Around noon, Nell drops by. Should I start calling him uncle Nell, too? Or do I delay until Rowan and I get back from the pilgrimage? Nell watches me and gives me hints as I try to make fried meat he showed me a few days ago. Cutting the onions evenly is kinda hard, but I quickly get the hang of it. Apparently, letting some wind blessing flow through the knife helps with cutting. After finishing that, I cut the meat. We use some leftover meat from yesterday, it’s a piece of pork belly. Is the boar meat the same as pork? Mittens says boar is just pork with a better flavour profile.
“Domesticated animals?” Nell says as I ask him about pigs, “in other parts of the country, they do keep some. But here, we have so many wild rabbits and boars, we have to put up traps and rabbit repelling plants so they don’t eat all our produce. Sadly, predators were hunted to extinction around here.”
“I didn’t think it would become this bad,” Rowan answers, “it happened a few years ago: young pilgrims were quite eager to hunt them, even though Nell stopped buying their meat.”
“I also stopped taking requests to butcher them. But those were just stopgaps for the real problem: the lord at that time was afraid of wolves. So he kept paying people a premium bounty for each one they killed.”
“Didn’t anyone warn him about the effects?” I ask.
“Of course we did,” Rowan answers, “granny petitioned, but as expected, the lord wouldn’t budge. At that time, someone was sent to the capital to ask for arbitration. By the time the envoy arrived, the wolves in this area have already gone extinct.”
“I would assume some people would have tried to breed them to make easy money.”
“Some did try,” Nell answers, “but wolves don’t thrive in captivity, so they died rather quickly. Anyway, a few months later, the rabbits had already multiplied so much, if affected the neighbouring district. It was decided this area was to become a crown dependency in the next term, but the lord suddenly fell ill and died.”
“That’s a hell of a coincidence…” I answer.
“Yes, one would assume so, but without any proof it’s just banter. Anyway, sending a new lord wasn’t feasible, so the rest of the term was skipped.”
“So granny directly reports to the crown?”
“Yes, yearly reports are usually sent with the tax collectors,” Rowan states.
“Speaking about tax? How much is it?”
“It’s usually 40% of the total annual harvest. With the current situation, we only need to send 20%. But I believe we send 40% anyway, in exchange for some favours, of course.”
“Favours?” I ask while I put the cut meat into a bowl.
“Some people moved here because of a recommendation from the capital,” Nell answers.
“How is that special?”
“I hate to say this, but craftsmen that have gained some reputation can be very picky about where they want to settle down. With a recommendation, they are more likely to at least take a look at the village. For example, Nescha seemed to like it here and decided to stay just after talking with a few people in the village. I’ve never asked her what made her stay, I’m just happy she became a member of the village. Just like I’m happy about you joining our village.”
“Thanks,” I pour in some oil into a pan and put it on the stove. I wait till the pan feels hot and put in half of the cut onions and the meat. The ingredients sizzle in the hot oil. I stir the contents of the pan.
“So I take it, the village has been stagnating?” I ask.
“Some people left because putting up rabbit repelling plants each year takes a lot of time. The Kouniklothropes all left because they disliked the smell of those plants. Don’t stir it too fast, instead make sure you move the meat in all areas of the pan.”
“I see… Are there no perennial plants you can use?”
“There are some, but they don’t grow that well here.”
“Did some try to cultivate a variant that grows better?”
“Yes, Spira tried that, the resulting plants didn’t have the rabbit repelling scent.”
“Do they still have those plants?”
“Yes, they grow in front of her house, she likes the look of them.”
“I know of a technique that could help here, but I need to get my hand on some fully grown rabbit repelling plants.”
“Let’s go to her place after the meal, I’m sure she will be willing to help.”
I add the second batch of cut onions to the pan. After a few minutes of stirring, I pour the fried meat onto plates. Now… for the tasting. We start eating. Well, I’m watching Nell and Rowan eat, I’m eager to hear what they have to say.
“This tastes a bit different, but it’s still tasty,” Rowan says.
“I’m glad to hear that,” I answer.
Nell tastes the meat and smiles, “This still gets a passing grade. You should eat too!”