“But what’s it for?” The Rajjan wool merchant glared at the peddler with his handiwork sitting on the table in front of him. “What does it mean?”
“It’s a decoration.” The pedlar held up the eggshell he was working on so the merchant could see the design. “If I get it right, it’s a thing of beauty and even wonder. Does it need to mean anything beyond that?”
“Nothing should be without purpose,” the black-haired and sallow-faced merchant said austerely.
“Which purpose would you like?” The peddler picked up his fine pointed tool again. “It turns something I would otherwise throw away into something I can sell. Of course, I have to blow all my eggs instead of cracking them open. Doing this when I stay the night in an inn keeps me from spending too many of my coins on drink, instead of saving them up.” He carefully carved a little more of the design out of the eggshell.
“But what is the purpose for the purchaser?” The Rajjan was being persistent.
“A little piece of lasting beauty and wonder. Something to make the heart a little gladder?” The peddler shrugged. “I don’t pretend to know all the reasons people buy them. Perhaps you should ask our hostess?” He pointed at young Mistress Borneal behind the bar, keeping an eye on the common room of her inn that had been built during the spring. “She always buys one when I come through, though perhaps that’s to keep me coming back – I was one of her first guests.”
“A good customer is to be treasured,” the merchant intoned seriously. “But what use is beauty and wonder to a shepherd and his family, who are already surrounded by the creations of the gods?”
“Beauty is wasted on no man,” corrected the peddler, who paused to gently blow the shell dust off his work. “Appreciation of beauty is one of the things that marks us from the animals. As for creating wonders, we know the gods can create wonders, but it is good to remember that men can create wondrous things too.”