Chapter 6:


I became the Recordkeeper of the Second Holy War.

They finally reached the castle by dusk. Although the sun was setting, they would have light for about an hour or so.

Kazuya had been utterly wrong about this place ,Fort Chameleon or somesuch.

In his mind’s eye, the Fort was a sprawling fortress formed by nested rings of stone towers and massive spires crowning the center of the place. An awe inspiring place that dominated the topography of the place.

Instead, Fort Chameleon was a single tower and some bits of stonewall that rested on top of a hill partially circled by a river and flanked by two small wooden bridges. The rest of the structure was formed by wooden barricades which, alongside the loose construction materials and the cranes, gave the place a haphazard aesthetic. Needless to say, he was slightly disappointed.

“You were expecting something bigger, weren’t you?” Kazuya let out a startled gasp when Sidonnnie suddenly made the question. The elf merely smirked, tucking a few strands of black hair right behind her knife-like ears.

Kazuya’s first thought was to try and run for the hills, as far away from her as was humanly possible. Now, that was just his first thought… and the second and the third. In fact, he kept looping back and forth on that desire to run away from the bloodthirsty zealot until she cleared her throat and dragged him out of the dilemma. Too late. Kazuya mused that he could try to give her a wide berth, but he doubted he’d be able to get more than a couple inches away.

“Disappointed, are we?” She snorted with a bit of derision when she didn’t get an immediate answer. Kazuya couldn’t help but be amazed by the girl’s bluntness and straightforwardness. “It’s written all over your face.”

“Well, I thought it would be more,” Kazuya turned towards the humble fort and made a vague gesture with his left hand. “More majestuous.”

The elf let out a dry ha! “We are in Clermont’s northern hinterlands, this area is a literal backwater, ain’t no way it can support a ‘majestuous castle.’” She smirked and continued her explanation. “The region is sparsely populated, and it’s undergoing a repopulation effort, so it’s much more sensible and useful to dot the land with small and affordable garrison outposts.”

Kazuya dared to make a cheeky grin. The elf, obviously, somehow found offense in that reaction and the yankee had to explain. “Oh it’s nothing, it’s just that it’s rare to hear you give an explanation, given that you usually bemoan Bellisaria-san’s approach.”

At that comparison, Sidonnie let out a deep, anger filled breath. Her whole body shuddered as she barely repressed her killing intent. Her smile was phoney, and her voice quivered with frustration. “Let me put it clear, what the twerp spews is unnecessary,” to illustrate her point, Sidonnie extended an index at Minerva’s direction. Then, she turned towards the fort and extended the other hand at the enclave. “That is actually useful information you’ll most likely get to use in your day to day life, same goes for my fanaticism,” she spat the words in an accusing manner.

A pregnant silence reigned between the two of them for a moment. Now, that is awkward. Kazuya’s voice trailed for a second before he found the courage to ask the question. “So, I suppose I can ask why you are so…”

“Fervent?” Sidonnie finished the question for him, cutting him right as he was looking for the right word. She was utterly nonplussed and, judging by her leaving his side, uninterested in giving him a satisfactory explanation. “This is the way of things.”

At the head of the column, Minerva and Pioll were shouting orders, the soldiers were moving on and Sidonnie followed suit. The yankee stood there, watching the mind boggling woman ride away until his mount decided that they had wasted enough time and strode forth.


Much to his surprise, Kazuya had been both right and wrong about the man, about this Captain Bohemond.

Bohemond d’Orchenault awaited them at the foot of the fort’s sole stone tower. He was an elf that wore a set of armor much like those of his subordinates, if slightly more ornate. That part was just as Kazuya had envisioned. But when it came to the elf itself, expectations didn’t match reality. At all. He’d imagine him as some sort of pretty choir boy with a somewhat deep voice.

Kazuya did, in no way, think that this Bohemond fellow would be some gaunt man with the right half of his face burnt almost to charcoal; and the left side didn’t fare that much better, with the brutal scar that ran from his lips to just below the ear. Kazuya squinted, almost sure he had seen some bone jut out of that scar. And, goodness, those eyes; the man looked as if he was going to rip out Kazuya’s guts and feed them to the crows.

At least he has a golden mane, just like I imagined, he absentmindedly thought. Well, what remained of it. Large swathes of it had been burnt and erased from existence.

Minerva swiftly dismounted and stood at attention. “Knight Lieutenant Minerva Bellisaria reporting for duty!”

Orchenault acknowledged her with a curt nod, but he stood silent for the time being. His sole hale eye inspected the new arrivals one by one and then it transfixed on Kazuya. The yankee shivered with what could be best described as primal terror. The elf stripped him, skinned him, pulled the meat out of his bones and, when nothing else remained, scoured the very depths of his soul. Once he was satisfied, he finally deigned to discharge his underling.

“Lieutenant,'' God, this man sounded like he downed two packs of cigarettes a day. “Your troops have my leave to return to the barracks, as for you,” he darted between Bellisaria and Holkins. “I want a full report regarding Lieutenant Catherine’s demise and the straggler that you’re likely to have caught in the vicinity of that battlefield.”

The way he stated that, combined with the sideways glance the Captain gave to Kazuya, made it pretty clear he was also going to meet him in a more confidential environment. Doubt he’s the kind to keep tea and cookies for visits.


Most of Fort Chameroix was a dour and threadbare affair. Almost all of its passages and rooms only had the most essential furniture, and such furniture was of the most basic quality. Bohemond’s chambers were barely the exception. The studio, located on the upper level of the tower, had some extra furniture beyond that strictly needed to do the man’s job and sustain him. It was still threadbare, and the only mote of excess in that spartan room was the deep blue carpet woven with the sigil of house Orchenault, a red eagle. The desk was functional in appearance, and so were the chairs available.

Of course, they couldn’t sit. Kazuya understood this without needing any kind of explanation. He was the boss, they were the salarymen, and something bad had happened. Of course an inquiry and a reprimand was bound to happen. Plus, it wasn’t like they were in the same hierarchical rung anyway.

Orchenault ran a nail against his remaining brow and repeated one of the key parts of Bellissaria’s report. “There were no survivors.” The statement carried no horror, no consternation. It simply was. A text to speech device would have carried more emotion.

Minerva took a step forward. “Aye, captain, they were surprised by the ambush.”

“So you claim,” he muttered right before rising up and turning to the balcony on the side. “Yet you found no signs of enemy casualties.”

Now it was Pioll’s turn to intervene. “With all due respect, captain, I think the culprits are an elite unit, pretty capable and well coordinated combatants.”

Bohemond clasped his hands behind his back and remained silent for a few eternally long moments. “We are missing a part of the puzzle,”

The other two Crusaders nodded in agreement, but Kazuya, once again, was missing critical information. “What puzzle?” He, of course, immediately regretted the thoughtless question. Whatever the puzzle was...

Bohemond got ahead of him. The captain turned and approached him each stride a giant’s leap.“A puzzle that’s missing several pieces,” by then he was almost within arm’s reach of Kazuya. “A puzzle that has a piece we don’t quite know what to do with,” there was a threat lingering in that statement. Kazuya tried his damned best to

Kazuya was about to make a rebuttal, but before he could even think what his next words would be, Bohemond slammed a palm against his face and clutched it. Shock paralyzed his brain and reaction capabilities, which turned out to be a mercy, it spared him a few seconds of pain. The searing sensation rapidly crawled from the skin touching the claw-like hand of the crusader; it ran all over his body til he felt his whole being was aflame. He wanted to cry, but even his vocal chords were straining under the duress. He wanted to fend the man off, but Bohemond’s grip almost crushed his skull.

“What-what kind of wards are these?!” He barely heard the Captain shout in surprise right before he let him go.

Kazuya fell limp against the floor. He tried to breathe, but even that proved beyond his stunted body’s capabilities. He tried to speak, to curse the bastard, but only an incoherent babble left his lips. This is what the goddess gave me? Fuck you!

“Captain!” He could barely hear Minerva’s outraged cry.

“Take him away,” the man’s voice was once again a bone chilling rasp. “Bellisaria, you stay with me.”


Pioll helped Kazuya out and left Minerva and Bohemond alone. For a second, Bellisaria considered leaving with them, disobedience be damned. But she didn’t have the courage for that, not after he saw Bohemond caress Valirgamarde, which sat next to his desk.

It took all her willpower to keep her knees from buckling from the sheer terror. Bohemond d’Orchenault was a figure of legend: a veteran that had served for three centuries and reached the apex of the Order of Silver Thorn as its Marshal. Wielder of Valirgamarde, the legendary Ardent Thorn, he’d slain dragons galore and routed armies on his own, according to the tall tales. The tales about his deeds were only overshadowed by those related to his ruthlessness and his fall from grace.

“Captain, if you excuse me for being brazen,” just before she could continue, Bohemond cut her midway.

“No, I will not excuse your next question, I will not allow you to question whether or not I was justified in mistreating the guest in that fashion,” Bohemond took a seat again and folded his hands together. Even Minerva could tell he was on edge. “You do know what their death, what his presence entails, don’t you?”

Minerva just couldn’t match his gaze. She craned her head downwards, uneasy by their current situation.“I do not,”

“It entails attention, it means that the upper echelons of our Order, of this kingdom, know there’s something wrong with our jurisdiction,”He began tapping the table when he enumerated the implications. “It means controls and it means potential retaliations against those of use stationed here due to political reasons.”

Minerva froze at that. Her gaze riveted on the floor, which appeared to grow ever distant. She let out a nerve wracked sigh, as if her soul had just been stolen.

With her mouth still dry from the terror, she tried to argue up. “This newcomer, he has a cross that doesn’t belong to any of the forty five loyal Crusaders.” She gulped, the following statement wasn’t one she could utter with ease. “He may belong to a traitor bloodline, we could turn him out.”

For a second, the Knight-Captain cocked an eyebrow, but he quickly returned to his usual demeanor. “That will not do, I am but a humble captain,” Bohemond chimed in as he folded his hands together. “And the information we’d be basing our claim on is kept hidden by the inquisitorial agents of our Orders, improper use of that knowledge would see us all executed to avoid any potential infiltration.”

“And the Lords of a military Order,” added Minerva with a small hint of defiance. She cocked her head, waiting for Bohemond's reaction.

"Aye, the five Lords of our order will be privy to this knowledge," he reclined against his chair. “Sending a missive to them will garner attention to our situation, and we don’t really want that.”

Minerva made a terse smile and pressed furthermore. “That includes the former-”

The captain slammed his hands against the desk and rose up to look down upon his subordinate."I know full well what game you’re playing, Belisaria,” cut Bohemond.

Bellisaria winced “But if he is indeed a descendant of the traitors we could turn him in to the inquisitorial services!”

“And then we’d share a stake with him when they burnt the boy,” Bohemond quickly shot back. “Let me repeat myself: only the Inquisitors and the Lords of our order must possess this knowledge, and now I am just a captain."

"We could still go through the standard procedures!" Minerva tried for a last chance.

The man turned and stared at the balcony. He rapped his knuckles against the table and stood silent. After a few tense seconds, he spoke once more. "If we went through the standard procedures, I'd be a castellan and have twice the soldiers," he pointed out. "If we went through standard procedures, you'd be sent to train at Mont Morencai and have a clue about combat and command."

Minerva tried to argue back, but once again Bohemond got ahead of her and pressed on. “If our case wasn’t an outlier, there wouldn’t be a disgraced Marshall here; there would be no fugitive would-be-queen, disgraced knight, discarded heirs nor a murderous bride in our ranks.”

The two stood in a pregnant silence that stretched over an eternity. Seeing that Minerva remained silent, clearly deep in her thoughts, "The truth is, this post is a career dead end; here, ambition dies. You accept this, live the rest of your days, and pray that you don’t draw the wrong kind of attention.”

"Yes, I know captain," Minerva said through gritted teeth.

"Knowing is not enough," dryly cut Bohemond. The man turned and said "I want you to understand, to accept the reality."

"Catherine did know," Bohemond pressed on, breaching the space between the two of them and placing a hand upon Minerva's shoulder. "Hence why she was so eager to hunt the heretic and raise her position to apply for another station. Hence why she is dead."

Minerva kept gritting her teeth with such intensity that she thought one would shatter. "I understand, sir;” and once she made her promise, Bohemond’s face relaxed. The man let out a sigh of relief.

Minerva stood silent for a split second. After that, she furrowed her brows and glared at Bohemond with fierce determination. "But is he related to one of the traitors or not?" She asked with pigheaded abandon.

"You'd risk your life in order to sate your curiosity," Bohemond arced an eyebrow, impressed by the lack of survival instincts. "You are a scholar through and through…seeing that you will pester me til the end of days, I will tell you: but you will not use this knowledge, at all."

Minerva didn’t doubt for a second. She brought a hand to her heart and raised the other towards the ceiling."This, in the name of Virtuous Marianne, I swear.”

Bohemond smiled. It was an honest smile, which felt even more out of character for the old elf. “Very well, I shall go inspect the boy, he’s most likely still near unconscious.”

Minerva approached the desk and produced a sheet of paper. “Oh, that will not be necessary, I asked Narsem to make a drawing of the cross he sports in his palm,” she slid the piece and took a step backwards. “I can assure you it’s a perfect copy.”

The former Marshall inspected the paper. His smile rapidly morphed into a shocked grimace. "Minerva," Bohemond hissed breathlessly, his good eye transfixed on the paper. "Is this correct?"

"Yes, I had Narsem draw it immediately, and the man has an uncanny eye for detail," Minerva explained, her uncertainty growing with each word. He couldn't mean something so outlandish. “Goddess…”

Oh, but he did. "This pattern doesn't belong to any of the five traitors. It doesn't belong to any Crusader," with that, the man was left speechless. He fell against his armchair, sinking deep as the weight of his words settled in. "This cannot be possible."

It took Minerva an insurmountable amount of courage to state the obvious. “Yet, it is.”

“Then, the wards protecting his mind…” the Marshall crumpled the piece of paper and reclined in his seat, astonished. After several seconds of machinations, the man made a brutal grin. “We may need to get the bastards’ attention, in the end. Keep an eye on him, by the end of the week, when we send your report, we will have formulated a plan.”