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.


16. Shackles

So this is what it feels like to be chained up in my own cellar, Henrietta thought wryly.

Her arms were chained above her head, just high enough that she couldn’t rest on her knees properly. Clanking echoed in the damp room as her friends shifted restlessly.

“Hettie.” A soft voice was by her ear.

“Geneve?” Hettie hissed.

“Hush. Carl.”

“He’s dead, thanks to you and Hugo.” Henrietta said scathingly.

“I didn’t want any of you to die.” Geneve said after a moment’s pause. “Just…”

“Just the nobles.” Hettie’s voice was cold. “So glad you still have a sliver of a heart left.”

Geneve walked away.

Henrietta hung her head. Was it cruel? Geneve had been given a difficult life. But that was no reason to steal Carl’s entirely…

Time passed slowly. What Hugo and Geneve were doing or what their plans were remained unknown. It nagged at Hettie's mind even worse than the shackles chafing into her wrists.

Hugo never seemed insane. A little mad about his lot in life. And Geneve... she seemed like a real friend, if a bit gloomy. Henrietta thought. I just... how could they do this? 

They could... if they had been replaced. 

Hettie stiffened. 



She got to her feet, releasing her wrists from the cutting metal for a while. 

The door at the top of the stairs opened and footsteps sounded softly on the staircase. Hettie listened as the guard stopped. 

"Hugo has demanded that former Lord Benedict come up for questioning." Said the guard. 

Coincidence, Hettie thought. 

Or proof? 

"No." Hettie said. "I want to speak with Hugo."

"Henrietta," Benedict began.

"No." She said more forcefully. 

Benedict's voice grew stern. "I'm going up." 

"To finish your plan." 


"It was rather clever, darling. Renounce your plans. Get someone else to be the bad guy. But you've just... automatonized Geneve and Hugo, haven't you?" 

She heard Drake's chains snap as he raised his head quickly. 

"Henrietta, calm yourself." 

"Oh, I'm calm. It's you who are frantic. You knew we'd found you out, somehow. Perhaps a spy. So you took action, changed the game-plan. Geneve would never do this." 

"Wrong. Geneve did. Hugo... yes, I 'automaton-ized' him." Benedict admitted. His padlock opened and his chains crashed onto the ground. She heard Drake's chains sag. 

"But why?!" Henrietta seethed. The same question each time, She smiled bitterly. Why does anyone do anything evil? 

"You answered that yourself." 

His boots made muffled sounds on the filthy floor as he walked towards Henrietta. She flinched, expected a blow to the face. But instead, he took the silver disk in his hand. 

"I'm sorry, Henrietta." He said sincerely. "I wanted you in on this plan willingly. It was all for you, in the beginning. But you didn't want this." 

He yanked on the necklace and the delicate chain snapped. 

"No!"  She shrieked. "Benedict, please don't do this!" 

"I'm sorry, love." He said simply. 

Henrietta struggled against the shackles fruitlessly, feet planted on the wall. But she was still blinded by the sack and her hands were still tied up behind her. 

"At least release them from the.... whatever it is." She begged. 

"Not them, just he." 

"Geneve is not evil!" 

"Geneve helped create this plan. You thought she was spying on me?"

Drake's chains snapped taut. 

"Never talk about my sister like that!" 

There was the sound of something striking Drake's face and his chains clanked. 

"Then you would prefer a lie?" Benedict asked. 

"I'd prefer you to let us go!" Henrietta said. 

"I'm sorry, love." Benedict said again. "But you all know too much." He turned to leave. 

"Wait!" Hettie cried. "How did you control Hugo without the key?" 

"I didn't." 

"But... the key was with me." Hettie frowned. 

"And I was with you." Benedict climbed the stairs. 

"Does.... does that mean you don't have to be touching it to use it?" Henrietta whispered. 

Drake shifted. 

"I suppose not." 

"Drake," Hettie asked. "How does one use a device like that?" 

She could practically hear him grimace. 

"Hugo knows more about magic than I do... I 'm the mechanic. That's hardly any mechanics at all." 

Becca broke in. "It's an awful lot like voodoo, really. A crass art, but a delicate one." 

Mina whispered, "Can you do it, Becca?"

There was silence for a moment, each of the shackled prisoners straining to hear Becca's reply. 

"No." She finally said, gasping as though she had been holding her breath. 

"Maybe it has to be done by someone who's touched it." Mina suggested. 

Becca snapped, "Mina, that's silly." 

 "How do you do it, Becca?" Henrietta asked. I have to try something to release Geneve and Hugo from this spell, or whatever it may be. Hettie refused to believe what Benedict said about Geneve. 

Becca sighed. "Just... focus on the person. If you can see their surroundings, you'll know you have them. I focus on the device as well. It's powerful magic, and deadly. That's why we prefer to use more machinery and less magic." 

Henrietta closed her eyes, a pointless task since the dark cellar was already hidden from her eyes by the sack. She pictured Geneve, with her bright red hair and freckles and her icy blue eyes. 

Benedict's office materialized around her. 

Henrietta imagined her coming to the cellar and unlocking them all. Then the image faded and everything became a different sort of blindness... a darkness riddled with dreams....

* * * * *

"It worked, Hettie!" Mina had her in a bone-crushing hug. Hettie shook off her exhaustion. Geneve stood in front of her, looking normal except for the eery way she held the keys out, her whole body stiff. 

Just as Mina let Henrietta go, Drake hugged Geneve. 

"He was lying, wasn't he, Sister?" He asked. 

Geneve tilted her head, then shook it. 

Drake froze. 

"You... are really working for him?" 

"With him." Geneve said irritably. "Hettie, do let me go." 

"So you can run back to my husband with the bad news?" Henrietta said coldly. So he hadn't been lying about Geneve.  

Geneve's lips turned upward in an almost feral snarl. 

Henrietta snatched the keys. "Becca, can you shackle her to the wall?" 

"My pleasure." Becca said with relish, grabbing the keys from Hettie. 

Henrietta moved towards the stairs. "I'm going up. You... you had better stay here. I know the house better." 

Drake was still dumb-founded against the wall, but Mina fought for words to argue with. 

"No buts."

"Ifs?" Mina asked hopefully. 

"No ifs. Or ands." Hettie scaled the staircase. 

"Oh Sister..." She heard Drake say. 

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