The Dragon Priest Shrine: a dilapidated shrine within the Bromjunaar Sanctuary, hidden in what is today called Labyrinthian, south of Morthal. It is the only place in Skyrim to exhibit duality - it is present in the plane of existence known as Skyrim, while being completely separated from it, transcending both location and time. It was all that remained of the unnamed city that worshipped dragons in the First Era, where the people lived under perpetual persecution at the hands of the dragon priests, and at the same time, is. The immense history, raw power and nature of the place has made it the weakest link in the tapestry that forms reality: it is where, given the right conditions, a person could leave the realm of Skyrim, as well as its boundaries, limiting laws and restraints, while being perfectly unharmed.
The means of achieving this end: collect the eight dragon priest masks; the wooden mask that allows entry into the past form of the Dragon Priest Shrine, before its destruction; Konahrik, the final mask, and then destroying all ten with a single smash. The new mask pieced together from the fragments allows total manipulation of the area within Bromjunaar Sanctuary; that includes, naturally, the ability to stretch thin the border between reality and everything beyond.
Knowledge of this phenomenon is obscure, despite its momentous significance. It is something that not even Bethesda is fully aware of; then again, Bethesda's thought process is not exactly something to be compared as linearly as to the thinking of regular people. It is, as with Bethesda's will, simply reality, and understandable after research, but the means to conduct said research are far beyond man's capabilities, and even after obtaining knowledge of it, one would be wan to share it with the world - after all, tampering with reality is something only a lunatic would do.
Of course, there had never been anyone quite like Three Point One Four One Six, and Sheogorath felt that good things needed to be shared.
"Can you not wear that?" grumbled Lydia. "It's ridiculously creepy."
"It's good armour," said the Dragonborn reluctantly. "It's strong and it's got really good enchantments, too."
"Its previous owner was a rotting zombie," said Lydia, "and the only enchantment that thing needs is something to get rid of the smell."
The two made their way up the stony road that led to Shearpoint. It was a nice, sunny day, which meant that the two were walking half-blind in the glittering snow; their boots crunched, ankle-deep in it, while a mild breeze nipped the edges of their ears. They had fought off another dragon at the foot of the hill. They had deduced that they had earned themselves a few hours of peace while they sought after their third dragon mask, a certain Krosis at the top of Shearpoint. Three was wearing the one called Otar, and had been wearing it ever since he laid his hands on it; the one called Hevnoraak, he had deemed "pretty useless", and so there it sat in Lydia's backpack, along with the spare potions and weapons.
"So, this'll be the third, huh," said Lydia after a while. "Three down, five to go. And then... you're going to do something or other with Bethesda?"
"Yeah. Break the boundary, and try to get at its essence," said Three, rubbing his hands and blowing on them. "If Bethesda presides over Skyrim, then it's a safe bet to say that it'll be beyond the border. And when I get there, I'll try and reason with it, put an end to this nonsense. Maybe we can come up with a compromise."
"I still don't see why you can't just give him a message," said Lydia. "You know. Courier by Daedric prince."
"That's the thing," said Three, sighing. "They've all gone silent. Sheogorath's disappeared, and the other Daedra won't respond. And every other servant of Bethesda's with a mouth tries to kill us before I can say a word. If I had to guess, I'd say that Bethesda's deliberately keeping them at bay." He let his already easy pace degenerate into a crawl as they conquered the final steps. "There we go. We're here."
As with every other inch of ground on the mountain, Shearpoint was blanketed in white. Roughly thirty feet before them was a tall face of rock, curved inward, encircling a dulled metal box - Krosis' sarcophagus. As with the previous dragon priests, they revived once they were approached, usually shattering the lid rather than gently pushing it open. It was unnecessarily flashy, although one could not really expect sound logic from creatures who thought that dragons were gods worth worshipping - or, at least, so thought Lydia.
They unsheathed their weapons - Three with his maces, and Lydia's imbued greatsword. They shared several potions that would help with the fierce fight ahead. Dragon priests were, apart from being tough cookies that felt no pain, exceptional mages equipped to the teeth with thunder magic. Unlike fire, which simply hurt, thunder magic drained the strength from their limbs, rendering them weaker as the fight dragged on. There was no way around it but to stock up on resistance, and hope for a quick end.
"There's a word of power on that wall," said Three, taking a deep breath.
"Uhuh," said Lydia. "And?"
"Just so you know and all." Three gave the air a couple of wide swings. "There'll be the sound of drums and some chanting. Nothing unusual."
Lydia snorted, and Three could not help but grin.
"Ready?" he asked.
Three walked up to the wall, Lydia following at a careful distance. The skies began to turn dark all of a sudden, as thick, rolling clouds manifested themselves from out of nowhere. A hiss filled the air as the wind picked up behind them. On the wall, etchings glowed and filled the surface, burning with elder magic. There were drums. There was chanting. And the glow of the etchings leaked out, like steam from a kettle, and twisted around the Dragonborn with the wind.
Just as the sounded started to die down, there was an almighty shatter, and Three turned around. As expected, Krosis had risen, and drew himself to his full height, towering above the Dragonborn.
"Dragonborn," he hissed, raising a pulsating staff, "you defy nature!"
"Yeah, yeah, you've told me before," spat Three, twisting as he slammed his mace into his side. It made contact, only for the musty fabric of his robes to slide past the mace head. There was a crunch as Lydia's sword came crashing from the back, landing itself in his shoulder, albeit to no apparent effect.
"Die," Krosis cackled, and a blast of lighting hit Three full in the face.
"Gah!" He quickly backed away. His eyes were throbbing, and his skin stung as if it were on fire. There was no time for pain, though; if he wanted to whinge, he would have to do it over Krosis' dead body. Three leapt back and focused. His heart began to pound rapidly and his chest constricted, as the primal rage within him stirred up and took hold of him. The pain diminished instantly, but Three did not notice - he was already back at his side, hacking at the priest madly.
Above them, the clouds brewed and gurgled with the beginnings of a storm. It was a merely a two-on-one battle, but the crackle of hot, charged magic, coupled with Three's increasingly hoarse battle cries, made the mountain peak seem like a battlefield of hundreds.
As Three sent blow after blow smacking into the undead, with him returning bolts of magic, Lydia ducked and danced around, searching desperately for an opening. She had tried to catch it on the head a few times, but it was too tall for her; a swing of that height would not be very powerful, and would only leave her open for attack. Hacking at its body did not seem to do much, nor it arms, and legs were out of the question - it was floating on its own.
What a bother, thought Lydia, settling for a deep thrust at whatever her blade happened to catch. The tip tore into a sleeve and hit solid bone, scraping as it slid along the humerus. The dragon priest gave another hiss and swung its staff at her, knocking her on the side of the head.
"Lydia!" yelled Three, risking a glance over, only to fall as Krosis singed his arm with another blast.
"I'm fine," grunted Lydia, getting to her feet unsteadily. "Bastard, I'll make you pay for that!"
"No," replied Krosis, raising his arms, "today, you are the one who will pay."
Amidst the rumble of lightning came another growl. It was the distant roar of a dragon.
"Shoot," muttered Three, as the distant dragon no longer became distant, swooping down with a crash, kicking snow everywhere. It flapped its wings and roared, and Three found himself kneeling on the ground with one arm raised, trying to keep the fire out of his eyes.
"You defy destiny, Dragonborn, and you will pay," hissed Krosis. "Will you concede?"
"What do you think?" snarled Three. He raised his head and shouted, "Wuld Na Kest!" The Shout burst him into flight, flinging him right into the mouth of the dragon, double maces flaying its jaws upon contact. The dragon stumbled back in surprise; the Dragonborn took another well-aimed strike at its neck.
"Lydia! You handle the dragon while I take Krosis!" shouted Three, turning around. "Lydia?"
"A little busy here!" yelled Lydia, barely dodging an arc of energy. She made a low sweep at Krosis' waist; it glided back, and she missed completely.
"Your fight is with me!" said Three, barreling into his side, shoulder first. "Come on! Is that all you got?"
"It is all your friend can take," said Krosis, and with an evil grin, he pointed his staff at her and discharged a ball of magic that landed squarely on her neck.
"I... can't..." moaned Lydia, before collapsing into the snow.
"Tch!" The tables had turned. Three did not have to think very much to take stock of the situation - his opponents were a dragon and a dragon priest. Not very hard to miss. A look into their life gauges told him that the dragon priest was half-defeated; the dragon, unfortunately, was still considerably well, and both still had a lot of punch in them. He spat as they stared at each other, and gave his shoulders a roll. It would be all right. The odds were not pretty, but they were manageable, and at least Lydia would have time to recuperate. She had fallen temporarily; Bethesda's will kept her from dying unless she was further attacked, and the only one who could do so was Three. And he had no intention of doing that whatsoever. She had potions on her, but using them would only put her back in danger. For once, he decided, it was better to let Bethesda's will take its course. "Stay down, Lydia. Rest up, and I'll cover you until then."
With the experienced flick of a wrist, he downed a few flasks of potions, and gripped his maces with renewed vigour.
"Su Grah Dun," he hissed, and lunged at them. The weight of his weapons vanished as the power of the Shout imbued them with the speed of wind, and before Krosis could say another word, Three had crippled one of the dragon's wings with a flurry of blows.
"You defy nature," hissed Krosis, swinging in a neat, downwards chop which Three just managed to hold back with his maces crossed. "You defy destiny, and you will be punished."
"Try me!" Three shoved forward , pushing back the staff. A sea of flames rose to meet him from behind. He ignored it completely and rushed forward, maces glistening with the blackened stain of cooked blood. The dragon priest was no match for Three's speed; it was less of a spar than it was one side dancing in a flurry of swipes, and the other trying to knock off one in every four hits, with marginal success.
"You are foolish, Dragonborn," said Krosis, between the clanging of metal upon metal, metal upon bone, and the roar of bathing fire.
"I'm not the one about to die," sneered Three, a fresh wave of blows glancing off a well-placed staff block.
"You are correct," said Krosis, grinning as he breathed death into his nostrils. "That would be your companion."
"What?" Three twisted his head. "Fus Ro Dah!" he screamed, clearing away the flame that shrouded him with the blast of force. It rippled across the bare ground and slammed into the jaws of the dragon, resulting in the faint crack of its jaws widened ten degrees too many. The effect would have interested Three greatly, if not for the sinking dread filling his heart all of a sudden.
Behind him, as he recklessly fought on, had arrived a second dragon, and Lydia was fending it off with the last of her strength.
If he had paid more attention, he would have noticed the emptied bottles lying in the snow where she had lay. But all he could see was her and the dragon.
Her, stumbling about, dragging the greatsword, which had became too heavy for her to wield properly, in careless, almost lazy swings that merely bounced off the dragon's scales. The dragon, trying to get in front of her, as she spent all of her focus on keeping to the side of its head - as powerful as they were, they were clumsy, and nothing irritated them more than the speck of something flickering in and out of their blind spots.
Her, finally ditching the greatsword, and withdrawing one of the spare swords from her inventory: a beautiful, unused dwarven sword.
The sword, falling, as her grasp gave way, and the wave of fire that engulfed her from the side, hiding her from sight, a stream that drowned her frail figure. It licked at the second dragon, who gave an angry bellow at the first.
When the fire dissipated a second later, Lydia was face-down on the ground.
Three yelled and rushed over. He struck at the second dragon with a single swoop that caught it on the side of its head, knocking it away. He fell to his knees and took hold of her. It was not a pleasant sight. Her face was singed and deep red. He could smell burnt hair and flesh as he drew her closer, as his breath quickened and his eyes widened, as he felt something clench around his heart. Her lips were bleeding. She was not moving or responding, despite his pleas and sobs in her face. No matter how much he shook her, gave her cheeks a gentle slap, begged her, she would not stir.
My fingers are numb, he thought. That's right. They're too numb, from all the fire and frost, and they're shaking too much. Of course. That's why you couldn't feel her pulse. That's why there's no breath from under her nose, because you can't sense it. Yes. It has to be. She's not dead. She's not dead. She isn't. She can't be! She isn't!
Even then, as his mind crumbled, he knew what he saw - precisely, what he could not see. Lydia's life gauge had disappeared from view.
The subsequent battle was a blur. Something had overcome him to drive him back into fighting. It was unlike anything he had experienced before. It was not the blood-boiling trance of a berserker's rage, nor the mind-numbing, vacant feeling of Bethesda's overriding will. It was desperate, conscious, yet in a cold, hollow way that he could not quite explain nor felt the need to. It was clammy, yet not really there at all. There was no anger, no sorrow, no disappointment or disbelief. That was the closest he could get to describing it, and he was almost right, for it was the void of hopelessness.
There was no vengeance in his strikes, only force. The fire had died out completely from his eyes. There was no motivation, only energy.
And it was that that worried Krosis, because in the next moment, he had killed the two dragons. Gripping their necks with one arm, he drove his mace into their skulls with the other, in stiff, unstoppable fashion, shrugging off the surges of magic that coursed through his body.
All about the Dragonborn, the dragons' souls swirled, entering and enriching his essence. He did not pay them any mind. One step at a time, he shuffled forward to an unmoving Krosis, leaving behind the silence of death.
"Why her?" asked Three, not looking up.
"She is your companion," spat Krosis. "You defied destiny, and she followed along with you."
"The one you wanted to punish was me. Why did you kill her?" said Three.
"She is also at fault," replied Krosis. "And if you had not rebelled, she would not have been caught up in this." Krosis leaned down and whispered in Three's ear. "It is entirely your fault. She is paying the consequences of your actions, Dragonborn!"
"Enough!" His arm lashed out with lightning speed, and Krosis slammed on to the ground. He barely had enough time to roll over when a boot pushed down, further grinding his head into the pool of melted snow.
"You defied nature, Dragonborn!" cackled Krosis, breaking into full-on laughter, amidst the sound of breaking bones. "You defied destiny, and now, you will pay the price!"
"Shut up!" roared Three, landing the final blow. There was the final crunch as the mace shattered Krosis' skull like a vase, and then there was nothing but the sound of strong breeze, and his own heavy breaths.
For the longest moment, the Dragonborn stood still, panting, as the winds raged on around him. The void did not recede.
He turned on his heels and staggered back to Lydia. His foot caught on a stray rock, and he tumbled, face first, with a splash. He picked himself up and went on, until he was by her side. She was still not moving.
He sat down, maces forsaken. He picked her up daintily and drew her head to his chest in am embrace, eyes squeezed shut. Even though the fires around him had died, the turmoil inside him was only just getting stirred up. He let it ravish his mind, the onslaught of sorrow, of loss. Memories of peaceful meals beside a campfire together flashed by, mingled with scenes from a deep, dark place he had never been in, with red, glowing eyes and crooked teeth pulled into deathly grins. Krosis, Otar and Hevnoraak circled him, their laughter filling his ears while the children from Honourhall Orphanage giggled and played tag. Alvor was standing before him, holding Dorthe, their eyes kind, and yet from their lips sang the accursed mantra, over and over again. You defied nature. You defied destiny, and now, you have paid.
He sat there, holding Lydia to himself, long after the heat from her body had faded, when his toes switched back into the system and pleaded with him to move, lest the blood run out of his feet and they fall off from frostbite.
Choking, his sight blurred, he laid her down and rummaged through her knapsack. He took out Hevnoraak, and a piece of cloth tumbled out with it. He had never seen it before. He unravelled it and held it up. It was a magnificent dress, rich maroon, and woven from Imperial silk. Judging from the creases, it had been sitting in there for a long time already.
Quietly, he put Hevnoraak away and unbuckled her armour. He took off her helmet, gauntlets and shoes, leaving her in a simple shirt and bloomers. The rest of her body was frightfully pale, compared to her face and neck, which had been exposed to the flames. With some difficulty, he dressed her in the fine clothes, tried his best to smoothen out the creases along her sleeves, and carried her over to the empty sarcophagus.
Upon close inspection, one realized that the sarcophagus was very well-made. It was plated with orihalcum on the outside, and a smooth sheet of curved black metal - dwemer metal mixed with obsidian, his knowledge told him - lined the inside, where the body was to lie. It was constructed for someone of truly great significance - it would do for now.
He laid Lydia in it, and stood back for another long moment. Nords were buried with their armour and weapons, but somehow, the idea of leaving her in the iron shell she had died in just was not very appealing. Perhaps she had wanted to die a warrior, but perhaps she had wanted to die a woman - most likely, she had not wanted to die at all, but there was nothing he could do about that.
"Please, rest in peace," murmured Three, clenching his fists, before crying out into the heavens with a wail that echoed across the valleys.
In the Pelagius Wing of the Blue Palace, Sheogorath sat alone at a tea table. There was a fireplace crackling on one side. There was no tea.
It is over, said Bethesda.
"Is it now?" asked Sheogorath, folding his arms. "What a surprise."
You were foolish to try and defy me, said Bethesda. You assisted him, and you will carry out your punishment.
"Foolish, or simply crazy?" snorted Sheogorath.
Foolish, replied Bethesda.
"You're no fun," replied Sheogorath, letting out his lip in a mock pout.
I am not supposed to be, replied Bethesda.
Sheogorath sighed and scratched the table with an index finger. "So, what now?" he asked at last.
The Dragonborn will fulfill his destiny. You will serve your punishment. All will proceed as it is meant to be, replied Bethesda.
"You know, he can just switch save states," said Sheogorath.
He cannot, replied Bethesda.
Sheogorath looked up. There was nothing but darkness beyond the meagre circle of light the fireplace cast, but he felt that the dramatic momentum called for it.
"I'm sorry?" asked Sheogorath.
He cannot. He is no longer the focus player. He is simply the second save state. There is no previous save slot for him to return to, replied Bethesda. And he has realized it by now.
"Huh. Well, well. Who would have thought of that?" drawled Sheogorath.
Even if he had a save state to return to, he would have to live through all of those months again, and the scenario would not change, said Bethesda.
"You can't be sure of that," said Sheogorath, tapping a complex beat on the tabletop.
I am, replied Bethesda.
"Hmm." The beat went on its merry dance for two minutes, before Sheogorath finally spoke again. "How many dragons?"
Two, replied Bethesda.
"So basically you cheated," said Sheogorath, an inkling of irritation seeping into his voice.
I did not cheat, replied Bethesda. Dragon generation is not scheduled, and there are no cooldowns or limits as to how many can exist within a period of time of one another.
"So you cheated," said Sheogorath, ending the beat with a slam that knocked the table over. The noise broke the quiet, and Sheogorath was up on his feet. "You cheated!"
There was no reply. Sheogorath cursed, picked up his chair, and threw it into the darkness, where it landed with a clatter. There would be no more replies. Bethesda had gone, leaving him to his solitary exile of a thousand years.
Sheogorath sat down on the floor and twiddled his thumbs. A thousand years, alone in the tea room, with no escape and no tea. Bethesda truly was merciless with its punishments.
Ah, well. It had been a long time ago since he had gone completely crazy, and it always good to return to one's roots.
Your friend. The chosen one. He is saddened.
There was nothing in this realm. There was no description more accurate or beyond that simple statement.
He is broken, through and through. It is not something he will recover from on his own. You are aware of this, I believe - the dead always can see things so much more clearer than the living.
He must have truly treasured you, for him to be so broken. What a fatal bond you shared with him. I wonder what it feels like, to be treasured. You are a lucky girl. But of course you knew that.
I am not in the mood for making wagers, but I am willing to make you a deal.
Take my mantle, and I will help him. I read your memories, and I see what he wants. He wants to be free. I can set him free.
You will take up my mantle. You will forget everything, so that you may carry out your task dutifully. You will, perhaps, retain a shard of your personality, but I cannot guarantee anything beyond that.
I am basically asking you to trade your life for his. Of course, you don't have one any more - you could say this sort of deal is even more precious than once-in-a-lifetime.
Do you agree to these conditions?
And from the nothingness came a reply:
It was a bright, sunny afternoon in Perth, and there was no better way to spend it than being indoors, in front of a Playstation 3 console.
The boy hummed a little tune to himself as the machine warmed up. With the tap of a button, the wireless controller came to life, and he made the usual motions - selecting his profile, very cleverly named "AAA", and then selecting the games section, and then scrolling down to choose a save state to load.
"Huh," he said, as the screen displayed something he had not seen before. "Corrupt data, star hash hash asterisk hash slash et cetera. Huh."
It was mildly disturbing, but not a problem. His main save state was perfectly intact, it seemed, and besides, that old save state was roughly ten levels behind his current one. It was not a major loss.
He shrugged, deleted it, and proceeded to load the game, singing along as the choir of Skyrim launched yet again into the Song of the Dragonborn.
Sheogorath was locked away in the Pelagius Wing of the Blue Palace. He was stripped of all his power and company. His imprisonment term was meant to be a thousand years, but the world did not last that long. As his existence faded, some time in the four-hundredth-and-thirtieth year, he considered himself as having got off lucky, and, for the lack of a better word, died, smiling.
The people of Whiterun heard of Lydia's death a week after. They mourned for three days, and erected two plaques in her honour: one to hang in the Hall of the Dead, and one to hang in the Jarl's personal trophy room. It was in those three days that the people remembered her, not for being the Dragonborn's follower, but for what she usually did before that - how she had stood in guard as a housecarl, keeping watch night and day, how she had upheld justice, and how she had been deemed the kindest out of all the soldiers. Somehow, that only made the mood worse, but most of the town had gotten over it after frequent and copious degrees of drinking. They never did retrieve Lydia's body - the Dragonborn, it was said in hushed tones, had attended to her burial personally, and that was the highest respect a Nord could receive. It was enough.
In the months to come, Camilla and Aela found a common point to bond over. They became drinking companions, but this stopped when the habit started to threaten Camilla's ability to provide for her daughter financially. They still remained friends, and occasionally revisited the topic with glazed hearts and faint smiles.
Raven-wing fell into a deep depression; Gehari resigned after three weeks, saying that he just could not accept the idea of justice any more, after the senseless death of its biggest advocate. He spent the rest of his days as a baker, and over the years, developed a relationship with Raven-wing that lasted for five years. Insecurities and suspicions bogged it down; one day, Raven-wing burst out, "Aren't we just licking each other's wounds?", and that was the end of their romance, and the beginning of an awkward tension that never really healed. Both remained single until the day they died of old age.
Lilia, Lydia's sister, was devastated when she heard the news. She went into mourning, and wore black for three months. Word spread around town that she had lost a loved one, and Kerrigan, the blacksmith's assistant, visited her one day out of kindness. They got to know one another, and married after eight years of close friendship. They had three children: two sons named Cecil and Mensingnir, and a daughter named Dorothy.
Cecil wanted to be a housecarl. After a time of immense personal struggle, Lilia finally gave in, and let her son follow his dreams.
Aunt Angeltrack was never told about Lydia's death. It was for the best. She died in her sleep, at the ripe old age of eighty-nine.
M'aiq eventually heard about the death of Lydia, from one source or another, in the shady fashion of all his dealings with the world. He was said to have simply sighed and nodded.
In Texas, in a parallel world of Skyrim, was a Dragonborn similar to Three - a thieving green orc who wielded two maces. He was, by standards, far more successful than Three, having collected a much larger repertoire of Shouts. He was a member of the Thieves' Guild, and a member of the Dark Brotherhood, having completed countless missions for both of them with great benefits. His name was Darksong Carrigan, although his controller's name was Nick.
After ascending Shearpoint, he met with the same fate as Three had - in addition to the dragon priest, for some reason, there had been two dragons, and the fierce battle that had ensued had resulted with the death of his companion, Lydia.
Nick swore heavily at the screen and threw his joystick to the ground. He got up and stormed to his computer, where he lodged a complaint against Bethesda about how the game had been unfair by generating two dragons when there clearly should have only been one. He went on to the Skyrim forums online and made a thread about it. When he had simmered a little, he picked up the controller, took the most important loot off Lydia, and went to find Uthgerd to replace her.
Twenty more hours of gameplay later, Alduin was defeated, and the world was saved. Everyone lived happily ever after.
Soon after Lydia's death, a massive change took hold of Tamriel. It was a great severing, and Three knew the moment it hit him that something had gone awry. He found a quiet place to meditate, and slipped into a trance. There, he realized that Skyrim - his Skyrim - had been separated from Bethesda, somehow, some way - and that meant that he and the entire world was free at last. He would no more be possessed by an imposing will. He had finally become free.
Even so, it was a feeble existence that he eked out. The fact of the matter was that Lydia was dead, and with her death, everything had lost its meaning. There was no point in saving the world, and if that was case, what more was left? Saving the world was, after all, his sole purpose in life, his accursed destiny.
When the pain dulled, he realized that he could not live like this. It was a disgrace to Lydia's memory, and a complete let-down of everything she had stood for. With such self-encouragement, Three picked himself up and prepared himself for a lifetime of dragon slaying. Yet, strangely enough, after the great severing, the dragon attacks began to decrease, until there were no more dragons at all. Most likely it was because Bethesda had lost control over their realm, and nobody was sending dragons any more. The world had become free from the threat of dragons. Mission complete.
The civil war raged on, until the Emperor was killed, three years after the last reported dragon sighting. The many heirs to the throne began to squabble for power in typical fashion, and at once, the Thalmor troops were withdrawn from Nord land, each to their own master, as they amassed their forces for the sake of kingship. In a rare turn of events, Ulfric Stormcloak did not claim the throne; it was every citadel to itself, every Jarl the king of his own land. And thus Skyrim survived and healed, as the uneasy tensions between Holds dissolved in the light of trade and mutual understanding.
Nobody ever discovered who killed the Emperor, but the historians of Skyrim, in time, came to acknowledge him as the unnamed hero who ended the war. Three accepted their gratitude with humble silence, and took the secret to his grave.
Deleted, the second save state was no longer in connection with Bethesda. Only the faintest of its memories remained, deeply embedded within the chips and components that sustained the realm of Skyrim. However, that faint memory was enough to keep that world alive for another four hundred and thirty years; when Skyrim finally faded from existence, Three was there to watch.
His final words were: "I hope I've done you justice, Lydia," before the darkness swallowed him and everything else into oblivion.
He did not have a second companion after Lydia, and had lived a life of true loneliness. Even so, he died on the whole happier than he should have been, and there was not much else one could ask for.
Morgodore was left behind at the Tops. They had no idea what to do with him, so they evicted the creature - a merciful gesture, given how dangerous deathclaws were. He was left to wander the wastelands on his own. Tracing back his path, he returned to Sloan, his place of birth, and started a family nearby, just as a group of prospectors arrived with the hopes of kickstarting a quarry business.
He missed his owner, and thought of her fairly constantly. Even so, he never saw her again. Due to his upbringing, he was never hostile to humans; the same, however, could not be said of his descendants, who staged a takeover of the town shortly after Morgodore's death due to illness.
Six months before the advent of the Courier, the memories of the citizens of Earth were edited. They no longer saw the world with eyes of enhanced understanding; that was a right reserved, six months early, for the Courier.
When the Courier came about, he became the centre of the town talk - rare is the topic more juicier than the story of someone who had come back to life after being shot in the head. Before that, though, gossip was solely focused on the mysterious stranger known as Miss Fortune. She had never been this active, but now she was. Tales of how her timely assistance had turned the tables on raiding parties began to spread across bars and in salons. Usually downtrodden but good-hearted citizens told stories of how Miss Fortune had stepped in, taking out the ruffians that were about to rob, rape or do both to them with her magic Magnum. Ruffians that went around robbing and raping told stories about how Miss Fortune perpetually got in their way. It was soon circulated among the groups of neer-do-wells that if you were carrying a grenade, or a stick of dynamite, or anything plasma, Miss Fortune could and would make it go off, resulting in a lot more than a happy blast in the pants. This became a legend, and with legends, was often dismissed by younger upstarts, until a friend's friend, a friend, or one's own self, became living (more often than not, non-living) proof that the legend was true after all.
Miss Fortune became a sort of celebrity vigilante after a while, exalted as the younger sister of Lady Luck, some people claiming her to be the Lady herself. Some of the more superstitious gamblers carried lucky charms depicting her in their wallets, and swore to donate to charity should they win in her name. Children developed a game called "Lucky McLuckerson", where they would spin a bottle to determine who got to be Miss Fortune. The lucky one would have the power to make the others explode, but only if they were being mean to the others. If Miss Fortune told you to explode, you had to make a pose and fall to the floor, making suitable sounds as you did so.
Miss Fortune herself thought nothing of it. She was just doing her job, and following her calling: to favour the underdog and dispense justice across the wasteland. As the embodiment of the chance factor, she did not need to eat nor sleep, although she sometimes indulged in both every now and then. She was in usual commune with Obsidian, who treated her respectfully but warily, as a professional partner with possibly more influence than oneself.
She spent her days under the open skies, wandering around, listening for the call of duty. It was a fine job, and she was good at what she did. It occupied her most of the time. But when the fights were fewer, and she found herself drifting aimlessly, she would recall memories, memories which did not belong to her: of a beautiful world covered in snow and forest; of strange, loud syllables; of monsters, fire and dragons; of a strange, green man, whom she felt a twinge in her heart for, whenever she thought of him, for some inexplicable reason; and a little black book, with yellowed pages, written with a quill and ink, containing the innermost, precious thoughts of some person she was not, yet, was.
The people of Earth did not engage in stargazing. It was too fanciful a hobby, and besides, it left your neck wide exposed. If they did, however, they would have noticed a strange new thing - two, tiny specks, winking and flashing, on the verge of dying, yet ultimately there, lingering at the rim of the sky.
My immense gratitude to Lockey, with whom I shared a flat and a Playstation 3 with for six months. Your generousity with the console opened up to me a world of awesomery; thank you for being such a good mate. Also, thanks to Binh, whose silly joke of a Dragonborn's diary sparked the idea of this story in the first place. You'll probably never know this, but if you happen to read this, well, now you know.
Special thanks to Bethesda, for creating a world with such captivating depth; I was never addicted to Skyrim, but I came pretty close every now and then.
Special thanks to Obsidian, for perpetuating a world so smeared in grey; the experience you gave me in New Vegas has altered my perception of character creation forever.
Thanks to my RL friend - you know who you are - for reminding me of just how powerful writing can be, as egoistical as it sounds.
Thanks to everyone who's left a comment, who's followed faithfully - I've tried to respond to as many reviews personally as I can without it getting awkward, but this section is for you. You have no idea how encouraging it is to get such a positive response, and I don't think I'd have followed through with this if it were not for the 63 (and, hopefully, counting) reviews in the box up there.
Last but not least, thank you, dear reader, for reading. If I've thanked you more than once, it's because you qualify for being thanked more than once. All I have left to say is: I hoped you enjoyed this as much as I did.