Thoughts, Words, Works

Fate Crusade Side Story 03: Old Flames @

In the grim dark present of roleplaying, there is Only Grail War. Stormshrug's Fate/Crusade is the second campaign following the events of Fate/stay night using rules adapted from Fantasy Flight's Warhammer 40k RPG systems. I'm not in this campaign, but I'm playing a role from the sidelines. His story has already begun...

Baltasar's faded Command Seals


Ishmael's voice echoed out loudly, deliberately, over the terrace. The footsteps to match the name stopped. A gust of wind whistled over the area where Ishmael was sitting, sipping his evening coffee. The magic crackled faintly as a wave of his hand sealed the dossiers shut. The footsteps resumed. Their rhythm was syncopated: a limp.

A moment later, the door to the terrace swung open, and there he stood. He, too, had grown considerably since Ishmael had first seen him. The gangly, timid boy that had once been Master of Saber was no more. In his place stood a man, toned, tempered, and worn. Baltasar's hair was now cropped close, a style both practical and befitting. His fine-tailored jacket had a tasteful touch of emerald trim, and at his waist swung a blade, sheathed in black, which to some might look like a fashionable nod to the ancient traditions of this town. Ishmael knew firsthand that it was much more useful, and dangerous. Yet underneath the fine jacket, curling up Baltasar's neck, twisted scars recalled an inferno only a Heroic Spirit could have wrought. An artificial arm and leg, animated by magecraft, bespoke greater losses in the Grail War. Baltasar stared accusingly at Ishmael, who returned the silence.

Finally Baltasar began. "I should've known you'd be back. Winning with a half-baked wish like yours would never be enough."

"You know my goal was never to use the Grail in the first place," Ishmael stated flatly. "It's the same reason I once tried to kill you: I merely wanted to avoid the fallout of a naïve fool trying to use the Grail."

"I was naïve. But that's not enough to earn you forgiveness." Halfheartedly, he fingered the hilt of his sword.

"I won't ask for it. I won't ask you to trust me. But I know where you stand, and that means I can use you."

Baltasar simply glared.

"The Holy Grail is a bulk of Mana in its purest form. The more the vessel amasses, the more volatile it becomes. You know this much, at least."

"Are you telling me a parable of the time your group nearly flattened a basilica? I'm not the one who needs a lesson here."

"Indeed." Ishmael sat up slightly, staring past Baltasar to the clouds obscuring the evening stars. There was a chill in the air. "This time, we won't be letting the Church's infighting put the vessel in peril."

"We?" Baltasar narrowed his eyes.

"Father Jamieson and I will have our hands full soon. I'm giving you an opportunity to help. At best you're only backseat-driving this Grail War. How would you like to be highway patrol instead? I can give you the location of the vessel. From there, all you do is provide a second pair of eyes and ears to prevent the scheming and the reckless from putting it in harm's way."

"What's to say I won't kill you and abscond with it myself?"

"Without me to mask it, the vessel will be a beacon, begging everyone to steal it. You have no Servant in this war; you cannot hope to defend it in a straight-up fight. Besides, I've already chosen the best possible place to hide it. Until it has collected enough Mana to be of use, it's as much to your benefit as mine to keep the Grail from falling into unknown hands. By letting you in on this secret, I've assured your cooperation in a way that requires no trust. Merely a belief in your own rationality and self-interest."

"Then it wouldn't be quite appropriate to say we have a deal, but fine. I'll play along. You'll regret this decision when I kill you." Baltasar turned and chucked a tiny locket over his shoulder. As it clattered to a halt on the table where Ishmael sat, the sword-mage stepped casually off the side of the terrace and into the night.

Ishmael fingered the trinket, feeling out the magic circuits that linked it back to its owner. "I look forward to seeing you try."

Continued in Chapter 4: The Loss of a Vessel.


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