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Fate - Laoch Gan Finsceal

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FATE/LAOCH GAN FINSCEAL

“Hero Without Legend”

Chapter 1: Innocent Hero

“Heed my words. My will creates your body, and your sword creates my destiny. If you heed the Grail's call and obey my will and reason, then answer my summoning! I hereby swear that I shall be all the good in the world, that I shall defeat all evil in the world. You seven heavens, clad in the three great words of power, come forth from the circle of binding. Guardian of the Scales!”

Fujimaru Ritsuka chanted the words for a summoning ritual to call upon a new Servant. The bluish magic circle beneath her feet shone bright, then numerous dots swirled around so quickly that it resembled a solid circle of light. Three more rings encompassed the area, then converged in a brilliant flash. She closed her eyes tightly and waited for the right time to open them. The new person who emerged from the magic field was bound to the Command Spell etched upon her hand, and would function as a Servant in missions to correct Singularities in humanity’s timeline.

Ritsuka had long since ceased to be surprised by the kinds of Servants who emerged. Their personalities, classes, and abilities were as varied as there were humans on the planet. The Servant who stood before her was a female at around seven or eight years old. Despite her young age, her firm brown eyes demonstrated maturity beyond her years, yet also a cute precociousness that inspired her to explore the world around her. She had short purple hair tied into a low ponytail, and she wore a white shawl and skirt over a breastplate and mint green tights that covered her whole body. She had heavy leather gloves and boots on, and she carried a leaf-bladed polearm that was taller than she was.

“Lancer-class Servant, ready to fight for you, Master,” the girl announced her arrival.

“A Lancer this time, hm?” Ritsuka murmured. “What’s your True Name?”

“It’s…” The child looked unusually apprehensive, then looked away in shame. “I apologize. For certain reasons, I cannot say who I am.”

“What are you talking about?” Mash Kyrielight, Ritsuka’s partner and a Demi-Servant, objected. “If Ritsuka doesn’t know who you are, how is she supposed to give you proper orders in combat?”

“I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience…”

A man in traditional doctor’s attire had witnessed the summoning and approached the unidentified Lancer. He leaned over her to examine if anything was wrong, then said, “It looks like we have our work cut out with this one.”

“What do you mean, Dr. Roman?” Mash asked.

“She certainly has a Saint Graph, but the details surrounding her True Name are heavily concealed by a threefold geas. Even if we had a Ruler-class Servant utilizing True Name Discernment, the chances of her name being given to them is 50/50. No, I’d wager that the geasa actually constitute her identity in the first place – that she has to hide any indentifying factors, or else she will break the vows of her geas and be subjected to a curse.”

“So there’s no way to remove them?”

“No. To remove the geasa from this Heroic Spirit would be equivalent to taking away Excalibur from King Arthur, or nullifying Medusa’s ability to turn people into stone.”

“Who would do such a thing to her?” Ritsuka wondered, glancing over at Lancer as she quietly listened to their conversation. “There has to be a way to get around this.”

“Well…” Roman scratched his chin. “If we understood the nature of the conditions she is restricted by, we could start to draw some reasonable conclusions about which Hidden Attribute she belongs to, and then narrow it down from there.”

Lancer sighed and murmured, “I’m sorry…”

“No, no, it’s not your fault,” the doctor smiled. “We have met plenty of mysterious Heroic Spirits and Counter Guardians in our time. We even didn’t know which Heroic Spirit was inside Mash’s body for a while.”

“I can’t argue with that,” Mash glanced away bashfully.

“We just have to investigate like always and find the answer to our questions about you. First things first, I’d like to have your Master take you out for some field work. We can analyze your combat abilities and go from there.”

“Certainly,” Lancer agreed.

“Say, Doctor,” Ritsuka said, “what would happen if I used a Command Spell to force her to tell me her True Name?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. It might lead to a contradiction,” Roman frowned. “We don’t know if the Command Spell or the geas would take higher priority, or if they would be equal in authority. Forcing her to contradict her vow could prove to be dangerous for stabilizing her form. If it comes to it, she might be forced to sever ties with you and return to the Throne of Heroes.”

“I guess so.”

“Geez… Things would be so much easier if there were any other Heroic Spirits who personally knew Lancer during her lifetime.”

“This coming after you say you’ll put your all into researching her True Name.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with a little wishful thinking, eh? Besides, this could actually be helpful. If we don’t know who she is, then the enemy won’t either.”

“That’s true. But it’ll be hard for me to issue commands to her.”

“Don’t worry,” Lancer assured. “I might not look like it, but I’m instructed in many aspects of war, though I’ve only truly mastered the lance and the close-range combat it requires. You’ll find me surprisingly flexible in my duties.”

Ritsuka scratched her head, then smiled and said, “Can’t be helped then. I’ll be expecting a lot out of you, Lancer.”

“Yes, Master.”

The small girl followed Ritsuka out of the chamber where the Guardian Heroic Summoning System ‘FATE’ was located. She wouldn’t have any problems following orders, although she couldn’t help feeling excited and anxious about the battles ahead of her. As Roman, Mash and Ritsuka spoke amongst each other, Lancer’s mind drifted back to the past when she was still alive.


Connla.

This was the True Name that Lancer forbade herself from saying.

The original mythology stated that Connla was the only son of the Hound of Ulster Cuchulainn and the Scottish warrior woman Aife, purportedly the sister of the Witch of Dun Scaith Scathach, although this was never verified. In the Servant summoning rituals currently utilized by the Magi however, there was no rule stating that a Servant was forced to be summoned as their originating gender. Perhaps facts surrounding a Heroic Spirit were distorted or lost to time. Maybe a spirit from an alternate universe could be called upon. Or maybe it was just a Master’s preference to summon a particular hero with a particular gender. Sometimes even Servants themselves changed their gender and/or appearance to suit themselves.

No matter what the reason was, Connla emerged in this world as a girl. Being the scion of two warriors, and possibly the niece of another (again, not proven) destined her to be trained as such. Cuchulainn was absent during her childhood, leaving Aife to care for Connla and fashion her into a young lady capable of combat and strategy. It didn’t mean that Cuchulainn abandoned her though. Upon leaving Aife pregnant but before returning to Ulster, he told her to give Connla a ring he provided so he could identify her when it was her time to join his side.

Seven years later, she was old enough to wear the ring on her right thumb and travel by boat southwest from Alpi, Scotland to Ulster, in the green country of Erin before it was renamed Ireland. Before Aife gave the blessing for her journey, she implanted three geasa upon her daughter.

“Abide by these three vows, and you will be unstoppable,” Aife promised her.

In Irish folklore, a geas was an obligation or prohibition magically imposed on a person. A person could place these sigils upon themselves, or they could be given to others to ensure obedience, or to give the bearer an advantage at the cost of never breaking their oath. It was typical for people to have one, maybe two throughout their lifetimes, but three was considered to be extremely harsh. If handled correctly, a geas would be a great benefit. If not, then the consequences would prove to be deadly. Aife immediately imposed three upon Connla because she didn’t want her daughter to go marching into the war-torn depths of Ireland without protection.

At least, that was what she claimed.

With her destination set, Connla set out on a humble row boat with golden oars and sailed her way to northeastern Ulster. From her home in Alpi, she needed to make her way across the North Channel by sea, then by foot to Eamhain Macha in Armagh County where she could join the boy-troop of the Red Branch Army and receive further training. Excitement fluttered in her heart at the anticipation of finally being able to meet her long-lost father. What would he think of her as a warrior? How would his comrades see her? What would they expect out of her in the coming years? Connla had to control these feelings so they wouldn’t incite fear within her. Furthermore, one of the geasa she bore prevented her from turning back on her journey, so abandoning her trip was out of the question.

The boat eventually reached the shores of Antrim County, the area closest to the North Channel separating Ireland from Scotland. There was no stormy weather for her to worry about, so the nautical leg of her journey went off without any problems. She disembarked and used a primitive compass to get her bearings straight.

“Mother said that Eamhain Macha is further southwest from here…” Connla murmured to herself.

She ventured forth into the heartland of Ulster, hunting wild animals and picking berries for sustenance. It wouldn’t be until she reached the far northeast border of Antrim and Armagh that she would encounter trouble. She needed to resupply her canteen of water, so she filled it at Lough Neagh before taking some stones and setting them in a slingshot. She whirled the sling about in her hand and hurled the rocks at a bird flying above. It hit the target and caused the stunned bird to fall to the ground. Connla wasn’t really trying to hunt the bird – she just needed to make sure her skills hadn’t gone rusty. She took the bird upon her lap and nursed it back to health, allowing it to fly away.

At the same time, King Concobhar Mac Nessa and his army were in the middle of training some of the youth members. It wasn’t long before attention was drawn to this mysterious girl’s feats of shooting down birds with nothing more than rocks. Concobhar saw this and asked Conall, one of his finest soldiers, “Who is that child?”

“She does not appear to be one of my trainees, sire,” Conall replied.

“Such a fine display of skill cannot go ignored. You must make contact and see to it that she is enlisted within my army. If Connacht were to hear of a lone warrior free of allegiance, they would undoubtedly attempt to snatch her away.”

“Undoubtedly. I shall see to her at once.”

Conall headed over to Lough Neagh and approached Connla, who had seen him coming by now. He bellowed, “Greetings, young lady! I could not help but notice the pranks you have been playing upon the birds circling this lake.”

“I apologize,” Connla said. “Have I caused unwanted duress?”

“Nay, on the contrary! I’m actually impressed with your display. I am Conall Cernach of the Red Branch Army of Ulster. My king has witnessed your capabilities and has sent me as his envoy to ask for your enlistment in our forces.”

“I see. I was on my way to Eamhain Macha to see about joining this nation’s army.”

“Most fortuitous our meeting has been then! ‘Tis the very definition of serendipity! Then, might I ask for your name, young one?”

Connla’s attitude suddenly changed as she let out a small gasp. She grew pensive and kept her lips tightly sealed.

“What troubles you?” Conall asked. “You must know that it is tradition to introduce yourself to the king first.”

“…”

“Why do you hesitate? Stating your identity is the most basic code of honor among knights.”

“…”

He grunted and reached for his sword. “Do you refuse to answer? I do not believe you are an insolent rascal like most youths your age, but I cannot let your rudeness go unexcused. I shall teach you the meaning of respecting your elders!”

Now two of Connla’s geasa were being put to the test. Conall had issued a challenge, and she was obligated to answer with equal force while remaining silent about her name. She brandished a long spear with a blade shaped like a leaf at the end, deftly twirling it upon her palm as she got into her fighting stance. Concobhar saw this and wondered, “What is the meaning of this? Has the child turned down our gesture of welcome?”

“Not to worry, sire,” a charioteer named Laeg assured. “She is naught but a youth facing Conall’s might. I am certain he won’t push her to the brink, but he will nonetheless subdue her in short order.”

No sooner had Laeg said that, Conall and Connla immediately rushed at each other and clashed their weapons in a tumult of movement and sparks. Although Conall fought valiantly, he was astounded to realize that he was no match for this fleet-footed stranger. Just as quickly as the battle began, Connla already put ample pressure on Conall just to defend against her swift movements and powerful blows. Whenever he had an opening to attack, she would simply vault aside and exploit an exposed weakness.

It wasn’t long before Conall skidded across the rocky Lough Neagh coast and fell to one knee, completely exhausted. Connla maintained her fighting stance, but her opponent raised his arm and exclaimed, “Pray, cease your advances! I shall resign from this contest!”

She remained still and stared at him, but made no movement to strike again. Yes, she had to respond to any challenge she was given, but there was no stipulation saying she had to kill anyone. All she needed to do was to subdue her opponents until they gave up, like Conall did just now. Concobhar couldn’t let such unexplained insolence go unpunished however, so he commanded to Laeg, “Charioteer! Take our best into battle and bring that child to me!”

“At once!” Laeg responded and took a small battalion of about 10 warriors to meet Connla. The boys who were training remained behind to watch their superiors, puzzled as to how a mysterious girl could best one of their teachers.

Laeg and his men surrounded Connla in a circle. He declared, “Do not bring my king any more trouble, young lady. Your resistance is the summit of foolishness, exercising violence upon us merely because you will not introduce yourself. Have you no explanation for your behavior?”

Connla certainly wanted to tell him the truth, but she wasn’t sure if it meant disobeying her mother. Her expression was clearly pensive as she thought about the geasa.

I don’t understand, Mother. I am expected to be a part of this kingdom’s army, yet I cannot tell anyone who I am. How am I supposed to become comrades with these people if they are not allowed to know my name? How can I tell them otherwise? Are they supposed to treat me as a nameless stranger?

“You look troubled,” Laeg said. “Come, sheathe your lance and tell me what is the matter. I am sure King Concobhar will overlook your transgression if you just make yourself acquainted with him and apologize for subduing Conall.”

“I… can’t…”

“Why not?”

“…”

He was growing frustrated with her hesitation, and he announced, “My apologies, but my liege demands an explanation. If you are not willing to tell us here and now, then let it be known that we have been ordered to bring you in by force, if necessary.”

“I suppose there’s no choice then,” Connla murmured. As soon as she said that, she dashed straight for Laeg. He raised his shield, expecting to block a weak attack. A startled grunt escaped his throat when he felt a much more powerful force pushing his planted feet back. As he lost his balance, she used this opportunity to vault over him with an elegant flip and break herself free of the encirclement. Her short legs effortlessly pattered across the rocky shores while the men took chase.

“Halt! You shall not escape!” Laeg shouted.

However, Connla wasn’t actually trying to flee. She turned back in a wide berth and passed by her pursuers to run in the opposite direction. They slid on their heels and chased her again. She leapt from boulder to boulder before crouching upon a rock and waiting for them to catch up. Once they were within distance, she bounced off like a cat and fled once again. This continued for several more minutes until the men were nearly out of breath. The sight would have been comical if they weren’t trying to fulfill a mission that their king gave them.

Laeg leaned forward and panted profusely, then exclaimed, “Damnation, lass! Are you mocking us!?”

“What sort of youth possesses enough stamina to outpace an entire platoon!?” one of the men shouted in frustration. “It’s like she isn’t human!”

“Nay, friend. She is as flesh and blood as any of us are. She must be in possession of a potent geas.”

Once Connla saw that the men were starting to get weary from chasing her around, she bore her spear and charged at one soldier. He raised his shield in a panic to block her swings several times, but he lost his balance and fell backwards. His comrades attempted to ambush her, so she cartwheeled aside on one hand and swung her polearm at their feet, knocking at least two onto their buttocks pathetically. Laeg was startled to see her go on the offensive after running around so much. When he thought about it for a moment though, he exclaimed, “Blasphemy! So that was her tactic! Men, stay on your guard! She’s trying to exhaust us before attacking!”

“For Ulster!” another man screamed as he swung his sword over Connla’s head. She parried with a strong sweeping upward blow that sent his blade flying back. Then she jabbed his midsection with the non-blade end of her spear to put him out of commission.

“HRAAAGH!” Laeg let out a thunderous battle cry and swung his axe at the ground she was standing upon. She leapt back to narrowly avoid being cleaved into two, then stepped on the implanted weapon and jumped directly above him. He glanced up in shock right as she descended and stomped her feet on his face, smacking him onto his back while she whirled above the stunned fighters.

King Concobhar observed the battle with utter stupefaction. The whole thing was so pointless, yet the child’s skill both enthralled and horrified him. He was ashamed to admit it, but his best men were not going to last long. He had no idea what Connla was going to do after she won either. Would she turn her blade against him, or any of the boy-troop members for that matter? What would happen if the conniving Queen Medb of Connacht learned about the girl’s existence? He didn’t want to imagine the consequences.

“I have no choice,” Concobhar groaned to himself, then turned to one of his men and ordered, “Summon Cuchulainn and have him subjugate the girl!”

“Cuchulainn!?” was the surprised response. “You are asking for our strongest man to face such an insignificant threat!?”

“Insignificant, you say!? This is the honor of Ulster at stake here! If those wretches of Connacht were to hear of our mightiest being bested by a nameless youth, we will never know the end of shame!”

“Of course! Right away, sire!”


Ireland’s Child of Light, Cuchulainn, wasn’t too far away from the training grounds. He was sitting beneath a grand tree with his beloved wife Emer, a beautiful and fair princess whom he insisted upon marrying despite protests from her father. He had undertaken many feats of heroism primarily to spread his name across the land, or else Emer would never recognize a nameless warrior as her husband. Today was a quiet day that he wanted to enjoy with the treasured woman he worked so hard to win over.

“The wind… It feels nice,” Emer soothed and tousled her hair.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “As much as I’d like to train the boys, skipping a day or two won’t hurt.”

“Lough Neagh is practically dazzling at this time of the day. I’d like to take a swim when we get the chance.”

“Why not right now?” Cuchulainn smirked and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, gently sliding aside her top to expose her smooth skin.

“Oh, but with so many people around? I fear I’d embarrass myself to no end.”

“Then after the evening feast?”

“That sounds lovely.”

While they were busy flirting with each other, the soldier that Concobhar sent came running up the hill panting heavily. He exclaimed, “My apologies for the disruption, but our king requests your aid at once!”

“Geez,” the hero scratched his messy blue hair in annoyance. “Never a dull day in Ulster, is it?”

“Did I interrupt something, Lady Emer?” the man glanced at her in confusion.

“Please don’t mind me. Whatever is going on out there?” she asked.

He quickly explained the situation to the couple. Cuchulainn muttered, “A little kid? Beating up Laeg and Conall?”

“She doesn’t appear to be more than seven or eight years old, but she’s fighting with the prowess of an experienced adult.”

“Does she have a reason for being so rambunctious?”

“Not that we can tell. She just became aggressive once we started asking for her name.”

“Can’t be helped then. If it’s the king’s order, then I can’t refuse.”

As Cuchulainn twirled the long red spear Gae Bolg in his hand, Emer suddenly got up and grabbed his arm, uttering, “Wait a moment!”

“Hm? What’s the matter?”

“Cu… I have an ominous feeling about this.”

“That’s unusual. It’s not like you to try and stop me.”

“I know, and I will not this time either. Yet, I cannot explain it, but it’s like someone is gripping my heart and will not let go…”

“There’s no need to overreact. It’s probably just one of the boys misbehaving. I’ll just take care of this little problem and come right back.”

“Do be careful.”

Cuchulainn nodded and ran towards the lake with the soldier. Emer remained there, rubbing her hands together in anxiety as she tried to understand why she was so distressed.

I have complete confidence in Cu’s ability to handle any opposition. No, I don’t think I’m worried for him. It’s something about that strange child…

She thought about it some more, going back to the stories that he told her of the time when he trained in the Land of the Shadows under the Gatekeeper of Death herself. It had been around that period when Cuchulainn also battled against another warrior queen and defeated her. Emer wasn’t certain of the details, but he did confide to her that he had spared his opponent’s life because he found her appealing, and that they had courted for a brief time. He promised her countless times that his heart truly belonged to Emer, and that this affair was nothing more than a passing fancy of his.

If I remember right, it was about seven or eight years ago when he returned from Alpi and took my hand in marriage. Wait…

It was starting to come together for her.

That’s the same age as that child, isn’t it!?

She didn’t have concrete proof, but she couldn’t ignore this dreaded sensation either. The dates definitely fit, and if the unknown girl had come east from Scotland rather than west from Connacht… She let out a horrified gasp and hurried toward the lake herself.

I have to stop Cu!


“Gwagh!?” Laeg howled as he body was sent tumbling across the grass like a leaf in stormy winds. He laid upon his side and snarled at Connla. She stood above the fallen warriors with the same deadpan expression. She had no intent of lambasting their skills, for she knew that the two mentors in her life were beyond human strength and skill, and they expected her to be the same. She didn’t want to be too difficult for these soldiers, so she just waited for them to either get up and try fighting her again, or to simply surrender.

“Gah… We just need to buy time…” the charioteer grunted as he got to his knee.

“What are we to do?” one of the soldiers asked worriedly. “She doesn’t mean us grave harm, but we cannot discipline her like this.”

“What an embarrassment. If only there was some way of communicating with her…”

Connla held her spear before her and said, “My apologies, men of Ulster. I do not wish to cause further trouble.”

“Then what are you after, young lady? Are you intent on seeking asylum within Connacht?”

“No. I already told the previous gentleman; my journey takes me to Eamhain Macha so that I may join the boy-troop of the Red Branch Army.”

“Then there is no need for you to go further! So long as you introduce yourself to our king and apologize for your behavior, he will surely welcome you with open arms!”

“And therein lies the problem.”

“By the horn of Curruid! Will you explain yourself already, girl!? I am hopelessly confounded by your actions!” Laeg shouted in frustration.

“A thousand apologies, good sir. I really wish I could…” Connla frowned and looked away.

He thought about her unusual battle prowess and his deduction that she must’ve possessed a geas to give her that strength. He narrowed his eyes and asked, “Could it be that… you are cursed with a vow that you must never break?”

They stared at each other in silence. The tension was thick enough to slice through. He wanted to hear her confirmation, but she wouldn’t say anything to either acknowledge or deny his suggestion. This uneasy stillness continued for another good minute. All they could hear was the breeze swaying the leaves in the trees.

That was when they heard a new male’s voice echo through the area, booming with the command of a god:

“What do we have here!? I heard that a ruckus was going on!”