SPOILER ALERT (for those who have not yet completed Feast of Fates).
While reading the Feast of Dreams proof this week, I came across one of my favorite scenes. It’s not particularly action-filled, though it does have a sinister drama. We get another glimpse into one of the more Machiavellian personalities in the tale: The Iron Queen. You didn’t really think that her setback in Menos (an entire city nearly collapsing on her) would dull her extraordinary ambition, did you? What makes Gloriatrix so interesting (to me), is her ruthlessness as a ruler. She’s a woman who has played at the games traditionally racketeered by men and won. She has the determination and conviction of a hero, though I think most of us would agree that she isn’t the same shade of morality as Morigan. I don’t know who she’s patterned after, though in my dreams she’s played by a grey-haired Meryl Streep in a Victorian gown and a barbed crown.
Enough of my fancies. I hope that you enjoy this scene from Feast of Dreams, which will be in your hands or on your favored e-reader very soon:
In the pink shade of dusk that seeped through Menos’s umbrella of smog, the gardens of the Blackbriar estate had a painterly sheen. Shapes were distorted with watery outlines in the glass through which Gloriatrix spied them. She was frowning, though she was relatively contented. Fate was bending in her favor. Operations at Fort Havok would be complete in another fortnight or so, and three great warships would soon rise out of a hidden bunker in a flock of darkness and bring wrath upon Eod. Gloriatrix decided she would be at the armada’s head. She wanted to watch the end of Eod from the best seat in the house. That was the least she deserved, for she had been planning this black masterpiece with a maestro’s precision—at much the same loss of fortune, years, and sanity a maestro often paid. For genius was costly.
Retrofitting the crumbled hollows of Blackforge’s mine into a clean, modern factory was no trifling affair. Preposterous sums of money had been spent on this construction. It was enough that every wretch in Menos could have eaten for generations. It was money of her own fortune, as well as crowns garnered through some rather creative accounting with the city coffers. The total cost in slaves and labor was surely obscene. The few collaborators she had in this gambit—Elissandra, Moreth, and Augustus—were to be applauded for their silence all this time. The riches she gave them weren’t the sole source of their loyalty either. Undoubtedly, they also felt the surety of her vision and this war’s righteousness. Were her zeal not enough of an inspiration, the forces amassed at Fort Havok would pulverize any doubt. She was eager to see her armada—all that metal and technomagik under her command. War between advanced cultures such as Eod and Menos should not involve prolonged, messy melees in trenches and on horseback. Whose ancient rules were those? Not hers. Such dated pomposity was for graying kings and warlords to flash their banners and measure their pricks and honor against one another. There was no honor in war. There was only victory. The rest was posturing. Geadhain had yet to see modern warfare as she envisioned it—as quick and cold as a bullet to the head. It was an absolute suppression of one’s enemy. The world was not ready for the destruction she had prepared: the pits brimming with the smoking dead, the horizon of mushroom explosions, and the windy echo of Eod’s desolation. Not even a sobbing ghost would be heard, let alone remembered, in the ash the city would become. That was why she would win. She knew the true cost of winning.
“Iron Queen,” a foot soldier said, and roused her from her reverie.