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All of My Haircut Works Part Three by Joelsweet

A Fiery Clipping

Ruvius awoke strapped to a horizontally positioned cold metal table. He tried to sit up, but his bindings were tied too tightly. Frustrated, he yelled as he viciously fought the vinyl strips securing him to the table. Ruvius lay there, breathing heavily, and tensed as he heard a door behind him open and someone walk in. A bright, fluorescent white light was flicked on. It was directly above the table. There were shadows surrounding the table, obscuring everything around it. Ruvius was stuck looking up at the painfully shining light, which hurt his eyes. He glared up at it, though, unbothered.
"What do you want?!” Ruvius spat angrily. "Haven't you taken enough from me already?!” Ruvius heard a creepy, echoing laugh.
"So you're the little freak who likes to hop between dimensions, right?” A bemused voice drawled.
"Yeah. So what?” Ruvius hissed through gritted teeth. "You got a problem with that?” Again, the chilling giggles filled the room.
"Mm.. It's not me with the problem, it's my boss.You see, Ruvius, he has become veeery fascinated with that device you've been using to jump around realities.”
"Well he's not getting it! And I'm not telling you where it is!” Ruvius growled.
"That's a shame. I'm going to get it either way, but I hoped you'd pick the path with less pain involved.”

Ruvius flailed again, trying to break the straps, but to no avail. He heard a click as a button was pressed and the angle of the table was elevated to 45 degrees instead of 180. Ruvius glowered into the darkness, trying to discern his enemy's position. Ruvius glanced down and saw that we was wearing a loose white nightgown. They must have put him in that after they caught him, because Ruvius would never own an article of clothing that was so drapey and flowy.

And his hair.. It was braided, and laying over his shoulder. Ruvius had his hair in a plait only before he went to bed at night. He kept the pumpkin-colored locks tied up under his cap most of the time.

Ruvius' boyfriend, Lial, was one of the few people that had seen its full length. His hair symbolized something important to him. When he had been fighting for his life on the streets as a young child, he had had to keep it short; there was no way to care for it. When Ruvius had been an orphan on the streets, he wished extensively to have long locks like the beautiful rich people he glimpsed riding by in carriages. It seemed like an impossible dream. He never thought that anybody would love him. But after Ruvius had been adopted at by a middle class family, there was enough money to properly take care of long hair. And so he it had been growing ever since. He had been adopted at the age of five, and had only trimmed his hair in the thirteen years since; never cut. Ruvius never let anybody except for himself and Lial trim it. He just didn't trust other people with his precious locks. He didn't even take it out of a bun in public, fearful of people trying to chop it off.

As a result of tender grooming, Ruvius' hair was shiny, healthy, and thick. It was naturally straight, and fell to his mid calves when it was down. Lial adored it almost as much as he adored Ruvius himself. After particularly tiring dimension jumps, Ruvius would sit down and Lial would gently comb and braid it. Lial would hold the end of the braid in his sleep, almost like a security blanket. Lial never minded the difficulties that came with looking after hair that long. It was all worth it in Lial's mind.

And so now Ruvius was lying there; his marigold hair in the almost sacred style that only his beloved was allowed to do. This enraged Ruvius even more. He was sure that extensive torture was coming his way soon. The truth was, he had left the dimension device with Lial. Ruvius was afraid of revealing this if he couldn't bear the torture. He'd given it to Lial for safekeeping
when he went out to the market, in a disguise that had apparently not been very effective. Ruvius had been striding down the street with a basket in his arm one minute, and the next thing he knew, he was waking up here.

Ruvius heard the sound of a weapon being drawn and froze. He allowed none of his inward terror to show on his face. A quick glint flashed within the shadows. Ruvius closed his eyes and relaxed. There was nothing that he could do to avoid his fate. He felt a cold blade against his cheek, and braced himself for the feel of it piercing his flesh. But the slice never came. The edge was softly dragged down the hollow of his cheek. Gradually, the pressure increased, and then Ruvius detected a sharp pang in the corner of his mouth. He felt blood slowly drip down his chin. The weapon was removed, and Ruvius opened his angry hazel eyes. Standing in front of him was a person with cold, detached expression. They had a hood covering their head and tattoos dotting their slender nose. Ruvius watched as they placed the knife at his wrist and dug the point into his skin.

"You willing to tell me where the dimensional device is now?” The mysterious and seemingly genderless person asked.
"Never,” Ruvius declared, raising his chin.
"I thought you might say that.” In a swift motion, the knife began gliding up Ruvius' arm, leaving a path of crimson in its wake. They gracefully curved the blade over Ruvius' shoulder and up the back of his neck, skipping over the strap. Pain stabbed over Ruvius. He looked down and saw streams of his own blood trailing down his arm. Ruvius looked at his torturer with firm eyes.

"I won't tell you where it is. You can go ahead and try to get me to, though,” he coolly and calmly stated. The person laughed.
"Oh, I will.” They lowered their hood to reveal a scarred, bald head. Ruvius heard a slam as their fist connected with his chest, knocking the air out of him. Again and again was Ruvius punched, and he heard cracking, which could only be his ribs. He groaned slightly, finding it hard to breathe. The punching stopped, and Ruvius slumped a bit. Agony shot through his body like a fire. Ruvius wanted to scream and cry, but he forced himself to be silent.

"Nothing? You can't go on like this forever, you know. There's only one way to make this stop,” Ruvius' torturer informed him in a cheerful voice.
"I already told you, there's no way you're getting it out of me.” Ruvius would NOT betray the person he loved.
"I didn't want to have to come to this,” the person said, in a tone that suggested otherwise. Ruvius felt a twinge of fear, but didn't show it on the outside. He remained stone-faced.
"What are you going to do?” Ruvius asked, in an unfazed voice. He would not allow any hint of insecurity or weakness to be conveyed.

From within a deep pocket of their robe, the torturer procured something that glinted softly and forebodingly in the light. At first, Ruvius didn't know what it was. He just stared in silence, examining the oblong object.
‘F***,' he thought, and groaned inwardly. In clutched in the person's hand were large, electric clippers. Physically painful torture? Ruvius could definitely handle that. But he wasn't so confident about handling this.

Ruvius averted his eyes, a gesture that the torturer caught.
"You don't like these, do you?” they asked, delighted. Ruvius didn't respond, and they reached out to grab his thick braid. Against his will, Ruvius winced slightly at the contact. To the untrained eye, it would have been unnoticeable. But the torturer saw this, and knew that they had struck a cord. "Are you scared?” they cheerfully teased. Ruvius' heart was beating wildly in terror.

"No,” Ruvius said, too quickly and anxiously.
"You ARE scared!” Gleefully, the torturer thrust the clippers near Ruvius' face and flicked them on in a menacing way. "It's not too late, you know.” Their hand snuck behind Ruvius' neck and grabbed his braid, sending chills through his body. The torturer yanked on the thick ginger rope, causing Ruvius' chin to slam to his chest, head bowed. The motion jolted his chest, making the pain from his ribs refreshed and sharp.

"I'll start slowly, and give you plenty of time to change your mind about telling me what I need to know, okay?” Ruvius could only softly moan in response to that question. He didn't want to end up bald, but he didn't want to betray his boyfriend. He only hoped that Lial would still want him afterwards. Ruvius caught a glimpse of slender hands run down his braid in front of him. "Such beautiful hair. It's almost a shame.”

Suddenly, Ruvius felt the vibrating teeth on the nape of his neck, causing his body to jolt involuntarily.
"Relax. It's just a much needed haircut.” In an exhilarating and horrifying swipe, the noisy clippers cut a stripe up to Ruvius' crown. "You see, I'll start with your nape, then the sides, and finally the top of your head.” They were holding the clippers in one hand and pulling Ruvius' braid to keep his chin down in the other. It was beginning to hurt Ruvius' sensitive neck. When the piece had been cut, it relieved some of the pressure on his scalp. He felt the soft, severed strands brushing against the back of his neck unsettlingly, because the cut pieces were still confined to the plait.

Ruvius felt like crying. There was no way that anyone would know that he was there, nevertheless come to rescue him. His five feet of hair would be shorn at the scalp until he was nearly bald. Because even though his hair meant so much to him, he would rather have his hair stolen than betray Lial. No, Ruvius wouldn't cry. He would remain calm and quiet on the outside, even if he was wailing and screaming internally. His torturer clipped another swath on either side of the first one, again up to the crown. Where incredibly lengthy and silky orange-yellow locks had once been attached, there was now faint, pumpkin-colored stubble.

The torturer rubbed their cold fingers over the bristles on Ruvius' nape roughly.
"If you ever got back to your boyfriend, he'd probably think that your freshly shaved neck was attractive.” The whole back of the ginger's head was clipped from ear to ear, reduced to that by powerful clippers. "You going to tell me where the device is now?” they asked. Ruvius shook his head no, fearing that if he spoke, he would burst into tears. As he shook his head, his chin rubbed against his chest. There was a giant lump in his throat, and his breathing was shaky. "Okay, but it's your choice.”

In a split second, the buzzing sound filled Ruvius' right ear. The vibrating clippers were brought up to around two inches above his temple. As the right side was stripped, the clipped long locks from the back began falling around Ruvius' cheeks, still bound in the braid. Next, it was the left side's turn. Gorgeous, pampered locks were being replaced with sandpapery hair short enough for Ruvius' white scalp to be in plain view. Ruvius was trembling in fear and hysteria. He couldn't believe how vulnerable and helpless he felt. Finally, the ruthless teeth were removed from his skin. Ruvius was left with a brutal, uneven undercut, with incredibly long hair still attached on the top of his head.
"One last chance. Tell me where the dimensional device is, or I will finish the job and leave you with a zero buzz on your whole head. It's not too late. An undercut looks sexy on you.” The torturer winked, making Ruvius shudder. "So? What's your answer?”
"No!” Ruvius yelled. "Never!”
"Have it your way.”

The torturer flipped Ruvius' braid to the back of his head and harshly pulled down, making Ruvius' chin to snap up so he was looking up at the brilliant light dangling from the ceiling. The plait was held tight, forcing him to be in that position as it pulled sharply at the top of his head. Ruvius gasped as the clippers were placed at his hairline. With a swift movement, they glided through his hair all the way through, leaving a stripe down the middle of his head, with two long bits on either side. Two more swipes, and the braid fell away from Ruvius' head, releasing all of the tension.

The torturer held up the gleaming plait, which glowed like autumn leaves in the sun under the light. Ruvius looked away. There was a horrible light feeling on his scalp, and he suddenly felt cold. The braid was then unceremoniously placed around Ruvius' neck like a fine scarf. The soft strands felt satiny against his skin; still warm. Ruvius' tormentor whipped the braid off of around his shoulders and dangled it right in front of his face. The thick, luxuriant cord was coming loose at the untied end, and so it was being held at that side to prevent it from becoming more undone.

Ruvius felt like that vulnerable, loveless little orphan boy he had once been. And it was awful. He had worked so hard to make his life better, and his extravagant locks had been a sign of that. And now… Those very locks were detached from his head and he was being teased with them. It hurt. It hurt much more than the cuts that were still dripping blood or his broken ribs that still ached almost unbearably. The torturer began gently brushing the tuft at the end of the tail over Ruvius' cheeks, going over his strange, long, diamond-shaped face in an almost gentle way.

Ruvius started to become aware of the fact that he was feeling quite faint. He guessed that it was from all of the blood loss. Even a really strong person can't lose too much blood, or they'll pass out or even die. Ruvius saw white spots begin to obscure his vision, and dizziness took over his system. Before he blacked out, he heard a loud banging noise and a familiar voice, and saw his beloved hair drop down to land on the gray cement.

What had happened was that Lial had busted into the room. He had followed a series of leads to find out where they had taken Ruvius. And now he was here to rescue him. Without a second thought, Lial shot the torturer in the chest. He looked over and saw his love tied up, deathly pale, and with his eyes closed. Lial gasped, eyes wide, when he saw the beautiful hair that he was so fond of discarded on the floor. He rushed over to Ruvius and examined his body, mortified to find huge cuts all over him. And his head… It looked as if Ruvius had an orange-yellow shadow on his scalp. Tenderly, Lial felt all of his bones to see if any were broken. When he determined that Ruvius' ribs were fractured, Lial carefully cut the straps binding him and took his love into his arms, embracing him softly. Lial picked up the braid and nestled it in his satchel.

Lial carefully picked Ruvius up bridal-style as tears began flowing down his cheeks. He took his shorn and broken angel out of that horrible place, shooting anyone that got in his way.

A Golden Trophy

Edelian breathed in the fresh morning air as sunlight filtered through the mist shrouding the landscape. Today was the day that he would compete for Prince Araquil's hand. Edelian stretched his arms and then his legs, savoring the feeling of the muscles being loosened. Edelian was definitely what one would call an "early bird,” especially on this particular dawn. He had gotten up at five in the morning, washed himself clean, got dressed, eaten breakfast, and then set out on a walk to clear his head. He needed to be prepared. There was no way in hell Edelian was going to lose Araquil, his love, to some strange man. You see, Edelian and Araquil had known each other since they were children, and had loved each other just as long. Edelian's father had served in the royal court, and so his son had spent many a day with the prince. They had confessed their love for each other the previous year; but according to their country's customs, the prince's possible suitors had to compete and win to marry him. The prince had absolutely no say in who he would be engaged to, besides the fact that he could choose which gender/ genders the competitors for his hand were. Araquil had picked male, of course, so that Edelian could compete and hopefully win.

Edelian heard a loud horn blow, and realized with a jolt that it signified fifteen minutes until the competitions. He quickly dashed down the path and out of the woods down to the field where the events were being held; where many striped tents and stands were arranged. Smells of scrumptious food filled the air, and people jostled him on their way to the stands surrounding the tournament arena. Most of the men who wanted to marry Araquil were already there, waiting in three lines of about ten people each. Edelian quietly slipped into one of the shorter lines.

Seeing some of the people Edelian was going to be up against, he was beginning to feel nervous. Most of his fellow competitors were very tall, foreign, and heavily muscled. It was a large contrast to Edelian's lithe and smaller form. Comparing himself to these exotic men, Edelian began to wonder if he was good enough for Prince Araquil. They appeared much more stereotypically "masculine” and deserving of a beautiful prince at their side; with their huge muscles and formidable armor. Looking at his own classic length, golden locks that were tied in a ponytail and his simple attire, Edelian felt unworthy.

They were all facing a large stand, where the king, queen, and Prince Araquil were seated. Edelian caught Araquil's hazel eyes, causing Araquil's face to brighten as he smiled a bit. They broke eye contact to turn their attention to the king as he began to give a speech. The king explained the basic rules of the tournament as well as what the prize was for the winner. (As if everyone didn't know already.) There was to be three events: a benevolence test (in which magic would determine whether the competitor had a good heart or not), a strength test (which is kind of self explanatory), and a logic test (which would find out the competitor's intelligence). Whichever two tests that the person did the best on would be added together. The person with the highest score won. Edelian was semi-confident that he could get a high score on at least two of the tests. But would it be high enough? That was the question.

In their lines, all of the men were handed an orb ten inches in diameter by a man with a cart full of them. Edelian held it carefully, not wanting to drop and shatter it. The globe was made of glass and transparent. He closed his eyes and cleared his mind, silently wishing for a good result. If the ball detected you were an extremely good person, it turned purple. It then descended through the rainbow until it reached red, which was the worst level of virtue there was. Edelian opened his eyes and saw, with a sinking heart, that his orb was blue. One step down from purple, the best. Edelian worried that it wasn't good enough. That is, he felt bad until he looked around at the other people's globes. Most of them were orange or yellow, with a few greens and even reds scattered amongst them. He was mortified. He couldn't let Araquil end up with any of these men! People had begun to stare at Edelian's ball in surprise, and some with frustration. One man in particular glared at Eledian with glowering anger. He was incredibly tall, with an intimidating air and a shaved head. The man smirked at Eledian, passed his red-orange globe to one hand, and subtly lifted aside his cloak to display an array of long ponytails in various hues hanging from his belt. Eledian gasped in fear and shivered, quickly looking away. He knew that that hair must belong to all of the people that the man had defeated before. And that the man was looking to add some wavy golden-honey colored locks to that collection.

A woman with black hair holding a small notebook passed by and asked for the competitors' names so she could record the color that they got. The short, middle aged man who has passed out the globes was behind her was pushing his large cart, into which the orbs were placed. Once the orbs were returned to the cart, they turned colorless again. It took quite a while to collect all of the globes, but Eledian was patient. Silently, he wondered why people had come to watch this tournament. It certainly wasn't very exciting, especially from far away.

The next challenge: strength. This was the one that Eledian was worried about. He was not very strong, because he spent his days as a scribe; not as a warrior like most of the other men there. Servants carried out weights of many different sizes and laid them on the grass in order of biggest to smallest. There were about ten of each weight. The object of this was to pick up the heaviest one you could possible carry and bring it to the other side of the field. The same woman who handled the benevolence test shouted "start!,” and all of the competitors rushed over to the weights. Eledian started out with an average sized weight, hefting it to try and see if he would be able to carry it to the other side of the arena. He gradually moved up in size until he got to two bigger than the average sized weight. It was heavy, but not unbearable. Straining, Eledian began to carry it across the field.

The gentle morning sun had become a fiery death ball hanging in the sky. It became much more difficult to keep a grip on the bar of the weight as his hands became sweaty and slick. Eledian felt a tug on his rippling, silky hair. He tensed up, and looked behind him to see the man who had the ponytails on his belt. The man winked at him and smirked, before passing Eledian; holding the largest weight in one hand with ease. Eledian felt sick to his stomach. He couldn't let this guy end up with his beloved Araquil. Eledian's body screamed at him to drop the weight and flop down onto the grass, but he kept going. He wasn't going to give up. The end was in sight! Eledian pushed himself, inch by inch across the field. Ten feet to go! Six feet! Three feet! He let out a heavy sigh as he reached the end and the weight slid out of his hands. He looked around him and saw, with a bad feeling in stomach, that almost all of the other men had carried heavier weights than him. But it was okay. He just had to do well on the final challenge.

For the logic test, each competitor was assigned a riddler. (A riddler was a person who made their livelihood telling riddles at parties for the wealthy.) The riddler would take the man a ways away from his competitors and tell him three riddles. The faster and more accurate the man was at answering the riddles, the more points he received.

The men were lined up in three rows again. The riddlers had begun to arrive, wearing white masks that covered their eyes, as well as long, dusty-gray colored cloaks. The three lines of competitors dissolved as each man was paired up with a riddler and began to spread out around the arena. Eledian was assigned a rather tall riddler, who promptly guided him to a far corner of the arena, where a large fir tree shaded them from the hot sun. Eledian sat down, while the riddler remained standing.
"Hi! I'm Eledian! What's your name?” Eledian exclaimed. The riddler remained silent and didn't even acknowledge Eledian's attempt at friendliness.
"How are you today?” Eledian asked, trying again. Maybe the riddler hadn't heard him?
"There will be three riddles. I will repeat each riddle three times. No more, no less. You will only find out if you were correct at the tallying of points.”
"Oh! Okay,” Eledian felt prepared for this test, since he had read many a riddle in his scribe work.
"We will begin now.
Fill my bucket, spill my bucket,
over a plane of snow.
Black the track as I look back,
my footsteps talk but make no sound.
What am I?” The riddler delivered this in a monotonous voice. Eledian knew the answer before the riddler repeated the puzzle twice more, but he waited until the riddler had finished. This one was too easy.
"It's a pen!” Eledian blurted out after the riddle had been stated all three times. "You fill it with ink, but sometimes the ink spills. The plane of snow is paper, and the ink blackens it. It talks because it writes words!”
Without respite, the riddler said the next one.
"I fly, yet I have no wings.
I cry, yet I have no eyes.
Darkness follows me;
lower light I never see.”
This one was a bit harder. Eledian had to think about this riddle throughout the second and third read throughs. But finally, he figured out the answer.
"It's a cloud!” Eledian didn't explain why this time; it was useless since the riddler would just ignore him anyway.
The riddler jumped into the next puzzle.
"Like a maiden's head so deathly still,
Cold and quiet, yet not ill.
Her long tresses, skyward lie,
Hair that burns when it is dry.
Food to man and creature's lair,
Name both her and her hair."
Eledian was really stumped on this one. It didn't help that he kept thinking about the competitor that wished to separate Eledian's hair from the rest of him. He felt the anxiety swell inside of him as the riddler repeated the riddle twice more; while Eledian's head was still going in a circular thought pattern.

(Riddle. What is it? What could the hair be? Hair. That man will cut off my hair if I lose! Focus, focus! Riddle.) This process continued, until suddenly the answer popped into Eledian's head out of the blue.
"A rock! Underwater! That's the maiden. And then her hair is seaweed!” Relief flooded over Eledian. Hopefully he'd done well enough in the first and third challenges to be allowed to marry Araquil.
"Now you must wait until the others are complete.”
"...Oh. Okay. What should I do?” Eledian asked. The riddler didn't respond. Eledian sighed and seated himself under the giant fir tree's shade. He absentmindedly untied the ribbon from his ochroid tresses. Eledian let his hair spill around him, enjoying the feeling. He worried about what he would do if Araquil had to marry somebody that was completely horrible. There would be nothing he could do except plead with the winner.

Suddenly, a horn bellowed, signifying that the test was complete. Eledian stood up and noticed that the riddler had mysteriously vanished. A bit confused, Eledian headed over to in front of the king's podium; where the other competitors had begun to accumulate. The men filed into 3 rows again, and awaited the results. With a jolt of fear, Eledian realized that he hadn't retied his hair. Warily, he looked over his shoulder and saw the man who wanted his hair had been staring at him. The man made the motion of scissors snipping with his index finger and middle finger, sending a wave of apprehension over Eledian. He promptly tied his hair into a messy bun, removed the long blue scarf from around his neck, and tied the scarf around his head.

Eledian heard low, guttural laughing from behind him and knew that the man found this amusing. A deep, sickly feeling settled in Eledian's stomach.
"Gentlemen!” The king announced, and all fell quiet. "The points have been tallied, and we have our results!” Eledian felt his heart beat faster, in a flurry of thuds.
(Oh God. What if I don't win?) Eledian met eyes with Araquil, who gave him a hopeful smile.
"And the winner is… Naeryndam Ianvaris!” Eledian blinked away tears as desperation took over him. A tall, slender elf with red pageboy hair stepped forwards. The king continued. "You have gotten high marks in the strength and intelligence tests. Congratulations! You have won the hand of Prince Araquis!” People began to cheer and clap loudly.

"Next, in second place, we have Crud'ghadh Rhajaias.” The king struggled a bit at pronouncing this name. Eledian saw the man with the ponytail trophies pass by him and go to stand next to the elf who had won first place. "You also got high marks in the strength and intelligence tests. Your reward is 50,000 remliels.” There was less clapping and cheering for this man.

"And in third place, Eledian Chaepyria!” Familiarity and a bit of sadness glimmered in the king's eyes. Eledian quickly walked up next to the ginger-haired elf. "You received high marks in the benevolence and intelligence tests. Your prize is a kiss from Prince Araquil.” Eledian was surprised to hear an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience. "Eledian,” the king continued, "you may go and receive your reward right now.” Eledian felt like he was in physical pain. He drudgingly walked up the podium steps and towards Araquil, who had unshed tears in his lovely eyes. Eledian gently stroked Araquis' cheek and then leaned in to kiss him. The kiss was sweet, tender, and innocent. Eledian tried to imprint the memory of the taste and feel of Araquil's lips into his mind. This was to be the last time that they would kiss. They both began sobbing uncontrollably, as they embraced each other close.
"I l-love y-you,” Araquil stuttered out through choking breaths.
"I love you t-too,” Eledian responded miserably. "I… I hope you have a happy life.” Suddenly, Araquil shook his head violently and stood up.
"I l-love this man!!” He shouted desperately. "I have for many years!! And I sure as hell am not marrying a stranger! I'd sooner give up my crown than submit to that!!” Silence swept over the crowd as Araquil stood there with one arm around Eledian, rage burning in his eyes. The red haired elf who had won looked up at them with startled eyes, before resolving his face into a peaceful expression.
"I see that you really love each other. I will happily give the hand of the prince to you without any reservations.” Eledian felt elation rise in his heart like a weather balloon. Cheering began from the audience.
"NOT SO FAST!!” A yell sliced through the noise. Eledian looked down and saw the man who had won second place (Crud' ghadh) fuming and glaring at him. "Don't I need to give my permission for you to marry him as well?” Eledian looked to the king, who nodded solemnly. "This is true.”
Triumph reigned over the second place winner's face, and the awful feeling in Eledian's stomach returned. "Well, how about we strike a deal?! You give me those flaxen, excessive locks of yours, and I'll let you marry the Prince!” Boos were shouted from the audience, as well as some obscenities. Fear gripped Eledian's heart. But he gulped, and said, "Very well. That is fair.” He detached himself from Araquis and stepped down from the podium, then attempted to stride confidently over to Crud' ghadh. Eledian tore the blue scarf from his head and undid his bun, letting his hair float around him and gently brush against the bottom of his ass. Crud' ghadh grinned maliciously.
"Such beautiful hair…” Eledian shivered as the man ran his hand through his long, golden tresses. "I've been eyeing this silky mass all day… Nobody needs this much hair.” Eledian saw a flash of silver as Crud' ghadh procured sheep shears from a pouch around his waist, next to the ponytails. He also brought out a black ribbon, which he tied halfway down Eledian's hair length. "Kneel, boy!” Eledian complied. "I'm going to enjoy this…” Eledian closed his eyes as he heard and felt the shears snip his hair right against the scalp on the front of his head. Crud' ghadh chopped more locks jaggedly and close to the skin on the top of Eledian's head. Eledian felt a tear streak down his cheek. He didn't want to lose his hair whatsoever. It was such a large part of his identity, and then to be shorn like a sheep… But Araquil was worth it. Crud' ghadh shoved Eledian's head into a bowed position and began to hack away at the soft, thick hair at Eledian's nape. He felt the severed locks tickle his neck as they fell. Crud' ghadh worked his way up to the crown, violently opening and closing the sharp shears. Uneven, shortly cropped, truncated hair remained in the hungry blades' wake. Next, the shears snipped loudly around Eledian's ears, making him grimace. The cold shears felt like ice against his skin. Crud' ghadh chopped against the sides of Eledian's head until there was only one lock left on the left side of his head that was still connected to his scalp. Crud' ghadh lopped this off with a flourish and no mercy. Eledian began sobbing very hard as his heavy ponytail fell away. His head felt so light, so wrong. He had been stripped of his pride and joy for love. Like some kind of animal. Eledian rubbed his head, feeling the soft, bristly, randomly cut pelt covering his scalp that had once been 2 ½ foot long, gorgeous, golden hair. All that remained were uneven, roughly shorn strips of hair that were shorter than Eledian had ever had his hair in his life. And he hated it. He took in a shaky breath, opened his eyes, and beamed at a horrified Araquil. His love. Araquil quickly gave a half-hearted smile in return.

Eledian looked over to Crud' ghadh and saw him holding the ponytail up high. It was so odd for him to see that glorious hair that had been attached to his head only moments before dangling from Crud' ghadh's giant hand, now lifeless and limp (although still beautiful). Crud' ghadh grinned, and carefully moved the ribbon higher up onto the ponytail, then nestled it on his belt next to the other ponytails. Crud' ghadh winked at Eledian, then swiftly slipped into the crowd.

Araquil and Eledian were married the next week, and Eledian's hair slowly grew back.

Petrichor Part One

Ingage clenched his fists angrily. He had already come this far, and yet standing between him and his love was the Blue Queen herself. First she had stolen Rynceres, and then made Ingage complete a series of challenges before she would set him free. And now, after all she had put Ingage through, she was insisting on a final test. Just one more trial before he could get Rynceres back.
"So, what do you say, Ingage? Will you accept my final challenge?” The Blue Queen said, parting her delicate lips.
"Tell me what it is first.” Ingage growled angrily. The Blue Queen laughed and shook her head.
"If you're really brave, then you'll accept before I tell you what the challenge is.” she said. Ingage looked at his feet, contemplating. The trial might be something unbearably terrible. Did he really want to go through whatever she had planned for him? Then, Ingage remembered Rynceres' smiling face and how much he loved him. Ingage raised his head; decided. He had to do this to save Rynceres, no matter what the trial was.
"I accept. Now tell me what the challenge is.” He said, voice steady. The Blue Queen rested her chin on her sky-satin gloved hand.
"Alright. I want that.” She pointed to Ingage with the hand her chin wasn't resting on. Ingage felt confused. He had no idea what the Blue Queen was pointing to.
"What do you want?” He asked carefully. He had nothing of real value on his person.
"I want your hair.” She said, a devilish grin on her pale face. Ingage felt a lump almost immediately in his throat and his heart leap.
"M- my hair?” Rynceres loved Inagage's reddish brown hair. Also, Ingage worked as his town's healer, and if he cut his hair short, he would be considered impure and wouldn't be allowed to continue working as a healer. But if he didn't complete the challenge, then Rynceres would stay in jail. "Well, get on with it then.” Ingage gulped and slowly unbraided his longer than knee length hair. "Do your worst.”

The Blue Queen laughed again, and called to one of her servants. Head bowed, the servant gracefully walked from beside the Queen's throne to in front of her. She seemed to be a couple years younger than Ingage.
"Yes, my Queen?" She said softly.
"First of all, you have permission to meet my eyes.” The servant, with skin the color of snow, raised her head to look the Queen in the face. "Your task is to cut this man's hair off. Don't do it neatly, though; I want it cut haphazardly and uneven.” said the Blue Queen, sounding amused. The servant nodded.
"Is that all?” She asked.
"Yes; now get to it.” The Blue Queen said. "Go and fetch some scissors, a comb, and a stool; you'll need them.” The servant curtsied and left the room. Ingage was left there, slightly trembling. He was very scared of the Blue Queen and realized, with a jolt, that this wasn't the worst thing that she could have planned for him. The servant returned several minutes later holding the stool and with a bulging pocket; which Ingage guessed contained the other two items. She had a white bandana tied around her shoulder-length silver hair to keep it back. She set the stool on the ground; it was a little bit shorter than half of the height of Ingage. Ingage limped over, sat down on the stool, and took off his two gold earrings carefully. He placed them in his pocket for safekeeping. The servant ran her hands down Ingage's hair almost reverently; feeling the softness beneath her calloused fingers.
"Your hair is beautiful.” She whispered this softly, just loud enough so that Ingage could hear her, but the Blue Queen couldn't. Ingage thought that saying that was very kind of her, but he still was rigid and stiff; sitting straight upright with squared shoulders. His hands were curled into fists, and he was biting his lip nervously. He heard a click as she pulled something out of her pocket and froze, thinking it was the scissors, but slowly relaxed as the servant gently began running the comb through his hair. She held his hair in one hand and was combing his hair with the other. Their wasn't many tangles; Ingage had just recently brushed and braided his hair after completing the last challenge. Ingage felt himself relax against her light work. The servant combed the underside of his hair, his bangs; whatever piece of hair that she could. She found herself revelling in touching those gorgeous, deep brown locks. Behind Ingage, the onlooking Queen piped up.
"I think his hair is smooth enough, right? Why don't you get started?” And then Ingage tensed up again.

He felt the gentle tugging of the comb against his hair cease and heard another click as the servant switched from one tool to the other, switching from the comb to scissors. Ingage's jaw was clenched, and it seemed like every muscle in his body was taut. He didn't want his hair to be chopped off, but he would let the servant do it if it meant he could rescue Rynceres. He looked over his shoulder apprehensively, to see the servant gather up his silken tresses in her left hand. She held the thick, burnt umber colored hair only a third of the way up from the ends of his hair. With her right hand holding the scissors, she marked a spot in Ingage's hair. Still looking over his shoulder, Ingage was slightly relieved to see that the spot that her blue handled scissors were poised over was about waist length.
Even if his hair was cut to that length, he would still be allowed to work as a healer. If it was cut any shorter than mid back length, however, he would be permitted from continuing to heal people in his clan. He didn't want any of his hair cut off, but waist length hair was a better option than jaw length hair to him. The servant waited for her Queen to give her to go ahead to begin cutting.
"Wait, stop, what are you doing?!" came the Blue Queen's commanding voice. A little flicker of hope rose in Ingage's chest. Maybe she would call the whole thing off? "That's way too long! You have to cut it shorter than that!" said the Blue Queen.
Ingage felt his heart sink. The servant sighed and her hands shifted. Ingage nervously looked over his shoulder to see that the scissors were being held over his hair around the middle of his back. By this point, Ingage's heart was racing and pounding loudly in his ears. He was shivering slightly in fear; his dark gray-blue eyes wide. The Blue Queen flicked her hand dismissively. "Shorter." she said. The servant sighed again and once more adjusted the scissors' position so that they marked Ingage's hair at shoulder length.
"Is this good?" The servant asked, careful not to show her annoyance.
"No, if you cut there it would still be too long." Exasperated, the servant held the scissors by the nape of Ingage's neck.
"Now?" She asked.
"Yes, but remember to cut it choppily and unevenly. Grab each section and leave it two inches long at most."
Ingage almost let out a moan of despair. There was to be no mercy from the Blue Queen. The servant opened the scissors, which made a horrible metallic sound. Ingage's felt his eyes begin to tear up against his will. He felt the servant adjust her grip on his incredibly long hair, and then slide the scissors into the locks right next to his ear; not yet closing them though. Quietly, she whispered into Ingage's ear, "I'm so sorry.” Ingage squeezed his eyes shut, terrified, as the silver blades began to close around his hair.

The dreadful sound of those cold blades slicing through his hair roughly filled his ears. Ingage took in a shuddering breath and braced himself for the next cut. Ingage felt the severed lock of hair begin to slide slowly down his shoulder. The servant adjusted her grip on the scissors and continued cutting, about halfway up his head in a straight line.
All for Rynceres.
All for Rynceres. Ingage told himself desperately. And so he didn't say anything, didn't fight back, didn't even move a single tense muscle. Ingage felt a small tear trail down his cheek.

The servant finished cutting through the strands she had been holding, and so Ingage's hair fell away.
"What should I do with this?” She asked the Blue Queen, holding the The Queen was silent for a second, as if she was thinking about it.
"Just lay his hair down next to the stool as you go.” she finally said. The servant carefully laid the mahogany colored, five feet of hair onto the polished marble floor. She straightened up again and grabbed another fistful of hair, pulling it towards her. Ingage was now full-on crying, just letting it happen. If he tried to resist the tears, then he would just end up making noise. Since he was facing away from the Blue Queen, the only thing to suggest to her that he was crying was his shaking shoulders and slightly erratic breathing.
He was sure he looked very unflattering at the moment, since he wasn't exactly a pretty crier. His face was probably flushed red. Again, Ingage heard the noise of those scissors ripping through his hair and grimaced. Ingage was digging his fingernails into his hands so hard that he was sure he had drawn blood. His knuckles were white and taut, shaking slightly.

(There's no need to be afraid.) He told himself this, but he wasn't sure that he himself believed it. He hated himself for being so frightened, but he would just have to wait it out.

(Bear it a little longer.)

(It's almost over.) The section that the servant had been chopping away at fell away from Ingage's head, and she carefully set the silky hair onto the growing pile on the floor. Now, half of Ingage's hair was cropped close to his head in uneven chunks.

"Is he crying?” the Blue Queen said, delight echoing in her tone. "Oh my goddess, he is! Turn around, Ingage!” Reluctantly, Ingage complied, turning to face the entertained Blue Queen. His face burned red as she laughed mockingly at him. Ingage felt hatred for her consume every fiber of his being. He slowly opened his eyes and glared at her. "Servant, you should get rid of those bangs next, hmm?” The Queen said, directing her command to the girl holding the scissors behind Ingage. There was regret shining in her deep blue eyes.

The servant pulled Ingage's long bangs forward and slid the scissors under them. The dark, sleek strands rested in the fingers of her left hand. The blades snapped together, hacking off the locks efficiently. She moved on to the next section of his bangs, cutting away until his bangs were very short.

Ingage eyes were still shut tightly as he felt his severed bangs begin to slide down his face, catching on his eyelashes. Humiliated from the Blue Queen's mocking laughs, Ingage turned around once more. He felt a gentle tugging on the back of his head as the servant took another handful of his silky, thick locks. Again, Ingage heard the sound of opening scissors fill his ears, and he braced himself for the next chop.

The aggressive, cold, metal blades clicked shut, causing Ingage's hair to fall away, lock by lock; making a violent clacking sound as it left the chocolate hair short and the locks asymmetrical to each other. After each time the servant cut of a good section, she set the hair on the floor and combed through the cascade of hair to separate it. With each snap of the scissors, Ingage felt as if he was being physically injured; that part of his very being was being torn away. He reminded himself again and again in his head how much he loved Rynceres and needed to save him. Blood from his fingernails digging into his palms began slowly dripping through his fingers and onto the floor, joining tears and Ingage's fallen hair. Ingage had given up on being quiet, and his weeping echoed throughout the regal throne room. All that he could hear was the shears violently attacking his hair, his own painful sobs, the Blue Queen's laughing, and his racing heart pulsing.

The servant finished with that lock, and then tossed it onto the pile of dark hair that had accumulated.
"Pull his hair hard! Make it hurt!~" The Blue Queen purred with a devious grin. Before Ingage had processed the Queen's words, his hair was yanked back sharply. By that point, he only had long hair on the left side of his head,and so when he was pulled back, only the left side of his head jerked back, twisting his neck painfully. Ingage's scalp throbbed with agony, as if his hair had been tugged out violently from the roots. Ingage let out a cry of pain involuntarily; not having braced himself for his locks being wrenched so forcefully backwards. He was paralyzed again as he felt the freezing scissors rest, facing upwards and open, on the back of his nape. Slowly at first, and then gaining momentum, the shears began viciously sawing through all that exquisite hair.
"Stop!" yelled the Blue Queen. "I have changed my mind. Leave one lock long, so he'll have to cut it himself later." The servant sighed at this new order. She stopped cutting bottom to top and cut a couple of locks in downward strokes, leaving a single, thick lock of Ingage's once magnificent tresses behind. She threw the last severed bits, and they slowly fluttered to the floor, catching the sun from the skylight above.

The servant then stepped back, put the scissors and comb in her pocket with a clack, quietly apologized to Ingage, bowed to the Blue Queen, and walked over to beside the Queen's throne, head down. The Blue Queen daintily crossed her legs, causing her massive silk skirts to rustle and shift around her.
"Ingaaagee~" she called in a sing-song voice. Ingage slowly lifted a hand to touch the back of his head. He stroked the unbearably short hair, feeling the stiff ends. And then there was that one lock. A reminder of what used to be; of what Ingage just recently lost. No matter how hard he tried, Ingage couldn't stop crying. His sobs tore in and out of his lungs in crescendos and diminuendos, like waves breaking on the shore. Ingage's body was shaking as he cried; salty tears dripping down flushed cheeks.
"Turn around and face me, Ingage~." He obliged, gradually shifting to face the Queen again. She laughed yet again. "That's a good look for you, Ingage. Nice and short. I'm sure Rynceres will LOOVE it." Blatant sarcasm positively rained from her voice. She hopped down from the throne, her dress trailing after her as she walked down the four steps to where Ingage was. The Blue Queen reached out her gloved hand and felt Ingage's hair. "It's alright, dear. I'm sure they can find some use for you now that you can't be a healer." She ruffled his hair and giggled. Hatred for the Queen swelled up inside of Ingage. Hatred, anger, and despair. His head felt so light; so wrong- he despised the feeling. He shook his head back and forth, and the locks barely brushing his neck only made him weep harder. He tugged at the ends of it; barely anything left to even grasp. The Blue Queen, still standing in front of him, found this hilarious. "Look at all of this hair, Ingage!" He squeezed his eyes shut so he wouldn't have to see what he had lost. "Look." She said more firmly. Ingage shook his head. He felt soft hair being held up to his cheek, but still refused to raise his eyelids. The Blue Queen finally pried one of his eyes open to show him the hair. She held a fistful of it in her grip. The five feet of hair she was holding gleamed in the light softly, gorgeous severed beauty.

Ingage swallowed slowly, still not completely comprehending what had just taken place, and still not uttering a word. Subconsciously, he was still praying that this was just a bad dream. That none of this had ever happened; Rynceres being imprisoned, Ingage doing the challenges, and then this terrible event. He was hoping that he'd wake up in Rynceres' arms like always, and he would smile, hug Ingage tight, and say good morning.
But this wasn't a dream. This was real; and there was nothing that could be done about Ingage's hair now; it was too late.
"Let me see Rynceres.” Ingage growled through gritted teeth. Despite his normally gentle and motherly nature, Ingage suddenly had a strong desire to cause the Blue Queen bodily harm. The Blue Queen pretended to mull this over, pursing her cyan lips.
"Hmm, how about you clean up the mess you made first?” She gestured with her head to the locks grasped in her hand. She promptly dropped the hair onto the floor again and then kicked the sheared chocolate cinnamon tresses around with her heeled foot; effectively spreading them about. The Queen then unwound a navy colored string from around her wrist and tossed it to Ingage, who caught it.
"Tie this together, Ingage. All of this troublesome hair covering my tile.” An enraged and still tearful Ingage glared at the Blue Queen. "Hurry up, dear. Each minute that passes is more time that I could decide to order to have your boyfriend be tortured.” She then gave Ingage a devious grin, spun on her heel, and left the room. Ingage stood on shaky legs and then collapsed on his knees to the ground. He picked up some of the hair and held it, sobbing.

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