June 30, 2017

Worth Fighting For - Entry XV: The Hard-Fought Battle Won

Worth Fighting For
Entry XV: The Hard-Fought Battle Won
Location: Southwest Bunker, Fort Jay
Date: Thursday, December 25th, 2003

I was alone again and there were Soviet soldiers everywhere. I was cut off from the main artillery by a large Red force; there was no way I could make it back to Charlie now. I knew Chris had blown up the helipad up the embankment some time ago and was probably already in the interior of the island, heading to Fort Jay where we believed Isabella was being held captive. Fort Jay was made up of four bunkers and she had to be imprisoned in one of them. The Southwest Bunker was the most logical choice since it was the closest to Chris’ last known position. I quietly sneaked my way to the interior of Governor’s Island.

As I reached Fort Jay and its main gate I saw over fifty Freedom Fighters charging across the open field. They must have landed on the other side of the island when the mortars were destroyed. Many of the faces I didn’t recognize but I knew that they were allies. Then my eyes began scanning the faces, I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something. One of the Resistance caught my eye and gave me a big toothy grin. It was Miguel Bishop, he was alive. I gave him a wave as he charged past me and into the crowd of fighters. When I reached the main gate, there were already Red bodies lining the ground. I could tell that someone else had already been here and I hoped that person was Chris.

I entered an enclosed hallway and turned left, heading west in hopes of finding my teammates again. I could hear gunfire up ahead and steeled myself for anything. I then heard voices shouting, one sounded like Kat and then I heard Chris calling out commands. It was them, I sprinted ahead, eager to join the fight. By the time I rounded the corner, the last SAF soldier dropped dead. Chelly heard me approaching and raised her gun but I called out to her just in time. Everyone was relieved to see me and I, them. I told Chris that Charlie and Miguel were alive and leading other teams in the assault of Fort Jay. He informed me that Phil also had organized an additional team which was clearing the perimeter of any hostiles.

With the Southwest Bunker clear, we grabbed what ammo we could, and headed towards the Northwest Bunker. We were greeted by enemy fire at almost every turn. It was especially difficult to fight in the confines of the bunker halls. With a readied rifle, it was almost impossible to turn. Chris and Kat led the way while Steven and I covered our backs. We were nearing the bunker when we heard footsteps approaching us from behind. Steven and I prepared our weapons and waited for an enemy to appear. When they did, we opened fire, the sound of gunfire ringing through the concrete halls. The din threatened to bring with it another headache but I kept my focus and more importantly, my aim. The fighting stopped and four SAF soldiers were dead.

I turned around and was about to rejoin the others when I heard Steven yell for me to get down and then a blast of gunfire. I whipped back and caught Steven in my arms. One of the Reds fired off a single shot before dying. The bullet was meant for me but Steven had jumped in front of it and it had struck him squarely in the chest. I propped his head up with my knee and tried to stop the bleeding but he told me that it was pointless, he was dying. I couldn’t find anything to say as I watched my friend die in my arms. He told me that it was alright and to make sure that everyone’s sacrifices meant something. He made me promise him that I would ensure that their stories wouldn’t be forgotten and that we would do our best to make this country better. I nodded my head and meekly answered him, telling him that I would do my best. Steven Ryan gave me a smile and then with a sigh he was gone. I gently set his head down and put his arms on his chest. I whispered “thank you” and then turned down the hall towards the Northwest Bunker.

Location: Northwest Bunker, Fort Jay
Date: Thursday, December 25th, 2003

By the time I had rejoined the others; they had killed the remaining Reds in the bunker and had freed Isabella. She was injured but not in critical condition. I guess I had almost missed other things because Isabella was in Chris’ arms and they were kissing. After a few awkward moments of silence, Isabella let go of Chris and grabbed a weapon. Chris asked me about Steven and I just shook my head. We stood in silence for a few more moments and then Chris ordered us to move out. As we exited the bunker, Isabella informed us that Colonel Bulba’s office was in the Northeast Bunker. Chris met our eyes and told us that this was the moment that we could end it all. We raised our guns in the air and cheered, ready to follow him into the abyss.

Location: Northeast Bunker, Fort Jay
Date: Thursday, December 25th, 2003

By now, the SAF soldiers were fleeing or surrendering and only a handful had chose to keep fighting. We cut them down easily, almost too easily, that I felt remorse for the enemy I had so vehemently hated. When we reached the Northeast Bunker, it was deserted. We dashed up the stairs and ran onto the roof, hoping to catch Bulba before it was too late. Our hearts sank when Chelly pointed out the outline of a helicopter flying away. I heard Charlie and Miguel call out Chris’ name from below us, Chris waved back, and they saluted. Then, Charlie threw a pack up at Chris and he caught it. When Chris opened it up we all gave a cheer, inside the pack was the Stars and Stripes. He walked over to the flagpole that was directly above Colonel Bulba’s office and lowered the Soviet flag. Then with a cheer from all the Manhattan Resistance fighters, he raised the U.S. flag, announcing our victory to the world.

The sun had started to peek out from behind the horizon when we all gathered at the center of Fort Jay. There were familiar faces and new ones, all streaked with the same stains of sacrifice. We all turned to Chris for final words from our leader. He told us to remain vigilante. Colonel Bulba had escaped and would be back with an even stronger force. He encouraged us to embrace our newfound freedom and to remember all those who gave up their lives so that we might have this opportunity. And lastly, he thanked us for our dedication and for following him through each and every battle. As the group dispersed, Chris and Isabella walked away, embracing each other as they left. We were all going to let the two have their moment alone but Phil came bounding up behind them and slung an arm over each of their shoulders. He told them that he wasn’t going to let them off the hook just yet, that they’d get their moment to smooch, but right now they needed to plan how to rebuild Manhattan.

Location: Midtown Manhattan
Date: Thursday, January 1st, 2004

I’m sitting on a rickety wooden chair and using a rickety wood desk to prop up a battered computer with a cracked monitor. The keyboard clunks wildly beneath my fingers in a rhythmic motion until I hit the “t” button, which is stuck and needs to be convinced to type. The room I sit in is dusty with debris everywhere. No matter how hard I try to clean it, dirt seems to magically appear after I’ve finished. The roof is water damaged and the wall is cracked but at least it’s a roof over my head. I left the Manhattan Resistance on Christmas morning, in the capable hands of Chris Stone, Isabella Angelina, and Phil Bagzton.

They had asked me to stay and help them not only rebuild the city but prepare to fight the last remaining pockets of the Soviet Armed Forces in other areas of the state and nation. I had to refuse, much as it broke my heart, for I felt like these people were my family and I had followed Chris for so long that it would be strange to not be by his side. The second concussion did its damage and I was no longer in any condition to fight. Pounding headaches, vertigo, and sensitivity to light and sound were a consistent presence in my daily life. A simple light being turned on or the din from a trashcan being emptied could cripple me for hours. I had a mission of my own though, one that Steven Ryan had assigned to me before he died in my arms. That mission was almost as important as theirs for while they were going to rebuild a new life for Americans, I wanted to preserve the lives that were sacrificed to gain our new freedom.

I wanted to tell the stories of people like Troy Stone, Manny Perez, Billy Hurst, Tony Ramos, Arthur Mays, Nikolay Tarasov, and Steven Ryan. I had become close to each one of them and wanted to ensure that their lives and their deaths would be remembered. We lost each one of them before the final battle of Governor’s Island and I feared that their heroic acts would eventually be forgotten. Then there were those that fell during our final mission. Some made it to the island like Daniil Goldobin, whose body we found near the boat landing when we swept the area after the fighting had stopped. Others like Logan Torres; we never recovered their bodies from the icy waters that surrounded the island.

Then there were fast allies that I trusted my life with but who I knew nothing about. I found out from Charlie Raider that Ken Traynor’s parents were from Brooklyn. So we transported his body and buried him in the mass cemetery in downtown Brooklyn in hopes that even though we didn’t know who his parents were, that his final resting place would be near them. Unfortunately, we knew nothing of Shinji Cortez. He had joined the Resistance after Chris’s television appearance and said little. But he never hesitated when he made the ultimate sacrifice on Governor’s Island. He would be buried along with the hundreds of other brave citizens who fought for freedom.

There were also many stories to tell about the bravery of the men and women who survived the war. Charlie Raider volunteered to travel to New Jersey and take command of the Resistance there. The SAF still had a presence in the area and Charlie was all too happy to root out the remaining Reds. Miguel Bishop left the fight but helped the Resistance in other ways. He set up his own auto shop in Manhattan, repairing everything from military vehicles to radios. Chelly and Ryo Ouma also lent their expertise to the cause; traveling to various cities to restore power.

I hadn’t completely left the Resistance either. When I wasn’t writing the memoirs of the war, I was writing and managing the news programs that were broadcast from the Manhattan TV Station. It was still the best form of communication in this postwar era and no one really had any experience in the news business so I happily lent a hand. Katherine Cutter happened to work at a clinic that was near the TV station, so my work allowed me to see her quite regularly. There was still so much to be done. People were starving, living on the streets, and there were dissenters who chose to loot and vandalize rather than give aid to others.

The war taught me many things about myself and about others. I learned that I had an inner strength I never knew existed and that when my friends were in danger, I could rise to the occasion to help them. I found that people were also much more giving than I ever realized and that a complete stranger would be willing to lay down his or her life to save me. I also witnessed firsthand the strength and resiliency people had when they bonded together for the greater good. And most importantly, I learned that freedom was worth fighting for and that no cost was too high to pay for a better future.


I wasn’t expecting Freedom Fighters to give me much substance to use for this blog. I figured I’d write a short eight to ten entry journal about Chris Stone and his exploits with a real “oorah” attitude. That was true until I really put words to screen and found that I just didn’t have a voice for Chris. I knew what he was like but I didn’t really know him and trying to write about his life in first person didn’t make any sense. That’s when I came up with the idea of a journalist who is an eyewitness to all of these events and documents them. Now, Timothy Murphy doesn’t exist in the game, nor do the rest of Chris’ squad. Only Isabella, Troy, Phil, Mr. Jones, The Kid, and the named Russian characters are present in the game. The nameless NPCs gave me an interesting opportunity to create characters with personalities who could be easily thrown away if I didn’t like them a few entries later. I found out that I actually grew pretty attached to most of them and wanted to get to know them more, which is how the entry “In Remembrance” came to be. Tony’s death also seemed to be a benchmark for this series, before that I kept most of the emotional stuff to a minimum but I wanted the fighting to start taking a toll on Chris and our narrator, Timothy. From the point of Tony’s death forward, what I wrote was completely unplanned which is ironic, because I personally felt like they were some of the better entries of the series. On a different note, most of the Freedom Fighters names were inspired by friends, suggestions from a twitter poll, or names from other video games I was playing at the time of writing. Can you guess which games they were? Timothy Murphy’s name was a nod to my favorite Revolutionary War hero. One last note on Murphy, the dream sequence from “On the Run” came about because I realized that we knew nothing about the narrator and I thought it would be a fun way to get a glimpse of his past life. Was he really planning on proposing before the invasion or was it just a dream? I’m not so sure but I do like the idea of forlorn love.

May 26, 2017

The Thief in the Snow - Entry XXI: Your Child Sent

The Thief in The Snow
Entry XXI: Your Child Sent
Windhelm, Eastmarch
Tirdas, 2nd of Heartfire, 4E 201

I was unsure if I would be able to enter Windhelm, for my title as Thane of Whiterun would not aid me here. While Jarl Balgruuf held a neutral position in Skyrim's Civil War, he did have a working relationship with the Empire but this was not the case with the Stormcloaks. As I walked down the snow-covered path and then onto the icy bridge that led to Windhelm, I was greeted by the guards. They hailed me as Dragonborn and welcomed me into the “heart of all true Nords.” Apparently news of my arrival in Riften had already spread north to Eastmarch. This made me wonder if the other Stormcloak aligned holds also knew of my presence in the area. I had little time to ponder this for the guards opened the towering wood gate and ushered me inside.

I was greeted by the spine tingling sensation of cold. Icy air hit my face, my paws pressed against frozen stone, and there was a frigid aura that seeped out of the city. As I approached the local tavern, I overheard an argument brewing nearby. Two Nords were harassing someone they called “gray-skin” and chiding her for not siding with the Stormcloaks. This “gray-skin” was a female Dunmer and she stated that this was not their war to fight. The Nords then went as far as to accuse the Dunmer of being an Imperial spy. They then threatened violence, at this point I felt I had to step in but a third Nord beat me to it. He quickly broke up the argument, calling for peace from both sides. The Nord was called Brunwulf Free-Winter and the reception he received from the arguing party made me surmise that he was a powerful man in Windhelm.

Brunwulf easily dispatched the small crowd by admonishing the Nords for treating the Dunmer so abhorrently. Afterall, Jarl Ulfric allowed them to dwell in the city. After the two Nords left, Brunwulf spoke to the Dunmer and also chastised her for encouraging the conversation to flare. After she apologized and left, Brunwulf turned to me with a look of surprise on his face, a look I was very accustomed to seeing. I introduced myself but Brunwulf was already familiar with tales of my adventures in Whiterun. Brunwulf warned me to be careful in Windhelm for not everyone would be so welcoming. I asked about the cause of the argument and he explained that Dunmer and other non-Nord inhabitants of the city were segregated and forced to live in the Gray Quarter. Brunwulf disagreed with this and had brought up the issue many times to Jarl Ulfric, but the Stormcloak was too busy planning his war against the Empire.

I bid Brunwulf good day and continued to my destination, the White Phial in the market district, to find a lost Soul Gem. Wylaniah, the Court Wizard of Riften, had requested that I retrieve the item she left behind on her last visit to the city. Since I had made the hard journey to the north, I did not mind running this simple errand for her. I also hoped that gaining favor with Jarl Laila Law-Giver’s Court Wizard would also increase my standing with the Jarl as well. I made my way to the marketplace and spied a couple of guards patrolling the area. I was careful of my actions, making sure not to loiter too long at a stall or stare at the wrong person, for any minor slight and I would be arrested. I had no friends here to protect me and I felt that the guards were just waiting for an excuse to make trouble.

I finally located the White Phial, Windhelm’s local alchemy shop, which was located towards the back of the market district. Like all the buildings in Windhelm, its structure was made of stone making its appearance feel uninviting and cold. Inside, there was an old Atlmer who I took to be the owner, sick in the back. His assistant was helping him and though I tried to get his attention, he simply waved me away. I did not wish to disturb them any further and when I spied Wylaniah’s satchel on a shelf, I collected the Soul Gem and went on my way. Back outside in the marketplace, I overheard the locals discussing a string of recent murders including the murder of a Nord named Frigga. The news disturbed me and I knew that I must finish my business in Windhelm as quickly as possible and return to Riften at once.

I passed a Nord beggar near the marketplace named Silda the Unseen. I offered her a few Septims in hopes that she could use them to fight the harsh winter weather. I asked nothing in return but she informed me of some news that she thought I might be interested in. The recent murders had begun a few weeks back when a woman named Naalia Aretino was murdered in a back alley. She left a son named Aventus who was shipped to Honorhall Orphanage in Riften. The Aretino Residence was condemned but only a few days ago, there appeared to be life in the house. Aventus Aretino had run away from Riften and was now locked inside of his old home. Late at night, strange sounds could be heard coming from the dwelling which the locals could only explain by saying Aventus had gone mad with grief. Silda had another reason, that the boy was practicing the Black Sacrament to summon the Dark Brotherhood, in hopes of contracting an assassination.

I arrived at the dilapidated house just as the sun had slipped behind the mountains. I knocked but there was no answer. I knew that someone was inside for I could hear murmuring through the door. Rote words were being chanted within the dwelling, over and over they were recited like a child’s nursery rhyme. I procured a lockpick and silently went to work. I easily unlocked the door and entered the Aretino residence. Inside, I found the house in utter disarray. Furniture was overturned, the tableware was laying under the kitchen table, and rotten food had been trampled. I went farther into the house and found a crumpled letter lying at the foot of the stairs.
‘Master Aventus Aretino,

Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak wishes to express his deepest sympathies at the death of your mother, Naalia.

Unfortunately, because you are fatherless, and have no other known relations, the Jarl cannot allow you to remain in your home unsupervised. Therefore, in no more than a week’s time, you are to report to Honorhall Orphanage in Rifen, where you will reside until your sixteenth birthday.

The Aretino family home in the city of Windhelm will, of course, remain your property. The building will be securely locked and ready for your return six years hence.

Note that I am unsure of the education provided to you by your recently deceased mother, or if you possess the ability to read the letter I am currently composing. therefore, a member of the city guard will call upon you in one week, at your home, and provide escort to the orphanage. Hopefully, his arrival will not come as a complete shock.

With greatest respect,

Steward to our most noble Jarl, Ulfric Stormcloak’
If the state of his house was any indicator, It appeared as if Aventus violently resisted his escort to Honorhall Orphanage. It must have been extremely difficult for him, to suddenly lose his mother and his home all at the same time. Grelod the Kind was no help either, her harsh treatment would make anyone wish for her death. Still, the rumors that Aventus was trying to summon the Dark Brotherhood seemed like an extreme course of action to take. As if to answer my questioning thoughts, I heard a voice falling from the second floor. The voice was that of a young boy who was chanting a dark prayer.

“Die, Grelod! Die! Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”

I knew the words but had never uttered them. They were the words of the Black Sacrament, the ritual to summon the Dark Brotherhood. The ritual to request that someone be killed. If the Night Mother heard the pleas of the invoker of the Sacrament, she would relay the request to her Listener who in turn, would choose a member of the Dark Brotherhood to fulfill the kill. The words alone were not enough to complete the Black Sacrament. An effigy must be created in the likeness of the intended victim and assembled from a real body. A skull, a heart, bones, and flesh were all needed for the dark ritual. The effigy was then to be encircled with candles. Once this effigy was in place, the invoker needed to stab the effigy repeatedly with a dagger bathed in Nightshade while reciting the prayer.

“Die, Grelod! Die! Please… how long must I do this? I keep praying, Night Mother. Why will you not answer me?”

I heard Aventus again as I stealthily made my way up the staircase. I reached the second floor and inched my way towards Aventus’ pleading voice. I spied him in the back bedroom, shakily clutching a silver dagger. He plunged it into the heart and tried to remove it again, only for the blade to become lodged. Aventus jerked back on the handle as hard as he could and fell backward in the pool of blood that had accumulated underneath him. A sickening thought crossed my mind, ‘maybe this boy is the one that has been murdering women in Windhelm.’ The boy slumped down, exhausted and frustrated that his prayers to the Night Mother had not been unanswered. That was until Aventus turned around and saw me standing over him.

“You have come at last! I knew you would!” he exclaimed with excitement as he jumped to his feet.

“Is this one alright?” I inquired.

“It worked! I knew you would come, I just knew it!” Aventus cried with a grin. “I did the Black Sacrament, over and over. With the body and the… the things. And then you came! An assassin from the Dark Brotherhood!”

I remained silent.

“You do not have to say anything. There is no need. You are here, so I know you will accept my contract.” Aventus stated matter of factly.

“Contract?” I quizzed.

Aventus slowly began to explain, “My mother, she… died. I… I am all alone now. So they sent me to that terrible orphanage in Riften. Honorhall. The headmistress is an evil, cruel woman. They call her Grelod the Kind. But she is not kind. She is terrible. To all of us. So I ran away, came home. And performed the Black Sacrament. Now, you are here! And you can kill Grelod the Kind! Please hurry. To be honest, I am kind of lonely here. As much as I hated getting sent to Honorhall, I really miss my friends there…”

I left the boy, who was still standing in a pool of blood, without saying another word. I sprinted down the staircase, burst through the door, and fled through the streets of Windhelm until I was at the city’s main gate. I was unsure of what to do. The job was easy enough, killing Grelod the Kind was something I could do blindfolded. It was supposedly a Dark Brotherhood contract and at first I pondered if it was wise to steal this job from them. Then I remembered that Aventus had been performing the Black Sacrament for days now and no one had answered him. It was not like I even believed that the Night Mother existed, she was probably just some tale spun to scare children into obeying their parents. Nevertheless, I found myself at an impasse not sure if I should grant the boy’s prayers or just move onto another job. One thing was for sure, I still had work to do in Riften. Without further delay, I left the cold lands of Eastmarch and traveled south towards The Rift.