Prelude - The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes (Grail Works Ltd.: An Introduction)
Cosmos. A Greek word meaning “order,” or “world,” in modern parlance it describes the universe when viewed as a whole. The entirety of Creation, for those who believe it to be so. To one like me, the word has a somewhat broader application, for I deal in far more than a single universe. My eyes, through the power of my magic, are capable of perceiving all that is - and all that could be, which is, in essence, anything and everything, all at once. It’s a perspective few are truly suited for, because the concept is so much more than only the tiniest fraction of sentient beings is capable of comprehending . . . Oh, dear - I just realised I’ve forgotten to introduce myself. Well, in some times and places, I already have, in others I’ll do so shortly, and in others still, I never bother - either because it’s unnecessary, or I don’t care to . . . Again, apologies - one does tend to ramble at my age.
I am most commonly known as Zelretch, with a host of other names, titles, and occasionally, natures - but here and now, I am a wizard whose magic specialises in the perception and utilisation of parallel worlds - worlds where things differ ever so slightly, or sometimes vastly, from the one you know. And so few truly know their own world, much less these others . . . But there are hints, even among the truly blind. Imagination is the key, you see. What you see in your mind, in your heart, likely exists, somewhere in the realms of “what if.” You see those worlds all the time, in stories, and legends - but even then, only the tiniest fraction. Only the strongest possibility, whereas the lesser ones are too weak to leave an impact on your spirit. But they exist, however unlikely - sometimes to vanish into the ether, absorbed or negated by another possibility, but they are there.
This, for example, is a boy that many of you are likely familiar with: Emiya Shirou. Rather unassuming, all things considered, with an impressive talent for a relatively unremarkable form of magecraft - but in a certain cluster of possibilities, he participates in rather important events, with a diverse and often surprising collection of characters. I use the term advisedly, as many of you know him as fictional - your reality is so far distant from his own that it is the only impression he is capable of leaving - but that’s unimportant, right now. What is important is that in the main, he is a youth whose heart’s desire is to save everyone from danger, strife, and pain, someone who competes in the Holy Grail War, whose victor is to be granted a single wish, possessing the power of a true miracle . . .
And that once - just once - he succeeded.
In a single reality, among all the many facets of reality that I can perceive, the Grail was what it was supposed to be, and Emiya Shirou, along with his friends, was granted the power to save everyone. The result is an agency on the edge of the cosmos: a collection of troubleshooters who call themselves Grail Works, Limited. They are not perfect, nor are they always successful in their attempts, but they at least have the chance to try - and if you are in need, true need . . .
Then whoever or whatever you are, wherever or whenever you come from, you will find a Door opened for you.
Writer's Notes: Welcome once again, ladies and gentlemen, to the world of Grail Works, Limited!
As originally conceived, Grail Works is a shared setting designed to be used as a plot device by any writer on the Beast's Lair - similar to "The Challenge." And, oddly enough, Grail Works is also based on an idea I
stole . . . Er, that I got from the same author, alternatively known as Kestral, Metroanime, and one or two other aliases. And like him, I got some help with developing the idea - he had Skysaber, I have Inugami.
The basic idea here was to give everybody a plot device for crossovers, AUs (alternate versions of themselves looking for help, for example), and maybe an overarching series they could contribute to. As a result, a lot of this is played lightheartedly and for fun - so if the character descriptions don't quite match what you think they ought to, don't worry: they're not really meant to. As it has a couple of author characters already, more are permitted - but preferably only one per person, and ask permission, if you want to use them - please and thank you.
Now, as the history of things stand in this setting, it's fairly simple. In an alternate timeline (call it the "Ilya Route"), Shirou actually got his wish, and formed this troubleshooting agency. They operate out of a subdimension contained within Avalon, overlapping their own world through the Emiya home. So they can leave the bubble to go shopping, etc., but are also self-contained, when necessary. Avalon does require periodic charges of prana to keep functioning, but they have enough mages and magical creatures to go around that it's not a huge problem. The Grail Works crew (from the Fate side) are Shirou, Saber, Rin, Sakura, Rider, and Ilya. They've recently added the Tohno household (Shiki, Akiha, the maids and Ren) to their ranks, along with the Tohno manor property. Through the magic of dimensional overlap, both manors are contained within Avalon, but do not appear to have moved within the physical world - so walking across the lawn could take them to either house, or outside to Fuyuki or Misaki, depending on their desire.
(*Note: In the original version, Shiki was romantically paired with Arcueid - this was later changed to Sacchin, to reflect their shared setting as being "the universe of the underdogs." At present, since Inugami seems to be stuck, I'll leave the actual choice up to anyone who wants to write about that group.)
Typically, a client shows up (from somewhere), and one or more of them attempts to help. They prefer using their own abiltiies first (and frequently scavenge other realities for useful items to help them do so, so things like lightsabers, or enchanted armour, or other odds and ends litter their equipment room). However, if something requires a really massive change, they have access to the Holy Grail for a wish - but they need to charge it up first. Therefore, they spend a lot of time hunting for (usually magical) objects or sources that can be drained into the Grail in lieu of the souls of six Epic Spirits. The adventure of these hunts could be stories in themselves, for those who'd like to try.
CURRENT PERSONNEL STATUS:
Shirou is pretty much himself, at least at the "end of the Fate route" level of competence, maybe more. He's usually the one off dealing with clients' problems. In the original setting, he's romantically uninvolved with any of the girls, much to their frustration - but a later version had this classed as an "Ilya ending."
Saber is a dragon, much to her dismay. A well-meaning client tried to pay the Works back by reincarnating Saber to break her contract as a Servant, and somehow managed the hundred-to-one odds of reincarnating her as this (though something in her karma likely played a factor, as well). She now regards the client as a half-rate, dim-witted excuse for a hedge wizard, much to said individual's dismay. While perfectly capable of appearing human, she's more than a little upset with him at the loss of her humanity, and the draconic urges she now has to deal with. For example, she's started accumulating a treasure hoard - although in her case, her preferred "treasure" seems to be plushies.
Rin is on board with this whole thing as a way to refine her craft - and God knows, Shirou would be hopeless without her.
Sakura is as she would be at the end of Heaven's Feel's Good Ending, sustaining a contract with Rider to drain off the ridiculous amounts of prana she's got left over. She doesn't do much adventuring herself - she's more about seeing that everyone's taken care of when they come back.
Rider is Sakura's Servant - period. If Sakura wants her to do it, she'll do it. Right now, Sakura's behind this whole idea, so she's all for it, and will help where she can. Besides, they come across some of the neatest vehicles and creatures! She's secretly hoping to eventually get her hands on one of those speeder bikes from the last Star Wars movie - they look fast.
Ilya is presently functioning as the "master computer" of the complex. She opens Doors to other dimensions (for clients or operatives), monitors them, and protects operatives from being overwritten by the local reality laws - otherwise, to use an example, Arcueid might find herself interpreted as a traditional vampire, rather than a True Ancestor. Within the complex, Ilya is a physical being - but outside of Avalon's reach, she could only appear in a wraithlike form. Her "body" (the Grail) is housed within the most secure portion of the Works' Inventory Room (their equipment storage space, and Saber's current lair). She is constantly seeking a way to detach herself from the Grail, and inhabit a body again, so she looks at methods of soul transference. Reincarnation doesn't really appeal, after seeing what happened to Saber . . .
Her biggest worry is that one of the other girls will seduce Shirou before she manages to accomplish it. Frequently, if a mission involves dealing with pretty girls, she'll send someone else, and work to keep him out of it.
The Tsukihime cast was discussed above. Story ideas Inugami and I batted around when Arc was the main girl was reincarnating her as something outlandish, like a demon character from the Disgaea series, but with Sacchin, we thought about making her Rin or Sakura's apprentice, and Garm her familiar. Nothing major set for the rest, other than Ren - Garm is her "big brother" (see below).
Garm is Inugami's author-created character, a dog familiar that seeks to protect Ren, with power over shadows and flame. He's distrustful of magi in general, owing to bad experiences, but willing to ask for help in finding his sister, whom he lost track of several centuries ago. PM Inugami for details and permission if you want to use him.
Kurai is me - an SI turned into his favourite 3.5 D&D character, a half-drow lycanthope (who used to be a human) druid/fighter multiclass. He's an epic-level character, but enough of a generalist that he doesn't hit the really earth-shattering powers that an epic character ought to have - but within the d20 system, he's a monster, with a number of rule-bending (or breaking) abilities. He could take on small armies (dozens to low hundreds) by himself, and win - and is competent at any number of skills and roles within a party. Nowhere near a Servant's level in power, but reasonably competent, and he figures he owes the crew, so he's sticking around until he considers them even.