share a fire with Yaga.”

    Baba Yaga?” Cat recognized the name. It was a Russian fairy tale – an old one. She certainly didn't think it was real. Well, until now...

    “Known to some,” nodded Yaga.

    “Do you... live here?” asked Cat.

    Yaga closed her blind eyes and chuckled a slow, throaty laugh. “No,” she answered. “Yaga is passing through. Yaga goes where she pleases.”

    Cat stared, her eyes fixed on the sight of this woman. “I'm sure you do,” she nodded.

    “As Yaga was saying,” continued the old woman, “your blood is arranged. Unnatural.” She tapped a spindly finger to her long, ugly nose. “Yaga can smell this on you.”

    “I'm a synth,” said Cat, her eyes dropping to her lap.

    “Ah,” said Yaga. “You are an orphan.” She cracked a wrinkled smile, revealing pointed teeth organized in gaps around her black gums. “Orphans are admittedly delicious meat.”

    Stunned, Cat swallowed a burst of anxiety.

    “You have no one,” said Yaga. “You are alone.”

    She felt the sting of Yaga's words. They were honest. “I have one person,” whispered Cat. “But for the most part, yes, I am alone.”

    “And,” said Yaga, shaking her head, “you are not beautiful.” The crone gestured to Cat's appearance. “Someone has turned a sublime witch into an offensive doll.”

    “A witch?” asked Cat. “I – I'm not a witch.”

    Yaga bowed her head and replied, “A matter of interpretation. There is a prestige within you, Cat.”

    Shocked, Cat asked, “You know my name?” Then she shook her head. “Of course you do...”

    Yaga reached for Cat's hand, grabbing it with the strength of a man. The crone was assuredly no weakling. She removed a very small knife from beneath her smock and quickly sliced it across Cat's palm.

    “What are you doing?!” shrieked Cat, trying, and failing, to wrench away. She was no match for Yaga.

    The crone lifted Cat's bleeding palm to her mouth and lapped up the blood. Her tongue was rough and dry like sandpaper. Cat winced. Then, Yaga let go and nodded as if she understood. “Ahh... Yaga does know your world,” she said. “You are far from it.” The old woman swirled her hand over the fire. The flames swirled in accompaniment, commanded by her whim. “Perhaps you should return to it,” added Yaga.


    “To help the others – the ones like yourself.”

    Cat furrowed her brow. “Why should I care about them?”

    Yaga threw her head back and cackled. “You shouldn't!” Her voice dripped with sin. “But,” she sighed, “you do.” She swirled her hand faster and the flames twisted up like a miniature tornado. They spun tighter and tighter until the fire became a glowing orb. The orb convulsed and expanded to an ovular shape, further widening to the size of a hefty satchel. Yaga drew a breath through her narrow, hideous nose. “For you,” she exhaled, pushing the satchel toward Cat. “Carry it home. Open it later. When it's ready.”

    Cat leaned forward, reaching for the satchel. As she did so, Yaga grabbed a fistful of her long black hair. Cat held back a yelp of pain, for what reason she couldn't understand. She was scared to show too much weakness in front of the crone, for Baba Yaga was incredibly powerful.

    “It reminds me of a particular child who had discovered my house,” muttered Yaga. “Black hair, grown long like a mane.” She grimaced. “Yaga choked on her hair and vomited her broken bones back to the earth. Digesting the child was no easy task.” She pulled harder on Cat's hair.

    With the squeeze of her eyes, Cat gritted her teeth. “Please,” she whispered so quietly that it was as if Cat hadn't said anything at all.

    The crone pulled the hair harder, her grip tightening around the clump between her fingers. Cat couldn't bear the burning sensation on her head anymore. She was helpless in Yaga's grasp, feeling it worsen, burn, and tighten with each passing second. “Please,” begged Cat, her voice a bit louder. The pain intensified. “Please!” she screamed.


    The stabbing heat dissipated from Cat's head, and she no longer lurched parallel to the ground. Sitting up, Cat reached to her temples and felt the sensation of short, shaved hair. She moved her hands up and back, navigating the extent of her scalp. The top of her head had longer hair arranged in a wide strip, reaching from her forehead back to the base of her skull. The strands were thick and long but by no means were they as long as they had been. A 'hawk, Cat thought. Yaga gave me a mohawk.

    “The warrior's touch,” said Yaga. “It's painful, but it's yours.” The crone stood, balancing her weight on her skull-tipped pestle. In the background, her house shifted in its seat, eagerly waiting for Yaga to approach. “Go,” she said, “return to the palace.” Yaga turned away from Cat and hobbled back to her house. She opened the lopsided door that led to unimaginable darkness. With a subtle glance over her humped shoulder, she muttered, “We may meet again, Cat.”

    [​IMG] music: Vermillion Lies - She Comes
  8. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1
    Chp. 3: Anathoth

    “I hate that dormouse of a woman!” complained Anathoth. The Altmer was referring to Cat. The last time she ran into the scrawny girl, Anathoth nonchalantly shouldered her into a tall thorn bush. That meaty dress pulled her right down into it and the little fuzzy kitten had cuts and scrapes across her ugly face for days! It was lovely!

    Syl grimaced. “I don't trust her!” She linked arms with Anathoth as the two strolled across a cobblestone walkway outlining the palace grounds. Anathoth was a subject from the House of Dementia and one of the few people in which Syl, the ever-paranoid duchess of Dementia, trusted.

    Being born a high elf, snobbery was second nature to Anathoth. The Altmer wore her superiority not only by the smug look on her vulgar, bronze face, but also in her lavish apparel. Anathoth's bright, turquoise dress flowed to the ground, trailing a lengthy sequinned train behind her wherever she traipsed. The high elf was quite tall, taller than most men, and her heavy breasts nearly burst from the upper lacing of her outfit. The laces strained against Anathoth's ample cleavage, which looked less like a woman's bosom and more like a swollen, bronze backside glued to her bony rib cage. They weren't natural of course, especially for an elf. Syl had given Anathoth the augmentation spell necessary to enlarge them. And, oh, how the Altmer loved showing them off. Her curly, yellow hair flowed past each breast, swaying in tempo as she sashayed her way around the palace.

    Syl wasn't keen on Mania's new duke, but she refrained from open slander for the sake of her friend's ...desires. Anathoth was literally head over heels for Cicero. She pined for his attention, day and night. It was the very reason the Altmer hated Cat. But Cicero seemed to only have eyes for the little wretch.

    “Do you think she will attend the masquerade dinner?” asked Anathoth.

    “Let us hope not,” grumbled Syl. “But she probably will if Cicero has anything to say about it.”

    “I hate her hideous dress!” Anathoth sneered. “And that pitifully plain face. No rouge, nothing!”

    Anathoth proudly wore heavy makeup over her sunken cheeks, long crooked lips, and wide frog-like eyes. She'd then dust her face with a white powder which didn't look quite right against her dark burnished skin. And the final touch? She dabbed a little black dot on her upper lip as a beauty mark. Always.

    Syl immediately loosened her arm from Anathoth's. “Ugh,” she groaned. “Here he comes. I shall leave you to it. Find me later in my private gardens.”

    Anathoth blinked her bulging red eyes as Syl hurried away. Within seconds, Cicero walked around the corner, humming a tune to himself as he twirled a dagger in his left hand. Anathoth quickly tucked her yellow locks behind her long, pointed ears and hurried over to him, cornering the jester against a lonesome stone wall covered in flowery vines and moss.

    “Oh,” said Cicero, his voice disappointingly lowering its tone, “Anathoth. Yes. Hello...”

    Anathoth pressed herself upon him. “Cicero!” she cried. Her warm breasts heaved against his neck. She was much taller than him. “So,” she cooed, twirling a strand of his red hair around her finger – the elf stared down at Cicero with lewd carnality. “Will you be attending your father's masquerade dinner?”

    Cicero backed himself up a little. “Dinner?” he asked.

    Anathoth inched her face closer to his and purred, “Why yes. There's a masquerade dinner scheduled soon. Won't you be coming?” Pausing, she stuck out her lower lip with a pout. “Alone, I hope...”

    Cicero knew Anathoth had some kind of obsession with him. He just didn't know exactly what to do with it. The princeling toyed with the idea of playing along because palace life had grown quite boring.

    “Well,” he sarcastically purred back, “maybe Cicero will make an appearance.”

    “You'll need a mask,” grinned Anathoth. She giggled and her breasts bounced in sync. “Oh tell me, please! Pleeeease!” she begged almost orgasmically. “What will it be?”

    Oooh,” said Cicero in a deep, sultry voice, “perhaps a tiger...”

    Anathoth moaned with approval as she pressed harder against the jester. One of her nipples popped out from behind a thin string laced across her chest. Noticing, Cicero glanced down, unable to decide whether to laugh. Instead, he cupped his glove against the side of Anathoth's upper half, slipping a thumb over her nipple, idly massaging it just to elicit a reaction from the absurd woman.

    Anathoth whimpered and slid her hand up and down his chest. “I love that,” she nodded, her words carrying a double meaning. “I love that so much! You must be a tiger!”

    Returning from her excursion, Cat ascended to the top of the stairs adjacent from the stony, flowery wall. She stopped when she saw Cicero and Anathoth. The two did not see her. Cat set down the heavy satchel Yaga had gifted her and slunk out of sight, maintaining a curious, watchful eye from around a corner. He's up to something, she thought. Cicero was always up to something. From what she could tell, Anathoth – the meanest bitch Cat ever had the displeasure of knowing – was falling out of her dress and falling all over Cicero. Cicero appeared to be messing around with her, but not in the kind of way most men would mess around. Quite literally, Cat could see the guy was simply messing with her. She pressed her lips together to stifle a laugh. Oh Christ, she thought.

    “Yes!” Cicero laughed excitedly. “Cicero is a tiger! A fierce, predatory tiger!” Abandoning Anathoth's nipple, he gnashed his teeth and clawed at the air with his hand. Anathoth threw her head back and laughed, mimicking him with the gnash of her own teeth, also clawing at the air.

    Giggling, Anathoth fondled Cicero's upper frame, then worked her fingers down to his lower half, running them along the muscular contours of his abdomen. Cicero didn't react, wondering just how far she'd venture. Sure enough, Anathoth cupped her hand over his privates, gently squeezing his shaft with girlish excitement.

    Cicero admittedly was aroused by the friction, but not so much by the sight of the ridiculous woman in front of him. Regardless, his penis stiffened beneath her palm and Anathoth's froggy eyes bugged out even more than imaginable.

    “Oh my!” she swooned. “Big boy...”

    Cicero arrogantly smiled. “What else did lady Anathoth expect?”

    Cat rolled her eyes. Raising a hand to her mouth, she tried to hold in every shred of impending laughter. One sputter or snort or giggle and Cicero would hear her and this hilarious bullplops would end.

    Anathoth pressed her cartoonishly painted face closer to Cicero's and whispered against his lips, “May I see it?”

    Cicero licked his lips and grinned. “On your knees,” he commanded.

    Anathoth squeaked with excitement and knelt down. Her fingers furiously unlaced his leathers. Cicero's erection bobbed out and she gripped his shaft with eagerness.

    “It's so biiiiig!” she moaned with delight.

    “Why not stroke it?” Cicero asked through clenched teeth.

    Surprised by the idea, the elf balked and her crooked mouth rounded to the shape of a crooked O.

    Cicero shrugged and flashed Anathoth a sardonic grin.

    She grinned back and obediently moved her hand up and down, breathing deep and heavy as her massive breasts heaved in sync with her strokes.

    Quite possibly this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen, mused Cat. Also this is weird and perverted...

    “Do you know what turns Cicero on?” asked Cicero.

    Oh fluff, Cat thought with a smirk and the slow shake of her head. Here it comes. Here comes the psychopathy – right on cue.

    “What's that, my duke?” Anathoth intensely ogled the size and shape of Cicero's manhood, still happily jerking him off.

    Cicero reached a hand to Anathoth's chin, lifting her eyes to his. “Blood,” he said coldly. Smiling in a dangerous sort of way, Cicero raised his dagger to the elf's throat, pressing the edged blade against the powdered and perfumed flesh of her neck. It effortlessly cut into the top layer of Anathoth's skin and a thin trickle of blood hurried downward, right into the crack between her tits.

    Anathoth froze and gasped. Her busy hand stopped moving.

    “Don't you want to keep going?” Cicero asked with a frown. “Cicero was enjoying himself!”

    Anathoth stuttered over her words, unable to respond properly as the blade was still pressed to her trachea.

    Cicero reached his free hand down to his groin. He gripped around Anathoth's hand which still clutched his fully erect penis. He moved her hand up and down as she gawked at him, wide-eyed. Bug-eyed, really. The jester pumped a little faster, moving his hips to and fro.

    Suddenly, his posture stiffened. “Oh, lady Anathoth!” he cried with sarcasm.

    “Yes?” she naively asked with a half smile.

    Love your makeup,” he chuckled in a low voice. And with a brief jerk and shudder, Cicero ejaculated across Anathoth's face. She shrieked.

    “Oh my!” Cicero raised a hand to his mouth, feigning shock and remorse. Lowering the dagger from the elf's throat, he fixed the weapon back to his belt as he fastened up his leathers. When finished, the jester reached back down to assist Anathoth to her feet.

    The high elf appeared stunned, her mouth hanging agape as Cicero's semen still clung for dear life to the inches upon inches of makeup caked across her face.

    “Truly,” swooned Cicero, clasping both hands to his chest, “you are my heart's desire.”

    With a huff, Anathoth turned away, walking toward the nearest exit. She paused and looked back over her shoulder to see Cicero smiling like a fool, waving to her.

    “See you at the party!” he chirped. Then he winked and clawed at the air like a tiger.

    “Ugh!” she said, and promptly stormed off.

    After Anathoth was no longer in sight, Cat emerged from her hiding spot. “You have to be the weirdest, craziest asshole I've ever met,” she said.

    Cicero froze. “Oh! Wanderer,” he said. “I – ah – you – ah you saw that?”

    “Oh yeah,” Cat nodded with a half smile. She crossed her arms and shook her head. “God, you're fluffed up.”

    Nodding, the jester said, “Cicero doesn't like the way lady Anathoth treats you.”

    “Understood, but I can handle my own plops,” smiled Cat. “But,” she sighed, “that was pretty... funny. Or scary. Or both.” Cat scrunched her brows and said with resolution, “You're a funny... scary... man.”

    Cicero parted his lips, revealing a handsome grin.

    Cat walked over and linked her hand with his. “If,” she began, “you ever try that with me – I'll punch you in the nuts.”

    Cicero bit his lower lip and nodded. “And that is why such a feat has never been attempted.”

    [​IMG]music: Get Rid of That Girl - The Donnas
  9. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1
    Chp. 4: Fairy Godmothers


    As the two entered Cat's cozy guest quarters, Cicero set down the heavy satchel Cat had been lugging earlier. With a stretch of his arms, the jester had long since noticed his Wanderer's hair had changed. He just hadn't mentioned it with all the chaos from earlier.

    Smiling, Cicero reached his hand to Cat's head, affectionately gliding it along her shaved scalp. Then he ran his glove through the thick, longer hair of her mohawk, lifting the strands between his fingers in a gentle up and down motion. “Cicero likes it,” he grinned.

    “Good,” nodded Cat. “Let's hope your dad doesn't throw a fit.”

    “He will learn to love it,” answered Cicero, draping his arms over Cat and pulling her into a tight hug. “So,” he continued, “what's in the Wanderer's strange bag?” Cicero pointed to the satchel he'd set on Cat's bed.

    Cat shook her head. “I have no earthly idea.” She reached for the satchel's front clasp, struggling to open it. Damn thing wouldn't budge. Yaga did say to open the bag when it was ready. But who knew exactly when the hell that meant?

    Changing the subject, Cicero said, “I heard my father is having a masquerade dinner. My guess is that it's in a couple of hours. Care to accompany poor, lonely Cicero?”

    Cat's eyes narrowed. “Poor, lonely Cicero?”

    Cicero sighed. “Well, you know... it has been some time since we – you know.”

    “Are you guilting me?” asked Cat, raising an eyebrow.

    Cicero crossed his arms and laughed. “Would that work?”

    Cat punched him in the shoulder. “Smartass.”

    Smirking, Cicero rubbed the tender spot on his shoulder. Then he quickly leaned forward, stealing a kiss from Cat's lips. Chuckling, she shook her head and gave him the finger. Cicero's face beamed with vanity as he mockingly bowed in response.

    “You'd be surprised,” the jester mused with a dreamy look in his eyes, “how many stabbings there have been just to satisfy my... urges.”

    “No I wouldn't,” replied Cat, shaking her head.

    Suddenly, a loud, quick knock rapped at Cat's bedroom door. “Your grace!” shouted a voice, muffled from the other side. It was Haskill, Sheogorath's chamberlain.

    Cicero's golden eyes rolled. “What is it?” he called.

    “Your father requests your presence at once,” replied Haskill.

    Cicero turned to Cat. “I don't suppose I could tell him I'm... busy?” He playfully tugged at the red laces across Cat's chest.

    Cat rolled her eyes and batted away his hand. “I'm pretty sure you have plenty of time to spare.” She grinned, re-lacing her dress' top.

    Cicero frowned. “You know the last thing Cicero just did was–”

    “–Oh, I know,” interrupted Cat. “Somewhere, right now, Anathoth is removing her makeup with a blowtorch.”

    “Sir!” shouted Haskill. “Your grace! Are you still there?”

    Cicero yelled through the door, “What does father need?!”

    “Your help,” replied Haskill with a desperate tone, “...with his outfit for the party this evening!”

    “Ohhh,” chuckled Cat, pointing a thumb over her shoulder. “That's sounds super important. Man, you better hurry.”

    “Are you coming tonight?” asked Cicero.

    “Your grace!” Haskill yelled again.

    Furious, Cicero's face twisted up with madness as he flung open the door and grabbed Haskill by his shirt collar. Pulling the chamberlain's face very close to his own, Cicero pointed his dagger at Haskill's lips and raged, “If Haskill screams one more time, Cicero will cut out his tongue and force him to eat it!” The jester let go of the chamberlain who immediately hustled away. With a deep, calming breath, Cicero turned back toward Cat. He readjusted the position of his crimson and black hat.

    Sure,” grumbled Cat.

    Cicero exhaled. “Sure, what?”

    Cat crossed her arms. “I'll go to the god damn party with you.”

    Cicero's arms shot up in the air, pantomiming a silent cheer. He grabbed Cat and planted a heavy kiss right on her mouth. “Find a good costume!” he added just before darting off.

    Holding a glass of wine, Syl strolled through her private gardens, only to be startled by Anathoth barreling toward her, nearly stepping all over her freshly planted bloom aster.

    “Watch it!” snapped Syl, gesturing to the aster with the wine in her hand.

    Anathoth didn't listen and trampled the flowers as sweaty makeup streamed down her face in blotchy, rainbow zigzags, pooling just below her neckline. “The bastard!” she screeched. Her eyes ran with sticky, dark liner and shadow. She looked like a cheap prostitute who had been caught in the rain.

    “What?” asked Syl. “Who? What's happened?”

    Anathoth rambled on and on, explaining what took place earlier after Syl had left and Cicero had shown up.

    “Disgusting!” cried Syl. A sneer of revulsion curled in her upper lip. “What a horrible little man!”

    Anathoth's mouth twisted up with insult as she barked, “I think he was making fun of me!

    Syl rolled her eyes and sipped her wine. “Well, he is a fool. Why you ever had eyes for him...”

    “Well not anymore!” vowed Anathoth with the stamp of her foot.

    Syl began to feel the effects of her wine. This was her third glass. “Vengeance will be ours,” she promised with slurry words. The Bosmer duchess snickered. “I'll make that spoiled rich brat of a prince pay.”

    “How?” asked Anathoth, her bug eyes wide with ambition. “Can we kill him?”

    “Sheogorath would never stand for that,” lectured Syl. She might have been drunk, but she wasn't that drunk. “But that little bitch of his...” Syl nodded with the lift of her glass, as if she was raising a toast. “I can send Herdir to her quarters within the hour.”

    “The dungeon master of your House?” asked Anathoth.

    “Precisely,” replied Syl.

    Anathoth clapped her hands and squealed. “Can we kill her?!”

    Syl sipped more of her wine. “No, no,” she replied. “Herdir will just... make the girl scream. Torture is his specialty. I'll give him special instructions – tell him to show the girl worse treatment than Cicero showed you. Make her bleed from every hole. It's about time I send that waggish duke a message from the House of Dementia!”

    “How horrible!” cried Anathoth. She smiled impishly. “And how wonderful!”

    “He won't mess with any of my subjects again!” yelled Syl. “He can hand-fluff those Golden Saints until his balls drop off, but he is to stay away from my House!

    Anathoth nodded.

    “Let's head back inside my House,” suggested Syl. “We'll find Herdir in the dungeons. And while he works his magic on that hopeless girl, let us proceed to the party.”

    Cicero pinched the bridge of his nose, grimacing at his father. Sheogorath tried on so many different outfits that it became mind numbing. Cicero had been sitting there for over an hour. He was growing antsy, just like a child.

    “Father!” Cicero bellyached, “Cicero is bored!”

    Sheogorath ignored his son as he haughtily paraded in front of a tall, ornate mirror. The Mad God's servants measured and adjusted the dangling layers of his party costume, quickly moving with their master's unexpected strides.

    Cicero yanked off his hat and screamed into it. When he was done, he put it back on his head. “Isn't your party about to start?” he snapped.

    Sheogorath snorted. “It'll start when I'm damn good and ready.”

    Cicero stood and approached a nearby window. He peeked out, looking down from Sheogorath's tower. The princeling spied the entrance to the palace, dropping his jaw. Crowds of masked guests lingered about, lavishly dressed in their costume attire. Many strolled in and out of the palace entrance. Cicero pointed. “They're already here!”

    “Hmph!” Sheogorath snorted again. “Should I be a dragon or should I be a draugr?” The Daedric prince alternated between two masks with the nervous exchange of his opposing hands. One mask had the scaly, pointed face of a fork-tongued serpent, and the other was a sinister, skeletal face with hollow eyes and a gaping, cadaverous jaw.

    “The dragon!” whined Cicero. “Just! Be! The! Dragon!”

    “Really?” asked Sheogorath. He hovered the dragon mask inches from his face and stared hard at the mirror, as if he was studying its composition.

    “Yes!” nodded Cicero. “The draugr makes you look old.”

    Appalled, Sheogorath gasped. “The dragon it is!” With a frown of disgust, the Mad God tossed the draugr mask to Cicero. “Here! You wear it.”

    From across her room, Cat's bag jostled with a sudden click.

    Looking up from her seat in a nearby chair, Cat noticed the clasp had flipped itself open. Standing, she approached the bag, wondering what in the world could be inside. Reaching in, she felt a variety of textures; leather, soft fabric, heavy plastic, and metal.

    First, Cat's fingers grabbed at the leather, withdrawing what appeared to be a lengthy duster – the kind of long, brown coat a sheriff would wear. The duster had deep heavy pockets, perfect for travel. Its size was tailored correctly to Cat's height and weight. “Nice,” she said with a nod.

    Setting down the duster, she reached back into the bag and removed additional articles of clothing; a white t-shirt with with a black and yellow biohazard symbol printed on its center, a pair of ripped, black jean shorts, and a pair of leather, steel-toed boots – knee high, with rows of thick, metal buckles for easy dressing.

    “fluff yes,” she muttered. Cat realized the bag was not empty. Lifting it, she heard objects shifting around inside. Heavy ones. Rather than pluck each of them out, one by one, she tipped over the bag, emptying its contents to her bed.

    Guns and knives, observed Cat. Happy birthday to me.

    Cat began unlacing her dress, but the outfit was so tightly wound to her body that simply unlacing the damn thing didn't quite loosen it from her frame. Scowling, she recalled how she never could take the blasted thing off. Cat lounged in it, hiked in it, and slept in it. And all those weeks of dreaded trips to the bathroom – she gagged with a shudder.

    Irritated, Cat picked up one of the two knives and eagerly dug its blade along the dress' red linens. The sound of silk being crudely ripped and torn from her person was cathartic. The dress came off in shreds, like she was a snake molting its skin. Cat found herself lacerating pieces that barely even needed it – just to watch the damn thing die. Die, you piece of plops.

    Picking up the shirt, shorts, and boots, Cat hurriedly dressed herself. Once she found herself in comfortable clothing, Cat slipped the duster over her shoulders and contentedly settled her skin against its leather like a satisfied baby bird in its snug little nest. She placed her knife back in its holster. Grabbing the second knife still displayed on the bed, she clipped both of them to the inside of her duster.

    Once she was dressed, Cat reached for the two guns on the bed. One of them was clearly a combat rifle, stocked with ammo along its canvas shoulder strap. She lifted the gun, closing one eye. Cat squinted along its barrel, her vision narrowing past the gun's front site. With a quiet pow-pow, she pretended to take a shot. Nodding, she lowered the gun and strapped it around her back.

    The second gun was still on her bed. Cat picked it up, examining its craftsmanship. It was a laser pistol, but not Institute-grade. This thing was of much higher quality. It had a titanium exterior with intricate patchwork of army green and silver steel plating. There was a fresh fusion cell plugged into it, just in front of the weapon's rear site. Glancing at the bed, Cat saw additional fusion cells collected in a leather pouch which had tumbled from the satchel alongside the weapons. She snatched up the pouch, depositing it into one of her deep pockets.

    Cat's eyes returned to the laser pistol. Scanning the gun, she saw the words Old Faithful etched into its grip. With a nod, she holstered the gun and whispered, “Yaga, you're the coolest fluffing fairy godmother ever.”

    [​IMG] music: Bringin' Home The Rain - The Builders And The Butchers
  10. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1
    Chp. 5: The Gunslinger


    Party guests gathered around the main hall of Sheogorath's palace. In the center of the hall was a long, extravagant table made from a strange, dark wood that was textured with swirls resembling shapes of screaming faces. Guests passing the table would occasionally lean forward, inspecting the unnerving pattern, either reacting by pointing and laughing – or frowning with a disapproving shake of their heads. Alongside an unending assortment of elegant wine bottles, fancy, albeit unusual, hors d'oeuvres decorated the expanse of the table. Some delicacies weren't quite dead in fact, and they'd occasionally pop up from their very plates and skitter to the table's edge. Few fell to the floor before a frazzled servant corralled them back to where they belonged.

    In the center of the table was the main course – a golden scalon. The creature was hunted along the blue streams outlining the lush hillsides of Mania. Now it sat on the Mad God's table, gutted and stuffed with a mixture of pungent cheeses. The scalon's monstrous jaws had been wedged open and stuffed with golden peppers that spilled across the massive silver tray beneath its carcass, almost as if the beast was vomiting at the very sight of Sheogorath's audacious party.

    Sheogorath paraded from guest to guest, smiling behind his dragon's mask. On occasion, he'd proudly gesture to his son, Cicero, who paced back and forth along the northern perimeter of the hall. “I think he's waiting for someone,” Sheogorath had said apologetically. “Don't you just love my mask?” he'd then ask, changing the subject. This conversation repeated itself from time to time, and not always with different guests. But who was going to question a Daedric prince? And a mad one at that?

    Syl and Anathoth arrived, both dressed in black and silver gowns. Anathoth's gown was shaped tightly to her body, leaving behind a train that tripped a few passersby had they not been careful where they stepped. Along her yellow curly hair she wore tall black feathers, plucked from one of Dementia's few remaining – and very rare – birds, the vonroon. Anathoth, and other fashionistas such as her, may have very well contributed to the poor animal's impending extinction. Syl noticed Cicero across the hall and pointed. Anathoth gave a bitter nod and turned, heading into the opposite direction from the princeling.

    Syl wasn't so adverse and she decided to approach the jester, her blackened lips smugly grinning. “Is the duke enjoying himself this evening?” she asked.

    “Your grace,” nodded Cicero. “No. He is not.”

    Syl's jaw dropped in a patronizing sort of way. “Why ever not?”

    “Cicero doesn't understand why his Wanderer hasn't arrived yet,” he admitted with a frown. Cicero eyed Syl up and down – there was something unusual about her behavior. He easily sensed these things.

    “Well!” Syl smirked, then sipped her wine. “Maybe she's a little tied up.” The duchess smiled and waltzed away.

    Cicero didn't like the tone in her voice. Something was wrong. Gripping his dagger, he picked up his pace and shuffled through the crowd. Just before he reached the exit from the main hall, a voice called out, “And my son will join me in a toast!”

    Cicero froze and turned. His father stood at the head of the immense table, raising a glass of burgundy wine.

    “Come!” demanded the Mad God. “A toast!”

    Herdir pressed his ear to Cat's bedroom door. He heard some shuffling inside. Good, he thought. She hasn't left for the party yet. He planned to take the young woman by surprise. First, kick down her door, and then tie her to her bed. The Dungeon Master brought bindings for just such a necessity. He also had a few tools that would come in handy – things that removed skin and snapped fingers. Though such measures weren't always necessary. Herdir also knew a rather nasty lightning bolt spell that would set anyone's central nervous system on the fritz. It might cause the girl some mild brain damage of course. Maybe a bit of permanent limb paralysis. But his Duchess wanted to send a message, and so Herdir was here to proclaim his lady's message loud and clear.

    The Dungeon Master lifted a braided leather sandal and booted it hard against the door, knocking the very panel from its hinge. He raised his hands, ready to cast the lightning spell, but his target was nowhere within sight. She must have ducked and covered. As Herdir entered Cat's quarters, his head tilted in confusion as he looked down at the floor, spying a tattered red dress. The thing was spread out in strips and chunks like a mutilated body. But Cat's body was nowhere to be seen. Herdir found this to be a little odd.

    Suddenly, a hot surge of pain erupted through Herdir's leg. Collapsing to the floor, he gripped his kneecap, only to look down and see splintered bone from his patella jutting out from freshly burned and bleeding skin. Before Herdir could make another move or sound, he glanced up. His eyes cocked and centered on the bridge of his nose, narrowing on the underside of the barrel of a laser pistol jammed against the middle of his forehead.

    He barely recognized the woman standing before him. She was dressed in a man's coat, wearing tall heavy boots. Her hair was wild and black, and her eyes were dauntlessly stoic.

    “Who sent you?” she asked calmly. “Aren't you from the other House? Why'd you kick in my door?”

    Herdir clenched his teeth and said nothing. In a swift second, Cat lifted the pistol from his forehead and whipped it forward, cracking it upside his jaw. Then, without pause, she lifted it away again, and whipped it forward a second time. And again. And again.

    “Tell me,” she demanded in a steady tone. “Who sent you?”

    Herdir's jaw bone snapped, shooting bolts of excruciation through his face and neck. He cried out in pain as blood bubbled from his mouth. Cat re-positioned the laser pistol's barrel against his forehead. “Let's try that again,” she said.

    “Syl...” Herdir gurgled over the bubbling blood.

    Nodding, Cat took a step back, holstering her pistol. Herdir sighed with relief. But his anxiety quickly returned when he glanced up and saw her reach back for her combat rifle that dangled across her back. Cat triggered one deafening round which was all it took to knock the torturer flat on his back with a smoky, gaping hole tunneled through his skull.

    Sheogorath's toast seemed to last forever. Cicero stood beside his father, still raising his own glass, rolling his amber eyes. The Mad God basically orated a toast all about himself. Oh how thankful everyone should be that he was their sovereign, and how wonderfully he dressed all the time, and how murder rates have increased which meant suicide rates were down. It was terrible, really. Beyond that, Sheogorath threw random jokes into the mix, but Cicero found none of them to be funny because none of them made any sense! His Wanderer always knew the best jokes – oh how the jester missed her at that moment. Where was she? He hoped she was okay. The Wanderer was probably trying to be late on purpose, if for no better reason than to miss this appalling speech!

    A loud boom rattled the main hall. Party guests gasped in unison and all ambient chatter and clatter went quiet – even the Mad God stopped speaking. Startled, Cicero's eyes snapped over to where the sound erupted; the hall's main entrance, just straight ahead of the ridiculously long table. Footsteps bucked against the stone floor as the figure approached with a gun raised to the vaulted ceiling, its barrel wafting with smoke.

    Wanderer?” Cicero muttered.

    Cat walked through a parting crowd, some of whom choked out sounds of shock. Behind her, she dragged a dead body, streaking blood across the floor in its aftermath. Cat tugged on a long, hefty scrap of red fabric that fastened to the bloody corpse trailing behind her. The body was crudely tied up with red laces and silk – her dress. Once she approached the table's end, she let go of the red fabric, abandoning the carcass to the crowd behind her, and stepped up.

    “I beg your pardon!” shouted Sheogorath.

    Cat's eyes fixed on the Mad God as she clunked her boots with conviction across the surface of the table. Kicking food and wine bottles out of her way, the Wanderer said nothing. She kept her gun raised at her shoulder and moseyed forward. Once she reached the center of the table, Cat lifted a boot to the wide, distorted mouth of the stuffed scalon and punted it right off the table's edge. The entree skidded across the floor as guests jumped out of its way. The silver tray's edge snagged against a corrugation along the stone and flipped upward, launching the scalon like a slingshot. Jaws dropped, the guests watched their dinner soar a few feet, then land hard, exploding into a mess of meat, cheese, and peppers.

    Cat kept walking.

    “What is the meaning of this!” demanded Sheogorath. “Speak or I'll turn you into a rat, and then I'll break your little neck!”

    Cat stopped walking and pointed her gun at Syl. “She tried to have me killed.”

    “What!” shouted Cicero. He leaped to the table and rushed to Cat's side. Withdrawing his blade, he grabbed Syl by the front of her dress and hoisted her to the table, pressing the dagger to her neck.

    “I did not try to have her killed!” argued Syl, combatively pulling away from Cicero, but failing. The jester shook the Duchess, tightening his grip, pressing his blade harder against her neck.

    “The Dungeon Master is dead!” cried a voice from the crowd, inspecting the dead body.

    Sheogorath moved quickly to the opposite end of the table. He leaned forward and spied Herdir, dead as a doornail. “Well,” chuckled the Mad God. “Look what the Cat dragged in!” He coughed, glaring at the party-goers around him. They nervously laughed at his joke, nodding and raising their wine glasses. “Syl,” continued Sheogorath, “do you care to explain why my son's guest has blown a hole the size of Oblivion through your torturer's head?”

    “It was all Anathoth's idea!” screamed Syl, pointing at the blond Altmer who stood near the table.

    “You conniving witch!” Anathoth shrieked. “It wasn't my idea! It was Syl's idea! She sent the Dungeon Master to Cat's room!”

    “Enough!” yelled Sheogorath. The Mad God paced. He enjoyed controversy – oh yes, he did. He loved chaos. But not when chaos interfered with his fun. Chaos was not allowed to intrude on his parties, taking all the focus away from him. “Syl!” he screamed. “You're confined to the House of Dementia until further notice. If you should leave, I will have you fed to the Gatekeeper.” Two Golden Saints grabbed Syl by her arms, dragging her down from the table. They escorted the grumbling Bosmer away.

    Sheogorath gestured for Cat and Cicero to please step down from his table top. The pair lowered their weapons and did as expected. Sheogorath approached them with his arms crossed. “What am I to do with the two of you?" He fixed his eyes on Cat. “And especially you!”

    “Simple,” said Cat. “I want to leave.”

    “No!” protested Cicero, tugging on Cat's leather coat. “Please Wanderer – do not leave Cicero!”

    “You're free to come with me,” she said.

    “Where do you plan to go?” asked Sheogorath.

    “Well that's the thing,” sighed Cat. “I'll need help to get where I'm going. I want to go back to the Commonwealth.”

    “Wanderer...” said Cicero, “that isn't a safe idea. The last time you ended up there... you... you...” His eyes watered at the memory. Upset, he looked away for a moment, calming himself before he said another word.

    “Then come with me,” suggested Cat.

    “Not a bad idea,” agreed Sheogorath. “There is a... rising concern... brewing there.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Cicero.

    “Those off-worlders know how to navigate to Nirn. Their plans for your world, Cicero, are... terrible to say the least. And there is the lingering concern of... her.”

    “Her?” asked Cat.

    “He is referring to Mother,” said Cicero, his usually manic face appearing solemn. “She is still there.”

    “We think she's still there,” said Sheogorath.

    Cat nodded and turned toward the main hall's exit. “Then it's settled. We'll leave in the morning. My room is covered in blood, so I'm heading to the duke's quarters.” On her way out, Anathoth stepped in Cat's path with her arms crossed and her face pointed and pursed.

    “I'll be beside myself with joy when the two of you get the fluff out of here!” she yelled.

    Cat drew a breath through her nose and held it for a second. Then she rushed over to Anathoth and launched a hard hitting fist between her red bug eyes. Anathoth toppled over and landed on the ground, grabbing her head. Cat raised her rifle and pointed it at Anathoth's head. The Altmer looked up, stunned.

    “I'd shoot you,” said Cat, “but it'd be a waste of bullets.”

    [​IMG] music: Robert Gordon - These Boots Are Made For Walkin'
  11. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 6: Like the Devil, Himself


    The morning arrived quickly. The sun danced through a nearby window of the duke's quarters, shining a ray of light across Cat's eyes. The light caused her to stir, but what really woke her was the sensation of warm skin pressing against her hip. Fluttering open her eyes, Cat glanced down to see Cicero's face kissing along the inner bend of her upper thigh.

    “Good morning,” said Cicero, flashing Cat a loving glance from down below. He continued to lazily caress his lips between her legs.

    Admittedly, Cat fell asleep in his quarters the night before. She went straight there from that idiotic dinner, stripped off all of her clothes, and passed the hell out. All of the insanity from the previous day had wiped her energy for good. At some point during the night, Cicero removed his clothing, sneaking into the bed and wriggling up beside Cat. He enjoyed how her body heat warmed his skin as he slid his arms under and around her, cradling the sleeping Wanderer against his chest as he longingly stroked her cheek and chin. The jester fell asleep against the sensation of Cat's lips, breasts, and legs, resting his face against the top of her head, inhaling the aroma of gun powder in her wild, black hair. He was content to wait for the morning just so he could... pounce.

    Cat smirked. “And what's this?”

    Cicero slid his hands under her backside, tugging Cat's lower half closer to his lips. “Do you want Cicero to stop?” he asked softly.

    Cat reached down, running her fingers through his long, red hair. She felt a surge of closure rush over her since she was given the “okay” to return to the Commonwealth. Cat smiled at Cicero, uttering three memorable words, “Not at all.”

    Returning the smile, Cicero licked down the curve of Cat's inner thigh, pecking light kisses against the folds of her groin. With deft fingers, he spread them apart, softly gliding his tongue up and down their smooth, inner surface. Cicero spied his Wanderer growing wetter with each glide of his tongue. He felt himself stiffen between his own thighs. With subtle movement, he reached a hand down between his legs and stroked himself in a steady tempo, synchronous with his licks.

    Cat breathed softly, clutching his hair, watching Cicero enjoy himself enjoying her. After some time, he gradually parted his mouth and rolled the length of his tongue inside of Cat. Locking his mouth around her opening with a deep, slow kiss, the jester grinned against his Wanderer's pink, naked privates.

    Cat very nearly climaxed, but stopped herself. “Get up here,” she laughed, pulling at Cicero's face and chin.

    Still grinning, he climbed up the length of Cat's body, kissing along her belly, chest, and neck until his lips found hers. As they kissed, Cicero reached between his legs, inserting himself inside her with a firm push. An embarrassingly uncontrollable moan escaped Cat's mouth and her body tensed, forcing her straight into an orgasm. Enticed, Cicero held her and watched her, feeling her body quiver beneath his. He studied how her skin flushed, how her eyes closed, how her mouth trembled as she gasped. Only murder was the one other act in which Cicero could will a person to physically submit their body to him. As he pumped himself in and out of Cat, his eyes dilated with excitement, knowing he had full control of her physiology in this one, beautiful moment. Then, he began to laugh. The excitement always made Cicero laugh, and as Cat continued to peak, he stroked her shaking jaw and teased, “The Wanderer just couldn't wait, could she?”

    “Hey,” she panted against his fingers, “cut me a break. It's been a while.”

    Cicero shut his eyes and drew a heavy breath through his nose. “Yes it has,” he agreed in a slow, baritone exhale. His body went rigid as his muscles tensed. He tightened his grip around Cat, pulling her so close that he nearly lifted her from the bed. Moaning in short, deep bursts, Cicero came inside of Cat, still grinding his hips until his muscles languished and his rhythm slowed.

    Cicero lifted Cat's chin and kissed her on the lips, as if to punctuate what they'd just done. Then the two collapsed against the soft linens of his bed.

    “Sithis!” gasped Cicero. “Can Cicero breathe now?”

    Cat reached over and covered his mouth and nose. “Nope,” she shook her head. “You can never breathe again.”

    Giggling, Cicero playfully pulled at her hand. “Stop!” he protested from behind her palm.

    “I can't,” joked Cat. “Sorry. Breathing's not allowed anymore. It's Sheogorath's new law. Didn't you get the memo?”

    “Wanderer, stop it!” he laughed.

    “I'm sorry, but it's the law,” she said, her voice shaking with laughter. “Can't believe it was ever passed. Who voted for this Daedric prince, anyway? We should protest... silently... because we aren't allowed to breathe.”

    “Oh?” asked Cicero, playing along. Yanking away Cat's hand, he rolled toward her and chuckled. Pulling her closer, the jester cuddled up against her sweaty skin. “You're sticky,” he frowned.

    Cat shrugged. “Man... that's your fault.” She pointed a finger to Cicero's chest. “Well,” she continued, “that was a pretty cool way to say farewell to this place.”

    Cicero nodded. “Though, Cicero hopes to return someday.”

    “I get what you're saying,” replied Cat.

    Grinning, Cicero sat up and said, “Yes, you really do, don't you?” He stretched. “Wanderer, let us get ready. There's no time to waste if this is truly what you wish to do.”

    “It is,” said Cat. “It's something I need to do...”

    The two met with Sheogorath inside his palace quarters. Some time ago, the Mad God had taught Cicero how to teleport with ease, among other such magical talents that only those with Daedric blood can employ. He checked with the princeling to make sure Cicero still understood how to perform this type of magic. The jester assured the Mad God that the technique was still fresh in his mind.

    Prior to their departure, Cicero removed his jester hat and gave it to his father for safekeeping. Sheogorath was amused by the gesture and humorously placed the hat upon his own head, doing a not-so-exaggerated impression of his son who was naturally exaggerated to begin with. Cicero took one look at his father and erupted into a shrill giggle, covering his mouth in a weak attempt to stifle the manic reaction, meanwhile Cat leaned against a nearby wall and shook her head. The two of them together was a sight to behold – like father, like fool. But she wasn't without a sense of humor herself, and slowly chuckled a quiet laugh with the shake of her upper body which hid behind stoically crossed arms.

    Cicero also removed his duke's vest and gloves, handing those off to the Mad God as well. “Something tells Cicero they will become ruined based on where we are headed.” The princeling pressed his lips together and nodded in a matter of fact way. Then he frowned, unsure of what he should wear. That was when Cat stepped forward and offered her input to Sheogorath. Within moments, the Daedric prince snapped his fingers and conjured clothing that better suited his son's destination. Then, the Mad God said his goodbyes and promptly exited the room.

    Cat raised an eyebrow. “A leather jacket... and sunglasses?”

    Lowering his specs, Cicero peeked over their dark rims and asked, “The Wanderer has a problem with Cicero's ensemble?”

    “No, no,” said Cat, “...actually – man – you look sharp.” She winked at the jester and he returned the expression with his usual grin and ever so slight bow.

    Cicero adjusted the jacket around his neck, lifting his long hair so that it didn't get snagged beneath the collar. Also, it appeared he traded in his leather bottoms for a snug, attractive pair of jeans, but kept his stealthy boots. And the final piece of clothing; beneath the jacket, he wore a plain white t-shirt. Cat reached over as Cicero attempted to tuck it into his pants. She pulled the fabric out from his jeans' waistline, shaking her head. “Don't be a geek,” she muttered. Cicero shot her a befuddled look, having no clue what that word meant.

    Once this whole charade had ended, Cat reached a hand to Cicero's cheek, staring intently at him. “Cicero,” she began, “I need to make some things clear before we arrive in the Commonwealth.”

    “Hmm?” he asked with a smile, enjoying the brush of her fingers against his skin.

    “First off, no one likes synths. So we gotta keep a lid on it.”

    Cicero furrowed his brow. “Keep a lid over what?”

    “It – uh – no. I mean... don't tell anyone I'm a synth.”

    Cicero pulled his Wanderer closer and kissed her on the forehead. “Your secret is Cicero's secret.”

    Cat lifted a finger to her chin, deep in thought. “Hmmm... that might be another thing we need to address. You don't seem to understand... stuff.”

    “Stuff?” asked Cicero.

    “You know – our slang, our pop culture – all that stuff.” Cat sighed. “Just tell people you're foreign.” Her eyes popped, “But if someone asks if you're familiar with China, don't tell them yes! And don't suggest that's where you're from. That would be wrong on so many levels – starting with your super white skin.”

    Cicero scrunched up his face and tilted his head.

    “It's a long story with the Chinese,” said Cat, “but the ending results in the Wasteland being what it is today. And some people are still paranoid – still theorizing conspiracies. And they're paranoid enough about synths... so let's not give them anything extra.”

    “Alright, Wanderer,” nodded Cicero. “Don't tuck my tunic into my blue trousers. Keep lids over secret things. And I'm a foreigner – but I've never been to the realm of China because I'm white.”

    Cat pressed her index fingers down on her thumbs, lifting both hands, gesturing with each syllable, “Yes? But for the love of god, do not word it like that.” She paused. “Just tell them you're Irish. It'll fly well in Boston. You have the red hair to prove it. As for the rest, let's hope they just assume you're ...eccentric.”

    Cat eyed Cicero's daggers hanging from his jeans.

    Cicero narrowed his eyes and asked, “What now?”

    “Nobody wears fancy daggers over torn designer jeans. Also... you'll probably need a gun. The daggers are useful, sure, but a lot of folks carry guns. It's the second amendment all up in the Commonwealth.”

    Cicero placed his daggers inside two deep, inner pockets of his leather jacket.

    Cat nodded. “We'll... buy you something when we get there.” She sighed. “plops. We'll have to scrounge up some money.”

    Grinning like the devil, himself, Cicero pulled Cat into his arms and leaned his forehead against hers. “That's what the daggers are for, Wanderer...”

    [​IMG] music: Sympathy For The Devil - Motorhead (Rolling Stones cover)
  12. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 7: The Wall


    Teleportation was strange to Cat and she tried, but failed, to close her eyes while being subjected to it. The act was utterly disorienting. As Cicero held her hand, their surrounding environment morphed into a blob of colors and incomprehensible shapes. Some objects zipped around in unknowable directions, while others launched up into the dead center of Cat's vision, frozen in her scope as if they were hitching along for the ride. Light strobed all around – Cat felt like she was trapped inside a flashing box. Her eyes wanted to roll back into her skull. Her vision was incapable of comprehending the indescribable sights, lights, and movement that paraded back and forth almost violently. Cicero must have had better perception than she did, because he was able to navigate to his location of choice. But that was the way it was – the Institute surely didn't engineer Cat with Daedric DNA. Such was a luxury reserved for the likes of her red-headed companion. As for Cat... she was mortal, through and through.

    The cacophony of colors and motion abruptly came to a stop. Cat found herself face down, on her knees, staring at what appeared to be a plank of wood saturated with heavy, black oil stains. The air smelled of rotting fish. Her equilibrium still bounced in every which direction and Cat's throat tightened. Wanderer? She could barely hear a voice – it was muffled behind the pulsing blood that rushed through her eardrums. The voice called out again. Are you alright? Cat's heart pounded up into her sinuses, reverberating through her cheekbones and temples. The force of her own pulse drummed against her skull louder and harder.

    She vomited.

    Hands grappled around Cat, pulling her away from her stomach's mess. She didn't fight it, but she was delirious as to where she was or who was manhandling her. Cat mumbled unrecognizable words, thinking they made sense at the time – but they didn't. Her eyes looked up at the man holding her. Red hair. Pale skin. Sun... glasses? Leather... jacket? Oh yeah – that's right, thought Cat, squinting through her own delirium. The information came flooding back. Her brain began to process information correctly. Cat's eyes focused a bit clearer on the grinning face staring down at her. It was grinning so wide – it was so amused – throwing its head back, chuckling. The stupid face's mouth kept chattering, then it sputtered what might have been a joke, but Cat barely heard any of it. The last few words of the quip dissolved into obnoxious giggles. The hands cradling Cat shook alongside the sound of earsplitting laughter. Cicero, she thought. Is he making fun of me – huh?

    Cat sat up, feeling a little more clear-headed. “Shut up!” she yelled at Cicero, weakly shoving him.

    Cicero's jaw dropped, though the corners of his mouth still curved upward, grinning. “Hey!” he yelled, pulling the sunglasses from his face. “Cicero's just trying to help you!” He pointed off to the side. “You had an upset stomach over there. You nearly fell face down into it!” Cicero's eyes squeezed shut and he cackled.

    Cat's mouth fought an impending smile. He was being so mean – so stupidly mean – and it was funny. “I don't... I don't uh...” Cat's voice stammered, then trailed off. She stood and yelled, “Just fluff off!

    Cicero smirked and shook his head. “Never,” he gleefully refused. Cicero folded his sunglasses and placed them inside his jacket. It wasn't very sunny out.

    Cat heard a rush of liquid swishing to and fro, and she realized her body was a bit unsteady from the swaying of the platform beneath her boots. She looked up – they were floating on water. Boston was just ahead, across the bay. The collapsed buildings and the crumbling highways twisted up against one another, making the city look like an old, broken, beat up bitch. Waves lapped at the legs of the docks as the tide drew Cat and Cicero closer and closer to the city's edge. Cat peered down at what they were floating upon. “What is this?” she asked, pointing to her feet.

    Cicero gave a proud nod. “A boat!

    “This isn't a boat,” argued Cat. She gestured to the piles of garbage all around. “This is a barge.”

    The jester, no longer dressed in jester apparel, frowned. “Cicero was wondering about the smell...” he said.

    The barge floated along the murky waters of the Boston harbor, nearing a dock that was overrun with hideous, irradiated gulls pecking at the dead fish floating to the water's surface. In the background, brick buildings stood dilapidated, bulging with gaping holes, broken windows, and dim, cracked neon signs. There were piles upon piles of rubble, some as tall as the buildings themselves. The rubble piles extended back as far as the eye could see, like filthy mountain ranges shaped from trash and debris.

    “Let's get off this thing,” said Cat. The pair reached for the side of the dock, hoisting themselves to its surface. The city outlining the bay was eerily quiet. Desolate. If anyone was hanging around, they were hidden.

    Cat began to walk into an arbitrary direction, but she was stopped by Cicero, who tugged at the back of her coat. “Wanderer, before traipsing about – what's our plan?” he asked with an authoritative tone.

    Cat sighed. She had an idea of what she wanted to do. “We need to get into the Institute,” she said.

    “But we need to have a strategy,” warned Cicero.

    “I know,” said Cat. “And I know you can get us in there.”

    Cicero nodded. “Yes, I can. But until you come up with a real plan, Cicero refuses to take you into the Institute.” He paused, thinking quietly to himself for a moment. “I know of one person on the inside who can help us,” continued Cicero. “If memory serves – his name is Patriot. But he is only one man. We can't just rely on him.”

    From around the corner, a Brahmin bellowed, causing Cat and Cicero to squelch their conversation. A man's voice began to mutter, shushing the two-headed bovine as the pair of them rounded a nearby street curb, entering into view. Cicero's eyes popped at the sight of the Brahmin. The creature was hairless, horned, and covered in burns and cysts. This was all a result of that radiation Cat had gone on about in the past. Cicero couldn't detect the radiation in the area, but from what Cat had explained – it was ever-present, like a poison in the air. The Brahmin didn't appear to be in any pain, but it grunted at the weight of the trunks strapped to its broad back. The caravan trader traveling with the animal nodded at Cicero and Cat. He was a taller man, sporting a brown, leather jacket, stitched with numerous deep pockets down the front. He wore sunglasses, not too unlike Cicero's, and his black hair was styled in a pompadour.

    Cicero eyed the trader – there was something off about him. Cat, however, walked right up to the man and asked, “Hey, which way to the nearest rest spot? My friend and I could use some food.”

    “Well,” said the trader, his voice honeyed with a hint of charisma, “Diamond City isn't too far. I'm heading up there, myself. But, you know, I do sell some food if you're interested.” He flashed a smile at Cat.

    Cat shook her head. “We don't have any caps.”

    The trader laughed. “Then what will you do when you get to Diamond City?”

    Cicero approached, arms crossed. “We'll figure it out. Which way do we go?”

    “Like I said,” nodded the trader, “I'm headed there myself. You can follow me. Name's Danny.” He extended a hand to Cicero. Still crossing his arms, the jester stared at Danny's hand as it hovered in his direction.

    In an attempt to distract the trader from Cicero's rudeness, Cat reached out and shook Danny's hand. “Nice to meet you,” she said. “Yeah, man, that works. We can follow you to Diamond City. Lead the way.” The three walked a few miles west, traveling down a roadway that, according to Danny, was good for avoiding raiders. He said that too many of them crowded the caravan trails nowadays, always sniping unsuspecting traders from the tops of buildings.

    Cat listened to Danny's chatter with interest, meanwhile Cicero hung back, glaring at the trader as if he knew something about the guy that Cat hadn't picked up on. The jester had a knack for these things, having served the Black Hand for as many years as he did. Assassins frequently required disguises, and ruses, and infiltration. Danny had an air about him that didn't match up with that of a traveling merchant. His appearance was a bit too polished and handsome for the life of a scrimping trader struggling to make ends meet on the open road. Cicero understood this environment was harsh, yet Danny's skin and hair wasn't abused by such harshness at all. He had a fancy hairstyle, pretty sunglasses, and a smooth, freshly-shaved face. When did he have time for such primping?

    Also, Cicero noted that Danny's demeanor was too laid back. He didn't seem that upset by having to avoid the sniping, rooftop raiders. It was as if he didn't really have an entire business – an entire livelihood by all logic – to worry about! Oh-ho-ho there was something off about this fellow, indeed! The jester's insides twisted as he glared at the shapely back of the man sauntering just ahead of him. Cicero sighed. Perhaps he was being petty, picking apart every little thing about this ...guy. The pettiness may have been a result of watching Cat stroll alongside Danny, smiling and laughing at his stories. An all too familiar feeling crept up on Cicero; the feeling he used to get when the Night Mother chose a Listener and he was not it.


    Cicero didn't like Danny. Period. He didn't like the guy happily chatting to Cat with his chuckling, and his smiling, and his stupid walking, and his stupid talking! At times the trader leaned closer to his Wanderer, muttering a punchline to the end of one of his asinine anecdotes. While doing so, Cicero could've sworn Danny snuck a whiff of Cat's hair. Ugh! The nerve! And, Cicero made no mistake of it, this guy was handsome – oh yes! – Cicero was able to admit that Danny was attractive. It wasn't below Cicero to find other men beautiful. He's happily shared his bed many times with some of the most gorgeous men from that side of the cosmos. But what does this Danny want with Cicero's Wanderer? Aren't there any traveling merchant ladies this guy could try to charm, and sniff, and hump? Rotten bastard! The jester found himself quickening his pace, hurrying right up beside Cat and slipping his hand into hers. Possessive, am I? thought Cicero. Why yes, YES I AM! He walked the rest of the route in this fashion, gripping Cat's hand with an unrelenting proprietorship that was, admittedly, a little shameful, but Cicero told himself he really didn't give a plops. She was his. And that was that.

    “We're here,” Danny smiled, escorting Cat through the blockade which led to the entrance to Diamond City. Patrolling guards sporting athletic apparel waved the trio through. As they approached The Wall, a nearby guard pushed a button on the city's intercom, informing the watch stationed on the other side that a trader had arrived with supplies and stock.

    “Let him in,” replied the watch from the other side.

    Danny pointed to Cicero and Cat, stating, “They're also with me.” The trader turned and winked at Cat.

    She smiled.

    Cicero fumed.

    [​IMG] music: Shipping Up To Boston - Dropkick Murphys
  13. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 8: Have You Seen Us?

    Diamond City was a far cry from the surreal, glittery magnificence of New Sheoth. The city's blockades were nothing more than the towering walls of an old, abandoned baseball stadium. Sprawling beneath Cat's and Cicero's toes were patches of muddy, irradiated turf that, once upon a time, must have been a clean, healthy field of emerald blades of grass – perfect for landing a home run. But now the place smelled of wet soil and rust. It was crowded and strung with dim, overhead lights, feebly providing illumination along filthy walkways and cluttered paths.

    Cat spied graffiti scribbled along the thoroughfare's fencing and barricades, most of which consisted of anti-synth propaganda. There were crude drawings of automatons with circles and lines through them, captioned with words like: The only good synth is a dead synth! Cat tried to keep her eyes down as passersby glared at her and her red headed companion. She and Cicero were unfamiliar, and unfamiliarity bred paranoia. In Cat's case, she was a bonafide synth – a thing of Diamond City's worst nightmares.

    As Danny led Cat and Cicero further into the city, there was a message board posted just outside of a tavern called the Dugout Inn. Cat couldn't take her eyes off the board; it was covered in a collage of photographs, each depicting the faces of men, women, and children. The question, “Have You Seen Us?” lingered above the photos, begging onlookers to study each and every face – hundreds of them – to maybe, hopefully, bring home these missing people.

    Danny frowned, noticing Cat staring at the board. “The Institute,” he said, pointing to the pictures. “Most of them were likely taken by the Institute.” He cleared his throat. “Though, sometimes they're just runaways, and other times raiders likely got to them. Shame, really.” He shook his head.

    Cicero peered at the photos as well, not quite understanding what they were. He refrained from gawking so as to not draw attention to his incomprehension of such alien technology. But the fact of the matter was that Cicero had never seen a photograph in his life – only paintings. Some of the finest painters in all of Tamriel were accurate, sometimes a little too accurate. So accurate that their work enraged kings and emperors alike, resulting in the artist's immediate execution. But... nothing quite as accurate as the pictures of people right there in front of Cicero – nothing like that had ever graced the jester's eyes before this moment.

    “Are they trapped, Wanderer?” Cicero whispered to Cat, hoping Danny didn't overhear. “Trapped in those small boxes?”

    Cat realized what he was asking and she smirked. “No,” she replied. “They're just ...images.”

    Danny tied his Brahmin up to a nearby guard railing, then turned and gestured to the entrance of the Dugout Inn. “I'm heading inside for a drink. I'm feeling generous if the two of you care to join.”

    Cat smiled, “Sure–”

    “–No thank you,” snapped Cicero. His face narrowed and he held tight to his Wanderer's hand.

    Cat peered at him with confusion. What was his problem? He'd been acting weird since they climbed up to the docks. Cicero, usually a chatterbox, didn't say a word during their hike from the harbor. All he did was hang on Cat, scowling at Danny during the entirety of their trek.

    “Well ok then,” replied Danny with the curious lift of an eyebrow. He removed his sunglasses, folded them, and slid them down into a pocket on the front of his brown leather coat. Without another word, Danny walked to the Dugout Inn's door, opened it, and slipped inside.

    Cat turned to Cicero, her face wrenched with frustration. “What's your problem?”

    “Cicero does not trust that man!” said the jester, pointing to the general direction of the Dugout Inn.

    Cat stopped herself from further criticizing Cicero. He wasn't stupid – and she knew it. Typically, she trusted his intuition. The princeling may have been right – maybe Danny wasn't a good person. Maybe he was dangerous. But there was something about Danny that she liked; he seemed genuinely good. He was a decent looking fellow and he offered them a free drink, nothing more. And before Cat knew it, she was rattling off reasons to take up Danny's offer for a drink – just a simple drink. Christ, she needed a drink. She'd spent so long in New Sheoth – not a single beer in sight. Just that fancy, sticky-sweet mead... wine... crap. Sure she liked the wine at first, back at the Bannered Mare some time ago, but it had been too long since she had a real drink. Beer. Whiskey. Something strong.

    “I'm getting myself a god damn drink!” she insisted as she turned away from the jester.

    Cicero grabbed Cat's arm, yanking her back without much effort. “I don't– don't–” pausing, he glowered and literally growled deep in his throat.

    “You don't what?” Cat pulled herself from his grasp and crossed her arms.

    “Cicero just doesn't like him!” Cicero grabbed Cat's wrist. The jester's nostrils inched upward as he grimaced. “The way he looks at you... the way he talks to you...”

    “Are you kidding?” asked Cat. “Cicero, I'm not clear on your exact age, but I'm pretty sure you're too old for this kind of bullplops.” She wrenched her wrist from the jester's grip, turned, and walked into the Dugout Inn.

    Cicero raged and paced back and forth in the mud. He reached up to his head to grab his jester hat and twist it with frustration, only to remember that it wasn't there. Sithis! That made him even more upset and he reached inside his jacket, searching for his daggers. Stab, stab, stab! He wanted to stab someone. That would have made everything better. That would have calmed him down – a good, brutal stabbing, right into something soft and warm, but deliciously resistant with the obligatory crosshatch of bones and ligaments. The jester withdrew an ebony dagger, hungry for skin to cut.

    But the Wanderer, he thought. She's in there with that... man. Gritting his teeth, Cicero reluctantly put his dagger away and headed toward the Dugout Inn. He reached for the door's handle and opened the entrance, glancing around for Cat. He spied her sitting at the bar, beside Danny. They were drinking and laughing. Cicero's blood boiled. The jester took deep breaths in and out of his nose as he walked over to where the two sat. As Cicero pulled a stool up to the bar, Cat cocked her head and acknowledged his presence with a quiet nod. He glared at her, then glared at Danny, who seemed either unaware or uncaring of the princeling's irritation.

    “Scuse me,” announced Danny. “Need to use the restroom.” He hopped off his bar stool and took off around a corner.

    Cat knocked back the rest of her beer and stretched her arms high above her head with a yawn.

    Cicero leaned closer to her and said, “We should leave. Now.”

    “Explain to me why you don't trust him – and it better not have anything to do with the green eyed monster.”

    Cicero's face scrunched as he said, “The what?!” He pointed to Cat's eyes, which were their usual sea green, and said, “Wanderer, you're not a monster.”

    Cat smacked the bar and yelled, “Cicero! I don't have time to explain Shakespeare!” Patrons looked up from their drinks, not too fazed by the sudden shouting, but some made sure no one was about to pull a gun.

    “Wanderer,” began Cicero, “there is something off about that man. He dresses strangely for a traveling merchant. His behavior, his words, his attitude – he's hiding something.” Cicero's eyes narrowed and he lowered his voice. “I don't believe his name is even Danny.”

    Cat sighed, tilting her empty beer bottle along the top of the bar. She peered down into the bottle, staring at its empty glass belly. “Well,” she said, “I got my drink. Let's just go.”

    Cat and Cicero spent the remainder of the day roaming around Diamond City, questioning citizens about the missing people posted on the message board. Cat felt that somewhere in the mix of those faces, a clue may be found as to how she can go about freeing the rest of the synths from the Institute. Cicero had the ability to get inside, but this would have to be an operation involving multiple people. If Cat could find just one person with a connection – a network of synth sympathizers – then perhaps she could devise a plan. As she spoke to a variety of people, asking them cryptic questions about the possibility of retrieval of their loved ones – seeking knowledge as to what plans these people may have in place – she soon discovered that no one was of any help. Some people were hopeless, consumed by their grief and despair, while others were angry, refusing to give Cat any additional information. Cat couldn't get answers, only crying or yelling. Sometimes both.

    One man, however, did oblige Cat. He was the final person with whom she and Cicero spoke. They found him panhandling near the old water purifier, not far from where a multitude of homeless residents slept on filthy mattresses scattered throughout narrow alleyways. The guy appeared to be homeless, himself, dressed in ragged old slacks and a stained trench coat to keep him warm on those cold Boston nights. He said he could tell them all about how “they” took his son in the middle of the night. As the pink sunset lowered beyond the walls of Diamond City, the overhead string lights glowed like static fireflies above the trio as they whispered in the shadows. The homeless man insisted the Institute abducted his boy and he hoped to gather enough caps to seek help with the child's retrieval. Cat pressed him for information as to how he planned to seek help.

    “Why... the Freedom Trail,” he said. “That's where you'll find the Railroad. You follow the Freedom Trail.” The man nodded, but then his nod turned into a slow shake of his head. “I don't have the money for any protection – the Freedom Trail's dangerous. Raiders. Super mutants. Feral ghouls. A man needs weapons.”

    “What do you mean by find the Railroad?” asked Cat.

    Cicero eased himself closer to Cat, listening intently.

    “The Railroad rescues synths,” replied the homeless man. “But I bet they can rescue people who're taken away too. They're all in the same place – the Institute. I wouldn't give a second thought to a synth, myself. But I'd go straight to the devil's playground to rescue my boy.”

    Cicero asked, “What do you mean you wouldn't give a second thought to a synth?”

    The man wrinkled his face in disgust. “Synths are unnatural!” he barked. “I know the Railroad wants to free them, but it isn't right. There are innocent people – real people – down in that Institute. The Railroad can help them. But synths? If I ever found out someone I knew was a synth, I wouldn't hesitate to blow a hole right through its head.”

    It was as if the man's final sentence flowed from his mouth in slow motion. Cat suddenly had a sinking feeling in her chest as he badmouthed synths, making overt threats to shoot them. But before she could move a muscle, before she could say a word, it was too late. The man's eyes went wide with shock – true, unadulterated shock – from the unexpected force of a blade buried deep inside his belly. Cicero held the dagger in place with one hand, covering the man's mouth with the other. The jester kept the man's screams from alerting others until he saw that familiar, proverbial roll of the eyes, meaning it was all over. No more chances to scream. Cicero twisted the dagger, withdrawing it with a wet, sickening sound. The man slumped to the ground, unmoving. Blood pooled from his stomach.

    “You – you...” Cat stammered, backing away.

    Cicero coldly stared at the dead homeless man, wiping his dagger clean before placing it back into his jacket.

    Cat looked at Cicero with a seriousness that gripped her face. “You can't just do that.”

    Cicero tilted his head quizzically. “Cicero did just do that.”

    “You're going to get us thrown in jail,” whispered Cat.

    “As if Cicero couldn't teleport out of jail,” he grinned.

    Cat stormed away from him, her anger brimming. Cicero hurried up alongside his Wanderer, confused as to why she was so upset with him. “Since when do you have a moral compass?” he asked in a flippant tone of voice.

    “I don't,” she replied. “But this isn't like Tamriel. You can't kill someone and sneak away and no one's the wiser. Here, they have authorities who investigate this plops. People who can uncover fingerprints and trace footprints and cameras and audio recording devices – and – and this isn't New Sheoth! You can't kill people right in the street and strut around a free man the next day! You're not royalty here!” Cat's voice hissed with angry whispers. She didn't want anyone to overhear her. Cicero just committed a murder. It was strange to be so upset about it, given that she'd seen him repeatedly kill people left and right. In Tamriel, the jester killed people for any reason, sometimes for no reason. Sometimes it was with the dagger, sometimes it was with poison, sometimes it was with his bare hands. Cat often wondered about when he used his bare hands. Cicero derived intense pleasure from simply choking a person to death. It was more than an urge to kill – Cat was pretty sure it was sexual. The truest mark of a psychopath. She never questioned it, either. It was as though the Institute didn't engineer very much code regarding ethics when they designed Cat. The jester had simply been imprinted upon her and that was that. He was her best friend, to the very end. He could have been Superman, he could have been Lex Luthor. It didn't matter. Permanently imprinted. Regardless, in this city, killing people aimlessly had severe consequences. Cicero wasn't doing such a great job at blending in and laying low. Cat wondered... how was he ever a successful assassin?

    “You're angry,” Cicero frowned.

    “I'm tired,” replied Cat. The sun had now set in its entirety. The city was dark, save for those scattered pockets littered with light pollution.

    Cicero spied one of the mattresses used by the homeless. It was tucked away beneath a torn, red awning. Behind the mattress was a wooden bench, stockpiled with old newspapers intended to be a makeshift cushion. He led his Wanderer to the mattress and said, “I think you should rest. Cicero will rest too. Please... sleep on this... um...”

    Mattress,” huffed Cat.

    Mattress,” Cicero laughed. “I'm learning! Cicero knew it wasn't quite a bedroll...” The jester removed his jacket and gestured for Cat to lay down. With a shrug, she dropped to her knees and curled up on the stained, thin mattress. Cicero draped his jacket over Cat, oddly chivalrous for someone who can so easily kill innocent people.

    Cat was thankful for at least having a place to sleep. However, she wondered what would become of the dead body not far from their location. “We need to leave as soon as the sun is up, if not a little beforehand,” she said. “We'll try to find out where this Freedom Trail is located and head in that direction.”

    Cicero laid down on the bench, making what little use he could of the dirty newspapers which provided no real cushioning whatsoever. Though as he reclined, he realized how incredibly tired he actually was. As his eyelids grew heavy, the princeling muttered to Cat, “Now that sounds like you finally have a plan, Wanderer.” And within minutes, the jester was fast asleep. Dreams visited Cicero throughout the night, devising visions of things from his past and present. He saw his father's face, laughing and crying out, dancing like a fool alongside his subjects of New Sheoth. Cicero dreamed of the old Dark Brotherhood sanctuaries – so many of them he'd seen, and so his dream interpretation was a cavernous, dusty amalgam of them all. And deep in between those images, the jester conjured a nightmarish likeness of the Night Mother, her dead face staring at him with its corpse mouth hanging open, as if she was hungry for his soul – hungry to make Cicero her slave once again. The princeling's brain rattled itself at such a scary vision, so much so that it figuratively jumped trains, landing Cicero's dreaming right in the middle of a sultry fantasy involving his Wanderer; she was nude, straddling him, rocking her hips roughly along with his, moaning his name – crying out, Cicero! Cicero! Cicero! Oh, how he loved when she screamed his name, pleading him to stop, yet pleading him to do more, to go harder and faster. Cicero's privates stiffened in his sleep, a common response to heavy dreaming about his delicious, pretty, little Wanderer. He could still hear her voice crying out his name, like an echo drawing his subconscious awake.

    After many hours passed, the sun was in the sky again, peeking out from behind gray clouds that hovered in the east. The light stirred Cicero from his night's worth of dreams, and he raised his hands to his eyes, rubbing them with intensity. Sitting up, the jester yawned loudly, somewhat inspired by his little mental sexual escapade that kept him entertained throughout the night. “Oh Wanderer,” he mumbled hungrily as he lowered his hands and fluttered open his eyes. “You won't believe the things I–”

    Cicero choked on his words. The princeling's amber eyes widened, bouncing from left to right as they scanned the empty mattress on the ground. The only thing on the mattress was his jacket – abandoned.

    Cat was missing.
  14. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
    Likes Received:
    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 9: Liars And Torturers And Bathrooms! Oh My!


    “Wanderer!” cried Cicero. He grabbed his leather jacket from her mattress. Beneath it, both of Cat's guns were just laying there, also abandoned. This made no sense to Cicero. He snatched them up, holstering the smaller gun in a rear pocket. Craning his neck, the jester glanced around the immediate area – he saw no trace of Cat. “The Wanderer wouldn't have left without saying something,” Cicero muttered to himself. “She wanted to leave as soon as daybreak. She wouldn't have just gone traipsing about!” Cicero found himself frantic as his volume increased. This was an unnerving way to start one's morning. He quieted his voice so as to not draw attention, but his pulse raced as he willed his brain to just calm down and focus. Focus, poor Cicero. Focus! The jester took a deep, almost meditative, breath as he closed his eyes and slipped his arms through the sleeves of his jacket. Cicero strapped Cat's larger gun around his back and quietly hurried away from the mattress beneath the red awning. The princeling traveled into the opposite direction from the crowd of homeless citizens who slept off their chems from the previous night. There's only one explanation, he thought as his rage brewed with every hasty step. It wasn't long now, he was nearing his target soon enough.

    Cicero spied the over-encumbered Brahmin tied up just outside the Dugout Inn. The animal grunted as it kicked at the dirt with its fat hoof. Cicero's brows furrowed with determination. With urgency in his every step, the jester rushed over to the massive animal, pulling his dagger from his jacket. He slipped the blade beneath one of the ropes that tied a trunk of merchandise to the animal's back. With a quick sawing motion, Cicero cut the trunk loose, grappling with its girth as he lowered the blasted thing to the ground. Locked! His anger erupted as he lifted his boot, furiously kicking the lock from the trunk's face. The lock never broke, but the face of the trunk snapped right off, landing in the mud with an underwhelming plop. Cicero flipped open the trunk. Empty! No merchandise. Nothing. It was all a ruse. The jester's eyes grew wild as he crossed his arms, angrily gloating to himself. “Cicero knew it!” he shouted. The princeling quieted his voice once again. Oh yes! Cicero knew it. Danny is a dead man...

    Cat swiveled her head, groggily opening her eyes. A bright, fluorescent light gleamed down from above, practically blinding her vision as it adjusted to her surroundings. There was something flat against her back. Flat and cold. And there was something heavy weighing down on her head, arms, chest, and legs. A distant voice rambled in the background.

    “Ah, I see my patient is awake,” said a man with a silky voice.

    Cat strained her eyes, looking down to see that she was stripped to her undergarments and strapped to a metal table. The talking man stood beside her, holding a scalpel that glinted beneath the shine of the cheap, fluorescent light. He wore a white lab coat and a tie. Cat couldn't see his eyes – he had dark goggles strapped to his face. For a moment, Cat thought she was in the Institute; that they'd come for her and taken her away in the night. But looking around, she no longer believed this wretched place to be the Institute. Wherever she was looked like a dirty old cellar. And all around the cellar were these rays of light from old fluorescent bulbs, illuminating clouds of dust that hovered from corner to corner. And just through the floating debris, Cat could see that the walls and floors were stained with what appeared to be months' worth of dried blood. Glancing to her right, she spotted a tray of surgical equipment eerily organized just within the doctor's reach. This wasn't the Institute. This was some other breed of Hell.

    Cat's drugged out brain caught up to itself as she remembered the night before. Cicero had fallen asleep while she was in and out of dreams. All was quiet before someone had grabbed her, smothering her face with a foul-smelling cloth. Chloroform. Cat fought her assailant, successfully breaking free from the cloth, all the while she attempted to grab her gun, shouting Cicero's name. But to no avail. Her attacker was strong and quick. Her cries weren't loud enough. Cicero was deep in a slumber – he did not stir. The assailant managed to knock the gun from Cat's hand and re-position his grip over her mouth and nose, drugging her into a stupor. And here she ended up – at his mercy.

    Doctor?” asked Cat.

    “Yes,” replied the man. “And you're my patient.” The doctor reached for Cat's face, running his latex glove up and down her cheek. “Such beautiful bone structure.” He leaned closer and inspected Cat's eyes. “Such gorgeous eyes!”

    The man was insane. Cat clearly understood that. A killer. He was a killer. She struggled against her restraints.

    “Now, now,” lectured the doctor. “No point in over exerting yourself my dear.” Lifting his scalpel, he grinned in a demented sort of way that was all too familiar. Except this man was no friend of hers. He meant her every bit of harm in every way imaginable. “Let's have one of those eyes, shall we?”

    “Wh – what are you doing?!” protested Cat. “Stop! Stop!” She tried to wrench away her head but it was no use. The doctor had preemptively positioned a strap across Cat's forehead.

    “Yes, yes,” nodded the doctor with a chuckle. “Beg me to stop...” He stared at Cat, then burst out laughing, “Oh, who am I kidding? That never works!” The doctor composed himself and shifted his posture closer to Cat. His nostrils puffed heavy breaths against her face as he pointed the scalpel less than an inch from her right eye. Cat panicked and struggled even harder against her restraints, bruising her own skin beneath the stubborn resilience of the straps. “This is going to hurt a bit,” warned the doctor. With a thumb holding open her eyelid, the doctor delicately inserted the scalpel deep into Cat's right eye.

    Cat screamed as she felt the piercing of the metal burn straight through her optic nerve. From her jaw to the top of her skull, the scalpel set every nerve on fire. As the pain amplified, a rush of warm blood streamed down Cat's right cheek, pooling at her collar bone. The doctor straightened himself back up, inspecting the bloody eyeball stuck to the end of his scalpel. It looked as though he was holding a grotesque lollipop.

    Cat continued to shriek and cry – her voice bounced from wall to wall, but the racket never escaped the soundproof thickness of the doctor's cellar. The right side of Cat's face burned with an agony that went above and beyond words; an agony that no amount of her screams could illustrate. After far too long of shouts and cries, Cat's voice went hoarse, sending her into a fit of coughing as spittle welled in the dry cracks of her mouth. Panicked, her chest heaved up and down with labored breaths, all the while she still felt the jab of sharp metal in her eye as if the initial sensation maddeningly looped on repeat. Cat's furious gaze bounced over to the doctor. To her confusion, he was staring back at her with his jaw dropped.

    With little hesitation, the doctor moved closer to Cat. Terrified, she flinched. “What... are... you?” he whispered with incredulity, inspecting the bloody socket where Cat's eye once had been. Glaring out from her right ocular cavity was an an optic component constructed from steel, complete with a glowing yellow ring in its center. As the doctor gawked at such a thing, Cat looked around the cellar, realizing she wasn't blind in her right eye after all. It was still functional. Her pain was unimaginable, but no damage was done to Cat's sense of sight.

    “A synth!” determined the doctor with the snap of a finger. “You, my dear, are a lucky find!” He laughed gleefully, as if he'd just discovered a bonus prize. The doctor's voice dropped as he added, “I can't wait to see what else is under that skin of yours.”

    Trembling from her injury, Cat's voice shook as she said, “H–He's coming for you.”

    The doctor tilted his head. “Who, my dear?”

    Cat licked her dry lips, glaring at the doctor with one green human eye, and one glowing – albeit bloody – synth eye. “You'll know when he finds you,” she cautioned through clenched teeth. “Be afraid.”

    The doctor lifted an eyebrow and giggled. “I'm to be afraid, am I?”

    In spite of her head restraint, Cat feebly nodded. “He's as psychotic as you.”

    Danny teetered in front of the urinal, emptying his bladder for the third time that morning. He'd guzzled a lot of beer the night before. And when he awoke? More beer! It was what it was. He rarely got the chance to enjoy himself quite this much while away from home base. Danny gave himself a shake and zipped his privates back into his pants. He casually leaned to the right, inspecting his hair in a nearby mirror. Lookin' like a stud, he thought as he plucked a thin comb from his back pocket and ran it through the lower margins of his pompadour. Danny paused. He thought he heard a sound behind him – like right behind him. Glancing in the mirror, it appeared no one was there. He shrugged and continued primping his hairdo.

    Without warning, Danny's head suddenly jerked backward, then propelled forward – right into the mirror. The weak glass shattered beneath the brunt of his forehead, leaving superficial, but bloody, cuts across Danny's head. “What the fluff?!” he yelled and reached in his front coat pocket, withdrawing his gun. A hand grabbed his wrist, powerfully slamming it against the wall in an attempt to shake the gun from Danny's grip. The gun dropped to the dirty linoleum with a smack! Danny felt himself being spun around and shoved against the wall. His bewildered blue eyes met with a glaring, red headed face – its crimson eyebrows narrowed to a wickedly pissed off angle just above the bridge of its nose. Within seconds, Danny recognized Cicero. The jester's fist cracked against Danny's jaw, knocking his head sideways, spattering spit and blood against an adjacent bathroom wall. “Motherfluffer!” yelled Danny, whipping his head back toward Cicero's direction. He raised his own fist and powerfully smashed it right into Cicero's face, knocking the princeling flat on his back.

    Cicero's adrenaline roused him back to his feet and he charged Danny, slamming a shoulder into his midsection, propelling him back against the wall once more. As Danny coughed and doubled over, arms crossed over his gut, Cicero snatched his dagger from his jacket with a metallic flick! Upon hearing the sound, Danny's head snapped to attention and he charged Cicero. He thrust the jester to the ground, knocking the blade from his grip, sending the dagger skidding across the floor. Cicero grunted and growled as he attempted to turn and crawl across the linoleum to retrieve his weapon. Danny grabbed the princeling by his legs, struggling to keep him from scurrying away. Cicero wriggled one of his legs free and hauled back, kicking a solid black boot right into Danny's collar bone. Then the jester scrambled to his knees, reaching hard – almost within reach of the ebony dagger. Just before Cicero's fingertips could grab the hilt, he felt a sudden, tight grip on the back of his long hair which forcefully maneuvered him into the nearest bathroom stall.

    “You little bitch!” hollered Danny as he shoved Cicero's face into a toilet. The princeling gurgled and yelled beneath the water, creating furious bubbles around the diameter of the bowl. As Cicero's arms flailed, he unknowingly pulled the toilet's handle, emptying the tank, allowing himself to breath air once again. With a frenetic shout, the jester elbowed Danny in the chest, knocking the wind from him, and the two tumbled out of the stall and rolled across the linoleum savagely punching, kicking, and grappling with one another. In a swell of grunts, gritted teeth, and bloody noses the two found themselves chest-to-chest, hands clasped around one another's throats.

    “Why... are... you... trying to kill me?” heaved Danny. Each time Cicero tightened his grip, Danny tightened his. This made Cicero loosen his grip from time to time, but regardless, he held fast to Danny's throat.

    “Where... is... she?!” Cicero demanded with a strained voice. His face was wild with rage as veins popped from his forehead.

    Who?!” asked Danny. His face was turning purple. He gripped Cicero's neck harder, which forced the little man to loosen his fingers just a bit.

    “The... Wanderer,” grunted Cicero. “Cat!”

    “I thought...” Danny gagged on his own words for a moment. “...she was with you!

    “Tell Cicero...” Cicero stammered as bile rose in his constricted throat. “...where she is!”

    Danny's voice was no longer a voice, but a high pitched wheeze. “Let... go... and I will!

    Cicero released his grip – Danny released his. The two gasped for air, rubbing at the swollen, irritated flesh around their Adam's apples. They coughed and grunted, still trying to find their breath, utterly delirious from a lack of air.

    Danny grabbed his gun from the floor, pointing it at Cicero. His face was wrought with apologetic sincerity as he gasped, “I don't know where she is.”

    Cicero huffed and wheezed, then barked, “You're a liar! Lies and treachery!” The jester was impressed at how well Danny could hold his own in a fight. He was so winded and so exhausted, he didn't have the wherewithal to attempt any further attack on the man. But he wanted to – oh, how Cicero wanted to cut Danny's throat.

    Danny scooted himself backward along the floor, leaning against a filthy urinal. He kept his gun aimed at the lunatic red head. “I'm not lying. I don't know where she is.”

    “Admit it!” spat Cicero. “You took her!”

    Danny squinted his eyes and shook his head. “What? No I didn't!”


    “I swear!” Danny continued shaking his head. “I didn't take her! I'd never do anything like that!”

    “You...”, growled Cicero, “...are a liar. Cicero opened your merchant's trunk – it's empty! You've been lying since the beginning. Who are you?!

    Danny looked down and sighed. “Okay...” he said. “You got me.”

    “Who are you!?” Cicero repeated, struggling to his feet.

    Danny kept his gun on the jester as he stood in accord with Cicero. “The name's Deacon,” he said. “I'm with the Railroad.”

    [​IMG] music: Lying Sack of plops - Retching Red
  15. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 10: Be My Valentine


    Deacon and Cicero left the Dugout Inn. On the way out, Cicero made sure to gather Cat's guns which he'd hidden inside the broken trunk that sat in the mud next to Deacon's Brahmin. “You had guns the whole time?” asked Deacon, eyeing the jester over the brim of his sunglasses.

    Cicero placed Old Faithful in his back pocket and strapped the combat rifle over his back. “I...” he shrugged, “...have little idea as to how to use them.”

    Deacon turned, motioning for Cicero to follow him. The Railroad agent seemed to know exactly where they should go. Cicero didn't ask questions; at this point he felt he had no choice but to depend on the assistance from strangers. They hustled down a back alley, located just behind the major shops outlining the Diamond City market. Deacon told the princeling that he knew a guy who specialized in finding missing people. “You don't know how to shoot a gun?” asked Deacon.

    No,” grumbled Cicero, matching Deacon's pace.

    “Lucky me!” laughed Deacon. The two men arrived just outside a narrow entryway on their left. The red glow of a neon sign hung right above their heads, illuminating the words: Valentine Detective Agency.

    Cicero squinted at the agency's moniker, noticing it also sported a heart with an arrow through it. Pointing to the heart, the princeling asked, “Is this man an assassin?”

    Deacon wrinkled his nose and replied, “What? No.” He gestured to the name on the sign. “This is Nick Valentine's office. Get it? Valentine's?

    Cicero blinked at the sign, remembering the advice Cat gave to him back in New Sheoth. “Erhm...” he stammered, “Cicero is foreign and unacquainted with your strange culture.”

    I'll say,” muttered Deacon with the shake of his head. He hung a left, navigating toward a door. Twisting its handle, Deacon invited himself inside a small, cluttered office space. Cicero followed.

    Nick Valentine looked up to see two men boldly enter his office. He recognized Deacon, the taller fellow, but the short red head was a mystery. Both men had blood crusted beneath their swollen noses and an array of shallow cuts around their faces. In fact, Deacon's entire forehead was littered with slices and scrapes.

    “What in the blazes happened?” asked Nick. In spite of having an anatomy mostly constructed from metal, the sheer surprise was vividly transparent on the synth detective's face.

    Deacon and Cicero exchanged sheepish glances. “Long story,” answered Deacon.

    Nick folded his arms. “So... then what brings you and your ...eh... friend around?”

    Deacon gestured to Cicero, introducing the princeling by name, but refrained from explaining any further dynamic of their new acquaintanceship. Then Deacon added, “He's missing someone. A young woman. Maybe in her late twenties... early thirties...”

    “Well,” said Nick, shifting eye contact to Cicero, “You'll have to take a number. Gotta lotta missing folks on my caseload at the moment.”

    Cicero couldn't believe what he was looking at. This Nick Valentine was not a real man – his face was falling apart, Cicero could see the machinery inside of him! And the detective had those same glowing eyes Cat had whenever she used to change and spoke strangely – like a machine. Of course, that didn't happen anymore, not since her synth component was removed. It had been a while since Cicero saw those glowing, metal eyes of hers. But this detective... he had those exact eyes.

    You,” Cicero said in disbelief, “You are like her.” The jester hesitated, wondering if it was safe to explain Cat's true nature. Deacon had confessed he was with the Railroad, and Nick was clearly cut from the same cloth as the princeling's Wanderer. “She...” Cicero nervously glanced around, clearing his throat. “She's a synth.”

    Nick thoughtfully tapped a finger to his chin. “A missing synth, hmm?”

    “A synth?” asked Deacon, impressed.

    Cicero nodded.

    “I imagine she's of the more flesh and blood variety,” commented Nick.

    Deacon nodded. “I had no idea. She's the type that passes for human.”

    Nick's programming emulated a convincing sigh with a brief inhale and exhale. This sort of thing had become so natural for him that the man often forgot he was even a machine. Looking into a mirror had been, at times, a painful reminder, what with those wires in his neck and the gaps of skin that revealed bolts hinged upon flat pieces of metal. But Nick felt like a man, through and through. Valentine wasn't the jealous type, but deep down he wished he looked more human, just like the synths who could so easily fool someone like Deacon – and the rest of Diamond City. Nonetheless, Nick established himself with such a shining reputation that the city gave the old synth a free hall pass so to speak. They didn't see the machine in him anymore. Valentine had saved enough people and shut down enough crime that residents embraced him as one of their own. But now work was catching up to him and the demands were piling higher and higher. Nick gestured to his desk. “Regardless if this young woman is a synth or not, as I said I have caseloads of missing people.” A large stack of file folders teetered on the desk's center surface.

    Deacon reached for the most recent file on the very top of the stack and said, “She just went missing last night. I bet some of these are so old that it's too little, too late.” The agent opened the folder, scanning its contents.

    “Last night?” asked Nick. “Hmm,” he pondered out loud. “True. Finding her whereabouts is still inside that window of possibility.” The detective turned to Cicero and asked skeptically, “You sure she didn't just run off, son? I've seen a lot of situations where that's the case. Did the two of you have any kind of fight?” Nick gestured for Cicero to sit down and answer his questions.

    “Well,” began the jester, sitting down while also eyeing Deacon from across the office, “we had a little bit of a disagreement over a few things, yes.”

    “Care to elaborate?” asked Nick with an inquisitive lift of his chin.

    Cicero couldn't mention the stabbing of the homeless man. That would have been foolish. He wasn't that much of a fool. “Cicero was... jealous,” he confessed.

    “Of?” Valentine probed.

    “Another man,” shrugged the princeling, glaring at Deacon.

    Nick's eyes shifted over to Deacon, then looked back at Cicero. The jester could tell by the look on Nick's face that he had no further interest in pursuing Cat. “But!” shouted Cicero. “I promise you she did not run away from me! The Wanderer didn't take her weapons. And she had no money!” Cicero frowned. “And,” he added sadly, “Cicero refuses to believe his Wanderer would abandon him like that.”

    “You'd be surprised,” answered Nick. “Regardless, no protection and no money. Seems odd that she'd just up and leave without those. And if she had – she wouldn't have gotten far.” Nick collected a few things from a nearby desk, as if he was tidying up the place. “Excuse the mess. My assistant isn't in today. Now... Cicero... can you tell me exactly what happened right before you discovered she was missing?”

    Leaving out the part about the stabbing, Cicero explained everything he recalled, down to the finest detail. In fact, he shared a little too much information when he began describing his sex dream about Cat. Nick grew incredibly uncomfortable and stopped the jester in mid sentence, insisting there was no need to go any further into detail.

    Meanwhile, Deacon paid them no mind as he was still immersed in the contents of the case file he'd swiped from Nick's desk. Before Valentine could offer suggestions as to Cat's possible whereabouts, Deacon snapped the folder shut and held it up. “Maybe some of these cases are connected by the same scumbag,” he said. The Railroad agent pointed to the file and continued, “Take this guy for example – Earl Sterling. Prior to Cat, he's the most recent disappearance – and that happened overnight too.” Deacon cocked his head, peering at Nick. “Have you questioned anyone about him yet?”

    Shaking his head, Nick answered, “Not yet. Things have been so backed up. I did go over to Earl's house. Didn't see any sign of a struggle, but I picked up what few clues I could find. If you double check the case file, you'll see he left behind a receipt.”

    Deacon pulled the receipt from the inside pocket of the folder. “Diamond City Mega Surgery Center,” he read aloud. “Looks like Doc Crocker was the last person Earl saw.”

    “On record,” clarified Nick. “Earl could've seen anyone after he returned from the surgery center.”

    Deacon shrugged. “Have you spoken to Crocker yet?”

    “On my to-do list,” admitted Nick.

    Cicero stood up from his seat and shouted, “How does any of this help me find my Wanderer?!” He stamped a foot. “We need to go looking for her this very instant!”

    “Keep your shirt on,” said Nick. “Deacon's on the right track. You gotta start somewhere. I suggest we all pay Doc Crocker a visit – find out what he knows about Earl. Maybe Sterling told him something important that might lead us to him. If he was taken, could be the same kidnapper that took the girl.”

    “Worth a shot,” agreed Deacon.

    “It's pretty early in the day, so we should head to Crocker's house,” nodded Nick. “The clinic isn't open yet.”

    Cicero turned and dashed out the office door. “Then let us make haste!” he cried over his shoulder, disappearing around a corner.

    Valentine reached for his trench coat and casually slid it on. “Is that guy for real?” asked the synth.

    Deacon rubbed the cuts along his forehead. “Unfortunately, yeah.”
  16. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 11: Magic Tricks


    The trio arrived to the alleyway that led to Doc Crocker's house. As they approached his doorstep, Crocker's medical partner, Dr. Sun, was discovered knocking on his colleague's front door.

    “Morning,” nodded Nick.

    “Valentine.” Dr. Sun returned the nod. “You're looking for Crocker too?”

    “As a matter of fact, yes,” replied Nick. “He's not in, eh?”

    Sun shook his head. “Haven't seen him at the clinic in a few weeks. I thought I saw him going in and out of his house a day or so ago. I've been trying to track him down.”

    “A few weeks, hm?” Valentine crossed his arms, contemplating. “Strange.”

    Deacon pulled Nick aside and asked, “Wasn't Earl's surgery receipt from a week ago?”

    Valentine nodded.

    Cicero paced. His face grew furious and he rushed Crocker's front door, loudly pounding away at it. Deacon pulled the jester back, shaking his head. Consequently, there was no answer to Cicero's pounding.

    Valentine asked Dr. Sun, “You didn't happen to see ol' Earl Sterling enter or leave the surgery center not long ago, did you?”

    Dr. Sun shook his head.

    Nick flashed Deacon a concerned look. “I'm gonna need to get inside Crocker's place.” The synth detective gestured to the door's lock.

    “Say no more.” The Railroad agent withdrew a few bobby pins from his pocket. Deacon knelt down and inserted two pins into the door's handle and delicately maneuvered them in a circle. He popped the lock open with ease. As he stood, the door swung wide open and the three invited themselves inside.

    “We'll let you know what we find out,” Nick said to Dr. Sun over his shoulder. With a nod, the doctor understood and continued on his way to the clinic.

    Crocker's home wasn't too extraordinary. There was an upper level to the home – it had a bed and little else. Some of Crocker's medical supplies were stashed not far from his sleeping area, but that wasn't too surprising for a physician. On the first level, he had some lounge chairs and a sofa. There was a coffee table in the center of the den. Backed to the wall just left of the front door was a filing cabinet and a desk. On top of the desk was a terminal. Cicero recognized the terminal from his visit to the Institute. He approached it, tapping at a button, hoping the thing would wake up and reveal vital information. Nothing.

    “It's locked,” said Deacon, noticing the jester fiddling with the computer.

    “I can hack it,” offered Nick, “but I wonder about privacy concerns – it is a doctor's terminal.” The detective sighed. “Neverthless, we're tracking a murderer.” Valentine approached the terminal and his fingers swiftly clacked away at the keyboard. The screen switched to a view that listed the names of Crocker's patients. “Abbot, Ann Codman...” Nick's face scrunched. “Ellie? She's my assistant. Why in the world would she want cosmetic surgery?” He grumbled. “See? I'm already reading private details about the people I know. Ellie wouldn't be happy about this.” Valentine scanned the information under each name. There was nothing much of consequence, although Crocker mentioned wanting to further consult Ellie over drinks. Nick shook his head. Then, he noticed an entry with no name – just a date. Yesterday's date. “Crocker must've been here recently – just as Sun suspected. Strange that he hasn't been to the clinic in a while.” Valentine tapped a button, opening the entry.

    Cicero muscled himself in front of the detective, leaning closely to read the words displayed across the terminal's screen.

    I noticed a lovely couple visiting Diamond City this afternoon. The lady is particularly striking. She looks rough around the edges, but has a delicate frame about her. Her smooth skin, her black hair, and those sparkling eyes! Those features coupled with her strong – dare I say masculine?– gait, and the way she wears that duster. Oh my! There's no added color to her lips or eyes... she's unconventionally beautiful. Too bad she's involved with someone else. He's comely too, with that long red hair and those cheekbones, but I'd like to get a closer look at her. She might be the perfect candidate for my project down in the basement. Earl was sufficient, but I've done all I can with him. After just a few short days, he lost his luster. Some might say that's my fault, but that can't be true. Earl was a mistake by nature. He's nothing like this young lady. She's fresh... and I can keep her fresher. I can improve her. I'll need to be quick and quiet about getting her into my surgical room down below.

    Cicero pressed his lips together and grit his teeth. “He has her...” growled the jester. “It's him.” Valentine and Deacon said nothing; both had managed to read the terminal alongside Cicero. All three reached the same conclusion, however the princeling was the only one to state the obvious. Cicero wanted to soar out of there and immediately find his Wanderer. In the heat of the moment, he almost went for his dagger, but stopped. The jester didn't want Valentine to identify the weapon he'd used on the homeless man. “Take me to this surgical basement,” Cicero demanded in a steady, even tone. His voice sounded so collected that it was unsettling.

    Nick and Deacon agreeably turned for the front door and headed toward the exit, knowing that the surgery center's basement was their next stop – and likely their final stop. The Railroad agent warned, “I can't promise I can get us in. We might need some welding tools if Crocker has that cellar locked up tight.”

    Eyeing Deacon, Nick pointed to Cicero. “Deacon, how about you take the boyfriend with you? See what's what with that basement hatch. And, eh, keep an eye on him. Make sure he doesn't blow his lid. I'll head back to the office and grab some tools that'll open the hatch right up if bobby pins can't do the trick.”

    “No problem,” replied Deacon. “I'll give it a shot.” He motioned for Cicero to follow him, and so the princeling did.

    As the two of them walked down the alleyway, Cicero had a look on his face that was entirely too stoic; he was pondering Crocker's terminal entry about his Wanderer. Cicero understood Crocker's thought process – he understood that urge to locate the perfect target to capture, torture, and kill. The princeling shuddered at the reality of it all. Crocker was likely mapping out a plan to kill the Wanderer in the most satisfying way possible. Slowly, thought Cicero. The best way always takes its precious time. Such was a deed the jester had repeatedly performed in the past, especially during his stay in New Sheoth. The citizens of Dementia were all too familiar with the killer in the night – the stalking prince. Cicero penetrated plenty of victims with his blade, gutting and bleeding them slowly. He choked the life from others on different occasions, watching their breath gradually heave to a stop beneath the firm grip of his dark gloves. Crocker was thinking of something along similar lines – the jester knew it. What the doctor wanted was something a cold blooded killer desired; something driven by madness. Cicero hadn't yet seen Crocker with his own eyes, but from what he could gather... it was like looking into a mirror.

    Upon reaching the clinic, Deacon hustled ahead of Cicero and approached the mega surgery basement hatch. He knelt and attempted to pick the lock. Cicero hurried over and crossed his arms, watching the Railroad agent with skepticism.

    “Is this the entrance?” asked Cicero.

    “Yes,” replied Deacon, fiddling with a bobby pin. It snapped. “plops!”

    Cicero tilted his head inquisitively. “Cicero wonders how far down the cellar descends.”

    Deacon pulled out a second set of pins and inserted them into the door. “Not sure,” he said. “Maybe 3 meters?” Again, one of the pins snapped. “Christ!” said Deacon. “Nick better hurry up with those tools.” He shook his head, attempting a third try.

    Cicero uncrossed his arms and closed his eyes, concentrating on the space below the concrete where he stood. His mind visualized the cellar below, pinpointing the perfect spot upon which to teleport. The princeling did as his father had shown him. With little strain, the magic eased from Cicero's fingertips and swelled around him. At this point, Deacon stared up at the jester with his jaw open – his bobby pins had all dropped to the ground. In a split second, Cicero disappeared from the Railroad agent's sight. Down below, the princeling landed to the dirty, blood stained floor in a genuflecting pose. Shaking off a wave of mild dizziness, he stood and scanned the basement for any sign of his Wanderer.

    The cellar extended deeper than he'd imagined, but it didn't take long for Cicero's ears to detect the sound of soft moaning. It's her, he realized. Cicero walked around a corner, spying Cat strapped to a metal table. She had cuts all along her arms – just her arms. They were deep, but just enough that she hadn't quite bled to death. Not yet. Her blood slowly trickled from her upper extremities, pooling into buckets arranged below the table. Not all of the blood made it into the buckets. There was quite a lot of it spilled to the floor, unable to dry to a fully brown shade as more blood trickled down from above. Cat shivered from the cold of the cellar and the slowing of her circulation. That much was evident. Her lips were a light shade of blue; her body twitched and writhed weakly against her restraints as she whimpered and moaned softly against the cool air. As Cicero approached her, he discovered she was missing an eye. He remained calm. Make no mistake that something dark manifested inside of him, but he pushed it down deep, setting such darkness aside for what was to come next. Cicero reached for his Wanderer's tear-stained cheek, gently stroking her pasty skin with the back of his hand. Cat snapped from her delirium and yelled curses – the jester touched her in a way all too similar to the doctor. She was no longer aware of who stood beside her. After her brief lapse of feeble anger, Cat's eyes, even the mechanical one, fluttered closed. The cursing drained what little strength she had left. It was strange that what one killer found to be beautiful – another found to be abhorrent. To the doctor, Cat was beautiful this way. To Cicero, the very sight of her conjured something malignant – something so dark that it was unfathomable.

    Cicero backed away from the metal table, knowing Crocker was likely somewhere within the basement, perhaps around a corner. He stealthily retreated to a shadowy corner and waited like a snake waits for a mouse.

    Valentine arrived to the surgery center with a blowtorch and plasma cutter. He found Deacon, alone, pacing back and forth, nervously smoking a cigarette. The Railroad agent ran his hands through his hair.

    “Where's the boyfriend?” asked Nick.

    “He fluffing vanished!” Deacon shouted.

    “Keep your voice down,” Nick said in a hushed tone. He kneeled and got to work on the hatch. As he torched and cut through the metal, the detective asked, “Now – what happened?”

    Deacon plucked his cigarette from his mouth and tossed it to the ground. Stepping out the cherry red light of its tip, he repeated, “The asshole vanished.”

    “He took off?”

    Deacon shook his head. “No. He disappeared like god damn Houdini.” Deacon made a gesture with his hands and said poof!

    Nick wasn't sure what to make of the Railroad agent's story about the red headed weirdo. Knowing Deacon had a knack for making up stories, and stretching, bending, and damn near breaking the truth – the detective quietly continued cracking open the hatch entrance. “Almost there,” he said.

    “Did you hear me?” asked Deacon.

    The metal on the hatch loosened and Nick used his mechanical strength to snap the rest of the entryway clean from its frame. Setting it aside, he glanced at Deacon and said, “Yeah, I heard you. Now... let's get down there.”

    Irritated, Deacon threw his hands in the air, then reluctantly followed Valentine into the cellar. As they descended a set of rickety, wooden stairs, the two heard the sound of screaming from around a corner near the back of the basement. Nick drew his gun, pointing it defensively as he glanced back over his shoulder, signaling for Deacon to do the same. In accordance with Valentine's suggestion, Deacon pulled out his weapon and the two slowly stalked around the corner.

    As they approached from around the bend, their eyes met with a horrifying sight. There Cicero stood, holding Cat in his arms, her motionless body was swaddled in his jacket. On the ground in front of the red head, Doc Crocker was sprawled on his back with every surgical tool – and then some – driven deep into his neck and face. He looked like a human pin cushion. Nick spotted a set of goggles with a torn strap just beside the doctor. Then he noticed two scalpels were jammed right through the doctor's eyes. Crocker howled and jerked along the floor, still alive – still painfully aware. It didn't take Valentine's detective skills to surmise what had happened. Nick had a feeling the red head was unstable.

    Cicero approached Deacon and Valentine, his face was all too serious – all too out of character. “She needs healing,” he said. His eyes grew dark. “Now!” Cicero's assertive voice echoed dauntingly against the cellar walls.
  17. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 12: And I said Hey - What's Going On?


    Two weeks had passed before Cat regained her strength once again. Not long after Deacon and Nick had discovered her and Cicero in the surgical cellar, the trio rushed her up to Dr. Sun's clinic. The – quite literally – good doctor stitched her wounds and began an immediate transfusion to replenish Cat's blood loss. During her recovery, she was placed on bed rest in Earl Sterling's home, being that it was no longer occupied and it was the only residence, aside from Crocker's, to which Valentine had immediate, uninterrupted access. Furthermore, the decision was unanimous among Valentine, Deacon, and Sun that Cat remain out of public view. That glowing synth eye of hers was bound to attract the wrong person's attention – it was bound to set someone off. Taking preventative measures, Deacon managed to scrounge up an eye patch from one of his former Railroad disguises. He delivered it to Sterling's home, insisting Cat would eventually need to make use of it when the time came for her to leave the residence. Nevermind the anti-synth graffiti along the streets of Diamond City – there were places beyond The Wall that were every bit as inhospitable to synths, if not more so.

    As for Cicero, he never left Cat's bedside. Not once. In the beginning, she was at her weakest, barely able to part her lips for a drink. The princeling tended to Cat day and night, keeping her hydrated and slowly introducing small portions of bland foods to her sensitive stomach. Cicero's Wanderer was in pain, not just from the cuts and grooves along her arms, but from lying in bed for so many days. He kept a consistent schedule, turning her over, shifting her weight, so as to avoid further injury from remaining in one position for too long. At night, he'd check Cat's feet, making certain there was proper blood flow, at times calculatingly kneading his warm hands against their delicate, cold arches to maintain their circulatory health. Cat was barely awake throughout most of this until the second week. By the second week, she was able to sit up on her own. When needed, Cicero lifted her from the bed, allowing Cat to lean on him when she had to walk, to use the toilet, anything. He would have given her anything. Cicero was there for her, reading to her, chatting at her, and at times softly humming a tune, stroking her hair as she wearily drifted off.

    This ordeal brought back memories for the jester; Mother. Of course, the unholy Matron was never awake, never improving – always dead, ever-deteriorating. No matter how many preservative oils he used, or how much Cicero cleaned and exhumed the Bosmer's petrified skin, the damn corpse was never once in a stage of improvement. The distinguishing highlight between Cicero's experience as Keeper versus his experience as a friend was that the more care he put forth with Cat, the more she improved. And when one improved in such the way that she did, one was better able to connect with her caretaker. There had never been a connection with the Night Mother. The corpse had simply shut her Keeper out. But when Cat's consciousness returned, she smiled at Cicero. When her voice strengthened, she thanked Cicero. When the sores on her arms no longer stung, she hugged on Cicero, comforted by the warmth of his body, the smell of his skin, and the familiar resonance of his voice with her head against his neck. For the jester, this temporary role had nothing to do with servitude. It had everything to do with love.

    And therein was the dichotomy of Cicero. He had the drive to heal another living thing, to such an experienced degree no less. With no hesitation, he successfully re-introduced an invalid's strength and stamina, guaranteeing the endurance of her mortal longevity. But juxtaposed within his very hand that fed, caressed, and healed his Wanderer was an ebony dagger which had, for no other reasons than pleasure and rage, enabled him to cause such death, mutilating the lives of so many. The truth was ever-present in that dichotomy; there was a human within Cicero – and there was a Daedra. Their sole commonality? Both fiercely adored the young woman.

    “I think it's high time we have a talk,” Valentine's voice said through the door.

    Cicero sighed and opened the entrance to Earl's home.

    As the door widened, Nick Valentine casually strolled inside, looking the place over. “I see you cleaned up the joint. Looks nice.” Nick pointed to the upper level and asked in a quieter tone, “Is the young lady resting upstairs?”

    “Yes,” answered Cicero.

    A serious expression spread across the detective's face. “You know why I'm here...”

    Cicero grinned. “Cicero has a few guesses. I could choose one or the other.”

    Nick raised his eyebrows. “A few? Well, I hope it's not more than two. There are two things we need to discuss.”

    Cicero crossed his arms and glared impatiently.

    Understanding the hint, Nick cleared his throat. “We found a stab victim. The guy was down on his luck as it was. His name was Bernard. Recently lost his kid, by the way. We've been examining his body and his stab wound looks like something that had to have been done with a pretty big knife. When Dr. Sun pulled your jacket off of Cat, one of your big black knives slipped right out of the inside pocket. Can't be a coincidence. Care to explain?”

    Cicero showed no remorse when he responded, “I killed him.”

    Valentine stuck his hands deep into the pockets of his trench coat and cocked his head to the side. “Just like that eh? You killed the poor bastard.”

    “He made a threat,” said Cicero. “He said he'd blow a hole through anyone he found out to be a synth.” Cicero's eyes looked up, peering through the wooden slats of the floor above, right where Cat's bed was located.

    Shaking his head, Nick said, “Did it ever occur to you that maybe the guy was blowing steam?

    “Doing what?” Cicero asked.

    Sighing, Nick clarified, “He'd just lost his kid. He was a harmless guy. Never hurt a soul. Did it ever occur to you that he wouldn't have actually hurt your precious girlfriend upstairs?”

    Cicero's face scrunched with irritation. “Then why threaten it?”

    “I oughta arrest you,” growled Nick, ignoring Cicero's absurd question. “And what you did to Doc Crocker? I don't even know how to address that. Took hours for the poor son of a bitch to die. After his fifth hour at the clinic, I talked Dr. Sun into humanely putting him out of his misery.” The detective closed his eyes and nodded, “Now, I admit that after seeing what he did to your girl, maybe I'd let that one slide. But Bernard? That was low.” Valentine shook his head and began to calmly pace a circle around Cicero. “But from what Deacon tells me, throwing you in prison won't do much good. Now, I didn't believe him at first. Deacon's notorious for being full of it. But when I saw you down in that basement...”

    “Is there a point to all this rambling?” Cicero asked snippily.

    Nick stopped pacing and his tone grew even more serious. “Deacon knows.”

    Cicero furrowed his brow. “Knows what?

    “He knows you've been inside the Institute. And now he knows how you did it. Well, not exactly how but he's seen what you're capable of. He put two and two together. The long and short of it? You and your lady will be headed to the Railroad HQ. I want you both out of my city as soon as she's back in shape.”

    “That's why we're here,” said Cicero.

    “The Railroad?” asked Nick.

    Cicero pointed to the upper level. “The Wanderer wants to move the synths out of the Institute. That's where she's from.”

    “How do you do it? The bizarre transport, I mean.” Nick looked Cicero up and down. “Is it an implant? A courser chip? How do you even access it?”

    Cicero squeezed his eyes shut and raised his hands, “No, no.” With a dismissive wave he said, “You wouldn't believe Cicero. And it's too much to explain.” Then the jester peered questioningly at the detective. “And how does the Liar know I've been to the Institute?”

    “He overheard you, just before the three of you met. You mentioned the Institute and Patriot. That got his attention. Deacon's people have been working real close with Patriot, but none of them have actually met the guy.” Pausing, Nick pointed at Cicero matter-of-factly. “You, eh, might want to find a different nickname for Deacon, by the way. Not sure Liar will go over too well, given everything he's told me about the relationship between the two of you.”

    “It suits him perfectly,” smiled the jester.

    Frowning, Nick found the red head all too unsettling. “Well,” said the synth detective as he opened the door, about to dismiss himself, “as soon as she's one hundred percent – the two of you are with Deacon, hitting the road.” Nick walked over the threshold of Sterling's door, stopped, and glanced back at Cicero. “Best of luck with the synths – they need all the help they can get. But... don't ever come back.”

    Once Cat was back on her feet and able to strap a gun to her waist, she and Cicero followed Deacon all the way to the Old North Church – the Railroad's hideout. The agent guided them through a secret entrance that led down a short flight of stairs, directly into their headquarters. As Deacon waltzed into view, he was surrounded by his Railroad comrades who busily shuffled about. Cat followed his lead and, upon inspection, her presence was met with stares. They weren't quite the same stares she received in Diamond City – these faces appeared more welcoming, some even smiled. Now that such visible damage had been done to her eye, the agents clearly saw that she was a synth. Cicero strolled in alongside Cat and the others glanced over him, some asking if he was also a synth.

    “Not sure,” grinned Deacon. “He could be a synth, too.”

    Cicero tried to speak up in protest and Deacon raised an index finger, indicating that the jester hold that thought. Before Cicero could argue further, the three of them were approached by a woman in her late thirties, early forties. Her auburn hair layered softly over the contours of a gray plaid scarf around her neck.

    “Deacon,” she said with the lift of an eyebrow, “who are our guests?”

    “Ah,” Deacon gestured to the woman in an introductory sort of way. “Meet Desdemona – the leader of our little operation.” Then Deacon gestured to Cicero. “Dez? Meet our one and only ticket inside the Institute.”

    Dez's eyes studied Cicero. “And how's that possible?”

    “I've been there,” Cicero replied bluntly.

    Desdemona laughed. “You've been there? In the Institute?” She turned and scowled at Deacon. “Is this a prank? If it is – this is not good timing, Deacon.”

    “Not a prank. I can explain everything,” said Deacon. “But... what's wrong? What's not good timing?”

    Desdemona looked at Cat and Cicero and said, “Excuse us.” She tugged at Deacon's jacket, leading him to a more private corner of the HQ's catacombs. “We have a problem,” she said to Deacon under her breath.

    “Coursers?” he asked.

    Dez shook her head. “Something's... wrong... with Tom.”

    Deacon's brows scrunched doubtingly. “Tom? Tinker Tom? Dez, the man's eccentric. And, ehhh, pretty crazy. Something's always been kinda wrong with him.”

    Desdemona closed her eyes and said through clenched teeth, “No. You don't get it.” She sighed, trying to relax her composure. “Something's really wrong with him.”

    Deacon laughed. “Oh Dez, come on, he–”

    “–he shot one of the agents. Dead.” Desdemona stared hard at Deacon with a sobering look in her eyes.

    Without realizing it, Deacon's trembling hand reached for a cigarette in his front pocket and popped it into his mouth. As he lit the end of it, he looked over at Cat and Cicero who awkwardly meandered around the big circular table in the center of the main chamber. Staring at the two of them, now realizing he knew next to nothing about either of them, Deacon nervously exhaled a puff of smoke and muttered, “What the fluff is going on?”
  18. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 13: Dunmeri For, 'Spill More Blood!'

    Desdemona had Tinker Tom under lock and key, in a manner of speaking. After he snapped and murdered a fellow Railroad agent, she had the quartermaster's hands and legs bound, tossing him into an isolated corner of the HQ's catacombs. Glory, a synth Railroad agent, kept watch on Tom, trying with all her might to ignore his incessant ramblings. The quartermaster wasn't always quite right in the head, but over the last few months his mental stability declined from questionably eccentric to outright deranged.

    There were warning signs that preceded Tom's attack on one of his comrades. For instance, he'd been more frequently glued to his computer monitor than usual, and his dependence on chems took a turn for the worse. Tom hardly slept as it was, but his recent state of mind was uncharacteristically sleep deprived. He repeatedly dosed himself with heavy chems just to feel a moment of calm, but all too often the sensation quickly wore off. As soon as it did, Tom's mind would leap right back into its current state; high strung and babbling like a maniac.

    Deacon took it upon himself to visit Tom, grasping at some small hope that the quartermaster would help him make sense of things. Deacon couldn't imagine Tom killing another agent – not in his lifetime. Tinker Tom was not a killer. He was a good guy. Sure, Tom was weird as hell, but he was intelligent, funny, and most importantly – he was dependable. You could trust him. Deacon insisted on having a talk with Tom, much to Desdemona's defeatist warnings.

    “You won't get anything out of him, Deacon,” she'd said. “We've tried.”

    Deacon ignored Desdemona, following a familiar path back through the catacombs, spying Glory as she paced from right to left, then left to right, cradling a hefty mini-gun in her arms. The synth agent gave a smile when she saw Deacon emerge from around the bend.

    “Something tells me you're not here to see me,” she said in that relaxed, smoky voice of hers.

    Deacon nodded. “Give me ten minutes with him, Glory. That's all I ask.”

    “Hell, have twenty,” she sighed. “He's not goin' anywhere...”

    Tom was huddled in the corner, wide-eyed and shaking like a man suffering through the worst phase of chem withdrawal. His lips were dry and cracked, and his gaze stared upward at the ceiling, not quite focused on any one thing at all. Tom's chest heaved rapidly, like a dying cat panting through its last hour of breath. And all the while he rambled words, muttering them in a quiet voice, just audible enough for Deacon to catch every other syllable. The closer Deacon moved toward Tom, the clearer the words became. But in spite of their clarity, their meaning was lost on the Railroad agent.

    “Angel of death!” hissed Tom, still staring hard at the dusty ceiling above. “The angel of death is here! She knows it. She's telling me all about it!”

    “Who, Tom?” asked Deacon, his eyes locked onto his friend. Deacon's composure fought back an overwhelming ache of sadness. “Who's telling you all about it?”

    “She knew about my farm – about my life.” Tom jerked. “Oh god! Where is it?!”

    Looking around, Deacon asked, “Where's what, Tom?”

    “She knew she could take it. Where did she put it? The numbers! Under the purple? Under the green?! I lost him!” Tom slid downward, his back now flat against the floor. He coughed.

    “He's not gonna explain himself,” Glory called over her shoulder.

    Deacon shook his head, refusing to give up. “What's the purple? What's the green?” he asked Tom.

    Tom stared at the ceiling, unblinking. He hadn't blinked once since Deacon arrived, in fact. “Deacon, I'll tell you what she said,” he spoke in an eloquently lucid tone.

    Hopeful, Deacon knelt down, leaning closer to Tom. “Tell me,” he begged.

    Tom stiffened and shouted, “Erufi ohm daesohn!” His eyes narrowed and his voice lowered. “Vocu eshtik molkhun...”

    Deacon stood and scrunched his brows. “Tom! What the hell does that even mean?”

    Glory shook her head. “Nothing! It means nothing. He's been saying it since the attack. It's bullplops gibberish.” She sighed. “I told you – this is pointless.” Glory shook her head again. “I'm sorry, Deacon.”

    Tom, still flat on his back with his wrists and ankles bound, squeezed his eyes shut and shook furiously as if he'd worked himself into convulsions. His dry lips widened and screamed, “Erufi ohm daesohn! Erufi ohm daesohn! Erufi ohm daesohn! ERUFI OHM DAESOHN!” He gasped for air, then dejectedly mumbled, “...vocu eshtik molkhun...”

    “He's insane,” Deacon said to Desdemona, lighting himself his third cigarette. The Railroad agent's hand shook as he eagerly sucked down a lungful of smoke. Dez reached for her own pack in her front pocket and lit up alongside her comrade.

    “I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do for Tom.” Dez exhaled a breath of smoke. “Now,” she continued, “What's the story with the Wonder Twins over there?” Dez ashed her cigarette, nodding into the direction of Cicero and Cat. The two lounged on a dilapidated mattress, keeping to themselves in such a bustling, unfamiliar place.

    Deacon took another drag from his cigarette and began to feel ill. He carefully pressed out the glowing red orb at the end of his drag, leaving the cigarette to rest in the ashtray for later use. With a cough and a nod, he explained what he knew of Cicero's abilities. He explained what he had seen. Dez listened intently, convinced by the genuine expression on Deacon's face that he was, in fact, telling a feasible truth for once.

    The strange red-headed man was able to get inside the Institute. Furthermore, he was acquainted with Patriot, the name of an inside source by which Dez was all too familiar. Before he went mad, Tinker Tom monitored every code sent from Patriot from within the facility. Patriot was Tom's top priority since he had liberated so many Institute synths, sending the desperate captives into the direction of the Railroad's assistance. Desdemona was relieved to hear that Cicero had seen Patriot not too long ago. She reported to Deacon that it had been some time since Tom received any encrypted messages from the insider. It was as if Patriot's codes had stopped overnight, which coincided with Tom's stability growing shorter and his time spent on the damned computer growing longer. Dez admitted she wasn't aware that Patriot's codes had stopped so suddenly – not until it was too late. Tom hadn't been receiving them for a very long time. Instead, he reported that he'd received other messages, new messages but Dez never had a chance to look at them. Tom ended up wiping everything from his computer's database in the midst of his madness. In the end, the mysterious codes from the unknown source were not a priority. The quartermaster was becoming unhinged. He was disjointed in the mind – no longer an asset to the Railroad. The priority was to get him out of HQ. If only Dez had noticed it all sooner, she reiterated over and over. The Railroad leader felt she could have prevented Tom's attack on a fellow agent.

    Nevertheless, plans now unfolded before Deacon, Dez, Cat, and Cicero. They conspired, organizing a rescue team to infiltrate the Institute. With Cicero's ability to teleport, and his familiarity with the layout of the facility, the jester had become a valuable advantage. Cat insisted on joining the mission, much to Cicero's chagrin. But the jester knew this was, essentially, his Wanderer's objective. Getting the synths out of the Institute was Cat's entire reason for leaving the Shivering Isles. Cicero would not stand in her way.

    “Cover Cicero at all costs,” Deacon sternly advised the team just before heading out. “If he's captured or killed, then none of you – and none of the synths – will be leaving the Institute.”

    Cicero understood the importance of his role. Regardless, if protecting Cat meant sacrificing his own life, then to the Void with these Railroad agents – and to the Void with every single one of those Institute synths.
  19. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 14: All Aboard

    Deacon and Dez debated over who would join the rescue mission. Deacon finally convinced the Railroad leader to step down, citing that the ongoing cause of synth liberation needed her at HQ, overseeing future operations. Then he reiterated the possibility of this being a suicide mission, refusing to take no for an answer from Dez. With some hesitation, she backed off, fully relinquishing the mission to Deacon.

    “You get them in and out safely,” Dez turned and said to Cicero.

    The jester tilted his head, responding with an eye roll.

    Furious, Dez reacted by grabbing his jacket collar. “I'm trusting you with their lives!” she yelled.

    Cicero wrenched his jacket from her grip and furrowed his brow.

    Deacon insinuated that Desdemona needed to cool her heels as he draped an arm over her shoulders, turned her away from Cicero, and gave her a friendly squeeze. Shaking her head, Dez muttered something under her breath about the ginger haired little bastard, then lifted a cigarette to her lips, lit its end, and took a lengthy drag. Bidding his goodbyes, Deacon then rounded up the team and led them to the upper level of the North Church. Cat and Cicero walked beside him, turning dark corners and traveling along stony passages until they emerged from a side entrance positioned stage right of the church's broken and crumbling altar.

    “So,” said Deacon, “do what you did in Diamond City. Take us to the Institute.”

    Cicero held Cat's hand, nodding to his Wanderer that she needed to hold someone else's hand. Deacon walked over and linked his hand with hers. Cicero grimaced, then chirped, “Now take someone else's hand, and so on! All of you must physically link up if you wish to come along for the ride!” The other agents did as instructed. There were at least seven others holding hands, resulting in all ten of them standing in a close circle. All eyes were on the jester.
  20. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

    Jun 29, 2017
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    The Chronicles of Madness - Volume 1.
    Chp. 15: Circuit 1 - Follow The White Rabbit

    Cat opened her eyes after the teleportation ended. She didn't feel quite as nauseated as the first time on those docks of the Boston harbor. Her stomach only churned a little, then settled. Cicero held fast to her hand, pulling his Wanderer near. Deacon had already released his grip, and was now positioning a sniper rifle into his hands. He pointed the weapon forward, readying it in case he spotted a distant, unsuspecting foe. The rescue team of seven Railroad agents stirred wordlessly, each readying their weapon just as Deacon had done. Deacon crept forward across the dark tile stretched out before the group, and everyone followed close behind.

    The Institute was not as bright as Cicero had remembered. Lights overhead flickered, most of which were broken and burnt. The surrounding fountains of running water no longer trickled and swooshed with their steady streams. Their currents must have been shut off and their reservoirs were empty and dry. Cicero spied broken wiring jutting out from warped metal ceiling tiles, emitting sparks that popped and fizzled overhead. As the jester scanned the area, he pulled his ebony dagger from his jacket, gripping it in his hand. His other hand pulled Cat closer with each passing step. The Wanderer, however, had her gun out and ready. She humored the jester by staying close, but deep down she knew that his blade could only do so much unless he was right on top of an assailant.

    Once the group moved closer to the center of the first level of the Institute, it was evident that some kind of ambush took place. Scientists and researchers were scattered about, littering the shiny floor with their broken, un-moving cadavers.

    “They're all dead...” whispered Deacon. As the Railroad agent uttered those words, Cicero swore he heard a noise.

    “Shh,” said the jester, raising a finger to his lips. Cicero cocked his head, angling an ear toward the distant sound. Silence gripped the others and no one moved. Cicero focused on the muffled noise until his ears translated what could only be described as screaming. “It's below us,” he said. The sound of screams was very stifled, very distant. The only plausible explanation for such was that it wasn't on this floor, but many floors down.

    “Are those people screaming?” asked Cat.

    The jester scrunched his face with doubt. The noises sounded primal – animalistic.

    “They sound like ghouls,” whispered one of the seven agents.

    “Why would there be ghouls here?” asked Cat.

    “It's not ghouls,” said Deacon with certainty. “I dunno what that is, but it's not the sound of people and it's not the sound of ghouls.”

    A gunshot fired, startling the group from their focus on the noises below. Everyone scrambled, darting behind the nearest object which could be used as a barricade. Cat yanked Cicero behind a flipped bench with burns all across its seat and back. She popped her head up and rounded off a few shots, unable to properly hit her target. Cicero leaned around the bench and spied their attacker. It was one of those Coursers – one of those synth-hunting bastards. There was just one Courser, but he was tenacious, firing at the group with unforgiving determination. Sure enough, one of the seven agents fell dead, then another, and another. Four agents left, and they hadn't been there for more than twenty minutes. The Courser was dressed in a white synth uniform, his chest protected by a heavy overlay of ballistic weave. His hair was platinum blond, almost white in of itself, and he wore thick, dark, red goggles to protect his vision from the flash of his laser rifle. Deacon fired a quick and quiet shot, sniping the nose of the Courser's rifle which knocked the gun from his hands. Knowing the next shot could be between his eyes, the Courser turned and fled down an adjacent corridor. The group watched as his white uniform faded into the black hallway, as if he was swallowed up by the darkness, itself.

    “After him,” said Deacon, emerging from his hiding spot.

    The group followed the Courser's trail down the hallway, which led to a door at the farthest end. It was an elevator door. Cat looked at Cicero with concern and said, “The synths are probably somewhere on a lower level.”

    Cicero's ears picked up another distant swell of that god awful sound from down below. “I don't doubt it,” he nodded. Then the jester motioned for Cat and the others to board the elevator. As they complied, Cicero tucked himself inside, maintaining an ever-watchful eye on his Wanderer. As she pressed the button to descend by one level, the jester chuckled and said, “And away we go...”

    [​IMG]music: White Rabbit - Emiliana Torrini (Jefferson Airplane cover)
: 18+

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