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Thread: A Fairy Tale of Love and Death ("Fate/Stay Night" one-shot)

  1. #1
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death ("Fate/Stay Night" one-shot)

    This was originally an entry in Kirby's 2017 Tanabata Exchange contest, but it's been heavily-rewritten from its unfinished first version.
    Many, many thanks to Seika, TwilightsCall and Prix of Heroes (with a Silent X) for all their help!

    Once upon a time, long before Cathbad’s prophecies and the bloodshed and sorrows of the kingdom of Ulster, there was a warrior-witch who knew all the arts of war and all the crafts of magic between Heaven and Hell. With the two spears she always carried, she could fell enemies with the speed of lightning and the force of thunder; with her magic words, she could tame all the spirits of the air, land, and sea. Her name was Scáthach, and it’s said she was born and bred by the Morrígan herself for no other purpose than to fight.



    One should never attract the blessings of the raven-winged phantom queen: the warrior-witch had fought in as many battles as there were stars in the sky and won as many victories as there were drops in the ocean, and now she could no longer find any challenge in the realms of monsters and men. It wasn’t victory she craved, nor the blood or tears of her enemies, but the cold fire which raged in her heart and bones when gambling her life on the storm of spears and swords; denied that, her soul was rotting as if trapped in chains. Starving to the point of madness for the warrior’s thrill, she set out through the land of Eire preying on any who dared call themselves warriors – but where others fought in duels, she duelled armies. So many were the souls she sent to the land under the waves that their voices broke through the mist between worlds in a lament even the gods could not ignore:



    “Cursed be Scáthach for as long as the House of Dónn stands! Will she be wife and husband to our spouses, mother and father to our children? Woe to the land of Eire, whose emerald fields are reddened with our blood!”


    Maybe stories of their plight reached distant lands, ones even the seafaring Milesians had never reached, or maybe the gods did heed their suffering; even the wisest don’t know. What is known is that soon after, a bronze-skinned stranger, bigger in build than most men, arrived on Eire’s shores. This bearded, greying wanderer immediately set out after the warrior whose suffering threatened to drown the land in death. Though he dressed in simple traveller’s clothes and carried nothing more than a walking staff, the keen-eyed noticed his manner and thought to themselves: “There is strength in this man, for he has iron in his back and iron in his soul.”



    Maybe he was led to Scáthach by the wolves and ravens she fed so well, or maybe he could sense the smell of death around her, but after walking for three days and nights with neither food nor rest, the wanderer did reach her. They met by the side of one of Eire’s many lakes as she was breaking camp, with only the wind and the trees and the rocks to witness it, as none of the beasts of the air or the wild dared remain around them.


    It’s said that the stranger could have struck her at once and she would never have known of him, a gentle breeze to take her to the land under the waves; and indeed, that’s what he had thought to do. But even at a glance he was struck by how she surpassed all others in strength and elegance, for her body was hardened like stone or oak, yet the smallest of her movements seemed to blend in with the very elements around them. However, he also saw the falseness in her manner, as the easy smile on her lips never reached her deadened eyes, and for a moment the iron in his soul became dented by the tears she neither spilled nor knew.



    It had been only for a moment, but in that moment the gentle killing wind became a hurricane hunting across the heavens, and Scáthach immediately turned to the silent swordsman, weapons ready. And in that grey morning colder than the barrow, when one could hear the whispers of the dead or glimpse the embers of the future if they were to strain their senses, these were the words the slayer of armies and the nameless wanderer exchanged:


    “You are Scáthach, breaker of swords, killer of men” he said, his voice deep and entrancing as the sea on a moonless night.


    She said she was. “And who are you who seeks me from distant lands, and what purpose do you have?”


    “I have no name of my own, but you may call me Bergelmir. I am here for your head, for you are wicked and cruel. You are strong yet use your strength only to trample the weak.”


    She snorted in derision, for while she did trample the weak, she did not trample the innocent, she said. “They who would take lives must themselves be ready to die; such is the only path for a warrior to walk.”


    That might be so, he replied, but she couldn’t deny she stood on a level they would never reach, much like a tree could never hope to grow as tall as a mountain, and so what she engaged in wasn’t a proper meeting of warriors, but mere butchery; to which she said that was true, that she took their lives even though they were poor prey, but she cared not if that was thought dishonourable.


    Bergelmir shook his head at those words. “It’s not for honour I am here, but justice. The gift of death is not yours to give, and your actions offend laws written by divine hands, for you have killed so many their blood and tears could drown out the sea.”


    She agreed she had robbed many lives, and for a very selfish reason, and that was certainly a transgression. “But not against the divine. Hunger, sickness, cold; my spears have slain as many people as there are blades of corn in sunlit lands, but still that pales beside the number slain by those, the weapons of the divine! Better for the lambs to fight and die as they choose than surrender to the fangs of the wolves we call ‘gods’.”


    And Bergelmir spoke once more, his eyes ablaze. “Fool! There is neither choice nor dignity in death, only in a life well lived. Shelter for the destitute, succour to the suffering, and knowledge passed on, only in those steps to the garden of salvation can mortals find true glory in the beyond. How foolish it is to worry about dying as a warrior when talking about the everlasting sleep; better to live as a slave than rule as king over the breathless dead.”


    “I am a fool, yes, and twice as much a fool as the most ignorant druid or witless king, for when I finally reach the silvery plains of everlasting youth, I will stain them with the blood in which I drenched my soul. But such is the warrior’s way, and I will walk no other.”


    They saw then that words were useless and nothing but the clash of weapons could bring peace between them.


    They fought with great vigour and peerless skill, never once giving pause or quarter, sword and spears and spells clashing in such a way it was as if the earth and air shook with the roaring of thunder. So fierce was their battle that all the spirits and eldritch beings of the land of Eire could feel it, and their fearful shrieks brought madness and chaos to beasts and the weak-willed.


    Both were beyond mortal understanding. Bergelmir was like Time, the great destroyer, to whom even the gods must bow: relentless in its hunger, unstoppable in its march. But Scáthach was the wind on the sea, the waves on the shore, the bull of seven battles; she was one with the elements and the elements sang with her every move as she danced the dance of carnage. Their weapons flashed two walls of steel, unfailingly parrying all attacks even as they sought the enemy’s flesh and blood.


    And as that storm raged on, it burned away the rot in Scáthach’s heart, for it was in fighting that she found joy and meaning, and she laughed the laughter of children – innocent, heartless, cruel. Truly, she was the daughter of the queen of the crows of battle! And Bergelmir, who knew only duty and devotion, suddenly saw passion beyond any he had ever known, and for the second time in his life the iron in his soul was dented.


    For days on end they fought, never once giving pause or quarter, but never once drawing blood either, until they could fight no more, their tired bodies begging for relief. They couldn’t even lift their weapons, but neither did they drop them from their hands; they simply stood before each other, entranced, their resolve unwavering even as they panted for breath, a dead calm after the storm. And then something passed between them, something wordless, intangible, but loud as thunder. They had spoken first with words, then with weapons; now, it was as if they spoke with their eyes.


    So it was that in that battlefield unstained by blood a crimson flower bloomed, the clash of weapons silenced, and there was peace between them. Scáthach, born and bred for no other purpose than to fight, was as much a tool of the divine as those she despised, an existence distorted by its own purity of meaning in a world which couldn’t accept it; Bergelmir, who had iron in his back and iron in his soul, wasn’t born to his reason for being, he had tempered himself until he became the grim servant of Fate. How could they kill that which they desired – envied – the most?


    Three days and nights after their meeting, Scáthach and Bergelmir parted ways. What happened after their fight is unknown. Some say each understood the other to be their equal and felt great sorrow; some say each understood the other to be their lesser and felt great despair. But others – the young, the foolish, and the mad – say neither understood the other, but still felt great love; even the wisest don’t know. Bergelmir was never seen again in the land of Eire, or so it’s believed. As for Scáthach, it’s said she stopped her murderous ways; though she never failed to meet any challenge, she never again hunted people, only the beings who lived beyond the edge of human reasoning, and in time she too came to step over that line into the realm of legends.



    ***

    Once upon a time without beginning or end (for time holds no meaning in the world between worlds), there was a woman who lived alone in a decaying castle high above the cliffs, in the land which was only bathed by the dying light of a perpetually grey sun. Some might have called her the queen of that dismal realm, and they would not have been wrong, for she did hold dominion over it; but it would have been closer to the truth to say that she, being neither alive nor dead, belonged to it just as much as the ghostly echoes of what had been and would never be.


    She often sat alone in that castle courtyard which neither sound nor warmth could reach, except for the small campfire she kept eternally burning in remembrance of the last gift she ever received. Other times, she would leave her fortress and mercilessly hunt the shades of the dead and the never-born throughout the land, her blood briefly boiling in an ever-fading delight at the battle songs they composed together. And sometimes she would stand atop the castle walls and muse on days long-gone, like the ill-considered wagers of Queen Fedelmid the Almost-Wise, or how Kings Aedan and Brennan were humiliated in feats of strength and daring. But sometimes, when the walls between worlds were so thin one could almost hear the singing of the wind or smell the passing of the seasons, she would let herself be at ease and smile fondly, for she knew their meeting drew nearer. And when they finally meet again, then she will have an answer for the question that was asked so long ago.


    “Dost thou hear the fluttering of the wings announcing thy death, o Scáthach?”
    My fanfics:
    The Gift (a Fate/Stay Night one-shot)
    - A duel between Cú Chulainn and Scáthach.
    Passion Acknowledged (a Fate/Stay Night one-shot) (Lemon) - Shirou and Shinji finally acknowledge their feelings.
    He Was a Good King (a Fate/Stay Night one-shot) - A short exploration of Beowulf's character as a hero and a king.
    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death (a Fate/Stay Night one-shot) - A meeting between Scáthach and King Hassan in the distant past.

  2. #2
    Will we ever know of freedom? RoydGolden's Avatar
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    I can't believe I never thought of pitting Scathach and King Hassan against each other before. Given one craves death against a worthy opponent and one takes the duty of enforcing death on those who strayed from it, it's such an obvious pairing. That aside this is really an awesome fic. The prose is outstanding throughout. It really reads like some ancient epic, which is obviously the vibe you were shooting for.

    One minor question. Is there any special meaning to Bergelmir, the alias KH takes when introducing himself to Scathach? Googling it gets me a frost giant from Norse Mythology, so I'm curious if you picked that name for any symbolic reason or you just liked the way it sounded.

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    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    You know, Spoony, if there's one thing you're good at, it's 1v1 duels between Servants--or maybe just Scatty, what, between this and the one with her and Cu

    - - - Updated - - -

    Wouldn't mind if the fan-fic thread go revived with little one-shots like these, or a day in the life of runaway fiore, or something

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    Knight of Joestar SirGauoftheSquareTable's Avatar
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    This was King Hassan? Man, I feel stupid for not realizing it at first. But yeah, love the whole epic poetry style of writing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Deathhappens View Post
    Really, all 3 of the romances in F/SN are 'for want of a nail' kind of situations.
    Quote Originally Posted by forumghost View Post
    You mean because Shirou winds up falling for the first of the three that he Nailed?
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    I speak for the majority of important people* *a category comprised entirely of myself

  5. #5
    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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    What happened after their fight is unknown.
    And then they kissed? Made love??? Pls tell me.

    I really enjoyed reading this fic, both in proofreading it and in reviewing it now. It is beautifully written, and I really admire the conciseness with which you can tell a story. As the story itself points out, we want what we cannot do or be, often.

    I read it all the way through and didn't realize it was Hassan either, oops. Didn't detract from me liking this dynamic, though. It is sort of poignant to me (of course, me) that it emulates the meeting and, uh, 'peacemaking' between Enkidu and Gilgamesh.

    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.


  6. #6
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Really glad you all liked! Thanks for all the kind words! :-)

    The original version was going to be much more overt that Bergelmir is actually an alias for King Hassan because of his speech patterns (Scáthach would also have a slight Scottish accent), but TwilightsCall pointed out that writing a standard-style dialogue broke the narrative flow set by the beginning; it's why the current version also has a lot more indirect speech, to "sound" in the same way oral stories tend to once written down.

    As for the significance behind "Bergelmir", he's one of the giants who survived the flood,* like Noah... ...or Ziusudra. :-)

    * Though his was a flood of blood gushing forth from Ymir's corpse, because the Norse are hardcore like that!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Prix with a Silent X View Post
    And then they kissed? Made love??? Pls tell me.
    Well, this is just MY take on it, but let's just say my main inspiration was the tale of two orishas from the Afro-Brazilian and Yoruba religions, Ogun (the man) and Oba (the woman), two warriors who duel fiercely, make love, and then go their separate ways. :-)
    My fanfics:
    The Gift (a Fate/Stay Night one-shot)
    - A duel between Cú Chulainn and Scáthach.
    Passion Acknowledged (a Fate/Stay Night one-shot) (Lemon) - Shirou and Shinji finally acknowledge their feelings.
    He Was a Good King (a Fate/Stay Night one-shot) - A short exploration of Beowulf's character as a hero and a king.
    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death (a Fate/Stay Night one-shot) - A meeting between Scáthach and King Hassan in the distant past.

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