Maiden of Iron Preview

Edited by C. Sacco
Illustration by Kassandra Leigh

Echoes snapped and cracked off the marble walls of the Administrata Rolan. The stern eyes of the marble Seraphim guardians gazed down at the purpose-filled Marshal. Marching, drumming out a determined staccato, she made the only noise present in the reverent halls of Law. Anyone in the long hallways could hear the advance and upon seeing her demeanor instantly found their way to the feet of the grand Statuary of the Ascended on the aisles. Better to stand to one side than get in the way of the driven and obviously irritated Lady.

Turning to the heavy oak doors, She took a deep breath to calm her nerves. Marshal Beatrix Delacroix tightened her grip on the document case that she carried. Finally, she pulled on the bottom of her bodice to straighten out any wrinkles in her garb. It also helped expose a little more skin, which invariably helped her dealings with lesser individuals who could be distracted by such fare. Closing her eyes, she gave a quick prayer to Rolan for guidance and asked his favor in meting out this justice.

The hinges groaned in protest as she shouldered open the large door. She instantly found herself receiving the unkindly end of a stare from the secretary in the small office foyer. “Legio Brauer is not accepting visitors or unscheduled appointments at this time.” The weasel of a man said from behind his fortress of documents and stationary. “Please come back later. Good day, Marshal Delacroix.” He smiled at her with a leer of assumed authority. It irked Beatrix to say the least.

Courteous smiles were never her strong point. Beatrix mostly stuck to scowls and glares, much to the dismay of her family. They always said she was too pretty to look so angry. In her line of business, a stern front tended to get her farther than a honeyed disposition anyway. Here would be no different. She stepped sharply to the front of the overtly tidy desk and placed her documents firmly upon the desk. Her hands found a steady grip on the wood as she leaned forward.

“I did not parade all the way here because I enjoy a brisk walk about the Administrata.” Beatrix ended each word with the crisp clean cut of her education and accented by her disdain for the bureaucrat. “I am here to see the Legio on strict business that neither you, nor all the Orcs of the Western Wastes, can stop me from seeing completed.”

The audible gulp and backward lean showed Beatrix that her instincts proved right about the specimen of cowardice in front of her. He waveringly attempted a retort. “But Madam, I was give express instructions to not allow anyone in for the...” His words cut short as he saw her gather up her files and strode right to the Legio’s office door, disregarding his concerns and protestations.

At the door she stopped and looked over her shoulder. “You may say I overpowered you when you attempted to stop me. That seems plausible to me. They wouldn’t question that a female was able to toss you aside, would they?” She smiled, the rare occurrence that it was, but she did enjoy herself sometimes.

As the thoroughly humbled clerk slunk behind his wall of paperwork, the Marshal made her way through the doors and into the office beyond with a thrust that rendered the bolt from the door. It was a great shock to the Legio, as he nearly launched from his seat when she entered. The clawed feet clattered on the stone hearth, bouncing with the officials frantic scrambling in his chair. He nearly cleared the small table next to him, but was able to regain control and quickly cover up a dish with the matching silver lid.

The office was tidy for the most part. An overtly grandiose walnut desk commanded much of the left side of the room. On the right, the remnants of a fire smoldered in a equally grand hearth with a matching armchair. And it was in that comfortable looking armchair that the official now scrambled.

“I thought I gave explicit orders...” He spat whilst groping for his glasses. Beatrix had no patience left in her to let him finish.

“And I ignored them, your Honor.” She interrupted, placing a palpable contempt on the ill deserved honorific. “My business is urgent and your comfortability is not on my list of priorities when there is a pressing matter such as this to be resolved.” She strode to his desk and planted the paperwork soundly. “I am formally requesting, for the fifth time, a warrant for the arrest and interrogation of Lord Blackwell on multiple charges. The most grievous of these charges being Heresy before the Church of the Exalted.”

The judge let out a stunted guffaw and regained his composure quickly enough to smugly reply. “And for the fifth time consecutively, it is Denied.” He let the final word linger as his lips drew into a very pleased grin. “I must compliment you on your persistence though. If this were achieving anything I would notify your superiors for a commendation.” Readjusting in his chair with nonchalant self-assured victory, he rattled on in his ’pleased with himself’ manner.

She hated him. His bulbous head, red and sweaty, reminded more of swine than man. Sagging jowls, an upturned snub nose, and a pair of small squinted eyes did nothing to help in dissuading that image either. It was obvious in his attire that the attached wealth of his station was what he found more appealing than his duties. He had no true wealth beyond his position’s inherent bribe potential. A fact that he was obviously aware of and clearly lacking the ethics to stop his own bureaucratic corruption. A lucky animal amongst the herd was all he was and ever would be. Upon further reflection, she realized that she didn’t hate him. No, she absolutely despised him. Beatrix could stop the look of revulsion that crept onto her face no more than she could control the tides.

It wasn’t until she saw a trickle of blood inching its way down to his lip that she started to smile once more. All the pieces fit and it was time she laid the puzzle out for him to see. She straightened herself to her full height and beamed a devious grin at Legio Brauer. This was visibly disturbing to him. The official attempted a feeble smile back, trying to avoid any outward appearance of weakness...and failing.

“Your Honor, I don’t mean to speak out of turn...” Beatrix slyly soothed while reaching into her bodice and retrieving a handkerchief, “But you seem to be bleeding.”

Legio Brauer reached up and found the thin blood trail with a finger. He leaned forward and snatched the kerchief from Beatrix and wiped the offending trickle. His haste and growing intoxication led him to not so much remove the stain, but smear a wholly new swathe of red across his cheek. “It’s nothing obviously. Now if you would please see your way out.” He scoffed. “And kindly, take those with you.” He quickly added, jabbing his finger at the warrant paperwork on his desk behind her.

The smile never left Beatrix’s lips. She leaned forward, her eyes showing a mock concern that crept into her voice as well. “Oh, Grand Marshal Legio. I had no idea you were suffering from hemophilia. I’m sure the random bleeding must come from such a debilitating illness and not something far more mundane, or dare I say illegal as, the abuse of ground Hebenon.” She let a pregnant pause fill the air as the words sank into the Legio’s mind. “And considering that your hemophilia is getting worse,” Beatrix mused, “you’ve been taking more time to yourself. I’m sure your clerk would be willing to attest to that, yes?”

Calm and confident, Marshal Delacroix paced her way to his side, sliding one of her arms under his. Suspicious and ever more delirious as the drug in his blood began taking effect, Legio Brauer stood and walked with her as she escorted him to his desk chair. “Now Your Honor,” she began, “considering your condition, you will be signing these warrants and then taking a small medical leave of absence.” She drew the papers in front of him and prepared a pen. “Lest, of course, I make the Marshal Hereticum aware of the alleged presence of Hebenon in this building. They will, no doubt, be very intent on searching all the premises with ken-hounds.”

Her smile had subsided, as Beatrix leaned in close to the Legio’s ear. “And we both know that the ken-hounds never miss a scent in the past, present, or future.” She leaned back, the pen in the now inebriated Brauer’s hand. His eye’s floated about, glazed and void, as the Hebenon now made its presence known. Even in such a haze, Brauer was well aware of the severity of his situation. With a heavy hand, he swept the pen across the writ and fell back in the chair.

His eyes, dilated, red, and raw swung up to the striking, beautiful, and terrifying Marshal. “You play this game well.” He gulped out, lips smacking as his mouth dried from the gnosis infused herb. “You will go far. Farther than I ever did. But Remember this. To play this game, is to be no better than the other pieces on the board.”

Beatrix had never been given a compliment that had made her veins run so cold. If not for years of preparation with the nobility, her composure may have faltered.

“I play no game, Ser-ah.” She said rolling up the warrant in a leather binding scroll. “My actions are guided by duty and faith in Rolan. Maybe the reason you lost your game is because to you, it is just that. A game to be won and lost.”

Echoes snapped and cracked off the marble walls as the Marshal left the Legio’s office and made her way to the livery. A matter of law had to be attended to at the Blackwell Estates.

Next Chapter: Haxprocess