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Bra Melting 

Janni Lee Simner 

In which the lady doth not protest too much and strikes yet another blow against becoming a real Fashion Victim.

She came to my shop with a gash in her thigh and blood seeping out of a wound in her stomach. 

“Full battle armor my ass,” she said. Then she fainted. 

I could tell this was one unhappy customer. 

Fortunately, it’s not very hard to find a healer around here. We’re near the Darian border, and that means we see plenty of injured from the front. There are almost as many healers here as warriors, and that’s saying a lot. I’m told the same is true in Ryll. Not that I have much interest in understanding Ryllian ways. They’re the ones we’re protecting our border from, after all. 

So I found a healer—the usual sagely type, white beard trailing halfway to the floor. While he worked on the unconscious woman, I set my apprentice, Jarak, to mopping the blood off my floor. I can’t stand the sight or smell of blood. That’s why I became an armorer, rather than a fighter or healer myself That and the lack of competition; it’s just me and Millicent’s Fine Armour, at least for ladies’ styles. There are a few others working on the menswear, of course. 

I glanced at the injured woman. Her stomach wound had already faded to a pale scar. The healer had his hands over her thigh, his eyes closed, his face intent. The blood had stopped flowing, so I could stand to look. 

Her armor was from my fall line; I’m particularly proud of the design. Bikini style, of course: braided spaghetti straps up top, cut high at the bottom to show off the hips. Her long red hair set off the bronze links; her tan skin was sleek and attractive beside the darker mail. Except where the wounds were, of course. 

The healer’s eyes stayed closed. I left him to his work, set Jarak up at the register, and went back to the forge to hammer out some heavy-duty plate mail for the boys at the front. 

When the woman regained consciousness, she was as angry as ever. I offered to pay the healer for her, but she refused. 

“What I want is my money back for that armor.” 

“Your armor looks fine to me, Miss—” 

“Myra,” she snapped. 

“Myra.” The links were rust free, unbroken—good as the day I’d sold it. “It’s in perfect condition.” 

“You call this perfect?” She pointed to the scar across her stomach. 

“I’m not responsible for injuries—” 

“Not even if your armor is the cause?” Her voice held as much fire as her hair. 

“I’m afraid I don’t see what my armor has to do with it. As for skill on the battlefield—” 

“I killed the man who gave me those wounds.” Her voice turned sharp as steel against stone. “If I’d been wearing half the armor he was, his sword wouldn’t have drawn blood at all. But all anyone in this town will sell me are chain mail bathing suits!” 

“We do offer a matching floral shield.” I kept my voice calm, reasonable. 

“Your shield cracked the first time it met a sword! It’s solid wood!” 

I shrugged. I’d tried sheathing it with bronze, but metal didn’t hold the purple floral paint; wood did. “We don’t offer refunds, but you can exchange it if you like. Perhaps something from our Leather and Lace Assassin line.” 

She spoke through gritted teeth. “What I want is something that will protect me in battle. Plate or scale mail, full-length leather, something.” 

“Our full-body armor is reserved for—” I spoke as delicately as I could “—for our larger sizes.” 

She jumped to her feet, glaring at me. The healer must have done a good job. “Just find me some men’s armor that fits, then!” 

Men’s armor? Why would she want that? “Surely an attractive woman such as yourself—” 

The fire in her eyes turned up another notch. “Then I’ll have to take my business elsewhere!” She tore off her armor—the spaghetti straps snapped easily enough—and flung it to the floor in front of me. 

I stood there, staring. Myra’s lucky I’m an honorable man. Good as she looked with that armor on, she looked even better with it off. I swallowed. We were still doing business, after all. “You won’t find better armor at Millicent’s,” I said. 

Myra didn’t answer; she whirled around and left my shop. Outside, someone whistled. At least it was a warm day. 

I picked the armor up off the floor. The straps needed to be welded again, but otherwise it was sound. “Fix this up,” I told Jarak. “Well put it back on the rack come morning.” If Myra didn’t want my armor, after all, there were plenty of women with more taste who would. 

None of those women came to my shop the next morning, though. Or the next day. Or the next week. And seven days after Myra’s visit, I smelled smoke. It was salty and metallic—like a forge on fire. 

I left Jarak in charge and raced outside. There are some things a smith doesn’t ignore. I had to offer whatever help I could. 

Following the scent didn’t lead me to a burning forge, though. It led me to the town square. A crowd had gathered there; beyond them, flames leapt into the sky. When I pushed forward, I found a wood fire—with a huge group of women gathered around it. A woman ran up and threw something into the flames. Chain mail, bikini style. The flames leapt higher, and the stench of burning dirt and blood filled the air. The cheers grew louder. 

The woman who’d thrown the armor in stood there, grinning. She wore scale mail, I realized—men’s scale mail. What fool had sold her that? The armor looked bulky and unattractive on her small frame. Many of the women were dressed that way. Fire reflected off their heavy mail. 

“Strangest damn thing I’ve ever seen!” I turned to see Millie, of 

Millicent’s Fine Armour, standing beside me. Her gray hair was tied neatly above her head; her flowered dress brushed the ground. Normally, we don’t get along too well. But I looked at her and asked, “What are they doing?” Besides throwing away good armor, I meant. 

“Bra burning,” giggled a girl beside us. She was stout and buxom, in a tavern maid’s skirt and low blouse, not the sort one would ever see in armor at all. 

“Bra melting, more like,” Millie muttered. 

By the fire, I heard more cheers, then something that sounded like chanting. I couldn’t make out the words. 

I looked back to the women and the flames. A flash of red hair caught my eye; I saw Myra standing with the others, yelling wildly. Her bulky leather armor hid her curves and tan skin; she looked no different than a man. 

She must have felt me watching her, because she whirled to face me. “There they are!” she yelled, raising one fist into the air. “Get the armorers!” someone else cried. Myra ran towards me, a group of screaming women behind her. 

“I think we should leave now,” Millie said. 

I couldn’t argue with that. I walked away, as fast as I could without running. I wasn’t scared, you understand. I had a business to run, though, and I’d already wasted too much time. 

Behind me, the women were still chanting, louder than before. Now I could make out the words. 

“What do we want? Battle armor! When do we want it? Now!” 

I scowled, suddenly angry that I’d imagined a real emergency here. 

When I woke the next morning, the faint scent of smoke still lingered in the air. By then, I’d decided the madness in the square might be good for business. Those women were going to need my armor more than ever, once they finished destroying what they had. They couldn’t keep what they’d worn last night, after all. No woman really wants to look like a man. And most men don’t want them looking that way, either. 

I whistled as I walked down to the shop, expecting a busy day, I wondered how many women would already be there, waiting to buy. 

Myra stood by my door, alone. 

I let her in. She wore a tunic and loose breeches now; the clothes made her more mannish than ever. She had a sack slung over one shoulder. Her leather armor, I guessed. 

“Would you like to trade that in?” 

“Trade?” She threw her head back and laughed. “What makes you think I’d trade with you?” 

“What’s in the sack?” 

She kept laughing. The sound grated. 

“If you’re not here to trade or buy, you’ll have to leave my shop. There are plenty of women who’d be happy to pay for my armor.” 

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” There was a glint in Myra’s eye. “Any woman worth her weight in battle has gone south by now.” 

“Back to the front?” 

More laughter. “Oh, further south than that.” 

Dorian’s border runs farther south here than anywhere else, but still, it took a moment to figure out what she meant. 

“The traitors!” They’d crossed the border, into Ryll. 

“You see? There are people willing to sell us decent armor. You just have to know where to look.” 

I glared at her, trying to understand how a matter of mere fashion justified such treachery. Anger made my face hot. We still had the men, so of course we’d be safe—but I thought of the size of the crowd by the fire, and I felt uneasy. 

“Why are you still here, then? Aren’t you heading south with the others?” 

Myra smiled, swinging the bag from her shoulder to the floor. It jangled; there was more than leather armor inside. 

“I have other plans. I hear you and Millicent need some competition.” She reached into the bag and pulled something out. A small piece of metal, shaped into a cup and dangling from a string. 

“What the hell is that?” 

“It’s part of my new fall line.” A wicked grin crossed Myra’s face. “I call it the thong bikini codpiece.” 

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