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Thread: [Quest] Lost Singularity - Fimbulwinter

  1. #1361
    Flying Fairy Sunny's Avatar
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    Mm...

    1)
    Attend:
    Javier, Liria, Fiore

    Stay:
    Maria, Ricardo, Sakura

    Rationale is splitting power/weakness a bit, admittedly - Maria has a point about not going but she also shouldn't be the sole offensive option at home if she needs to save power for the final fight, so Sakura is a good backup.

    Whereas leaving Fiore at home keeps her a bit in danger too without significantly bolstering their defenses, and her magical knowledge might be more useful at the dinner so it's not all muggles.



    2)
    2B

    Heavily tempted on 2D too, but I'm a bit biased.

  2. #1362
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunny View Post
    Heavily tempted on 2D too, but I'm a bit biased.
    Same!
    Also, I agree with your thinking, so I'm changing my votes to:

    1. Attend: Javier, Liria, Fiore. Stay behind: Maria, Ricardo, Sakura.

    2. B
    My fanfics:
    The Gift (F/SN): The last duel between Cú Chulainn and Scáthach.
    Passion Acknowledged (F/SN): Shinji X Shirou lemon
    He Was a Good King (F/SN): Was Beowulf a good king?
    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death (F/SN): A meeting between Scáthach and King Hassan.
    Palingenetic Descension (Tsukihime): The origin of the Tohno family's hybrid nature.

  3. #1363
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    1. Attend: Javier, Liria, Fiore. Stay behind: Maria, Ricardo, Sakura.

    2. B
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  4. #1364
    Hmmm. +1 Hermes, basically in full agreement with the plan at the moment.

  5. #1365
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Bird of Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by King Prussia View Post
    Hmmm. +1 Hermes, basically in full agreement with the plan at the moment.
    Ok, so if this goes terribly you can all blame me.

  6. #1366
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    Parish of Saint Aloysius de Gonzaga
    Day 04
    Evening Phase – 02
    Severe cold (-29°C/-20°F)



    “Are you sure you are going?”

    It is the sausage fest in charge of piling up the church pews against the large front door to barricade it—we can always use the normal-sized parish house door to go in and out. The Servants could get things like this done in half the time, but the Herald is keeping watch on the rooftop with Senta, Maria is making a quick patrol of the surroundings, and Liria is helping Fiore in looking after Alicia Drake. Those two really seem to have hit it off—rather unusual, for they could not come from more different backgrounds.

    “…yeah. There’s too much stuff we need to know, and this might be our only chance to get answers out of her.”

    “What if it’s a trap?” Oliver asks the obvious question. I can only shrug.

    “Then we’ll have to do our best to get out of there alive, I guess,” is my answer. “But I don’t think it’s a trap. “That Maid has power in spades; if she wanted to kill us, she’d just attack us. She doesn’t need this kind of subterfuge.”

    “Still, you have to be careful,” Marco adds. “Sigrun…that woman has plans within plans. Nobody can figure out what she is really thinking. She…’s been doing this for so many years, and we still don’t really know what she’s after.”

    “So?” Oliver continues. “Are you gonna tell us your deal now? Seems like you’ve known her for a while.”

    From at least the late thirties, according to The Maid herself.

    Marco shakes his head.

    “…it’s no big deal. It’s not like we were close or anything. Rather than working together, we…worked with the same people.”

    “The Third Reich.”

    I mean, I had to say it. It should be obvious by this point, and the momentary stiffness of his body is all the answer I need.

    “…yes.”

    I wonder what Maria thinks of this. I mean, if I figured it out, of course she did as well; she is the one who knows all the Nazi stuff.

    “Her presence made no sense: Himmler was a notorious woman-phobe—he did not tolerate the idea of a woman in a position of power, yet that woman walked among the SS as if she owned the place. Like a cat that wandered in and just stuck around. Yet not a single word of her came out during the Trials.

    Again, Marco shakes his head as he sets the last obstacle in our makeshift blockade.

    “The scary thing about her is not how strong she may or may not be in a fight. It’s that she seems able to get away with anything she wants. Even if she isn’t, she feels omnipotent. And I can’t stand that.”

    Marco leaves us with that: a heavy, disconcerting statement that only adds to our many worries. Oliver follows, albeit he is more up to rejoining his wife’s side—the guy’s a real worrywart. So I am left with Father Ricardo, now in an immense chamber that no longer has anywhere to sit on. Well, there is the altar, but that is an objectively scary course of action. Even without Ricardo’s reaction, now that I know magic is a thing, I wouldn’t be surprised to suffer real divine punishment.

    Ricardo is inspecting the building; he cannot be very happy with the situation—the windows are ruined, and freezing cold is seeping in a constant challenge to our bodies. There aren’t enough materials to board up openings of that size, so they are both an environmental and a security issue, to the point that blocking the door almost feels like a waste of time, and perhaps it was. Perhaps we are just desperate to do something, anything, to feel that we are not just waiting for our deaths.

    “Javier.”

    “Hmm?”

    (BGM)

    His stern face has never been very expressive. The man is hard to read, but I know by now that it is not by choice.

    “Are you alright?”

    I almost laugh, but that would be too rude.

    “I don’t think anybody is alright, viejo.” I halfheartedly chuckle as we naturally switch to Spanish.

    Then I walk the length of the church, intent on making it to the parish house. It is about time to gather the others and get going—

    “Javier.”

    A more insistent call. I almost sigh loudly, but I guess I am about done with this shit.

    “I know what you want to say, alright? I’m not an idiot,” I spit out, and I realize I sound way too much like a tool. Gotta calm down.

    “So you knew about me beforehand. I get it. You weren’t just a good Samaritan offering a hand to a brat with no idea what to do. You had a reason to approach me of all people. To bring me here and keep me around.”

    I grind my molars together for a moment before I say the words I do not want to say.

    “To keep an eye on me.”

    Somehow…he looks smaller now. It feels unfair to think that, like, an irrational feeling of disappointment that has no reason to exist.

    “…that is true,” Ricardo admits. Of course he does. “I approached you in full awareness that you were the child that attended primary school alongside the Children of Villarrica. And I did so in the hopes of acquiring new information about them and their unwholesome plans.”

    A brief, half-hearted chuckle.

    “Not that I got any of that. You were a completely ordinary child, who lived a completely ordinary childhood as you remembered it.”

    Yeah, turns out I’ve been surrounded by magic freakiness my entire life. Those brats must have had a blast looking down on me.

    “The only thing I got was a pain in the ass with a wish for independence despite knowing not a thing of what that actually means.”

    Ah, you sure know how to hit where it hurts, you fucker.

    I sigh and the click my tongue, letting my weight rest on the doorframe to the passage leading out of the church building. I could just walk away right now, but we wouldn’t get anywhere like that, right? Don’t expect me to help you, though.

    Ricardo must see something in me, because he takes a tentative step forward, his gruff face a familiar mask of worry.

    “Javier…are you angry?”

    “Damn right I’m angry!”

    I have to say, I’m surprised by my own voice. I’m not a loud person.

    “I’m so stupidly angry, and I hate it! I hate being this angry! I hate that you lied to me, that you kept shit from me, that you…ghh, I just…I just, agh!”

    My hands lash out as if to swat an invisible fly.

    “I hate it. It’s so pointless to be mad at you for something like this.” Leaning back on the doorframe, I click my tongue in annoyance at myself and my childish feelings. “I know it doesn’t change anything, but I’m still pissed.”

    Ricardo says nothing, only closing the distance and standing on the opposite side of the door.

    “You know I hate owing things to people, but it’s not like I forget. I was a worthless piece of shit back then.”

    Well, it’s not like I’ve achieved anything of note since then; I’m just an aimless freelancer. However…

    “You are the one who straightened me up. Thanks to you, I became a man who can get a job, and travel the world. So it all started because you wanted something from me; that’s whatever. I’m angry at you, but that’s not gonna make me forget, old man. I’m not that much of a piece of shit, you know…!”

    I can tell the asshole is holding back a chuckle, so he just clasps his big hand on my shoulder.

    “That’s right,” he says. “You are a good lad, Javier. I’ve always known that.”

    “Don’t treat me like a child, you shitty old man…!” I spit out, sounding very much like the sixteen-years-old brat this priest found wandering aimlessly near the port of Valparaíso. “I can beat you now, you know…”

    Ricardo Scherer does not have a pretty laughter. It sounds more like the coughing of an old lion. His hand slapping my back after he all but pushes my head on his shoulder is just painful. This hug doesn’t feel good at all. And I’m not crying; it’s the fabric of his cheap-ass priestly garments. It triggers my allergies.


    *** ***




    (BGM)

    Everyone gather outside to say our goodbyes. I say “everyone”, but Mrs. Alicia Drake is absent for obvious reasons, and so are Marco and Maria. Oliver Drake and Father Scherer are the ones in charge of seeing us off. For all we know, for the last time. Sakura is trying out some stretches, but it cannot be easy to do so while wrapped in thick winter garments. Then again, she is an athlete unlike the rest of us.

    “Are you sure you are going to—”

    “It is really and truly alright, Fiore. I can do this,” says the Japanese woman, her soft voice as usual poorly matching her firm attitude. “I don’t want to stay still and do nothing. A lady of Edelfelt is not allowed to do that.”

    “Okay, so I don’t have to carry you if the going gets rough, got it,” Liria decides on the spot, scratching her cheek with a terrifying demon claw.

    “Don’t just go and abandon me before the fact!”

    My drifting attention centers on Oliver Drake when he closes in on me.

    “Look, to be honest…I don’t really know what you deal is, or how you are involved in this whole mess.” He starts with some uncertainty. “I mean, I can tell you have some connection with the person behind this; that freaky maid.”

    By ‘this’, he of course means the freezing, as his vague gestures indicate. But, yeah, I have to acknowledge that The Maid is my teacher, at least when it comes to these powers within me.

    “What I know is that you’re the one who got Alicia out of that ice. So don’t get yourself killed before I can buy you a drink at least.”

    I shake the offered hand—it is as clumsy as expected, with the two of us wearing thick gloves.

    “Just to make it clear, I met her after everything froze.”

    “Yeah, I guessed as much. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you were helping her with the whole freezing-the-world shit.”

    “Oooh, is this it? A manly moment?” A randomly excited Senta pops in from the side. “Can I join in the hug?”

    “There is no hug,” Oliver and I retort almost in unison, but Senta only grins.

    “There is now!”

    “Wha—the hell!?” Oliver is swift to complain when Senta’s unexpectedly strong arms pull us together into something neither manly nor a hug.

    “This isn’t a hug, you’re just groping us!”

    “Nah, nah, friendly hug~”

    “Aaah!”

    Oh no. It’s Senta’s new shadow.



    (BGM)

    “Me too!”

    “Nooooo! We can’t handle A+ Strength—gurk.”

    “My spine!” Oliver might actually die from this, you know! Alicia will become a widow!



    “The fuck you idiots doing…”

    Maria has emerged from the parish house, looking at us like reacting to a bad joke.

    “Dying…!” Oliver Drake has a way with words, even as his ribcage is being crushed.

    “We were having a moment,” Senta declares after letting go. Fortunately, the Servant does as her Master does.

    “Like hell we were!” The married man complains. “You’re just crazy!”

    Senta still grins, the man’s outrage being nothing to her. Oliver knows better than to stick around after this. As for me, apparently I may be a sucker for punishment.

    “You okay?” I ask of Maria, for even the likes of me can notice the swelling around her eyes.

    “Ah, don’t mind me,” Maria quickly replies, wearing a somewhat weak smile. “I just heard a bunch of nice things from Alicia.”

    “Huh.” Well excuse me for my poor reaction. Maria seems to find it amusing—she snorts and slaps my arm. Goddammit, that hurt.

    “Take care out there, Javier. I want you back here in one piece, got it?”

    To think I have some girl not even twenty worrying about me. What the hell, me.

    “Same to you, brat. I’m leaving the fort to you.”

    “Oh, you’re so getting it later,” she murmurs after I make a point of patting her head. Huh, her quieter voice is actually rather womanly, now that I think about it.

    “Nobody worries about good ol’ Senta,” mutters the pouty homunculus, apparently now the eternal fixture in the background.

    “I worry about you, Master.” Bless that hellhound. Almost killed me, but bless…him? Her? All the same.

    “Ah, and that’s why you’re the best, puppy.”

    “I’m not a—heheheheheh…” Very receptive to head pats, this hellhound. Unlike a certain other Servant who is now swatting my arm away and rolling her eyes.

    “Right, right; don’t get yourself killed, Nazi girl.”

    It is right there, in her tone of voice, that anybody call tell that Maria’s words do not have any bite.

    “No problem, blondie.”

    “Ow.” Again, I find myself slapped by a woman with stupid strength.

    “I’ll make sure to bring our boytoy here back safe and sound.”

    “Our?”

    “Boytoy?” Wait, Maria, why are you more bothered by the possessive pronoun?



    “Well aren’t you bozos in a good mood.”

    In all honesty, I think we are trying too hard to downplay the fact that we are all nervous as fuck.

    “Um! There’s gonna be meat! Probably!”

    …obviously, I do not speak for everybody. Perhaps dogs are optimistic by nature, even if they come from the netherworld.

    “We should get going,” suggests Assassin, and I have to agree. No point in dilly-dallying any further. If we really intend to go, let’s just go.

    “Yeah, let’s go.”

    We naturally assemble on opposite sides: the ones who depart and the ones staying behind.

    “Look after Father, Maria. He looks like that, but he’d be useless in a fight.”

    “You’ve gotten a big mouth, Javier,” retorts the priest whose lopsided grin makes him look like he is about to break somebody’s face.

    “Hmm.” Maria nods. “Nobody’s getting in here without my permission.”

    “Don’t forget that maybe-Marduk might have Presence Concealment,” Senta adds, apparently having regained her more serious mien.

    “…yeah. I’ll keep it in mind.”

    “Lord watch over you.”

    “I thought the Lord doesn’t care about filthy mages like me,” Sakura pointed out.

    “Or artificial lifeforms like me,” adds Senta.

    “Or demons like me,” quips Liria.

    “Or pagan ‘monsters’ like me,” reminds the Herald. I guess I could as some sort of pagan spirit medium, too, but I feel kinda sorry for Ricardo by this point, so I’ll keep my mouth shut.

    “I’m normal!” This is, of course, Fiore. “I renounced to the wicked ways of magecraft!”

    “And the Lord is very proud of you for that, Miss Forvedge,” responds Ricardo with the voice of one who just does not give a shit anymore.

    “Did you hear that, Sakura?” It is a very smug Fiore that now turns to the Japanese woman. “I’m going to Heaven.”

    “Already done that,” retorts Sakura of the gentle smile while turning away and making herself the first to get going. “Gone to heaven, I mean.”

    The boldness of the innuendo gets a blush from Maria, while Father Scherer just rubs his temples. Fiore, bless her soul, does not seem to quite get it, and neither does the Herald, which is probably a very good thing.

    “Oooh, I’m writing that one down.”

    “Shut up and get moving, Senta.”

    “Well aren’t you rude,” retorts the smirking Senta, slapping my already-way-too-punished back for good measure.

    However, even as we leave in something resembling good spirits, it seems the weather will not have any of that.


    *** ***


    Sheer cold (-30°C/-22°F)
    Snowfall

    (BGM)

    The only reason this walk is not as grueling is that we are traveling downhill. New snow is quickly covering the sludge created by the manifestation of the Divine Flame. Despite leaving after some lighthearted banter, we quickly fall into an uneasy silence. Everybody seems to have plenty in their minds—Liria, Sakura, Fiore, Senta, and the Herald of Fimbulwinter…wait.

    “When did I end up surrounded by women?”



    For that, I get a fourfold stare wordlessly yelling at me “You just noticed!?” Their faces are truly images portraying a thousand words.



    “I’m male, though.”

    Suddenly (and thankfully), all eyes are on the Herald.

    “Yeah…you still have to explain that,” points out Liria, who keeps constantly making sure she stands the furthest from the other Servant.

    “Indeed…” Fiore muses. “Anybody who looked at you would suspect you are the goddess Hel.”

    The Herald looks very pleased after hearing that.

    “Hehe, right?”

    She falls silent after that, her smile accompanied by a tilt of the head, wordlessly wondering why we are all staring at her instead of walking. Senta sighs.

    “Shielder, now’s when you tell us why you look like Hel.”

    “Ah! Right! Okay!”

    Well, she is a dog, after all.

    “I can’t quite stay in my true form all the time; my, um, Servant body—”

    “Saint Graph.”

    “Um, that. It can’t handle it,” Shielder finally explains, nodding at Senta’s interjection. “So I use the Transformation Skill to look like Master.”

    Somehow, there is a difference. The way she addresses Senta as “Master” is nothing like her use of that word just now.

    “Master is already long gone, and even if she were not, she would not be able to leave our home. So we come to this world in her stead.”

    Wait a second.

    “We?” Fiore inquires before I can.

    “Um. Níðhǫggr and me.”

    …yeah, I think I recognize that name.

    “Right, the dragon of Náströnd…” murmurs Fiore.

    “Wait,” Senta interjects one more time. “Puppy, are you implying that he is here? Níðhǫggr?”

    “Ah? No, no, I don’t think he is here,” denies the Herald. “I wouldn’t miss his scent.”

    That is the end of that little exchange, but it brings to my attention a similar issue.

    “On that matter, I still don’t know how you ended up like this, Liria,” I bring up. “I’m fairly confident you didn’t have a demon inside you fifteen years ago.”

    “Perceptive as ever, Javier,” retorts the short girl with no little sarcasm. “But there’s not much to say. Apparently, I have something that Maid called ‘the attribute of a High Priestess’. Like, I’m good at calling spirits and getting them inside me, which still sounds all kinds of wrong the second time I say it.”

    “It does, yes,” posits Sakura to my surprise. I guess that means…

    “So you already had this talk.”

    Sakura nods.

    “Yes. Remember the day before yesterday, the first time you tried to melt Missus Alicia’s ice prison? Maria and I were looking for Fiore to heal you. I also met Liria that day, and we ended up staying with Fiore in her apartment that night. We had plenty of time to talk about all sorts of things.”

    It is no wonder these three have had an obvious rapport this whole time.

    “Anyway, the Nazis showed up at my place one night, like a month or so ago. It was Rider…”

    She then glances towards Senta.

    “…and that ‘sister’ of yours. The one with the stupid huge tits.”

    “Ortrud. Like, an itty bit taller than you, has this gross ear-to-ear grin?”

    “That’s the one. And you have the same grin.”

    Senta truly and honestly looks like she is in utter shock.

    “Anyway, she showed up with Rider and a bunch of mooks, killed my mother and dragged me away kickin’ and screaming. The Maid then did some sort of ‘Servant summoning ritual’, and here I am.”

    She shrugs.

    “I don’t think she was really aiming for this, though. It was more of a ‘let’s just do the ritual and see what shows up’ kind of thing.”

    It is not just any person who can say something like that with a straight face. Perhaps noticing that very detail, Liria offers me a crooked smile.

    “Don’t worry about it; I mean, yeah, she was my mom and I cannot really approve of murder, but she was a real piece of shit. The world is really a better place without her. There’re plenty of reasons to hate the Nazis and that Maid bitch, but my mom’s death’s not one of them.”

    She walks ahead of us, neither quickly nor slowly. Looking at Sakura and Fiore, I get the feeling I still do not know the whole story. The first and last time I saw Liria Colhuán was fifteen years ago. Of her life after that day, I know nothing at all.

    What I know, however, is what Maria explained to me about Servants and how they are ‘normally’ summoned. About catalysts, and what happens when you lack the means to summon a specific one.

    What kind of person must you be, what kind of life must you have lived, to summon a demon as your Servant?

  7. #1367
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    Parish of Saint Aloysius de Gonzaga
    Day 04
    Evening Phase – 03
    Sheer cold (-30°C/-22°F)



    Oliver Drake quickly returns to his young wife’s side. Maria Westinghouse and Father Scherer, on the other hand, watch the slowly departing backs with matching solemnity. The girl’s eyes drift to the first snowflakes shyly falling down; a prelude of many more to come. Her supernaturally sharp hearing catches steps from behind her, their firmness betraying their source as one Marco Ahrens.



    The Nazi hunter walks to her opposite side, resulting in the girl flanked by two men noticeably taller than she is. Of course, this matter little when she has to power to snuff their lives in an instant, but the thought is too morbid and leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. Marco, too, gazes at the departing group, dark shapes gradually smaller as they walk downhill. Just like when he left to look for supplies with Oliver earlier, the larger group looks like a march of the damned. It brings words to his mind, which he then shares with a grave voice.

    “If a God can be called an invalid, who constructed a world in feverish ardor—”

    “—only soon to destroy it, with feverish shudders; is the World’s destiny none other than freezing or burning?”

    The men’s eyes fall on Maria with differing degrees of surprise.

    “Yeah, I know the quote,” says the girl, sounding bored. “Nikolaus Lenau, right?”

    “Consider me surprised, Maria,” replies Marco. “I did not think you with an interest in poetry.”

    “I’m not, and stop fucking around.” she retorts, finally turning her back to the wider world, intent in going back inside the parish house. “I read it in your book and you know it, Otto.”

    (BGM)

    Maria speaks again after she has stepped indoors, the two men following closely behind.

    “I guess I should stick to the rooftop, stand watch and stuff.”

    “That…might not be necessary, Miss Westinghouse,” counters the Jesuit priest. Marco clears his throat.

    “So you’re finally sharing your secret with us, Father?”

    Maria’s only show of interest is the rising of a single eyebrow. Father Scherer shakes his head.

    “You are overestimating me, Mr. Ahrens. It is certainly ESP, but it is nothing particularly impressive.”

    Aware that the other two are expecting him to say more, the priest frees one of his gloved hands and lets it rest on the nearest wall.

    “My sense of touch is highly sensitive to mechanical waves traveling along the ground.”

    “Vibrations,” summarizes Maria.

    “I’ve heard some people call it ‘tremorsense’,” says the priest. “Using my bare hands like this helps, but I can feel approaching footsteps through my own feet long before I hear them, even when I’m wearing shoes.”

    “Must be rough,” Maria muses. “Going anywhere like that.”

    “A little, but it is not that bad,” Father Scherer denies. “The range is only a few meters.”

    He explains further before Maria can question its usefulness in this situation.

    “The ability improves the longer I stay in one place, and, well, I have served God in this parish for many years.”

    Maria nods slowly.

    “So?” Marco interjects. “How far can you feel right now?”

    “Everything inside the parish house, the church, and the adjacent streets. I might reach the neighboring city blocks if I concentrate, but I normally do not do that, for obvious reasons.”

    Ricardo Scherer respects other people’s privacy.

    “So we only have to worry about a flying enemy,” points out Maria, and the priest nods. “Not that we’ve had any of those, except for Kammler’s Haunebu.”



    “Welcome back.” The soft, gentle voice of Alicia Drake welcomes the three as they reach the room where she rest, convalescent. An almost-full bowl of soup rests on her husband’s lap.

    “Soup?”

    “Yes,” Alicia responds to Maria’s single-word inquiry. “Miss Fiore asked to try and see if I can ingest it safely.”

    “And?”

    Alicia shrugs.

    “So far so good. Aaaaah~”

    Maria briefly chuckles at the scene of a young wife cheerily accepting her husband’s spoon-feeding. She sits on the other bed in that room, once occupied by Sakura.



    (BGM)

    “Marco, I have questions for ya.”

    “I thought I was ‘Otto’ now.”

    “Oh, spare me the bullshit for now. I bet you’re dying to share your amazing life story, but I have more important things to worry about.”

    Indeed, Maria’s face leaves no room for hijinks. She is large and in charge, and she is asking the questions. Alicia holds back a bout of giggles, instead offering Marco a look full of commiseration.

    “It’s about the Grail. The one that caused this,” Maria begins, gesturing to their cold surroundings. “First I thought it was
    die Glöcke
    the Bell
    , but you being here has made me change my mind. I’m guessing it’s your Grail?”

    “…yes,” admits the gruff-looking man with a nod. “The Maid’s Grail is the ‘treasure of the Cathars’.”

    “Hnn,” murmurs the youngest person in the room. “I mean, I guess it’s good to know the Nazis don’t have a working Bell here. But we still have to deal with the real thing instead.”

    “No, wait,” interjects Father Scherer. “What is this ‘treasure of the Cathars’, anyway? The Cathar heresy rejected this world and all worldly treasures. They worshipped neither saints nor relics.”

    “No, no, the ‘treasure’ is not something made by the Cathars themselves. I believe it is something much more ancient, that they found and decided to protect and keep hidden.”

    “…but you don’t know what it is,” points out Oliver Drake, the first to interpret Marco’s choice of words.

    “No. I only confirmed that it existed, and deciphered the clues that concealed its location. To my knowledge, the only ones who have seen the Cathar Grail in person are Sigrun…and your late grandfather, Maria.”

    Maria frowned.

    “Wait, what does grandpa have to do with anything?”

    Marco’s eyes widen. He trades glances with Alicia for a moment.

    “…your grandmother really didn’t tell you anything.”

    “Anything important, apparently!” retorts Maria, sounding a little miffed. Marco sighs and takes a moment to gather his thoughts.

    “There was a secret Grail War in the French Pyrenees in May 1944. The SS dispatched six Masters, had them summon six Servants and made them fight each other for the right to make a wish.”

    “Now that’s a sham if I’ve ever heard of one.”

    Marco nods.

    “Naturally, letting the winning Servant make a wish was never part of the plan. I do not know the details, but the real purpose of the ritual was to use the energy from the defeated Servants to excise the Cathar Grail in a safe manner from the ley line nexus to which it was attached. However, your grandfather sabotaged the ritual, somehow summoning a seventh Servant and winning the war.”

    “Hot damn, grandpa was a badass,” murmurs Maria to herself.

    “However, it didn’t change the final result. Sigrun defeated your grandfather’s Servant and claimed the Grail for herself. However, that happened on D-Day, so she and the Nazis had to retreat out of France, and by that point Himmler had no time nor resources to set up a proper ritual to use that thing as a wish-granter. It was never used until now, as far as I know.”

    Maria’s reply is a muted hum.

    “Your grandparents took advantage of the confusion during the liberation of France to get away from the Nazis and escape, first to the UK and then to the States.”

    “I see…I really didn’t know…”

    “But you know she had reasons to do that,” Alicia intervenes. “She could not fight by herself, but she was always working hard, helping those willing to fight. For the sake of her family, she withheld many dangerous secrets and remained hidden until the end of her life.”

    “Yeah…”

    It was a heavy, meaningful silence, in which the adults in the room allowed the young woman the time to think and come to terms with the knowledge and the secrets. With the fact that there was more to the woman who taught her magecraft; that there were things she took to the grave, unwilling—or rather, unable—to share them with her own flesh and blood.

    “So what’s this bell you keep mentioning?” Oliver inquires, but Marco quickly shakes his head.

    “That’s too long a story, with way too many details,” Marco says dismissively. “It’s not directly related to what’s happening here, so I’d rather not start rambling about Mount Shasta and Tiahuanaco.”

    “Fuck, you already said enough to give me a headache…” mutters Maria. “I thought The Maid was behind the Bell, too, but…”

    Marco almost sounds a little bit amused, maybe.

    “No, she did help at some point in the planning stages, but it was not her idea, and the prototype came from Guy Ballard, who supposedly got it from…hmm, yeah, let’s stop there.”

    “Thank you,” mumbles Maria with the voice of a student at the end of a morning of nonstop lectures. “Theosophy is Javier’s weird shit, not mine.”

    She sounds like she is a little ill just from having to think about all this.

    “So, if the Bell’s not here, then where is it? Was it even finished?”

    “You’re the one who raided the Vatican Archives, girl. You should know more about that than any of us.”

    “Ah, I dunno about that. The Soviets found signs of a research facility in the Wenceslas Mine, but no Bell. To be honest, I still can’t tell if the thing even exists.”

    “Can’t help you with that,” admits Marco, and the two specialists share a lame shrug.

    “So, I guess I might as well ask you how come you’re still around, and why you don’t look anything like in your photos.”

    Fortunately, Marco Ahrens had a swift answer for that.

    “How much do you know about the Brotherhood of Death, girl?”

    “Ah,” a surprisingly eloquent monosyllable. “Got it, man. No need to say anything else.”

    Oliver Drake and Ricardo Scherer, two men who are completely lost, can only share very similar glances with each other. Alicia Drake, who knows at least part of the story, can only reclaim her husband’s attention with a sweet-sounding “aaaaah~”


    *** ***






    (BGM)

    “Her Eminence, the High Priestess, Ornament of Heaven.”

    The alluring sounds of lutes and silver pipes on top of the steady, slow beat of a pair of drums come to a jarring halt, but she cares not for it.

    The Highest of Priestesses waits not for the announcement, and strides into the throne room and audience chamber ahead of the messenger. Her eyes are open, but they do not look only at her surroundings. Her nostrils take in the aroma of scented oils, of sweat and the luxury that is charcoal, but she cares not for such things. Her head does not need to turn; she does not need to look around. She knows every single person in the room: the elders from the great families and the representatives of the artisans, the scribes and the diviners, the advisors and the sycophants, even the royal guards hidden behind the drapes. She cares not for either of them. She cares not for their averting their gazes, not one of them able to look at her. She cares not for their awe, their fear, their distrust or their resentment. She cares not for the crimes nor the sins they know that she knows. She cares not for their wordless condemnation of her “insolence” for not giving due worship to their king and living god.



    She cares not even for the aforementioned living god, the one person following her every movement with the sharp eyes of a predator. Whether he is pondering an attack or expecting her attack is none of her concern. However, she can commend those eyes, for they are the eyes of a king that will not be brought low by petty plots, unlike a certain brother of hers.

    The only one who matters is the child.

    Many years earlier, the High Priestess did the proper devotions to communicate her wish to her divine spouse, and she received a positive response—because of course she did. The Moon God decided on his new bride.

    Her successor.

    The High Priestess stands in front of the child. Silent, severe, supernal. The girl can only see the older, taller woman’s feet. She can only allow herself to do that much. The High Priestess pays no attention when the king orders everybody else to leave. She only has eyes for the child she has met for one minute every year. The child has grown, naturally, more beautiful and knowledgeable with every passing cycle. However, she also remains the same: unable to raise her head. A pitiful little thing, trembling like the thinnest reed, more uneasy and frightened with every passing moment of silence. The priestess has known the child for years, yet the child has yet to meet her gaze.

    It appears then, that the result will be the same as in the previous five years.

    “…you are not yet ready,” she finally declares, spelling the end of a lapse of heavy silence. The king nods, acknowledging her judgment. With that, she makes to leave, turning her back to the child and taking the first steps to the entrance archway—

    “Wa-wait!”

    She stops, but does not turn around. She does not need to do so; she knows the child still holds her head low, both in her inability to meet her gaze and in her desire to hide her tears.

    “I, I am ready!” refutes the child, her voice probably the loudest it has every being, and definitely louder than anybody is allowed to speak in the king’s throne room. Loud enough to make the king, her father, raise an eyebrow.

    “I have memorized the lexical lists!” she declares. “I know all the words!”

    A major claim, that one.

    “I have memorized the temple hymns written by your own sacred hand! I know the names of the gods and their temples, and the meaning of the prayers!”

    An even bigger claim followed.

    “I know the words of divination!” she continues. “I can read the words of the gods in the sky and in all the parts of an animal! I can read the shapes of oil on water and the shapes of smoke!”

    “I can prepare the sacred waters and the offerings cherished by the gods! I know the words of exorcism, the words of healing, and the words of necromancy!”

    The girl sounds tired after that thorough listing of her education. Unfortunately for her, she is addressing the one person in the four quarters of the world who would not be impressed by such claims.

    “…yet,” softly, firmly, responds the High Priestess. “You are not ready.”

    Something like a whimper reaches the child’s eyes. What is it that keeps her from crying? Is it fear of her father’s disappointment? Is it fear of her disapproval? Is it her own pride as the royal princess? Or is it…?

    The High Priestess continues her elegant steps to exit the audience hall, intent on leaving the imperial capital and return to her temple for another year of waiting.

    “Wait, I said!”

    The pitter-patter of sandals on stone. The girl, dressed in white garments humble for her lofty station—a form of appeal to the High Priestess, perhaps?—places herself between the woman and the archway, blocking the way outside with spread arms and legs. It is a pointless gesture.

    “I am ready!” she insists loudly, desperately. Yet, such pathetic defiance is defiance nonetheless.

    “I must be!”

    The High Priestess blinks, and thus sees a new course for the immediate future.

    “…so, that is what your face looks like.”



    The child thus realizes that she has, in fact, looked up at the priestess in her urgency to stop and convince her. Her head quickly tilts back down, where it can only look at her feet, but the High Priestess is, of course, faster. The child feels calloused fingers take hold of her chin and push her head back up. She puts up no resistance. She is incapable of doing so.

    The priestess’ face shows nothing—at least nothing the child can see. The child shows her growing trepidation—the realization of her bout of rebellion in front of her father, the king. She is trembling, but neither apology nor supplication comes out of her mouth. She can only meet the priestess’ fathomless eyes with her own two pools of growing anguish.

    “…come with me,” murmurs the priestess, followed by a word of power. The child barely gets to gasp, before the wind engulfs her and the heat of the noon sun on high strikes her openly and without mercy.


    They stand atop the city walls, where they can see both the urban sprawl and the vast fields outside; the entire machine of civilization. From the canals that feed the crops and keep the animals alive, to the onager-pulled carts hauling grain to the temple, to the functionaries tallying the city’s production for its later distribution, to the markets where public officials and private entrepreneurs deliver the commodities of life to the city’s population.

    Mankind’s labor. Mankind’s struggle. Mankind’s achievements. Mankind’s pride. Atop these walls, the High Priestess can see the whole of humankind, and the world they are creating.

    A world to she no longer belongs.

    “How…how did you…?” murmurs the child, apparently still coming to terms with the spatial relocation. Naturally, the High Priestess would not expect a child so ignorant to be able to keep up. The watchmen some steps away are no less taken aback by their sudden appearance, but they know their place and keep their distance.

    “I believe you said you know all the words.”

    The child blushes in obvious shame. There is a gulf as vast as the Apsu between knowing the Word and tapping into its power.

    “Answer me, child: what is the World?”

    The child needs a moment to catch the words and then herself, but quickly falls into what must be a practiced routine, standing straight and with head held high to recite her answer.

    “The World is the scribing tablet of the gods, Your Holiness.”

    Even in their absence, the gods write messages to humanity using the universe as their tablet.

    “How do we ‘read’ the World, then?”

    “We do not. What one knows is not the World, but the Word.”

    The rules for understanding the Word are also the basis for the understanding of the World.

    “What is the Word, then?”

    “The foremost discipline of humanity. The tool given to us by the gods at the moment of the creation of all things, so that we can know everything.”

    The study of the Word is the purest of sciences. The foundational discipline that establishes the rules and possibilities for interpretation and action that can be used elsewhere.

    “Why is the Word greater than the World?”

    “Because the Word allows the wise one to see both the World and beyond the World. Because the World we see is a representation of the truth as written by the gods. Because the Word encompasses both the invisible and what can be seen. That which exists before our eyes and that which exists only through the Word.”

    The order of all things exists in the Word, and in the way in which the Word can be manipulated. It is not physical reality, but the Word, with its unlimited possibilities, that determines what is possible and what is worthy of attention. Such is the way, but how much longer?

    “You are excellent at reciting memorized words, child.”

    Again, the princess falters, and her face takes a mask of shame and dismay.

    “Those were just sounds coming out of your mouth. They have to mean everything to you, but they do not.”

    (BGM)

    The child might still not understand many things, but she has the proper senses, and immediately perceives the movement of invisible energies. Her bright eyes trace the shapes the priestess draws with her fingers—the Word being inscribed upon reality.

    In the distant future, the High Priestess has foreseen, man will engrave their own “systems” onto the World so they can communicate with it in a similar, albeit diminished, manner. On the other hand, the priestess has an entire pantheon of gods as her “system.” As a master of the Word, she does not “cast spells.” The gods, upon finding her inscribed Word right and proper, manifest it upon reality and thus realize her intent.


    And it is in this manner that midday becomes midnight, and the harsh light of Shamash gives way to the gentle presence of Sin and the twinkling of countless stars.

    Something half-gasp, half-shriek escapes the girl’s lips as she falls on her rump. Her eyes dart around, but as is natural, nobody else is reacting in like manner. After all, to everybody else, nothing has changed and it is still daylight that shines upon them.

    “Child.”

    She does not need to raise her voice. The child knows better than to ignore her, and promptly rises to her feet and stands at attention, struggling to keep her eyes on the High Priestess instead of marveling at the night sky above them.

    “What is the duty of the High Priestess?”

    “To act as the earthly spouse of the god—”

    “Wrong!”

    It is the last time she will raise her voice to anybody. The girl trembles, but manages to keep the tears inside.

    “The Word is everything. The duty of the High Priestess is to read it correctly and in all its aspects.”

    She raises a hand to the night sky pointing in the direction of a distant star, no different from any of the many others around it. The tip of the finger moves, and by doing so, it draws a silvery line in the sky, connecting that star to another one. Just like both children and astronomers draw imaginary lines in the sky to find constellations. However, what the priestess draws is a logogram—a cuneiform sign, one of the few even the most ignorant person would recognize at a glance: the symbol to represent the sky itself.


    “The Word is not merely the imitation of thought,” says the High Priestess, while still connecting stars in the sky. “It is not secondary to the presentation of knowledge.”

    A second symbol joins the first, and the child promptly reads the complete Sumerian word.



    Anbar
    The side of Heaven
    …?”

    As if in response to the girl’s voice, the star at the very center of the “sky” logogram shoots across the starlit heavens, only stopping when it is far closer to the western horizon. The sight dazzles and amazes the child, as it would anybody else bearing witness to it.

    “Everything is possible through the primacy of the Word. It is through the Word and its uncountable levels and nuances that we can create knowledge.”

    The hand not pointing towards the sky now points to the west, towards the star now out of place. Its fingers draw lines of light in imitation of the word written above.

    Anbar
    The side of Heaven
    again?”


    “Why are you reading it in the old language of the southerners, child? Neither the World nor the gods care if you use the language of our land and its people.”

    “Then…it’s supposed to read ‘
    parzillu
    iron
    ’—”


    The girl’s question becomes a shriek when the displaced star shoots towards the earth and strikes the nearby hills with a thunderous explosion and fearsome tremors that shake the world around them. While the girl crouches down and covers her ears, the High Priestess starts writing on the sky above, turning the second symbol into something a lot more complicated.


    “Look properly, child. It is by creating knowledge…”

    The child finds it in herself to turn her gaze to the heavens one more time, catching the word ‘
    Anbar
    muşlālu
    midday
    ’ written in the stars just before the High Priestess quickly brings down her arms, and daylight returns in all its harsh intensity.


    “…that we give shape to Reality.”

    Both priestess and child look at the smoke rising from the hills, and then at the people all around them, looking in the same direction. The High Priestess feels more than sees the king’s arrival to the city walls. Soon enough, an expedition will be assembled to collect the valuable star metal. That, however, is no longer her concern.

    “That, child, is the precious gift of the Word that the gods left for us.”

    The elderly—even if she does not look it—woman helps the child rise to her feet; the very child who has not yet realized she is looking straight at the priestess’ eyes.

    “Is that…is that even possible…?”

    For the first time since she arrived to the imperial capital, a smile appears on the face of the Highest of Priestesses.

    “Good. The senses can deceive, and observation alone is not enough for knowledge. That is why we read the World, and interpret it as a text written by the gods.”

    With a gentle but firm hold on the child’s shoulder, the priestess turns to meet the king as his unfailing smirk.



    “I take it I have to thank you for the gift of precious iron.”

    The priestess does not share his contentment.

    “Give your praises to the ever-present and ever-glorious Ishtar. And rejoice, nephew, for in front of you stands
    Enmenana
    the High Priestess, Diadem of Heaven
    .”


    Upon hearing a gasp, the now former High Priestess looks down at her successor, who does not seem to understand what she just heard.

    “You are ready now,” says the transcendent one, as if that explained everything.

    (BGM STOP)

    “Well, what can this one say?” quips the approaching king. “Lord Sin sure knows how to pick them.”

    The elder priestess steps aside to allow the father, who wears a serious expression for once, to address his daughter.

    “Well done—I guess it is ‘Your Holiness’ now. Be proud of yourself.”

    And then, the smirk is back.

    “I know I was the first time I was able to look at this one in the face.”

    The time of her life when she retorted to such an obvious taunt ended many years ago. Aware of this, the king bends his knees to his daughter’s eye level, resting his hands on her shoulders.

    “You have a lot of work ahead of you, and it will never be easy. But I know you can do it. A god chose you, so you have to be the best for the job.”

    “Y-Yes. I…I will not disappoint you, Father.”

    “It is not I who will judge you, my good child, but the moon god himself and the people of Ur.”

    The version of herself who would have compared this image of father and daughter with her own circumstances also died a long time ago. She is long past resentment or any other emotion on that matter. After all, her father would not have achieved half of the things he achieved had he been a man more like her nephew here.

    “And that is why you were not ready before today,” adds the venerable woman. “How could I present you to them if you could not even look at me in the face?”

    “Yes, I…I see that now. But now I know there are so many things I still do not understand! I cannot begin to imagine what I must do to use the Word like that!”

    The former High Priestess nods. She has always known that the girl is very smart, perhaps smarter than she was at her age. However, it takes more than intellect to be a High Priestess.

    “Good. The first step to achieving anything is acknowledging that you lack something.”

    (BGM)

    “So, answer my question: what is to know the World?”

    The girl quickly nods.

    “To wield the Word.”

    When the taller woman chuckles, both king and child are taken by surprise, for neither remembers ever hearing such a sound from her. The child cannot stop herself from blushing with the Highest of Priestesses ruffles her fair hair—a display of affection as rare as the chortle escaping her lips.

    “Child, to know the World is to love it.”

    The people around them are getting over the surprise of the meteor impact. Some of them return to their labor, some of them act to escape from the harsh midday sun, and some of them become very aware of the very important people standing on the city’s wall. The retired priestess cares not for any of that. Or rather, she cares for everything, so she cannot allow herself to stop to regard every single person.

    “To love the World is to rule it.”

    With her transcendental power, she is an abnormality. As expected of her father’s daughter. From Ishtar, she learned the fundamental fact she just pronounced, and for that, she will forever be grateful.

    “To rule the World is to overcome it.”

    However, as a human, she has that which Ishtar lacks, and therefore it was inevitable that she would eventually leave even Ishtar behind.

    “To overcome the World is to leave it behind.”

    At this, her nephew reacts with a frown. He is too smart for his own good. It will not take him long to realize that she will not return to the city of the moon god with his daughter. That by retiring from the position of High Priestess, she is also retiring from this world altogether.

    “It is as simple as that. I have walked this path all these years. And now, at the end of this path, I have become mightier than any human, and freer than any god.


    *** ***


    Club Alemán, Salvador Donoso 1337, Valparaíso (Rooftop)
    Sheer cold (-30°C/-22°F)
    Snowfall



    (BGM)

    “Hmm,” is the sound that comes out of her lips after she opens her eyes. She rests on the cold, hard ceiling of her chosen dining venue, unbothered by the weather or the poor choice of bedding.

    It is unusual, to dream in her current form. What brought it upon? Why now of all times? What is her human subconscious trying to tell her? If anything, it was a reminder.

    “Yes, that is precisely why I am here, right now.”

    Humans and gods have the privilege and the shared duty to give a proper direction to the World, and that is exactly what she is doing. Nothing else than fulfilling her obligation as an intelligent denizen of this planet. However, a dream of her distant lifetime, of the original, true form of herself…it must carry a meaning. Both the context and the authors in that scene. Her successor performed her duties in a society very different from the one she had to deal with. It may sound petty, but Enmenana had it a lot easier, achieved nothing of note, and her name disappeared in the mists of time. As for her most exalted nephew…



    “In other words, she was nothing like you.”


    “It is also why you will lose.”

    “I know. I understand that all too well, Naram-Sin,” she murmurs to nobody, just in time to stop herself as she perceives a familiar presence. She is already on her feet when the other Servant lands on the rooftop, mere steps in front of her.

    “I will commend the fact you did not attempt to snipe me in my sleep,” she says instead of a greeting.



    The mountain of a man says nothing, presenting a serene mien contrasting too starkly with his intimidating appearance. Of course, she has no reason to fear him, even if he looks like he could break her body with a single hand.

    “Hmm. How long can you keep at it, sage king? Torturing yourself with that pointless pretension? Or is it that you are merely bored?”

    “It is true that I have nothing left to do,” responds the large man, not deigning himself to respond to the woman’s taunts. “My only worthy rival is already gone.”

    “I see. So you did have that kind of agreement with Lancer,” ponders The Maid. “What about Saver, though? She is not aiming for the throne of the new world, yes, but can you claim she is not a worthy opponent?”

    “That one is no warrior. Just a rampaging demon.”

    The Maid needs a moment to respond to the words of blunt dismissal.

    “Hmm. Is that so.”

    Archer does catch the nuance in those last words, or rather the conspicuous lack of it. A flat voice, almost robotic in its lack of intonation, yet for that very reason all the more eloquent. Could it be that he touched a hidden nerve?

    “In any case,” continues the woman. “I am grateful for your decision to come. I am waiting for a few others, but it is nonetheless good to know we will be at least three people at the table tonight.”

    “There is somebody else already here,” states Archer.

    “A child I brought, yes, but that one is not in the best condition to be an engaging conversation partner—”

    They both catch themselves upon feeling the unmistakable presence of approaching Servants. Being clairvoyants the two of them, both Archer and The Maid see further than that.

    “…Assassin and the Hel hound,” correctly identifies the male Servant. The Maid replies with some sort of hum.

    “It appears the girl who accepted the Dancer is not with them. A shame…oh, and neither is Otto. I am truly disliked by that doll, after all.”

    The Maid then begins the walk back inside the building she has already prepared for the evening’s event.

    “Everything is already in place so go ahead and make yourself comfortable, Archer. The servants will tend to your needs.”

    Archer does not bother asking about these “servants.”

    “What are you going to do?”

    “It would not do to be a poor host, so I will welcome my guests at the entrance hall as is proper…after I change to garments more suitable for the occasion.”

    “Wait,” demands Archer before The Maid can disappear inside the building. He is left staring at the exposed back of the woman who does not bother to face him.

    “Answer me, woman: do you really intend to create a new world?”

    The Maid tilts her head a little.

    “I do not lie, Your Majesty. If nothing gets in the way of the ritual, the world will be changed.”

    The tall Servant is then alone, body taut as if restraining himself.

    “…vile woman, you did not answer my question,” he murmurs to the snowflakes caressing his powerful form.

    Indeed, wording is, and has always been, very important. And that woman happens to be a master of the word.


    *** ***


    Aníbal Pinto Street, Valparaíso
    Sheer cold (-30°C/-22°F)
    Snowfall



    (BGM)



    “In the tale of Tristan and Isolde, there is more than one Isolde.”

    “Javier?”

    I almost jump on the spot, but manage to keep a straight face when I look at Sakura who at some point took the spot to my left.



    “You’ve been lost in your thoughts for a while. Is something wrong?”

    “We turn right at the next corner!” I catch Liria calling out to the homunculus and Servant walking ahead of us.

    “I know!” barks back Senta. “Quit trying to flex your Chileanness, it’s lame!”

    “What the…” is Liria mumbling response at that most absurd criticism.

    “Well…” I start, not minding the shenanigans ahead. “I can’t get Lily’s words out of my mind. ‘In the tale of Tristan and Isolde, there is more than one Isolde.’ Even if Senta is right, and there aren’t two people called Isolde—I mean, those were Lily’s last words to me. They have to mean something.”



    “Isolde the Fair and Isolde of the White Hands…” murmurs Fiore next to Sakura. “One was the world’s greatest healer and Tristan’s true love. The other a jealous wife, mortified by the fact she could never replace the Isolde in her husband’s heart…”

    “Um, Fiore?” I carefully call out to the women seemingly now even more immersed in thought than myself.

    “Shh,” Sakura scolds me with a gentle tone. “She is in thinking mode.”

    “No, no, it is nothing like that,” denies Fiore. “Or rather, there is no point in letting my mind wander on this issue. If you believe it is that important, we might as well pick that Maid’s mind for more information. No doubt she knows more than we do.”

    We turn to the right on the corner of Aníbal Pinto onto O’Higgins, a street just as narrow, framed by trees now frozen to death, still dotted with unnatural blocks of ice, each of them trapping a living being. I had not yet stopped to think this, but it is not only humans who have become prisoners. I can see a group of three dogs, probably strays, sharing a single icy prison. They were probably already thin before, but their imprisonment has reduced them to skin and bones, just like most of the people. What makes some people last longer than others? Is it simply a function of physical health? Whatever the case, it is gut wrenching to watch.

    Our silence allows us to listen to the conversation ahead of us…unfortunately.



    “So, puppy…you’re a male.”

    “Hmm? Yeah,” quickly replies the Herald, seemingly confused by what it (he?) probably deems to be obvious. Well, yeah, nothing in Norse Mythology suggests that Garmr could be a female, to my admittedly limited understanding.

    “So, um…I mean, you are using Hel’s appearance, so…what’ve you got down there?”

    “Down there?” repeats the still-confused hound, looking down at its feet. “I’m wearing shoes. I don’t need them in my true form, but they are more comfortable for this body.”

    “No, no, not your feet,” corrects the girl who wants to facepalm. “I mean your reproductive organs.”

    “Hmm?” The hound nods, having no sense of shame the way humans do. “This is my Master’s body, so it’s all female…?”

    Ah, I see how it is. Garmr is a dog, after all. Furthermore, he was a unique being; he did not have a mate in Norse Mythology. Thus, he has no sexual inclinations whatsoever. He identifies as a male dog, but he probably has never put an iota of thought into the matter of his role in the act of reproduction, or even on the gender of a hypothetical partner.

    “Huh…I see, I see, hmm…” mutters a thoughtful Senta—or is it disappointment I hear in her voice? “B-But, that’s a transformation, right? I mean, it’s not your real form, right?”

    “Yeah…?” By now, the poor dog must be very worried for his Master who keeps asking him stupid questions with obvious answers.

    “So, so, that means you could use that Skill to grow a di—OW!”



    “Alright, I’ve heard enough stupid shit from you,” declares Liria while pulling back the huge demonic hand that karate-chopped Senta’s head.

    “It’s not stupid! It’s a scientific pursuit—ow!”

    “Knock it off, you horny brat. I thought the one with the gag boobs was supposed to be the slutty one.”

    Senta reels back as if physically struck.

    “Oh shit. Oh shit-oh shit-oh shit-ohshit-oh Scheisse. I’m becoming Ortrud. I’m becoming fucking Ortrud.”

    Wow, she actually looks mortified by the possibility.

    “Wha-what the hell’s wrong with me? I’m supposed to be the superior model! But, now I have these—these thoughts, these urges! It’s like something broke inside me!”

    Quickly she spins around and points a long finger at me.

    “I’m blaming you for this, Javier!”

    “Why!?”

    “It’s your fault for not killing me when you had the chance! I should be dead and at peace!”

    “Are you asking me to fix that!?”

    “Stuff it, you two,” insists Liria, who might not be in the best of moods. “We’re almost there.”

    Indeed, from here I can already see the vast white shape of the three-story “Ross Mansion” housing the German Club. Well, almost everything looks a bit whitish in this weather. However…

    “…I guess we should be careful.”

    “Right,” Liria agrees. “Can’t dismiss the possibility of a trap.”

    Thus, we take to the sidewalk, sticking close to the buildings to reduce the possible angles of attack. Of course, in the end we can only trust the two Servants on our side. It is a little unnerving because the entrance to that building is not on this side, so we spend some time circling it on our way to Salvador Donoso Street.


    It is a famous building, this one. Some wealthy family built it back in the 1800s before it became the quarters of the German Club. It is right there in the name: it is a club originally founded by German residents to engage in all the fun stuff people did in the nineteenth century. Like, dunno, talking about books, or being racist. It was this club that welcomed and hailed Maximillian von Spee after the Battle of Coronel. I think there is a portrait of the guy in there.

    The building is supposedly in the “eclectic style, with neoclassical elements,” whatever the fuck that means. What I know is that the lights are on, and that is unusual.

    “Puppy, what can you sniff?” Senta, for all her vices and quirks, is in fact a smart woman.

    “It smells great in there, Master! Meat!”

    …well, that is good to know, I guess.

    “Damn it, puppy, I need you to focus!” hisses the Master of Shielder. “Tell us who’s in there.”

    “Hmm…” The smiling hound needs a bit longer this time, probably to sift through the delectable scent of beloved meat to find what his Master is asking for. “There is the bright goddess, and there is…ah, that’s Archer.”

    Uneasy glances are exchanged. Nobody knows much about Archer, but we all know that he is strong.

    “There’s a third person there; not a Servant. It’s…the scent of a female. But there’s also…it’s very faint, but she smells of dried blood and…smoke, yes.”

    Again, we look at each other, but that description does not really tell us anything beyond a gender. I look at Senta, who seems to be mulling over it for longer than the rest of us.

    “…hmm. I see. Thank you, puppy. Good job.”

    “Heheh, I got praised~”

    It is both endearing and a little pitiful to see this Servant so easily satisfied by that.

    “So? We going in?” Liria asks me. Why are you asking me? There are a whole bunch of women around you. Don’t you women always stick together? Girl power and all that? By the way, why is it that the retired mage is the one who looks the most composed and calm? Do you know something we don’t, Fiore?

    Anyway, we can’t make the trip all the way here and just turn tail at the door. If it is indeed a trap, then we will have to do our darnedest to get out of that building in one piece, but…

    “I’ll take the front,” I declare. “I am fairly confident she does not want to kill me.”

    “…right,” Liria agrees, although she does not seem to be pleased by it.


    *** ***


    Club Alemán, Salvador Donoso 1337, Valparaíso
    Temperate (25°C/77°F)

    Warm! Too warm! Winter clothes off!

    We are already way beyond decorum—Sakura, Fiore and I rush to get rid of the extra clothes without care or shame. Liria, Senta and the Herald…are not looking at us?

    “An unconventional ritual, but understandable. Make yourselves comfortable, youngsters.”


    Spoiler:
    (BGM)

    …she is…well, I have always known she is beautiful, to be honest. I shouldn’t be surprised. Senta is tense, and the Herald is probably tense because Senta is tense. Liria has already planted herself in between The Maid and the rest of us. Fiore for some reason accelerates her disrobing, while Sakura does the very opposite. What goes in those women’s minds is anybody’s guess.

    It is perhaps to be expected, but there is no attack. The Maid (not wearing a fetish uniform this time, though) does not take advantage of the moment to strike us down. She waits, and only stands up from her seat when everybody is freed from their winter clothes and facing her properly.

    “Allow this one to express her gratitude for accepting the invitation. I shall strive to make it worth your time.”

    She brings her hands together in what some would deem a gesture of prayer, while others would compare her with the evil millionaire from The Simpsons, Mr. Burns.

    “With that said, please follow me. We will use the Hamburg Hall tonight.”

    That last sentence is probably addressed to Liria and myself, the locals more likely to know there are several banquet and meeting halls in this building. Not that it means anything to me—this is my first time in here. We are all looking around like country bumpkins, but it is likely we have similar ideas in our heads (except perhaps the Herald, who is sniffing the air with a blissful expression). What I can tell is that the only obvious way to flee this building is by rethreading this same path back to the front door. I guess the alternative would be jumping out of the windows.

    Sakura and Fiore are mumbling to each other. Maybe they have some sort of plan to interrogate The Maid. With no offense to Sakura, Fiore seems by far the more intellectual of the two, so it is likely she will take point on the questioning.

    What I do not see inside this building are ice prisons. Was the building completely unoccupied when the city froze? That seems highly unlikely.

    We reach the double wooden doors of the Hamburg Hall quickly enough, and we follow The Maid into the dinner venue proper.


    “…did somebody get married?” murmurs Sakura. In spite of the distance, The Maid catches the words and half-chuckles.

    “We did not have these kinds of paraphernalia in my era, but I became rather fond of glassware in my time in Germany. I apologize if it seems too ostentatious; I did refrain from hanging the swastika banner on the walls, as it was custom back then. I did not think everybody would find it agreeable.”

    “My, how thoughtful of ya—geh,” Senta comments with no little sarcasm before coming to a halt next to me. Her eyes are already on the other attendees, more precisely on a person unfamiliar to the rest of us. It is not hard to assume this is another of Senta’s “sisters”, if only because of the uniform.

    “Something’s not right,” mutters Senta between her teeth. I do not know what the deal is, but I find it hard to care, because my eyes inevitable rest on the person—no, the Man at the head of the table, right in front of us.



    So this is Servant Archer. Holy fucking shit.

    It is not just the size, or the muscles, or the grayish skin color. It is an intangible sense of presence—rather than something he has, something I find myself lacking and thus urges me to feel nervous around this man. This is a guy that makes you feel he could get away with anything, because who the hell is gonna stop him?

    Hell, that Wiligut or whatever guy was a puny Chihuahua compared to this guy! Why is this…this Man working for the Fourth Reich? Those Nazis should be begging for the privilege of kissing the ground on which he stands! How could the Nazis even dream of having any sort of authority over this Man?

    Archer sips red wine on a seat that can barely contain him. It would be a little comical, but I’ll be damned if I so much as break out a smile in front of this guy. His head barely turns to acknowledge our presence, if only for a moment. It is enough to drown in my own cold sweat. It is the Herald all over again.

    Scary.

    Scary.

    This Servant is terrifying. Why the hell are any of us still here? Are we really expected to sit down and have dinner with this guy!? Senta is completely ignoring him and walking over to her sister—how the hell can she do that!? At least Sakura and Fiore seem to share my sense of tension, while Liria…ah, right, Senta and Liria probably already know him.

    “Hi, Archer!”

    What the hell’s with this dooooooooog!?

    The Servant, who seems to appreciate his drink, places his glass on the table to regard the Herald of Fimbulwinter.

    “You look healthier, Hel-hound.”

    “Ahaha, yeah, you almost got me back there…” admits the Herald in a light voice. “Master guessed you have some sort of ‘Monster Slayer’ Skill. But I still think I could beat you.”

    Archer grunts. What the hell is this? This…feeling I’m getting from him right now…his face remains impassive, but…

    “So? What’s wrong with you?”

    Senta with crossed arms stands next to the other woman, who looks like she is about to slump on the dining table. I cannot tell if she is angry or depressed, but the foul mood she is emanating like miasma is in plain sight.

    “That’s the first thing you have to say? The hell’s wrong with you?” Her voice is throaty like Senta’s, but this one is closer to “chain smoker” than to anything else. Is that her actual voice, or is she having a bad day?

    “No, no, I asked first. I mean, you’re not trying to get into Archer’s pants, so something’s gotta be wrong.”

    “Just what do you take me for in that brain of yours? Leave me alone.”

    Senta looks down at (I presume) her sister, clearly unsatisfied by the short exchange. Sighing to herself, she moves to claim the seat to the right of the other uniformed woman, who immediately protests against the action.

    “The hell are you doing, Senta? You’re being an annoyance.”

    “I can sit wherever the fuck I want,” Senta retorts, before pausing and turning towards The Maid. “Right, Mother?”

    “Of course, my child,” says a Maid that looks a little too pleased by Senta’s choice of address. The Herald is already moving to sit next to his Master when The Maid raises her hands in a halting gesture.

    “I have
    divined
    calculated
    that only one more person will come, so…”

    They appear out of nowhere and in an instant. The two who arrived before us are the only ones not startled.
    '
    The Servants of Heaven
    Male and female effigies, all of them of outstanding beauty, yet made not of flesh, but of lightstuff. Indeed, they do as servants of a manor, or the employees of a restaurant, quickly removing the chairs and cutlery The Maid has deemed no longer necessary. The long table was in fact made of several smaller ones placed in a row, so it is also trivial to remove unnecessary parts. In less than an minute, a long table meant to welcome more than twice as many people has been reduced to a “cozier” space for one hostess and nine attendants. Considering his place at the head of table, I guess that makes Archer the guest of honor?

    “Sakura, please stop admiring the light constructs,” I catch Liria muttering in front of me.

    “What?” more whispering. “You have to admit they are pretty.”

    “I am very confident you are not admiring them through the eyes of a mage,” Fiore quips, and Sakura pointedly avoids the former mage’s side-glance, only to meet Liria’s ‘disappointed mom’ face.

    That exchange comes to a halt when The Maid claps exactly twice.

    “Please, do take a seat.”

    …right, we are supposed to do that.


    …urgh. I may have lost my appetite, after all.


    Seating Arrangements
    Decide where Javier, Liria, Fiore and Sakura will sit. This will decide the content of “small talk” around the table before and in parallel to the main stream of conversation involving The Maid.

    Game Master’s Advice: It might be hard to remember at times, but Javier Lucero is, in fact, the main character. It should not need to be said, but his position at this table is of paramount importance, especially if you are aiming for…let’s say, specific elements in the ending.


  8. #1368
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Bird of Hermes's Avatar
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    Ok, there is so much to talk about with the maid, lancer and archer but for now here is my thought process in regards to seating arrangement:

    1) - Archer is a powerhouse and if things get hairy, Shielder may need some assistance in taking him down so it will need someone combat capable to assist. (Basically not Fiore, my suggestion to all of you is either Liria or Sakura. Not Javier as he seems kinda intimidated to say the least.)

    2)- Senta is in the midst of a... conversation with Ortrud. She'll need someone to talk to who isn't Shielder (mainly because if she does try to run off and bang shielder, that's poor party behaviour and not an incident that is remembered fondly by others. No i am just not saying this because I have been to this party.) Liria seems to be taking position of stopping Senta being Horny on Main so she'll need to be close to this position.

    3)- The least important position in my opinion.

    4/5)- Right next to our primary antagonist. Thematically, I think Liria or Javier should take these as they have the strongest connection to her and it just makes sense thematically. I kinda want to leave the other empty for the sake of Drama when the last person comes in.
    One of the empty slots will be taken up by the latecomer, my guess is either Diego, Maria 2, whomstever is piloting Seigi, Berserker or elizabeth.
    The trio of Fiore, Liria and Sakura are close and i don't want to split.
    That said if you want javier to be paired with Liria or Senta then he'll probably need to be right near them so go ham.

    Regardless here is my thoughts for now, I may change my mind depending on others suggestions:

    1- Sakura
    2- Fiore
    3- Liria
    4- Javier
    5- Blank

  9. #1369
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    1 - Fiore.
    2 - Sakura.
    3 - Galahad [Blank].
    4 - Javier.
    5 - Liria.
    My fanfics:
    The Gift (F/SN): The last duel between Cú Chulainn and Scáthach.
    Passion Acknowledged (F/SN): Shinji X Shirou lemon
    He Was a Good King (F/SN): Was Beowulf a good king?
    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death (F/SN): A meeting between Scáthach and King Hassan.
    Palingenetic Descension (Tsukihime): The origin of the Tohno family's hybrid nature.

  10. #1370
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    Quite impressively, at least two of the BGMs in the Maid's dream lined up with how it took me to read their sections. That had to be satisfying to line up.

    1) Fiore
    3) Liria
    4) Javier
    5) Sakura
    Supports:


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

  11. #1371
    love warrior <3 world-0 the god of world-0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bird of Hermes View Post
    Ok, there is so much to talk about with the maid, lancer and archer but for now here is my thought process in regards to seating arrangement:

    1) - Archer is a powerhouse and if things get hairy, Shielder may need some assistance in taking him down so it will need someone combat capable to assist. (Basically not Fiore, my suggestion to all of you is either Liria or Sakura. Not Javier as he seems kinda intimidated to say the least.)

    2)- Senta is in the midst of a... conversation with Ortrud. She'll need someone to talk to who isn't Shielder (mainly because if she does try to run off and bang shielder, that's poor party behaviour and not an incident that is remembered fondly by others. No i am just not saying this because I have been to this party.) Liria seems to be taking position of stopping Senta being Horny on Main so she'll need to be close to this position.

    3)- The least important position in my opinion.

    4/5)- Right next to our primary antagonist. Thematically, I think Liria or Javier should take these as they have the strongest connection to her and it just makes sense thematically. I kinda want to leave the other empty for the sake of Drama when the last person comes in.
    One of the empty slots will be taken up by the latecomer, my guess is either Diego, Maria 2, whomstever is piloting Seigi, Berserker or elizabeth.
    The trio of Fiore, Liria and Sakura are close and i don't want to split.
    That said if you want javier to be paired with Liria or Senta then he'll probably need to be right near them so go ham.

    Regardless here is my thoughts for now, I may change my mind depending on others suggestions:

    1- Sakura
    2- Fiore
    3- Liria
    4- Javier
    5- Blank
    +1 to this


    here is a list of my servant sheets(new and improved format for my servant sheets)

    Come explore the White Library, and reach the bottom of this Abyss
    Fate / White Memoria

  12. #1372
    +1 to Hermes. Javier has been left out of the events for some time now, spending some "quality time" with his horrible teacher may allow him to get some information about what's happening, or maybe some advices on how to not make himself a total fuck-up. And I'm nearly certain the last guest will be Caster, which means it's an excellent opportunity to hook Javier with them. '_'

  13. #1373
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Bird of Hermes's Avatar
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    Alright if things go sideways it’s not my fault ok

  14. #1374
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Oh, you sweet summer child! *Of course* it will be your bloody fault. In the absence of a Frenchman, an Englishman is fine, too makes for the perfect scapegoat. :-P
    My fanfics:
    The Gift (F/SN): The last duel between Cú Chulainn and Scáthach.
    Passion Acknowledged (F/SN): Shinji X Shirou lemon
    He Was a Good King (F/SN): Was Beowulf a good king?
    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death (F/SN): A meeting between Scáthach and King Hassan.
    Palingenetic Descension (Tsukihime): The origin of the Tohno family's hybrid nature.

  15. #1375
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    Beyond Their Sight – 09

    Cabañas Punta Osas, Jorge Montt 12019, Viña del Mar, Chile
    Day 04 of Fimbulwinter
    Evening
    Temperate (11°C/51.5°F)
    Lightning storm




    (BGM)

    Binoculars do nothing, and she might go blind if lightning flashes right in front of her eyes, so she pulls them away. Standing alone at the edge of the outcropping, as close to the sea as one could be without outright jumping in, she makes for a beautiful effigy of strength and severity. The disquiet ocean sprays foam on her broad posture, resembling more a pulp adventurer than a lithe Aphrodite. Her nose smells both ozone and salt, and an unrestrained wind plays roughly with her loose hair, her signature ring curls long undone by their ministrations.

    The European Tag Team Wrestling Champion is, as expected, an exemplar of athleticism, a perfect amalgam of body sculpting and womanly charm. Furthermore, she is a mage, a scholar and a huntress, the cultivation of her mind in no way second to that of her body. The reputation of her family notwithstanding, right here, in this moment, she projects the image of an exemplary mage—no, an exemplary human being.

    It says a lot about Luviagelita Edelfelt, then, that she needs to be worried out of her mind to give the image of a great person.

    “Luvia.”

    Unexpectedly, it is not the voice of a stranger. That is the sole reason it pulls her out of her thoughts.

    “Shirou—”

    Her voice is drowned by the roar of thunder, like a chorus of lions right by her ears. Crisscrossing lines drawn by nature’s unsteady hand streak across the grey sky like a scene of the end times. Nobody in their right mind would choose to stay outside in this cacophony, but Luviagelita Edelfelt is not in her right mind at the moment, so she dismisses the wrath of nature all around her to regard the two approaching them. One of them an acquaintance—no, a friend—of many years by now. The other a complete stranger, and a rather unimpressive one to her overly honest mind.



    Even if Emiya Shirou—she knows she has to call him Tohsaka in the presence of other mages, but her mind refuses to do that on principle—is a welcome presence in these trying circumstances, he remains an unexpected factor that she must nonetheless take into consideration.

    “The Association did not send you,” she says. It is not a question.

    “Of course not,” responds the Japanese spellcaster, sounding like she just said a joke in poor taste. There are few men on this planet Luvia is not confident she could take out in a purely physical match, and Tohsaka Rin’s “apprentice” is one of them. To her, a professional athlete, Emiya Shirou’s anatomy is an object of admiration.

    “Rin did not send you, either.”

    “No, Rin doesn’t know I’m here,” Shirou admits.

    Therein lies the problem. The Association is doing its darnedest to keep the matter contained. There are many mages out there who would be very interested in taking a look at what is happening here, and the Association is striving to curb those impulses, and limit the amount of people in the vicinity of ground zero.

    “So?” Luvia insists, her fierce eyes settling on the teenage girl, as if trying to pull out the answers out of her eyes. The girl, not quite intimidated, makes a wry expression.

    “Hey, please don’t give me that look; I’d rather not be here, either.”

    “Right, introductions—”

    It is Shirou’s turn to be interrupted by a threnody of thunder.


    “…Luvia, this is Lestari Elliwyn.”

    “Hello,” is the younger girl’s curt greeting.

    “…the ‘Electronic Gremlin’, I see.”

    “Where in tarnation do those names keep coming from!?” Lestari hisses at her companion while wincing at Luvia’s powerful handshake. Shirou can only shrug. He never cared much for Clock Tower gossip, and far less so now, that he no longer attends lectures. Besides, Lily’s girl is probably behind at least half of them, anyway.

    “I was not aware you were acquainted,” Luvia points out, throwing a pointed glance at the sole male. Shirou scowls.

    “Whatever you are thinking, stop it. We met through a common acquaintance, and it is because of that person that we are here.”

    The fruit of years of acquaintanceship is that Luvia can make more of Shirou’s intonation than even he expects. Her intuition surprises her this time.

    “You mean,” she says, turning her gaze westward. “That you also have somebody in there…?”

    Shirou nods. “Probably, yeah.”


    “The guy from Policies told me you were here,” he adds while vaguely gesturing inland. “So I guess Sakura ended up in there somehow.”

    “Surprised that piece of bureaucratic bullcrap did not give you any trouble.”

    “Hey, be nice to the man. He is under a lot of stress right now.”

    A grunt of irritation from Luvia, who now cannot take her eyes from the storm acting as an unsurpassable wall, isolating Valparaíso from the rest of the world.

    “What do you two know?” she asks, with a voice that makes clear she will not accept “nothing” for an answer.

    “Not enough. Not nearly enough at all. This might be the first time I lament my lack of theoretical knowledge.”

    “I probably know even less than you, so I still don’t know why I’m here,” quips Lestari, gesturing towards the wall of stormy clouds. “What I know is that there is no going in there, that’s for sure.”

    The words make Luvia grit her teeth. She knows all too well—to try to brave that barrier is a fool’s ordeal. It would only get her killed, and it would not help Sakura in any way.

    “If there is a way to break that, it must be from within,” Shirou agrees. “My bullet definitely can’t do a thing about that.”

    “That’s a terrible joke, Shirou.”

    “…Luvia, how’s the local response?” then inquires the man, barely sparing a glance to his traveling companion.

    “What do you think? The Association has no idea what’s going on; what makes you think the Chilean government is faring any better? Right now they’re working with some bull story of simultaneous atmospheric and volcanic activity, but there’s no realistic way to hide that,” explains the blonde mage, gesturing towards the gigantic weather structure to the west. “The people here are scared, but most of them still haven’t evacuated. They do not trust the government to take care of them in whatever shelters they’d end up, and who can blame them? This country can’t relocate hundreds of thousands of people in four days. It’s impossible.”

    Shirou sighs. The scale is too large for him. Perhaps Rin was right and he never would have made it as a politician.

    “At least the President had the decency to declare a state of national emergency. Nobody is saying it, but I think everybody in this country is preparing for many dead. And I mean a lot. There is no way that city is getting out of that,” Luvia finishes, once again gesturing at the obvious feature in the sky. “With only a slap on the wrist.”

    “What did you hear in London before coming here?” she then asks Shirou. “I was the first to make it here, and I was surprised when I saw the Association only brought people from Policies.”

    “Monitor the situation,” quotes Shirou in a dull tone.

    “So nothing,” sighs Luvia rather than speak. “What about the Marshals?”

    “Do you really expect any of the Wizard Marshals to lift a finger?”

    A very strange sound leaves Luvia’s throat. Something like a sigh that became a growl about halfway.

    “So the people who might be able to do something will do nothing, and there’s nothing the rest of us can do about this,” adds Lestari, putting into words the mood encompassing the three, the Association representatives at the monitoring base some three hundred meters away, and the people of the Republic of Chile.

    They can do nothing. Nobody can do anything. They all can only hope.

    “Lestari, can you try a divination?”

    “To look in there? Do I look like I come from the Age of Gods?”

    “Yeah, I guess not…” Shirou sighs, somewhat scolding himself for a thoughtless idea. “I mean, what with your…”

    “The answer is still no. Please don’t ask me to do what I cannot do. But…” Lestari looks at the far away sky, well above the terrifying wall of stormy clouds. There, too, clouds gather and swirl in a spiral, as if…

    “It’s as if it’s pulling the sky.”

    They make for a strange, if solemn, image. The three of them standing where the turbulent sea crashes into the rocks, exposed to the rainless storm while watching the colossal barrier with equal parts awe and scorn. Its appearance, its very power mocks them, for it reminds them of the existence of things still beyond the reach of man. This is not—it cannot—be the work of a human being—although Lestari got pretty close at one point.


    “Shirou.”

    “Hmm?”

    “I have a lot of questions I expect you to answer me later, but right now I only need the answer to one.”

    Lestari shoots a wary glance at the taller, stronger woman, her body a clump of tight muscles all but screaming to be put to use.

    “Who did this? Who am I to loathe for this?”

    The two STRIFE operatives look at each other. Lestari shrugs, and the older man sighs, finding himself with the burden of answering. Of course, even now remain many things he cannot reveal, even to a close friend; even to his family or to his most important person. And, of course, there is only so much he knows. He is not as close to Lily as Marco or Kiara.

    “Well, you have a lot more book knowledge than I do, so…”

    “What does that have to do with anything?”

    Shirou shakes his head at his friend’s question.

    “Luvia, do you recognize the name Enheduanna?”

    (BGM STOP)


    *** ***


    Club Alemán, Salvador Donoso 1337, Valparaíso
    Day 04
    Evening Phase – 04
    Temperate (25°C/77°F)

    (BGM)

    “Javier, here.”

    Volition is denied to me when a large demonic hand takes mine and pulls me to one end of the table. Liria claims the second seat on our side, opposite to Senta’s “sister.” The implication is that I should sit to her right, by the end of the table The Maid has claimed. Well, it is not as if I particularly mind. Speaking of The Maid, she acknowledges my choice with a nod and the smallest of smiles.

    …this is a thing now, isn’t it? This woman is showing a lot more emotion lately, compared to that night when we first met. This should be a good thing, but…doesn’t this mean she is more comfortable and confident? Is she more relaxed because she is getting her way?

    “If you will excuse me,” Fiore is the epitome of elegance as she takes the seat next to Liria’s, in front of Senta. That leaves Sakura, who is staring at us as if we had just betrayed her to her archenemy. Um, you can just sit in front of me, you know.

    Sakura Edelfelt cannot read minds, though. It also seems that sitting next to Fiore is important enough for her to gather her wits, grit her teeth and stiffly walk to the seat to Archer’s right.

    Spoiler:
    It is horrible, the effect Archer has on the three of us. Seriously, how do I describe this? It’s not really something new, though—I think Saver, the Herald and The Maid all gave off a similar feeling at some point.

    “Good evening,” Sakura says curtly, almost rudely, as she plops down in the chair in a rather manly way. Wait, is she…?

    Indeed, Archer must have noticed, for his eyes looking at nowhere regain their focus and center on his new neighbor.

    Sakura is a professional wrestler, right. This is the time before one of her matches: the stare-down with her opponent that precedes the ringing of the bell. That is what she is conjuring here to meet Archer’s uncomfortable presence. It is something neither Fiore nor I would be able to pull off, certainly not against a Servant that feels like he might burst from his own power. Honestly, it is very cool to witness. However, even now, I fear that Archer might resent Sakura’s unyielding stare and do something about it—

    “Archer, please do something about your boons. My other guests cannot make themselves comfortable like this.”

    To everyone’s relief, this pulls Archer’s attention from Sakura to The Maid.

    “And what, exactly, do you intend to do if I refuse?”

    “I cannot do a thing. That is why I am making a request,” The Maid responds, unfazed by the man’s taunt. “Besides, even if I cannot neutralize your power, that in no way would stop me from removing you from these premises if I must.”

    She scratches a cheek as if there were absolutely no tension wrapping this entire dinner table.

    “Since you seem so very intent on projecting a specific image, allow me a piece of advice on improving your performance. I am a Heroic Spirit. It is my responsibility to set an example, and a direction, for humanity.”

    Liria snorts. She is ignored.

    “Archer, I ask of you: what do you want to be?”

    Whatever response brewing in Archer’s mind is denied by the Servants in the room perking up and looking towards the door.

    “Our final guest has arrived,” declares The Maid.

    “Ah, it’s Caster,” reveals the Herald, who unlike the others in looking at The Maid instead. “That means the food’s coming now, right?”

    “Patience, finest of hounds.”

    Indeed, it is the missing Caster who enters tensely, like one who has just realized she is underdressed for a formal party. Then again, Caster claims to be a powerless Servant, so they might be as intimidated by the situation as Sakura, Fiore and myself.



    “I humbly apologize for arriving at this late hour,” quickly grovels the lightly dressed Servant before our hostess. The Maid looks at them humorlessly. Somehow…it might be just me, but she looks a little disappointed.

    “So you did come,” she says. A strange thing to say, considering she definitely already knew Caster would come.

    “If it is you who beckons, of course I will come,” Caster replies as if it were the most natural thing to day. To them, it probably is.

    “Priestess of mine, know this in your heart.”

    (BGM)

    It is paralyzing.

    “It is true that the gods exist to lighten the burden of failure upon man, but that does not mean gods are a convenient excuse for your own mistakes.”

    It was as if her voice came from every direction and resounded directly into the depths of our hearts. I can tell everybody else in thinking at least something similar. Even Liria. Even the homunculus girls. It was not the voice of a Servant, nor the presence of a teacher with which I am already familiar.

    It felt…this must be what the voice of a god sounds like.

    “You-Your Exalted Holiness, I do not understand—”

    The Maid smiles, but it is not a nice smile. Not compassion, but pity created that smile. She is looking down on Caster and everybody can see it.

    “No, you do not. If you did, you would not be here. Take your seat, priestess.”

    The Maid rises to her feet right after Caster takes the last remaining seat next to Ortrud, who looks at Caster with strange eyes, as if she were looking at some strange animal. Senta, too, notices this.

    “Being here might be right or might be wrong, but nevertheless we are all here, and should make the best of this reunion. However, before we partake of dinner, it would be only proper to introduce ourselves. I am aware some of you are meeting each other for the first time.”

    I cannot stop myself from frowning. Hers is a sound idea, but that is precisely what makes it so strange and awkward in this gathering of monsters.

    “Allow me to start.” The Maid follows with a bow. “I am
    [I
    Enheduanna[/I]]the High Priestess, Ornament of Heaven
    , daughter of Šarrugi and bride of Asimbabbar. I was summoned in the Alter Ego class.”

    She drops it just like that.

    Everybody else seems surprised except Caster, who definitely knew The Maid’s identity all this time, and the Herald, who apparently does not care. Liria is nodding slowly, not quite agreeing, but perhaps musing on something. Did Lily ever tell her?

    “The Akkadian priestess and poetess…”

    A half-chuckle escapes Alter Ego’s lips after Fiore murmur.

    “I might have reason to be cross with you if you assume I was immortalized by mankind just for writing poetry, last magus of Yggdmillennia.”

    “William Shakespeare would have reason to be cross with you if you claim writing is not enough reason to be immortalized by mankind,” retorts Fiore without missing a beat. “Also, I am confident Yggdmillennia still exists, making me most decidedly not the last among them.”

    “It will not be me who speaks against the English thespian, but I cannot accept being compared to his ilk, for I am no mere poetess,” responds The Maid just as naturally. “And considering the quality of what remains, could you really deem it in your heart worthy of the name ‘Yggdmillennia’?”

    Fiore has no retort for that. The Maid then sets her eyes on the one on the other side of the table.

    “I presume our guest of honor will not have the decency to share his name with us. As the host of this reunion, I wholeheartedly apologize. But, on the matter of true names, Archer: does Berserker still believe you are the third of the Pandavas?”

    Holy shit.

    Holy fucking shit.

    If looks could kill, The Maid would be smoking ashes right about now.

    “Well, I guess that is of no importance,” she says dismissively, her purpose fulfilled.

    “Wait,” Senta’s sister raises her voice, apparently defeated by her own curiosity. “So he’s not Arjuna?”

    “To Berserker’s dismay, no, he is not.” The Maid pauses, seemingly remembering something. “This is unrelated, but did you know Heinrich always carried around a copy of the Bhagavad Gita?”

    “…you mean Himmler, right?” Senta wonders, and The Maid nods.

    “I might be wrong, but I think he believed himself some sort of modern Arjuna. It was pitiful to watch, a man so desperately trying to be something he most decidedly was not. A lot like Archer here.”

    “I did not come here to be insulted, morning star.”

    “We are having a conversation, Archer,” retorts The Maid no longer in maid clothes. “Or we would, if you were more open to actually conversing with us.”

    She then turns to the other Servant next to Archer.

    “What about you, Shielder? Will you introduce yourself to the rest of us?”

    “I’m Garmr. I’m hungry.”

    Curt and to the point. The Maid—I guess I should get used to think of her as Enheduanna—seems amused by that.

    “Very well. I shall strive to satiate that appetite of yours tonight. What about you, Assassin? Archer and I already know your true identity, so there is no real reason—”

    “My true identity is Liria Colhuán.” Her voice leaves no room for discussion. Something like an appreciative hum comes out of Archer. If Alter Ego is bothered by being interrupted, she does not show it.

    “Good. That is a proper attitude to keep that demon at bay. However, you have not wholly subjugated it, so I would advise to—”

    “There. That, right there, is your problem.”

    Liria interrupts for the second time and wholly on purpose. Something red and gold gleams in my teacher’s eyes.

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “Oh, spare me the bullshit manners, woman,” Liria spits back. “You keep jabbing at muscle man over there for not being himself or whatever, but you’re the biggest liar on this table, aren’t you?”

    For the first time, Enheduanna does in fact frown.

    “I do not lie—”

    “—and the worst thing is that you have this…deranged need to tell everybody else what they should do, because of course you know better. I mean, Lily was like that, too, but, damn it, she cared. Even if she only used mean words, she still showed that she cared, through her actions. But you’re completely different.”

    Liria clicks her tongue.

    “I’ve talked a bit with Caster and with Fiore here. About gods and stuff. I think you can’t over get the fact that the time when you could get away with that attitude ended thousands of years ago. Because you can’t stand the fact that we moved on; that we don’t need your unsolicited advice anymore.”

    Liria has no problem meeting Alter Ego’s serene stare with her own mocking one.

    “For a supposed love goddess, I don’t feel any love from you, Ishtar.”

    What?

    “Wait, Liria, you have it wrong—”

    The Maid raises a hand, stopping Fiore’s words in her throat.

    “That, young lady, is precisely why I stand right here, right now, in this form, mere days away from reshaping this planet as I please.”

    She is not angry. She is smiling. If anything, she is acting as if Liria had just vindicated her. As if Liria had praised her and validated her instead of anything else.

    “That ignorance.”

    Settling back down on her seat, Alter Ego makes a vague gesture with her left hand. Everyone is tense, as if expecting her to attack any second now. We should know better by this point. Then again, I’m still trying to keep up here.

    (BGM)

    “Our banquets did not follow an order. All dishes were served at the same time. However, I intend to be selfish tonight, and keep you here with me for as long as possible, so let us do things the modern way, and start with an appetizer.”

    The luminous servants appear out of everybody’s blind spots, it seems, finally carrying dishes to the table. Small plates holding what at first glance—and first scent—seems like some sort of cheese-stuffed fruit. However, past the cheese, there is the unmistakable aroma of garlic and spices…I’m far from a gastronomical expert, but this is definitely ground cardamom. It’s not a scent most people get to smell very often, after all.

    “Eeeh, there’s no meat at all!” Of course, the Herald complains.

    “I insist on patience, good hound. You will have all the meat you desire, eventually.”

    “Muu…”


    It is not a dish I would expect to see in my homeland, but it is not unknown to me.

    “These are…dates?” Fiore correctly points out. Sakura nods, while Liria and the two homunculi girls are frowning, apparently unfamiliar with the fruit.

    “This is cevizli, isn’t it?” I declare, only speaking further when I notice several people’s eyes on me. “It’s a Turkish candy; I ate lots of it in Istambul.”

    “Not precisely, but I am not surprised it reminds you of it,” interjects The Maid. “If you had been to Lebanon, you might take it for ma’amoul. If you were familiar with Georgian or Armenian cuisine, you might have called it churchkela. Where I came from, we called it mersu. Of course, I experimented a bit with the ingredients—we did not have gorgonzola in my time, after all.”

    “Mmm! This is good!” And Sakura is already eating. “This is Greek-style yoghurt.”

    “Yes, it is labneh,” confirms the hostess.

    Everybody follows, with different degrees of hesitation. There seem to be three types of this “mersu”, but we all just take the same one Sakura picked—dates stuffed with labneh and ground spice. It is creamy and sweet, with the slight tang only yogurt can give, all that beneath the strong, unique taste of cardamom. The Herald obviously does not care much for it, but it is definitely delicious.

    Sakura is already on the second one.

    “The sweetness of the dates tempers the strong flavor of blue cheese. It’s a good combination.”

    “Thank you for your praise.”

    Yeah, it is all very tasty and all, but aren’t we forgetting what we really came here for?

    “You have much in your mind, student.”

    She said she doesn’t read minds, but goddammit.

    “Don’t we all,” I retort, and I surprise myself by how moody I sound. Archer is also eating, quietly and very slowly. Whatever opinion he may have on the aperitif of choice for the evening remains hidden behind his inscrutable face.

    “It is unfortunate, albeit understandable. This has not been a pleasant four days for you.”

    “Pleasant?” Liria all but hisses. “There are, like, dunno, two hundred thousand people out there, and they are either dead or dying.”

    “Yes,” Enheduanna agrees blandly, as if Liria had just said that the sun emits light. “Thousands of people you do not know, never spoke to, and never cared about before this happened. Can you tell me, then, the reason for your outrage? Is it because you fear sharing their fate? Or is it something so vague as ‘because they are human’?”

    The Servant then frowns, as if catching herself saying something she never intended to speak aloud. She brings a hand to her forehead, rubbing her temples.

    “What am I saying? You did not come here to be questioned. Do not mind me.”

    Weird. The way Liria frowns, Senta and her sister exchange glances, and even Archer narrows his gaze on her…I think we are all thinking in the same direction.

    …she has changed.

    But, is it really that? Or is it that she is finally showing her true colors?

    I put another mersu in my mouth. Huh, this one’s got garlic.


    Dinner Talk, Part One
    This is your chance. Let’s see how much you can get out of the indecipherable Enheduanna.

    Choose TWO topics from the list below:

    1. Enheduanna’s nature as a Servant.
    2. Servant Caster.
    3. The singularity’s “Holy Grail.”
    4. The Maid’s summoning and her connection to the Third Reich.
    5. The Villarrica project.
    6. Human Gods.
    7. A way to save Maria.
    8. Write-in (a sentence not longer than the choices above).


    You cannot just pester your hostess with questions—that is poor table manners. Choose someone else in the neighboring seats and mingle for a while:
    a. Ortrud.
    b. Liria.
    c. Senta.
    Wise up! (Archer of the Black Sun)
    Mystery Slayer – B
    A Skill indicating a hero renowned for banishing mysteries as threats to humankind. While some heroes contribute to the development of the human race through innovations in ideas, technology and exploration, this Skill represent those whose legends are built on overcoming the supernatural creatures that threaten the growth of mankind and its position as Primate.
    (Additional information locked behind True Name)
    Wise-up! (Alter Ego of the Threshold of Heaven and Earth)
    True Name: Enheduanna (?)

    Parameters:
    STR C
    END C
    AGI B
    MGI A+
    LUK A
    Noble Phantasm EX


    Clairvoyance (Bārûtu) – EX
    The divination arts of ancient Mesopotamia. The ancient Mesopotamian holistic interpretation of reality states that there is an “ideal shape of the World”. It is known that the High Priest’s duty was to identify and interpret “abnormalities”—divergences between reality and this ideal shape—, which were believed to be a response from the
    gods
    World
    in disagreement to the actions and decisions of humans. To Alter Ego, however, Bārûtu was the path towards
    awakening
    enlightenment
    .

    Alter Ego, as the greatest priestess to have ever lived, transcended the mundane methods, achieving divination through high-speed mental calculation. To avoid the excruciating time waste of collecting omens and signs from all sorts of different sources, she taught herself to “see the world as the gods do”, capturing all things within her perception in an instant, and use them as her reference. By setting a temporal sampling rate (generally blinking or walking), she collects data samples of the world around her. With enough samples, she can calculate the past that generated those samples and the future they will create. Within her territory and with an adequate access to magical energy to sustain her, her processing capacity can match that of a certain setting’s spiritron computer in the Moon.

    As the High Priestess of the Moon God, Alter-Ego was also the mortal embodiment of the god’s bride, the goddess ruling over the interpretation of dreams, and all other means of insight and divination. As such, she must have mastered these arts at a very early age. Perhaps, it was this heightened awareness of the world at too young an age that set her on the path she ended up walking…

    Quest Master’s Notice: I will go on a bit of a hiatus, for travel reasons and to complete a number of personal projects I have put aside for too long. I cannot give a date for the next scene, but I would hope to come back in a month or so. Thank you for sticking with me thus far, and until next time.

  16. #1376

  17. #1377
    love warrior <3 world-0 the god of world-0's Avatar
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    here is a list of my servant sheets(new and improved format for my servant sheets)

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    Fate / White Memoria

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    My fanfics:
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