WARNING: This short story is a non-canon spin-off of the Mass Effect Self-Insertion story "Mass Effect: Raven", written by me. Those of you that haven't read that story to the latter chapters of Mass Effect 1 might not understand what it's all about, nor like it at all. If you're planning on reading it - read it first. POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING!
For those of you that 'have' read ME:Raven - please enjoy this unfinished byproduct of a messed-up mind!
DISCLAIMER: I own neither the rights to Mass Effect, nor to The Elder Scrolls. If I did, rest assured, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Fallout 76 would never have happened. At least, not like that.
"Water shapes its course according to the nature over which it flows.
The soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe he is facing.
Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape -
In warfare, there are no constant conditions." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Wildcard: Raven's Flight
He was dead even before his body hit the ground, three arrows piercing his flesh. A worthy end of a life most unworthy. Lokir of Rorikstead, beggar, thief, coward - would answer for his crimes. In front of higher authorities.
"Anyone else feel like running?", the captain asked aloud, her voice full of mockery as the archers lowered their bows again to put another arrow on the strings. She didn't spare the corpse on the road a single glance after.
A shame, Hadvar thought. But a criminal is a criminal - and my orders are clear. He gazed at his captain and, not for the first time, inwardly cursed her bloodthirst. He'd seen a lot during his time with the Emperor's army… but this Imperial captain, he was certain, combined the worst traits of the Imperials in herself.
That being said, given the situation, her demeanor was understandable. The traitors, Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Windhelm and his men, had not surrendered easily. Some good soldiers had lost their lives that day, as well prepared as the ambush had been. Yet more blood shed - for nothing.
It's about time Ulfric pays, Ralof thought to himself as he scratched Lokir's name off the list. Letting his gaze wander along the lines of bound men and women, it came to rest on Ralof.
As expected, his former friend returned it equally cold. They had nothing more to say to each other, and both men knew it all too well.
Good thing that Ulfirc's gagged, too. Not only did his words kill our king… they have been turning brother against brother as well.
Looking up to the next prisoner, he stopped. Something was off. His list didn't say anything about...
"Wait. You there. Step forward. Who are you?"
My optics are protected against lens flare, I thought, they will not give away my position. Plus, it's cloudy. I've covered myself in enough dirt and grass to blend in. My rifle sticks out, granted - but a small spot of white won't catch his attention at this distance if it stays still. Plus, I'm close to grey-ish rocks and in the shadow of a tree. It's cold enough here that my breath would be a concern - but I'm wearing my hood, so, a non-issue.
Unless I start shooting or run around, that archer won't see me, I concluded. He's occupied otherwise anyway.
Completing my mental checklist - which was based on the Alliance' Basic Guideline for Visual Concealment, Edition 3 (revised) - I switched my scope's magnification from 4x all the way up to 16x. Even now, I felt slightly disoriented at the way the smallest of movement made the scope dance around wildly. Bracing the rifle against the stone below, it got much better.
There was a reason why I used that magnification seldomly and normally had it deactivated, to prevent myself from accidentally switching to it in the heat of again, this was not a normal battle. This wasn't a battle at all. I was merely observing.
I was observing the village of Helgen, the execution of Stormcloak rebels - and The Elder Scrolls V's prologue.
And I was protecting myself from unwanted gazes - especially from the few Imperial archers atop the towers, keeping a close eye on the surroundings and any Stormcloak attempt to free their leader.
Granted - given my technical & technological superiority, I could have easily gotten rid of all of them. Perhaps they wouldn't even see me as a threat if I approached the gates casually. But I couldn't risk the latter, and the former would have been borderline stupid.
Even without the need to bring gunpowder to explosion to accelerate a bullet, unmodified Mass Effect weapons are loud. Not only for their electrical whining - but also for the sonic crack of the projectile. A single round fired, and I would alert everyone and everything within ten kilometers or more. The 'muzzle flash' of discharging electricity and heat would help them to further pinpoint my location.
And even if my position would allow me to keep any swordsman at a distance, and my shields and armor would protect me against any arrow coming my way - what would have been the point?
I needed information above everything else. And I needed to see if this execution would work out as it should.
With Alduin burning down the village - and the Dragonborn emerging.
"Brace for impact!" Shepard had shouted over the intercom.
I had felt a pull in my stomach typical to the one you feel when being shot across the galaxy by a Mass Effect relay.
And yet - something, I had realized, had been off.
Normal relays don't scatter your mind when you travel them.
Darkness clouded me before I could finish that thought. The next thing I saw was a blurred vision of a cloudy sky. For a moment, I had a feeling of Deja-Vu. But then, my gaze stabilized, and I realized that this was not the Citadel. I rose my arm into my field of view - and as I saw my armored glove, the memories returned.
According to my suit's log, I had been unconscious for no less than five hours. All the other readings had been - unreadable. Off the charts, corrupted, or my suit's VI simply didn't know what to do with them.
Still dazed, I tried to right myself up. I aimlessly looked around, trying to figure out where the hell I was -
My entire body suddenly started to shiver. Eyes wide open, I drank in the surroundings.
I was on a cliff. A broad river rippled below me, flowing out into a lake. A lush, green forest all around. In the distance, between two massive mountains, something vaguely reminding me of a ribcage -
No, I numbly thought. Oh hell no. Or the German equivalent.
A quick gaze to my right.
On a round platform, in front of a cobblestone road turning to the right - three menhirs.
What I would have expected myself to do: Going into shock, unable to formulate either words or thoughts.
What actually happened: I burst into laughter. Hysterical laughter, granted, but still.
For fucks sake, I thought as the laughter echoed into the wild.
Bleak Falls Barrow loomed from above.
I had to reboot the armor's VI with its self-repair protocols in order for it to function properly when I had gathered myself, so I cannot tell you how long it had taken me to get it all out of my system.
Well, I say: 'To get it all out', but that would be a lie. I still felt rather… light in heart and mind. Drunk, almost. Unreasonable euphoria, which is often a side effect of hysteria.
I think that's about the most reasonable reaction to the realization that you've been sent into a game universe - from another game universe, mind you.
Still grinning like a fool, I finally stood up - and groaned.
Ah, right. Ilos. Injuries. Thanks, stomach and legs, but I remember now. No need to remind me.
I had to chuckle again.
What the fuck happened? Shepard, in a rare moment of brilliance, decides that I'm so useless in Mass Effect that she's dumping me into another game to get rid of me?
Limping slightly, I approached the three menhirs. I took a short glance at each of them - and sighed. Of course. What else.
Warrior-, Mage- and Thief Stone. If Bleak Falls Barrow hadn't been enough of an indication, those three and the cobblestone road they stood at gave me all the orientation I needed. I was roughly north of Helgen, south of Whiterun, west of…
Ah, yeah. Riverwood. Of course. How long has it been since I've been there… in-game, I mean?
I had to giggle again. Feeling my legs close to giving out, I sat back down and leaned against the Warrior stone. That Thief Stone looked at me too funny.
"Shut up", I murmured. "Give me a break, you scoundrel."
I felt the tiredness approaching, but was unable to stop it. Perhaps a bit unwilling, too. I fell asleep.
I woke up with a sting in my arm and an intense flash in my veins. My armor - or rather, the VI's medical protocols - had injected stimulants. It also informed me that I had been out for fifteen minutes and decided to - 'in accordance with the mission protocols' - wake me up by injecting the equivalent to a triple-shot espresso and a bucket of ice water in my face.
Accompanied by the annoying loud sounds that I myself - to my regret - had programmed to keep me conscious in the worst case scenario, I shook myself like a wet dog and sat up.
This time, my mind was sharper. The hysteria wasn't entirely gone, but suppressed. I could focus again.
Okay. I pulled my legs to my stomach. You're in Skyrim -
I needed air. I tore my Recon Hood from my face and inhaled deeply. It was warmer than expected. Despite the clouds, the air smelled fresh and… I don't know. Like Spring? With a hint of swamp, like where I was from, no doubt thanks to the river. A stark contrast to the stale air aboard the NORMANDY - or in my sealed suit. It was… invigorating. I closed my eyes for a second, focused, then felt much better.
You're in Skyrim. You know where exactly. Last you know, you were in the Mako, preparing to make the jump back to the Citadel to stop Saren. Somehow, the Conduit fucked up. It must be the Conduit. You cannot be dreaming or just be 'mentally' transported - else you would not have your gear.
Where is the Mako? Where is your team?
If they had been with me, either: a.) I would still be inside the Mako at my position or b.), they would have found me already. Or radio'd me. Or something along those lines. Or I would hear the Mako somewhere. In this atmosphere, with little loud, industrial ambient noise, I'd hear it.
I activated my omnitool, marveled for a moment how the orange glow reflected off the cobblestone, then searched all frequencies.
"Shepard, this is Raven! Do you copy?"
"All Council units that can hear this - please respond!"
I tried every small trick I knew from my training for another fifteen minutes. Nothing. It was quite disheartening.
I was ready to give up. Then, as a last resort, I played around with the amplifiers.
And felt a surge wash through me when I found irregularities. On 7-3-3-Sigma. Our squad frequency. Very weak. Only pulsing radio waves without meaning - or without a possibility to identify them, and gone after 30 seconds.
But from my team. No doubt.
Our radios are strong enough to reach half a planet, even without any signal boosters. My mind raced to make sense of it. And it's only one signal. Which means that the others sticked together, or -
Of course! The Makos built-in radio was stronger than any one individual armor radio. Not strong enough to break a Geth jammer, especially since it operated on a short range, low energy 'squad' and a long-range, high-energy 'interstellar' basis. A complex piece of machinery that, frankly, I didn't understand.
But we had Tali. If anyone could rearrange the machinery with limited resources to amplify our 'short-range' signal by giving it the energy of the long-range radio, then it was her. Perhaps I was wrong, likely any such 'fix' would be far more complicated. Frankly, I didn't care for the details - only that it worked.
If the others are in a similar position to me, then whoever's at the Mako - especially if it's Shepard - will try to send this signal at short intervals and undirected, to give us a 'beacon', to collect the rest of the team. I stared at the sky. But I don't know what it says. Does Shepard know we're being jammed and can't reply, if she's right next to the Mako? What is even jamming us? This is Skyrim. Nobody should have the technology… and if it's some Dwemer bullshit again, I'm gonna blow it all up, I thought with gallows humor. If you can't explain it, it's Dwemer. Or Daedra.
I shook myself. The fact that Gods and Demons were real beyond doubt in this world was something I hadn't thought of. One thing after the other, though. I had two ideas.
"VI, display the direction this signal was coming from on my HUD." I usually didn't speak to my armor's VI - a battlefield was usually too loud and noisy already with the squadmates shouting at each other. This was different. And I needed something to speak to - or at - to keep my thoughts grounded.
Sadly, what I had hoped to be a thin arrow turned out to be a rather broad stripe. As in: half the bloody ring, 170-180 degrees. Due to the signal being that weak and being thrown into disarray in the forest and mountains, it was impossible to get a closer estimate. At the very least, I knew that it had to be somewhere in the center to east of Skyrim. That was Markath and Solitude ruled out, if my mental map of Skyrim was correct.
They could also be on Solstheim, I thought, frustrated. Or on Vvardenfell. Or in fucking Akavir. I need more information!
And my stomach started to grumble, too. My field rations - MREs - wouldn't last forever. I needed some place with food and some higher ground to - hopefully - get a better signal. No matter how sore my body was - I needed to move. At least my wounds weren't critical. Only deeply unpleasant.
"VI, keep attention to the squad frequency and track my movement. If this signal comes up again, try to triangulate a distance and a direction immediately," I ordered it and received confirmation.
I sighed. I remembered that there was a small bandit camp somewhere west of Helgen. I didn't want to walk into Riverwood like that, in full armor that the inhabitants had likely never seen, unknown weapons, not knowing if we even spoke the same language.
Plus, Helgen was higher up the mountain, too. I had to look at it. If it was still standing, then this story was just getting started. Of course, it was still possible for me to arrive at another time. Up to, and including The Elder Scrolls Online... but given that the area looked almost exactly like I remembered it from playing 'Skyrim' for an unhealthy amount of time and the Universe - or Multiverse - seemingly tended to throw me into games I enjoyed the most, given the one example I had already experienced… then it wasn't even a question.
Those kinds of thought processes, mind games and mental exercises were for a different time, though, as my stomach was quick to remind me. I checked my gear and felt incredibly satisfied when the Mattock was all-green. I pulled a nutrition bar from my chest rig and pulled over my Recon Hood again.
With one last look to Bleak Falls Barrow, I turned and went into the forest to avoid being spotted on the road. Bracing myself for what would be an uncomfortable march at least, I used the mountain to give myself orientation - and went in motion.
The blade tore deep into the flesh and bones with a sickening sound - then detonated into fragments of carbon, ripping apart the organs within.
My opponent gurgled, stared in my face - and, rolling his eyes upwards and letting his axe slip from strengthless fingers, collapsed on the ground, taking my mask into the grave as the last image he would ever see.
I went on a knee and, clutching my left arm, cursed my own stupidity in the progress. The iron axe had scraped off the hardened ceramic compposite surface without cracking it - but the blunt force had still been strong enough to make me regret not seeing it coming.
I would definitely feel the bruise once the adrenaline wore off. On top of tearing open a few wounds from Virmire and adding to the injuries of Ilos.
At least, I thought with a grimace, I know I'm a match.
Fighting without my squad was strange and brought unpleasant memories from my last stand on Virmire to the surface. Subconsciously, I had relied on Garrus to keep me safe from attacks from my left - and paid for it.
It had been an hour since I left the place of my awakening. It was a bit of a climb, especially through the forest - hailing from the German lowlands and being used to operating on flat surfaces across the Milky Way, it was quite a bit of an exercise. Especially already injured - no matter the modifications to my body or the armor's exoskeleton. So, my prediction was right - and I hated it. At least, I had weak painkillers to suppress the worst of it.
Knowing my luck and remembering just how quickly the forests of Skyrim could turn from 'peaceful scenery' to 'dangerous environment', I kept my Mattock on my back and the Judgement-VIII at the ready. With the thickness of the underwood, I knew I would not see any threat coming unless it was within maybe fifteen meters - and with nearly every potential threat attacking by sword, fangs or claws, I needed rate of fire and ease of movement more than raw firepower.
Marching through the wild forest, unmolested by 'civilisation', feeling my boots sink into the soft ground and hearing myriads of sounds from the wildlife drove my paranoia and alertness into overdrive. Having to force my way through thick bushes only added to that, though not feeling any stings or scratches helped. A few wolves appeared in the distance - but probably realized that I was the hunter, and they would be the prey, thus keeping their distance, merely following me with their eyes. The birds, too, sounded more and more mocking to me.
"Shut your beaks." I panted slightly. I could still move, but it was getting increasingly taxing. "I've got other problems right now."
At least my memory was correct. Vaguely. My sensors warned me of 'human lifeforms' before I could even see them. I moved slowly from tree to three and bush to bush, trying to make as little sound as possible. I grew up in a village surrounded by heath, forests and fields - moving in relative wilderness was at least something I knew how to do without injury or risk, always being on the lookout for roots and the like. I still felt out of my element. It had been, what, almost a decade since I was looking for bloody mushrooms with my grandparents?
By the looks of things though, I had not alerted the people ahead of my presence just yet. Which, given how incompetent I felt, was remarkable. My sensors and I counted three. Those I could see sat around a campfire, seemingly in discussion, one of them munching on a piece of bread. I didn't fail to notice their clothing - probably leather, or studded armor - and their axes and a sword. One of them carried a bow. One man, two women, all of them Nord, as far as I could identify it. Four one-man-tents, made from animal skin, naturally.
I had to think only for a moment. I didn't trust myself to move any closer without being seen, and this was remote enough that any loud noise here wouldn't draw any attention from Helgen - probably. Well, I had to meet people at some time. No time like the present, yadda yadda.
I attached my pistol to my hip, but didn't bother with deactivating it, and left my cover, (fire)arms in a non-threatening position. There was still a chance this were simply hunters, and murder wasn't on my bucket list. I still kept my mask on.
The man with the bread saw me first - and by the looks of it, wasn't quite as smart as the wolves earlier.
"Look at that, lasses!" - he yelled - "looks like we're in luck, after all!" He grinned broadly and jumped off the stone he'd been sitting on. Even at that distance, I could see how bad his teeth were. Mentally shrugging and accepting what was about to happen, I drew my pistol and approached - stopping on the road I had been following, roughly twenty meters out. Nineteen shots before overheat. Enough.
"Never heard that it's dangerous to be on the road, all alone?" He grinned as the two women by his side turned around and took a measure of me. Both of them grinned, too. To their eyes, I was probably some harmless, unarmed wanderer in rare, therefore valuable armor. The woman with the bow put one arrow on the string and aimed at me. The other one accompanied the man, sword in hand and a wooden shield in the other.
"Now, be a dear and give us all you have. Or, do we have to get angry?"
He bared his teeth, eyes torn wide open, like some rabid dog. Probably to intimidate me.
It failed to work.
I didn't give him the courtesy of an answer, instead bringing the pistol's sights to my eyes in a long-trained and -tested fashion -
- and put him down, like a rabid dog. Not taking chances, I fired five times, missing once, then hitting his collarbone, the region around his heart and his jaw. Even before his strength left him, I turned slightly and took aim at the one now charging at me with a raised shield and sword.
To my shock, I actually needed six hits out of eight rounds. The first two rounds punched through the wood of her shield to no effect, another two seemed to have no effect either - I saw bloody splashing from the entry wounds, but they were so small, didn't seem to bother her much, and with a wild scream she lunged at me.
I didn't panic - I had been charged by Geth and those thorian creeper things on Feros before - but turned my left shoulder to her, expecting to block or deflect the incoming strike with my pauldron, and rapid-fired from the hip.
By sheer luck, I hit her almost point blank - in the brow. Twice. That did it. Carried on by her momentum, her corpse crashed down behind me, the metal of shield and sword clanging as they hit the cobblestone..
Suddenly, my shield lit up - I noticed the arrow bouncing off and clatter to the ground. In one motion, I took aim and fired five times. My weapon overheated. That's three, I thought, where's -
I heard number four more than I saw him coming. Jumping to the right and turning my body, I dodged the swing aimed at my neck. It impacted on my arm. Fire spread throughout my nerves, I winced, but stayed coherent enough to employ Shepard's melee training.
Pushing my assailant, who must've come out of the woods to help his comrades, back with my left, I gave him a hefty smack in the face with my pistol in my right hand. His own momentum didn't allow him to dodge. He yelled and tumbled back, the heat of the gun's barrel only adding to the pain.
That gave me the opening I needed - activating the omniblade on my left arm, I only needed one lunge and one thrust.
Overpenetration, I figured as I looked at the three corpses around me. Of course. I should've known.
Mass Effect weapons fire small grains of metal, as I've elaborated on before. These grains are rather small in the case of most pistols. Being hit by them, even at the speeds they travel, is not as dangerous as one might think - unless you give them a surface to penetrate and cause shrapnel to fly, or you hit a vital organ.
Since those bandits had only worn leather and skin, unless I hit them critically, the rounds had entered and exited their bodies without stopping them dead immediately. The story would've been different if I had loaded an ammo block made from softer metal - anti-personnel rounds - or my mattock with its higher calibre. But as it stood, I had fired a pistol loaded with armor-piercing rounds, even. Not that smart.
I found my confirmation in the fact that the one who'd insulted me earlier still gurgled through his broken and blood-smeared jaw. Eyes wide open in fear, he looked at me from the ground as I stepped closer.
Feeling rather dark, I removed my Recon Hood and met dark blue eyes with my own, steel-blue ones. I raised my pistol again and aimed at his face. He was beyond saving anyway - but maybe I could at least spare him the agony. Though I have to admit that I didn't feel merciful.
"May Shor have mercy on you." I said, remembering Nord folklore and religion. I fired twice at his brow. Then went to look for the archer.
I was astonished to find out that that one was still alive, too. The quickly aimed shots had only punched through a leg and, apparently, her shoulder. Two hits, three misses. I was in worse shape than I thought.
Curled on the grass and mud nex to the road, her gaze was even more fearful than her leader's. No doubt she'd witnessed everything.
"Mercy…" She whimpered.
I couldn't find it within me to execute her in cold blood. But I had to be cautious.
"Throw your weapons away." I ordered, aiming at her face. She merely looked at me, still eyes wide open and likely afraid of this unknown weapon that had just killed all of her bandit friends.
I sighed. "Listen, kinswoman." With my complexion, hair colour and slight stubbles of a beard, I could most easily pass for a Nord. "I have no intention of killing you. If your friends hadn't attacked me, I wouldn't have killed them. Where I'm from, I'm a healer. I can heal you. But you need to get rid of your weapons first. If you try to attack me, stab me in the back… Then, rest assured… I will make your death as painful as I can make it. Understood?"
She nodded frantically and pointed to her axe and her bow, additionally removing what looked like a hunting knife from her back and tossing it aside too, not without obvious signs of pain. I looked her over. From close up and if one ignored the dirt that came from living in the wild, it was obvious she couldn't be older than me.
I collected all of her weapons on a pile, deactivated my pistol and put it on my hip to avoid any further accidents. "I will heal you now." I said, always staying on alert. I could see the fear in her eyes, but that in itself was no guarantee for safety. "It will feel strange, but that's normal. You're not getting a health potion until I can be sure that you're not doing anything stupid."
I gently removed her shivering and blood-stained hand from her shoulder and began to work. I missed Dr. Chakwas giving me pointers and directions - but these were simple bullet wounds, none of them really life-threatening. I could do this on my own.
Admittedly, I was a bit stingy with the medigel - but until I could replace it, I had to save as much as I could. Plus, in this world, health potions existed.
Speaking of which…
"Do you even have health potions in your camp?" I asked her as all wounds closed. "This would make my work much easier."
She pointed at a tree stump. I walked over.
"These ones?" I held up two bottles. The content was a red liquid. Of course they were red.
Now, the nod was more… energetic.
I came back and handed her one. I drank the other. Not without taking a cautious sniff and a small sip. Immediately, I noticed how the bruise on my arm stopped pulsating - and my legs regained some strength, too. Satisfied, I emptied the whole bottle - and the ever-present pain that had carried over from Virmire and the still painful wounds from Ilos vanished. I quickly checked my status on my omnitool - my armor reported that I had no noticeable injuries.
Fantasy 1, Science Fiction 0. I thought, amused.
I redirected my gaze back to the woman - girl, really - on the ground beneath me. Now that I had fixed her up and she had drunken her potion, her wounds had ceased to exist. A quick scan confirmed this. She looked at the omnitool's orange display with open astonishment. I didn't like the feeling of 'superiority' that overcame me. Arrogance was sure to get me killed sooner or later. If there was one lesson I'd learned under Shepard's command - that was it.
That being said, if I could trust my instincts, then she wasn't a threat anymore. Surprisingly. I had expected a xenophobic reaction. A more proud and defiant, stubborn reaction - defiance until death. She was a Nord, after all, and I knew enough about The Elder Scrolls. Perhaps the deciding factor was that I seemed to be a Nord, too - no matter the tools she had never seen before. And the fact that she was quite young. It was indeed dangerous to wage a war without the will to win it...
I decided to follow my gut for now. What I didn't know, I could ask. What did I have to lose by being a bit friendly, for a change? Didn't need to drop my guard to do that.
"Alright, you're looking better now." I said and looked down on her. There was no reason for her to stay like that - unless she feared me. I decided to try and make her ignore the fact that I had killed her friends - I began to suspect, again, gut feeling, that those weren't really her friends - and stretched out my hand. "Come on, I'll help you up. Try anything, though, and that's it for you."
She stared at me, lips pressed thin, then took my arm when I was almost certain she'd ignore it. I pulled her on her feet, she'd let go pretty quickly.
"I have questions." I said, keeping her hands in my sight. Being caught off-guard by the turned colonists on Feros had taught me a lesson, too. "We'll sit by the fire. Once my questions are answered, you're free to go. I won't stop you."
She nodded again. Her lack of vocabulary ground on my nerves, but I couldn't blame her. Not too long ago, we'd tried to kill each other, after all. At least we're speaking the same language. Even if it's bloody English again. Be careful what words you use.
We moved over, a few meters of distance to each other I grabbed a piece of bread from a tree stump, looked it over - it wasn't mouldy - and took a bite. Not too shabby. Definitely better than spacer rations. Wanting to test her, I dared to deliberately turn my back on her, always ready to go for my sidearm. Nothing happened.
We sat down at the fire, opposite of each other. I had almost not noticed how dark it had become. I found a piece of cheese - even better.
I looked up in surprise - and found eyes full of questions with a lot of apprehension. That gaze was… inquiring. I used all of my deductive skills to figure out what that question was about.
"You mean, why I spared your life?"
She nodded, eyes still fixed on me. I sighed and leaned back.
"Because you weren't a threat, because I'm not here to kill anyone if I can avoid it. Because I don't kill people that surrender. Because I'm a soldier and not some bloody bandit, unlike yourself. Because I fight with honour."
Unspoken Rule Number One of Paragon Shepard's squad: Do not, under any circumstances, exercise unnecessary cruelty or violence if a more peaceful option is available. You're a soldier and you have a task to do. If your task requires killing, then so be it - but focus on the task. If you're no longer working on completing the task, but only to cause a bloodbath, then you're no longer a soldier - you're a butcher and a murderer.
Plus, maybe she could still be of use to me. I specifically added the last line to appeal to her Nord nature. A wild guess.
"Thank you.", she murmured and lowered her gaze to stare into the fire.
"Don't thank me. Thank your gods that my aim was off." I grinned lopsided. I would treat her fairly, but didn't want her to lose the fear and respect too quickly. "Now, I will ask you some questions. Answer them truthfully, and you can leave unharmed. Lie to me, and you will regret it."
I only needed to twitch my hand to the pistol, very briefly, to see that she understood - and would comply.
I don't like any of this either, I thought and demonstratively took another bite. But I'm stuck with you for now. Might as well get as much out of you as I can.
"We're close to Helgen," I began, giving her the most intense stare I could muster. "I've heard rumours that Stormcloak rebels have been sighted somewhere here, that the Empire has caught them at Darkwater Crossing." I had remembered the name on my march here. "Is that true?"
She nodded, but didn't look at me. "Yes. That's why we are here. We used to be at Darkwater Crossing, but Geimrdall said that the Imperials were coming, and that we should avoid them, and that there would be a battle…"
"Who's Geimrdall?" I interrupted.
"Our leader. The one with…" She fell silent.
"The one with the axe. The one I killed first." I finished.
I nodded. "Good so far. And I assume they're gonna bring them to Helgen, which is firmly under Imperial control."
"I don't know."
I gave a sharp laugh. "They will. Believe me."
Right time. But that means that I cannot idle for long. That's something I want to see myself.
"I am part of a group of seven people." I continued. "If you think I'm looking strange - They're even stranger. But they wear armor similar to mine. A Nord, a rather tall Breton and four people like you've never seen them before. Have you heard or seen anything about them?"
She shook her head. I had no reason to believe that she would have seen anything, being far off any of the central cities of Skyrim. But the sooner I got word out, the better, I was now certain. Wrex, Liara, Garrus and Tali would stand out massively. They couldn't stay hidden for long. And if we had to fight, then it was best if we fought together ASAP.
I had a quick think, then made a decision. Any other question I could've asked was meaningless or even more suspicious - and I really, really didn't want to kill her just to shut her up for good. The right time, the right place, nobody of my team in the immediate vicinity. I could work with that. And, maybe even more.
"What's your name?"
She looked up in shock. "B-Brylsla. Brylsla of Dragon Bridge."
I nodded. "My Name is Raven of Normandy. Thank you for your help. You can go now, if you want. As long as you don't do anything stupid, I won't stop you. But… I have an offer to make."
I sat up straighter. Through the flames and thin smoke in-between us, I could see her astonishment. At least, that's hope I interpreted it. I noticed how I grew tired. The warmth radiating off the sparkling fire didn't help. I grabbed a relatively dry piece of wood and tossed it in, thinking about my next words.
"It's quite important to me to get to my group as soon as possible." I said."They are likely somewhere here in Skyrim. You want gold, and I want help. Get whatever valuables you can from your dead friends," - If I'd known if finger-quoting was a thing in Skyrim, I'd done it - "and get to Riverwood. Avoid Helgen - if my information is good, then it won't be safe there."
I looked up - and shrugged. "Or don't. It's your decision. But if you sell the stuff your friends won't need anymore, then you could get to the local tavern, and rent yourself a room for a few days. If you want - wait for me there. I'll hire you." I grinned. "Adventure, gold, fame, a good fight - that's what you wanted when you became a bandit, huh? Always the same story. And I can guarantee you - I can offer you more of that than any bandit leader ever could. In fact, I think that you might experience an adventure the likes of which Tamriel has never seen before. You've seen what I can do. It might even be fun."
In hindsight, it's annoying that I didn't remember the name of the Sleeping Giant Inn. But I think it's understandable that I couldn't remember everything.
I looked at Brylsla sharply. She was, beyond any doubt, utterly confused. I shrugged again and yawned, growing more and more tired - regardless of my audacity. Darkness fell quickly.
"Accept my offer, or don't, it's your call. Now, I'm gonna stay here for the night. You can as well, if you want - I'm not gonna send you out on the road in the dark. Take all the stuff here you want - I don't need or want any of it. Get to Riverwood and meet me there in a few days, or go your separate ways. You're a free woman." I grinned coldly. "I'd just advise against trying to murder me in my sleep - you won't succeed. You have been warned. A good night."
I ate the rest of my cold meal, occasionally sneaking glances at the young Nord. I could see the gears clicking in that head - but didn't feel bothered. With everything I had seen, I was sure that my armor and shields could defeat any of the iron or steel weapons around - and I had set my sensors to wake me immediately, should anything enter my comfort zone of three meters. Knowing my reaction times from numerous emergency drills during my sleep shift aboard the NORMANDY, I felt very comfortable leaving her be. Between the drills, my gene-mod-boosted reaction times and my armor's ability to defend me, I knew I was very much safe.
So, I stepped back a few meters, retreated into one of the tents and lay down in the hay, still clad in full gear and with my hood back on. Not the most comfortable ever - but what comfort couldn't do, tiredness and the waning effects of the wake-me-up injections from earlier did.
I stayed awake for half an hour, unmoving, waiting for any rushed assassination attempt. Nothing happened. And so, I relaxed - and fell into a dreamless sleep, feeling on top of the world.
When I woke the next morning, Brylsla was gone. Since I woke up normally - by alarm clock, that is - I knew I didn't need to worry. Nothing to report by my armor that I couldn't see or deduce myself. And still nothing on our radio frequency.
In the six hours I had been sleeping, she had slept for three - then woke up in the middle of the night, must've laid still for a moment, maybe looked me over, quickly emptied the camp of what I assumed to be personal possessions and her fallen comrades down the road of any possessions in general - and left before morning dawned.
I didn't worry at that moment if I would ever see her again. I'd given her the choice - what she made of it, was her call. Though I have to admit that I secretely hoped that I would - if for no other reason than seeing a familiar face... and not being wrong in my guess about her character.
My back hurt a bit as I stood up, but it was manageable. It had snowed slightly during the night, but it was already thawing. My armor had kept me warm. The fire had died out, only ash and some charred pieces remained. Not for the first time I wished that I had taken a package of cigarettes with me - but I had deemed them unnecessary for Ilos and the Citadel. How foolish. But a swig from a bottle of mead I found substituted. Once I had shaken off the insects that had decided that a mixture of ceramic armor plating, plastic ballistic weave and a nylon-like chest rig would be a comfortable place to sleep on. I made sure to teach them that it wasn't.
I spent half an hour eating a breakfast of things I knew and were laying about, another half an hour doing things like dragging the bodies off the road without wasting time on giving them a burial - the wildlife would take care of it, I was certain. Then another half an hour picking the place clean of anything useful, like a stamina potion and another two health potions that vanished in my chest rig. I was ready before the sun was up, still hidden behind the clouds.
It took me a moment to get my bearings. Fortunately, I could see the Throat of the World through the treetops - and I went on motion, ignoring my earlier concerns by staying on the road. It was just faster that way. Though I was always ready to dive into the forest, I met no one on my way.
Hours later - much more light, despite the clouds - I reached a spot that looked acceptable. An almost free field of view in the right direction.
And just minutes earlier, the VI had reported the same signals on the same frequency as on the day before. No doubt possible.
My plan was simple. If proper communication was impossible, I would have to rely on an older trick - one that Shepard would get.
"VI, following radio protocol: Every text message I type will be translated into Morse code. A 250 Milliseconds energy impulse for short, 750 Milliseconds impulse for long, with each pause between impulses being 250 Milliseconds long. Attempt to interpret any incoming signal on 733 Sigma as a morse code as well. Understood?"
VIs are dumb compared to true AI - but my omnitool and suit both understood and adjusted properly. And so, with a hopeful gaze to the horizon, I began typing.
NORMANDY SQUAD THIS IS RAVEN DO YOU COPY OVER
I repeated this message four times in the span of ten minutes. Then I received an answer - yet another message I couldn't understand, but a bit stronger.
Looks like I need to give Shepard a hint. My lips pressed together, I typed S, O, S. Sent it twenty times, then added my message after. If there was any message that Shepard would know what to do with, it would be three short, three long, three short. And technically, I was in distress.
It took ten minutes. I repeated the entire process another four times, hoping desperately they'd understand.
Then, suddenly - relief. They had understood - and copied me, the exact same signal length. The signal was stronger now, too. They had aimed the antenna in my direction, no doubt. The letters came in one by one.
I pumped my fist in the air. Excitement washed over me. Time to figure out what the hell was going on - and to 'speak' to some friendlies for once. One order later, and my VI translated the letters into words.
SOUTHWEST OF YOU DISTANCE UNKNOWN I KNOW WHERE WE ARE REGION CALLED SKYRIM ARE YOU OKAY OVER
WE ARE OKAY TALI LIARA AND I BREAK
KAIDAN WREX GARRUS MIA BREAK
WHAT HAPPENED ARE YOU OKAY ARE OTHERS WITH YOU OVER
I remembered with a grimace that 'break' was the procedure word to separate parts of the text from each other. Collecting every bit that I remembered from Basic Training's radio class, I tried to do it properly.
NEGATIVE AM ON MY OWN BREAK
CANNOT GET YOUR SIGNAL WELL WE ARE BEING JAMMED BY UNKNOWN FORCE BREAK
HAD TO CLIMB UP A MOUNTAIN TO SEND BREAK
I AM OKAY EARLIER SOS TO GET YOUR ATTENTION BREAK
AWAITING ORDERS BREAK
HOW DO YOU READ OVER
A pause of two minutes. I nervously sent my message another time. Then, the response.
READING YOU WEAK AND DISTORTED BREAK
PRIORITY IS FIND THE MISSING THREE BREAK
NARROW ON MY SIGNAL OVER
"VI, try to pinpoint the exact position of Shepard's signal. Triangulate from my old position if possible. Get as much energy into the radio as is safe for the device and focus my signal on her signal with 95% accuracy."
Mind kicking into overdrive and weighing the priorities, I decided that there was no reason to play games anymore. I needed to reveal my full knowledge, or as much as I knew
SIGNAL WEAK AND DISTORTED HAD TO IMPROVISE BREAK
OTHERS MABYE DONT KNOW MORSE OR DIDNT CHECK FREQUENCY CLOSE ENOUGH BREAK
MAYBE THEY CAN HEAR YOU BUT NOT REPLY OUR RADIOS WEAKER THAN MAKO BREAK
TELL THEM TO GET LINE OF SIGHT ON YOU IF POSSIBLE BREAK
I AM SHORT ON TIME WILL TRY TO FIND YOU SIGNAL MIGHT BE LOST IF I MOVE BREAK
I HAVE AN HOUR THEN I NEED TO MOVE BREAK
DESCRIBE YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND ASK ANY QUESTIONS BREAK
I CAN HELP YOU I KNOW THIS PLACE BREAK
DO YOU HAVE FOOD AND WATER OVER
Another pause. I sent the message again. The reply came delayed as expected.
SUPPLIES IN MAKO LAST FOUR WEEKS BREAK
HAVE WATER SUPPLY BREAK
AT A RIVER AREA COVERED IN SNOW BREAK
TEMPS AROUND FREEZING POINT BREAK
LARGER LOW TECH WALLED CITY MADE OF DARK STONE AT THAT RIVER BREAK
HUMAN POPULATION AND UNKNOWN ALIENS FIVE KILOMETERS AWAY BREAK
HUMANS IN MEDIEVAL CLOTHING AND WEAPONS DEFINITELY A FIRST CONTACT SCENARIO BREAK
AVOIDED CONTACT THEY DO NOT KNOW WE ARE HERE BREAK
MOUNTAIN RANGE COVERED IN SNOW CLOSE BREAK
IF YOU ARE SOUTHWEST OF US CITY NORTHEAST MOUNTAINS NORTHWEST TO NORTHEAST BREAK
PLEASE ADVISE BREAK
DUMP ALL INTEL YOU HAVE WE WILL WAIT OVER
I had to think only for a moment. Then closed my eyes - and cursed, feeling slightly frightened by that last sentence. But I had to reveal my hand - with Tali and Garrus' food supply being extremely limited, time was of the essence. A turian needs far less food in comparison to a human, and I knew for a fact that our sniper always carried at least two weeks worth of nutrient bars, if he rationed it. But we needed to find him and the other two ASAP anyway.
I wasn't too concerned about Wrex - I was willing to bet that he, being a krogan, could take on almost all enemies and win. But Kaidan, powerful as he was, was only a human and vulnerable. I tipped away as quickly as I could. My friends were in hostile territory. If Shepard asked me to dump the info, then it was her fault.
CITY CALLED WINDHELM BREAK
HOLD OF EASTMARCH IN THE PROVINCE OF SKYRIM BREAK
AVOID AT ALL COST REPEAT AVOID AT ALL COST BREAK
FIRST CONTACT SCENARIO AFFIRM BREAK
PROVINCE IN CIVIL WAR WINDHELM CAPITAL OF REBEL FACTION STORMCLOAKS BREAK
KNOWN XENOPHOBIA ASSUME HOSTILE INTENT UPON SIGHT BREAK
YOU WILL NOT FIND HELP THERE BREAK
ADVISE MOVING IN MY DIRECTION BREAK
BETWEEN US CITY OF WHITERUN BREAK
CENTER OF SKYRIM NEUTRAL IN WAR BUT ALIGNED WITH EMPIRE LOYALISTS BREAK
LOYALISTS MORE LIKELY TO HELP US BREAK
Summing up the background of TES V: Skyrim to Commander Shepard of Mass Effect 1 was one of the strangest things I'd done my whole life. And I had gotten used to some very strange stuff lately. Regardless, I carried on.
ADVISE TO STAY AS LOW AS POSSIBLE BREAK
TRUST NOBODY WE ARE WITHOUT FRIENDS HERE BREAK
INHABITANTS SPEAK ENGLISH BREAK
ITS COMPLICATED I CAN EXPLAIN WHEN WE MEET BREAK
FOOD LIKELY POISON FOR GARRUS AND TALI BREAK
SHEPARD IN THE EYES OF THE NATIVES YOU AND I LOOK LIKE HUMAN SUBSPECIES CALLED NORD BREAK
NATIVES OF THIS REGION BREAK
JUST IN CASE IF CONTACT UNAVOIDABLE BREAK
GENERAL TECH LEVEL HUMAN EUROPEAN MIDDLE AGES BREAK
CAUTION CAUTION LITERAL MAGIC COMMON BREAK
THINK BIOTICS BUT STRONGER DANGEROUS FOR US BREAK
SUPERNATURAL PRESENCES EXIST HERE BREAK
I AM NOT JOKING BREAK
SHEPARD WE ARE IN A HUMAN LITERATURE FANTASY WORLD MADE REAL NOW BREAK
I WISH I WAS JOKING BUT I AM NOT BREAK
READ BACK REPEAT READ BACK BREAK
JUST TO BE SURE OVER
I waited for three minutes to receive confirmation. Shepard sent my message back word by word, then a short WAIT OUT. She needed a bit of time and would contact me back.
I had to wait for another ten minutes. I imagined the heated discussions taking place.
Welcome to my world, fellas. I grinned melancholically.
THANK YOU BREAK
I DONT KNOW WHATS GOING ON BUT YOU SEEM TO DO BREAK
WILL FOLLOW YOUR ADVICE MOVE IN YOUR DIRECTION HOPEFULLY SIGNAL GETS STRONGER IF WE ARE CLOSER BREAK
REQUESTING ESTIMATE OF TRAVEL DISTANCE OR TIME BREAK
WILL LEAVE MARKS FOR OTHERS AND TRY TO REACH THEM BREAK YOU DO THE SAME BREAK
IF CONTINUOUS RADIO CONTACT IMPOSSIBLE TRY TO RADIO US IN SEVENTY TWO HOURS BREAK
EVERY HALF AN HOUR IF NO RESPONSE BY US BREAK
WE WILL BE LISTENING BREAK
WILL CONTINUE TO SEND ALLROUND TO CATCH THE OTHERS OVER
I nodded to myself, grimly, and replied.
TRAVEL DISTANCE UNKNOWN TRIANGULATION FAILED TOO VAGUE BREAK
TRAVEL TIME UNKNOWN BUT NOT LONGER THAN TWO WEEKS TO WHITERUN IF WE BOTH MOVE TOWARDS EACH OTHER BREAK
USING MAKO IS HIGHLY RISKY TECHNOLOGY UNKNOWN BREAK
CONFIRMING SEVENTY TWO HOURS TO NEXT RADIO ATTEMPT I WILL SEE WHAT I CAN DO BREAK
REQUESTING ORDERS AS FOLLOWS BREAK
REQUESTING PERMISSION TO MOVE OPENLY BREAK
RISK BEING ATTACKED OR HUNTED BUT BENEFIT WE MAY FIND EACH OTHER EASIER IF RADIO CONTACT IMPOSSIBLE BREAK
OTHERS WILL LIKELY CATCH ATTENTION TOO RUMOURS SPREAD QUICKLY BREAK
REQUESTING PERMISSION TO ESTABLISH FIRST CONTACT WITH LOCAL POPULATION IF NEEDED BREAK
RISK IS KNOWN BUT I KNOW THIS PLACE AND HOW TO ACT BREAK
YOUR CALL BREAK
NEED TO MOVE IN TWENTY MINUTES POTENTIAL OPFOR APPROACHING OVER
The potential' Opposing Force' approaching me was only half a lie. I had given Shepard and the others all the info they needed, and I needed to get into position to get a look on Helgen soon. Knowing if this story of Skyrim played out as it should and keeping an eye on the Dragonborn would overall be more beneficial then, ultimately, pointless chatter. In this environment, under these conditions, I needed to take the lead - not Shepard.
She seemed to come to a similar conclusion.
APPROVED ONE AND TWO BREAK
YOU ARE FREE TO DO WHAT YOU NEED TO BREAK
BUT BE CAREFUL OUT THERE RAVEN BREAK
WE ARE MOVING SHORTLY BREAK
MEET YOU AT WHITERUN BREAK
GOOD LUCK AND GODSPEED SOLDIER BREAK
I felt the need to be encouraging for once. I felt plenty encouraged.
WILCO SAME TO YOU BREAK
CHIN UP SHEP BREAK
WE WILL FIND A WAY ALWAYS HAVE BREAK
LETS GET TO IT BREAK
RAVEN OVER AND OUT
I was already in the process of standing up when one last message came. I was confused when my omnitool merely displayed a single S - then I had to chuckle as I understood.
Shepard had sent three short signals - our wordless radio signal that a message had been received and understood. I knew I could trust the three of them to not do anything stupid - and they would find a way. Our Commander led them, after all. Improvise - Adapt - Overcome.
Now, I thought as I moved higher up, to Helgen, Alduin, the Dragonborn - and The Elder Scrolls V.
I had found my spot - and arrived just in time.
From this small plateau, I had a nice unobstructed view into Helgen.
Being as cautious as I was, I layed down, smeared as much dirt and shrubbery on me as I could and crawled into position. My rifle's digitally enhanced scope would allow me the view I needed.
Helgen looked a bit different than I remembered. Nothing was really wrong, it was just... Bigger. I couldn't point my finger on it. But all of those thoughts got pushed into the back of my head when I spotted the central tower - and the executioner's chopping block.
And the horse carts with its Imperial escort moving in.
I watched the whole ordeal, always mindful of the Imperial archers that appeared on the towers to watch for any Stormcloak attempt to break their leader free. I couldn't hear what was going on, but I had started new games in Skyrim enough to get it regardless.
As the horse thief ran, only to be turned into a pin cushion, my index finger stayed on the trigger guard. The same happened as the first Stormcloak went to the block. Their lives were, frankly spoken, not my problem.
I only prepared myself to fire if needed when the next one stepped forward. I didn't recognize the woman - but that was exactly why I knew who that was.
My index finger moved to the trigger, I adjusted my aim to make sure I'd hit the executioner if I had to intervene - then, I heard the roar in the distance. Not without a shiver, I knew who that was. Still, I waited patiently.
The Nord woman looked embittered, desperate - but defiant and proud at the same time. If the gods had decided that this was to be her final hour, then she would embrace it. A true Nord did not fear death - for a true Nord was always accepted into Sovngarde. And she had lived well, a life worthy of a warrior. She was innocent. The gods knew it.
I lightly touched the trigger. Range, elevation, wind direction and strength - all accounted for.
I was a marksman, not a full-blown sniper - but the Mattock was powerful enough, and the VI almost replaced a dedicated spotter, even at this range.
My target: The executioner's black-clad stomach. Within a brief moment, I could send three rounds into him. Enough.
If Alduin didn't want to do it - I was more than ready to help out.
But, knowing the game and its rules… I waited until the very last second.
He step was firm as she approached the block and was forced to kneel. She didn't close her eyes as the man rose his axe again. She would enter Shor's hall, a curse on her lips and giving her murderer nothing but a cold, hateful stare.
Just as I touched the trigger... the ground shook. Even where I was. My crosshair wandered off slightly - but the man I aimed at fell on a knee, staring up, only staring.
I held my finger, instead reduced the magnification post-haste. Just in time to see my would-be target consumed by fire. And the gigantic, black dragon that had summoned it.
And the woman fell off the block, no doubt dazed. I followed her progress - the run into the tower, to the Stormcloaks. Into the tavern. From the tavern, past the wall, past the area where Torolf, if I remembered his name correctly, had fallen - and he too fell victim to the ancient dragon's wrath. I felt a bitter taste in my mouth, but had other priorities.
I lost sight of my target. I had to make sure she'd reach the underground area. Then I could leave.
I found her again. With Stormcloak Radolf and Imperial Hadvar. The sight of seeing those to men shout at each other with weapons drawn, hatred obvious even from this distance, was almost ghostly.
"Radolf, you damned traitor! Out of my way!"
Radolf returned the gaze his nemesis cast him with equal intensity. "We're escaping, Hadvar!" His shout added to the confusion, sound, chaos that had befallen the dying village. "You're not stopping us this time!"
"Fine!" Hadvar spat. His voice had turned cold as death itself. "I hope that dragon takes you all to Sovngarde!"
As much as he wanted to - as much as both men wanted to end it here and now, both knew that even a victory would achieve nothing.
"With me, prisoner!" He turned his head to the woman behind him, still bound, but alive. "To the keep!"
She didn't hear him. Her ears throbbed. Her whole head was numb. Whatever that beast was - by the grace of the gods, she had been given a second chance. Following the Imperial could mean freedom. Leaving with a Stormcloak rebel would not have been any safer.
She followed Hadvar through the heavy, wooden gate - into safety. As unsafe as it was.
I rose from the ground as the Dragonborn and Hadvar vanished in the keep. Earth and grass fell off me. Knocking my rifle once, I retreated into the forest, aiming for the road, leaving Alduin to his business - and the Imperial contingent plus the village of Helgen to their deaths.
The Mattock remained silent. That dragon had done a spectacular job.
Now, I prepared my mental list, I need to get to Riverwood ASAP. I need to follow the Dovahkiin and Hadvar, observe them, maybe intercept the Dovahkiin on her way to Whiterun if I can't be there in time. But with the stamina potions and keeping on the road, I may have a slim chance to catch them at the three stones. Then, it's the same as I've done once already.
Offering my help. Getting favours in the right places, which could make it easier to hear from my squad and find each other, probably north of the city. Maybe, I'll collect that girl, Brylsla, on my way. Having a second set of eyes may be useful. Depending on what the others say, we'll either look for a way back to where they - we - belong, or even help the Dovahkiin. That could be… entertaining. I'm literally living in another universe, but we're going for crossovers as our vacation.
I sighed and cracked my shoulder. And once again, I thought with a tiny bit of humour, I'm preparing myself to play bodyguard to the true heroine of the story. Literally the story of my life.
I had to get moving. But before I did, I removed my hood and closed my eyes inhaling and exhaling for a moment. The ash and the smoke had not yet reached me.
Here we go again, Raven. Let's get this done.
When I opened my eyes again, I had found the resolve I needed. I went into motion and soon found myself in a jog. Down the road, towards Riverwood. Never resting, as fast as my body allowed.
After all, my team relied on me.
And the fate of not one, but two universes was hanging in the balance.
A/N: To quote Sheogorath: "Didn't see that one coming, now did ya? Huh? Huh?"
No, I am not talking about the Wabbajack. But about this little… something my messed-up mind and too much spare time cooked up. Which could actually be a byproduct. After all, didn't Sheogorath once describe himself als the 'shadow in one's mind'? Bet he likes it in my brain.
To be honest, I've been wanting to write this - and did write on it - for quite some time. The document I'm writing on at the moment first dates back to 2017, with a quick draft. I added other parts over time, whenever I was frustrated with writing ME:Raven. A thought experiment, nothing more. A fun project on the side. Never thought I'd actually get it out. What if the Conduit actually is a 'portal to the multiverse' for Raven - wouldn't everyone in his vicinity be equally affected? And: Wouldn't it also 'work', coming from Ilos?
I chose Skyrim simply 'because'. It also could've been - and almost was! - a little expedition to Pandora. Borderlands. But I'm writing Sci-Fi Fanfiction anyway, so I wanted to write a little about something fantasy. It still ended up primarily Sci-Fi. Again: Only a fun project on the side, never intended for release. Maybe I'll write something fantasy-heavy full-time one day. Who knows?
But, well… I had a bit of time now, after completing Mass Effect 1 in ME:Raven. And I found some of my sketches cleaning up my documents. So I thought: Why the hell not? If you guys don't like it, then that's fine. If you like it - even better. So I sat down - and got it done. I didn't have to do that much, honestly. Just 'updating' it to fit better with ME:Raven timeline, and to be better in wording and style. How I added nearly four thousand words… well, I sometimes don't know it myself.
I even have an overarching plot laying about, but as it is, it's rather bland - and this is the only chapter I ever wrote. Again, it was never meant to be a serious attempt at a story. This will probably also stay the only chapter. But, never say never. I never thought I'd release this thing at all, after all.
So, if there are major mistakes, oversights or things you don't like - my apologies, but I won't change anything. This isn't part of the ME:Raven canon anyway. So, if it's stupid, it's stupid. I had fun writing it - that's what's counting for me.
ME:Raven is still scheduled to be continued in the second half of this year. I intend to deliver. I thank you all for your attention, and will see you down the road. Take care, people.
Edited A/N, April 26th 2021: Well, you guys have done it now. Some of you were very convincing as to why this story deserves to be continued - so, I will. While I am not giviing any time frame and will obviously have ME Raven as my top priority - there will be more of this sooner or later.
I have therefore bit my tongue and cleaned up this chapter a bit.