That night, one minute past midnight, I awoke to the sounds of footsteps. I got out of my bed and entered my shop. There I found a figure covered head to toe in a thin, silken veil standing just inside my threshold. I lit candles and lanterns. The stranger glided behind my tea bar and began to pile would into the stove.
The Veiled One had arrived.
With my shop well-lit, I realized the sparkling shroud covering the newcomer appeared transparent, yet no form could be seen under the silken sheets. Instead, I looked through the figure and saw the objects directly behind them. I was transfixed by the sight.
I realized something appeared off about the image seen through the silken sheet. My little tea shop looked different through the lens of this veil. Because of my bewilderment, it took a moment for my mind to recognize what I saw. In my shop, rows of backless bookshelves stood empty, but when looking through the glittering veil, I saw colorful teapots of all shapes and sizes.
Upon making this realization, I gasped, and my breath caught in my throat. The veiled one turned towards me and spoke. Their voice seemed to be a whisper, but it was not unpleasant. Just far away. It sounded like the voice of a person speaking as they walked toward you. Every word grew a little stronger, a little clearer than the last.
“You have realized something. What is it?”
I sat at the bar and stared at my hands for a long time; I answered, “I don’t remember how long I’ve been serving tea beneath this waterfall or where I came from before I arrived. I realized that I will never remember these things.”
The ghostly figure said nothing. They placed a pot of water on the stove and began looking over my shelves. I pointed to the small package the sagely professor gifted me. “There, that one is Reindeer Lichen. You can make a rich tea with that.” Veiled hands open the package and place tiny green twigs into my last teapot. A moment later, they poured the water and we waited for the tea to steep
As I sat in silence, I realized the last card in my Deck of Secrets lay facedown on the bar. I stared at it and understood the expression that crossed the faces of my visitors when I presented my deck.
“You have had many visitors,” the veiled one said, “how do you know them?”
I stared at the card as I spoke. My answer came naturally; without thought.
“I reminded a mother that love never dies.
I helped a soldier let go of a few regretful words when sacrificing his honor would have been the greatest regret of all.
I showed a wise man that his wise words could impact the world in ways that far exceeded his understanding.
I gave a hermit a token, a seed of bravery she could plant in the hearts of many. For doing so, they will make her a queen.
I refused the offer presented by the sorceress and set her on a path of redemption.
And though I didn’t understand a single word he said, I spoke to a tiny God and gave him an offering of food.”
The veiled one poured the tea and placed it on the bar in front of me. I flipped the card and found the image of a long and dusty road. Along either side of the road sat lanterns. The space between the lanterns varied in size. Some places along the road were dark and filled the shadows while others were brightly lit and colorful. It was a beautiful card.
As I sipped my tea, tears rolled down my cheeks. I began to laugh. My tears were not of sorrow. The veiled one tilted its covered head to the side, a gesture of confusion. They didn’t understand why I cried and laughed at the same time.
Eventually, they asked, “what do you believe is beyond the tea shop?”
I took deep breaths, and my laughter and joyful sobs calmed enough for me to speak.
Another big thank you to Zachariah Van Sluyters for producing and performing the narrations. His work made the story come alive in ways I couldn’t have imagined,
I recommend checking out more of his content on YouTube as well as his Linktree.
He’s got a lot of exciting work coming.
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