Author's Note: They say third time's the charm. If I can't get this concept to work this time around, then I'll probably ditch this idea.
Anyway, this chapter is mostly just an introduction. Things should pick up more with the next few chapters.
Another Path-Chapter One
Caules Forvedge Yggdmilennia sighed.
The proverbial Rubicon had been crossed yesterday. There was no going back after this. Darnic had committed everything to this enterprise. They would do or die. The Command Spells had already appeared on the chosen participants. It had been only a few days ago when the official declaration of secession was sent to the Association's headquarters in London. Mere hours after that, the fifty-man attack group of hunters was slaughtered by Lancer of Black.
The youth stood inside his sister's workshop, preparing for the upcoming summoning that was to take place. His catalyst was in a box in front of him. Fiore has purchased it from a freelance magus through the Wandering Sea. Holy relics and curios like this had been circulating throughout the world ever since the Subcategory Holy Grail Wars became popular.
Caules was all too aware that Grandfather Darnic considered him to be nothing more than filler to round out the seven chosen Masters. As his aptitude as a magus was low, he would probably be put in charge of one of the weaker classes like Assassin or Berserker.
The youth paused, opening the box.
From what information that Yggdmillennia had been able to gather, this particular Heroic Spirit had been summoned in a Subcategory Holy Grail War before, as an Assassin-class Servant in Tokyo. The clan had observers in that war who had taken note of war and gathered information.
''What a pain,' Caules rubbed the bridge of his nose. He looked back at the old beaker in the wooden box. It seemed innocuous, but this would summon his chosen hero.
''Caules?'' a calm, bell-like voice sounded from the doorway of the room.
Fiore entered the room, her wheelchair being pushed by a homunculus maid. She had a box of her own in her lap, something that contained her chosen relic. From what Caules knew, she had obtained it from the clan's agents in Greece.
''Yeah, sis?'' Caules glanced up at his sister.
''It's almost time. Grandfather is gathering us in the throne room. Everything is prepared for the ritual,'' she smiled at him.
''I got it. Don't worry; I won't let you down,'' the young man nodded.
''Everything will be fine Caules,'' Fiore nodded at him before she was wheeled out.
Caules watched her leave. He took a deep breath and summoned every scrap of courage he had.
It was time to summon his Servant.
A grand torrent of magical energy filled the air as Caules chanted the summoning aria with his fellow Masters. He felt his meager circuits burn to their maximum limits as the ritual for summoning the Heroic Spirits proceeded to its conclusion.
Gordes had brought forth the shattered fragment of an ancient anvil for his relic.
Fiore had an ancient arrow stained with blood for her catalyst.
Celenike had a white sash that gleamed with a divine radiance.
Caules had some old notes for his relic.
As instructed, he added the lines to make his Servant a Berserker. Behind his back, he could almost feel Darnic's stern gaze on his form. Both the Yggdmillennia patriarch and Lancer were seated at the end of the chamber.
To Caules's right, Caster of Black and her Master Roche had come to witness the Heroic Spirit summoning in the throne room. Roche's Caster was a hooded woman in a purple robe who regarded the summoning with interest.
Assassin was being summoned elsewhere.
''-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 finished.
It was done. Smoke billowed around the room as the surge of magical energy faded away. Four humanoid figures knelt in the middle of the grand summoning circle.
"In accordance with the summons, we present ourselves - the Servants of Black. Our fates shall be with Yggdmillennia, and our swords shall be as your swords," the chorus of voices echoed.
A series of affirmations echoed around the room. They had done it, the Masters of Black had summoned their Servants. For Caules, his exhaustion was overtaken by his happiness. The hardest part was now over. The young man observed the majestic forms of the Heroic Spirits, the champions who had surpassed humanity.
The first warrior was a man clad in a dark outfit with pieces of strange silver armor and a purple cloak. He wore a pair of gleaming spectacles over his face. He carried a gleaming crystal sword in one gauntlet as well as several silver daggers at his side.
The man next to him was a tall brunette man dressed in leather armor. An ash-carved bow was in one hand. He exhibited a sense of serenity and warmth.
The next Servant was a purple-haired young woman clad in spotless white robes. She carried an ornate golden cross in one hand. Much like the bowman next to her, she had an aura of serenity and tranquility.
As well as one more person:
The last figure was a blonde-haired youth dressed in old-fashioned clothes. His features were pleasant and handsome, the very image of a kind-hearted gentleman.
''…Are you really a Berserker?'' Caules broke the silence. His question was directed to the well-dressed young man before him.
The magus had good reason to wonder. The young man before him was calm and composed, entirely unlike a Berserker. He didn't even seem like a proper, Heroic Spirit. Out of all the assembled heroes in this room, he seemed to lack the shining pride of a Servant's legend.
''It's true. I have been summoned as Berserker of Black,'' the young gentlemen introduced himself politely.
The others could only regard him strangely. Only Darnic and Fiore knew what Heroic Spirit that Caules was going to summon, so they already knew what to expect from Berserker. He was the sort who could only display his madness under certain conditions.
''I must be speaking to Dr. Jekyll then,'' Caules glanced him over. He knew what Heroic Spirit he was summoning of course. Even so, it another thing to see meet him in the flesh.
The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. It was the story of a brilliant chemist who attempted to detach the evil from himself. He created the aspect of ''Edward Hyde,'' who committed numerous atrocities. Eventually, Jekyll self-destructed after falling into madness.
''Yes sir. My name is Henry Jekyll. I'm pleased to meet you,'' the youth removed his glasses as he spoke.
''Oh, so I did summon the right one,'' the Forvedge magus muttered to himself.
Caules knew about the reputation of the Berserker class. In various Subcategory Holy Grail Wars, Masters had a difficult time controlling their Berserkers. Due to their Class Skill, it was difficult to form a mutual understanding with them.
In regards to that problem, Caules was lucky to summon this sort of man as a Berserker. He was uncertain how the two personalities would manifest when invoked as a Berserker rather than Assassin. For the moment, it appeared that Jekyll exhibited a composed nature unusual for his class.
''You must be my Master then,'' Berserker smiled at Caules and extended his hand in greeting.
''Ah, yes. My name is Caules,'' the bespectacled boy blinked as he accepted Berserker's hand.
''I'm sorry I seem to have such an underwhelming first impression. Rest assured; I will prove myself on the battlefield,'' Berserker told his Master.
From the back, Darnic stepped forward.
''Well all agreed to share the True Names of our Servants. The rest of you should introduce yourselves,'' the leader of Yggdmillennia announced.
The assembled Masters glanced at each other and nodded. They had agreed to share the true names of their Servants beforehand. After all, they would be risking their lives together on the battlefield against the Association.
Gordes was the first to do so.
''You must be my Saber, go ahead and introduce yourself,'' he stepped forward, excitement coloring his tone. Gordes already knew what Servant he had summoned.
The sword-wielding knight was the first to speak. He glanced back and forth, assessing those around him.
''So I've been summoned by an organization that names itself after Yggdrasil? Interesting,'' the bespectacled man noted in a curt tone before continuing. ''I am Servant Saber, Sigurd.''
Sigurd, the legendary hero of the Völsunga saga, the magnificent epic of Northern Europe. He accomplished many daring feats, such as defeating the armies of King Lyngi and slaying the evil dragon Fafnir at Gnitaheidr. He's a great hero, praised around the world as the noble King of Warriors. Given the anecdotes of his demonic sword Gram, it was no surprise that he had manifested as a Saber.
Gordes was practically glowing with pride. He had summoned a mighty and famous warrior, a hero to even rival figures like King Arthur or Heracles. Aside from Lancer of Black, his Saber was probably the strongest Servant in this war.
The woman next to Saber looked at him with interest.
''The one who defeated the evil dragon? Oh, my apologies, where are my manners?'' she gave a polite bow. ''My true name is Martha,''
Saint Martha of Bethany. She was a famous figure in Christianity, celebrated as one of the earliest followers of the Messiah. She was a holy maiden known for taming the dragon Tarasque with the power of prayer. She was a rare Rider-class Servant who could even tame Dragon Kind, the pinnacle of Phantasmal Beasts.
The last man gave a calm smile and bowed to Fiore.
''My True Name is Chiron. It's nice to meet you,'' Archer said softly.
Chiron, the great centaur Sage in Greek mythology who taught many heroes. As legend told it, he gave up his immortality after being wounded by Heracles, allowing him to be summoned as a Heroic Spirit.
His current form did not reflect that of legend, but that also wasn't surprising. After all, there was only a handful of centaur Heroic Spirits in all the world. Archer's current aspect was likely some sort of attempt at disguising his true nature.
''It's nice to meet you,'' Fiore smiled at her Servant's introduction. Just by being near this man made her feel safe.
In the back, Caster frowned upon seeing Archer.
''Splendid,'' the commanding voice of Lancer of Black echoed through the room. The monarch stood up, welcoming his fellow Servants.
It should go without saying who Lancer was. Vlad III, the infamous monarch of Wallachia. That was the name of the Servant that Darnic summoned. He was the greatest hero of Romania, the medieval ruler who fought the Ottoman Turks. Summoned here in Romania, he undoubtedly commanded immense power due to his great fame.
''We the Servants of Black are now assembled. Together we shall crush the Red Faction. Do not worry, for we already have the Holy Grail at hand,'' Lancer spread his arms wide.
With that, the Great Holy Grail War began.
''I suppose you should be quite pleased,'' Caster of Black remarked as she spoke to Darnic.
She sat opposite to the Yggdmillennia patriarch, resting comfortably in her chair. Caster was a slender woman clad in dark robes. Her elegant features were shadowed by her hood. Besides her chair, an ornate staff was floating in the air.
The cavernous basement of the Fortress of Millennia had been converted in Caster's workshop. Groups of bone golems moved about, carrying reagents and supplies. On the benches, several mystic codes had been constructed. By using her class ability of Territory Creation, the castle and the surrounding lands had become her Temple. The Black Faction hoped to combine her Temple with their Lancer's own territory to produce an excellent defensive position.
''I am. Everything is proceeding according to our plans,'' Darnic nodded as he accepted a cup of tea from a skeleton.
Caster of Black was Medea, the princess of Colchis who appeared in Greek mythology. She was the sorceress who became Jason's wife and was later betrayed by him. She became a witch feared by the people and disappeared into myth as a vengeful spirit. Initially, Servants like Medea and Jekyll would not have been summoned in the Fuyuki War. However, Darnic had to alter the Greater Grail to fit Romania's leylines, allowing Anti-Heroes and wraiths to be invoked as Servants.
Yggdmillennia had initially hoped to summon Caster to have her manifest the legendary dragon of Colchis. Unfortunately, Caster didn't possess the ability to summon phantasmal beasts, so that plan had to be scrapped. However, her skills as a magus were also quite useful. Medea had the role of increasing the number of foot soldiers and forging powerful Mystic Codes in preparation for the war.
The Dragon Tooth Warriors she created were individually weak, to the point that even a Master could destroy one. What they lacked in quality they made up in quantity, serving as disposable pawns for Yggdmillennia's forces.
''In particular, my lord is quite pleased with the heroes summoned under him,'' Darnic smirked.
Saber, Sigurd. Archer, Chiron. Rider, Saint Martha. Berserker, Dr. Jekyll, and Mr. Hyde. Caster, Medea. Standing at the top of that army was Vlad III, the patriotic hero of Wallachia. It was a formidable gathering of Heroic Spirits.
For the robed witch, such a situation was quite beneficial for her.
It was correct Caster was a powerful sorceress. Her magecraft was from the Age of the Gods, and it was more advanced than the magecraft employed by modern mages. Even so, she was a Servant who didn't excel at straightforward combat. For various reasons, the Caster-class was considered to be the weakest of the seven classes.
In a regular Holy Grail War, Caster would be at a disadvantage against the others. Without a powerful ally, she would probably be the first to be defeated. However, this was precisely the sort of situation that would allow Medea to display her abilities fully. In a team battle, she had powerful allies to fight with her.
She thought back to her Master.
She had been surprised to be summoned by a mere child. Had Roche been somebody else, she might have schemed to manipulate them like a puppet. However, someone of such tender years had caused her to hesitate a bit. To be honest, their relationship had started awkwardly. Her Master was a misanthrope who disliked humans. For Roche, only golem creation was something to be praised. Indeed, Medea had not been his first choice for a Servant, but Darnic had overridden him.
The magecraft that Caster used was from the Age of the Gods, and the magecraft that Roche used was derived from Kabbalistic techniques. In that regard, Roche was incapable of learning Caster's magecraft. However, the constructs that Caster could create using the dragon's teeth were golems of a sort, as such Roche could appreciate her craft.
Roche would not pile his adoration on her, but they had formed a working relationship with each other. At least for the time being, Medea would not betray him.
''Well, I trust you can cooperate with our Archer?'' Darnic glanced over at her.
''…for the moment yes. He's not that man,'' Caster frowned.
Chiron, the man who taught Jason, Heracles, and Asclepius. Caster had a history with those heroes, particularly Jason. Had that hero been summoned as a Servant, most likely the Black camp would have fallen into infighting.
Well, as long as it wasn't Jason himself, Caster would cooperate alongside the centaur. For the moment at least.
''Now we only have Servant left. Assassin of Black,'' Caster interjected, trying to change the subject away from painful memories.
Of all the Servants summoned by the Black Faction, only Assassin had yet to report in. Sagara Hyouma, the assigned Master to Assassin, had departed to his homeland to perform the summoning. The clan's agents had heard nothing from him since then.
''Yes. The Master assigned to Assassin felt that there was a limit that could be accomplished with the regular Hassan,'' Darnic noted.
''Who would that be?'' Caster questioned. Only Darnic and Hyouma had been privy to the identity of the Assassin candidate.
Throughout the Subcategory Holy Grail Wars, the powers and weaknesses of the nineteen candidates for Hassan-I-Sabbah became well-documented. As such, countermeasures had been made in return. After a while, it became preferable to summon other Heroic Spirits as Assassin. The Servant that Yggdmillennia planned to summon was one such hero.
''We will be summoning the Jack the Ripper as our Assassin,'' Darnic revealed.
Jack the Ripper, the infamous serial killer who terrorized England a century ago. They were never caught. Hyouma had gathered a catalyst he was confident in, and then he set out for the summoning.
''As I recall, our Assassin came from the same area as our Berserker'' Caster mused.
The information she had gained from the Throne of Heroes had told her that much. Both Jack and Jekyll had lived in the same city and during the same period. Even if they never met each other in life, they had some common ground. They would be expected to cooperate with each other.
''Yes. We effectively have two Assassins,'' the clan head nodded.
''Now we only have to wait for the Association to come,'' Darnic summarized.
He rose from the table, picking up his cane as he did so.
Everything he had done for these past sixty years was for the sake of this war. Finally, his tenacity would pay off. The great conflict between his clan and the hated Association would come to light. They would clash, and Darnic would form his new Association on the ashes of the Clock Tower.
The most massive scale Holy Grail War would now commence.
Author's Note: Caster should be obvious. Sigurd and Martha are from Grand Order. Jekyll is from Fragments. Fun fact, Martha was the first gold Servant I rolled in FGO's tutorial.
I would have put Sigurd in the main character tags but doesn't have a character tag for him yet. So I just used the Saber tag for the moment.
It was a pain to cut out the whole Arjuna-Karna subplot, but I felt this was for the best. I would like to write Arjuna sometime in the future, though.
If the UBW anime is any indication, as long as you don't treat Medea like complete garbage, she'll be willing to work with you. Medea's magecraft is inherently incompatible with modern magecraft, but she should be able to manufacture some kind of doll servants with Roche.