Maiden to Fit

The little bell on the door of the jewelry maker’s shop tinkled merrily as Bortimer walked in with a big smile upon his face. The keeper of the shop, Branislav Zoric, briefly looked up from his workbench to see who had entered, and then gave a knowing look to both of his young apprentices. They knew the rules as well as anyone, and with a polite nod of the head to Bortimer they quickly left the room through the curtained exit leading to the back of the shop. Bortimer closed the front door and heard the backdoor of the shop being closed as well from somewhere down the hallway past the curtain.

Returning to his work, Branislav said in a low voice, “Welcome home, your lordship. If you are here to see me then am I to gather that your trip abroad was profitable?”

Bortimer chuckled and said, “As it should always be, Master Zoric.” Bortimer pulled the drawings from his inner vest pocket and held them in his hand as he leaned on the front counter. “I have a special commission for you from the King of Vlaanderen.”

Branislav sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. Setting his tools down he looked up at Bortimer and asked, “In a land filled to the brim with diamond merchants are you to tell me that Vlaanderen hasn’t any jewelers?”

Waving the papers in the air in front of the master jeweler Bortimer said, “Not as skilled as you, Master Zoric. Besides, this is a sensitive matter and can’t be trusted to anyone locally. Locally in Vlaanderen, I mean.”

Branislav was the undisputed expert at displaying his skepticism for the world to see and on this occasion, he felt it necessary to make no mistake in letting Bortimer see how terribly doubtful all of this was. “You’ve stolen something that is easily recognized and can’t have it replaced where you stole it. That’s it, isn’t it?”

Bortimer set the papers on the counter and said in a perturbed manner, “I told my friend King Carl the Squat that you could make this. Price is no object. Are you willing to do it?”

Branislav sighed again and set down his jeweler’s loupe. Shuffling to the counter, he put on his tiny wire-rimmed glasses and picked up the papers. He shuffled through them and looked at Bortimer with visible shock and disbelief. “Dear God in heaven, you’ve stolen the crown jewels of Vlaanderen? Are you quite insane?”

Waving his hand dismissively, Bortimer said impatiently, “I did no such thing. It was just one of the crowns, not all of the jewels. Anyway, I told the king that you could make a replacement, so I made these drawings to serve as a guide.”

Branislav moved his jaw to the left and made a sort of disapproving clucking sound. “Why don’t you just give me the crown you stole so I can copy it directly?”

There was a minute of awkward silence before Bortimer muttered, “I haven’t got it. But the drawings are precisely what the king wants made.”

The jeweler looked over his glasses at Bortimer and said in a harsh whisper, “Where is the crown, your lordship?”

Trying to keep his cool Bortimer said through gritted teeth, “It is in the possession of a friend. If you are worried about payment, I’ll pay for it myself and the king can pay me back.”

Branislav waved the papers under Bortimer’s nose and said with a bit of an edge to his voice, “I never worry about being paid, I only worry about what I am being dragged into. What if the king finds out what you’ve done and refuses to pay you back? What will you do then?”

Bortimer said impatiently, “I’m not worried about being paid back. It isn’t about the money, Master Zoric.”

Gasping as though the devil himself had appeared in the shop, Branislav said in a hoarse whisper, “What? Not about the money? It is always about the money! When have you ever come into my shop and said the money didn’t matter? No, that isn’t your lordship speaking.” The jeweler’s eyebrows shot upwards, and he looked again at the papers in his hand. He looked back at Bortimer and a smile fairly leaped onto the jeweler’s bearded face. “A woman. You’ve stolen the queen’s crown and given it to a woman. You’re in love! Smitten!”

Bortimer did his best to appear disdainful of this idea, and tried to interject, but the jeweler kept talking with increased animation and delight. “She must be a woman of some means to warrant a crown. But she can’t wear it openly, not within a thousand miles of Vlaanderen.” Branislav placed his hand on his chin, and whenever Bortimer tried to speak he’d shush him to be quiet. The jeweler’s mind raced as he put the pieces together. “She is a thief as well. You think that by giving her a prize like a stolen crown that she’ll be impressed. You great daft fool! You idiot! You brazen buffoon!”

Bortimer was becoming irritated by this point and said, “Ok, you’ve made your point.”

Branislav shushed him again and put both hands on the counter in front of him. Staring Bortimer in the eyes he said, “You don’t steal things to give to a thief. That isn’t how you win her heart. Do you want to know how to win her heart?”

Betraying his own emotions, Bortimer found himself unable to resist. “Yes, tell me how!”

The jeweler smiled wickedly and asked, “Then are you in love?”

Bortimer clenched his fists and hissed, “Tell me what I must do!”

Branislav Zoric laughed evilly and replied with a knowing wink, “To win the heart of the thief you must give her something worth stealing. Not something stolen. She can steal on her own. No. You must give her something unique that any other thief would want to possess themselves. She will deserve her own collection of crown jewels.”

Bortimer tapped the papers with his forefinger. “Can you make this crown?”

Branislav stood upright and said, “Of course I can.”

“Then get started right away.” said Bortimer. “After that I’ll have a larger job for you. Something suitable for the lady’s station.”

Branislav took the papers and slipped them in his apron pocket. “And what station would that be, my lordship?”

Bortimer straightened his own vest and tipped his hat. “A duchess, Master Zoric. Perhaps one day to be a princess.”