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Beautiful and Functional

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Laisa turned the Vorfemme knife over, admiring its enamelled hilt. “Duv once mentioned a spy who concealed blades in her hair ornaments. I couldn’t imagine putting a weapon in my hair, but this knife is beautiful as well as functional. I wonder how those hair ornament blades were designed?”

“Hair ornaments that conceal blades? That could be very useful, Laisa. Less likely to be found and taken away from a hostage than a stunner,” remarked Drou. “You might even be able to leave them on your dressing table. Weapons within reach, but a man would never notice them.”

Ekaterin added, “Yes, they would be handy. Aunt Helen, do you think we could find pictures or even descriptions?” Ekaterin, Drou, and Laisa all looked at the Professora hopefully.

“Well, we can certainly try, my dear. A hair ornament might be easier to reach than my Vorfemme knife is, too. I’ll check the university library after my class tomorrow.” The Professora slipped her Vorfemme knife into the sheath below her skirt and picked up her teacup.


“Let’s go into my office where we can project the Professora’s pictures,” Laisa said after greeting Drou, Ekaterin, and the Professora.

“Your comconsole has a projector unit? I’ve thought of adding one so I can show garden designs to clients. But I’m not sure I’d use it enough to make it a good investment. Do you use yours often, Laisa?” Ekaterin asked.

“I use it constantly. I find it very helpful when discussing seating arrangements with Lady Alys because we can split the screen between the table plan and precedence rules. I’ll never understand all the rules as well as she does. And it’s helpful to project trade diagrams and revenue projections when Gregor and I are talking about policy proposals.” Laisa gestured the Professora to the comconsole, poured tea for her guests, then sank gracefully into an arm chair.

“Well, ladies, I found a great deal of information about accessories designed to conceal weapons. Let’s start with hair ornaments.” The Professora said, indicating the wall screen.

“But those aren’t hair ornaments, Professora,” protested Laisa. “They’re chopsticks. They’re sometimes used for eating in Asian restaurants on Komarr.”

“Exactly, Laisa,” beamed the Professora. “But chopsticks have also been used to secure hair in a knot. These chopsticks conceal a very narrow blade, see? Twist the end slightly and you have a four-inch blade. This is another variation, a dragon stick. See how the dragon appears to be hovering in her curls? It’s on a five-inch rod with a sharp point and razor edge.”

“Would that be effective?” Ekaterin asked doubtfully. “The blades are very narrow and not particularly long.”

Drou held her hands up, measuring the lenghth of the blades. “Yes, they could be deadly if you thrust them into the right spot. Thrust upwards, from here, at the right angle and you’d hit the heart. Or a hard thrust into the temple, ear, or eye could reach the brain. You’d have to wait until the person was off-guard, then get the right angle, but you could kill someone with these.”

“I can’t imagine anyone would ever be that off-guard with a hostage nearby,” commented Ekaterin.

“Vordarian was sleeping with Princess Kareen,” Drou said flatly. “What else did you find, Professora?”

“Rings, broaches, and lockets. The designs are rather heavy, but they all have compartments for concealing poison,” the Professora explained. “They were apparently used to poison food or drink.”

“Hmm, poison or possibly a sedative,” mused Drou. “Might be useful in a long-term hostage situation where the guards get lax.”

“And these belts?” asked Laisa.

“Most are simply belts. I found some descriptions of using a belt with a heavy buckle or metal studs to strike an enemy several rapid blows while staying out of range. This belt’s narrow chain can be used to choke someone from behind,” the Professora explained. “This belt  conceals two weapons, a length of razor wire is hidden between the layers and this decorative buckle is actually the hilt of a short knife.”

“A garotte,” murmured Drou. She looked across at Laisa and Ekaterin. “These are all stealth weapons. They won’t be particularly useful during an attack. But as a helpless female hostage, waiting for the right moment, they could help you overpower a guard long enough to reach an escape route or hiding place.”

Laisa’s pretty face looked grim, contemplating this possibility. “If we had them made, could you teach us how to use them, Drou?”

Drou nodded firmly. “Yes. I’ll need a couple of practice dummies, so you can learn the right angles for the blades, but ImpSec can provide them. But how will you get them made and obtain poisons? They’ll only be useful if no one knows about them.”

“The poisons are simple,” said Ekaterin. “Several poisons are made from common plants. I can make them myself. And there’s an old leather worker in the Dendarii Mountains who could make the belts. He refurbished Miles’ grandmother Countess Olivia’s saddle and makes Miles’ belts.”

Laisa added, “I’ll talk with Gregor and General Allegre about the jewellery. But once ImpSec finds us a jeweller, Ekaterin, will you work with him? I’d rather not have jewellery with a military feel and I’m afraid that’s what I’ll get from anyone approved by ImpSec.”

“Of course, Laisa. You’ll want at least a dozen designs, too, to work with different evening gowns and with daywear.” Ekaterin smiled suddenly, “You’ll start a fashion trend. We’ll need some designs without the concealed weapons for all the people who’ll commission pieces of their own.”

Laisa smiled and offered everyone another cup of tea.


“Goodness, Laisa, every other woman in the room is wearing chopsticks with her House seal,” exclaimed Countess Vorvolk. “I just heard Lady Vorpinski remark that you were so romantic, to have the Vorbarra seal and yours and Gregor’s initials worked into your hair pins and belt buckles. What a sweet idea!”

“Why, thank you, Eleanor. I enjoy wearing things that are both beautiful and functional,” Laisa said sweetly. “Now, tell me, is your daughter still enjoying her violin lessons?”