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06 January 2018 @ 11:17 am


"I've got a castle half-built for that very purpose, but things keep coming up."

"Like this cook-off? Relax. It's a whole different kind of crisis than, say Helios. This'll mainly be politics, with a strong seasoning of youthful competitive sabotage."

"That does not reassure me."

She giggled. "I'll go see what's going on in the ladies gossip circuit, and see you for dinner . . . maybe."


When she walked back into the embassy enclave she was surprised to be accosted by the guards . . . "Ra'd? What are you doing still here?"

"Guarding. Except when I'm learning Comet Fall magic."

"Hmm, yes. I'm jealous that you figured out the Teleporting before I did. What are you going to do next?"

"Not sure. But I'm sure something will come up. What are you doing here? Or can't you say?"

"Keeping an eye on this insane cook-off. And figuring out why Ambassador Ashe started it. So where do I go to collect gossip?"

The guards all swapped grins. "The beauty shop." A chorus of three of them, not well synced.

Ra'd snickered. "I'll run recon and see if any of the worst gossips are in today, the timings about right."

Rael raised her eyebrows.

"There are two competing groups of secretaries and whatnot. They all get their hair cut about the same time every six weeks so no one get's sneered at as 'letting themselves go, deary?' and so forth. Nasty hen pecking."

"Sounds perfect." Rael put a hand to her short hair. "I could use a trim."

Ra'd grinned while the other's boggled. "Boss? Can I take off half an hour early?"

One of the guys waved him off. "I'm not sure you're still assigned to my shift, or anything else, either."

"Ha! Bet I am. Izzo knows better than to let me get bored." Ra'd looked back to Rael. "Let me put on civvies so we don't get snubbed."

Rael nodded, and eyed the other guards curiously. "So you're actually getting along with him?"

That got her a batch of puzzled looks.

"He was a proper little snot of a teenager. Really, Urfa was worried about a warrior trained juvenile delinquent for a bit there."

The guy in charge shook his head. "I see flashes of that . . . and he was downright scary the way he approved of the genetic attack."

Rael's turn to boggle. "I . . . that was not what I'd assumed his reaction would be. Um, hi! I'm Rael."

Which got her their names in return. A nice bunch of people.

These are the guys they ought to have been pulling into the Teams.

Ra'd trotted back in his version of casual that involved a button up dress shirt without a tie. "C'mon, you can meet Fluffy and Buffy. Hairstylists extraordinaire."

"Fluffy and Buffy?" Rael eyed his hair. "You are trimmer than usual."

"Fluffy." He led her through the doors to building two—the residential highrise. "There's two floors of shops and whatnot here."

They crowded into the elevator, Rael swallowed a giggle at the amount of space around Ra'd. They barely notice him, but still don't jostle him.

She followed him off into what looked like a suburban mall, past one beauty shop and around a corner, into another.

Two good looking women, a very well endowed blonde and a slinky brunette.

"This is Fluffy, who cuts my hair, and Buffy her partner in beauty."

The blonde gal laughed. "Such flattery! Is this the almost wife?"

Rael giggled. "No, no, don't get me into trouble with her. I just need a quick trim."

They both eyed her hair.

Ra'd snickered. "She's the other kind of Princess—the deadly fighter. She needs her hair so short it can't be grabbed in a fight, but still attractive. I figure you guys could probably pull that off."

Rael had to work to not squirm as she was examined.

Then Fluffy nodded. "We can do it, but we've got appointments for this time block. They're late—as usual."

Buffy stepped out the door and looked both directions. "I see them, dawdling along. We could fit you in after them, say half an hour?"

"No problem. Do you mind if I just and read?"

"Sure thing honey. Or join the chatter. Everyone is talking about the Fair."

"The cook-off? The whole thing's just spun up out of control, hasn't it?" Rael pretended to not see Ra'd making his escape.

Buffy grinned. "We'll get a lot of business right up to the day. Then we're going to close the shop and head out to have fun."

The middle-aged woman who walked in to hear that rolled her eyes. "Fun? It's a lot of work for us!"

The second woman snorted. "At least your boss is having fun. Mine is running his staff off their feet, trying to figure out what the Purps are going to do for the fair."

Rael perked up. "They're kind of primitive, aren't they?"

Buffy shook her head. "Don't let that wooden fort of there's fool you. That's just history to them. They do reinactments and such . . . Hmm, I'll they'll do one of them."

The first woman laughed. "Don't look so predatory, Moar. I don't think the Ambassador is going to let your boss mess it up."

Moar looked down her nose at the other woman. "And of course you know what the ambassador wants."

Supercilious sniff. "What Ambassador Ashe wants is that appalling princess of his to stop trying to seduce him."

"Really? Why? Xaum's his third wife and she hasn't gotten pregnant. He's probably going to send her off soon."

Rael settled back and soaked up nearly an hour of valuable information. Then got a wonderful shampoo and scalp massage, and what they called a pixie cut that left a bit curl and would allow a bit of spikiness in the front wisps when she wanted it.