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Thread: The Story of How Waver Velvet Came to Compile Lord Kayneth's Encyclopedia of Arcane Secrets [Post-Fate/Zero] [oneshot]

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    The Story of How Waver Velvet Came to Compile Lord Kayneth's Encyclopedia of Arcane Secrets [Post-Fate/Zero] [oneshot]

    Thank you for clicking on my fic! This is both my first fic-posting and post in general on BL. I've been lurking for quite a while, slowly reading the translation of Case Files, among other things. I am writing this preliminary note just to say that if I've misunderstood some kind of formatting etiquette here, I'll be glad to correct it. This fic was originally written as a gift for another user on AO3 as part of a Halloween themed gift exchange. It is based primarily upon my understanding of Waver's characterization from Fate/Zero, given its timing and my depth of knowledge (or lack thereof) about Case Files. I hope that nothing in it is too egregiously wrong and that my headcanon has not superseded something very obvious about canon, but I have extrapolated some about Clock Tower politics. There are a few minor character OCs based upon my understanding of the various mage families that are noted to be within the Association, but I tried not to be overzealous with them. This fic is primarily about Waver, but there are other people in it. Reines appears and is presumed to be more than five but less than ten years younger than Waver, which was just a guess based on pictures I'd seen from Case Files. This story contains allusions to historical fiction facts I just made up. The buildings referenced in it are real buildings that stand in the City of London, which is actually different from what is commonly known as London (grew from Westminster, loads of people). The two buildings were among the few to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666 and were protected by the medieval priory of the church. The two buildings specifically referenced are St. Bartholomew's Gatehouse (picture) and St. Bartholomew-the-Great (picture), an Anglican church that started out Catholic before the Henry the VIII business. I really hope you enjoy my first effort at Fate series fic.



    The Story of How Waver Velvet Came to Compile Lord Kayneth's Encyclopedia of Arcane Secrets


    Rating: G - Originally Published: 10/24/2015 - Word Count: 13,169 - Complete - On AO3


    The world is smaller than anticipated. At least, the parts of it that Waver has seen at the end of his travels seem to be connected by very contiguous, straight lines that dart back and forth across paths transposed over a map of the world that leaves no gaps, no landscape untouched or unseen. He has not been to all of those places, but touching along their sand-colored edges on a dogeared piece of paper seems like nearly enough of a start.

    His stay with the MacKenzies had lasted for less time than he'd thought it might, and he certainly hadn't set out to travel the world upon leaving them.

    Things have not been going according to plan – his plans – for a while now. It's hard to say when that started. Perhaps it was when he had pursued admittance to the Clock Tower in the first place. Or maybe it had only started when he had been mad enough to seek out involvement in the Holy Grail War – as if his involvement could have proven anything to anyone. To anyone who matters. All of them are here in London. Any who mattered back in Japan died, one by one, finally in molten, unnatural fire that defied any ordinary comprehension. The Holy Grail consumed all that it touched.

    And somehow, Waver survives.

    It is that survival that has brought him back to London so soon. The very fact that he had thought would keep him away for longer than he had intended had pulled him back in by the terse, written voices of the very people he had hoped to prevent from ever thinking little of him again. It seems so small now, but Waver still responds to the summons. In the small carry-on he has tucked between his feet, he has in his possession two letters.

    The first reads like a form letter, though the fact that it made its way to him shows that it is more personal gouging than form, he thinks. It speaks of the honor it is to be allowed to study at the Clock Tower, and the responsibility it brings with it. After the with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility paragraph, the letter turns to its main point which is a threat that if Mr. Velvet does not return to his classes at the Clock Tower that he will be assumed to have voluntarily left his position there and will make room for another young mage.

    The second letter is much shorter and more personal, and he isn't sure which of those facts feels more offensive. On stationary that looks like parchment but feels more substantial, it reads:


    Addressing our auspicious associate Master Waver Velvet:


    Your participation in the ritual commonly known as the Holy Grail War, in its fourth enactment, has come to the attention of the Mages Association. As you are likely aware, this ritual is known to be small and limited in its scope but not as limited in its potential for thaumaturgical power and knowledge. The reports of extensive and unfortunate collateral damage caused by this ritual have caused it to be of concern to the Association not only for its potential value to the pursuit of knowledge in magecraft but as a possible risk to the future of the ritual and its localization in the region of Fuyuki, Japan. Due to our concern about the continued welfare of all those who study, practice, and maintain magecraft, we would like to speak with the only surviving mage who participated in the conflict.
    As a fellow mage, your presence at an audience with us is kindly requested. As a result of your status as a student presently enrolled in the Clock Tower, your presence is also required.


    Sincerely,

    Augustus Barthomeloi

    Assistant to the Director of Research Concerning Modern Thaumaturgical Ritual


    Neither letter came in a conventionally postmarked envelope, and Waver doesn't know the exact methods that the post used to get them to him. It is difficult to say which letter was conceived of first, but the fact that both came into his possession at more or less the same time leads him to believe that the contradiction and agreement between them is anything but casual. He had thought to allow his sense of indignity and outrage at political power-plays that were intended to undermine new, young, and untitled mages rest a little. The world was so much bigger than their maneuvering and posturing. But then hundreds of lives were snuffed out in magical fire and destruction, and things like this happened, and there is no question about whether or not he's going back to face them with some measure of indignity and outrage, even if it's all he can do.

    Coming in to land at Heathrow, he feels the rattle and jostle of the plane as it descends. It seems entirely unremarkable, as to the lights below and finally beside. His carry-on gathered into his lap, he can't help but think how much nicer the ride is than riding through open air in a chariot. Only, he isn't sure if “nicer” and “safer” are exactly the same thing when his feet shuffle out of the plane and into the terminal.

    The airport is awash with voices – constant and amplified hallway murmur that remind him of being back in the Clock Tower before all of this began. The occasional interjection of echoing shrieks reminds him of Clock Tower ambiance, too. Rumors of ghosts and pranks in his first days there had made it so he only sometimes flinched. He isn't sure if it's better or worse now that he knows the very kinds of things people might flinch at the memory of. A very small shoe comes to mind when someone small passes him by. He closes his eyes and tries to let the thought pass, too.

    As he moves out of the immediate area surrounding the plane, he is aware of passing by people holding up signs. Some of them are for business and some of them are decorated in childish scribble and glitter. Conversations and sighs of relief come in and out of unwelcome focus as he searches for the baggage claim. None of the signs are for him.

    His free hand is tighter than the one holding his carry-on as he waits for the baggage claim to wheel around and around again until he spots his suitcase. His teeth are grinding in his jaw, too, and he tries not to focus on things that are superfluous and which don't make sense. He is back in London now and that must mean back to business as usual. Writing papers that no one likes, inflaming professors, and doing his best to become a better mage are things he has prepared to do with experience. The Holy Grail War had been a misadventure from the start.

    He looks down at the poorly-folded map jammed between the curve of his thumb and the handle of his carry-on bag. He gingerly pulls it out to look at the worn paper.

    One of the last lies he'd told to the MacKenzies had been that Alexi had made it safely back to London. Now that he finds himself – safely back in London – he finds that those false words haunt him more than any others. He just barely looks up from the faint blur in his vision from the crinkling map to spot his luggage in time to leap to catch up with it. Grasping the handle, he exhales and lets his shoulders down a little. Then, he nearly finds himself chasing along after the suitcase again to avoid falling flat on his stomach along the baggage claim carousel. Gathering his strength and straightening with another deep breath, he glances upward and groans in exasperation.

    There is nothing but white and gray fluorescent light above him. Certain of his footing, he turns, levels his chin with the floor, and grudgingly moves along at something like a marching pace toward the way out. He cannot avoid the peripheral sight of more people waiting for someone as he walks. After a few moments, his ankles tire and his pace is much more normal and suited to his gait.

    By the time he steps out into the dreary evening air, Waver manages to feel personally offended – by the ache in his ankles, by the blustery spitting rain, and most of all by all the words that have pressed to the tip of his tongue. He doesn't like to fantasize when there's no goal at the end, no point.

    And yet when he hails a taxi, exchanging only the most necessary words with the driver, he finds himself with his eyes fixed whimsically on some space between his reflection in the window and the rain. It is a day like so many others in London, typical and perfect for cross and sleepy moods. But that isn't the mood Waver finds himself in. Instead, he is caught imagining what it might have been like if he had been telling the truth. If, somewhere in this enormous sprawl of people, there were one waiting for him.

    Taller than any one man has the right to be, loud, annoying, messy, and entirely without regard for the simple wishes of anyone less than his sworn followers, his friend is... gone. Nowhere out there in the city he'd lied that he'd come to: another place he'd never seen. In truth, Waver can't imagine that Iskandar would have accepted London for a moment. The place they had been in Japan is as modern as any city, but something about it is dispersed across history, timeless and reaching out to take more time in. It is an eerie, dreadful place that should give any sensible person an ozone headache. It is the only place Waver could have known him.

    He still finds himself imagining what he might say if Iskandar were out there, somewhere, waiting.

    How could you?

    You could have fought harder! You could have fought smarter. You could have...

    I didn't like it there without you. I never really liked it in the first place, and the MacKenzies were nice – they asked about you often – but it wasn't supposed to be...


    You were supposed to take me with you.”


    The world is too small to allow him to say those words, though. Instead, all he can do is make his way to the Clock Tower to present himself before some people who imagine they know what they are talking about concerning the Holy Grail War, as their colleague Lord El-Melloi had.

    - - -

    Augustus Barthomeloi, who seems to be one of the lesser sons of the Barthomeloi family, still manages to sit at center and a bit above and before Waver at his audience with the committee that has been collected to ask him questions about his ordeal. They all seem very calm, each prepared with some sort of note-taking apparatus. They look down at him with scrutiny. Barthomeloi seems to look past him, driving toward the accomplishment that this interview will be for him. The worst of the glares comes from someone at the very end, seated with a much more hunched and less proud posture. This person has blond hair, wears a garment of very deep blue, and only seems to have the will to lift eyes to glower at Waver. His attention is immediately called to the center, so Waver has little time to develop any deeper impression beyond the cold, familiar, aqueous blue gaze.

    His attention is called back to the center by the clearing of Barthomeloi's throat.

    Master Waver,” he says as if he isn't quite sure what the address means – young man, somewhat competent mage, or a Master in the Fourth Holy Grail War. The emphasis sounds almost simply derisive but seems to try to wrap itself around any of the three it might need to convey. “The matter you have come here to discuss—”

    “I am fully aware of the matter I've come here to discuss,” Waver interjects, despite knowing it isn't the wisest course of action. His eyes narrow a bit, something between a grimace and a glare. He fixes them on Barthomeloi, refusing to appear timid before them after all this.

    “—Yes,” Barthomeloi says, scantly acknowledging him before glancing at down at what Waver imagines must be talking points. At least in Professor Archibald's class the particular mage looking down his nose at him had determined his condescending views for himself. Waver pushes back from his seat a little with his legs, fighting the urge to fold his arms across his body. “The ritual known commonly as the Holy Grail War, else known as the Heaven's Feel ritual or as a pursuit of knowledge of Akasha...” finally comes the recitation, almost undeterred.

    “Yes,” Waver says, just a little more calmly. He does tuck an arm around himself across his abdomen, not quite sure what else to do with it. “What about the dreadful thing?” he asks, making his first official opinion of it known. His eyebrows tighten down on his face.

    “Dreadful?” A young woman down the line of Association representatives pipes up and straightens her posture.

    “Yes,” Waver says with a glance to her eyes. His eyebrows seem to recall that they are cross. “Or are we not to use adjectives?”

    “Adjectives will be perfectly fine, Master Waver,” Barthomeloi says, both officious and nervous as his hand flattens on the surface before him to the side of the woman who had spoken. “The purpose of this meeting is to inform that Association of participant opinions as part of their inquiry into this ritual to determine its quality and value to the pursuit of the furtherance of knowledge of magecraft.”

    “Yes,” Waver agrees meaninglessly. He wonders how many times the subject line had been practiced before a mirror.

    “As you are the only surviving mage who has participated in this ritual, how do you find it?” Barthomeloi says. Any humanizing hesitation is gone from his face, expression a mask of formally interested austerity. Waver grips the front of his shirt, trying to hide the urge to shout. He would not have anticipated the anger, the urge to make every person in the room know the force of his voice about this matter as if it were some force of nature that Waver knows his small frame does not and likely cannot possess. He wishes that he could laugh at them – could tell them both how great and how terrible those few days of his life were. Instead, he snorts at them.

    “Dreadful,” he adds to the clipped, derisive sound.

    “Could you elaborate, Master Waver?” Barthomeloi requests.

    “If you require it, then I would say that it was the worst experience of my life. I don't think it holds any value in the pursuit of knowledge or magecraft. It is a bloodbath that endangers innocent people, disguised as some battle for glory. There is no glory in it. Only death and destruction. The only value that could come of it would be to... make sure it never happens again.”

    In some of their faces, Waver sees callous amusement, disdain, doubt, but now that he has spoken his teeth are showing just a little and he will not retract anything he has said. The hand against his shirt is balled into a tight fist and the other joins in suit.

    “You realize that this isn't the first time gifted mages have died in the pursuit of the preservation and furtherance of our knowledge of magecraft?” the woman who had spoken before asks. Waver isn't sure which family she belongs to, but he can imagine that it must not be any that has participated.

    “Of course I realize that. I was willing to—” Waver snarls back, only to be interrupted by the blue-robed, gloomy individual at the end of the line.

    “Were you?” the young man asks very softly. The lines of his face are familiar – younger than Lord El-Melloi but of the same lineage, too old to have been a son, had he had a son – but they are both soft and tired. There is a coldness in them, but it shimmers behind something much more eerie and hard to place in such a person who seems so used to being proud. This unknown-to-Waver member of the Archibald family leans forward, temples touching his hands as his perfect posture curves wearily. “Is it true that you chose to steal from Lord El-Melloi? Is that not the reason you came to know of the Grail War? A package that never arrived... from the region of Macedonia...” he says, musing coolly with gaze fixed forward toward the wall. He makes no effort to look at Waver, his tone somehow lacking in the confrontation the accusation ought to carry.

    Waver realizes he is in no position to answer the question. It seems wrong to admit it here, even to defend himself and how he'd never intended for any of it to happen. It wouldn't be pointing out an injustice, wouldn't be proving a point that he could do anything they would do. It seems that it would just be cursing an already still fresh and inflamed wound. He can't help glancing back and forth and anywhere but at the other mages in the room. Finally, his eyes flit to somewhere just below the possibility of catching the gaze of the mage who had spoken from the side of the room.

    “If you had cared anything for magecraft, you would have practiced your own. Found your own way,” the Archibald mage says tersely.

    “Actually—” Waver interjects after only a second of silence. He knows he shouldn't, but he can't help himself. The package had come in the mail for Lord El-Melloi. It could have been anything, and it most certainly had not been obtained through the sole efforts of Kayneth Archibald. He doesn't know who found the piece of Iskandar's cloak or how it came to be in the Archibald family's possession, but it carries no sense of weight with him. He cannot imagine Rider having been with anyone else.

    He imagines Iskandar would have crushed Lord El-Melloi well before his killer had.

    Before whatever he was going to say can escape his mouth, Waver is silenced by the Archibald heir's sudden standing from his seat.

    “Your foolish pride will never win you anything,” the Archibald spits out, catching Waver's eyes and fixing them with one more momentary glare of cool rage. Something in the tone is lacking in the characteristic superiority it ought to have, however. There is something else in it, hard to define but recognizable to Waver's ears – something that sounds like defeat.

    Waver does not see where all of them scatter to, but the mages all move toward Archibald. Some move past and vanish through the doors of the hall. Others linger, hovering around their fellow mage until Waver's view of him and his blue robes is entirely obscured. The only mage left in his seat is Augustus Barthomeloi. He remains across from and elevated above Waver. His hands are folded in front of him, blocking his view of the prepared talking points. He only spares a glance for the huddle of remaining Association mages.

    “Has the Grail War had any lasting impact on the world?” Barthomeloi asks softly. Waver thinks it's a loaded question, but it wouldn't have changed his answer either way.

    “Yes,” he says. “Negative.”

    - - -

    The meeting is adjourned with no further meaningful questions. Waver moves past the Archibald heir and what must be his friends to leave the hall, stepping out into light that makes him squint at its insistent shining through large windows. He approaches one, trying to fix his focus and make sense of what he can see beyond the glass. His hands find his trouser pockets and tuck inside. He sighs and almost touches his forehead to the warmed surface before starting stock straight.

    “You're finished?”

    The question carries no context but sounds as if it is nearly a statement of fact. The voice is soft, feminine, and Waver knows before he manages to get a sunspot-free glimpse of her that she is younger than him. The first thing that comes into focus is her hat. A pompom adorns it at its peak and it is quite a lot lower than Waver would have anticipated. Blinking a few more times and seeing her more clearly, he sees that she is much younger than he thought. She is a little girl. She seems to have hit her first growth spurt, but she is very skinny and looks a little engulfed by her well-made dark blue coat that is so long it touches the back of her knees.

    “Yes,” Waver says, to answer her and because there doesn't seem to be a better answer for the question. It occurs to him that she might have been asking about his career as a mage, but if that misunderstanding has occurred he is afraid he'll just have to disappoint her.

    She approaches him, looking up into his face. She seems to glare in the too-familiar way the Archibald family representative in the hall had before he had seemed to break down in some way. Nothing in her seems so exhausted.

    “It didn't take very long for you to tell them what happened. Did you mean to kill him?” she asks.

    He has never seen this girl before and the fact that she speaks so freely of death sends a chill down his spine. When he blinks, his eyes squint a little tighter shut for a moment. Kill who? The answer to the question is completely obvious, but something rushes through him that makes him not so sure.

    “Of course I didn't!” he snaps, forcing his eyes back open with the sound. His teeth are showing again, and he tries to get a grip on himself through the sensation in his balled up hands. She's a little girl and doesn't deserve to bear the burden of what he had been so determined to find out. “Anymore than he meant to kill me,” he adds, because even trying to be considerate of the fact that she is a child he cannot avoid that truth for her feelings' sake.

    “Lord Kayneth had every right to be there,” she says. It ought to sound more like recitation than it does and once again her tone puts Waver even more ill-at-ease.

    “So did I! The Grail chose me, just like it chose him,” Waver says, allowing for the fact that the Grail had still found Lord El-Melloi worthy of being a Master without his stolen package. He finds that he is holding up his hand, exposing the back of it like an honor badge. A single glance at it reminds him that there isn't anything there.


    “Why did you seek out becoming a Master?” the girl asks.

    Waver stammers. There are a lot of things he could say, all of them true, about why he had become a Master. None of thing ring as true now, so he is simply left with a scrambling tongue. He glares at her rather than answering the question plainly. His hands finally release from fists and he touches his lower back just above his hips, leaning at the answer with conviction.

    “For the glory of being a mage!” he snaps, because it does seem like a cruel answer in the face of a member of the Archibald family, but he had not been Lord El-Melloi's killer. She seems to expect this sort of answer, to even be looking for it. He can't help but give her what she wants under the circumstances and the weight of her little child-eyed scrutiny that makes him want to beg her to go outside, to play, and to be a little more dumb for her age.

    The little girl breathes out through her nose in what might have been intended as a chuckle. It's the first sound that even comes close to faltering. She looks down from him, somewhere off to his right, and nods.

    “He doesn't even know what he did,” she says, as if he weren't standing there at all and she were speaking to someone else.

    “What I did?” Waver asks, indignantly trying to avoid being talked through.

    “They didn't even tell you why he was crying,” she observes, then she does laugh with some little growl of anger beneath it when she glances toward the hall door.

    Waver doesn't point out that he isn't sure the young man was crying, because whether he's right or not, somehow she's right. Somehow, it doesn't make a difference.

    “Do you know what a magic crest is?” she asks, granting him eye contact once more.

    “It is the permanent manifestation of magic circuits which can be transferred between individuals in order to preserve spellcraft across generations,” Waver recites impatiently, not knowing what she could possibly mean to do by questioning him about this now.

    “Between family members,” the little girl replies as if she at least pities the answer itself. “It has to be to someone whose body can accept it, and it can only be one person at a time. There are a lot of people in our family who could bear it, but... Lord Kayneth had it.”

    Waver stares at her, his mouth falling slightly agape as he skips through the rest of the steps and comes to a conclusion he wishes didn't impact him as it does. He doesn't jump in to explain her point for her, as he expects she is about to. Even if he understands, there would be little to say to stop a child from saying something that seems so hard-learned.

    “Not all of us knew or were very fond of Uncle Kayneth, but he was the head of our family. He was chosen when he was born and took our family's secrets little by little to wear for the rest of his life, to pass on to another. But he and his fiancee didn't have a baby yet... No one to leave even part of the magic behind,” the little girl explains. The words seem like they ought to be a call for pity, but instead she seems nearly indifferent, as if she is about to punctuate everything with a shrug of her shoulders. Then she focuses hard on his eyes and her lips quirk upward. “So, you see, you didn't just kill Lord Kayneth. You destroyed his family... and most of us aren't even dead. Without Lord Kayneth, almost everything we've worked for is gone. Just in case you didn't understand. There are a lot of mages we would never tell, but most of them wouldn't need to be told. But you? You're... only...”

    Then her shoulders pull up closer to her ears and she turns away, the movement as scathing as any insult could be.

    Waver will not call after her. She's a child and shouldn't get under his skin, and he knows it. One hand balls up tight again as he resists the urge to shout after her. As he watches her leave, trying to distract himself from the anger, from the implication, he notices her shoes. The back of each of them is decorated with a pompom not unlike the pompom atop her head. They seem to be placed as if to assist her in pulling them onto her small feet, and it punctuates to his eyes how small she is. He tries not to think deeply about why, but until she rounds a corner and disappears from sight, he cannot stop watching her shoes. They make him feel a little sick, but he tries not to think too deeply about that either. Instead, he just thinks that if the words had come from someone his own age, or older, that the words wouldn't leave quite such a deep impression, gnawing at his skin.

    - - -

    After the audience with the Association, Waver hears nothing else about it. He has responded to the summons of the first moderately insulting letter by returning to London, so his position as a mage studying at the Clock Tower seems secure. He returns to his little room in a dormitory, untouched from when he had left it behind. Compared to Iskandar's housekeeping habits, the room is immaculate. Even so, there are telltale traces of those last days before he had left for Japan. A drawer still left open from gathering his small amount of luggage. A book still left open to the page he last remembered reading. And yet the things left out of place are all of his own doing, and so he feels no particular compulsion to make a fuss over them. The sense of the memory he has of deciding to go to Japan settles over him like a noisy blanket he can't crawl out from beneath.

    It rains for four days after he is once again settled into attending lectures at the Clock Tower, returning each evening to his room. It becomes a growing mess of takeaway containers until Waver is vaguely disgusted with himself. One evening, the weather clears enough that the clouds above have stopped their downpour and the bits of sunset that peek their way through paint them yellow. Waver stares at the ceiling from his creaky little bed until he can't stand his own brooding anymore. That is when it begins.

    He clears away the mess from his room and takes it all out to dispose of it properly. That done, he finds that he does not really care to return to his room. Heading down the stairs and out to the street instead, he moves as if he has a purpose. He makes his way to the library, a determined little scowl etched into his face. Before he can arrive there, the yellow-tinged clouds begin to drizzle. His first response is to clamp his hands over the top of his head, creating broad juts of his elbows.

    He glances up at the sky, judgmentally. This earns him a drop of water catching him at the corner of his eye. He shakes his head so it rolls down like a borrowed tear. Then he looks back up, more carefully this time with a glare.

    “Must you?” he complains, at nothing and everything. “I'm going to go and work it out,” he says, pleading his case before whatever might happen to control the weather, as if it might have some sort of compassion toward him.

    The drizzle doesn't last for long, and Waver knows he will never be able to say if meteorological circumstances listen to people in general.

    He doubts it.

    He arrives at the library and pushes his way through the heavy, old doors. He makes his way to the circulation desk where he spots a familiar stranger's face. The man shuffling about among racks of returned books is a second-year student, also without any call to title or family history. His hair is a flat shade of light brown, and his attire for the evening is a powdery light blue. When he sees Waver, his eyes widen. Undeterred, Waver flattens his hands down against the counter, arms stretching out to make himself take up just a little more space. There is only a soft clapping sound, but the young mage at the circulation desk winces as though Waver has sent the walls tumbling down.

    “Can I he—” he begins to ask.

    “I want to know the history of magic!” Waver announces, still a little too loudly for the library, but he's certain only a little.

    The circulation desk attendant looks first to the left of Waver's shoulders and then to the right. Finally, he looks at him with a kind of dull, confused disbelief. Waver realizes, only in retrospect, that it seems as though he is asking a very general question that should have been well-covered by his lectures by now. There is nothing the faculty like better than making it clear to any of those they have allowed to study under them that their history in magecraft far eclipses anything those students without name, blood, and title will ever be able to achieve. The History of Magic is a very elementary subject.

    “Well, we keep copies of each year's textbooks for general subjects on the fourth floor—” the other man says, only to be cut off again.

    “No!” Waver hisses with his teeth coming to grind together. He draws his hands closer in as he briefly closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath and stops so much resembling a rigid and annoyed triangle. He blinks his eyes open again and fixes them more politely on the man across the counter. “I want to study how magic passes through bloodlines. Some bloodlines in particular, but the general is a good place to start. But something a bit more than 'it does, so you will never amount to anything, accept it,'” Waver explains, more helpfully.

    “I don't—” says Powder-Blue sweater as he turns to reach out for the card catalog that rests behind him. He cuts himself off that time and fitfully reaches for it in an apparent effort to appease.

    “No,” Waver says quickly, reaching out after him in a pantomime effort to keep him still. “Anything would be helpful,” he says, trying to be reasonably polite when asking for a favor. Deep down, he wonders why he hadn't just gone straight to searching for himself. “But I know where I think I might like to start. Are you aware of where any concise genealogical records of the “Great Families” might be compiled?”

    “No,” Powder-Blue says. It's a little too quick but almost two syllables. He doesn't even seem to make much of an effort to conceal that he's lying. He glances directly into Waver's eyes, holds them for a moment, then looks away. He reaches for another stack of the books he is preparing for reshelving.

    “Really?” Waver asks with feigned interest and a furrowed glare. He refuses to stop staring.

    “They really don't have concise records,” Powder-Blue insists with a half-shrug.

    “Less than concise, then,” Waver says, picking up on implication he thinks might have been meant to slide away without attention.

    Powder-Blue sighs, his shrugging-shoulder slumping.

    “There is nothing in the library that matches the description of what you're looking for,” he says, also a recitation with something more that Waver can tell he's roused, right on the tip of the other man's tongue. He knows that none of them like being talked down to all the time, even if Waver has been the only one willing to speak up about it.

    “Really?” Waver asks in the same tone again. “You expect me to believe that all of these Great Families keep no record of their glorious bloodlines?”

    “No,” Powder-Blue says with something that might have been a tight, sad, hidden smirk. He keeps fiddling with the stack of books he'd pulled into his reach.

    “No?” Waver asks, growing quickly weary of this. “Just tell me where they are. I don't care if it gets me in trouble.”

    “I can't,” Powder-Blue insists with a shake of his head.

    “Just tell them I forced you. Tell them I jumped over the counter and stole the cards from you. Whatever! I'll take the blame,” Waver insists, feeling almost brave.

    “I can't,” Powder-Blue repeats.

    “You can't or you won't? What do you possibly thing I could do with their family trees? I just want to know!”

    “I can't... because they don't have them. Not here,” Powder-Blue says. He picks up three of the books and places them onto an old cart which creaks under the added weight.

    “'Not here'?” Waver asks curiously, realizing he's getting somewhere. His whole posture relaxes just a little as he allows himself to breathe. Then he's frowning again, touching his chin and scowling thoughtfully down at the counter. He stops scowling just enough to look at the back of Powder-Blue's head before he turns back toward him. “Why not here? This library is filled primarily with things that meet their approval. What are you saying?”

    “I'm saying that...” Powder-Blue says. He is close to the counter again, avoiding Waver's eyes except for a furtive glance that is accompanied with a sigh.

    “I'm saying that they don't keep them here. There are hundreds of books in this library that have as many 'begets' as the Old Testament, but do you really think they want full disclosure of their family lines available to any first-generation mage who walks in here? Or even to each other?”

    Waver nods as the suggestion makes appropriate connections in his brain. He touches his chin and his fingers briefly press over his lips as he frowns.

    “They do have them, though?” he confirms when he lowers his hand.

    “They must,” Powder-Blue says vaguely.

    “I want to see them,” Waver says with all the confidence that it would matter.

    “You won't be able to,” Powder-Blue says.

    “And why not?” Waver asks with some indignant offense.

    “You won't be able to because, as I said, they don't keep them in the library.”

    “Then where do they keep them?” Waver asks, tiring of this game.

    Powder-Blue stares at something undefined for a moment, perhaps some damaged bit of bookbinding. His thumb reaches out and fidgets against the same, then he begins to speak out of the corner of his mouth in a way that seems meant to be covert.

    “Any complete genealogical records deemed important to the succession of magical blood and particular abilities associated with that blood are kept on the top floor of a shabby Georgian brick building in the City of London,” he says. It still isn't a specific location, but it's a start.

    Waver blinks at him when the explanation doesn't continue and leans slightly closer to make discretion more possible.

    “Where is it?” he prompts.

    “You won't get in. The Caretaker lives next door, but even so... you don't have a reason to be there, he won't let you in.”

    “You know about it.”

    “I know about it, yes. Have I ever been there? No.”

    Waver hesitates with a frustrated sigh.

    “I told you I was willing to bear the consequences if I see something I shouldn't,” Waver confesses. Perhaps he shouldn't be so forthcoming about that fact, but there isn't any point turning back now. It's something he needs to know.

    Powder-Blue lifts his eyes. After studying Waver for a moment, he seems to reach the conclusion that there is only one way to appease him.

    “They are kept there because they are right next to St. Bartholomew's Gatehouse to be brought out on special occasions when they're required. It's any self-respecting archivist's nightmare, and you're never going to get in.”

    Waver fixes him with a dubious expression, but Powder-Blue's attention has so effectively returned to his pile of books that he realizes he must have been telling the truth. There seems to be no agenda behind the explanation and a certain relaxation of Powder-Blue's shoulders. Waver claps his hand softly on the counter again, this time much more considerately and as a simple acknowledgment, an appreciative pat for a stranger.

    “Thank you for the information,” he says formally with a nod. Stepping back out of the library, he finds that the sky has darkened and turned from yellow to an eerie, barely-lit slate. He looks left and right and pulls a map from his pocket. There are two, folded together, and the map the fold opens to is one of all of London. It is on such a small scale that it has very few uses, but Waver is already familiar with the area. He had picked it up on a whim somewhere, moving through in a fog, as if it might prove to be some sort of talisman to make being back here seem just a little less alien.

    The outer map is the map of the world he had brought with him from Japan.

    His thumbs rub the two pieces of paper against each other for a moment in his grip. Then, he folds them back up and replaces them back inside his pocket. Deciding on something like a route to reach his destination, Waver returns to his room, gathers some supplies, and sets out on foot. He knows by the time he reaches his destination, night will have fallen.

    - - -

    The air is cool and still damp when Waver arrives. Just before he reaches a dilapidated blue awning, he is caught up in looking at the far more looming shadows of the structure beside it. It reaches up to a great stone arch that is only the lowest third of the building. Above it, dark and white wood overlap in an elegant, impressive pattern that outshines the flat, brick structure beside it completely. The sense of ceremony and being of the utmost importance practically sings its presence, and he can tell why it would be used for special occasions for the mages. He begins to piece it together more, being drawn beneath and through the arch by helpless curiosity.

    On the other side of the archway, he sees the height of a tower belonging to a church. Just as he lays eyes on it, the clock at the top of the tower reaches the apex another hour and without a sound it pushes him back. It is beautiful, quiet, and reminds him that he has no time to waste if he expects to gain entry and to find the information he is itching for without drawing undue attention.

    He backs away from the church, some gnawing sense telling him not to turn his back until he is nearly back through the arch. His hand juts out to steady himself as he turns, touching cool stone wall. He peeks back out to the street before emerging from the shadows. Just touching the stone, Waver can feel some presence of magic. Looking up, he feels a chill run down his spine that seems tinged with unnatural warmth – the feeling of anticipation and bated breath. He pulls his hand away as if he had been burned. He inspects his palm with a scowl before deciding that the street is quiet enough to do his work.

    Rounding the little corner and hurrying for the door, Waver reaches deep into his pocket to retrieve a simple, old multitool from his pocket. He handles it as smoothly as he can, as if it were simply a perfectly legitimate ring of keys. He is glad that the door sits in a little recess between shop windows. Selecting the closest thing he has to a lockpick, he begins to jimmy the lock on the door while trying not to break it completely. He takes a deep breath and holds it tight when a person walks by behind him. He moves just enough to keep his unnatural stillness from causing alarm, and it is in this delicateness that his hand seems to begin to understand this process more thoroughly than his nerves had allowed.

    When the passerby has gone, he makes quick work of the door, and it gives way. He can't help testing it. Satisfied that it isn't utterly broken, he steps inside and quietly locks the door behind him.

    Inside, the first order of business is to locate the stairs. He suddenly wishes he had been patient enough to go and look up plans for the building, should they exist on accessible record, but he imagines he might have run into the same problem that led him here in the first place. The thing about mages – if they wanted to, many of them could make something simply disappear.

    A few steps inside, and he can't help but notice the distinct difference in this place from his brief detour next door. It feels dead, quiet, empty. It borders on hollow, though there is evidence of some temporarily erected business taking place here. He imagines from a cursory glance that it might be some sort of seasonal affair – people who carry everything in a series of white cardboard boxes and disappear in just the same fashion. He doubts that the facade even seems unusual to anyone. The place is eerie in how much it lacks any hint of magic.

    When he is several steps from the door, the dull ambient light coming in from the street is very abruptly useless. He blinks, trying to adjust his eyes, glancing left and right but trying not to do it too much. The irrational feeling that there was something lurking in the cool, empty darkness would only get worse if he was looking in every corner, expecting something to leap from behind each desk. He can't help fumbling a little as he finds his small, keychain torch from his pocket. He is almost embarrassed when he nearly drops the little thing on the floor. He rights his hand with just a frustrated sound of alarm, scolding himself and complaining at once. His thumb depresses the little button at the end of the light and it floods the area with a rather modest beam of hazy light. It could probably use new batteries, but Waver is determined that it will do.

    He checks along the wall of the short hallway that leads back through the ground floor. He comes to the stairs and checks them before he starts up to the second floor. The sound of his own feet is the only thing that echoes. The building is old, worn, but gives no feedback. He reaches the top of the stairs and wishes he didn't have another flight and a half to go. It feels like the commitment he imagines must be involved in riding a rollercoaster. Or a chariot flying through the air. Something going up and up just before plummeting down and making him feel sick.

    Then, he reached the top of the stairs, his breaths only a little labored when he collects and orients himself. The uneasy feeling in his stomach lifts a little higher, and he isn't sure if it means it's about to go away or get much worse.

    The top floor of the building is narrower than the others, with windows that run along what looks like a ledge that could be walked along – something that might be called a balcony if one were very brave.

    The top of the stairs opens to a space that is nondescript, containing a single piece of furniture. It is a waist-height console table made of a black-painted wood. Along the back, against a white wall, there is a crisscross design supported between the table's legs that greatly and somehow spiritually resembles the ornate facade of the gatehouse next door. On this table there are three objects.

    The first is far to one side, sitting at the edge but not precariously. It is a plant of some description – a plant with fine vines and tiny leaves that cascade down onto the table and reach off the edge. They are very still, but the leaves seem to move under even the slightest touch of light. Illuminated only by the pitiful glow of his keychain light, the plant appears to be bathed in silver moonlight. At first glance, the sight of it is eerie, but then Waver decides that it is not the plant that is eerie. Rather, it is that it is here in this empty place, free of any trace of warmth, magic, or even ordinary energy, and thriving. The positioning of the plant and the way it falls seem to suggest that it is held to some height and encased by some sort of planter, but any such mechanism is difficult to see through the leaves. Waver angles his light with some varied movements of his wrist, trying to make sense of the thing. Reflections suggest that there may be glazed pottery somewhere underneath, mostly white in color. The longer he looks at it, the more calming is presence seems to be. It reminds him of the pleasant babble of a fountain heard at a distance, and the little leaves draw him closer as if he means run his fingertips through them like a child dipping into water.

    He does not touch the plant, partly because by the time he has taken the few steps to the table he has come to some sense about it, and partly because he can better see the other two objects on the table.

    They are placed at the center of the remaining space on the table, one neatly to the right of the other. The book is open to a half-filled page without anything to keep it open except a perfect balance in its binding. The book seems as if it has been there a long time, but the gilded edges of the pages seem untouched by age and handling. The paper itself is artfully and only slightly dappled in its coloring, an only faintly textured cream color. The pages bear no hint as to their intended purpose save for an intertwining rune at the top center of each page above columns of lines. There are names written there as though they have always belonged, somehow faded but in no apparent danger of disappearing completely.

    Waver reaches out and gingerly turns back one page with the tip of his finger. The two filled pages just before it seem to follow the same pattern as the next half-filled page. In many cases, the guest ledger lists a single, very long and usually titled name. In others, such a name comes first and is then followed by several other, typically somewhat shorter names written after a slight indent on the following lines. When groups have signed the book, they are all either from one mage family or two, their surnames indicating which. As he flips back a few more pages, he never finds an example that deviates.

    He realizes with more certainty as he investigates that the placement of this book, its proximity to the gatehouse, and its proximity to the church must all suggest one conclusion. Genealogical records may serve many purposes, but for mages who are absolutely concerned with the preservation of their bloodlines, who value their blood even more highly than their work, there would be no greater purpose.

    Weddings.
    Waver almost wants to laugh, but as he draws his breath a hushed calm settles over him. There is solemnity here, bleeding out from the pages. He can see why the little plant seems so oddly kind.

    He is absolutely certain that some who have paraded up these stairs, reaching this place and passing through the doors from this modest antechamber, have worn the smug expressions he is so accustomed to scowling back at. But he knows some of these names and has heard unfortunate rumors about some. They all seem like nonspecific, meaningless chatter, but he can imagine that this place has tasted like blood for some – not from violence or pride but from the nervous nipping of teeth at cheeks and tongues.

    He is fully aware that his perspective is fundamentally different from those who have grown up in a family where magecraft is lived and breathed. His mother had never even really approved of it is a serious pursuit. For the mages whose names are listed here, their lives have been defined entirely by the pursuit of magecraft. Not personal pursuit and hard work alone, but in seeing that it stays alive through their bodies and their children. He has always been aware that many of them were arranged to marry someone suitable for them, but this book's placement just outside this door makes him realize all at once that maybe he's had it a bit wrong.

    He isn't really sure he understands any of it. The reasons people do or don't get married. It isn't something that has ever been at the forefront of his mind. And yet, he has always imagined that 'suitable' must mean something like also-a-mage and old-money-rich. He doesn't think he has been wrong in that. But there must be something more to it than that.

    If this place is just next door to the place where mages who consider the Association's authority and influence are married, then it must be necessary to it – a fundamental part of the ritual. He knows that most of the mages he comes across in the Clock Tower would outwardly accept anything to maintain and further their standing among their fellow mages. Their preoccupation with class and social standing had nearly driven him mad. But there is a link he had been missing.

    He imagines a scenario where a young mage in a long bloodline of mages stands in this antechamber beside parent or patriarch or proposed in-law, signing their name on the appropriate line. He imagines that they want nothing more than to turn and hurry back down the stairs, to run away, because they don't want this. In the past, he might have scoffed and suggested that it was their own fault if they didn't have it within themselves to take a stand, to turn around, to walk out.

    He glances down at his own wrist. Pale skin, the faint crisscross of bluish purple veins in the low light. The blood that runs through them would show up under any microscope in the world as perfectly ordinary blood. Red cells, white, plasma between, et cetera. And yet underlying it, somehow, there is a relationship between the natural and the arcane. There is something that runs through his entire form and being that he can feel as clearly as any sense – his connection to magic, his magic circuits. Four generations ago, no one in his maternal bloodline had ever known the touch of it, and yet here he is, unable to imagine his life without it.

    To turn around in that situation, to walk down those stairs and out onto Little Britain, would be the same as feeling those circuits alive within your body and then determining in the same breath that they did not matter. He feels a lump in his throat, tight with compassion. His hand shoots out, grasping the third object on the table fiercely. It is a pen, the color of ivory or pearl with golden metallic form where it turns to reveal a nib in the style of something that ought to have been dipped into an inkwell. He extends the nib to its full length and quickly flips through the pages to the next blank line and quickly signs the most compassionless name he knows: Lord Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald.

    The name signed, the door to Waver's side makes a soft, metallic tumbling sound. The dumb luck that such a forgery would work, the name of a dead man, sends a chill down his spine. He sets the pen back in its place and shines his light toward the door, searching its seem. He briefly pockets his free hand, hiding the tense curling of his fingers. Then, he tugs it free and reaches for the doorknob. It turns and the door gives way with only the faintest creaking of the hinges and floor, which is constructed of wood rather than the newer and cooler materials below.

    Passing beneath the door frame, it does not occur to him to close the door behind him. Instead, it makes its way back in place on its own, softly closing behind him after he is a few too many steps away to reach it. His shoulders start because the sound is so soft he supposes there must be something else behind it, but then he is reminded of the sounds a lived-in house can make. Doors open, doors close, and floorboards creek. The sense that he is not alone doesn't do much to settle down the quick pattering in his chest. He had known the entire way to the top floor that he had been alone – completely alone.

    The little glow from his light reveals tall and looming bookshelves, elegant and commanding. The light is too low to be certain, but he thinks that they might be made of mahogany. They match, but only in pairs or threes. They all seem to create a tight little maze that makes sense and belongs together, but it appears that the shelves were added a few at a time to house an ever-growing collection.

    One hand keeps the light trained for Waver's squinting eyes. The other reaches up and touches gently against the side of one of the shelves. He expects dust, but the wood feels as if it had just been cleaned and polished. The room smells faintly of the spice of book pages, like cinnamon and time, and faintly of something just a little more odd from manuscripts written on something older than paper-in-binding. Some of the shelves are arranged with scrolls rather than books, and it seems that this long and carefully packed room could conceivably hold any form of writing ever known to humanity.

    Far from the archivist's nightmare he had been warned out, Waver is instead awed by the way the tight space seems to sacrifice nothing for the safety and preservation of these volumes. The differing ages of the records seem to make little difference, as if everything in the room were held in some moment. It is an immaterial feeling Waver cannot hold onto. Every time it settles over him, it shifts just a little, like a flicker. Making his way to the back of the small library, he finds that to the back, one corner is dedicated to a large table with a detailed map stretched across its surface – a map of the world, much more detailed than the tattering one he carries around in his pocket like the reminder of a promise he has forgotten to keep.

    The paper is exposed and looks just a little worn or textured, like the surface has just the faintest awareness of topography. There is no glass over it to protect it, but the dyes seem as perfect as they could ever have been. Looking at the map, it feels a little like it might ripple and change at any given moment. Waver wouldn't have the faintest idea how. He had never thought of cartography as a magical discipline, and yet there is no other way to explain what he sees as he peers down at the map that seems to have been printed on perfectly ordinary material. Little pinpricks of golden light, familiar in a way that ties a knot in his stomach, shine up from the map. They are a better light source than his little keychain light, so he thumbs the button and places it back in his trouser pocket.

    He studies the map, his hair curtaining the sides of his face as if to mirror his concentrated focus. There is no inhabited place on Earth at least one of the pinpricks of gold does not mark. Some are brighter than others, true gold to a faded shade of amber that looks as if the power has drained out of the glow. Waver doesn't have to be too imaginative to guess what that means. The vast majority of the specks of light are concentrated in Europe, on the continent and in Britain, but there are clusters of them everywhere. They seem to form a dotted network, like constellations that require the viewer to draw the lines. Some of the patterns seem instantly familiar, while others are less obviously parallel to known human migrations and shifts of power from one seat to the next, leaving amber-to-gold glow behind. He does not know if the little lights will ever go out or if they are like funerary monuments left to magic that has left the world for good.

    He does not doubt for a moment, though, that he is looking at a map of the placement of every known magical bloodline in the world, distinct and recognized – by some self-guided force or by the Association, though he imagines the latter. Europe and the British Isles are aglow to the point that the glow is only barely distinct – a currently active nebula with stars impossible to count.

    Waver's original intent, to investigate the full records concerning the late Lord El-Melloi's family, seems to be a task that it will take him most of the night to puzzle out. He had expected this, to some reasonable degree, but it still draws a sigh from him. He reaches up, pushing one half of his curtain of hair back. The movement draws his eyes away to the one distraction strong enough to tempt him.

    His gaze shifts in a southeasterly line, straight to the place the package he had stolen in a fit of helpless indignation had come from: Macedonia.

    There are mercifully countable numbers of lights there with the greater concentrations fixating themselves just a little to the north with a slow-arcing imaginary snake back around toward Italy.

    Once he sees the lights in Macedonia, he tries to remember, tries to guess from what he recalls of all of those books he'd found inadequate, helpful, and mostly wrong. He isn't quite sure what to do once the tightness in his stomach seems to respond to a few of them in particular – a gut feeling, if he'd ever had one. His hand hesitates before touching the map, wondering if it is simply a glory-telling decoration. It would not be beneath them. He still tries it and touches a single, careful fingertip to the place on the map he wants.

    At first when he pulls his hand back, nothing happens. There is no tactile sensation like pressing a button, and why would there be? He doesn't know what he had been expecting. He doesn't know how it could be anything more than wishful, nostalgic sentimentality – like touching an old photograph with the hopes that the person there might somehow know and remember it. He hangs his head in something like shame, intent on at least scuffing his foot in frustration because he doesn't want to kick anything over that would get him expelled and right back squarely in another hemisphere. It isn't as if he knows anyone except the MacKenzies to beg to let him back in.

    Only, he looks back up and suddenly he has a compulsion to pull out a particular drawer containing scrolls. He can't explain where it comes from, only that it feels fairly accurate and insistent and a little like adventure. Which is a bit silly, since it's only a scroll he is illicitly going to be looking at, which seems like the kind of occupation of a spottily dreary Thursday night Iskandar would never have let him hear the end of. Especially after the wine affair. Only, he knows Iskandar would also never accept him denying the warm rush in his blood that compels him to move.

    The first scroll he selects, he opens up and realizes that it is written entirely in Greek.

    He stares at it for a moment, wrestling with the fact that this really was to be expected.

    He scans his eyes over the page anyway, trying to see if there is any way for him to make use of it without going home, learning Ancient Greek, and coming back later. As he looks at it, patterns begin to emerge that make some kind of sense, but in the end he rolls the scroll back up and returns it to its place in the drawer. Before he pulls his hand back in defeat, the backs of his fingers brush against the next scroll in the drawer and the warmth in his chest presses him to take it.

    This time when he looks at the scroll, he understands even less. He is fully aware that he is looking at an ancient script he has never studied. And yet, he can read it as clearly as if it were in English. It isn't quite English in his head, but when he squints at it and relaxes again, only just remembering the low light and retrieving his light from his pocket, it looks more and more settled and familiar. Reading it is like having it read to him, translated, at first simply by thought and then by the faintest impression of a familiar voice.

    Before him he sees a document, detailing the lineage of Iskandar's family. It does not read like a history text he located in a bookstore under 'nonfiction' or 'history.' It speaks more elegantly than the pronged family tree he had nearly expected to find. The account is written in someone's own hand, though he doesn't know whose. Names are mentioned in succession: Amyntas, Eurydice, Neoptolemus, Andromache, Phillip, Olympias, and finally Iskandar. All the history books call him Alexander the Great, but this text makes no explicit mention of that.

    Iskandar's life is given a treatment that does not lack for reverence but does lack in length and detail. His life begins, is lived, and ends with with his own death and that of his heir. Waver swallows hard, though he has known this personally rather than academically for much longer than he'd ever known Iskandar. It still presses into his chest that Iskandar couldn't claim regret for what had happened to him, in the end.

    Rather than dwelling on Iskandar, his empire, or the fact that he died, the document continues on as though that is not the end of the story.

    Instead, it continues with great detail paid to the life of Cleopatra, Iskandar's sister. Waver had heard Iskandar mention his sister in passing, but never by name. She had obviously been important to him, to come up more than once over the twelve days or so they spent together. Iskandar's life had been short and what followed so very long, but he still seemed to remember his sister.

    This text explains her life in much greater detail. She was wed to her uncle, only to see her father murdered at their wedding. After his death, she and her husband had gone to Epirus with no harm immediately befalling herself or her brother as he ascended to take her father's station. She had two children – Neoptolemus II and Cadmeia. The details about Neoptolemus's life are brief and primarily recount the guilt of his murderer. However, the story quickly returns to Cadmeia and her training under her mother. As it turns out, the scroll is here not to tell Waver anything about Iskandar but to tell him of his sister and the bloodline passed down through her and Iskandar's niece, Cadmeia.

    He is certain that if he were to refer to a preceding scroll, go back far enough, he would find where it began. Only, he holds onto the scroll carefully and studies it intently, reading it again and again and wishing the account were longer. However, he knows that even though it is short, there are only so many expectations he can have of something held in his hands written before the invention of the printing press. Even magic will only reach certain heights in the hands of those who use it.

    Everyone
    has limitations.

    Cleopatra seemed to have had fewer than her brother. She outlived him by more than a decade in the midst of constant conflict, escaping narrowly time and time again. In the end, she had only been assassinated at the order of her final suitor who had previously kept her in honorable political captivity for years before her death. During that time, Cadmeia had come to her mother's side often.

    There is a notation concerning the nature of Cadmeia's power – the description of a brilliant green amulet and the sense of dread it bestowed upon any she looked upon with displeasure. It is said that they would be compelled to find nightmare and terror in her beauty and power.

    There is a note that finally appends the end of the account of Cleopatra's life, which ended in 308 B.C.:

    Cleopatra of Macedon, gifted mage in disciplines of charm-crafting and enchanting, thought to have successfully transferred the Magic Crest in 310, two years prior to her death.


    The document goes on to its end, talking about the early portion of Cadmeia's time as the family's crest-bearer, but Waver finds himself flattening his legs against the floor, leaning wholly back into the wall he has since slid down against. He looks back up toward the ceiling and the window providing him a scant amount of extra ambient light.

    “Why did you never tell me?” he whines, before he can make sense of what he's doing. He does that sometimes, and only sometimes, before remembering that he is still on his own.

    It had been less than two weeks of his life, and yet part of him still expects there to be lumbering footsteps milling about the bookshelves with even greater fascination than he can muster, just at the fact that the world has continued as it has, grown so much, and that there have been so many babies.

    His fingers grip at the scroll as if he means to roll it up, but the best he can do is to glance down at it and then crane his neck as if there were no more efficient way to somehow get a glance at the sky. He really doesn't know why he looks up there sometimes when the Servants are, according to the research he had done before going to Japan to seek out becoming a Master, so connected to the spirit of the Earth. He doesn't know why except that it's big, vast, unending, and sometimes a deep, deep, dark blue that makes him feel smaller than the map he holds in his pocket does every time he touches it.

    He blinks and there is a blackness deeper and darker than the sky, and a fuzzy warmth that embarrasses him like being pinched on the cheek.

    He shakes his head defiantly, a strand of hair sticking to his lip.

    “Don't patronize me,” he complains to no one, and yet sometimes he isn't so sure. He isn't so sure that he will ever be the only part of it left alive, no matter what the Mages Association would like to say.

    He blinks at the scroll, which now looks more or less like Ancient Greek to him again. He takes a deep, sullen breath and thinks to haul himself to his feet and try the next scroll as if it might tell him something more. He doesn't know what to do, and the next best thing he can do is research it until he does. He still doesn't get up, and one knee crooks to make his posture look even more pathetically fixed on the floor.

    He starts to roll the scroll back into place. He doesn't even make it halfway before his eyelids grow heavy like he might be about to sleep.

    Why sleep? There is so much work to be done.
    The scroll starts to feel that magical sort of warm in his hand again. He cracks his eyes back open and in the bleary gap it creates, so long as he's looking at the Greek letters, it seems to start to tell him a story, not in a voice but in weight and mocking warmth he remembers, recognizes completely among all the other warm and cool spots in a room filled with so much chattering, arguing, bantering history.

    I think she lived for a long while – my niece. The women of my time learned to prosper best when they were lucky. Luck isn't a chance but a skill, a blessing from something greater than oneself and something worked for, earned, and kept. I sent my sister gifts, but I knew that she had many more of her own. Gifts I'd have never known how to bear. My niece carried them for a long while, but it's hard to say what happened to her. Maybe that was her own kind of luck, too. I used to think it was foolishness that she didn't use that crest to conquer as I would have, but now I think... the world has room for certain kinds of defeat, while it loathes to see others. It's just hard, sometimes, telling which from where you stand.


    Waver feels the gut wrenching confusion of irony. He starts to grip at the front of his own shirt as if it might make it go away. He frowns.

    “You're not real,” he says. Just because he can't forget Iskandar's voice, just because he can fabricate something he might say, doesn't mean that it's anything more than a wished for memory. And the Holy Grail doesn't grant wishes, like being human again or taking on the world. Only, he cannot imagine Iskandar accepting, even for a moment, the idea of an acceptable defeat while someone was yet alive. Waver's conviction had faltered since the end of the War. His plans changed. But he knows that Iskandar would never tell him to swallow his pride, his spirit...

    But hadn't he once told him? That he was thinking too small.

    He waits in silence for a moment, then gives up on waiting. He sits up enough to lean forward.

    “But that really happened, didn't it?” he asks to the almost certainly not-real but remembered voice in his head.

    He hopes that he'll tell him where to go next, because Waver doesn't know why he feels he's standing at the gate, in an airport terminal, at a crossroads, or staring at a rail map anywhere else in the world but here. He reaches up, practically pushes his lower lip between his teeth with his thumb before wearily dropping it down again.

    “You had a magical crest! Your family did. You had magical circuits and...” he grumbles, because he can't help the tides of indignation that keep washing over him. It seems impossible that there was something so tremendous about tremendous Iskandar that he simply did not know, didn't feel, didn't even have the faintest clue about.

    Barely blinking his eyes, he sees the mess of a room Iskandar had made, back at the MacKenzies. Books, packing material, movies, and videogames. Distractions, all escapes from the bigger picture. The arguments about them now represented tiny little skirmishes and battles in a war he never could have won.

    He barks out a little laugh that doesn't last as long as he means for it to.

    “What if...” he poses, to Iskandar, to himself, to no one, “what if Rider had been Caster?”

    Then he can't help the hysterical laughter that follows, a moment in parentheses when he can't do anything except laugh until he can do nothing but cry. The pinprick sensation at the corners of his eyes and the sparkling dampness that blurs his already darkness-challenged vision reminds him of the much larger map that is above him and across the room on a table.

    He rubs his sleeve across his eyes and shakes his head, replacing the scroll in its drawer. He hauls himself to his feet and takes a second to find his footing, looking out onto the balcony and wondering if that constitutes a viable way down should whomever the Caretaker is hear this nonsense.

    “Fine,” he says. He sniffs just a little, and mostly for effect, as he wanders back over to the large and glittering map. “What do you want me to do?” he asks the person who expects him to be the one left behind, telling people of what they had seen, what they had done. Or maybe he's asking the little girl in the hallway, speaking too well for her years and with eyes that can stare longer and harder than even he ever can. His eyes linger on Macedonia for a moment as he orients himself. He recognizes the dot this time, distinct among the others – glowing amber, glowing like it might one day go out.

    Somehow, impossibly, Waver knows that it was not immediate. He knows that Cadmeia must have survived as he'd been told, must have passed the crest someone. But the crest is gone now, vanished from the world in some cruel turn of fate, gone somewhere beyond where Waver can reach.

    But along the map, there are dots trailing all the way from Macedonia like a flood up through Europe. He doesn't know why he didn't see before. Suddenly, he knows exactly which of the golden lights to touch, before it can fade to that mournful amber. He hesitates, a lot longer this time.

    “They're not related to you, are they?” he asks, rhetorically. He doesn't think he can stand the thought that there was some natural call from that package from Macedonia to Kayneth Archibald's family – even if he owes ever having met the King of Conquerors to such a thing.

    No,
    he hopes he hears the merciful answer and something like a contagious laugh that is only heard through the chuckle in his own voice. But all of these families, all of these years, if someone could have saved just one light when it was still golden and bright...

    Lord Kayneth might have been cruel, callous, and entitled. But his magic crest had been more than that. It had carried with it the future of a family that is still alive. The young man he'd seen among all the smug and indifferent faces at his audience with the Assoication's little committee had not looked like the others. His glare had not come from that same place of condescension that he'd seen on Lord Kayneth's face time and again. There is nothing for him to take pride in now, nothing for him to hope to achieve that will ever touch those things that were so profoundly lost, in an instant.

    All of those feelings coil more and more tightly in Waver's chest. He wishes they didn't all feel so true to him. He wishes that he could smile at the loss of one more reason for the inequality he had so hated before he had gone to the Holy Grail War. But he cannot smile at the loss of a family's work when he does not even know what it looked like. No one knows what his work will look like either, and he starts to realize how the War had given him one tiny, sad, bloody reward – a level playing field, just for this moment, and just with this one family.

    His finger comes down and he listens to the feeling that will guide him to the volumes he must see. He does not know what Lord Kayneth's crest looked like, what it contained, and if it ought to pass from the world. But he is in a unique position to find out.
    Last edited by Prix with a Silent X; December 3rd, 2015 at 09:14 PM.

  2. #2
    Preformance Pertension SeiKeo's Avatar
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    Well, regardless of whether this is your first entry or not, I'm glad you wrote it; was a pleasure to read.
    Quote Originally Posted by asterism42 View Post
    That time they checked out that hot guy they were just admiring his watch, yeah?


  3. #3
    Lay beside you and pulled you close, and the two of us went up in smoke. Prix with a Silent X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wongdong Modernart View Post
    Well, regardless of whether this is your first entry or not, I'm glad you wrote it; was a pleasure to read.
    I wasn't quite sure where to start posting anything, and I had this to share, so I thought I'd try. Thank you so much for the compliment and for reading it!

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    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    I quite like it myself, so I'm looking forward to another chapter.
    Supports:


    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  5. #5
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Siriel's Avatar
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    Still in the middle of reading it but

    One of the last lies he'd told to the MacKenzies had been that Alexi had made it safely back to London.
    Should be Alex. It's a fairly unfortunate place for a typo.
    Ragnarok, come day of wrath
    That fallen souls might bear our plea.
    To hasten the Divine's return.
    O piteous Wanderer.

  6. #6
    Lay beside you and pulled you close, and the two of us went up in smoke. Prix with a Silent X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    I quite like it myself, so I'm looking forward to another chapter.
    Thank you for the compliment! This fic was written for someone as a gift and was meant to be by itself, but it works within the context of a really complicated series of headcanon things that might eventually get made into fics. I really appreciate the encouragement to do this.

  7. #7
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Siriel's Avatar
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    “You realize that this isn't the first time gifted mages of died in the pursuit of the preservation and furtherance of our knowledge of magecraft?”
    Have died.

    Waver's original intent, to investigate the full records concerning the late Lord El-Melloi's family, seems that it will be a task that it will take him most of the night to puzzle out.
    "seems to be a task that will take him".

    Alright, finished.

    This is definitely better than a lot of first attempts at Fate/ fics...or further attempts, for that matter. It was very enjoyable to read.

    The formatting is a bit much; no need for double-space. This might be a result of copy-pasting to BL though, as I see that it looks better on AO3.

    The narration is elaborate, but you were able to make it take a backseat to the dialogue when people started speaking; something that a lot of writers seem to struggle with.

    Thank you for writing it.
    Last edited by Siriel; December 3rd, 2015 at 08:29 PM.
    Ragnarok, come day of wrath
    That fallen souls might bear our plea.
    To hasten the Divine's return.
    O piteous Wanderer.

  8. #8
    Lay beside you and pulled you close, and the two of us went up in smoke. Prix with a Silent X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Siriel View Post
    Still in the middle of reading it but



    Should be Alex. It's a fairly unfortunate place for a typo.
    In this particular case, I went with this spelling deliberately because in the sub he is referred to as "Alexi" in the subtitles when the MacKenzies are talking to and about him.


    Quote Originally Posted by Siriel View Post
    Have died.



    "seems to be a task that will take him".

    Alright, finished.

    This is definitely better than a lot of first attempts at Fate/ fics...or further attempts, for that matter. It was very enjoyable to read.

    The formatting is a bit much; no need for double-space. This might be a result of copy-pasting to BL though, as I see that it looks better on AO3.

    The narration is elaborate, but you were able to make it take a backseat to the dialogue when people started speaking; something that a lot of writers seem to struggle with.

    Thank you for writing it.
    Thank you so much for pointing out those mistakes. I went back and fixed them! After a while, writing lengthy things makes it hard for me to see where I have made mistakes where my brain thought a word was just close enough for what I wanted and decided to call it a day.

    I am really flattered by the compliment about my balancing dialogue and narration. I usually feel a bit better about my dialogue than my narration, but I have been trying to learn different ways of expressing things in narrative that make something feel the way I want it to. It's a work in progress in any fandom, particularly a new-to-me one, so I'm glad it's working at least a little.

    And yes, the spacing is something that I will perhaps try to fix later and definitely note in future postings. It was just that when I pasted it, it looked as though all of the text body spacing had disappeared so that it would have been all mushed together, but I see now that even if it looked that way to me in the box that might not have necessarily been the case.
    Last edited by Prix with a Silent X; December 3rd, 2015 at 08:55 PM.

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    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    When you post a chapter, try clicking the "Switch Editor to Source Mode" button on the top left on the post box (the button with two As on it but no X).

    That should eliminate excess spaces.
    Supports:


    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  10. #10
    Lay beside you and pulled you close, and the two of us went up in smoke. Prix with a Silent X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    When you post a chapter, try clicking the "Switch Editor to Source Mode" button on the top left on the post box (the button with two As on it but no X).

    That should eliminate excess spaces.
    Thank you! This is good to know. I have caused my own problem here by thinking it looked too tight in the preview box, which is funny because now when I'm going back to edit it, I can see what's wrong with it. So, manual fix. But next time I will know.

  11. #11
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Imperial's Avatar
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    It is rather long-winded at times, but you have a gorgeous knack for prose that makes me give you a pass more often than not. I love the attention to detail, like Augustus sitting a bit higher than everyone else or Waver keying in to the fact that Reines is so young she needs those shoe decorations to do double duty helping her get her shoes on. Everything feels real and alive. If only everyone could have such a way with the written word.

    I'm also enamored of this idea that Kayneth was fishing for Alexander out of familial bonds rather than simple pride and that this is why Waver might submit himself to the family.

  12. #12
    Lay beside you and pulled you close, and the two of us went up in smoke. Prix with a Silent X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Imperial View Post
    It is rather long-winded at times, but you have a gorgeous knack for prose that makes me give you a pass more often than not. I love the attention to detail, like Augustus sitting a bit higher than everyone else or Waver keying in to the fact that Reines is so young she needs those shoe decorations to do double duty helping her get her shoes on. Everything feels real and alive. If only everyone could have such a way with the written word.

    I'm also enamored of this idea that Kayneth was fishing for Alexander out of familial bonds rather than simple pride and that this is why Waver might submit himself to the family.
    Some of the longwinded prose is deliberate. I was kind of going for something that sounded a little bit like older prose without being so heavy that it put anyone to sleep. However, some of it is something I am desperately trying to work on: the ability to be concise in any way. So, I'm glad the fic worked overall and that you seem to have enjoyed the prose itself. I really appreciate both the critique and the compliment. I would be very happy if I could learn to move faster with my writing so that I could get more of the content in my head out into written form, but the only thing I know to do with that is practice. And practice and practice, like always.

    I'm really grateful that you read and responded to my fic and the ideas presented in it!

  13. #13
    Don't @ me if your fanfic doesn't even have Shirou/Illya shipping k thnx ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    Welcome to BL! More Clock Tower stuff is always appreciated, especially when it's written with a hand as deftly as this was. Nice usage of the themes of transitioning, it's appropriate for a post-/Zero fic with Waver moving on with his life to have those inevitable scholarly adventures he's bound to have.
    McJon01: We all know that the real reason Archer would lose to Rider is because the events of his own Holy Grail War left him with a particular weakness toward "older sister" types.
    My Fanfics. Read 'em. Or not.



  14. #14
    Lay beside you and pulled you close, and the two of us went up in smoke. Prix with a Silent X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsaRandomUsername View Post
    Welcome to BL! More Clock Tower stuff is always appreciated, especially when it's written with a hand as deftly as this was. Nice usage of the themes of transitioning, it's appropriate for a post-/Zero fic with Waver moving on with his life to have those inevitable scholarly adventures he's bound to have.
    Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I have to thank the original recipient of this fic, as it was a gift for an exchange that challenged me to write stuff I probably wouldn't have articulated even though I'd thought about it. I'm so glad that people seem to like this one. I was really nervous because I am still kind of just skimming the surface, I feel like, but I have a really great desire to interact with this fandom and canon as best I can. I just started reading Zero, having already seen the anime, so I am hoping that it will help deepen my perspective and voice on things related to it. I think making stuff up about Clock Tower, though, was a really fun creative exercise. I did my best to make it believable and to tie it to what I know about Waver's life. I thought it was odd that he ended up back at Clock Tower after the way he parted ways with Rider, and I kind of wanted to talk my own way through how that might have happened. Again, thanks so much for commenting.

    All heroes are broken beyond repair. And all villains are just heroes who chose truth over dare.


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    Let Sakura say fuck and eat junkfood you weirdos.


  15. #15
    Lay beside you and pulled you close, and the two of us went up in smoke. Prix with a Silent X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brigitte View Post
    My simple comment is that this was more enjoyable for me to read, in a number of ways, than the actual vol1 of case files. Might sound like faint praise, if so I apologise.

    It also helped that throughout the reading I could never quite tell what was about to happen, a rare blessing for fate fanfiction.

    The only problematic aspect is the title, as it acted as a red flag for me not to read it at first so that I needed recs from the others to ignore my prejudice.
    Thank you so much! I'll take that compliment even though I can hardly imagine what I did to deserve it.

    I really hope that my ability to write compelling things continues to improve. I would love to be able to write things that aren't terribly predictable but that still continue to make sense by the end.

    The title is absurdly long, I'll admit that. The intent was to sound sort of wordy and long in a way that felt a little bit like antiquated academic writing. I'm not sure it actually works, but the fact that the people who enjoyed it in the rec thread have kind of nicknamed it is really flattering. Ridiculously long titles are not a consistent habit of mine or anything.

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It means a lot, and I really appreciate the constructive feedback.

    All heroes are broken beyond repair. And all villains are just heroes who chose truth over dare.


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    Spoiler:
    Quote Originally Posted by Snow View Post
    Let Sakura say fuck and eat junkfood you weirdos.


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