The darkness was stygian, a virtually physical presence that did more to harm her mind, heart and soul than any of the tortures that so-called knight inflicted on her. Oh, she could see well enough in the darkness, but the rag that served as a blindfold, combined with the darkness of the chamber, served to isolate her, as if she was floating alone in a barren void, only the slightest of echoes from outside, the cold and damp air, and the taste of her own poisonous blood on her tongue, keeping her from falling into the abyss. She prayed to her god, and to the Great Founder, that she would be strong enough to withstand their tortures, until either rescue came, or she finally succeeded in killing herself.
Suddenly, the door opened, and she could see light dimly through her blindfold. "Behold, boy," came the familiar and hated voice of her torturer, Sir Agravain, adjutant to the Lion King, a twisted near-deity that once used to be King Arthur. "Have you ever seen death clad in such deceptive beauty?"
"…What the hell have you done to her?" This was the voice of a boy, a teenaged one, his accent not unlike the knights of the Holy City, the curs of the Lion King. His tone held horror and pity in it, as well as hoarse pain, presumably from Agravain's attentions.
"She is the enemy. The saying that all is fair in love and war is not wholly inaccurate. By this point, I care little for what you say. You speak the truth, but it is irrelevant. You will not be one of those saved within the Holy City. So, I thought I would conduct an experiment. This girl is one of the Hassan-i Sabbah, one of the leaders of the Assassins who have been summoned to this Singularity by the power of the Holy Grail. Though the Hassans sacrifice their names along with their identity when they ascend to the leadership of their heathen organisation, they keep an appellation to signify who they are. This one is called the Hassan of Serenity. Do not let her beauty fool you. She wields her beauty like a weapon, seducing men to murder them with but a touch. I found myself curious…how long does a touch against her skin need to be in order to prove lethal?"
And suddenly, cool skin against her own. She whimpered, knowing this was as much a torture technique for her as it was an execution for the mysterious boy. That she would soon be responsible for his demise. Even with her poison weakened by the mystic chains binding her to the wall, suppressing most of her power, her touch would be dangerous, and would inevitably be lethal. That knowledge broke her at the end of her short life before this one, when she died at the age of eighteen, her mind broken by her seduction and assassination missions…before the Great Founder took her head.
One second…two…three…five…ten…it felt like an eternity. But after the best part of what had to be at least thirty seconds, she heard Agravain demand, in annoyance, "…Why isn't this working?" The touch was taken away briefly, before she heard Agravain snarl, "Get over here!"
The sound of someone being dragged over to her, said person bleating like a lamb to the slaughter. "No, Sir Agravain, I…I don't want to die…please…GHHHHRRRRKKKK!"
This last drawn out death rattle came about as she felt another touch her skin for a protracted period, and then, the thud of a body hit the floor, something wet splashing onto her feet. She knew what it was, having felt it before…the very viscera of a man ejected forcefully from their body, liquified thanks to the effects of her poison. "…I see. So this Saracen slattern's poison is still strong. And yet somehow, you have an immunity to it. Hmm…it seems you might be of some further interest to me after all. Your execution has been postponed. Be grateful, boy."
The boy's voice came back. Rasping with hatred and anger towards Agravain…not only on his own behalf, but, Serenity realised, for herself. "…My name…is Harry Potter…"
"I do not care to remember the names of the walking dead," Agravain retorted. Then, the chamber was emptied out once more, and darkness claimed her sight.
However, even then, something began to bloom in her chest. Hope, not of rescue, but perhaps that she would have someone she could touch without killing them. It was a vain hope, but it bolstered what little she had left. She didn't know it, but soon, she would be rescued, and so too would the boy calling himself Harry Potter…
The frozen wastes of Antarctica. An inhospitable landscape, of a cold and harsh beauty. One would not think it the location where the future of humanity had been secured, at least for now, and yet, it was.
1600 metres up a mountain in the frozen heart of the frigid continent was a vast facility known as the Chaldea Security Organisation. Its purpose was to ensure the continued existence of humanity by monitoring the state of the world, and using an experimental time travel technology to correct aberrations in history. Almost as fantastic as the fact that they had managed to create a means of time travel, however, was that Chaldea had managed to find a way to summon and maintain a large number of Servants.
Servants were familiars, derived from Heroic Spirits, entities from myth, legend and history, engraved upon the Throne of Heroes. Although most famously used for the Holy Grail Wars of Fuyuki, Japan, Chaldea had recruited them for a crusade to save humanity's past, and with it, the future. It had come at a terrible cost. Many lives were lost. One of its most prominent members had all but erased themselves from existence to beat their foe, the demonic gestalt known as Goetia, who had tried to warp history to the purpose of wiping out humanity.
And even now, with the Singularities spawned by Goetia's interference resolved, the peace they had bought was an uneasy one. Chaldea, by dint of possessing Servants, had become a major power, one that made those in the know nervous. Not wholly unduly so, as Servants were walking equivalents of weapons of mass destruction. But Clock Tower, the UN and other authorities linked to Chaldea had, for now, decided to avoid tickling a sleeping dragon. Time would tell, however, whether tensions would erupt into violence.
Most of the Masters, people capable of commanding Servants, as well as the ones selected by Chaldea who were capable of travelling through time safely, had died. They died through the treachery of one of Chaldea's researchers, Lev Lainer Flauros, in truth, a shell for the Demon Pillar Flauros, one of Goetia's minions. Only a couple of Masters survived. Later, they managed to find a few more amongst their staff. And serendipitously, they found someone capable of being a Master during their sojourn to a Singularity.
It was a Singularity where the Holy Land in the 13th Century had been mashed together with Ancient Egypt, where corrupted Knights of the Round Table embarked on an insane quest to save humanity from destruction. This plan came about at the behest of a cold-hearted, deified version of King Arthur, one who cared nothing for those left by the wayside of her plans. Meanwhile, infamous pharaoh Ozymandias possessed that Singularity's Holy Grail, making him the epicentre of the distortion.
While many of their battles were hard-won, that had perhaps been the most brutal to their psyches yet, not least because they faced corrupted versions of Servants who were already present, such as King Arthur, Mordred, and Lancelot. But they witnessed brutal pogroms and torture. They came face to face with an entity many would consider Death embodied. They laid low a demon, and toppled a deity. They saw friends seemingly or actually perish. Scars were inflicted on the body and soul.
But they came through in the end. And managed to bring not just Servants back…but someone from another world entirely…
"…And that's when I'd had enough, and poked Gilles in the eyes," Jeanne d'Arc said.
The Servants gathered at the table in the living quarters, plus one of the Masters, chuckled. "…That still seems like an extreme way to calm a man down, Jeanne," observed Arturia Pendragon, better known as King Arthur. Yet despite the name, Arturia was actually a woman, albeit one stuck in her late teens, her androgynous looks contributing to her being a youthful man caught forever young. Her emerald eyes and golden hair, done up in a severe bun, contributed to her beauty.
Jeanne looked a bit contrite. She did vaguely resemble Arturia, with similar features and golden hair, but her eyes were amethyst, and she seemed less stern and strict. Surprising, considering that she was one of the best known saints in the world. "I know. But sometimes, it was the only way."
"From what I heard about the Orleans Singularity, you would have had big targets to aim for," remarked a dark-haired boy in his late teens, with eyes as emerald as that of Arturia's, as well as a similar girl sitting next to her, with wilder hair and a more tomboyish air to her.
Jeanne nodded. "Of course, we had greater concerns then, Harry."
"A shame," the girl sitting next to Arturia, looking like her tomboyish sister, remarked. In truth, this was Arturia's bastard child, Mordred. "I'd have loved to have tested myself against some of those wyverns you were fighting there. Didn't get bloody summoned until after that mess in Victorian London."
"I feel like I missed out on a lot of interesting things," Harry said. "You'd already fixed six Singularities by the time you guys found me. Then again, considering what we've seen since, it was probably interesting in the cursed form of the term."
"Hah! I hear that," Mordred said. "Still…I'm glad we managed to bring you back here, Harry. Hell knows what would've happened if you stayed in that Singularity after we resolved it."
Harry nodded. While it took him some time to get used to the boisterous knight in that Singularity, especially as she and her 'father' had corrupted versions in the top echelons of Camelot in the Holy City, in the two years he had been in this place, he now viewed Mordred as a big sister figure, even if she was actually a little younger, as had Jeanne. Arturia had become an aunt figure, one far better than his own aunt, for all Arturia's stern and stoic nature.
Still, Mordred's comments only served to remind him that he was a long way from home, not even in his own timeline, or set of timelines. He was in another timeline entirely, one where magic was different. He was separated from his friends, Voldemort was on the rise, and nobody knew about it.
He couldn't do a damn thing, either. Shortly after the end of Goetia, Da Vinci had managed to make contact with a certain personage at Clock Tower, who had stated that, for now, their universe was out of synch with Harry's own. It would come back into synch before long, but they had the Pseudo-Singularities to worry about.
He was broken from his thoughts by the feelings of a pair of jumper-clad arms gently encircling his body. He knew who it was straight away. "…Mary," he said with a smile, using a variation of her name Maryam, the one she possessed before discarding it and her old identity to become the Hassan of Serenity(1). "Your training session with the others is over?"
"Yes," she said, her voice as soft and gentle as a shadow. She sat down next to him, her skin a dark grey, her eyes and hair a dark violet, her features beautiful, her form slender and athletic. It was a body men would die for…and frequently had. Even the covering clothing did little to hide her figure. "You have been keeping him out of trouble for me?" she asked her fellow Servants.
"I think keeping our Masters out of trouble is a full-time job," Jeanne said.
"Hah! I'll drink to that. Anyway, when's the next summoning session taking place?" Mordred asked.
"In a few hours," Mary said quietly. "However, I believe that Da Vinci is working on something."
Harry sighed to himself. It was weird, knowing that a lot of figures from history and myth were female, like King Arthur and Mordred, to say nothing of the likes of Frankenstein's Monster or Jack the Ripper. Leonardo da Vinci, however, had constructed himself a female body in order to stabilise his rather unstable summoning, one of the first Chaldea performed. Said female body looked like an even more beautiful version of the Mona Lisa, and Da Vinci seemed to enjoy walking around as a woman. "Isn't she always working on something?"
As if on cue, the comms screen on the wall lit up, showing the dark-haired features of Da Vinci. "Genius never sleeps, Harry. However, I think you'll be very interested in what I have to say." Then, that cheerful smile, not the subtle one of the Mona Lisa painting but the welcoming and enthusiastic smile Da Vinci usually wore, faded. "I've finally found a way to get you back home. But…there's a complication. A pretty big one, and we're talking something beyond trying to emulate the Second True Magic. Zelretch has contacted me with the coordinates, and we have focused CHALDEAS on your world. Harry…that world has a Pseudo-Singularity squatting on it, around a couple of months after you left it, by all accounts. Which means that it's not going to be a simple homecoming. Chaldea is mobilising for this…"
CHAPTER 1 ANNOTATIONS:
So…that just happened. Harry's somehow ended up in Chaldea, and has Serenity as his girlfriend. Keep in mind, two years have passed for Harry, but due to the timey-wimey stuff going on, what with Chaldea isolated from the world due to Goetia's plans, only just under two months will have passed for the Potterverse…though they will be eventful months. Harry's now about 18, and Serenity about 20.
Anyway, stay tuned.
1. I chose Maryam because it seemed close to the name Serenity assumed in Fate/Prototype.