In the base of what was once a stone tower, built along a street of crumbling buildings, this shop stands in a curious sector of the Bazaar, where the streets are supplemented by a few stone bridges and walkways that traverse between those buildings that still stand. A wooden sign in front of the tower reads, "Kia's Restoration," and through windows, all sorts of pieces of furniture and minor household goods and knickknacks can be seen on shelves and hanging on pegs and stacked on tables in as best a semblance of order as can be had with such an assortment of items.
Several days have passed since the incident with the vermite musical box, but the box was repaired easily (it needed to have a few gears replaced and some touching up in spots where the creature had gnawed on it) and the delighted residents of the St. Caros household rewarded the mouse with a copper shekel.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) business at the shop took on a sudden flood of work. Apparently the little repair business had gotten a measure of advertisement from the fox bard's song and new customers flooded into the shop to get all sorts of devices and knickknacks fixed. The downside of this was that Kia had very little time to devote to the clockwork contraption dropped off at her shop by the funny-dressed Rath'ani mage.
The vermite appears to be healing, and it shows signs of growing back its missing leg. Although it doesn't seem to be inclined to let the mouse reach into the trunk and pet it, it does seem to be mellowing to her presence considerably. It probably has something to do with the food the mouse has been dropping into the trunk over the past few days.
As for today, the torrent of work has slowed somewhat and the mouse finally has a moment to relax and pursue personal projects again. It's currently mid-afternoon, and the broken clock tower can be heard chiming to all within hearing distance that it's half-past lunch-time.
After setting the finishing touches on refurbished footstool, Kia takes a few moments simply to gaze out an open window, watch the passing traffic of the Bazaar, and enjoy a measure of calm. As no new customers enter the shop, she takes the time to go upstairs and fetch down a box full of the gears and assorted miscellaneous small pieces she had retrieved from the burlap bag left by Fenter.
Settling the box onto the counter, she goes through the pieces carefully, examining the various bits and pieces and considering their relationship if any to each other.
If they weren't obviously from the same source, one would almost swear that the gears and chunks of material from the odd contraption were part of several machines, or just a massed amount of junk. Some of the gears are copper, some chitin, some ceramic. They all have a bluish tint to them though, as though painted with some translucent glaze and then etched in silver symbols. There's a method to the madness of gears and pulleys and wires, but there's also a certain madness to the method.
Kia traces one of the sigils etched along a gear. "Magic," she murmurs thoughtfully. "Or at least what someone intended to be magic." With teeth tugging at one side of her lower lip, she starts laying out related pieces along the countertop, and, like a person working at a bizarre jigsaw puzzle, tries to fit them together. She doesn't force any connections, and leaves pieces separate if she cannot find a place where they would fit in. Those items that need to be wired or screwed or otherwise attached she leaves propped together for now.
There are several larger components (probably in smaller pieces or still inside of the torso section) that probably serve as motors or pulleys to turn the gears, but in their present state, even without these pieces, they still line up. Oddly, as the mouse fits them together, they sometimes feel as though they're being pulled towards one another. As more gears are fitted, it starts to become a simple process of placing one gear against another and checking for the pulling sensation to see if the fit is right or not. It doesn't look quite right, and is fairly obvious that a large piece of the puzzle is still missing, but the mouse's mechanical instincts tell her that she's doing a good job.
As she falls into the rhythm of sorting and matching, Kia's eyes glaze over slightly, and she hums unconsciously, absorbed in the task. After a time, she becomes more conscious of the way the pieces are actually drawn to each other, and she pauses in what she's doing. Experimentally, she pulls two sections apart and holds them close to each other, verifying that the pull is a actual, not just something she's imagining in her quest to re-create the artifact.
Nope, the pull does indeed feel genuine. In fact, the pull feels somewhat stronger then the gears are aligned with similar symbols pointed towards one another.
"Hmmm." Kia twitches her whiskers, nosing at one of the symbols gently. She sets the pieces down again and drums her fingers against the countertop. "Well… " With some misgivings, she resumes the task of reconnecting the mechanism.
An hour passes by, and Kia is jolted out of her work by the ringing of the clock tower again. On her work table, she has several small collections of gears. The size of the groupings range from three to twenty gears each. Unfortunately the mechanism that turns them probably still needs repairs, and whatever links these things together is missing as well.
The mouse's best guess is that these are probably bits from the missing sections or small parts that have fallen from the larger torso.
Wrinkling her nose, she lays the small clusters of gears carefully back into the box, then carries them upstairs and spreads them out on a cleared table, in her "best guess" of how they might ultimately be connected, if and when she finds the missing pieces. She picks up a statuette that needs cleaning and takes it downstairs to work on until closing time.
As the day passes, there is a small flow of customers into the shop with some minor problems a Rhian lady with a chipped vase and a Cervani with a broken walking cane but nothing too difficult, and the customers are sent out on their way soon enough. Finally the clock strikes evening-time and the bustle outside starts to quiet down as the shops in the area begin to close down for the day.
Kia bustles about her shop cheerfully as closing time arrives, straightening items which have been pushed astray, sweeping out the day's dust and dirt, and shuttering the windows. When at last she's done, she turns the "closed" sign over on the door, and steps outside, carefully locking it behind her and tucking the key into a pocket of her skirt. Now, where would that Rath'ani mage be hanging about around now? the mouse thinks to herself as she decides where to go next.
From what Kia recalls, the mage makes most of his living by performing in the Bazaar … but he's not the type to stay there in the evenings and risk the folks that crowd into it at night. But considering he is a mage, the best bet would probably be the old Collegia grounds where most of the mages that didn't head off to Caroban still reside.
A Kavi pulling a junk cart wanders past the storefront. "Evenin', Miss Kia." Shingle nods and releases one of the handles of his load to flash a wave in the mouse's direction.
Making her decision, the Skeek nods to herself, but before she heads of for the Collegia, she pauses to wave back to Shingle and offer him a warm smile. "Hello Mr. Shingle! How's business?" she inquires, walking over to look over his days' wares.
Shingle releases his cart and scratches at his bushy chin. "Oh, off 'n on. Jakka bought a load of fancy bottles from me this mornin' and ol' Scratch in the tents finally decided he couldn't do without that fancy sword scabbard I found. I've noticed business has been mighty fine for you, Miss Kia. Everyone's singin' that purty song 'o yours."
The mouse giggles at his words. "It's not my song Mr. Fox wrote it for me. It was awfully nice of him, too. And business has been, well, busy ever since. Do you have anything good for me today?" She pokes through to see what he has, if anything, that could be handy, or use fixing up for resale, in her shop.
The Kavi's ears perk at the mouse's attention to his wares. "Lessee." He points to something that looks like a miniature house someone stepped on. "There was a Kujaku clock that some'un stepped on. I also got a busted quantometer that someone swapped for a three legged chair. I think I've got a few dented pots from Bromthen Heaven in here as well."
Kia blinks, whiskers twitching. "Quantometer?"
"Yeah!" Shingle plunges a hand into his cart and pulls out a device that looks like a fist sized egg made of metal with delicate engraving across its surface. "It's supposed to measure how strong the gremlins are that mess up machines. Th' coon that gave it to me said his grandkid thought it was a real egg and tried to crack it open, so he figgered he could do with a rocking chair to sit in and try to calm his nerves with. Either that or bust it over the kiddo's noggin if he tries that again! Haw haw haw!"
Some dents in the metal covering are apparent, and in the small circular "face" of the egg, a little chitin needle appears to have been knocked loose.
The mouse laughs at the story, then looks abashed. "Oh, poor man," she offers sympathetically, reaching out her hands to take the quantometer and examine it. "I wonder if I could fix it? I've never seen one before … not even sure how it would work when it does work."
The Kavi leans against his cart, pushing it backwards about a foot. "Dunno, but I s'pose that if you could do it anyone could. I'll letcha have it for two tenners, or if you happen to have some prime junk you wanna trade, I'd be pleased for that too. Heh… I betcha that if you fix it up, you'd really impress that Technopriest feller."
Still absorbed in studying the odd egg-shaped device, Kia nods to the peddler's words. "Would you like to step into my shop and see if there's anything you want in trade?" She cradles the quantometer against her chest as she digs into her pocket for the key. "I've got a nice sturdy set of iron sconces I cleaned off earlier today… " She glances up, finally registering his final words. "What Technopriest is that?"
"A feller by the name of Verdigris, although I got the egg offa a youngin' named Tock who was gunna throw it out." Shingle yawns and pulls his cart back in. "Daww… I'd rather not leave my cart out here all alone. Stuff tends to vanish from it whenever I do. Quantometers ain't no good up here in Rephidim anyways, from what I understand. Tellya what… if you make sure to remember 'ol Shingle next time you getcher hands on some prime junk and be sure and cut me a good deal, I'll letcha have it for free."
The mouse flashes a quick bright smile at Shingle. "Oh, I couldn't do that! You've given me too many neat things in the past… Here, I think I've got some coins on me… " The hand in her pocket shifts from her key to grope for her coin pouch, which she opens and fishes out a couple of ten-shekel pieces. "And you know I always keep you in mind when I'm sorting through new junk, anyroad." She smiles again, offering him the coins.
Shingle's eyes light up as he takes up the coins. "And you don't even try to haggle. Thanks a lot, Miss Kia." He grins as he pockets the shekels.
Making a little happy squeak over her new toy, the mouse twitches her whiskers. "I'd best be getting along while there's still some daylight. Take care, Mr. Shingle!" She waves a cheerful farewell and heads off to the old College Esoterica campus, fingers gently probing at the surface of the egg-shaped device along the way, as she contemplates what kind of repairs it might need.
The mouse's new little discovery occupies her mind for most of the walk, and she arrives at the gates of the old Collegia grounds before she knows it. The device looks like it might need a new face to replace the cracked one and that needle will need to be reset, plus it sounds like there's quite a few loose bits sliding around inside… but from the initial inspection, it should still be within Kia's range of skills to repair it.
At the Collegia gate, a bored-looking Jupani can be seen sitting in a chair and partially blocking the entrance. He wears a bright green uniform that hints at being a guardsman of some sort, but he doesn't look all that thrilled with his job.
Kia wanders right up to the campus guard, so absorbed in her thoughts that she stops only a moment before bumping into him. "Oh! Excuse me!" the mouse apologizes, ears pinkening. "Good evening to you," she adds, smiling at the guard.
The wolf snorts and adjusts his hat. "Ma'am." He nods. "A bit late in the evening to be visiting the grounds."
"Is it? I just closed my shop." The mouse tucks the egg under her arm as she speaks. "I came to see a Mr. Fenter Nuttenboltschen about some items he dropped off at my store a week or so ago." She pauses, and then adds, "I'm Kia my store is Kia's Restoration."
"You actually wanna see… er." The guard shakes his head and then shrugs, pulling a clipboard and a fountain pen from his pocket and handing them to the mouse. "Here. Sign in and write down any magical items you might have. Fenter lives in the west dorm where the storage is. It's hard to miss, even harder if you have a good sense of smell."
Nodding, the Skeek pens her name in, and then pauses. "I've got a broken quantometer with me … I doubt it's magical, but I suppose it might be. Would you like me to add it on just in case?"
The wolf rubs his nose. "Might be a good idea. You never know… one of them doohickeys might have been dragged through Bosch and messed up on the inside. It didn't set off the wards at all, but I suppose it's better to be safe than sorry."
With a nod to the guard, she pens in, "non-functional 'quantometer', probably not magical in nature." "Thank you!" She offers another smile to the guard, returning his clipboard and pen. "I hope you have a lovely evening." Waving, Kia starts off towards the west, sniffing at the wind hesitantly in light of the Jupani's warning.
At least for now the air smells nice, like freshly cut grass and evaporating rain. The groundskeepers probably came in and did work today. Down the indicated path is a large building with very few windows that appears to be made of some sort of purple brick. Some trees with white fuzzy foliage grow around the building. On the steps is a familiar looking raccoon that appears to be in the process of eating dinner.
As she nears him, Kia waves with her free hand to the raccoon. "Good evening, Mr. Nuttenboltschen," she calls out to him from twenty or so feet away.
The raccoon's ears perk and he looks in the direction of the mouse. One hand releases the sandwich he was holding onto to wave back. "Good evening, Madame," he calls back. As he waves, a large bug crawls out from the gap in the sandwich and starts to skitter away.
"Please, don't let me interrupt your dinner," she tells him, coming to a stop a few feet before the steps. She watches the bug depart. "I hope that wasn't a part of it … er … on second thought, perhaps it would be better if it was… "
Fenter gives Kia an odd look before taking a bite from the now empty sandwich. "A pleasure to see you again, Madame. Are things going well at your shop?"
Kia nods to the raccoon. "Thing's're wonderful," she enthuses. "Lots of business. In fact, I've been meaning to come see you for several days now and haven't been able to find the time for it. I wanted to thank you for bringing that bag with the robotic butler parts to me, and to find out if you knew where any more parts of it might be or perhaps what it looked like when originally assembled?"
The chaos mage frowns at his sandwich and tosses the remaining bits out into the grass, where several Creens instantly begin to devour the bread. "Last time I get my dinner at the Saskanar tent in Little Babel." He brushes off his front. "Butler? Oh … the funny looking suit, you mean. I'm not sure what it looked like when it was assembled, you see… They put me in charge of the items in storage, but they don't let me peek in the boxes. I remember those nice little Kavi inspectors who came to make sure I was doing a good job, and then that whole noisy mess in the basement. Herf told me there was a robbery, but they left a piece behind. Are you saying there's more bits of the thing I brought to you then?"
Kia's whiskers twitch from side to side as she parses the mage's story. "There're parts missing from what you gave me, yes, as near as I can tell, anyroad. I'm not even quite sure how that whole umbrella-like piece fits into it. Are you saying that some Kavis robbed the storage area, and the pieces you brought are what they didn't take?"
"They did? Oh! So that's why… Um… I mean to say… " The raccoon clears his throat. "Well, it sounded like there was some kind of an argument going on in there. Herf could probably tell you more; it was his idea that I drop the rest of the junk off your way." He rubs his chin and his eye color fades from a confused shade of purple to a bright electric blue. "Umbrella, Madame? I don't recall bringing you an umbrella."
"Well. Not an umbrella exactly. It was a long pole with a section that unfolded upwards, like a cafe's shade-umbrella." She makes broad gestures with her hands as she tries to describe the object from the bag.
"Odd. I remember it as a walking stick with a lovely little golden handle. I'd dropped it and thought I'd broken the thing, and when I picked it up, a handle popped out." Fenter tugs at the corner of his hat.
Kia blinks. "It was rather tall for a walking stick… " She pauses, and corrects herself, "Well, tall for me to use as a walking stick, anyway. I'll have to look at it again … I didn't notice a handle on it, either."
The raccoon shrinks down. "Oh dear, I hope I didn't break it twice." He rubs his chin again. "But perhaps I can help you find the rest of the pieces, or at least give you a better chance at finding them. Probability is my profession, after all."
The mouse squeaks in pleasure. "If you could, I'd certainly appreciate it. Oh! I also wanted to know if it would be … well … dangerous for me to work with. I noticed that there are all kinds of sigils on the gears for it, and the pieces that fit together are drawn to each other. Like magnets, except, of course, most of them aren't made of a material that could be magnetized. So I was thinking they must be enchanted in some way."
"If it was dangerous, it wouldn't have been left here. All the dangerous bits went to Caroban for storage. I'm just watching the bits they didn't need but want an eye kept on just in case." He yawns a bit. "I could work up something in the morning although it would mean I wouldn't be able to manage breakfast on my own." The raccoon's tone suggests he's attempting to hint at something in regards to breakfast.
Kia offers, "I could buy you breakfast. Or bring it to you. And not from Little Babel, either." She pauses, then adds, "Perhaps I should have a talk with … um … Herf, first? In case he knows something else about it we'd find useful."
"You'd do that? How kind of you!" Fenter jumps to his feet and smiles brightly. "As for Herf, he's the midnight guard out here. I'm sure I could convince him to come along with me tomorrow … for an extra portion of breakfast?" He coughs. "I'll bring a held spell with me. It should be good for a while. Do you have a compass or something with a watch-face?"
The mouse wrinkles her nose. "I've got compasses at the shop, but not on me. Did you need something like that now, or do you just need it handy for the morning?" she inquires. She rummages through one pocket with her free hand, considering what she has on her.
"The morning will be fine. I just need something to put the focus on. I doubt you want to become an enchanted object for a month or so." The raccoon shakes out his fur. "I can't outright find the thing for you, but I can make an enchantment that will let you know that it's nearby and can increase the chances of you finding the missing bits. I'll need a piece of the original mechanism as well, so the spell knows what its looking for."
Making an "oh" sound, the mouse nods. "I'll see you in the morning, then. Thank you so much for helping me out with this." She smiles enthusiastically to the raccoon. "I guess I shouldn't keep you any longer… " The mouse turns to go, then pauses. "Um. The spell that's already on the pieces … that won't effect you casting another spell involving them, will it?"
Fenter chews on his lip. "I'm not sure. If I don't try to change it or meddle with it, then things should be all right. All I intend to do is locate the missing bits, so things should be fine. I'll examine it before I drop the spell just in case though." He winks.
The Skeek smiles again, looking reassured.
With a jaunty farewell wave and another "Thanks!" to Fenter, the mouse walks towards the gate guard. She hums under her breath as she moves, taking the quantometer out from under her arm once more to study it thoughtfully, mind's eye already imagining how she will open it up, and what she will find when she does.