1789, there was a great many things taking place during this year so long ago. The United States would elect its first president on February 4th while many months later on July 14th the French Revolution would officially begin with the storming of the fortress of the Bastille. But on this day, May 9th, a strange little man, who didn’t care about either thing, would find himself walking on a lonely path that cut through a very old forest. He wasn’t quite sure why he was walking on this particular path as it wasn’t one he could ever remember taking. Perhaps that was why he had taken it, he reasoned to himself, it was something new. And though the old man was a fierce creature of habit there was just something about that particular day that said to him something new is needed for a change.
The path went on for quite a long while and the strange little man kept wondering if the path would ever lead somewhere, but more importantly he wondered how on earth his short legs were still happily taking steps. Typically he did little more than walk around his very small house and now and then he’d make the short trip to the well for fresh water. By the end of the day he was always quite tired and his short legs felt as though they had run in mad circles for days. Yet here he was! Walking and walking and stepping and he thought perhaps skipping might be fun, so he started skipping along.
This was all very odd for the strange little man. There was something like a small itch in his thoughts that asked him to consider how strange this situation was. The itch was small though so he choose to ignore and besides! The forest air smelled fine, didn’t it? It was probably being around all of the trees and fresh air that was giving him the extra umph! in his steps. And didn’t that just feel fine? Oh yes, the strange little man was feeling quite fine. So fine he decided to move from a skip to a slight run and on he ran for what amount of time he would never know. Until…
Finally there came a point when the strange little man realized the sun shining above the trees was no longer shining above those trees but was drifting down so its sunlight was coming from between them. It must be fast approaching dusk if the sun was so low and with a great shock he realized he must have been running for hours. He didn’t feel tired but he did suddenly feel very lost.
The strange little man came to an abrupt stop and looked around him bewildered. He wondered if he’d have the same type of energy to get himself back home or if he’d have to brave the forest at night? He turned around to look back down the path he’d been following and there was no longer a path. It was as if the trees had pulled their roots from the ground and scooted closer together. Now there was just a small clearing that he was standing in. He had no idea of where he was or how to get back to where he’d come from. Quite suddenly the strange little man was not feeling quite so fine.
“Are you lost sir?” a tiny voice asked the strange little man, who jumped about a foot out of surprise. He looked around for the source of the voice but saw nothing, at least until he turned his eyes downward. There, sitting on a flat rock, was a creature the strange little man couldn’t quite make heads or tails of. “Well? Are you lost then?” it asked again.
The creature had a rather cute little head that almost looked like a short nosed fox. Its hair was red, long and splayed out much like a fox’s mane would grow. Its upper body (what he could see of it from the little vest it wore) had a short layer of downy fur over it. Its wore short trousers that only came to the knee area and below that were thin legs that ended in hooves. It quite reminded the strange little man of some fairy tale creature he’d read about as a child, only much odder.
He wanted to tell the little fellow that it shouldn’t be asking the strange little man questions or really, it shouldn’t be at all. Fairy tales were for telling, not for looking at in real life. However, the little creature was there, wasn’t it? Just as real as the strange little man. It was looking quite comfortable on its well sized flat rock and since it could talk and was asking questions perhaps it could be of some help.
“I am lost.” the strange little man finally replied. He pointed towards the trees. “I came here from a path that is where those trees are now. I don’t suppose you know the way back?”
The little creature nodded its head knowingly. “You found Wilhelmie’s path. Bet you felt really good while you were on it.”
The strange little man nodded his head. “I did. Better than I’ve felt in a very long time. I just couldn’t stop walking, then skipping… then running. It’s been a long time since I’ve ran. But here I am lost. I don’t know where my home is any longer. Can this Wilhelmie let me back on her path so I can go home?”
The little creature shook its head solemnly. “‘Fraid not… at least not to take it home. See, something must have gotten your attention to get you off her path. That’s a good thing, lost or not. She doesn’t let people off her path. They just run and run until all the will is run out of them, then they become ghosts along the path. And once she has you on her path and you do find a way off of it? She’ll just keep throwing it in front of you until she gits you on it again. So sorry about that mate. I do hear that you never stop feeling good though. So there’s that.”
The strange little man felt his heart sink. He didn’t want to run forever. He didn’t want to have to keep looking out for that odd path all the time either. It was quite a pickle to be in. “Is there nothing I can do?” he asked softly… sadly.
The little creature scrunched up its foxy face as it thought about it. “Well… I guess I could…” it stopped there and stood up. A tea cup had been hidden behind the creature. The strange little man couldn’t comprehend how he hadn’t seen the bit of pale blue china that was twice the size of the little creature sitting in front of it. But it had already been such an unusual day so it really didn’t seem quite so unusual anymore.
Now the creature was pointing at the cup. “This is frik moss tea. Bit bitter but it’ll keep ole Wilhelmie at bay. It’s just…” the creature looked conflicted. “Well… you see it’s my favorite tea and frik moss doesn’t grow around here anymore. It doesn’t grow anywhere anymore in truth. I’ve been keeping this last cup of it special for days now. Once that cup is drank the world won’t know frik moss tea anymore and it’ll be a little sadder for it…” its tiny voice trailed off.
The strange little man understood the idea of disappointment. A life so long lived as his knew disappointment and he didn’t really want to become the reason for someone else’s disappointment. Not even an odd little foxy goat creature in a vest and knickers. “Well… I guess I will be okay with being on that path. I did feel awfully good and I can’t claim to have anything important I do in the world. You drink your tea. It’ll be alright.”
The creature’s foxy face lit up. It walked around to the other side of the flat rock and took a seat in the grass. It motioned for the strange little man to take a seat opposite it. “That’s very kind of you. We’ll share it then!” it exclaimed.
The strange little man’s face lit up as he slowly lowered himself to the ground. He felt all of his aches and pains that had been so blissfully free of him for a short while but realized he was quite happy to feel them in that moment.
He watched as the creature took the cup, so much bigger than itself, and gently tipped it and took a sip. Then it offered the cup to the old man. The strange little man took the cup with a thank-you and brought it to his lips. The smell of it was awful and he wondered what exactly tea was because tea was nothing he understood or had drank before. He took a sip and was surprised by the very pleasant taste of the greenish liquid. He couldn’t help taking another sip before catching himself and setting the cup back down for the creature. “Sorry.” he whispered as his cheeks grew flushed.
The tea cup passed back and forth, tiny sip to big sip, until all of the frik moss tea was gone. The strange little man felt good, like some of the goodness of the path had sunk into his bones with the tea and it was even better if the tea would keep this disagreeable Wilhelmie away. The creature looked quite pleased too; as if it had not only enjoyed its last cup of frik moss tea but was also happy to have helped someone at the same time.
The strange little man stifled a small burp but was smiling. “Thank you my lil friend! Now… can you point me in the direction that I might start walking back to my home?”
The creature got to its hooves and gently dusted the dirt and grass from its short trousers. “Oh you can’t go back home now. To ward off ole Wilhelmie you have to be an enchanted creature. Frik moss tea casts wonderful enchantments. And for those who are already enchanted its much like catnip or mint is to a feline, I guess you could say. But no. Sorry. You won’t be able to find your house again, no matter how hard you look. Those are the rules as I understand them. Anyway, I must be getting back home. The missus worries when I’m out for too long.” The creature turned and began to move towards a small clearing in the distant trees.
“Wait!” the strange little man exclaimed. “Where will I go if I can’t go home?! Can I come with you?”
The creature scrunched its foxy face as it thought upon this question. It looked very serious for a moment and then its face lit up and it appeared quite happy. “I guess you could, couldn’t you? Come on then! We’ll take you to the missus and let her sort out what kind of enchanted thing you’re going to become.”
As quick as his old bones would allow the strange little man was up and moving across the small clearing to walk at the creature’s side. He wasn’t sure what the creature meant about wondering what enchanted thing he’d become, he was just feeling kind of good to be in another person’s (or creature’s) company again. He had been quite alone for quite a long time.
As the odd pair walked into the distance a faint bit of their conversation could still be heard.
“So what do they call you then?”
“Oh I don’t know. I forgot my name a long time ago. The people who go by my home simply call me that strange little man.”
“Well that’s rude! And not a proper name. It’s a description and quite frankly you don’t seem strange at all. Little, yes. Strange? No. Let’s see… I’m going to call you Murphy!”
“Murphy? I guess Murphy will do fine. So what kind of thing are you then?”
“Oh I don’t likely know the answer to that. The missus says I am one part this and one part that with a lot of love thrown in for good measure, though she admits I didn’t cook long enough. She calls me Shelby.”
“Good to know you Shelby. Thank you again for the tea. I like this thing… tea? I like this thing tea very much.”
“Good to know you Murphy! Oh tea is a wonderful thing. Don’t worry, there’s quite a lot more of it. There’s always more tea. Well not frik moss tea, but at least you got to have a bit of it before it was gone. Speaking of which, I do so hope your enchantment changes you into a troll. I have so wanted a troll friend for years. Simply years! Imagine the fun we could have around bridges!”
And that was the last that was heard of this odd pair as they disappeared into the thick of the trees.
On this day in 1789 the very last of the frik moss to ever grow on the earth was used to brew the last cup of frik moss tea that was ever drank. It was also when a very strangle little old man discovered tea for the first time. The last enchantment to be offered by the frik moss was to (much to the disappointment but still equal delight of an odd creature named Shelby) turn that old man into a rather pleasant goblin. — Pagona Talbot
Pagona Talbot is the daughter of famed alchemist (and a favorite of the ladies) Gray Talbot and a self proclaimed little witch. She’s famous for many of her strange edible potions but her most notorious one is her Punchnersissky Punch, which makes the stomach glow after one drinks it. Pagona has been heard to say this comes from milking fireflies for the punch recipe. In Orange Moon Downs she is the celebrated author of The Book of Tea, which includes tea facts, tea stories and this day in tea.
is copyright 2016 Bethalynne Bajema. All Rights Reserved.
*Green Tea photograph from http://randomwallpapers.net