Fan Fiction : Discworld : Little Cameos Of Life On The Discworld: 3 - Conina's Barbarian Hairdresser's

Little Cameos Of Life On The Discworld: 3 - Conina's Barbarian Hairdresser's

Paul Catlow PLC1723 at yahoo.co.uk


Conina's Barbarian Hairdresser's

In which Conina and Nijel, from Sourcery, have settled down to run a beauty salon for Ankh-Morpork's working girls. Introducing Xingli. I plan to use Conina's as the starting-point for meetings and adventures - consider this a prologue.

General fiction, with passing nods in the direction of Sourcery, Thief of Time and Interesting Times.

"So where did you say you were going on holiday this year?" she asked, as she combed out the long ribbons of freshly-washed hair. The not-quite-natural-fruit chemical smell of residual shampoo and conditioner rose as she deftly teased out the strands of hair, preparatory to cutting and shaping.

Steffi relaxed into the chair, appreciating a rare moment of ease and pampering: she felt relaxation spreading down from her scalp into the muscles of her neck and shoulders and into the sinewy muscles of her arms. Her senses were still heightened, but in a nice way: she was aware of the warmth of her hairdresser's body as she moved behind her, of the starched white cotton of her overall, and the smell of her perfume. She stole a glance to the coat-stand by the door: good, her dagger and toolbelt were still there, hanging on a peg.

Not that she expected anything else at Conina's salon: the last unlicenced thief who'd tried his arm here had unfortunately picked a busy Octeday afternoon, and the clientele had taken exception, every woman of them, to having her precious me-time intruded upon by the everyday reality of Ankh-Morpork. In the end, a combination of Xínglí and Angua von Überwald had brought him down. They'd tied him to the rafters by his ankles and wrists, and debated whether to give him to the Watch or the Thieves' Guild to be dealt with appropriately. The thief had appealed to Angua for the Watch to arrest him; she had shrugged and said "This is my day off. My first in weeks. And anyway I left my Watch badge at home. Nothing to do with me. Here, I'm just an ordinary citizen on her day off work. Having her hair done by the best in the business. Which you interrupted." After that, nobody had complained about Angua being a customer at Conina's: every woman deserves to have her hair looked after, Watchwoman or not, and anyway, nobody ever said anything important around her.

Steffi smiled up into her hairdresser's face.

"Well, it's not really a holiday as such." she said. "Just some fieldwork for the Guild, down towards the Hub. Mr. Boggis and the Guild Council want an update on some of the temples down there. You know yourself, what with the barbarian hero business being a dwindling trade these days, it's possible nobody's been out on a mercantile venturing…"

"Thieving", Conina corrected her, snipping carefully.

"Guild business trip. For quite some time. So I'm to scout out places like the Monks of Cool. The Balancing Monks. The History Monks. And especially the Yen Buddhists. Just to see what their security's like and if there are any informal ways of getting in and out."

"Rich people, the Yen Buddhists." Conina observed, combing out a new layer of Steffi's hair. "I can definitely see the attraction there. My dad always said there were loose slates on the donjon roof that a man could drop through, right on top of the treasury. A couple of pocketfuls of loose gems, he said, nothing too greedy, and you were made for a fortnight or so. But why the History Monks? They're about the only Hubland monastery that takes the vow of poverty seriously, apparently. Dad said he got in once and realized two things about them: one, that they really were dirt-poor, and two, that they were tricky buggers. Said he was lucky to get out in one piece, and he was damn sure they'd done something to his head to make him think he was twenty or thirty years younger. Why them?"

"There's an old friend from the Guild. Newgate Ludd. We both grew up as Guild foundlings. We trained together up until we were both about seventeen. Then he disappeared. Word on the street is that the History Monks took him and gave him some silly damn Hublandish name. If some bloody religious cult got its hooks into him, I want him back, as he was, not staring up into some Moon all day." [1]

"Nobody needs a swivel-eyed Moonie staring over your left shoulder all the time. I've seen it. It's not nice." Conina agreed, sympathetically. She swished around the chair to shape another handful of hair. Steff looked up and wished she had a figure like that. And platinum-blonde hair like that. Steffi shivered slightly as Conina briefly rested her body against her bare arm, feeling the warm hard warmth of her taut stomach-muscles through the overall. But any daughter born to parents like that would get a body like that as standard. She knew how Conina had got the salon. With opportunities dwindling in the Hero business - the clacks and the coach roads were making the Disc smaller and less remote every day - she'd heard her father had made it big in Agatea [2]. She had gone over to have a look, and had come back with lots of easily portable gold and gems. Oh, and Xingli. Her father's gift had bankrolled the salon, she'd retired from being a Heroine for Hire, and after that they'd never looked back.

"Good man, Nijel." Conina murmured. Her husband was there now, amiably sweeping up the debris of old hair and clippings that littered the salon floor. Steffi smiled at him - the clientele at Conina's regarded him with good-natured affection, as the only male licenced to intrude on salon gossip - and thought that, in an odd sort of way, Conina had been lucky again. At least six foot seven, Nijel had filled out a bit with healthy exercise and a good diet. He'd never be a Hrun, but he was acceptably muscly, more wiry, really, and didn't carry an ounce of spare fat. He was absolutely devoted to Conina, and Steffi knew that privately, she deferred to him in any serious arguments. It was a marriage, as far as she could tell, that created its own bedrock, and she felt oddly envious. But then, Steffi reminded herself, plenty of time for that. Plenty.

Beating the Assassins' School at edificeering had been a delight, stuck-up toffs. Sneaking on to their roof the same night and slipping past their guards to drape a Thieves Guild banner over their weathercock - well, that was just rubbing it in. After a lifetime in the Thieves' School, she was sorry to be leaving. But at least Mr Boggis had slipped her a big pouch of coin and gems to finance her gap year, hiking in the Hubland and the Enlightenment Country. Steffi noticed that he'd received Lord Downey graciously and said he was right sorry some of our younger people have inconvenienced you, you may be sure I'll have a word, my lord, and pacified the red-with-rage Assassin. Downey had brought a couple of the other senior Assassins with him, as back-up when he complained to the Thieves' Council. It hadn't escaped Steffi that the grave-faced Lady Alice Band, behind her superior's back, had let her face unbend enough to deliver a delighted smile and a wink to Steffi. But then, she and Alice went to the same hairdressers… she wondered if the men in this city ever suspected that there were some places and shared experiences that bonded women more effectively than any guild, and if they'd figured out where they were.

(Mr Boggis had certainly had the promised word with one of his younger people: grinning delightedly, he had given Steffi a larger-than-expected advance payment to finance her year out, and remarked that bloody Downey looked fit to burst, didn't he? Well done, girl!)

Conina's was not just a hairdressing salon, it was an informal drop-in mutual support club for women in the city from some surprisingly different walks of life. For instance, Sergeant Angua from the Watch, for three weeks out of four (on the fourth, she favoured Grace Speaker's pet shop on Pelicool Steps, for an all-over B.A.T.H. in Willard's "Good Boy" flea-shampoo and conditioner).

There was the dwindling band of Heroines For Hire, such as Herrena The Henna-Haired Harridan and Red Scharron - although both were showing more than the occasional grey hair now.

Conina remained a Thieves' Guild member: this entitled her to immunity from theft, although no sane thief would dare rob or mug a woman with sinews of steel who could turn the humble comb into an instrument of agonizing revenge. She offered a 20% discount to student Thieves and 15% to full graduates: this ensured her a regular repeat trade, as well as the goodwill of the Guild. Besides, Mrs Boggis came here, By Arrangement.

There was Lady Alice Band, a young teacher at the Assassins' School, now it had gone co-ed. Under her influence, older students at the School came here for the latest styles.

Lately, Saccharisa Cripslock from the Times had taken to calling by for styling - although the rest of the clientele were far more suspicious of a journalist rather than a policewoman. As well as the city's pioneering investigative journalist, the clientele also boasted quite a few Seamstresses of various ranks. This had also raised eyebrows among customers who thought they belonged to more exalted trades.

To forestall dissension, Conina had hung up a notice saying Rule One of the House: It Is A Fundamental and Inalienable Right Of Woman To Have The Best Possible Hairdo, Regardless of Standing, Occupation or Background.

This hung among the décor on the walls, which combined those slightly-out-of-fashion iconographs of desirable hairstyles, (which by some universal law are mandatory in all places where haircare operations are performed), with an impressive display of shields, weaponry, and items of armour. There was a reception area with comfortable seating, which was always a hive of activity and friendly conversation, oiled by the products of the latest model Extremely Fast Coffee Dispenser With Optional Froth and Grated Chocolate On Top. A little plaque on the machine boasted design by Leonardo da Quirm.

The main hairdressing area boasted five chairs, tended to by Conina and her trainees. Conina had remarked that she'd found out there was no such thing as a Guild of Hairdressers: she was negotiating with Hugo, the proprietor of the upmarket hair salon near the Post Office, to get together and found one, although she admitted something about Hugo made her fists itch.

"Right, almost finished!"

"Conina?"

"Mmm?"

"Don't you ever wish you were still a barbarian heroine and master thief? The Guild still talks about the night you stole the Archchancellor's Hat from the University." [3]

Conina looked around her, and smiled a very blissful smile.

"Believe me, there's never been anything else I really wanted to do. All the rest was marking time. See you when you get back from the Hub, Steff? Take care!" (quick friendly hug and kiss). "Pay Xingli on the way out, as usual!"

Steffi sorted out her payment. Xingli sat up on her feet, expectantly. Her hundreds and hundreds of dear little feet, impeccably manicured.

Her lid opened, and a mahogany-red tongue licked out. Steffi counted the payment onto the tongue. It retracted, and Xingli's lid closed for an instant, then re-opened with the appropriate change ready on the great red tongue . Steffi took it with a word of thanks, then dropped it in the tips jar on the counter. Xingli [4] closed again, then reverted to being what at first glance was nothing more than an ornate black lacquered Agatean traveling box.

Feeling like a million dollars, Steffi left the shop and was soon anonymous, as a good thief should be, in the city throng. But she was a good thief with good hair, and this buoyed her up to face anything the Disc could throw at her.


  1. Refer to Thief of Time, where Steffi is briefly introduced as a Guild foundling who grew up alongside Lobsang Ludd and trained with him. I'm assuming she would have missed him badly after the History Monks intervened. Go back to 1
  2. Refer to Interesting Times. Go back to 2
  3. Refer to Sourcery. Go back to 3
  4. Xingli: Canton Chinese for The Luggage. (n.singular, feminine). Go back to 4

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