The Crowning Touch, a shop in the Crafter's Quarter
Nestled between a pottery 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.
A string of bells on the door jingles as a rabbit bearing a large, cloth-wrapped bundle enters, followed by a neatly dressed Jupani. The Jupani makes a show of studying the contents of one shelf, as the proprietor, a middle-aged canine of mixed ancestry, looks up from his work with a necklace and greets the pair with a "How may I help you?"
The Lapi smiles, and unwraps the bundle onto the counter, revealing a large gold ovoid studded with faux-gems and a pair of twining dragons. "I was wondering if you do touch-ups and repairs? This piece has a spot where the gold's rubbed off, see, right here." Aaron points to the spot near the base where the gray of lead can be seen.
The jeweler blinks a few times after the package is unwrapped, putting his glass back to his eye almost instinctively. "I certainly do," he answers, taking the object into his hands, "though I'll admit to being surprised to see this piece in for repairs."
"You recognize it?" the Lapi asks, mock-surprised.
The shopkeeper chuckles. "I most certainly do. This is my handiwork." He rubs at the scratched spot on the bottom, tsking to himself, then turns it over in his hands, looking for other marks on it. "Isn't that why you came to me?"
"You were recommended, but I didn't know you were the artist," Aaron says. "I thought the piece was an antique, and never asked. But obviously it couldn't be that old, right?"
Another chuckle from the man. "No, it's definitely no antique. I made it, oh, late last year, I think? Who told you it was an antique?" He peers curiously at the rabbit, a bemused look on his face.
"It was displayed along with lots of archeological artifacts and stuff, so I just assumed it was old," the Lapi says with a grin. "My friend wants to use it as a centerpiece at a party. She got it as an anonymous gift, and wants to see if she can flush out the giver." Aaron then winks at the crafter, and says, "But I suppose you could tell me who bought it from you yourself."
The jeweler blinks a few more times. "Among archaeological artifacts? How very peculiar. I shouldn't've thought the troupe would sell them. I suppose you can't trust actors, though… " He catches himself, and clarifies, "I made this piece on commission for a theatre troupe. It was to be used as a stage prop for a play."
The rabbit blinks as well. "A theatre troupe? Like the one at the Opera House? This must have been an awfully expensive prop, though. It wasn't for that play a few years back about Sylvania's dark history, was it?"
"No, no," the canine shakes his head, rummaging underneath his counter for tools. "It was a new play, something they were going to call 'The Mysterious Disappearance and Re-appearance of the Dragon's Egg,' I believe. A sort of comedy of errors, I thought it."
Aaron scratches his left ear, and says, "I don't think I've heard of it. When was it playing?"
"They said they were going to try it in, ah, Gallis somewhere? First, before Rephidim. It was a travelling troupe, and their representative said they couldn't presently afford to come to Rephidim." The canine busies himself with a little gold foil and the base of the egg, smoothing it into place over the scratch.
"I guess it wasn't a success then, and didn't get to Rephidim," Aaron muses. "How long ago was it, and do you need a drawing or anything to work from for a commission like this?"
The jeweler responds with another nod. "Oh, yes. Can't make a replica like this without a visual reference to work from, and the troupe paid extra for authenticity. I went down to ol' Dysforu's shop and studied his paintings of the original for my reference. That prissy goat probably would've had my head if he'd known what I was up to." He barks with laughter at the thought. "But he don't mind me comin' just to 'admire his work'!"
Aaron chuckles along as well, then asks, "Ah, so there's another piece like this, at Dysforu's shop?"
At the barking, the ears of the Jupani who entered with Aaron twitch, and the wolf turns his head to watch them for a moment before he returns to his studiously nonchalant examination of the shop's offerings.
"No, no," he waves his hand, "Just some paintings of it. The original's in some noblewoman's house. As far as I know, the only other ones like it are my baby here and her twin, wherever she may be now." He tsks again, smoothing foil over another miniscule scratch on the egg. "Shouldn't have thought the troupe would part with them, after such enthusiasm over that play… ," he murmurs again.
"Maybe it wasn't well received in Gallis?" the Lapi suggests, leaning against the counter. "Or the play just ran its course and some patron wanted a souvenir? It must have been sold quite a while ago."
The Gallah grunts, fiddling with the settings of one of the stones. "I guess it could've been anything," he concedes. "I'm glad this one's found a good home now, at least."
"Oh well, I'll have to tell my friend it isn't an antique then," Aaron sighs. "I hope she isn't too disappointed, since she was really thrilled when she received it … ," the Lapi turns his head to watch the jeweler now, and finishes with, "… two years ago."
The jeweler stops his work, looking up at Aaron. "Beg pardon? Did you say two years?"
Aaron blinks and nods. "Yes … I'm pretty sure she said it was two years ago. Why?"
"You must've misheard her. I only made these last year. They were completed, I don't know, sometime after Landing Day." He scratches behind one ear for a moment, bemused again.
The Lapi's grin widens. "That recently? I must have misheardthen after all. I guess the play folded in Gallis and one of her friends picked it up there."
"Still," Aaron muses, "to have a whole play centering on it … she'd be thrilled to get a copy of the script. Did the representative of this troupe leave a card or name or anything? Maybe he's still in Rephidim."
The jeweler peers at Aaron with an odd look on his face for a few moments, then resumes his work on the stone settings. "Ah, yes, he did. He was from a shyster's firm the troupe contracted them to do the purchasing. Just a moment, I'll check around for his card."
Aaron takes the moment to glance at the undercover Templar to see if things are going well, or if the Jupani looks like he wants to take over the questioning.
After finishing with the last of the settings, the canid sets the egg onto the cloth. "That'd be ten shekels, please," he says, his voice muffled as he turns away to rummage through a box of papers behind the counter.
The wolf's expression is hard to read, but the guard doesn't seem to disapprove of the rabbit's questioning or wish to intervene in it.
Aaron produces a tenner for the jewelry, and asks, "What do you normally charge for custom work? Not necessarily for something this large, though."
"Oh, depends on the size and the type of work done, really. What kind of materials I need to use, and how long it'll take me to do. These eggs, I charged two silvers for the first but only one and a half for the second, when they decided they wanted two since I already had the plans for crafting it," the canine explains, tsking as he shoves the box back into place and pulls out another to rummage through. "Now where was that card… ?"
Aaron blinks. "Two? Maybe that explains why this one was sold, because of the scrape, since they had an extra. But you could make more of these still?"
"I suppose," the canid says dubiously. "When they asked for a second I dunno, maybe a week or two after the request for the first, the shyster said it was because their playwright had re-written it so they needed both eggs on stage at once. Maybe he re-wrote it again so they only needed one." He scratches his head. "Oh, yeah, I could make another, especially if I had her handy " he reaches back to pat the egg Aaron brought with him, " to work from."
"Maybe with little personal alterations?" the Lapi suggests. "It will all depend on what her friends think at the party, really. But they tend to be … a trendy group."
At this mention of an actual commission, the jeweler's ears perk. "Of course," he says enthusiastically, tail wagging. "Of course! Aha!" He seizes on a small rectangle of cardboard and brandishes it. "Here it is!" With some ceremony, he hands it to the rabbit. "The rep's card."
Taking out a notebook, Aaron copies the information down from the card. "Thanks. I'm curious about this play too. Might make for an interesting party game that could go with the eggs."
In crisp, flowing black script, the card reads, "Kilroy Vanguard, Associate," with "of the Law Firm of Blackwater, Kingsley, and Forth" engraved beneath it, along with the address of their Rephidim office.
The jeweler gives a bark of laughter, tail still wagging as he sits on his stool again. "You know, now that you mention it, I'd like to see that script, too. Maybe if you get a copy, you could let me have a look at it sometime. It sounded quite the hoot."
The Lapi doesn't seem to recognize the name until after he's copied it down, and tries to hide his look of surprise. He recovers and pushes the ten-shekel coin across the counter, saying, "Thank you, sir. I'm sure my friend will be most pleased!"