Year Zero

Stage 05 - C.C.'s Bizarre Adventure

As soon as C.C. had grown enough to understand what had happened to her, she burst into laughter for the first time in longer than she cared to put a number to. She’d tried to kill herself for centuries, and now that she’d stopped, some rando had done the job for her. Yet it wasn’t the blessed finality of nothingness that she’d thought to be the fate of all code bearers which awaited her. It seemed even when she died, she couldn’t die.

A woman C.C. recognised as her mother in this world picked her up with gentle, reassuring, and completely meaningless shushing sounds. She said something in a language that sounded as if German and French had somehow managed to have a bastard child with Latin. Guessing at its meaning, C.C. thought the woman told her not to cry.

Such pointlessness. Why not tell the moon not to rise? She was alone again. First Lelouch had the audacity to skip off to C’s World, and then some nobody had ripped out her code and killed Kallen in the midst of one of their trysts. Those two were probably enjoying their afterlife together while she was stuck…wherever she was.

Maybe if she died again, she could die properly this time. If she was lucky, she’d be reunited with Lelouch and Kallen. Without a code or a geass, a definitive no and yes respectively, she had no way of knowing if her original connection to the collective unconscious had been repaired.

Not yet.

Oh, and apparently magic was a thing now. She’d have to look into that.

How peculiar. The Temple of Kings is missing, but the surrounding geography is identical. It’s almost like someone ripped the area out of reality and stitched the rest together. Flipping from one atlas to the next, slowly feeling the dust shake off of her cartography skills, C.C. developed a working hypothesis. Someone must have hidden the Britannian Isles’ Thought Elevator with magic ages ago. Probably a good idea, but frustrating for me.

Technically, it was the British Isles’ Thought Elevator, but C.C. didn’t much concern herself with the little differences between this world and her own. She just wanted to return home as soon as possible.

Some little red-headed urchins came by asking to play, but C.C. ignored them until Pandora finally intervened and led them away. If she’d had one spot of luck in this entire misadventure, it was the good fortune to be born to the Lovegoods. In addition to being an only child, both of her parents were eccentric in the extreme in almost perpendicular directions and asked no questions.

Well, that was untrue. They asked lots of questions, but ones usually more along the lines of ‘Where do you think we should plant the snargaluff?’ or ‘What aspect of reality should I develop a spell to break next?’ rather than more the troublesome ‘How did you learn how to read?’

But speaking of, it was time to acquire some assistance. C.C. gathered up her maps and climbed up out of the library. She then descended the spiral stairs fashioned about the outer walls of the Rookery down to the top floor of the building. Navigating through the printing press for the Quibbler tabloid – the entire room was enchanted to act as one single abomination – she at last came to the chief and only editor’s office where she found Xenophilius Lovegood at work compiling next month’s issue.

C.C., straining her tiny body, pulled up a chair in front of Xeno’s desk. The man was polite enough not to notice the racket she made in the process nor her climbing up onto the seat. This allowed her to dramatically drop her maps atop his work.

Xeno jumped in supposed shock before peering down at the documents. “What is all this, L.L.?”

“I’ve discovered a conspiracy.” As C.C. knew they would, Xeno’s eyes lit up. She pointed to where the Temple of Kings should be. “Look at this area closely.” She snatched the quill in Xeno’s hands and began annotating the nearby roads with the aid of another map. “If we calculate the apparent area on the map, we get a significantly smaller number than if we calculate the area inside the roads surrounding it.”

“And you’ve checked that there’s no magical beings living there?”

C.C. nodded as she pulled out another map detailing the locations of all the major magical settlements, human or otherwise, in the Britannian Isles. One only required a quick glance to verify her point.

“Incredible!” Xeno rose from his chair, and C.C. permitted him to indulge in a fatherly pat on the head. “You’re a natural, my little moonbeam. Now we must investigate at once! This could very well be front page material. The story of the century!”

Without warning, Xeno hoisted C.C. onto his shoulders and carried her out of the room. It was safer to travel this way in this house, she figured, so she just let him get on with it.

After a quick teleport down to the southern end of Britain, C.C. and Xeno arrived at the edge of what the latter had dubbed the ‘suspicious zone’. Once they’d performed an initial check for danger, they began the trek toward the Temple of Kings. As this was her discovery, Xeno had offered C.C. the honour of leading the way. This was fortunate since, instead of wandering around blindly chasing rumours as was the man’s normal modus operandi, she actually knew where to find their destination.

And so they set out. For miles they walked with nothing of interest occurring. Xeno stopped them on several occasions to investigate a sound he heard in the bushes. Not surprisingly, he found only deer and, on one occasion, a fox.

They came upon a fast moving stream. Xeno said, “Watch and do as I do,” before hopping from rock to rock across the waters. He slipped on the last one and fell gracelessly onto his face on the opposite bank. “Well, perhaps not exactly as I do.”

C.C. casually walked through the shallow water. On the other side, she looked up and quirked an eyebrow at Xeno. He dried her damp socks and shoes for her while mumbling about the spirit of adventure.

No more than ten steps from the stream, Xeno suddenly grasped C.C. roughly by the arm and pulled her back two full steps. He wore, for perhaps the first time in her second life, a terribly serious expression as he stared at the empty forest before them.

“We just crossed a ward line.” Xeno released his grip and sent his wand to work. “Muggle-repelling. Anti-flight. What on Earth…” After a series of additional diagnostics, his face settled into a heavy frown. “A dimensional anchor? No one has known how to make those since before Merlin.”

C.C. hummed curiously. It seemed her guess had been spot on. Someone had hidden this Thought Elevator – indeed, likely all of them – before she was born. And she had a sneaking suspicion concerning why. There was, after all, one major difference between this world and her own. That could present complications.

“Is there any reason to turn back?” C.C. asked. Her tried and true method of walking forward until something killed her and she regenerated sadly wouldn’t work very well anymore.

After a few moments, Xeno tentatively replied, “No. The wards are harmless. But there’s no quick way in or out.”

In other words, everyone is welcome to knock on the front door. No small effort had been spent hiding and protecting the Thought Elevator, however, so C.C. assumed one needed the metaphorical key to actually enter. How frustrating.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” C.C. said as she stepped forward. This proved encouragement enough to bring Xeno along with her.

The journey started out normal, nothing more than a leisurely walk through the woods. The first sign of trouble came when Xeno gasped. Following his eyes, C.C.’s gaze landed on a purple monstrosity that looked something like a small camel with a wrinkled horn. “It’s a crumple-horned snorkack!” All sense of caution seemed to leave him, although he at least had the good sense to tell his daughter to stay put while he got a closer look.

Of course, Xeno had no sooner left than disappeared. He vanished without fanfare, merely there one moment and then gone the next. The strange purple animal had departed with him as well.

Curious. When C.C. stepped in the same direction, nothing happened. She glanced back in the direction she’d come from only to find, to her mild surprise, exactly where she’d come from. How strange. Exceptions to wards have to be keyed in specifically to a person’s magic. She remembered seeing Pandora adjust the Rookery’s to allow a colleague to apparate out if an experiment went awry. The ones here must have taken him somewhere, then, rather than him leaving voluntarily. But why him and not me?

Perhaps it’s because I know where I’m going or why I’m here? While C.C. knew little about this world’s magic, she did know intent mattered. Being in the wrong frame of mind or believing incorrectly could cause your magic to fail. Hmm, perhaps that is the key, then. Or at least part of it. If you intend to go to the Thought Elevator, you can.

With a shrug, C.C. continued onwards. The wards left her undisturbed throughout the remainder of her journey. Eventually, she came upon what should have been the ruins of Prifddinas, a grand fortress city built by Alwin the First a mere two years after uniting the tribes against the invading Romans which served as Britannia’s original capital city.

Instead, C.C. found nothing but the relatively modest little structure Alwin had built his capital around, the Temple of Kings itself. Even in this world where the Thought Elevators had been hidden away who knew how many millennia ago, its architectural style had produced a profound influence upon the Graeco-Roman world. The grand, stylised columns stood tall and unblemished despite the ravages of time, as did the inner walls and the artistic embellishments. The entrance to the temple, easily ten times as wide and tall as C.C.’s current stature, had no doors. She could see the dais at the back of the temple with the pyramidal control system and the portal into C’s World behind that. All seemed well.

Until she stepped inside.

The Temple of Kings faded away. In its place, C.C. found herself atop a grassy knoll in the middle of a wide plain with a river winding through it not too far away. Something about the scene niggled at the back of her mind like a distant memory. She did recognise the architectural style of the buildings in the nearby village as distinctly late medieval, but without the perfect recall that came with her code, she couldn’t put her finger on exactly where she was.

More curiously, everything looked smaller than it should. But then perhaps C.C. had that backwards. For the first time in years, nothing looked bigger than it should. She glanced down at herself. Long, slender arms and legs. Curves. A horrid red dress that should have been lost to history. She brought a hand up to inspect her breast. Indeed, her scar had returned.

C.C. focused on her desire for a mirror. An ovular cheval mirror appeared from the aether in front of her. In it, she saw the reflection of herself in what her mind considered her true form. She brushed back her hair to find the symbol of geass once more upon her forehead, although it came without the benefits of her code.

With a thought, C.C. banished the mirror and replaced her dress with the straitjacket Lelouch had futilely insisted she not wear. She knew where she was now: the World of C, where belief became reality. That left her with two possibilities. First, some magic had pulled her through the Thought Elevator by her mere presence. Second, some idiot had reversed the Thought Elevator’s functionality and brought C’s World into reality.

Considering that this universe possessed magic, C.C. found the latter more probable despite not knowing where one would even begin to go about it.

C.C.’s thoughts drifted, and she regretted her slip in control immediately. She spied both Lelouch and Kallen locked in an amorous embrace on the sandy banks of the river.

Without her.

The two broke apart for air, and something seemed to catch Kallen’s eye. She glanced up and, upon noticing C.C. and staring for a second or two, waved her hand high in the air in both greeting and invitation.

C.C. forced herself to turn away. The dead spoke, in a sense, but those two were mere figments of her imagination. If she were to involve herself in a complicated ménage à trois that was one part genuine affection, one part regret, one part loneliness, and one part alcohol, it would be with the queen and their mutual love interest themselves, not soulless ghosts.

Instead of succumbing to temptation, C.C. began down the dirt path that led to the village and ignored the distant calls for her to return. Moving about wouldn’t truly take her anywhere in C’s World, but she needed to get away to shore up her concentration.

Without warning, another figure appeared before C.C., one that had long since been blessed with oblivion. She ignored the nun who had raised her and given her power only to curse her with immortality. Despite the centuries of ennui and soul crushing depression, she could be grateful. She’d met Lelouch in the end. And Kallen, too, she supposed. That girl was fun to tease.

“Do you have a reason to live?”

She wasn’t real, so C.C. paid the nun no attention.

But what if she was? What if, without C.C. in this world, she never found someone to take her code. What if she’d gotten trapped here, forced to languish in C’s World waiting for someone who could?

What if it didn’t even matter in this strange world?

C.C. turned back, chains rattling beneath her rags, to the second most hated human being of her entire life. A code bearer might be able to help her in her quest. “I want to go home,” she declared up at the woman twice her height.

The scene shifted once more. C.C. needed no hints to recognise either the great walled city that now surrounded her or the magnificent manor that towered over her.


That voice–

“What are you doing outside the manor!”

Six hundred years had not dulled C.C.’s memory of that voice. She’d sold herself to Britannia, tied herself by her honour to the imperial family forever, for the mere chance to murder the man it belonged to only for some illiterate peasant girl to come along and ruin everything.

C.C.’s breath came heavy and ever heavier, fast and ever faster. It was just a spectre. He wasn’t real. None of this was real.

Then the Duke of Orléans seized her by the arm.

A red haze descended over C.C.’s vision. Her blood coursed through her veins with passion and fury she’d thought time had taken from her. With a shrill cry, she yanked her arm free of her master’s grasp. She whirled in place, drawing back her arm, and then ran the man through with a rapier she’d broken centuries ago. As he crumpled to his knees, she reached out and grasped him by the forehead. There she held him to relish the shock in his eyes.

“Six hundred and thirty years I’ve had to wait for this moment. Scream for me.”

C.C. pushed her entire life of misery into the man. The Code R experiments. His treatment of her. The endless wanderings. The loneliness. The executions she’d endured. The betrayals. Her broken heart. She gave him everything, and such sweet music he sang. No matter how long she tried, she’d not be able to compose more suitable lyrics.

When C.C. released the man, he fell, catatonic, to the ground with an ignoble thump. She kicked him in the groin without so much as a grunt in response. “Pathetic.” With a precise thrust of her sword, she severed the spinal cord running through his neck.

It was done.

A strange, uneven laughter broke the silence. It took C.C. a few seconds to realise the sound had come from her. In the passing of these few moments, she felt like she understood both Lelouch and Kallen so much more. She’d forgotten what it mean to be filled past overflowing with the desire for vengeance. She’d forgotten what it took to overcome those feelings.

“Well?” C.C. screamed at the heavens. “I asked to go home! Take me there!”

Again, the scene changed. C.C. stood before an unassuming little thatched roof cottage at its front and likely only door. Both it and the windows swung outwards judging by the hinges. Although all were closed, the stench that emanated from the building was unmistakable: blood.

This was home?

C.C. hopped on her tiny legs to reach the handle. Hanging awkwardly in the air, she gained a bit of leverage by pressing her feet up against the doorframe. Using them, she pushed off the wall and managed to pry the heavy oak door open inch by inch. Inside, she found the body of a man and a woman with multiple lacerations from, she assumed by the appearance of the wounds, arming swords. The woman had lime green hair identical to her own.

Wild, unhinged laughter built up within C.C. until it escaped her as she stared down at the long forgotten bodies of her parents. Of course this was home. Home with death. Everyone she ever cared about died long before their time. How many of those tragic ends had she caused herself? She’d lost count over the centuries.

“Luna!” a voice called out. C.C. barely registered its existence. “Luna! Luna? Oh, my little moonbeam, thank Merlin’s soggy left sock!” A pair of arms enveloped C.C.’s numb body and brought her up to near eye level. She went limp in them and sagged against their owner’s chest. “Where have you been?”

“Take me home.”

“What? But–”

“Take me home.” C.C. barely restrained herself from sobbing into – assuming the man wasn’t another spectre – Xeno’s chest. She felt her control slipping. “Please.”

Xeno gently shushed C.C. while rocking her in his arms. “Don’t be scared. We’ll go home. We just need to walk back out of this forest first.”

C.C. had no idea how to respond when a strange little boy with messy black hair and a raw, red scar on his forehead rushed up to her and wrapped his arms around her. He’d arrived with the Weasleys, so she’d expected him to be warned off of her in advance.

Apparently, that was not the case. C.C. had just made up her mind to shove the boy away from her when he spoke in Britannian English. “I know where Kallen is.”

A silent gasp escaped C.C.. It couldn’t be. She forced herself to breathe out, “Lelouch?”

“It’s me.”

C.C.’s Cheese-kun fell to the ground without a second thought as she brought her hands up to the boy’s face, tentatively exploring the new form as she sought to verify the truth in a visceral way words never could. “This is another trick.” What else could it be?

“A trick?” the spectre said. He muttered something under his breath. “Are you being watched too?”

“Watched? I… No?” Where were her words when she needed them?

“Good. Drag me off somewhere private so we can swap stories.”

The spectre disentangled himself and moved to leave. C.C.’s hands immediately shot out and grasped one of his in a death grip as she desperately tried to get her brain working again.

This has never happened before so far from a Thought Elevator. That means… That means… “You’re real?”

An arched eyebrow met the question. “Of course I am.”

Those were the magic words. C.C. did as requested and dragged a stumbling Lelouch by the arm away from the Weasleys and the Rookery to find somewhere they could speak undisturbed.