Elina Svendotir, by Mates Laurentiu

bard1Elina Svendotir, by Mates Laurentiu

“Sometimes I feel like Jesse James
Still tryin’ to make a name.
Knowing nothing’s gonna change what I am.
I was a young troubadour
When I wrote in on a song.
I’ll be an old troubadour when I’m gone…”
George Strait, “Troubadour”

Yikes! Sorry about the late update, folks! I didn’t have as much time as I thought this weekend, and I honestly wasn’t sure I’d have time today. When deciding on a writeup for this weekend, I was surprised to discover that I don’t have any bards in my lineup! Not one! And it’s not as if I have any particular objection to bards—they’re one of the most useful support classes, and can make for fairly competent rogues, swashbucklers, or archers depending on character design and game world.

I’ve admitted before that I like the trope of adventuress-turned-tavernkeeper in storytelling, and I find it fitting for a character like Elina. I mean, on top of patrons’ coins for beer and pretzels, she can collect tips for singing and performing. Win/win situation, really. And as an adventuress, no doubt she has stories to tell and ballads to sing, whether from personal experience or from stories told by her friends and patrons.

bard2Elina’s primary protection in combat is a quilted gambeson that may or may not have leather padding stitched into the quilting. This should provide fair deflection and absorption in combat and would fit excellently beneath a chainmail shirt for heavier melee combat. Underneath our heroine wears a bright-green traveling shirt for warmth and to protect against chafing from the quilted gambeson. Leather bracers further protect her arms from severing or disabling blows during a duel or dungeon crawl. Her pants are light, durable, and flexible wool or linen for traveling, adventuring, or combat. Lastly, her boots are durable leather, effective for riding, hiking, or combat footing.

Lovely Elina’s bardic instrument of choice is a kemence, a Turkish stringed instrument for entertaining her patrons, singing support to her allies, or distracting her enemies. Her weapon appears to be a hangar, or similar small, fencing/street-fighting sword. Though sometimes called the ‘poor-man’s rapier,’ I actually really like the hangar design, combining the stabbing and finesse of a rapier with the slashing power of a saber and close-quarters handling of a short sword. The rune on her necklace may be a mere keepsake, or it may be a focus for her bardic skills. Anything goes, really, in questing and adventuring.

Huge thanks to Mates for the use of his charming bard. If you’re interested, feel free to look into his custom commissions at Avatar Art. Thanks as always for reading folks! Take care and stay awesome!

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Women’s leather armor, by LaGueuse

cosplayWomen’s Leather Armor, by LaGueuse

“The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, and does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed upon him.” —Sun Tzu

Much like Dwarves, dress armor, and steampunk attire, LARP and cosplay are areas I keep intending to place more focus upon, but never seem to get around to. Artisan leatherworker LaGueuse has been pretty cool in the past about me using her designs for the blog. Her homepage features dozens of excellent leather armor and steampunk accessories for women larpers and cosplayers. Looking back over LaGueuse’s DeviantArt galleries recently, I found several gorgeous leather armor designs for the blog. My favorite was this excellent scale/leather warrior’s armor for this axe-wielding lady warrior.

cosplay2I remain a huge fan of well-crafted leather armor and feel it’s badly underrated as an armor type. As well as being cheaper and lighter than most steel armors, it provides far more absorption and deflection than what its armor rating in most table-top RPGs might suggest. Properly treated and hardened, even thin leather can offer excellent deflection against arrows, spearheads, and glancing blows from swords or axes. Heavy spaulders protect our heroine’s shoulders from disabling blows, with vertical sections to prevent enemy blades from glancing toward her head. Segmented leather plates and leather scales offer additional protection for our heroine’s upper arms. Meanwhile, a flexible leather cuirass keeps our warrior’s torso safe from arrows and spearheads with more scales positioned over her heart. Lastly, additional leather plates and scales protect her hips and lower abdomen.

cosplay3Beneath her leather cuirass, our heroine sports a black arming shirt to keep the leather from chafing the crap out of her skin. a black waist-cloak or battle-skirt keeps her legs warm and safe while traveling or in combat. Additionally, she wears leather vambraces to protect her arms from severing blows and leather boots for traveling in all kinds of weather.

The only recommendation I can think of for our heroine are gloves to reduce wear-and-tear on her hands while swinging that axe around. Stellar design, all around.

Huge thanks to LaGueuse for letting me borrow her designs. Feel free to check her Facebook for more photos and costume designs. As always, thanks for reading, folks. Take care and stay awesome!

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Barbarian, by Hugo Solis

harpy1Barbarian, by Hugo Solis

“These battle-scarred brutes believe in one simple tactic, the best defense is a good offense. Because their fighting style is so wild and undisciplined, Barbarians are not found among races which are smaller in stature or which tend to view themselves as highly civilized. Always spoiling for a fight, Barbarians are also usually the first to join in on a good old fashioned bar-room brawl and engage in unarmed contests as a matter of sport.” —Barbarian class description, Realm of Strife

Years ago when I played my first actual game of Dungeons and Dragons, I was surprised that none of the other players—veteran players, mind you—understood why barbarians lose all of their bonus hit points after their rage wears off. I had to explain to them that it’s because they’re so pumped full of adrenaline that they could actually receive mortal injuries and still keep swinging, dying only after the adrenaline stops. The vikings called the phenomenon berserkergang, while the Romans called it Furor CelticaI honestly thought the explanation was fairly common historical knowledge, but these guys thought it was the coolest thing they’d ever heard of.

Hugo’s design is for a strategic RPG called Realm of Strife. This idea of a flying berserker is so awesomely terrifying to me. A deranged harpy going bat-s*** crazy on a party of adventurers delights me to no end. I imagine her as an alpha harpy (harpy matriarch?) leading her nest against a party of intruding adventurers.

harpy1As a flying warrior, it makes most sense that our harpy prefers a lighter, more flexible armor for aerial combat. Rugged-looking and possibly scavenged, her leather cuirass should offer excellent protection from the inevitable ranged attacks as the adventurers attempt to mow her down from a distance. Her leather spaulders protect her shoulders from disabling blows and cushion her joints when she slams into the party’s fighter as she attempts to knock him off the precipice leading to her nest. I like as well that she wears wrappings underneath the armor to protect her from leather-induced chafing.

The sharp, reed-like protrusions strapped to her right vambrace were also an effective touch, providing absorption against enemy blades while functioning as a weapon in close quarters. Though lacking in spikes, the left vambrace should protect her arm from severing blows. Her upper legs are protected by segmented leather plates for similar protection against enemy arrows and melee weapons.

To me, a polearm is a sensible weapon for a winged fighter. Our harpy’s glaive gives her excellent striking power on the fly while keeping her distance from the enemies’ swords and axes. Meanwhile, her short sword and dagger provide excellent backup weapons, should she find herself grounded and in close-quarters melee. Finally, our harpy’s talons are wicked-sharp for scratching disemboweling some unfortunate mage.

If I have an issue with our harpy’s design, it’s the belly-hole in her armor (I think… her glaive is obstructing, so I may be reading that wrong). While it’s a relatively small breach in an otherwise decent set of armor, leaving her guts exposed seems like a weakness that any competent archer or spearman is going to take advantage of.

Beyond that, I really love the idea and character design. I visualize her using Final Fantasy Dragoon tactics, flapping eight stories up, then dropping on the mage or archer’s head to take their ranged attacks out of the fight early. Our barbarian then faces off with the party’s melee characters with her glaive and talons while her sisters snipe at them with crossbows from midair. “Should have stuck with picking on goblins and kobolds, adventurers. ‘Cause you ain’t leaving our nest alive.”

Huge thanks to Hugo for the use of his harpy. As always, thanks so much for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!

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Belfry Knights, by MJ Barros and Barbara Perez

belfryLady knights of The Order of Belfry, by MJ Barros and Barbara Perez

“An unwavering resolve can speak for someone before they utter a single word.”
—Vera Provost, Grand Mistress of the Order of Belfry

So I’m back! My moving-induced hiatus is officially over (I hope). Thanks for bearing with me these past few months, folks! And huge thanks and eHugs to the amazing MJ Barros for her wonderful commissions for my novel, providing badly needed filler. Out of thanks, I’ve decided to step off of my sabbatical with an analysis and signal boost for MJ and Barbara’s lovely lady-knights comic, The Order of Belfry. 

knight-love‘Twas MJ’s lady-knight artwork that first drew me to her comic and characters several months ago. I don’t discuss it much on this blog, but over the past several years I’ve found I really enjoy well-written female/ female romances in any genre of storytelling. While I’ve occasionally (though not often enough) seen art or stories of lady knights who romance princesses, tavern girls, noblewomen, farmers’ daughters, and similar character types normally romanced by male knights, MJ is the first I’ve seen depict lady knights who romance other lady knights. Combine lady-love with Medieval action/ adventure fantasy and a secret order of women knights and it’s not a story I can resist.

And rather than sexualize their lovely, lesbian knights, MJ and Barbara gave all of them smart, practical chain-mail and partial-plate armor. All of the Belfry ladies wear excellent medium- or heavy-armor equally fitting for infantry or cavalry fighting. As much as I’d love to discuss all seven awesome ladies and their awesome armors, I felt it best to focus on the protagonist Idina Rotvel and her mentor Adelaide Leclair.

idina

The lovely Princess Idina sports an excellent layered ensemble, effective for traveling or medium infantry- or cavalry-action. Our heroine’s primary protection is a shirt of basic chain mail, highly resilient against most weapons and effective for pretty much any role on the battlefield or in an adventuring party. Currently discarded, her helmet keeps her pretty head protected in the thick of combat. Though perhaps a bit cumbersome for combat, her highness’s cloak is large and thick for traveling in any kind of weather. Her initiate’s surcoat serves a similar purpose of protecting Idina’s armor and person from rain and weather.

Idina’s leather gloves are light and flexible for unhindered swordplay. She wears simple hose and light leather shoes for riding or running. Lastly she carries a longsword for light or heavy combat. On the battlefield, our golden-haired heroine is well equipped for light- and medium-combat roles, such as skirmishing or flanking, whether on foot or horseback. While the lack of leg protection keeps her light on her feet, Idina would be at a disadvantage in a line-holding or line-breaking role.

adelaide

A full knight of the Order, Adelaide wears heavier armor than Idina, and is thus better suited for heavier combat roles in the field. Chain armor absorbs most blows to our knight’s torso, while plated spaulders protect her shoulders from high hits and disabling attacks. Like her apprentice, Adelaide bears a heavy traveling cloak that she’ll probably want to discard when the heavy fighting starts. Her surcoat designates her as a knight of Belfry and keeps her armor safe from rain, wind, and sun.

Adelaide’s gauntlets protect her hands during heavy swordplay—or when punching enemy infantry or decking impertinent tavern goers. Similarly, she wears plated boots to keep her legs safe when riding or holding the line. Adel also carries a longer sword for heavier combat. I feel like our knight is set up for a heavier combat role than her companion, more suited for the mainline infantry combat or for heavy-cavalry charges. The leg protection in particular should help Adelaide maintain a solid fighting stance when holding the line or throwing her weight around in a formation-breaking charge.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the Order’s overall mission profile is at this point in the story. They may function like infiltrators or commandos, causing trouble behind enemy lines. Or they may operate as bodyguards, escorting high-profile personnel through contested territory. Or they may fight as auxiliary infantry or cavalry in their allies’ armies. Or all of the above. Their armor types certainly function for any of these roles.

Anyway, it feels good to be back at this. Huge thanks to MJ and Barbara for the use of their lady knights. Feel free to check out more of MJ’s comic and character art in her portfolio as well as comic updates on Barbara and MJ’s Tumblr. As always, huge thanks for reading folks, and for bearing with me during my move. Take care and stay awesome!

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Sartorially Smart Heroines Third Anniversary!

Eowyn1Holy Cats, folks! I almost forgot that today, July 12, is the third anniversary of Sartorially Smart Heroines. I started the blog in 2013, with this writeup of Miranda Otto as the Lady Eowyn. I’ve since added nearly 150 posts about smartly attired heroines in history, assorted fantasy, science fiction, movies, comics, video games and more, as well as assorted excerpts and discussion about my novel-in-progressFirst Empress. Huge thanks to all my readers, the artist and writer friends I’ve made, and everyone who’s given me support, feedback and encouragement on the blog. You guys are awesome—let no one tell you different!

While I’ve been on hiatus the past three months for this !@#$ing move (my former landlord and the mortgage company can die in lava), I’m finally in the last stages of moving. With the move settled, I’m hoping to start updating regularly in the near future, starting with a writeup for MJ Barros and Barbara Perez’s stellar comic The Order of Belfry. (Of course, if I’d been on top of things, I’d have had that ready today as an anniversary writeup. Figures, really.)

Thanks once again for reading and sticking around folks! Take care and stay awesome!

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Yet another MJ Barros Commission

Queen Viarraluca

“I’ll admit you’re not at all what I was expecting, your majesty. At worst, I was expecting you to be another intelligent, powerful, ambitious ruler, like myself or Queen Sita: yet another damned rival to vie for power with. Instead you’re something far worse. You’re… power and intelligence made manifest. You’re something neither Sita nor I could hope to attain. And it’s likely I’ll spend the rest of my life praying you never find cause to come south and take my empire from me.”
—Emperor Orvandius, reigning Hegemon of the Empire of Pellastor

So I commissioned the lovely MJ Barros for a fifth portrait from my novel. Portraits 1, 2, and 3, I posted to Sartorially Smart Heroines, but portrait four was a little too NSFW for the blog (MJ posted it here if anyone is interested and not at work or school). MJ gave me two lovely portraits of Queen Viarra showing her majesty’s tender, more human side. I really wanted to see MJ’s vision of Viarra as a warrior queen and builder of an empire—the side of her that her soldiers, subjects, allies, and enemies always see. I specifically asked for ‘imposing’ and ‘intimidating’ in the commission, and I definitely feel like MJ succeeded in that portrayal.

Please, folks, consider commissioning MJ for a portrait. She’s been super cool to work with on these commissions, and her prices are really reasonable for such high-quality artwork. As always, thanks for reading and take care!

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Third MJ Commission

derron_vola

“As much as it strains credibility, General Derron and Captain Vola have one of the strongest marriages I’ve ever seen. Derron lost his first wife around eight years before I was born. At the time Vola was a freewoman cavalry officer, given her freedom by Derron in exchange for training and organizing our mounted soldiery. Derron fell into a deep melancholy after his wife died; Vola took it upon herself to revive him from it. Her smirking, roughshod sexual antics gradually won him over, and within a year she was essentially his concubine. Around a year and a half after that, my grandfather granted Vola land and titles following her heroics during the invasion by those raiders from Ireth. Going from freewoman to noblewoman put her on the same social level as Derron, allowing him to marry her at last.” —Queen Viarra

There’s my power couple! That’s General Derron and Captain Vola from my novel, First Empress.

General Derron is the commander of Queen Viarra’s island forces and one of her long-time mentors and top military advisors. Derron is in his mid-60s, and served under Viarra’s grandfather, father, and older brother. Though not as mighty as he was in his youth, he’s still a competent fighter and brilliant leader of men.

Captain Vola is Derron’s second wife and commander of her majesty’s cavalry. A former slave, Vola hails from a nomadic, tribal people from the east, known as the Verleki. Now in her 50s, Vola is in charge of the training, deployment, and integration of Queen Viarra’s cavalry troops.

Though we don’t really get to see Derron and Vola fight side-by-side in the novel, we do get to see them coordinate Derron’s hoplites and Vola’s cavalry to break barbarian hordes and wreck enemy phalanxes.

Biggest thanks and eHugs to MJ for bringing my characters to life like this! Please consider commissioning portraits from her. The quality of artwork is stellar.

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