Most stories of grand adventure start with a bang—this one doesn't. It starts with the pitter-patter of raindrops against the windshield as they're wiped away by the trusty pair of black wipers at a pace just slightly too slow to keep up. It starts with the gray asphalt of the road, a few shades darker than the sky, seemingly stretching out forever before me. I've always loved driving in the rain. The regularity of the sound and the sight is somehow calming and soothing, even therapeutic.

I had no idea that in a few short minutes, something great and terrible would happen, something that would prevent me from ever driving on a highway in the rain like this again.

The rain is coming on harder now. The sky darkens a little, and visibility's getting worse. Fog? That's a little unusual—doesn't fog usually come after the rain? Of course, that could just be me talking out of my ass again. Probably is. No reason to worry, right? That's usually what I tell myself when shit is getting out of hand. Which it isn't, yet.

I spoke too soon. Within minutes the conditions go from bad to worse. The fog gets thicker and thicker. A few seconds ago, I could see at least a few hundred feet down the road, but now, I can barely see a car length in front of me before the asphalt melds with the fog into an inscrutable grayness. The rain intensifies. Streaks of water pelt the windshield—that's all I can see at this point, by the way—like a relentless machine gun. I can't see! I flip on the brights, but nothing changes. Thunder booms in the distance. Shit, this is getting bad. Real bad. As if to answer that thought, the fog darkens once more to pitch blackness. All I can see is the LEDs on the dashboard, and the only way I know it's raining anymore is by the sound.

Suddenly, a blinding electric blue flash assaults my eyes like lightning, and I instinctively shut them, the half-second delay of the human nervous system proving to be just too slow. Man, that stings... What the hell is going on? Did a transformer blow like five feet away from me? That can happen during a storm and cause a flash like that, but not so absurdly bright.

The first thing I notice before I open my eyes is that the sound of the rain has stopped. I open them and take a look around. The opaque fog has disappeared, and I'm not on a road. Wait, run that by me again. I'm not on a road! I'm in the middle of a forest, and it's dark out. It must be nighttime, not due to the fog, because I can actually see things even in the darkness. I turn my gaze towards the sky and can easily make out a bright crescent moon, and stars—lots of stars, in fact.

It's a darker night sky than I've ever seen. There is zero light pollution. Absolutely no visible signs of civilization. Have I really gone so off-road in such a few minutes? I put the car in park and pull out my phone. Google Maps, don't fail me now! And it fails. Of course, there's no goddamn service here. "Fuck me," I mutter under my breath. I thumb off the seatbelt and grab my trusty flashlight. I open the car door and step out, expecting my feet to sink into the muddy ground. But that doesn't happen. The ground's not wet. That's really strange—it was just raining a minute ago. I put my hand on the side of the car and feel the cold water. It's certainly wet. It's too quiet. All I can hear is the hum of the engine. There should be crickets chirping and things moving but there's nothing but dead, stone-cold silence.

Something real fucked-up is going on here. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. I'm about to get murdered in a bad horror movie way. I can practically feel my brain switch over into old-school fight-or-flight mode, thousands of generations of my cavemen ancestors shouting at me, "Get ready, 'cause shit's about to hit the fan."

Suddenly I hear a groaning, moaning sound from decently far behind me. I immediately do an about-face and flip on the flashlight—thank God it's got battery in it. My car's gone! It just vanished into thin air! I walk in a small loop, waving the flashlight in every direction, but it's just not there. Seems like those caveman instincts were right on the money. "What the fuck kind of a joke is this?" I shout to whoever is listening, if anyone's listening.

Someone is listening, apparently. The sound rings out again, this time louder. Another one quickly follows it in a slightly different pitch. They're getting closer. I point the flashlight beam in the direction of the sound and can see three imposing figures shambling in my direction. They're taller than any normal human and built like wrestlers, every inch of their unnaturally-dull bodies rippling with muscle. They're wearing buckles, chains, and leather straps as clothing, and their heads are obscured by strange masks.

I start panicking more. My breathing gets faster and shallower—not quite hyperventilation territory, but we're approaching it. My brain is racing with all kinds of thoughts about these apparitions. Are they zombies? Or some kind of weird cos-and-role-players? Is this a nightmare? Oh, God, please let this not be real.

No time for that. They're still getting closer. They're about fifty feet away now. The only thing close to a weapon I have on me is that flashlight. It's an all-metal, heavy-duty Maglite, the kind of flashlights policemen sometimes carry around because it can double as a nightstick in a pinch. I would definitely consider this a pinch.

I switch off the light, and, gripping it firmly, give the flashlight a practice swing with my left hand. I probably have the advantage of speed on these guys, but they're stronger and tougher than me for sure. I could call for help, but I want to at least close the gap first. Now that the light's off, they might have a harder time finding me... or maybe not, if they've got night-vision, which is certainly a possibility.

The groaning is growing louder, and now I can see them even without the aid of the light—which means they can see me. I've got to act fast. I step back into what I'd consider a fighting stance, flashlight at the ready. I'm gripping it like it's the steering wheel on my first day of driving lessons, and my breathing quickens. My chest feels hollow and taut, like everything inside's been scooped out. Again, the fight-or-flight instincts kick into overdrive. I can practically feel every nerve fiber pulsing, ready to jump into action on a hair trigger. Sure, I get anxious a lot, more than most people, but I'm never this wired.

I think back to the only horror movie I can stand to watch: the old Evil Dead movies with their low budget special effects and goofy one-liners. Channel your inner Ash. Even if you don't have the arm-chainsaw or the "boomstick", you can learn a thing or two from that demon-slaying legend. That's right, this is just a nightmare set up like a bad eighties horror movie. It'll all be over soon. We'll kill these guys, spout some punny crap, and then be off on our way.

Like my anxious mind can take that stupid explanation for a second. No, obviously, we're going to die here. Stop, stop, stop thinking that!

Deep breaths. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for five, breathe out for six. That's what Dad always said. Even if it infuriated me as a kid, I need it now. This is it. They're almost on me—I can see the whites of their eyes, as it were.

The closest one takes a step forward and swings with his fist in a wide arc, chain clanging in the night sky. I duck under it just barely in time. As he's completing the swing, I smash the flashlight into the side of his torso, eliciting a sharper, higher-pitched moan—hopefully one of pain. I follow it up with another swing directly to the back. As that zombie whirls around in confusion, I see the other two begin to close in on my location.

Alright, they're all on me. Any element of stealth or surprise is lost, so now's as good as any of a time to call for help. I shout, "HELP! SOMEONE! HELP ME!" at the top of my lungs. Someone better be nearby, because I don't think I can handle this myself.

The next baddie to come up jabs directly at me, chains clanking with his movements. I neatly dodge it to the right, sidestep to his side, and land a quick swing into his belly. I step back again several times to create some more distance between them and myself.

Above the clunky footsteps and groaning of the monsters, I hear... horses? What the hell could this be about? Just when this couldn't get any weirder...

The hoof sounds grow louder—they're coming closer! "Over here!" I call out again. It could be good, it could be bad. I don't know, but I do know if I stay here these zombies are going to eat me alive. The momentary distraction, however, allows one of them to take a swipe at me. Just in time, I manage to deflect the blow with my flashlight. A fraction of a second later, one of his comrades follows it up with another swing, too close for me to block it. The mere inches I'm able to move allow me to evade the brunt of that attack, but the shackles scrape my right arm.

Sharp pulses of pain run up and down my arm, and I can feel it bleeding. "Jesus Christ!" I cry out. Thankfully, it's not my "sword arm," so to speak, but it still fucking hurts! I stumble back a few steps and experimentally place the back of my left hand on my forearm. That's blood all right. Shit. Well, there's one chance at not dying. I listen to see if the hoofbeats are still there.

They are, in fact, and they sound like they're coming from behind me. I turn around and see two knights riding horses—one is wearing elaborate dark armor and holding a glowing sword... and has blond hair... no, it couldn't be…

It's Xander, from Fire Emblem Fates. "What the fuck is going on?" I yell, because honestly, I really would like an answer at this point. Am I in some kind of coma? I mean, it makes sense if you consider those zombies to be the Faceless...

Then I look to the other knight. It's undoubtedly Peri, with her blue-and-pink hair. Laslow's riding with Peri on her horse. Well, this might be a fever dream, but right now I need to survive.

I run to them, slowed down a little bit by the pain coursing through the right side of my body. We meet in the middle, a decent bit away from what I now know to be the Faceless, who are still only walking to me.

I probably should be freaking out, seeing as I'm about to talk to a fictional character. But I'm actually less concerned because this means I'm going to probably walk away from this alive.

"Are you alright?" Xander calls out.

"I'm bleeding, but I think I'll live," I answer. "Can you take care of those things?"

"We have this under control," he says confidently, riding in between me and the Faceless. Laslow dismounts from Peri's horse and the three prepare themselves to meet the enemy.

The Faceless swarm on Xander, but he swings Siegfried in a wide arc, slicing into one's torso. Black, purplish mist spills out from the wound and the monster vanishes into more of the stuff.

Holy shit, this is real! Unless that's some crazy special effects, that actually just happened. Or I could still be dreaming, but everything feels more vivid and real than a dream ever could be.

Peri charges another and runs it through with her lance. I can hear her deranged giggling from over here. Laslow follows that up with a sword to the shoulder. Two down, one to go.

Xander's got the jump on the last one. "Begone, wretch!" he shouts, before doing the baddie in with a fantastic double-slash. Fucking awesome. The dude's a certified badass. I'm not sure how this is going to go down—I don't know if I'll have to choose between Nohr and Hoshido, but I know I could follow Xander to hell and back again.

In the aftermath of the battle, they come up to me, Xander in front.

"I'm certain you know who I am already, but allow me to introduce myself. I am Xander, crown prince of Nohr. These are my retainers, Laslow and Peri."

"Wow… um… wow."

"Are you sure you're alright?" he repeats, looking me up and down.

"Yeah, it's just… whew, that was a pretty wild time. Anyway, uh, I'm Harrison. Nice to meet you, er, your highness?" I stumble through that one. I never really paid attention to the titles they use in game, and it's probably going to fuck me over big time. Or maybe not, if I play the honest angle of being from a totally different world.

He brushes it off almost entirely. "You said you're bleeding?"

Suddenly I'm reminded of the pulses of pain running through my arm. It was just a scrape, but I'm not used to this crap. I nod and show him my arm. "Would you like to come back to the fortress with us? My sister Elise is a rather skilled healer; she can take care of it." Oh shit! This is for real! It hadn't hit me yet until now—this is my chance to get in with the Fates characters! Although I'll have to explain the whole "I'm actually not from this world" thing, especially what with my clothes and the flashlight.

"Are you sure?" Fuck, that was not how I wanted this to go. But an overeager, incredulous response is how I really am feeling right now.

"Of course. Nohrian sorcerers created those abominations; the least I can do as prince is help repair the damage they cause when left to their own devices."

"Alright then, let's go."

"Follow me!"

A/N: And that's a wrap! I'd like to thank those who I asked to read my story before I published it, most of all AreiaCananaid, Technetium2, and EuclidWriter for their extensive advice - and of course the authors of the most famous FE self inserts like Daydreams and Nightmares and Asleep for inspiring this story.