A/N: I'm very fascinated by the character of Salvianus, the not quite sane former Legion Officer you discover in the Ratway Warrens. I decided to write a little backstory for him.
The Great War made soldiers of them all. There was nothing that could be done about it. Salvianus, young and overly patriotic as he was, joined the Legion when he came of age. Elves sought to rule Tamriel, and the Empire would not allow that to happen.
Assigned to the Eighth Legion division, Salvianus fought alongside at least a dozen others in addition to a battlemage named Junea who served as a healer. It took less than a week for all the men to fall in love with her; she reminded them of family and sweethearts they were fighting for.
Junea's eyes might settle upon an arrow lodged deep in his side, for example, and they would soften slightly. Then she'd tie her frayed, dirty blond hair in a bun and set to work, saying: "This is gonna hurt a bit."
He certainly would have died several times over were it not for her.
Salvianus always tried to appear stronger than he actually was in her presence, everyone did. That little frown of concentration made them believe they could survive and win this war.
Junea didn't deserve to die the way she did. A healer, a goddamn healer, slaughtered like common livestock.
He rose through the Legion's ranks without intending to do so. Suddenly he was an Officer, commanding a force of twenty-five men, and the Aldmeri Dominion wanted the Empire's crown jewel. It wasn't that he acted particularly brave or courageous; Salvianus just tried not to die or let any more of his own be killed either. Sometimes this involved killing.
So he killed, and he died.
They even gave him a medal for his apparent valor. But whenever Salvianus looked at it, he only saw that golden-faced boy. Of course, you could never tell with elves; the Altmer could've been a century old, which was still extremely young by elven standards. Yet he had willingly gone to war, putting his life at stake for the Dominion, because he was so young and patriotic. This boy crumpled to the ground with a bleeding sword-wound across his gut, and it stained his hands red.
Salvianus dropped the medal into the murky waters of Lake Rumare, but that image never went away.
Turning around, he looked back as the first dawn after that terrible night rose over the Imperial City's collapsed white-gold walls, alight with orange flame. The beauty of it brought tears to his eyes, although his mind remained numbly horrified by so much destruction. Wasted lives and architecture, that's what it all meant.
Salvianus found himself trudging north toward the border with a group of ragged soldiers and scared civilians. He didn't know half of them. It didn't matter anyway. Was it desertion? No, because he was an Officer and his men were dead; it was what the Legion called a necessary retreat. Somewhere, the Emperor signed a treaty, bowing to those elves' demands.
Despite the cold, Salvianus felt as if his whole body was on fire. He would wake up sweating, step outside into freezing rain, and wish for Oblivion to claim him.
"You're sick as a dog." Junea scolded him in his dreams. "For Arkay's sake, you have got to take better care of yourself, Sal."
His reluctance to do so stemmed mostly from disbelieving that he could be alive. The world seemed unbalanced somehow. Surely his continued existence was an error that had occurred in the heat of battle, a tangle in Maphala's great web or perhaps a kink in the Divines' plan, which he fully expected to be sorted out immediately. In fact, he almost welcomed it.
"It's hopeless, boy," said the old man in the dark. "Alduin will swallow the world..."
Salvianus understood, or thought he did. He knew, at least. He'd never truly hated the enemy like a good soldier was supposed to. But no one - whether elf, dragon or man - should rule this realm of Oblivion.
How had Salvianus come to be here? Where had the light gone? What if his words were true, and all hope was lost?
Yes, all hope was lost. It was rather freeing somehow; hope could be a burdening thing.
A woman found him there in the dark. She just listened as he told her about the blood, the medal with its damn golden face staring back, the beauty of a burning city and, most importantly, that there was no hope anymore.
Then she left Salvianus alone. Later, the old man was gone, too.
Junea frowned, whispering: "It's not hopeless, you know. Never is."