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
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?"
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
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
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
The Iron Maiden vs the Blonde Bombshell
Good day. Yes, of course I regained my painting. Thank you for
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.
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!"
MAJOR KLARA VON DEM EBERBACH
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
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
Found on Major Eberbach's desk, with a single red rose: Jupitrix and Callisto, by Fragonard
The 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!
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 cannot believe this.
A Bluestocking in No-Pette’s Land
Do you recall what I was telling you the last time I was
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 Pink Sunrise and the Dresden Green
Tell me, does a blonde who brazenly sends brunettes flowers,
reversal of the Golden Order, expect not to be seen as a terribly fast blonde?
Thank you for the drink, barpette. But... can you drown a
brunette in this?
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!
A Final word from the Iron Maiden
You know, that silly blonde Countess really isn't such
a bad sort.