I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the little plot bunny I had the other day, about a Dunwall newspaper struggling during the plague.
There’s a perfectly-shaped hole for it in the world, and there’s a little detail at the beginning of the game that’s prodding me in the brain, quietly whispering that yes, this would make a perfect climax to the story of the stubborn, loyal, yet perhaps injudicious men and women of The Dunwall Gazette. Think of the exasperated editor, Mena, trying to decipher Stafford’s incomprehensible shorthand as he dashes out of the office because there’s a game of Nancy on tonight and he’s got to win back his rent. Think of soft-spoken Estela, who can’t conduct an interview for beans but who creates engravings so lifelike you almost believe they could speak for themselves. And Mr. Findlay and his two daughters - the fastest damn typesetters in Gristol - and how lost everyone would be without their quick, clever fingers. Think of the letters they get every month from their correspondents in other parts of the Empire: Mr. Garza in Karnaca, a cosmology boffin whose letters always need to be heavily edited for length, and to remove some of the more… colourful references to members of the esteemed Academy of Natural Philosophy. The Tyvian who just signs their name as ‘Vlasic’, and whose stories of upperclass intrigue are just unbelievable enough to be true. Cdr. M. Donovan of Morley, who claims to be in the Empress’s Navy, although discreet inquiries have left Mena doubtful. But his letters are regular and packed full of useful information, which is more than she can say for some members of her staff. Daft old Mrs. Cotterill, who has spent the last decade and a half funding expeditions to Pandyssia with the condition that she goes along too, and whose letters always arrive along with packages full of strange bird feathers, the leaves and seeds of foreign plants (none of which Mena has ever planted, not since a visiting Academy member got terribly excited about the rancid smell of a pressed flower and started babbling about carnivorous plants, of all things), and, once, a large - and still very alive - lizard which swiped a vibrantly blue tongue through the air at her before biting down hard on her thumb. Estela took it home with her. Mena never worked up the nerve to ask what she did with it, but she wrote very firmly to Mrs Cotterill afterwards, requesting that in future she restrain herself to sending their office preserved specimens only.
Think of how they reported the plague, from jokes and rumours at first, to more serious, concerned statements from Academy physicians, or even statements from the Empress herself. Trying to remain a voice of calm reason in the face of growing chaos, spreading the word about plague prevention and Sokolov’s brilliant new remedy. Think about the shock and silence in their little office when they first heard about the murder of the Empress, and the sudden burst of activity for a rushed evening edition and all the information they could possibly pack onto a front page. And think of Mena and Stafford arguing late into the night as more details are revealed, and the cold and dreadful realisation that they’re the only ones left to ask questions like how or why, and that the answers to these questions may not be easy - or safe - to uncover.
And that’s why it’s 3am and I have a dozen tabs open right now about the history of newspapers, printing presses and engraving. Fuck.
"Yes, little elf?"
"Would you care to explain why the main road out of Haarfingar, as so marked on that totally accurate map you bought off ‘some man in the Winking Skeever’, leads into a blank wall of rock?”
"I really couldn’t say, little elf. Maybe he was drunk when he drew it."
"… let’s go back a little ways. I think I saw a pack of wolves back there, and I could really set something on fire right now. Oh, and stop calling me little elf.”
"As you say, middle-sized elf."
"I hate this country.”
While the Khajiit caravaneers were kind enough to rescue Vathari from freezing to death and then lead her to Solitude, they’ve got no plans to head any further east. After finding out she’s not going to get home by sea, Vathari decided to head into the city to see if anyone else is heading to High Rock. She didn’t really expect to walk in during an execution, of all things. And while she’s scraped together enough coin to buy a meal and a room for the night, all the death she’s seen over the last couple of days - bodies in the water from the shipwreck, Thalmor leading a man to his death, and now a man being publicly beheaded - are bound to result in an unsettled night. She’s spent most of her life in alchemical laboratories or quiet fields studying fungus, so all of this is coming as something of a shock to the system.
And this is the point that Vathari discovers that the Empire has commandeered all ocean-going vessels for the war effort.
Just wait until she discovers that they’ve closed the borders too. :3
It has been a very, very long day.
So Vathari is alone and so cold and wandering around lost in the dark and has just been attacked by a wolf and the poor thing is terrified witless, but she’s finally found a road. So she struggles on, hoping that maybe there’s a town nearby, or even just a guard tower: something, anything out of the wind and with the possibility of a fire.
But what’s that? Footsteps on the road? Oh, please don’t let it be bandits. Please, let it be a guard or someone who can help her.
… oh great, now she’s started to hallucinate, on top of everything else.
"Cats are like witches. They don’t fight to kill, but to win. There is a difference. There’s no point in killing an opponent. That way, they won’t know they’ve lost, and to be a real winner you have to have an opponent who is beaten and knows it. There’s no triumph over a corpse, but a beaten opponent, who will remain beaten every day of the remainder of their sad and wretched life, is something to treasure."
-Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad
"Refuse to believe life ends here. Too wasteful. Have more to offer. Mistakes to fix. Cannot end here. Could do so much more."
I don’t think there’s a scan-acquired sidequest in ME2 I like quite so much as exploring the wreck of the MSV Estevanico on Zanethu. I love derelict hulks and abandoned buildings, and the freighter’s gutted, creaking frame, balancing precariously against a sheer cliff, is perfectly eerie. I wish it were larger - I could play a whole mission in something like that. No enemies, just the moaning of the wind, the squeal of metal on metal and the danger of the whole thing coming down on your head.
"The Council will never trust Cerberus. They’ll never accept our help."