Disclaimer: I do not own Zero no Tsukaima or Destiny
AN: This is going to be a bit of an experiment with a different style from what I'm doing with Code Geass. The chapters are going to be much shorter than I normally write, and more focused, rather than bouncing between perspectives and scenes like I normally do. It's a side project, and I have no idea how far it will go. That being said, I'll say up front that there's no master plan for this story, and it will probably never be "finished". It's just an exercise in doing something that feels different, and playing with some other characters.
Note: If you're reading this, I am assuming that you're familiar with Destiny (1 and 2), and have at least some knowledge of the Zero no Tsukaima series. For the sake of simplicity, you can assume that Louise is the player guardian. It's more complicated than that, and the "player guardian" doesn't actually exist in this AU, but more on that another time.
Chapter 1: The Summoning Pits
Tristain Academy of Magic
Day of the Summoning Ritual
A clear bright sky, complete with puffy white clouds, a gentle breeze, and the myriad sounds of chirping birds made for what should have been a good morning. For most of the students gathering in a field just beyond the walls, it would be so. In fact, it would be one of the best days of their lives so far. But as with every rule, exceptions were bound to exist. In this case, the exception took the form of a young woman, her flowing pink hair and immaculate uniform trying to conceal her anxiety.
This perfect spring morning was a special day for all of those in attendance. Since time immemorial, all six millennia of it, students attending academies of magic in all the known world performed a sacred ritual just before the Day of the Void. They would cast two spells passed down from the time of the founder himself, that once completed would signal the beginning of their lives as true mages. Failure upon attempt was so rare as to be almost unheard of. If they had made it this far, success was virtually guaranteed. Virtually.
Enter Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière, born of a prestigious noble family, daughter of a living legend, and having never cast a single spell correctly in her entire life. Everything she tried, from transmutation spells to fireballs to water manipulation, all ended up creating nothing more than an explosion. The only difference between any of them being of what yield it had. She certainly held a world record in that regard, or rather she would if such records were kept. Louise doubted they were. Nobody wanted to track accomplishments in ever more spectacular failure.
It was no exaggeration to say that her entire future depended on what she did in the next hour. If she were to cast the spells successfully, Louise would be the master of a newly summoned familiar, and have living proof that she was not completely without magical talent.
If however, as her infinite losing streak predicted, the spell were to fail, she would be expelled from the academy, and most likely discarded by her own family. Her mother, said living legend, had exactly zero tolerance for failure. She would be married off to some minor nobleman, as her current arranged engagement would undoubtedly be cancelled, or ejected from the ranks of the nobility entirely. It was also no exaggeration to say that death was a preferable outcome over that fate.
Louise watched as one by one, her fellow students at the Tristain Academy of Magic, the most prestigious such institution in the kingdom, stepped forward to summon their familiars. A great variety of creatures were called forth by those in the field, although most of them were little more than small animals or tiny magical beasts. A few oddities appeared as well, such as the poorly named bugbear, and a giant mole, but nothing truly impressive.
Then Tabitha, a quiet girl from the neighboring Kingdom of Gallia, summoned a large blue dragon. To the outright awe of all that could see it, she summoned the great creature, cast the binding spell upon it, and the pair walked off together to the back of the crowd as if it were an everyday occurrence.
Louise could not help but chuckle as her arch rival, Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst, failed to one up her. Although, a large fire salamander was still better than what most of the other students had managed. At least the fire salamander was a genuine magical beast, and not just another mouse or frog.
After what seemed like far too little time, her number came up. She was the last to attempt the summoning. After a year in this environment, the calls of ridicule that came from the students behind her simply bounced off of the armor her skin had become. She didn't care what any of them thought. She simply had no mental bandwidth for it. Her focus was solely locked upon the task before her: cast this spell as if her life depended on it. Because it really did.
She carefully inscribed her magic circle upon the cleared space, every stroke flawless and perfect. Despite her complete failure at practical magic, there were few that were her equal in the theoretical. She knew this ritual inside and out, as much as any student could. Louise said nothing as she finished the inscription. She took a deep breath and raised her wand, aiming toward the center.
Time slowed down for Louise as the words for the incantation flowed forth from between her lips. Hundreds of rehearsals in her mind had fully prepared her for this moment. Every word was thoroughly memorized and effortlessly recalled. She focused her power through the wand held in her right hand, drawing it upon the center of her circle.
All of her effort went into this moment, and as she cast the spell, Louise silently wove a wish into it. In her desperation, she wished upon anything that would listen, that she would bear any burden, or pay any price, that she could overcome this moment, and the enormous gravity of the world's expectations upon her. Louise wished for the power to make her own fate.
Little did she know, that something heard her.
As she completed the ritual, sparks of lightning flashed through the magic circle. The power coalesced, forming a large dark portal. Darker than black, it appeared as if it were a tear in reality itself, a void of nothingness, ringed by a faint green light that seemed to be sucked into the portal as fast as it appeared. It was a haunting sight, completely different than what any other student had produced.
Louise stared into the dark, not sure what to feel. The portal appeared, yet nothing emerged from it. No familiar to bind presented itself from beyond. Then, with sudden intensity, Louise knew exactly what to feel: absolute terror. Everything inside her was screaming that she should run away. Run. Flee. Escape!
A giant hand covered in mottled chitinous plating reached out from within the portal with speed undue its size, trapping Louise between three enormous fingers larger than her entire body. She made not a sound as it pulled her back through, the paralyzing fear strangling the screams that otherwise would have come out as she was torn from the world, and the only life she had ever known.
Beyond the Portal
Day of the Summoning Ritual
Going through the portal was easily the strangest experience of her life, strange enough that it even took her mind off of the complete insanity of the situation for a few moments. This was not how the summoning spell was supposed to work. It should not have even been possible.
Either an instant or an eternity later, Louise, and the arm holding her, finished its journey through the void. The world spun, or at least seemed to, as she exited the event horizon on the far side.
The room, or rather the cavern that she was in was unlike anywhere she had been before. Made of stone and odd, alien looking metal structures, going off far into the distance where a blue glow of unknown origin painted the scene in an unholy light.
As she looked down, the girl's heart felt as if it wanted to climb up out of her throat, while her stomach simultaneously exited out the bottom. A giant...monster held her in its grasp. Huge, hulking, and unmistakably hostile, the image lit Louise's nerves on fire. Panic and adrenaline flooded her system, as the overwhelming primal need to escape from this beast overrode everything else.
Louise began to struggle, and surprisingly, found herself free of its grasp quickly. As it was, the thing's giant fingers were just too clumsy to hold something as small as her. She dropped two meters to the ground, and ran behind some nearby cover that looked like an angled pillar directly in front of her.
She felt more than heard the giant creature roar as she slipped away, and then it made an even more terrifying sound: that of motion. With a sickening snap, the monster broke free of the its chains, and moved to give chase. Louise felt her heart racing like it had never before. She wanted to seize up and just shut down from the fear; curl into a ball and waiting for the end to come. But something shifted her focus. Only a few meters in front of her was a doorway. Powered by nothing more than pure animal instinct, she fled.
She scrambled up the rocky surface, having not the slightest clue where this actually was, and sprinted for that door with all the speed her little, underutilized legs could propel her to. As she ran, tunnel vision took over. That door, far too small for the monster to fit through, went through a metal wall built into solid rock. It represented escape, safety from the creature, and that was all that she could see.
In her haste to reach the opening, Louise failed to notice one crucial detail in her 'not quite an escape plan': a dozen smaller creatures were sprinting right at her from either flank, and they would have no trouble fitting through the passage.
Louise made it inside, out of reach of the giant behind her, and collapsed to the ground. Her whole body was shaking, and she was beginning to hyperventilate as she lay on her hands and knees. The metal under her bare hands was too cold, the air tasted wrong, and she had just the slightest moment to wonder what she was going to do now, when her ears reported a shrieking sound from behind her, along with the scrape of claws on stone and metal.
She had just enough time to turn around, reaching for a wand that was not there, as the first three eyed creature was rushing forward to perform a downward slash with its wicked claws. This time, Louise screamed until her lungs failed. The attack caught her in the left shoulder, but the creature's strength was enough that it just kept going, carving two deep bloody fissures through her torso. The girl barely registered the shock on her face before she was hit with another, and another, and many more after that as the pack of smaller, but still deadly creatures swarmed her. With their combined effort, it took only a few moments for them to paint the surrounding walls with her blood.
Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière died screaming as her pristine flesh was flayed from the broken body beneath by dozens of merciless claws. Her final, terror laden thoughts wondered what was worse: this, or having to face her failure of the summoning ritual, and expulsion, and the humiliation that would follow. That question was left unanswered as the reaper came to collect.