Firgolmir agreed to finish my armor up overnight, so I would return to his smithy the next morning.
After leaving his place, I went to the barracks and found a knight who had a thing for Tiana and good magic skills. My slightly-too-sexy mess uniform highlights my anatomy well, which came in handy for talking him into transferring the relevant section of a map in the resource room onto blank parchment.
What? After all those girls through the years pulled the same trick to get my help, think I’m gonna hold back? Defenseless males equal free labor! Woohoo!
I’ll be more mindful of my behavior.
But, I really needed that map. Tiana had never been outside Orestania, so of course she had never been to Hamagaar, much less Cara Ita. The closest to those place she had ever been was the hill where the Hero’s Party killed the dragon.
After reporting that I would depart in the morning before dawn, I went home with my ears full of multiple warnings from Rod to be back in time for our Betrothal Announcement in one month. And a quiet reminder from Mother that I had to be back for school in two weeks anyway.
When it comes to my job, the normally inflexible Genette becomes surprisingly helpful. She made sure I woke at four, fed me a quick breakfast, quickly helped me into one of my simple one-piece flying dresses, helped me fasten on my sword belt and gave me a small pack, something like a fat messenger bag, that she had packed with a few clothes and my field kit, as well as a lunch. The pack had a belt that cinched around my waist so it could hang down over my butt, which was a little weird for walking but worked well for flying. She had tied my crossbow to the pack.
She then followed me out to my balcony, where she curtseyed and wished my fair travels. I know for a fact she doesn’t approve of her Lady working as a knight any more than the rest of the household staff, but before that, she’s my loyal supporter. She rose out of the curtsey wearing a proud smile, so I thanked her.
I took off, flying across the town as the sky was first beginning to brighten, on my way to the smithy. To my surprise, after I had gone a half-mile or so, Mother joined me. She didn’t say anything, just flew beside me until my destination, then landed next to me. When I turned to her, curious about why she had come, she was holding the ends of a pendant chain in both hands. To my surprise, she stepped up and put it on me.
The pendant was clearly an amulet, but I had no idea what it was for, because it was a fairy-made item that I had never seen before.
“I want you to keep this on at all times,” she instructed me. “Even when you bathe.”
“What is it?”
She looked at me for several long seconds, then stated, “I am giving you this because it would kill me to lose my daughter twice. I still do not trust you. I still have my doubts about your story. But, I dearly wish I had given Tiana this before…”
Her voice chopped off, and she quickly turned away from me. Then, she took off again and, within the first twenty feet of altitude, she pulled her ‘vanishing’ trick… I believe it to be just an illusion, but you seriously cannot detect where she went when she does it.
“Your daughter loved you too, Mother,” I told the empty air, a few of Tiana’s tears forming in my eyes.
The smithy was already firing up for business, with dwarven apprentices running around, stocking forges and furnaces with fuel, or heaving on bellows. I called out for Firgolmir as I entered and got Drusella. She led me through the place to a worktable where her grandfather was snoring loudly enough to hear over the bustle behind us. The metal sections of my armor lay on the table.
“He was working until an hour ago to finish it,” she told me as she pulled something from a shelf to the side. It was the non-metal components of the suit. “I finished up the new leather work before midnight.”
She set her work down on the table, stepped back and said, “Do you need a bag to carry it out? I have a strong sack that’s large enough.”
“No,” I stated, undoing my sword belt. “I don’t have time, so I’m dressing here.”
Her eyes grew as I set sword and belt on the table, along with my pack, then shrugged myself out of my flying dress. The boys in the smithy were getting an eyeful, but I made myself ignore it. On a mission, one doesn’t have time for embarrassment. But as I was dropping the dress, Drusella finally unfroze, made a garbled sound, and grabbed it to yank it back upward, yelping, “My Lady, wait one moment please!”
Her voice had been loud enough to draw everyone’s attention, and the hammering stopped. I held the dress up against my bust and waited. Drusella turned and ordered, “Down tools and take a break outside, boys! Ginelda, Farlina, keep an eye on them!”
The two other female dwarves in the room nodded agreement as the guys filed out. When they were gone, with the exception of one snoring grandpa, she glared at me. “My Lady, you have to respect yourself as a woman better!”
Was it Robert’s lack of concern or Tiana’s tunnel vision while focusing on her mission? I don’t know. But Tiana’s sense of decency finally got in gear and backed Drusella’s words up. Embarrassed, I could only nod. Because there was a really, really good reason that I should have been more self-aware.
You see, Mother and Firgolmir had collaborated on the armor design, and she had given me a new undergarment to match it. I don’t know what exactly to call it, so I’ll probably keep saying ‘tunic’, but there’s no way this thing is any kind of tunic.
I’m not going to describe it. I will describe the new armor that covered it. A little imagination should fill in the rest. Suffice it to say, a significant amount of skin was not covered.
The main issue was, Mother had used the opportunity of renovating my armor so that I could fly in it to reduce coverage elsewhere as well. They had replaced the back plate with a single metal band running below my wing roots, and the front plate now ended immediately above the bust. There would now be mostly just exposed skin above the cuirass.
My sea-serpent hide surcoat now laced like a bodice. It needed to be tight around my waist to keep it from slipping down, since it no longer had shoulder straps to hang from. It still turned into a miniskirt that ended with its hem above mid-thigh.
So, I’ll take a moment to revisit the undergarment question. Consider what its shape would have to be, for the armor I just described to cover it. It may help to mention that Mother had given it an enchantment for it to adhere to my bosom, because physics alone would never allow it to remain in place.
Drusella was helping me put it the suit together the first time. Fortunately, as with the previous design, I would be able to remove the armor without detaching the items she was helping with, and would be able to dress myself in the field. This detail wasn’t important for a normal knight, who would have a squire or aide assisting him to dress for battle, but it was critical for an adventurer.
After we finished getting those on me, I equipped the gorget, which gives good neck protection, but is otherwise skimpy. The part that should cover the upper chest is just some articulated metal bands running from the neck section to the cuirass. There’s a heavier band in the center plus a couple of ‘bra straps’, curved metal pieces that run along my shoulder tops before descending to the cuirass. Despite the skimpiness, the straps do have some effect on slashing and swinging attacks. They just don’t protect me from well-aimed lunges or spear thrusts.
Drusella helped me with attaching the segmented pauldrons to the gorget, then I pulled on the rerebraces, vambraces, my stocking-like greaves and sabatons. Those items had not been changed.
She also attached the flap that covered my exposed back, and then the bases (that’s a cape or skirt that hangs from the waist of armor). Both of those were wyvern hide. The bases for my armor is only in back, and hangs from my cuirass. In the front, thanks to the short hem of the skirt, bare thigh showed above the top of the greaves. Scandalous from the Orestanian viewpoint, perfectly normal for a fairy.
I donned my sword belt and pulled on my gauntlets, and voilá, one somewhat typical fairy knight (at least in appearance) was ready for combat.
Who was that? Who just said ‘Bikini Armor’?