The sun was setting. From his view point on top of the walls of the city of Nicomedia, Georgius was given a sublime view of the city in the fading light. Shadows elongated from buildings and columns, casting a rather solemn tone over everything they touched. It was clear that with this day, things would be coming to an end.
His own life among them.
"And so, for the crime of Blasphemy against the gods and his own confession of belonging to the heretical cult known as Christianity, Tribune Georgius de Lydda is to be executed." The official orator stood a short distance away from him, speaking down toward the rather sizable crowd that had gathered for the event. "As per orders of Emperor Diocletian, this punishment shall be carried out in the manner befitting of all soldiers that commit treason: decapitation by soldier of fellow rank."
From his position on his knees, Georgius tried to turn his head to see which of his fellow Tribunes was to do the deed, but the manacles binding him as well as the massive pain from his wounds barely allowed him to twitch. The orator had left it unsaid that that such traitors were also tortured for several days before they were allowed to die. He had been subjected to beatings, lashings, branding with hot irons, even laceration on a wheel of swords. The final punishment was that he was dragged through the streets of Nicomedia to the top of the wall that would be his final destination. Needless to say, his body was a torn and bloody mess, so much so that some in the crowd below had trouble looking at him. Even if he was spared the sword, Georgius would most assuredly die of his wounds or infection not long after. All that was left was finishing the inevitable.
The sound of heavy boots came from the other side of him, and a hand came down to grip his jaw. Georgius found his head being painfully turned to view the armored form of Helous. Ah, of course it would be you, he thought as he looked up at the man he considered his friend. Fellow imperial guard of the emperor, Helous was among those that he truly trusted and respected.
The fellow Tribune looked at him with a mixture of emotions, regret and frustration most prominent among them. "Why?" he asked in a low tone. "Why did you have to do this? Diocletian offered you land, money, and slaves if you would just have followed his edicts. He pleaded with you to do so. I pleaded with you to do so!" His friend all but shouted. "So why?! Why have you chosen death?!"
Georgius made several strangled noises from his ruined throat before he managed to croak out the words "Because… it wasn't right. Diocletian can't… punish Christians for th-their faith." He let of a wheeze that might have been a laugh. "And I w-will not sacrifice to gods that… I do not believe in."
Helous's mouth twisted at that. "Is it truly worth it? This God and Savior of yours? Do you truly think that it is worth your life?"
Georgius managed to rasp back "…yes."
The other Tribune's shoulders slumped in defeat, and his grip on the doomed man's jaw released, causing it to hang back down. "May you find respite from this madness in Elysium, my friend." He said as the ringing of steel being drawn from a scabbard caused the crowd below to go quiet. "Is there anything else you would ask of this man before he sends you to your final rest?"
The was a pause before Georgius replied "Do you have it? That which I asked of you to get?"
There was another pause. Helous knew what of what Georgius spoke, as he had been asked by the other man to retrieve it for him a few days prior. "Yes. Why?"
"I would like it with me for when I met my Lord."
There was a heavy sigh. "For you, I shall do this." There was some rustling and a moment later something was place over his head and around his neck. It was a simple leather cord, upon the end of which was a simple wooden cross with the bottom line longer than the others. It was in the shape of a crucifix, to be precise. Georgius had found it somewhat interesting that those of his faith had adopted the thing which had killed their savior as their symbol, though it was becoming more widespread in recent years. This one in particular was important to him as it was made by a young woman and given to him as a present.
Looking at the small piece of wood dangling from his neck, his mind thought back to the day he met her. A beautiful woman, standing on the edge of a lake. Her bridle gown following around her in the breeze. Her words telling him to leave while her eyes begged him to save her.
A feeling of peace came to him. Thank you Sadra, he prayed.
"Are you ready?" Helous asked.
Georgius watched the shadow of the blade move as his friend raised it above his head. "Forgive me." Helous said, and the blade came swinging down.
In that instant, Georgius gave a small smile and said "Always."
The sun was setting. From her position at her desk, Louise Françoise de la Vallière could see the shadows being cast by the various books stacked on her desk getting longer. In a way, it reminded her of a sundial.
Namely in the way how it made her realize that time was running out.
The young pink haired woman turned and glared at the sight of the setting sun through the glass balcony doors of her room, as if she could will it to halt it's progress with shear force of will alone. She needed more time, Founder damn it. The Springtime Summoning Ritual was tomorrow and she needed to be ready. The rules of the Tristain Academy of Magic were very clear on this point. All second year students are to summon their familiar at the ritual, the animal or magical beast that would reflect the mage's power and be their life long companion. Failure to do so would result in expulsion. Louise had been studying the ritual intensely in hopes of getting it right.
It wasn't that she was clumsy or forgetful. In fact, when it came to study and academic work, there were few other students that could best her. She knew all the magic formula by heart, memorized dozens of spells and their potential uses and knew process by which new spells could be studied and created. Ostensibly, she should be the most skilled mage at the Academy. There was only one problem.
Louise had never once cast a spell successfully. They all just sort of exploded.
The 17 year old shook her head, trying to rid herself of such thoughts. I will summon my familiar tomorrow, she though instantly. It will be a grand and powerful familiar, like a dragon, or a manticore.
She decided to take a small break for the moment, and walked out through the balcony doors near her bed to get a better view of the setting sun and the Academy. Whatever her… issues with magic might be, the Vallière family was very powerful and influential in the country of Tristain, and thus Louise was granted a room much nicer than most students. Her balcony was about 3 stories up, and gave her a good view of the other towers. The tower she was in along with four more made up a pentagram that was joined by the outer walls, all surrounding the larger central tower.
Looking on as the towers stood tall against the fading light, Louise felt an odd pang of loneliness. She wished her sister Cattleya were her. She always knew how to cheer Louise up when she was down. Of course, if she failed tomorrow, she would end up seeing a lot more of her when she had to go home. As well as her mother…
A shiver ran up the mage's spine and she forced the thought of how her mother would react if she failed out of her mind as hard as she could. Her mother would not tolerate such weakness from her. So she would succeed. That was all there was to it.
A knock on her bedroom door took her out of her thoughts, as did the voice that accompanied it. "Housekeeping, milady."
"Yes, yes, come in." At the young noble's response, the door opened and a maid not much older than Louise entered the room, dressed in the typical black and white dress of her profession. Her short black hair marked her of common stock, and as such Louise paid her no mind as she set about the room doing her duties. She most certainly did not feel mild irritation when the maid took the liberty of lighting the lamps in her room. It wasn't like it was a painful reminder that most mages could do it themselves with the slightest bit of effort.
Lousie set about dutifully ignoring her and returned to her studies. In fact, she would not have said one more word to the other woman if not a small bit of clumsiness. The maid had bent down to pick up some laundry on the floor, but when she rose she was near the knobs for the dresser. She passed a little too close to it and something on her neck caught before there was a soft snapping noise. "Ahh!" the maid exclaimed with dismay. "Oh drat! I'll have to get another cord."
Louise turned around from her desk, not really wanting to go over the details of the summoning ritual for what must have been the fiftieth time that night. She was greeted by the sight of the maid looking between her laundry laden arms and a spot on the floor. "And just what are you standing around for?" She asked, some of the irritation from before leaking into her voice.
"Ahh!" The maid said in surprise as she looked at the noble, now clearly nervous to be under the other woman's gaze. "I-I'm sorry milady. It's just t-that…" She looked down at the floor again. "The cord on my pendant broke, and I can't…"
Louise looked at her for a moment longer before giving a sigh and standing up, walking over to the spot the maid was looking at. It was beneath her to do so, but her mother had advised that it was wise to be magnanimous to the common people when it cost you very little to do so. She reached down and picked the item off the floor and looked at it in mild confusion. "This is a pendant? It's barely even a piece of driftwood." The object in question, at the end of a broken leather cord, was a piece of very old wood. It was in the shape of a cross, though the bottom prong was longer than the other 3. Louise could also tell that there was a slight reddish hue on some of it, though what it was she could not say. "I must say, I would have though even commoners could afford something of better craft than this."
The maid looked somewhat embarrassed by this statement, but still said "It was a gift from my grandfather. It was something he had gotten back in his homeland, and said that it had to do with his religion. I-I've always considered it something of a good luck charm."
Louise frowned at this. "Well, this certainly doesn't look like anything out of Founderism." Her eyes narrowed. "Are you saying that your grandfather was a heathen?"
"Oh no no no!" The maid insisted, her voice now fearful. "He believed in God! In fact, he was one of the few in his home country that did! It's just that it was a little… different."
"What nonsense is that? Founderism is Founderism."
"Enough." Louise said firmly as she put the piece of wood on top of the cloths the other woman was carrying. "I don't need to hear anymore of your grandfather's mistaken beliefs. I have wasted enough of my time talking to you already. Leave me, for I have studying to do."
The maid nervously nodded and quickly scurried out of the room, leaving the mage to her studies, wondering just how long she would have to study before she felt confident about tomorrows summoning.
The answer was all night. Well, not exactly. That would implied that she felt at all good about things, and given how the following morning she was exhausted and pushing around her breakfast without eating it, Louise could definitely say that was not the case.
"Well, aren't you looking grumpy this morning?" A voice sing-songed from her left. "Then again, I wouldn't be happy if I were you either."
Louise's head whipped to the side, her exhaustion being replace with a rather familiar sense of irritation. "And just what do you mean by that, Zerbst?"
Kirche Augusta von Zerbst flipped back her long red hair as she stared down at Louise with a smirk. "Oh? Well, I would imagine that today is your last day here. After all, you have to summon a familiar to remain in this school, and no one expects Louise the Zero to manage a successful spell now of all times."
The pinkette's fists clenched as she stared back at the other woman in anger. Oh, how she hated Kirche! And how she hated that stupid nickname! "For your information, I will be summoning a familiar today, Zebrst! And it will be a much better one than anything you could summon. So stop looking down at me!"
The much taller woman gave a small laugh. "That will be somewhat difficult seeing as how you're still rather… underdeveloped." Kirche folded her arms under her rather impressive chest. "In more ways than one I should think. Is it any wonder why men from this country keep coming to me?"
Louise's indignation grew at that statement. Kirche wasn't just talking about her own physic (which did not matter in the slightest. Who cares if she had tan skin, wide hips and giant breasts? Louise just hadn't hit her growth spurt yet, damn it!), but of the rivalry that existed between their two families. The fact that the Germanian Zerbsts had once stolen a Vallière groom to be was a particular point of contention.
The pink haired mage was about to launch into a tirade about the wanton woman's lack of morals and lavasiousness when she was interrupted by a soft voice. "Breakfast."
Louise blinked and turned her attention to the girl that always seemed to be perpetually at the red head's side. Tabitha, like Kirche and Louise, was also a second year at the Academy, and she had short blue hair along with a frame that was not much bigger that Louise's. It always seemed odd that those two were friends. Kirche was loud, attention grabbing, and prone to being rather flighty at times. Tabitha on the other hand was so quite and introverted that Louise hadn't even noticed her. Founder, the blue haired girl hadn't even bothered to look up from her book!
Kirche looked at the bluette for a moment before giving a sigh. "I suppose you're right. Today is not a day to skip a meal." She turned back to Louise. "It looks like well have to cut this short, but don't worry," she said with a smirk. "I'm sure that the summoning will be… explosively successful." The woman tittered as she and her companion wandered off to find their own seats in the dinning hall.
Louise clenched her teeth and took deep breaths, resisting the urge to show the infuriating woman just how 'explosive' things could get. Thankfully, her noble training kept her from having such a vulgar outburst, and she managed to calm down, though her mood had become even worse.
"U-umm, Milady? Could I-"
"Not! Now!" Lousie yelled as she spun on whoever was trying to speak to her. She guessed she hadn't calmed down as much as she thought.
The mage was somewhat surprised to find herself facing the maid she had spoken to last night, though she wasn't for long. "Eep!" The maid exclaimed at Louise's reaction. "N-never mind!" With that, the dark haired woman scurried away.
Louise stared after her for a moment, feeling somewhat confused. What was that about? Did she look distressed about something? She pondered this for a moment longer before she remembered that she had more important things on her mind.
Before she knew it, Louise found herself in one of the courtyards of the Academy with the rest of the second year students, standing in front of a summoning circle. The teacher overseeing the group was one Professor Colbert, a somewhat absentminded man, both balding and bespectacled. Every bit of his tall frame seemed to be made for academia.
"Is everyone here?" he asked, looking over the assorted adolescents. "Good. We shall now conduct the Springtime Summoning Ritual. Each of you shall in turn summon your familiar, and then proceed to cast the Contract Familiar spell on them."
"Uh, what if we don't like the one we summoned?" asked a boy in the back of the crowd. "Could we try again?"
"Absolutely not." Colbert replied firmly, adjusting his glasses as he did so. "Summoning a familiar is a sacred right that one does not simply do over. Beside, the familiar you summon will reflect your elemental alignment, as well as being suited to you personally."
"So, what creature is most like an explosion?" Kirche asked as she shot a smug glance over at Louise. The rest of the teens present snickered at this, as pretty much everyone at the Academy was aware of her problems with magic. Louise kept silent, her fists clenched and her head bowed with frustration.
Colbert quickly reigned the group in and the summonings were underway. There was a rather large number of different creatures summoned. Many students summoned normal animals such as frogs, owls and snakes. The more promising students managed to summon magical beasts to be their companions, like the boy that summoned a bugbear (although why a weird floating eyeball was called a bugbear eluded her), or some foppish blond who summoned a giant mole, or Kirche who had managed to summon a fire salamander.
Tabitha summoned a young dragon. An actual dragon! Granted, Louise had a hard time getting truly mad about it as the blue haired girl was probably one of the most skilled mages in their group (at both theoretical and practical work), but still!
Finally, after everyone else had finished it was her turn. Louise put on a face of confidence and moved up to the circle. She tried to ignore how a lot of the students started to nervously back up in response, expecting the inevitable blast. As she stood at the edge of the summoning circle, she pulled the clasp of her cloak away from her neck a little, trying to get some more air.
She was surprised when she noticed something small tumble out of the folds of her cloak and land on the ground. Distracted, she bent down and picked it up, and was even more surprised to find that it was that driftwood pendant that the maid had dropped last night. What? How did that get there? Then she thought back to breakfast when the maid had looked upset and was trying to talk to her. Did she honestly lose it while washing my clothes? What a clumsy maid. Looking at the lopsided cross shape, Louise remembered that the other woman had said that she considered the pendent a good luck charm.
As she was wondering whether or not holding the thing for luck counted as heresy, Professor Colbert gently nudged the young woman with his staff. "Louise, the summoning ritual?"
Louise gave a start. "Y-yes professor!" she said, taking one last glance at the pendant before closing it in her left fist. Who am I kidding? She thought to herself. I'll take any chance I can get, not matter how unlikely. The mage pulled out her wand with her right hand.
She would not fail.
She could not fail.
And so, Louise Françoise de la Vallière began to chant.
How long had it been since he had come to this place? It was hard to say. At least a millennia or two, he should think. This realm, this Throne of Heroes, was removed from the world he once knew, so much that time had no real meaning there. His only real connection to that world was the few rare times that he could hear the calls of those who needed him, and he sent his wisdom and guidance to them in response.
That is why his soul had come here, he supposed. All of the heroes of mankind were gathered in this realm, to be called upon if needed once again. But what was sent forth were merely images, hollow echoes of what they were so that a task could be fulfilled. There was an exception though. Someone had made a ritual, a grand battle into which heroes would truly be summoned to do battle for a single wish. This Holy Grail War (a name which he found distasteful for a number of reasons) was known to all heroes in the Throne, and many eagerly awaited their chance to be summoned, to fix something which they had not been able to in life.
It was hard to say how he felt about it. He could not say that he particularly cared for combat, but whenever the time came for 'Servants' as they were called to be summoned, he would always feel anticipation. And when he wasn't chosen, he would feel a little disappointed. It was particularly upsetting when he was sure to be summoned the last time it happened, but the hero Achilles was picked instead. The thing was, he wasn't even sure why he felt the way he did. What would he wish for if he had the chance?
Well, he knew, but was certain it would not be allowed. All he wanted was to be allowed his final rest, to join his Lord God and Savoir in heaven. Perhaps the Throne knew this, and thus would not send him. Such as it, the fact that he could still help people, if only rarely and indirectly, was the only thing that made the sort of half sleep that had become his existence bearable.
I beg of you…
His musing ended when he heard a voice calling out to him. Ah, it seemed there was another that needed his aid.
My servant that exists somewhere in this universe…
He felt mild surprise. That was different. Most usually invoke his name to ask for guidance, but this sounded more like…
My divine, beautiful, and powerful servant…
There was no mistaking it now, the voice was growing stronger. It was young, female, and filled with desperate need. He did not know how, but this person was trying to summon him fully. He did not feel the touch of the Grail in this call, just a simple connection, and a resonance with something within himself.
I wish and desire from the bottom of my heart…
The moment of shock passed. Questions of how and why were irrelevant. This person was calling to him. She needed his help.
He would do as he had always done.
Heed my call and answer my guidance!
He reached forth.
Ostensibly, nothing happened.
The crowd behind the pink haired girl relaxed when there was no massive explosion. It was somewhat surprising actually, as before anytime the girl had ever tried to cast a spell, a concussive blast would result. This time though, there was nothing, and the girl was left pointing her wand at the circle.
"Ha!" someone from the crowd jeered. "So Louise the Zero couldn't even make an explosion this time? That's even more pathetic than usual!" Many of the students present began laughing at her, but she still did not move.
Professor Colbert told them to be silent before looking back at Louise with concern. He did not want to have to fail the young woman, and not just because of the political disfavor that it would court with her family. She always tried so hard, studying more than anyone else in her class to just cast one spell right. He could tell that there was nothing wrong in her technique, but he decided to bend the rules a little to give her another chance. "Louise? Perhaps there was just a minor error somewhere. I suggest that you try again."
Still she did not respond, but her entire body spoke of tension. Sweat dripped down her brow, her teeth were clenched, and her knuckles white.
"Louise?" Colbert said again, his concern rising.
In truth, she could not hear him, or the mocking calls of the students behind her. She wasn't paying attention to anything other than the circle, because she felt it. There was something on the edge of her perception, something which was reaching out to her in kind, but wasn't quite getting through.
No! She mentally screamed as she poured every last bit of her willpower into the circle. I will summon a familiar! I! Will! Not! Fail!
Then the circle began to glow a faint red. As Louise keep pushing with her will, the glow increased in intensity, the students behind her gasping in surprise at the sight. In an instant the light expanded inwards, tracing more designs and symbols within the center of the 2 meter circle beyond the Runic lettering that lined the edge. The resulting sigil was dense and incomprehensible to her, but she did not care. She could feel her summon getting closer. She had to push a little more…
With a final strangled cry from Louise, several things happened at once. The magical light orbs around courtyard all cracked and shattered. Gouts of earth tore themselves out of the ground, and wind pushed inwards to the circle. And of course, there was an explosion.
A number of people were knocked back, but Louise stood firm. She panted heavily from the effort she had just put forth, and peered into the smoke, hoping against hope that thing she had felt would be standing there when it cleared. When the cloud was blown away from a small gust of wind though, she almost took a step back at what she saw.
I summoned a… man?
The man in question stood tall in the center of the circle, of average height and long brown hair that cascaded down to mid back. He was dressed in armor as a solider, but the design was not one that Louise recognized. It was the color of bronze, and had intricate designs etched into metal. A number of plates ran down his arms ending in gauntlets, and his breastplate was partially covered by a strip of white cloth. The cloth extended downwards and joined with a sort of white robe that covered his legs, though it still showed that his boots were in the shape of a dragon's feet. Finally he wore a white cape that extended down to his ankles, the article still billowing somewhat from the wind.
Louise stared at him with an open mouth gape. She briefly wondered in horror if she had summoned a commoner, but she pushed that thought out of her mind quickly. No common solider would be given such elegant (if somewhat simple) attire. This was clearly someone of at least moderate importance. This thought was also reinforced by his bearing. As he locked eyes with Louise, she could feel the intensity of his gaze as he looked at her.
No one spoke. With the sheer unexpectedness of the man presence, no one knew what to say. Eventually, the man's gaze softened somewhat, and he said "Upon your summoning, I have come forth. I ask of you, why have you called me?"
Louise blinked in surprise, as the man had not spoken in Tristianian, but rather in Ancient Romalian. She did not know why he had addressed her in a dead language, but she had fortunately had the language drilled into her head when she was young by instructors, as it had close ties to the origins of the Runic language.
Feeling that it would be improper somehow if she switched to a more modern tounge, she replied in kind. "I-I have summoned you to be m-my familiar." She cursed herself for stuttering, but she couldn't help it. She had put all of her willpower into summoning him, and as such was barely conscious. This might not be what she wanted, but she was in no state to try again even if she could.
The man looked surprised at this, and once again looked into Louise's eyes, as if searching for answers in her soul. Part of her was annoyed by his silence and felt that she should just bind him already, but she found that her body could not move. It was probably just the exhaustion. She most certainly did not care what this man thought about it.
After some of the longest moments of Louise's life, the man smiled. It was a warm, heartfelt thing which filled her with an odd sense of relief. "Very well," he said as he went down on one knee. "For this life you have given me, barring acts of immorality or blasphemy, I shall be bound to your service till you see fit to release me."
Again, part of her wanted to argue that he would do everything she told him to, but she couldn't exactly begrudge him for refusing to act if she gave him orders that went against God. She let out a breath that she didn't know she was keeping. It was over. She had done it.
"Um, Louise?" She turned to see Professor Colbert looking between her and the man, curiosity clear in his eyes. "You still need to bind your… familiar."
She blinked, and a moment later her face blushed deeply as she realized what that would entail. All the other students had to do it to animals, but she… She shook her head. She had come this far, and it would be unforgivable if she failed now because she didn't want to do something embarrassing. She turned back to the man and brought her wand to bear again. Pushing the very last sliver of power she had left, she chanted "Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers, grant your blessings upon this creature and bind it as my familiar." With that's she leaned in and gave the man a kiss on the lips.
It worked. She felt the last bit of her power leave her and a light began to emanate from the man's left hand. She could not make out anything more than that however, and the toll of using so much magic caught up with her. With a small smile on her lips at her first success, she fell, consciousness leaving her before she even felt the man catch her from her fall.
A/N: Yeah, so I felt like doing a FoZ fic where Louise summons someone other than the annoyance that is Saito, just like pretty much everyone else. So sue me.
If you've read my profile, you know that I've been wanting to do this for a while now. I've both wanted to try my hand at both FoZ and writing a story with Heroic Spirit Saint George, and this seemed like a good opportunity to do both. For those of you who don't know, George was going to be Servant Rider in the Fate/Apocrypha project that was cancelled. When the project was remade into light novels, George was one of the ones that got cut, which seems a shame because he was one of the more developed Servants. You can find his stats on the Typemoon wiki, which I will in general be following.
However, it's very important to note that he is not a Servant in this story. Louise did not use the Grail System to summon him, and was instead brought forth with a combination of Nasuverse and Halkeginian magic. The short version is that he is human, not a Servant. By Nasuverse terms of 'older is better' he's still stronger than a normal human, but not to such a horrendous degree. Also, he will not have his Noble Phantasms to start with. He'll be getting those back over the course of the story as Louise gets stronger and able to provide him with more power. That will hopefully keep him from plowing through the plot.
On a side note, I will be indulging myself for the next couple of weeks, mostly by making 1st chapters of some of the story ideas on my profile, partly because I want to see how they track with you guys. Also I will be finishing Playing With Tropes, though it will be in an abridge form. I know that my first entry into fanfiction has its flaws, but I feel obliged to give the character I created at least some form of ending.
Till next time.