Open yourself up to all Geographies and time periods and imagine a society with an unusual currency- it is not paper, gold, or bitcoin. What is it, and where does it come from?
(Borrowed a bit from 1700s UK history for this one. Also this was written with little sleep and edited at 4am… cos sick child.)
Milly clutched her prize. A faint scent still hung in her nostrils. Not the usual smells of damp earthen floor and hearth smoke. No, this smell spoke of far off places, burning sun, heated sand that stretch on forever. Places where strange creatures lurked, dark skinned people who spoke in lyrical tones; to Gods she knew nothing of.
He mother would skelp her for thinking such things. If Father Boyd head such- she would be on the punishment stool at Mass on Sunday for all to see her shame and witness her repentance. There was only one God. To say otherwise was heresy.
Almost frightened the local priest would sense her blasphemous thoughts, Milly scampered past the church. She splashed through mud and slurry in the street. The smell kept the aromas of her little village at bay. It tantalised her nostrils, drawing her on.
She would not have known the worth of her prize, had it not been for Michael. Her mother would do more than skelp her if she knew Milly still payed with the Gypsy lad. Milly had been bearched last time her brother had found out. He squealed like the piglet he was to Mama.
The beating did not stop Milly sneaking out to see Michael. Her disobedience had been blessed. The pair had come across a half buried box, that smelt of mystery and warm. Michael had known straight away what the contents were and more importantly, their value.
Milly lifted her woolen skirts as she splashed across the main track, dodging horse droppings and what looked like a drowned rat. She had to hurry, her Father would be waiting in line to pay the rent.
They did not own the land they lived upon. The local Laird had recently hiked the price of rent so high few could pay. Repossessed land was covered in sheep. The fleece and mutton sold for more than tenant farmers could pay in rent. Sheep were worth more than people to the nobility.
Most folk were packing up, leaving. Many selling everything they owned for passage to Canada, America and even India. Places she had heard of, but never even seen on a map.
Her Father was at the front of a line of tired looking men. None of them could probably afford the new rent, yet there they were. To argue the case. A last, faint hope that the new Laird may remember that their families had lived on these lands for generations. Served his noble family, bled for them in times of war, celebrated the birth of their heirs. Supported them in times of famine. They could not forsake all that. Land was a man’s soul. Without it what good was he?
She had heard her Da say that to her mother and thought she may understand. Milly was sure Canada was very nice, but this place, this rainy, muddy, backwarter of a village was home.
She drew level with her Father and tugged at his sleeve. The large man, bowed from the plough, hands and face rough from hot sun and frost, turned to regard his only daughter. Ten, yet looked so like her grandmother it made his heart ache.
Milly smiled and wordlessly opened his hand.
Three dried buds were dropped onto his heavily lined palm. He looked from the grinning child’s face to what was in his hand. He almost dropped the useless bits of plant and stomp them into the mud. Was she added?
The gasp from the finely dressed servant behind the desk made him think otherwise.
“Are those-? Where did you? How?” The fop was purple of face, could almost not breathe.
Milly’s Father placed the buds on the ledger before the man and waited.
Stuttering, the man wrote a value in the ledger, quill shaking.
“Ah, that- that will be all. This will pay the rent for- well the next ten years- that is- that depends on silver prices, of course.”
The big farmer grunted and took his daughter’s hand, leading her away.
“Milly-May?” he asked as they passed the church, his work rough hand still firmly holding his daughters. “What were those?”
“Cloves Da,” she responded. “M-” then backtracked quickly, her mind turning over. “I found ‘em by tha Kelpie pond. Looked like a thing tha’ Laird would like so I brought ‘em.”
Her hand was squeezed in response. Her Father asked no more, especially how she had managed to identify the highly prived spice when she had never seen it.
Cloves were worth triple their weight in silver, and so was his daughter it seemed.
He let her have her secrets.