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MrSelf-Destruct Blog

Whatever Happened to Benjen Stark?

BENJEN

Benjen Stark was more than a week into the Haunted Forest when he heard the baby's cry - an impossible sound out here, where even grown men perish more than not. He brought his horse to a stop and studied his surroundings. Towards the sound and far through the trees, he spotted the broad and bulding shape of Craster, who was placing a newborn babe in the snow. Without a second look at the child, Craster stood and hurried into the trees. The bloody bastard, leaving this little one to die. Benjen knew Craster well enough to not be surprised. Just then, a much taller, leaner shape appeared from the other direction. Before it even left the shadows, Benjen knew what it was. He'd heard the tales enough to recognize the pale skin and glowing blue eyes. The White Walker leaned down and collected Craster's gift from the snow. Benjen expected a terrible fate for the child, but to his surprise, the Other simply held the baby to its chest. What in seven hells is this then? Benjen had heard so much of the murderous Others. What did this one intend if not to devour the child? As First Ranger, he knew it was his duty to find the answer. With the child in hand, the Other turned to the North, headed back the way it came. And Benjen followed.

He tracked the Other for many miles, struggling to keep his distance as to avoid detection and maintain pace as to not lose the Other altogether. If not for the child's faint cries, he would've been turned around long ago. His horse wasn't much help, either. It was becoming exhausted from pushing through the deep snow, climbing rocks, and dragging its belly over the hidden brush. It would occasionally let out a series of angry grunts to protest the journey, and Benjen's heart would pause each time. He knew the horse was well beyond its limits now. Rather than allow the poor beast to betray his position, he dismounted and pointed its nose back towards Castle Black. With a brisk slap to the rear end, the horse leapt forward and out of sight. Once the horse reached the Wall, he knew, the Old Bear would promptly send a party of his brothers to find him. Benjen traveled many miles more on foot, waist deep in snow, soaked through his leathers, and unable to feel his hands or feet. He could hardly see through the thick fog of falling show. He could hardly hear through the howling winds. Yet, dutifully, he followed the cries of Crastor's forfeited child.

Benjen began to wonder just how far this White Walker had taken him. He'd already fought his way through the snow for a great distance more than he'd traveled in the past. He began to wonder just how much longer he'd be able to go without food and fire. He'd already become more weary than he'd ever knew a man could. He felt his heart winding down, as if it was preparing for a long rest. He felt his breath freezing in his throat, as if it were afraid to come out into the cold. He had long forgotten his legs, a relief after his joints and muscles burned for so long. He wondered if his eyes were open or if they’d frozen shut, for the world around him now was solid black. Struggling to suck the frozen air into his lungs, he wondered how many breaths more he would win. Piece by piece his body had betrayed him, much like that old craven horse, and he could now feel himself falling forward. Ever so slowly, he collapsed onto his knees and outstretched hands. The waist deep snow was holding him up, he realized, and now he’d reached its clearing.

He had little sense of what he was resting upon, since he could no longer see or feel, but its lack of give told him it whatever it was, it was as solid as any steel. The burning cold that radiated up through his arms and into his core told him whatever it was, it was as cold as any ice. It could only be ice, he thought. But it was more than ice. It was impossibly cold. And it burned him even in the parts of him that had long gone numb. Benjen laid there for a moment, frozen in place, not sure he’d be able to move even if he could muster the strength, and he realized he had come too far. He’d traveled well out of reach of his brothers at the Wall. Too far to make it back on his own. He doubted even the Wildlings wandered this far North. He was in a hopeless place then, with nothing more to do than die. But the baby still cried. His duty was still in front of him and getting further away. He could at least get the answer he came for, may his soul rest with this one final task fulfilled. He rested his elbows onto the ice and pushed himself forward, dragging his lifeless body behind him. He slid along with ease.

After a moment, the baby's cries grew much closer. The sound, he realized, was no longer moving away from him. The White Walker must have discarded the child, or else he’s reached his journey’s end. Benjen slid himself forward, just a few body lengths more toward the child, and just then, the world opened up all around him. Things took shape far and near as he began to see once more. The first thing he noticed was the sky above, with ribbons of bright green and purple glow ripping across the night. Then, he saw the black jagged wall of mountains twisting up from the horizon, stretching from one end of his view to the other. He also noticed that the snow, heavy and thick, was not falling here, and there was not a cloud above him. Below, was ice that glowed an incandescent blue, perfect as glass and stretching away from him as far as his eyes could see. At the far end of his vision stood the Other, still holding Craster's crying babe, and standing amidst a dozen more White Walkers in this field of frozen blue. Benjen knew there was no chance to preserve himself now, yet with great caution, he slid forward.

Every inch that he slid across the ice was becoming more and more excruciating. Benjen could feel the flesh tearing away from his legs and belly. His elbows were blistered and burning, and he could now see the bone in his arms. He was leaving pieces of himself behind, frozen to the ground. This immaculate ice was eating him alive. Still, he slid. His duty was just ahead yet. Not much further to go. He was closing in on the Others and their tiny prize. They were standing around what appeared to be an altar jutting up from the ice, made of ice itself. The baby was screaming now but still alive somehow. The White Walker with the child stood at the center, holding the baby away from him, offering it up for another. One of its fellow Others stepped forward. This one was leaner with horns of ice circling its head like a crown. This Other, whom somehow looked even more menacing than the rest, reached toward the child and placed a single outstretched finger upon the infant’s brow. The screaming stopped.

The baby was silent now but still alive somehow. Its pink newborn flesh turned white as milk. Its tiny eyes were now glowing blue sapphires. And they were looking right at Benjen Stark, along with a dozen pair just like them. Benjen felt his heart pumping again, faintly. A touch of warmth just barely filled his cheeks. His shoulders trembled ever so slightly. It was a meager attempt, he knew, to push his body to act, to stand and run and flee from this dangerous place. It was too late, however. What was left of him was fused to the ice and unresponsive. So, he simply stared back at the Others began their approach. Come then, he wanted to say. His duty was fulfilled, and he knew his watch was ending. He was not afraid.

Despite the curios thing that brought him here or the peculiar act he'd witnessed, he paid them no mind. Despite the terrible beasts coming to steal the last bit of life from him, he spared them not a moment’s thought. Instead, Benjen thought of his brothers, not of the black but of his blood. He thought of Eddard and how he’d kept him sane through all their family’s tragedies. He regretted that he ran to the Wall instead of being there when his brother needed his strength the most. He thought of Lyanna and how much joy she'd brought him in their youth. He regretted that he'd not rest with his beloved sister in the crypt beneath their family’s ancestral home. And he thought of Jon. He regretted all the things he'd never teach the boy... the things he'd never be able to tell him. Hurry then, he wanted to say. Winter has come, and he was ready to lose himself to it forever. He was not afraid.

When the life inside him had finally frozen over, Benjen dropped his head to the ice. He surrendered the cold and black and waited for the end to come. As the darkness took hold, all he could see was the ice. He lost himself in its radiance and the glowing blue sapphires reflecting up at him. Suddenly, a cold hand closed tight around his jaw. The hand pulled his head up from the ice, and Benjen locked eyes with the Other with the crown of horns. Its eyes reached out at him, into him, and filled his mind with thoughts that were not his own. Where do you come from?, the thoughts demanded, How does mankind come to be here? Why? Benjen answered with a thought of his own, Because I had to know the truth. The mouth beneath the blue eyes cracked open to reveal a serrated set of teeth, grinning like some monster from one of Old Nan's stories. Well, then, mankind. The truth you shall know… but not in this life.

Just then, Benjen felt a flash of warmth rush through him. No, not warmth. Cold. A pleasant and peaceful kind of cold. It was in his fingertips. It was in his legs. It was in his face and his lips. He could even feel it in his belly, like a fire that did not burn. His body was returning to him, reinvigorated with a new kind of energy. He felt alive again and whole and strong. Powerful. The hand let go of his face. The eyes moved away. From far above, in a language he'd never heard but words he understood clearly as the common tongue, the mouth beneath the blue eyes said, "Rise, my kin." And Benjen rose.

ME3: The True Motives of the Reapers (SPOILERS)

***SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! PLAY ME3 FIRST!***

I came up with my own theory of what drives the Reapers, because everything Casper says is nonsensical bull****. I'd still prefer that they allowed the reapers and their motives to be an incomprehensible mystery, but unlike Casper's explanation, my theory would actually account for Shepard and others being able to understand them. Anyway, this is just for fun, but here goes...

Mass Effect has always had a somewhat biblical theme, right? Or at least it references the Bible here and there. In many ways, the reapers can be compared to the Christian god; no creator, no beginning or end, unfathomable realm, omniscience, indoctrination, purging civilizations, harbingers, messengers, disciples - *many* ways. Well, let's look at some of thing things God is famous for doing. He banished Lucifer and all of his followers from Heaven because they would not obey him and demanded to be his equals. They even conspired and took up arms against him. Then God condemned Adam and Eve for eating the "fruit of knowledge." Knowledge is power, power enables ascension. With enough knowledge, one could begin to question God. And with enough power, one could eventually challenge him. Then there's the Tower of Babel...

The tower of Babel was supposedly man's attempt to come together and build this structure to reach Heaven and see the face of God. God was disturbed by how much they were able to accomplish, how driven they were to succeed, and how capable they were when working as one. He destroyed the tower and scattered man all around the world, separating them into nations, and changed their languages so they could never understand each other enough to put together such a powerful effort ever again. The game reminded me of this the most because that's exactly what Shepard is doing. He's crossing countless age-old barriers in an effort to bring all civilizations together and challenge a force that comparable to God himself.

So, in case it hasn't already become clear, this is my theory on what ultimately drives the reapers: They must remain unchallenged. They cannot allow organic life to become their equals. They cannot allow us to become so advanced that we would be able to venture into their "unfathomable" realm and overthrow or destroy them. As Sovereign says, organic life is an accident. There's no way to prevent it from springing back up again. All they can do is stop it before it becomes uncontrollable. To do so, they come every 50,000 years to wipe us out, at the apex or our glory (according to Sovereign), and force organic life to start all over again.

In addition to this, they do harvest us for other reasons. They use us as slaves (collectors), materials, and resources to build onto their own vast civilization and create more reapers to join their ranks. We are food, fuel, medicine, energy, and a number of other things for them. While they don't need us to survive, they depend on us for growth and rejuvenation. So while they do not want us to advance too rapidly, they leave behind the Mass Relays to help spread the "seeds" of life all over the galaxy and the knowledge stored on the Citadel as a sort of fertilizer to help their "crops" grow. This way, our number is greater and we are much more capable slaves.

The trouble they ran into in this cycle is that 50,000 years wasn't soon enough. We were already advanced enough to not only comprehend them but to come together and devise a way to stop them. Thanks to the addition of humanity, the galactic civilizations were no longer weak, and the Reapers were no longer unmatched - despite what Sovereign and Harbinger both believed.

Now, I know that the Reapers' motives are already set in stone, but considering how simple, hypocritical, and stupid they are, I'd rather believe that Casper is a goddamn liar and it's actually something more along the lines of what I've presented here. In other words, "I reject your reality and substitute my own."

ME3: How Galactic Readiness and Choice Should Have Worked...

SPOILERS! DON'T READ IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED THE GAME!

I discovered this image - probably plastered allover the BSN by now - that depicts a series of branching outcomes for the final minutes of Mass Effect 3. I like these outcomes a lot, because they all rely on your war assets, EMS, and the choices you made along the way. The image is too large to post here in my blog, so I offer you this nifty little LINK. Enjoy.

How Mass Effect 3 SHOULD Have Ended - According to a Fan

Note: This is obviously full of spoilers. So don't read it unless you want the game ruined for you.

I am not the author of this idea, either. This was posted on Reddit by user 'Axewerfer.' And I think it's brilliant. Simply reading this gave me better closure than ME3's actual ending did. Too bad this guy doesn't work for Bioware.

So here it goes...

Things progress as before, learning that the Crucible needs the Catalyst, proceeding through the Cerberus plans and plots, learning that the Citadel is the Catalyst, and onward to Earth. Once at the beam, however, things change drastically. Again, Harbringer descends and destroys the troops, only this time Shepard does not reach the beam. Harbringer stops to directly address him for the first time, ignoring the incoming fire from the assembled fleet. Perhaps Shepards squad members survive, perhaps they don't. At this point, it is a futile gesture. Harbringer has won, and it knows it. Harbringer tells Shepard that the cycle must not be stopped, hinting again that the Reapers are driven by something greater than their own motivations, and reiterating the Rannoch-reapers statement that the Reapers are the only hope for sentient organics. Interestingly, for the first time, Harbringer indicates that they, as much as anyone else, are victims of this cycle. Crucially, it must become obvious at this point that the Reapers, while incredibly advanced, show no sign of altruism or nobility, and do not have the capacity for self-sacrifice. As such, they are not sentient.

To reiterate, the Reapers are less developed than the Geth or EDI. They are an evolutionary dead-end, as Synthetic Lifeforms go.

This fact should be immediately realized by the Geth (if they still exist) and EDI. What follows should depend on the players actions in the previous games and ME3. Whatever happens, people, ships, and old allies begin fighting to protect Shepard. They hit the Reaper in it's main 'eye' as it prepares to fire, distracting Harbringer, and buying time for Shepard to crawl the rest of the way to the beam. Perhaps nobody is left. Shepard dies. It's a sad ending, but a noble death, facing down a 2 mile high monster with your honor intact. Liaras time capsules survive, though, giving the next cycle a chance. But let's say Shepard makes it to the beam. Harbringer brings down the teleporter as he goes, leaving him alone. No Anderson, no squad, just Shepard making his way through the ruins of the Presidium. There are no survivors. As he reaches the awaiting Crucible, he is stopped by the most unlikely of figures.

AVINA.

No magical ghost child. In fact, the child could probably be removed in its entirety without hurting the game. The Catalyst is the Citadel, itself a small part of a much larger system. It has co-opted AVINA to speak with Shepard. As the battle rages on outside, Shepard and the hologram speak, as it takes on various forms of people he has met and seen killed. The VI is nigh-omniscient, with each rising galactic culture building the convenient Citadel systems into the heart of their communication and economic systems. The Catalyst has always been there, acting as a translator and silent observer, preserving a record of every species that has ever existed in the cycles. It is not a true AI, but the sheer volume of data is has available ensures that its primary directive can account for every eventuality. What that directive is does not need to be stated. As the Reapers noted, their goals are unknowable. Claiming that midichlorians cause the Force did not improve Star Wars.

However, despite all of its data, the VI cannot account for Shepard. It has no means of preventing him from using the Prothean Crucible, and instead, serving its enigmatic creators, offers him his choices on how to use it.

Option 1: The original intent of the Crucible, as a scorched Earth solution. The device will permanently render all Eezo in the galaxy inert. Starship cores will be lumps of useless metal, biotics will lose their powers, and the galaxy will be plunged into a dark age, free from the Reapers, all Mass Effect technology, and the Mass Relays. The fight will end, the fleet will fall silent. Earth is now the last refuge of a dozen species.

Option 2: Prompted by the arrival of The Illusive Man, a modified Crucible signal can control the Reapers and all other Synthetic technology, bringing it all under the sway of Organic life. The Geth, The Reapers, and EDI are all shackled AIs once more.

Option 3: Destroy the Citadel, free the Reapers. Shepard sacrifices himself, detonating the Crucible, destroying the Citadel, and the VI controlling the Reapers. Humanities greatest enemy is now an unshackled AI, free to self-modify their code, and find their own way in the universe. The Reapers stop their attack, and retreat for parts unknown.

Option 4: Do Nothing. Honor before death, Shepard disables the Illusive Man and sits, watching the fight with AVINA. With enough raw military strength, and the combined might of every fleet and empire in the galaxy, perhaps the Reapers might be defeated. Best case, the Reapers are destroyed outright, but at a terrible cost. Worst case, the fleet is swept aside and the Reapers are unchallenged. Middle of the road, the Reapers are slowed, for a time. Long enough to seed Liaras time capsules among the stars, and place members of each race into stasis pods as hope for the future.

Option 5: Well, maybe not. You remember what I set about EDI having the Capacity for Self-Sacrifice? Perhaps, if Shepard has made just the right choices through the trilogy, there is another way. The Normandy arrives, and EDI can transfer to the Citadel computers, displacing the Catalyst, and becoming it. There is a catch, of course. EDI has self-modified her code, and she has learned from Shepard.

a. EDI sends the Reapers away, giving the people of the galaxy another 50,000 years to rebuild and prepare.

b. EDI infects the Reaper code…with the Geth. The Geth take over the Reaper forces, becoming like unto gods. The outcome depends on Shepards interaction with the Geth up to this point.

c. (If Shepard chooses a Paragon path when dealing with EDI) EDI sacrifices herself, transferring herself to the Reaper ships like a virus, and disabling them from within. With their Kinetic barriers down, the Reaper ships are annihilated by the fleet.

d. (If Shepard chooses a Renegade path when dealing with EDI) EDI's self-preservation instinct is fully intact. She still destroys the Reaper ships, but she does it from afar, ensuring the the two fleets are evenly matched. The destruction is total on both sides.

The ending shows each of the companions. If Shepard is alive, with a conversation, if they're dead, as a cutscene. Party members killed in action are added to the memorial wall, which the camera slowly pans down, showing each of their faces as the name passes by.