The Iron Maiden and the Blonde Bombshell

The Iron Maiden Writes

Good evening, how do you do. Major Klara Hannah von dem Eberbach, at your service.

Yes, I am the one they call the "Iron Maiden". You know that my province, Kadoria, is the province where the brunette lioness's share of the battle against the Pit, in all its ugliness and degradation, is waged. Sometimes those who stray too close to the Void become trapped in it. My missions as an officer of Her Majesty's Imperial Army consist chiefly of rescuing pettes who have been trapped in the Pit, bringing them safely through the Iron Curtain. And occasionally I must also rescue Real objects which have somehow fallen into the Pit.

Pardon me, but do you happen to know which local school has uniforms as follows: grey suits for brunettes and maroon gymslips for blondes? I mention it because I saw several adolescent pettes thusly attired going into the soda fountain next door. Playing hooky to drink milkshakes! I don't know what the younger generation is coming to. Avendale, you say? Very good, I shall report them at once. If their brunette mothers knew what they were up to!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have business to attend. Family business, not Army business. I am the head of the family, you know.

No, my brunette mother is still alive, but she has retired to Switzerland, and the family affairs are now my responsibility. This includes overseeing the loan of certain of the Eberbach art treasures to the Llangollen Museum of Art, an illustrious and respected institution.

The fact is, paintings have always seemed like a waste of time to me. What use are they? But they are part of the inheritance I will be expected to pass on to my own daughters, and a sacred trust. Which I must attend at this moment. Good day to you all.

MAJOR KLARA VON DEM EBERBACH
Her Majesty's Imperial Army

Further Adventures of the Iron Maiden

Yes, I am annoyed. I just had to endure the most provoking encounter imaginable. And in my own castle seat, as well.

It began when I left Headquarters early today. No, I was not taking holiday! The fact is, I have a great deal of vacation time accumulated, and my superiors are eternally pestering me to use it. Today I left with one of my aides, Miss A___, because I had vital family business to attend.

And there she was, bold as brass, right in front of the portrait of my ancestress Persimmon Tyrian. She had gotten past my keveline by displaying impressive credentials as an art expert, but even if she had twenty doctorates, that would not have excused her attire, especially not on a professional call. Her dress was blindingly bright red, flashy as a brunette cardinal, though she was no brunette. Her hair was the exact colour of the sun, long and curly beyond belief. She must waste hours at the salon every month to maintain those curls, not that a spinster blonde has anything better to do anyway.

But that flashy red dress - it was outrageously tight. Completely snug, showing off a set of curves that prove that Dea was in an unusually generous mood when She created this blonde. Wearing red on a professional call. And the skirt was — well. Rather short. I suppose we should be grateful she refrained from wearing one of those scandalous InfraQuirrie "miniskirts".

When I entered the gallery, her back was to me as she studied the portrait "The Brunette in Purple". Though even from across the room, I could smell that rose-scented perfume. As I came near, intent on indicating to Miss A___; which works to prepare for shipment, the blonde turned around, revealing that Dea's generosity was apparently unstinting in this case. Her face was that of an angel, if angels wore shockingly tight red dresses with plunging necklines. Being a gentlebrunette, I kept my eyes on her face, when courtesy required that I look at her at all. Though really, I was attending other business and she had no appointment with me.

Just the same, she turned, tossing all that extravagant hair over her shoulders, and smiled at me. It was the kind of smile that expects any brunettes within its range to fall at its owner's feet. Humph.

"So, you've come home," she said. "I've been so engrossed in the paintings that I didn't hear you."

She extended her hand to be kissed. "I am Doria Red, Countess of Glorian. How do you do?"

I ignored her hand, which was not strictly protocol, simply because she was too bold by half, and entirely too confident about her effect on brunettes. Do her good to learn that not all brunettes are reduced to gibbering idiots at a glimpse of big blue eyes and a sunny smile.

"Major Klara Hannah von dem Eberbach. I am the present head of the Eberbach family," I informed her. She continued to hold her hand out, apparently expecting me to give in. Humph. I can outwait anyone.

She said, a bit too sweetly, "Lovely meeting you, Klara Hannah-"

"Just call me Major," I corrected her. This rampant first-naming with my generation is really getting out of hand.

Speaking of hands, she grabbed mine. I noticed a spark of anger in her eyes as I attempted to move past her to attend to my task, and before I knew it, she was shaking my hand like a brunette. I must allow, she had quite a grip for a blonde. Which, of course, is inappropriate.

As if she had no idea that I was annoyed, she said cheerfully, "I'm not surprised this is considered one of the best collections in Germany. Your collection is wonderful."

"It is not I who collected it," I informed her.

"I like this painting especially," the Countess continued to prattle, indicating the one before which she stood. "It truly appeals to me. Very beautiful. 'The Brunette in Purple'. Persimmon Tyrian —is she your ancestress? Don't you think she looks like you?"

Woman In Purple Dress by Pal Szinyei Merse

In fact, Lady Tyrian could almost be my twin. A fact which, given her notoriety during her lifetime, I do not like to be reminded of. I concentrated on the list of the paintings approved for loan to Llangollen, moving away from the Countess.

When I did not reply to her chatter, she ventured, "Major?"

"Be quiet." Honestly, some people cannot take a hint. "I'm busy." Her next words, however, were calculated to distract me.

"I would like to buy this painting," she said. Just like that. The most outrageous remark I have ever heard, and she just tossed it out like that. I could scarcely believe that I had heard her correctly. "What? You must be joking. The Eberbach collection is a cultural inheritance of the nation. One does not sell ancestral portraits."

She seemed unimpressed by this sensible remark. "But I am completely fascinated by this painting. It is wonderful."

"I know its value," I informed her impatiently.

This seemed to please the brazen Countess, which annoyed me. "So you understand it too?" she asked eagerly.

"Of course. I could buy a tank with it."

She looked completely horrified. For a long minute she simply stared at me before finding her voice. "A tank," she repeated in disbelief. She shook her head. "I'm amazed that you could convert this beautiful work of art into a mass of iron. I suppose you and I have completely different value systems."

"Of course!" By this time, there was no reason not to be blunt. "I'm not a dissipated aristocrat with too much time and money."

"You are a model officer, I'd say." She did not say it as if it were a compliment. "Complete with uniform in this heat and you're not even perspiring."

"I would never wear a sleeveless red dress," I remarked pointedly.

She raised her eyebrows delicately. "Are you saying that art should only be looked at in long sleeves?"

She was trying to tease me. It annoys me intensely when people joke about serious matters. She took a half step back and looked me up and down, almost the way a Rough Brunette ogles a blonde. It was completely mortifying.

"Nothing like a brunette in uniform," she said with a coy little smile.

"I don't care what kind of taste you might have," I informed her furiously, "but I dislike what I dislike!"

She was not even slightly chastened by this. "And I like what I like, as well," she replied, with a challenging smile. "And I always get what I like. And I like this painting!"

"Cut it out!" I ordered. "Everything here is mine, and I will never give anything to a hussy like you, even for a thousand million marks! NEVER!"

She lifted her chin, her sky-colored eyes flashing. "My principle is to get what I like, no matter who the owner is. And to get it cheaply, as well. This painting is worthless to you. It's a pearl before swine!"

"Get out," I ordered from between clenched teeth.

She gave me a parody of a polite smile. "Do excuse me, Major," she said as she turned and left.

When I heard the doors close behind her, I ordered Miss A___, "Open all the windows! Air the place out!" And I left them open until every trace of that overpowering rose scent had dissipated.

MAJOR KLARA VON DEM EBERBACH
Her Majesty's Imperial Army

Oh - Colonel...

Oh, Colonel - Colonel Eberbach, isn't it? I couldn't help overhearing of your rather unfortunate encounter with Lady Glorian. She is - well, a bit of an art-loony, if you don't mind my using the expression. She can't help it. She is quite harmless really. We went to school together.

But I did want to say how delighted I am to have such a distinguished military heroine in our midst. Not that I have any interest in Brunettes in Uniform myself - well, perhaps just the teensiest bit. I mean, it isn't the uniform itself, is it - it is the wonderful tradition that it stands for - don't you think?

We learn a lot about our Great Traditions at school - I mean we did, when I was younger. Of course I haven't been at school now for - oh for well, just ages.

No, of course I am not blushing. It is rather warm in here, that is all. A lady of true sophistication very rarely blushes, I think.

The Hon Araminta Loveton

Anonymous Return

How do you do, Fraulein Loveton. It is an honour to meet you.

Your impromptu promotion of me is very kind, but in fact I am still a Major. And have been for several years. It has really been far too long since my last promotion, when you consider my sterling service record, but then my superior has an unfounded dislike for me - ahem. What I meant to say is, I am still a Major. The way matters stand, it appears I shall remain one for some time.

I should certainly hope that you learned about the Great Traditions at school. That is after all the purpose of education, to learn to keep and honour traditions. As for the significance of the uniform of Her Majesty's Imperial Army, I am quite pleased that you are able to appreciate it. It has a fine and honorable history, and every detail signifies some aspect of the Golden Order, but most blondes seem unable to understand that, like that - Lady Glorian, for instance. If you would like to hear about the uniform in more detail, I shall be delighted to oblige you at another time. I am capable of expounding on the subject for hours, but I am advised that most blondes find the subject tedious. Humph. Well, one can hardly expect most blondes to be serious. But at this moment, there are other matters I must speak of, more urgent ones.

But Fraulein, if you are so warm, perhaps you should step outside to get some cool air. No? If you say so. Do you have something in your eye? Your lashes keep fluttering. Really, Fraulein, you do not seem comfortable here at all.

Well, if you prefer to remain, I must take the liberty of enlightening you about Lady Glorian, for your own sake. Because you must know that she is far from harmless. I have just learned that she is in fact one of Kadoria's most notorious criminals!

I must say, Fraulein Loveton, that you appear rather young to have been to school with her. But of course a blonde as innocent as yourself could not be fibbing, so you must be older than you look.

But being as innocent as you obviously are, you might not be aware of the heinous practice of theft and Anonymous Return. I shall explain it to you. The unfortunate fact is that some maidens simply cannot resist taking things which are not theirs. Just last week a young blonde in my district received six strokes for sneaking a mink coat out of a department store and wearing it to the best places for an entire weekend before returning it to the store with a shamefaced apology.

I do not pretend to be above temptation myself. I believe that I can call myself a gentlebrunette now, but in my own youth, I bordered on being a Rough Brunette - as much as a daughter of my brunette mother could dare to be, because she was, thankfully, very strict and kept me on the straight and narrow. If not for her firm hand, I would likely have ended as no better than Lady Glorian herself. When I was sixteen, I and two brunette classmates of mine, both bona fide Rough Brunettes who ended up in Punitive Service, simply could not resist the allure of a gleaming black Mercury we saw outside a shop one day. The keys were, naturally, in the ignition, that being the surest way to ensure that they are not misplaced, so we all hopped in and had a glorious (but of course thoroughly reprehensible) evening driving it around. I drove for most of the evening, having a much keener appreciation of machinery than either of my companions, leaving them both free to bask in the awed stares of the blondes we passed; both were far more interested in the fair sex than I. Most blondes have always seemed rather silly to me, though of course I can see that you are a more serious sort, Fraulein Loveton, what with your appreciation of uniforms and Great Traditions and so forth.

But to cut a long story short so that I may move on to the matter at hand, when our evening of high spirits was over, my friends were for simply driving the car back to the shop or to the owner's home and leaving it and sneaking away. Anonymous Return is, sadly, a widespread and shameful practice even here in Aristasia. I am sure that none of you ladies here would ever do such a thing, of course. Nor would I, even in my errant youth. I returned the car to its owner with a complete confession, and I assure you that I bore the full penalty for my actions. And took it like a brunette, too. My companions considered it "swindleacious" and insisted that my brunette mother, being of high rank, could have intervened to lighten my sentence, which only demonstrates how little they knew her. Had she intervened, it would not have been to lighten my sentence.

But I digress. A few days ago, I returned home to be greeted by my distressed chatelaine with the news that "The Brunette in Purple" had been stolen! It was of course not difficult to guess who the culprit was. Being an officer of Her Majesty's Army, I could not simply deal with the matter myself without consulting the proper authorities first, so I notified the District Governess. I received the outrageous news that Lady Glorian's activities are well known throughout the Empire. She is perhaps Kadoria's most notorious practitioner of Anonymous Return. As you noted, Fraulein Loveton, the Countess is indeed an "art loony"; she regularly steals paintings, statues and jewelry so that she may bask in their beauty until she is ready to Anonymously Return them. And she is not prompt about the return, either. I demanded to know why the vixen is not in Punitive Service and received an evasive reply. I was of course not fooled. Far be it from me to disrespect those in authority, but clearly the District Governess's head has been turned by the brazen Countess's undeniable beauty. Either that or else it was inappropriate respect for the Countess's rank. At times like this I understand why those half-mad Culverians dispensed with titled aristocracy. Not that I approve of Culverians, but just the same.

But I assure you, Fraulein Loveton, I shall recover my property very soon — I certainly shan't wait for that blonde to deign to Anonymously Return it!

Well, indeed, if you are so interested, I will certainly return to tell you about it when I have relieved your erstwhile classmate of my ancestral portrait. Till then, good day, young lady. And perhaps you had best see an ophthalmologist about whatever's making your lashes flutter like that.

Major Klara Hannah von dem Eberbach
Her Majesty's Imperial Army

The Iron Maiden vs the Blonde Bombshell

Good day. Yes, of course I regained my painting. Thank you for asking.

What details? I took my painting back and it is now on the wall of Schloss Eberbach where it belongs. There is nothing else to tell, really.

What do you mean, trouble? What sort of trouble could a blonde hussy possibly give an officer of Her Majesty's Imperial Army?

No, the minx certainly did not have the good grace to hand my property over meekly when I showed up. Indeed, she seemed to think it was very amusing that I had taken the trouble to come after her.

She and her entourage had taken to the sea aboard Lady Glorian's yacht, the disgracefully named "Miss Behave". When I learned of her location, I rented a powerful sleek motorboat with an engine that purred like a kitten. The aerodynamics of its design were exquisite. And it could go sixty miles an hour! I must have one.

But back to Lady Glorian. I summoned my subordinate, Miss Z___, to accompany me as a matter of policy. Miss Z___ is my youngest subordinate. She is wont to allow her hair to get too shaggy, but is a decent young German blonde.

We sped out to the Miss Behave and I boarded her, leaving Miss Z___ to mind the motorboat. Lady Glorian and her compatriettes were on the deck chattering blonde nonsense; as I climbed the ladder on the side of the yacht, I could hear the Countess's voice trilling, "Look out, pettes, a pirate's coming for us!"

When I had climbed high enough to see over the edge, I found that Lady Glorian was lounging on a deck chair, wearing a bikini which was apparently designed during a severe fabric shortage. Why, I could almost see her — ehm — her navel!

Ehm. Forgive me for mentioning such matters. This scandalous garment was made from some sort of shiny gold fabric, and with the sun shining on the gilt fabric and her yellow hair, she looked as if she were golden all over. And she knew it, too. Her entourage is mostly made up of young blondes of attractive mien, though none as strikingly beautiful as Lady Glorian herself. Indeed, some brunettes, boarding this yacht with its oversupply of lovely young blondes, might have thought they had reached Shangri-La. The only brunettes on board before my arrival were a stout older brunette who I gather is some sort of family retainer of the Glorians, probably the keveline, and a diminutive, pretty young brunette with tousled raven hair falling over one eye like Veronica Lake. Her visible eye was glaring at me. She was wearing a modest bathing suit with patches sewn in it, for some reason, though Lady Glorian certainly has the means to clothe her employees properly.

Certainly the rest of them were well enough turned out. They were all engaged in sunning themselves, drinking silly frothy drinks with little umbrellas in them, and reading French novels, which I somehow doubt included Madame Bovary. They were all looking at me as if they found the entire situation quite amusing. Humph.

As I planted my feet on the deck, the Countess exclaimed, "It's so exciting to have such a dashing brunette pursue me! But couldn't you have dressed like Lady Tyrian? She was a pirate, wasn't she? And she looked ever so stunning in purple." The little baggage tilted her head and studied me in that disconcerting way that just went to show that she was not a well-reared blonde. "But then, perhaps you should wear emeralds. They would match your eyes. And emeralds look very nice on a brunette."

I ignored all this frivolous blonde drivel. "I have come to retrieve my painting," I informed her firmly, folding my arms over my chest.

She stayed impudently comfortable on the deck chair, holding some sort of over-garnished pink drink in one hand and letting her shameless eyes move up and down over me again. It was most embarrassing, but I held my ground as befits an officer of Her Majesty's Army.

Before she could say a word, the young brunette stormed forward. "You're a stowaway!" she declared furiously. "You're going to have to pay for your passage!" Before I could recover from my surprise at this ludicrous charge, she had whipped a calculator out from somewhere and was punching its buttons feverishly, muttering figures as she tallied up the passage rate.

"Where did she escape from?" I demanded.

Lady Glorian gave the brunette an indulgent look. "Oh, that's Miss Jane, my accountant. She's a touch overzealous."

"Never mind that," I said curtly. "Where is my painting?"

"My laaaady!" Miss Jane wailed, looking up from her calculator. "Don't give it back to her!"

"Aha!" I said. "So you do have it!"

"My lady! You can't! Do you know what this trip is costing us? You can't just return it right away after all we've invested! There's the fuel for the yacht, the wasteful new wardrobe you insisted on buying, the-"

I took a menacing step towards them both. I believe that my expression must have been quite stern, because Miss Jane fell silent and Lady Glorian stopped smiling... for a moment.

Then her lips — painted a glistening deep pink, even for sunbathing — quirked just a little. "Miss Bonham," she said to the brunette retainer, who I imagine was the only maiden keeping this ship of fools from running aground, "do fetch 'The Brunette In Purple'."

"Yes, me lady," Miss Bonham replied at once, and disappeared below deck.

"Wise of you, my lady," I told her grimly. The fact was, once I had the painting safely back in my possession, I had plans to show this brazen hussy the error of her ways. But first, the painting.

We didn't have to wait long, but Lady Glorian still found time to regain enough aplomb to give me one of those sidelong looks and coo, "I want you to know that I don't kiss on the first date. I'm not that sort of blonde." She paused for effect. "But of course, if you insist... if you were to sweep me into your powerful arms, then of course there wouldn't be anything a helpless blonde like me could possibly do about it."

I think my face was as red as the dress Lady Glorian was wearing the last time I saw her. "I assure you, my lady," I said stiffly, "I am a perfect gentlebrunette."

She sighed with elaborate disappointment, while the other blondes watched with barely-stifled giggles. Humph. "What a waste," she said, eyeing me. "Do you mean to say that if you and I were alone on this deck, and it was late at night, and there was a full moon, you wouldn't have any ungallant impulses at all?"

I was rescued from the necessity of replying to this nonsense by the return of Miss Bonham. I quickly ascertained that the portrait was in good shape before going back to the edge to pass it to Miss Z___.

A couple of the blondes followed me to peer at my subordinate, and they promptly started giggling. "Oh, she's so pretty!" one of them said. "She's adorable! My lady, you really must come look!"

Miss Z___, I am happy to say, very properly ignored all their flirting. Romances between blondes are not unknown, as are romances between brunettes, but they have always seemed pointless to me. Marriages are only between a blonde and a brunette, and only the union of a blonde and a brunette can produce little blondes and little brunettes. Still, I suppose such romances harmless enough. But no member of Lady Glorian's entourage could possibly be a suitable companion for a junior officer of Her Majesty's Army.

Lady Glorian appeared beside me. "How cute!" she said when she saw Miss Z___.

"Stay away from that decent German maiden!" I snapped, seizing her elbow and steering her away from the edge. The rest of her gang continued leaning over the railing, saying silly things to Miss Z___.

"I'm surprised you have blonde subordinates," Lady Glorian said.

"Of course I have blondes on my staff! But only sensible ones. All of the blondes I employ are the sensible sort. I can't abide fluffheaded blondes like you!"

Her eyes sparkled. "You know, Major... you're pretty when you're mad."

I was about to teach her a lesson that would have done her no end of good, so to speak. But at just that moment, there was a sudden strong gust of wind. It was an ill-mannered breeze, with no courtesy at all. No honest maiden's modesty could have withstood it. It — it blew my skirt up!

Contrary to what Lady Glorian implied, I did not squeal like a blonde. I may have made some sort of surprised sound as I quickly seized my hem and forced it down. But as I gathered my modesty, I glanced at Lady Glorian and discovered that, instead of politely looking away as a lady should, she had been ogling me openly the entire time!

And I don't even know how much she saw. I think she might have seen my stocking tops! Thank Dea for small favors; at least Lady Glorian's entourage was so busy pestering poor Miss Z___ that none of them saw that embarrassing moment. But their ringleader did, and her smug expression was insufferable.

It was simply too much to be borne. I had no choice but to make a strategic retreat in good order. There was no telling what this blonde menace might do next! I climbed back into the motorboat and sped back to civilization.

You may have taken amusement at my expense, Doria Red Glorian, but the next time we meet... I shall have the last laugh!

MAJOR KLARA VON DEM EBERBACH
Her Majesty's Imperial Army

And the barpette is none other than - Betty GrableBlonde Bombshell

An Imperial, please, barpette. And your phone number. Unless, of course, your sweetheart owns a cane.

Hmm. And I must say, that print on the wall there is lovely. I don't suppose you know where the original is? It would be thrilling to see the genuine article. It is my creed to always get what I want, whether a work of art, a brunette, or a blonde! I live for the pursuit of beauty in any form!

Of course I date other blondes as well as brunettes. I couldn't marry them, of course, but then, I'm young yet; why hurry? And there are so many lovely blondes in the world. Just now I'm seeing the most darling young blonde. Her name is Gabrielle Cesare, and she looks an utter angel! She's very young and quite innocent; why, the first time I kissed her, she swooned! The dear's a bit of a bluestocking. She's so wrapped up in her books that she doesn't notice all the brunettes — and some of the blondes — giving her languishing looks everywhere she goes!

I'm taking her to a movie tomorrow. A Yank in the RAF, starring the ravishing Betty Grable, the pette with the million dollar legs. There's this utterly swoonworthy scene right at the beginning where - lean close, pette, in case any of the more delicate sort of blonde is nearby - you can see her stocking tops plain as day! She's hopping out of a car in a hurry, and her skirt just flies up, and for an entire second her stocking tops are visible. I've seen it three times.

But there's another film that has something even more deliciously riskay. I know the directrix of A Yank in the RAF gave us that little treat purposely — and it's working, brunettes are lined up around the block to see it, aren't they? But there's another movie where there is a very fleeting glimpse of stocking that I'm certain is a mistake. >giggle< It's Covergirl starring Rita Hayworth, though alas, it isn't Miss Hayworth's stockings we get that peek at. It's her lovely co-star Miss Leslie Brooks. There's one scene where she's in an office auditioning, and she sits down in a chair and crosses her legs, and if you look very carefully, you can just make out the edge of her stocking top. It's utterly thrilling.

 

Oh, don't misunderstand me. I'm not a fast blonde. Well, that stainless Major von dem Eberbach would probably think so, but I'm certain that her feet are iron, not clay.

You know the Iron Maiden? Stunning, isn't she? I don't believe I've ever met a more brunette brunette! Pity she's so terribly proper. You just know that she was a Prefect in school. The sort that gets nicknamed "the Perfect Prefect" - doesn't every school have one? I'll bet that she wouldn't even know what to do with a blonde if she took one on a long drive through the countryside and they ran out of gas.

Doria Red, Countess of Glorian

 

—10th June—

MUSEUM HEIST SHOCKER!

Daredevil Thief Still at Large

By Emily Zola

Museum guards at the interprovincially renowned Llangollen Museum of Art were stunned this morning to discover that a daring theft had occurred in the dark of night, almost under their very noses!

“I was doing my dawn patrol of the third gallery,” reports Miss Petty, the dashingly uniformed brunette guard, “and I noticed that something was missing.”

That “something” was a painting worth millions of pounds. Stealing it from the Llangollen Museum, which to discourage temptation of those of weak character has the finest locks in Quirinelle as well as several strapping – in every sense of the word – young brunettes on guard, is a feat that defies comprehension. One is almost tempted to speculate that the daredevil thief who pulled it off must have had almost magical powers. And the audacity of the act has shocked the Province!

The third gallery of the Llangollen Museum is devoted to depictions of the legendary amour of Jupitrix and Callisto. Some of the more straightlaced members of the community have deemed the works in this gallery a touch riskay, but their transcendent beauty has won over one generation after another, inspiring Arcadian artists over and over.

“The ‘Jupitrix and Callisto’ painting that was stolen was painted by the great Arcadian Miss Jeanne Honour Fragonard,” explained Miss Calvert, the museum directrix, with visible emotion. “It was one of the most valuable works in the collection.”

When asked who could be responsible for this heinous crime, the District Governess declined to comment, stating only that she was confident that the work would be Anonymously Returned in time.

We may hope so, but loyal subjects shall not rest easy in their beds until Miss Fragonard’s work is back in its place in the Museum!

The Case of the Filched Fragonard

As the rustics on my estate would say, this caps the globe.

You must have heard that the Llangollen Museum has been robbed. Indeed, I cannot imagine how anypette could have avoided hearing of it; it seems that no one is talking of anything else. The reporting, of course, has as usual been entirely overwrought. The missing work is certainly not worth “millions of pounds”; four hundred thousand, perhaps. And the so-called museum security is a disgrace; a child could have easily broken in without undue difficulty and strolled off with anything she wanted. Which of course is precisely what happened. Those pictures of Jupitrix and Callisto are rather riskay if you ask me, but I suppose they are national cultural heritages. I could have warned them that displaying such provocative images out there where anypette could see them would excite the lower elements, and now I have as usual been proven right. One of those lurid paintings has been stolen!

Just coincidentally, of course, Lady Glorian just happened to be visiting the Museum at some sort of gala thing that very night.

I dutifully reported my suspicions to the District Governess, but did she listen to me? Of course not. Perhaps she is complacent because those who know about the Countess’s disgraceful “hobby” also know that she always eventually returns the items she pilfers. But really, “borrowing” a classic painting worth who knows how much from a prestigious museum is really going too far.

So when it became clear that my superior was going to do nothing, I decided to catch the Countess red-handed with her ill-gotten gains. Word about town was that she was throwing one of her enormous hedonistic parties, and it is simplicity itself for any well-dressed maiden to join, with or without an invitation. I simply strolled in two hours after the event was scheduled to begin, on the theory that the sort of pette who keeps company with hussies like the Countess probably thinks that punctuality is commonplace and prefers to be “fashionably late”. Humph.

There was a tremendous crowd in attendance, all dressed to the nines. Indeed, I was downright conspicuous in my sober navy blue suit. Sequins, scandalous low cuts, and elaborate coiffures were the order of the day. I found that every time I noticed tumbling golden curls I would quickly scrutinize their owner to see if she were the Countess, but of course what I was really seeking was that overly lush painting.

I was only hoping to get a glimpse of a likely hiding place. I certainly never expected to see that painting displayed, bold as brass, right on the wall of her decadent overdecorated ballroom!

I could scarcely believe my eyes. I stood there staring at it, and that was when the Countess finally made her appearance. She was wearing an exceedingly tight evening gown of turquoise silk that was just… she was just… that is, she was disgraceful. Stunning, of course, but disgracefully so. And the turquoise silk set off her torchlight-yellow hair quite strikingly, and reflected in her robin’s-egg eyes to make them appear turquoise too. Small wonder that every brunette in the place was looking at her the way wolves look at steaks. Humph.

She went to stand beside the stolen painting, and everypette fell silent to listen to her announcement. She glanced around at her guests and noticed me, and the shameless little minx actually had the gall to dimple at me! Thank Dea no one noticed that it was directed at me. At least, I don’t believe anypette did.

Then she declared, “Thank you all for coming to see my newest acquisition. I have especially invited Professor Quirrell from the University at Ladyton, so that she can tell you all about it.”

The Professor, an elegant brunette of mature years, came forward and spent several minutes scrutinizing the painting through her lorgnette. At length she announced, “It is a very skilled copy, My Lady.”

“Copy!” somepette exclaimed.

The Countess laughed. “Of course, silly, you didn’t think I actually owned a Fragonard, did you? In my dreams alone!”

Naturally my suspicions were aroused. As the revelers resumed their conversations and dancing and gluttony, all apparently under the impression that this is Amazonian Rome rather than Kadorian Altalia, I elbowed my way to the Countess’s side. She fluttered her lashes at me as if she were just another silly blonde with nothing better to do than flirt with brunettes. I, however, know her better than that!

“Why, Major. How very lovely to see you. Had I known you might attend, I should certainly have sent you an invitation. And that suit is ever so stunning, especially since it forces a pette to use her imagination.”

I ignored this drivel and got straight to the point. “I don’t believe for one moment that this painting is a fake, Lady Glorian,” I informed her. “You are the culprit who swiped this work of art from the Llangollen Museum!”

She smiled coyly. “But, my dear Major. You all just heard Professor Quirrell say that this isn’t the real Fragonard, and she is the leading authority in the field.” She leaned closer, eyes dancing. “Surely you would not presume to question her artistic judgment?”

“No one could credibly charge you against the Professor’s testimony,” I admitted. “My superiors would never stand for it. How did you coax her to lie for you?”

“I don’t kiss and tell,” the Countess answered pertly, winking.

“Sooner or later, Lady Glorian, I am going to put a stop to your heinous deeds!” I promised her. “And I shall see this painting back in its proper place before the week is out, mark my words!”

She tossed her abundant shining curls. “Only if I wish for you to, my dear Major!”

There was nothing more to say. I bowed formally and took my leave without another word. But I shall put that vixen in her place yet!

Major Klara von dem Eberbach

Her Majesty’s Imperial Army

The Countess Writes

Isn't the Major ferocious! And she's so gorgeous when she's angry, too. Her face gets all flushed and her green eyes just glow. It makes a blonde think all kinds of thoughts. If she knew how delectable she looks at such moments, she would probably try harder to control her temper! And I think that I know of a way to make her even angrier now. She is determined to outsmart me in the matter of that Fragonard, isn't she? Well, I am going to deny her the opportunity! All of you, just wait and see what I'm going to do!

Doria Red, Countess of Glorian

Is this a hot painting?

Found on Major Eberbach's desk, with a single red rose: Jupitrix and Callisto, by Fragonard

Pink temptationThe Iron maiden

That brazen hussy! This is her most outrageous stunt yet! I was all set to search her castle if need be, to go to any lengths to get that painting back and return it to its rightful owners, and then she has the effrontery to return it on her own! What gall!


Clearly I must put that vixen in her place once and for all. And I know just how to do it. This morning's paper had something I know that minx will find irresistible. You may have read about it: that jewelry store is going to display an impressive gem, a very large pink diamond. It is a famous stone called the "Pink Sunrise". Just the sort of flashy thing a flighty blonde like her would like.


I have no doubt she'll try to "borrow" and Anonymously Return the Pink Sunrise. And when she does, I shall be waiting for her!

Major Klara von dem Eberbach
Her Majesty's Imperial Army

The Case of the Missing Blonde

Barpette! You do remember me, don't you? Thank Dea! Listen, have you seen my sweetheart Gabrielle in here? Wait, here, I know I have a picture of her someplace… let's see… oh, let me just empty my handbag here on the bar… here it is. This is her. My sweetheart. Please, have you seen her? Has anypette here?

I've asked everywhere! At the museum and the library she frequents and everywhere else I thought she might have gone. She's terribly scatterbrained; she's going to turn into an absent-minded professor, I just know it. It would be just like her to wander off and get utterly lost or something. And she's such a very * blonde* blonde, she can't look after herself at all. Oh, I'm so terribly worried! What can I do?

I've looked for her simply everywhere! There is now only one possible recourse: I must appeal to the District Governess for help! Barpette, call a cab for me!

Doria Red, Countess of Glorian
England, Altalia, Kadoria

Duty Calls

I cannot believe this.

Pardon me, Fraulein, but would you be so good as to light my cigarette? I am so agitated I can't seem to manage it myself. I realize that it's proper for a brunette to light a blonde's cigarette and not the other way around, but then, you are the barmaid..

Ah. Thank you. What would we do without cigarettes? Lovely inventions.

Forgive me, I can't help but be perturbed. The District Governess has just given me the most appalling assignment imaginable.

Oh, it isn't the assignment itself. Some silly blonde named Gabrielle Cesare has gone missing, and it is feared she wandered into the No-Pette's-Land separating Kadoria from the Pit. My assignment is to find her and bring her home before she stumbles through the Iron Curtain.

The quandary is the person who reported the silly pette missing. It's her sweetheart, none other than that - that floozy, Lady Dorian! And as the Countess is the last pette to have seen Fraulein Cesare, I am expected to take her with me as I search for the lost blonde. I don't know how I'll endure it, being around a shameless baggage like the Countess for who knows how long.

But it is my duty as an officer of Her Majesty's Army. And I must not delay, lest Fraulein Cesare fall into the horror of the Pit. Do excuse me.

Major Klara Hannah von dem Eberbach
Her Majesty's Army

A Bluestocking in No-Pette’s Land

Do you recall what I was telling you the last time I was here? My sweetheart, that darling little blonde Gabrielle Cesare, had wandered off and was nowhere to be found. Somepette caught a glimpse of her perilously close to the Iron Curtain! In desperation, I appealed to the District Governess for aid, and she assigned no one less than the Iron Maiden herself, Major Klara von dem Eberbach, to fetch her. And to take me along.

The moment the Major fetched me, it was obvious she wasn't happy about having me along. She's made no secret of her disdain for frivolities like pretty clothes and art and flirting and dancing, so she certainly couldn't think much of me. But I was too worried over Gabrielle to mind what she said to me - and what she said to me, pettes, was plenty.

She griped all the way to the Waste between Kadoria and the Iron Curtain, but when we got there she quieted down. Not that I blamed her; it was awful. Just barren ground, rocks and stagnant water as far as the eye could see. It was horribly depressing, but she assured me that the Pit itself makes the Waste look downright habitable. She seemed serious, but surely she must be exaggerating, mustn't she?

In any case, we drove through it in the Major's Jeep for hours, and they must have been the longest hours of my life. To think of my poor little Gabrielle stranded in this desolate place! It doesn't bear thinking of. But after the longest time, there she was, crouching next to one of those smelly pools. I jumped out and ran to her, and she looked up as if she weren't even slightly surprised to see me there, and said, "Look at the algae on the surface here, Lady Dorian. I do believe it's an unknown species!"

Bluestockings!

I hustled her into the Jeep and we lost no time in returning to civilization, the Major telling us off all the way. She might as well have saved her breath; I was too busy fussing over poor Gabrielle, whose clothes had gotten all dirty, to pay her any mind, and Gabrielle was too distracted marvelling over the lichen and algae samples she had gathered to hear a word either of us said. Really, sometimes bluestockings drive me quite mad.

Perhaps it's time I considered finding a sweetheart who can manage things, instead of wandering off and getting into trouble. One who's capable and can take charge. You know. A brunette.

The Major deposited us both at Castle Dorian and waited impatiently while I turned Gabrielle over to my keveline, Miss Bonham, with orders to see that Gabrielle was promptly immersed in a bubblebath and given fresh clothes, and her present ones burned. Gabrielle became quite beside herself until we assured her that her samples of fungus or whatever those things are would be preserved for her.

Hmmm. I should introduce Gabrielle to that frightfully rich Volovonte pette who chased me so ardently a few years ago. They both love art, and Miss Volovolonte has demonstrated that she has a taste for tall, long-haired, exceedingly pretty blondes such as myself and Gabrielle....

Then Miss Jane appeared and insisted that Gabrielle's clothes were perfectly good and we shouldn't burn them but should save them and use them. You have to understand that Miss Jane has a somewhat skewed perspective when it comes to economy. However dilapidated anything is, she wishes to jury-rig it together and continue using it. I thought we would all lose our heads when she learned about a custom of Arcadian Culveria called "toots". Puritan houseblondes there guard against wasting the dregs of anything - the little bit of flour left in the bag after you've used it all up, the scrapings of the bottoms of the butter churns - by sweeping it onto a little paper square and then twisting the paper up like, well, like a Tootsie Roll, to hold it till it can be used. Indeed, in a large establishment such as mine, we might save as much as fifty cents a month by such measures. But Miss Jane gives us no peace unless we use them. Culverians! They must all be quite mad to think of such a thing.

After several minutes of this, the Major lost patience and bellowed, "IDIOTS!"

That brunette has a set of lungs on her! We all jumped at this frightfully rude outburst and then got quiet. We were all curious to see what this rampant brunette would do next.

She glared at us all as if we had done something, and then snapped at me and Gabrielle, "You two silly blondes get yourselves wives to keep an eye on you. I can't keep hauling the two of you out of trouble!"

With that she got back into her Jeep, slammed the door and sped away.

We all just stared after her for a few minutes, and then we started giggling our heads off. The thought of how disgusted the Major would have looked had she still been there only made us laugh harder.

When I caught my breath, I had to admit, however, that she was wonderfully brave to venture into that desolate waste after Gabrielle. I should never have been able to endure looking through it by myself. And what with one thing and another, I hadn't had a chance to thank her!

So I had Miss Bonham send four dozen red roses to the Major's office with a nice note, and then I retired to my own chambers to prepare for this evening. Tonight, you see, I am going to go and, er, see that magnificent diamond, the Pink Sunrise!

Doria Red, Countess of Dorian

With envy, no doubt!The Pink Sunrise and the Dresden Green

Tell me, does a blonde who brazenly sends brunettes flowers, in clear reversal of the Golden Order, expect not to be seen as a terribly fast blonde?

Not that it matters. I suppose that to a vixen such as the Countess, dozens of roses are a perfectly proper way to thank someone for doing their duty, which should need or expect no thanks. By her lights, she was likely simply doing the courteous thing. I suppose I can't complain about that. I have plenty of other things to complain about.

Of course I was lying in wait for her that night in the jewelry shop, with two of my subordinates, Miss A___ and Miss B___;, with Miss Z___; ready in the car outside. I had no doubt that oversized pink diamond would be irresistible to someone like the Countess. And so we waited.

And waited.

I was finally beginning to wonder if she wasn't planning her heist for another night when Miss Z___; came in the back way, much excited. "Major!" she said. "I just heard it on the radio! The Countess has tricked us!"

"What do you mean?" I demanded.

"The Dresden Green Diamond of Saxony has just disappeared from the Victoria& Alberta!"

"What!"

In a flash I saw what she had done. She has been talking all over town about how beautiful the Pink Sunrise is, so that I would be watching for her to try to "borrow" it. With my attention diverted elsewhere, she was able to abscond with the Dresden Green with no trouble! How diabolically clever she is!

"Quick!" I ordered my subordinates. "If we get to the Victoria & Alberta quickly enough, we might pick up her trail! The District Governess will never listen to me unless we catch her red-handed!"

My subordinates were scrambling into the car, Miss Z___; quickly revving the engine, when another thought suddenly occurred to me. I stopped still.

"Major?" Miss A___ spoke up. I made my decision in an instant. "You three, go ahead to the Victoria & Alberta and do your best to find any trace of the thief. I have something else I must do."

They obediently sped off like the well-trained subordinates they are. They should be, I trained them. I, meanwhile, went back inside and stood hidden in the shadows, my eye on the display case that held the Pink Sunrise.

I was not disappointed. A few minutes later, a form clad in disgracefully tight black crept stealthily into the store. She went straight to the Pink Sunrise and regarded it reverently before prying its case open.

I waited until her black-gloved hands were almost touching the diamond before I called out, "Halt!"

She jumped and looked up. It was, of course, the Countess, and she was very surprised to see me.

"Major! What are you­" She stopped.

"I suppose you thought I would be engaged at the Victoria & Alberta just now."

She looked as impressed as she was irked. "You figured out my plot! You're quite a brunette, Major."

"Crime does not pay, Lady Dorian. Hand over the Dresden Green."

She pouted, but took it out of her pocket — it was carefully swathed in black velvet - and instead of simply handing it to me, pinned it onto my uniform. "Emeralds look very nice on a brunette. It's just the color of your eyes, Major," she said, fluttering her lashes.

I took it off and stuffed it into my pocket quickly. "Quit talking nonsense, Lady Dorian, and come with me. It's Punitive Service for you this time."

She tilted her head coyly. "Oh, I don't think so. You'll have to catch me first!"

And with that, the shameless wench ran outside. I gave chase, of course, and then..

Well, I think we can rest easy that she won't steal anything for a while now. The Pink Sunrise is safe, and the Dresden Green is back in its place.

Major Klara von dem Eberbach

The Bijoux

Thank you for the drink, barpette. But... can you drown a brunette in this?

That's better. I do think that the Major calls for a major beverage.

She actually tried to apprehend me! No respecter of persons, the Iron Maiden. But I have no intention of entering Punitive Servitude just because I am a devotee of Beauty.

So I ran out the door before she had any idea I intended to. Really, did she think I would just stand there and let her drag me to the District Governess? Well, I expect that's what she would have done. Not I, though. I ran, and when I heard her footsteps running after me I sped up.

But I knew that I couldn't outrun her for long, her being a brunette, and such a very brunettish brunette at that. So I decided to hide in a place where I doubted she would follow. Yes, I ducked into a nightclub! Lean close and I'll whisper its name: The Bijoux. I had never been there before, and I certainly don't want anypette to know I was there even this once.

Oh, I knew the club's reputation, but I didn't take it seriously. One always hears how scandalous things are only to discover that they are merely very slightly daring, and only shocking to the most straightlaced sorts - sorts like the ferocious green-eyed Major who was still hot on my heels. Not that I was wearing heels when I had known I might have to run, but you see what I mean. Still, given the Bijoux's reputation, I was certain she would rather walk over hot coals than follow me inside. 

So I ducked inside, and hurried through the anteroom, pushed aside the red velvet curtain and entered the club proper, where the floor show was.

I see you want to hear what the floor show was like. Well, my dear, let me assure you that you do not want to hear about it. I could not possibly speak of anything so… so… oh! I thought I was sophisticated and even decadent - why, I buy Brunette magazine! - but I had no idea! No idea at all what the lower orders get up to when they are unsupervised.


And it isn't as if I'm prudish about the human form. Many of the most beautiful paintings and statues depict the form of Maid in its unadorned beauty, as innocent as Adama and Eve. But this was… I can't even put it into words. Too awful.

I was so shocked, so horrified, that all I could do was stare, as if I were frozen on the spot. And then suddenly, the Major was beside me. She glanced at the stage and quickly looked away, her face red, and took me by the elbow. Before I knew where I was, I wasn't there anymore. She had steered me back outside and was offering me smelling salts.

"Good heavens," I whispered.

"Very few blondes are able tolerate a sight like that," she said, and do you know, she actually sounded concerned. I would have thought she would be bawling me out for having gone in, but instead she was looking after me as solicitously as any  courtier. "Nor should they be. Certainly it's too much for an ingenuous blonde like you."

"I thought you considered me a floozy," I murmured. My knees were still wobbling, and I had to lean heavily on her arm. But that was no problem, because the Major really is wonderfully strong. Thank goodness she came along and got me out of there. Otherwise I would probably have fainted, and then who knows what sort of scandal may have resulted.

She said, "Not like the poor benighted pettes in that club. And most of the denizens of the Pit would think that show was tame stuff."

I could scarcely believe my ears. "Tame! What could be worse than that? How could anypette degrade herself more ?"

She answered, "I am certainly not going to tell you."

I shuddered. Then I asked her, "Have you actually seen things worse than that?"

She nodded, and she looked very grim. "My Lady, you cannot even begin to imagine the depravity of the Pit."

 Suddenly I understood. "That's why you're such a prig! Because you've seen such horrid things!" I said. Then I was afraid she would be offended that I had called her a prig, but she didn't see it as an insult; she only nodded her agreement. "How can you endure going there?" I asked. I could not imagine even walking into the Bijoux ever again, let alone someplace worse. She must be so brave!

"It is my duty," she replied.

I looked at her, and that was when I knew.

I said, very softly, "Thank you for coming after me, Major."

She gave me a startled glance, and we just looked into each other's eyes for a long time.

Is it indelicate to kiss and tell? Well, she didn't kiss me, so I guess I can tell. No, she didn't kiss me.

Not yet.

But it is my principle to always get what I want, and to possess all beautiful things!

Doria Red, Countess of Dorian

A Final word from the Iron Maiden

You know, that silly blonde Countess really isn't such a bad sort.

Not that I'm going to let her know that I think so. And don't you tell her I said so, either!

Major Klara Hannah von dem Eberbach

 

 

Eroica
Femme Eroica