Huli Jing have two natural forms, one a humanoid fox, and one pure fox. On average, the humanoid form ranges between 4’8” and 5’4”, with a fox-like head, though their features are softer and more expressive. The humanoid’s palms and fingertips are hairless, covered by black, soft, and somewhat springy flesh, like the pads on their feet, but much less rough. Their lower legs are canine, terminating in fox paws. Both forms are covered head to toe in soft fur in patterns of orange, black, white, brown, and silver-gray. The fox form looks much like a regular fox, but it’s slightly larger than the average fox and has the same softer, more expressive face as it’s humanoid form. Females do not have notable breasts unless pregnant or nursing. Huli jing with multiple tails are generally regarded with respect. Those with more tails are regarded higher still, until you get to the immortal nine-tailed huxian, who are often im positions of power such as priesthood or nobility.
Huli jing clothing is typically made of un-dyed silk, but otherwise resembles other fashionable garments of the area. If silk is unavailable, the huli jing will make due with whatever fabric they can find. Most huli jing find the texture of silk to be quite enjoyable, and the lack of coloration makes it easier to colorize it with their cloak of illusion. Most huli jing only possess one or two of such garments, as the cloak of illusion allows them to recolor it in any number of patterns, designs, and styles. Some particularly talented illusionists can even make the patterns of their clothes shift and dance.
Huli jing are quite conscientious of cleanliness, and usually bathe at least once a week. Traditionally, a huli jing is expected to comb their fur head to toe each morning, though this is less common in frontier cities. The cloak of illusion does not cover scent, and so smelling clean is often considered very important among the huli jing. Many carry sprigs of good-smelling herbs tucked into their clothing. Some even comb scented oils into their fur as part of the morning grooming.
Huli jing respect deception and illusion as art, which leads to some unique social situations. It is regarded as extremely rude to call out a lie or illusion publicly, though most huli jing know a lie when they see one and there are ways to subtly let someone know you’re onto them. A carefully-crafted lie is as intricate and valuable as a painting, and publicly unraveling one is seen as equivalent to tearing a painting up.
The daily life of a huli jing in the city is rather laid-back compared to most commoners. Illusion allows them to subsist quite comfortably off relatively meager food, clothing, and tools. As such, much of their time is spent less concerned with survival, more so with enrichment.
Arts and Crafts Edit
Huli jing often become dabblers by virtue of their long lifespan. They create art, music, sculpture, and poetry of all sorts. Sometimes they create these works through illusion, sometimes the old-fashioned way. Illusion makes the process of creating art and sculpture faster, but it still requires the same amount of talent, and so creating beautiful works of art is a valuable skill for huli jing.
Technology and Magic Edit
Huli jing are known for their illusions, but they’ve also made a number of advances in enchantments, using compulsions and wards to drive intruders away without harming them or even needing the guard to engage them. Technologically, they’re rather traditionalist, regarding firearms and cannons as crude, but some cities in the new world have embraced the new weaponry.
Huli Jing enter a state of heat each year for about a month in early spring, and outside that time they are generally infertile. Huli jing romances are intense in the months leading up to the fertile period, with female suitors competing for the attentions of their male targets. Pregnancy lasts about six months, but the infants born blind and unable to regulate their body temperature, requiring constant attention. Many relationships, child-bonds, last only a few years, with the pair breaking up once the child doesn’t require as much attention. Some couples stay together for many years, but truly permanent marriages are rare. Huli jing make for passionate lovers, but they can be quite spiteful when spurned.
Huli jing very rarely go to war, preferring diplomacy, deception, and deterrence to open combat. When they are forced into actual combat, they favor tactics of intimidation, ambush, and misdirection, making a huli jing force an extremely frustrating enemy to fight. They rarely mobilize in great numbers, a few hundred at most.
The relatively low birthrate and long lifespan of huli jing means death is relatively rare, and is particularly tragic when it occurs. Huli jing funerals involve a lot of intense mourning, particularly among the family of the fallen individual. Cremation is used almost exclusively in these funerals. Relatives and close friends may rub some of the deceased‘s ashes into their fur each day for a period of time proportionate to the loss.
Huli Jing cities are ruled by a council of huxian, immortal nine-tailed huli jing. All huxian in a city are invited to the council, but they’re not obligated to join. Technically, all the huxian are equal on the council, but typically, the eldest huxian ends up having the most authority. The council makes sure the guards and wards stay prepared, makes decisions for the city as a whole, and settles disputes and legal matters.
Social Structure Edit
Huli Jing society is almost always in flux, with the relative status of various individuals constantly shifting, based on the individual’s talent, social grace, family, reputation, taste, and public opinion. The huxian council is the only permanent fixture of huli jing society, but they have a relatively minor role in the daily life of huli jing in the city. Navigating the social dynamics of a huli jing city can seem insurmountable to an outsider.
Family has relatively low importance in huli jing society. They love and treasure their children, but once the child has grown to maturity, they aren’t expected to follow their parent’s wishes any more, as they are in many human societies. Most romantic relationships are relatively short-lived, five or ten years. In rare cases of true love, the two may stay together for their entire lives, but there is no formal marriage that binds the two together forever. Very young huli jing are recognizable by their dark gray, somewhat wooly fur. Their fur becomes less wooly and more sleek as they come closer to maturity, until they start revealing their adult colors around age 20. By 25, most huli jing have shed the last of their childhood fur and are recognized as adults. The young ones may live with their parents until they can secure their own plot of land for an estate.
Huli jing have few enduring traditions, but there is one that lingers on. When a huli jing is old enough to become an adult, they are brought before the huxian council. Utilizing a special ritual, the adult-to-be is locked in his fox form, unable to use the cloak of illusion and unable to shape shift back into a humanoid. Then, the young one is released into the wilds outside the city to survive on their own for one month. The experience is meant to teach the child to appreciate the simple things, the value of self-reliance, and respect for their fox heritage. Not all children return from this ordeal, but it continues to be practiced.
Other Races Edit
Huli Jing live with and among other humans in large numbers, but huli jing cities are largely devoid of other races. Not that the other races aren’t welcome, but most of them can’t really thrive in a setting where so much magic is practically required for day-to-day life and social interaction. Some illusionists of other species may move in, viewing the cities as somewhere where their gifts are truly appreciated.
Huli jing are not particularly religious by comparison to their human neighbors. A city may only have a handful of priests among the population. Many huli jing who hear the call of religion leave huli jing settlements to serve as priests in the outside world.
History and Folklore Edit
Many Huli Jing myths and folk tales revolve around a central character referred to as Qiān Míng, or “one thousand names”, a female huli jing whose many adventures allowed her to accumulate 1000 names and titles. There are many, many stories surrounding her, in many different versions. The stories always start with the title Qiān Míng gains at the end. She almost always outsmarts, tricks, or talks her way around her issues, coming out on top even through the worst opposition.
If the huli jing had a language of their own, it is long since lost to history. They speak Zhongwen now, and often learn to imitate a wide variety of accents in an effort to broaden their available disguises. Huli jing among other huli jing may make various foxlike vocalizations to emphasize their point.
Written Language Edit
Huli Jing write in zhongwen. Many enjoy calligraphy as an art form in and of itself. Some claim that a number of sacred texts were first put to paper by huli jing brushes. A brush made of a huli jing’s fur is believed to impart magical power to the words it writes, and many wards are written with these special brushes.
Young huli jing are referred to by their mother’s public name with a suffix that essentially translates to ‘kit‘. When they return from their coming of age ceremony, they select their own personal name, which often has special meaning to the huli jing, and create a public name of their own. It is very rare for a huli jing to share their personal name with another individual, unless they are highly intimate. Outside huli jing settlements, a huli jing living openly will use their public name, but those living in disguise will use one of a variety of pseudonyms.
Cities and Settlements Edit
Huli Jing cities are amazing sights to behold, once you get past the illusions and wards that protect the cities from intruders. Each estate is grandiose and often ostentatious. Walking down a single street you may see dozens of different architectural styles and themes, some of the more impressive buildings being utterly impossible, such as pagodas with levels that spin or floating planes connected by staircases of starlight, or buildings made entirely of gold. The grounds of various estates are often similarly glamoured, sometimes suspended in one season or another, sometimes supernatural landscapes, or scenes of natural splendor.
Huli jing cities are fed by the export of art and magical items. The high number of spellcasters in huli jing cities and the long lives of dabbling in various arts and hobbies combine to produce a surplus of works. Typically, a huli jing will sell their art or magic items to a merchant, who will then take them out of the city to nearby human lands and sell them for profit elsewhere. Then they buy the supplies the huli jing will pay for with the resultant funds and return, to repeat the cycle again and again. The huxian may step in from time to time to ensure there’s enough food to go around.
Example city Edit
The city of Cuìlǜ, Emerald, resides in the forests near Jade Harbor, a few miles down the road and a few more miles down a physically concealed path, past a false dead end, a ‘haunted‘ patch of forest that fills you with an unidentifiable dread, a decoy path that leads you into a bramble, a flock of poisonfeather birds that squawk angrily at you as you come close, a ‘sleeping monster’ that stirs as you get closer to it, and an illusionary crevasse that‘s impossible to go around. The city itself appears to be nothing more than a clearing and an abrupt end to the path, but going straight ahead to the far side of the clearing will take your through the illusion to the front gates. The city itself is spectacular and beautiful, as all huli jing cities are. There is an outer wall carved with symbols to maintain the illusion disguising the city. The outer ring of the city consists of farms, gardens, parks, and the city’s temple. Inside that there is a ring of private estates of every description. And within that is the city center, where the huxian council sits, where the city‘s food supplies are stored, and where the markets reside. Very few humans are allowed into the city, out of interest in it‘s secrecy.
Creating Huli Jing Characters Edit
Huli jing are well suited to roles of infiltration and magic, using their mastery over illusion to a variety of purposes. Huli jing characters are often tricksters or pranksters, and they often have great appreciation for art.
Special Options Edit
Huli jing characters can take huli jing feats, which allow them greater power and longer life, the power of each feat increasing as you gain more huli jing feats. Eventually, a huli jing character can become a huxian, an immortal huli jing with nine tails and immense power.
Huli Jing as Characters Edit
Huli jing characters most often fall into the role of rogue, warlock, or sorcerer. Some frontier huli jing become hunters, but most prefer less physical roles.