Boots poked out of thick undergrowth within a stone’s throw of the heavily rutted country road. What was visible of the armor – a bronze plated lamellar jacket – was congealed with blood.
Jiro – hungry, cold, and tired – saw the armor as the means to fill his aching belly.
Judging by the dead man’s white sash, now ruined with blood, Jiro suspected he was one of the many soldiers – without a leader, an army or a cause – who wandered the countryside after the brutal defeat of the city-states of the Riverlands at the hand of the Red Emperor. Most likely, this dead soldier was one of those displaced veterans who hired out their swords to protect a village at the edges of civilized territory.
Jiro’s plan was simple: steal the armor, act like a soldier, smooth talk a village leader into a meal in exchange for protection from the gangs of roving bandits – causeless soldiers themselves – and then slip away in the night mists.
If his luck held out, he would keep up the ruse until he reached the City of Stones, and there, well, he would have to return hat in hand to his father and mother and their pickled vegetable stall and admit that his dream of becoming a great actor in a traveling troupe was as worthless as his father had warned.
Not where he wanted to end up but better than starving in the countryside.
First he needed to get the armor off the soldier…
Read the entire story at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.