The Legacy of the Tall Oaks: The Tea Maker’s Beginning by Anna Newton
From the moment I was born I noticed things in the eyes of my parents. I noticed I was loved, and I noticed that a conflict was brewing in the Tall Oak Forest. At least, that’s what we call home. It was a conflict, a conflict between the humans and the animals. It is a battle that has lasted for centuries. Tall Oaks once was a peaceful community, but when the humans came, centuries ago, they just decided to settle down, and live on our land! Of course we were infuriated about this. So long story short, we declared war on them. They don’t know that though. They can’t understand us. But we can understand them. That’s the way it is to this day. I know my parents wanted me to live in a peaceful environment. They did not get their wish.
The day I was born was a, warm, sunny, spring day. I stared into my mom’s eyes with wonder. Like I said, I could read their expressions that day. Loving, yet worried expressions. All the surrounding creatures had similar expressions, joyful and fearful.
“We’ll call her Daisy, like the beautiful flower that has bloomed in the meadow today,” my mother announced. The surrounding crowd cheered. “Daisy dear, can you try to stand?”
I nodded and clambered to my feet. I wobbled and fell in the soft grass. I tried again, and I did it! I stood! Everyone cheered again, this time some jumping up and down. When I started to wobble, Mother was there to support me.
“There you are my dear.”
Then, my father perked up and cautiously studied our surroundings.
“Hunters!” he yelled. My mother rushed me deep into the forest, my father close behind. When we reached our den, we just kept running. Whoosh! A man made arrow shot past me, missing me by a hair. There was a yell of pain and then silence. A rabbit just ahead of us was shot. We just kept running. Another arrow flew past. My father ran ahead of us and dove into a small cave. We followed. The other animals did not follow.
I saw many animals die that terrible day. When my father was certain the humans were gone, he bounded out of the cave. When he came back, his hooves were covered in blood.
“I-I tried to save the ones with some life still in them. B-but not many survived. Some escaped, I could tell. But everyone else is dead,” my father stammered, shaking his head. “Those humans are killers and they will never change.” I was asleep when he said this, but my mother always believed that phrase was true. Everyone was like that it seemed.
But there was one animal that did not believe in it. Her name was Liliana Yubarra. She was an elderly marmot that lived on a desolate cliff in Red Rose Canyon. She makes and sells tea. She is said to be a crazy old hermit. I met her for the first time in a not so pleasant way.
A few months after I was born, my mother took me for a walk all the way around the forest. It took a wile, but I saw everything. We saw Rock Grove, Mountain Peak, Shiny Glare Creek, Daffodil Creek, Evergreen Clearing, Tall Oak, the Olive Marsh, and we saw the Black Caves, where my mother was extra alert because she said bears lived there. When we came upon Berry Grove, where the rabbits lived, my friend Azalia came to greet us.
“Came for a breakfast of berries, I presume?”
“No Azalia. We’re just out for a walk.”
“Ohhh! Can I come too?” Azalea squealed.
“Ask your aunt first.”
“AUNT MAGPIE!” she hollered.
“Just what is the matter?” Azalia’s aunt called back as she walked up to the trio.
“Mrs.Hare! Your niece just wanted to join us for a walk and…” Mother said nervously.
“And you thought it best ask me first!”
“Can I go? Please?” Azalea interrupted.
“No! You may not go! This is their walk and I will not let a little brat like you ruin it!”
“She won’t be any trouble…” Mother trailed off again.
“My answer is final! Get inside and start on your mopping!”
“Yes auntie. Goodbye Daisy.”
My mother turned to me.
“We have one more stop.”
“What is it?”
“Rose Red Canyon. It’s a little ways south.”
“Is there something important there?”
“You will see, my dear. You will see.”
After about a half hour trek across rocky terrain, we reached a deep gorge.
“I see why it is called Rose Red. It looks sort of red.”
“Yes my dear. Follow me.”
My mother started the steep decent down the side of the canyon. I followed, but with shaky legs, for I was afraid of heights. To my surprise, my legs gave way. I tumbled painfully down the side of the canyon. Then I stopped. I looked up. I saw my mother, still coming down, with a worried look in her eyes. And I saw a weasel-like thing staring down at me. I scrambled to get away from it. I soon found my head hanging off a ledge. I clambered over to my mother, and dove under the protection of her legs, trembling.
“W-Who is t-that?” I stammered.
“That is Liliana Yubarra. She is the rodent we came to see.” my mother answered. “Liliana, This is my daughter Daisy.”
“Hello dearie. Dandelion, would you care for some tea?”
“Yes. Thats why we’re here. I would like a heavy of lavender tea please.”
“You mean a pound?”
“No! A heavy. We don’t use the same measure means a the humans!”
“It’s the same thing. How will you pay?”
“A new walking stick? My husband jut shed his ant-“
“It’ll do. Give it.” She held out a paw. My mother gave it to her. “Nice strong bone. Wait here while I get your order.” She shuffled into a nearby cave. While she was gone, I asked my mother what had been on my mind this whole time.
“Mother, what kind of animal is Ms.Yubarra?”
“No one knows for sure, but she is said to be a marmot. The last marmot in this forest.”
At those words, Liliana shuffled out with our tea in hand. Then she said the oddest thing I had ever heard.
“If that daughter of yours ever needs an occupation, she is always welcome in the tea business!” Then she shuffled back into her cave. Leaving mother and I alone on a desolate ledge on Red Rose Canyon.
“Come on then. Let’s go home.”
It has been ten years. My mother and I are having a job conversation in the meadow.
“You must go Daisy. It is time you find an occupation. You are 10 years old. That is when I became a weaver.”
“Mom! You know I HATE weaving. It’s especially dreadful with these hooves.”
“I have another job for you to try out.”
“What is that?”
“It was asked of you ten years ago by Liliana Yubarra.”
“That old hermit who called herself a tea seller?”
“Why can’t I be an apprentice gardener like Azalia?”
“That is a job for bunnies. I know you don’t like this, and I don’t either. But you have to.”
“Uhhgghhh! What will I say?”
“Here. Read this speech I wrote for you when you get there.”
I gave her my ‘Whaaat?’ look.
“Mom, I think a speech is pushing it.”
“Just read it.”
“And Daisy. We are the leaders of the forest. So, as a result, we have to be role models.” my dad said, just dropping his opinion into OUR conversation.
“Yes dad. Gotta get going. Bye!” at that Daisy skip out the door to her new work place. Rose Red Canyon.
“Oh! Can you get me some basil tea! A light please!” my mother called after me.
When I was walking by Berry Grove, a strawberry blonde bunny blocked my path.
“Where are you going so early?”
“My new apprenticeship.”
“Who and where.”
“Liliana Yubarra, Red Rose Canyon.”
“Ohhh. Can I come with you? I do have to collect some pumpkin seeds. The best ones are on that side of the forest.”
“Of course you can come. Especially if you are supposed to.”
“Yippieee! I just need to get my basket.”
Soon we where walking down the path like old friends (because we were).
“By the way what is that paper tied to your ankle?”
“A speech from my father.”
Azalia chortled at that. “Classic self con-“ She was cut off by me shushing her. We were walking right past where the bears roamed: the Black Caves. There we had to be extra alert, for bears eat creatures like us. But soon we got past it and started our normal behavior again.
In about an hour we reached the desolate canyon. Then we went our separate ways, for we both had different reasons for coming here. I started my steep and rocky decent down the canyon wall. Here and there I stumbled over a pebble, but unlike that day ten years ago I managed to catch my balance. Then I saw her cave. I wouldn’t have called it a cave. Just a large, deep hole in a canyon wall.
“Lilliana!” I called.
“Oh I’m not taking customers today!” A faint voice called from deep inside the cave.
“I’m here for a job!”
“Who sent you?”
“My mother, Daffodil!”
There was a moment of shuffling coming from the cave. Then, a long, chestnut brown thing came shuffling out of the cave. Then it squinted.
“Daisy? Is that you?”
“Yes. It’s me.”
“OH! Oh, oh, oh! You finally came! You’re so tall!”
“How do you know me?”
“Hmmm. Can’t explain now. Gotta get to work. Come with me!”
“But…should I come back some other time?”
“Why would you do that?”
“You aren’t serving customers today.”
“Oh… that. I was just putting on an act. Until you came of course.”
I followed Liliana into the cave. Oddly enough, it was elegantly furnished. In one corner there was a large cot covered in a fluffy blanket made of tan wool. I spotted the embroidered initials of my mother on one corner. On the other side of the room there were silky pillows. In the far side of the room there was a large wood slab. On it there were over a dozen jars of ground herbs, flowers, and dried fruit. Off to the side there were two large crates filled with whole versions of the things in the jars. There was also a big, round, fat rock in the middle of the wood slab.
“So…what am I supposed to do?”
“Make tea of course.”
“Exactly how do I do that?”
“Well duh. I’ll teach you. You are an apprentice. Not an employee.”
“All right. So, where do we start?”
“Well at the jar shelf of course.”
Liliana hobbled over to the low table. Then she opened a series of jars. I just stared, keeping track of every jar she opened and what she took out. Peaches, apples, basil, and rose petals.
“I call his one Tree Fruit Zing.”
“Ooh. Nice name.”
“Thank you very much dear. Now we grab the chopping rock. We put everything in a large pile, so it can be crushed all together and absorb each other’s flavors. Then you…”
I nor Liliana knew it, someone was watching this whole lesson. He was a bedraggled man that was looking for adventure. You could not tell that from his outside though. He was old and very skinny, he wore a thin deer skin for warmth and a rabbit skin hat. As I made clear before, he did not seem the type for adventure, but you could see it in his eyes. As you must be wondering, how exactly did this man get to Liliana’s cave? Well, glad you asked. He was board and decided to take a hike along the canyon near his wigwam. On his hike he heard faint squeaking noises below him. So he went to investigate. He slowly went down the path along the side of the canyon (We do not use this. We did not even know of this.) and came upon Liliana’s cave.
Now back to important matters. Liliana took me over the third and final step of the tea making process.
“Now you put the mixture in a small bowl and take it over to the packaging station. All of these burlap bags are made by your mother’s company. She is an amazing weaver. you should be proud my dear.”
“Uh, thanks. Now what?”
“Well, you need to put whatever flavor of tea you are making in one of the correctly labeled bags. They are arranged in alphabetical order. We are making Tree Fruit Zing so we would goes to the sixth pile of bags. You gently pour it in, and loop twine through the holes in the top. Last of all, you bring it over to the shelf, where it’ll dry to be sold. Any questions?”
“Well great! Will you please bag for me for the next hour or so that we have left?”
“Thanks for being so willing.”
I sat down next to the large piles of burlap sacks. I started to cut long pieces of the rough twine. Liliana soon came over with a bowl of freely mixed tea. She then said one word to me,”Lavender.” I found the bag I needed and slowly poured the tea into the bag. I wrapped the twine and set the sack aside.
An hour of that flew by. It was time to leave. That time came too soon.
“Bye Liliana! See you tomorrow!”
“Bye dearie, Have a nice evening!”
Then I remembered something.
“Oh! I almost forgot!”
“What do you want dear?”
“Can I please have a light of lavender tea? For my mother.”
“Yes of course.”
Liliana shuffled back into the cave and came out holding the first sack I filled.
“For your father.”
“Wait. It’s for my mother.”
“No, your mother couldn’t drink this much tea in one week. The new thing is to chew tea leaves. I’ve seen your father doing it.”
“But why wouldn’t mother tell me.”
“Well she didn’t want you to know because he is addicted to it.”
Then we both shared a good laugh. It was the funniest thing I had heard about my father.
It was a gloomy morning. There were clouds covering the sun, and all the flowers seemed to be shriveled. There was rain coming down in buckets, and showed no sign of stopping. I trotted clumsily down the soggy dirt path to the canyon. I was excited to start my day working for Liliana in her cozy cave. It had been three weeks since my first day. I had learned every recipe for teas from peppermint to rainforest bamaba. She taught me how to bargain and trade for goods that were actually worth it. It had been great! But when I walked into the cave, I noticed something was up with my furry friend. She hesitated to let me in and looked timid. Then I saw him. There was a small, frail man lying on the cushion bed. He looked very cold. I gasped in fear. Humans are known for killing animals like us. I looked at Liliana.
“What is a HUMAN doing here?” I asked her in a trembling voice.
“Don’t fret Daisy. I rescued this poor man from the cold.”
“But…he’s…a…human,” I said through gritted teeth.
“He’s quite harmless in this state. Or any state for that matter. He carries no weapon.”
“Let me explain.”
Lilliana shuffled over to the hearth and made us some tea. We sat down and she told me the woeful tale of the man in the cave. Though I can’t quote exactly, here is the tale she told me…
I spotted him sliding down the side of the canyon, close to falling. He looked cold, and was calling out for help through the rainstorm. He seemed very lost. The poor man was stuck out in the worst of the storm. When he saw the light from my cave, he liked towards it. He smiled at me, then fell to his knees. I scurried over and told him to come inside. of course, he only head squeaks. I gestured to my cave instead. He tried to get up but needed assistance. I came over and tried to help him up. His hands were cold as ice! I do not know how I managed it, but I helped him up. He limped over to my cave. He saw my bed and shot me a longing look. I nodded and he sat down. He wrapped himself in your mother’s blanket. I made him some tea, and he drank it in two gulps. I could see he was getting warmer, for his trembling had stopped. He soon lay down and fell asleep. Here he is now.
“Wow!” I had said. “Amazing! I guess he is innocent after all.”
“Mmmm. Now! To work now dear. You are on mixing duty today. I have a list of recipes for you.”
I sighed. “Yes Ma’am.”
The man rushed through the forest. It was now sun down, an the had left the marmot’s cave. He had seen everything he needed. When the doe left, he had snuck a peek at the recipes for the tea. He needed them so he stole them. He reached into his pocket to make sure it was still in his possession. H eva reached his hut.
“Akalu, where have you been?” a woman asked with her hands on her hips. “I was worried sick with the storm and everything!”
“Neena, I’m fine. I know this might sound odd, but I was saved by a rodent. She owns a tea making business in the animal world.”
“You’re crazy? Get some rest so your mind can rest.”
“Hmph. Fine, Neena.”
Before Akalu went to sleep that night, he looked at the paper he had stolen. He thought hard about how he could prove his sister wrong. Then it came to him. I could open up my own the business! He thought. I could use these recipes, and be rich!
Then next morning when I approached Liliana’s cave, I heard rushed pacing.
“Liliana?” I asked. “Are you okay?”
I walked into the cave. I found Liliana pacing, weeping as she went.
“Liliana, what is the matter?”
“The recipes… The supplies…Everything gone!” Liliana stammered, bursting into tears.
“Oh my! Someone must’ve stolen it!”
“B-But who would do such a thing? No animal would.”
“That’s the thing…”