We began traveling to the town of Belmont which would take until late in the afternoon. During the ride, Eryn explained the details of the job. Every year around the late summer season, the population of boars became plentiful around the forests of Belmont. As the numbers grew, so did the foraging area of the boars. Often, these boars would come out of the forest and start consuming the crops that were planted near the town, leading to an effort to cull their numbers and guard the harvest.
Given that this was a yearly occurrence, a magic knight was usually sent survey the town’s condition and to organize aid. However, it appears that the magic knight sent in this case decided to try taking the boars down himself. It had the opposite effect, which led to increased activity of the boars, much to the displeasure of the town. Thus, backup was called in for damage control and to reassess the situation.
As we rode towards Belmont, we encountered a few enemies, but since we were in a hurry, Eryn used magic spells to rid them quickly from a distance. It was the first time I had seen her use so much magic, as it seemed like she preferred to use physical attacks to dispatch her enemies. Perhaps it was due to the influence of her mother, who was weak at magic. Eryn mainly used fire and wind magic which included forming fireballs and wind blades at her enemies or engulfing them in a column of fire or a tornado. Each of the monsters was easily taken care of with a single spell. It looked kind of fun like a shooting game, but of course, there was no way for me to join in. I could barely get a candle flame to lift off my finger before it was snuffed out.
After a long, uneventful ride, we started seeing signs of civilization in the distance, next to an outline of a forest. A faint burnt odor lingered in the air as we approached. Moving through the town, we took note of the damaged fields and sections of trampled fencing as we made our way to the center of town. As we came to what looked like a village square, an argument could be overheard. Several people, presumably villagers, looked frustrated as a few magic knights seemed to be trying to defuse the situation. A familiar face was among the crowd seemingly dismissive of the situation.
“Geh, it’s that Stark guy,” I muttered, not holding back my disgust.
“Oh, Cornelius is there also.” Eryn pointed to the crowd.
As the crowd shifted, the suave figure of Cornelius could be seen slightly bowing in apology.
“We humbly apologize for the inconvenience. As you can see, we have brought reinforcements to handle the situation. I, Earl Reichenstein, shall lead the effort.”
“We’ve lost half of our harvest. How do you expect that to be compensated? If only your subordinate hadn’t burnt down the forest trying to drive them out! He drove them out all right, right into our crops! At this rate, we won’t have enough to hire hunters to take care of them!”
Stark grew visibly irritated as he glared back, acting like he had done nothing wrong.
“Well, that is why we are here. To find a solution to your problem. You have my word as Earl.”
After a few minutes, Cornelius succeeded in calming the villagers. Having dismissed Stark from duty, who stomped away and left the area, Cornelius turned to the rest of us.
“My, my. What should have been a simple job turned into something quite complicated,” Cornelius said shaking his head.
Originally, Stark had been the only one sent here to survey the situation. His task was to determine the number of hunters that would be needed to cull the boar population as they started taking an interest in the crops. Believing that he could do a good job by taking care of it himself, Stark had tried smoking them away by setting the forest on fire, which instead enraged the boars inhabiting it. This led to hundreds of boars being flushed out of the forest and right into the village’s fields. Having found the tasty crops, they proceeded to eat their fill before returning to the forest and had been doing so on a daily basis until we arrived today. That explained the burnt air and damaged fields that we encountered.
The main objective at this point was to develop countermeasures to fight off the stampeding herd and keep them from coming back to the fields. Since the fields were close to the forest, there was a limited amount of space to use magic before the boars reached the fields. Of course, magic couldn’t be used at that point due to potentially damaging the crops. In the forest, there was too much coverage between the vegetation to effectively cast magic on a large number of targets.
“Does anyone have any suggestions with how to deal with this issue? At this point, I am planning to erect an ice wall around the field to keep it safe, but we would only be able to take down a small number of them before they run back into the forest. We need a more permanent solution in order to make up for what the village has already lost,” Cornelius asked the others.
Without any good methods to lure them out of the forest, we would only be able to whittle away at the numbers. That could potentially take a long time. While keeping a group of knights occupied here was costly for the kingdom, the village couldn’t afford to hire more people. However, no one seemed to offer any good suggestions.
“Very well. Let us meet back here tomorrow and prepare for the assault,” Cornelius sighed.
After the other knights dispersed, it was just me, Eryn and Cornelius.
“You have it rough picking up after someone else’s mistakes.” Eryn tried to comfort her friend.
“Oh, I can manage somehow.” Cornelius drew close to Eryn and enveloped her in an embrace. “And now, I have my dear friend for support. How have you been? It’s good to see you out in the field.” Cornelius released his hold and stepped back.
“Things are progressing as planned. Claude has ended up being more useful than I thought.”
I was caught in between being jealous of their closeness and happy that I got a compliment, so I decided to keep my thoughts to myself.
“I see. I’ll be counting on you also then. Let me know if you have any good ideas, Mr. Chef,” Cornelius said as we parted ways. Though he said that, Cornelius’s face suggested that he wasn’t banking on it.
Dinner that evening.
The guild had arranged an inn for us to stay at for the job. We were free to order dinner as we liked as it would be on the guild’s tab. Enjoying the chance to relax for once, I looked at the menu options that had been scribbled on a board hung on the wall. Near the top, I saw the words ‘Belmont Special’, which immediately piqued my interest. Being open-minded to trying new things, I was curious as to what the local delicacy would be.
As a waitress brought over the ‘Belmont Special’, the familiar scent of garlic drifted to my nose. I was able to recall seeing garlic anywhere before, and no one I asked knew about it, so I was puzzled by its presence here. Anxiously scanning my plate, I looked for the source of my once staple seasoning. The plate contained slabs of boar meat with an odd-looking vegetable, in a pool of sauce. Trying the sauce, it tasted like a standard brown sauce with a hint of garlic, so it couldn’t be that. The meat was fairly bland unless you dipped it in the sauce. Lastly, I ate a bit of the vegetable, and my tongue was immediately enveloped by the rich taste of garlic. I sat back in the seat and closed my eyes, relishing the flavor.
“Hello…Claude? Are you ok?” Eryn inquired about my strange behavior. She was eating the same dish.
“O-Oh yes, I’m fine. Say what is this? It’s the first time I’ve encountered this taste in this world.” I hurriedly recomposed myself and pointed to the mystery food.
“That’s a Pizarka plant, which is grown in this region. Much of the capital’s supply comes from Belmont, and it fetches a reasonably high price in the marketplace. It is usually purchased by the nobility due to its rich taste but adding even a small amount of Pizarka as a garnish has become quite popular.” Eryn said as she happily ate her food.
That was the first I’ve heard of it, but since the Faulkner family wasn’t into lavish spending, they probably didn’t spend money on something like that.
“Apparently, we’re going to be facing a shortage this year due to the boars. It seems like once they got a taste of it, they couldn’t stop coming back for more.” Eryn explained.
“Wait, have the boars been targeting mostly the Pizarka plants?”
“I believe so. It seems like most of the other crops have been barely touched. I’ve been told that they head straight for those fields when they charge into town for food.”
Just then, an idea popped into my head. I quickly scarfed down the rest of my food.
“Excuse me. I have something I want to try,” I said as I raced out of the inn, leaving behind a dumbfounded Eryn.
I ran to the nearest field and began looking around for a Pizarka plant. It was relatively easy to find as a faint scent of garlic guided me to it. Digging one of the plants out, I confirmed that the smell came from the bulb, which was underground. It looked similar to garlic but much larger in size and softer in texture. I brushed off the dirt and bit into it. The taste was incredibly rich and concentrated, yet strangely addictive. I could see why the boars single-mindedly came back for more.
Heading back to town, I went to our cart and fished out my cooking gear and went to work testing out this sample of Pizarka. As a tasty scent drifted in the air, I had found the answer that I was looking for and nodded in satisfaction. After popping the cooked piece of Pizarka in my mouth, I put everything away and raced off again to find Eryn before taking her to see Cornelius.
The next morning.
Most of the magic knights, minus Cornelius, were standing in the charred open area in which Stark had burnt down a few days ago. This was a sudden change in plans after I had proposed an idea to Cornelius, of which he happily obliged. I was now in the middle of that open area with my cooking gear and a pile of Pizarka plants. As the other knights looked at me skeptically, I did what I did best – cooking something delicious.
Chopping the Pizarka plants into fine cubes, I tossed the chopped piles into a large wok that had been heating up and coated with fat. As the cubes hit the wok surface, they sizzled and released a strong aroma into the air. The aroma in the air started making some of the knights drool. A minute later, I gave a signal to Eryn. At once, she started casting a spell. A gentle wind drifted across the open area and carried the scent of the cooking Pizarka into the forest. I continued to chop and cook more and more piles of Pizarka, releasing more and more of the aroma into the air. As I started on my third batch, a slight tremor interrupted my work. It grew louder and louder with every second. As I stood up, a large number of boars darting through the forest could be seen. Abandoning my gear, I made a mad dash back towards the knights as the boars came stampeding out of the forest. My plan had worked.
The previous night.
I had explained my idea of luring the boars away from the fields to Cornelius. Boars had an exceptional sense of smell, as I recalled them being used to search for hard-to-find truffles back in my world. Given that the boars could locate the Pizarka plant easily from a significant distance, what if we could redirect them to a more convenient location with a stronger scent?
By frying up the Pizarka, it multiplied the aroma several-fold, and with the help of wind magic, it could be carried to the boars thereby attracting them to that location.
Cornelius laughed heartily at the suggestion, “Leave it to a chef to come up with that kind of solution.”
Soon, hundreds of boars had come out of the forest and were converging on the location I had previously escaped from. As soon as the numbers leaving the forest had died down, Eryn shouted out another spell.
“Flame, cast a wall to surround my enemies and block their escape! ‘Fiery Prison’!”
A thin wall of fire stretched across the perimeter of the open area. While the fire itself was weak due to the wide area of coverage, it still served as a good deterrence from escape. The other magicians started casting spells and started barraging the herd of boars with attacks. Having fired off a magic flare at some point, the backup group that had been stationed near the fields, led by Cornelius, rushed to our location and joined the attack. Not long after, signs of life within the enclosed area had started to die down, and the attacks stopped. With the task complete, the knights celebrated and came by to pat me on the back.
I looked up to see Cornelius suddenly standing in front of me. Giving me a smile, he wrapped me in a tight hug.
“Bravo! That worked like a charm! I’ve changed my opinion of you.”
I had not expected to be hugged by this guy, which made me a bit too shocked to register what he said. Finally letting me go, Cornelius turned back towards the battlefield and cast a spell.
“Now, for the final touch.”
The field was engulfed in an ice storm. When the spell died down, the remains of all the boars had been frozen among a wintry landscape. Cornelius turned towards Eryn.
“Lady Faulkner, can I rely on your family’s connections to bring all of today’s spoils to market?”
“Yes, I’ll contact Uncle right away! I’m sure we can find a buyer for all of these remains.”
“Splendid! Now we have a way to compensate the village. And we took care of this pretty quickly without needing to employ hunters.” Cornelius clapped his hands together.
Turning towards Stark now, Cornelius gave an icy expression. “THIS is an example of an exceptional job, Sir Madiswil. I expect better things from you next time.”
Cornelius walked past Stark and headed back to the village. The rest of us followed suit, leaving behind Stark to dwell on his failure.
“How…dare they…look down on me…for a single mistake,” Stark mumbled to no one in particular. “I could’ve taken down the entire herd with a single spell. My magic is the best of all the new recruits. Yet, I was shown up by a lowly cook of all people!”
Believing himself to be one of the best magic knights and thus worthy of everyone’s praise, he wouldn’t stand being tarnished by someone of such low skill and peerage.
“Faulkner and your lowly servant, I’ve got my eye on you. You won’t dare to make a fool of Starkenberg of Madiswil!”