Disclaimer: It took an entire year to realize this, but due to a major continuity error, both Aberron and I have decided to declare that Scáthach 1 takes place in a separate (but similar) timeline to the last two Scáthach chapters. Sorry for pulling a Nasu on you, but it would have been too much effort to rewrite, and plus, that first fight scene was pretty good. Now... time to finish this.


[Our Mission is to speak truth to power, to make the first rough draft of History]

Shirou awoke to his servant firmly shaking his shoulder. "Are we under attack?" He rolled out of bed, reaching for any readily available weapon. That turned out to be the sharp end of his alarm clock. Which cheerfully announced that it was just after four in the morning. "It's early, Lancer."

"Yes, but you aren't going to school today," the red-eyed woman insisted. "I have devised a plan to defeat Rider and his master. Yesterday we agreed to a truce, and we have three days and two nights remaining. I have made phone calls, and arranged for your tutors to come here."

"What about Rin and Archer?" House slippers were put on, and a warm housecoat over his body for warmth.

"They believe we can win by force of arms. I am of the opinion that Rider is the one keeping the timetable. His master seems methodical, and powerful. I do not believe that Rin can win a war against her. Even as capable as she is, the girl does not have the heart to do the deeds necessary."

Shirou frowned. He disagreed with that. But it was also too early in the morning to contest that. "Why three days?"

"Rider claims that he needs to finish some kind of 'anime'. I have the smallest understanding of what that is. But he has no interest in fighting until he sees it. I believe I have found his weakness." The tall woman smiled. "We have three days to train you to be able to do this."

Training? Shirou grinned. That was familiar. "Should we go to the dojo, then?"

"The light of your main room will be sufficient," she said imperiously. "Prepare food, before the girls arrive."

"Girls?" Shirou blinked. "Who?"

"Oh, I mentioned that you might join their club. They are coming to teach you."

Shirou's gaze roamed the house in a panic. It wasn't ready to receive new guests! His Servant didn't know all of the rules of hospitality, and it showed.

"Lancer!" She gave a noise as he tossed her a rag. "We need to clean all of the surfaces! Before they arrive! New guests are never allowed to see you at your worst!" The Grail War had taken its toll on his chore schedule. He hadn't cleaned the floors properly in at least a week, nor had he aired out the house!

The next half hour was frantic, as sheets were turned out and floors were oiled at a breakneck speed. Lancer helped him, leaping high to scrub places that he was sure had plenty of dirt and dust. But by the time someone knocked the walls gleamed and the floors were clear. He looked like he had just rolled out of bed. A light sheen of sweat was upon his brow, while Lancer looked pleased. Though she didn't look like she had been working as hard as he had.

"What are these girls going to teach me?" Shirou finally had the breath and comfort to ask, his floors glistening.

"I believe that I have discovered the wish of Rider. Of this Blackbeard." Lancer's red eyes closed, as she thought hard. "None of us want to be forgotten. We were powerful in life, and this half-life is nothing more than a teasing glimpse of what we are missing out on. Blackbeard, too, burns with that desire. To remain." Lancer shifted her eyes to the left, where the entryway lay. "Were it only a gift to be shared, rather than a prize to be won."

Shirou had been having dreams of her life. Over and over he had seen a castle, with waves crashing against the cliffs below. People came and went but the castle remained. It burned, was raised once more and then fell into ruin. But his dreams were centered around it, and a glowing archway that hung underneath the main keep.

"So Rider doesn't want to die."

"He knows we are just projections. That even if we wished to avoid death, it wouldn't be our real selves that we preserve. We are manifestations of mana and intent. I hate to admit it, but I am not Scáthach in her fullness. I am... myself?" She spoke clearly, as if the question was more admission than anything else. "Yet I am also less than myself. Does that make sense?"

"Yes, but not in relation to Rider!"

The Servant laughed politely. "Sorry, Master. Let me be more direct. Rider knows that he will die and return to the aether. He seeks to bring back memories with him, as he cannot bring back material wealth. Or so he believes. You have three days to convince him otherwise. We cannot train you quickly enough to win through force of arms. "

"So you're asking me to learn a skill that will let us win?"

Lancer stepped forwards, her red eyes boring into his from inches away. "I will not lose this war, Shirou. The only thing that has led me astray is human ego. Just as it has through all of history."

Shirou took a step back, but Scáthach maintained her closeness. It was not the kind of intimate closeness that he saw between couples, but the intensity of a warrior hunting her prey. "I'll do my best," he offered.

"No!" Scáthach flicked his forehead, knocking him over and looming over him. "There is no try! You have hands that do not shake at all when you perform! Even under pressure, you are stable." She folded her arms with a huff. "You have three days to learn this. I believe in you. And when we face Rider once more? This will break his will to win faster than anything else."

Shirou nodded from the floor, watching as his Servant returned to apparent nothingness. His door politely rattled, as he saw that his guests had arrived. Groaning, he wiped the sweat from his brow and adjusted the apron he was wearing. Tentatively, he opened the door. He wasn't afraid of Rin, and he shouldn't be afraid of some girls coming to his house, invited. He shouldn't! But once the door opened a crack, Shirou balked. He knew exactly who was here.

Four girls waved from his entrance, holding sketchbooks and drawing art pads. He let them in, of course. But how was the Manga club going to let him win the Holy Grail war?

"Emiya! When Taiga-sensei called us, we were honored that you wanted to learn how to draw!" The tallest spoke up first, as Shirou tried his best to recall her name. Nanami... Moriyama? Something like that. "Your home is amazing!"

He took a deep breath. Manga could somehow win the Holy Grail War? "It's an honor to have guests." He bowed, happy to see that none of them had command seals or weapons. His fingers twisted at the thought, hating that this war was making him suspect his classmates as potential enemies. "Please take good care of me."

As the girls oohed and ahhed over his home, he leaned against a freshly cleaned wall and spoke into his elbow. "Lancer, no. Scáthach? Why Manga?"

"It is his weakness. Blackbeard is addicted to the medium. He even delayed the entire war for his vices. If you learn this art, you can defeat Blackbeard. Consider it another weapon in your arsenal of skills. Do your best. Do not fail." Her voice came from nothing, as she was in her astral form. But things began to click in his head. This was like Archery Club. This was something that would help him be a hero. Clenching his hands, he could feel that fire building. He had three days to learn the art of the Mangaka.

"I accept this challenge." He whispered, and Shirou could swear that he could feel his Servant's hand upon his shoulder.

"Not all wars are won by the sword. Define yourself by the conflict ahead. Victory is the goal, nothing less than that."

"But a victory is hollow if I have betrayed myself to get it."

"Then perhaps there are things about ourselves that we cannot accept until we stand at the precipice. Good Luck, Master."

[Bravery is not being afraid to be afraid]

While Shirou had been busy for three days, Rin had decided to prepare the battlefield. Lancer had provided her own method of help, laying runes and helping Archer with whatever magecraft the pair could summon. The old city park was decided to be the place for the showdown with Rider. Shirou had never liked this place. It was where the fire had burned, and it made Shirou's bones ache to be here. He avoided it like the plague.

"Not carrying your pipe?" Archer mocked. "What have you got there?"

Shirou was carrying his school book bag. It held everything he had been able to make in three days. "We found another way to beat Rider. You both try to fight their master. Lancer and I will fight Rider."

Archer looked like he was ready to say something less than savory, but Rin stepped in. "You've had our back throughout the war, Emiya. If you think you have a winning strategy, I'm willing to listen to what you've come up with. After our battles I don't like our chances."

Shirou would have explained it, but he felt something change. The night around them glittered, and he threw himself in front of Rin. Lancer and Archer seemed to already be on alert, as both materialized their weapons. "They're here." Lancer said stoically.

"Oh ho ho!" On the other side of the park, Rider emerged from the trees with his master in tow. The woman was wearing what had to be enhanced clothing and gear, and different weapons hung from her belt. "You thought that you could get away from the river, huh?"

"This ends tonight, Rider!" Rin yelled across the expanse. "I promise to try to avoid heavily injuring you, Bazett."

"I do not," the woman replied. Her voice was cold. "But I respect your judgement."

Rin looked ready to charge, but Archer held his hand out. "Everyone behind me!"

Rider was cackling. "Did you know that a ship's guns can strike far inland? I can summon my dearest Queen Anne anywhere there is water large enough to fit her. There's a lake a couple hundred feet away, which means I cannot possibly miss." His dark laughter was echoed with flares of light in the trees behind him, and low booms of cannonfire. Archer had to aim upwards, arrows flying from his bow to intercept some of the shells. But it was not enough. The man in red shouted a statement and made Shirou's ears ring, as a purple barrier surrounded all of them. A storm of flames and explosions hit the land all around them, making their ears ring and the barrier flicker in many places. Heat washed over them from the gaps, as Archer groaned.

"Time to counterattack." Lancer stated, as soon as the bombardment ended. The shield released, and Archer had to roll out of the way of a cutlass that came right for his throat. It was deflected by the blood red spear of Lancer. She was on him like a predator, never taking a step backwards. The spear flashed from every single direction, but the wily pirate just laughed as he dodged through most of the assault.

Archer and Rin went for the other Master, and Shirou couldn't spare any attention for them. He was on the move, as the cannonballs still flew. And all of them were aimed at him. Scáthach couldn't get close to Rider. Every time she did, she had to step back and intercept one of the gigantic flaming cannonballs.

"You're going to need more than that, girl!" he said arrogantly. "Your mana is weaker than before! You've been wasting your strength before the eve of the final battle!"

Shirou looked at Lancer. He had barely given her any support, but she was already weakened. Carving the magic runes wouldn't have done that to her! Her red eyes spared a moment to glance at his own before she smoothly nodded. "My master had more need of it than I!" She spun, darting forward to try once more to land a blow.

"You're so slow compared to the other night. It's as if you want to spoil my fun. Were you planning on losing?" Blackbeard stopped grinning and laughing. "Because that's not how I want my victory. I will accept nothing less than total victory! Abject and total!"

She couldn't move close to him without exposing Shirou to cannonfire. Something had to change. So he did the only thing he could. He charged forwards, shouting. "Lancer! Go!"

She was surprised for all but a moment. He was putting himself in range of that heavy cutlass so that she could attack. Both combatants blurred, as Blackbeard took a couple of cuts to the forehead and arms. Scáthach took more than a few slices to her outfit. But Rider stepped forward, grabbing her by the injured shoulder. Now he was too close for her to use her spear properly. "Got you!" he growled, his face inches from hers.

"Master, I'm sorry," Lancer said. It was the keyword they had agreed upon. She had what she needed. Reaching inside his bookbag, he pulled out the stone that Scáthach had marked with her rune. He cuts from shrapnel already, and all it took was a brush on one of those to use his blood to activate the rune.

Meanwhile, Lancer grabbed Blackbeard by his shirt and his wrist, keeping the cutlass from hitting her. "What now, Lancer? Going to stab me to death with your eyes alone? I can feel you losing your grip!"

Her next words were spoken in a harsh whisper.

"Henshin."

There was a burst of magic around her as Lancer dispelled her armor. Underneath it her body was only covered in what appeared to be a leotard and skirt. With enough black bows to enhance the outfit, and some kind of tiara.

"You're no Senshi!" Blackbeard retreated, his weapon shaking as he stared at Lancer. "Where did you get that?! How did you get that collector's edition piece!"

"I used magic to ensure that I owned it." Lancer's voice was crisp, and Shirou tried to look away from her. It wouldn't do to get distracted by his Servant dressing like a sailor senshi in the middle of a fight. "Press your finger into this stone, and you will accept a duel with me." Scáthach tossed a rune-marked stone to Blackbeard. "Now that you know the stakes I put forward."

Rider licked his lips. His eyes narrowed, and he grinned. "We're already fighting. How does this change things?"

"If you press that rune, it will enforce the victor's will. We must duel until one side surrenders unconditionally or dies. The loser may not raise their hand against the winner for a week."

"Only a week?!" Blackbeard glared. "Why so little?"

"My master is weak, and could not provide prana for more." Lancer shrugged, her spear oddly matching the new outfit covering her body. Shirou blinked, averting his eyes once more. "Do you accept the stakes?"

Blackbeard chuckled, as he seemed to stop using his own energy to launch cannonballs from his vessel. With a surge of energy he depressed his thumb, shattering the glowing rune. "I accept! You're more fun than all the rest, Lancer! The finest trophy I will lay my hands upon!"

Scáthach gave him a subtle glance. Shirou pressed his own matching stone, the glowing rune shattering on his thumb. "I accept!" Both servants now turned their attention towards him. "Your opponent is me!"

He could feel the magic binding him. It was drawing his attention to Blackbeard, just as much as the man was now drawn to him. "And what will you be fighting with, boy? I won't deny you've got spirit, challenging me like this. With your servant in the balance!" He cackled darkly. "How do you expect to win, when she can barely scratch me?!"

"Lancer said that both of you want the same thing. To keep on living, somehow. That your legend would never be forgotten." Shirou reached into his bag, clenching his toes together. It was just him now. "I'm offering to make certain that your mythology lives on, and your face be immortalized."

Blackbeard was right in front of him, his blade extended. He had moved so fast that Shirou could barely notice. He could kill him at any time. "Bold claims, boy of no great star or patron. You don't have the magical ability to force the heavens to ignore my state, or resurrect my soul. You're not a necromancer or spirit-binder."

Shirou kept his eyes on Blackbeard. "No. I'm something far more dangerous." His hand shook slightly, as he drew out the full weight of the last three days of his life. "I will record this war and immortalize all of those who have been brought back. I will become a Mangaka!"

Before the pirate, a book lay open. What once was a simple sketchbook was now filled with pictures and frames of ideas, all of which told a story. The first battle they had, and at the very front was Blackbeard, his face frozen in glorious laughter, looming over all of them.

Blackbeard wet his lips with his tongue, turning the pages of the book carefully. "I think I'll collect you, too. This is passable," Blackbeard murmured. "Though you could stand to make her skirt shorter. The girl's a tease if I've ever seen one." He pointed at the stylized drawing of Rin. Shirou thanked whatever deity was listening that she didn't hear that. "Oh, the doujinshi that would come from us!"

His boot caught Shirou in the face, and he was knocked to the ground with the blade poised over his neck. "Wait!" Shirou coughed.

"Oh no, boy. Surrender now, and I'll spare you and make a trophy of you and your servant. Maybe even share her with you if I can spare her."

"Never!" Shirou growled. "What good can I do if I feel like I've lost?" Blackbeard stood over him, his eyes promising pain and suffering. But he hadn't killed him yet. "I could never trust myself to succeed with a sword at my neck."

"The sword remains, boy. A man can always rise to the occasion, as I have proven time and again!" He laughed, keeping the blade close. "Create now, or die like a dog without a name."

"The same feelings that drive me to win this war is what gives my hands the vision to create!" This was the way he could save Rin and himself. He couldn't possibly defeat either servant or master by force of arms alone. "If you don't surrender to me it would be like any other writer held hostage."

Blackbeard growled. "I will not give up my ambition. I will not back down now, when the only thing standing between me and victory is some jumped up boy who thinks he can draw!"

"Thinks?!" Shirou had not spent every waking hour of the past three days building this skill for nothing. "I'll prove it!"

"Get out your pen, boy."

"Call me Shirou!"

"Tch." The man pulled back his blade. "Your culture has an odd inflective about names. Now, I want you to draw me with every single woman in this grail war in my arms. A true harem scene."

"Rider!" his Master yelled. "Stop fooling around and end this!"

"Especially that one," Rider mused, nodding. "This will be the judgement of your life. You fail, and I will just cut off your head and end this."

"Fine," Shirou countered. "If that's all."

"If that's all?!" Blackbeard cackled. "Gold and riches too, my lad! And a mountain of manga! A true modern monarch!"

Shirou pulled out the now heavily used sketchbook. It was large, and would do the job. His pencil went to touch the paper, as he planned the piece. Or rather, tried. There was a crack, as his pencil shattered in his hands.

"No!"

"Too bad, boy," Blackbeard said, looking genuinely sorry. "I was rather hoping you would—" He raised his blade, but another voice spoke out.

"Shirou!" Rin screamed. "Archer, help him!"

"I can't, he's in a duel!"

"None of my spells can make a pencil! Or repair it!"

Shirou could have tried to repair it, with his middling magical potential. But he didn't have to. Archer muttered something into the wind, something that made his ears tingle. "Here," Archer murmured. "This can't break in your clumsy fingers."

The tanned archer handed Shirou a quill, glowing with magic. It swirled with a darkness to it, and felt like a coiled snake. "What is this?" Blackbeard asked. "It smells... French."

"It's from an ex-girlfriend," Archer grumbled. "Only the amount of ink you want comes out."

It was like a pen. There would be no chance of mistakes. "If you wish to observe the total defeat of your ally, Tohsaka, I am perfectly patient. Rider will kill him and then turn his attention to you," Rider's master added, matter-of-factly.

"You can't lose, Shirou!" Rin hissed.

"Do whatever it takes, Master," Scáthach said with a smile. "You can do this."

Shirou took a deep breath.

I can do this.

Function followed form. Ratios were observed. And Shirou could do what other artists probably could not. He could control the paper itself, the lead of the pencil and now this ink once it hit the paper. Structure could be changed. His will became the form, so long as function was determined by the natural grain of the paper. But if for a moment all of it changed, it meant that what he could do was only limited by his imagination.

"Trace on!" he yelled, as lines of mana flowed down the paper. The font of darkness that only appeared as a quill flickered in his hands, as ink sprayed in a careful cordon. He ignored the sounds of the people around him, controlling every aspect of the art in front of him.

Blackbeard was the first to materialize. Tall, dark, and well dressed. His lascivious grin was offset by a bright pair of eyes looking 'up' at the viewer with curiosity. Scáthach was the next easiest, her spear and curves contained in the senshi uniform. Rin followed, looking proud and standing behind Blackbeard. Others flowed from the ink of the pen, until the entire area looked to be full of them. His master Bazett was just over his shoulder, with glowing runes on her gloves. Her suit was immaculately fitted, perhaps in a way that couldn't be possible in real life. Other servants followed, and he even took the time to place Sakura in the back.

He wasn't sure how long it took, but it felt like his chest was burning when he finally took deep breaths and slumped onto the ground. Heaving, his arm burned and clenched around the darkened quill. Like the world had taken a breath too, sound came rushing back in.

"My skirt is not that short!" Rin squealed. "Lancer, why aren't you finding this a problem!"

Scáthach lifted Shirou's head, and rested it upon her legs. "I am no prudish young woman afraid of what people will find. Beauty is to be expressed or it is not." Her lips quirked above him. "Master compliments me by this, even if the man in the picture is not him."

"It's... not as lewd as I thought it would be," Bazett spoke carefully.

Archer was looking at his own hands, as if considering his part in some horrific fate. Shirou couldn't tell what the man was thinking, but he looked more than a little shaken. Blackbeard carefully lifted the page up to the light, staring at the drawing with his face frozen. But the cheeks twitched, before rising into a gleeful grin.

"Alright, Shirou Emiya," he said. "You win."

"Rider!" He shushed his own master, waving her off.

"Immortality shall be mine! All mine!" Blackbeard screamed. "The Doujinshi will propel my soul into legendary status, and Alaya will not refuse my demands! The workmanship of this piece, it touches the soul! It scratches at the heart and begs you to pay attention!" He spun twice, holding the paper like it was a dancing partner, before facing Shirou once more and bowing. "I surrender, you daring fool."

"Rider, no!" Bazett screeched.

Archer froze as he began glowing. "Rider," he asked, "how did you bind the other Servants?"

"My master knows how to bind their masters to an oath. They didn't want to die, and so they swore." Blackbeard spoke first with confidence, but quickly turned to panic as he noticed his own glowing form. "What!? How could this be happening?!"

"Archer, what's happening?!" Rin, too, was in shock.

"You agreed to help Shirou, Rin. I admitted to Lancer that she could defeat me any day of the week. You admitted this as well, and we agreed to work together. Rune magic, remember?" He chuckled. "Shirou defeated us that night. And with Rider surrendering, the holy grail goes to that boy."

"But we are all still alive!" Blackbeard said. "I made sure of it!" he wailed, as his body began fully breaking down. Archer seemed to be giving his last words to Rin, while Lancer placed her hands directly on Shirou's chest. She was flickering, but he could almost see her smiling.

"Alaya calls us home. Come to Dunscaith, and do not forget what I have taught you," she said warmly, smiling in their victory. "I'll be waiting for you."

She faded from the world last, holding on to him as tightly as she could. Smiling to the last moment.

[When it stops mattering to me, I'll stop doing it]

His Grail War ended with all of their Servants turning to motes of light, and returning back to where they came. Rin got her goblet to drink from, and Shirou just wished that anyone who had been hurt by the war would heal and recover. That anything lost would be found and anything taken returned to its rightful owners (though that was mostly due to Rider being... what he was). Bazett reported that he had won the war, and the Mages of the Clock Tower invited him to come learn in London.

Two years to the day that they began the war, Shirou and Rin managed to take time away from schooling and go north. It was twelve hours by bus, ferry, and taxi. Tiny dirt roads and muddy conditions worsened it, but they didn't complain. Rain they were familiar with. Slush and ice too, though the Isle of Skye had a biting wind that felt like Shirou was losing skin whenever it screamed by him.

Reaching the castle that once belonged to Scáthach wasn't hard once you were in the sleepy little hamlet it bordered. In the very early morning, they arrived at the pile of stones. Rin shivered in the early morning light, carrying a rune marked bag. "That Einzbern had better have been right."

"Rin, can't you feel that?" Shirou could smell something different here. It smelled musty, or dark to his senses. The wind seemed to steal the warmth from his veins, as he reached out to touch the moss covered stones.

"What I feel is cold, frustrated and sore from riding in a bus for twelve hours!" Rin shook violently as a particularly heavy gust passed by. "But you do need an accomplished mage to speak proper old runic gaelic." She pressed a gloved hand against her collar, emphasizing her importance here. "You can't keep your promise without me!"

"And I won't forget it!" Shirou interrupted what was sure to be a speech about her skill with magic. Rin was a good mage. Not like him. He could only restructure objects. But he liked his style of magic. He could conjure color or ink where none was before, and leave art in any place he liked. He had designed his own wallpaper at Clocktower, and as much as Rin complained about the paper everywhere in their flat, he caught her inspecting his work often.

"What are you touching?" she asked, looking up.

Shirou looked at where his hand was. It seemed to be gripping stone, but in the middle of the air above the moss covered pieces. "Something that remained." Shirou grabbed some mud with his hands, and started rubbing it into the stone. The clearly magical invisible stone archway. It was large, and his hands could feel old runes pressed into the stone. "It's an archway!"

"This place isn't that big." Rin mused. "Time to see if Einzbern was lying or not." She held up the bag, handing it to Shirou.

"The gate won't open without the blood of the wolf," Shirou muttered. "They went extinct in Scotland long ago, so the door hasn't been opened in a while."

"Shut up and just paint the freaking blood, already!" Rin growled, shivering in the cold wind.

Shirou ignored the cold whipping around him and the lack of proper light. All he needed was the archway under his fingers. Since he never went anywhere without brushes, he grabbed his largest one and began painting the archway with the blood. The Einzberns had collected and stored it for them as a favor for sparing their master during the grail war. Odd girl, that one. Never found out what happened to her.

His hands didn't shake even though his fingers felt numb from the cold, as the brush dipped into the bag again and again.

When the sun rose fully, the red tinted archway seemed all the more real. It smelled like ozone, as if there was electricity in the air. "Alright, Rin," he whispered, not daring to ruin it. "It's on you."

The Tohsaka heir grinned, and as soon as the first light of the sun touched the archway she began chanting in Gaelic. The words were harsh, and tumbled from her mouth as if she were fluent. As she chanted, different runes began glowing in the blood. He had no idea what they meant, but he acted fast and made sure that all of the runes were fully covered in red ink. Her voice rose in volume, until she was screaming over the roaring of the waves and the wind, and her voice echoed across the empty beaches.

With a final screaming pronunciation, the archway began glowing. Like black drops, the archway filled in from above as the blood extended its way towards the ground. The shadows cast by the dawn seemed longer, or more focused in that moment. "We did it!" He bit his lip.

"Get the catalyst!" Rin kept her eyes on the shadows of the door. Shirou held up the small wolf pendant that looked like it could be made from the same stone as the rest of this fortress. There was a gentle pull upon the object, as if the shadows recognized it. Well, if this is what she wanted, Shirou would comply.

Rin made a noise in the back of her throat when he stepped forward to be within inches of the inky black doorway. "Don't touch it!"

"I think we have to," Shirou countered. Before Rin could try to convince him otherwise, he started to touch it. While the pendant would go in, it seemed as though his body were being kept from it. "Only objects can enter."

"No you idiot!" Rin pulled him back. "This door only allows people who understand the concept of death through! You're too thickheaded to use it!"

"So only a true mage would be able to go in?"

Rin hugged his arm. "No. I don't want to die. I don't want to be connected to that concept yet. I've got too much to live for."

"But we've come all this way!" Shirou glared at the doorway of shadows. "We did everything she told us!"

"She's imprisoned in there, Shirou." Rin refused to let go of him, staring at the door. "We need a way to get her out."

"But things can go through, right?"

"Yes."

"Then we can send her a message."

Rin took a deep breath. "Draw something with your special quill." She kept staring at the surface of the shadowy portal. "I don't think we can do this without her help."

Shirou stared down at his frozen fingers. He would have to use magic for this one, or else they would be ruined long before any details were resolved. With his mantra on his chattering lips, he drew with the ink black quill Archer had lent him years ago. For some reason it had remained when the war ended. He tried not to question where it came from, and didn't show it to anyone. Rin claimed that it would end poorly for him if people knew he had such a thing.

With two words, he once more evoked the ink from the pen.

"Trace... on."

It flowed from the tip like a dancing stream. It kind of was, as he only had to close his eyes and imagine what he wanted on the paper. He needed a strong memory. Something that would call to her. Almost absentmindedly, he remembered that she had enjoyed stealing Taiga's position for a day or three. Teaching them the worst English that his school had ever heard, and the profanity she muttered was probably still being taught to the younger students at the back of the gymnasium. Laughing, he brought forward the image of her teaching, wearing modern clothes and holding a piece of chalk like it was her spear. For all he knew, it could have been.

He released a heaving breath, opening his eyes to see the picture. The black ink shaded and also called attention to her face, the eyes almost boring into your own. "It feels like she's staring right into my soul. God, Shirou." Rin smiled. "She's going to recognize that."

Reverently, he took the catalyst that had summoned Lancer to him so long ago and folded the picture around it. It pressed through the doorway of shadow and did not come out the other side. The opening rippled, the shadows almost like water around the tiny part of his thumbnail that brushed the surface. It was cold, colder than the ice winds of this place. "It's cold in there!" he whispered, rubbing his hand. "It's like ice."

"It's the literal land of the dead," Rin said, her breath fogging. "It's touching the world. You can see the moss dying around it."

Ignoring that, Shirou saw the shadows twist, and for a moment he thought he could see someone on the other side of the portal. Or rather a humanoid form. "Lancer?"

"She's not a Servant here, Shirou," Rin reminded. "This..." She shivered, glancing around at the dawnlit landscape. "This is her home."

"She wanted us to come here, Rin. This is what she wanted," he said mostly for his own mind's peace. "Scáthach!" he yelled. "Scáthach!" Behind the portal, it looked like the humanoid figure was retreating. "We opened the door like you asked! Please come back to us!"

The figure stopped, coming closer once more. There was no noise from the other side of the gateway. "I don't know if she can hear us," Rin murmured. "This magic is old, and the gate only works for the blooded."

Shirou looked down at the bag he had been using to paint the archway, still with plenty of preserved wolf's blood. "Scáthach! You fought at my side once! Against Blackbeard!"

Finally, movement. The shadows pulsed, as a hand reached through. A clearly feminine hand pushed past the barrier, but the shadows refused to let a single ounce of skin past its confines. And with a heavy snap, the hand was drawn back.

"She can't leave," Rin whispered. "She's stuck there!"

Shirou frowned. "Try again! Come on!" The hand reached out once more, and Shirou grabbed it. It burned his skin with how cold it was, promising frostbite or worse. Yet he couldn't feel anything but the ice cold shadows. And with a heavy snap, the shadows pulled her back once more, and Shirou heaved as his hands were still covered in ice.

"That's going to kill you! There has to be another way!"

There had to be! His eyes went back to the dark red blood. "This might be a stupid idea."

"Most of your ideas lack the highly developed intellect that is normally," Rin started saying, as he dipped his arm to the elbow in the dark red liquid. "Wait, what are you doing?!"

Shirou reached into the portal, and this time his arm didn't freeze. More importantly, he could feel warmth on the other side. Someone else's hand was there, holding his own.

"I'm keeping my promise to you!" he shouted, pulling. The door pulsed, and a blood covered hand emerged. But the shadows wouldn't let him take anything further. Growling, he grabbed the jet black quill once more.

"Trace!" he roared, as the blood rose from the bag. Blood was the key. It only opened for blood, and only those who were blooded could pass. He made a circle of floating blood, right where he was pulling her through. It kept back the shadows. It flowed, and he pulled. Inch by agonizing inch more and more of Scáthach came through, until at last her maroon hair and pale body came stumbling through.

"Gae Heel uir den dae Scaith!" she yelled, as her bare foot passed the boundary. Shirou was blushing, as he immediately passed his heavy coat to the woman.

The last thing to pass through was her spear, the dark red artifact making him clench his teeth. Taking a shuddering breath, Shirou watched as the shadows seemed to hiss and spit towards them. He backed up, waving his quill like a weapon. The wolf blood intercepted the shadows, keeping them off of everyone until they could get far enough away.

"Sensei, it's good to have you back," Rin said politely, a gem held between her fingers.

"Welcome back." Shirou said.

Scáthach's red eyes went back and forth between them. A burst of rapid fire words came from her mouth, as the woman gesticulated at the land around them. The only thing Shirou understood was the castle name: Dunscaith. Rin started talking in halting Gaelic, her words shaky. But after a minute, she took a deep breath. "Shirou, she can't speak English or Japanese. When Servants are summoned, they gain understanding and instruction so that they can bond with their masters. The real woman..." Rin looked embarrassed for her. "She can't understand you."

"I don't need words!" Shirou stated firmly. "Language is just a medium!" He opened his bag, and drew out some of the sketchbooks full of his memories of the Holy Grail war. At least, the memories he was keeping for himself. The rest of the world might see his published works, but these would always be his. Rin hadn't seen them all, either. His hands felt warmer as he offered the book to Scáthach. Her red eyes widened as she looked upon the images.

"Drem," she murmured. "Drem!" She unclenched one hand, holding up the drawn image that he had passed through the portal. She licked her lips, trying to speak to him. But neither could find the words. Shirou started to reach for another sketchbook, looking for any other way to communicate. Pictures weren't enough!

Arms wrapped around him. Her body cradled his, and her head leaned into his shoulder.

"Shirou," she whispered. "Laek Drem."

Shirou held her hands too. "Scáthach." He kept his promise. It didn't matter if she couldn't speak to him. She remembered. She could say his name! It felt like the last two years were worth every moment spent practicing. Worth every moment thinking about this.

"Sorry..." He took a deep breath. "Sorry we took so long."

She clutched him just that much tighter. It didn't matter to her.

She saved him in Japan. It felt more than right that he returned the favor. To give her the wish that the grail never provided. Like the circle had finally closed.

Shirou smiled.

"Welcome home," he whispered.


I shouldn't have to tell you who wrote this, right? Here, let's let him round this out.

"Scáthach's words above are literally translated Scottish. Laek Drem - Like a dream.

"The headers are all quotes from a War Correspondent who famously went above and beyond for what she felt was the call to show what was happening where most cameras couldn't go, or where most journalists couldn't tread. Her name was Marie Colvin, and if you don't read about her you will have lost the chance to read about a badass of a woman.

"It feels awesome to finally see the close and do Scáthach justice. She's a hard one to write, and keeps so much about herself guarded. Even if you get her bond level to 10, she's still slightly careful about how much she commits to tell you. So I felt like this was that release for me. As we enter this holiday season we at Saga send you season's greetings, holiday cheer, and some very good news.

"Scáthach is part of the Thanksgiving Banner. Shishou is on the line, American FGO players. I know a few people who have already gotten their Shishou. Good luck out there. Let other people get to know your better selves."

I was lucky enough to be one of those people. I hope that this blesses you as it did I. Oh, and one last thing: her name is pronounced ska-hakh.

Your ending theme, as picked by Aberron, is Dance of the Druids by Bear McReary, covered by Arianna.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.