All in a day’s work

The metal breastplate gleamed dully in the midday sun. The arrow protruding from the center was broken in half, as if someone had weakly tried to pull it free.

Jerre peered at the plate, waiting for any sign of movement from the body it covered. But there was nothing. Crouching, she scanned the clearing, wary of being discovered. The only sound was the whirring of insects. In this heat, not even the birds were out and about.

Slowly the girl crept forward, her eyes roving, her instincts on high alert. The two dozen or so yards to the metal-clad body could’ve been two leagues, if the ache in her tensed muscles was any kind of indicator.

Jerre’s hand stretched forth, her fingers searching for the leather ties of the armor. The heat from the silver metal was nearly unbearable. The smell wafting upward from the decaying body made her stomach lurch. Good thing she’d had only a small midday meal.

Once she found the ties, getting the armor from atop the dead knight was an easy enough task. To keep her mind from dwelling on the grisliness of her deed, Jerre spoke softly to the aged man, feigning conversation between a page and his lord.

“Here, my lord, let me just… Oh, sorry, sir, didn’t mean to pinch. If you could just…?”

She pushed the body over, rolling him onto his side.

“Thank you, muchly, m’lord. That was well done, indeed. Almost there. Just about time for you to be finding yourself a lovely lady for the feast. Yes, m’lord, you’re welcome.”

Jerre slipped the last of the metal bits from the heavy man’s body. With all the pieces free, she piled the armor up and tied it into an awkward bundle. Scanning the tree line once again and finding no observers, she lugged her burden into the dim light of the forest.

About a hundred yards into the thickening trees was her temporary lair. Once she managed to stuff her booty into the hut, she set to work, patching holes and polishing the bulky armor.

The work was tiring, but Jerre had hopes of a large payout when it was finished. She hummed while she worked, passing the time the best way she could.

Finally, satisfied that she’d done her best, she set the armor aside and pulled out her bedroll. She needed a good night’s rest before stage two of her plan.

The next morning, Jerre tied her ill-gotten armor into a bundle once more, being significantly more gentle and proper in her packing. Hoisting the weight onto her back, she began the trek into the nearest large village, a good half day’s walk.

After several short rests, and one long duck-and-hide stop, Jerre arrived in Marrowton. Marrowton was bustling. Merchants, travelers, knights, and townsfolk milled about. The overcrowded town was alive with a melodic buzz. Jerre made her way to the south side of the town, where the county fair was happening.

Once there, Jerre set her armor out on the grass, gleaming metal generating much talk of its own. She began her hawking, “Armor for sale! Sirs? Please, come look at the fine armor I have for sale.”

A gawky young man wandered over, peering at her wares. She started to shoo him away, but stopped when he beckoned to an older man, a knight by his clothing.

“Armor for sale,” Jerre shouted again, pretending not to see the interested knight.

The knight approached her, curiosity evident on his rugged face. “Where did you get such armor, girl?”

“Oh, sir, ’twas my father’s. He was a tinker. He died just this spring, left me only this. I need the money to care for my mam.”

The knight looked unconvinced. “And how did a tinker come by such fine armor?”

Jerre dropped her head, trying her best to look downtrodden and ashamed. “Sir, he sometimes took trade for his work. He was the best tinker for leagues. And one day, he did the lord a service. The lord tried to pay father, but all father wanted was a chance to work on armor. So the lord gave my father an old set of armor, this armor. Father tinkered and tinkered until he made the finest, shiniest, prettiest set of armor in the land.”

The knight laughed. “A tinker so well-thought of? Well, and how much do you think your father’s armor worth?”

Jerre shrugged her slim shoulders, “I dunno, lord. I’m…I’m just a girl. I only know it’s pretty. And I need to care for my mam. Would…would 20 gold be a good price?”

The knight slapped his squire on the shoulder. “I s’pose I could do you the favor of buying your armor for my squire. He needs a bit of practice with a set. Boy, pay the child.”

The squire glared at Jerre, but he gave her 20 gold pieces and hefted the armor onto his shoulders.

As they walked away, Jerre tucked the pouch of gold into her tunic and muttered, “Enjoy your armor-of-missle-attraction. M’lord.”

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