Chapter 35 – Return To Work

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Okay, so it sort of resembles bikini armor. But, thanks to the sea-serpent skin portion, the ratio of bare skin to armor is much lower than your typical artwork. Maybe call it one-piece swimsuit armor.

I think it’s time for me to explain the insanity of fairy knights and their armor preferences. It’s fair to criticize its obvious shortcomings, but that’s from the human perspective on armor.

The ero design is not just Mother having fun at my expense, no matter how much I feel like it is. It’s actually the standard practice of fairy knights. Fairies don’t bulk up like human fighters, and they are difficult to damage even without armor, so they like to use skimpy stuff that puts their lithe figures on display, to mess with the minds of male opponents while fighting. Apparently it’s especially effective against orcs.

I inherited these physical traits, so Mother insists that I use my looks the same way any other fairy knight would. In her words, ‘You are a fairy, you are a knight, so you are legitimately a fairy knight. You must take pride in it.’ It seems a lot of fairy knights were knighted by someone other than the king of the fairies. Being knighted by Uncle Owen was sufficient.

What do male fairy knights wear? No such thing. All fairy knights are female.

Male fairies are extremely few in number, and they seldom participate in combat. Given the extreme ratio of female fairies to male fairies, they’re too busy drowning in feminine companionship and other pleasures. If they do fight, they stand alone, and they don’t bother with armor or rules, since they are frighteningly strong creatures with no interest in knighthood, or service, or questing.

# # #

Drusella stepped back and admired the results briefly, then allowed the guys back into the smithy and woke her grandfather.

The way he had been sound asleep while his workers were hammering away, I was surprised at how fast Firgolmir came awake. But, dwarves seem to switch gears at ridiculous speed. Dead drunk or sound asleep one minute, hard at work the next.

“You should try out all motions, not simply swing your sword around,” he critiqued while I was testing the new armor in the back yard of the smithy.

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He and Drusella had come out to observe me, and from the door into the smithy, several of Firgolmir’s underlings were watching as well.

I nodded and tried running in place, sitting, kneeling, laying down, standing up. Everything was fine until…

“What about your wings?” he demanded. “I want to know if that flap worked.”

Here I was about to fly eight hundred miles in the stuff, and I had totally forgot about that. That was a bit embarrassing.

The way I materialize my wings, they sprout and grow out of my back. I can make them materialize in the folded position only with great difficulty; instinctively they want to appear at about three quarter spread, grow from mini to full size, then fully open.

The back flap on my tea gowns, or this armor, gets pushed out of the way in the process. It works well for the silk or taffeta material of the dresses, but…

I frowned at the resistance from the wyvern hide as my wings came out. It was considerably less than comfortable. After a moment, I decided I needed to try it out in practice.

I don’t fly quite like a bird. It’s true that I get a lot of propulsion from wing strokes the same way a bird does, and like a bird, I steer by flexing and warping my wings. But I also use wind magic, and that allows me to take off and hover in a way that would be unnatural for a bird. I rose into the air with a series of wing beats and grimaced.

Settling back into the scrapyard, I shook my head. “The flap just doesn’t work. It interferes with my wings as I move them. Take it off.”

Firgolmir stroked his beard and scratched his sideburn as he puzzled over the flap, saying, “It might be possible to give it a bit more flexibility at the attachment.”

I shook my head. “No time. Take it off.”

It occurred to me as Drusella removed the flap that Mother was going to be thrilled with all the bare skin of my upper back. That galled me, but I couldn’t see any choice.

# # #

Flying in my armor was more work than without it, but it was a lot easier than lugging my armor in a sack. The only issue I had was that the bases flapped in the airstream like Superman’s cape, but that was tolerable.

My speed outward was faster than it had been inbound, and a lot less tiring, and only five hours into my journey, I was already winging my way past that village and following the road that the party was taking northward when I last saw them. Cara Ita lay seventy miles beyond that.

In this region, a simple dirt road cut through untamed wilderness, and the border crossing was a pair of garrisons facing each other next to a pair of crossing gates. I spotted it in the distance and immediately landed before anyone spotted the ‘succubus’ approaching.

Tiana Full Battle Mode identified that danger without a problem, but when I began blithely walking toward the crossing without considering any alternative, I realized that FBM was Tiana operating on her experience alone. And she was a very straightforward, honest sort of girl.

In other words, she didn’t have years and years behind her of reading stories about evil villains, underhanded tactics, treachery, dishonesty, dirty tactics… worse, she wasn’t even very experienced at human interaction. Not to mention she wasn’t human in the first place. Her skills at reading the character of human enemies was at best questionable.

“Let’s think about this, Tiana” I told myself as I walked. “We have no idea what happened to the Hero’s Party. We have no idea if the Kingdom of Hamagaar is involved. We don’t know if the border guards are honest or taking bribes. The other side of the border is not run under the tight legal structure of Orestania. In fact it’s a minor country with weak organization that is well-known for being a haven for bandits and slavers. There were any number of ways that my presence could be reported to the enemy ahead of time, or that I could be detained or delayed.

“The last thing we want to do is show up saying ‘Hi, I’m a royal knight of Orestania, here’s my identification papers’!”

Let me make something clear. I am not developing multiple personalities.

I think.

Thus it came to pass that Robert vetoed Tiana’s plan to walk straight up to the border crossing. From the air, I had seen a ridge of broken hills running parallel to the road a couple miles to the left, so I came up with a plan to find them and follow them into the neighboring kingdom instead. The forest swallowed me up in no time.

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I walked without incident for about a half mile, until my fairy senses felt the approach of a monster. At the very last second, I dodged left.

Where I had just been, a wolf went sailing through the air past me. I immediately leapt right again, because another was coming through the spot where I had just escaped to. By this time, I had my hand on the hilt of my sword. Drawing and whirling in one move, I slashed the neck of a third wolf, whose legs were splayed wide with skin flaps between front legs and hind legs stretched tight to catch the air. He sprayed a lethal quantity of blood as he passed.

The remainder of the pack veered away, having now realized the fact that I was dangerous.

Flying wolves look like natural beasts, but they are mid-level monsters. They use their skin flaps just like flying squirrels, and if they just used gravity like their squirrel kindred spirits, they would drop like rocks because their surface to mass ratio is too high. But just like me, they use wind magic for propulsion.

It not only makes them crazy fast, it allows them to actually fly, not just glide to a lower altitude like flying squirrels. As the pack circled around for another attack, Tiana’s brain began warming up for combat, identifying enemy positions, priming for the next wave…

But the Robert side was thinking, ‘Tiana’s a battle junkie. We should just outrun them.’

Tiana vs. Robert had become my version of fight or flight.

I sprang into the air and was flying low above the forest canopy immediately. The wolves gave pursuit and together we flew toward the ridge that was my destination.

- my thoughts:

With this chapter, we're done with the initial arcs and firmly into the arc that will fill all of Volume II. The next chapter will be the last of Volume I, but no worries: I will not be pausing between volumes.

Check out my other novel: Tales of the ESDF

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