A dull glint in the bushes caught Kiara’s eye. She glanced around the forest, searching for any sign of watchers. Finding none, the lithe girl slipped into the undergrowth, her deep mossy green leathers blending into the foliage.
In the midst of a small clearing beyond the seldom traveled path was a man. Kiara’s hawkish gaze fell on a quartet of white-fletched arrows. Under the slim wooden shafts, the man’s body was covered in heavy plates of hammered steel. Kiara shook her head, sadly, then reached for her belt pouch.
A heavy silver ring slid easily from the pouch’s mouth. Kiara slid it onto her finger, with the deeply engraved face buried in her palm. Once she was ready, she crawled toward the prone man, her nose wrinkling in disgust at the rancid smell that filled the clearing. Her fingers searched for a heartbeat, but, as she expected, the man’s life had fled.
The silver ring pulsed a brilliant blue when it touched the cold metal armor. Kiara pulled her hand back and clutched it to her chest. Her eyes closed as the ring’s power throbbed in her mind. Her smile grew as the information provided by the ring of identification poured in.
Removing the armor wasn’t easy, but Kiara managed it well before sundown. She lugged the heavy metal pieces deeper into the forest, to a campsite well away from any interruptions. The night passed in drudgery, but the dark-haired girl didn’t mind. Her smile remained wide and catty.
Hammering the dents from the armor was painstaking, but not as torturous as repairing the four punctured places. When the time for polishing rolled around, Kiara’s eyes stayed open by sheer willpower. The lightening sky stole the girl’s smile. Wearily, she rolled up into her bedroll and fell into a deep sleep.
The sun was nearly touching the tops of the western trees when Kiara finally struggled awake. She rebuilt her fire and pulled rations from the pack beside her. A small iron pot also slid free of the bag. With just a few minutes work, Kiara had a pot of trail soup simmering. Her stomach rumbled. She didn’t wait for the soup to cool down before she slurped a mouthful. She ignored the pain and continued to eat. After her dinner, she rinsed the pot and stowed it back in her pack. Then she wrapped herself in her bedroll and slipped off to sleep.
The morning broke with a dense fog creeping across the forest floor. Kiara packed her meager belongings into her backpack, then tied the pieces of armor into a tight pile which she then heaved onto her back. Her knees nearly buckled under the weight of the armor, but she stumbled into motion.
On her way out of the forest, Kiara found herself whistling a merry tune. Her step lightened and she let her voice lift in a bawdy tavern song. By mid-afternoon, she had joined the stream of people headed into the city, to the King’s sportage. She had just enough time to sell the armor to a trade merchant before the archery contests began. Her lips turned up into a cruel smile. The fun was only beginning. Armor of missile attraction should make the day much more exciting.