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Walking through Barrayar's most exclusive marketplace surrounded by half a dozen armed guards wasn't exactly Cordelia's idea of a pleasant evening, but she was still too reluctant to let servants do her shopping for her and too uncertain to do it on her own. At least Aral generally let her buy whatever she wanted, unless it was entirely disastrous. Shopping trips with Alys were planned and executed like small wars. 

"Do you think we should get -" she began, but Aral wasn't there. Cordelia turned around and saw her husband staring at a building across the street with an utterly fascinated expression on his face. As she watched, his eyes crinkled up and he made a strange half-choked sound, which turned into a laugh.

In fact, he looked as if he was struggling not to double over with laughter. Cordelia came over to his side and stared, wondering what had managed to catch his interest and whether she could buy it for him. 

On the opposite side of the street was the familiar green-draped shop window of Siegling's. But the old display of ornamental swords and silver-plated stunners was gone, replaced by a circle of identical swordsticks surrounding one shopping bag.