Story: The Sword and the Staff (chapter 22)

Authors: bleeding.blade

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Chapter 22

Title: Chapter 21

"...and I, Keeper of the Second Seal, order this Seal Unfastened..."

She was in the depths of the Council's headquarters, deep in the heart of subterranean London. All the members of the Council's Ruling Body were assembled, though hoods and cloaks masked the identity of each one.

In the entire history of the Council, the Rite they were enacting had only been performed a handful of times. And despite her personal misgivings, Rin couldn't help feeling a professional excitement.

Few members of the Council had ever seen the Gate being opened. Like the Key that unlocked it, it was an Artifact from the time of True Magic—a portal created to span the Dimensions. Legend had it that Seven Gates once existed, each created for the personal use of the Great Wizards of bygone times. But in the current age, only a single Gate remained, and simply opening it required the concentrated efforts of the entire Council's Ruling Body. Merely retrieving the Key required the opening of seven Seals: each Seal required a different Elder and the assignment of an Elder was changed frequently, randomly, and in complete secrecy.

In short, it was highly unlikely that Rin would ever get to see the Gate opened again in her lifetime—and even this occasion was an extremely rare and privileged occurrence.

They were nearly done with all the Seals now. In the distance, Rin could see the Key beginning to Materialize.

Once the Key was Activated, the Gate would open, and the Novice Master could then send Excalibur to another Dimension. Force was needed, however, to pass the Sword through the Portal, for the Dimensions tended to resist what was not theirs; and the greater the mana in the object, the greater the resistance. Hence, to simply carry out this operation, the Council had to expend an amount of energy that could only be described as colossal.

Already, Rin could feel the strain caused by the amount of magic coursing through her body. She and the rest of the Ruling Body were the conduits for the magic needed to retrieve the Key, activate the Gate, and later, send Excalibur through the Portal. As the ritual continued, however, her excitement abated and she found her mind straying from the task at hand.

It turned, instead, to the dilemma that had occupied her for the last two days.

Where, she had asked herself, for two agonizing days, did duty end and something else (which she refused to name) begin?

She had bound herself to duty all her life. She had sworn her allegiance, first, to her family; later on, to the Council. She had always, always sacrificed fulfilling her desires to honor her obligations. In the face of her personal doubts and individual misgivings, she had continually conceded to the communal experience and the collective wisdom.

Yet, for some reason, it had been easier to ignore her heart than it had been to ignore the imploring look in a pair of emerald eyes.

Once again, indecision clawed at her. She had told herself, time and again, over the last two days, that the safety of the world depended on the elimination of Excalibur. Even Shirou's father had obeyed the same logic.

Why, then, couldn't she maintain her resolve?

The Novice Master's voice interrupted her thoughts.

They had activated the Key.

They had opened the Gate.

Excalibur lay in the Novice Master's hands. Already he was chanting the Incantation needed to propel the Sword through the Portal. The quiet whispering in the room began to swell into an urgent murmur. Strobes of light began to flash along the length of the Blade. The smooth surface of the Gate began to ripple.

Only moments remained before the Novice Master would thrust the Sword into another Dimension.

Rin closed her eyes.

She remembered the look of desperate anguish on Saber's face.

She remembered the sound of her silvery laughter.

Rin made her decision.

She had never created the Spell in her mind. She had only seen it once, and only faintly too. 

She didn't even know if she could cast it.

But there was no time left for indecision; no time left for doubt and hesitation.

Plunging down into the depths of a self that she had never plumbed, Mage Tohsaka Rin traced a Spell—in the exact same moment that the Novice Master thrust the Sword.

In that instant, Blade met Gate and the world turned white.


She wouldn't remember until after a long time what exactly she'd done, but knew from the Novice Master's immediate fury that whatever she'd done had worked.

The Sword had failed to penetrate the Gate.

"Increase your energies!" he ordered the assembled Mages furiously.

They made four more attempts using progressively higher levels of magic until a mild voice spoke from the back of the room.

"We must stop, Novice Master. The Rite has been sabotaged."

The Novice Master stopped in his tracks. The Mages turned toward the source of the voice—and immediately began to make way for the old man advancing towards the Gate.

"Sabotaged, my Lord?" the Novice Master's voice was dangerously calm.

The Council Master nodded. Taking Excalibur from the Novice Master's hands, he turned toward the assembly and cast a spell over the Sword. Almost immediately, they saw gold filaments wrapped around the Blade and trailing off into thin air.

"Excalibur has been Bound," the Council Master stated simply. "To what or to whom has yet to be determined, but it cannot leave this Dimension without the object to which it has been Fastened."

"But how could we have failed to detect this magic?" the Novice Master raged. "How can this entire Council have failed to perceive this enchantment?"

"Because none of us are accustomed any longer to this particular form of it," the Council Master stated mildly. "But if we look closely enough, I daresay some of us can see it."

After a few moments of intense concentration, an Elder in the front ranks spoke. "I can see it. The threads...haven't stabilized yet."

"Which means," the Novice Master interrupted, with narrowed eyes, "that the Spell has only just been cast. And," he looked out toward the assembly then, "that the culprit is amongst us."

"The filaments should still be on the caster's hands," the same Elder spoke. "We need only find who amongst us has them."

A firm voice rang out. "I have them."

By this time, Rin had shouldered herself to the front of the assembly. "I cast the Spell of Binding. I sabotaged the Rite." She looked straight at the Novice Master. She couldn't bear to look at the Council Master just yet and see his reaction to her betrayal.

The Novice Master was furious. "Mage Tohsaka Rin, you are stripped of your position as a Member of the Ruling Body and all the rights and privileges that accompany being a Member of the Council of Mages. You are forthwith under arrest, and subject to punishment pending investigation of your actions."

It was only when the guards were leading her away that Rin realized the other implication of what she'd done.

She had actually, against all expectations, cast a spell of True Magic.

"Lady Viviane would have been proud," she murmured with a sigh. Somehow, the thought gave her a small measure of comfort.

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