Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Epsir
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Epsir

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October 29th, 1994
Cavern of the Grail, Fuyuki, Japan
The End of One Story


Even there the fire raged. The inferno come to cleanse their wretched acts could be felt far under the Earth, the warmth radiating from the heart of the city felt as if the cool cave air was that of a warm summer day. The distant hammering of exploding transformer boxes was like thunder in the Autumn night. The retreating wail of the prefectural firefighters' sirens the only mourning this sorry scene would receive. His heavy steps thudded over the faraway sounds of calamity, the chittering of retreating insects heralding every pained stride. Beneath it's baleful glare the weight of the curse became impossible.

Under the looming pillar of the Greater Grail, a shriveled cadaver was laid out in blood and broken chitin. The robed elder croaked, stirring. It would take more than a few bulletholes to destroy that colony. The magus killer boiled out his blood, pores exploding, limbs sagging with the sheer agony of existence as his trembling hands worked at one last task.

WINCHESTER, 30-06 SPRG, the brass rim winking up at him read. Swollen fingers clutched the casing, staining it crimson as it was haphazardly flung free of the smoking barrel. Another, clutched between bruised knuckles, slammed home. It wasn't his fastest time. His wrist crackled as he flicked it out. The Matou elder raised his hand, winged insects leaping to his defense. The Contender snapped into battery. Fire scorched away the dark, a blooming ball of incandescence announcing the last shot of such a horrible war. Creatures shrieked and skittered from radiance. Matou burst, the terminal effect of the rifle round tearing apart the illusion of a body. Even as he hung in halves on the ground he cackled, paralyzed for a few more seconds. The constituent worms recoiled from the impact, the swarm invulnerable to the 'Severing' that would have befallen a whole being.

The splash of inhuman blood was enough to reawaken the lungs of the even smaller creature huddled behind him. Barely half the size of the already shrunken Matou, a pallid, sullen face stared up at the shooter. Unnerving, unnaturally purple hair wreathed their tired expression. A bloodstained doll was clutched unconsciously in their fist, the shape of a rabbit contorted by their panicked squeeze. Glyphs ringed the two of them, magical symbols carved into the rock and painted over in fresh blood. Shards of something once golden, blackened beyond repair, laid around her.

"Never again."

A hero stood on the deck of a boat. No blood surrounded him. No turmoil lingered in the air. Only the pleasant smell of sea breeze greeted his scathed senses. Only the invigorating tinge of the ocean air welcomed his frayed skin. They were cheering. Hundreds of faces, blurred by unfamiliarity. They waved their arms and shouted from the deck of a boat sailing away. His ocean paradise bubbled. The keel bellow him groaned as it slowly split itself. He turned his back on the world of light, silencing those saved voices, facing the beast. Curses flowed around his feet, the roiling blackness of Evil gushing from the depths of the vessel as the coming flood forced it out. They clawed at his legs, and he fell down with them. Fluid-like hands dragged him towards the core. Her face split from the dark, sneering at him in victory. He held up his hand, thumbing away the safety on the detonator.

"Just be a good sport and take it."

Red eyes winked open around the cavern, the digital confirmations of enough bricks to blow down the haunted house around him. Faerielight drifted from his dissolving body, the effects of Avalon fading away, the compact complete. His thumb came down, one click drawing a thousand angry roars from the cavern walls. Light shone in on them, pressure evaporating the magical machine, splitting the mountain above and throwing the remains of Heaven's Feel to the depths below.

June 11th 2021
Somewhere in Boston
Absent Foundation


The greenish light of the crypt played through the eerie fog veiling the room. Sounds like footsteps, or the soft clatter of shifting bones, played ominously within the bounded field. The scent of mana was so powerful as to be physical, a pressure that hung over all who dared to enter the chamber of the Grail. A chalice sat the floor in the center of the cramped hall, resting atop scattered bones and mounds of dust. Carefully selected scrawling surrounded it, profane markings of Magecraft etched into the remains of so many lives.

It was ready. The Cup of Heaven was reborn at his fingertips. Free of the machinations of lesser men, removed from their deluded expectations. No ill fated plotting, no psychopathic desire for Akasha in its design. He would do it. He would make their two worlds Whole again. How fitting, that the world of man and myth would require a magical machine to rejoin. He could only throw his head back and laugh, a shrill cry of delight for the eve of his rebirth. Not just his. The world. Oh, if only there were a single one of them smart enough to thank him. How those stuffy magicians would throw themselves at his feet, bless the soil he trod upon for saving the crumbling castle of Magecraft.

"Magick! It's Magick, damnit!"

A small fist crashed into the dust, the voice and body responsible for it all wheezing over the sudden rush of particulate. They coughed on the ashes of the dead for a few moments before their composure came back to them, and for the last time they raised a hand up to the swimming silhouette of a chalice before them.

"The pieces are gathered! By my will, awaken! Awaken, Holy Grail! Awaken and recognize your founder, your Ruler!"

The will screamed and the world answered. As it was, as it shall always be. The air shook as in one flash of light the constituents fused. Shards raked across the ground, drawn to the center of the room and flung along the lines of the myriad magical circles drawn out there. The birth of the Cup of Heaven was over in a second. Illuminated motes of floating dust fell to the ground, the shivering of the world stopped, and the faint hum of power that defined its presence fell silent. The room met with darkness. He stared intently at the ghost of his right hand, knowing that even if he could not see its shape in the dark he would soon see them. The answers to his work, the glowing crimson marks of a Master, his right as Master of the Grail manifested...

But there was no answer that day.

"Medicine man... What treachery is this?" In pitch dark he rounded, directing his voice at the man propped against the wall at the far end of the room. Amber colored eyes flashed up from staring into the glow of his cigarette. A smug smile broke out over his light tan, and the medicine man stood up to brush off his vest.

"No clue, but it looks like you've got your money's worth. I'll be taking my pay... and my leave, if'n you don't mind." He crossed an arm behind his back, affecting a bow before taking a cautious step aside before another backwards, towards the door.

"You aren't going anywhere. How can the Grail activate without choosing me? Preposterous, I built the damn thing. You've done me for a fool, fellow, and I won't be having it." The blood in the medicine man's veins chilled. The whole room began to cool, icicles falling from within the fog as moisture began to sap away.

"You sure about this little guy?"

"Deadly."

"Draw."

June 29th, 2021
Boston Park Plaza
Discordant Starting Bell


The Seals had appeared weeks ago. There was very little official oversight to the war, few reports of Masters-candidates actually summoning Servants. Of course the successful options were keeping things hush-hush. The Grail War had always been looked upon diminutively. The savage sacrifice ritual of the far east had been downgraded to completely off the books at that point, with only lukewarm moves by both the Church and the Association following the bizarre letters they'd been distributed.

But it was all real.

There was no telling how many Masters had come to Boston or how long they had been there. Maybe they'd have the full deck ready. Maybe they wouldn't be in town for months. It didn't matter because the Grail War would start in earnest that very day, ready or not.

It was still morning. The sun was surely rising over Boston Harbor, casting the waterfront in golden light. They found themselves seated in a brighter place, between white curtains, below the golden trimming of the hotel's lobby. TVs hung over the bar counters showed pretty faces reading out the morning news.

Police were still warning tourists to move in groups following a string of killings in the North End. Sound enough advice for prospective warriors too. It was set up to be a slow Saturday morning for the real world.

For them, it was the end of peace.

"Let's go, Assassin."
Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Sightles
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Sightles

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June 25th, 2021
1:21 A.M
Otto von Habsburg
Somewhere outside of Boston


Crisp summer night air swept over the trees and hills of the Boston countryside. Dotted with roving hills and pockets of thick forests, the Boston countryside was home to many of a wealthy estate, not terribly unlike those that populated the Vienna countryside. One in particular, however, was tucked away into a deep respite, free from the lights and noises from the distant metropolis. The estate was alive, seemingly about to burst like a dam from the ocean of guests that moved about its grounds.

Many had come tonight. More than anyone had expected. The din of a lively party could be heard, muffled as it was, on the 4th floor study. The host had excused himself a couple of hours beforehand, retiring early from the party and occupying the study. The host had always held contempt for parties. Frivolous exercises in the social sphere, where entire reputations could be built or torn down in the course of the revelry. This party, however, was much different than the ones held by wealthy bankers, and corrupt politicians, back in Vienna.

Hours beforehand, Otto, himself the host of this massive party, had been among the guests. Playing the role of the generous host, he mingled with magnates, businessmen, heiresses, and notable members of the Boston political scene. The pretense of the occasion was written off as a celebration of a Massachusetts politician announcing his intent to become a gubernatorial candidate for the 2022 elections. In truth, Otto had already forgotten the man's name. It was of no matter, as it only gave more pressure to the locals of the region to attend.

The type of Bounded Field that encapsulated the leased estate, that Otto had been calling home for the last 3 days, was something that had been perfected long before Otto's time, a marvel of Magecraft in and of itself. For the ritual that was about to take place, the Bounded Field created by Otto days before would be the furnace, and the party-goers the fuel. The mix of emotions; jubilation, jealousy, anger, lust, and the subtle machinations of Otto himself, would be what made a ritual of this caliber so effortless for the Habsburg, as the raw energy of the conglomeration of emotions below would be refined by the Bounded Field into a massive store of Mana. The overabundance of guests, such an annoyance scant hours before, would now turn into an advantage for Otto.

In the center of the study, all non-essential equipment had been pushed to the walls, in a neat order, making room for the complex Summoning Circle that Otto had spent the last couple of hours meticulously crafting. In the center of the Summoning Circle, in an opened velvet-lined rosewood box, laid a single link of a gilded chain, noticeably glimmering in the sparse moonlight that painted the room. Everything was in it's rightful place, and all that was required, now, was the careful touch of a skilled mage.

Otto glanced over his work that laid in front of him, trained eyes looking for any errors as an editor would search for any of the typographical nature. It had taken a lot of time, money, and effort, to set the stage for the Servant he intended on summoning, and with the party ending soon, the time could only be now. Everything had to be executed with rehearsed precision.

Otto removed his black jacket, placing it carefully on the study's only desk, afterwards unbuttoning the cuffs of his milk-white dress shirt and rolling the sleeves to his elbows. It had been a while since Otto had been exercised this much in his Magecraft. In truth, it was something he enjoyed more than he cared to admit. He was proficient at it, and nothing thrilled the noble mage than bending situations and people to his own will, but this was a different kind of pleasure. Otto's research of the Fourth Holy Grail War, and his ability to obtain the catalyst, ensured his victory, already. Otto hoped, with the Mana stored and the catalyst, that he would summon the King of Heroes - Gilgamesh.

But even Otto was smart enough to realize that the nature of these rituals allowed for a level of surprise, and chaos. What little information Otto could gather, the catalyst he possessed could summon a number of Servants that had been blessed to possess the rest of the chain. Any number of them would do, in truth, as they were all powerful in their own right. In addition to being summoned within the Archer container, Otto was already confident in his perceived efforts in the coming War.

Otto pushed all of these thoughts from his head, though. The task was now at hand, and any error could proved to be disastrous. The only thing left to do, now, was to act. Stepping into the summoning circle, Otto instantaneously could feel his hair stand on end, from the massive reserve of Mana pouring into the ritual from the Bounded Field. The commotions of the crowd below seemed so distant now. So quiet. Otto took a deep breath, and placed his hands out in front of him, palms facing down to his Summoning Circle. His skin began to twitch, and spasm, as he began to harvest the Mana enmasse, preparing to wield it for the ritual to come. This would be considered his first real step to his destiny.

Otto began reciting the Incantation in his mother tongue, one he had so intently memorized that it now was as easy as breathing, and formed his hands into tight fists, gripping at the unseen Mana that swirled around him. Otto could feel the power he was beginning to access. For a moment, Otto pondered if this is the kind of power that a Servant felt, before purging the thought from his head, continuing with measured practice with his recital.

As the ritual continued, a faint glow began to emanate from the Summoning Circle, growing in intensity as more and more harvested Mana was poured into it's heart. Otto's clothes pulled upwards, the coalescing energies of the ritual affecting the entire area of the study. Books from shelves began to slowly fall from their positions. Curtains to the large windows fluttered with increasing speed. A beautifully designed lacquered globe spun with intense ferocity from an unseen hand. Otto could feel the Grail opening to him, as he called to it, demanding a Servant to be summoned for this great War. And it was answering.

In the final stages of the Incantation, Otto took a step deeper into the Summoning Circle, and closed his eyes, his body now pulsing in a practiced rhythm in tune with the Mana he was gathering. Now, everything grew silent. The party below was gone. The globe spun in silence. The curtains flapped violently against an unseen foe, but were silent all the same. Even as older, and heavier, tomes found their way to the floor, they did so in absolute silence. Only the powerful, commanding voice of Otto von Habsburg boomed out from the perceived silence

"Großer alter Geist,
antworte meinem ruf!"


His destiny was coming.
Hidden 5 mos ago Post by DrowsyPangolin
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Rocco Moretti

June 20, 2021
8:24pm
Rock Island Cove Salt Marsh


The lighter blazed to life in his hand, its flame whipping back and forth in the sea breeze. The ex-hitman raised the dancing fire to the end of his fourth cigarette of the hour and looked over the circle that he had been carefully constructing. It looked right, as far as he could tell. He’d spent the last few days scouting out a perfect area to perform the summoning. The Rock Island Cove Salt Marsh had proven to be the most discreet location he could find, and the patch of trees that he had ultimately decided on would hide him effectively from any passers-by, or at least he hoped so. If not… well, he’d dealt with witnesses before.

A small piece of stone rested in the center of the ring, a fragment that had been broken from the Lia Fail by some bandit years ago. He’d had to reach out to the most distant of his contacts to get the relic delivered from Ireland, and its timely arrival had required substantial compensation. He’d managed to scrape everything together with a bit over a week to spare. Still, there was no guarantee that it would work. Even with everything somehow coming together all he could do was hope for the best. The sun was beginning to set. The time had come.

Rocco took a long, deep drag from his cigarette. He held it in for a few seconds before blowing out a considerable cloud of smoke and taking a step toward the circle.

“Here goes nothing, Bianca.”

He pulled his glove from his left hand with his teeth and shoved it in his coat pocket. Clearing his throat, he raised his bare hand over the circle, the jagged, blood-red lines glowing in the dying light.

“Blood and lead to the origin.
Earth and the archduke of contracts to the foundation.
The ancestor, the sorcerer Ruggeri.
Let the wind bar the gates.
Fill.
Fill.
Fill.
Fill.
Fill.
When each is filled burn it away.”

The exact words of the chant were escaping him, even as the circle before him began to spark to life. He gritted his teeth, shouting out into the twilight.

“Your blade carves my destiny!
The Grail calls out!
Answer, if you would hear me!

I make no oath to virtue!
Nor to harm!
But to my singular purpose!

If you would claim this victory,
And rise to this challenge
Then come forth!

Ti evoco,
Rispondi alla mia chiamata!”


The Command Seals burned brightly, and Rocco could feel a searing pain in his hand as a whirlwind of flame burst from the center of the circle.

He held his breath. The moment of truth was upon him.
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Reflection Slightly Stressed but Flawless

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June 24th, Old State House

Giuseppe Messana


Holy Grail War? Now that was one way to be extravagant with your titling. Giuseppe Messana was never one to be involved with giant happenings with other magus, most of the time he stuck to his family and their associated magus, but now some higher power had decided he was worthy for this...war? If anything he found it hilarious and convenient. His mentor always said, the mystery comes to you. And here was this mysterious, intriguing grail war, delivered right to him, the markings on his hand more of a message of, “Here’s a job”.

Having arrived that night before, he was settling into this State House quite easily. He’d used some mild magical persuasion to convince the city council of Boston that he needed to close down the State House for reports of bad construction and asbestos and they just ate it up. Having drawn all the curtains and securing the area, he knew that he would have to get to work.
Downstairs in the basement, he walked down to his arrangement. The circle of blood he’d made with pigs blood and a brick he had been given by a relative. Picking up the brick, he gave it a once over, smirking a little as he enjoyed the vague nature of his “catalyst”. From what he knew of this brick, it was said to come from some ancient aztec or inca temple, and that meant almost any of those legends could be summoned.

The basement was lined with jars of materials the detective had brought along, the room mainly lit by candles since he hadn’t sorted out the light down here and he took a breath in and sighed. “Lets get this ball rollin' I guess” With that he began the incantation. From the Seventh Heaven, attended to by three great words of power, come forth from the ring of restraint, protector of the holy balance!”

He watched as the glowing enhanced itself and the room was overcome with light and smoke. And so it began.

Light shimmered. Light beamed. Light struck the walls till the whole room was like standing in front of the naked sun. The red light crackled, and pulled itself together, forming and colliding into a shape. A human shape. Hands and fingers materialized, and the light seemed to peel away before…

There stood a man with a golden staff in his hand. A smile, his eyes narrowed as if he had just spotted a particularly tasty donut on a table. His lip pulled back into a smile, and he took a step closer, standing on the very edge of the circle. As if ready to step over. Then… He spoke.

“What’s up my homie?”

__________________________________________________
Present Day…

“Thank you, John F Kennedy.”
This was the scene Giuseppe returned to when he stepped in the workshop of his servant. Manco was there, hard at work on polishing a statue. It was a beautiful statue of marble, standing nearly twelve feet tall, and covered in jewelry, like one would see on any photo of an inca warrior. A sword, or rather a club lined with obsidian like the people of Meso-America would have used, was held in the statue hand. Manco though was putting all his attention on the face, brushing it down, sanding away at the nose until it was… Perfect. If it wasn’t completely still, one might have thought it was alive.

To Manco’s side though, there was a statue of John F Kennedy, animated nearly the first day he’d been summoned as a kind of… Maid. The thank you was a result of a cup of lemonade the statue had brought to Manco, who amidst carving statues, forging a powerful bounded field, crafting various mystic codes, and crafting his own batch of familiars, had found time to cook and create a pot of lemonade that John F Kennedy would occasionally bring refreshments from.

Manco paused to admire his work, and brushed a little dust from his statue’s brow. Taking a step back, Giuseppe might finally notice the nearly ten others sitting in the room. “Tell me homie, what do you think?” The Caster servant said, his hands raised in that classic photo way, as if framing the sight in his mind.

The detective in question had also been busy that day. Having woken up early, he had been out running a few errands for him and Caster, as well as talking to some people about the murders that had taken place recently. In one hand a hamburger he had picked up and in the other a dog carrier with a dog he had picked up from the pound. Before making these purchases, the detective had taken a look in the graveyard, paying respects, capturing some spirits of the tortured dead and now here he was.

A low groan escaped his mouth as he took a bite out of his burger and the dog began growling at the statues. The detective magus finished his burger and took off his bagpack, placing the dog carrier down and taking out a wrapped up burger. “I mean...you work fast Caster, that’s for sure” he answered as he rubbed his brow, placing the burger on whatever flat surface he could find. “My boys still upstairs? I ain’t sure if they’re ready for combat yet” He said eyeing up the statues, referring to his much bulkier golems upstairs. So far, his shoddy bounded field hadn’t detected anything beside himself and Caster, but so far, they seemed to be safe.

Taking out three jars, he placed them as well. “Here’s some spirits if ya need some to work with, I’ll need one for another golem, hey, is that..” he eyed up the JFK statue and smirked. “I mean, ya certainly put a lotta detail in, that’s for sure” He smirked and held his hand out. “Ya got a cup for me?”
“Ask Mary Dyer, she’s closest.” Manco said, as within a moment, a statue of Boston's favorite martyr stepped over, and offered the detective a refreshing glass.

But Manco’s attention had already turned to the dog, a hairless mexican breed. Putting down his sander and chisel, the blue haired caster crouched down, his eyes focused on the canine. The canine looked back, and the growling ceased. A comforting smile was shared between the two, and he reached out. Manco’s fingers trailed against that smooth skin, brushing about and running against the dog’s cheeks, and then the ears.

“You know, I asked for the Peruvian Hairless breed.” Manco said, before scratching softly against the canine’s chin. “Though I forgive you. They are a lot alike.” He laughed softly, as by now the connection between himself and the dog had been complete. “But from now on… You shall be called…” He paused, as if pondering a name. Naming a pet was a special moment. It was the cementing of a concept, an idea. Once he gave a name, it would define the being of his new companion. “Sander. It’s a special name. It mean ‘Protector of Man’ in my country’s language. With it, you shall protect mankind, and be a guardian in their darkest hours.” That was a lot of weight for a dog, but Sander could handle it. Manco knew, because he saw the glint in his eyes.

“Now that you are here though, detective, I have to take your attention. I can’t have you running off before I show you my works.” Manco laughed, because for this man the world was all smiles. He gestured to the statues, and brushed a hand against each. “You see, I am about to provide each of these, with Sami.” He didn’t explain what that meant, but instead rose to each of the statues, and leaned in close. One by one, he hovered his lips inches away from their own, and let out a breath. A deep, warm breath that drifted through the room, and then he moved on to the next. As he left each statue, they began to move. Slowly at first, as they blinked, and then slowly rose. Each standing to their full height, like massive stone sentinels.

“There we go.” Manco said, finally taking a seat after the last statue had begun to rise. Sander already leaping up onto his lap, and sitting there as the Caster brushed his fingers against Sander’s back. “With our bounded fields, and these sentinels, I think I can take a short break. After all, Sami takes a great deal out of a person.”

Giuseppe watched with mild interest as Caster observed and admired his dog, he himself being able to recognise that bond they had quickly formed between each other. He had read somewhere about the significance of dogs to the Incas but he didn’t know it was so powerful. He watched in silent admiration at Caster’s request, watching him breathe life into the statues, with wide eyes and a low whistle at how they all stood up like that. At first, he had been worried about summoning the Caster class, but seeing Manco at work, really put the faith into him.

“Holy shit...Sami must be some ancient power eh? Well I gotta say, I got hope for us in this disaster zone, do you think you could hold down the fort whilst I check out some stuff? I’ve heard about a string of murders, something tells me it could be linked to this war, y’know?” he gave Manco a smile and shrugged.

“If ya need anything let me know, this place is fortified as it is, I’ve put a kinda cloaking presence over it so we shouldn’t be too obvious, sound good?” The italian detective nodded to his Inca servant and looked around at the statues again. Yup, this certainly was the weird mystery this war had promised him.

“Wait, detective, before you go.” Manco said, sitting up just a bit more. He’d move more, but with his new pet on his leg, it was impossible to move without disturbing him. “I have not finished work on all the things you asked for, but I did finish a set of amulets to protect you from other masters, and their servants. I have little doubt that by now one master has summoned the assassin class servant.” He added, aware that his summoner couldn’t be convinced to stay home, but rather he could make sure he remained safe long enough for Manco to arrive and save him.

Sitting on a table by the door, there sat a small collection of silver amulets. Some designed as barriers to provide his master some degree of protection from physical forces. Others designed to protect the mind.

“But, you have places to be, and I’ll tell you more later.” Manco added, and waved before the door closed.
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Team Rider

June 22nd, 2021
3:16AM

Winter Palace Food Truck


A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

Outside, only the wildest weekend partiers were still at it, but inside, the food truck was flooded with blue light as usual, Naoko staking her beauty sleep on getting this done. It had been on a whim, really, to summon her Servant that night. It wasn’t like she had anything that could be considered a proper catalyst, and it wasn’t like she NEEDED her Servant immediately, despite the nebulous start date of this Holy Grail War.

No, it was nothing more than a whim, and there she was, mixing materials and tossing them on the floor with the casual reverence of someone who threw salt over their shoulder. Some dust, some ashes, some flour. Add in a smidge of salt, a dabbing of sugar, and spread it all evenly. Dip your hand in cold water and scatter the droplets, before sweeping a perfect circle with your bare foot. One part of it was carelessness. Another part of it was whimsy. She held her ‘cookbook’ in one hand and took particle ingredients with her other hand, aware of the positioning of every spice in her kitchen.

And, when that grand mess was made, the words she spoke were of similar nonsense, nothing like the revered incantation that the documents of the Grail War spoke of. The power of language superseded the sounds they were composed of, and served simply to guide meaning. When the language of magic could be imposed regardless whether it was Japanese, English, Latin, or anything else, it simply made sense that she could get away with a looping, sing-song ‘lata lulila lulula lilula ta, lyrr viva tou ro tono’.

Did it?

It didn’t matter.

She wasn’t here to win, only to live to see what happens after.

And, in a shuttered food truck of an auspicious name, with a dispassionate heart and vagarious formulations, the woman with cherry blossom hued hair evoked the meaning of power and control to draw out a being from a higher dimension, a baser dimension.

---

The food truck shivered for a moment, the blue lights rapidly flickering as the circle was traced in a pale silver glow. Another shudder, another temporary loss of electricity, and the circle flashed a brilliant crimson. The temperature within the food truck began to decline rapidly, as if the circle were sucking all the warmth from the room, its glow becoming brighter and brighter. The shivering grew more violent, the suspension crying out in complaint as spice bottles fell from their places and onto the floor. Amidst the chaos, the sound of rushing wind began ripping around the inside of the poor, abused food truck.

All at once, both the shaking and the sound of wind came to an immediate halt. An uncomfortable silence fell over the venerable food truck, the temperature inside dropping low enough to see one’s breath as the summoning circle changed from red to a pale blue. The silence continued…

And continued…

And continued…

And contin-

The sound of trumpets rising into a boisterous crescendo blared in the confined space, and the circle exploded into a blinding violet light, rocking the poor, poor food truck one final time.

As the cacophony of the trumpets abated, it was replaced by a chorus of (perhaps overly) enthusiastic laughter from the center of the circle. From the fading light, a petite figure materialized. Silver eyes flashed towards Naoko, ruby lips curling into an amused smile. The Servant wore a flowing dress of deep purple, with tiny gems glinting from amongst the fabric like stars. A crown, embedded with countless glittering gemstones, rested atop to woman’s head. She swept her chestnut hair away from her face in a dramatic flourish, her diamonds shimmering.

“I am Yekaterina Alekseyevna!”

A theatrical hand motion accented the proclamation.

“Her Imperial Highness, The Empress and Autocrat of all Russians!”

Another.

“I have been summoned into this era as a Cas-... wait no.”

The bejeweled woman briefly turned her back to Naoko as if to collect her thoughts. For a moment she mumbled to herself.

“Rider, really? I suppose that’s fine, but it seems a bit… ineffective… NEVERTHELESS!”

The Servant spun around on a heel, leveling her index finger toward the white-haired girl.

“I have been summoned into this era as a RIDER class Servant!”

“AM I”

The finger swung through the air as Rider took a step forward.

“TO ASSUME”

Another dramatic motion of the arm and another step forward.

“THAT YOUUUUUU”

The finger stopped about an inch from Naoko’s nose.

“ARE MY MASTER?!”

Rider smiled, overflowing with pride at her introduction.

“Hmm? Well?”

--

The first thing Naoko did when everything started going full magical was to pop in her AirPods. The noise cancelling capabilities may not have been enough to save her precious eardrums from the sheer volume of trumpeting (off in the distance, she could almost swear that someone was yelling at the truck to shut the fuck up), but that was fine. At the very least, there was no tornado of force that would burst out from the circle and scatter this particular mess all over her truck. And it was even a plus that she didn’t end up getting shanked by some psychopathic murder-stabby Servant.

Pride was downfall, but at least Empresses were pleasing to the eye.

With that long finger jabbed an inch away from her nose, the food truck owner did what any reasonable 21st century person would do in such a situation. She leaned forward slightly and licked the gloved tip of Yekaterina Alekseyevna’s finger, before retracting again, a sweet smile spilling over her features. Flashing two V-signs pointed at her dimpled cheeks, before she proclaimed, with less bombast but just as much feeling, “Yup, that’s me! Naoko Busi- bleh, Bushiro, super nice to meet you, Your Majesty. Mind if I call you Rina or something? Rider’s a bit obvious, after all.”

--

Rider raised an eyebrow as her new Master licked her glove, but giggled after a moment.

“Ohoho… A pleasure to meet you Naoko.”

She looked perplexed for a moment at the question of nicknames, bringing her hand to her chin.

“Hmm… hmm…”

Catherine crossed her arms, nodding as if she had reached some grand conclusion.

“As an Empress, I am partial to ‘Your Majesty’... but you are my Master, so I’m willing to make an exception… but only for you! I will not tolerate disrespect from the others!”

Once again, Rider felt the need to bookend her statement with a dramatic hand flourish.

“As for a nickname, however… I think I would prefer Cat… or if you prefer to maintain some secrecy… I suppose you could even call me Sophie? That was my name once.”

Catherine’s eyes drifted around the food truck, noting the scattered spices.

“With our pact being settled, Naoko, would you mind explaining where exactly we are? This seems an… odd choice of residence.”

The empress began walking around the food truck, inspecting the contents of a few spice canisters.

--

“Cat…” Naoko rolled that over in her mind, then shook her head. “No, I’ll go with Sophie then, Sophie. Feel free to call me whatever you want as well. I might be the Master, but you’re still the Empress, yeah?”

As the brunette’s attention drifted away from her and back to the surroundings, however, Naoko got out her own brush and broom, opting to get some cleaning done now that the chaotic ‘summoning circle’ was no longer required. A couple of light words caused portions of the dust to sift into the pan, while more natural ingredients were swept up handily with a broom.

“It’s my food truck,” the girl replied as she cleaned, “The Winter Palace, Boston’s one-stop shop for season-aware, locally-sourced sweet and savory desserts. Dunno how much you know about the era you’re currently in, but it’s like...imagine a carriage that holds a kitchen that you drive around town to sell your stuff to people.”

She nodded at that, humming a tune on the minor scale to add some rhythm to her work.

“And don’t touch that one, Your Majesty. I’m still a mage after all, so, you know...not every canister’s something you’d normally want to eat.”

--

“Yes, yes. Sophie will be fine, nostalgic even.”

Catherine nodded, smiling.

The mention of the food truck’s name, however, caused her to freeze for a moment, her lips trembling for a moment before she erupted with laughter.

“That is glorious!”

She leaned against the wall to contain herself.

“The Winter Palace… well Naoko, you should treat it kindly!”

The Empress patted the counter.

“I’m fairly certain your food truck was what brought me to you. The grail must’ve known I’d feel right at home in the Winter Palace.”

Catherine giggled to herself a bit longer until her Master mentioned the contents of the canister she was holding. Rider turned it over a few times in her hands before giving it a slight sniff and frowning. She placed the canister back in its place, dusting her hands off.

“Indeed… I’d hate to think of someone eating… that.”

As Naoko finished cleaning the interior of the food truck, Rider stepped toward the front of the vehicle.

“Well then, if this kitchen can move, let us see this city! I am excited to judge what the Americans have managed over the years. This nation was in its infancy during my time, though I had a great deal of interest in how their little experiment would fare… certainly more than what happened in France.”

Rider grimaced at the last bit.

“But come, come, let me see this modern era.”

--

“Oh yeah,” Naoko laughed, as she gathered up the remains of the circle and dumped it into the compost bin, “America’s gone superpower since. Basically all the world’s smart people go here now, instead of like, say, the UK.”

There was a slight pause, and then, the woman flashed a mischievous grin. IDs could be faked easily, and she knew at least a couple places that must still be packed.

“Pretty late at night, so there isn’t much to see, but hey, Sophie, wanna go clubbing?”

--

“Hmm… impressive, I suppose. I can’t say I’m surprised about Britain’s fall from grace, though.”

The Empress smirked.

“...though the Americans can thank me for the League of Armed Neutrality.”

Catherine’s eyebrow raised at the mention of clubbing.

“Clubbing? Is that a pastime in this country? That seems a rather peculiar hobb- Oh, OH. You mean dancing, then…”

Rider’s expression mimicked her Master’s.

“Absolutely.”

The Servant glanced down at her attire for a moment, frowning momentarily until her eyes lit up with sudden realization.

“Master, do you have a… um…”

Catherine tapped the palm of her hand.

“A… smart…. phone?”

Catherine nodded, deciphering a bit of the modern knowledge the Grail had provided.

“And could I borrow it for a moment on our way?”

A confident smile crossed the Empress’ lips as the machinations came together in her mind.

--

“Think fast,” Naoko replied, practically flinging her phone at the Servant. There was no doubt that Sophie wouldn’t be able to catch it, after all, and in the 1% chance that Rider’s reflexes were indeed that bad, it’d certainly be a memory to laugh about in the future. While the empress did what she wanted with humanity’s most brilliant gem, Naoko bounced into the driver’s seat.

To start with, Peacock sounded suitable.

The truck guttered a couple of times in agony before chugging along the vacant streets, heading to the deeper parts of downtown.

--

Rider snatched the phone from the air, her face lighting up as she rapidly tapped at the screen, nodding every few seconds. As she rapidly scrolled, searching for some treasure hidden deep in the depths of the internet, she spoke up.

“What sort of club is that we’re going to, Naoko?”

The devious smile returned.

“I’d hate to be… overdressed.”

A light flashed from the back of the food truck.

“That being said, does this seem alright?”

Rider took a seat in the passenger seat, grinning. Her glittering royal dress was gone, replaced with the fruits of her searching. In place of the crown, a black snapback with a Supreme logo emblazoned across its front. The dress had been traded for a black crop top, a short black skirt, and a matching fur coat that looked as though it might be worth thousands. The outfit, of course, was topped off with a pair of Gucci sunglasses, night be damned.

--

Naoko glanced at Sophie from the rearview mirror and laughed, before hitting the accelerator.

“More than enough,” she responded cheerily. “Guess I’ll have to spend most of the time ensuring the rubes aren’t slobbering all over you, Your Majesty.”

She wasn’t planning on changing much about her own outfit anyways, so serving as pseudo-wingman and bodyguard for the richly dressed brunette was perfectly fine with her. As an afterthought, Naoko tossed a black card at the Servant as well.

“If things go as expected, I probably won’t even have to worry about next month’s payment. Use that as you wish.”

--

“Oh it wouldn’t be the first time, but I do appreciate the support, Naoko.”

She watched as the lights of the city passed by them.

“And if you’d like anything to wear I can certainly provide it. Being a Servant has its perks.”

She giggled, glancing over at her Master, a faint glow emanating from her hands.

“Although I doubt the Grail intended for my powers to be used for instant makeovers, it’s certainly a possibility.”

The black card sailed through the air, landing neatly in between Catherine’s fingers.

“Thank you Master. Should we need more funds, I have some ideas… other uses of abilities the Grail probably didn’t intend.”

A prideful grin cut across Rider’s face.

--

“Hm,” Naoko tilted her head, giving it some thought. “Naw. Sometimes, you just wanna go berserk without worrying about spilling your martini on your dress, you know? Feels like one of those days for me. And who cares what the Grail thinks? Objects don’t get rights!”

With a dangerous swerve, Naoko managed a pinpoint parallel parking maneveur before hopping out of the truck. Compared to all the Audis and Teslas polluting the free parking space, the cheery decals of The Winter Palace was hardly appropriate, but being appropriate never fit her devil-may-care attitude to begin with. Grabbing her cane and an unmarked pouch, the food truck owner swung open the door and greeted her Servant with a cheesy grin, cocking her head towards the door of a truly underground club that pulsed with deep electronics.

“Don’t suppose your gifts from the Grail involve a self-rolling red carpet?”

--

“I fully understand! There are many ways to enjoy a party!”

Rider laughed loudly at Naoko’s observations on the Grail as The Winter Palace swerved into place.

“You drive nearly as bravely as I do, Master!”

Catherine stepped out of the truck gracefully, a portrait of elegance.

“Hmm… not quite, which is quite unfortunate now that you mention it. I could set off some fireworks though! Or perhaps we could ride in on white horses?”

Rider giggled, gliding towards the entrance.

“Or would that be too passe?”

--

“A bit extra, yeah,” Naoko grinned. “Maybe in the future.”

Passing by the bouncer was easy enough, at least. Even without ID, a couple bills shoved in the bald man’s hands was enough to get the mismatched pair into the throbbing heart of Peacock Night Club. It was an underground establishment with a grungy decor and poor ventilation, but the almost- intoxicating fumes of sweat, perfume, and alcohol made it a delight in its own way. Halfway down the stairs to the main dancefloor, Naoko could already feel the thick and heavy bass drop down in her stomach, while strobe lights turned the crowd into a writhing mass of bodies.

There were a few fans installed, more to offer circulation than any real respite from the moist warmth, and LEDs attached to them created circles of light. The DJ, wearing the head of a giant, pink cat-bear mascot, did his part to liven up the party on top of a raised platform, while the building itself seemed to shake from the collective jumping of the dance mob.

With a sideways glance, she checked out Sophie’s own expression, wondering what her thoughts were of this unrestrained debauchery.

--

Rider’s lips curled into a wide smile at the spectacle that was unfolding noisily around her, the flashing lights glinting off of her shades.

“Positively brilliant.”

The Empress clapped her hands together excitedly, bouncing in time with the music.

“Debased. Dirty. Pulsing with all things sinful… but it looks like such fun!”

Catherine took a step toward the dancing mob, twirling back around in delight and waving for Naoko to follow her onto the dance floor.

“Well, I believe it’s time we joined in, don’t you agree?”

As she found her way in amongst the dancers, she began to think that this modern era would suit her just fine.

--

With a laugh, Naoko scattered caution to the wind and joined her Servant, drinking in the hypnotic beat. Sipping on expensive drinks and hip-checking cybergoths, they cavorted around the dirtied dancefloor, shouting their lungs out to be heard. More than a couple times, Naoko had to kneecap someone who was a little too drunk to be breathing on Sophie, and more than a couple times, Sophie ended up enticing them regardless.

It was a wild affair, a sordid affair, filled to the brim with chaotic energy, and as the hands on the clock ticked by, the club became quieter and quieter, drained of the frenetic energy it once had, until finally, there was only a beauty and a beat.

Letting out a long breath, Naoko leaned against the brick-and-mortar wall, nursing an iced water. Her cheeks were flushed and her breath was shallow, but more than that, her smile was infectious and sharp, sugar sweet despite the dark, mind-numbing atmosphere.

“Hey, Sophie,” she said, warm eyes gazing without focus upon the nightclub, “What do you think of me now?”

--

Rider dove into the chaos of the Peacock with glee. The sights and sounds of modern exuberance washed over her, but despite how out of place she should’ve been, despite how alien it should have felt, she revelled in it. She drew attention, of course, as she always had. Eyes followed her, numerous drinks had been sent her way, and on at least one occasion a fight broke out between some of the more intoxicated of her admirers.

It was as she had said before. The Peacock was the furthest thing from refinement, but she couldn’t help but enjoy the base spectacle. In fact, she was so caught up in the festivity of the night that she didn’t immediately notice as the room grew less and less lively.

As the energy of the room finally breathed its last, Catherine walked to the bar, her outfit nonchalantly transforming into a long red dress as she walked, the sparks that glittered around her only scarcely discernible amongst the club lights that continued to flash rhythmically.

Catherine stepped behind the bar, mixing herself a drink before she approached Naoko. The Servant took a careful sip as she joined her Master at the wall.

A slight frown flickered across her face for a moment as she surveyed the room. Gradually, her eyes swept back around to Naoko.

“Mmm, it’s as you said before… you are a Mage.”

Rider took another sip of her drink.

“And while the ways of Magi might not fit with the tastes of an Empress, they are not wholly alien to us either… especially when there’s a war to be fought.”

The liquid swirled in Catherine’s glass.

“I would say though, Master, that for the sake of the pact between us… it’d be best to fill me in on your plans.”

The Servant spoke almost with a lecturing tone for her entire evaluation, halting in silence at the end to let her words hang in the air. After a few seconds though, she turned toward Naoko with a smile and a wink.

“So where do we go from here, Naoko?”

--

Naoko nodded, solemn for just a moment, before breaking out into a wide smile again.

“Oh, if this is your jam, you’ll love the next place.”




Rider

Present Day! Present Time!

Winter Palace Food Truck


The sunlight of the early afternoon shone down on the modest crowd that surrounded the Winter Palace. Rider beamed cheerfully, her fingers tapping enthusiastically at the cash register as customer after customer came through the line. She'd grown used to this already over the past few days. It was a strange occupation for an Empress to take up, certainly, but she had come to find it amusing in a quaint sort of way. Besides, the customers seemed to like her, which was always a plus.

As another customer approached the truck, Catherine adjusted her apron, a bright blue affair with an overly ornate logo that she had created a few days before. Tying the draw strings tightly around her waist, she flashed a bright smile to her newest customers, a group of teenage boys who seemed to be part of some sort of sports team.

"Hello and welcome to the Winter Palace! My name is Sophie! Is this your first time?"

Rider spoke in a sweet, energetic voice that had proven quite effective at drawing people in. The enthusiastic hand motions that accompanied her greeting only sealed the deal. She was determined to be a symbol of perfection at her occupation, whether that be Empress or fast food employee.

"Y-yeah, y'know, first time we'd ever noticed this place."

The boy smiled nervously.

Rider's lips curled into a wide grin.

"Well then, you are in for a treat! If I might recommend something, the super strawberry crepe is a Winter Palace specialty! You won't find anything else like it in Boston!"

"Sure, I'll get one of those then! And uh, and a drink... and... um.."

Rider leaned forward, motioning toward the others.

"And what for you all? You know, if you all get something, I can actually give you a discount! It will be more than worth it, I can promise you that!"

The other boys nodded with varying levels of enthusiasm and began looking over the menu, gesturing toward items on the menu and mumbling their orders to the first boy. Finally, they finished.

"R-right, so that'll be, uh three super strawberry crepes, and four large cokes, and um, the tuna ice cream?"

Rider smiled weakly. Naoko had very interesting taste when it came to her menu.

"Right then, well, with your discount, the total comes out at... twenty-two dollars and thirty-five cents!"

The boy laughed nervously, pulling his wallet from his pocket.

"Oh, and one more thing... could I get... your, uh... your number?"

Catherine laughed politely, adjusting her apron.

"I'm afraid I don't have a phone. But if you want to talk, you can always find me here at the Winter Palace! Plus you can get the discount for returning customers, isn't that right, Naoko?"

Rider turned toward the back of the vehicle where her Master was preparing the order. She had taken to inventing discounts on a whim... it didn't really matter that they were a few cents at most.
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The Invincible Warrior. The Scourge of Rostam. The Divine Knight of Zartosht. There were many names that could attribute themselves to "Archer" even as he was bound by nothing. Drifted through nothing as he was excluded from time and space. Cursed the Golden Warrior merely floated without purpose as if in an idle dream. Infinite experiences and infinite fantasies from his many incarnations filled his mind without pause. All of these images flowed together into an incoherent but immensely beautiful collage of existence he couldn't hope to dissect with a thousand lifetimes. Even if he tried he'd only have to muddle through an endless addition of new existences that were called "Heroic Spirit Esfandiyār". So he'd stopped thinking about it and let his mind be at peace. His eyes idly watching the various worlds pass him by like idle stars in the void that had claimed his Soul.

Then that which was boundless was abruptly narrowed down to a jagged point. The ambient and undefined hardened into a familiar sense that brought back the feeling of being alive. Touch, smell, sound... These senses filled his newly formed brain that was identical to that which had been in his skill upon Archer's death. Festive sweetness filled Esfandiyār's nostrils as he inhaled his first breath in this modern era telling him immediately that this wasn't a mere domain of a magus. Knowledge, modern and historic, flowed like a river into the Servant's brain as he opened his eyes. Opening his eyes this vast array of knowledge pointed out items around the room. Clock. Picture. Paper. Door. The list of things he "knew" but couldn't comprehend continued to mount until his eyes came to rest on a rather conspicuous man. The eyes with a blue shimmer would become slender as they took in the Magus's complete form which oozed confidence. Seeped arrogance. It reminded him of a certain King.

Brushing the thoughts from his mind Archer would fully materialize as the spell reached its climax and filled the room with abrupt light that blinded Otto. When his vision returned albeit peppered with stars the mage saw a golden hero standing before him. Peerless and proud the bowman had yet to manifest his weapon but the Master's clairvoyance would let him know quickly he'd far from failed in pulling the Archer he so desired, "You, Magi... You who's summoned me in the guise of Archer. I ask here and now if you are my Master." Archer felt vastly empowered and likewise looked over his own body. Yes the amount of Od funneling into his body was more than sufficient for this War. Especially in this particular vessel Esfandiyār would have no problem fighting to his full potential even should his Master be an incompetent fool.
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Otto von Habsburg


As Grail and Od gave Hero form, Otto could only feel the surge of the powers at work pulse through him. He was simply the conductor to the vast amount of power being channeled into the physical in this room. The first glimpse of this miracle given form Otto was able to steal, was the amazingly awe-inspiring blue shimmer of two orbs piercing through the increasingly blinding light.

It was beautiful. One of the few things in Otto's life that we could actually call true beauty. The golden hero from times ancient stood in front of him, proud and and full of unspoken grace. Clairvoyance allowed Otto to glimpse past the glorious surface, and glance the treasure trove beneath. It was not Gilgamesh, that much was certain. Instead of disappointment, however, Otto felt relief and pride. This Archer would be more than enough for Otto's own designs.

Otto could feel it clearly, now that the immediate afterglow of the summoning had vanished. His Od was helping to sustain the golden being in front of him. The Od from the Bounded Field had done it's job well, leaving Otto feeling refreshed and still energetic, even after the summoning. His plan had worked perfectly, leaving a bit left for Otto to draw on himself, and redirect to his Servant.

Exhaling deeply, from a breath Otto never knew he held in, the Mage drew himself straight, and stood proudly in front of his new Servant. The voice of Archer carried with it a power that Otto could feel in his very bones. A certain kind of nobility that was not lost on Otto. Meeting his Servant's eyes, Otto began to respond in an even-keeled and firm tone.

"Indeed, I am, Archer. My name is Otto of House Habsburg-Lorraine." Otto began, now speaking in English. Pacing towards the study's desk, fixing the cuffs of his dress shirt as he did so. "I've summoned you here to participate in this new Holy Grail War, and to win me the Grail." Otto gently trace over his command seals with his other hand, turning his back slightly to Archer. His words seemed to be less of an order, but as if he was speaking from certain fact.

A small vibration on Otto's wrist began to emit from his watch. Glancing down, Otto stopped the alarm he had set earlier that day. The guests would be leaving now, led out by the various staff and his entourage. Otto focused his hearing for a moment, cocking his head to one side. Sure enough, the gentle hum of motor vehicles and the din of leaving guests, that Otto had long pushed the noises from out of his mind, echoed from below. Soon, the estate would be left to only Otto's entourage that accompanied him to the States, and the couple of them.

Retrieving his fashionable jacket, and donning it, Otto turned back to fully face Archer. Pressing his glasses up on his sharp face, Otto once again spoke up, "If you'd like to offer your name, now, Archer, you may." Otto spoke, firmly. While the Mage had a fairly educated guess on the identity of Archer, allowing the Servant to make his own introduction was the polite and respectful action to take.

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Archer didn't even bother committing the rather haughty order from his master to memory. He'd been summoned to win the war for Otto and without Otto he couldn't even achieve his own wish. So a meaningless thing like pride hardly had a place in their discussion. The knight had never had such a thing to begin with, no Chivalry or Morals beyond the Machine called Esfandiyār. As the golden warrior took a single step out of the circle the full "weight" of a Servant fell upon the Magus's circuits. Even if the general upkeep was supported by the grail Otto felt as if he were supporting a hundred generic Servants. They were as incomparable as heaven and earth, "Very well... I understand."

Hopefully, if he had one selfish wish, that this spellcaster was even slightly more honorable than Goshtasp. Though that margin was extraordinarily small to be able to achieve. The instrument made flesh would cross his arms in front of his chest with an equally intimidating stare at Otto, "You may call me Esfandiyār." The invincible warrior that even the Great Rostam couldn't best in fair combat and renowned as one of the greatest Paladins and beast slayers.

It was immediately clear why the Servant seemed to tower over Otto. While the magus had often dealings politically and had wooed his place in the world through clever intrigue this Man had literally slaughtered countless people for his title. Esfandiyār's confidence was built upon a mountain of corpses and countless labors that the entire would acknowledged. If Otto was a great general and diplomat then this Golden Warrior was the most accomplished war general in the army. Still this "general" would bow to no one else even if the odds were stacked against them. The Paladin's legend was a testament to that.
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Otto von Habsburg


The "weight" of Archer shouldered onto Otto was impressive, but the Mage kept his composure straight and clean. Otto could only thank himself, for his earlier preparations in gathering Od from the party. Still, as confirmed by Otto's clairvoyance, Archer was no slouch of a Servant. Otto could only smile as Archer left the prepared summoning circle.

Esfandiyār. The name was only generally familiar to Otto. He recalled the major points of his great legend, but found himself a little pressed to remember some of the finer points. However, the fact that the familiar in front of him was respectful enough to give his true name, seemed to reinforce the budding Master and Servant relationship. Gradually, Otto's smile began to leave his face.

"Very well. It is pleasant to be in a partnership with a spirit of such renown." Otto spoke up, placing his hands into his pockets, and slowly making his way to one of the curtained bay windows. "As might be expected, I will refer to you as Archer. For safety of your identity, of course." Otto added in, glancing back to the golden Servant.

"There is much work for us to set upon, Archer." Otto continued, looking back towards the windows, seemingly eager to set up the task at hand, with interest in anymore formalities or niceties. "As a member of the Archer class, there is no doubt to your impressive perception and scouting abilities." Otto glanced over the quickly vanishing lights of the leaving vehicles, watching them twist and turn through the mountain roads until obstructed by the tree line. "I wish for you to use your abilities as you seem fit to patrol and scout the local area, and to keep things secure. For us to succeed in the coming War, then the next step of my plan is the most crucial." With his final line, Otto pulled tight the curtains of the window, before making his way to the heavy double-set doors to the study.

June 29th, 2021


Otto was well awake before the sun began to rise, going over the intricate Bounded Field he had constructed across the estate, insuring everything was in it's rightful place for what was to come. Another large party was to be hosted tonight, to gather more Od. The applications for the Od played in Otto's mind continuously. Perhaps the best application would be turning the estate itself into a veritable fortress, allowing Otto and Archer to draw upon a huge reserve, and establishing the estate as a permanent headquarters for Otto.

In the days since the summoning, Otto had done his best not to step on the toes of his noble Servant, allowing Archer to leave the estate as far as he wished, and plenty of time to fully acclimate to the world he had been re-birthed into. In truth, Otto had shared scant words with Archer in the few days they had been Master and Servant, besides reports that Otto asked to be made in person. He had not even used his Shared Perception in order to also be privy to the information Archer gathered. After tonight, however, the true work would be set upon them, and there would be no more idly sitting by and simply scouting.

It wasn't long before the sun had risen over the local Boston area. Otto had retired to his study after his own patrols, breaking his fast among his neatly stacked tomes and scrolls he had over his desk. Searchingly, Otto glanced over a local paper that his entourage had retrieved for him on his request. While the events and happenings of Boston could not interest Otto any less, Otto was instead looking for any information that may indicate moves being made by a fellow participant of the Grail War.

As Otto finished his breakfast, having called for his dishes to be taken, and his fruitless search, he began to gather himself fully for the day. As with every morning at the same time, Otto had asked Archer to the study, in order to give any information or reports that Archer deemed important. Glancing at his watch, Otto confirmed it was time.

Archer, bring yourself to me. Otto coaxed forth, using his link to his Servant to contact him. Today is the day. Otto could only hope he was not interrupting Archer in any of his self-assumed duties or patrol routes.

As Otto patiently waited for his Servant to answer, his mind could only wander to the night's events. Another party, much like the one before, but this one was less high profile. Ironically, this could mean more guests to harvest from, as no names would be attached to this party, as they had been to the seemingly unrelated one a few days before. Allowing for a much more 'direct' form of approach between political candidates, and their supporters.
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Approaching the Habsburg Rental


The straight-four purred like a contented beast as the driver set her foot down. They were finally on the open road, cruising in the opposite direction of those on their morning commute into the city. Buildings faded away to rolling hills and New England's scenic woods. The rich set their estates here, far away from the prying eyes and thrumming noise of urbanite life to contemplate the woes of being painfully rich and empty. She knew that pretty well, her family had one a few miles back the way they came. Home was a faraway thought though. Their destination was a more recent memory. A venue, one rented by some foreign money. It had been a nice party, what little of it she remembered, until her newfound guardian took exception to the premises and pulled her away. She stared down at her clasped hands, delicate knuckles rung white as she kept pressure on the back of her left. She didn't want to see it. The faintly glowing icon burned into her skin, the interlinked sigils that throbbed agonizingly whenever she stole a glance to the left, at the strange person seated behind the steering wheel. Her heart beat against the inside of her throat, her brain felt like it was rebelling against the inside of her skull. They were going to murder a man who'd just invited them to a party. She reached for the cupholder and found nothing.

"You're sure we need to do this? No warning or anything?"

A green eye flickered in her direction as she spoke. A chill ran down her spine as she caught the glare of that grim wraith. They were inhuman, they had said as much to her even if she was still attempting to digest what exactly that meant. A... Servant, they had called themselves. And she was now a Master. That meant fighting for their lives, no matter what. That had been made absolutely clear after the first night. Her ears still rang in the wake of the clashes, her heart still raced as her mind recalled that terrible, hungry creature reaching out at her. Deadened fingers clasping over the seal on her hand, prying at the flesh until...

"Magi don't know the meaning of reason. Every Master will want to kill you. It's nothing so personal that you can convince or grovel your way out of it. The way of the Magus is cold, unfeeling reason. You are weak, weaker even then I am, and to kill either of us is a victory for them." A cold voice pried her mind away from the memories. Assassin, the only name the wraith had given her, was speaking. Even if the terms were still fantastic and alien she could understand the severity dripping from the other woman's voice. Like the doomsayers on the streets, believing every impossible word to stem from their insane thoughts. But Assassin came hand in hand with proof of the hidden world. From the brink of death to rushing through the countryside in the passenger seat of a Kangoo, Assassin had been with her every step of the way and no matter how mad she sounded the she had always been right.

"I'm leaving you here."

"Okay." The roaring of passing traffic almost blotted out her weak voice, but Assassin nodded back at her. Here was a rest stop out of town. Assassin lead her inside, holding her hand tight and steadying her uneasy gait long enough to set her down on a bench inside. Giant windows let light into the interior, the modern glass-heavy architecture offering line of sight to the outside world as the Servant loomed over a map rack, pretending to read about the location as people shuffled by. Satisfied that they weren't already under attack, Assassin turned, dropping her pamphlet back onto the shelf and striding right for her Master. The wraith knelt down, scruffy, dark hair falling across her shoulders as her chartreuse eye bored into her own. She could only stare back into Assassin's stark white eyepatch.

"Remember what I told you. If anything happens..." Nimble hands clasped their Master's, forcing her to look down at the sign emblazoned in her flesh. Her lifelines in this twisted game. At a rest stop twenty minutes from where she grew up, shaking and nauseous on public seating with a pistol against her back and a maniac at her feet, Luna Harsyke never felt further from home.

The Habsburg Rental


The highway bled away in the rearview, the scenery encroaching on the asphalt transforming from open field to forest and then back again as the road began to pitch upwards. The Renault's four-cylinder roared against gravity, the heavy body of the utility van accelerating to the edge of its envelope of control on the uphill. Their heavy glove moved on the gearshift, the sound of a thick rubberized sole sliding across the pedals changing the motor's tune and softly lurching the vehicle through its paces.

Assassin sat expressionless, solo eye glazed over the road surface as their mind set itself on the singular purpose of becoming someone else. Victory required diminishing oneself, extinguishing the traits that made one discernible. In her case she could blend away her very presence, seeming nothing more than 'another person' until the fatal moment. There was nothing inconspicuous about being the only car on its way to that remote estate, but all she had to do was not register as a Servant until the first stone was cast. Already she awaited the distinct tingle of passing a bounded field, the telltale sting that would tell the Magus of the land that a normal human had come to his domain unannounced. A lost tourist, a daylight robber, a traveling salesman, it didn't matter what identity they assigned to the sight of an unmarked gray van speeding recklessly towards the front gate. Ornate, iron, moderately fortified. It was an easier breach than the walls surrounding it. Her eyesight confirmed a single guard manning the morning watch, peacefully stood at the booth inside the walls and idly watching her approach from within. The wraith calmly raised their wrist, inspecting the cracked watch to mark the starting time. Eyes diverted from the wheel, they lowered their head to reach for the floor. The windshield exploded.

Metal screeched and tore, the shrill sound of hinges prying apart filling the peaceful morning air with the tooth shaking rattle of machinery coming apart. The wrought iron gates barred across the drive splintered as the van came through them, cracking further from the point of impact and bending where energy forced the metal into plasticity. The vehicle itself mangled into a mess unrecognizable, the passenger cabin's roof peeled back and the sputtering, smoking engine exposed by the blow. A stray wheel rolled away from the iron enshrouded wreck as the driver side door squealed open on bent tracks. It fell away entirely as it swung, the black clad figure inside crawled from the carnage, dragging a drab colored duffel from the floorspace as they stood erect. The door to the guardhouse opened, the suited man inside stepping out with a hand on his hip, concern on his face for the motorist that just wrecked themselves. "Hold still, stay where you are, you're in shock..." The warnings droned even before they were out in the open.

Assassin's hand snapped behind her back, a subtle twist of her spine offering a clean draw as her stance spread wider. Blued steel flashed in her hand, the slim lines of a pistol produced and leveled on the considerate guardsman. His words froze in his throat, but training carried his motions, his fist clenching around his weapon. Assassin squeezed the trigger. The facade fell away. The blooming light of a Servant's spiritual core fell upon the estate, the light of an Intruder, and the sinister feeling of a Noble Phantasm at work. Plastic cracked as the first bullet shattered through the slide of his weapon. Her wrist canted, twisting the ghost ring sight onto the man's leg and firing again. The heavy bark of gunfire would be the second announcement of her presence, one even for mortal ears. They let their weapon go, the mundane firearm clanking to the ground with its purpose served. The estate's door guard laid screaming, bleeding from extremities and shouting profanities into the morning.

"You're not dying yet."

The wraith said, gravel voice rising over the flames of her ride and the lamentations of her witness. They reached greedily into the bag across their shoulders, sliding the parcel off as they pulled a black tube from within. The stock unfolded neatly in their hands, the pistol grip sitting comfortably in their glove. With a flick of her wrist she turned a black and blue tipped shell into her hand, snapping the breach open and slamming the gas round home. No hesitation, no consideration, the grenade launcher came up to her shoulder and fired up at the enormous windows of the building's front face. The canister fell into the study overlooking the drive, broken glass raining alongside it before its timed fuse burnt down. It hissed and popped, an odious and stinging white cloud bursting from the canister and fuming from the broken window. Unopposed the hooligan stood at the foot of the estate and chambered another quarrel for those inside, this time aiming lower and delivering a shell through the front doors. Glass shrieked, alarms cried, and the Servant began to stride forward. The action rang as it sprang open, a smoking case falling to the asphalt in their wake.
Hidden 5 mos ago Post by ERode
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ERode And Others

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Sophie took really well to her new ‘job’, didn’t she?

Inside the food truck, Naoko was hard at work as well, popping open cabinets and fridges with a ferocity becoming of being the only kitchen worked in a popular food truck during lunch rush. Crepes sizzled on low heat while she whipped up another batch of whipped cream. Strawberry prep was already done, thank god, but at this rate, she might have to buy that particular farmer’s stock out completely. When business was good, business was hell, and that didn’t even account for the increase in customer traffic they got ever since word got around that the Winter Palace hired a new, hot Russian girl.

“Yup!” Naoko shouted over the din of her living kitchen, “Discounts for returning and if you bring in new customers too! Super good deal! Crepes n ice cream are up!”

With a rushed flourish, she wrapped the crepes up in compostable recycled paper, slid them over to Sophie, and then gave her forearms seven milliseconds of rest before she launched to the next order, snatching a pinned slip and giving it a once over. Three tuna ice cream sandwiches and a cup of apple sauce chili? Ey, that was totally Danielle and her boss, wasn’t it? She tossed in a venison corndog for the heck of it, imagining just how wonderful it’d be once the shift ends and she could finally do something about her throat.

“If they’re a snack, you might as well get their numbers anyways, Sophie,” the pink-haired woman said, shaking droplets of water off her hand as she switched to the next order. “Wouldn’t mind just letting you borrow mine.”

After all, as long as it was consensual and safe, mana transfer with strangers would totally lighten up Naoko’s own load, even if only slightly.
Hidden 5 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Sosuke
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The servant of golden splendor had returned upon his master's whims quickly. The wind itself carried his essence beyond the normal speed of travel. A blustering arrival to his Master's quarters as a plum of charred earth rose into the sky. The smell of marred civilization quickly reached his nostrils as his feet manifested the sensation of solid earth. The black suit he'd bought sullied with gritty tones of gray and brown immediately as Esfandiyār positioned himself downwind of the carnage. Sharp eyes dissected everything about the intruder down the tiniest detail. Stance, the speed at which their fingers found the trigger, and the object that caught their uncovered eye. This "shooter" was subpar and agonizingly slow compared to Archer's ability to hit a target but that didn't make them any less deadly. The brutal roar of a grenade or similar explosive detonating and ripping apart had alerted everyone within a couple hundred meters of the plight transpiring here. Still the empowering flow of Od flowed easily into his body and powered his core with an abundance of energy, "Master. I trust you're alright."

Harrying quickly Archer positioned himself within fifty meters of the perimeter, equally spacing himself between the cracked and burning abode and the less than subtle assailant. Materializing his bow between his nimble fingers he'd pluck back a single shot as the target fired off their second round. Such a distance was trivial, his arrows might as well have been made of lightning itself as they traversed the range to their target almost instantly. The second round of the Assassin was cleaved through by a gleaming streak of Azure the moment it'd left the barrel. The force and expert impact split the round in half cleanly and the enemy Servant watched the two halves sail harmlessly through the air with her inhuman perception. The details of the blue bolt registered in her swift brain. A shaft of glittering gold wood, a blue gleaming tip, and enough magical energy filling the shot to completely obliterate Assassin's top half with a single precise shot. A millisecond later the shot impacted the ground before the sneaky wraith with an explosion equal to if not greater to the shot that had wrenched open Otto's estate.

Though for an assassin a window that large, fractions of a second, was more than enough time to leap backwards and away from the impact. This was a battle between inhuman beings called Servants after all. The cloudless blue sky shimmered as the same second had given Archer the time to notch back tens if not at least a hundred arrows which were loosed with inhuman precision. Esfandiyār's icy gaze had in the briefest moment studied his target and how they'd reacted to his opening strike. The leg they favored, the slant of their body, the first glance of their eyes. Using his observation compounded with his superior "gut" instinct Archer would predict which way Assassin would flee from the hail of arrows. The hail of magical bullets would target in a tight cluster, a gradually sharpening cone that concentrated where the shady Servant was predicted to have dodged. Even if was incorrect the arrow rain wasn't so easily avoided as they covered a wide area.

Drawing back the silver bowstring Archer would notch three more arrows. Their sleek lengths cracked and popped with a surplus of magical energy. So much so that they might burst apart as Archer exhaled and took aim once more, "Otto, I suggest you make yourself useful and flee as far as possible from the affected area. I don't want to blow up the room you're dwelling in by accident." Speaking plainly through his mental link with his high-class master Esfandiyār exhaled to steady his aim. No wasted motion or thoughts... Merely imagining his bullets piercing his enemy. Throat. Left Calf. Dominant Arm. These three targets lined up in his sights he'd release his bellowing missiles with a resounding crack. The Golden Bowman's fangs breached the sound barrier and shot towards Assassin's carcass the moment the volley had finished its descent upon the courtyard.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Demonic Face
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Demonic Face And Now You're Gay

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June 20, 2021
8:29pm
Rock Island Cove Salt Marsh

@DrowsyPangolin

As tempestuous winds began to fill the surrounding area blasting dirt and rock in all directions, a bright silhouette stood within the center of the magic circle. The figure was shining brightly, brighter than the hottest star in the sky. Like a torch held up against the approaching darkness, that radiant being surely stood out. Heroic Sprits were shining examples of humanity, and this one was certainly no exception. A hero of the Heavens, whose status is above that of Man; to Rocco, it's as if he was witnessing one sun rise just as another had continued to set.

"... So I'm a Saber, then? Hmph."

As the dust began settle and the ritual began to reach its conclusion, the light produced from this spirit had began to dim. It was than that the appearance of the Servant had been made more clear: an azure-haired youth with striking scarlet eyes. The plates of armor that he wore along with his blue outfit gleamed brilliantly, complimented by the inherent radiance that seemed to emanate from the young man's very being. The Heroic Spirit who stood within the dimming circle had quite the notable appearance, providing a quaint contrast to the forgetful visage that his summoner sported. Resting his arms behind his head and closing his eyes, the Servant had let out a sigh.

"It would have been better if I had been summoned with my spear, y'know..." the youth quipped, before opening an eye and grinning slyly, " but this sword of mine will do just as well, Master."

The Saber-class Servant had made his way towards Rocco, extending an arm towards the man, a confident smile painted on his face.

"Cu Chulainn, Saber... I'm not one for formalities so if you are my Master, let us make this contract official here and get to moving. We've got a war to prepare for, after all."
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by USS Iowa
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June 29th, 2021

Downtown Boston
Seedy Building #4


Life was interesting, really. You had no way of knowing where it was going to take you, or when. One moment you're sitting in your estate researching, the next, you're enrolled in a war that decides the fate of the world. Sure, you might have sleepless nights getting together a personal hit list in the meantime, but the meantime doesn't matter. What mattered was the present, the fact that Ferenc Sohonnai was in this conflict to save the world.

Well, maybe the past mattered a small bit.




Some people try to summon heroes for a Grail War. Not a bad idea, as your Heracles, your Irish Heracles, your Persian Heracles, your German Heracles, and even your Indian Heracles are all capable of destroying a war on their own. Despite that, it wasn't the path Ferenc would take. Instead, he decided to abuse the fact he was the overseer of Pécs to summon someone from his own country. A strong idea of that Ferenc, he could summon John Hunyadi, or even the progenitor of the Báthory.

Instead, Ferenc summoned the serial killer Báthory.

Maybe less valid of a choice, but the two seemed to get along well enough. The moment introductions between the two were finished, the pair got themselves onto a flight to Boston. It was an 11 hour flight, but Ferenc managed to get some sleep, as well as do some prep work in the airplane bathroom. Him stalling so long in the bathroom led to a miniature riot, but the details of that are unimportant. What IS important is that he managed to sneak some of his creations through the TSA.

Upon getting through the TSA and officially entering Beantown, the pair immediately got to work. During the gruelingly long flight, the Hungarian duo managed to get some ideas together, so they simply began putting those plans into action. The first of which was having his Servant speak with the locals. Ferenc wasn't too sure on the idea initially, mostly because of her rather draconic appearance, it appeared his Servant had a natural ability to attract and lead the locals.

Well, they were locals, but they were also all members of the criminal underbelly of Beantown.

Still, using the access they had to people meant Ferenc could get the first stage of his plan done. It wasn't anything too impressive, merely acquiring safehouses and preparing them with what was needed. A relatively tame thing in the end, but something that was incredibly important for the duo.

With phase two of the plan accomplished, all Ferenc needed to do was focus on part three.

Helping the "idol".

Ferenc didn't quite understand it himself, but it seemed like his Servant wanted to create a small army of sorts. While he wasn't in the creation of all of them, his specific alchemic talents were crucial in the creation of some of the most important models. It was him helping out Lancer that took up most of the two weeks they had spent within Boston.

It appeared that Ferenc was able to make the most out of the opportunity life at given him. Within a month he went from the standard life of a magus, to being fully prepared to enter war. Though, if truly was ready to place his own life on the line in a battle, why was he busy sifting through old movies?




The bright light of the sun was cancelled out by the wooden planks that boarded up the building. This truly was a sketchy building on the wrong side of town. Ferenc wasn't the type to normally associate himself with this kind of environment, but some sacrifices needed to be made in the name of war. It was only going to be, maximum, two weeks of suffering.

Still, this kind of place couldn't be good for his complexion...

Ferenc was looking through a large blue plastic tub, filled with what appeared to be VHS tapes? Much like the archetypal magus he was, Ferenc distanced himself from such things. Still, he remembered such things from when he was a child. That would more than likely explain why he was sifting through VHS tapes instead of something a bit more modern, like a DVD.

With each of the tapes he went through, an audible sigh could be heard. None of these films would do. Trash, they were all trash. Why would his Servant want to watch a romantic comedy about candles? Or a film about some foot? Why would he even want to watch such garbage? No no, only the best for Ferenc and his Servant. They were the superior pair in this war, thus, they had to watch a superior film. Unfortunately, all of these films were nothing but crappy 80's films...

At least, until Ferenc noticed one, a special one.

"Perfect!"

The tape's cover only had the title of the movie, [REDACTED FOR COPYRIGHT], a knife, and blood. However, the plot synopsis on the back of the tape is what sold Ferenc on the film. While it was surely going to be nothing more than a bad cheesy horror B-film, it was exactly the right type of film for him to watch alongside the Demon Lord BATHORY.

"Erzsébet! I think I finally found something in these old betamax tapes! You might like this one!"

A betamax? Those predated him!

Truly, this was the peak a magus could go with modern technology. Even if he spent the first few years of his life as a human, he was dated beyond belief.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by LukasVolkov
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LukasVolkov The Recently Returned

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September 13th, 2020

Countryside/ Greyhollow/32 mils Outside Boston


It was smaller than she recalled. Katherine stood outside the old mansion, her eyes wandering the worn, wooden building. The paint had long since peeled away, the windows had been boarded up, the porch was a maze of missing planks, and forests of weeds choking the pathway up to the house. The home of her childhood, rich, and darkly painted with vibrant rose bushes all around was a mere bit of hazy on the horizon of her memory. She climbed the creaky stairs to the door. The inside was no better. The sounds of rats and other rodents scampering about could be heard in the walls and the air was stale and dusty. The floors were bare of furniture, masses of cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. Katherine walked through the house, its memory souring with how the house had fallen into such ill repair, the oddest thing being the number of old candy wrappers scattered about the main hall. The kitchen was in ruins with leaves littering the floor and the back door wrenched off its hinges.

Behind the mansion was overgrown with grass, weeds and wildflowers, but to her eyes she saw a poisoned garden, sick with Mage magic from having been set aflame.The echoes of what was once the Gardens’ true home still cried out. Searing pain lanced up through her feet and straight to her breast as her magic reacted to the pain, anger, and misery infused into the ground. The blood of witches had watered this dirt while their bones littered the woods. Katherine stumbled, catching herself on a pillar. She grit her teeth and wiped the moisture from her eyes. Now wasn’t the time for this. The high concentration of magic here created its own bounded field from the echoes of memory. A cold, calculating part of her mind intone the use such a natural bounded field proved rather useful should other Masters come sniffing about the place when the battle royal for the Grail began. She clung to that line of thinking rather than drown in her own sorrow.

Katherine made her way back to the front. She uttered a few words in an eldritch tongue and touched the main doorway. Ancient magic stirred to life at her touch- a Mistress was finally home. Seals, spectors, and any other bit of her family’s magic that survived the massacre came alive. Finally finding a reason to smile Katherine walked to her car. From within she pulled wooden cases and a few suitcases. She began up the path to the stairs when a beat up pick up truck rolled up the drive. From within a grizzled, bear of a man got out. He was perhaps in his late fifties, early sixties. He looked hale and hearty and towered Katherine, which was quite a feat unto itself. He waved as he made his way up the path, a friendly grin on his face.

“Afternoon, it’s good to see another friendly face out this far! I take it you’re the one moving into the old Wormwood place eh?” He stopped just short of her and looked up at the mansion. “Many’s a buyer that’s tried and failed to turn her around.”

“I hope to be the first,” Katherine said with a giggle. She extended a hand. “Maggie Baker.”

“John Jessepe.” He shook her hand vigorously. “Want some help with that luggage?”

Katherine nodded. “I’d appreciate the help yes.”

He grasped her suitcases but upon reaching for the large wooden case she stopped him. “I can handle this one.” She remained friendly but stayed firm. She didn’t need the seals to lash out. “I take it this place has changed many hands?” She mounted the porch stairs. “The realtor was cagey with details.”

John shrugged and together they walked up to the house. “Most people avoid it like the plague.” A grin split his lips. “It’s got something of a local legend about it; people are convinced it’s haunted. Heck I’m inclined to agree. Kids around here are gonna be disappointed though.”

“Why’s that?”

“It's a tradition for kids to spend the night here on Halloween.” His grin turned nostalgic. “I did it once or twice when I was a little.”

Katherine resisted the urge to frown and instead laughed. “Well hopefully they won’t mind getting free candy in lieu of losing such a tradition. You’re from here then?”

“Yes ma’am,” he said proudly. “Born and raised. I own the ranch down the road aways, only house for miles. You’re welcome to call on me and Annabelle anytime ya wish if ya need something.” He blinked. “That reminds me!” He set the suitcases down in the foyer and raced to his truck leaving a bemused Katherine behind.

He came back with a covered dish. “The wife insisted on making our new neighbor one of her chicken bakes. Careful though she’s got a thing for making her chicken spicy, might be a tad hot.”

“Thank you.”

John whistled as he gazed around the ruined parlor and main hall. “This place is in worse shape than I remember. If you need any help with this place I know a guy who’d give you a fair price in town.”

“I appreciate that thank you.” Katherine said before tapping on the forehead. The man collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut. “But I’ll require something a little more from you my kind fellow.

June 21st, 2021

Rebuilt Wormwood Manor


The next few months saw a somewhat stately home appear where the hollowed out curiosity once stood. Townspeople whispered about the old Wormwood residence and its new owner. They eyed her, suspicious but soon waved her off as a nice enough lady though a bit of a recluse. Katherine had the weeds about the house torched and used sweet smelling incense to draw in the animals that wandered the nearby forest. Their carcasses made for prime fertilizer and in time her Mother’s garden returned healthy and whole.

Katherine felt proud of her work when the garden took to the Sanguine Gardens bounded field. Her wraiths and alchemical plants flourished and her potions seemed stronger than ever before. The moon was high and full in the sky. The garden’s heart pulsed with mana, and not just her own, the old interesting leylines pulsed in the light of the full moon. Katherine paused to look at the mark on her left hand. She half expected the Grail to ignore her given what she truly was but she certainly wouldn’t dare look a gift horse in the mouth. She felt it rather interesting how a simple side project ended up drawing her attention so readily.

“A fine night don’t you think?” Katherine asked her guest.

John gave muffled reply through his gag. He sat in the center of the magic circle carved into the ancient stones. Behind him an altar rested with a massive oaken club atop it. The manawraiths snapped and hissed at the circle and her guest- poor dears were so hungry. Annabelle waited patiently to the side, her stare vacant as a misers soul. The pleasant if frail woman held a silver tray in her hands. John rattled the chair trying to scream at her through his gag.

“Now, now my lovelies you’ll eat soon I promise.” Katherine. “Mummy must do some work first.” She walked up behind him and began the chant. With a swift slash she opened his throat and his lifeblood filled the stone circle’s groves. Mana burned bright as the summoning took hold and Katherine witnessed a sight unlike any she’s ever witnessed.

Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Sightles
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Sightles

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Otto von Habsburg


The sound of crumpling metal, and shouts, was what first got Otto's attention. Moving quickly to the large bay windows, Otto drew the curtains wide open, to glance down upon the developing scene. Otto was just in time to see the result of the sharp report that echoed across the estate grounds. Instantly, hundreds of alarms began their cry inside of Otto's body.

This was a Servant.

Otto had scant time to use his Clairvoyance in order to glimpse into the assailants abilities. Before he could focus more onto the Servant, the form aimed a large black tube, directly towards the Habsburg Head. Otto ducked away, throwing himself back towards the middle of the room, while being showered in the crystalline remains of the large bay window. It was now time for action.

There was no explosion, though. Instead, a deep hissing sound emanated from the object fired into the room, beginning to fill impressive study with it's gas. Otto frowned, before producing a pink sapphire from a hidden compartment on his belt. Speaking the command words, Otto launched the intricate jewel towards the hissing canister. In a flash, a gale-like wind flushed the room, taking all manners of the studies items with it out the window, including the canister and gas it had released already.

Before Otto could gather himself, several reverbs shook the foundation of the estate. Archer had arrived to mount the defense of the Habsburg estate. Sure enough, Otto could hear the Archer's inquisitions on Otto's status, through their mental link. Instead of an answer to the direct question, Otto instead focused on transmitting to Archer what he had gleamed from his clairvoyance. It wasn't much, mainly hastily formed images of what the Servant was capable of, and less dialogue. Otto didn't have the time to explain the Servant's abilities, so he'd simply just show Archer.

The heavy wooden doors of the study burst open, with three black-suit clad bodyguards entering. With handguns raised, they quickly made their way over to their employer, before the point-man addressed Otto, "Sir, we're escorting you out of here. The 4x4 in the back is being prepped." In response, Otto could only give a curt nod. As the procession of Otto and his guards began to leave, Otto quickly grasped a golden scabbard, blade sheathed inside, from a dresser. Gripping the item tightly, Otto focused and closed his eyes momentarily, as he began flow what little Od remained in his Bounded Field into the scabbard. Absentmindedly, Otto allowed himself to be gently led through the winding halls.

As he finished, Otto opened his eyes. He could feel the shield working. It wasn't as much as he'd prefer, but it'd be enough to repel at least one good attack. It was now time for the next line of action, finally responding to his battling Servant. Archer, we will be proceeding with the originally planned escape action. Thankfully, as Otto had learned to do, he had planned for the worst. Through the manse, the large garden, and the towards the back was his escape. Sitting by the utility and recreational buildings, was a large 4x4 that would take him off-road, and towards the nearest highway. Hopefully, as was expected, Archer would be able to buy time for Otto.

Otto's mind raced, but in a much more calmed manner than one would expect. It was obvious, to Otto, what this was. A frontal attack with an Assassin-Class Servant? It was a probe, and even potentially carried out to foil Otto's plans for the night. Before Otto could lose himself in the wild possiblities, he straightened himself, as him and his procession made their way onto the second story. An Assassin-Class had guile and cunning on their side, but tricks and baubles only bought time for it's user, before the true strength of Archer would be brought full to bear.

As deep echoes and vibrations continued to echo, seemingly from everywhere, mixed with the sharp retort of gunfire, Otto could only wonder what Master had the daring to order an attack like this. Gripping the scabbard tighter in his hands, until he was white-knuckled. It'd be obvious the Master wouldn't of followed their Servant here, unless they were stupid enough to attempt to engage a knight-class and powerful mage on their home turf.

It didn't matter. Otto had made many contingencies in anticipation for things to go awry. Soon, he'd be out of the manse, and would be able to start anew. Ignoring the alarming reports of the possible current location, and identity, of the intruder from his ear-piece wearing bodyguards, Otto turned onto a long hall, his procession tightly formed around him.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by DrowsyPangolin
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Rider


Rider passed the tasty treats out to the waiting patrons with a bright smile before moving on to the next in line. As she worked, though, she glanced back towards Naoko with a look of obviously feigned offense.

Now Master, I do have standards! Even for “snacks”, as you call them… which isn’t to say that the idea as a whole is off the table, buuuuut~…

Being able to communicate telepathically with one’s Master was a wondrous advantage of being a Servant. Of course, it probably wasn’t meant for conversations like this one.

The lunch rush line was dealt with rather quickly and without much trouble, at least on Rider’s end. She was lucky, though. All she had to do was smile and talk, but for every extra purchase she talked some unsuspecting patron into, Naoko’s work load just increased. Such was the burden of food service.

Towards the end of the rush, and elderly man approached. Catherine had come to recognize him as a regular. His name was Lewis. He was divorced. He had six grandchildren. He had shown up nearly every day since Rider had started working in the Winter Palace. He always ordered coffee and Belgian Waffles and typically called her “sweetheart” or some such pet name when he ordered. Today, however, he had a newspaper tucked under his arm… and one of the headlines immediately caught Catherine’s eye.

“Mr. Lewis, I don’t suppose you happen to be finished reading that newspaper? I didn’t get a chance to pick one up today…”

A convincing frown crossed Sophie’s face.

“Well Sophie, I didn’t think you’d be much for reading the paper like us old folks. Here you go sweetheart, don’t worry, I’ll just pick up another one.”

Rider took the paper with a smile, ringing up Lewis’ order.

“Well, thank you so much Mr. Lewis! I’ll throw in a cookie for free, just don’t tell anyone!”

She fake-whispered the last part, adding a pre-wrapped cookie to Lewis’ bag.

“Such a sweet girl! I’m always happy to help out whenever I can…”

As Lewis took his bag and walked away towards a nearby bench, Rider opened the newspaper, tracing her finger across the headlines.
“Murders on the North Side: Police Seeking Any Information”

That story had been ongoing. She’d heard it mentioned a few times amongst the customers.

“Boston’s New Drug Epidemic: How to Protect Your Kids”

Rider glanced toward Naoko.

“Master, have you been keeping track of the news?”

As her eyes returned to the paper, though, the Empress finally settled her gaze upon the article that had drawn her attention in the first place.

“Austrian Aristocrat Celebrates Gubernatorial Announcement”

Catherine’s eyes grew wide as she scanned through the article and noted a familiar name.

“Ohoho… Master, I think I’ve found something interesting.”

Glancing to make sure there were no more patrons for the moment, Rider turned, holding the newspaper towards Naoko and tapping on the article.

“It says here that the head of the Habsburg family has been in town… and evidently threw some sort of party recently. Now, I can’t speak for how far they may have fallen, even back then they seemed to be losing their potency… but the Habsburgs that ruled Austria during my time were a family of Magi. It could be a coincidence, of course, but it seems a bit unlikely that the head of such a famous family would just happen to visit Boston during this Grail War, don’t you think?”

Over two centuries and half a world away, and she still couldn’t escape from European politics.




Rocco Moretti


Rocco couldn’t help but stare in awe as the summoning ritual sparked to life. The light was almost blinding, and his heart was pounding furiously against the walls of his chest, but he held himself together, watching intently in silence as the light faded away.

For a moment, the appearance of the hero took him off guard, though he didn’t show it. Still, the whole idea of summoning some ancient hero had sounded bizarre when he thought about it. Now that he had actually done it, he realized just how alien the experience was. The summoning had worked, and Ireland’s Child of Light was now standing before him. Of course, Rocco wasn’t the type to show the strange sense of amazement that had overtaken him. Instead, he just stared for a moment, as if he was uncertain the man before him was really there.

When the hero began speaking though, the ex-hitman shook off the awe as well as he could. The summoning had been a success, but now the real job started. Rocco nodded as the Heroic Spirit spoke. Saber. Not the class he’d expected, but by no means a disappointment.

Coming to terms with the situation, Rocco raised his cigarette to his lips, taking a deep drag before letting the smoke creep away into the night. His own tired, blue eyes meeting the crimson irises of his Servant. Taking another puff of his cigarette, he took a step forward.

“I’m glad to hear it, Saber.”

The dark-haired man held his hand out for a handshake.

“It’s official then. Let’s get to work.”

---

The next few days were devoted wholly to preparing for the coming war. That being said, Rocco’s definition of “preparation” probably would’ve made a more proper mage nauseous. For one thing, his “workshop” was a converted room at a run-down motel in Roxbury. There was a Bounded Field to keep away prying eyes, but by-and-large the sort of people that frequented the establishment knew to mind their own business. Over the course of the first day Rocco had set to work creating more Lethe Dust and aiding Saber with his Runes in any way he could. In general, though, Rocco’s personal preparations were fairly mundane. He had double and triple checked all of his firearms, making sure he had ample ammunition for each. Following that, he had poured over a map, trying to predict where the other Masters might have set up shop. Neighborhoods like the one he and Saber were currently in were certainly attractive to those who meant to be discreet. There was also the possibility, though, that some of the other Masters might not be the careful type… or worse there might be a maniac or two amongst them. For that reason, Rocco had also set to marking high-profile areas that might either function well as bases-of-operations or useful sources of magical energy.

Once the first day of preparation had been completed, Rocco had set out to case the locations he had marked, sometimes travelling with Saber, sometimes splitting up. Though Rocco was already relatively familiar with the city, the next few days were spent engraving every road and alley into his mind. It seemed that most of the other Masters were either keeping a low profile or were setting themselves up outside of the city proper. For once, Rocco cursed his lack of involvement in Mage Society. If he had more connections he might’ve been able to get some confirmed reports on the other Masters. What he lacked in magical associates he made up for in criminal ones, but even those sources were proving mostly unhelpful. However, he had heard something about some mysterious new gang in town. As it stood though, he didn’t quite have an in to investigate that further.

---

Present Day

Early Morning

The Town Car rolled quietly away from the drive-thru window in the early hours of the morning. Rocco took a swig of fresh, black coffee from the styrofoam cup he had just purchased, placing a similar cup in the cupholder between Saber and himself.

“I know you probably don’t need it, but you can give it a try if you want. It’s got this old man through more than one long day… and I got a feeling today’s gonna be one hell of a long day, Saber.”

Rocco took another swig from his own coffee cup before placing it in his side of the cupholder and lighting a cigarette. Before the Town Car rolled out of the parking lot, Rocco tapped the door, muttering to himself.

“Distogliere lo sguardo.”

It was a simple Bounded Field, and would keep people from looking at the vehicle for too long. Of course, it was only the mildest form of suggestion. If they were to come upon a real threat it’d do little good. Still, it helped with keeping a low profile.

Rocco took a deep drag from his cigarette, pulling out of the coffee-shop parking lot and into the street.

“Alright Saber, so for today we’ll be looking through more of the bad side of town and seeing what we can find out about this gang I keep hearing about. Seems to me something like that springing up overnight can’t be a coincidence. Keep a lookout for anything suspicious... and be ready for a fight if we stumble across somebody wo doesn't wanna be found.”
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Ah, blessed break with glorious iced water. As the final set of Belgian Waffles were popped off the grid, Naoko finally let the tension seep out of her body, her form practically becoming a slime as she seeped against the wall. Sipping through a straw, she sat on a stool and watched Sophie flip through the pages of her pilfered paper.

“Uwah,” she vocalized, eyes scanning over the murders and the war of drugs, “American media is as dreary as ever, huh.”

But of course crude crimes weren’t anything that interested an Empress. Raising a brow at the headlines extolling some European 1%-er, Naoko sipped on the straw until it started producing obnoxious sounds, before hopping off her stool again, rejuvenated. “Pretty sure any magi family coming over to Boston’s gonna be suspect,” she replied, “But being the rich fellows they are, they’d probably have summoned some super crazy person like Hercules as an Archer or Lancelot as a Saber, yeah?”

She turned on the tap, rolled up her sleeves, and started scrubbing away. Lunch rush being down didn’t mean work stopped, sadly. A couple moments of silence passed before she spoke up again. “This totally is a challenge, right?” Naoko ventured, performing miracles with her steel wool, “Like, wow, gotta be some next level arrogance to announce your presence via the news...but huh.”

An inkling of something crawled in her mind. It didn’t align at all with her current plan of ‘doing nothing the whole time and just seeing who crawls out of the war’, but maybe a proactive approach was alright as well.

“If you wanna go say ‘hi’, I’m not opposed. Austrian aristocrat’s gotta be hot, right, Sophie?”
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The Habsburg Rental



True to the Archer's keen aim, his first arrow pierced the grenade in mid flight. Like the first, the less-lethal munition had only teargas particulate to dispense. As its casing split down the middle its powder sprayed out, the pulverized granules instantly transformed into an aerosol by the energy exerted on them. A great cloud of white gas erupted across the courtyard, a swirling tunnel pierced through it by the roiling aftershock of Archer's strike. Eyes met eye for the first time there, the Assassin already recoiling from the interception. She reached up to her face, pulling up her heavy scarf across her mouth as pieces of crystallized CS began to fall from the cloud of agitated tear gas. The moment passed, the tear gas surrounded Archer. His arrow hit the ground, the shock of the impact causing the asphalt to explode like a hand grenade. Out of the kill box. They threw their grenade launcher at the bowman, forgetting it. The wraith sunk to one side and dived, arms outstretched at an unlikely target.

Shot, bruised, covered in tear gas, the gate guard was having an awful day. Mucus poured from his face, his eyes screwed shut as the irritant set in. Powerful arms scooped his bleeding form from the ground, the limber Assassin sheltering him from the aftershock of Archer's attack as the wraith rolled into the smoke. Chips of concrete tore strips off of her jacket. Grenades fell from Assassin's coat, wooden sticks topped with metal canisters. White lines decorated their rim, the stenciled letter "N" marking them. As they hit the ground they exploded, the smoke grenades instantly blanketing the courtyard even more densely in obscuring fog. Assassin disappeared from sight, the screaming guard left safely on the ground as faint footfalls on the grass, easily audible to a fellow Servant, signaled the path the Assassin took away from Archer.

Arrows shrieked into the smoke, Archer's volley unleashed upon the wraith. Beyond line of sight dirt and grass exploded into the air. The iron fence around the estate wailed as Archer's arrows snapped metal spikes in half, reducing spots struck directly to molten slag when the azure tips passed through. His aim honed in, instinct sharpening his shots, cutting off routes of escape... But Archer had no need to predict. Assassin stood still within the fog, her position revealed by the glow of gunfire. True to the image of an agonizingly slow marksman Archer had assigned her, the Assassin class had to stop to line up a shot without vision. The muzzle flash of a machinegun turned the smoke and clouds into a thunderstorm. Bullets rippled out, spraying indiscriminate death at the Archer while his own lethal attacks peppered the shooter. The hail of hundreds of arrows met with a deluge of bullets. Whatever effect their desperate attack could have had on Archer... the Assassin could not have survived such a barrage. Three victory shots cracked from the bowman's weapon. Throat, calf, arm, the Assassin's carcass was surely destroyed as the shots sailed home, their gunfire pitching up into to the sky as they fell in defeat, corpse's finger wrapped around the trigger in pathetic defiance.

Something wasn't right.

Footsteps surrounded Archer, and a sensation followed. Not the presence of Assassin, but of flowing prana, the tether of a Servant passing by, its far trail leading out into the countryside, to a Master far away. The near side pointed to the door. A wire stretched through the smoke in front of Archer's face. The tumult of projectiles flying back and forth finally dispersed the chaotic gray clouds, leaving the scene on the courtyard clear for all to see.

Assassin had sped past, obscured. The wraith appeared at the doors, visible only for a fleeting instant. A black cord stretched from their hand to the "Assassin" that Archer had fired upon. A tripod sat on the lawn, destroyed by his attacks. An empty machinegun was fastened to it with the solenoid trigger pinned down by the Assassin's device. They dropped the wire to the decoy and disappeared into the entranceway. Another smoke bomb fell down in their wake, the undulant cloud spilling with the fleeing Assassin into the foyer. They had a head start, and swift feet when they needed to.

The chase was on. The blackened wraith leaped onto the banister of the lavish hall's serpentine stairs, sprinting up to the second story. Just as their own magical path could be felt in proximity, the empowering flow of Od into the impressive Servant outside had pointed like a compass to her target. A brilliant star, shamed only by burning too bright. The entourage of guards moving ahead of him probably wouldn't hurt her chances either.

Somewhere Downtown/Old State House
June 29th, 2021
Slipshod Custodian March



The Boston morning had been chaos. Moreso in the proper city part, somewhat removed from the tourist trails where real people with real lives worked real jobs. People dressed for the summer heat marched back and forth at the tail end of their commute, carrying food, carrying phones, carrying the hopes of another day of American business. Some of them marched out of cafes, some of them posted up by food trucks. Even in the heart of the Walking City, however, it was impossible to escape every facet of the tourist industry. After all, a place so compact, so filled with history made it inevitable that cutting through downtown was a proper course for some tours.

It was the end of the lunch rush. A small group of what had to be tourists, for they were lead by a bespectacled lady in a foppish looking black and blue uniform, passed by the respectable if tuna-scented establishment a sidecast eye identified as The Winter Palace. The occupants appeared to be up to something else however. No need to tour for those who knew where they were going. The lady in charge threw her hands to the firmament, loudly extolling the virtues of the ornate moulding along the buildings they passed. Her voice rose and fell with the eras, eager to inform her passenger hostages of the sheer amount of meaning and history contained in the tiny differences in artistry that the ages had brought. For their part... Some of them were wandering away.

So went that brutal march of attrition into the downtown until the last survivors stood before the looming (but dwarfed by its surroundings) shadow of the State House they weren't using anymore. Gigantic 'closed for renovation' stickers and signs dotted the territory, an eerie silence pervading over the building as if it had been set away from the whole of humanity.

"Now hold on a second, I know a thing or two about this kinda thing. In America, this!" She held her hand up to the closed sign, running her palm under the words as if they needed hand modeling. The white glove sailed up to the corner, thumbing out a tack and taking hold of the bulletin. Her fist clenched. The plastic and paper ripped, and contented with outright destruction of property they nudged the now blank standing sign to the ground.
"Is more like a suggestion. Don't give me that look, no one's forcing you to be here."

Trouble turned its silver-haired head, glasses glinting in the rising sun as they stared at the door. Seemingly unaware of the bounded field they treaded over, they strode up to the black, street facing double door of the Old State House and crashed the back of their fist against the door. The force of the blow rang through the inside of the abandoned structure like a drum, the triumphant sound of an actual lunatic demanding entrance from a structure that should be fully empty. With all the determination in the world they took a step back, crossed their arms, and waited for the masters of the House to step forward.
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Rider


Rider brought her fingers to her chin, thinking over the subject for a moment.

“I suppose you’re right. Surely the Habsburgs at least have enough wealth left over to afford a good catalyst… they may even still have some valuable catalysts in their possession. Hmm, but summoning one’s own family seems a bit… obnoxious.”

Rider tumbled over the possibilities in her mind, glancing out of the food truck as a tour group passed by. Ordinarily she would’ve tried to lure them in with promises of free samples and the tastiest treats in Boston, but at the moment she was distracted. Maybe that was for the best.

“It certainly could be a challenge… or incompetence. Though even if its the latter, they may have summoned a Heroic Spirit with ample ability to make up for it. Whatever the reason, they’re being very public about this. Which, if the Habsburg stock has made any kind of rebound in the past two centuries could actually be to their benefit.”

Rider bit her lip slightly.

“They work well with people, crowds. That’s the sort of Magi they were. Bending the wills of those around them… quite good at it, too. Some were better than others though, of course. If this modern Habsburg is anywhere near the upper end of the scale he could be quite the magus.”

Sophie pursed her lips slightly at Naoko’s assessment.

“Perhaps we should at least drive by and take a peek. From there we can size things up a bit better. We might be able to use them to our benefit if we handle them correctly.”

Rider coughed at her Master’s last assertion.

“They um… they could be I suppose. It… depends on how long they’ve been carrying on their old traditions. If you’re a girl drawn towards… very defined jaw-lines then you might be quite taken with him.”

Catherine snickered to herself and heading toward the front of the truck.

“If we are to go, I’d like to drive. I think it’d be for the best, should we have to make a hasty retreat.”
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