The night sky was torn in half. A streak of azure crashed down from the heavens, its body entering her sight for only fractions of a second before it disappeared into the rooftop. In its wake the brilliant course it tore through the sky was burnt into her sight. Assassin's lone eye blinked, and in that time she already threw herself to the ground, already felt what inevitably came next.How could you?
Sound returned. A roar, something primal, concocted from lungs of concrete and steel battered empty by the force of the Archer's attack. The building's structure wailed as the force of the arrow's impact burst its walls outward, bent its skeleton into a comic, useless shape... Gutted away its substance. The rooms inside, any soul that had not evacuated in the scarce moments since the shooting started. Brimming light blotted out their death, the catastrophic release of magical energy at once majestic and horrifying, an explosion of supernatural make.
Even against the deck Assassin felt herself pushed along the ground, almost upended by the meager wind resistance of her torso, almost crushed by the intense pressure that gripped the air in the wake of the blast. Were she human her lungs would have burst, her sinusoids would have imploded. Standing outside of the blast radius was a false safety, and a certain, agonizing death once the pressure passed. The whipping winds subsided, giving way to the deep groan of the hollowed building, the mournful cry of a home denied its meaning. All around the plaza the glass facade of the city cracked, plate windows falling from their high-rise holdings as the shockwave ripped them from their frames or shattered them in place. The eerie, shrill hum of resonating crystal filled the air, punctuated with the echoing splash of each pane across the ground far below. The engines of the helicopter overhead wheezed, the sudden disturbance in the air warping its blades in flight, choking the flow of air over the rotors. The difficulties of working around a bomb blast, exaggerated by the wanton destruction a Servant could wreak without exercising restraint. Its sleek body lurched downwards in the air, blinking lights following the doomed airframe as the pilot nosed away from the scene, pitching with the remaining lift in the ruined blades away from the buildings below. A park, a river, an intersection? There was no telling what end they met. Just the sudden scrape and bang in the distance as their heroism went unrewarded.
Smoke poured upwards into the sky. Steel beams glowed with residual heat. Distant fires lit the skyline. The Assassin stood, bits of rubble falling from her scraped back. Ahead of them the structure wobbled, its complete failure mere moments away. Picking himself up from the snow, the blue haired figure of a man. No. A Servant. Her stomach turned. The lips behind the ragged scarf turned to bare bloodstained fangs, the scowl of her heart still hidden to the world. He stood, a mere spattering of red seemingly all the man had to show for his troubles. And the people he'd chosen to stand upon? The Caster seemed content to escape in good shape, having done nothing for the people beneath him."We're leaving."
The man pilfered the slowly dissolving remains of a Servant's wound, speaking to his lackey before he casually blew a hole into city's underbelly. Assassin was already walking forward. No concern for incoming fire, no mind to turn towards the Archer that once more earned her ire. Callous. They were all callous. Her weapon dropped to the ground, the accumulating snow crunched beneath her boots. Every cell of her remaining body urged her to scream, to fit and rebel against the unfairness she witnessed. A fire that burned in the gut, a light that war taught her to hold in caged fingers, lest that little light shine too brightly. The first surprise of the evening came when the Caster spoke to her directly. Correctly surmised her class, even. Impressive without a Master watching, though by virtue of elimination... They almost had the whole gang together. If only.
MBTA Subway System
La Petite Guerre
Silence accompanied the Caster into the subway, hopping down the slope of shattered brick he had created into the station below the plaza. Unsurprisingly, the nexus was empty. Bags, carried dinners, ringing cellphones... People had left their belongings in a hurry, fleeing from the nightmares overhead. The trains were gone, a fact she was thankful to register for all the lives they must have spirited to safety the next stop over. Her snow caked combat boots clacked onto the refreshingly intact flooring. The yellowed lighting of the metro eradicated shadow, and without smoke or gunfire to obscure them the truth of the Assassin stood. A lithe, formless girl, face obscured, eye patched, wrapped in charcoal colors. Clothing borrowed from modern times and bandages to cover the rest, all stained in blood from the night's scuffle. Assassin approached as the Caster conducted his profane ritual, solo eye snapping to the sight of his golden staff. No sooner than the feeling of welling magic entered the air, it was met by the shallow pulse across spiritual senses that was the minor activation of her Noble Phantasm. A shotgun materialized in the Assassin's hands, crossed across their waist. A body reminiscent of a cowboy's lever gun with its exposed hammer, a wooden pump below a stylish vented barrel shroud. From it hung a bayonet more appropriate to call a sword. The Assassin gave their voice to another Servant for the first time, humming a bar as pleasant memories flooded back to the wraith. A weapon that had once undid the dignity of tyrants, made grovelers and cravens of unstoppable men of iron. Her fist clenched, the slide slammed back. A smoking shell fell to the ground, freed from a war that never ended. Her gaze flickered to the last remaining henchman, daring the reanimated familiar to so much as step as she strode past him."Odin weeps, a coward prostitutes his name."
Intent fell on Caster. A dazzling, verdant spiral of searing hatred, the wraith's eye, locked with him. The pump came forward, sliding a shell into battery, locking the weapon with a metallic clunk. That wide eyed stare was all there was to see of Assassin's expression, a howling chasm of rage and resentment that burned atop... Pale skin, a calm brow, all the suggestions of a face at peace. Nothing changed as the Caster spoke up to her, his words failing to register in the seething depths that answered. She learned much more in those few seconds than she had hoped to. This man was the source of the watchful eyes she spent so much time putting out around the city, a knower of many things who sought to know more without right. Those same watchful eyes had no less witnessed the skirmish at Habsburg's estate.
She moved her hand off the trigger, reaching to her thigh and, with a click from the retention arm of her holster, drawing her pistol. A flick of the wrist and it sailed through the air, clacking on the ground at Caster's feet. PROPRIETE DE L'ETAT stared up at him, stamped on the lower front edge of the slide. The safety had been flicked off, the hammer was down on a loaded chamber. The worn down "Sig Pro" emblazoned grip of an SP2022 awaited."I don't care what you're interested in, Familiar."
A rough voice answered from behind the scarf, smoky and direct, a voice that could have been elegant in some faraway time. "If you knew aught of my plans, my investiture, you'd have kept running. Know this: I hate you. I hate your War. I will crush the Grail beneath my boot and when I have killed the last of you back to your guardian duties I shall follow. Ghost of Avarice, undignified by a mere wish, you know not what alliance means."
She nodded curtly to the pistol on the ground. "Suicide is a short death. Fleeing from your hand in this atrocity shall kill you for ages."
A tension snapped in the air, the spiritual path connecting Servant and Master disappeared from the Assassin's signature. Their own core flared, the energies surrounding her flattening as the Servant prepared to act. "My path is towards the Archer. Someone must put down Habsburg's rabid dog ere he sully the word Hero any further. My courtesy to you is this: If you are going to run, do not stop."
Her last words left her in a snarl, the Assassin's silence returning to their motionless form.
Police Cordon/Franz Burine Plaza
Incumbent Chorus Keepaway
The Head of Habsburg's path was not so clear, ahead of him laid the blinking sirens and glinting steel wall of Boston's law enforcement. Patrol cars and tactical vans littered the streets, uniformed officers standing in a blend of pointing dutifully into the chaos or wondering at the fresh snowfall come to them in the middle of summer. Men in vests and helmets thrown over casual wear, some in more formal military style fatigues, moved behind the cordon. They carried the elderly and infirm, muscled along those who could walk and run. In a city no matter the time of day there were many lives to evacuate in a given district, and pulling them from high rises in the midst of explosions and stray gunfire was a harrowing task that no department in the world could truly call themselves ready for.
Stalwart protectors of the law... maybe? But certainly easy fodder for Magecraft. The controllable situation he longed for, as hilarious as it was to call this
controllable, was right in front of them.
Except one little aberration. A young man, on the shorter side, sat casually on the hood of one of the patrol cars. He cradled his head in his hands, watching the flashing lights down the road and gasping aloud as Archer's attack struck home. Even this far away from the scene, the gust of wind sent trash fluttering up from the city streets. People screamed and officers barked at them to get back as glass began to fall down the road, some glistening chips going so far as to land a stone's throw from the barricade. Anxious glances were traded all around, the men with guns no longer so sure what to do as they watched a gutted building sway in the breeze, seconds from collapse."Easy does it guys."
He spoke up, pushing up the beanie insulating his head from the cold. Lazy, avaricious eyes circled back on the officers, the bystanders, locking people in place as a mesmerizing glare passed over them. The air temperature dropped sharply, the ripples of Magecraft no secret to anyone nearby and sensitive. The boy's brightly colored eyes stopped and widened as they locked on the face of Otto von Habsburg. No attempt to pass the spell onto the newcomer came, and as he blinked, expecting the man to say something, the people around them continued about their business as if they couldn't even see the two Magi.
A shock of pink hair crept from beneath his hat, the only color to dash his monochrome attire."Mister Habsburg, dear fellow, isn't it funny how a party got thrown after all?"
A toxic smile, but nice white teeth! "Poor even for a jest, I know. You remember me, I'm sure. 'Reason you're having this war,' 'guy saving your asses,' ringing bells, no?"
He stopped, leaning forward with his hands on his knees, seemingly rapt with tension as he sought the signs of the other man thinking it through. Suddenly he was throwing his hands up, that margarine smooth delivery giving Otto: "Mister Crowley!""I was really hoping you'd show up you know,"
He patted the spot next to him on the hood, smiling under raised eyebrows. "When it got back to me that you'd consummated your Seals I knew, I just knew, we'd have at least one straight laced Mage to keep... This from happening."
He threw his arm out to the vague darkness from which groaning steel and roaring cannon emerged. "I'll be frank with you I'm quite irate. My first duty as a host is to make sure you all are spared the wrath of the big wide world around us, but this kind of behavior makes it hard to ward away the powers that be. I'm sure you know the severity of what I speak of, but enough about me! Let's. Place. You. You taking over here? Most people can't make me say this, but I know my betters, and when it comes to crowd control, well, it goes unspoken for Habsburg..."
He snapped his fingers. All around them, like marionettes on snipped strings, the innocent sagged in place. Routines broken, goals forgotten, officers groggily reached towards their foreheads as their senses slowly began to clear. "What?" One voice mumbled, slowly joined by another, and...
The front window shattered outwards in a hail of bullets, fragments splashing across the monster's face to the same rhythm of jacketed slugs burying themselves in its body. The shadowy amorphous texture of its face rippled, cratered by impact after impact until a shot burst the swell of its closed eye. Red seeped from the mangled hole, the lid flapping open to reveal a shattered mass of gelatinous white cubes, sparking crimson between them as fluid of the same color began to spill. Its reserved hum came to a sudden stop, its body locked and motionless as Rocco emptied his first magazine and swapped to a second. The ruins of an eye flicked slightly side to side, watching the hands manipulating the Kalashnikov with what remained of its sight.
Red flared across its face, the mirror of skin turning white once more as it repeated its scream. Silence to those that could hear it, the feeling of being punched in the ears to those who lived, the utter pressure of the great beast's lamentation exceeding the physical constraints of auditory observation. Not an abstract effect, just painfully loud. The blob's body boiled beneath its face, limbs extended from its mass and peeling into the shapes of hands as it reached desperately for Rocco. A limb grasped the smoking barrel of his gun, flesh sizzling in the heat, another struck out right for the flesh of the back of his hand, fingers clawed in sheer need for contact.
Runelight tore through its body as the barrier extended, the stones from Saber landing just in time, forming a defense against an attack already in progress. The cube of protection severed the limbs extended to the Master already, leaving its acrid smelling digits rolling along the interior of the car and twitching manically once they were separated from its control. Rather than roar again the beast seemed more determined than ever, its palms slapping meaninglessly against the boundary line established by the runestones. With a gentle ring of magical energy announcing a denial of entrance every time another fist slammed against it, rapidly adding up to over a dozen in the moments before Saber turned his weapon back on the threat.
The metal body of the car posed little resistance to the poised strikes of the Saber Class. Like an orange split up for lunch, the petals of their vehicle fell away from its center with every attack Saber laid in a new direction. Most of that effort, unfortunately, went to waste splitting the air. Rocco's ride was getting totaled, though. Each strike directed into the roof, where the hand prints had pressed in menacingly through the material, revealed more and more of the sorry sight their visitor was. Saber's keen blade met with the screech of elastic flesh severing, blackened meat sheared open to reveal flowing veins of the same wondrous red that now decorated its pockmarked 'face.' The hands reaching into the car fell away, cut clean by the flurry of blows and squiggling just as vigorously as those denied by the runic barrier. It was forced to retreat, the ponderous weight holding up the sides of the car it previously rested against then withdrawn, and letting the pieces of the car clamor to the asphalt. Almost as the walls falling away a scene revealed to be fiction, the stillness of reality greeted Team Saber. Not just the bystanders down the road, but the entirety of life on the street surrounding them seemed locked in place, staring enviously at the crouched form of Rocco Moretti. The Servant and Master they had followed, however, stood suspiciously absent.
The only movement came from their recently revealed adversary. A body like a slug, a corpulent mass of midnight colored something
suspended into a vaguely organized shape by some kind of internal pressure, a pressure that caused its laborious form to pitch and heave with distensions that erupted into more covetous limbs. Arms, hands, the faculties of acquisition covered the creature, turning its vaguely identifiable shape into an absolute mess of limply swaying limbs. Several ruptures had been torn into it where the Saber struck, crystalline droplets cascading out into neat piles on the road surface, glittering ruby shapes rolling when they were round and sticking when they were square. It held its 'face' in several palms, forced to retreat a few meters from the party as they bought their escape before its previous programming reasserted itself. The slug contorted, and from behind it swept with the long tube of its body, propelled by the hands dangling from it. A mass the same size as the car they'd just left, only wrought in unknowably heavy alien meat, swung in at Team Saber, animated with the ease and speed of a frantic creature lashing out for dear life.