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Thread: Fate/Khaoskampf (Fate x Mega Crossover)

  1. #1
    屍食鬼 Ghoul
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    Fate/Khaoskampf (Fate x Mega Crossover)

    Prologue: It All Ends In Fire

    Podkamennaya Tunguska River Basin, Central Siberia

    30 June 1908

    Arkadi Lavrentiy limped through a maze of ruined trees, as he clutched his stomach with both hands; trying to prevent his entrails from spilling out. Lavrentiy looked like he’d fallen in front of a cattle stampede and managed to get caught by every horn and hoof. Open gashes dominated his cheeks and chin while his blood reddened eyes fought off the lure of sleep, swollen to the point of closure. A large splash of blood ran from his collarbone to his navel, dyeing Lavrentiy’s dull grey oblique-collared and belt-chined shirt a deep shade of crimson.

    A sulphurous wind blasted into Lavrentiy, as he trudged onwards and ignored invisible blazing fingers jabbing into his exposed face, his mind having receded into semi-consciousness. All around him, the charred trunks of limbless pine trees pointed into space, like accusing fingers while great columns of thick black smoke drifted across a perfect blue afternoon sky. However, sightseeing was the last thing on Lavrentiy’s mind right now, for he was busy wondering how everything had all gone wrong.

    Decades of careful planning and research, studying the Five Magics and collaborating with the brightest Magi Lavrentiy knew had all been for nothing. Lavrentiy spent many sleepless days and nights reading through countless essays and journals detailing the various Magics loaned from the Mage's Association’s vast literature collection, page by page, combing through every document. When he wasn't deprived of sleep or assimilating new knowledge into his mind, Lavrentiy spent his spare time consulting with his fellow Magi, discussing what he had learnt from his lengthy study sessions.

    Yet, his efforts had brought nothing but death and destruction.

    Right now, the past was a luxury, and all Lavrentiy could see was a darkened blanket of despair rolling over everything he had ever worked for. Tremor after tremor of pain ran down Lavrentiy’s spine as hobbled over the singed and ash-coated corpse of a fallow deer buck, taking great care to not stumble over it. The buck’s flesh-stripped skull was tilted upwards in a frozen shriek of terror along with its bloodied ribs.

    A lone pine tree loomed before him, branches stripped of all leaves and silhouetted against the sky like beckoning arms. With what little energy that remained in him, Lavrentiy guided himself towards the tree and sat down against its trunk. His lips quivered, as tears welled up in his eyes and ran down his face. Was this how it was all going to end? Would Arkadi Lavrentiy, scion of House Lavrentiy fated to die in the freezing Siberian wastes all alone?

    A chorus of wolf howls bounced around in the woods in the distance. The sound cut into Lavrentiy’s brain like a knife, eliminating all excess thought racing about in his mind. Something primal and pure called out to him from inside, warning him that he was far from safe. The sound of many paws padding against loose dirt grew ever closer to his position, approaching quickly.

    The woods were too much for Lavrentiy to take in all at once, but his eyes tried to search every square inch of it in some defensive reflex. His body trembled, and his hands shook. He looked on, dumb; frozen like a statue, while his mind became blank with terror. Lavrentiy could only hope that someone would take it upon themselves to continue his life's work and avoid the mistakes that lead to his sudden, yet unexpected death.

    After all, history was a guidebook, and those who refused to learn from it were always doomed to repeat it.

    Diablo Interceptor Presents...

    Fate/Khaoskampf
    Last edited by Diablo Interceptor; January 25th, 2019 at 07:08 PM.

  2. #2
    屍食鬼 Ghoul
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    Chapter 1: Drawing The Battlelines

    ARTHUR

    Loch Lomond, West Dunbartonshire/Argyll and Bute/Stirling, Scotland

    22:00 PM, 9th March 2018



    The long winter plaguing Loch Lomond was almost over.

    Not a cloud in the sky remained to break the perfect chaos of the stars gleaming around the moon. Everything looked sharp in the blue light. The way was clear for miles as if the sun had risen. The Loch had completely frozen over and looked like a plate of solid steel. In the distance, small black mountains jutted out of the ground like an impenetrable barrier protecting the lands beyond. Snow gathered upon the sharp peaks of the mountains. Meadows, and trees, buried in ice, leaned in absolute stillness, caught like pictures in a frame.

    An ancient castle rose out of the forest like an erupting mountain of stone, its human-made square towers and rectangular walls contrasting with the earth’s natural roll. It was a centuries-old stronghold, perched above the frozen Loch below, its lower walls stout and thick, its northern towers and battlements jutting into the starry sky. At each corner was a circular tower with a pointed roof soaring fifty feet above the uppermost storey. An army of gargoyles sat upon its battlements, keeping watch from high atop their parapets.

    The air over the Loch was dead still, the surface of the lake a thin curtain of ice, broken only by the small wake of a rowboat and whirlpool dents left by the paddles propelling the boat to shore. The bow of the ship sliced through the ice and the flashing moonlit water. A plump old man sat in the centre, with a ski beanie perched on his head and a black parka wrapped around him, covering the bulk of his jeaned legs jutting out and stretching down to chunky black boots.

    The man didn't look a day over fifty and grunted as he dipped wooden oars into the water and pulled against the current, moving the craft about a foot with each tug of his paddles. A small oil lamp hanging at the bow of the boat illuminated the lake's surface and provided safe passageway for the rower and his mysterious passenger. Mentioned passenger was currently seated on the gunwale and staring at the castle looming over the lake.

    “So laddie, what're ya doin’ out here at this hour?" The rower asked his passenger in a heavy Scottish drawl, hoping to spark up some conversation. "It's none of your business.” The passenger answered in a dismissive tone with a light German accent. The rower sighed and funnelled his frustration into one last burst of effort, sending the boat gliding across the lake and parting the ice mantling the glassy loch.

    The boat's bow came to rest on the other side of the loch with a light thud. The rower shifted his weight onto the balls of his feet and leapt out of the boat. His passenger winced as the ship splashed into the water—more water than he would have liked. With a strength that betrayed his stout frame, the oarsman pushed the rowboat up the bank and tied a rope to a nearby tree. The passenger stepped out, taking great care not to muddy his expensive Italian shoes and dusting off several flakes resting in the lapels of his lavish blood-red coat. “Now about my payment,” The rower panted, wisps of steam escaping from fat lips. The other man reached into his coat and pulled out a large bundle of pound notes.

    “As we discussed, half up front, half afterwards." the passenger muttered, offering the thick wad of cash to the rower. “You're welcome,” the oarsman grumbled, accepting the large roll of notes. With the transaction complete, the passenger strolled away, leaving the boatman behind. As he trekked to the castle, moonlight bathed the man in a silver radiance, and millions of stars glittered like diamonds, scattered across the black fabric of the night. A chilly breeze floated through the night, carrying the sweet scent of grass in the wind. The stinging, biting cold dug into the on his skin like sharp teeth, but the man paid no heed to the nightly weather.

    His left hand grasped a five-foot staff of black oak, the head imitating a scowling dragon and blood-red rubies set into its eye sockets. His full-length fur-trimmed wool coat flared around him like wings of flame. The man’s long, dark-brown hair flowed behind him like a great black river as he walked. After walking for several minutes, he stood before a massive towering keep. It was a rather impressive sight to behold; a leviathan of ruddy sandstone held together with blackened mortar. Two large circular towers, hosting a trio of gargoyles and parapets ringed with firing slots, flanked the keep.

    A large, shiny red wooden door with an ornate, bull-like, brass knocker awaited the man as he strode towards the castle, with an air of self-importance and arrogance lingering around him. The man took hold of the brass knocker and rapped it against the wood. Arthur Schopenhauer tapped his foot in a soft, irregular rhythm and did his best not to look too bored. He was, after all, a gentleman and had specific rules to follow, codes of etiquette separating him from the uneducated, insolent masses. He stared up at a gargoyle roosting above his head. It sneered down at him, face frozen in stone.

    The doors creaked open to reveal a well-dressed elderly man clad in a slim-fit “Brera” suit. Liver spots stippled his arthritic hands, wrinkly face and an almost bald head. Watery grey eyes gleamed with ferrety intelligence and shrivelled lips, offered Arthur a friendly smile as he stood outside the door. “Welcome, Mr Schopenhauer. You arrived earlier than I expected,” The man said in a warm, friendly voice.

    “You know what they say, Mr McCaig: first in, best dressed,” Arthur muttered as Mccaig walked away, motioning for him to follow him. Schopenhauer walked into a sprawling courtyard; complete with complex twisting paths, a hundred-yard field of grass and row after row of thick, trimmed hedges.

    Arthur couldn’t help but wonder why he received an invitation to visit Keep Frobes, the home of Suibhne Forbes, an elderly and reclusive Magus who had earned a reputation in some circles as a brilliant, but madcap genius. A little over a week ago, Arthur received a letter from Forbes, and it came as quite a shock to read of someone secretive as Forbes to request for visitors. Forbes seldom left the grounds of Keep Forbes and often spent his days performing God-knew-what experiments or penning jargon-laden papers analysing various forms and principles of Magecraft. On the rare occasions that Forbes ventured beyond Keep Forbes, it was to speak at lectures on the subject of Magecraft or True Magic.

    Arthur recalled one such lecture from his youth when he studied at the Clock Tower. Brief flashes of memory occupied his thought-process as he strode through the courtyard. It had been a scalding summer day, which resulted in half the class getting bored to sleep or sapped of energy from the scorching heat. Despite this, Forbes wore a pinstriped overcoat three times his size over his lanky frame and spouted off incomprehensible gibberish about Second Magic, while waving his arms about like a complete and utter lunatic. Arthur spent the lecture alternating between trying his damnedest not to laugh at Frobes’ crazed antics and sneaking glances at a clock in the room's furthest corner, counting off the minutes left before the lesson ended.

    After that, Arthur swore never to attend another of Frobes’ lectures again and do everything in his power to avoid crossing paths with the man ever again. Something that he succeeded at for several decades until Frobes sent him that damned letter. The clopping of shoes against concrete stone brought Arthur out of his reverie, as a spiral stone spiral staircase winding up, into an eerie, fantastic tower entered his field of vision.

    A seven-story fortress in tower form composed of limestone, the building, stood alone at the far end of the expansive courtyard and lorded over its brethren as if placed out of scale in a photo montage. Pointed Anglo-Saxon-style stained glass windows and stone balconies speckled the tower's angled upper walls. Cruciform archers' slits lay between every window, sealed shut with daubed cement and unneeded in the modern era by the current castellan.

    McCaig showed no signs of fatigue or weariness as he guided Arthur up the tower’s steps in spite of his age. Either that, or he was good at hiding it. Upon reaching the tower’s apex, Arthur and McCaig stood before two large carved wooden doors painted a deep shade of blue-grey. With a mighty heave, McCaig swung the doors open with a strength betraying his wiry frame and beckoned Arthur into the chamber with a bold sweep of his arm.

    As quiet as a church, the cavernous room echoed with Arthur’s footsteps as he stepped into it and observed his surroundings. Beautiful woven tapestries hung all the way from the chamber’s ceiling to the rose-coloured polished marble floor on two sides of the room, depicting battles scenes from various Anglo-Saxon wars and the Hundred Years War. A long red and black checkerboard carpet stretched the entire length of the vast circular room, ending at a large flat rectangular mahogany table sitting at the room’s very centre. Multi-branched candelabra with beeswax candles sat upon the desk, bathing the room in the warm orange glow of candlelight. Flickering light cast moving shadows upon the gold-framed portraits of many long-dead Fobres overlooking the table, making them look alive.

    “Quite a nice little place. Wouldn't agree, Arthur?” A warm, familiar voice came from the doorway, startling Arthur from his silent contemplation. Arthur spun around, staff clutched close to his chest, as he turned around and came face to face with Suibhne Forbes. Tufts of wild grey hair swirled around Forbes’ balding head like a bank of storm clouds. Decades upon decades of brewing mixtures in smoky laboratories had darkened his rugged face. A black waistcoat; half unbuttoned flapped around his torso, little more than a palette of stains.

    A long-sleeved, ruffled, white shirt featured sleeves inscribed with notes scrawled in Greek and Latin, written when Forbes couldn’t find anything to write on. Brown trousers rolled up above Forbes’ knees covered his thighs while mismatched shoes obscured his feet, a Converse-style sneaker a size too small for his right and an ankle-strap sandal on his left. His short, thin lips curled into a mischievous smile, and his bright green eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets under bushy grey eyebrows.

    “I like to think that I'm making my ancestors proud by letting them see that I’m continuing the family legacy and breaking the boundaries of Magecraft”. Oblivious to Arthur's shock, Forbes swept his gaze over his forebearers portraits. If by family legacy, you mean dressing like a mental patient and living in some gloomy, godforsaken castle without any contact with the outside world? Sure, why not? Arthur mused.

    “What’s the matter? No 'Hello, how are you? How've you been? Have you had any major successes in your ever-continuing ventures into the study of Magecraft?' I expected better behaviour from one of my star pupils.” Forbes’ mouth twisted into a frown as he noted Arthur’s sour look on his face. “Spare me your theatrics and pleasantries, Forbes. Why did you ask me to visit this backwater castle of yours?” Arthur snapped, his tone venomous.

    Forbes held a finger to his lips, ignoring the barb. “Patience, Arthur. I will explain everything in due time, for you aren’t the only person I've sent for.” A flicker of surprise shot through Arthur upon hearing Forbes’ words. “Someone else is coming?” he answered, with the slightest tinge of surprise in his voice. “Some others and they should be here any second now.” Forbes corrected his former student, pulling a pocket watch from his waistcoat and opening it to take note of the time.

    As if on cue, three newcomers strode into the chamber accompanied by McCaig, comprised of two men and a woman. The oldest member of the group, a stocky Caucasian man, in his late thirties, hung at the rear of the gaggle, a brown cowhide Akubra rested on his head, shadowing his face and a zipped up dark green tactical military bomber jacket covered his shoulders, borg collar flipped up. Baggy khaki cargo pants, torn at one knee were held up by a silver belt buckle and a matte-black holster holding an oversized handgun dangled by his hip.

    A young Asian man strode ahead of him; a dishwater-grey knee-length trench coat draped over his lean frame. Tinted aviator shades hid his eyes, and underneath the trench coat, the man wore a diamond-encrusted Breitling watch around his left wrist, well-pressed suit, red handkerchief emerging from a left breast pocket, polished black wingtips, and dark socks. He bore a serious-face chiselled into sharp planes and angles, skin stretched across broad cheekbones, and jet-black hair cropped close to his scalp.

    A woman with medium-brown skin flanked his left side, her chocolate hair held in a short ponytail. Her right forearm carried a folded jacket bright green parka flecked with frost. Snow boots clomped on the marble floor in rhythm with one another as the woman followed her companions. Only an oatmeal-coloured undershirt and high-waisted snow pants covered her torso and legs, providing her with extra warmth and shielding her from the cold outside. Her small almond-shaped eyes matched her hair colour in a pretty shade of brown.

    “Hello, hello, everyone and welcome to my humble abode! It's so good to see you all here!” A manic smile broke out on Forbes’ face, as he rushed over to meet the newcomers. In a heartbeat, the old man had closed the gap between the trio and began to shake the hands of Akubra and Trench Coat. “Pleasure’s all mine, Mr Forbes,” Akubra responded in a gruff Australian accent. “The feeling is mutual,” Trench Coat answered, his soft clipped accent implying that he hailed from China's Shaanxi region.

    “Oh, I’m so sorry for ignoring you, Ms…” Forbes’ voice adopted an apologetic tone and trailed off, as he clasped Undershirt’s left hand in both of his and shook it, trying to remember her name. “Leontyne. Ashlynn Leontyne. But you can call me Ash for short.” Leontyne interjected, her American-accented voice melodious and soothing. “Over there is Arthur Schopenhauer, a former pupil of mine. Please don’t try to charm him with chitchat for he’s not a fan of gossip.” Forbes gestured at Arthur with his thumb, adopting a faux-whispering voice for dramatic effect.

    Such a statement elicited chortles from Trench Coat and Akubra. Great, now I’m serving as material for Forbes’ impromptu stand-up routine. Arthur scowled. Disregarding Author's obvious embarrassment, Forbes turned to his manservant and spoke to him. “McCaig, you wouldn’t mind offering our guests with some refreshments?” “Of course not, sir,” McCaig said, turning to walk out of the chamber and his footsteps receding into the stairway. The moment McCaig left the room, Ash, Akubra and Trench Coat made a beeline for Arthur.

    “If you three plan to mock me, please be clever or subtle about it.” Arthur sighed, bracing for an incoming avalanche of jokes and jabs. “Mock you? Why would we do that when all we want to do is get acquainted with you?” Trench Coat spoke as his face melted into a smile, his voice assuming a friendly tone. “My name is Jingyi Yijun, and my boisterous friend goes by the name of Raginald Gerulf.” Raginald tipped his Akubra in Arthur’s direction, revealing a battered scar-lined face with dark blue eyes, framed by neck-length ginger hair.

    Jingyi extended a hand at Arthur, which Arthur accepted in a firm handshake. “So, you used to be one of Mr Forbes’ students?” Ash asked, her voice brimming with equal parts curiosity and excitement. A question Arthur always dreaded answering when someone questioned him on his tenure as a pupil studying under Forbes’ tutelage. Whenever Arthur told them that Forbes was a two-bit talentless hack off his rocker, they responded with flabbergasted phrases including the likes of “you don’t understand the underlying intricates of his theories!” or “his thought process is too deep and complex for you to grasp!”, acting as though Forbes was above the very concept of criticism.

    “Yes, I did. Forbes was the best and brightest teacher I met. In spite of his rather... odd methods, he taught me everything that I need to know about Magecraft.” said Arthur, forcing some enthusiasm into his reply as Forbes’ gaze fell over the group. The cause of Forbes’ erratic behaviour had become the subject of theories ranging from the simple, such as getting dropped on his head as a baby to more complex ones including behavioural disorders like Disorganized Schizophrenia, Younger Onset Dementia and even Asperger's Syndrome. In truth, no one could figure out what was wrong with Forbes and root of his antics would forever remain a mystery unresolved.

    "Oh." Disappointment lay on Ash's face- at the fact that Arthur hadn’t showered his ex-teacher in praise about "smart" he was. “Anyhow, does anybody know what the hell we're supposed to be doing here?” Arthur murmured, hoping that someone would reveal a much need answer to the ever-present riddle festering about in the back of his head. “Dunno, mate. I don't have the foggiest idea of what’s going on here. We’re all as confused and baffled as you are.” Raginald responded, shrugging his shoulders.

    So much for asking questions. Arthur thought to himself and stared at the floor, dissatisfied by the beefy Australian’s rather vague answer. Shoes clip-clopping against marble disrupted the German Magus’ thought process, prompting him to look up and find McCaig approaching the group, carrying a silver tray laden with filled wine glasses. Dark red liquid sloshed about in the glasses with every step the butler took, being careful not to drop the plate.

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, can I interest you in some refreshing beverages?” McCaig inquired, holding the tray in front of him and standing near the foursome within reaching distance. They all murmured “thank yous” as they each accepted glasses with inviting smiles. Arthur sipped the mulled wine and let it slide down his throat, enjoying the scent of clove and nutmeg. Forbes may have been a talentless lunatic, but it was hard for Arthur to deny that the man had good taste in wine.


    Time drifted through an alcohol-induced haze, as more people arrived and Frobes greeted them in that energetic manner of his. Arthur kept to himself by standing near a far right corner of the room, lips pursed and doing everything he could to avoid making small talk. The babble of many voices filling his ears and assaulting his eardrums was enough to give him a headache. Arthur’s temples pounded with the intensity of a woodpecker pecking into his skull, as he took note of the people gathering in the vast room.

    A tangible cocktail of confusion and excitement hung in the air, as Forbes' guest checked phones and watches, chatted to one another or drunk wine. They all came in a wide range of dimensions: tall-thin, tall-fat, short-thin, medium-fat and so on. Their clothing ran the gamut from formal to informal: including fur coats, tuxedos, silk dresses, business suits, trench coats and hoodies. Diamonds and other precious gems glittered from silver chains and studded leather collars hanging on throats, ears, and fingers.

    The gentle tinkling of a spoon tapping against glass brought everyone's attention to Forbes. “May I have everyone's attention, please!” Forbes shouted over the crowd and then paused, waiting for the buzz of discussion and chatter to fade away. Fourteen sets of eyes fell upon Forbes, holding court over the group as he stood on an ornate high-back Victorian chair with a wine glass in one hand and a teaspoon in the other.

    “Good evening everyone. Before we begin, I'd like to thank everyone for coming together on such short notice. I can't tell you how much this means to me as you are the only people I trust. We have much to discuss, and I need you to pay attention because I only have time to go through this once." Forbes continued, his tone severe and devoid of humour.

    “You are wondering why you are here, aren't you? Well, wonder no more, because each of you possesses some sort desires that defines you as a person along with a unique talent. They will drive you ever onward to greatness, through challenges, life or death situations and make you appreciate the strengths of your peers complementing your own.” A burst of interest and unease surged through Arthur, as he took in Forbes’ words. This behaviour was very unlike him, as Forbes often spoke in a jokey, easy-going manner and only used a serious tone when disciplining disobedient students.

    “All of this necessary when you partake in the Holy Grail War, where you either win or you die.” Forbes climbed down from his chair, setting the spoon and glass down on his desk. A ripple of hushed murmurs echoed, as everyone absorbed the staggering implications of Forbes’ revelation. The statement’s full, crushing weight bore down on Arthur’s mind like a thousand-ton anvil. His brain went blank with shock, struggling to process his mentor’s desire to see him fight for his life against a bunch of strangers.

    “Are you insane? If the Lords catch wind of this, they’ll hunt us down and kill us all! Do you know how hard it is to cover up something like that?” A bespectacled Italian youth shrieked, his voice laced with pure, unadulterated fear. After the disastrous climax of the previous Holy Grail War, where the War’s overseer attempted to use a Holy Grail to unleash widespread destruction on a global scale and please his sadistic urges. As a result of this, the Association and the Church launched a joint investigation centred around discovering the driving force behind the overseer’s actions.

    It didn’t take long for them to learn that said overseer was a psychopath who only found joy in the suffering of others and the Zoroastrian god of evil had corrupted the Holy Grail in question. The Association were even quicker to discover the Church’s intentions to claim the Grail for themselves and steal it right from under the Association's nose. One thing lead to another, and soon both parties declared war on one another, generating a bloody, half-decade conflict that raged all over the world.

    After the shedding so much blood, both sides forged a truce, through a peace treaty ratified by the two faction’s ruling councils. Under the treaty's terms, the Church dismantled the Grail, and the Association did everything they could to avoid any future Grail Wars from occurring, as the Magi-Executioner War had almost exposed the Magi world to the general public on many occasions and the Association wished to end activities that were difficult to conceal from prying eyes. Such a feat was possible through the Suppressors: a global network of spies studying the behaviours of Magi and answering only to the Association's higher-ups.

    While many were vocal in their criticism of the Suppressors, due to their sinister, Orwellian overtones, others deemed them a necessary evil stopping outsiders from discovering their existence. After all, with the ever-evolving nature of social media and wireless technologies, it was easy for some random schmuck to witness two Servants fighting, record it on their phone and upload it onto YouTube. It was thanks to the Suppressors that Grail Wars had gone the way of the Dinosaurs.

    “Fear not, young Alessandro. I have taken precautions to prevent such an event from happening.” Forbes countered, unfazed by Alessandro’s hysteria. “Precautions?” Alessandro gasped.

    “Three rules governing how this Grail War functions. If you obey them and do as I say, all will be right with the world.” The Scotsman intoned, standing ramrod straight behind his desk. “Okay, so what are the rules?” Raginald spoke up. “Rule number one: Don’t fight if there is a risk of public exposure,”. “Anyone with even half a brain would do that!” The Australian howled.

    “Rule number two: All battles must take place far away from towns and cities to minimise the likelihood of property damage occurring.” Forbes resumed, taking Raginald’s criticism in stride. “And finally, rule number 3: Don’t do anything that will attract the Association’s attention!” He whispered.

    Arthur’s mouth hung open, astounded at the sheer lack of thought that Forbes had put into his pet project. Did he think that three flimsy and vague rules would be enough to prevent Suppressors from stumbling upon Forbes’ little battle royale? Arthur moved his mouth to form a counter-argument pointing out the flaws in his plan, but clenched his jaw shut upon realising that Forbes would most likely respond with a nonsensical and incoherent defence designed to confuse Arthur.

    “Now with that sideshow out of the way, it’s time for the main event!” Forbes reached under his desk and pulled an unseen lever. Stone scraped against stone as a section of marble floor near Forbes’ left slid open inch by inch. Arthur almost jumped upon hearing the ruckus, yet sheer curiosity rooted him in place, as a two meter by two-meter brown square limestone slab rose from the ground.

    Black leather boxes lay on the slab’s front stacked on top of each other in neat piles, all varying in size and shape — some rectangular, triangular, square, or trapezoidal. Others were dinner-plate-sized, and several boxes looked big enough to hold a basketball, and one even rivalled a watermelon in bulk. Crisp, golden letters embossed every box’s top, bearing the name of a would-be Master’s name, the class of a Servant awaiting summoning and the word “Themis” or “Kakia.” Bundles of inch thick manila envelopes with neat labels blanketed the slab’s rear in ordered rows, awaiting their eventual opening.

    The slab ground to a sudden halt, stopping around waist height with a heavy thunk. Silence descended upon the room, as McCaig positioned himself near the slab. “All right. Here's what's going to happen. Each of you will split into two teams: Themis and Kakia. When I call your name, you will come up to the slab where Mr McCaig will give a relic need to summon your Servant and one of these envelopes. Everyone in Team Themis will meet on the room’s left side, while those in Team Kakia will do so on the right. Is that clear?” Forbes instructed, brandishing a crumpled piece of paper. “Yes, Mr Forbes.” Everyone responded, speaking as a single entity — everyone except Arthur.

    So it began. One by one, each of Forbes’ guests stepped forward to receive a box and an envelope before walking to one side of the room. Arthur himself at a crossroads as this occurred, the rational side of his mind urged him to run the hell out of here and never look back, while the emotional half pleaded with him to stay and be a part of something greater, after living his whole life in the shadow of his family’s name.

    Arthur’s left hand reached into his pants pocket, hoping to find a coin he could flip to reach a decision. It was what he always did when he ran into a difficult choice: he’d get a coin and flip it to make up his mind. Something hard and metallic pressed into Arthur’s palm, fingers curling around the object as he pulled it out of the pocket. A British one pound coin rested in his hand and glinting in the candlelight with a side profile of Queen Elizabeth II’s head facing up.

    Arthur curled his left hand into a fist, and his right snatched up the pound, placing it on top of his left. If the pound landed on heads, he would leave Keep Forbes and never come back again. But, if it fell on tails, he would partake in Forbes’ Grail War. The coin flipped high up, spinning end over end and suspended in mid-air as though it dangled from a piece of string. It landed in his right hand’s palm with a light smack and Arthur slapped it onto the back of his left.

    The coin’s “tails” side starred up at Arthur, determining his future in an instant as Forbes called out to the German at that very moment. “Arthur Schopenhauer. Master to Caster of Themis.” Forbes announced, and everyone’s gaze locked onto Arthur, as he stood alone in his corner. Without even thinking and ignoring the sweat running down his neck, Arthur strode over to McCaig, accepted his box and envelope, before trotting toward the room’s left half.

    All around him, every-soon-to-be Master was inspecting some object. On Team Kakia’s side, Lancer of Kakia’s Master; a barrel-chested Irishman held a large, obsidian-coloured reverse-teardrop shaped metal mask with triangular eye-holes in his hands. Two stubs protruded like broken horns from the mask's posterior and crescent grooves engraved across its crown and face. The “eyes” were no more than narrow, curving slits slanting downwards to mimic the visage of a hateful glare.

    Next, to the Irishman, Ash cradled a vial containing a dark liquid between her hands, gazing at it as if it held the secrets of the universe. Unfortunately, this did not go unnoticed by Forbes. “I wouldn't do that if I were you, young lady. Unless you want to kill us all, of course!” The older man bellowed at Ash, his face contorting into a mask of rage. Ash placed the vial back into a cigar box-sized container, cheeks flushing red from embarrassment, as a scream ripped through the chamber.

    The focus of attention shifted onto Berserker of Kakia’s Master: a rail-thin and tuxedoed Frenchman sprawled on the floor, a look of fear plastered on his face. His manila envelope and the box holding his Summoning Relic lay upside down on next to him, a folded slip of paper brushing against his waist. What caught everyone’s attention was the severed, avian head glowering at Tuxedo, from his left.
    Instead of eyes, an evil red mirrored visor stretched across its navy-blue face above a hooked metal beak lined with razor-sharp teeth and flanked by curving insectile mandibles. A large crescent blade crowned the creature’s forehead while a mohawk-esque crest of similar smaller blades ran down the back of its neck.

    The head vanished in a blur, as Tuxedo summoned up his courage and bundled up his belongings as he shot to his feet; shoving the head and paper into their box before scooping up the envelope. “Sorry about that. I got a bit of fright.” Tuxedo chuckled to his onlookers, trying to hide his fear. A chill climbed down the rungs of Arthur’s spine, as he struggled to imagine what sort of creature the head was once apart of. It didn’t resemble any kind of Phantasmal Beast that he knew of, as Arthur had never seen a freakish monstrosity that looked as though it lived to cause pain and death. Whatever Heroic Spirit that Tuxedo was going to summon, Arthur could only hope that he wouldn’t have to fight it or at the very least, cross paths with it.

    “Now that everyone has their Relics and envelopes, you can now summon your Servants.” Forbes' voice pierced the oppressive silence, as his left arm snaked under the desk and tugged at another lever. Portions of the marble wall slid open like sliding doors to reveal small rooms smelling of dust. Faint candlelight flickered from inside of the rooms, throwing light on a sizeable crimson circle with its middle ringed by complex, runic characters inscribed on the floor of each room. At the centre of each circle lay a hexagram with encircled Arabic glyphs rested at the hexagram’s upper right and lower left corners.

    “I've created Summoning Circles, so you don’t have to go through the hassle of making your own,” Forbes explained, watching as everyone filled into a room. Arthur walked into one such room, where a Summoning Circle awaited him in semi-darkness. A grandfather clock ticked away in the corner, as he made the preparations necessary to summon his Servant. Arthur pulled off the box‘s lid and found himself staring at a red and gunmetal silver skull-like helmet, incorporating a metal faceplate with a long, flat, narrow “chin” and narrow strip of black Plexiglas, resembling the visor-slit in a knight's helmet.

    He placed the helmet in the hexagram’s very centre and noticed a folded sheet of paper stuck to the helmet's underside. As Arthur yanked it free and unfolded it, commotions outside his room in the form of chanting and flashes of bright light. Everyone else is busy summoning their Servants or have already finished. Arthur pressed out the paper’s creases with the palm of his hand, eyes skimming over the words scrawled on the page. This must be the mantra must I recite. Arthur cleared his throat to prepare himself for reciting the chant.

    “Let silver and steel be the essence. Let stone and the Archduke of contracts be the foundation. Let Themis be the goddess I pay tribute to.” Raw power swelled within his chest, compressing and compounding until his heart threatened to explode. It raged, it was primal: something newborn and nigh-limitless. The pounding of his heart shook his whole body, and his breath almost deafened him — his soul tuning itself to the flow of magic.

    “Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall. Let the four cardinal gates close. Let the three-forked road from the crown reaching unto the Kingdom rotate.” A torrent of energy surged through his veins and waves of pure power flooded his limbs, overpowering and addictive. The Summoning Circle glowed red with a throbbing motion, and upon Arthur’s second recitation, the ground beneath the helmet trembled. Hot, shearing warmth spread outwards and travelled up the length of his arm. Goosebumps prickled along his skin, and the heat crawled up to his scapula, infusing the entire limb with a scalding sensation.

    “I hereby declare. Your body shall serve under me. My fate shall be your sword.” Prana enveloped and filled his blood and bones, as a comforting and familiar presence fell over Arthur.

    “Submit to the beckoning of the Holy Grail, if you will submit to this will and this reason. Then answer! An oath shall be sworn here!”
    Arthur cast out an invisible thread from his soul and hooked it into the helmet, anchoring them together. Power beyond his imagining surged around him, lifting him like an ocean wave.

    “I shall attain all virtues of all of Heaven. I shall have dominion over all evils of all of Hell! From the Seventh Heaven, attended to by three greet words of power.” A towering wave of power smashed into Arthur, but he kept chanting. The violence of the thread's connection slammed into him, but the chant and his concentration kept him anchored. In his mind's eye, Arthur saw the link in all its brilliance, a bright thread of light and colour. Its sheer beauty took his breath away as it undulated, glistening like powdered diamonds.

    “Come forth from the ring of restraints, Protector of the Holy Balance!” Coiling serpents of lightning slithered across the mask, and a spider web of thin glowing cracks radiated out from its visor. The helmet jolted about, unable to withstand the magical energy raging through it. Arthur willed himself to ride the magic fanning outwards from the mask, focusing on letting it wash through him. Strength returned, and his connection to the Servant solidified, supporting them with his magic and life force.

    A storm raged in his soul, howling like a blizzard wind and Arthur's whole body burned with wild magic as the thread sent power through him, making the filament glow. The mask flared in an angry shade of red, reaching its breaking point. It burst apart, shattering into a million pieces as a blast rolled outwards from the Summoning Circle.

    Arthur braced himself against a fierce gale-force wind buffeting his body and trying to knock him down. The wind vanished as it appeared and left great swirling clouds of smoke in its wake. Spasms of coughing racked Arthur's body, as his lungs heaved to expel the smoke and a shimmering curtain of light blanketed a figure standing in the Summoning Circle.

    The figure's face lay hidden beneath the helmet that once sat in the hexagram and a black hooded cloak — a pale orange chest-plate engraved with curved lines protected the torso while a maroon sash circled the waist. Baggy sleeves and a long skirt obscured the limbs, as an ebony belt studded with hoops riding over the hips. A silver ring held the belt together with two long coal-coloured strips of fabric, and a rectangular, carmine crotch flap hanging at the feet. Peach-orange vambraces attached to plated black gloves enclosed the Servant’s forearms, and Arthur caught glimpses of calf-high onyx boots under the skirt.

    “Howdy there! I’m Caster of Themis, and you wouldn't happen to be my Master, would you?” Caster introduced themselves and finally acknowledging Arthur’s presence with a cheerful and electronically filtered, British-accented voice. “Indeed I am. My name is Arthur Schopenhauer, and I will serve as your master.” Arthur returned the greeting with a smile and bow, trying to come across as polite. “Would you be kind enough to tell me you True Na-.” Arthur’s Servant interrupted his response.

    “Ah, ah, ah!” Caster rebuked, in the voice one used when disciplining a disobedient dog. “We've only known each other for about...I don't know…” The Servant paused, rubbing the back of their hooded head. “I asked you a question. Who are you?” asked Arthur, letting impatience seep into his voice. “5 seconds...is it 5? Ye-Yes 5! 5 seconds and you've asked me a very personal question! We're not off to a great start.” Caster stammered, formulating an astonished response before holding up a hand displaying five fingers.

    “And why’s that?” Arthur said, surprised by his Servant’s response. “It’s a long story, so I’ll give you the short version and say that I have.... problems trusting others. If you’re nice to me, I'll tell you a little bit about myself and get to know you, as a special treat. 'Till then, you're not so much as getting a peep out of me.” Caster continued without skipping a beat.

    Anger and frustration rose in Arthur’s chest like burning oil. In several minutes, he had summoned his Servant, and the said Servant proved themselves to be a disobedient individual who doled out sarcastic comments by the bucketload. “Now if you don't mind, I'd now like to meet my teammates and scope out the competition.” Caster waltzed past him and out of the room.

    Arthur followed after them, uncertain of what manner of Servants awaited him or Caster had in mind. Arthur’s hand fell upon the head of his staff, ready to unsheathe the cane sword contained within, in case Caster had any funny ideas about turning on him or things went south. His paranoia did little to prepare him for what he saw next.

    As he re-entered the chamber, Arthur spotted Jingyi standing next to a youthful, feminine-looking man with ash-grey hair and an azure left eye. A dark grey blindfold covered his right eye like a makeshift eye patch, and a steel jaw replaced his lower one. Dark sharp-edged armour encased his sleek form with fins protruding from streamlined arms, equipped with silver clawed fingers and his legs terminated in rubberised stiletto heels and short metal claws. Affixed to his back was a large, blackish-grey rectangular sheath and a Heckler & Koch Mark 23 Phase II Prototype equipped with a Knight's Armament suppressor and laser aiming module slept in a thigh holster on the man’s right leg.

    Standing across from him, Tuxedo’s towering Servant, Berserker of Kakia eyed it’s Master, cruel curiosity glinting in its beast’s visor and drool oozing from its beak. The two slender yet muscular legs it stood on sported a metal talon, with a sickle-shaped blade appended to each arm above two small hooks. Grooved, cobalt plating armoured its body and three sail-like fins strung with vermilion webbing dominated it’s back. Jagged, teeth-like blades ran straight down a slit in the creature’s thorax, and spikes dotted its joints. A tail slunk back and forth, equipped with plates of silver, spiked armour and tapering into a metal tri-clawed pincer.

    In one far corner of Team Themis’ room, Alessandro (Lancer of Themis’ Master, if Arthur recalled) conversed with a short boy in his mid-teens. The boy wore a long, crimson duster featuring a Flamel Cross emblazoned across the back over a chicory singlet complemented with matching trousers, a thick brown belt and chunky combat boots. A short plait of golden-blond hair hung from the rear of his head with bangs framing his round face. As Arthur studied the boy further, he noted that the youth’s right arm was composed of shining steel.

    It was then that Arthur caught Caster making their way to the duo and he broke into a sprint. His cane clattered onto marble, as he took off and ran after his Servant. God only knew what Caster was planning to do next. Arthur pushed his way through a gaggle of Servants, including a blue-haired teenage girl with her body sheathed in a white form-fitting bodysuit, an inkblot-masked man bundled up in a grungy mustard-yellow trench coat and a tall person clad in olive-green futuristic armour with an all-obstructing visored helmet.
    Muttering half-hearted “excuse me's” and “sorries”, Arthur navigated through the Servants and came within reaching distance of Caster, who was a stone's throw away from Alessandro and Lancer.

    Arthur grabbed Caster by the arm and pulled them before they could barge into Alessandro and Lancer’s conversation. “What in the hell do you think you're doing?” Arthur hissed in a whisper. “Oh, nothing too sinister. I’m trying to make a good impression by strolling up and saying ‘How do you do, fellow Servant?’” Caster explained, still coy as ever. “Look, I don’t want you to make a scene in front of all these people or draw attention to yourself,” Arthur warned.

    “A little late too for that, given how you sprinted over here to have this little chat. Also, by the way, this belongs to you.” Caster quipped, before looking over Arthur’s shoulder and making a jerking motion with one hand. Arthur ducked down, as his staff flew right over his head and into Caster’s awaiting hand.

    His confused and startled mind struggled to process what he had seen, numbed by shock. Caster had somehow made his staff levitate off the ground and come to them via the power of her mind. Telekinesis was something of an unusual, though not unheard of ability that Magi possessed and even rarer amongst Heroic Spirits. In life, Caster must have been a Psychic, whose talents were not restricted to telekinesis and included the likes of precognition or other paranormal phenomena.

    Arthur reached for his staff, but Caster held it away from him at arm’s length. “You didn't say the magic words, Arthur.” Caster chided.
    “Please. Can I have my staff back?”
    Arthur mumbled, more than aware of how childish he sounded, as Caster handed the staff to him with a flourish. “See? Politeness will get you everywhere.” she offered. Yeah, right, Arthur thought dryly.

    The jingling of a brass bell cut through the din, and all eyes met with Forbes, now holding a small bell in his hand. “I'm glad to see that everyone is getting along so well,” he said. “Some of you seem to be getting along especially well.” He noted, noticing the various Masters and Servants crowding together. “And now, it's time for you to go home and prepare yourselves because, in three months, you'll have a hectic schedule.”

    “Each manila envelope contains everything you'll need for this Grail War. False passports, plane tickets to your destination, local currency, guidebooks, maps of where the War will take place, the keys to your temporary residences along with... several instructions.“ Forbes gave a short, half-suppressed laugh.

    Arthur rifled in the pockets of his coat and pants for his envelope, only to find that it wasn’t there. A lightning bolt of fear shot from upon realising that he had forgotten it. “Is this what you're looking for?” Caster asked, holding up a dust-covered manila envelope. “Where did you find that thing?” He pointed at the envelope.

    “I found it lying around in the room where you summoned. I thought that would come in handy later on and it turns out that I was right. I like being proven right.” Caster said in a self-congratulatory tone. Arthur never recalled seeing Caster picking up the envelope as they walked out of the room. They must have done it when I wasn’t looking with their telekinetic powers. Arthur realised.

    “And one more thing,” Forbes added, just as everyone headed straight for the exit. “If I discover that any of you are getting into scuffles behind my back before the War begins, I'll find you and make you regret ever being born.” He snarled, his voice steeling with authority. Arthur couldn't help but shiver at Forbes’ clear threat, while he and Caster allowed themselves to be absorbed into the crowd heading towards the massive doors. “Why the long face? You look like someone just killed your puppy.” Caster inquired, noting Arthur’s worried facial expression.

    “Oh, yeah. The-not-so-subtle-threat that Crazy McCloud Hair made to you. I suggest that you don’t worry too much about it, he’s probably just messing with you. Something tells me that is everything going to work out just fine!” Caster answered their question with vibrant enthusiasm, before wrapping a free arm around Arthur’s shoulder.

    “If only you knew Caster if only you knew,” Arthur whispered.
    Last edited by Diablo Interceptor; January 25th, 2019 at 07:51 PM.

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