The moment Servant Saber was summoned again, all she met were two living corpses. Half-rotten and broken, the moment she crossed eyes with one, they both broke apart and turned into ash.
Only a thank you and then nothing. She felt this wasn't the quest for the Holy Grail she had been hoping for.
Still she could feel a connection to a holy grail. She was receiving magical energy from somewhere, but beyond that nothing. There was no master nearby or any servants- only silence.
Nevertheless a King always needed to maintain her dignity. So without hesitation, she stepped outside the small shed and into the city.
She walked through the foreign streets without any destination in mind. But all she saw were corpses, clad in everyday clothing and doing everyday shores. Like puppets cut from their strings, they had fallen where they had last been. Mothers fell tending to their children, cooks fell leaving food untended, and children fell in the middle of their school day.
It was as if in one minute this whole city had been alive, but the next it had stopped living.
For King Arthur, this wasn't the first time she had met the undead, but never quite like this. Usually, it was some nefarious witch or undead manipulating it,
She had never seen someone move so many corpses to just stop and be silent. Not even back during her reign, had she ever seen so many thousands drop without a sound. Yes, that was what bothered the stalwart king the most, this silence.
Because a city this big (bigger than even Camelot had been back then- proof of the efforts of modern humans), shouldn't just be this silent- this dead. For the Saber, this wasn't right.
Eventually, the knight made her way to the church. That was the place where the holy grail told her the supervisor should be, and inside it- she met a woman.
Her green and purple uniform was simple, but it reminded Saber of the flowing robes her own mage used to wear in her court. The woman's long braid fell to the floor, and more than anything the woman's purple eyes felt familiar to Saber.
They shined with a cold light that was sharp as a rock-devoid of all emotion and passion. It reminded her of the eyes she used to see in the mirror during her toughest days as a king.
For a few moments, the two stood contemplating each other, trying to get a read for each other.
But in the end, Saber wanted answers. So the knight asked first, "Who are you?"
The woman in purple smiled, her face relaxing and losing the roughness it had a few moments prior. "So it all worked out according to our calculations…" the woman whispered. For a moment she stood in silence, but hen she raised her hand toward Saber. "Welcome to this stage prepared for you, King of Knights. My name is Eltnum. Consider me a mere student of the stars and wisdom- an alchemist of Atlas.
Someone who divines the future in order to protect it."
Myrddin had taught Arthur about alchemists back in her youth. They were the students of the goddess Isis. Sages who used their math to predict the future and create great weapons.
In other words a mage, and probably the one behind all the undead. "Answer me, magus. Was this city of the dead your doing?"
"Correct, I am glad you are quick on the uptake." Seeing the knight raise her invisible sword, Eltnum amended, "but let me explain before anything, Servant. Everything you saw here, was a ritual to summon you to this era."
"Then, is this still a Holy Grail War? Did you sacrifice this city for that?" In her time, Saber had seen many foul rituals and magics. Even preparing a city as a sacrifice to create a Grail wasn't anything new to her.
If so, Saber was prepared to correct that injustice.
But the alchemist shook her head while averting her eyes. "No, while I used the bodies in this place as props for your summoning, these people were already dead before I came here. I only gave them purpose after they met their end to create a Holy Grail War that would summon your person. My only wish is for you to help us prevent another tragedy like this one.
Saber, in this era, humanity has grown weak from facing many predators. Therefore we can no longer recreate heroic legends from the past as protectors and guardians. That's why we prepared prepare this farce to ask you for aid."
"You mean, it's impossible to summon Servants as guardians, correct?" But then, how had she been summoned?
"Yes, more correct, it is no longer possible to summon heroes from the ring of deterrence… but there is an exception to that. I am certain you are starting to understand, the king who is still alive on that bloody hill?"
The knight frowned, following her logic. "Since I am still on a quest to obtain the Holy Grail, I can be summoned from my time to this era. I imagine that even now, to you, I still count as a living person?"
"Yes, that's why we devised this play for you. This is only replica of the manner circumstances used to summon you in another worldline. And as you can see, Saber, it was a great success."
"My presence here is a testament for that, but why would an alchemist such as yourself need to go through such lengths?"
"Because I want to prevent another disaster like this city. Months ago many monsters devoured every living being in this city and left no one alive. In this era we call them vampires- the dead apostles. Such a thing is unforgivable. So all I want from you is you help to prevent a disaster like this one from happening again."
It was hard to believe a tale such as that without any hard proof, but something in the tired purple eyes of this Eltnum made Saber want to believe in the woman. At least this one time.
"I see…" hearing all that it was hard for the knight to fully grasp it all at once, but even so she had one final question. "Then, I am to believe there is no grail in this era." It was disheartening to hear that, but she wasn't so cold-hearted to deny a call for help.
At that, the alchemist smiled. "A holy grail- you mean a mere wish-granting machine like this one?" Suddenly a sphere of pure magical energy appeared in the palm of the woman. Saber immediately felt the connection to the relic, indeed that was a Holy Grail. "Such a thing is child's play for the wisdom of Atlas."
This was not the grail that in another world would have emanated in Fuyuki. No, this was a wish-granting machine prepared from the ancient wisdom of Atlas. A crystal of solid mana that had enough power accumulated to grant any single wish.
It had taken them 10 years and countless resources for the alchemists to prepare this. But compared to the prophesied end they would face, such an investment was nothing.
Spellbound, Saber could only stare at the orb in the alchemist's hand.
Eltnum's voice started low but gained gravitas as she asked, "Behold Saber, this is your reward. In exchange for your cooperation to prevent the revival of the Dark Six, we will award you this grail. Do you accept, Saber?"
At that point, it was a mere formality, but the proud knight roared back, "Of course, all for the sake of saving the innocent."
"Good, then thus my fate will rest on your sword, and my body shall be protected by your shield. Thus until the crimson moon ends..." started changing the alchemist.
"... my loyalty shall stand. By this oath, we will save the world!" completed Saber.
Thus a contract was sealed and the Knight of Knights was ready to participate in the Aylesbury ritual. Soon, she would return to her beloved Londinium, and face countless inhuman monsters. It would be a fight for the sake of saving her kingdom from the greatest of vampires- the King from the Moon.
That was the payoff of the farce that lasted through countless deaths. Despite those many ghouls having to act in roles that didn't fit them. In the end, they had managed to follow their script and recreate that story from another world.
Even if their role had been small, in the end, they had helped save the world.
AN: Someone asked for an explanation, so I added one. To me, this is not really important, but if anyone needs closure it is here. I didn't want to write it since explaining it would take away form my goal, but what can we do. What would follow is a story about Saber vs Vampires while fighting alongside Sion.