Encounters: The Tea-Seller

In the marketplace, or sometimes in other areas of town, there’s a man of indeterminate age who carries a great wooden box on his back. When someone asks him what he sells, he will take the box down off his shoulders. Through a remarkable series of contortions, the box becomes a portable tea brewing stand. That’s what he sells: fresh, hot tea.

The box contains a small jar of hot coals, a few simple tea cups, a tea pot, a larger pot of cool, clear water, tea tools and a paper packet of tea. With the contents of the box, he makes a tea that tastes clean and light. Anyone who drinks it immediately feels refreshed.

The man sometimes has a few tea cakes. The cakes are also very light in taste; in fact, the taste is hard to describe. Different people will alternately describe it as sour or sweet, like flowers or like honey.

The man doesn’t always have tea cakes, and he sometimes refuses to sell them to particular people. In fact, it sometimes seems that the cakes are for specific people; he will almost forcefully offer one person a given cake, while giving another person no cakes at all.

The man himself has short, thinning hair, a scraggly beard and teeth that are slightly yellowed (no doubt from drinking so much tea). He is wiry and muscled and dresses plainly, or perhaps he is just poor. He usually speaks in short sentences, if at all. His prices are very reasonable. If someone is clearly in need of refreshment, he will charge nothing at all.

Possibilities:

  1. The tea has almost magical properties. Anyone who drinks it experiences a rush of old, happy memories, then feels the energy of their youth. (In Blade & Crown terms, let any player whose character drinks the tea describe one of their PC’s happy memories; they may then refresh a Trait related to that memory.)
  2. As one PC drinks some of his tea, the man says something wistful: “Yes, the tea’s almost as good as I could make it.” If the PCs inquire, he’ll mutter something about perfectly pure water that he got in the mountains, and a water spirit who no longer loves him.
  3. Today’s tea is a strangely weak brew. If someone asks, the man just lowers his head and shakes it slowly: “Sorry.” If someone asks further, he’ll explain that his tea won’t work if people are angry. He will not elaborate.
  4. When someone asks for his magical tea, he replies “No, no tea today. You don’t need tea. You only need here, and now.” He then packs up his box and sits in silent contemplation of passerby.
  5. “My tea is good, yes. But no one can match the tea of the Old Mountain Woman…” He then relates the story of a woman who lived above a tea plantation for many years. She came to know every tea plant by name, and would not pluck leaves; instead, once a year, she asked each plant to give her its single best leaf, and because she asked so nicely, they gave it to her. Until an evil man learned of her powers. He took her to each plant and ordered her to collect the best tea, which he sold to buy himself a palace. Next, he forced her to give him the second-best leaves, which he sold and used to buy himself an army. Eventually, he had conquered most of the world, and each plant had only a single leaf left. He ordered her to collect the remaining leaves; as she did so, with each leaf, one of his prized possessions was destroyed. Eventually, as she plucked the last leaf, she died and he was left with nothing more than a bit of moderately good tea. Tea almost exactly like the tea-seller sells, in fact.
  6. After the PCs drink some of his delicious tea, a well-dressed person comes up and accuses the tea-seller of peddling illegal, noxious beverages, and of making the tea wrong, to boot.
  7. The PCs notice that the tea cups nest perfectly within each other, and when you do so, a strange concentric pattern becomes visible. The outlines remind one PC of a shape their mother would sometimes draw in the air when they were little.
  8. After making a last pot of tea, the old man takes out a handful of tea and sprinkles it over himself with a grave look on his face. “For protection,” he says.
  9. The man gives one PC a tea cake, saying “Don’t eat it now. Wait til later.” When the PC later bites into it (it has a light citrus taste), they discover a note baked into the cake.
  10. Only a great prestidigitator can even begin to understand the permutations of his tea box. It always seems to open a different way, even when he’s removing the same objects from it. Perhaps he has a secret compartment or two that contain his stash of really good tea.
  11. He is able to tell fortunes with the tea, but strangely, he says almost nothing when he does so. Instead, the person drinking the tea will suddenly feel the urge to say something; if they say it, it will come true.
  12. The tea seller is usually somewhere in the marketplace, but not always. A mage believes he is slowly tracing a mystic figure across the city. To what purpose?

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