The bell jingled as the door to the shop swung inward. The sound was genuinely cheerful in tone. Niquisse Greythorn looked up from her work and smiled. “Hey, Frankie,” the Ren’dorei said brightly.
The Gilnean man chuckled and approached her. “I um… I need some nicer clothes. I met someone and I kinda want to be in… my other form. But the clothes don’t fit right. Too tight.”
Niqi’s smile grew even wider. “I get to make the clothes for your date, is that what you are telling me?” She slipped the measuring tape from around her neck and grabbed a notebook. “You’re going to have to shift for me then.” She walked out from behind the counter and gestured to the room to the side. “We can go back there so no one else can see, if you want.”
He nodded gratefully and pushed the curtain aside. Stepping in, he very nearly walked into a tall Night Elf with deep blue hair. The man towered over him, but the smile on his face disarmed any feelings of being threatened.
“Excuse me,” the man said, inclining his head. He stepped back out into the main room with a cup of tea. Frank bowed his head in turn, then looked at his friend.
“My partner and brother-by-choice, Anas,” Niqi explained. She pulled the curtain closed all the way and looped a small ring at the edge onto a hook on the wall. “So everyone knows I have a client back here.”
“Makes sense.” Frank stripped down to his undergarments, trying desperately not to blush as he did so.
“Frankie, I am not looking at you in that way, I promise. This is just to get some measurements, ok?” She folded each item and stacked it neatly for him.
He nodded and took a slow measured breath. His eyes closed and fur began to ripple out along his arms and legs. His face elongated, stretching into a long muzzle covered in coal black fur that was dusted with grey in places. There was a groaning, creaking sound, followed the crunch and snapping of bones. Frank whined, his eyes closing tightly. His shaggy hair filled out into a long mane that trailed down between his shoulders. Ears shifted upward and stretched both in length and width to form points closer to the top of his head. He seemed to grow in height and girth at the same time as his fingers grew. They trembled and strained against the change. Long, razor sharp claws pushed out from the tips of both hands and feet, drawing a pained cry. His legs reformed, raising him upward further, and a thick, fluffy tail sprouted at the base of his spine. As it finished, he stretched his arms out wide and arched his back, more cracking and popping sounds radiating from his spine. He shook himself once he returned to a more normal position.
“Oh, Frankie,” she murmured. “That looked so painful.” She picked up a step stool and carried it over next to him.
He shrugged. “You get used to it.” He smiled at her, his expression almost sheepish. He looked around to be certain it was still just the two of them. “I don’t let people see that, if I can help it. Any of it, really.”
“I know, Frankie. I wish I could help.”
“So,” he said, abruptly changing the subject. “I was thinking a blue kilt, maybe some nice details? You know how to make it look good. And also a set of robes and maybe a suit?” He shifted in place, glancing at his clothes on the table.
Niqi nodded and moved in front of him. “I can do the kilt quickly. But I need you to stand still for me.”
He straightened and tried to relax. “Good. I have a date in two days. That enough time?”
“So… um… there was one other thing I wanted to ask you about. Nothing to do with clothes.”
“Now…let’s see, she murmured as she tapped on the book. “Oh…hmm? What is it?” She peered up at him and started measuring his inseam.
Frank ran a paw through his mane. “Is uh… your House… looking for people?”
“Looking for people?” Her long eyebrows came together in a quizzical expression.
“You know…what do they call it. Retainers?”
She blinked, then smiled. “Oh! I…I’m not sure. Maybe? I could ask. Arms up, straight at the shoulder.” Niqi stepped up onto the stool.
“I’m…well, I need work,” he tried to remain still as she passed the measuring tape around his chest. His tail curled inward, trying to move between his legs. He took another breath and stilled it.
“What kind of work can you do? You can put them down.” She released the tape and put down the number before nudging him on the shoulder.
Frank looked at her for a moment, then turned to face away. His voice dropped to just above a whisper. “I served the Gilnean Crown for years, I was in…um…Intelligence. Your people have anything like that?”
“Like spy stuff?”
Frank nodded carefully. He started to glance over his shoulder as he felt the tape against his fur. He caught a glimpse of her shuddering, her smile warping into a grimace. He frowned and she pushed his head back to the front and nudged his shoulders back down into a relaxed position. Frank frowned. “That didn’t look good.”
“We… have some people.” She measured across his shoulders. “One of them scares the fel out of me.”
“Ohhh… well, yeah, those types…” He cleared his throat. “They can be rough.” He watched her for a moment, taking in a deep breath, his nostrils flaring s lightly. Someone really does scare her. “Hey, forget I brought it up, ok?”
“No. I-I’ll ask the Patriarch,” she said softly.
Frank blinked. “Uh… yeah, ok.”
“If he needs someone, he’ll send word to you. At least,” she paused, a thoughtful expression drifting over her face. “I think that’s how this works?”
“All right…are you sure? No job is worth putting that look on your face.” He placed a large paw on her shoulder as she moved in front of him to measure his waist. His fingers pulled away, mindful to keep the claws from snagging on her clothes.
Niquisse sighed heavily. “Frankie, There’s a lot of stuff that gives me issues. Don’t let that get in your way. I’m working on it,” she offered quietly, not meeting his eye.
“Ok…. Well, I appreciate it. There’s not a lot of prospects for someone like me around here,” the worgen said in answer, not wanting to push further.
She smiled faintly. “Don’t worry. I bet they can help. The family I mean.”
Frank flashed a toothy smile at her. “Thanks, you’re the best.”
“Don’t say that yet. You don’t have your new clothes,” she replied, shaking her head. She seemed to be calming some, both in behavior, and to his nose.
Frank chuckled. “When will they be ready?”
“Give me two days for the first one.”
“The blue one?”
“Yup!” She looked through her notes and knelt to measure his thighs, then sketched out the shape of his leg and measured each section’s length, then around his ankle.
“All right, good. I actually made the date before I realized I needed something better to wear.” He let out a sound akin to relief, but it also carried a hint of anticipation, and maybe trepidation.
“Where can I send word if I finish sooner? I’ll work as fast as my fingers will let me.” She marked down the last measurement from his legs and started measuring his arms, then his wrists..
“Don’t put yourself out. I’ve been staying at a small lodging house in the Dwarven District,” he told her, letting her guide his arms outward so she could double check the sleeve lengths. “Rent’s cheaper there, but it’s not as shady as Old Town.”
Niqi froze, all hints of mirth falling from her face. It seemed the blue in her eyes began to deepen. Footsteps just outside the curtain could be heard and a purple hand began to loosen the loop. She shook herself and moved to the doorway. Placing a hand over Anas’s, she pushed the cloth aside just enough to reassure him she was safe.
Frank frowned. “Oh man, what did I say?”
She shook her head. “It’s n-nothing…I-I’m ok.
The worgen sighed. If she’s stuttering, it’s bad, he thought to himself. She only stutters when she’s really upset or scared. “There’s something you’re not telling me…but hey, that’s your call,” he prompted gently. He watched as she fidgeted, trying to muster the courage. “Niqi, if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s ok. Talk to me when you’re ready.”
“I w-was attacked in Old T-Town,” she whispered.
Frank frowned. He carefully placed his paws on both of her shoulders, gripping lightly. “Were you hurt?”
The Ren’dorei chewed on her lower lip. “A l-little…he…he um… He tr-tried to…” Her eyes shifted fully purple and welled up with tears. “I got away…” She cast her gaze to the floorboards.
The worgen’s lips curled back a bit, baring his teeth. He took a deep, measured breath before continuing. “Uh…did they get the guy? I mean, did someone?”
Niquisse sank down onto he sofa and pulled her knees to her chest. “N-No. I hurt him. F-First big spell I ever m-managed. Then I r-ran. But wh-when Mehe went to check, he w-was gone.”
Frank nodded. “Did you go to the authorities? Or is your House looking into it?” He sat down beside her. “Do you need help?” He asked all of this in the gentlest tone the gruff worgen voice would allow.
“The House is w-w-working on it. Æl’s father…he um,” she paused, closing her eyes. She took a deep breath, then another. “H-he divined what happened and kn-knows what he looks like.”
“All right…if theres anything I can do…I mean, I’m sure they’ve got it handled, but still.”
Niqi smiled faintly, sniffling. She took another steadying breath and opened her eyes. “Thanks, Frankie. Maybe… if they hire you?”
Frank smiled “Fingers crossed, right?”
Niquisse nodded. “Light willing.” She wiped her face off with a bit of cloth scrap. “I should get started if you want your kilt on time.”
Frank nodded. “All right, I’ll be off. Two days, aye?”
“You trust me on the colors?”
“Two days, unless I finish sooner,” she said with a small smile.
Frank smiled and rose from his seat. He shook himself and the earlier process reversed. Moments later, he stood before her in his human form looking very much relieved. He started to reach for his clothes.
“Hmmm Hold still a sec,” Niqi requested, grabbing her tape. She quickly measured his waist, followed by his inseam. “Ok, that’s all I needed.” She moved to her notebook and jotted down the additional numbers.
Frank looked at her, curious, as he tugged on his pants. “What was that for?”
“I want to experiment a little with a second one. See if I can make the waist adjustable for you,” she explained.
“Oh! That’d be great!” He laced his pants and slipped on his shirt.
Niquisse smiled. “No promises though, okay?”
Frank nodded and sat down to put on his boots. “No worries. I’ll see ya soon?”
She unhooked the curtain and opened it for him to leave. “See you soon, Frankie.” Frank smiled and waved at her as he walked out the door. She waved back then turned to meet Anas’s concerned gaze. “I’m all right, big brother. He mentioned that area of the city and I wasn’t ready for it.” Moving to his side, she let him embrace her for a moment. “I have work to do. He needs a new kilt in two days!” Slipping out of his arms, she scurried to the cabinet to sort through the assortment of fabric. “And it’s for a date, so I better make it really nice.”