Before All Is Lost

Lady Henrietta Wickes was rich, pretty, and happy. Lord Benedict Wickes was rich, handsome, and evil. When Henrietta found out, she blindly ran. Now she's stuck in the cutthroat underbelly of society known as the Crease. Henrietta is rescued by the group called Temper Mints and finds refuge in the patchwork family of illegal magicians, mechanics, and thieves. Henrietta trades her social savvy for street smarts. Benedict plans to replace the aristocracy with a tyranny. Struggling with the ethics of law versus humanity, Henrietta must protect her new friends, fight off a new love interest, and save the country from her husband.


17. A Cut Deeper Than A Sword's

Henrietta darted through the house. 

What am I even trying to do? I have to keep Benedict and Hugo from doing anything to the rest of the people... or the nobles. Forge! I have to protect nobles from a noble! Hettie peered into Benedict's now empty office before scurrying towards the staircase. Like a mouse in my own mansion. 

If Benedict was being honest about Geneve, perhaps he was honest about Hugo. If Hugo's actually being used, then I could break it... but it made me pass out last time. I couldn't risk that here in the open. 

Gilt Benedict... 

Henrietta spotted a maid walking down the stairs, nearly upon her. Her mind flashed to Geneve, but she quickly regained her wits. She crouched next to the staircase, waiting for the maid to pass. 

When the maid was facing away from her, Hettie jumped, clapping one hand around the maid's mouth and the other around her neck. 

"Shh." Hettie whispered. Then she looked at what she was doing... practically choking the girl. Like something Benedict would do. "I won't hurt you." 

"Mm-hmm!" The girl said frantically, voice muffled. 

"Hush! It's me, Henrietta!' Hettie hissed. The maid stopped struggling. "Where is Benedict?" She slid her hand off the girl's mouth. 

"I'm sorry, m'lady. H- he just left with the Crease-born." The maid stuttered. 

"Forge!" Hettie cried. The maid winced at the curse. "Do you know where they went, perchance?"

The girl shook her head, still not facing Henrietta. The former lady scowled. 

"I'm sorry, m'lady. I was still upstairs." 

But Hettie had already left the stairwell. 

* * * * *

Time passed strangly in the cellar. It could have been half a day that they were locked up, but Sister swore it was no more than a few hours. 

Drake looked at Sister. Her red hair was mussed, falling over her freckled face. Her grimace was severe. 

She'd always been a bit more dour than I. But... this? Taking over Seolfor? And for what? None of us were starving... just under unfair laws. Even those could be avoided in the Crease, where it was lawless. This had to be for personal gain. Drake hated coming to such conclusions, but his sister was not the one he had known... her expression not just grim. It was furious. Each time their eyes met she scowled at him, as though he were the source of her misery. 

The betrayal was searing, like when he touched a bit of forged metal too quickly, or sliced his finger open along the edge of a sharp wire. 

He shifted on the filthy floor, eyes on the fire. This was how Hettie felt about her husband. Perhaps we are not so different after all. 

With the exception of Mina, Drake had probably taken to Hettie's appearance more easily than the others. Carl was not of consequence... he hardly noticed anything outside of a blueprint. But Drake harbored secret prejudices. 

She was too pretty, too feminine to be of help. Too noble to ever be Crease-born. Perhaps even a bit dull in the head, what with her raising. 

But if it weren't for Hettie, we would be oblivious to Sister and Benedict's plans. He might have Seolfor by now. Drake couldn't help but wonder if that would have affected them at all, however. Or would life plod on for the Crease-born, regardless of who was in charge? 

Drake's mind flitted to one evening, early in her arrival. Sister had been talking to him. 

"Hettie wants to know why we think it's moral to work outside of the law." Sister had said with one of her rare smiles. 

Drake had been silent a moment before speaking the well-pondered words. "Because humanity is the goal in life. Helping others. That is why a law is instated. But if the law fails to provide that, then those with the sense to know right from wrong ought to help others." 

"And why do we not just steal what we please?"

"Because that is helping ourselves outside the law. A different matter all-together." Drake had returned the smile. "Does Hettie still insist on calling you Geneve?" And the conversation had wandered off. 

Sister wasn't smiling now. 

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