Echoes of the Void
A Familiar of Zero/Kara no Kyoukai Story
Disclaimer: In this particular universe, I do not own or in any way shape or form hold a claim to elements of the Zero no Tsukaima franchise, Kara no Kyoukai, the Nasuverse as a whole, or any other modern works that I may reference in this story.
In a society where magic is the proof of nobility, Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière, has never managed to cast a single spell properly. Scorned by her classmates as "the Zero" for her utter incompetence, the Familiar Summoning Ritual is her last chance to prove herself worthy of a title. But imagine her surprise when she summons someone with a need to prove herself as great as hers.
"...let them tremble at our might! For brave soldiers of Albion, victory is ours, today - and tomorrow!"
In the grand courtyard of the Palace of White Hall, voices of jubilation answered a distant figure on the balcony of the apartments once reserved for the Royal Family alone - apartments, which like the Palace and Londonium itself, had been captured by the valiant forces of Reconquista, their general's boldness driving the royal family from their ancestral stronghold.
Though he certainly carried an air of authority with him, he was not a particularly handsome man, nor what most would think of as figure of martial valor, yet it didn't matter. Who he was, where he came from, what he looked like - all these things were irrelevant. All that mattered was that this man, Oliver Cromwell, First General of Reconquista, had led them to victory.
For that alone, they would follow wherever he might lead.
"For too long, our people have been ground under the heel of the royals, those simpering wretches who bow before the Pope of Romalia! For too long, we have been forced to bow to self-serving tyrants who have nothing to recommend them than flimsy claims of descent from the Founder, petty men with neither His vision nor power! For too long, we have been subject to their unjust decrees, obeying because we were told that our obedience was the Will of both God and the Founder Brimir."
Silence fell over the crowd as he paused, piercing blue eyes sweeping the gathered crowd who had gathered to hear him. Some of the stillness would be at his words. Some, of course, would be his choice in clothing - he had deliberately chosen to wear the simple vestments of a priest to remind them of his dedication to the Founder, forsaking the ring and mantle of his former office to distance himself from the Holy Church.
"Well I tell you the truth - the truth that their claims were lies."
The last word was hissed as much as spoken, and this time, when he spoke, his voice rumbling like the thunder itself, he had the unwavering attention of every last person in that courtyard.
"The Church of Romalia speaks of the will of the Founder, but was it the will of the Founder that the lands of Saxe-Gotha burned, with every last resident put to the sword? The Church of Romalia speaks of the wisdom of the Founder, and how those who carry His blood are blessed with insight - yet was James the Incompetent wise when he crushed loyal sons of Albion for no reason than because he could? The Church of Romalia speaks of the blood of the Founder, of how those descended from the Holy Brimir are protected by His Might, but did God protect the royalists when we routed them like dogs, along with their King?"
"No!" the crowd chanted in reply to each question, their eyes looking to the ex-prelate for approval, as Cromwell waved his hands for silence.
"No indeed, my children," he spoke, in a soft, terrible voice that carried to the corners of the courtyard. "For did the Founder himself not speak of how power was a gift - a gift both to ruler and ruled - to be used for the benefit of humanity, not to abuse our fellow men for selfish gains? For did the Founder himself not live among his people - not as a King, not as a Pope, but simply as a man free of fear? A man who was willing to stand alone against his foes, strong in the knowledge of his righteousness, strong in the knowledge that God would protect his own?"
He laughed then, a harsh sound that echoed off the smooth white stones that gave the palace its name.
"He would not have run as our so-called King did, before the blades and staves of his foes - for Brimir fought on the side of justice, as do we! Justice, I say! Justice!"
"Justice!" echoed back at him, the voices of thousand resounding as one in common cause. "Justice! Justice! Justice!"
Looking at the assembled masses, far larger than any who had come to any sermon he had ever given in his life, Oliver Cromwell felt a wave of exultation run through him. As a man who could not wield even a scrap of magic, he would never have dreamed that such a moment would come to pass when the fate of a kingdom rested on his shoulders, when a vast multitude looked to him for guidance on matters spiritual and temporal.
It was a heady brew, and there was a part of him that wanted to revel in the acclaim of the masses, to become the person his soldiers thought him to be - the great hero who had overthrown the tyrant King and ousted the royals from their capital.
But only a part.
The rest of him remembered that he was but a man living out an impossible dream, a player in a farce who yet had a role to play.
He motioned for silence, and when it came, the former prelate continued.
"My children, there is more yet to be done - in Albion, and in the whole of Halkeginia," he directed, taking in the many faces, the many figures below. They seemed as ants, teeming as they were, as toy soldiers lined up for battle, but he knew them for what they were.
Men and women pushed beyond what they could bear by the depredations of those above them. Men and women who had trusted him when he had told them victory was not only possible, but their right. Men and women who had followed him into battle...and against all the expectations built up in their heads, had won an overwhelming victory.
Some of them were nobles, but most of them were not - those that made up the rank and file never were.
It was for them that he had worn the vestments of a priest, that they might see him as one of them, not one of the high-ranking prelates who were no better than the worst of nobles in their eyes. For where nobles might take advantage of them, it was the prelates of Romalia whose empty tales gave them legitimacy.
"We have evicted James the Worthless, yet the man still lives - and his heir as well - and as long as either remains among the living, our victory is not complete. We must purge the White Isle of their taint!" Cromwell proclaimed, noting the many angry nods from below, the whispers and mutters of agreement. "Yet even then, our greatest enemy still awaits..."
A thin, tight-lipped smile came to his face then as he schooled his features to neutrality.
"Some of you no doubt believe that I speak of the Elves, those who the Church of Romalia calls the spawn of darkness, the enemies of all mankind," he said evenly, "...but I do not."
The silence that fell this time was profound and total, as if he did not speak of the Elves, then the ones he labeled as foe must be...
"No, my children, it is the Church of Romalia I indict for their crimes, for the blood of hundreds of thousands spilled, for millennia upon millennia of lies. They speak of sacrifice and service, yet it is always our sacrifice, our sons and daughters sent to war - our strongest mages sent on Crusade to die futile deaths, bleeding away the strength of our people. They speak of humility, of knowing our places in the world while they deign even to about order about Kings, as if each and every one of them is the Founder's spirit made flesh once more. They speak of the futility of challenging them, that to disobey is to be destroyed...but here we stand, alive, and victorious."
His words now faded to a hush, yet there was single person who did not hear what he had to say.
"My children, my peerless champions who took this city from the wicked, I tell you the truth. The truth that our enemies are afraid, for they know what rottenness lies in their hearts, that our cause is just and righteous. The truth that we are the greatest realm in all of Halkeginia, a proud realm that has never truly known defeat. The truth that in the end, victory will be ours! Long live the revolution!"
With that, the First General of Reconquista saluted those who had fought under his command, as a chant began and slowly built till a roar resounded to the heavens.
"Cromwell!" they chanted. "Cromwell! Cromwell! Cromwell! Cromwell!"
The name of the humble priest and commander who had showed them they could defy a King - and win; the name of the man who had promised them victory.
After the oration, an exhausted Cromwell sat slouched on a couch in what was once the King's bedroom, his body shaking uncontrollably. Was it out of fear? Excitement? Ecstasy? In that moment, he couldn't possibly have said.
What he'd just done - what he'd just said - there could be no going back on his words, and he knew it. If he was caught by the enemy now, he would be lucky if they gave him a clean death, instead of torturing him to an inch of his life, healing him, torturing him, healing him and so forth until he recanted.
And even then, they would continue, for the Church brooked no defiance, and would surely make an example of him.
He'd promised the people victory, but-?
"Fufufu...that was a quite a speech, Lord Cromwell."
His secretary stood before him, clad in something between a coat and a robe, her lips curved into the odd half-smile she always seemed to wear as she looked down at him with the disquieting golden eyes that had so startled him when they first met, so long ago.
Who startled him even still, so silently had she appeared - though he supposed he shouldn't be surprised, as he had given explicit orders that she was to be allowed into his quarters if she requested it.
"Miss Amber! Miss Amber!" the man said, kneeling before her as if she were a goddess, the proud, dignified mask he'd worn earlier crumbling to nothingness as he sought reassurance. "...is it really true? Is the Church of Romalia nothing more than a band of heretics who have drifted from the true faith...? That they have corrupted the Founder's gift of magic into a mere shadow of itself?"
Anyone who saw this peculiar scene would no doubt have raised an eyebrow, as those who knew her thought of her only as his secretary and aide (with a few grumbling that she was probably his mistress as well), but he knew better than to question the one responsible for his rise to prominence.
"Of course, magic was stronger six thousand years ago," the redhead said cheerfully, her expression never changing. "Before the crusades, before the useless wars and the establishment of the Church...right, but you can tell me about that, right, Derflinger?"
"Right you are, partner! Humans used to be able to use all four elements once..."
Cromwell blinked as a metallic, masculine voice joined the conversation. Curious as to who or what had spoken, he lifted his head...and found his gaze drifting to the sword strapped to her back. The sword, which he had seen devour several spells during the battle for Londonium.
"Oh, don't be so surprised, Lord Cromwell," the redhead said, her exotic features highlighted in the odd moonlight. He remembered that she had posed as a beggar when they met, and after giving her a drink, she had asked him what he wanted. All he had said, rather whimsically, was for people to look at him, to change the world - but he hadn't expected this. "Derflinger here is a magical sword...forged by Brimir's Gandalfr."
It was the ex-prelate's turn to freeze in shock, his jaw working open and shut soundlessly for nearly a minute before it closed with an audible click.
"Ohoho, a man on his knees? I didn't know you were into this kind of thing, part-"
"Fu. Please be quiet, Derflinger," the mysterious Amber intoned, her forehead glowing softly in the dimness as her fingers lightly touched the hilt.
"Ah, ok. Shutting up now. Lips are sealed."
"You don't have lips, Derflinger."
'...that...was an odd exchange...'
The sudden appearance - and disappearance - of what had to have been a rune shook Oliver Cromwell to the core. He liked to think of himself as a rather pious man, strong in his faith (although he knew that he had sinned his share and more), but confronted with a talking sword which claimed to have been made by the Gandalfr - and one who could control the sword so easily...even he could not deceive himself.
'The Four Familiars...'
Every priest knew the stories of Brimir, and how he had once had Four Familiars, three of which were remembered today: Gandalfr, Vindalfr, Myozunitonirun. One who was a master of all weapons known to man, one who was a master of beasts and of course one who was a master of magical artifacts.
Magical artifacts like talking swords...
'But that means...she...void...'
Cromwell swallowed, unwilling to meet his "secretary's" eyes, as tears began to stream down his face for doubting. He had known for some time that she was powerful in her own way, and highly placed in Gallia, but this. None would dare challenge a servant of the Void, least of all him, a priest who had no power of which to speak.
Smiling, the redhead squatted down in front of Cromwell and lifted up his chin so he couldn't avoid her gaze.
"Mou...stop acting spoiled," the woman said quietly. "Did you not say you wanted to change the world?"
"...yes. Yes, of course," the man answered, forcing some semblance of composure to his face. "A thousand pardons, my lady."
His secretary's forehead glowed once more with a soft, azure light, and as he looked into her amber eyes, peace came over Cromwell, the turbulence of troubled soul stilling itself more quickly than he would have thought possible.
"Fufu, better," she intoned quietly as she got up, regarding the now much-calmer man. "You know your duty, go and do it."
With that, Lady Amber vanished, leaving the First General of Reconquista in an empty room to ponder what he had just seen.
"...your will be done," he whispered, but there was none to hear him.
He wondered what disturbed him more - the silence of the room or the acclaim of the crowds, and he found he didn't know.
'I dislike being used for healing and soothing - it's so boring. Can we please kill someone soon?'
Not for the first time, the familiar known as the Mind of God mused that legendary weapons in this world were certainly more inconvenient than those found in the RPGs she used to play. This one, an ancient dagger she had obtained from Gallia possessed of powerful water magic, tended to have a mind of its own.
"You and your bloodthirsty mind, Undercurrent. Its kill this, stab that, make someone lose their innocence while you plunge yourself into another's gaping-"
Of course, that wouldn't have been so bad, but she had obtained a second sentient blade in the course of her adventure, and the two really didn't get along.
'Oh there you go putting on airs again, you perverted oldtimer. Just because you're an old fashioned sword who can't get the time of day from-'
"From what, Undercurrent?"
She spoke without expression, without tone - and the dagger, murderous though it was, was smart enough to shut up. Unlike others it had been acquainted with, the redhead was not susceptible to possession, so she couldn't be forced to kill. And that was not just due to her powers as a familiar - there was something off about her soul - an ineffable emptiness that yawned open like the void itself.
...an emptiness like the dagger had last encountered in a certain diminutive Knight of the North Paterre.
At least the familiar always got into...interesting situations though. On its own, the dagger would have been satisfied with forcing a person to kill; forcing someone to destroy what they most dear, to betray all that they knew was foreign to it.
Almost...artistic in a way.
The redhead herself put up with the crude vagaries of the weapon as it was a rather useful tool, not only being a source of magic and willpower, but having the ability to turn anyone into a doll, a puppet who could be used for missions where she could not be seen. The blade did so enjoy possessing new hosts every once in a while, but oddly enough for a murderous rogue, could always be counted upon to return to her side.
She supposed it was due to the fact that she always had interesting tasks for it, or that the blade didn't want to think itself intimidated by her.
It mattered not.
After all, one could never have too many pawns.
As for Derflinger, a blade which could consume magic had its uses too, and those who saw her with it tended to underestimate her dearly, thinking of her as a swordswoman of some kind and so dismissing her as a threat. Which...while somewhat correct, as she had received some training in a style from her homeland, was not her main skillset.
Besides, it had an enviable store of knowledge as well, even if it was rather crude.
...still, it was no worse than some of those she had called Master, and for all its lusty talk, it was rather harmless.
A blade which cast powerful magic all on its own - a blade that could drink it - and the woman who commanded them both and more, who could bend any magical artifact to her will, though she preferred using words instead of raw power when necessary, a holdover from her past life. In that one, just as this, her most valuable asset was the ability to misdirect, letting others see what they wanted to see - not what they needed, or might have found useful.
People were always so quick to label others, to define them by a role, and as long as she did nothing to overtly contradict what people expected to see, the human mind was capable of overlooking quite a few inconsistencies. Thus, instead of seeing a cunning and dangerous foe, they looked upon her - and dismissed her as a threat, seeing only a familiar.
Most attached their own stereotypes and prejudices to those labels...and in her case, that proved to be a mistake, sometimes a fatal one. At the very least, it was a convenient thing, since she could weave her machinations in plain sight, her identity protected until she chose to reveal what bits of it she would for her purposes, timed for the proper dramatic impact.
It was odd, really.
Years ago, she had been called to a strange land not her own, with strange magic and strange customs, but people were still the same, so easy to manipulate, regardless of magical potency, station, or such.
All one had to do was find the levers of the soul, things like rivalries, hate, love, ambition, faith, and use those as one would.
"You are really odd sometimes, partner."
Even swords were not exempt from that.
"Fu, haven't you seen stranger?"
"...well, Undercurrent here..."
'Are you jealous that I get more attention than you, old-timer? Perhaps she simply appreciates weapons that enjoy what they do.'
"No. I mean that partner is strange in how she doesn't feel pain. She's more of an Alviss than the things she crafts."
"Mm...that's because I never liked pain," the woman whispered softly, as if recalling lines from long ago. "So I thought it would be better to become a doll. And gradually, my body stopped generating a pulse; blood vessels turned into tubes one by one; blood vanished like vapor; my heart, everything, just crafted parts."
'...yeah, ok, she's a strange one alright.' Empty of purpose, without any levels to control, barely human at all. 'Strange...and even more terrifying than me, K-'
"Fufu...that's not my name, Undercurrent."
'...Myozunitonirun,' the dagger corrected hastily, not wanting to be subjected to a vision of emptiness once again, a void where not even time, space, or light existed.