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Egophobia
July 14th, 2011, 02:27 AM
Ah, before I begin, this story originally was posted in another thread, but due to my college workload suddenly piling on, I was not able to produce it as steadily as I would have liked. I'm picking it up again, however, and some details have changed, and the old thread is a bit too...well, cluttered to be redoing it there, so...yeah, I delete it as soon as I get around to telling Mereo, Ring, and IRUn-chan that I've gone and moved everything. *shrugs* Ah well, live and learn, and whatnot. Anyhow, this is Fate/Overture, a original story structured within the Nasuverse - I hope you all enjoy it. ^^


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Fate / Overture

The burning wheel turns again
Welcome to the stage of worlds
Of golden scepter and silver scale
Where are your judges?

Cast back the curtain
Know your role

In this bloody dance of thieves
Where is your justice?

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Prologue / Dreamscape
Rain


The howl of the wind seems to be worlds away as I push myself up from the pavement. All around me, the street lay in ruins. I suppose this would be the hurricane’s “eye,” then.

“That’s right…”

I look back down at where I had fallen – where I had dove before the first buffeting waves of air had overtaken us. Only a fool of a man would think that he could outrun the wind, but as I knelt down and felt her throat shakily sucking in a shallow breath, I felt a pang of- of nothing. There was no “relief” in a place like this. There is nothing left; no city by the seaside; no great tower overlooking the peninsula; no booming calls from the ships pulling into port.

There is only this circle of stone upon which I stand, and the nothingness beyond those winds. No sound, no land, no black or white – nothing at all. A fragment of cloth rips off from my sleeve and I see it shredded in the air before it even makes it to that wall of bladed wind, and I know already that the city outside is no longer there.

Only those two who could stand beyond the end remain, riding the winds that had sundered all else: that fool of a king and the man who holds hurricanes and oceans in the palm of his hands. Was it so decided from the beginning that only they would stand for this final act; that only we would remain as the audience? Consciously, I touch her throat again- she’s still breathing, and I wipe some of the blood from her forehead. Around us lay the pieces of that girl’s golden chariot, smoking and molten as the luster fades to rust. The rain has washed the bloody streak that she left upon the pavement.

“What will you do?”

A voice asks, and a familiar figure steps into the corner of my vision as he always seems to do. The girl with silver hair trails behind him, feet muddied and plucking up the hem of her dress as she wades through the debris. Of course they would be alive.

“Don’t worry, we’re dead, same as ever. We just want to see how the world ends,” the man murmurs, and I see a ghost of a smile dance across his lips. “What will you do?” He repeats himself.

It hurts to move, but I rise from my hands and knees and stand up straight. For the first time, the coppery taste of blood registers in my mind, and I grit my teeth. Blood is supposed to be strength. What would Misaki say if she saw me like this, choking on my own bile and struggling to stand up straight? That devil of a woman would never let me hear the end of it.

“It took a fool of a king to remind me…” I begin, turning to look the Sinner in the eye as my words are lost in the roar of the wind. He looks at me expectantly, one side of his mouth tilted up expectantly.

“…that a true knight dies standing.”


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Ten Days Ago
Somewhere in Eastern Europe
August 21, 1939
23:00


The compound was silent, and only the weak light pouring out of the uppermost window gave any indication that it was indeed still inhabited – not that there was a chance of some hapless hikers lost in the mountains of this forsaken backcountry. Nobody had come along this way for decades; not since he had staggered through the forest for days on end and begun to lay down the foundation block by bloody block. How many years had it been since he had first built the arching gateway? The tiled courtyard? The watchtower that had never seen a guardsman? He had lost count.

The man sat hunched over a desk, muttering to himself incomprehensibly as he pivoted a measuring compass in a wide circle. His suitcase lay half-packed on the cot behind him, but he had not touched it in over an hour. Compass, whiskey, tome, whiskey, tome, compass, whiskey, whiskey- until finally he set down the little metal tool and leaned back in his chair.

“Do you see, Misaki?” He murmured, running his hand through his hair, “…it’s happening again, after only nine years…”

Before him was an enormous map of the world, inked streaks rendering the written text incomprehensible under a spider web of branching lines. Originating in London, Berlin, Cairo, Fuyuki – in the great cities spanning the globe, the lines all spiraled towards the landmass marked “RUSSIA,” upon which they began to fall within a series of ever-shrinking concentric circles. Dead center, illegible beneath the two-dozen coats of ink that had been crammed into the tiny spit of land just north of the Ural Mountains read a single entry.

“Vodnyisad.”

The same name could be found on every surface in the room: newspaper clippings, pages torn from books, tomes of historical errata, travel brochures covered the floor, the walls, the bed, the mirror – the only clean surface was the suitcase that had been thrown down atop the sheaves of paper that covered the cot. This was not his bedroom- heavens no, Misaki would never stand for it, and if there was one person that he knew not to cross, it was that wild-eyed monster of a woman; she’d have leapt at him with a carving knife if he ever did this to their bedchambers. He couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought, and let his hand drop to his side.

“You remember the last time we were there, don’t you Misaki? We almost missed our flight, and we lost my camera in the taxi on the way over…” He sighed and shook his head, sitting up straight once more and leaning over the map. Along the concentric circles he had written names and dates; the ink was still drying on the freshest set:

MODERATOR: ISANE MIKOTO

“You see, Misaki, these rings represent those shockwaves we felt earlier – another leyline has surfaced, this time under Vodnyisad. Over the last thirty-six hours, I’ve managed to detect no less than nine powerful magi converging on that region, which I’m certain you’ll agree is no coincidence. With the addition of this member of the church, I believe that they’ll be attempting to consecrate the city as a new holy ground.”

He chuckled and glanced over his shoulder, smiling at those wild green eyes that stared expectantly at him, then pointed to the far wall, near the door. This time there were pictures of men marching in lines; blurry photographs of aircraft and famous men standing at podiums with grave expressions.

“I wonder…what could they be planning to do with another holy site at a time like this? I want to know…is that really what they would attempt to try and undo their mistake? You see, that’s the price that magi always end up paying for their curiosity- indulge in haste, suffer at leisure…or something like that. But…I feel it too…that insatiable curiosity…that pull…”

The man rose, sheaves of paper falling from his form as he moved, joints popping, for the first time in hours. The useless left sleeve of his tattered coat swung limply as he shambled over to the bed, past his unattended suitcase, and to the bedside table. There was a small, framed picture there of a man and a woman – the former with the appearance of a gentleman with a touch of youth still in his features, and the latter flush with childish glee and wild, passionate livelihood. Lovingly, he caressed the side of the picture and knelt to place it in the suitcase.

“…we’re going to take a vacation Misaki…how about we go by train this time?”

He knew that he was only speaking to a picture; that this compound had not seen a solitary soul in the decades it had stood between its construction and three nights ago when he had kicked the front door in; that three sleepless nights of pouring over tomes and maps were not good for his already fragile health. He knew that leylines were not supposed to move, and the consecration of a new holy land was a precursor to some great upheaval, and he knew that if Misaki knew what he was thinking, she would have been furious with him.

His name was Maximilian Lacere, and those amongst the Mages Association would claim that he was a man who knew a great many things that he was not supposed to.

“…to Vodnyisad…the city at the end of the world.”




One / The Association
Act 1-1
August 22, 1939
07:28


To call the Russian countryside a sight to see would be to speak the words of a very generous man, or, at least, this was the opinion of Maximilian Lacere. Even at the tail end of summer, this part of the world was little more than a frigid wasteland – it had even begun to snow as he had trekked down the hillside from his compound and down to the road that led to the train station. It had taken all night, twice as long as the train ride itself would be, but it was not as if he was unused to such a trek.

Still, to be back amongst civilization was a surreal experience. He could not recall the last time he had been able to overhear people down the hall talking, or to see them glancing at him with a wary expression.

“Mama, what happened to that man’s arm?”

“Conductor, is he really a passenger and not some vagabond who wandered into the station? I swear, I saw him walk out of the woods behind the station and-“

“Ah, well, he paid in cash, ma’am, so there’s nothing I can really do. I’m terribly sorry…”

Heaving a sigh, the man chuckled mirthlessly to himself and fumbled around in his bag. One of the virtues of having paid for a private cabin was the small vestige of privacy he was entitled to, sensitive hearing aside. After propping the small piece of reflective glass from his shaving kit against the opposite seat, he began to cut away at the scraggly beard that had begun to grow into place over the past few months. Misaki would have hardly recognized him; he thought, and as he ran a hand over his neck to feel for stubble, Maximilian realized that he barely recognized himself.

His eyes were dark and sunken, his features gaunt and harsh. He may have only been in his late thirties and a handsome man who had always cleaned up well, but the roots of his hair were already graying and his skin looked sickly and pale. It looked as if the man in that picture had aged twenty years. Running a hand through his hair, he did his best to tame it into some presentable shape, but there was only so much to be done, and slowly, he began to maneuver himself around the cabin. After a few moments, he had changed into a white buttoned shirt and a pair of black slacks – he refused to replace his tattered overcoat with something more presentable, however, and he settled back into his seat with a tired sigh.

“Look at yourself…worn out after a night of nothing but walking. You’re getting old, Max.” He heard himself say aloud. Maybe that was true, after all. Suddenly, a knock sounded on the door of the cabin, and Maximilian’s hand flew to his bag, nerves on end.

“Excuse me sir, we’ll be arriving at the station soon. Please be sure to collect your luggage and secure your valuables, as the train will immediately be departing once again from the station.” One of the attendants called through the door. Maximilian sighed and relaxed, leaning back in his seat.

“Understood.” He replied, and the footsteps receded down the hallway.

That was too close- he was definitely out of practice. Faintly visible inside his opened travel bag was a gleam of silver; if the attendant had entered without knocking, he might have found himself at the end of a sword, and Maximilian would have been in a sticky situation. Quickly before the attendant could return, he stowed the rest of his belongings into the bag and clasped it shut.

“The city at the end of the world, Vodnyisad…you remember the last time we were here don’t you Misaki?” He murmured aloud.

The rhythm of the train was his only answer and he let himself recline into the cushioned seat, eyes closed. He could not remember the last time he’d had a decent night’s sleep, and finding a comfortable hotel sounded like heaven. He had stayed at a hotel in this city once before, but the name of it eluded him. Truth be told, he would much rather have that devil-woman here, fuming and telling him to get it together, than to be getting off that train platform alone. Then again, there were more important things at the moment than hotel names and sleep; the second he stepped onto that platform, he’d be throwing my life away.

“I really thought I was leaving this life behind…”

It was as the rhythm of the train began to lull him that the wiry male suddenly bolted upright, senses once again flaring to life. Falling asleep? Wasn’t the train supposed to be slowing down to enter the station? Far down the hallway, he could hear the hurried thumping of someone running down the passenger car, shouting.

“The train is out of control!”

“Of course it is.” He muttered, throwing his bag over his shoulder as, to anyone’s expectations, the sounds of panicked screaming began to sound out along the passenger car, followed by the sounds of people stampeding out of their rooms. Really, where did they think that they were going to run to?

There would be time to contemplate the improbable odds of a train suddenly breaking down the instant he decided to once again enter the magical community – for the moment, he channeled his energies into ramming a heavy boot through the cabin’s window. As glass tends to, it gave way, and he stumbled back as wind was now whipping through the compartment. With a grunt, he pushed himself off from the wall and moved back to the window, bracing one foot against the windowsill.

“Now comes the fun part.”

“This is hardly the time for you to act witty, you colossal idiot.” He could practically hear Misaki snarling, and with that final bode of encouragement, he boosted himself up onto the window and spun around, grabbing for the upper sill of the window.

It was fortunate that he had deigned to look for the narrow bar that ran above the windows of the passenger cars before boarding; he was now hanging along the outside of the second-to-last car of the train, and in the distance, he could make out the sprawl of the waterfront metropolis. This was not a situation that Maximilian cared to be in – climbing had become a chore after he’d lost his left arm.

Atop the roof of the passenger carriage, the wind buffeted the man in sheets, his coat only avoiding carrying him away like a sail on account of the numerous rips and tears that covered it. The station was coming into focus, and the wiry male grunted, turning himself about. With a running start, he leapt to the rear carriage, landing heavily, and pushed himself to his feet.

“Picture a noose…now draw it tight.”

“Program: HALT. Execute: Nu. Ra. Mo. To. Ne.”

The words spilled forth from his lips in a rush, and in his mind’s eye, he could see the noose yanking taut as his magic circuits flared to life. A small “push” on his part as his words echoed distantly in the wind was all the time he had to brace himself against the roof of the train before the wheels of the rear car all locked up simultaneously and the jolt nearly sent him flying. The air was filled with a high-pitched squeal as the rear car sent up a shower of sparks, the locked wheels dragging over the tracks rather than turning.

“Well, I suppose that worked…” He murmured, and set his suitcase down, “Program: FOLLOW. Execute: Sa. To. Mo. Na. Ko.” He chanted, sending a quick pulse of prana flared through his circuits. That being done, he looked back up at the rest of the train – Vodnyisad was now much closer, and he could pick out the outlines of individual buildings.

“Dammit- Nu. Ra. Mo. To. Ne, HALT!” He shouted, and began to run forward. The wind blew against him furiously as he leaped onto the next car, and the resulting jolt as the wheels of the car locked together sent him stumbling forward. Ever so slightly, however, the drag began to become noticeable, and the man sprinted forward.

“HALT! HALT!”

As he reached the first car, he staggered to a halt, panting. The screeching had become earsplitting, and a shower of sparks fanned out from either side of the train as the engine struggled to drag the cars behind it. There was just the first car and the engine remaining, and now there was only a straight line of some quarter of a mile until the platform ahead.

“Execute command, for the love of God, HALT!” He roared, and slammed his hand into the roof of the car. As he felt the prana shoot through his circuits, he grunted and brought his arms up in preparation, as with a explosive shriek, the wheels of the foremost passenger car locked, and the jolt launched him forward, tumbling the length of the train car. Down the track, he could see the people on the platform running about – if not for the vortex of air, he knew that he would be listening the screams of the passengers below.

“It’s still going too fast…” He thought. It didn’t make any sense, if he had stalled all of the wheels of the cars, that the train would still be moving so fast- “…unless the conductor hasn’t triggered the emergency brake.”

“Well, I guess if you’re going to sabotage a train, you might as well be thorough about it.” He murmured, pushing himself to his feet. The wind was not quite so severe now, and with some effort, he began to sprint forward. Just before the end of the car, he jumped, dropping down onto the platform that led to the engine, and kicked in the door.

Immediately he spied the conductor lying slumped over the control board, a trickle of blood running off the edge. Hurriedly, he moved the man into a sitting position against the side of the cabin and turned to inspect the control board only to swear under his breath. This was an old-fashioned steam engine; a novelty in this day and age, and the emergency brake had been snapped cleanly off. He began to chant under his breath once more.

This one was going to hurt.

“HALT!”

The resounding squeal of metal on metal was deafening the instant Maximilian placed his hand on the railing of the engine, and had he not let go instantly, the sudden reversal of force would probably have ripped his remaining arm clear off. Instead, however, he tumbled into the brush as the engine screamed into the station on a comet-tail of sparks. Painfully, he propped himself up on his arm to watch as the train hits the buffer at the end of the tracks with a crash, and the cars into one another, but they do not buckle and fold like an accordion, and the winding snake of cars settles.

“That was cutting it close.” He had not even been in the city limits of Vodnyisad for thirty seconds and already he was almost out of prana – fantastic. A rustling came from the bushes, and he chuckled faintly as his suitcase rolled through the brush, wheeling over to him in a wide curve and obediently sliding to a halt beside him.

“Well, at least one thing has gone right.”


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By the time he had reached the platform, the passengers of the runaway train had disembarked, and he could the faint sounds of sobbing and angry shouts coming from the enormous station to his right that stood as the terrestrial portal to this obscure city at the world’s canopy. Standing in the center of the platform, he sighed and took a moment to breathe in the cold air; it seemed like time had held still for the last seven years.

“Were we really running for that long..?”

He was not so lost in his nostalgia to miss the footsteps of the pair walking towards him, not that they were doing much to be subtle about it, and with all the disinterest he could muster, he opened his eyes and turned to face them. A fur-lined winter coat with the hood thrown back; black suit with gold trim; and gloves emblazoned with a triad of intersecting circles and runic characters – the male was a magus, obviously, and an ostentatious one at that. The flippant way he twirled a lock of his golden hair between his fingers only cemented his supposition. The female with him stared blankly back with a faraway expression, and Maximilian nearly took a step back as an enormous wave of prana washed over the entire platform.

“Maximilian Lacere, I take it? You certainly know how to make an entrance, I’ll say. At any rate, I welcome you I welcome you to Vodnyisad.” He said, sweeping his arm out in front of himself and bowing exaggeratedly, “I am Edgar Waynewright, here to greet you on behalf of the Mages Association.”

The Waynewright family has been around since the earliest days of Clock Tower. At first, they were nothing but a group of hangers-on who gained positions due to their financial assets. More recently, however, they had begun to produce a string of powerful heirs and risen to prominence. It was rare to find a magus nowadays who did not recognize the seal of Waynerights.

“A Lord of the Clock Tower: the Fade-Purple Spyglass. I’m flattered.” Maximilian replied, his tone unimpressed.

“But of course!” The young man replied, tone dripping with fake enthusiasm, “…after all, the Association cannot afford to allow a man like you take part in a spectacular event such as this, now can they? I mean, even if it is just a parody like this one, it would reflect badly if they let the Halfman just up and die without telling us where you’ve hidden that filthy little-.”

“HALT.”

The smug little smirk that had worked its way onto the young man’s had vanished instantly when he found the point of a military saber pressed against his throat. To his side, the young woman was frozen in mid-step, her hands reaching for some object within the folds of her coat, and Maximilian’s brow flickered when he saw the cracked cement where she had taken a step.

“I don’t have time to stand around talking to a pampered magus who fancies a gentleman’s duel. If you were going to do something out here in the open, then you should have done it before I had the chance to reach for my suitcase.” He growled, gesturing to the opened bag behind him. The young man’s nostrils flared as his words struck a nerve, his pride getting the better of him,

“And what about you, Halfman, are you going to cut down a magus of the Association right here, in broad daylight? Heaven only knows you’re already in enough trouble as it is - I don’t know what you did to her, but the second she breaks free, you’re a dead man.” Edgar snarled, cheeks flushed a furious red. Against a powerful magus, his spell would fade in less than a minute, and this was too public a place to be picking a fight. With a sigh, Maximilian turned to pick up his traveling bag and sling it over his shoulder, tucking the saber into his coat and ignoring the glare that the younger man was shooting him.

“Halfman…you bastard-“

So he could still talk, even under the power of his Fourth Rule. Maximilian had to admit, the mouthy brat had talent. He would probably turn into quite the monster given the chance to flaunt his authority. Edgar’s fingers begin to twitch and Maximilian could feel the noose in his mind beginning to loosen.

He was halfway across the platform before Edgar could finally snarl out the rest of his threat.

“-when this war starts, I’ll have Truesilver tear off the rest of your limbs!”

He couldn’t help the chuckle that rose unbidden from the depths of himself, and stopped to glance at the helpless magus.

“Four days, Edgar Wayneright, and I will come for you. There’s a war brewing, and you magi of the Association are all about to become fair game once again.”


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“Those were bold words back there, Max.”

The man murmured to himself as he paced through the streets of Vodnyisad’s red light district. The last time he had been here, the streets had been littered with the usual riffraff that one would expect to find in the most disparate parts of such a city. Not today, however. The streets were barren – no drunks leering at Misaki from the sidewalks or haggard faces staring dully from the alleys.

“The war has already reached this far, it seems.”

Even this far north, news of mobilization had gripped the local populace with fear, and even this rundown part of the city looked to have been more boarded up than usual. The overcast skies did little to brighten the scenery, and as he sighed, he left a trail of mist as he hurried down the sidewalk. A one-armed man with a military saber tucked inside his jacket could not afford to be caught by the military police at a time like this, and he had no intention of adding a jailbreak to his schedule – if his mapmaking ability was only half as deteriorated as his memory, then the bar that he was looking for was not far from here.

Rounding the corner of Ministra and Rinka, he had to sidestep a body lying facedown in a puddle of red. In any other city he would have stopped to investigate, but one glance at holes in the back of the corpse’s military jacket told the tale: a deserter, or draft-dodger – the policy for both was pretty much the same. There was nothing to be gained from interfering with the body – only unwanted attention, and Max kept his stride.

Unlike the rest of the city, which had been designed so that the streets formed a grid that then tapered off into little tributary alleyways and paved paths for commuters, Ministra was a dead end, with neither and alleyway nor enough room to park a vehicle without then having to reverse down the entire block and pray that nobody else had decided to park in your way. At the end of the street stood a decrepit building with cracked paint; its windows completely obscured by the decaying wood that had been haphazardly nailed across the street-facing front of the edifice.

“Exactly how I remember it.” Maximilian murmured, and planted his foot firmly against the door. There was the sound of several nails coming loose on the other side as the door gave immediately. A cool stare greeted him.

“I’ll be charging you for the door, Max.”

“You knew I was coming, and you didn’t even bother to clean the place up?” Max commented dryly, glancing around the tavern. Tables lay overturned, the glass strewn about the floor indicating a fight and the undisturbed dust indicating that it had taken place quite some time ago. The man behind the bar sighed and set down the glass that he had been polishing – ironically, he noted – and placed both of his hands against the counter, shaking his head.

“You’re still the same half-assed magus you were back then, you know. Normal people knock when they want to be let inside of private establishments- how am I supposed to hide you here if you kick all of my doors in?” The young man droned, his voice completely devoid of humor, which made Maximilian smile faintly.

“Use magic.” He replied. It was funny to him, because Minato Torae had never in his life been able to cast even the weakest cantrip. The young man on the other side of the counter did not seem to share his humor, however, and grunted despondently, reaching beneath the bar. A younger Maximilian would have assumed the worst and jumped the bar before the younger man could draw the shotgun that bartenders were so likely to keep, but as he was, he simply snapped his good hand up in time to catch the ring of keys that were flung unceremoniously towards his face.

“Room 304; I’m also giving you keys to the basement and the old man’s tunnel network, so don’t go kicking down any of the door I’d have to hire a locksmith to replace. Oh, and if you’re going to work on any of those rituals of yours, use the basement. Four feet of concrete should be enough to absorb any of the noise from any misfires, and if you need to make a quick getaway, you can get to a tunnel under the church through a passage inside one of the large ale caskets against the back wall.” Minato sighed and picked up his glass once more, glancing at it unenthusiastically before reaching for one of the bottles against the wall.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that, actually.” Max suddenly said.

“Huh?” Minato’s age shone through for just a second as he cocked his head to the side in confusion.

“The church has sent a mediator – Isane Mikoto, she’s named – and there are almost a dozen other magi headed for the city. She’s a child, for God’s sake…what have the Church and the Clock Tower stirred up this time?” The man spoke. His words hung in the air for several moments as the younger man only stared incredulously. Finally, Minato let out an even louder sigh and took a swig from his bottle, glancing tiredly at the older male.

“No offense old-timer, but whatever info you’ve managed to piece together on your own probably won’t cut it.” The young man murmured, grinning faintly, “…Isane Mikoto, also called ‘The Peacekeeper,’ is supposed to be some kind of prodigy. She’s the one who discovered the leyline from all the way back in the Vatican City – she felt it from there. Rumors are that she’s tapped into the natural flow of mana like one of those ancient druids, and felt it shifting.” He paused for a moment to let the older male absorb the information, as well as the take a brief moment to smirk at his superior information network.

“Well…I’m going to forego telling my information broker that his information is ludicrous, and just state the obvious – that’s pagan Magecraft…it’d make her a member of the Burial Agency. What’s the Narbareck doing spreading her forces out at a time like this? She especially should be pleading neutrality before the Clock Tower starts accusing them of taking sides.” Max murmured, frowning. “…unless she wants this ‘Peacekeeper’ of her to take the leyline for her, first: land it for Italy and secure some additional firepower for when the Clock Tower inevitably sides with London.”

Of course, it was all conjecture at this point. Max sighed and shook his head; he had been away from quite some time, but he couldn’t see the Narbareck changing very much since the last time the whole world had decided to go to war against itself. Instead, he rose from his seat and started towards the door against one of the side walls, where he knew the stairwell to be.

“Hm? That all the intel you needed?” Minato asked, looking genuinely surprised. Max chuckled.

“You can fill me in on some of the rest later. I already ran into one of the Clock Tower dogs down at the station, so I figure I’d best pay an early visit to the church and this ‘Peacekeeper’ of yours before that pup has the whole city out for my head.” He responded.

“…you’re just going to charge straight into the church?” The young man asked dubiously.

“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s a house of God – I’ll knock.”

ItsaRandomUsername
July 14th, 2011, 02:34 AM
Oh, very nice~

I've missed this. ^_^ Always nice to see something that contains vibes of Strange Fake. Plus, I find the main character an interesting person so far. So, you've still got my attention.

Egophobia
July 14th, 2011, 02:38 AM
Hah, my writing is a bit rusty at the moment, but I'll do what I can! ^___^ Hopefully, we'll be seeing a good bit of new material from me within the week - this whole thing is connected to a roleplaying system I'm working on, and when the system got an overhaul, well...some of the story went with it, xD.

ringlhach
July 14th, 2011, 11:13 AM
Nicely done. Something to point out, though, and I'll only do it the once- when you'd end a spoken sentence with a period but the sentence you write would continue ("Statement," he said), you replace the period with a comma and unless it's a proper noun that is normally capitalized, the word outside the quotes is not. Example:
“Don’t worry, we’re dead, same as ever. We just want to see how the world ends.” The man murmurs, and I see a ghost of a smile dance across his lips. should read

“Don’t worry, we’re dead, same as ever. We just want to see how the world ends,” the man murmurs, and I see a ghost of a smile dance across his lips. It's something of a personal pet peeve, and all the more irritating because I see it more and more. GRAR! Use commas! ^_^;

Egophobia
July 15th, 2011, 08:51 PM
Two / Eidolon
Act 1-2
August 22, 1939
09:01


The first time Maximilian had ever sloughed through the catacombs beneath the streets of Vodnyisad, it had been with Misaki in tow and a rough dozen of those Japanese blood-purists chasing them. As he crept through the passageways once again, between the pools of gaslamp-illuminated hallway that Minato must have set up, he found that he could still pick out each cranny and alcove that they had ducked into years ago, or which collapsed passageways were those that he personally had brought down on their pursuers.

Suddenly, a shadow dancing on the edge of the lamplight caused him to freeze midstep, one hand flying to the saber by his side. A small brown mass of fur squeaked and scurried back into the darkness.

“Just a rodent. Calm down old man…Minato wouldn’t have opened up these tunnels if there was someone else prowling around down here…unless he’s finally gotten sick of your jokes.” He thought, grinning mirthlessly at the prospect. Still, as he crept forward, he kept his thumb against the hilt of the weapon, ready to lash out at the first thing he saw.

The route to the church was a fairly straight one, right into the heart of the city. Vodnyisad had been constructed from the center outwards, and in actuality, the tunnels that Meriam Kach had built underneath his bar were originally a way for members of the church to smuggle refugees out of the city whenever a raiding party would come storming through. Still, he added nearly an hour to his travel time winding in a dizzying route beneath the city streets, sticking to the shadows and trying to match the tunnels up with the city streets above.

He stopped when he came to the large, flat slab of stone inset against the weave of bricks and concrete that the rest of the catacombs were made of. This was one of the ‘Standing Stones’ that Meriam and Minato had set up; an enormous enchanted megalith which one could pass through as if it weren’t there. The enchantments were subtle, but complex in their layering, and as the man drew close to the stone, it shifted in hue, becoming translucent, and revealing the room beyond.

“Hah, alright…now where’s my mark?” Max murmured, leaning into the stone.


-------------------------------------------------------------


At the front of the church, standing before the altar, a girl in the long white robes of a sister of the Eighth Sacrament stood facing the altar, her hands shifting about over something beyond Maximilian’s ability to see, three other figures flanking her. For a long moment, the quartet simply stood there immobile, until finally the girl turned around. In her hands was a shimmering rectangular object – whatever it was, Maximilian would feel the prana practically radiating from it.

“…I guess that has to be the girl. She can’t be more than sixteen, though, and she’s a Burial Agent? I’ve been away for too long. There’s something about her, though…” His thoughts were cut short, as the girl suddenly began to speak.

“…the leyline is set, though the means by which the Grail has been actualized is still beyond my understanding. Regardless of the fact, state your names so that I may add you to the register of Masters for this conflict,” Isane murmured, her expression blank, and placed one hand on top of the object in the palm of her other hand, “…although it is unorthodox, such is the nature of this war, and the admission of you three as a unit of allies will be recognized by me, as the Mediator of this war.”

“Mikhail Eddard, Lord of the Morning and Knight of the Clock Tower.” One of the figures stated, stepping forward and kneeling upon the ground, “Sworn to the service of Lady Ionia von Einzbern.”

Maximilian frowned – he had thought that the Einzbern, a bloodline whose name had been dragged through the mire as the fool-instigators of Fuyuki’s Grail War and the creators of the exploited homunculi who bore their name, were an obscurity. Had there been some upheaval that had earned them the pity and consideration of the Clock Tower, of all organizations? He quieted his thoughts, however, as the next cloaked figure stepped forward, kneeling before he spoke.

“Albrecht von Macht, Prince of the Iron Keep and scion of the Atlasia. Also sworn to her Ladyship, Ionia von Einzbern.” This voice was much more youthful than the first figure’s had been, though Maximilian could tell that the young man was struggling to be formal. Still, the more pressing matter was that the ATLAS association was now involved – a dangerous group of magically-empowered engineers and gunsmiths, as far as he cared.

All the while, Isane stood there, motionless, and Maximilian realized suddenly what it was about the girl that was making him so on-edge. It was not her monotone or how young she was – the first war had bled him dry of any suspicion that children, by virtue of being children, couldn’t possibly be all that dangerous – it was her eyes. The young Mediator’s eyes were pools of cerulean, but there was nothing beyond; no pupils or even movement to signify any sort of alertness. Rather, her blank, wide stare gave her an expression of being infinitely far-off, looking somewhere beyond what was just in front of her. Once again, however, Maximilian tore his attention back to the trio before her as a flicker of white caught his attention, and he almost took a step back- the last of the three had simply pulled down her hood.

“…I am Ionia von Einzbern, the current princess of the von Einzbern family, sent here to confirm that a Grail has appeared outside of the designated area of Fuyuki,” the homunculus girl spoke, her silvery hair shimmering in the faint light of the church. “…have we been correctly informed…that this is a war that does not require the sacrifice of one of our family? That we might break our curse?” As composed as the girl tried to hold herself, there was an earnest curiosity that slipped into her voice.

Max took a step back, clutching at his forehead with his hand. The ethereal beauty of the Einzbern – he had encountered them before, but he had forgotten what it was like to see one in the flesh. The…”craftsmanship” of the Einzbern was flawless; their creations almost hypnotic in their perfection. “Get a grip, old man. Misaki would tear out your spine and use it to whip that girl to death if she knew what you with thinking.” He chuckled faintly at the joke and crouched, hand returning to his saber.

“Yes.” Isane replied stoically, “…the Einzbern may participate in this conflict as combatants, the same as any other. This is a special war, demanding special circumstances. The state of the world as it is demands that this war be conducted in a manner that permits fair and equal opportunity. You, as with all the Masters, will state before me the Servant you wish to summon, or, failing to comply, I will strike you from the register and revoke your Command Seals.”

“How is that possible!?” The second of the figures, Albrecht exclaimed, his youthful voice now more apparent. The mediator looked unruffled, and continued to stare at the female homunculus.

“…for the sake of neutrality, of course. The appearance of a Grail on the cusp of such a global conflict could easily lead to disaster…as a result, we of the Holy Church wished to contain it privately. However, our information was compromised, so I have been assigned the duty of placing additional restrictions upon this war. While it is inevitable that many will fight for their own petty or selfish desires, I am unable to permit entry to any who would use the Grail as a tool of war.”

As her words echoed faintly in the chamber, a moment of silence fell over the trio before her, as well as Maximilian in his hiding place. “A Grail War…are you kidding me? After the disaster that happened the last time one of these broke out, for one to appear now…and here of all places.”

“That is a very noble goal – we accept the conditions imposed by the Holy Church.” Ionia spoke, startling her two companions, “…if we are to summon our Servants before you, then we come bearing the proper regalia, and wish to claim for ourselves the three knights: Saber, Archer, and Lancer.” Beside her, the two males had risen and stood to either side of her. Isane opened her mouth to speak, but there was a sudden crash as the doors to the church where thrown open, and those assembled whirled around to face the intruder.

“Ah, ah, ah. Now how can you claim ‘fairness’ and all of that nonsense if this precocious little trollop and her hounds can simply walk in and claim the very best prizes for their own?” The patronizing tone was accompanied by the sound of lacquered shoes clacking against stone, and Edgar Wayneright strode into the light of the altar, his familiar Truesilver trailing in his wake. “Lady mediator, I instead would like to claim the Saber class, and I assure you, I bear the superior regalia for summoning, through and through.”

“You are too la-“ The interruption that Albrecht had been about to deliver was cut short as the magus’ hand suddenly shot out, his palm mere centimeters from the tip of Ionia’s nose. Dangling from the golden chains threaded around his fingers hung a small glass lens, the rim of which was glowing a faint violet. The prana radiating off of the magus, however was unreal.

“Oh come now, I’ll assume you know why they call me the Fade-Purple Spyglass,” Edgar spoke with a simpering grin, “…now, lady mediator, I’ve come all this way bearing the ring of Vortigern, and I do have engagements back in London to attend to, so the sooner we can get this over with-“ He was stopped short as the taller of the cloaked figures, Mikhail, tore off his cloak, drawing a blade from his side that Maximilian recognized as a gladius, and made a start in the direction of the magus.

“Tch-“ Edgar snarled, and the spyglass in his palm glowed more furiously.

From where he was, Maximilian could feel the prana shooting up the young man’s arm and focusing on the tiny lens that was his namesake – Albrecht seemed too preoccupied by Truesilver’s approach to notice just how close his companion was to getting their “princess” decapitated. Without hesitating, he surged through the Seeing Stone, the prana in his legs letting him surge the distance to the altar in the blink of an eye.

“HALT.”

Edgar froze before he even knew what was happening, and Max spun, diverting all of his momentum into a wide kick aimed at the young magus’ side. He had stopped the young man from prematurely firing his attack at the homunculus, but now it was a matter of milliseconds before the interrupted spell terminated itself, and the wasted prana misfired.

What happened next was a blur, and a disaster.


-------------------------------------------------------------


“Lady Ionia!” The duo cried, tackling the homunculus to the ground and shielding her. Max dove for the surprised mediator, knocking her over the altar and throwing himself over her as his senses were drowned out by the explosive misfire of prana behind him. The enormous surge of prana that Edgar had concentrated in his palm and magnified to an intense point within the curve of the lens fired blindly as the young magus tumbled to the side, his familiar cushioning his landing with her own body and wrapping her arms around him protectively.

The intense beam of violet light tore through the church in a spiral, burning through pillars and walls alike and lopping in half the altar behind which Maximilian had taken Isane, the heat of the beam scorching one of the elbows of his coat. Just as abruptly as it had come, however, the beam abated. The lull was short-lived, however, as a golden light budded from where the young girl’s hands were clasped over her chest, and Maximilian was blown clear through the altar as a shockwave of force exploded outwards from the girl. Streaks of light arced away from her, ripping the church apart, and Max grunted and forced back the pain from his landing as his trained eyes immediately informed him of an even worse development.

The roof was coming down.

In order for one to pass safely through the Standing Stones, it was necessary to bear upon oneself the necessary charm or cantrip – for Maximilian Lacere, who bore a very limited amount of prana within his body, he chose the former: in one of his coat pockets, he carried a small sculpture that old Meriam had carved for him back during their wartime days. The old man had enchanted it himself to let Max use his Standing Stones – the point being that, with the cantrip outside of Max’s limited repertoire of Magecraft, there was only one way to be managing this situation.

“What are you do-“ Isane had time to yelp in surprise as the man haphazardly shoved the figurine up one of her flowing sleeves and threw her into the Standing Stone. He caught just a glimpse of her alarmed expression before she vanished through the portal, and he had to just hope that she wouldn’t go wandering around in the catacombs.

“Damn it all.” At the moment, his most pressing concern was the increasingly-dire hail of shrapnel raining down from above as the support beams and braces splintered. Whatever the mediator had inadvertently done with that golden light had ripped the place to shreds. Diving out of a window wasn’t a possibility, with the windows having been built some ten meters off of the ground, and the doorway to the outside was a good sixty meters away.

“Program: BREAK. Execute: Su. Ri. Su. Ne. To.” His voice echoed, taking on an ethereal tone as he invoked the Third Program. There wasn’t any time to be empowering it with the chant, he realized as the final support brace splintered and buckled overhead, and he prematurely slammed his palm into the floor, discharging the spell before it had properly resolved.

The result was that the floor around him promptly exploded, and Max blindly threw himself to the side as he fell through the floor and into one of the tunnels under the church, the rubble thundering down beside him as he tumbled out of the way.

“Too close,” he murmured aloud as he pushed himself to his feet and surveyed the damage. The tunnel was sealed up, that was a given, but when he had been mapping out the network on his way here, he had passed through this way – it should be a simple matter to find his way to where he had pushed Isane through the Standing Stone, assuming she had maintained the sense to stay put.

Several minutes later, when he had managed to pick his way back to where the Standing Stone was, he was relieved to find the young mediator kneeling on the ground right where he had thrown her. What caught his attention though was the shimmering rectangle she held to her forehead, her brow covered in sweat.

“A spell?” he asked flatly. The girl’s eyes snapped open in surprise, and she dropped the rectangular object into her lap as she looked up at him, pupil-less eyes flickering as they moved about.

“…you move silently.” she murmured, “…yes, I was searching for the rest of my cards. That magus interrupted my signing of the register, and the seals which I placed upon the deck were broken.” She accepted Maximilian’s offered hand and let him pull her up to her feet. “I do thank you for saving me…though I must ask who you are, and why it is you have such a powerful enchantment placed upon the wall of what used to be the church.”

Maximilian had to give the girl credit, she was taking what had happened in the last few minutes in surprising stride.

“I’ll explain when we’re out of these tunnels…follow me.” This time, he simply walked the straight path, through the pools of lamplight, but still his footfalls made not a sound.


-------------------------------------------------------------


“Bloody hell, Max…you’ve been here all of three hours, and I hear that Rhombe Chapel is a smoking pile of rubble, and-“ Minato stopped short as the older male helped Isane down from the doorway hidden in the ale casket, “…good God, man, don’t tell me you kidnapped one of the Burial Agents, because the last thing I want is the goddamn Narbareck-”

“Relax,” Max grunted, heaving the heavy wooden door shut behind the girl, “…believe or not, this one wasn’t my fault. It was Wayneright – pampered brat can’t walk into a room without picking a fight with someone.”

When they had trooped up from the basement and Minato had dead-bolted the door, the trio seated themselves around one of the tables in the bar after Max had righted it and the young bartender scavenged for three chairs that had not been wrecked along with the rest of the furniture.

“Alright, so what the hell happened?” Minato asked, setting several bottles of drink onto the table.

“Edgar Wayneright of the Clock Tower interrupted the signing of the register. It would seem that he wished to claim the Saber-class Servant for his own.” Isane’s reply spilled out automatically, and Max noted that she had returned to the monotone that she had forgotten for only a brief moment back in the tunnel.

“…Servant?” Minato echoed, glancing to the older male with a worried expression – rare for him, Max noted, “You’re telling me that we have a fucking Grail War on our hands? Dammit, Max was just supposed to come in and suppress the Association’s sweep teams until I could find a way to bind the power of the leyline.” At this, Isane turned her dubious stare from the bottles of alcohol to the young bartender, and Max had to chuckle at the scene.

“Calm down Minato, and mind your language, she’s just a kid. And some sort of nun, I guess,” he said, sighing and separating a glass pitcher of water from the rest and moving it towards her, “…and I’ve been wondering that: you were saying that you didn’t know how the Grail War had managed to occur outside of the holy land of Fuyuki, weren’t you?”

“…he’s a quick one.” Isane thought to herself, nodding slowly. “Yes. My superiors in the Holy Church have reasoned that this leyline, powerful as it is, has caused an unprecedented shift in the natural flow of mana in the world. The are calling Vodnyisad a new holy land.” She glanced around the table “…and don’t give me that look. I have seen the Grail with my own two eyes. Devoid of prana, yes, but these eyes of mine would not mistake the Third Magic upon seeing it in person.”

Minato looked taken aback at this, and Max simply sighed and ran a hand through his hair. This was turning into an even larger mess than he had expected. “This city has it out for us, Misaki.”

“So Max…what’s the plan?” Minato murmured, leaning back in his chair.

“Isane.” The older male murmured, and the girl cocked her head to the side curiously, “…what was that light, back at the church, and what exactly are the new restrictions enforced on this war? And…what would it take for me to summon my own Servant?”

“…Oh God, Max, you can’t be serious.”

A smile lit up the young girl’s face.


-------------------------------------------------------------


“The conditions for the Vodnyisad War are similar in basic construction to those of the Fuyuki Grail War, of which you already seem to be aware,” Isane explained, “…battles are to be conducted under cover of night, and the last Servant and Master pair standing are declared the victors.” The young girl paused to glance at Minato, who had begun pacing uneasily behind the bar, apparently wanting no part in the conversation anymore. She turned back to face Max. “…however, that’s where the similarities end.”

Isane sighed and took a deep breath, and her eyes suddenly took on a faint green glow.

“In order to control this war, I had to bind the Grail, or rather, the Servant system. Challenging the Third Magic was out of the question, but what I could do was impose rules upon the mana that the system draws from the planet. I broke the system into twenty-four pieces, binding each to the command seals that I had imprinted on a deck of cards. With so many seals and overlapping magics, however, the very smallest interruption in the signing of my register, and the means by which the cards would be unsealed, would have been-“

“Catastrophic.” Max supplied, and the girl nodded with a sigh. After a few moments, she looked back up at him, expression puzzled.

“…I have heard of you before, Maximilian Lacere…many of us have. Why are you here, in Vodnyisad?” After a moment, she added, “…and what would you wish for from the Holy Grail?”

Max had to smile faintly at her question – the girl was starting to realize the situation she was in.

“…before I begin, I have to warn you, young lady, that you’re underestimating the Narbareck. She may look like a little girl, but she’s absolutely ruthless. Even with the restrictions you’ve designed, there is no guarantee that you would be able to prevent a blackheart from entering the war, or, should something go wrong as it has, this hold doubly true. However, by forcing the Burial Agency to operate ahead of the Holy Church, and moreover placing one of her Numbers in the role of Mediator...she has insured that, in the worst-case scenario, it is not the war that is painted as neutral-“

“…but the Burial Agency.” The girl murmured, a wounded pang working its way into her voice.

“That’s just how she works – don’t take it personally.” Minato interrupted, sighing and setting down a glass of orange juice in front of the girl, startling her, “…trust me, from the intel I’ve gathered, your better off working for her than for most of the brass at the Clock Tower or those bloodthirsty hunters from Nippon.”

“…subtle, kid.” Max thought, hiding a small grin, “…I’m here because of the war. If you know who I am, then you’ve probably heard about my track record. Minato here could see the war brewing a mile off, and wants to destroy the leyline before any one power can lay claim to it.”

“Destroy it?” Isane said suddenly, alarm in her voice, “…a leyline is like a carrier of Gaia’s lifeblood, to do so would render the region-“

“Uninhabitable?” Max replied with a chuckle, “…this is Vodnyisad. The terrain here has never been generous; this is the only place where he could get away with something like that. But even if a benevolent power were to seize hold of the leyline, and even if the Russians were somehow okay with it, some smaller power would inevitably try to seize it for themselves.”

“…tell me your wish.” The girl mumbled glumly. Max reached forward and patted the girl on the shoulder.

“…given the chance, I would save my wife.” The girl started, looking at him, before a faint smile overcame her expression, and she sighed, shaking her head.

“…then…I will help you.” She murmured, drawing the thin, rectangular object out of her robes, “With the neutrality of this war compromised, and the possibility of others like Edgar Wayneright enrolled I must do what I can to remove negative variables from the war – it is within the right of a mediator to place bounties upon those who would compromise the war. I will make a deal with you, Maximilian Lacere.” The girl paused, exhaling faintly before her expression suddenly became serious – Max would see the training of the Burial Agency in her.

“…track down the dangerous elements of this war are remove them, and neutralize all others. Whenever a target breaches the approved protocol for the Vodnyisad War, I will place a bounty of Command Seals upon their head.”

“And you’re confident that I’m the man for the job?” He replied, chuckling faintly. The girl looked to him, eyes flickering with prana.

“…you are Maximilian Lacere, the Halfman, and the Demon of the Trenches. If this war is to become a war between magi, then I would expect nothing less from the famous Magus Killer himself.” She extended her hand to him, offering the shimmering rectangular object.

“It’s a card.”

“…one of three terrible powers I pulled forth from the Grail – I will give you the permission to summon the power of a hero who fell from grace: the contract of the Forsaker is yours.”


-------------------------------------------------------------


Maximilian stood in the center of the basement as the young mediator traced in chalk and complicated series of runes into the circle she had drawn around him. Minato sat on top of one of the workbenches he had pushed against the wall, unease written in his features.

“Isn’t Max supposed to complete the summoning on his own?” The young bartender inquired.

“Ideally, yes,” Isane murmured distractedly, “…but the four other Masters he has seen all bore summoning regalia, strengthening their bond to the Servants they summon. Moreover, if he were to summon the Forsaker while so drained of prana, the Forsaker would be summoned in a weakened state – I will complete the basic ritual. He bears the card, some the Command Seals will write themselves to him: I simply need to complete the ritual.”

“I take it you’ve altered the ritual from the one used in Fuyuki?” Max asked, knowing full-well what to expect in her answer.

“I did.” Isane replied, “…but since the cards have scattered, any magi who holds one will have permission to bypass enough of my seals that the original ritual will likely work – doubly so if they have an artifact of the Heroic Spirit that they were out to summon. So I’d rather not have Maximilian fighting at such a disadvantage from the very beginning…especially with such a volatile class as the Forsaker.”

“I see.” Max murmured as the girl stood up, dusting off her clothing. She took her place within a small circle of runes placed at the head of the circle, and cleared her throat.



“Stand first: True Silver, True Iron
First stone of the foundation, Gleaming Shard of the Firmament
I compel you upon the command of our mistress under Heaven, the Lady Narbareck
Let this transgression come to pass
Let Nyx’s gown descend and hide away our weakness, and may the burning wheel spin faster
Break. Break. Break. Break. Break.
These rejections of the great sage’s seal
Let these poisoned runes consume my self
Revise.
I place my fragile heart into your hands, let thy sword fall where mine heart commands
Wayward soul that sleeps within the Grail, I pull you forth, loosening the shackles
I offer forth this contract
I am the serpent whose words and venom have poisoned the cross.
I am the traitor whose actions were for the greater good.
Upon the thirty-six wings and seven choirs.
Sign yourself to this contract, and upon your word, become the broken sword of justice-!”


The surge of magical energy that ripped through the room was…titanic. A wild wind whipped around the edge of the seal as Isane’s runes took on a violent emerald. Her chant became lost in the roaring air, and Max shielding his face with his good arm. Still, the girl continued her chant.



“That soul whose life was one of eternal poison.
He who bears equally the burdens of virtue and vice.
I am she who wishes to once again poison the world.”


Suddenly, the emerald glow gave way to violet, and the assembled trio threw up their arms to shield their eyes as the room was consumed in a vortex of light and sound. When Maximilian’s senses returned to him, he realized that he had been thrown back into the wall. Gingerly, he pushed himself up and staggered forward, shaking his head before looking to survey the damage. What he saw, however, stopped him cold.

Standing in the center of the summoning circle was a man of equal height to him, messy grey hair that shone faintly covering much of his face, revealing that he was only perhaps some forty years of age. His armor was dingy and battered, and the bark-colored cape that hung off of his back was torn and faded. His hands, which were not covered by his gauntlets, were bandaged, as was his cheek and his forehead.

“…hah…this one looks like he has some fight in him…a soldier.” The figure rasped, meeting Maximilian’s stare with a single ruby eye before extending one hand cordially “…I am Forsaker. To sadness and glory, I am your sword, and you are my Master.”

“…this is…the power of a Servant.”

Servants: avatars of the most powerful beings to walk the ranks of humanity, granted form by the Grail into shells of prana. The sheer force emitted by the ragged man’s presence utterly dwarfed that of any magus he had ever faced. This man…even if he was the weakest Servant, was some eidolon of great and terrible power. A sudden flash of light from his hand caught his attention, and Maximilian looked down to see that a series of runes had appeared on the back of his hand.

“Those are the Command Se-“ Isane began to speak, but wavered on her feet before falling over.

In a flash, the armored male had crossed the room and knelt, the girl falling into his arms as if he had been there to catch her the entire time. His speed was unreal, Max thought in amazement as he hurried over to the girl. Her brow was soaked with sweat, and the green glow had faded from her eyes, her blinking and gaze erratic and unfocused.

“You used too much prana.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Isane gasped before suddenly doubling up, arms clutched to her stomach. “G-Guuuah!”

“Isane, what’s wrong?” Max knelt by her side, Minato also hurrying over, a first aid kit already in hand.

“N-Not good,” She mumbled, “…I’m too deeply interfaced with the leyline…the presence of the Servants is wreaking havoc with the natural flow of mana here. I’m going to need time to disengage myself…” Suddenly she grabbed his sleeve, “…I can feel whenever they move across the leyline, though. There’s a Servant headed this way – its Master is probably tracking the power from Forsaker’s summoning.”

“…damn…drawn into the thick of it already.” He thought, glancing to the grey-haired man, who returned his gaze. “It’s been a while since I’ve fought alongside anyone.” Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet; the pain from his impact against the wall was dimming – that was good.

“…then we’ll go out to greet them. Minato, take her up and find her a bed…then see if you can cook something that won’t flat out kill her.”

The young man scoffed as he threw one of her arms around his shoulders and helped her to his feet. “Yeah, yeah – now go clean up this mess you’ve gotten all of us into. We can talk about what this is going to do to your tab when you get back.”

Maximilian grinned and nodded to Forsaker before running towards the staircase. As he burst out of the bar and took off down the dead-end street, prana granting him speed beyond the finest mundane athlete, he could tell that, despite his armor, the dusty-haired man keeping stride with him was struggling to maintain so slow a pace.

“Was I right? Are you a soldier?” The Servant suddenly asked. “You must be – this isn’t a blind charge into combat. You’re moving like you want to take this into an area where we can move to the sides.”

Max chuckled, “…yeah, I’m a soldier, but don’t get too comfortable. I’ve got some experience, but I’m old before my time. I’m not the grizzled veteran those kids make me out to be.” This time, it was Forsaker’s turn to laugh – a hearty, gravelly noise.

“Hah, I like you, boyo! A good man who lost his arm but survived to fight – you are a soldier. I have found a good Master.” The man said with a wicked grin, “So what is the plan? It is daylight, but the city is empty – is it abandoned?” Max shook his head.

“No, which is why we’re going to have to bring this fight into somewhere where we won’t be interrupted. Do whatever you need to and take down the enemy Servant; I’ll either kill or subdue the Master – for all I know, it could just be some poor kid fighting to save his kid sister.”

Forsaker smiled.

“A good man indeed.”

__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ____________________________________________

Alright, after each chapter where a character is revealed with enough detail, I’ll post little information boxes to inform readers about their abilities and whatnot in context of my personal system. Now, none of the cast have shown more than a few abilities, so this time, we’ll just take a quick look at our protagonist, the “Halfman,” Maximilian Lacere. A former soldier whose history appears to be more and more complicated, let us take a look at what we know about him.


Name: Maximilian Lacere
Age: 37
Parameters:


Strength: 5
Endurance: 5
Agility: 4
Magic: 4
Prana: 2
Bond: 2

Abilities:


Five Primary Programs?

???
???
Third Program: BREAK
Fourth Program: HALT
Fifth Program: FOLLOW



Advantages:


Intensive Training

Once per day, you are capable of adding 4 points to your Strength, Endurance, or Agility for up to thirty seconds. If you have more than a rating of 12 points in that Attribute, then increase the amount gained to 6 points.

ItsaRandomUsername
July 15th, 2011, 08:53 PM
More!

YES

Alulim
July 15th, 2011, 08:54 PM
Indeed, this is good.

Egophobia
July 15th, 2011, 09:18 PM
Hah, thanks. ^-^ Next chapter should have the story take off with the first major clash from my Servants. Any comments are welcome, etc, etc. Anyhow, the update should happen with a week, like before!

...*sees something shiny and wanders off*

Egophobia
July 22nd, 2011, 01:11 AM
Three / Scars
Act 1-3
August 22, 1939
10:39


They say that there is a time in every soldier’s life where he realizes just how small one man is on a battlefield – how inferior his tiny weapons are to the great warmachines that are the sum power of a nation’s pride and industry. There was a time, down in the trenches of wartorn France, when he was fighting alongside a British unit to retake the town of Ypres, and he led a charge across the manmade hell of No Man’s Land – it was in that moment that Maximilian Lacere first experienced this sensation.

Now, as he watched the Servant that Isane Mikoto had bound to him, the fallen hero Forsaker, leap from the pavement beside him and sail up into the withered canopy of the trees in this park, that he felt that sensation once again. On the one hand, Forsaker was more than a man – he was an eidolon: pure power and excellent bound into the human shape. And yet the man that Forsaker was – in his own time – was just that, simply a man.

“They are still pursuing us.” Forsaker shouted down as he leapt backwards from treetop to treetop, his gaze fixed on their pursuers. Max chuckled to himself as how quickly the armored man had caught on – shouting to give away their direction.

“With the military lockdown, they’ll think we’re just another bunch of deserters or poor bastards running from the military police. Nobody should come looking it we fight it out in the park – the trouble is getting everything done and making a clean getaway before the actual military police show up.”

He took solace however in the fact that whoever it was chasing them was no tactical genius – as well as in the fact that the two of them were the targets, and not Isane. He considered shouting up to his new companion for some details about their enemies, but it probably was not a good idea to underestimate their opponents so easily – there was no telling whether or not their enemy would overhear and suddenly decide to double back and hunt for more favorable prey.

“Engage the enemy once – on your terms, and for the first and last time.”

That part of him that ached for the old days let a wicked smile come to his lips – it had been too long.

Forsaker dropped down beside him, cracking the sidewalk as he landed but rising as easily as if it had been a drop of mere inches for him. The grey-haired man’s expression was a steely grin, and he nodded towards the rusted archway that led into the park some two-hundred meters away. It was a straight shot into the city, but all around them, a congested treeline that had been planted long ago and never maintained since provided ample cover so long as they kept the damage to a low altitude.

“Here they come.” Forsaker murmured.

Under the archway, a single figure staggered, unrealistically long arms swaying and body lurching like someone whose sense of balance had been permanently distorted. The figure was alone for only an instant before a flash of purplish flames erupted behind it, and a woman in an impossibly long dress materialized in the air, trailing behind. As they drew closer, Maximilian could make out the form of the earthbound fight – a woman with unkempt hair that hung almost to her knees – he struggled for a moment to discern her style of clothing before he realized-

“A straitjacket, and she’s broken the clasps.”

Just as he had explained the mystery of her ludicrously long sleeves, her head snapped up, and he realized that he was definitely going to have to aim to kill.

“Forsaker, defeat the enemy Servant…whatever sanity this woman had has long since fled her senses. I’m going to have to execute her.” He grit his teeth at the sentence, but drew his saber in a fluent motion and settled into an old dueling stance.

“He holds himself well.” Forsaker thought to himself before giving a short nod, and fixing his gaze upon the enemy Servant. Her features were eastern, with long black hair that trailed behind her in the wind almost as long as her dress, which was so long that it sloped down to the sidewalk and dragged for several meters. She was…beautiful – too beautiful, in face, and he felt a powerful enchantment wash over him before being forced back by his own protective magics. The floating woman seemed to notice this and smiled faintly.

“…yes…this woman…my Master…is quite mad. Driven beyond her own ability to comprehend pain and suffering. Her very being shattered into the innumerable fragments that echoed out across the void, and called me forth from the Grail.” Her voice was sad and sweet, and Forsaker’s brow twitched – it cracked too perfectly, at all the proper moments.

“Would you deprive her of the reclamation of her life? Would you deny that her vengeance which has summoned me forth is justified? Will you stand in her way, when her plight is most deserving of the magicks of the Grail?”

“She emulates sadness and tragedy. An avatar of scorned women, but not from my time, nor from my lands. I have the charms to protect me, but…” He glanced to Max, whose brow was covered in sweat. The one-armed soldier seemed distracted, his gaze faraway, and for an instant, he assumed the worst.

“Self-hypnotism.” Maximilian grunted, “…as long as I’m not looking at her, I think I can drown out her voice, but I’m going to have to knock out my own hearing to manage this.”

Forsaker smiled at his Master’s resourcefulness, taking solace once again that he had been summoned by a soldier of this age, and hunched over, throwing both of his arms out to each side, palms opened.

“I am the Forsaker, whose age of heroics and tales of valor were ended even before my death. I have committed greater crimes than the annihilation of a soldier who calls themselves an avenger, and so I ask you – do you deny the rightful cause of my Master, to fight for the greater good, and to use his power as a Master to preserve a world, rather than avenge one soul?” His voice rolled out clear and strong, and a violent wind whipped up around him as in each hand, a spear materialized: in his left, a translucent weapon of red that looked like an enormous thorn, and in his right a spiral shaft of cerulean and silver than ended in a fan-shaped blade.

“…I cannot.” The floating woman smiled faintly and drew both of her arms in front of herself, sleeves billowing in the wind. “…I am the Jester, and for my ‘selfish’ pursuit of justice, I will erase all those who stand against my Master Nadia.”

A surge of raw prana rolled off of the woman, and the armored man braced himself – this was no attack, this was just a powerful spirit flexing its muscles after having been locked away for so long. He grinned – it had been so long since he’d had a chance to clash with a real foe.


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Maximilian barely caught himself in time to jump back as the woman in front of him lurched forward. In a flash, sloppy, awkward footwork was replaced by a frenetic dance of sudden shifts and turns, and the woman pivoted backwards, one leg shooting out in a sudden kick aimed at his jaw. No sooner than the tip of her foot had missed his chin by a matter of inches did the woman spring off of her grounded leg, whipping around in a second, overhead strike.

“…she’s a professional.” There was no chance that some common asylum escapee could suddenly manifest this level of footwork – the woman was emaciated and clearly out of her mind. “…this is all just muscle memory on her part. Taekyun – at least ten years formal training, and she’s built for it.”

He ducked underneath the second kick, shifting himself to the side and throwing out his hand – not to stab, but with the palm opened.

“HALT!” If he could subdue her, then there was a chance he could undo whatever damage the jailers had done to him mind – there was no doubt about this, this woman was a military prisoner, and from the sound of it, one who was unjustly tried. As soon as the spell resolved, however, he felt it buckle and shatter, and he cursed under his breath as he felt the rough cloth spin of the sleeves of her straitjacket wrap around his extended arm.

This was not a favorable situation – the woman was a martial-arts specialist, and he had strayed away from hand-to-hand combat since…well, since he had become the “Halfman.” Moreover, her Servant was exerting some sort of ludicrous pressure, completely sending his spells haywire as they were drowned out in the flood of prana emanating from her. On top of it all, he had used the First Program, meaning that he was now fighting deaf for the next minute or so, and without the ability to hear, he was forced to backpedal, keeping the woman within line-of-sight as she spun at him with a dizzying barrage of kicks.

Or rather, he would have been had the woman not successfully grappled him with the slack of her elongated sleeves, yanking him closer while simultaneously pulling herself into the air, and doubling the force that met Maximilian as she planted both feet squarely into his chest.

“Tch!”

The force of the blow knocked the wind out of the man – moreso than that, however, it launched him back, and the woman whirled around in midair, sleeves unfurling before they could be snapped taut, and the one-armed man was sent crashing through a wood-and-stone bench. That confirmed it – it wasn’t just the absurd footwork or her strength despite her condition – there was something thoroughly wrong with the woman that wavered on her feet, head lolling about as he picked himself back to his feet.

“FOLLOW,” he barked experimentally, and from where it lay, his saber flew to his hand.

“It seems like her Servant is only dampening magic directed at her Master and presumably herself. I guess this just means I’ll have to do things the old-fashioned way-!”

However, even his thoughts were drowned out in the thunderclap of noise that erupted just to the side, where the Forsaker and Jester finally met in combat.


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“DIE!”

The howl tore itself loose of the woman’s throat like the cry of an immense beast, and the air of the desolate park seemed to rip apart with the sheer vicious intent that the woman was exuding. Sixteen times in the blink of an eye, her hand shot out, and almost instantaneously, the air around her was filled with fluttering scraps of paper that looked as if they had been dipped in red ink.

“HOU!”

This time, as her voice rang out, the air waved before erupting into a cascading canopy of fire, and the sixteen talismans immediately were turned to ash, leaving only a single red character in the air where they had been floating. Where before there had been only some sixteen sheaves of paper now flew dozens upon dozens of streaks of flame, each as large as a grown man’s forearm and leaking thrice the prana of a fully-trained magus. The Forsaker jumped back defensively to assess the damage as one of the arrows struck right where he had been standing and exploded with the force of several pounds of plastic explosive.

He grinned.

“SURGE!” He roared in retaliation, the thorn-like spear disappearing as he grasped the cerulean weapon in both hands. Immediately, the spear seemed to distort, its shape loosening and elongating as the color fled the weapon, leaving it clear and shifting.

“Water?”

“You think that you can extinguish my flames with water!?” The Jester cackled as she spun about, the paper talismans falling from her sleeves like snow before erupting into yet hundreds more of the deadly projectiles.

What transpired next was so far beyond the mundane definition of “war” – beyond even the world that magi and their neighbors in the hidden world of the paranormal inhabited. It was something that defied definition, not in that it was a poetic or magnificent event, but in the sheer display of power and the inescapable horror that this- this display was the very least of what those called “Servants” were capable of.

The Forsaker became a blur, body leaving afterimages as he whirled about, his spear of water, whipping through the air with a faint howl as it bisected air and flame alike. The air around the man in battered armor hissed and erupted into a cloud of steam as his weapon cut through the arrows, cleaving them twenty at a time as the woman threw them into the air again and again.

And suddenly, just as the rain of talismans from the woman’s sleeves slowed for the smallest of instants, the grey-haired man let out a mad howl and threw himself into the oncoming hail of arrows, weapon contorting wildly as he swept it in a wide arc. The spear grew to an impossible length, and with a complicated twist, suddenly the man had cleared the air of the oncoming barrage.

“Hah…an enchanted weapon!?” The Jester glared as she flew backwards, the liquid tip of the fan-bladed spear cutting the edge of her flowing sleeve just shy of her arm. She did not doubt that the weapon would have lopped the entire limb off it had struck her – there was a terrible aura around the man, and coupled with his apparent martial strength, it would not be wise for her to get too close to him.

“You’re strong.” She commented dryly as she began channeling the prana for a larger spell. This time, the haze around her was even more intense, her image seeming to distort uncontrollably, stretching and twisting in midair.

“You have no idea…” The Forsaker growled as he fell back to earth and landed with enough force to crater the ground. His spear solidified as he planted it into the ground behind him, and, with a roar, he slammed both of his fists into the ground. The sound was explosive – the sight being one the likes of which could not have been imagined by those constrained by the thinking of modern limitations. The enormous paved stone area in the center of the park – even the huge, chipped fountain that stood in the center – split, a fissure bisecting the entire disk-shaped mass of concrete.

“What impossible strength-!”

Again, the Forsaker roared, and gave a great heave backwards. A tremor shook the entire park, and suddenly, the earth gave, stabbing up towards the sky, and the Forsaker threw a slab of stone the size of a small apartment building at the airborne woman. There was no way for her dodge, and no way that any modern being – even one of the supernaturally-enhanced Dead Apostles – could hope to walk away from such an attack unscathed.

But like the man in the battered armor, the Jester was a Servant.

“Ohn-hou!”

The woman’s eyes seemed to blaze, and as she clasped her hands against one another as if offering up a prayer, she leaned forward, opening her mouth wide, and a sphere of flame spilled forth. Almost spontaneously, the sphere expanded until it was nearly four meters across – still nothing compared to the enormous slab of rock that was flying towards her.

And yet when it met the stone, it bore through it – a horrid screeching sound erupting from the collision as the sphere hovered in place, drilling through the stone and leaving a four-meter hole in its wake as the stone flew harmlessly at the woman, not even her trailing hair touching the misplaced earth.

“Was that all?”

What came next wiped the vicious smile from the woman’s face, and she whipped her head upwards. Against the pale grey sky, the Forsaker fell towards her, weapon held overhead, and a mad grin plastered across his face.

“Nae.”


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“This is just insane.”

From where he was standing, he saw clearly how his Servant managed to successfully ambush his opponent. The enormous slab of stone had failed as an attack, but instead he had turned it into a screen of vertical cover. The Forsaker had crouched before leaping skyward, this time more than six stories, high above the treeline and the enemy Servant – spear in hand – and his weapon elongated and shifted before suddenly becoming solid. Now it was a shaft of ice with an enormous cylinder at the top, and in a single motion, the armored male spun around, and sent the Jester hurtling into the ground in an explosion of rubble.

“Tha’ was just me working the dust out of these old bones.” He replied, chuckling as he landed once more to the sound of cracking pavement, and slung the frozen warhammer over one shoulder.

But Maximilian did not have the leisure of watching the conflict between his Servant and the Jester, as his own opponent – the woman called Nadia – was pressing the attack. He was surprised; even through her madness, she was displaying enough military training that she would have hung back the second he recovered his weapon. Still, he did not intend to only defend – if the scenario was close-quarters combat and he was armed, then the odds were in his favor.

His suspicions proved to be well-founded. The instant he was within reach, the woman’s arms became a blur, and only his superior training provided Maximilian with the alertness to catch the gleam of metal as she produced a weapon from her sleeve. With a ringing crash, he found himself locking blades with the woman; pressed against his old military saber was a crude length of sharpened metal covered in hardened gauze.

“…a homemade shortsword made out of a bedpost-“ The woman was definitely skilled.

And the woman spun and thrust her sword dangerously, too. Though her form was sloppy, her footwork was as frantic as ever, and thrice she covered a sloppy cut by lunging forward with a powerful kick, forcing him to abandon the offensive for a moment and concentrate on avoiding her attack. There was something unreal about the woman’s strength – his eyes flickered in recognition as he recalled the broken bench that he was about to back into, and he vaulted over the rubble only to see the bench splinter in half against the woman’s kick.

“She’s not using prana to augment her own body.” He thought, analyzing her as he deflected another series of stabs, “…and she’s bleeding into her leggings; her physical enhancements aren’t on the cellular level. That leaves only some sort of muscle stimulant.”

“Alright.” He murmured – he had not wanted to aim for any of the woman’s more vital points; despite his earlier steeliness, there was some part of the woman’s – Jester’s – speech that had reminded him of similar words he had spoken a long time ago. Falling to her here was not an option, however, and before he had a chance to second-guess himself, he allowed the military training of his past to take over, and he shifted in a stance he had not held in a long time.


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The Forsaker glanced over to where his Master continued to duel with his opponent. She was definitely a strong one – a military woman to match the prowess that his own Master bore. Yet he was confident in his Master. Whereas the woman had the advantages of youth: health and the quickness of one whose body was new and strong, the one-armed man bore something infinitely more valuable – something the Forsaker could understand the true worth of.

Scars.

The Forsaker looked down at his armor, felt the phantom pain running under the bandage on his cheek and along his arms. Each one of the innumerable nicks against his battered mail was the lesson of an opponent’s weapon, each cut the reminder of a faulty defense. A man who bore no scars was not invincible, but simply one too meek to dare challenge one who might deal that fatal cut. But the man whose body bore those many scars had survived time and again where he might have rightfully been felled – a man like his Master.

The Forsaker smiled and turned back to the crater that the Jester had made – this was his own battle.

The crater where the Jester had fallen suddenly flared brilliantly before a white blur shot out to the side, and for an instant, even the Forsaker’s trained eyes lost track of the object. Acting on instinct, he swept his weapon around in a defensive stroke, catching a blow that had been meant for his back, between the shoulderblades where the mail was weakest.

“Aye, you’re a dangerous little girl, aren’t you?” He said with a grin. Wild, bestial eyes glared back at him before the Jester – or what had previously been the Jester – jumped away. This time, he was able to take in the creature’s appearance.

It was no familiar or illusion – what had previously been a woman with long, flowing black hair and dazzling white skin had now turned into a sleek mass of fine white fur; the Jester had taken the lupine shape of fox. Not a normal fox, though. The white beast before him was at least the size of a Clydesdale horse. Where there should have been only one sweeping tail of stark-white fur, there were nine, and the aura around the beast far surpassed the killing intent of any mundane creature.

A snarl was his response, and with a sudden surge of speed, the creature bolted forward, claws leaving streaks in the battered ground as it lunged for him time and again, jaws snapping. Again and again he parried with his enchanted weapon, shifting it from liquid to solid time and again and into a myriad of shapes.

And then, as abruptly as it had happened, the woman was suddenly her own shape again, holding the loose folds of kimono around herself as if she had simply shrugged back into her human skin. Her face was only a few inches from his face, and his body suddenly seized up, unable to move.

“Now…don’t you feel silly, Poisoned King?”

And once again it became a battle against the woman’s mysterious enchantments.


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“Five Points: Ankles, Wrists, Temple.” His murmur came out in a rush, and he surged forward towards the woman. Recognition flashed for an instant in the woman’s faraway eyes, and she rushed to meet him, blade poised to meet him head-on.

“The most I can manage with just one arm is five points.”

Maximilian chuckled bitterly under her breath. He had not wanted to rely on his swordplay so early into this contest – he was ill at-ease using it against a mundane human, of all targets, but with the power of the Jester protecting her from his enchantments-

“Now!”

In a fluid motion, he bolted forward, blade sweeping inwards in a wide motion before seeming to flicker five times. As the woman’s blade stabbed straight towards his chest, hid saber flicked across the back of each ankle, both of her wrists, and across her temple. At the same time, five small charges of prana traveled down his arm. The effect was instantaneous.

“…ah.”

A small sound of surprise escaped the woman – not the noise of a wounded animal, but a small gasp – before she crumpled to the ground, as if she had been struck by some great force. A thin trickle of blood began to spill out of each of the small incisions made by the tip of the saber. At the same time, Maximilian let out a groan, dropping his own weapon and taking a knee, kneeling against the pavement.

“…damn it all.” He grunted, looking at the long shard of metal that was stabbed into his shoulder. The wound was not horrible, but still – it was deep enough for the blade to have stuck inside of him even when the woman let go of it. With an unceremonious yank, he wrenched the jagged object out before tucking it into his coat.

“Best to keep the fresh blood splattered around here to a minimum.” He thought, gritting his teeth.

Still, the maneuver had been a success, and the woman lay facedown on the ground, unconscious and definitely in no condition to continue fighting. He staggered as suddenly, his hearing returned, the effects of the First Program having worn off, and he heard for the first time the cataclysmic explosion that came from the site of the Forsaker and Jester’s battle.

…there was no way that this was going to stay unnoticed.


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“…yes, I have heard of you…of the spirit who calls himself the Forsaker, the ‘Poisoned King’ and hides within the most cursed depths of the Grail.” The Jester hummed, her voice like a heady perfume as the circuits that empowered her Mystic Eyes surged with prana, “…but it seems that you are just another fool king, just like all the rest.” She drifted just in front of him, the tips of her toes barely touching the pavement – this low to the ground, she was looking up at the man’s face, half-hidden behind his silvery mane.

“I can’t say I’m quite familiar with you, lass.” The man spoke, and the Jester started.

“He should not be able to speak!”

“-but whilst I have tangled with many a mangy, bewitchin’ bitch in my day, I can assure you tha’ you’ve never once encountered a king quite like me.”

The woman narrowly flew backwards before the frozen spear suddenly turn to water, altering its shape before stabbing towards her throat. The second she had backed far enough away, the enchantment broke, and the man shifted his stance, spinning his weapon around so that it was behind him as he crouched, and he looked up, a faint grin on his face.

“…I do apologize for the insult, young lady – but tha’ opportunity was really too good to pass up. Now if you’d kindly collect your fallen princess and turn tail, this old king can spend his first day alive again without havin’ to wipe the blood of a little girl from his greaves.”

The Jester bristled at this, and her Mystic Eyes flared, though the enchantment seemed to roll harmlessly over the Forsaker this time. Faintly, the dingy plate mail glowed, and an emerald sigil appeared on the chestplate, and her enchantments were thrown away from him.

“That’s not going t’work on me.” He sighed, more of his accent slipping through, “…now get goin’. My Master seems to be the merciful type. Live to fight another day, girl…or to enjoy this second chance before he an’ I claim this war and its prize for our own. Enjoy the sound of people and the rising sun while you have the opportunity.”

The young woman glared, alighting upon the ground and throwing her arms out wide. Her hair pooled on the ground around her as she lifted her head, wild eyes glowing a heated orange as they focused on the man.

“…there is a saying…in old Japan.” She murmured just loud enough for him to hear, “-that the dawn does not break without a woman.” And as she spoke, her voice seemed to hum with an implacable power. “…a fallen king like yourself…has no right…!”

“MASTER, STAY DOWN!”

The Forsaker, veteran of countless battles, knew well the signs of an opponent ready to reveal a trump. So long as Maximilian remained alongside the living both of the woman’s Master, he would be spared the attack – or so he hoped – and he would only have to worry about his own safety. There was no doubt in his mind.

This was a Noble Phantasm.

Crystallized mysteries wielded by those who had the power to, in a single stroke, bring about great change in the course of human history. No matter how obscure the myth, or how lowly the figure, to carry a Noble Phantasm was to claim right to a weapon so beyond the mundane, that even modern magi could not comprehend it. And this woman…though he could not identify her, nor could he discern her degree of fame…there was no doubt that she was not lacking in raw power.



“…please, Amaterasu-sama…!”


Time seemed to freeze. A ripple washed over the sky above before the clouds suddenly broke, a circular expanse of blue appearing. There was something odd about it, though – a glossy sheen that caught the Forsaker’s eye just in time for him to jump back before the streak of energy struck where he had been standing. The beam obliterated the ground where he had been standing only a moment ago, leaving a deep, black hole bored into the earth.

“A lens? Was that…a shaft of sunlight? I see…the lens collects the sunlight and accelerates it through the focusing edge. A minimal amount of prana is used with each shot as long as she has the sunlight to work with.”

Of course, knowing her chosen means of attack did not change the fact that he was put on the defensive, and he jumped back as once again, a shaft of sunlight scorched the earth where he had just been. His eyes flew to his opponent, who looked to be in the midst of a lengthy incantation, and he could see dozens of paper talismans pouring from her sleeves.

“Well, no way around it, I suppose.”

He looked down at the weapon in his hand – the crystalline spear. His own Noble Phantasms were not the sort that produced enormous displays of sorcery or magical effect. He had always preferred the most subtle, passive boons afforded to a soldier. Even this spear of his which had served him so faithfully in life was but a simple weapon with a few enchantments upon it – with so little prana to draw upon from his newly-summoned self, as well as his exhausted Master, he would not be able to muster enough strength to simply match her Phantasm with one of his greater powers.

“Fly true, old friend.” As he spoke, the spear cracked, suddenly burning a vivid blue light as he willed the prana that materialized it in this world began to burn itself down to ashes, expending the maximum amount of power it could afford. This was a Broken Phantasm. With all his might, he hurled the spear upwards, towards the sky.

“…such an attack cannot pierce my lens…it is a copy of the Yata no Kagami itself!”

“I’m assumin’ that the majority of the prana spent on that attack is to clear the cloud cover so that the sunlight actually reaches the lens, right?” The Forsaker asked, a knowing grin tugging at his lips. The heated glare from the young woman was all he needed to confirm his guess. “…well, then you’re about to be really mad, little girl.”


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High above them, the hurled spear flew ever-higher, never slowing. It cleared the height of the tallest building in Vodnyisad. Then the height of the tallest mountain in the surrounding countryside. Then, finally, it flew past the enormous lens in the sky.

Then, it burst.

The shimmering weapon burst into a cloud of vapor that dispersed. Then, almost instantly, a low rumble sounded through the sky. The wind stirred, and the clouds began to darken. Only a few seconds later, and a second rumble stirred – a peal of thunder – and thick sheets of rain began to fall. In the space of only a few seconds, the city of Vodnyisad was blanketed in the shadow of a massive thunderstorm.

Back down below, the Forsaker chuckled as first, the entire park was blanketed in shadow, and the lethal shaft of sunlight flickered and faded, and immediately after, the fluttering sheaves of onmyoudou talismans flopped to the ground below, ruined by the water, enchanted ink running off of the paper.

“Bastard!” The Jester snarled, eyes flashing murderously.

“Good, now just take the bait.”

“A good try, little lady, but if those ridiculous sleeves of yours are all out of tricks, then ye’d best be running along before I get close enough to beat you into the pavement!” He called, and began to pace in her direction. Casually, as if to emphasize his threat, rather than walk around a boulder-sized chunk of rubble, he swung his arm into it, shattering it and cinderblock-sized pieces of stone skidding across the park.

“Tch..!” The Jester took a step back, nearly tripping over her sodden hair as it hung in a sheet around her. “I can’t let that freakishly-strong knight get any closer to me… If he thinks that a downpour can stop all of my magic, then I’ll just have to-“

“I’ll end this with one spell.” She murmured, her voice lost in the pounding of the rain. Deftly, she began weaving her hands together in a rapid series of complex hand signs before clasping them together as if in prayer. The Forsaker looked to her with an expression of interest, though he did not slow his advance, and the girl bit her lip. Slowly, she lowered her arms, and suddenly, a rain of tiny, shimmering objects began to fall from her sleeves.



“…my tragedy, eternally retold. Come forth, those-“


“Gu-Guah!”

The Jester’s eyes snapped open as her body suddenly went cold, and the strength left her. Her knees gave out under her and she sank to the ground.

“…am I..? How did he?”

The heavy sound of metal greaves on stone stopped just beside her, and the Forsaker crouched down. His hair hung heavily in the rain, but she could still make out his one eye and part of his mouth, again curved in a sad smile. Dully, she realized that she could not muster the power to activate her Mystic Eyes. But…

“He…those eyes. He carries so many regrets. Like me.”

“…you should be at home, huddled under the blankets in weather like this.”

“…don’t mock me.”

“-you must be some manner of scorned bride or tragic princess to have been summoned into a contest like this, yes? You’re no general…or at least, not a very smart one. One of the first things a general must realize before heading into battle is to not overextend himself beyond his resources; that is why raiding parties against supply lines are such a dangerous thing. You were just summoned by an unprepared mundane human, not a magus…you did not have enough prana to manage your Noble Phantasms so quickly after one another.”

“I know that I’m no soldier, but my only wish was that in death, I’d find the strength to avenge my people.”

“…hah, would it were still my time, I’d be happy to help you carve out a new kingdom, or to round up the lads and win you back your home. It has been so long since we had gone on an adventure for the sake of a fair maid…”

The Jester coughed, her body seizing up once more. As a Servant, bodily wounds, unless decisively fatal such as the removal of the head, could be mitigated, as they were not truly “alive” in the conventional sense. Rather, what was truly dangerous was a lack of prana – they themselves were nothing more than a magical core and a shell filled with prana. She had overextended her limit, just as the battered king had said.

“…just…kill me quickly,” she rasped, “…nobody pitied me the first time they murdered me…I don’t want this Grail War…to be the first time…that somebody cares.”

“…care about murdering you?” The Forsaker echoed, before chuckling faintly, “…then don’t worry, princess, because I certainly won’t.”

The Jester smiled and closed her eyes as her consciousness finally faded, her last sentiment dying on her lips.

“And so…you’re just like all the rest.”


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“Tch…pair of bleeding hearts.”

Edgar Wayneright lowered the telescope from his eye and scoffed once more. He, his faithful familiar called Truesilver, and a third figure stood on top of an overpass at the peninsula-locked end of the city.

“Something happen?” The man said, his voice booming, despite his apparent age. Edgar glanced him over once again, his famously-trained eyes missing nothing. The man was dressed in a study vest and coat of boiled leather, innumerable bits and pieces of trinkets dangling from it in chains. His body was tall and lanky – even as he leaned back against the railing of the bridge, he was nearly six feet in height, with wiry but fine musculature. His face was weathered, but as chiseled as if set in stone, pronounced by a pair of wild blue eyes and a long, twisting grey beard that looked like a wisp of smoke. His hairline was not totally receding, but pulled back as if blown by some unseen wind.

“…rhetorically asking, of course.” The man followed-up with immediately, never once looking up from the chunk of stone he had been whittling at with a tiny knife. Edgar frowned and wrinkled his nose in disdain at what he perceived as disrespect.

“…I asked for a Saber, and instead I got this scraggly old codger…that little bitch from the church is going to pay for this.” He shook his head and cleared his voice – a gentleman always responds, even to the most plebian inquisitions.

“It would seem that one of my…enemies, has also acquired a Servant. Neither of them seemed to have it in them to finish off their opponents – at least, that’s the gist of what I could make out through this damnable rain.” The young man’s scowl deepened as he tugged his fur coat tighter around himself, and Truesilver shifted so that the umbrella covered him entirely, whilst the rain fell unabated over her.

The man chuckled.

“…the Servant who did not fall…he activated only a very weak Noble Phantasm, and even then, he chose to ‘break’ it, and release his prana to summon forth this rain,” the man murmured, pointing upwards with his carving knife, “To have won without killing, and matching enemy Phantasms with only his own body and wit alone, that is a man who has earned his scars. I would not underestimate him, my young ward.”

Edgar cocked an eyebrow in mild surprise. Had the man really deduced all of that – he had not even so much as looked over his shoulder towards the battle the entire time; he had just leaned against the railing, carving at that chunk of rock- how the hell was he carving that piece of stone with an ordinary knife?

“I am the Artificer, and there is only man in all the cosmos whose craftsmanship is greater.” The man answered, as if having read his mind. Edgar covered his embarrassed flush with a sudden glower.

“…oh? That’s an awfully lousy way to extol your greatness. Who would THAT be? I should have just summoned him instead.” He scoffed. Once again, however, the old man chuckled, lowering his knife and holding out his hand.

“…God.”

And the tiny stone pigeon that sat in the palm of his hand hopped to its feet, flapped its wings, and took flight. Edgar Wayneright could not withhold the sound of surprise that escaped him, and he took a step back, not even noticing as he left the protective cover of the umbrella, and Truesilver scrambled to move to him.

“…how did you-“

The older man turned and fixed him with a steady gaze, and Edgar immediately went silent – the man grinned.

“…I am the Artificer, the second-greatest craftsman in all the cosmos…and with my skills, even a little boy like you can stand equal to we who call ourselves ‘Servants.’”

And high above the sound of the thunderous downpour, the little stone pigeon began to sing.

__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ____________________________________________

Alright everyone, this time, we’ll be looking at our first Servant profile of the Vodnyisad War, the Jester! It may be surprising, even though most enemies that appear early on in games and stories are pretty weak, that she turned out to have so much firepower. However, it might be even more surprising that she was one of the weaker Servants that Maximilian and the Forsaker could have encountered…after all, she was a magic-type who has to fight without Territory Creation, and Nadia wasn’t even supplying her with prana… Still, she was pretty powerful for someone who doesn’t know how to fight properly! A shame she didn’t get to pull off that last Noble Phantasm of hers, though…

Class: Jester
True Name: Lady Koi (The White Kitsune of Suwa)
Master: Nadia Kan
Age: 400
Origin: Japan
Parameters:


Strength: 6 (+5 when in Kyuubi form)
Endurance: 7 (+10 Lament of the Sole Survivor)
Agility: 14++ (+5 when in Kyuubi form)
Magic: 23+ (+10 Lament of the Sole Survivor, +4 Kami: Hoshi no Tama)
Prana: 14 (+4 Kami: Hoshi no Tama)
Luck: 5
Glory: 7
Bond: 6

Class Skill:


Loaded Deck: C

Personal Skills:


Charisma: B
Divinity: D
Expert of Many Specializations: C
Eye for Art: C
Lady of Grace and Holding: A
Lament of the Sole Survivor: A
Magecraft (Onmyoudou): B
Shapeshifting: A

Abilities


Spells

One-Tail, Kitsune-bi Spiral Fire – Sudden Burning Whirlpool Orb

Spell Rank: B
Type: Stun, Area-of-Effect, Damage-over-Time, Elemental
Range: 350
Description: Koi unleashes the power of one of her tails for just an instant, tapping into her divine prana to suddenly materialize a swirling sphere of violet 'fire that traps her opponent within a disorienting vortex of energy. The spiral motion of the prana serves to prevent the opponent from successfully breaking out of the spell before the full damage from the flames has been dealt. Additionally, anything that touches the sphere from the outside is lacerated and shredded by the swirling flames.


Talisman: Houshiki Arrow Spread – Ten Characters Ignition Ink

Spell Rank: C
Type: Ranged, Projectile, Rapid-fire, Elemental
Range: 700

Description: A mid-level Onmyoudou spell, Koi sets fire to a paper talisman prepared ahead of time and printed in an ink solution made from her own blood. From the talisman, ten arrows of purplish fire fly out from the talisman in a fan-shaped spread, converging on the opponent. Each arrow is capable of turning up to one-hundred and eighty degrees total while flying.






Techniques

Form: Kitsune – Nine-tailed White Devil of Suwa

Koi has the ability to take her true shape, that of an enormous white, nine-tailed fox that stands as large as a station wagon. In this form, she takes on the physical attributes of the fox in exchange for losing access to her Noble Phantasms, as well as the ability to perform the gestures of her Onmyoudou magic.





Noble Phantasms


Kitsune no Yomeiri – “Even the Sun Weeps for the Wounded Bride”

Phantasm Rank: D
Type: Bombardment, Burst, Area-of-Effect, Divine
Range: 500 (radius)
Description: Koi sends out an enormous surge of prana straight up into the sky, where she shapes the prana into a burst of heat and compressed air the clears the skies and eliminates weather patterns in a local area. An enormous mirror manifests in the cleared space, mimicking one of the Three Treasures of Japan: the Yata no Kagami. Sunlight is then focused and accelerated through the lens into beams that rain down on the battlefield.


3000 Cycles of Retribution – “The Tragedy at Nagashiro”

Phantasm Rank: B+
Type: Summon, Bounded Field, Damage Stacks, Commander Effect
Range: N/A
Description: Unknown


Kami: Hoshi no Tama – “God: Stone of Soul”

Phantasm Rank: F
Type: Support, Equipment
Range: N/A
Description: A shimmering white pearl hidden amid one of the dozens of embroidery pins upon her kimono, the Hoshi no Tama is actually the mortal soul of Koi before she became the White Kitsune of Suwa. The stone itself is a powerful spiritual magnet, attracting the free-floating prana of nearby naturally deceased, passively boosting Koi’s parameters as her prana shell is reinforced. The pearl is nearly indestructible, and if struck, will reappear in another of her pins. All one-hundred and eight pins must be destroyed for this Noble Phantasm to break.

Alulim
July 22nd, 2011, 01:14 AM
Ooooooh, Artificer makes his appearance.

Egophobia
July 22nd, 2011, 01:18 AM
Yeah. I've based a few classes off of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Edition and Pathfinder, but I'm checking with Verg Avesta to see if he minds my using the name "Artificer," since he laid claim to it first. If not, it'll just take a bit of working to change it is all, xD.

Alulim
July 22nd, 2011, 01:23 AM
Ah, makes sense. Artificer is also being used (with Verg's permission) in Twelve's upcoming RP.

Soldat der Trauer
July 22nd, 2011, 12:16 PM
Very nice work in the plot so far.

ItsaRandomUsername
July 25th, 2011, 01:55 AM
Finally got around to reading the latest update. AND I was not disappointed. =)