Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Five:
Case File No. 48-256
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Where We Left Off:
Gus and Oliver uncovered a scandalous secret of the original owner of our mobile command unit.
The Lady of Shalott:
We’ve investigated some peculiar creatures in our five years of monster-hunting, mousing, and adventures. These cases have included a few proven instances of vampyrs or vampires. There was a stunning capture and slaying of a vampire vole – a volepyr. Gus took care of it and saved the neighborhood. Due to the vampire contagion spreading into smaller animals like squirrels and voles, the even smaller animals are trying to ward it off with old fashioned cures and potions.
Even though we have gotten rid of the top of the mouse criminal organization inside the house like Clyde Burrow and Bonnie Parlor, there are still mice scurrying and clawing through the walls and floors. They’ve used all the house renovations over the past two hundred years to their advantage. The mice can squeeze through such tiny spaces that the inner guts of the house are a huge city for them. What happens if there’s a contagion within the mouse community inside these walls?
Mice are susceptible to SO MANY DISEASES including toxoplasmosis (zombie mice), ringtail, ringworm, pinworms, tapeworms, lice, mites, fleas, protozoa, and the list goes on and on and on. Let’s not forget about the role of rodents in the Black Death. Therefore, we don’t see it as a huge leap to acknowledge mice, rats, voles, squirrels and other rodentia being able to catch and transmit a vampire contagion. It only makes sense.
Mice have proven their intelligence to scientists for hundreds of years. They are frequently the first complex living organisms to be run through trials and fatal tests.
Let’s do a little experiment. Don’t worry. You don’t have to get up. Shallot.
What do you think of when I present the word shallot? The small and fragrant onion A. cepa? Other onion types found in southwest Asia?
Perhaps you don’t think of food at all, but instead art. Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott? One of the paintings inspired by his poem or the poem’s source, a 13th century bit of prose called the La Damigella di Scalot or Donna di Scalotta? Or, maybe you get lost in more general visualizations of Arthurian knights and damsels in distress.
Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right–
The leaves upon her falling light–
Through the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.
Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turned to towered Camelot.
For ere she reached upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.
Two stanzas from part four of Tennyson’s poem
Personally, I’m a big fan of Waterhouse paintings and he did his own rendition The Lady of Shalott, a woman looking deeply worried about being cursed as she sits inside a small boat on a river. According to Wikipedia, he did three versions of the lady. The other two are The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Said the Lady of Shalott.
The spelling variation is acceptable because of the word’s etymology which itself seems to be filled with mythology. Try to find the origin of this kitchen staple and you’ll see regions listed from the Mediterranean to southwest Asia to central Asia. The word seems to come from the French though (échalote), but to them it means this onion. To others, it’s the chive-like stem. According to the experts at etymonline, there’s also “vulgar Latin” escalonia which gives us both shallot and scallion. This word escalonia refers back to the port city in the Mediterranean Ashkelon in Israel.
Onions were hollowed and filled with treacle; then roasted in embers. The outer layer peeled away so that one could then smash up the ingredients. This created a salve placed on plague sores or skin ulcers to draw out putrefaction, according to 17th century physician Nicholas Culpeper. His book, The Complete Herbal & English Physician, is a must-have for kitchen witches or anyone who loves getting lost in trivia about plants and illness. I love how he describes onions as windy meaning they give you gas. Ye olde farte.
The book of Irish Herbal Cures by Christine Scallan backups Culpeper’s observations that onions are good for phlegm (catarrh) and cause gas. Neither book references shallots.
Now we arrive at our investigation. The day after some exceptional mousing by Gus who captured Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde fame, The Grumpy Old Man discovered a partially eaten shallot on the stove!
A March morning he was sickened
for on the burner he cooks chicken
a shallot there had been bitten.
“It was for soup to thicken,”
yelled The Grumpy Old Man.
Oliver was poised on top of his tall tower which gave him an excellent vantage point to see into the kitchen and observe the commotion. Gus was called in to sniff for clues in the area.
“We know the indoor mice have utilized garlic to ward off sickness and vampires. What do you think they are doing with a shallot?” Gus asked.
That’s when Gus, Oliver, and I headed upstairs to the offices for research. Of course, I cannot find the photo from years ago that I took of the garlic bulb that was bitten! It would be helpful to do a bite mark comparison. That piece of evidence solidified the theory that rodents are vulnerable to vampire contagions and smart enough to try and avoid catching them.
“I don’t think the house mice are using onions as a vampire prophylactic,” Oliver said. “Based on what you read, it sounds like they have allergies.”
“Allergies?” I said to my plump peer. “What if it’s another plague? We’ve lived through an actual plague and it’s evolving and spreading!”
“Rodents do spread plagues,” Gus agreed. “That’s why they need their numbers kept in check.”
“This isn’t about your bloodlust,” Oliver said to his rodent-murdering partner.
Oliver eventually bought into our theory that illnesses of varying types, whether environmental allergies or contagious conditions, can cause breathing issues and phlegm congestion in lungs. It’s also possible that the mice just like the taste of onions and wanted to add it a meal. The primary reason that the shallot is perplexing is because there is a sonic rodent repellant about two feet away on the same level as the stovetop.
We’ll keep patrols going to quell more issues of this vandalism, trespassing, theft, and B&Es by the mice.
Case Status: Closed
If you’re interested either of the books about herbal cures, I have a witchcraft storefront on Amazon.