Blood and Iron

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"For all you've done, Fran Madaraki, you don't have the stomach for what this job will make you do."

Writeup Info
Title Blood and iron
Genres Action, Drama
Author Archivalfag
Timeline Begins five years prior to Magical Girl Noir Quest.
Canonicity Status Canon
Completion Status Ongoing


With her Officio divided, Fran Madaraki finds herself in a more difficult position than she had bargained for. Squad leaders Clarimonde Isengrim and Veronica Madaraki must now attempt to hold the Thirteenth together while managing their own personal grudges.

Blood and Iron

The Morticians

Blood and Iron: The Morticians Part 1

"Wake up, my little Grimmy-grim~"

The room stank. That was the first thought that ran through Clare's mind as consciousness began to seep in. The smell of blood and shit and piss filled her nose and mouth. Each new inhale took in more of the odour, making her gag uncontrollably. Ragged coughs and wheezes shook her body against the restraints pinning her down. Her eyes shot open, then closed again as the light blinded her. She gagged harder, desperately trying to force the taste of corpse air out of her lungs.

"Oh! Whoopsies~!"

A hand lifted her head off of the operating table. Something snaked its way behind her head as a weight pressed down on the lower half of her face. There was a click and hiss as the the pressure on her face increased, sealing itself on. Clare gave one final, rauccous cough and the horrid stench was purged from her lungs, replaced with a familiar, relaxingly sterile taste of nothingness.

"Poor little Clare-bear," a soft, slightly-accented voice said overhead. Clare felt a gentle hand run through her hair. "How can I give you a good morning kiss with your mask in the way, hm?"

Again, she tried to open her eyes. The light was no less blinding the second time, or the third time, or the fourth. By the fifth try, she managed to squint through the brightness, catching the silhouette of a person against a circular light overhead. A handful of smaller coughs rattled her lungs - the aftershocks of the earlier fit.

Before she could even see properly, Clare grumbled, "Let me up."

The figure hovering over her looked away, its motion giving the impression of indignation. "No magic word, no thank you," the voice pouted. "You could at least give me that much!"

"Dankeschön," Clare muttered, her words rushed, "now let me up."

As details began to fill out, the other girl looked down at her with unearthly bright golden eyes. Her face was beautiful - uncannily so. Long eyelashes, almond-shaped eyes and a slender nose. It was always the eyes that seemed off, Clare thought. Too bright and shimmering, with the sort of unnatural allure that sets off fight or flight instincts. The eyes of a monster wearing a woman's face.

The girl wrinkled her perfect nose and pouted, then flashed a wry grin as she let out a soft giggle. Clare shivered against her restraints.

"Good girl," the girl replied in her sing-song voice, running her hand through Clare's hair one last time.

A loud thunk shook the table as the metal restraints pried themselves apart. Clare pulled herself upright, her naked skin peeling itself off the stainless steel table. The operating room was still darkened, lit only by the overhead lights. The surgeon had since busied herself wheeling tables and machinery out of the way, skipping and humming to herself as she did. It was a cramped chamber, perhaps only big enough for three or four people at the most. The walls were tiled with riveted steel plates, while the floor was made up of metal grates.

Clare pulled the IV from her arm, willing the slightest bit of magic to patch up the hole it left behind. After yanking off another handful of excess wires, she stretched, checking the seals of her respirator as she did.

Vindicare Clarimonde Isengrim (Clare or Grim to her friends) had served the Thirteenth Officio for three years, rising through its ranks to lead The Morticians, the most elite honour guard squad in the Officio. Standing nearly seven feet tall and packed with muscle from head to toe, Clare was a giant compared to most. After three years of genetic enhancements and organ transplants, her body had been converted into the perfect killing machine. Without the alterations, she would have been more than a match for any Rank Leader, but with them... she could very well have held her own even against a Warmaster.

Her surgeon - the young woman who insisted on wearing coats costing in excess of a thousand dollars even during surgery - was Carnicula Prima Wilhelmina von Klempt, and the Morticians' dedicated Apothecary. Originally from the Fourteenth Officio, Billie was contracted for an entire week before being transferred due to 'unsavoury, deviant practices'. At the moment, she wore a long, black lambskin coat in place of a traditional labcoat over a simple, pink button down shirt with most of the top buttons undone, and a black tie hanging loose and low.

The strangest feature of the doctor, however, was not her misplaced sense of style. Rather, it was the great whirring, multi-armed contraption that jutted from her back - the Chirurgeon. Various mechanical appendages reached over her shoulders, ending in drills, syringes, scalpels and various other tools that made Clare shudder. The device seemed to fuse into her back and spine, melding through her coat in a twisted amalgamation of flesh, machine and fashion.

"There we go, three lungs, just like I promised," Billie said, making a show of dusting off her hands. "Honestly, Grim-grims, even your body is picky about where your air comes from."

Clare shrugged. She couldn't help but run her thumb along the red line below her left breast that marked the incision site. The operation had been attempted at least three times before, but each time her body resisted the extra organ and almost killed her in the process. The Apothecary had spent months attempting to formulate an immunosuppressant that wouldn't be neutralized by her existing superhuman organs.

"Can I trust this one to last?" Clare asked.

Billie pouted, her cheeks puffing up as she planted herself firmly in Clare's lap and rested her head against the other girl's shoulder. "Honestly! Two hearts and you can't even spare a 'thank you' without being forced!" She teased. "Isn't it about time you stopped playing hard to get~?"

"Billie," the larger girl muttered, glowering down at the Apothecary.

Billie simply batted her eyelashes and stared into the Mortician's eyes, swirling a finger against her bare chest.

"Thank you for fixing me," Clare conceded, ignoring the invasive intimacy, "now get off."


The Vindicare grunted as she stood, lifting Billie into the air without a second thought, despite the Chirurgeon's added weight.

"Aha!" Billie squealed, clinging onto Clare. "Just like a prince- ACK!"

The Apothecary cried out as Clare dropped her unceremoniously onto the operating table. With a momentary flash of light, the Vindicare's costume materialized around her - a black greatcoat with a bright red, oversized collar that stuck out past her shoulders and a pair of matching crimson gloves.

"I am grateful, but do not presume that I find your antics endearing," she growled at the giggling Venenum. Even through the respirator, the stilted syllables and awkwardly pronounced W's of her suppressed accent were apparent. With one hand, Clare picked her oxygen tank up off the ground and swung it onto her back, fastening the straps around her shoulders.

"Cold and hard all the way through," the Apothecary murmured, giving her an inscrutably gentle smile. "Someday you'll have to soften up, Miss Iron Hound. I know there's a cute little puppy dog in there somewhere!"

Clare scowled harder. With her respirator, her eyes took on the burden of expressing her full range of emotion. They were always sharp and stern, and her irises blazed with an unnatural golden-orange sunset hue. She could have sworn they were simply brown before she had contracted to the Thirteenth.

Before she could formulate a response, the PA system overhead crackled to life. "Vindicare Isengrim and Carnicula Prima von Klempt to the meeting room," a male-sounding voice called out muffled tones. "Repeat, Vindicare Isengrim and Carnicula Prima von Klempt to the meeting room. Thank you."

"Come," Clare murmurred, tilting her head toward the door.

Billie obliged with a mischievous grin. By the time she hopped off the operating table, the Vindicare was already out the door and moving through the narrow halls of the MS Pulchritudinous.

The Vindicare's stride always held a certain air of grim determination, her leather gloves crackling as she balled her hands into fists. Billie, on the other hand, turned her chin up as she walked with all the elegance of a fashion model, her heels clicking against the linoleum and the Chirurgeon jingling and rattling behind her with every step.

There was a time when the Pulchritudinous was a proud, luxurious cruise liner, her halls bustling with wealthy patrons, but that era had come and gone long ago. Billie had purchased the forty-something year old ship for the measly sum of three million American dollars. She had affectionately referred to it as a 'fixer-upper' at the time. After two deaths, a dozen serious injuries and several times her original cost had been put into her, the ship had finally been deemed sea-worthy once again.

The lowest passenger deck - still retaining its original name, the Coral Deck - had been given over entirely to the small staff of Venenum on board. Billie's private quarters and laboratory took up much of the forward portside, while a dozen other private offices lined the starboard. Between them were the stairs to the Fiesta Deck, flanked by a pair of elevators.

Clare prodded the call button on the nearest elevator, then tried her best to keep Billie from clinging to her arm as they waited.

Across from the elevators, through a set of revolving doors, Clare could see into what had once been a lavish dining hall. Now, it held banks of consoles staffed by the many Venenum onboard, while tubes of life support fluid and the subjects contained therein were placed against the walls. As Clare mindlessly shook the Chief Apothecary off her arm for the umpteenth time, she couldn't help but try to see over the shoulders of the Venenum, curious about their work. Clare had never had a mind for it herself, but the results fascinated her nonetheless.

By the time the elevators rumbled open, the Vindicare had conceded to Billie's insistent skinship. The way she wrapped herself around the oversized arm reminded Clare more of a child than anything resembling a lover. Even still, Clare was thankful that her squad tended to steer clear of the ship's bowels whenever they could.

Horribly grating, bouncing music greeted them as they stepped inside - yet more of Billie's handiwork. Up the elevators rose through the decks, through Fiesta, Aloha, Riviera and Promenade. The journey to the bridge deck seemed to last an hour in Clare's mind, the Venenum at her side bouncing and shimmying to the elevator music. Eventually, at long last, the doors hissed open, freeing Clare from Billie's clutches.

In contrast to the lower decks, the bridge deck (not bearing any festive title) was plain and utilitarian, with a black linoleum floor and cream-coloured walls. While the bridge itself was untouched, the captain's quarters had been modified into an official meeting room, complete with a long table, swivel chairs and perrenial coffee mugs.

There, leaning against the wall by the door, Clare spotted a woman with blonde hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, a smouldering cigarette between her lips. She wore no magical girl costume, instead sporting a grey jacket and urban camouflage pants. As she caught sight of the newly arrived pair, she waved a hand and smirked behind her cigarette.


"Joe," Clare said in monotone, snatching the cigarette out of the blonde's mouth and crushing it in a gloved hand. "I don't recall hearing your name being called."

Hailing from the Sixteenth, Vindicare Josephine Laurent had taken the position of Clare's second-in-command following the previous squad leader's departure. She was one of very, very few people that Clare trusted enough to call a friend.

"Ah, you know," the blonde laughed, her words coloured by a French accent, "I just thought I'd stop by and see what is 'appening. Must be important for them to call the both of you, no?"

Clare raised an eyebrow and gave the French girl a bemused smirk beneath her rebreather. "Suit yourself," she said, opening the door. "Come, then."

"So lenient?" Joe snickered as she followed after Clare. "You worry me, Grim."

As the three magical girls filed into the darkened meeting room, they found that the television at the far end of the table was already on. An incubator sat primly atop a wooden desk, looking much the same as many of his brothers, save for the pair of thick-rimmed glasses, a tiny necktie and a slightly curled tuft of hair between his ears. Behind him was a blonde-haired young woman, a stitched line running from the corners of her lips and across her face.

"Hi, Nigel~" Billie exclaimed before throwing herself into a chair and spinning around.

"Nigel," Clare said as she gave the incubator a nod. "Madaraki." Just a hint of venom coated her tongue as she said the second name.

"Ah, there you are!" The incubator said. "Good afternoon, Miss Isengrim, Doctor von Klempt! And, oh! I see Miss Laurent will be joining us as well!"

"Bonjour," Joe replied, taking her own seat.

Of the three, only Clare remained standing, her arms crossed, though none of the others seemed to find this unusual. Behind Fran Madaraki, she could recognize what appeared to be the captain's office onboard the SS Rafflesia. The Venenum took the Warmaster's seat with a certain implaceable ease that immediately put Clare on edge.

"Excellent! Now that everyone is gathered here, I suppose I'll right to chase," the incubator started. Despite being the head of the German-based Officio, he spoke with an unmistakable - if somewhat exaggerated - British accent. "There has been something of a, er, how shall I say, 'change of command' in the Officio. Erm, truth be told, I'm not entirely sure how to put this-"

The incubator was silenced as Fran placed a gentle, but firm hand on his head. "What Nigel meeeeans to saaaaay," she started, "is that as of, ooooh, one hour ago, Warmaster Strauss has been foooormally dismissed from the Thirteenth Officioooo."

"Ah?" Billie made a small, excited yelp, as though suddenly understanding. "Does- Does this mean that I- that my greatest is finally-"

"Erm, I'm sorry," Fran said, "but no. As of noooow, I have taken up the mantle of Chief Director of the Thirteeeenth!"

Silence reigned. Both sides seemed to be waiting for the other to speak first. Clare counted as her twin hearts beat thrice each before clearing her throat.

"Nigel," the senior Vindicare said, her voice carrying the same edge as a cocked gun, "is this true?"

"Yes!" He exclaimed, seemingly pulled from a trance. Nonetheless, his voice carried the same overly-enthusiastic tone as always. "Thank you, Chief Director! I couldn't have put it better myself! We thought it would be prudent to inform you, ah, 'in person' before the official memo goes out. An official inauguration will be held in the coming weeks. In the mean time-"

"There was," Clare interrupted, "a coup?" Something dark and four-legged seemed to flicker in the shadows behind her.

"'Coup' is an ugly word, but," Fran answered, "to be clear, yes. Things have happened, Clare. Doctor Strauss' atrocities have become known to the greater Officio community. You can not honestly have expected her not to face consequences."

"Chief Director Madaraki is quite correct, Vindicare Isengrim," Nigel added. "Should we have continued to support Doctor Strauss, I fear our Officio may have faced purgation! It is in our best interest to issue a firm denouncement of her practices and draft a reformed ethics policy in the wake of this incident."

"What THINGS have happened Madaraki?" Clare asked, her shadow stretching unnaturally again. "How did this get OUT?"

"ETHICS POLICY?!" Billie screeched, horrified.

"Doctor Strauss overreached her boundaries," Fran replied. Her expression was far more stoic and resolved than Clare had ever seen before. She almost respected it. "She kidnapped an innocent magical girl from the Ninth. Is that enough for you, Clare?"

"Why does SHE get to be Warmaster?" Billie asked, keeping a much looser hold on her emotions than the German Vindicare. "I've been a Prima for FOUR YEARS, DAMN IT!"

"Excellent question!" Nigel exclaimed. "In the interests of projecting a stronger, more ethical image, I have deemed Fran Madaraki to be the best choice for the position. Of course, I mean no personal offense! You are a wonderful scientist, Doctor von Klempt, but you can see where your ideals may cause conflicts of interest."

Billie's beautiful face twitched and shook, looking as though her veins were about to burst through her forehead. Before the Apothecary could say anything further, Clare raised a gloved hand. A faint, canine-sounding whimper echoed through the room as Clare's shadow settled.

"If," she started, her calm, detached aura having returned, "there are no further questions, I would like to speak with our new Warmaster alone."

She glanced at the others, her burning orange eyes fixating on Billie. The Venenum shook her head gently and stared down into her lap. The German Vindicare then nodded at her second, who had been conspicuously silent during the meeting. Despite not having said a word, Clare found herself immensely grateful that Joe had joined her for the meeting.

"Joe. Take the the Carnicula. Watch over her. Get a drink."

The other Vindicare clasped a fist over her heart as she rose. Joe tried her best to work an arm around Billie's shoulders, past the Chirurgeon, but it didn't quite seem to work. Instead, the Venenum wrapped herself around Joe's arm and leaned into her. Clare found a smile tugging at her lips beneath her respirator, musing on the similarity to her own situation just minutes ago.

As the door shut behind the pair, Clare turned back to find Fran shooing the incubator off of her desk. For a moment, the new Chief Director struggled to meet the Mortician's stare, but seemed to steady her resolve in short order.

"I'm not sorry, if that's what you're expecting to hear."

What was meant to be a snickered escaped Clare's lips as a sharp, loud bark of laughter. "Of course you aren't. You think the Doctor was a monster and yourself some gallant hero."

"I'm no hero," Fran corrected. "I'm just the one left to clean up her mess."

Clare shook her head, somehow finding herself smiling yet again. "And you'll do a terrible job of it. We both know that."

"Excuse me?"

"Tell me. Our Officio has, what? Four hundred? Five hundred Venenum?"

"Four hundred and eighty-sev- Eighty-six."

"And do you really believe that Doctor Strauss was the only one of her kind?"

"Not yet," Fran replied, smiling softly, "but I intend to change that."

"And how? Your 'ethics policy'?" Clare asked. "How do you plan to enforce that?"

"I- We-"

"Will you kill those that disobey? We both know you won't. Imprison them? For a magical girl, that might as well be a death sentence anyways."

"Banishment," Fran answered. "We will cut off their funding and disown them, just-" Her voice seemed to waver for a moment," just as we did with Doctor Strauss."

"You did what?" Clare asked, somewhat bemused at the revelation.

"We banished her," Fran repeated. "We- We left her in the city and disowned her."

The Vindicare smiled as something suddenly clicked inside her mind. "You left her in the city?"

"Yes, why?"

"And what of Protocol Ten?"

Clare had never seen someone turn so pale so quickly. The Chief Director's skin was almost transluscent. "How do you-"

"Warmaster- Apologies, 'Chief Director'," Clare laughed, "I spent four years working security in Varrigan. The last year was spent as the Warmaster's personal bodyguard. You thought I wouldn't know?"

"Are- Are you trying to tell me you would have told me, if I had let you in on the plan?"

"Don't be stupid," Clare said, "I would have hunted you down for treason."

"Then why would you bring it up?"

"I wanted to see what sort of expression you would make when faced with the consequences of your actions," Clare replied, as though it were simple common sense. "Even now, you know that killing me and purging this ship would be the smartest course of action, and yet you won't. For all you've done, Fran Madaraki, you don't have the stomach for what this job will make you do."

"And thaaaat is where we differ," Fran said. Hearing the German's words seemed to steel her and give her clarity, by the fact that her verbal tic had returned. "I wiiiill reform this Officiooo without getting my haaaands bloody. The Doctor Strausses of thiiiiis world are going extiiiiinct, Miss Isengrim. I woooon't ask for you to like iiiit, I oooonly ask for your respect and your loooyalty."

The Vindicare snorted as her own proud smirk faded. "To my death, I am loyal to the Thirteenth," she responded, her statement punctuated by the hissing of her respirator. "As long as you lead, I will follow. But until you can do what is necessary for this Officio's future, you will NEVER have my respect."

Fran let out a tired sigh, then shrugged. "I guess that's aaaaas much as I can aaaaask," she conceded. "There iiiiis one other thiiiing to cover before you goooo."

Clare simply grunted and cocked an eyebrow.

"I found yooouuu an Eversoooor to fill in your squuuaaad~"

"Go on."

"I made a liiiiittle deal with the Seventeenth aaaaand they offered one of theeeeirs," Fran explained. "Her naaaame is, um, let's see." The Chief Director paused to shuffle through a pile of papers in one of her desk drawers. At last, she pulled out the right one as Clare impatiently drummed her fingers on her bicep. "Veraaaa Rourke! That's her! I'll have her fuuuuull dossier emailed to you later todaaay. Their Warmaster says she was in liiiine to be Rank Leadeeeer! You'll haaave her by the end of the weeeeeek~"

The Vindicare nodded. "Will that be all?"

"I thiiiink so," Fran answered. Clare watched her for a moment before Fran caught herself. "Ah, sorry! Yooouuu're dismissed!"

Clare thumped a fist over her heart and nodded again. "Long live the Warmaster," she said.

"It's Chief Director noooow, remeeeember?"

"Mm," the Mortician grunted as she began to turn away. "So it is."

The Cleaners