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both Kristh and Baubin protested. Kristh continued for both of them. “Gold doesn.t go with her eyes. I agree she shouldn.t look quite as beautiful as she does in the blue dress with the lace, but too much gold would make the dress more visible than her.” “He has a point,” Talladen agreed. “Perhaps a comp ghd iv romise?” “How about her long gold skirt and one of her blue tops?” Dar-shem offered. Talladen and Rogen both winced, and Baubin wrinkled his nose. Cotter, coming back from showing the wavescout to the parlor and its balcony view of the city, rolled his eyes. Nevada stepped in verbally before they could continue. “Your suggestions all have merit . . . but I.ll wear black pants and a gold top for this first meeting. It.ll give an impression that I still have access to wealth and thus power, yet cannot be easily intimidated.” “Pants? Why pants?” Sierran asked as the others nodded in agreement. “You know as well as I do that noblewomen in Althinac wore skirts, as a sign of their status. Commoner women who had to work for a living wore pants. I.m sure nothing has changed that drastically fashion-wise in the last twelve years.” “Because it.s a compromise. My good black leather skirt is barramundi leather, and my good gold blouse is stingray. The two scale patterns clash. Not to mention I seem to remember Althinac having a lot more access to land leathers and actual fabrics,” Nevada pointed out. “If I walk into this meeting wearing blatantly fish-scaled leathers, I.ll look more like a Menomonite than an Althinac. I have a pair of trousers made from manta, which is close enough to stingray that it.ll match the blouse. And the blue dress, lovely though it may be, was made from parrotfish hide. It matches the salvaged lace for the trim, but otherwise it looks too Menomonite.” “Never mind what she.s wearing,” Cotter said dismissively, cutting into his own steak now that he was seated again. “We need to figure out what we are wearing.” “You?” Sierran scoffed. “This is an Althinac matter, not a Menomonite one.” “We.re still her husbands,” Dar-shem reminded him. “If these delegates came with an entourage to impres pink hair straighteners s people with their importance, then we.ll need to provide her with one, too . . . or rather, you will. I.ll have to head to work in half a glow.” Nevada glanced at the clock out of habit. Like the clocks in the other rooms of their tenement, it was crafted from nodes of suncrystal similar to the ones embedded in the ceiling. Unlike the overhead crystals, the clocks weren.t turned off by a switch; instead, spells caused them to light up and dim twice a day on a twelve-hour, twelve-spoked cycle, shining brightest and fullest at noon and midnight. Measuring time was important when one couldn.t always see the actual sun and moons sliding across the rippling waters of the Meno ghd flat iron monite sky. It was her guild, the Mage.s Guild, that enchanted and maintained such things. Her guild that grew the suncrystal towers which brought blessed, necessary sunlight from the wave-tossed surface all the way down to the plants and animals growing in the harvesting caverns at the base of the reef-ringed city. Her guild that had graciously done its best to maintain contact, however sporadic, with Althinac . . . and her guild that hadn.t warned her that a delegation from that distant city was on its way. Why didn.t we know? Why didn.t Althinac warn us they were coming? Picking at her food, Nevada worried over that point. Even if I don.t have the seniority of some of the others, I.m the one our “informant” has been talking with these last few years. Nor would the others go behind my back; I.m among the top ten highest ranked mages in the hair straighteners ghd guild. I would have known about it even if the message had come during my off hours! So why didn.t they say they were coming? THE moment she entered the Aviary, one of the best meeting rooms in the council Congregation Halls, Nevada knew why nothing had been said. Mouth gaping, she stared at the most important man in the room. Only peripherally did she notice the quartet of men and the one woman who accompanied him, distinct in their fabric clothes from the Menomonites in their sea leathers. Mastering her shock, Nevada struggled to adopt a pleasant expression instead of a stunned one as she approached, flanked by her husbands and her honorary co-father. That approach was masked by the chirps and twitters of the songbirds flitting from tree to tree. Breathable space for animals and plants as well as humans was at a premium, but the Aviary was one of the oldest and fanciest public venues in Menomon. Normally it was only available during day ghd ceramic straighteners light hours; with the sun having set during supper, only the residual light lurking in the crystals of the s ghd hair dryer un towers and the occasional passing of a luminous fish could illuminate the pitch-black depths of the city. Agitated by the extended span of crystal-wrought light, the birds flitted from bush to tree, almost as colorful as the fish residing in the city.s many reefs, and certainly noisier. Althinac was a city partly on the surface and partly beneath the sea, built as it was around a pearl necklace of coral atolls much older and taller than the reefs sheltering Menomon. They were undoubtedly used to seeing non-edible birds flying about freely, but Nevada could tell the visitors were still impressed. Particularly that one central figure, who was craning his neck so he could peer at the bright yellow and green budgerigar that had boldly landed on his shoulder. The bird finished cleaning its beak with a talon and fluttered off, allowing its human perch to finally notice Nevada.s approach. The smile he gave her was big, friendly, and unabashed. It made his teeth look very white in his suntanned face. He emphasized his pleasure by breaking away from the others, hand outstretched in greeting as he crossed the brick-tiled courtyard being used as their ghd hair straighteners meeting space. “Nevada! I.m very glad to finally meet you in person.” “Migel,” Nevada returned, smiling back as she clasped hands with him. She couldn.t help smiling; for a man raised on the rebel side of the civil war, he had always been very nice toward both her and Sierran. Of course, Migel.s insistence on staying neutral all these years and focusing on expanding his knowledge of training through his contacts in various cities hadn.t hurt. It had given them a non-hostile contact to talk with back home. Now, in person, that warmth in his personality transmitted itself in the warmth of his hand. Part of her just wanted to wrap herself up in his hand. Part of her wanted to wrap herself up in the rest of his embrace. With the remainder, she managed a coherent question. “It is indeed a great pleasure to meet you in person, instead of vi cheap ghds a the mirrors . . . but why are you here? They made you the Guardian of Althinac last year, at the start of the truce. Why would they let the Guardian of the City go anywhere?” “They .let. me because they don.t know I.ve left. They think I.m undertaking a purification ritual in strict isolation; otherwise I would have told you I was coming. Unfortunately, there are still a few radicals on both sides who would not only violently protest my leaving the city, but also the reason why I came here at all.” His eyes, the same cerulean shade of blue as hers, flicked to the faces of the men spreading out to flank her. “A ghd mk4 re these your fellow guild members?” “Only Cotter is part of the Mage Guild. Migel, this is my first husband Cotter, a generalist mage of the fourth rank; Cotter, this is Migel, Guardian of Althinac.” Nevada turned slightly to her other side, ready to introduce the next man in her entourage, but the stunned, crumbling look on the Guardian of Althinac.s suntanned face stopped her. “Is something wrong?” He shook his head, but not in reply. “This isn.t going to work . . . I came all the way here with what I thought was a brilliant idea, and it.s not going to work.” Getting the feeling she was missing out on something, Nevada tilted her head. “Mind telling me what.s wrong? And what your idea was?” “It.s the Convocation of the Gods,” Migel explained. “The priestess picked to represent Althinac during the Summoning of Althea presented both sides of our civil war to Her and asked if there was a simple, workable solution to our ongoing civil war. The Goddess of Waves answered with the statement .When the two houses are rendered one, the war will end.. Or words to that effect. “Most of the radicals on both sides took that to mean a resumption of hostilities and tried to break the truce. I stopped it . . . barely . . . and said I would meditate on its meaning. But I thought at the time the meaning was very clear. To render doesn.t mean to destroy—that.s ghd pure to rend —but rather, to render means things like to conform, submit, and represent. So I thought it meant we should make the two ruling houses of the loyalists and the rebels join as one,” he explained. “The loyalists won.t accept anyone but a Naccaran leading the city. “You.re the last ghd ceramic straighteners one, unless you count a few embittered, distant cousins among the extremists who have been keeping the loyalist faction firmly alive. The majority of loyalists don.t want an extremist on the city seat, though. They.d rather take their chances on an exiled princess. On the other side of the matter, the rebels won.t accept anyone but an Althec paving the way to a new and better future, because of the excesses of your father and next-mother. “I.m a first cousin to the idiots who started this mess. Plus I.m the guardian of the city, the only one both sides felt was calm enough to take up the position and enforce the truce. That gives me a certain level of authority to . . . well, to have imposed my will, making everyone accept a marriage of alliance between us.” He paused and shook his head, the ends of his dark brown hair flicking over his shoulders with the quick, negative movement. “But if you.re already married, it wouldn.t work.” “Why wouldn.t it work?” Cotter asked, giving the Althinac male a puzzled look. Migel glanced at him. “Because she.s already married?” “What has that to do with anything?” Rogen asked, folding his arms across his chest. “She.s already got six husbands. One more at this point won.t matter that much.” Nevada took in Migel.s shocked look and blushed, remembering why he was so upset. It.s just proof of how well I.ve adapted to the Menomonite way of looking at things that I totally forgot about this. “Migel, I.m only married because, under Menomonite law, I had no legal reason not to be married. The law in this city is that unless a woman is willing to pay a very stiff fine, or has a medical or magical reason to sidestep the law, all women have to have at least three husbands by the time they turn twenty-five. “Given how I.m twenty-four, I.ve never had a great deal of wealth, and I had no clue whatsoever that this solution for ending the war was going to be presented to you before my time limit was up, I went ahead and married my best friend, Cotter, five years ago and then picked out a few more. This is Rogen, who is my second and lead husband,” she added, introducing t ghd products he two of them. She gestured at the others as well. “I.m also wed to Kristh, leopard print ghds Baubin, and Talladen here, as well as to Dar-shem, though he.s not here.” “Dar-shem had to go off to work the night shift instead of accompanying us to meet your delegation; he.s helping to construct our own desalinator, based on the blueprints of the

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