Chapter 2:

Minerva Bellisaria

I became the Recordkeeper of the Second Holy War.

Two robed figures slunk amidst the shadows that ruled over the castle during the night, their pace quickening whenever they were bathed by the torches’ light. The duo were trying their damndest to remain undetected, skirting away towards other passages whenever they heard the closest murmur. Yet it wasn’t enough, they thought, when they bumped with one of the castle’s guards.

“There she is!” The cry came from all directions at once. Suddenly, a literal tide of pursuers surged forth from the shadows, their faces contorted by murderous anger and their gazes filled with bloodlust. “Kill the Swine Prince’s bride!”
The larger of the two figures shoved the other one. “Minnie, run away!”
Minnie followed suit. She sprinted with all her might, not daring to turn and look behind. She ran and ran, ever harder, but it wasn’t enough. The tide of pursuers closed the distance.

“Minnie!” Cried her companion, his voice echoing from afar as he was engulfed in darkness. The pursuers kept hounding her, weapons at the ready and biting at her heels with dogged determination. Soon, a dozen hands clawed at her flesh, dragging her down, ever closer to the cold steel.

“Minnie!” The desperate friend pleaded, even though his voice was but a whisper now.

Just when the blades sank intoher flesh, Minerva, former heir of House Bellisaria sprang upwards with an undignified squeal. Such was her surprise, that she didn’t notice she was about to smash against her friend’s chest. She slammed her head against Pioll, sending the two of them sprawling.

“Goddess’ sake, Minnie!” Whined her childhood friend, Pioll, as he made to raise up again. “Next time, if you ask me to wake you up in case you oversleep, I’ll rightly-”

Minerva groaned, shoving him aside with one hand and clasping her throbbing temples with another. By the goddess, she was gonna be in a foul mood, wasn’t she?. “I’ve had the usual nightmare, so please cut me some slack”

At that, Pioll’s face softened. “Lieutenant, that was indeed a harrowing night, so I understand that reminiscing it must be painful.”

"For both of us," Minerva corrected, her usual pedantry coming to the fore. He opened his mouth, ready to make a rebuttal, but before he could get a word in, she shut the conversation. "Gotta change, get out of your lieutenant's tent."

Pioll Holkins, much like her, could be labelled a ‘former’ heir to his house. Their circumstances were different, for sure, but that was beside the point.

"Different" was a constant when talking about the two of them. Pioll, was a half orc, which meant that he was almost two heads taller than Minerva and much more burlier, his skin was kind of gray, had slightly pointed ears and a few tusks jutted out of his mouth.had . Being taller than Miner wasn’t a tremendous achievement, all said and done, as Minerva was barely five feet tall and she was, to put it charitably, a bit on the boney side. She had a blonde bob cut, while he had a wild mane of jetblack curls. Her eyes were a shade of deep blue, while his were golden.

“Enough dilly dallying, Minnie,” MInerva chastised herself and, with a grunt and plenty of effort, hauled her lazy arse up. She rubbed her face with a hand, pausing mid motion after she realized something.

“Pioll!” She shouted with all her might, her head turning towards the tent’s curtain while she rummaged for her gear.

“Weren’t you changing?” Her friend’s response had a hint of smarminess.

Minerva clicked her tongue when she let out a weary sigh.“Is Sidonnie standing guard, like I ordered?” She was most likely skulking around, the insufferable madwoman.

“But weren’t you changing?” Pioll was insistent on stalling, clearly getting a rise out of his superior’s annoyance. He clearly knew the answer, much like Minerva did, to be honest.
“Pioll!” Minerva wasted no time and hurled a sandal at the man. A thwap ensued and a faint groan could be heard from the other side of the cloth “Do we really need to play this game soearly in the morning?”

“It’s Sidonnie, what do you think she’s done?” The resignation was palpable.

Minerva paused for a second. But of course she would. Right now, Minerva wanted to down the entrance of the tent with her angry glare. Seeing no traces of smoke, and there being more useful ways to use her time, she started to fumble and got ready with all the speed she could muster. She cursed as she hopped her way out of the tent while putting on her boots. Usually, she’d take pride in the orderly arrangement of the camp, a very rare achievement for her platoon, but Minerva had more pressing issues.

“Sidonnie!” Minerva moved around the waking men at arms. Some were eating already, others were still doing their morning prayers. “Where’s that woman!?” She bellowed just before turning the corner of a tend and almost clashing against the troublemaker.

Sidonnie d'Angouleme was a fairly tall elf, easily towering Minerva… though, again, that wasn’t much of an achievement. She clearly skipped guard duty and chose to take a good round of sleep, judging by her half-shut emerald eyes and sluggish gait.

“You called me, Princess?” The elf mumbled while she rubbed her eyes in an attempt to stave off her drowsiness.

For a moment, Minerva reeled backwards. She took a deep breath of air in an attempt to avoid snapping at Sidonnie. The elf wasn’t just taller than Minerva, she was a more experienced warrior and muscular woman, an accomplished axe-woman and, most importantly, a temperamental woman. Any direct confrontation would bring her to double down and further grow the existing divide. Thus, in Bellisaria’s opinion, she needed to deal with her in a more oblique way: she ought to help Sydonie come to the conclusion that doing her duty wasn’t such a chore.

Minerva cleared her throat and steeled herself. “Sydonie,” she began, “I’d like to-”

Unfortunately, her underling didn’t plan on hearing a sermon. She grunted in annoyance and shoved Belisaria aside. “Outta my way, twerp,” she said amidst sleepy yawns.

The Lieutenant’s shoulders slumped as she hung her head, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I swear no one respects my authority,” grumbled Minerva while she turned towards the increasingly crowded campfire. Not a single of the troopers had stood at attention when she had passed by.

Pioll finally caught up to her. “Well,” Pioll said as he handed her a bowl of porridge. “You’ve got no battlefield experience, you got into the order and made it to lieutenant by sheer virtue of your family name, and you have no combat experience nor aptitude.” he explained, stretching a finger when he ran through each item.

“I was not chosen by virtue of my family name!" Complained Minerva. She curled her hands into fists and stomped the ground in frustration."You voted me for lieutenant!”

“And you got into the order thanks to your family’s influence,” insisted Pioll with pigheaded determination. He tapped Belisaria’s arm. “Regardless of your fugitive status, you’ve got the blood of a Crusader.”

“Even though it is utterly wasted on her!” Came Sidonie’s distant shout.

Minerva was just about to lope towards the cheeky bum when Pioll clutched her shoulders and began a calming humm. “Happy thoughts, Minnie, you’re both Crusaders, you could make a big bloody mess,” Pioll chanted in a soothing tone while he turned Minerva to face the serene mountains and forests they were headed towards.

There was some truth to that. Minerva, like virtually all nobles, was a descendant of one of the Fifty Crusaders. These figures of legend saved the lands of Ylfar from the Demon clans and founded the Fourteen Crusader States. Belisaria had a fraction of their power, much like Sidonie, and that was the sole reason why Minerva hadn't been turned away from the Order of the Argent Thorn.

"Though, being fair, \Sidonie would be the only one to make a big bloody mess, using me as the punching bag," she sourly noted. Rather than comfort or tell her the truth, Pioll just replied with a strained smile, which hurt Minerva's ego more than the sad truth.

"Then get into fighting shape, you cannot be a sheltered dainty flower forever,” Minerva turned at the sudden remark. Narsem chuckled just before he smacked her shoulders. “I didn’t vote for a lieutenant that would just mope around.”

The dwarf, as was usual for his kind, was more beard than anything else. His lustrous auburn beard was goddess damn impressive, its maesty accentuated by the man’s habit of braiding it with painstaking love and the use of a myriad of small ornaments.

“You didn’t vote for me with good intentions,” flippantly retorted Minerva. “You just want my post but couldn’t get it then.”

"Indeed, I voted for you because it will be easier to oust you from the post than to snatch it from that beast's claws," merrily affirmed the brazen Narsem. Seeing a vein pop on his lieutenant's forehead, the dwarf switched subjects. He furrowed his thick brows. "Anyway, on to the matter at hand...the scouts are here, and they have found the 2nd platoon.


Narsem’s face grew somber. “they are all dead."

Just when Minerva was about to open her mouth, Pioll sprung forwards. "We need to investigate the area, Narsem, get the 1st squad of armsmen fed and ready on the double!"

"I swear, no one respects my authority," she whined in a low murmur just before chomping on her breakfast. After a spoonful, Minerva stopped, trying to force the gruel down her throat. Goddess, what a horrid mockery to cuisine. "I miss Nana's tarts…" she muttered between resigned bites.


"Knight-Lieutenant, we have reached the site of the battle," announced Cassandra, a fellow Crusader and chief of the scouts. She was a satyr, so she felt more comfortable climbing the mountainous paths than riding.

"If this can be labelled a battle," Sidonnie quipped with a grim face, her hands clutching both of her axes. Soon, though, her smiler and the murderous fire in her eyes betrayed Sidonie's thrill for the hunt at hand. "Goddess, I want to cleave the culprit.”

Sure enough, the site was strewn with brutally mangled bodies, shattered trees and charred hunks of carbonized flesh. Minerva heaved, a small bit of bile racing upwards to her lips. As she covered her mouth and closed her eyes to the gory scene, Bellisaria wondered if she’d be better off without breakfast. The horses seemed to be of the same mind. The poor beasts neighed hysterically around such a bloody scene.

“Stay firm, Minnie,” Pioll whispered nearby. “You’re the lieutenant, and you cannot afford to show signs of weakness.”

“Wher- where’s lieutenant Catherine,” Minerva managed to ask. Noticing how no one had heard her weak mewling, she straightened up, dismounted and forced herself to speak louder. “Where is Lieutenant Cahterine?” She asked once again, this time with actual determination. She couldn’t show weakness.

It was Cassandra that responded again. “I think what’s left of her is there,” she hazarded a guess, pointing eastwards.

Minerva’s gaze followed in that direction and she deeply regretted it. Her knees almost buckled and her breakfast made amply clear its desire to leave her stomach. She bit her lips, a compromise between vomiting and bringing a hand to her mouth, which would further accentuate her weakness.

“By the goddess,” Narsem’s olive skin had blanched at the sight. “I can’t even be certain that battered lump was once a human.”

“It’s her,” bluntly stated Sidonnie. She strode forward and grimly sifted through the mangled flesh before finding a piece vaguely reminiscent of an arm. There, a battered bracelet laid embedded into the mauled limb. “She was flaunting her father’s gift a week ago before leaving on patrol.”

That brought Minerva back to the cold reality of their mission. They were tasked with supervising the building of a new castle and reclaiming the area in the name of the Order of the Argent Thorn. That included patrolling the area, which was Catherine’s duty two days ago. Around those dates, there were reports of a necromancer.

“And of course, she had to charge ahead despite Captain Bohemond’s orders,” whispered Minerva as she knelt to inspect two of the corpses. After a few moments, she noticed the differences in the sword wounds. “By the goddess!” She shouted, once she connected the dots.

She sprung upwards, causing the rest of the platoon to stare at her with a mixture of wariness and curiosity. She paid no heed to this, given how excited she was about the discovery.

“This has been the work of several individuals,” Minerva stated all of a sudden. “There’s three heretics out there, at the very least.

“What do you mean,” asked Sidonnie with a dour shout.

Minerva opened her mouth, eager to explain her findings. As if on cue, a massive blast of light thundered a few steps away from them.
Sidonnie crossed her arms to shield her face. ”What in the goddess’ name-”

If Sidonnie spoke further, Minerva didn't manage to hear her. A booming sound drowned her eardrums and a tremendous shockwave almost sent her sprawling. Faintly, as if they were miles away, the men-at-arms cried out in surprise.

What in the goddess’ name is going on!? She managed to think as she was sent sprawling on the ground by the tremendous and sudden force. It was as if a tempest had been unleashed from a bottle.

Amidst all this storm, and for the briefest of moments, she felt a soothing embrace. It was a bizarre yet welcome sensation. And, once more for a fraction of a second, Minerva heard a soft whisper. “Courage my children,” said the loving voice of a mother.


Kazuya grunted. He tried to move, but halted halfway after feeling how most of his muscles screeched in pain. Motherfucker, he cursed inwardly as he suddenly gasped for air, his lungs suddenly burning. The yankee’s body was figuratively burning, going by the searing pain.

“Did you guys see that!?” A nearby shout roused him from his stupor.

Kazuya’s limbs weren’t still coordinating, he was just flailing. Still, he managed to raise his torso and rest it against a trunk, shoving aside random leaves. His sight only registered a white blur and a nightmarish buzz drowned his eardrums.

Kazuya stopped once he felt the cold bite of steel pressed against his neck. “Don’t you dare move an inch.” came the femenine voice. After a mirthless laugh, it changed its mind. “Or do, I’m up for some blood sport.”

After a confusing and tense moment, Kazuya’s sight cleared enough to able to see the features of an elf. The ears were a dead giveaway. Her face was graceful, filled with elegance. But it was also filled with cool fury. “She wants to tear my gut and force feed it to me,” was all he could think when they made eye contact. That made him double down on the defiance, like hell he was gonna get intimidated this easily.

“Sidonnie, lower your weapon,” ordered a nearby voice that clearly belonged to a man.

At that moment, Kazuya’s attention shifted from the elf and, most importantly, the axe, and towards the source of that order. There he could finally see a bunch of strangers wearing blue tabards with a crown of thorns stitched on the chests over their armors. From the corner of his eye, he could see some strewn corpses. This was a battlefield Kazuya flinched, thinking how this stuff looked straight out of a film set.

One of them, an, oddly enough, friendly looking orc (he had to be an orc, with that green-ish skin and jutting tusks) took a step forward and repeated the command with a more commanding voice. “Sidonnie, lower your weapon,” he paused and gauged the situation. “For now, at the very least.”

The orc turned around and stared at what looked like a dwarf, judging by the majestic beard, and a girl that could only be labelled as a midget. And he was being charitable. “Lieutenant.”

The curt statement caused the girl to flinch in surprise. Barely holding a startled squeak, she strode forth and knelt in front of Kazuya.

“I am Knight-Lieutenant Minerva Bellisaria,” stated the girl with an attempt at a stern expression. Tried being the operative word, he just couldn’t take her seriously. She was like a chihuahua attempting to be menacing. Kazuya smirked, which caused the girl to pout for a moment, before trying once more to appear imposing. “State your business for using a teleportation spell without authorization from the Holy Sees.”

Kazuya stared blankly at her. The seconds stretched over in an agonizing wait. “Okay, now assume I understood half of that sentence.” He deadpanned.

Minnerva furrowed her brows. "What, you wanna try scurry away from your crimes with such a weak excuse? As if anyone wouldn't-," her words died on her throat. Her gaze transfixed upon Kazuya's right hand, eyes turning to pie plates.

She clasped Kazuya's hand with a strength that belied her diminutive size. With that sudden breach of personal space and, most importantly, the axe still laying within chopping distance, Kazuya could only shout in surprise. "Hey, what do you think you are doing!"

The blonde girl just ignored his complaints, her eyes riveted on the goddess' mark. "He is a crusader, yeah,'' muttered the midget. “But a cross with a floral pattern, huh...maybe one of the beastfolk clans..?”

“What in the actual fuck are you talking about,” he was about to continue his rant, but the elf’s axe was once again an inch away from bleeding him dry.

“We are the ones doing the questions here, outlander,” the elf’s words were cold, harsh.

Meanwhile, Kazuya's irate reaction had the opposite effect on the Lieutenant. Her mouth had gone slightly agape before morphing into an excited smile, and her eyes narrowed and sparkled. "Oh, am I hearing what I am hearing!?"

The elven knight’s jaw fell in utmost horror, her eyes widening like pie plates. “Oh no, she’s gonna babble about history for about an hour,” muttered Sidonnie, dread seeping out of her every word. "Outlander, this is your fault, stop her before I go mad."

"Before that, Minerva" the orc cleared his throat. “We must bury Catherine and her men.”

"Oh," Minerva's response was a deflated one. For a second, Kazuya swore she was a kid and someone had stolen her lollipop. To give her credit, the girl immediately regained her composure and some measure of gravitas. "The first squad, gather the corpses; second squad, start digging the graves; I want the scouts combing the perimeter and securing the ridge northwards!"

"Oi," Sidonie pulled Kazuya upwards, "You better start helping out with the digging.”

"Do I look like I work for you?" Kazuya puffed his chest in defiance, but his bravado soon vanished once the elf flashed her axes. His face blanched a bit, and he flinched, his throat suddenly dry. "Yes I do, point me to the shovels" he managed to obey, the words filtering between the gritted teeth.

The reply pleased the elf, who settled for a smug grin. “Thought so,” She gestured towards the horses. “The shovels we used for the camp are stored on the pack horses in the back of the convoy, come help get them, now.”

This was certainly not going according to his expectations. But nevertheless, digging a bunch of graves was going to be his first deed in his new life as a "Crusader". Things were surely looking up for him.