The Account of the Damned

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"Her stubborn refusal to understand the gravity of a situation was always one of the High Marshal’s strong points."

Writeup Info
Title Account of the Damned
Genres Drama, Tragedy, Black Humor
Author Wendy Cooldown
Timeline Approx. January 20XX-1 to present day
Canonicity Status Canon
Completion Status Ongoing


Account of the Damned[edit]

The story of the leader of the Black Templars, Raleigh Alondight, as she struggles to fight through her own PTSD, battles the loss of almost all of her division, and cuts through the politics of her own Officio with a leg-wheel.

Account of the Damned Gaiden[edit]

A side-story focusing on the new Templar recruits as they train under Raleigh Alondight and Enyo Karasawa. (COMING SOON)

A King Must Stand Alone[edit]

An abandoned attempt at exploring the same concept and characters through Arturia Pendragon instead; may be picked up again at a later date.

The Account of the Damned[edit]

The Account of the Damned Chapter 1: Four Hours[edit]


Four hours before our appointed time of death, it was sweltering, bumfucking hot. That wasn’t to say it was hot outside – strictly speaking, Japan was rather nice this time of year – but rather, that we weren’t afforded any kind of adequate preparatory facility and had spent the last twelve hours and change in full armor. We were hoping to be afforded the time to shower and stretch when we reached the Officio, but right at that moment, most of us would have settled for some water and a toilet break.

The latest travel travesty (travelsty?) and, in any other situation, grave insult that would surely require blood reparations or somesuch (I’ll have to check the handbook if I make it back) was a bus, a normal civilian fucking bus, now loaded with thirty-six women in ebon-black armor and one pasty middle-aged man trying desperately to pretend he understood what was going on. To make matters worse, he had the dubious fortune of having Trinity sitting within glaring distance – she had all the charm of a sock filled with poisonous spiders even on the best of days (with a disposition to match).

Admittedly, that wasn’t entirely unintentional. Call it passive-aggressive if you will, it-

Well, it was just passive-aggressive, mostly. Freak the locals out enough and the Ninth won’t book half of the glorious salvation of the world on a Lady-cursed civilian bus.

“…Ma’am.” Enyo must’ve noticed the look on my face as I began to wonder how long I’d have to hold one of my wheels against the floor to saw through it. “We’re passing the tower.” I glanced to her, and she gently tapped the window with her finger.

Midori - kafkaesque.jpg

She started to go on about it, but honestly, it went rather over my head. I nodded as she talked, something about a world monument project, and Mitakihara as the pinnacle of humanity’s cultural achievements. They’d tried to replicate a lot of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, but…even when I tried to appreciate it, something just seemed wrong.

Maybe it was the air, or stale candy from the flight, but the sour taste in my mouth seemed to overwhelm everything else, even the glittering parade of landmarks that we’d passed by. It was probably the dying bit, actually, or the look on Enyo’s face.

She hadn’t been home in years, I dimly realized. She hadn’t been home for years, and it was for this. Probably all she could do not to cry.

“Oi,” I interrupted her, nudging her side. “D’you wanna visit your family while we’re here? I won’t tell the High Marshal, she’s got her head up her arse today anyway.”

The look she gave me was priceless, a mix of tired surprise and a pinch of anger, chased away by her usual cool, sulky expression.

“I have already thought about it, and I have no intention to. …Noriko isn’t a strong girl, High Marshal. She doesn’t need to know about any of this, least of all see me when I’m about to die.”

“And the…others?” I added quietly, busying myself with what was left of the two bags of rather squished macarons I’d prepared for the trip.

Bugger. This was probably a metaphor for something. A macaron, sat on and crushed, squeezed between ebon-black talons and eaten by a dead woman. A bit chewy and unsatisfying. If I knew what Kafkaesque meant, this would probably be it. I chewed in silence before awkwardly offering the bag toward her. She didn’t take any.

“…I would rather be allowed to at least pretend I’m going to die a hero.” I winced at that and swallowed.

“I’m getting a bit sick of that ‘oh, poor me, I’m going to die’ thing. D’y’know, El hissed at me until I promised to bring you back alive. It was almost like she had feelings for a second, there. Scared the piss out of me, sure as anything. Do you think I’m going to go back there and tell her I couldn’t save you?” I narrowed my eyes, hardened my stare. No doubt the half-purged remains of a slain dessert pinched between my claws only strengthened the image of deadly seriousness I was projecting.

“No. I think we’re both going to die, Ma’am,” she mumbled coolly, like it was a sodding option.

“Would you call me an oathbreaker, then, Marshal? A liar?”

“…No, Ma’am.” She cracked the tiniest hint of a smile.

“Damn right. I expect you, the Princess, and Callahan back, at least. Somebody needs to tame that woman.” It hurt just a bit. El…well, El was complicated. Not something I wanted to think about right then, and certainly not something I wanted to bring up with Enyo in any kind of depth.

“Ma’am. Yes, Ma’am.”

A quiet giggle, barely audible over the sound of the bus under us (and the gentle whirr as I idly spun my wheels) grabbed Enyo’s attention and mine, and we both sniggered along with it. Callahan was sitting across from us, faceplate raised as she nursed a thermos of lukewarm tea. She looked like hell warmed over – ashen-gray skin with faded, mint-colored hair flowing from the back of her helmet - which by her standards was rather good, actually.

No hint of fear, of course, or remorse. Vivian was older than the rest of us put together, there was really no denying it – she was an old, haggard veteran when I enrolled, she had been an old, haggard veteran when High Marshal Erebus was still with us, and not even the Librarians seemed entirely sure when she’d contracted. She’d seen a thousand witches come and go and more than her fair share of Walpurgisnachts, or so they said.

Met her husband once – nice gent, looked like a dead man walking, same as her. Must have been ninety or so, and he had the most glorious moustache-

Right, no. I’m not going to spend the last few hours of my bloody life thinking about moustaches. Amazing what comes to mind, though, isn’t it?

“Ah, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” she chirped in her quiet, raspy way. “It’s just…I’m happy you can hold your chin up through this, High Marshal. Not many women in our position can.” It was a little hard to buy from someone who had been all smiles for the entire time I had known her, but one doesn’t complain. “I couldn’t, to be honest. When all I needed to worry about was myself, sure, but never when I had to lead.”

“Her stubborn refusal to understand the gravity of a situation was always one of the High Marshal’s strong points.” Enyo smirked over at me. I kicked her in the ankle with a wheel, letting it spark off her armor with a momentary screech.


Three hours before our appointed time of death, it was unreasonably crowded. The Ninth in all their shortsighted, skinflint glory had made no particular amount of room for the Templars in their Officio, not even for a few short hours, and the lot of us were already tired and restless. Even Enyo was starting to show her irritation, and a small group – O’Connell, Sinclair, Avery, and (of course) Trinity – seemed to be doing their level best to hate the entire country out of existence.

Callahan remarked that when she joined the Templars, they called that sort of attitude ‘initiative’. I wish I could say she was joking, of course, but I spent most of my time as a trainee in a bunk with ‘MY ARMOR IS CONTEMPT. MY SWORD IS HATRED’ gouged into the ceiling, and after a while, it only bothered me because they skipped a bit of the mantra. I suppose whoever did it just didn’t use a shield.

As exasperating as it was to have some of the fine women under me behaving like children, though, the worst was easily the Princess. Which was no particular surprise.

Mordred was fairly new to the Templars – she’d barely seen ten grief seeds, and most of her training was still theoretical. Fresh out of the abbey, just like her sister was the first time we’d met, only ten times worse; Arty was stuck up – IS stuck up – and had a steel rod up her arse twice the size of her sword, but she had the aura of a ruler. She was someone you could respect, even then, someone with a certain noble bearing. Supposedly, every Pendragon was like that in some way or another; Arty carried herself like a hero, Nero’s love for the people that followed her was boundless if a bit inscrutable, and Mordred…

…I hadn’t quite figured Mordred out yet.

She was violent, at least. Had a bit of a sister complex, I think; she was the sort of recruit you’d have trouble with no matter what you did with her, and it was made all the worse by her family’s blood and the expectations it set for her. The little brat had been pouting furiously since we’d settled in, and had begun pacing as of a few minutes ago, grumbling about the grave insult to our station and Officio, as if that were any sort of concern right now.

“Princess,” Enyo let out a low grumble. “Sit down. Please.” Of course, she picked up on it before I said anything – if anyone could tell when I was about to snap, it was Enyo.

“Marshal, surely you don’t intend to defend these blaggards? Ordinarily we’d be chomping at the bit to execute-“

“Princess.” Sharper, now. …Ah, I knew what was coming next. She turned her gaze to me instead.

“High Marshal,” the Princess barked with just the slightest whine in her voice. “Surely you don’t endorse submitting to these heretics?”

Vividly, I recalled a scene from my own days as a cadet – Arty had said the same thing to High Marshal Erebus once, just once. Near verbatim, with nearly the same tone. The High Marshal backhanded her so hard that the High Inquisitor received a call from Rome just a few minutes later, with the Empress complaining of a migraine. I still think of it now and again.

I’d never tell Arty, of course, but sometimes that thought gets me through the day.

“High Marshal? You agree with me, don’t you?” She really had no idea. I’ve always caught hell for my, ah, questionable sense of gravitas, but Mordred was really, truly ignorant of the situation. I opened my mouth to snap at her, then thought better of it. It couldn’t be helped.

“I’ve already begun composing my letter of complaint, Pendragon. I shall send it the moment we return home from our certain demise.” I reached up to rub my temple with my knuckles, curling the claws of my gauntlet away from my head. Headaches were not typically a problem for me, but once in a while…

“With all due respect-“

“Ah! Since you’re so keen on the subject, do you have any recommendations as to which perfume we ought to spritz it with? Would you like me to use your signet ring for the wax seal?”

Silence. I admit, my self-control may have lapsed a bit.

“How about we send them a dildo with which to fuck themselves? Sounds like a good time, eh? Eh?” No response, just a silence rapidly building into a cold anger. “No? No to the dildo?”

“Ma’am.” Enyo nudged my side, and I relented with a sigh.

“…Everyone’s tempers are running high, Pendragon. I understand you’re frustrated, and none of us are going to argue that this isn’t an insult, given we’re about to put our lives on the line to protect the Ninth’s Culexus unit, but you are not helping. For that matter, neither am I. Now is not the time to put our pride before the mission.”

“Ma’am.” The fury in Mordred’s eyes didn’t relent even a bit.

“Those of us who return home can report, and the King and the High Inquisitor can sort out how to deal with this relations disaster. But this is not the time, Pendragon. This is the literal opposite of the time. For the time being, we’re going to bite the bullet, smile to the Ninth’s Culexus when we meet them, and kill ourselves a giant damned witch.”

“Ma’am,” she seethed as she sat back down. Pouted just like her big sisters, only not quite as cute.


Two hours before our appointed time of death, we met with Lady Malal, leaving Callahan in charge in our absence. Left her my card, too, with the quiet recommendation she order pizza, or ice cream, or something to get everyone out of their own heads. Not a luxury Marshal Karasawa and I could afford, nice as it would have been, and she wasn’t too keen on letting me see her sister, either.

Shame, I’d heard she was a looker. But I wasn’t going to press it, not now. Maybe that would be what I’d do if I made it back: sleep with Enyo’s sister. Good a reason to come back as any, right? March off to war, and fight all the harder to return to your girl back home. That you hadn’t met yet.

I worried then that I’d started to crack. …Really, the whole time, I’d been trying to think of everything but Walpurgisnacht. It was what it was: a horrible, grim, cackling reality that was going to claim the lives of fifty-four brave women today, bare minimum. I should have let them stay. I should have forced them to stay. If we were already destined to die, it ought to have been me and Enyo, and that ought to have been enough. And it wasn’t, and it was all I could do not to scream.

…Dame von Seckendorff, please, please protect these brave, stupid girls. I don’t know if I can, and Erebus’s bloody Lady surely won’t. Please let some of them go home alive. Just one would be enough.

“…She’s here.” Enyo stiffened up next to me, and I followed suit, locking my wheels in a practiced but precarious balance as Lady Malal marched toward us in long, hurried strides.

…Just one. Please.

The Account of the Damned Chapter 2: Saws[edit]


The worst of it, I think, was the sound. The screech of metal teeth on my shield, stripping it away, carving into it at an unreal pace. It came back to me whenever the room went silent. I could feel the blood around my knees, could sense it sinking into the gears of my wheels. …I had to take them off at some point. I scarcely remembered. There was no point in trying to wade through the gore there with them.

Enyo brought one of those little plug-in fountains that keeps flowing as long as you make sure there’s water in it. It helped a lot. She tried a fan before that, but the white noise…well, it was just as bad. It just changed into something else when I’d sleep. Nasty business. Wish there was something to help with the laughter, though. The manic…fucking glee in her voice, the blood-drenched smile on her…its…face.

Didn’t matter that I only got to see it once or twice. It was there when I closed my eyes. That, and the faces of the dead. Of the fifty girls that died there. The girls I’d led to their deaths, and the Culexus that we couldn’t protect. Whenever I slept, I relived it all over again. Every second of every minute of every hour. Every wound opened anew. The pressure on my shield crumpled my arms, pulverized the bones as I tried to hold the thing’s enormous weapons back. As I prayed for Mordred to be ready one moment sooner, or for somebody to come up with a real plan.

It wasn’t theirs to come up with, though. It was mine.

I could have done better. Even through the pain of losing my arms, of having my legs torn away from under me, I could have done better. I trained under Erebus, supposedly one of the finest Templars the Second had ever seen. For fuck’s sake, I could best Arty – the fucking Equerry, the Pendragon destined to lead the Officio, or whatever that was about – in nine fights out of ten. I’d taken on both of the Karnstein Sisters at once, barehanded, and come out on top.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, in my waking hours. As they ran their tests on what remained of my body, as Enyo wheeled me around and pretended the fresh air did any damn good. I went over the leaders I’d seen in my time, ran scenarios in my head.

High Inquisitor Kiryuin would have cut through a witch like that as though it were nothing, all by herself. Gerty – High Inquisitor von Egisheim – would have had a plan, a real fucking plan, going in there. She would have expected things to go wrong. And High Marshal Erebus…

She would have made us better, if she were there. Mordred wouldn’t have run. We would have fought like beasts, if she’d been leading us. But we didn’t. I wasn’t High Marshal Erebus, and so we scattered, and we died.

…She’d told me before. Lady Malal did. I knew we were supposed to die. I knew it. I suppose I thought I might defy the odds somehow.

I guess I did.

“High Marshal,” Enyo quietly interrupted my pity party. “Lady Hesselius would like to examine you in her…” She didn’t want to say ‘laboratory’. “…office.” She meant ‘laboratory’.

...That may have been the part I hated the most. Not Cosette, Cosette was fine. Bit strange, really, but you get used to that, working with magical types. No, the way Enyo lifted me up like I might break in her arms. Her perfectly bloody functional arms. Wasn’t even dignified, didn’t have enough knees left for that. She’d looked at me with nothing but pity since we’d returned. Couldn’t quite blame her, but it made me feel angry and disgusted all the same.

Least it wasn’t to use the bathroom this time.

She didn’t say a word as she placed me in a wheelchair and started me down the hallway. …Couldn’t even transform now, not without everything just sort of falling on the bloody floor. They wouldn’t heal, the legs she’d torn away, or the arms she’d crushed. Too powerful, they said. Left her – its – mark, its own special kind of black-steel rot that’d grown over the stumps.

What Cosette had been poking at most recently was whether it’d be possible to attach functional mechanical prosthetics, like Enyo’s. We had some of the best in the business at our beck and call, but if that poisonous…whatever it was made it impossible to connect properly, well.

That was the end of my career, as well as my spicy on-again off-again relationship with stairs.

The laboratory was a mess of half-melted candles and inexplicable circles, as it had been the day before, and the day before that, and the week and a half or so before that. Once again, Hesselius had books splayed all over the place, indecipherable by anyone but a Librarian or, I suppose, someone with an extensive knowledge of Latin, Arabic, and damned if I know, French or something.

She smiled her dark, almost insincere smile as Enyo wheeled me in and helped me onto the makeshift examination table that they’d set up for me. It wasn’t necessary, most of the time, to lay someone out like this, but I wasn’t good for much else since I got back. She slipped off without a word once she was sure I was as comfortable as I could be – even remembered to grab a pillow and everything.

I was sure she didn’t want to look at me. I couldn’t really blame her. I wouldn’t have wanted to look at my superior officer like this, much less a dear friend. The room dimmed to nothing but candlelight and an eerie light from beneath me, and Cosette crept into the edge of my view, mostly visible thanks to her unnaturally pale skin.

Librarians never did get out much. Or the dark oaths they swore sucked the color right out of them. The rest of us never were certain, and they liked it that way. Gerty was one, once, and she still didn’t have even the tiniest bit of a tan. Though she still didn’t go out much, damnedest thing.

“Have the dreams gotten any better, lately?” Bless her, she tried to make conversation as her long, black nails brushed over the skin on my legs, then the icy black metal that had fused to them. I could still feel it in a sort of distant, indescribable way as she traced a pattern onto one of my stumps, some hex or another that I’d long since bothered inquiring about.

“Well, I’m getting sort of used to them. Bit like rewatching an old classic again and realizing one of the license plates is a dick joke.” I tried to answer her as cheerfully as I could. She let out a breath that might have been a laugh, so I called it my win for the day.

“Have you reconsidered seeing Doctor Liddell about it? Cases like yours are-“

“-her specialty, I know.” Liddell was some sort of shrink, but I could scarcely understand a thing she said when she tried to be helpful, and the rest was typically just rude. It left us both with a headache, invariably, and that was really the only bit I had anymore that didn’t viciously complain to me every second of the day. “Anything new, or…?”

“I’ve ruled it out as a magical poison.” Right. Knew that. “It’s more like a disease. The kind that rots away at you from the inside.” Fantastic. I nodded up at her, urged her to continue. “And it goes deeper than your limbs.” She hummed idly to herself, settling on the edge of the table. I waggled one of my stumps at her, as though it would convince her to tell me more.

“It’s a bit more complicated than saying it’s already taken root in your soul, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s call it that.” Wonderful. That was almost assuredly worse than a death sentence. Cosette cackled out her quiet little laugh when she saw the look on my face.

“Give us a few weeks to make a cursory glance through the Record. If there’s anything that can be done, we’ll find it, High Marshal. No-one else in the world can compare with our understanding of witches.”

Witches, she said. I forced myself to sit up, an embarrassing ordeal in itself.

“Something distantly related,” she purred, as though it hardly mattered at all. “Think of this as the Betrayer’s kiss. Or, if you prefer, a memento of the greatest battle you ever survived.”

“I’ll always have the memories, Cosette. I don’t need a souvenir.” I could barely force the words out. …She laughed again, and if I could have strangled her, I would have. She knew it, too.

“I’ll see what I can do about it for now.” Gently she placed a hand on my chest, and somewhat less gently shoved me back down onto the table. “Now, let me see your gem…”


“…Didn’t go well, High Marshal?” Enyo had never been gentle, exactly, so things had been a bit awkward between us since she volunteered to cart me around everywhere I needed to be. Which was mostly one doctor or another, really. I’d have been more embarrassed if I had anyone left to impress, but even Arty was still out after her ugly brush with castle guard duty.

That wasn’t sarcasm, by the by. Not sure I would have traded my assignment for hers. Not on Walpurgisnacht, at least. Ugly, ugly business, and I was glad to get back and find her in more or less one piece. One thing about the whole bloody plan that went well, at least.

“The Head Librarian felt me up for an hour and then played with my soul gem like it was our first night off of training. It was magical.” I idly waved a stump up at Enyo, and she snickered. …Actually, it was like that not-quite-painful but really creepy feeling you get when the dentist scrapes your teeth, but all over my body, and it hadn’t quite gone away yet.

“I’m glad you haven’t lost your grating sense of humor, High Marshal.” She leaned in just enough to ruffle my hair. I tried to bat her hand away, but…yeah.

“Yes, well. Arms gone, optimism intact. Can’t afford to witch out; Arty’s got her head up her bum, Callahan’s a weenie, the Princess is a coward and I’m going to headbutt her into paste if I see her face again, and you…well, I suppose you’d spend all your time in the garage, drinking beer with the girls. So not altogether that different, eh?” I laughed. Enyo didn’t, just slowed down for a moment and gripped my wheelchair harder.

“I…really am glad you’re alright, but I’d rather you weren’t so flippant about your own demise. I…I really don’t know what I’d do without you.” Well this turned awkward. I looked up toward her for a second, then nodded, opting to focus on the foot I had so graciously stuffed in my mouth, and the feel of the chair’s wheel’s rolling over the stone flooring of the castle hallways.

…I’d wheeled through here ten thousand times, of course. I knew every bump in these floors. More than likely I could close my eyes and tell Enyo where she was taking me now, even if I didn’t have the layout of the castle all but memorized anyway. Wasn’t toward food, certainly not toward my room. Dr. Liddell’s office was near the hospital wing, and we weren’t headed there. Probably the hangar, then.

Good. Maybe she’d just load me in Maria and we could…I don’t know. Or strap me onto her bike, I suppose.

…The whole thing was bloody depressing.

I was sort of glad when she wheeled me directly into her workshop; the hangar itself seemed huge, unbearably huge, even with the Templars’ vehicles (and the Second’s) taking up most of it, and the Mechanica flitting about working on this and that. I didn’t…really want them to see me right now. Not more than a glance, not more than it took for Enyo to push me into the little office she used for finer work. Which was…

Which was all but buried in half-finished prostheses. Some of them rougher than Enyo’s arm, discarded lazily in a corner, some of them almost delicate, thrown away with careless frustration. I…it couldn’t possibly be the work of just a couple of weeks.

“Apologies for the state of the place, High Marshal. I haven’t slept much since we got back. I…well. You know how it is, I think. How one becomes fixated on a project.” I just stared at her as she started going through a few sets of arms and legs that she seemed to have set aside.

“I didn’t make all of these in just a week and change, don’t worry. Most of them are just shells, too. Rejects. They…well, they weren’t right.” Enyo’s voice had gone quiet. She almost seemed…embarrassed? “They need to be special. I’m not just…filling an order, or something. They’re for someone very important. To me.” She paused for a moment, then hastily added, “And to the Second. And the Templars.”

Well, that explained where she’d been slipping off to while everyone and their mother was having a look at my remaining bits. I tried to wheel my chair closer to the limbs she was poking through, but to my great consternation, it still did not move on spite alone.

“So did you figure out how to get around the metal bits, then?” Better to change the subject. Enyo’d started fiddling with the fingers on one of the more delicate-looking arms, squeezing them in her hand. The human one, usually. “Or do I get a remote control to operate with my tongue, or something?”

“Implants,” she murmured. “An inch or so up your arm and your thigh. It’s going to hurt, High Marshal, but it should make for an interface that will work just as well as a more direct installation.” She squeezed the arm in her hands tight. “...It may be better to simply wait until Lady Hesselius is done treating your condition. I’m worried we’ll have to rip the implants out for her to treat you properly, and once it’s cleared up we could do a much safer, more typical installation.”

I was fairly sure it wasn’t going to clear up; Cosette made it sound more like a curse than anything. A curse from Walpurgisnacht herself. The fact that I was alive was either extremely lucky, or…

“…You don’t think she can treat it, do you.” She’d forced a neutral expression onto her face, but her tone was quiet, a bit sad. I’d let my worry show for a bit too long, and she caught it. I did my best to laugh it off.

“I’m just sick of being wheeled around; I much prefer to do it myself. Bit of extra pain’s worth it, so long as you have a block of wood or a rag or something for me to bite down on.” A ghost of a smile returned to her face, and she nodded ever-so-slightly.

“…That’s typical of you, High Marshal. I…” A lengthy pause as she fidgeted with an arm, then carefully cleared the extra limbs from her table. “I’d prefer to do this personally. To make sure everything…everything installs correctly, with no complications.”

“No Venenum, then.”

“No Venenum. Apologies, High Marshal. It’s selfish, I know.” ‘No’ wasn’t an option here, it seemed. That was…

No, that was alright. I’d trusted her with more. Couldn’t be worse than losing them in the first place, right? I shot her the most reassuring smile I could manage as she lifted me from my chair, but it got harder and harder to keep up after I settled in, and as the familiar roar of a saw filled my ears.

“Grit your teeth, High Marshal,” murmured Enyo as she stuffed a strip of scrap leather into my mouth. “This is going to sting.”


“Pinky, left. Ring finger, left. Middle finger, left.” We’d done this a few times since the operation now; Enyo sat next to me on my bed and called out commands, eyes closed, listening for…any imperfection in the machinery, I suppose. There had been none so far; the operation hurt about ten times as much as I expected it to and there was a leather strap in her workshop that you could use for dental records because of it, but everything was working smoothly.

It was almost too smooth, and it bothered me a bit from the get-go. These were distinctly civilian prostheses. It was certainly Enyo that had made them, I didn’t doubt that for a moment, but it was territory I’d never seen her delve into before. My new arms and legs were slender and pitch-black, delicate and almost gentle. They matched up perfectly – or very, very close – with my stumps, and reminded me more of scandalous gloves and boots than fresh limbs. Not a single hidden chainsaw or laser or somesuch, either.

I wondered idly if Enyo thought of them the same way – more like accessories than weapons - as she ran her hands along them to test their sensitivity. …I could have done that myself, of course, but she’d hardly left my side since the operation, as though I’d run off and start punching holes in walls if left alone.

…Which was an entirely fair call, as I nearly snuck out to do just that the moment she drifted off. Be a bit of a pisser for the maintenance crew, but I was excited just to be able to punch things again. Also thought about clocking El a few dozen times for laughing whenever she’d stop by my room, but it wasn’t worth the trouble. Yet. She did send me a lovely manicure set, after all, and classy white heels I would have worn to a ball or something if I owned a dress to go with them.

Really, she was so enthusiastic about being a bitch that it was hard to hate her for it.

Still, I barely had a minute to immerse myself in thoughts-slash-fantasies-slash-plans of grinding the smug off of Elcarys’s face with my heel before Enyo reached across my lap and laced her fingers in mine.

“…High Marshal? Can you feel this?” …I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. We’d tested this already, just a bit ago, but her voice had gone quiet again. For a moment I worried that there was something wrong, but I nodded distantly all the same.

“…And this?” Her mechanical hand brushed against my knee, then continued up my leg, up to the still-fleshy part of my thigh. I furrowed my brow and nodded slowly.

In retrospect, I should have realized. I probably should have realized quite a bit earlier, actually. Weeks ago, maybe months. Maybe a year or two, I don’t bloody well know. She went far out of her way to make me new limbs so that I might feel normal. Something more than a Templar and a hero, something to let me stay just a little bit human. Then she spent two days groping me. Then…

Right then, she leaned in close, and our lips met. She kissed me, and I froze. It wasn’t my first kiss or anything, I turned in my V-card quite a while ago, but…I suppose I never expected it from Enyo. And not one like this, definitely – a hard kiss, a passionate, desperate kiss, as she squeezed my hand and my thigh.

…I squeezed back, after a few seconds. I didn’t quite know what to do, or how to feel. A lot of things…sort of flowed out at once, as she pushed me back on the bed, straddled me, as my shiny new arms slid around her shoulders.

That one I could definitely feel.

The Account of the Damned Chapter 3: Shards of Red[edit]

A week after I had been re-limbed, things were approaching…as normal as they were liable to get, though Enyo had to be beaten away with a stick before she’d leave me to resume my duties. And everyone else’s duties.

It felt like damn near anyone else of serious importance was laid up or drowning in paperwork, a terrible obligation that I had not managed to evade even the slightest by being conveniently crippled. Quite the opposite, really; since Arty was still out after her lengthy brush with the Grand Terrible Asshole of the World, and the High Inquisitor was ALWAYS up to her mosquito bites in paperwork even without the world ending beneath her, I had a stack that was literally as tall as I was waiting in the office once I finally returned.

Naturally, I had resolved to put THAT nonsense off as long as possible, load as much as I could on Enyo, and shred about half of the rest. The tactic had served me as well as any sword. No, for the time being, I…

Today, I decided I’d bug Arty.

Her room in the hospital wing seemed brighter than mine, as I stepped over the threshold. Her Majesty and the rest of the Pure Bloodline Crew had rooms set aside from them, the ones the sun caught just a touch better. The ones with slightly newer paint, slightly nicer beds. I would have resented that a few days ago, but I’d gone back to not caring now that I wasn’t stuck in a bed nearly soiling myself.

…Her hair was down, and it suited her. Didn’t see her that way often, it was…probably nearly as long as mine was, and you’d never guess. It looked a little pale, a bit too white – for that matter, so did she. Not quite all there at the moment, either, as she sat and stared out the window. It was hard to blame her - apparently the extraction team didn’t find her until a few days after Walpurgisnacht, just…standing there in the Point in a sea of grief seeds, murmuring. The squad with her was gone, but frankly, none of us were worried about whether Arty herself would come back.

And at the risk of sounding cold, we got a massive load of grief seeds out of the deal. Walpurgisnacht tended to be good for that, if nothing else.

I landed on the bed next to her with a pomf and a squeak, and she jumped, her hand snapping to where her scabbard would usually be. Whoops.

“Quite a welcome, Highness. You look, if I may, like hell warmed over.” I smiled and tried to play it off. She didn’t seem amused.

“It’s good to see you on your feet. In a manner of speaking.” When she spoke, it was slow and careful; she was biting back some barely-restrained irritation. Good, good. Arty was probably going to be alright. “We were…worried. That you wouldn’t be fit for duty anymore.” After a moment, she added, “Not that that’s…the only reason.”

“I know, I know. I’m not sure what I’d do, either, if it weren’t for…well.” I raised a blacksteel hand and wiggled my fingers. “…So, how’d it go? Run into any interesting witches? Mine, maybe? Always wanted to see what she’s like. Probably awesome.” Probably like a terrible monster of blood and steel and fucking chainsaws.

“That isn’t funny.”

“…No, it isn’t.” My smile faltered a bit, and there was a flicker of sympathy in her eyes.

“The truth of it is, I don’t remember much. Fighting with the puella I’d chosen to bring along with me, a…witch, of a rather personal nature. No, it wasn’t yours. …I’d rather not discuss it. And…” A flicker of hesitation, and the reassurance that Arty was still a terrible liar. “…I don’t remember much else before the extraction team arrived and I awoke back in the castle.”

I decided not to press her too much. Lord knows I didn’t want to talk about work too much, either.

“Didja talk to what’s-her-face yet, then? She know you made it out okay?” One of Arty’s…well, to be blunt, rare friends, apparently met her during one of those days we sent her off to the city to not work for a change. I think she was from the…Seventeenth? Sixteenth? Was there anyone in the Eighteenth? Couldn’t be the Fourteenth, probably wasn’t…bugger, doesn’t matter.

“…I’d like to wait for Doctor Liddell to finish picking my brain apart, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones with a lot to deal with.” I tried not to sigh, and made a note to get ahold of Frito or whatever her name was and let her know that Arty hadn’t kicked the bucket. Easier said than done. Without stealing Arty’s phone.

I made a note to steal Arty’s phone.

“She says you can’t avoid her forever, by the by,” she continued after a moment. “The doctor, I mean. I imagine she’ll start showing up in your doorway at night soon.”

I nodded absently – yes, that was about what I expected. Maybe best to bite the bullet. Or lock the-no, that wouldn’t work. Piss.


A few minutes passed as Arty returned to staring out the window, something inscrutable bubbling through her mind. I did the same, with a bit more scruting.

I still wanted to pay Elcarys a visit, and…Enyo and I really needed to have a talk that I had no idea how to touch. This was a lot easier when we just killed witches, wasn’t it? …I wasn’t sure I had time for either today, or even in the immediate future. I’d have to check in with El before the Grand Post-WPN Dickwave, at least.

“…The flesh of the fallen angels,” Arty murmured, snapping me out of my little reverie. I had to ask her to repeat it, to make sure I’d heard it correctly. “You remember it, don’t you? From training?”

…Of course I did. It was part of the…rhetoric that the old High Marshall had been spouting, after she went nutters but before Gerty booted her and her cult out. The Lady Ahriman’s gospel. At length, I nodded, and she nodded back.

“It’s been on my mind lately. Since…” Her voice was uncharacteristically quiet, and I nodded again. …I could swear I’d heard whispers of it in my dreams, too, under the screaming. The little, niggling sounds that don’t even strike you as memorable until suddenly they’re crystal clear.

“…It isn’t normal, Raleigh.” She pursed her lips, and…well. I’d known Arty Pendragon a long time. We’d contracted at nearly the same time; we were basically kids when we started training in the Templars, and even then, I’d only seen fear on her face twice.

Three times, now.

“…The Realm’s hard on everyone. Walpurgisnacht, doubly so. You’re a bit fucked in the head right now because…Lady knows how long you were actually in there, or what actually happened. But you made it out, yeah? Just…” I tried to think of something adequate to say. A kinder lie, something at least a little convincing.

“Just don’t dwell on it. Something in there struck a nerve, happens to everyone. Even me, now and again.” I winked at that and patted her shoulder, and she bristled a little. Good. I had no idea what I’d do if she started crying or something. Probably check to see if I was in a barrier. Or if I’d died and hadn’t…I could be a witch RIGHT NOW and not even realize it.

No, that was not a rabbit hole I was at all comfortable with going down.

I forced a smile and pushed myself to my feet.

“I’ll be acting in your stead as an aide and whatnot, so if you need anything done in an official capacity…I can grossly misuse my new power and make it happen. Until you’re feeling fit to fly again, at least.”

She didn’t smile at that, either. As expected of Her Majesty.


It was cold, I realized. A delayed, dim sort of realization that sinks in after the weight of a situation fills you, after dread has ever-so-slightly loosed its grip on your heart. It was cold, and I had to laugh. Around me, splotches of red blossomed like scarlet flowers in bloody springtime. My hand…I could still feel it bleeding, feel a distant, awful pain, but there was no blood. Of course there was no blood. I couldn’t bleed anymore, not from there.

I could hear it – the awful, mechanical whir, the noise of senseless destruction. Now, though…now it was beautiful. It was the sound of dark salvation, a path for only the blackest of hearts. She was my savior now. She was as the Lady herself, silhouetted against the soft glow of the world around me.

“High Marshal, you...I need a decision.” Her voice echoed from the stygian darkness, and my lips cracked into a macabre smile.

“Burn them, Enyo. Every single one.” My claws were flaked with red, and each little movement of my hands made me want to stain them all the more.

“I…I can’t, High Marshal. We can’t.” Enyo’s deep, brown eyes, normally cold and intense, pleaded sweetly. “If we do this, the Second will…”

“Damn the Second, man!” I picked at the wax seal, trying to even it out a bit. It was too splotchy, and even if the Sixth wouldn’t notice it, Arty AND Gerty would, if they saw it. I eyed the paper shredder and wondered if I could throw the damn letter in from here. Probably. I could probably make it.

…There were shards of red wax all over my desk and I was pretty sure I’d accidentally mashed some into the wood hard enough to kind of stick. It only made me angrier.

“The High Inquisitor’s already signed off on the other letters of summons, but as her aide-“ Enyo started to parrot Officio policy at me, and I scoffed as loudly as I could to interrupt her, then scoffed again when she tried to continue.

And again after that.

“I know, I know. Bloody hell, though, can’t you take care of ANY of this? What if a fire just started? It wouldn’t be our fault if, you know, a wheel started sparking against the floor, or…whatever. We’re both cyborgs, those things are bound to happen.” We stared at each other for a second more, then she snickered.

“I’ll fake your signature on as much of it as I can.”

“Consider it an official command from your High Marshal.” Most of it, really, was crap Arty couldn’t sign off on right now – Second nonsense that oughtn’t have been my job, and nonsense that was keeping me from getting to more important Templar business.

Somewhere under the sea of requisition forms and protocol violations was a load of personnel files – roster information from our sister Officios, hopefully candidates I could get away with requesting. The Templars were down to two damned people, after Vivian’s temporary retirement and…

…Two. Even if only a couple of requests went through, we’d be in a much better place.

Hell, I’d even considered trying to round up High Marshal Erebus’s old gang, and see who I could skirt excommunication with. I may still give it a try. I started making a mental list of the old guard still kicking around, but Enyo broke my train of thought with a cackle.

“Are you reading these? This…You need to see this one.” I snatched the report she offered – protocol violation, probably just chewing gum during a…service…

“Enyo?” I managed after a minute of staring, trying to parse what I was looking at. “…How do you even fit a prayer book up there?”

“Apparently that’s the easy part.” Enyo snorted. I snatched up my pen and twirled it a bit, then scribbled down ‘NO FURTHER PUNISHMENT NECESSARY –RA’ across the page.

“D…D’ya suppose it was rolled up?” I couldn’t help it, it was still on my mind a few minutes later. “Like, with the cover taken off? Wouldn’t the paper stick like hell?”

“I suppose I assumed she just…jammed the whole thing in, I guess. Do you…did you want to try it?”

“…What?” I just stared at her.

“If you wanted to…experiment…I’d be willing to help.” The moment Enyo realized how weird this was, her face flushed a pretty pink. “…It’s natural to start to think about it, isn’t it?”

“Lady’s crystal snatch, Enyo, let’s just never talk about this again.” Ugh. Damn it. She was right, you just sort of start thinking about it. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to shake the feeling away.

“…Sorry.” …She slipped her arms around me, her chest pressing a bit against the back of my head. …Her chest is bigger than mine and that’s not even something I thought about until…that, the weirdness from the other day. My hands came to rest on hers, and we just stayed like that a minute.

“…It got weird, didn’t it?” I murmured out after a moment. “Not the prayer book bit.”

I’d never had a girlfriend before. I’d never thought about it too hard, even; the reality, I suppose, was that we’d fight for a while, try to make sure the new generation could, too, and die in a ditch somewhere. Made pursuing romance a bit strange. I wasn’t entirely sold on it even now, but I didn’t…

Well, thinking about it wouldn’t help any. Best to just go with it. That was often the difference between a knight and a pantywaist.

“…Come on,” she mumbled into my hair after another minute before dislodging herself from my person. “I can handle the rest of the disciplinary garbage. I’ll bring anything that looks interesting or questionable up with you, and you can get to the personnel listings for now. We can be done in a few hours.”

Aside from the part where I’d have to kiss serious ass to get transfers from any other Officio right after Walpurgisnacht, that was true enough. I flashed her a grin, and she leaned down to kiss my cheek.

…Alright. Review the Second’s Eversor and Vindicare divisions, then the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and whoever else we could get records from. That’ll turn up a few, at least.

No problem.


“Gabriel, Rosalin.”

It never ends.

“Eighth Officio, Las Vegas branch. Eversor. A boxer, apparently. Nasty temperament. Personal space issues. Consistently writes ‘punching the shit out of witches’ under her interests on surveys.”

“Mental health issues?” I interrupted Enyo, and she stared dumbly at me. She was just as tired as I was by now – I’d meant to get more done today, but we’d both been stuck in paperwork double hell all evening. As of about forty minutes ago, I’d decided to recline on the couch, and she offered to go through my ‘maybe’ pile of personnel files again. This was our fourth time through, and we’d sorted through all the Officios aside from…ugh…the Eighth.

“American.” Shorthand for ‘enough violent psychoses to require careful handling’.

“Fucking Americans. Next!” I closed my eyes, covering my eyes with my arm, cool metal barely padded by the silk sleeve of my casual shirt. “…No, leave her in the maybe pile. She hates witches a lot, apparently. That’s good. That’s great.”

“High Marshal, we need to narrow this down. We’ll be lucky to get one person from the other Officios right now. I think it might be better to, ah…”

“…to avoid people that are liable to go berserk in a pinch. Wouldn’t want another Kharn fucking Valnikov, I know.” My wheels whirred, buzzed angrily…then I realized I wasn’t transformed. …I clearly needed to get to sleep soon. “No, then. Next.”

“Graceland, Maple. Eighth, New York division. Vindicare, uses a riot shield and whatever’s handy. Seems to have-“

“Trouble working with a team, like every other American. Oh Lady, does she bite? Does she have rabies?” Enyo just snickered.

“You’re half-right. Astonishingly, she doesn’t seem to have any recorded mental problems-ah. She’s Canadian, maybe that explains it.”

“They go just as crazy once they defrost, mark my words. Sounds…alright, though. I’m not sold, but alright.”

Enyo breathed out a sigh of relief at that, and I would have smacked her for it, but she was over there and I didn’t much want to get up.

“Takahara, Hakufu. Santa Destroy, fantastic. A wrestler, can allegedly beat a witch to death with a school bus. Still a rookie, though, her file doesn’t have much to help either way.”

“They don’t always have school buses on the battlefield. Seems a bit limited, really.” I heard her crumple up a paper ball, and It donked off of my stomach a moment later.

“At least try to take this a bit seriously, High Marshal. You seemed to like the idea of bringing a rookie on a bit ago…”

“Serious answer, then? There’s probably some promise there, but I don’t want someone that probably spent most of her life sitting on top of an Akashic Point loitering about unless I know for certain what brain problems she has. And if I really wanted rookies, I’d be drawing more from the Second.” I sat up and stretched a bit, then snapped up the paper ball Enyo threw and started tossing it from hand to hand.

“Anyway, this is an opportunity to take a peek at other Officios’ training methods, hm?”

“So that’s a no, then.”

“We’ll present her to Springfield with our other requests, maybe we can get a freebie.” I shrugged, and Enyo nodded before snapping up one of the last papers in the pile.

“Wright, Dorothy. Santa Destroy-“


“…apparently the Wonderland Corps’ support unit. Creates shields and swings a battleaxe made by…oh. Oh my.”

“Right, yeah. That’s the reason I kept her in there. Are you rock hard right now?” I grinned over at her, and she nodded again.

Dorothy Wright was the Eighth’s contact with the Fourth, from what I understood – she used a modified Ironform they’d spent a not insignificant amount of their budget on a couple of years back. It might be the closest Enyo and I would ever get to one of those bloody toaster women without starting a war.

“…You think we have a chance in hell of getting her?” It was one of the few times in my life I’d seen Enyo look like a puppy begging for a treat.

“…No, there’s no way they’ll part with a Rabbit. But they’ll be much more eager to give us something else if we present her first. And if they DO give her to us…”

“…then I get to take her body apart?” Alright, it was getting a bit creepy. I shook my head.

“We’ll talk to her about it on the off-chance we get her to transfer. I’m sure she can offer up an arm and a leg or…something. She’s a bit of a marshmallow, from what little I know of her, so I bet we could talk her into taking off her chestplate for us.” And Enyo would get a chance to look at that sweet, sweet Fourth tech without them being able to do a damn thing about it. Or it’d cause a horrible diplomatic incident, probably for the Eighth for being so bloody careless.

Enyo slammed Wright’s sheet into the YES pile, but hesitated in picking up the last two.

“…High Marshal? I, ah. Actually, I slipped these last few in myself. They’re from the Ninth.”

For a second my blood froze. One of my arms started to itch in a way it really shouldn’t have been able to anymore, and I pushed myself up into a sitting position.

“Toss them, then,” I forced out after a second. “The Ninth isn’t going to give us piss all after we let their Culexus squad get fried.”

“You don’t need to talk to the Warmaster, but I think-“

“Enyo. Toss them.” I’m ashamed to say my voice squeaked. It wasn’t…I wasn’t ready for this. I’d skipped over them for a reason.

“…It’s Sayaka Miki and Kyouko Sakura. The First Knight and, I suspect, the Blood Knight. Their incarnations in our world. …You…remember, don’t you?”

…Yes, I remembered. The portent of our grand fucking victory. Piss on the First Knight. …I didn’t say it, just breathed deep and tried to keep a grip. Enyo continued after a minute.

“They’re some of the Ninth’s best Eversors. If we could get them to part with them it would…it could do a lot for the Templars.”

“Enyo. Enyo we are the Templars. Two of us. Taking in a stray dog would almost double our numbers. Anyone could do a lot for the Templars.” I fought very hard to keep the irritation off of my face. I don’t think it worked.

I just wanted her to drop it. Why wouldn’t she drop it?

“…You know what I mean, High Marshal. This isn’t an opportunity we should pass up. …Their woman hurt us very, very badly. If we call this reparations-“

I snapped.

“I don’t want them here. I don’t want anyone from the Ninth here. I don’t want to-I don’t want to fucking look at them.” …It was a pretty pitiful sort of whining, and I was ashamed of myself before it left my mouth. I pushed myself to my feet all at once, wobbled a bit on unsteady legs, and made for the door.

…I wanted her to stop me. I was really hoping she’d stop me. I wanted her to hug me and tell me it was okay, or that I was a silly bint, or something.

She didn’t.

The Account of the Damned Chapter 4: Bad News[edit]


For the dozenth time, the awful screech of metal on metal tore through my senses, sent my heart roaring out of my chest. For the dozenth time, my arms were crushed under a colossal, whirring blade as my shield was forced back against me. For the dozenth time, my wheels tore impotently at the gore-slicked ground, blood coating the delicate machinery and…well, if it weren’t a dream, I imagine it would screw it up something terrible, magical or not.

Today I was a little more lucid, though today wasn’t exactly an ordinary stress dream. I pushed back against the massive blade and shouted for Dr. Liddell to do whatever the hell she planned to do, and an eternity later, as I felt the bones in my legs start to snap under the pressure, my heart skipped a beat and the world around me faded into tones of dreary gray. The teeth of the chainsaw stopped, as did the enormous pressure, and cautiously I rolled out from under my shield. It was still propped up in the same way it had been before, a thousand grayscale sparks frozen in the air around it, tilted impossibly in sheer defiance of gravity and common sense.

“…So can you fix it?” I could barely force the sounds out. Maybe I lost a rib or three somehow, too? …Stupid bloody dreams, never make any damn sense.

“Can I?” She bounced on her heels, a vision in blue and white in the midst in a sea of nothing. Her eyes had a way of piercing right through you in a way that stuck with you as much as any dream might. Her general refusal to be helpful in any way aside from the most oblique ones tended to stick with me almost as much, but she was a specialist, and apparently the best we had.

I stared at her for a moment, then straightened up, cracking my back and trying to dream up a mended skeleton. It didn’t really work, so I glided over to her instead, my wheels cutting through the blood-turned-mercury around them.

“If you dragged me here just to waste my time, Doctor, I’ve really got about a thousand other things I ought to be doing.” Like literally anything but this. She tutted at me, and I resisted the urge to hit her with the flat of my sword.

“I’ve seen all I have to see, but have you? Did you find the answer on the back of that old wheel, then? Something you didn’t see the first twenty or thirty times you had this dream?”

“…No.” I sighed.

“Then I wonder which of us is wasting the other’s time.” After a moment, then, she relented a little. “I’ve frozen the creature, so do what you feel is necessary, preferably before you do a hundred things that aren’t.”

I think I actually hate this woman.

“Can I just…kill it, then? Since you’ve got it all frozen here?” I looked to the thing, the…I don’t know. I’d never really done that before. It had been nothing but a black mess of claws and teeth and hatred to me. I don’t rightly think I could recall what it had looked like then, either, in the Barrier.

It didn’t seem right, somehow. More than the obvious. Something about it was different. One of its eyes (I hoped that was an eye) seemed to follow me, even as if it was frozen. As though it might bear down on me at any moment.

“If you could do that, then you wouldn’t need me, would you?” She lifted her skirt and began to wade through the silvery mess of gore below us.

“Fine. I can’t just kill it. Can you?” I wheeled after her, forcing my body to heal itself as much as I could offhand. Wonder if doing that in a dream actually uses magic. Probably does. Bloody loopholes.

“Yes and no. I don’t particularly care to invade minds, and I certainly don’t care to reshape them. Bit too much like a doctor’s work, that.” She came to a stop behind the beast, and I frowned at her as I pulled up to her side.

“Aren’t you-“

“Doctors take classes, High Marshal. Doctors work in institutions. I’ve no interest in either; I have wits and experience and nothing else.”

“And magic.” She gave me a dirty look for that one before continuing.

“If you want someone to stab the trauma out, I can recommend you to the American Callidus Prima.” She spoke slowly, deliberately, unblinking as her gaze bored holes into me. “I cannot, however, recommend the Prima to you - be a bit like excising a tumor with a shotgun, I think.”

“You don’t think it would go well?” I didn’t know the girl in question all that well myself, but I knew her enough to take the suggestion with the grain of salt Liddell was offering.

“Well, you wouldn’t have a tumor anymore.” She shrugged, then turned her attention to the ugly, berserking behemoth, now that we’d made our way around to its backside. “I’ve noticed something. Haven’t you?”

“You were just…” I bit my tongue. Not literally, right then, but I realized she’d only get more obnoxious if I let her. Instead, I followed her gaze toward the creature, toward white, wavy hair drenched in blood, a jagged crown perched atop its head, toward…enormous, barbed wheels beneath it-

“Piss.” I sat up on the couch in Dr. Liddell’s office, the skin and…metal…under my prostheses burning like mad. The doctor was staring intensely at me, as if mentally noting every small movement I made.

“Piiiiss,” I added for emphasis. “This is one of those fucking…psychological things, isn’t it.” I hugged myself tightly, squeezing the flesh left on my arms with steel fingers.

“It didn’t go well, I take it.” She reached for a notepad and sat back in her seat.

“You were just…you…” I hate this.

I hate therapy.

I think I hate psychiatrists.

And I hate dreams.


I cut my appointment short (citing an overwhelming urge to strangle someone) and was curtly reminded to be back before she had to start hounding me again, then given some self-analysis homework which I frankly had no intention of actually doing.

(If I heard about that homework from Enyo again later I planned to make good on that strangling bit, too.)

No, lucky me, after an obnoxious trainwreck of a therapy session I’d finally decided to make good on paying El a proper visit, which I hadn’t really done since I got mobile again. We talked a bit while I was laid-up, but that was mostly shallow mockery and trading barbs – she asked me how the rest of the Templars were, and I asked her why there wasn’t a bloody report about the Japs’ operations in Russia in my stumps already.

…Come to think of it, she still hasn’t given me a followup about that. One more thing on the miles long to-do list. Fantastic.

I tried to force a smile as I crossed the threshold into Elcarys’s chamber, an enormous white room that was, I think, just magicked to seem bigger than it was. The whole place was flawless, a tea room from a fairy tale with a floor I could see myself in. There was an inky black carpet, too, leading to a grand, open window, a tea table, and the devil herself.

It was wide open, filling the room with a refreshing breeze and making the whole thing sparkle in the bright summer sunlight, which was damned impressive given it was barely spring and had been raining for two days. But El liked things perfect and atmospheric, and bad mood or not, I couldn’t help but appreciate the décor right at that moment.

“Don’t step on the flooring, you’ll scratch it,” she murmured idly as she gazed out at her own sunny illusion. I settled into the chair opposite her after I made my way over, and was pleasantly surprised to see she’d already made tea – Darjeeling, my favorite. She’d poured it already, too, and…it was almost certainly an illusion.

I sipped at it anyway while I thought about what to say. Tasted fine enough, illusion or not. I was surprised when she was the first one to speak.

“Since you’re here now, does that mean you’re done feeling sorry for yourself?” …Ouch. “I suppose having Enyo to feel sorry for you instead helps.” Double ouch. She was in a fantastic mood today, too.

“I don’t think I’ll be done for a while, El, don’t you worry. This pity party is lasting all week, at very least.” Her lips cracked into a faint smile, and I relaxed a bit.

El was…complicated. Our relationship was complicated. Her thing with Enyo, also complicated. I knew she’d be sulking about us hooking up eventually, but I expected at very least some terrible nightmares first. …Some fresh, new ones.

She called herself a Succubus, and named her squad the same. Got a lot of disapproving looks from the crowd at the Second, but what didn’t, really? The Callidus here already caught plenty of hell just for doing their job – the usual garbage about how ignoble and heretical it was, except for when we needed them for something.

…The Templars got the same kind of treatment, now and again, so as much of a bitch as El could be, I wasn’t entirely without sympathy.

“I’m going to assume you’re here to ask a favor. Did Liddell send you? Are you here for a new dream?” That wasn’t a bad idea. Liddell to help understand dreams, that American girl to kill them, and El for new ones.

I had to mull her offer over a bit. She was in a bad mood, so it was entirely likely she was laying out bait to screw me later. On the other hand, just about anything she could dream up would be a nice change from the new, existential horror of facing down a monstrous, broken version of myself every night.

“Yes. Well, no, I didn’t really come here to ask, but if you’re offering…”

“Oh, I wasn’t offering,” she purred, her usual smirk finding its way back on her face. “But it’s nice to know you need something from me.” I couldn’t help but smile a little. At least this way, the tension lifted a bit.

“If I need anything, it’s a report on-“

“The Japanese, yes, yes. It’s…you might call it a hornet’s nest. Very delicate work. Spying on another Officio isn’t as simple as a wiretap and a night of passion.” She took a sip of her tea, then snorted. “Well, it might be now, with the state their Warmaster’s in. And with all the Culexus dead. Who’s going to stop me? Karasawa?”

She finished her tea in one go, then pointedly refilled her cup. Naturally, she brought the teapot as high as she could manage just to show off a bit – I watched for a splash over the side, but there wasn’t a drop. Probably still wasn’t real.

“The only thing Karasawa can catch is a bucket of ice cream. And while I may be cold, sweet, and tasty…”

“You’re not ice cream. Got it.” I nodded. “So, ah…you plan on going yourself, then?”

There was a long, awkward pause, and she raised her cup to her lips.

“…Not as such, no. Somebody needs to hold this place together while everyone who matters is traumatized or hysterical.” Ah, yes. The old standby for when El didn’t REALLY want to do her job. …Hard to blame her, really, after everything the Ninth had done recently. It was probably worse over there than it was over here, what with Lady Malal.

…For once, she had a point, as much as I wanted to press the issue. Arty was a wreck, I’d barely even seen Gerty since I got back, and Enyo and I were completely irresponsible whenever we could get away with it (which wasn’t nearly often enough).

We made something amounting to small talk for a bit after that, the awkward kind that you have with someone when you haven’t spoken to them for a while and you both damn well know you could have but you kept putting it off.

…Well, about half of it was cripple jokes, but that’s just something to get used to. It could only sting so much, really, with all the work Enyo put into my prostheses.

She was probably still angry when I left, but she’d get over it. I made a mental note to try and do something nice for her.


I was astonished when I returned to my room to find that my bed had grown an impressive tumor, the kind where the drapey bits of ceremonial robes and a few locks of forest-green hair poke out from under the blanket. The roughly little girl-sized kind. It wasn’t the first time, at least.

The High Inquisitor was hiding again – nobody but Arty would seriously try to find her here, and anyone who visited me would know enough to just leave her alone if they caught her. Poor thing was probably exhausted from all the hell she’d been through since Walpurgisnacht, it was a wonder she hadn’t run off into the countryside.

A more mature and less exhausted person might gently call her name. Today that was…not me. Gerty had been one of my closest friends since we’d contracted, but, ah…

Well, fuck it. I leapt onto the bed, directly onto the center of that little tumor, and immediately regretted it as about a fucktillion volts or amps or whatever the hell you measure it in coursed through my body, sending me into a twitching mess on the floor.

Didn’t last long, of course. My cybernetics were insulated, and I was a good bit tougher than to be put down by one of Her Grace’s cranky shocks. I was fairly confident that at least one of us didn’t piss herself, too.

I pulled myself up onto my knees as she sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes with a sleeve. …She was one of the only people here smaller than I was, truth be told; the Incubator had contracted her at nine, and she hadn’t changed much in the five or so years since. She stared down at me with bleary eyes, then around the room.

“…What time is it?”

“Oh, no, I’m fine, don’t fret too much. Just a bit smoky.”

“I know. Time?” Her eye found my alarm clock on the nightstand, and her features twisted into a frown.

“I left my watch at home. You might be sleeping on it.” Despite my best efforts, I was rapidly running out of patience for Gerty’s nonsense today. She took a deep breath, then sighed.

“Yes, yes, I’m sorry. I should have asked. I meant to take a nap, but…”

“But that was hours ago.” She winced at that and looked away, hands fidgeting in her lap. I settled in next to her and ruffled her hair. I’m always relieved anymore whenever I don’t catch a few strands in my finger joints or…something. I’m sure Enyo thought of that, but even so.

“The world won’t end if you take a break once in a while. God knows Hash won’t be done sucking on his brother’s tit until we’re long dead,” I continued, but all she did was wince again and try to pull her robes up around herself, as if to hide in them a little more. “…Right?”

“…We have to look presentable for the other Officios. If that awful dog-woman senses even the smallest hint of weakness…”

“Lady Russ isn’t that bad.” I lied. I had to, though; I’d be begging Her Alphaness a favor, myself, and I was looking forward to that almost as much as my next therapy session.

“Fine, but the Americans-“

“-have a new Warmaster, who I’ve heard is actually quite nice.”

“And it’s the first time we’re meeting. This will be her first impression of the Second, and if it goes poorly-”

“-then we’ll have lost the incredibly valuable opinions of screaming madmen. I’m sure we’ll live.” She scowled up at me, and I met it with a grin. Her Grace didn’t like being interrupted OR corrected, but at least she looked a bit less miserable.

“…The Chinese will also be here,” she added after another minute, tearing her eyes away from mine. “And their Eversor Rank Leader.”

…The old Marshal, under Lady Erebus. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t met her since her excommunication – the old guard came together once a year, outside the watchful eye of the Church, to mourn our dead. But Valentina Tenko was…at times, a hard person to deal with, for me especially. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing her, not after my own…

Not after throwing away the lives of nearly everyone here that would still look her in the eye.

“…Don’t worry about me, Your Gertiness. It’s probably better to swallow that pill early, anyway. I just hope the Spiritual Liege doesn’t screech too much with that awful accent of hers. I can still hear it in my damned nightmares after the last meeting.”

The High Inquisitor giggled and kicked her feet against the side of the bed, though it didn’t last long.

“…Actually, I needed to talk to you about something else, too.” Her voice was a little quieter than usual, and she stared down at her feet. She may have been trying to wiggle them out of her robes so she could look at her boots.

“Are you…” She fumbled with her words, something I’d only seen from Her Grace a handful of times. “…You’re working on rebuilding the Templars right now, I understand, but I need to ask something of you.”

“Spit it out, Your Grace.” She was uncomfortable enough with the request to dance around it all day. I fiddled with a lock of my hair and started carefully wording my refusal.

I was absolutely certain she was about to ask me about sex.

“I’d like you to act as Regent for a while once the other Officios leave.” Oh thank the Lady.


Gerty bit her lip, refusing to meet my gaze. She was quiet and still, the most afraid I’d seen her since the day she was promoted to High Inquisitor.

“Arturia’s not…well. She won’t tell me anything, and I can’t pretend she’s fit to lead right now. I had my concerns even before that, about whether she was…mature enough, you know.”

Gertrud von Egisheim was four years my junior and two years Arty’s. She wasn’t High Inquisitor because she was cute when she was angry, though – truth be told, she was probably one of the Warmasters I admired most, out of the ones I’d known and the ones I’d been forced to read and recite about as part of my training here.

She wasn’t wrong about Arty, on either count. Still, going over her Equerry’s head was…cold. This was also not shit I particularly wanted to deal with, and Her Royal Majesty would throw an absolute fit when she found out, no matter what state she was in.


“So…what’s stopping you from running the place, exactly?”

She scowled at the ground, and I knew the answer almost immediately.

“Hashmallim contacted me a few days after Walpurgisnacht. He…ah, he told me it was time to ascend to the First, and to give him a list of recommendations.”

It was the cat.

When it was bad news, it was always the fucking cat. We heard from him all of twice a year, and it was always either a fresh wave of contracts from his…abbeys…with no sense of the real world or it was something like this.

He was stealing our Warmaster out from under us when we were already hurting more than we had as long as I’d been at the Second, and I’m certain he barely considered it past ‘this is what my brother would like’.

“Please don’t tell me you signed everyone but me up to go to the fucking moon, Gerty.” She winced again. “…Sorry. Sorry. I just…”

“…I know. He told me the First is relaxing its standards on conscripts. I think they’re trying to gather up anyone that might be able to…ah…to survive their procedures. It might just be panic from Walpurgisnacht, but…”

“…but they’re preparing to mobilize against something. Bloody wonderful.”

She nodded a little, playing with her sleeves. …It’s hard to forget Her Grace is basically a kid in a lot of ways. It really just made me angrier.

“…So what’s the damage? Who else is going? Hesselius? Laura and Liz? Oh lord, is that why El is slacking on dealing with the Japs? Is it Liddell? Can it be Liddell?”

“…You. I recommended you, that’s all. …He doesn’t think you’re in any shape to make it, so I suggested a…trial period.”

“…Alright.” I didn’t know how to feel. I don’t think I felt anything, just…cold. I wasn’t mad, I don’t…really think it was her fault, but… “And this all wasn’t worth mentioning, oh, I don’t know, weeks ago?”

“Did you want me to slip a note into your bedpan, Alondight?” She snapped, and I shut my mouth. “What was I supposed to do? You know how he gets, if he got it in his head that I was obstructing the First, he’d have me retired. By you, if I was lucky.” She stared up at me, dark eyes crackling with electricity.

“Do you think I want to go to the-the fucking moon, Raleigh? I don’t even like going into the city. I’ve just been trying to think of a way to get out of it without throwing myself to the Akashic. Or locking myself in the library where nobody will see me for a thousand years and I’ll be some terrible sunlight-averse mutant speaking a dead language.”

Her voice grew louder and higher and squeakier as she spoke. She leaned in closer to me, then seemed to lose all of her energy at once.

“…Just tell me if you’ll do the job. If not, I’ll…ask Cosette. It’s only until Arturia’s fit to run the Officio again.”

“And to prove to Hashmallim you deserve a snuggle buddy up on the moon.” I didn’t really intend to let it go. I still didn’t know what to think, but I didn’t want to let it go. She stared coldly up at me, and I forced a smile and waved dismissively.

“Fine. Regent it is. Just for a bit, though, and no promises on the moon thing. I’d fancy my chances against just about everyone here, if he did get mad. Hell, it would be quite a way to die, wouldn’t it? Battling the legions of our furry overlords in the name of freedom.”

Gerty cracked a smile, and it made it that much easier to hold my own.

“I may come and get you myself if it’s too bad up there. You’re…you know.” One of her two friends, aside from Arty. I just nodded.

…I’d probably do the same.

“…So who gets to tell her you’re leaving?”

“That would be excellent practice for the new Regent, wouldn’t it?” She pushed herself to her feet and smoothed some of the wrinkles from her robe.

I patted her butt, and she made a face back at me.

“…What? I need to practice for my harem of concubines. A Regent must have concubines. It’s the first decree I’m instating when you leave.” The High Inquisitor’s face hardened as I apparently crossed a line. I could only shrug.

“If you tell Arty, I’ll put down the newspaper in the guest quarters for the Sixth. I’ll even change it every day.”



A knock on my door roused me only an hour or so after I managed to sleep, and I drifted over to it, stumbling in my nightgown and not a whole lot else.

“...High Marshal.” A bouquet of flowers nearly took both of my eyes out the moment I opened the door, and they called me by title, soft and hesitant. “…I’m sorry. About the other day.”

…Oh. It was Enyo. What was she…

Oh! Right. Right.

“Already forgot about that. Tired. Put them in a vase and join me in bed. S’an order.”

…I hadn’t quite drifted off again when I heard the heavy thunk of Enyo removing her prosthetic, then the much gentler noise of her setting it on my nightstand. One arm curled around my midsection, and I felt a little bit of the stress from dealing with every other bloody person in this Officio melt away.

“…Missed you.”

“Shh. Go to sleep, Enyo…”

Tomorrow would be…better. It couldn’t be much worse.

Account of the Damned Gaiden[edit]

"...Nothing here."

A King Must Stand Alone[edit]


My name is Arturia Pendragon, though you’ve likely surmised as much. Until recently, the Equerry to the High Inquisitor of the Second, Her Holiness Gertrud von Egisheim, and known by and large as Her Majesty the King, though it refers not to the country as such, or any country in particular, so much as it implies a certain Divine Right; to be the King means to carry the blood of a Ruler of Men, who stands above the authority of all but God and the Lady.

My bloodline is not the subject of this story, for now, though in some time it will be. This is a story instead of Heresy most foul, of a veil obscuring the hearts and minds of the finest magical girls in the world. Of a foolish young woman who, in her pride and naiveté, averted her eyes from the Truth for far too long to stop its inevitable march.

This is my story, and the story of my honored sister, and of the Blessed Lady and the Holy Second Inquisition. I would like to say it began quite a while ago, with my sister’s ascension to the head of the Holy Fourteenth Officio – the claiming of her birthright as Emperor – but for brevity’s sake, I will begin much later than that, with the Heresy of the Ninth Warmaster under the looming of Walpurgisnacht. Looking back now, even before that wretched night, it was the stone in the pond that would send out ripples for months to come.

I was discussing her most recent Heresies with the Ninth Equerry, the Culexus Malal…


“I apologize. I apologize on behalf of Kharn, and on behalf of the Ninth Officio. But there’s really only so much I can do.” Her voice-disruptor made her apology sound halfhearted, casual. That could have been the seething, foaming rage that I had barely kept contained, however. It wouldn’t do to get angry at an Angel of the Blessed Lady, and though she dismissed Her Grace’s torment so casually, she was hardly at fault.

“It was inevitable. It’s kind of something Kharn does. It…I’m sorry, do you…need to use the bathroom?”

My sword hand clenched reflexively. It was not ‘inevitable’. Her Grace was, until she was violated some hours ago, a pure maiden – the very model of a magical girl. For a second-long eternity, I simply bit my lip (nearly hard enough to draw blood, I would say), torn between the duty of defending my lady and respecting the authority of an objective superior in the ranks of the Blessed Lady.

The Culexus just stared impassively at me through blackened visor.

I set my jaw as my eyes flicked toward where I could only assume hers were, and as calmly as I could, I began to elucidate the Angel on Her Grace’s virtue, and the importance of vigilance and care in our daily lives as magical girls, so as not to cast ourselves from the razor-thin line on which we walked. Surely, she knew this better than even I did, but the Ninth Warmaster clearly needed more than a simple reminder. She walked a Witch’s path already, and even in the event that she did not fall, surely her distinct and unsettling lack of virtue would-

After a scant few phrases, thirty seconds at most, something reflected in Lady Malal’s visor caught my eye – a flash of a girl with pale-gold hair, shorter than even the Japanese in front of me, chest puffed out and mouth moving silently in time with my speech.

It was Raleigh, of course. Raleigh Alondight, the High Marshal of the Black Templars, known to most simply as the Black Knight. She was Her Grace’s most trusted friend, myself aside, and held the distinction of being the most distinguished low-blooded magical girl in the Second’s illustrious history, dating well before the Officio Assassinora were officially sanctioned. She was also quite determined to test my already terribly thin patience today, it seemed.

I resisted the urge to backhand her as I whirled around – an urge that came up unreasonably often with Raleigh, and one I truly believe only a noble-born woman could resist so often. She gave me a wide grin and a little wave, though judging from the look in her eyes, I suspect that for whatever unfathomable reason, this was calculated. Raleigh was not often a fool, despite repeated evidence to the contrary.

“You know she was the one that invited the Warmaster into her chambers, don’t you?” her quiet, lilting voice sang a song that seemed to be designed specifically to get under my skin. “You weren’t protecting her, Arty. You walked in on her.”

My sword hand twitched again.

“She hasn’t left it, you know. Thankfully, the Warmaster was there to comfort her. It’s great, she does this thing with her tongue…” As she stuck out her own tongue and began trying to imitate some arcane motion, I found myself oddly hypnotized by the prospect. I could nearly grasp what she was trying to do, but…that wasn’t normal. It couldn’t be, not even Elizabeth – not even Elcarys – could perform such an act.

…Maybe Elcarys could have, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to find out, and were I to ask Raleigh, I was certain I would hear in excruciatingly uncomfortable detail just precisely how far that tongue could go.

(Neither of those are people you need yet concern yourself with – all will be explained in time, though not today, and sooner rather than later. It would be rude to simply toss names about with no promise of explanation.)

It occurred to me all too late that I was in the middle of an important clarification, but when I looked to the Culexus, she was well on her way down the hall, attention wholly absorbed by the electronic assistant she carried. Raleigh gave a snigger and a shout, a ‘You’re welcome!’ that echoed through the halls of the Officio. I tried to wither her reckless enthusiasm with a glare, but she laughed all the harder.

“Arty. Arty, you really haven’t got a clue, have you? Well, don’t worry. I’m sure she didn’t really think you had to use the bathroom. Kings don’t poop, and all.” We do so-Why is this even up for discussion.

I adjusted my glasses, my hand drifting without pause to my temple to fend off an oncoming headache. I didn’t expect professional behavior from the High Marshal without direct Witch involvement, but she could have at least taken pains not to make us look even worse than this ridiculous scandal already had, thanks to the heretical mongrel leading the Ninth Officio Assassinorum. Why Lady Malal isn’t simply leading the Officio-

“You’re doing that thing again. Where you talk to yourself.”

I was talking to her.

“Well. I wasn’t listening, because you were doing that thing again. No disrespect intended, Your Majesty, but you need to calm down. They’ll be gone tomorrow, then you’ll have only one superior to tiptoe around again, and we can put this particular bout of minor heresies behind us. Speaking of tiptoeing around superiors…” She turned stiffly toward the hall opposite where Lady Malal had gone, and began to march, pausing after a moment to beckon me after her. “She needs to talk to you.”

…Ah, Milady is finally in a condition to speak?

“No, I’m going to get her to unlock the door, and you’re going to shove in before she can close it. May want to strap your armor on, Her Grace is still quite handy with the lightning.”

This boded well already.


“Imbecile! Fool! Dastard! Deviant! Heretic!” I was grateful, I supposed, that she only had a few pillows to hurl at me, when she saw my face, though with the tone she used, her words hissed out through cracked and broken voice, I expected divine lightning instead. Her voice squeaked as the parade of insults moved on, the High Inquisitor’s face glowing a bright red, as though her head threatened to explode at any moment.

Though she had elected to remain outside, I could swear I heard Raleigh laughing through the door.

Her Grace – just Gertrud, in our younger days – had always been temperamental. She is, despite that, one of the cleverest and most charismatic people I’ve ever the privilege of knowing, to be sure, and…certainly, she is among the people I care for the most in this world.

That said, I have met nobody since that could throw such a tantrum over nothing as Gertrud, when she was so inclined, which seemed to be most any time we were alone. I suppose how angry she seemed was a measure of trust, in a way; only recently had she allowed herself to show her anger in front of Raleigh, having previously only done so in front of my sisters and I. Never in front of the other knights, not even when we were trainees, and certainly not in front of the Lady’s Messenger.

One would be hard-pressed to believe that under her smooth and graceful countenance was the heart of an incorrigible, offensive, pillow-hurling brat.

“WHAT?” She squeaked so loudly that I was certain the window-glass cracked. …I repeated myself, louder. Perhaps she hadn’t heard it.

“How…how DARE you! HIGH MARSHAL! RALEIGH! I know you’re out there! Throw this foul, perverted heretic in the dungeon!” I breathed a sigh of relief, exaggerated…mostly out of pettiness, I admit. It was only the dungeon, she couldn’t have been that upset.

At that, she made a noise, one for which I had come to know her – a high, unexplainable sound, a combination of a cracked scream and a squeak. A small buzz began to tug at the edge of my senses as Her Grace crackled, her hair standing lightly on end. Like a cat’s, come to that.

If Raleigh WAS out there, she had (wisely) deemed it safer not to get involved, and for that I was grateful.

I strode over to Her Grace’s – to Gertrud’s – bedside, as she crackled and squeaked, and as she raised her hand to smite me, I took it in both of mine, then dropped to a knee. She had my sincerest apologies for the misunderstanding. I had only feared the worst, with the Warmaster Valnikov’s continual heresy.

Her fury seemed to dissipate all at once, though her face still carried a cherry-red color. Her hackles dropped, and the numb, buzzing sensation in the depths of my heart was… …Well, at very least the electricity seemed to subside. Gertrud stared down at me, seemingly unsure how to respond.

…This was the real reason I was grateful Raleigh had left. This expression was one reserved for me, and one I would gladly claim for myself.

“…I don’t…need you to come running whenever you believe something may happen to me. I’m a Warmaster, you know. The High Inquisitor of the Second. The voice of the Blessed Lady’s will. I have no need of foolish kings that play at gallantry.” She squeezed my hand as she answered, her eyes flicking toward a distant corner of the room that was no doubt extremely heretical at that particular moment.

Of course, Your Grace.


The rest of the day passed without incident, mercifully, and we spent it in discussion of personal matters, a rarity as of late. The next few weeks would have us tied up in meetings, thanks in no small part to the Ninth Officio’s recent and extremely unusual fascination with Siberia, to say nothing of the looming Walpurgisnacht.

Almost worse, so I thought at the time, was the inevitable diplomatic mission to the Palace of the Holy Emperor in Rome, to request their aid as a second line against the flood of Witches that would pour from the Akashic Points scattered around the country. It would be yet another chance to see our officers poisoned with hedonism, to see my sister tear Her Grace from her sacred mission for the sake of vanity and sloth, and, though I would never have admitted it then, another opportunity for Nero to highlight my own inadequacies in a feast of gold and excess.

In light of that…it felt as though Walpurgisnacht could not come soon enough.