The Virgin Heroine

The Virgin Heroine

A Crusading Paladin Battles Monsters

Chapter 1 by hematoma hematoma

The Abbey of the Order of the Burning Rose has stood upon the hallowed cliffs at White Rock and faced it stones against the crashing sea for over nine hundred years. Its great walls are built from slabs of the white marble upon which its foundation rests. The salt spray has etched and darkened paths between each massive block of stone so that it seems drawn in ink upon vellum.

The abbey is behind you as you stand at the precipice overlooking the sea with its gray waves capped with white foam. It is a chilly, overcast day and you pull your supplicant's robe more tightly against your body. Locks of your crimson hair swirl around your head. The crash of the sea is so relaxing that you do not even hear War Mother Gisella approaching.

"Sister Sabine," says the handsome matriarch of the order. "I thought I might find you here. The feast begins soon and your sisters would appreciate you stand for the prayer."

"I will join them soon, Mother," you say.

You study the face of the stern woman who has raised you and trained you and the other sisters for more than a decade. Her eyes are gray and deeply set. Her smile is grim, though it may only seem so because of the wide scar that interrupts her lips. Her tightly braided hair is as severe as her battle-scarred face. Yet, you can see she was pretty once and can almost imagine her as one of your fellow sisters, chaste and untested.

She takes your hands.

"Ivona is very upset," says the War Mother. "She is hurt that you will be undertaking your trial without her by your side."

"She always knew it was possible," you say, recalling a bitter argument with Ivona just the day before. The moody brunette had called you terrible names and declared that she hoped you were bred by a fenwolf before bursting into tears and running away to her cell.

"You are cross with her," says the War Mother. "Let such petty things be gone. Her anger only grows because she has such deep feelings for you. Tonight might be the last night you see her. She may never even qualify for a final trial and may become a laywarrior serving in one of our mission forts. Do you want this to be her final thought of you? Too proud for your dearest friend?"

The War Mother releases her grip on your hands and steps away.

"She is in her cell again, moping. Go and see her before the feast. Get her to join us in your final celebration."

You sigh and nod your agreement to the War Mother. You return with her to the abbey, its marble halls echoing with soft voices and the shuffle of feet. In the main chapel some of the youngest girls, just tow-headed children in their neophyte's gowns, are singing hymns of devotion to the Burning Rose. You remember when you knelt in the chapel with Ivona. When she took your hand and held it tight all those years ago.

She is in her cell, as the War Mother said. She is a pretty girl, dark-haired and pale-skinned and with a certain roundness to her bust and hips that you have not quite developed. She is a woman grown, just as you, but has fallen behind in her martial and spiritual training. As the War Mother mentioned, Ivona's path seems set on becoming one of the laywarriors. Certainly honorable, but beneath a true Paladin Knight as you aspire to become.

You stand at her door, reliving the bitter fight from the night before and feeling a hot flush of anger renewed in your cheeks.

"I hear your breathing out in the hall," says Ivona, opening the door wide and glaring at you. "Come in and say whatever it is the War Mother told you to say so that you may be gone back to your celebration."

How do you approach Ivona's anger?

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