"Accused of Practicing Magic"
In late summer, the village market
thronged with farmers offering
all kinds of fresh produce, and
traders coming from near and far.
A squashmonger had set out a cart
filled with globes of yellow and red,
fluted green ones and warty orange ones.
Some were for eating, but others were meant
to be made into dippers or birdhouses.
There was even one that the seller
swore would turn into a sponge.
"It's for the bath," he said eagerly.
"You wait until the gourd is all dried,
then you bash the skin off it, and inside
is this wad of fiber you can scrub with."
"It sounds ridiculous," Victor said.
"So? It only costs one ban," said Igor.
"I think it's worth trying. If it works, imagine
what we could save, not having to buy
sponges all the way from the ocean!"
"Only ten bani for a dozen,"
the squashmonger coaxed.
"They're new, and fussy to grow,
so I'm trying to raise interest."
"It's your money," Victor said
to Igor. "Experiment if you wish.
I say, here's Muscee de Provence.
I haven't seen that since France!"
"It's a French pumpkin, mazil,"
the squashmonger explained.
"It will keep all winter long. I live
in Spring Valley, where we get
nice warm weather. I start
my seeds under glass, and
grow the vines up a stone wall."
So Igor bought a dozen gourds
to see if they'd make good sponges,
while Victor picked out some to eat.
They also got a few ornamental gourds
for Adam, who kept playing with
the strange, colorful shapes.
Moving along, they found a woman
making frigarui over a brazier,
with mujdei de usturoi for dipping
that smelled pungently of garlic.
Victor bought a chicken skewer
for everyone to have for lunch.
They came to an apothecary,
who had a whole wagon of wares
that you could step inside, along with
more set out on tables in front.
The man himself was slim,
dressed in a brown vest and
trousers with a white shirt.
What really caught the eye, though,
was the elaborate metal brace
that encased his left arm, and
the cane he held in his right hand
to make up for a bad limp.
He was arguing with
Dénes the brewer, getting
louder and louder by the minute.
"Should we put these back?"
Igor said, looking at his packages.
"No, we don't see many vendors
of such goods," Victor said, crossing
items off of his shopping list. "We'll
just make our purchases and move on."
"Well, if it's not stuff and nonsense,
then it's sorcery, I say!" the man insisted.
"André, you have been watching me
handle glass bottles without dropping any,
right?" Dénes said, and when the man
nodded, he pushed up his sleeve.
"Like I said, Victor and Igor fixed it,
good as new. No impairment at all."
A look of intense jealousy clouded
the apothecary's face. "Sorcery."
"Will you quit with that rubbish?"
Dénes hissed. "We already have
enough trouble in these parts with
hunters going about making mischief.
We don't need you stirring up more."
Victor just chuckled. "All scientific men
were formerly accused of practicing magic.
And no wonder, for each said to himself:
‘I have carried human intelligence as far as
it will go, and yet So-and-so has gone further
than I. Ergo, he has taken to Sorcery.'"
"No need to be jealous," Igor said quietly.
"I quite admire that brace you're wearing."
"Injuries from the War of the First Coalition,"
André said with a grimace. "If the surgeon
had half your craft, I wouldn't need it. But it
does keep the pain from crippling me altogether."
"Well, put on a cup of tea," Igor suggested.
"We can sit by and talk like men of medicine."
André shook his head. "I'm out," he said.
"Some bookbinder bought the last of the China."
"That'll be Gregory," said Igor. "Don't worry,
we can get a share from him later. Meanwhile,
I wouldn't turn up my nose at peppermint."
André was puttering about with the tea
when Victor said, "Of course, if it's magic
you want, you'd best ask Igor for that."
"Honestly, Victor, I'm out of practice,"
Igor protested. He'd done it in a sideshow,
and it was better than taking his shirt off
in the freak tent, but it had been a while
since he'd done magic even for fun.
"Oh really?" André said. "Do tell."
"Do magic!" Adam said, tugging
on Igor's trousers, so there
was nothing but for it.
Igor flourished a hand
over his chicken skewer
and made the pieces move
without touching them.
Then he made them
disappear and reappear.
Finally he handed them
to Adam and said, "Not even
I can get them back now."
André chuckled. "Not bad,"
he said to Igor. "But your friend
does not perform such feats?"
Victor gave him a sly smile.
"No, mine is quite different.
I suppose I don't need this
anymore," he said, holding up
his finished shopping list.
Then he set it on fire with
a tiny lens hidden in his hand.
"It's magic!" Crina squealed.
Victor looked around and saw
that a small crowd had gathered.
Crina wasn't the only one of
their students watching them.
Well, this was an opportunity.
"Is it really?" Victor said smoothly.
"Which is magic and which is science?
That's your assignment for this week --
figure out how we did it and tell us."
"Just to make things interesting,
there's a cheese pie for anyone
who can do a trick for us later,
either magic or science," Igor said.
The children all cheered and
scampered away to study on it.
André stared at them with
his mouth open. "How did
you just do that?" he said.
"Years of investment," Igor said.
"We've been teaching lessons
almost since we moved here."
The teakettle whistled then.
"Shall we sit down for a cup
of tea and a chat now?"
"I think," André said slowly,
"perhaps you should talk
and I should just listen."
* * *
André Lickert -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He wears an elaborate brace on his left arm and walks with a cane held in his right hand, due to injuries from the War of the First Coalition. He is slim with wiry muscles. His heritage is French, Prussian, and a bit of British. He speaks English, French, German, Greek, Latin, and Romanian. André is a traveling apothecary who deals in herbs and chemicals, along with some medical devices such as braces.
See the exterior and interior of André's apothecary wagon.
* * *
“All scientific men were formerly accused of practicing magic. And no wonder, for each said to himself: ‘I have carried human intelligence as far as it will go, and yet So-and-so has gone further than I. Ergo, he has taken to Sorcery.’”
– C.L. de Montesquieu: Persian Letters, CXLV, 1721
Luffa is a type of gourd that makes a sponge.
Romanian Frost Dates (warm valley 190-210 days, village 171-190 days)
Near Baia Mare: Average Last Frost Apr. 1 - Apr. 10
Around Zalau: Average First Frost Oct. 21 - Oct. 31
Area around valley: Average Last Frost Apr. 11 - Apr. 20
Average First Frost Oct. 11 - Oct. 20
‘Muscee de Provence’ is a rare winter squash from the south of France that has become rare over the past few years. The flattened 5-10 lb. (2.2-4.5kg) fruits age from mottled to a smooth orange terracotta finish, and have deep ridges that radiate from the stem, and sweet flesh. Can be stored the entire winter if stored cool, dry, and dark.
Musquee De Provence Pumpkin
(C. moschata) 120 days. These gorgeous, big, flat pumpkins are shaped like large wheels of cheese and are heavily lobed and ribbed. The skin is a beautiful, rich brown color when ripe. The flesh is deep orange, thick, and very fine flavored; fruit grows to 20 lbs each. This traditional variety from southern France is great for fall markets. Pure European seeds.
Ornamental Gourds Mix-Small
C. pepo 85-110 days. The ultimate combinations of colorful, fantastically textured and shaped gourds make phenomenal Halloween or fall harvest displays and decorations. With this wide variety, you'll have head-turning conversation pieces that are vibrantly hued and long lasting.
4-6 inch gourds.
Lagenaria siceraria and cucurbita pepo True gourds belong to the genus Lagenaria, and the species siceraria. The different varieties of L. siceraria do not cross with any other cucurbitaceae. All gourds are vining varieties and can grow to 15 feet. They are often tiered along a trellis or fence to save space. Most are grown for their mature shell and unique shapes.
Days to maturity are calculated from date of direct seeding.
Romanian money has a complex history, generally relying on the gold/silver/copper standard. Exact value of metals can vary, but here's a typical list. Various types were in play over time, so there are often several currencies floating around the valley. I have spliced together a coherent set of coinage which is the most common there. The leu (plural lei) means "lion" and is a large, handsome silver coin. The zimbru (plural zimbri) means "wisent" and is a thick bronze coin. Two zimbri make a leu. The cocoş-de-munte (plural cocoşi-de-munte) means "capercaillie" and is a fancy copper coin. Four cocoşi-de-munte make a leu. The ban (plural bani) is a small, plain brass coin. One hundred bani make a leu, fifty make a zimbru, and twenty-five make a cocoş-de-munte.
Enjoy a recipe for Frigarui (chicken kebabs).
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) makes a soothing tea.
Here is a recipe for branzoaice or sweet cheese pie.