The Armour Fitting

“Am I supposed to do this myself? How am I to sleep? This armour seems a heavy responsibility,” laughed Parnard, as he kept his leg lifted in front.

“This will get easier, cousin,” said Danel.

“Easier, eh? I say, it is pretty easy to stand here being the best mannequin in all the land! Ha ha ha! Stick it on good now,” he told Barahirn, making silly gestures and waggling his foot in the air.

“Hold still, Lord Parnard. You do not need to wear it every day, after all. Is that comfortable?” said Barahirn as he fitted the sabaton to his foot and inspected the fit.

“As comfortable as a cheesebox,” said Parnard to the melancholy stablemaster. He had given up telling Barahirn to stop calling him ‘Lord,’ and decided to accept the appellation. After all, he had been a lord once, had he not? It was not entirely a misrepresentation. And if the stablemaster would do it, despite his protests, then he must accept it with good grace: to do otherwise was bad manners.   

“I can bend it slightly to fit you more snugly.”

“Ah ha ha ha, you jest, Barahirn! You cannot bend metal without heating it first, of course,” said Parnard. This much he knew about blacksmithing because Estarfin had told him just the day before. 

“They are already shaped: we are simply fitting them now,” said Estarfin, checking the fit of the backplate. “Lay it on top of the coals with the greaves.” 

“Lay it on top! Lay it on top!” burst out Parnard in song, as drunk wood-elves are wont to do when working (or in Parnard’s case, drunk while watching others work). “Do you sing when you smithy, Estarfin friend?” he asked, while Barahirn and Estarfin made minor adjustments to the armour.

“Not usually, no. It is too busy for such things. Keep it on there,” Estarfin told Barahirn, who was holding a pair of tongs at the ready. Parnard watched in fascination as the metal started to glow a lurid red on its edges. Then Estarfin jabbed him none too gently in the throat with two fingers.

“Ow!” Parnard exclaimed, clapping his hand to his neck. 

”The armour does not cover your neck and throat,” Estarfin said, holding up a delicately chased silver and green gorget.

“What was that for!” Parnard complained, and immediately regretted the question as it elicited another poke. 

“To keep your head upon your shoulders,” Estarfin told him. “It sits on top of the breastplate and covers you up to the chin.”

Parnard looked concerned. “Can I drink wine with that thing on?”

“Do not wear the gorget when riding, or when wearing the armour outside of battle,” Estarfin instructed.

“Why, what would happen?” asked Parnard, his eyes widening.

“You would be uncomfortable.”

“Oh,” he said, thinking he would be uncomfortable in the armour with or without the gorget. “I am as a turtle ensconced in a metal carapace, and more metal is to be hung on me as so much wallpaper.”

“It will keep you alive in battle.” Estarfin held out a piece of steel engraved with a green leaf and backed with a leather loop. “Fit this on your belt yourself. Ensure it is comfortable.”

Parnard squinted at the foreign device with deep suspicion. “You wish for me to put that on, now?”

“Yes. Slip it over the belt,” said Estarfin. “On the outside, not the inside of your clothing,” he added.

“I know where to put it! It can only be worn one way, ha ha ha!” Parnard laughed as he unbuckled his belt and arranged the metal so that it covered the tender places of his groin.

“Good. Now crouch down. Any discomfort? Any pinching or rubbing?”

Parnard crouched tentatively and with every sign of trepidation on his face. “I think it - strange,” he muttered, and leaning close to Estarfin, whispered that it was heavy and lay most uncomfortably.

“Do not fret; there is another way. Barahirn - there is a mail skirt over there on the shelf: will you fetch it?”

“If it is the first time you have worn metal armour, it may well feel strange,” Barahirn said as he brought the mail skirt. 

“Is that going underneath the belt thing? Another layer! I shall be like a metal onion!” 

The elves laughed. “No, take it off. This is favoured by calvalry. It is more comfortable than the plate,” said Estarfin, and attached the skirt to the harness of the breastplate with a series of loops and knots. 

“I have worn chainmail skirts before,” said Parnard, looking sharply at Barahirn, “made of metal.” 

“There,” said Estarfin, making the last adjustment to the skirt.

“It jingles,” Parnard said in disapproval, shaking his legs and making the mail ripple. “Perhaps I should get used to that metal loincloth, after all. I am unused to such things, t’is true! I do not deny it.”

“The greaves are ready, Lord Estarfin,” Barahirn called out. 

These were cooled and strapped on Parnard’s legs, and then a pair of leather and steel gauntlets were slipped over his hands. He flexed his fingers, delighting in the clinking of the metal plates. “I think them very fearsome! How will I know whose hands these are?” he said, and burst out in wild laughter. 

“This goes with the gorget. Again, you need not wear it much of the time.” Estarfin held out a silver helmet chased with a filigree of delicate green leaves and vines, topped with a high crest of white feathers. The elves gasped in delight. 

“That is a work of art,” said Barahirn.

“You look every inch the warrior now, Parnard,” Danel told him.

Parnard took up the helm and slowly slipped it over his head, peering through the narrow eyeslits. “I hope I can breathe!” he said, feeling his nose pinched, and took in several great gulps of air to test the ventilation. 

Estarfin searched through a pile of gear and pulled out a heavy wooden staff. “Both of you, step back,” he told Danel and Barahirn. “Tell me if this is painful,” he said to Parnard. 

Crash! Estarfin brought the staff down hard across a shoulder. Parnard reeled back as a benumbing twinge spread down his arm to his fingertips. “What was that!” he cried out.

“We must test it: armour is no use just being beautiful,” Estarfin said.

“A great ringing is in my ears -” said Parnard, but ere he could finish his sentence, Estarfin thrust the staff hard into the centre of the breastplate and knocked him several paces backwards. 

“Wait a moment - !” Parnard gasped.

“You can still speak?” said Estarfin, a little surprised. “Good.”

“I am being battered and buffeted about!”

“Better than being sliced and diced,” Danel observed.

Estarfin leaped on Parnard, and grabbing hold of the armour, began to shake the wood-elf furiously in all directions. “Eeee-eee–EE–ee!”  Parnard cried out against this affront, as his vision blurred and his teeth clacked together. 

“Bear with it, Lord Parnard,” said Barahirn. 

Danel said nothing, having covered her mouth with her hand.

“It is not coming loose. That is good.” Estarfin released him from his grip. “We cannot test the mail with a staff, that would be painful indeed,” he said, and drew a dagger from his belt. 

“Oh, no, that would be painful indeed!” agreed Parnard and dizzily straightened his helm as he tried to regain his scattered senses. In a blink of an eye the dagger flashed out, the tip of the blade glancing off the riveted dwarf-make mail; the thick padding of the underlying doublet absorbed much of the impact of the first strike, aimed at the exposed soft part of the elbow joint, yet the dagger was thrust with such strength that muscle was crushed against bone. The second stab to the inner thigh was worse, for the doublet did not hang down that far. The mail deflected the dagger's thrust, but the impact tore across the fleshy part of his leg, while not breaking skin. Searing pain took Parnard’s breath away, and he doubled up, clutching at his afflicted arm and leg. 

Seeing no blood on his dagger, Estarfin smiled and slapped Parnard heartily on the shoulder. “We are done, my friend. The armour will serve you well.”

“You are not cut, cousin? A little bruised, perhaps?” asked Danel.

The plumed helm wavered back and forth with an air of jaunty nonchalance.  “No, no, no. I must invite such attacks wearing this armour, I suppose,” was the gritted teeth reply.

Danel embraced him with warm affection. “You cannot feel that either, eh?” 

Parnard winced and laughed a high-pitched laugh, then thinking he would rather not have the others see him collapse on the floor, stumbled away to collide against a table. He pulled off the helm and wiped sweat from his brow to see Estarfin looking at him with a satisfied expression. At once he straightened up and casually thrust the helm underneath his arm, saying, “Ah, well done, Barahirn, well done. Estarfin will have you crafting gorgets and whatnot in no time,” and taking up his flagon of wine, drank a long draught, then passed a hand over his face. “I am indebted to you, Estarfin friend.”

“It is freely given,” Estarfin replied with a shrug. “You must wear it for the next day or two and get used to it. Let me know of any discomfort, any at all.”

Parnard nodded slowly. “I shall. I shall sleep in it until this armour feels as a second skin, but I shall not bathe or swim in it. It is too constricting for that,” he murmured, and as if to test its affordability of movement began to move around in a slow exaggerated battlestep, favouring his wounded leg as much as possible.

“He wears it like a prince of old, does he not?” Estarfin said to Danel in Quenya as they watched him stalk around the room. 

“If the Wood-Elves had worn such armour, who knows?” she replied in the ancient tongue. “Maybe many lives would have been saved. We Noldor may need more smiths.”

A thoughtful look entered Estarfin’s eyes as he considered the idea. “At least smiths in other places. We cannot arm the Greenwood from here.”

“Indeed not, but we may have our work cut out with the halflings.”

“Maybe you can show your folk the benefit of plate armour, lord,” Barahirn said to Parnard.

“Ah! There is much I can show them, much!” said Parnard, and fumbling around with a gauntlet, tried, and failed, to pick up a walnut from the bowl on the table.