THE BATTLE FOR TRUTH
That evening, they gathered in Chaldea's briefing room. Da Vinci looked at the Servants gathered there. The buxom, redheaded Francis Drake. The scruffy, furtive Blackbeard. The petite Mary Read and the buxom Anne Bonney. Ishtar, who, due to taking the body of Japanese Magus Rin Tohsaka, greatly resembled her, albeit with crimson eyes and dressed in what could only be described as a literally divine bikini, floating gently off the floor.
"Now, you'll be rendezvousing with Quetzlcoatl in Hogsmeade," Da Vinci said. "From there, you will be heading to this location."
"The North Sea?" Drake asked, peering at the map on the screen on the table.
"Yes. We've managed to track Charlemagne's fortress to that area. At the time we sent Astolfo, it was moving over France. Now, given that Astolfo was attacked by Archimedes, it's more than likely that he, possibly along with other Servants, will try to intercept you. Hence why we're going for a larger expedition, and at night to avoid the mundane populace from noticing. Five Riders including Quetzlcoatl and not counting Bonney and Read as a single Servant, as well as you, Ishtar, given your flight ability. Now, keep in mind, there is a possibility that Astolfo may have been suborned. Leaving aside the other incidents where this occurred in the past, such as in Babylonia and Agartha, there's a possibility that another version of Charlemagne with a brainwashing ability has manifested himself. A slim possibility, but I want you to take all due precautions. Expect Archimedes at the very least, as well as the possibility of a suborned Astolfo. Capture Astolfo if he is present and does attack. While we haven't dealt with any Shadow Servants in this Pseudo-Singularity yet, we cannot bank on their absence."
"So, how're we gonna do this?" Blackbeard asked, scratching at his face idly.
"Ishtar and Quetzlcoatl will act as escorts, because their mounts are considerably faster and more manoeuvrable," Da Vinci said. "However, if you're within range of Charlemagne's fortress, those two will need to get through, and the others will have to fight off any pursuers. You have heavier weapons on your mounts. We're hoping that Charlemagne is a potential ally, but you'll have to consider that he is either allied with Archimedes, or else part of a rival enemy faction."
"Dealing with Astolfo won't be easy, assuming we have to fight him," Anne Bonney pointed out. "An annoying ditz he may be, but in combat, he's pretty competent."
"I'm also worried about Archimedes," Drake said. "I have vague memories of encountering him during the Altera fiasco in the Moon Cell(1). While relatively weak in combat, his greatest skills are those damnable engines of destruction he uses."
"We still don't know enough about the enemy's numbers, either," Ishtar mused, folding her arms beneath her breasts.
Drake, after a moment, shrugged. "What's life without risk, eh? Boring as hell, that's what!"
Da Vinci smiled, only to hear a chirrup from a computer tablet. Examining it, she said, "There's another thing. Harry just sent some data to Hundred-Face. There are pigeons around Hogwarts that correspond to a species that belongs more to the Middle East than Europe, pigeons that may be acting as familiars. Thanks to the Servants who fought in Trifas, we know that Semiramis used pigeon familiars, and Shirou Amakusa Tokisada has confirmed that these are the type of pigeons Semiramis used. We can't be absolutely certain that she is here on this world, but she may be problematic if she interferes in this mission."
"Why is that?" Mary Read asked.
"Because her Noble Phantasm allows her to create a massive flying fortress, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Shirou Amakusa Tokisada was actually very helpful in discussing her. The Noble Phantasm requires a considerable amount of investment of money, along with soil, water, and plants from the Middle East, enough to bankrupt a small country. The Death Eaters collectively may be able to afford it, as many are rich scions of the Purebloods, and if she's aligned with Voldemort's forces…of course, this is purely speculative. We're only discussing possibilities, not facts. Once you reach Charlemagne's fortress, we need answers from him. Hopefully, he will cooperate, given Nero and Altera's assessment of his character."
"Aye, he seemed like a straightforward, earnest guy from what I remember of SERAPH," Drake said. "I doubt he'd be our enemy willingly, not unless some seriously weird shit was going on..."
Karl Magnus Rex was contemplating matters in the study of Potter Manor, when Archimedes came in. "Karl, it seems that Chaldea is making another attempt to make contact with your shadow. I daresay it won't be as easy as last time. They've sent more Servants, who have just departed from Hogsmeade."
"Have you identified any of them?" Karl asked.
"One of them is most definitely Francis Drake, whom you know as a Rider from the Moon Cell," Archimedes said. "In addition, they have the Rider Servant who claimed to be Quetzlcoatl. There's another Servant who resembles a Master I recall from monitoring SERAPH, Rin Tohsaka, only, she shows a similar divinity signature to Quetzlcoatl."
"Two Servants with divine signatures?" Karl mused. "And what of the others?"
"They looked rather like Drake's ilk, pirates of the Caribbean," Archimedes sniffed dismissively. "However, it seems they have gotten serious. We can intercept them, but it will be nowhere near as easy, even with an Oraclized Astolfo and any Shadow Servants we can muster."
"It may have been a mistake deploying you last time, Archimedes," Karl mused. On Archimedes' raised eyebrow, Karl clarified, "I do not say such a thing lightly, and it is nobody's fault barring my own, but if they were alerted to the fact that other Servants from the Moon Cell are present, it's possible they may suspect my involvement. I acted mostly to avoid having our Master's identity revealed too soon. I believed that Chaldea would not spread its forces so thin to chase multiple leads, but I underestimated them. If it weren't for the fact that they would undermine everything I am working for, they would make marvellous allies. In truth, I believe that we need to switch targets. We should have done this earlier. You and Astolfo will head to my shadow's fortress, and do what you can to destroy it and those on it before Chaldea's forces get there. Use your Noble Phantasms to their utmost. I know they are Anti-Army, but if you use them in concert…"
"It is certainly possible. Give me the right lever and fulcrum, and I can move the world," Archimedes said, quoting himself. "However, your shadow is present there, and he may have other Servants under his banner."
"Then use the Shadow Servants to draw their fire," Karl said. "They're useful, but they're far more expendable than regular Servants."
"And Astolfo? Is he to be considered expendable?"
"If need be, yes. Chaldea already knows something is wrong, but he knows little, and while the Oraclization process doesn't erase memory, if he is killed in the process, the resummoning may scramble his memories, not that his brain needs any more scrambling. I ensured he was unconscious when I did this, though, so the only Servant he knows is you, in case he does retain his memories. All he knows is that he was following the orders of his true king. In any case, I know you despise his irrationality, so consider this some free catharsis. I already now know that my Oraclization, while nowhere near as powerful as it was on the Moon Cell, has recovered to an extent that I can do so to anyone I wish within close proximity."
"So, your plans are moving forward, then?"
"Yes. I will wipe the stain of the Demon Pillars from this world, along with Voldemort and my erstwhile Master," Karl said. "Then, we can begin truly uniting this world under my banner, to make it truly great…"
They'd set off from Hogsmeade after collecting Quetzlcoatl. The journey went on in silence for now, but Drake was uneasy. If Archimedes had spotted Astolfo and intercepted him so soon after being deployed, why was the enemy taking so long to come to them this time? Drake was a veteran of many battles, even before she became a Heroic Spirit. While Blackbeard, Anne Bonney and Mary Read were competent fighters who had fought and won a number of naval battles, Drake was still more experienced, as she was not just a pirate, but a privateer and a naval officer.
As if sensing her thoughts, Quetzlcoatl hopped off her steed, a massive, pterodactyl-like Phantasmal Beast, similar to the Quetzalcoatlus pterosaur, and joined her on the deck. "It's too quiet, yes?" the Aztec deity asked. "You'd think they would have attacked us by now."
"Aye," the privateer agreed, nodding her head. "Something's wrong, I feel it in my bones. You can't sense an enemy presence yet?"
"Not close to here," Quetzlcoatl said. "That does not mean much if there is an Assassin, but I don't know of any who can fly off the top of my head. It's mostly Riders who can. Do you think Archimedes could have found a way to conceal Astolfo or any other Servants they send at us?"
"Buggered if I know, but I wouldn't be surprised if the scurvy knave knew how." Suddenly, there was a chirping from their comms systems, and Da Vinci's urgent expression filled the holographic image that appeared.
"Everyone, there's a problem! I was monitoring the area where Charlemagne's fortress is, but the feed cut out. However, shortly before then, I caught a glimpse of Archimedes, Astolfo, and a veritable swarm of Shadow Servants!" Da Vinci exclaimed. "If I had to guess, they've decided to destroy the fortress and all on board to prevent us from gaining any information or allying with them! You've got to get there as soon as possible!"
Quetzlcoatl and Drake shared a look, before Drake urged the Golden Hind onwards. Quetzlcoatl leapt off the side of the ship, summoning her winged steed that caught her. Drake prayed she'd get there on time. No time to play lawn bowls with this armada bearing down on its target…
Dumbledore stumbled out of his quarters when he heard the loud noise. While he did his best to avoid conflict, he had gone through the battlefields of the Second World War, trying to track down his former friend and unrequited love. And while warfare between Servants sounded different to the chattering of machine guns and the crump of mortar shells, there was no denying the similar tempo.
As he left the barracks, a rather large manor, the red-haired young man with golden eyes turned and saw him. "What the blazes do you think you're doing? Have you gone senile?"
Dumbledore scowled at the young man, who, apparently, was Sengo Muramasa, the famous swordmaker of Japan, albeit inhabiting a body of one of his descendants. "We're under attack! I thought I could do something!"
"You can: stay out of the way!" the irritable swordsmith snapped, before he suddenly formed a long, Japanese sword, and swung it into a group of shadowy figures that was approaching. "They've mounted a full-scale attack on Charles Patricius!" Muramasa yelled. "Those things are Shadow Servants! I encountered them in that twisted version of Shimosa! Bad copies of Servants, unable to use their Noble Phantasms, and certainly weaker than the norm, but they can be mass-produced!" Suddenly, Muramasa dived, grabbing Dumbledore and bringing him to the ground. The ground nearby suddenly erupted, with a pink-haired…boy? Girl? On a large Hippogriff rising into the sky with a whoop of joy.
"Astolfo!" they heard Charlemagne call out, from where he had been battling a bunch of Shadow Servants. A pair of glowing blue wings were emanating from his back, along with what looked like a dozen ethereal weapons arranging themselves behind him. "Unfading holy light, forever changing colour and form…oh my Paladins, oh my friends, carve thy legends into mine blade to prove my kingly heroics! JOYEUSE ORDRE!"
Jets of radiant light blasted forth at Astolfo, consuming him and the Hippogriff. When the light faded, Astolfo was falling from the sky. Charlemagne caught him before he hit the ground. "Astolfo?" he asked.
And then, they heard the clapping. A slow, sardonic clap. "Many consider those with emotions to defy logic, but while they defy rationality, they have a logic all of their own. Thank you for concentrating on Astolfo while I powered up my Noble Phantasm to its utmost limits. Astolfo effectively loosened the lid for me by weakening your fortress."
The voice came from the sky, and they looked up…only to find that the night sky had changed. It now looked like a starscape all round, with an eclipsed sun behind the speaker, hexagonal mirrors arrayed behind him. "Archimedes?!" Charlemagne demanded.
"It's time for you to die," Archimedes said coldly, spreading out his arms. "Time to bring back balance. KATOPTRON KATHO PHLEGON!"
It was too late. Drake and the others came to the position where the flying fortress was, only to see it vanish briefly into a Bounded Field…and then, reappear in a massive explosion, burning masonry and debris falling into the ocean. And there was a sole figure, looking down at the ruined fortress sinking into the waves, laughing. Until he turned and saw them approaching. "No…damn you…! Listen to me, Servants of Chaldea! The king I serve will bring peace and order to this world, and remove the Demon Pillars, as well as all else that plagues it! Bend the knee to him, or leave this world to its own devices! Those are the only options left to you that will not end in your demise!"
"Piss off, Archimedes!" Drake snarled, readying her Noble Phantasm, the Golden Wild Hunt.
"A predictable response, Francis Drake, from a hedonistic harlot of the seas! You have been adequately warned! Heed it!" And with that, Archimedes Astralized, apparently unwilling to hang around.
Drake snarled, but she then said, "Let's get to the water! There may be survivors!"
Quetzlcoatl was the first to find one, fishing out a red-haired young man holding onto a now-bedraggled older man. Ishtar fished Charlemagne, who was hanging onto an unconscious Astolfo. All three Servants and the older man looked worse for wear.
Charlemagne coughed up water, and then got unsteadily to his feet. "We'd better get out of here, just in case Archimedes is still scrying the area," the blue-clad Saber said, quickly checking his compatriots. "You got something to restrain Astolfo? You can sometimes knock Servants out of Oraclization, but not always, and I know that's been done to him."
"Maybe," Drake said, even as she got the Golden Hind to move away from the area. "So, Charlemagne, what in the name of Davy Jones' Locker are you doing here? I may not have all my memories from the Moon Cell, but I remember you."
"Yeah, I remember you, Drake," Charlemagne said. "And…it's a doozy of a story. But you're working with Chaldea, right? Well, I don't know the whole story, but I know one thing. The old-timer there, the one Muramasa's hanging on to? That's Albus Dumbledore, the real one. He's been imprisoned in Nurmengard the whole time, his appearance changed to that of the guy who's supposed to be there. And the kicker is, that guy's taken his place. I dunno whether you've got anyone at Hogwarts, but if so, get them outta there, because Gellert Grindlewald's in charge of Hogwarts…and he's the Master of Karl Magnus Rex…"
CHAPTER 20 ANNOTATIONS:
So, there it is, the big reveal…that virtually everyone knew already, thanks to the hints. Oh well.
Oh, and by the way? I have a REALLY good idea, at long last, for a Noble Phantasm for Harry. The trouble was finding something unique to his legend. It'll be fitting to have it used.
1. While Drake never appears in Fate/Extella, there's nothing to suggest that she wasn't involved peripherally in events, or that she was unaware of Archimedes. So I've written it in here that she knows him from a few encounters.