27. Blazing Bibelots (Part 1)

The stale scent of accumulous dust filled their nostrils as a quiet stillness settled over them like a blanket. Compared to the boisterous affair outside, the shop retained a deafening silence that left their ears ringing as they peered around. Overlapping cases of deceased, exotic insects covered the windows, allowing only a few sunbeams to cast light into the dimly lit showroom. Another wall displayed a multitude of clocks, each set to a different time so that a different bell tolled every fifteen seconds. Lanterns, chandeliers, empty birdcages, and wheels of disparate proportions dangled from the ceiling among damaged pots and dented kettles. Behind the cashier counter, a stationary owl stared at the group from where it rested upon the horn of an enormous bull's head, mounted on the wall along with other breathless animals. Shelves and tables were lined with rusty garden ornaments, others held pewter dishes; hoards of archaic books filled every available crevice.

"What is this place?" Tarin muttered to no one in particular.

"Welcome," a small, chipper voice squaked from behind the counter, and they all blinked at the grey owl. The owl blinked back. “... to Bountiful Bibelots!” A stack of anthologies crashed upon the countertop, sending a cloud of dust into the air, and a miniscule man clambered up a hidden step-ladder. Choking on the filthy particles, he coughed, “The largest ─ ahaaah ─ curio shop in ─ aheh-heh ─ all of Marcelia!” The man’s hair jutted out of his head at odd angles, like a clump of sawgrass that had been left unattended for years on end, and his wrinkled clothes preserved his unkempt look as well. His smile beamed as brightly as the reflective glass of his circle-framed spectacles. “My name is Bertrand. How may I help you today?”

“Oh, we’re just trying to keep off the streets,” Levi answered, “the parade is quite,” he looked at Hataru, “distracting.”

“Ah, yes. I find the festivities to be much too loud for my taste, as well.”

Firious peeked at the street through a gap between cases of pinned dragonflies and quickly ducked away. Wild eyes darting around the room, he asked, “Uh, you don’t mind if we look around for a bit, do you?”

“Be my guest, sir! Let me know if you need anything; Asvoria and I will be here waiting,” he ruffled the owl’s feathers lovingly. The group dismantled among the miscellaneous antiques.

The End

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