Trust Neither Snarling Wolf nor Smiling Fox (Astarte) GMed by Hafnium


Hafnium

Tentacle God
Moderator
Jan 5, 2011
2,070
83
#1
Senka: HP = 61, PP = 47, EP = 56, Status = Fine.

The sun hung in the middle of the sky as Senka approached the city of Ustrul. Its rays bathed the walls and all the battlements and guard towers that lined them, allowing even distant travelers to take in the sight of the city's defensive shell nearly in its entirety when combined with the careful deforestation of all the land within half a mile of those city walls.

To someone who had grown up unexposed to such things, the view from the nearby hills probably would've been majestic. Stones as large as the average human male -- noticeably larger than Senka -- had been harvested from some quarry or another before being hauled to the city and emplaced by stonemasons, some of whom had certainly lost their lives in the process, in order to build a wall that was at least four men tall and wide enough for as many abreast. Parapets lined the wall, offering defenders safe positions to launch arrows at any incoming attackers, and every hundred feet stood a guard tower with a catapult atop it ready to rain fire on incoming siege engines. The stone structure stretched for miles and could probably offer shelter to tens of thousands. In addition, it was bisected in the center east to west by a mighty river capable of providing water for that many and more. An unworldly person could likely be forgiven for feeling safe upon seeing all those things combined.

But to somebody used to Acheron's grand walls, Ustrul's were terribly lacking. What could mortals who by and large eschewed magic hope to accomplish in comparison to Xeon and the demonic lords and ladies whose loyalties she commanded, after all? Ustrul's walls weren't half as tall nor half as sturdy as those of Acheron. They weren't warded against magic, they weren't magically strengthened against conventional forms of siege engines, and they had no real defenses against flying attackers. And, in what was perhaps the most fatal blow to their ability to keep the inhabitants safe, they were guarded by simple humans who were not paid enough and didn't feel pride enough to do their jobs well.

And while Senka, with her mixture of demonic and kitsune blood, wasn't particularly affected, human perception was hampered even further by the day's unnatural heat, even relative to the norm for early summer months spent in northwestern Badaria. The stillness of the air combined with the sun's unrelenting rays combined to send most of the residents of Ustrul hiding in the shade. When the diminutive kumiho disguised as a human approached the southern gate -- more a wooden set of double doors than a proper gate and another detail that fell short compared to Acheron -- she would find no resistance to her passing. Instead she found a bald, middle-aged guard with a square face that was plastered in sweat who had cast away his pot helmet and appeared to be more engaged in a struggle with whether or not he should remove his chainmail than he was with properly vetting travelers. He waved her into the city proper with nary a word, and might never know just how badly he had just failed his duty to protect the inhabitants of the city.

From the inside of the walls, she would find a city layout which had probably never received any proactive planning. Buildings had been allowed to sprout organically wherever they would, and they were all packed so tightly together that it was rare to find a set of them which a person could squeeze between. Walking through the gate put Senka directly onto a road paved with stone which was wide enough for a few carriages to travel side by side, lined with lampposts. That same road split off into dozens of branching forks into paths which curved this way and that and were made up of everything from plain dirt to cobblestone to properly smoothed stone, though it was impossible to tell where each led due to the sheer number of buildings that lined them all and hid most everything behind them.

Of particular, immediate notice among those buildings was a tavern which was no more than a stone's throw from the gate. It was a wooden building as large as four of any of its neighboring buildings combined, and its rowdy patrons made enough noise through its many opened windows to be heard even beyond the gate. Above its main door hung a painted sign with the words The Horseless Knight upon it. In addition to the tavern, dozens of shops lined the main route into the city proper. Forges, tailors, craftsmen, merchants, and more plied their trade along the street, with numerous choices for each. And where there were shops, there were, of course, people. People of varying ages and levels of wealth pushed through the crowd as they traveled through the markets, with some traveling elsewhere, some doing their daily shopping, and some merely content to browse. There were likely as many as a hundred city inhabitants on the road when Senka first steppe through the gate.

Few, if any, seemed to take note of her arrival though, which might suit her just fine. Senka could choose her own methods of acclimating herself to the city which would likely become her hunting ground by nightfall. She could also decide what her priorities were. Shelter was, of course, always valuable for a diminutive woman when night fell, even if she was a demon in disguise. Getting more information on the city's layout might also be wise. She could also do some shopping if the desire arose, as it was likely that she'd be able to find a shop capable of supplying most Badarian desires within easy walking distance. She might also choose a more direct method of mapping out the city, like simply choosing a direction and heading that way. In the end, the choice was none but the hunter's own as to how to get acquainted with her new surroundings.
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#2
Re: Trust Neither Snarling Wolf nor Smiling Fox (Astarte) GMed by Hafnium

Despite the pride the people of Ustrul likely took in their walls, Senka paid them little more than a glance. They were perhaps impressive, if one found large piles of stone impressive, but they meant little to her. They didn't even appear to be warded against magical attack, or even flight, meaning they would provide no barrier to her even if the gate had been closed. The guard at the gate was equally unimpressive: A simple, boring man just like all the others who didn't even bother to question her before waving her inside.

She didn't appear particularly threatening, of that she was keenly aware, but she was most certainly suspicious. He should have been able to see that much. A diminutive girl in a dress more suited for parties than travelling—even if it was the simplest, most practical one she owned—approaching the city by her lonesome, with little more than a small bag slung across her back. She couldn't help but grin once he turned away, it was always so easy. Not always this easy, a few words and a convincing act were usually needed, but the people here were truly ignorant of the dangers outside their walls. Her kitsune features had been hidden of course, and to the mundane eye she looked like nothing more than a well-dressed human girl, but that was exactly the problem. The people here hated or feared magic and the supernatural so much that it was rare to even find one with basic knowledge, much less any real understanding of how to protect oneself from them.

Fortunately for them, she wasn't the sort of demon who would seek to infiltrate a town and bend its people to their whims. Unfortunately for them, she was still far more dangerous than she looked. Her goals for the moment at least were not malicious, but she had begun to feel the gnawing hunger creeping up on her. Her supernatural heritage granted her considerable stamina, leaving finding food and a place to sleep as only minor concerns she would have to worry about at some point during her stay here, not the pressing concerns they might be for ordinary travellers. This hunger was different, though, something bestial and monstrous. Once, she had done her best to stave it off, but that had only ended in heartbreak for her.

It was still midday, far too early to hunt unless she was desperate, but fortunately the cravings were still minor. Controllable. For now, it was better that she spend her time enjoying what few sources of amusement a town like this might hold for her. The market, to be specific. While she had little coin remaining, she would likely be able to correct that this night. For the moment, she could indulge in one of her few weaknesses and browse the shops and merchant stalls. Of particular interest to her were tailors who might craft dresses, but she had a soft spot for jewellery as well. Both were beyond her means to purchase at the moment, and simply stealing such easily identifiable things, even if she was confident that she could get away with it. She wouldn't be able to wear them if she did, and that would defeat their whole purpose. What she could do was figure out whether anyone in this place was selling anything she liked. She could always return in the morning, after all.

Beyond that, she simply intended to wander around the city, familiarize herself with its layout. It didn't seem to follow any logical pattern she could see, buildings seeming to simply be built wherever they would fit. A good hunter needed to know their hunting grounds, and so familiarizing herself with the streets would be in her best interests. Her favoured targets, when she wasn't craving something in particular, tended to be the less desirable denizens of any given city. There was a sense of satisfaction of turning the tables on someone who believed themselves to be in control, and it was one such person who caused her to reveal her secret to the one person who she had actually cared about, so it always felt like a little bit more revenge, even if the culprit was already long dead. Deciding on targets and methods could wait, however. For now all she needed to do was see what was available to her, both in clothing and hunting grounds.
 

Hafnium

Tentacle God
Moderator
Jan 5, 2011
2,070
83
#3
Re: Trust Neither Snarling Wolf nor Smiling Fox (Astarte) GMed by Hafnium

Senka: HP = 61, PP = 47, EP = 56, Status = Shopping.

The kumiho's road would take her north and force her to weave through and around crowds in order to proceed along her set path. The street which seemed to serve as Ustrul's main thoroughfare was in many ways akin to a river. It curved this way and that through what was approximately the middle of the city, being fed a steady supply of shopping travelers by dozens of tributaries which disappeared into roads lined by residential buildings. No matter how far the small kumiho walked, however, her own ability to get a feel for more than the path she walked was blocked out by the dozens of stalls and stores and the press of humans all around her.

One thing that was immediately evident, however, was that the value of what each store carried was inversely proportionate to its distance into the city. The finest stores were the ones closest to the gate Senka had entered through, while gazing into the distance revealed less and less proper stores and more roadside stalls. Near the gate she saw wondrous, gorgeous items in buildings that had been designed with plenty of windows to show off their stock. Many of them seemed like they were specifically looking to attract traveling adventurers with large purses and no real idea of the value of a denarius. Overpriced adventuring supply stores were in abundance. She passed two different alchemy shops with "specials" on healing tinctures that had their price at five times what it would've cost Senka to brew. She also passed a specialized armorsmith shop and a specialized weaponsmith shop in addition to a general purpose blacksmith shop, all three of which had loaded their display windows with enchanted metal crafts that cost as much as a small castle.

It wasn't difficult to find a worthwhile jewelry store in that initial stretch among all the rest of the stores targeted at rich clients. It was a large, square brick building with windows as tall as the kumiho herself on either side of a heavy metal door placed squarely in the center of its front beneath a sign reading 'Silvie's Jewelry.' The windows showcased a few different items of potential interest set upon fine wooden tables. A silver choker with a cut emerald set in the center, several ornate rings made of precious metals or even polished bone or horn and set with precious gems, and a sleek silver necklace were all visible, among a few other items. The kumiho would also detect that the windows were heavily enchanted to guard the stock they displayed, and that anyone attempting to break them would have better luck breaking through steel plating.

She found two different tailors of note as well. The Fashionable Adventurer, a name she determined by reading the giant letters painted on the building itself, was another square, brick construction only a few dozen steps from Silvie's Jewlery, which opted for a larger window that took up two-thirds of the storefront with a wooden door to the side of it. Three mannequins were present in the windows -- which, also in contrast to the jewelry store, were unenchanted -- and each wore a different outfit. One wore a white shirt under a black fencer's vest with matching black pantaloons and black leather boots, wielding a replica rapier in hand. The second wore an elegant jade ballroom dress with a matching feathered cap on its head. The third had a slim, red dress of Amazonian design, sleeveless and with leg slits on both sides, with dragons embroidered across its right side in what appeared to be a metallic gold thread. But while each outfit was different in design, all three were similar in that they had easily detectable enchantments on them that would allow them to defend against a blow much better than clothing could

The second shop, simply called Eva's Tailoring going by the sign that hung above the door, was a timber construction with a thatched roof. Its owner was apparently content to share a storefront design with the Fashionable Adventurer with a large window to display merchandise and a door to the side. Its two mannequins wore magically mundane but physically unusual clothing. One of the two wore a frilly, skimpy maid outfit the likes of which Senka likely hadn't seen since she left Acheron. The second wore a black gothic dress with white frills around the edges and extra frills on the skirt, which primarily looked out of place in prudish Badaria because it showed a generous amount of cleavage and skin due to the top's bustier design.

Senka would be able to tour any or all of the three stores if she liked, or any other that might've caught her eye. Alternatively, she could continue north along the road, though her prospects there were less impressive. It wasn't much further before the roadside transitioned into stalls instead of stores, most of which sold the sort of mundane items the city's inhabitants needed to survive on a day to day basis. Her chances of finding quality clothing and jewelry was slimmer there.
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#4
Re: Trust Neither Snarling Wolf nor Smiling Fox (Astarte) GMed by Hafnium

It didn't take long before Senka noticed the fact that the most interesting shops were the first she had passed, and the farther she went the less interesting they got. Many were "adventuring" supply shops and the like, but there were several more in line with her interests. A look through some of the windows as she turned around and began to make her way back towards the gates showed that many were significantly overpriced, obviously hoping to use their location to draw in travellers with too much money and too little sense before they could find the more reasonably priced shops. That wasn't what she was after, however. If she needed healing tinctures she could simply brew them herself for a fraction of the cost, even if she simply found an alchemist's shop to purchase the ingredients from, and her demonic nature left her without the need for as many supplies as a human traveller might need.

Instead she located a handful of shops providing what she was looking for. There was a jewellery store which stood out among the others, and she filed its name and location away for later. It wouldn't be her first stop, but she wouldn't mind taking a look when she had the chance. The real subjects of her interest were quickly narrowed down to a pair of tailors' shops. One had two beautiful dresses on display in the front window, and even at a glance she could tell that they were enchanted, similar to or possibly even moreso than the one she was wearing. The second, however, piqued her interest even further, though she would be sure to visit this "Fashionable Adventurer" afterwards.

The other, presumably belonging to someone named Eva based on the name, immediately drew her attention. Aside from obviously carrying something in her favoured style, even if the dress in the window wasn't quite her style—It was clearly designed for someone much... curvier than she was. The other outfit on display was something she would never consider purchasing either, but it was for that reason that she found herself interested. In Acheron such a display would have been a common sight in tailor's shops, but here? It looked positively scandalous next to the other such shops on the street. That such a shop could not only get away with such a brazen display in such a conservative society, but stand among the wealthiest shops in the town intrigued her. That, and she wanted to see if there was anything that might suit her better inside.

Pushing her way through the crowd on the street and keeping a firm hold on her bag, Senka made her way to the door to Eva's Tailoring. Her senses were dampened when taking this human guise, but she kept herself as alert as she could, looking for any hint of strange magic. Surely there was some trick to this place, she had lived most of her life in Badaria and she couldn't imagine such a shop existing here, and presumably being successful without some secret—Even if it was something as mundane as being owned by some eccentric noblewoman who kept it afloat.
 

Hafnium

Tentacle God
Moderator
Jan 5, 2011
2,070
83
#5
Re: Trust Neither Snarling Wolf nor Smiling Fox (Astarte) GMed by Hafnium

Senka: HP = 61, PP = 47, EP = 56, Status = Passersby Can Tell That She Sells at Hot Topic.

The interior of the store was relatively plain, all things considered. As she walked through the door, Senka found herself in a respectably-sized room, probably twenty feet by twenty feet in dimension. From what she could see of the walls, they were made of plaster which had been painted white, a few minor marks which had exposed the material's underlying dark gray coloration and old yellowed water stains disturbing the otherwise uniform look. In front of them stood maple bookshelves with dozens of outfits on them folded such that Senka couldn't really make them out without approaching them and inspecting them.

The center of the store was occupied by rows of mannequins displaying the tailor's wares, and they proved easily the least plain thing in the store due to the outfits they wore. The maid outfit and risque dress outside proved to be completely indicative of the type of clothing which Eva's Tailoring peddled. At her position at the door, Senka could only quickly make out a few of the many displays. One wore a slender, black evening dress with collar designed like a choker made of fabric but with a completely open back and no sleeves. The cloth above the bust of the dress was sheer and allowed anybody to see the skin below it, but it was decorated with patches of more solid materials in the shape of stylized cats. Another wore something more modest, consisting of a white, button-up silk blouse with flowing sleeves and a black ribbon tied around the collar in a bow, and a black high-waist skirt affixed with gold buttons. A third mannequin wore only underwear, with a black bra and panties made of the same sheer material in the same style as the dress worn by the other mannequin, but using stylized spiders instead of cats for the solid spots.

The floors those mannequins stood on consisted of naturally brown hardwood planks which had been sealed with oil and appeared untouched for the most part. A noticeable path of wood which had been worn away by footsteps existed from the door through the center of the mannequin displays, however. At the other end of that path, close to the wall opposite where Senka had entered from, stood a sturdy wooden counter that ran almost the entire length of the room, in front of even more bookshelves which were stuffed to the brim with bolts of various fabrics. The countertop was cluttered with items. Just from what Senka could see, there were at least three lengths of measuring tape, a few pairs of scissors, and six bolts of varying cloth scattered with no apparent order across it.

Behind the counter stood the apparent shopkeeper. For a tailor, she wore some of the most unimpressive clothing a human could ever wear. A brown apron with several pockets crammed full of sewing supplies rested over a plain white tunic and dark pants. She seemed to follow the same haphazard approach to personal appearance as she did to her wardrobe. Her raven hair was pulled into a messy bun, made messier by the presence of a stick of white chalk behind her ear. Her face was plain, even by human standards, and she hadn't made a hint of effort with makeup to change that. Her cheeks were just a little too round for conventional beauty and her lips were thin. Her most striking feature was her emerald green eyes, which seemed to try to be picking up the slack by single-handedly giving off a sense of youth and energy which wouldn't have otherwise been present. They all shined with excitement beneath her half-rimmed glasses as Senka entered the store.

And as soon as the disguised kumiho met her eyes, she was eager to greet Senka. "Hi," she exclaimed, putting both hands on the counter and leaning on it as she spoke. "I haven't seen you around here before! I'm Eva! Come on in and look around! I can tell you've got great taste," she added as she eyed Senka's extravagant dress. "If you like something, just let me know and I can alter it for you. Or if you'd like something more fresh or unique, I can do that too! I do just about everything that can be done with fabric! Repairs, adjustments, commissions, and more! Er, not that I'm trying to push you into anything, I just don't get many customers..." she mustered an uncertain smile. "So, uh, yeah. Just take your time and look around! I'll be right here if you need me!"
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#6
The interior of the clothing shop was rather plain, exactly what she had come to expect from such a place. She had seen many clothing shops like this in her travels, at least in terms of structure and layout. What set this one apart was the clothing on display, as the mannequins in the front window turned out to be quite indicative of the rest of the shop's stock as well. It really did remind her of the sort of clothing she'd have seen back in Acheron, not the sort she was used to seeing here in Badaria. Many were of familiar styles, but all seemed to have something more risque than ordinary about their designs—some more than others, she thought as she glanced over the line of mannequins inside, raising an eyebrow at an odd set of spider-themed lingerie.

"Ah. No, I'm just looking for the moment." Senka replied to the tailor—Presumably named Eva—who yet again looked entirely different than she expected. This time it was for the exact opposite reasons, the woman looked completely normal, almost entirely unremarkable both in dress and physical appearance. That was exactly what she had come to expect from humans, especially here, but she realized that the shop had been leading her to half expect the shop's owner to turn out to be a demon in disguise or something of the like.

"I only just arrived in town, and I always take a look at the local tailors when I'm somewhere new." She explained. "The black one in the window caught my eye. It's always so hard to find something good in this style," She motioned at the dark red and black dress she was wearing, its general style quite similar to the one on display, though certainly more covering in design, leaving no visible skin below its own frilled neckline besides her hands and a small window of sheer material from the upper chest to the collar—but unlike the one on display the display was much more modest in scope. A ruffled skirt extended just past her knees with similarly black stockings beneath. In truth, she was a little surprised that nobody had questioned her choice of clothing in this weather.

"Though I'm afraid that one wouldn't suit me. I don't really have the... shape for it." She shrugged as she spoke, not particularly bothered by that fact. Unlike a human, she could adjust her body's proportions as she wished, within a certain limit. She could certainly fill out a dress like that if she desired to, simply by shifting a little mass from elsewhere on her body to her chest, although she didn't have too much of that to work with. She didn't wish to change to fit a dress though, she wished to find a dress that suited her. This woman clearly had skill and was enthusiastic about her work, and she had experience with Senka's preferred style of dress, so buying something here was an easy choice. She was, however, low on coin at the moment, and nothing she could see on display was quite what she was looking for.

"You said you do commissions?" She spoke up again, looking back to the tailor after some time examining the displays and their quality. "I should introduce myself first, I suppose. My name is Senka, and if you are willing, I would like to commission a dress. You do your own designs, yes? I would like to see what you might come up with for me. Something in the same style, though I appreciate creativity, so I don't wish to give too many rules. If it is acceptable to you, I can pay a portion of the price now, and perhaps return tomorrow or later today to finalize any details?" She offered, quite interested in what this tailor might come up with. If she accepted, Senka expected her to ask for measurements as well, and she was willing to submit to that. Along with any other minor questions the tailor might have.
 
Last edited:

Hafnium

Tentacle God
Moderator
Jan 5, 2011
2,070
83
#7
Senka's admission that she was just looking would receive a nod from the tailor, and for a few brief moments Eva would make a token effort to try to busy herself with something beyond watching her only customer. She started by tidying up her already clean counter, sweeping a hand brush across it in order to clear away nonexistent dirt and crumbs. With her now doubly clean workspace, she set about the important task of taking out a square of scrap fabric and setting it on the counter to meaninglessly fiddle with it and measure it. After a few seconds of that, however, she folded it back up, put it away, and seemingly gave up on appearing like she was preoccupied or interested in doing anything other than trailing Senka around the shop with her eyes.

A wave of relief washed over Eva's face when the kumiho chose to continue engaging her in conversation, allowing her watch the smaller girl without seeming overbearing or coming off as -- gods forbid -- creepy in her interest. "Mhm! A lot of the tailors around these parts like to play it safe and conservative because it's easier to get customers that way. I just enjoy doing unique, fun designs though! That's more important to me than business," she interjected in response to the comment about finding things in the demonic fox's usual style. But her obvious excitement during that initial interjection would serve as a contrast when she next replied to Senka's remark about not having the shape for the dress displayed in the window. "Ah. I see," she replied in with a carefully neutral tone and expression. It might have come off as a diplomatic way for Eva to agree that the kumiho was about as curvy as the door she'd walked in through, if she hadn't departed completely from the mannerisms and tone of voice she'd been using since first introducing herself in her effort.

And indeed, when Senka asked about commissions after she was done searching through a seemingly endless collection of wildly different designs, Eva brightened right back up with nearly unconstrained bubbly energy. "Yes, yes, and yes! I think I can come up with something perfect for your build, Miss Senka! Off the top of my head, based on your size, the dress you want me to base it off of, and materials.... Hm.... If I do that.... I'd say I can have it done in two or three days and it'll be five denarii in total! I ask for a down payment of half on commission work, which we can just round down to two denarii. You can stop back in tomorrow to take a look at it before the finishing touches are all done and point out any changes you'd like for me to make. If that's all acceptable to you, once I have the down payment we can step into the backroom and get you measured!"

Assuming Senka agreed and handed over the two gold coins, Eva would waste no time in ushering her into the backroom. The woman -- who Senka would realize was about half a foot taller than her once they were side by side -- brought the traveling kumiho behind the counter and toward a plain door which, when opened, revealed a perfectly mundane backroom possessing more plain white walls with shelves populated by carefully organized bolts of various fabrics. To the left as Senka entered was a workbench which was empty other than a neatly organized sewing toolbox and a cloth measuring tape, the latter of which Eva would pick up in order to begin the process of getting the demonic foxgirl’s sizes.

The measuring would turn out to be an utterly mundane affair for the most part. Senka wouldn’t even need to remove her clothing as Eva went about her work, measuring around the cloth. She took the kumiho’s neck, bust, shoulder, arm, waist, hips, and hollow-to-hem measurements in a wholly professional manner, completely free of the 'accidental' gropes and entirely too in-depth bust measurements that sometimes accompanied Acheron tailoring shops. Her neutral, serious expression only slightly cracked when she accidentally found one of the foxgirl’s hidden knives by brushing across it as she was measuring. Eva's expression cracked with surprise, though only for an instant before it was carefully neutral again. “I guess it’s really dangerous on the roads for girls these days, huh?” Her remark came as an obvious attempt to dispel any awkwardness at her discovery.

Unless the kumiho wished to take some major action in response to Eva’s accidental discovery though, it wouldn’t be much longer before the tailor finished her measurements, put her measuring tape back, and guided the kumiho into returning to the main part of the shop. The already energetic woman looked positively bursting with excitement to begin work, with a wide smile on her face as she addressed the foxgirl again. “Alrighty! I’ve got everything I need. I’ll be starting on it tonight. I think you’ll be really pleased when you come back!
 

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