How to Wrap a Roc's Egg

by Marissa Lingen

13 May 1855

Dear Admiral Bergfalk:

What a joy it is to work with my countryman on this historic endeavor! As you know, we have been working since the time of our dear Linneaus to bring the bounty of tea plantations to Sweden, but as yet, the camellia sinensis plant has remained resistant to our ministrations. As you know, I have written a great many papers about the soils of the lands in which it will grow, and I believe that you may help with the crucial fertilizers that the Swedish tea crop has been so sorely missing.

And now! Even one roc's egg will do, for we have the facilities here at Villa Källa to raise a roc to its full-sized glory and use its droppings for the best good of all Sweden. The remuneration of sixty thousand kronor we have discussed, and that is, of course, per egg, though I doubt that your steamship could hold more than three in the facilities I toured with your subordinate. I was most impressed with the way the steam heating tubes solved the warming problem that left so many eggs lifeless husks on previous transport.

I place in you my full confidence, Admiral. Excelsior, and bring me my roc's egg, for the greater tea and glory of Sweden!

All best regards,

Anna Sunden

Villa Källa, Blekinge, Sweden

22 April 1856

My dear Sir Raimond:

It is such a pleasure to be working with an experienced naturalist on this historical project. I hardly need tell you the importance of a roc's egg to the nascent Swedish tea industry. Tea is, as you know of course, the queen of all beverages, and I believe that it would provide a stimulus to our economy here in Sweden as it does to the mind and body of the individual lucky enough to consume it--but I must stop myself, or I will sing the praises of this miracle leaf all the day.

Nor would I need to tell you, of course, that both parent rocs need to be dispatched before attempting to remove the egg from its nest. While the father, as in penguin species, is the parent who broods upon the nest, the mother will be lurking close by to provide food, protection--or vengeance if the nest is disturbed by unwary egg thieves. A less experienced collector, such as a military man attempting to poke his nose into fields into which he was less suited, might well make that mistake and have some difficulty winning clear of it, but not you, sir!

(The skins and skeletons of the parent rocs are of no concern to the Swedish tea industry and naturally may be sold at whatever profit your expedition may get from them, to whatever party you see fit. One expects young students to learn a great deal from close study of how the bones of a creature two to three stories in height manage to support it without becoming too unwieldy for flight. I remember the first time that I--but that is for another letter in what will surely become our long and fruitful correspondance.)

Please hasten your work, Sir Raimond, as the discoveries of the chemical effects of roc's dung fertilizer upon our chillier northern soils will be of inestimable value to both science and industry. Remuneration as promised awaits at Villa Källa. I remain your faithful etc.

Anna Sunden

Villa Källa, Blekinge, Sweden

7 June 1857

Dear Miss Bosko:

What a pleasure it is to work with another woman who has made her way in a field dominated by the stronger sex, who will certainly understand the finer points of appeal to such an unusual and sensitive creature as the roc. While of course the main work for which I have contracted you is the delivery of at least one roc's egg, intact and alive, to my estate at Villa Källa here in the Blekinge province of Sweden, I will note that a healthy rocling of a few weeks' age would be an acceptable second choice. Either will bring about such a renaissance in Swedish art and science through enabling the local cultivation of the wondrous plant camellia sinensis that I feel sure that your cultivation will be beyond handsome, as none can help but profit by their association with the great leaf.

Bearing this case in mind, please do take the time to impress upon not only your own mind but also those of your assistants the maternal signals a newly hatched rocling will require. In lieu of such signals, a rocling is likely to assume that the persons surrounding it have dispatched its parents. Naturally you have read of the tragedy that ensued when the French ship went down and all hands had to make for the lifeboats, but that can in no way be construed as our fault, nor are we liable for the costs incurred by the survivors, as I am sure you will tell any newspaperman who asks. Any naturalist ought to be prepared for such a contingency.

One thought further: perhaps a second roc's egg would be of some use in this? The two beasts could then play together in the most natural way imaginable. While this requires a slightly larger ship, it would avoid the sort of sulks and scorning of one's aurochs that results in ripping the entire crew limb from limb.

With all best hopes for a fruitful voyage,

Anna Sunden

Villa Källa, Blekinge, Sweden

3 April 1858

Mr. Eichel:

You come with the highest recommendations from friends of mine such as Lady Solveig and Miss Lund. In this disappointing grey world, the word of a friend is a cheering ray of sunshine. I begin to hope that at last my beautiful dream of a tea plantation will become a glorious reality, with your help and the help of my rocs.

Our last naturalist performed the maternal signaling quite adequately but bonded with the creatures and is now wreaking havoc upon the South Pacific as a pirate with both air and sea capacity, which is all very well for her, one supposes, but does nothing for the Swedish tea industry, as I hope is quite clear. Your focus upon providing value for your patron's gold is heartening to me, and the fact that you have delivered three kinds of dragon varietals to one of my friends and a quite pretty little lake monster to another makes me believe you will not be swayed by power.

Another note: please make sure that the steam system of the ship is adequately cleaned before you fetch the roc's eggs into it. I had just entered into negotiations with Governor Quiros of one of those unsettled Spanish provinces when the ship on which he had placed the roc's egg lost steam entirely because the crew used sea water instead of fresh, causing scale in the pipe system. A businessman such as yourself will appreciate attention to detail, and as I believe the English say, a penny saved, etc. etc.


Anna Sunden

Villa Källa, Blekinge, Sweden

22 October 1859

Fairest greetings to you, Honorable Mr. Cheung!

Where European naturalists have failed me, I hope that your great kindness and greater experience--fortified by your people's longer association with the consumption of tea, of course!--might prevail. Please accept the gifts I have sent from my estates, the most delicate preserved cloudberries, white wolfskin-lined cloaks, and the albumen from a sea serpent egg. While you will of course know your business in the care and transportation of roc's eggs better than I, one might suggest that soaking silk in it to wrap an egg might cushion the egg from the vibrations that have awakened previous roclings on transport while simultaneously enhancing flame-retardant qualities should the steam system exit your control.

Further, I am relieved to note that in diagrams, it appears that all of your ships are equipped with large hoist/pulley mechanisms. When others attempt to do things, as one might say, "on the cheap," it can result in the breakage of gangplanks. Perhaps in your warm tropical waters, a brief float is nothing to a roc's egg, but here in the Baltic this is not the case; bringing an egg to my very doorstep only to kill it with an ice bath would be very disheartening indeed.

I do not know your customs. While it may be indelicate to bring up the subject of remuneration on such small acquaintance, rest assured that I will do a great deal for this vital cultural exchange between our lands to take place, and I would never wish for you to underestimate the value of our friendship in my eyes and the eyes of Sweden.

With all felicities and hope for future fruitfulness,

Anna Sunden

Villa Källa, Blekinge, Sweden


The End