WARHAMMER DOES NOT BELONG TO ME. MASS EFFECT DOES NOT BELONG TO ME. ALL MANNER OF HORRIBLE THINGS EXIST IN WARHAMMER, AND IT IS MY SICK JOY TO UNLEASH THEM UPON THE WORLD.
First of all, the world of Warhammer, both Fantasy and 40K, is one of the best I've ever read. The lore is rich, albeit conflicting at times, the combat is awesome, and there's a dark tone to it all that a sick part of me really likes.
I've been wanting to write something for Warhammer for a while, but couldn't get started on anything. Then I read Worth a Shot's Steel, Fire, Honor and Ruin. The premise was so cool that I just had to take a crack at it. So, with WaS's permission, I give you this little… thing. Enjoy!
Stranger in a Strange Land
"How did it all start? Well, first it hurt. A lot. Then it got confusing. Again, a lot. After that… well, I kinda wished I could go back to confusing. At least then it wasn't terrifying."—General Alexia Shepard, at the beginning of her memoirs.
"Do it, Shepard!"
"You can't stop what I have built, Shepard!"
"You must destroy the Reapers, Shepard!"
The hazy memories fell away, and Alexia Shepard finally awoke. Of course, she wished she hadn't; every inch of her body was filled with pain. However, it wasn't as bad as when she'd been on the Citadel—
Crap, the Citadel! Shepard remembered, and struggled to sit up. Did the Crucible work? Are the Reapers destroyed? Where am I?
"Father, she's waking up!" A young voice said, interrupting Shepard's frantic thoughts.
It was then that Shepard took stock of her surroundings. She certainly wasn't on the Citadel, or even on an Alliance ship. She was inside of a dusty room, not much bigger than some prison cells she'd seen, but the walls were made of stone. The bed she lay on wasn't very large, the frame was made of wood, and if she was seeing things right, there was honest-to-god straw instead of a mattress.
Where the hell am I? Shepard wondered. Since when do people fill beds with straw, or build houses out of stone? I need answers!
Movement by the door caught her attention; despite her still-healing injuries, Shepard tensed, ready to resist if she had to. However, her tension turned to bemusement when a little girl, probably no older than five, peeked around the door to look at her. A small part of Shepard wanted to coo at the girl's big, adorable eyes, and the small flower that hung over her ear, partially obscured by curly brown hair.
Then the soldier pushed aside the woman, and Shepard began examining details. The girl's outfit was strange; a plain, ankle-length skirt made out of a rough fabric, far different than the synthesized crap that everyone wore. People may have questioned her preference for jeans and her N7 hoodie, but comfort won out over style, in her opinion.
But the girl's appearance didn't answer any of Shepard's questions; if anything, it raised more. Could it be possible that she was on a colony world, one that had shunned modern technology? If so, what reason would anyone have for taking her here? Her injuries may not have been critical, but they were bad enough that she should have had proper medical care.
Then again, ever since Cerberus rebuilt me, I've healed pretty fast, Shepard thought.
"Excuse me, lady, are you feeling better?" The little girl asked.
Shepard blinked for a moment, then smiled. "I don't know, sweetie. I just woke up."
The girl nodded. "I'll get Father Heinkel, he'll help you! And my name is Marisa, not sweetie."
Before Shepard could reply, Marisa was gone. Father Heinkel, huh? What's a priest going to do for me?
While she waited, Shepard took a look at herself. Her injuries had been cleaned and bandaged, but other than the strips of—hopefully—clean cloth, she was naked. That didn't particularly bother her, since her training had quickly desensitized her modesty, but it would have been nice to have some kind of protection, even if her armor had been reduced to charred scraps.
A clanking noise heralded Father Heinkel's arrival nearly half a minute before the man actually arrived. When Shepard saw him, her preconceptions about meeting a priest were shattered. The man was like no priest she'd ever seen before; he was a giant of a man, easily over six feet tall, with a bald head. Under his open robe, she could see heavy armor, polished to a sheen, and on his back was an enormous hammer, while a thick book was held at his waist by a length of chain.
Once again, Shepard noticed that something was off; the armor the priest wore—and what kind of priest wore armor?—was nothing like the ceramic type she was used to. It reminded her more of medieval plate armor, and the big hammer only added to the look.
Heinkel pulled over a wooden chair from the corner of the room before placing it near Shepard's bed and sitting in it. Shepard would swear that the weight of the man made her bed shake.
"Hello," the man said simply; Shepard was surprised by both the strength and the gentleness behind the voice, which sounded younger than his features suggested. He looked to be in his forties, maybe even older.
"Um, hi?" Shepard said, unsure of how to react.
"It is good that you are awake," Heinkel said. "It has been three days since we found you; had you been asleep any longer, we would have had to replace the covers again."
Shepard didn't understand, until the trace of a foul odor reached her; between that and the bucket in the far corner of the room, it wasn't hard to figure out what Heinkel meant. She couldn't help but feel a little embarrassed, though to be fair, she'd probably gone through something similar at the Lazarus facility.
Heinkel must have seen her discomfort, because he only smiled. "Do not worry, no one will fault you for being Human, Miss…"
Clearly, she wasn't a prisoner; no Human prison would have a little girl watch a captive. Until she knew more, though, Shepard was going to keep some information to herself.
"Shepard," she said at last, "Alexia Shepard."
Heinkel stroked his chin. "An interesting name you have, Miss Shepard. I am Father Heinkel, and I have been tending to your wounds since you were brought to my abbey."
Shepard smiled at him. "Thank you. I don't want to be rude, but can I ask some questions? And have some clothes?"
Heinkel nodded. "I will tell you what I can. As for clothes… the only ones I have here are for men, but if you wait, I can have a dress brought to you from town."
"I don't mind wearing pants," Shepard said nonchalantly. "In fact, I prefer it."
The priest looked stupefied for a moment, then shrugged. "Very well. I will be back soon."
Once he got up and left, Shepard began examining her injuries more closely. The bleeding had stopped, though she had quite a few scabs that, without proper treatment, would scar rather badly. Most of those could be concealed by clothing, but the one on her face—the reflection of which, she'd seen in Heinkel's breastplate—was another matter. Once she removed the thin bandage, she traced the wound; it started at her left temple, just under her red hair, making a jagged line down through part of her eyebrow, across the bridge of her nose and her right cheek, and ending at the back of the right side of her jaw. It wasn't a pretty sight, but hopefully, it wouldn't be too wide once the redness faded.
When Heinkel returned, he saw her removing her bandages; he opened his mouth to protest, but he apparently noticed that Shepard's injuries no longer needed bandages.
"I heal pretty fast," Shepard said, hoping that the man wouldn't pry further.
Thankfully, Heinkel only nodded and handed her a bundle. "I believe these should fit you."
Once again, he left, giving Shepard privacy as she got dressed. The clothes—brown trousers and a dark-green tunic, along with a pair of sturdy boots—were rougher than what she was used to, they pulled on her injuries, and were a little too big, but she managed. There was no bra, but there was something that looked like underwear—smallclothes, a distant part of her mind said. To deal with the lack of a bra, Shepard knotted the back of the tunic and slid that under her belt; that would tighten the shirt and help keep a certain part of her from bouncing around too much.
A loud cough from her signaled that Heinkel could return; unlike many men and women Shepard had met over the years, the priest didn't spend half a minute undressing her with his eyes. Granted, if he'd been taking care of her, he probably didn't have to, but Shepard appreciated it all the same.
"If you are feeling up to it," Heinkel said, "I can show you around the abbey; the fresh air will do us both good, and you can ask your questions."
Shepard nodded and followed after him; she tried not to wince at every step, but it was obvious that she was far from a hundred percent. Hell, Joker could probably beat her in a fistfight right now.
Thinking about the wisecracking pilot made her falter; was Joker, or any of her friends and teammates, alive? She had pushed everything away in the pursuit of stopping the Reapers, but now that her mind was starting to clear, not knowing the fate of her friends made her worry. Garrus, Liara, and Tali, especially; those three had been seriously injured just before she'd made it to the Citadel.
Shepard closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath; until she knew more about what was going on, the only thing her worry would do was distract her. For the moment, she had to stop being Shepard, the person, and had to be Shepard, the soldier.
"So, where am I?" She asked, as the two of them walked onto an open part of a wall, which was exposed the cool, night air.
"In my abbey, a few hundred paces from the village of Wolfshead," Heinkel said.
"Uh-huh," Shepard glanced up at him. "And where is that?"
"Within the province of Talabecland, not far from the border of Sylvania," Heinkel looked at her as it was obvious.
The look was starting to make Shepard feel stupid, but she pressed on. "Okay, I—"
"You must have taken quite the blow to the head before you were found," Heinkel interrupted.
Shepard nodded slowly. "Maybe you could tell me what you know, and I could retrace my steps or something?"
Heinkel stared at her for a few moments longer, then turned his face to a silhouette of small buildings, lit up by torches. Shepard realized that it must have been the village.
"There was a loud crashing noise, as if Sigmar Himself had taken His hammer to something. Several villagers went to investigate, and found you at the bottom of a crater, but no sign of whatever made the crater." Heinkel gave her a strange look before continuing. "You wore strange clothing, but it crumbled to pieces when you were moved. After you were brought here, I tended to you. That is all I know."
Shepard felt a sinking feeling in her gut. "All right, I've got another one for you. Does the term 'Citadel Council' mean anything to you?"
Heinkel frowned thoughtfully, then shook his head. "No, I cannot say that it does."
"What about Turians?" Shepard asked. "Asari? Krogan? Geth?" Each question was answered in the negative, so Shepard moved on to the one she dreaded. "What about 'Systems Alliance'?"
"I am sorry, but I have not." Heinkel sounded genuinely sorry, for all the good it did Shepard.
Something is really wrong here.
Despite being able to walk, Shepard had become very tired after that, and had returned to her bed. Over the next few days, she recovered more and more; even her new scars were losing their angry, red marking. Still, she wanted to actually do something; she had always been someone who preferred action over inaction.
Thankfully, Heinkel was able to keep her from getting bored. Playing the part of partial amnesiac had netted Shepard a teacher, albeit one who freely admitted that he didn't know everything, and the things he had information on were largely generalized. But Shepard was just happy to be learning; one of her secret joys was discovering things she'd never known before.
Apparently, her suspicions were correct; she wasn't on Earth, or a Human colony. In fact, if her study of the stars was right, she wasn't even in her own galaxy! The worst part was that, until she found out how she arrived on this world, she had no idea how to get back home. For now, she was stuck here, and if she wanted to survive this world without modern technology, she was going to have to learn everything she could.
The nation she was now in was called the Empire; it was a powerful collection of Human territories, each of which was led by an Elector Count, and the Empire itself was ruled by an Emperor, who was usually elected from among the Counts. Despite wars, plagues, civil unrest, and catastrophes of all kinds, the Empire had endured for over twenty-five hundred years. To Shepard, it was kind of inspiring.
There were other Human nations, such as Kislev, to the north, and Bretonnia, to the west, the Border Princes to the south, as well as several more to the far-east; the Empire was at peace with Kislev, the Border Princes, and Bretonnia, more or less, as well as a few other minor nations. Further north than Kislev was Norsca, a land of barbarians that raided the Empire often. But there was far more to this world than just Humans.
Shepard found it odd that, for a world without space-travel, there were multiple intelligent races—some more than others, apparently—on one planet. There were the Dwarfs, stout, bearded folk that had been the Empire's most stalwart ally since its founding. There were the Elves, though there was apparently more than one type, and all of them were mysterious.
The Dwarfs and some of the Elves were certainly friendlier than some of the other races that Heinkel described. There were the Beastmen, a race of mutant monsters that wanted nothing more than to kill and devour all of humanity. Sitting at just slightly more intelligence than the Beastmen were the Orcs and Goblins; both greenskin races were cruel, vicious monsters that would burn the Empire down with a laugh. Another rather stupid race were the Ogres, large humanoids that could, and would, eat a fully-armored knight, along with his horse and weapons if he got the chance. Other monstrous creatures included Giants and Trolls, but even the Orcs were considered civilized in comparison to those stupid monsters.
Then there were… other creatures. Shepard had already started to believe that she had ended up in some kind of fantasy world, but when Heinkel started talking about Vampires… well, she had almost giggled when her first thought was that she hoped they didn't sparkle. The amusement quickly faded, however, when Shepard saw the pure hatred and disgust in Heinkel's eyes when he spoke about the Vampires and their undead servants.
When she mentioned it, the priest only said that Sylvania had a large amount of Vampires, and they would occasionally strike out at the Empire. While that would be a good reason to get mad, Heinkel's barely-restrained fury felt more like it was born of a personal experience; Shepard didn't pry, though, instead prodding the lessons along.
It turned out that that was about the sum total of Heinkel's knowledge of the wider world. He was able to provide a map of what people referred to as the 'Old World', though he admitted that it was old and probably out of date. Still, Shepard quickly memorized it; strangely enough, the geography was similar to a map of Europe… well, what Europe would look like if she was drunk.
After a few more days of being cooped up, Shepard had pestered Heinkel enough to at least show her around the nearby village. She found the place… quaint. In many ways, it was like stepping back in time to medieval Europe, though she was fairly certain that people from Earth hadn't decorated pretty much every building with skulls and twin-tailed comets.
The villagers were cordial enough with Shepard, though they still regarded her warily. This could have been attributed to her intimidating scars, her mysterious origins, or the fact that she was a woman wearing men's clothing. Considering the similarities between here and ancient times on Earth, Shepard was willing to bet that the latter was more likely.
Only one person seemed to have no problem approaching Shepard, if the innocent smile on Marisa's face was anything to go by.
"Are you feeling better now?" The little girl asked sweetly, and Shepard resisted the scoop the child up and hug her.
Instead, she knelt down and patted her on the head. "Yeah, I'm doing a lot better now. Thank you for asking."
Marisa smiled again, then turned to Heinkel, who had been Shepard's shadow since entering the village. "Father, I finished my prayers. May I go play now?"
Heinkel's own smile was indulgent. "Of course. Just don't leave the village."
The girl nodded and dashed off to join a group of children. Shepard smiled at the priest. "She's a nice girl. Where are her parents?"
Shepard realized she'd made a mistake when Heinkel's smile disappeared. "Dead. They were killed in a raid last summer. There were far more bandits than normal, and the militia was unable to stop them all."
"I'm sorry. I know what that's like." Shepard worked quickly to cover her mistake. "You just made me remember something. My parents were killed by… by bandits as well."
Technically, the Batarians that had attacked Mindoir were slavers, not bandits, but it was about as close as possible. Not that she was going to mention aliens or other planets; from the descriptions of other races provided by Heinkel, Humans had to be very intolerant of most in order to survive.
Heinkel looked thoughtful. "I have heard that seeing or hearing familiar things can help a damaged mind. Perhaps bringing you here was wise after all."
Shepard was about to say something witty, but a terrified scream cut her off. She and Heinkel turned towards the source, and saw one of the children from before running towards them; the child, a little boy, was being chased by a horde of shambling… things. After a moment, Shepard realized that they were Human, albeit with decaying flesh and staggering gait.
Zombies. The village was under attack by zombies.
"To arms!" Heinkel bellowed, his voice loud enough to reach all the way back to his abbey. "Gather your weapons, men of the Empire! To me, and we will drive back these undead abominations!"
Ignoring Shepard, the priest charged towards the zombies, pulling the giant hammer off his back just before he collided with them. Shepard watched, almost dumbstruck, as the gentle giant of a man she'd known for the past week went into a nearly berserk fury, smashing apart zombies in twos or threes. In the distance, she could hear the bells of the abbey tolling; hopefully, that would signal for reinforcements.
Shepard wanted to shake her head. What was she doing? She was a soldier, and there were people in danger! So what if she wasn't completely healed? That had never stopped her before! So what if she was out of her element? That didn't mean she was out of her league!
A man ran past, his arms laden with swords; in one quick motion, Shepard snatched one off the top of the pile. Ignoring the man's surprise, Shepard ran towards the nearest zombie, her borrowed sword held in both hands.
Shepard had never used a sword before in her life. In fact, the only experience she had with a sword outside of a museum was when she'd fought Kai Leng, and that had been a fairly light katana. The hunk of iron in her hands was almost as long as her arm and was as wide as her hand; Kai Leng's blade had barely been the width of three of her fingers.
Since she had no skill with a sword beyond 'hit them with it', that was the tactic she settled on. With a grunt, she swung her sword at the zombie's neck; the blade bit halfway through, but the zombie continued to stagger towards her. Once Shepard pulled the sword free, the zombie's head flopped off, the decaying muscles offering no resistance. However, the body continued to move.
What the fuck!? Shepard thought, even as she clumsily ducked a flailing arm, while trying not to gag at the stench of rotting flesh. I thought zombies died when you got rid of the head!
"Hack 'em up!" A nearby villager shouted, proving his point by using an axe to chop another zombie into pieces.
Gripping her sword tightly, Shepard swung twice more, severing her target's arms at the elbows, then shoulder-checking it to the ground, where it tried in vain to get up. In the back of her mind, Shepard knew that, with her injuries still healing, she'd feel terrible later, but at the moment, adrenalin was keeping the pain at bay. She moved on to another zombie and repeated the process; it reminded her of fighting husks back home, but those only needed a few punches to kill, though they were a lot faster.
In the blur of combat, Shepard wasn't sure how the battle was going, but so long as she was still alive, she figured that things were okay. As she and another villager tag-teamed another zombie, she heard a familiar voice.
"Come, men of the Empire! In Sigmar's name, we will stop these monsters!"
"Hey, you!" Shepard glanced at the villager next to her. "Come on, we should rally with the Father!"
Shepard looked around and saw that the zombies were, for the most part, grouping around a distant figure that glowed with golden light. Was that Heinkel? How was he glowing? Shoving those thoughts back for later, Shepard and a few villagers joined the rest to fight the undead. Though they were outnumbered at least two to one, the living fighters were better coordinated, and several of them were following Shepard's example of only doing enough damage to put a zombie out of the fight, rather than waste time completely destroying it.
After a few minutes of chaotic melee, Shepard found herself fighting at Heinkel's side; the golden light was so bright, but rather than impede her, Shepard fought even harder. The light did hurt the zombies, though; any that got within a few paces of the Warrior Priest crumbled to ash.
"You're really good at this!" Shepard commented as she hacked a zombie's hands off; she knew that she was getting better if she was being snarky.
Rather than make a witty comeback, like Garrus would have done, Heinkel only gritted his teeth. "Purging evil is my highest calling."
Normally, Shepard would have tried to continue some kind of conversation, especially since it seemed that they were winning, but then a shadow fell over the village. Shepard risked looking up and saw that a mass of dark clouds was moving unusually fast, but then came to a stop once the sun was obscured.
"Stand firm!" Heinkel roared. "Sigmar is with us this day! We shall not—urk!"
It all happened so fast. One second, Heinkel was an unwavering pillar of strength; the next, his head was ripped off in a fountain of blood. Shepard flinched at the sudden brutality, then immediately searched for Heinkel's killer; she'd grieve for the man later, if she survived.
When, not if, she corrected herself. I am going to get ho—what the hell!?
In the blink of an eye, half a dozen villagers were dead, and standing in the midst of their corpses was… something. It looked mostly Human, but the skin that wasn't covered in thick, baroque armor was far too pale. The thing's facial features were too sharp, its eyes shone unnaturally, and its teeth were too long and too sharp.
It was a Vampire.
Shepard narrowed her eyes and held her sword out in front of her. This bastard might have killed Heinkel and six more men in less than a minute, but that wouldn't stop her from fighting until the bitter end.
To her surprise, the Vampire didn't attack her; he did, however, wave one arm, beckoning forth another wave of zombies, as well as walking skeletons that held spears and shields. The undead fought around them, pushing the villagers back, but leaving Shepard and the Vampire alone.
"You are… strange," the Vampire said in a raspy voice.
Shepard didn't blink. "And you're a murdering asshole."
The Vampire didn't react to her words. "Your blood smells different. You will be an interesting prize for my lord."
Before Shepard could move, or even tell him to go to hell, the Vampire was in her face; a small part of her realized that she'd actually seen him move this time, but by then, it was too late. The Vampire's armored fist drove into her stomach, forcing the wind out of her; Shepard's sword fell from her hand, but she still tried to fight, lashing out and punching the Vampire in a place that most males didn't like being punched.
Unfortunately, the spot she'd hit was armored, and the Vampire didn't give her a chance to try again. With a swift chop, he struck her in the back of her head; Shepard fell to the ground, and the last thing she saw before blacking out Heinkel's severed head, his slack face seeming to gaze into her very soul...
Yeah… that escalated quickly. So, this is shorter than my usual chapters, but about the right size for one of my beginnings. Expect future updates to be a lot bigger. In fact, you can count on it; I actually don't like small chapters (by small, I mean less than 6000 words).
I want you to keep in mind that I have never written a fantasy-based story before, so this is unfamiliar territory for me. However, after reading WaS's story, a whole bunch of Warhammer Fantasy stuff, and watching the Lord of the Rings movies, I decided to give this a go.
Next Chapter: Shepard wakes up in an unknown place… again. Can she escape, and how much of her soul will be lost in the process?
Muffins for the Muffin God!