Story: The Sword and the Staff (chapter 9)

Authors: bleeding.blade

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Chapter 9

Title: Chapter 8

She had to admit that she was impressed. It took formidable skill to stay on a wild stallion—considerably more when it was ridden bareback. And for all her inexperience, the Mage had managed to achieve both.

At the moment though, she looked anything but victorious.

"I am sorry, Rin." Saber said apologetically. "I should have gone much slower."

The Mage managed to smile and wince at the same time. "It's alright. I never had much use for my posterior in any case—too restless to sit down for long, my father used to say."

Saber shook her head and smiled.

"Taiga was right," she told the Mage. "You have changed. The old Rin would never have admitted feeling any pain."  

"The old Rin wouldn't have been stupid enough to ride a horse the size of an elephant," the Mage responded wryly. After a moment of silence, she added:

"But you've changed too, Saber."

"Perhaps we all have," Saber admitted quietly. "Except maybe for Shirou." Then changing the topic, she asked the Mage, "What are your plans for finding Excalibur? It's one thing to track horses, another thing to locate the Sword."

Rin paused thoughtfully. "Legend has it that with your dying breath, you asked Bedivere to return the Sword to the Lady of the Lake. If the legend is accurate, to find the Sword we need to find the Lake."

Saber nodded. "The legend is true—only I can't quite get my bearings. Like you've pointed out, this is not the Britain I knew."

"We'll find the Lake using other means."

"You mean magic?"

The Mage nodded. "I intend to use it as sparingly as possible though. In a situation as uncertain as this, I'd like to save my mana for direr emergencies. Besides, too much magic could alter the timeline in ways I can't anticipate."

"Do you intend to use a Scrying Spell?"

Rin shook her head and smiled. "No. There's a much simpler way. I intend to ask the Land herself."


She'd only used the technique twice beforehand, and the only reason she'd learned it was because the Council Master had a fondness for arcane methods.

"Not everyone can do it," he'd told her with a wink. "There aren't too many people around today that Territories would deign to address. Also, not everyone has the constitution for it."

"You mean not everyone has the reserve of mana required?" she'd asked.

The Council Master had shaken his head. "It requires very little mana—far littler than doing your ordinary Scrying Spell. But the mind of a Land can be...alien, at the very least, and hostile, at the very worst. It can easily swallow the consciousness of a Mage."

"Show me how to do it," was Rin's only response.

They had been at the Sahara then, and the touch of the Desert's sere and ancient mind had been utterly indescribable for Rin. She had felt herself engulfed in the wave of a massive and antediluvian indifference—had felt herself beheld and dismissed by a consciousness nearly as old and immense as the Earth herself.

"You're a stranger to it," the Council Master had shrugged. "With soils that your blood belongs to, you will feel welcomed. In any case," he added with a twinkle in his eye, "at least the Sahara let you live. It can't have disliked you that much."

The second time she'd tried it was when she'd gone home to Japan. Just as the Council Master had predicted, the land of her birth had encircled her consciousness with serene and soothing arms.

Now she was going to attempt to touch the mind of an alien country from an alien time. Rin steeled herself. There was no Council Master this time to protect her from a possibly hostile reception.

She knelt on one knee, spread her palm on the ground, closed her eyes...and opened her mind.

The response was very sudden—and entirely unexpected. The shock of it caused Rin's balance to falter.

She immediately felt two hands steady her. "Are you alright?" Saber asked her with concern.

Rin smiled at the blonde woman reassuringly. "Quite alright, thank you." Rising to her feet, she added, "I know where the Lake is."

Saber nodded. "I'll get the horse then."

As the blonde woman walked away, Rin recalled what her brief contact with the Land had felt like and felt the unfamiliar rise of gooseflesh.  

"'Master'..." she said softly to herself. "It called me...‘Master'."

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