[Author's Note - Fell The Tempest]
[Summary]: This story is a Fate/Unlimited Blade Works and Dresden Files crossover. It takes place after the events of Skin Games in the Dresdenverse. There is only one change between this story and the Skin Games novel:
When Harry entered Hades' Vault Seven to steal the Holy Grail, he found more than he expected: a scrap of cloth, a knife, an ancient wood placard, a thorned circlet... and a finely crafted scabbard. Now, with children dying in the streets of Chicago, the Fomor making their return, and a dark ritual in the works, Harry is all that stands between Nicodemus and the apocalypse.
I present, to you: Fate/Hard Knocks.
"...Harry... do you have any idea what that is?" Bob's dry, raspy voice chided. "Of course not. That's why you're tampering with it. A magical artifact with enough ju-ju to set your teeth chattering, and the first thing you do is fiddle with it like a clumsy child in a china shop."
I brushed aside stacks of new parchment and exotic alchemy ingredients that I'd left lying around. Bottles of rattlesnake venom, a jar of hyena giggles, a flask of morning dew and a salt-shaker filled with depleted uranium - ghost dust - all found themselves knocked to the floor.
You'd be surprised how much alchemy ingredients can cost, given how hard some of them could be to come by. Thankfully, I'd had a recent run-in with several million dollars' worth of diamonds – coincidence, I assure you, nothing that could have come from the Vault of the Underworld – which were more than enough to cover my expenses.
I hadn't had time to set up my lab, and it showed. I'd had to restock most of my supplies, and hadn't unpacked everything just yet.
"Not now, Bob. I'm busy." I set the object in question on the table in my lab.
After my return to Chicago, I'd needed a place to live... and Karrin Murphy, a longtime friend and... something more, yet undefined, was having a lot of difficulty moving around due to a crippling knee injury she'd gotten fighting my battles for me. I figured she wouldn't mind if I set up shop in her basement.
It had only been two months since I'd paid a visit to the Underworld. And, as much as I loved Alchemy – it was a hobby of mine – I'd been distracted by other things.
Namely, Karrin Murphy. Her golden hair, her sultry eyes, and all the tempting things they promised. I heard her walking about upstairs and smiled.
"Too busy for a consult?" I could taste the disdain in his voice.
I glanced up at Bob – an engraved human skull on the shelf in my workshop, its eyes aglow with a bright orange light. I've known him for most of my life. He's a spirit of intellect, bound into my service, though that's more of a formality at this point. More than that, he's a friend. We've been through a lot – he's helped me out on more than one occasion with research. With Butters training to be a Knight of the Cross, and Bob getting restless without someone to talk to, I figured I'd bring him along to the lab. I had a new project, one that I could definitely use his help with.
"Harry, you pulled that thing out of... you-know-who's vault. You know, the Lord of the Underworld, Caretaker of Lost Artifacts?" For lacking eyeballs, the skull on my desk could manage an impressive eye-roll. "Whatever it is, it was probably better off left there. Or at least store it with Demonreach, like the rest of the artifacts you pilfered."
"Nah. Mab said I'd need it. And I spoke to Hades before I took it – he didn't seem like he'd miss it."
"...You spoke with Hades?" Bob's voice quailed. "Harry, you stole from his vault! And he knows who you are! Do you have any idea how vindictive the Greek Pantheon is?" I could have sworn I saw the skull jumping up and down in my peripheral vision.
I ran a hand over the object, the metal cold to the touch, small sparks of power dancing between it and the tips of my fingers. I didn't give Bob a second glance. "Look, we talked, and he told me that I'm going to need this thing. He practically handed it to me."
I furrowed my wizardly brow, and at Bob's silence, I spoke.
"He might not be the Allstate Guy, but he doesn't strike me as bad. I think I'm in good hands."
The skull groaned. "If I had hands, Harry, I'd be face-palming."
I ignored his snark and crossed my arms, staring down at the artifact.
It was a scabbard.
Not just any scabbard, mind you. It couldn't be. This thing had been sitting on a stone altar in the center of the God of Death's vault – which, if tabletop gaming with the Alphas taught me right, was where the best loot was always kept.
It looked like more of a work of art than anything else... like it belonged in a museum, or maybe on the set of Lord of the Rings. It was big enough to hold a bastard sword, easily. And I got it out of the Vault, hidden right under Nick's nose.
My leather duster's a work of art, too, though Murphy insists it belongs on the set of El Dorado. It's engraved with runes, so it's strong enough material to deflect gunfire and some lesser spells. It's heavy, warm and cozy, great for those chilly winter nights by the fire. That's why I bought one in the first place - I'm all about practicality.
Not because I feel like a manly man when it billows in the breeze. Of course not. As a wizard, I am a man of refined tastes and sophistication.
At any rate, all of that billowing fabric was just enough to hide the scabbard in. In his excitement for the Grail, Nick hadn't looked too closely at me, missing it entirely. He might think he's smart, but he's just like any other two-bit villain. Obsessive to a fault and totally blind to anything else other than his goal.
And people say I should ditch the duster? Please. People look to me for miracles - well, I'm wearing one.
The scabbard was trimmed in gold and blue, with a line of runic script engraved vertically in its center, mirrored on each side. I inspected the runes - they didn't look like any language I'd ever seen before, and that's saying something. I'm a wizard, after all. As a practitioner of magic, and Chicago's only wizardly detective, I'd made it my business to study up on dead languages. I had a habit of running into them on investigations.
For whatever reason, baddies always have a habit of using mysterious and forgotten languages in order to cast their spells. Most prefer Egyptian or Nordic – I'd even run in to a handful of practitioners that spoke ancient Sumerian. Nasty stuff.
I'm still not entirely sure why they do. Traditional logic would hold that darker spells would need to be shaped by darker words, which would come from cultures that encouraged bloodshed or violence. On top of that, since spells are will given form by words, there's the suspicion that a person, casting spells in their native tongue, might associate a common word and a spell too closely, and spit out a fireball mid-conversation.
I don't get what the problem is. I've done that plenty of times, and it's worked for me so far.
As for me, I'm convinced that wannabe Sith Lords prefer using dead languages to work their magic because they think it makes them sound cool. I mean, think about it. You don't see villains shouting phrases like 'Get Crispy!' when they're about to unleash their evil spells of evil. It's just not kosher.
Anyway. I had a passing familiarity with several languages. This script, though... didn't look like anything I'd ever seen.
"Bob," I held up the scabbard for his inspection, "does this writing look familiar to you?"
"I can't see it, Harry. Bring it closer."
I sighed, and hefted the scabbard up for Bob's inspection. The skull's eyes glowed brightly for a moment, bathing the scabbard in soft yellow light.
I heard a sharp intake of breath. I'm not sure when he figured out how to do that – skulls don't exactly have lungs – but hey. I've gotta give Bob credit where it's due.
"Harry... you've stumbled onto something very dangerous." His teeth clicked in agitation. "You really should put this thing back where you got it. It's bad news, I'm telling you."
"Yeah, well, I can't exactly do that. I can't go back there, and something tells me that UPS doesn't ship to the Underworld." I lowered the scabbard and placed it back on the table, eyeing it inquisitively. "What is it, Bob?"
"I couldn't tell you. I've never seen anything like it." There was a slight waver in his voice. I rolled my eyes.
"Bob." I sighed, kneading the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger.
"Nope. No idea, not in the slightest. I'm sorry Harry, it looks like you'll have to abandon your search for answers."
"Bob." My voice was a little harder now. I glanced at the skull out of the corner of my eye.
"Ah, would you look at the time! It's already so late..." The light of the skull's eyes winked out.
I walked over to the skull and rapped on it with my knuckles. "Bob, you do this every time I bring you something new."
The lights in the skull's empty eyes flickered on again. "Of course I do!" Bob said, his voice thick with tension. "And every time, you ignore my warnings, and go gallivanting off into yet another life-or-death situation. Where's this next one going to lead you, hmm? You've already lost so much. First it was Susan, then your hand, now you're in business with the Queen of the Winter Court. You finally got off the bench, and now you've got Murphy. You're happy, for the first time in so many years! What happens when her life is on the line, hmm? What happens if you lose -"
"Bob. Shut up." The words rushed out of me in the span of a heartbeat. I didn't even think. The icy claws of Winter's power rushed over me, and a pure, cold rage welled within my chest. There was silence for a moment, as Bob's eyes looked up at me nervously. I exhaled slowly, and forced myself to calm down, shoving the power of Winter away as quickly as it had come.
"...She can handle herself." I replied, just a bit too fast. "Anyway, Nick's got the Grail. And I have it on good authority that this thing might help. So, once again. The scabbard...?"
Bob sighed again.
"Well," began Bob, his tone resigned, "since there's no stopping you. This scabbard is old, Harry. It has to be, in order to have wound up in the Vault of the Underworld. Here is what is troubling me: I truly have no idea how old this scabbard is. The design is simple, but the quality is pristine. Look at it – it has no imperfections. It's geometrically perfect in design, symmetrical, its surface without flaws. It hasn't even rusted. And the script shows no signs of tooling."
I ran the numbers in my head, and felt like I was coming up short, missing some variable. "...That makes no sense. I don't know what this is, and neither do you, which means it's old enough to be forgotten. But there's no way a blacksmith could forge something this pristine. Not back then. You'd need some heavy-duty machinery to forge something this... perfect." Bob clicked his teeth, nodding once.
The scabbard, whatever it was, burned with faith magic. It was so potent that I could barely touch it without feeling a little singed, and I knew I couldn't look at it with the Sight. As the saying goes, the light can burn as badly as the dark.
"You're absolutely right," Bob continued. "And, consider this: as flush with faith magic as this artifact is, faith magic doesn't prevent decay. Take the Shroud of Turin. The Church has to preserve it and repair it. Just as faith can fade away, so can artifacts of faith. You're right: this scabbard couldn't have been made by a blacksmith. Or a wizard. Or both, working together. It's as though it were forged outside of time itself, on a plane of existence that knows no rust or decay. But I've never heard of such a place."
A feeling of unease settled in my stomach. "What are you saying?"
"...I'm not sure, Harry. But I can tell you two things. Firstly, that whoever forged this item is a being of incredible power. And secondly..."
Bob gulped. "The writing on the scabbard... Harry, that's no mortal language. It's been a very long time since I've seen it in person, but - yes. I believe what we're looking at are ancient runes of magic, long-lost to time. Runes of power, used in great acts of creation and destruction. Runes that have wiped cities from the face of the world. Harry... these are runes of the Sidhe."