After cleaning up, Nell leads us to Spira’s place. It’s at the western end of the village. In front of her house, there are several purple bushes with red fruit. Are all plants on this planet purple? Upon closer inspection, the leaves of the plant are stiff and non-glossy. It has sharp spines on both sides. The upper surface is darker.
The door opens and a Racaunthrope with brown hair appears. Is that her?
“Oh! Good afternoon, Nell! What brings you to my place?” the woman asks.
“Good afternoon, Spica!” he answers, “Aster here wanted to have a look at the Hosa plants you have cultivated.”
“Ah, yes, I tried crossbreeding them. I managed to make them survive the cold weather here, but the resulting plants like these lost the rabbit repelling scent.”
“Do you have some original plants?” I ask.
“Yes, I have some inside,” Spica answers, “please come in!”
“Who is it?” a male voice asks as we enter the house.
“It’s Nell with Aster and Rowan, dear,” she answers, “that’s my husband Adrian.”
“Hello, I’m pleased to meet you,” I greet him.
“This over here is one of the original Hosa plants,” Spica points to a plant that stands near the chimney. It looks just like the plant outside, but the leaves are glossy. I can also smell the plant. It has a very distinct smell.
“There’s a process called grafting,” I say, “it’s a process of improving plants without crossbreeding them. You need both the variant that’s more resilient to the climate and the variant that has the useful properties for this.”
“Please tell me more!” Spica hastily asks.
“You take the young roots and lower part of the resilient plant, the rootstock, and cut it in the certain way. The useful plant, the scion, you give it a similar cut. Then, you join the two cut plants and seal the cut with wax. I believe a certain angle is preferred. The steeper the cut, the more surface the join has, making it more likely, but the plant is not stable requiring outside help not to break apart.”
“Just like that? It’s that easy?”
“Well, it has its limits: the knife needs to be clean, and the plants need to be similar enough for the process to work. A good method is the cut the stem twice before joining. Of course, both plants have to be at the age where they can easily recover from cuts. After grafting, the plants needs a little more care until the cuts are healed. And it’s important for the join to stay above the ground.”
“I’m willing to try that. After all, replanting rabbit repelling plants every year takes quite a while.”
“I’d like to help, but I don’t know enough about plants.”
“It’s alright, plants recover from cuts and injuries best in a moon or two. I guess the work will have to wait until Rowan and you have left for your pilgrimage. Of course, it will just be a small trial to see if it works.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the trial.”
“The knowledge you share will improve life in the village a lot,” Rowans says, “I can’t wait to see how it will turn out.”
“So am I,” I answer, “I’m happy to share… my knowledge.” This is strange… I feel somewhat lightheaded. I should get home to examine this.
“Thanks for your time,” I say with a smile and turn around to leave. But at that moment I fall down…
🙐 🙑 🙓 🙒 🙐 🙑 🙓 🙒 🙐 🙑 🙓 🙒
I open my eyes, a ceiling comes into my view. I think I’m in the bed of my house. My vision is hazy, and my head feels like it’s boiling.
“Aster, you’re awake!” I hear Rowan say, but he seems so far away, “how are you feeling?”
“I feel terrible, but I’ll manage, I think,” I weakly answer, “I’m glad you’re feeling fine.”
“It seems you have caught the Blessing of Life,” an elderly woman says. I can’t make out how she looks like. At this point, also couldn’t care less.
“Blessing… of Life?” I ask.
“It’s starts out as a disease like any other, but after it’s over, your health is much stronger than before,” she explains, “it was just very unexpected, since people around here usually contract it when they are about half your age. That’s why Rowan is fine.”
So it’s an Amaugan childhood illness.
“I see. So what do I do now?” I ask.
“You just stay in bed and get better. It shouldn’t take you longer than three days to a week. If anything happens, Rowan knows where to find me.”
“Thank you… very much.”
“It’s nothing. Get well soon.”
“I’ll help you get back, Eir,” Rowan leads her out.
I can hear the door closing, I think they left.
“Mittens, how are my vitals?” I ask.
“Your temperature is 39.1 °C, so it is slightly high fever, but nothing life-threatening. I recommend refraining from taking antipyretics for now. However, I will prepare some medication to control a possible cytokine storm, just to be on the safe side.”
“Cytokine storm… so you’re already assuming my body can’t deal with this illness?”
A cytokine storm is the final option the human immune system has in order to deal with invading illnesses. It’s a reaction best described as a double-edged sword, the stronger the immune system, the more damage it inflicts on both the illness and the healthy body.
“It is just a precaution. There is a non-zero chance your immune system handles this just fine. As said before, I recommend refraining from taking antipyretics for now. The increased metabolism increases the likeliness of a successful immune response.”
I close my eyes and try to sleep.