Chapter 1: Keeper
Servitude has always been a part of the jester’s life.
From a tender age, from when there was barely scruff on Cicero’s chin for razors to trim, he would sharpen his blade and step in the shadows to draw the blood of the unworthy, perfecting his art with every strike. From a tender age, every breath Cicero took was for the Family he held dear. From a tender age, Cicero killed in the name of the Dread Father and the Night Mother.
Almost a decade ago, he was appointed as Keeper of the Unholy Matron. For eight desolate years, Cicero tended to her alone after everyone has gone, his soul dying a little each day the silence passed. Cicero was desperate to hear his Mother’s voice, desperate for a Listener. Solitude drove him insane, the silence maddening, making him take up the mantle of the jester, who was his final contract before his duties as Keeper began. The Fool of Hearts was born from the ashes of Cicero, the man.
Understandably, when the Mother had chosen her Listener, Cicero was ecstatic. He was close to drawing his dagger and slitting the throat of the slight Breton hiding within the Unholy Matron’s tomb, but when she said the words he had despondently waited for, frenzied merriment replaced his rage. The jester took the quiet girl in his arms and danced, oblivious to the bewildered curiosity pouring out of her ebony eyes.
And though the pretender Astrid was dead, and his Mother and new mistress near, humble Cicero still lives to serve. The humble servant must always perform his duties; Cicero will forgo food, drink and sleep. The Night Mother’s well-being is above Cicero’s body’s needs. He must tend to the Night Mother’s body; make sure she’s anointed with the preserving oils, the candles around the tomb lit, the flowers he offers must be pretty and fresh, rodents and pests exterminated, ancient incantations recited-
Oh, but he must tend to the lovely Listener’s needs too! Cicero must accompany her when she asks, he must make sure that she’s satiated, that she’s clean, that she’s warm and that she’s comfortable despite her insisting that she can take care of herself. Cicero must dote on the Mother’s chosen or who knows what might harm her…
When shadows loom over poor Cicero, shouting how big of a fool he is and threatening to take away his Mother and his Listener, he must take his knife and drive them away. Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, stab them to keep them from taking away Cicero’s Mother and Listener! Cicero will not be alone again!
And he succeeds! Words cannot express how delighted he is when the Listener would run over and put her arms around sweet Cicero, speaking in comforting tones as the Redguard and the unchild would come to poor Cicero’s aid as well…
Foolish Cicero did not deserve the Listener’s kindness. Her sweetness’ gentle touch is too much of a gift for foolish Cicero! Gently, she lays his body in her chambers, pressing her warm lips on Cicero’s cold forehead. Her humming was his lullaby, momentarily disconnecting his fragile psyche from the madness that consumed him long ago as his heavy eyelids finally closes. The jester finally drifts into unconsciousness, knowing that he performed his duties well.
The Black Hand had chosen well.
A sacred position in the Dark Brotherhood, the Keeper must tend to the Night Mother’s body, and protect it with his life. Many of her children died protecting her, and others moving on from the Family, but one servant remained. He is the Keeper. Cicero.
Dearest Cicero. A loyal servant, with nothing but humility and dedication to offer. Though he has proven his undying loyalty and love, listening to the voice he wanted to hear was simply not meant to be, for he is not the Listener. Time and again, he had demonstrated his dedication when he took it upon himself to search for the Listener, determined to save what’s left of the Brotherhood. Cicero traversed countless miles, until he set foot in Skyrim with his sweet Mother. Succeed, he did, as he found the Listener in Falkreath.
But how shall the Keeper continue his sacred duty, when his frail, mortal body is deteriorating from neglect? His needs set aside and unfulfilled, manifesting on his appearance in the form of pallid skin, sunken and bloodshot eyes, and a chapped, bleeding mouth. Although he is Keeper, he neglects to keep himself.
There is a disturbance in the Void; there must be an intervention. It is the will of the Dread Father.
The primary duties of the Listener is to carry the will of the Night Mother, and her obedience must be guaranteed. But the Listener need not be told. For a child of Sithis, the Dark Sister’s touch can be so loving, reserved for a few souls. It seems that she agreed to bestow this gentle touch upon the Keeper, healing his near-death and broken body with warm, restorative magic. The Listener brought it upon herself to care for poor Cicero until he is fit to serve again. During a moment of introspection, she realized with horror that for so many years, there was not one soul like her, who watches over the Keeper when he had forsaken his needs for his Mother.
It was Nazir who prepared a tubful of warm, calming water when the Listener administered her much-needed aid, washing the dirt that accumulated over the weeks that the Keeper had not tended himself. Babette made the elixirs that will make him well again, and poultices that soothed his bruises that resulted from his malnourishment. The Initiates took all the contracts they can fulfill as humanly possible so the Listener can continue to nurse the Night Mother’s Keeper. Partially due to the Listener’s reasoning that the Keeper cannot fulfill his duties if he is too weak to act, and partially due to her reassurance that the Night Mother would not will to see her Keeper in a miserable state, Cicero accepts the aid, thinking that it is too kind of the Listener to even fret or brood because of him.
Agony and concern plagued the Listener for days, but she wouldn’t let Cicero hear of it. Atypical of her, she began expressing her worries, fears and doubts to the rest of the Family. The unchild puts her mind to rest, giving her the assurance that the Family will always listen to her concerns, and keep each other safe, including Cicero, despite previous misunderstandings and their Redguard Brother’s annoyance with jesters. Warm smiles and laughter graced the Sanctuary again, courtesy of the Listener. Suddenly, everything didn’t seem so bleak. Assassins are what they are, agents of Sithis who kill in his and the Night Mother’s name, but there exists a bond between each member. They are Family.
The Dread Father and the Night Mother are pleased to see their Family alleviate each other’s suffering. Though the Family’s succor is bringing Sithis' bride’s Keeper closer to recovery by the hour, there is a hole; a void needing to be filled, a need far deeper than physical nourishment. A primal desire for companionship, for shared touch, reawakened when he crossed paths with the Listener. It gnawed at Cicero for eight desolate years, and ate him alive when the Listener arrived. It’s about time for that itch to be soothed. The enigmatic maiden’s low, silvery voice, and her dark, abyssal eyes that gave a glimpse of her soul’s depth roused a kind of passion that the Keeper thought was lost to him. Coincidentally, the Listener craves for this as well.
Moving from place to place to avoid the horrors of the Great War forced the would-be Listener to abandon her previous set of morals, and do what she must for her survival. From being a black-haired, warm and joyful child born in a family of artisans in Wayrest, who specialized in painting masterpieces and crafting fine jewelry, she became a black-hearted, cold and ruthless mistress who practiced darker kinds of artistry. She transitioned from creating jewelry for the nobility to taking it from the strongboxes of wealthy citizens. Before the war heightened, she painted using brushes and colorful pigments, but as the war escalated, she started painting with daggers and the blood of the wicked.
Thievery and assassinations without a guild or a family to ensure her safety hardened the Breton’s heart and kept her paranoid. Unparalleled stealth made her elusive to the law, until her uncanny luck ran out and Imperial soldiers caught her near Skyrim’s borders, along with the Jarl of Windhelm, murderer of the High King Torygg. Years of forgoing attachments in order to keep moving grasped at her heart and engulfed it in a shadow. Beneath the protective shroud she created, the Listener craved for a kindred spirit. Mad as he may be, she found it in the Night Mother’s Keeper. While also craving for the physical aspects of his companionship, there is reluctance of fulfilling it to eliminate the chance of ruining their special bond.
Though loneliness and sorrow haunts the two similar, yet very different souls, they never ceased to perform their duties well.
Perhaps there is a need to reward them by allowing them to quell their loneliness.
All authority should be questioned.
From the monarchs who sit atop of the hierarchical, agrarian nature of Breton society, to the generals and jarls who lock horns over the fate of Skyrim, and even to supernatural beings like Daedric princes, who view mortals as their pawns and conduits of their will; there needs to be a philosophical and intellectual discourse regarding authority and power, most especially their motivations behind the laws and commands they give to their vassals.
Question authority and its motivations, yes, but it is still authority in the end, and disobedience garners punishment, fair or otherwise. Inquisitive and critical as one person may be, when a power such as the Night Mother speaks, a Listener listens. It is an unspoken and sacred rule; doing otherwise will invoke the Wrath of Sithis. Retribution and punishment by the Dread Lord is almost guaranteed, if not in this life, but in the Void.
Strangely, there was nothing to listen to, for the Unholy Matron is uncharacteristically quiet. Usually, simply approaching her will lead to whispers of another plea from a vengeful soul who prayed to her, but there was nothing. A Listener might and should start to fret, especially if the silence lasted for a few days.
The Night Mother can indeed see into an aspect of her Listener’s mind, but this usually isn’t known to them until she spoke of the things only her Listener should know. She had kept this hidden for her own reasons, although for this moment, she broke the silence. All should be well again after the Mother started to whisper again, but there was something unfamiliar with her words. The Unholy Matron did not speak of whom to speak to for finding the next soul to be sent to Sithis, no. She spoke of a covenant, a promise, and a reward.
She spoke of two of her subjects’ hidden needs, and saw it fit for the one to fulfill the other’s desires. The Matron can give the option to her children to rid of each other’s loneliness to ensure they can go back to their duties at their prime, but she never saw the opportunity to invoke this covenant, until now. While still completely optional, she deemed that this offer is something two of her favorite children couldn’t refuse.
And so she spoke of an exclusive passphrase, another set of binding words exclusive to the Listener, to be told to the Night Mother’s Keeper; words that will forever change the link between the Listener and Keeper.
There was confusion and reluctance, but as Cicero grew closer in his current state, it slowly dissolved. There were already glimpses and feather-light touches exchanged throughout the time he spent as a companion. In the span of days since the Unholy Matron spoke of the secret covenant, glimpses turned into lingering gazes and the light touches grew heavier. The need for more touch grew stronger, and soon enough, the Mother’s offer of exaltation felt very compelling.
Lithe fingers holding the Keeper’s hand took him inside dim bedchambers, and voices are hushed. In his eyes, genuine curiosity sparked.
Then the words are spoken: There need not be solitude in the dark.
There was a different kind of madness clouding Cicero’s eyes.
Save for the one near the bedside, most of the candles in the room are snuffed out, but the Listener can still see it clearly. Her breath hitched in her throat as she repeated herself when she was met with disbelief, knowing full well the implications of her words. She had no reason to refuse the Unholy Matron, and despite her previous reluctance, in the deepest recesses of her mind, this was her desire as well. Knowing that the Unholy Matron approves of, and even encourages this act between the holders of two sacrosanct positions in the Dark Brotherhood beneath her leadership strengthened her resolve to surrender to her dearest Cicero.
Low, devious, maniacal laughter rumbled in the Keeper’s chest, and escaped his lips. The Listener leans in, hoping to capture his lips with her own. Cicero happily obliges, and smiles at the warmth of her mouth against his. With his strength regained, the Keeper shifted his weight to trap her smaller, graceful form beneath him. Wet mouths slid against each other, and hungry tongues are eager to taste the other. In between the feverish kisses and unchaste groans, articles of clothing flew to the floor, save for the jester’s hat and his lady’s unmasked cowl. Purplish bruises peppered the Listener’s neck, and the Keeper’s manic giggling continued to echo in the room. The same calloused hands that killed countless men and women are now caressing and squeezing his mistress’ skin.
How a dark, sinister, and mad assassin can administer such tender ministrations elude her. Perhaps he developed a knack for it after years of being the Night Mother’s Keeper? Oh, but it was getting difficult for the Listener to think, especially when her dearest Cicero is giving his lips’ full attention to her bosom, trailing kisses down her body until he reached her snatch. She clung to the bed furs as his fingers dug into the flesh of her hips.
The Listener is supposed to be the one attending to the Keeper’s every desire, and yet she writhes there pathetically, muscles tense as a tripwire as he sucked the hardened nub resting between her folds, and oh, when she snapped, her cries echoed in the sanctuary. Her essence bedewed his face, and womanhood glistening in the soft light the lone candle provided. It then dawned on her that nothing pleases Cicero more than serving his masters, and if this fulfills his need to serve, then she has no complaints. Cicero’s following touches, however, reminds the Listener that despite being subservient, the Keeper is far from submissive, at least, in his bedroom behavior.
Nazir has suggested bringing the door to the master bedroom down, thinking he’s witnessing (or more precisely, hearing) the Listener’s end at the hands of the creepy clown, but Babette reassured him that they are indeed brushing with death, but a different kind; it is what she and the Listener would refer to as la petite mort in the Breton language. When asked to clarify what she meant by this, the unchild merely looked at Nazir with a fiendish expression, and the realization hit him like a burning arrow flying at full speed. He then attempted to excuse himself, as did the other initiates present, with all the blood in their faces gone. It was out of the question to Babette, however, as their appalled reactions are quite entertaining to her.
Not paying heed to the possibility of the other residents of the sanctuary hearing them, Cicero continues his ministrations, devilishly teasing the Listener’s entrance with his erect member. The Keeper laughs heartily at her lust-clouded expression, commenting that how she can go from being a menacing mistress of shadows and death to a submissive, surrendering nymph is pure madness. Slowly, all the while still manically giggling, he eases his manhood into her inch by inch, until it disappears and he is nestled against her, all the while squeezing the Listener’s hips so firm that his fingernails drew blood. If Cicero only knew how much the Listener desired to relinquish control once in a while, weary from being burdened with the responsibility to lead not just the Dark Brotherhood; if Cicero only knew how sweet this surrender was…
But the Listener need not to speak, as her body’s stimulated reaction to the Keeper’s languid, shallow thrusts and iron grip speaks for her. The Keeper groaned helplessly at her hot, death-like grip on him, not taking his eyes off the Listener’s enraptured face as he started to pump inside her more swiftly. Feminine whimpers, sighs and cries echoed throughout the Sanctuary, underscored by Cicero’s devious chuckles and occasional licentious groans. Their moans only grew louder as minutes passed.
Cries continued to echo against the stone walls of the sanctuary. So close to release, Cicero almost shed a tear as he scooped his lovely Listener in his arms and lifted her hips up, making her wrap her legs around his waist, her hands clawed against his back, leaving fine, red marks across his skin. Lithe fingers then drag themselves across the jester’s scalp, then gripping on his long, copper hair as the end neared.
Cicero, Cicero! Sweet Cicero! The Listener chants his name like a prayer, like a plea desperate to be heard as she exploded, her inner walls convulsing and squeezing the Keeper’s pulsing manhood, urging it to release as she did. Soon after, Cicero follows suit, groaning and shaking as he spilled his seed inside of the Listener, making her shiver deliriously at his warmth.
The Keeper and Listener lay motionless next to each other, basking in the afterglow of their act, exhaustion making way for slumber. Had it not for the shallow rise and fall of their chests, the two could be mistaken as lovers who passed in each other’s arms, and perhaps they did depart from this world briefly.
This is the Night Mother’s ultimate blessing for her Keeper and Listener; a soothing, intimate death.