Kota blinked in the light of the shop and looked around at the mannequins staged around the room in various poses, each clad in the style of clothes they seemed to favor around here, as well as the latest fashions from the city: lots of vibrant colors and prints that hurt his eyes.
“Clothes?” he said, just before a pair of harpies descended upon him.
“What is this?” one of the women cried as she tugged at his shirt.
“An absolute disgrace to the idea of fabric,” the other woman declared as she shook her head at his baggy pants, tied around his waist with a spare piece of rope he’d found while helping Erin to fix up the inn.
“Well, they’re, ah,” Kota said, tripping over his words and glancing to Miles for help. He’d changed after the comment from Elzwig’s servant about his clothes, which left him with the stuff he’d found in the attic, all of which fit him about as well as they did a scarecrow.
“You should see what he normally wears,” Miles said, stepping back so that the women could circle him and give the occasional cry of shame. “Think you two have something for him?”
“Well, we could always burn them,” said the shorter of the two women, who had blonde, curly hair swept up into a bun on top of her head. She had a roll of fabric absentmindedly thrown over her shoulder, and after looking him over she said, “Some gray or black would help that skinny frame…”
She murmured to herself as she walked away while the other woman flipped out a tape measure and began to take Kota’s measurements. Jotting a few notes, she said over her shoulder, “ Look for some grays and blues too, Agatha.”
“I know, I know,” came the reply from the back of the shop.
Kota stood by uneasily as they bustled around, holding up roll after roll of fabric to him that he barely got a look at before they whisked it away. Miles threw in the occasional suggestion, and before long the tailors pulled him around to a space behind the dividers and made him take off his clothes and put on the ones that they passed around to him.
When they finally led him back around, Miles whistled. Dressed in a suit made up of black and various shades of gray, he looked like a completely different person. “Wow, Kota, you look almost human now.”
Kota glared at him and said, “I think these are little too dressy for working at the inn, aren’t they?”
“Oh, you’re Erin’s boy!” crowed Agatha, and both women had a laugh at the look on Kota’s face. “Well, they’ll be good if you two run off to the city together, won’t they?”
Kota’s face flushed red and he tried to ignore Miles’s smile.
“Of course, we’ll have to take them in a bit for you,” the measuring lady said. “You’d look even better if you got some of that hair out of your face.”
Kota quickly but gently took the hand that she reached out to brush the hair out of his face and said, “No, thank you. Do you have some other clothes that might be better suited for work?”
After what felt like an eternity, he had the receipt for the clothes in hand, including the suit. It was the only way to get the vampire to be quiet about it. Miles had flirted with the tailors the whole time, dragging the ordeal out even longer, but Kota did have to admit they got a good price on their clothes.
“Do you mind coming to pick them up tomorrow morning at the earliest?” Agatha said. “Normally we would offer to have someone take it to you, but with that monster fiasco everyone’s scared to walk around town, much less go to that inn.”
“Is that so? Well, I’ll be sure to keep Kota safe when we come back tomorrow,” Miles said, flashing them a smile that made the women giggle and Kota shake his head. “Is that why the streets are so empty?”
“A lot of people are home, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t see everyone else in the town circle trying to get their word in with the mayor.” Agatha shared a look with the other woman and said, “He’s been shut up in his office all day, sending out letters across the empire by the sound of it.”
“Really?” Miles chatted some more as they left, but the moment they walked out of the tailors’ shop his expression changed. “Not that way, Kota. We need to go to the town circle.”
“You mean walk toward all of the people who want to kill me,” Kota said. “That sounds lovely.”
“Good,” Miles said without listening and walked off down the street.
After a moment of hesitation, Kota sighed and followed, if only to avoid being dragged along. It did not take long to figure out what Agatha was talking about. In spite of the chill in the air, a group of people were gathered beneath the clock tower in the center of town, speaking in far from friendly murmurs as they kept glancing at one of the official-looking buildings across the street.
“Ah, a mob.” Miles hesitated, surprising Kota. Before he could decide what to do, the main door of the building opened and they had a glimpse of the short figure of the mayor before the group of people descended upon him and all tried to talk at once. “Quick, let’s get over there.”
Miles sidled up to the group until he blended in, but Kota stayed at a distance, scanning the crowd and noticing a few familiar faces from yesterday morning, as well as that of Peter, the farmhand who nearly shot him.
“Quiet! Quiet!” Mayor Geld bellowed, the tips of his fingers just appearing over the heads of the others as he raised and lowered his arms to get some space.
Kota noticed a movement across the street and spotted one of Erin’s brothers, Art he thought she called him, standing at the corner and visibly straining to hear while trying not to be seen by the crowd.
“I know that you’re all upset over the incident with the wolf—”
Geld was interrupted by a cry of “Monster, more like!”
“We have no proof that this was not just an ordinary wolf,” the mayor said. He had to raise his voice again to be heard over the muttering and murmurs. “All the same, we can not allow a potentially dangerous wild animal to roam around town, supernatural or not. As such, under the advice of one of our esteemed Judges, Madame Leviette Elzwig, I have sent out for professional help to deal with this nuisance.”
Waving off the barrage of questions, Mayor Geld said, “Until then, I must ask that all of you take proper precautions. Avoid going out alone, especially after dark. A curfew will be issued for the children, and any of you who are willing and able to do so may sign up for a temporary volunteer guard to patrol the town. I am sure that Eli Smith will allow us to work out the details in his forge, where it is warmer.”
A few laughs came from the crowd, possibly at some gesture that Kota could not see. He did not wait around for the people to separate, many of them headed home while a smaller group followed Mayor Geld in the other direction. Like Art on the other side of the street, he slipped away before the others could see him and walked as far as the bridge.
He stopped there, expecting Miles to catch up at any moment, and stared out over the river, which gleamed now that the moon had risen.
“You do have a way of getting this town worked up, don’t you?”