I think it's a good time for the second chapter, eh? The Manhattan Project is getting right ready to begin.
“By science wrought and science bound,
By magic brought and magic crowned.”
All of the furniture in James' living room had been pushed aside to the walls, opening up a space for the summoning ritual. The borders of the red symbol etched with blood and water, the fluids that proved and created life, respectively, reached the very edge of the sofa and the television set. Upon the utterance of those first two lines, the outer edge began to shimmer and the dark air began to mirage as if above a raging fire. Wind gusted through the curtains of the window, fluttering the heated symbol.
“May the grasp of fate reach back to us.
May it honour the promise of its origin.”
Another one of the concentric circles rose up with a flame, sheer red and glittering. The smell of the wind turned to that of ash and smoke. James closed his eyes and, standing directly in front of the summoning circle, prepared to recite the rest of the incantation.
“Though the strength of love and the ease of hate,
Shall this contract be sealed in my name, unbound.
Unbroken shall it be, and though the hardships may mount,
Victory will be the only goal, for honour, for my country.”
Two more circles alighted in the room, touching the points of a pentagram. James felt a strain on his left hand and forearm, as if his bones were being stretched my a machine, tearing his skin apart. He did not allow himself to look. Focus was the key. Focus. Any mishap in the ritual, a split second of interference, could not only oust him from the war, but even outright kill him from the mental stress.
“Hear my plea, O Greatness Past,
Heed my call, see the truth of my promise.
I do, in the name of the world, accept!
Send forth unto me, unto this world,
A force of unmatched potential, a gift:”
James began panting, and sweat dripped down his forehead. All but the central rune of the circle glowed in the darkness, a thick miasma of burning, and numbness akin to being lifted into another plane. This magic was at its peak, and years of preparation would show their worth.
“Grant me, in triumph's sheath descending,
The key to sole victory-!”
The light reached a zenith, blinding James, but still he stood fast. The wind raged and the cold overturned any heat the the room had, cooling James as if he were doused in a river, drowning and unable to swim. The sheer power of the ritual scorched his mind and polluted it, threatening to burst in his brain and kill him at any moment. His left hand flashed red and seared for just a second, and then the great light had disappeared. When he opened his eyes, the ritual was over, the circle was gone, the heat had been driven away. Everything was as it had been before.
Everything, that is, but for a woman standing solemnly in front of the window, the gushing breeze blowing about her blonde hair, and her dark eyes gazing ahead, intent on the man who had brought her here to serve him in the war that was brewing. Her armour was a sharp crimson, and looked old, James wasn't sure. He never was a master of history.
However, the power emanating from her was immense, greater than a whole congregation of magi. Such was the nature of a Servant.
“G-greetings, Servant. I am your Master.” James, composing himself, made his statement as firm as he could while still be stricken with utter awe.
The woman nodded. “I understand. You bear the mark on your hand, and I sense the connection between ourselves. I approve of this contract, my Master.”
“Please, call me James Marlowe.” He bowed deeply, showing respect to this manifestation of someone who had in some way been remembered by history or in legend. James would only have this one chance, as a Master in such a grand upcoming war, to prove to his parents that they were correct in choosing him as the inheritor of the family's magic crest. He was young, yes, just out of high school, but his father, more generous than James had ever expected, put much faith in his son and so put him forth as the representative of the United States of America. With such influence backing his name, including the grace of his mother, he naturally won his place in the Manhattan Project II. This Servant in front of him was the physical proof of his strength and eligibility as a magi and now as a Master.
There was a silence that dragged on for a while. “What... exactly should we do?” James wondered aloud, hoping his Servant would be able to provide some answers.
“Naturally, we must scout the surrounding area for other Masters and Servants. Are you sure that you are the capable Master you may believe yourself to be?” James' Servant's cold derision grated on his mind, but he allowed it. He would get used to this war in time. No one could blame him for being unprepared, after all. This situation was unlike any other; even magi who were veterans of the last Holy Grail War, in the 1940s, would very possibly find this war imposing.
James led this Servant down the stairs and out the door to the outside. Along the way he could think of little to say. How does one converse with a Servant, a being old and powerful beyond normal measure? With an average person you could say, “Hullo!” and for the most part, they'd be quite responsive. A Servant, unless they're one of the more boisterous, gregarious types, is not exactly the type to strike up a conversation, especially not in the modern world. Does a Servant have knowledge of popular culture, of more recent history, or anything beyond their own time? In essence, yes, but often a Servant will not form a connection with the world they are summoned in. Imagine, if you arrived from ancient Sumeria into London! Even with knowledge of the modern day, such a thing would no doubt be strange, confusing and often irritating. These Servants, as figures from history and myth, are known for their great deeds, not for what they did from day to day. There were only a limited number of subjects that a Master could succinctly bring up with their Servants immediately after summoning.
“What, er, Servant class are you, anyways?” James asked, turning his head slightly, almost looking back at the girl walking calmly behind him.
Her lips creased into a frown and she said, “I am a Saber, Master.”
James was impressed. As far as he had been told beforehand, Saber was the overall most effective of the seven Servant classes: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Berserker and Assassin. He had mentioned to his parents that a Saber is a specific weapon and not a name for the wielder of one, but that note was ignored. Perhaps “Fighter” or something would work, despite sounding rather generic. Oh well. It wasn't like he wrote the rules or anything. Summoning Saber was enough of a blessing, for now.
“Ah!” James snapped his fingers, and immediately the Saber reached for her sheathed sword. “Oh, it's nothing like that, I just remembered where we've got to go. There's a man at the Oak Hill Chapel that we should visit first, to check in with and confirm our status as Master and Servant in this war. It shouldn't be too hard.” James' pace changed, and he turned at the next right, going down a street leading roughly northeast. Being on a hill, the general area of the chapel was hard to miss, and though it wasn't the largest church in the city, it was one of the oldest, and most famous.
The chapel wasn't far onto the hill or into the forest. In fact, it was located just off of a main road. The entrance to the cemetery surrounding the building was beautiful, with the gravel paths lined with trees and decorated with well-kept gardens. Despite its outward attractiveness, though, the cemetery had a certain unpleasing atmosphere to it, with death feeling heavy on James' shoulders, more so than most cemeteries. It was eerie, in a word. The darkness certainly didn't make it all feel any better, and in the middle of this, the Saber seemed barely affected. She just marched behind James.
Opening the door to the chapel, James looked over the interior, searching for whoever was in charge of the Manhattan Project II. To his surprise (and fear and dismay), there were already two people standing there, speaking with the priest near the altar. It's important, though.
This moment, you see, is where I come in.