Cafe Rose, The Bazaar
A small corner eatery, with a menu consisting of pastries, sandwiches, and a selection of hot beverages. The interior is dimly lit by what sunlight is allowed in through a handful of windows, illuminating a few small wooden tables and chairs, and the swinging door leading to the kitchen.
26 Ring Day, 6104
Investigator Herschel sits at one of the tables, elbows resting on the tabletop as he munches on a thick sandwich stacked with vegetables. As Aaron enters the establishment, he sets his food on the plate and waves, taking a mouthful of xocholatl to wash down his last bite.
The Lapi spots the Investigator and takes a seat at his table, smiling. "Good day, Investigator."
"Morning, Lightfoot," the man replies, wiping his hands on his napkin, then waving over a serving mouse. "Want anything? It's on the Temple."
"A fruit cup will be fine," Aaron says to the mouse. Facing Herschel again, he says, "I finally got in to see Vanguard the lawyer. He denied knowing anything at all about the Dragon's Egg or the duplicates, but he did try to hide a reaction of surprise when I first mentioned it. I haven't had a chance to talk to Candlegold the artist again though, to see if he can describe the Vanguard he met."
The mouse nods and scurries back to the kitchen, while Herschel picks a crumb from his plate and pops it into his mouth. "So, Vanguard recognized the Dragon's Egg, eh? Wonder what he's hiding. Did you talk to anyone else at his firm?"
"Just the secretary," the Lapi says. "She seemed a bit protective of her employers, but that's not much of a surprise."
The investigator snorts. "Hmph, I should be so lucky," he mutters. "Maybe I could hire her." He scratches under his chin thoughtfully. "Candlegold didn't describe the lawyer to you the first time you went there, did he?"
Aaron ear's droop slightly, "Err, I didn't think to ask that far. I thought the card would be enough."
The waitress returns to slip Aaron's cup of fruit before him on the table, then whisks away to another customer just entering the establishment.
"Can't think of everything," the man replies heartily. "Vanguard said he'd never been hired by the acting troupe, didn't know who they were, didn't know about the play, never heard of Candlegold, etc., etc., then? Anything else noteworthy about the lawyer?"
"He recently returned from a vacation in Gallis," Aaron says, while chewing on a bit of melon, "where the play was supposed to have been held. He's Gallisian himself a Kujaku."
Aaron searches his memory while he chews. "Ah … and he mentioned being disappointed with the resort he stayed at. It wasn't as nice as the Jade Palace."
"Really?" Herschel quirks an eyebrow, taking another bite out of his sandwich, followed by a swallow from the mug. "Kilroy Vanguard … not a very Gallisian name, I'd've thought … Jade Palace?"
Aaron nods. "I thought the same thing, that he was maybe meeting with Faraon in exile or something … but I admit to being a bit conspiracy-minded by nature."
The man wrinkles his nose. "It's no crime to have enjoyed the amenities of the Jade Palace … heh, I'd have to lock up a good third of the Temple's top people if it were but still… " He rubs behind one ear absently. "Candlegold's shop isn't far from here, is it? Southern end of the Crafter's Quarter, something like that?"
The Lapi nods, "I think so, yes. Beyond Vanguard being a Kujaku though, I don't really remember any other distinguishing features. I haven't met enough of them to notice differences yet, I'm afraid."
"Pity," Herschel comments finishing his sandwich. He points to Aaron's fruit cup. "Want to finish that and we'll go check on our counterfeiter?" He mumbles around the mouthful of food.
Aaron nods and quickly finishes his snack.
The Crowning Touch, a shop in the Crafter's Quarter
Nestled between a pottery store and a chitin-crafter's shop, this small building is marked by its gilded sign emblazoned with a painted gold, jewel-encrusted crown, whose jewels are somewhat worse for the wear and the weather. Inside, the walls are lined with display cases and shelves featuring a selection of costume jewelry, gewgaws, and stage props.
Herschel gestures for Aaron to enter first, and within the small store, they find the jeweler at his counter, working on a Chronotopian egg. The dog doesn't glance up from his task, but does say, "May I help you?"
Aaron smiles, and says, "Good day, Mister Candlegold. I don't suppose you remember me? I'm the one who was asking about your Dragon's Egg replicas awhile back?"
"Oh!" The dog's ears perk and his tail wags at Aaron's words. He promptly sets the timepiece down and wipes his hands on a spare cloth. "I most certainly do. A pleasure to see you again, Mister Lightfoot. Given some more thought to having other replicas made?" His tongue lolls as he smiles.
"Well, there were a few things that caught my eye, but first I wanted to get a copy of that play you mentioned," Aaron says, still smiling. "I ran into a bit of a snag though. I went to see the Kilroy Vanguard, whose card you gave me, but he claimed he didn't know anything at all about the Egg or an acting troupe, and suggested it might have been one of his assistants that handled it on his own. I don't suppose you could describe the agent you met?"
"Mmm … yes," Candlegold answers, furrowing his brow. "Odd that the lawyer wouldn't remember it. He was a Jupani, about yea-tall," he gestures with one hand to a point a little higher than the tops of Aaron's ears, "with gray fur and a white ruff."
Herschel shoots a look towards Aaron at the dog's description, but makes no comment.
Aaron blinks. "Oh. Well, that should help, I think, thank you. Mister Vanguard himself turned out to be a Kujaku."
"A Kujaku?" Candlegold looks taken aback. "Er, ah, well, I guess it must have been an assistant of his, then." He scratches behind one ear in confusion. "I could have sworn … must be my mind going. I thought he said that was his card. But he certainly wasn't a bird."
"Probably an apprentice or intern," the Lapi says. "I've thought of getting one myself actually." Noticing the egg being worked on, he also asks, "Do you do custom clock fittings, or just repairs? I've been thinking of getting a clock for my shop, something to attract more customers off of the street since the clock tower isn't easily visible from my window."
The jeweler smiles. "I certainly do. Not normally little bitty clocks like these," he says, gesturing to the egg, "Makes my eyes hurt just to look at the little gears. But I've designed several full-size clocks. What kind did you want?"
"Something unique," the Lapi says, rubbing his chin. "Not just a model of the clock tower or some Chronotopian design … although I do like the little animated characters they have on some of their clocks."
"Maybe a li'l moving rabbit?" the dog suggests. "He could bang on a little mortar and pestle every half-hour for you. You own an apothecary, right?"
Aaron grins, "Yes … that might just work. I am an apothecary, after all, and it would certainly be distinctive."
"Sure would. Be a bit pricey to do, but that'd draw in the gawkers for you. Just have to remember to wind it now and again, and it'll take care of the rest. I can show you some designs if you like, give you an idea of prices and sizes," the Gallah offers.
"That would be ideal," the Lapi says, thinking about the commission he'll get once he fills the dragon egg order. "When could you have some designs ready?"
"Oh, I've got some here that I've done, just a matter of putting in different figures to suit your needs," he says, turning from the counter to rummage through the boxes of papers on the shelves behind him. Herschel sighs heavily.
Aaron steps back towards the Investigator while the artist looks through his designs, and whispers, "I don't suppose that description matched some Jupani criminal you know of?"
In equally low tones, he replies, "A gray Jupani? Could be half the city. Need more than that to go on."
Candlegold clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth as he fishes out a few different scrolls and unrolls them onto the countertop. "Ah, here we go," he says, setting tools onto the corners of the design to hold it flat. "This one was one of my favorites… "
Aaron hurries back to the counter, and takes a moment to focus on the design while wondering how one would distinguish one Jupani from another … then remembers that Candlegold is an artist. "Did you actually make this one? I wish I could see it working."
The jeweler nods. "Yes, I did. Sold it to a noble for her private collection, though. Don't know if she'd want people traipsing in to see it." The design shows a large clock face set on marble pillars, over a pair of well-dressed dancing poodles. "You wouldn't want this kind of thing, I'm sure, but I could make the clock facade a little shop face with the clock mounted in it, then have the rabbit with his mortar and pestle where the dancers are, you see? It's the same kind of thing, really."
The Lapi's mind drifts momentarily towards thoughts of Abu Dhabian dancing girls, then wrenches back to the present. "That sounds good. How long would it take to draw up something?"
"Oh … give me ten days, unless you need it sooner?" the jeweler inquires.
"Oh, ten days is fine, no rush," Aaron says, and goes on, "I still need to find that Jupani, after all. Hey … how much would it cost for a quick portrait of him? It would make him much easier to find if he's changed jobs."
"Oh, hmm." He scratches the top of his head. "I guess I could do that. Only saw him a couple of times, but I've got a good memory for details, of course." He chuckles. "I could crank out a little charcoal portrait for you in half an hour, for fifteen shekels, say?"
Aaron grins even wider, "That quickly?" He reaches for his money pouch, and counts out fifteen shekels. "It would really make things easier for me."
"Sure. Gotta work fast in this business. Just let me get out my stuff… " He starts packing away the jeweler's tolls, and brings out a clean sheet of vellum and some dark stubby sticks, and curled bits of some rubbery substance. In a few moments he is working away. "Won't be any fine work, but should be enough for someone at his firm to recognize him by.
Aaron nods, and glances over his shoulder to Herschel while the artist goes to work.
The investigator gives Aaron an approving nod when he looks his way. The human glances to one of the clocks in the shop thoughtfully, then settles himself into a chair to wait.
Aaron looks over the clock design some more, trying to picture how it might look. He's been meaning to get one for the shop for some time now, but just never had the chance to really think about it…
As Candlegold works on the portrait, he notes to the rabbit, "There're some other clock sketches over there; take a look." He motions to the handful of rolled parchments next to the flattened sketch.
"Thanks," Aaron says and carefully unrolls the next design. He's used to dealing with older, more fragile documents.
As Aaron whiles away the time studying them, the Gallah completes his drawing within the allotted time. "There. No masterpiece, but I think it'll do for you." He blows it off, then turns the sketch around to show it to the Lapi. The lupine head depicted has longish ears canted slightly backwards, a pointed muzzle, and a feral, predatory look in his eyes. "He had gray eyes, too," the shopkeeper adds helpfully.
Aaron hands over the shekels, and looks at the drawing. "Are gray eyes unusual for a Jupani?" he asks.
"A little, maybe. Lot of 'em have brown eyes. But not very rare," Candlegold replies, counting the coins into his cashbox. Meanwhile, Herschel has moved with unexpected silence to stand next to the Lapi and examine the drawing.
"I think this first design you showed me for the clock is the most suitable," Aaron says, drawing the artist back towards it so Herschel can examine the portrait easier. "Especially if you can work in a shop motif. Maybe with shelves of bottles and such?"
"Certainly," the jeweler beams. "I know just what to do. I'll get your sketch worked up and you can make any changes you like before I start work on the actual clock."
Aaron smiles. "That sounds great! If you'd like to drop by my shop for inspiration, it's usually opened after-hours during the week, now that I have some new workers. The tea is always kept hot."
"Will do," Candlegold promises. He lays a flat sheet paper so thin as to be translucent over the sketch to protect it, then rolls both sheets into one cylinder. "Careful with this, or the charcoal will smear," he cautions. "Thanks for stopping in, and good luck tracking down that play."
Aaron picks up the tube and nods to the artist. "Thanks for all your help so far. It's so hard to find the right gift for someone that has everything, after all."
The jeweler chuckles. "Wish people had that problem with me." He waves as the two leave the shop. Once outside, Herschel remarks to the Lapi, "Great idea getting that drawing. Ought to be a great help in finding this faux-Vanguard fellow."
The Lapi hands over the tube with the drawing to the Investigator, and asks, "Can you have copies made of it somehow?"
"Hmph," the man grunts, considering. "There's probably some people in the Temple with the talent to make a decent copy.Pro'lly be quicker to have Candlegold do it," he chuckles, "though I don't think I want him to be wondering that much about what we're doing. Probably have the news all over Rephidim as it is." He looks sour at this last thought.
Aaron blinks, "Really? I didn't think anyone knew yet about the real Dragon's Egg going missing. I didn't mention that to anyone."
"Hmm? No, not that. Just the news that someone's looking for this guy." He taps the scroll with one finger meaningfully. "I could go back and give Candlegold my 'Temple business, keep quiet' speech, but throwing Temple weight around … just attracts more attention, you know?"
"Oh, yeah," Aaron says, not having known that at all really. He imagines people wouldn't want to dig into Temple affairs at all. "But then, it never got around that he was making replicas of expensive works of art, so maybe he won't say anything after all?"
"Maybe not. Or maybe word got around, just not to us." The human kicks a stone out of his way as he walks down the street. "Why did you want a copy of the picture?"
"In case we needed to send it down to Gallis for someone to look at," Aaron says. "I imagine if I showed it to Vanguard's secretary, then for sure the fellow would be tipped off and vanish if he's here on Rephidim, so it would be best to have his picture available at likely places he'd run to before he got word of the search."
"Hmm. Good point. Could set up a blockade on the docks, tell 'em not to let any wolf matching the picture leave the city. Won't stop him if he's got good enough connections, of course, but if he's just a lackey… " The investigator scratches his chin.
"I have an import-export license for some pretty exotic things, including poisons," Aaron mentions, "so I learned early on to make sure customs at the various ports knew what I looked like, to avoid someone from smuggling things in my name. I think it might be enough to have the Rephidim ports looking out for our man though, since if he's not here now we probably couldn't find him, and with Faraon's group gone there probably isn't some secret pirate port in Underside that can be used."
The investigator makes a non-committal noise. "Think I'd better give this some more thought before we take any action on it. Let me keep that picture, willya?"
Aaron nods. "Do you suppose Lady Von Sedgewick might recognize this fellow?"
"Might," the investigator allows. "Don't really know what's going on here, yet … not enough information to work from."
"I'm still following leads on real dragon eggs, and I might have to go to the surface if one comes through," the Lapi notes. "I'll be sure to let you know beforehand though, just in case. Otherwise you know how to contact me if you need me again." He tries to figure out the Vanguard connection still. After all, the bird did act pretty suspicious. "Is there anything more you need from me today?"
Herschel nods. "All right. Thank you for your assistance. I'll be in touch. Don't need anything else at the moment except that sketch." He holds out his hand for the scroll.
Aaron hands it over, then thinks to ask, "Err, do I get a receipt for it?"
"Hmm? Oh, your fifteen shekels. Sorry. Here, let me write you a voucher." He digs into a pocket for a pad of paper and a pen, then scribbles out the details on it. "Bring that down to the Temple exchequer, they'll give you your money back." He tucks the scroll under one arm as he hands the slip of paper to the rabbit.
Aaron bows. "Thanks, Investigator. My accountant can be very adamant about these things, I'm afraid."