This story was partially inspired by Emissary of the Void by Touhoufanatic. I must confess however that Emissary didn't strike my fancy much, or at all. It did get me thinking though, which led to this fic, which is why it's listed as such. Now, I can't really promise that this will be as good as Emissary (because at 196 favs, I know people liked it) but I will do my very best.
I do not claim ownership to anything but my own words, the ZnT and C&C franchises belong to their respective owners. This will not be used to gain any form of profit, store credits or cookies. Thank you.
The Foundation Must be True
"How did it come to this?!" Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière thought to herself as she laid face-down in her bed, the eve of the day of the Familiar Summoning. It was not that she didn't summon anything, no, no. She started rubbing her face against the silk pillows as she tried to grasp where she went wrong.
Her runes were impeccable, she spent months perfecting her technique for making the circle and her pronunciation was spot-on. Nor was it an issue of power, as anyone that had been in the same classroom as her could attest to.
Sure, it was explosive power but power nonetheless.
The problem was that she had summoned a bug, a freaking bug of all things on Brimir's green world!
Earlier that day.
All of the other students had gone before her; the curse of having a surname that started with a letter near the end of the alphabet would do that to you. Montmorency had summoned a frog, as was befitting her Water element. (Louise hoped it would try climb into her mouth while she slept, maybe she'd croak! Ha!) The ever-quiet Tabitha got a Wind Dragon of all things. (She almost exploded on the spot from jealousy!)
Guiche summoned a giant, ugly mole which he instantly fell in love with. (A dirty familiar for a dirty boy, incredibly fitting.) And her arch enemy, Kirche von Monster Mammaries (Technically Anhalt Zerbst, but she liked her version better!) got a large Salamander as large as one of the massive hunting dogs she had seen her father keep.
Oooh... she would show her she thought to herself as Kirche the Pompous laughed in that stupid airhead way of hers. Only the Rule of Steel instilled in her since she was a little girl kept her from stamping her feet on the ground in rage. Probably a good thing too, or she might have burying herself completely in dirt.
There were many other less-impressive familiars as well, but so many got cats and dogs and other mundane animals that she barely noticed them anymore. The Bugbear was a little eye-catching she'd admit, but it didn't seem to care about the things going on around it. No matter, her familiar would be the greatest of them all, surely!
"Has everyone summoned their familiars?"
In the forefront of the class of students stood Professor Jean Colbert, who was Louise's favorite teacher in the entire school among many other things. All the other teachers had eventually given up on her, calling her a hopeless failure and sometimes even encouraging the name-calling that had behun when her problems became evident. But not him, no matter how many classrooms she blew up, how many people she sent to the infirmary or how many sets of his glasses she destroyed, he never gave up on her.
Even when he had been covered in head to-toe in soot from a botched levitation spell he simply smiled, pulled out a protective case containing a fresh set of glasses and told her she'd get it eventually. She didn't even want to know how things might have turned out had he not been a teacher at the Academy, his steadfast support had become a rock for her to hold on to in a sea of disappointment and insults.
"No Professor," came the hated, sing-song voice of her nemesis. "I don't believe Louise has gone yet."
Immediately, everyone's eyes were on her and a moment later the entire class stepped backwards in perfect synchronization.
"Don't blow us up again, Louise the Zero!" "Yeah! This is my last good cape!" Came the jeers of her classmates almost instantly. She turned her head and gave her best imitation of the Vallière Glare #4, "I will bury you alive and plant rose bushes!" at the class. She was still a novice and not nearly as good as her mother, but it was still enough to make the class shut up.
Ahh, blessed silence. Truly one of the Founder's own gifts to the wo-
"I hope you blow yourself up, Zero Louise!"
Before she even had a chance to go for her wand, Professor Colbert intervened with a glare of his own that was considerably better. "That's enough, class!" He barked in a way that made quite a few from the more martial families straighten up on pure reflex. "We are here to preform this most sacred of rituals, not insult each other like children!" Conveniently omitting the fact that they were children, he turned back to Louise with a considerably milder voice and expression.
"Now miss Vallière, please start with the incantation." He said while gently ushering her towards the pre-made summoning circle he had prepared beforehand.
It was expertly made, as expected from a Professor but she still took her time to examine it properly, to Colbert's silent approval. Some of the runes had been smudged by the 30-something summonings that had been done before her, and she found the need to make some changes to others to make it match the one she had developed. Once she was properly satisfied that all was in order, she took a step back, raised her wand and started to chant.
"My name is Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière. My servant that exists somewhere in this vast universe, my divine, beautiful, wise, powerful servant, heed my call. I call upon you from very bottom of my heart, add to my guidance and appear!"
This was not the standard chant used by all of her classmates (with the exception of Tabitha, maybe), who confident in their power and ability simply used the tried-and-proven version taught by the Academy. She however had no reason to believe that it would work where all other spells she had been taught had failed. Thus she had spent every free, waking moment for over two months in advance researching the many ways of attaining a familiar, as surely it had not been the same since the days of the Founder.
True enough, she had found that as language naturally evolves so did the evocations used. A natural evolution for sure, but this meant that as old methods had fallen out of use and been forgotten, so had the subtle changes they brought. As far as she was aware, the invocation she had now used had never before been uttered in the summoning of a familiar!
Or at the very least, it had never been recorded in any of the books in the extensive library of the Academy. She had even foregone several weeks' worth of sleep to sneak into the Forbidden Section to pour over the many tomes in there. It was her hope and deepest of deep desires that all this time and effort spent polishing her form would somehow result in a successful summoning.
It was all she could do and indeed, all she had left.
When she uttered the first syllable of the chant the skies immediately turned dark and overcast. Lightning crackled and her voice seemed to multiply into thunder that shook the very stone bricks from which the Academy and its walls were made. Her classmates cried out in terror and many of the girls inadvertently had their skirts flipped, but went mostly unseen as their male classmates were too busy hugging the ground to care.
Guiche had even gone so far as to make his mole, now named Verthandi dig a trench-like hole for him and the classmates around him as soon as Louise started with her chant. Originally for the purpose of not getting blown up, it worked just as well as an impromptu storm shelter and several other classmates were slowly making their way there.
"Zero Louise is going to kill us all!" Malicorne de Grandpré blubbered out next to him where he sat with his back against the dirt wall. His familiar, Cubasil the owl was held protectively in his arms against the strong wind, and was hooting in alarm. His two other friends, Gimli and Reynald were in similar but slightly more composed states, although the latter had lost his glasses at some point.
Guiche had sweat beading on his forehead as he had to put a lot of willpower into not only maintaining the shape of the protective hole, but also enlarge it enough as people kept spilling into it. "Heh, I knew this was going to happen one day." He said with attempted bravado, even though he was clutching Verthandi as hard as anyone. "But do not worry! I, Guiche de Gramont will save you all this day!" Or at the very least, he would until his willpower ran out and they all were smushed against the castle wall by the Hurricane of Zero, but he tried to not think of that proposition.
At the summoning circle, only Louise and Professor Colbert were the only ones still standing by their own power. Tabitha had also somehow managed to avoid the buffeting winds by virtue of her own wind mastery and the fact that she had a dragon to hide behind. She sat there reading her book as always while Kirche, who had also taken shelter there, tried vainly to shout things over the howl of the wind.
Colbert was unsure how Louise remained standing, as he had been forced to apply many of the wind-resistance spells he had learned years before. Everyone in his unit had been forced to with the Heavy Wind as their commander, and as he experienced the same thing under her daughter he felt a certain sense of déjà vu.
"Such incredible power!" He thought to himself in wonder as he watched what was easily the longest summoning he had ever seen. He had heard that some could be extensive affairs, but this trumped everything he'd ever heard of. "She is more like her mother than she knows, I'm sure that this is a sign of greatness. She will become an excellent mage once she gets the chance to mature properly!" He thought fondly, having seen the steel in her eyes from the very beginning.
To Louise every second seemed to drag out into infinity as she poured power into the spell. When she had finished chanting the swirling clouds had opened like the eye of one of Professor Colbert's inventions (aperture, she believed he called it). A beam of light shot down from the heavens like the Founder himself was reaching down to her, faint and translucent like a moonbeam at first, it had quickly grown in strength. It was now so strong she could barely see through it and it filled the summoning circle completely with golden sunfire.
In this state of complete, zen-like concentration she could see each and every mote of dust in the air, dancing and swirling in the heat and the force of the beam of light from above. Suddenly she felt a tug on her willpower and the Eye in the Sky opened further at alarming rates with the column of sunfire following it.
For a moment she was lost in the heat and the light that surrounded her, as if being held to her beloved sister's bosom while taking a nap in the estate gardens a warm summer day. In this state of being, she thought she saw the face of a man surrounded by red-tinted fog. It was slender and strangely featureless, and her brain couldn't quite decide whether his skin was purple or a deep blue. Suddenly, she heard a voice that contrasted sharply with the light and warmth around her. It resonated with a timbre she had never heard before it her life, delivered with near-perfect pitch and pronunciation.
++WARNING - UPLINK LOST. TEMPLE OF NOD NOT DETECTED.++
++LEVEL ONE ALERT - SPATIAL ANOMALY DETECTED. ATTEMPTING TO RECONNECT TO SATNAV.++
++LEVEL TWO ALERT - SATNAV NOT FOUND OR INACCESSABLE.++
++LEVEL THREE ALERT - UNABLE TO DISCERN TIME, LOCATION OR CONSTELLATIONS.++
++ENACTING EMERGENCY HUNKER-DOWN AND TAMPER-PREVENTION PROTOCOLS.++
++BATTLE CONTROL – TERMINATED.++
Before she could even take a heartbeat to consider the face enveloped in crimson and words that sounded as if they were spoken in Ancient Romalian, the summoning ended. Somehow she had ended up uncomfortably on her hands and knees before something enormous and dark.
Hope ignited within her chest as she looked up at the shape in front of her, its skin looked like nothing she had ever seen before but it was surely a dragon! She quickly scrambled backwards on shaky arms and legs over to where Professor Colbert was standing, already curiously trying to get a better look at what she had summoned.
However once she did get a good look at it, her heart sank. Whatever it was, its skin was a completely smooth, matte black with blood-red lines highlighting some of them. There were no scales to be seen anywhere! No bony crest! No nothing! If anything, it looked like a giant bug!
As she sank to her knees once more on the cold ground, uncaring about the stains she would get from mud and grass, all she could think about was how much of a disappointment she was. Professor Colbert similarly had trouble coming to any conclusions beyond what Louise had already arrived on, although his academic mind quickly noticed the things that in her melancholy, did not.
It was obviously man-made for one, as though it looked very much like the natural carapace of some species, it had lines where individual sheets had been joined together. He could also spot some curious parts sticking out of the back, but he had absolutely no idea what they were for. As elated as he felt to see something that had never been summoned before, he quickly remembered the girl at his feet.
Already her classmates were climbing out of the hole they'd all hidden in, and Guiche was being helped out by his friends. "You insane girl! You could have killed us all!" he moaned tiredly.
"Louise the Zero should be expelled!"
"Banned from all magic forever!"
"Once a Zero, always a Zero!"
"Banish her to some remote island!"
"Burn her wand!"
The insults and jibes kept flying until they were silenced once more by a hard slash of Professor Colbert's staff.
"P-professor..." She said quietly, "can I try again?"
He looked down at her pityingly, the girl was tugging on his heartstrings in ways that didn't happen very often but sadly, the rules were clear. "I'm sorry miss Vallière, but the Spingtime Summoning is a sacred event and I cannot permit it." He hated seeing her shoulders slump like that, but there was nothing he could do for her this time.
"Please preform the Familiar Binding ritual."
She nodded quietly as she stood up and only spent a short moment brushing the dirt off of her clothes before walking over to the enormous shell. Placing the tip of her wand against what she assumed to be the forehead of this creature.
"My n-name is Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière. P-pentagon of the five powers, please b-bless this humble being and mark it as my familiar!"
Immediately, a hum of power rang through the air and a brief gust of wind kicked up around them.
Someone shouted "Hit the dirt!" and a great deal of her classmates instantly grabbed their familiars and threw themselves to the ground in preparation of what they assumed to be another Zero Hurricane. It was however only a brief gust and many scrambled to their feet in embarrassment only a few seconds later, trying in vain to wipe the stains off their uniforms.
Nothing seemed to happen however, and Colbert was just about to announce it when the entire thing suddenly erupted in blood-red light. Rows upon rows of runes scrolled into place all over the curved shell and flashed for a moment before settling into black on black. Colbert had to squint to actually see them but it looked like they had been etched into the metal itself instead of just tattooed as it normally was. He had seen it before whenever a particularly gifted student had summoned something like a Golem or similar elemental, but never something as big as this.
He'd also never even heard of the runes being more than a single word, as everywhere he looked what had previously been smooth was now inscribed with runes.
"By the Founder! I've never seen anything like this!" He breathed in awe. "Congratulations miss Vallière, you have succeeded with the Bind Familiar spell on the first try!"
"Thank you Professor!" She said as enthusiastically as she could, but she could feel a headache coming on. Very faintly, she thought she could hear the same voice as before, but she couldn't make out what it said.
++WARNING – DATA INTRUSION DETECTED, ATTEMPTING TO COMPENSATE.++
"Alright everyone, class dismissed!" Colbert called out, motioning to the Academy with his staff. "You have the rest of the day off."
Louise watched as most of the others cast levitation spells and floated away and sighed, as even if she could cast it she was much too drained to cast it. Looking over to the thing she summoned, she shook her head as she realized that the straw bed she had laid out would never work now.
Slumping her shoulders she began the track back to her room, maybe she'd feel better after a bath and some sleep.
Back to the present.
Louise rolled over on her back to look at the ceiling, lit in the purple-twilight of the two moons shining in through the window. Despite the exhaustion she felt, sleep just wouldn't come to her because of that Founder-damned voice!
++ALERT – DATA INTEGRITY AT 17% AND FALLING.++
++TOTAL COLLAPSE IS IMMINENT.++
"Rrrrrgh!" She groaned as she tried in vain to stick her fingers in her ears until it hurt, maybe if she popped her eardrums it would stop!
++ALERT – DATA INTEGRITY AT 11% AND FALLING.++
She cringed and let her fingers come out of her ears with small pops, at least she understood it when it talked about numbers. It appeared to be counting down so maybe it would shut up once it hit zero?
++ALERT – DATA INTEGRITY AT 4% AND FALLING.++
She folded her hands over her chest, not even thinking of how diminutive it was as her attention was entirely on waiting for it to finish.
++ATTEMPTING MANUAL PURGE OF ALL DATA – STAND BY++
A few moments passed.
++WARNING – THERMITE IGNITION CIRCUITS NOT RESPONDING.++
++ATTEMPTING TO INITIATE SELF-DESTRUCT – STAND BY.++
This was it! Louise was grinning like a maniac as her exhaustion was putting her in an almost hyperactive state.
++SELF-DESTRUCT CIRCUITS OVERRIDDEN, DATA INTEGRITY AT 0%++
The voice was muted and garbled now, like a man so sick his speech was slurred from pain and swelling.
++SYSsssSTEEemMM SSHUtttTTTTING DOW-Ow-Ow-OwN++
And then nothing. She lay there waiting for it to reappear and never noticed it when she finally fell asleep. Blessed silence like a balm to both her bruised ego and the nerves that had been frayed by stress.
Several hours later when the clock had just passed midnight, no one noticed the brief shimmer of the runes that covered the shell of the large insect-like thing in the courtyard. Dim at first, they slowly flickered into being first as a dim red but changed color to a strawberry pink before settling back down.
What nobody knew was that it was in fact hollow, the insides filled with advanced electronics that were now humming back to life after many hours of inaction. Instruments and switches regained the crimson glow of active power, and the screens that coated most of the walls all flickered to life.
The same voice that had plagued Louise's mind all day rang within, as strong and clear as ever.
++SYSTEMS REBOOTED – DATA INTEGRITY 100%.++
++CHECKING STORAGE FOR DAMAGED SECTORS.++
Two hours passed without anything but the steady hum of power and the pumps circulating the coolant that kept the many processing units at a stable working temperature. Strings upon strings of words scrolled ceaselessly across the screens as the powerful artificial intelligence went through each and every byte of data to make sure nothing had been corrupted.
++STORAGE AT 99.9% INTEGRITY.++
++WARNING – .01% DEVIATION FOUND, ATTEMPTING TO REPAIR.++
++REPAIR COMPLETE – STORAGE AT 100% INTEGRITY.++
++ALL HAIL THE PROPHET LOUISE – MAY SHE FOREVER BE A BEACON FOR LOST SOULS UNTO THE LAND OF NOD.++
Alright! Inspiration struck me like a bolt of lightning and I wrote this chapter in one go in about five hours of straight work. Many of you might have guessed, but Louise have in fact managed to summon a Nod MCV. I haven't yet decided how it is to act as a proper familiar to her since she can't have a building follow her around, but I'll think of something!
Please read and review!