Zalfrey Venom

Taseino approaches the counter, his expression impassive. “I take it you heard all that?”

My expression must be equally careful. “Oh yes,” I say. It’s a new customer who has heard of zalfrey venom, an ingredient just discovered in the Cataclysm. She’s demanding tea made from it, and won’t accept “anything less.”

As it turns out, we do in fact have the ingredient on hand, but Lorwyn has not yet finished developing a stable blend that any of us can brew for customers. Least of all one with this attitude.

“Obviously I’m not experimenting with zalfrey venom,” Taseino says calmly. “Would you like to get involved? Under the circumstances I’m comfortable asking her to leave, but she’s likely to escalate to you.”

Taseino’s ability to read a situation has grown astronomically in a short period of time. This response from him after Iskielo’s similar encounter reassures me that I don’t need to do more than I already am to counteract any other influences in their lives: the fact that they have both separately come to me about holding boundaries means I’m doing right by them.

But Taseino also knows me well, and how I will take a customer who has gone well beyond insistent into rude and dangerous. This kind of demand could get him hurt, if Taseino had the poor sense to abide by it. Even attempting to exert that kind of pressure is enough that I would feel justified banning this older woman forever.

I’m beginning to understand this is a consequence of the notoriety of the tea tournament. These are new customers coming to the shop who aren’t part of our community and need to be taught not just who we are beyond magical tea specialists, but also what appropriate service entails. And in how many ways the world can be special.

“I’ll take over from here,” I say. “Don’t return to the table.”

That we safely brew magic tea has evidently made the rounds of news among entitled classes, so it’s time I start circulating some additional stories.

I judge my ingredients carefully, and begin.


I deliver the tea tray without a bow. “A special order of zalfrey venom tea, for your enjoyment.”

The woman glares. “What happened to the boy?”

Ah, so that’s the particular shape of her entitlement. I’ll not countenance it.

“Developing blends is not part of his job responsibilities,” I say calmly. “Since you claimed you could not be otherwise satisfied, I am pleased to serve you in his stead.”

She rolls her eyes. “This is the problem with youth. You attempt to give them opportunities for growth, and they go out of their way to avoid it. And you let him.”

“Rather than force him to perform a service he is not trained or compensated for, certainly,” I say.

She crosses her arms. “And how is he supposed to learn individual responsibility?”

I tilt my head to one side. “What a fascinating perspective. As it happens, without your questionable tutelage, he knows his limits and when it is ludicrous something is expected to be his responsibility. I am proud to say he made the correct judgment that he should absolutely not be in charge of serving potentially poisonous ingredients to customers without oversight.”

She frowns at me. “Don’t you sass me. It is the responsibility of elders to teach young people—”

I cut her off. “It is not your job to oversee the development of any employee here; it is mine. Your interference is unwelcome and will not be permitted.”

Will not be permitted?”

“You have received the tea you demanded. My employee has successfully kept someone expecting services outside the scope of his job from exploiting him and his youth,” I say coldly. “Thank you for this teachable moment.

The woman shuts her mouth, blinking rapidly, as she finally realizes I am not only not ashamed of myself or Taseino’s performance but actively furious with her and tries to sort out how she lost control of this interaction so badly.

“Is the tea to your taste?” I ask coolly.

She glances down and sips it for the first time. I watch her consider protesting, but ultimately she nods. “It is. You have targeted my tastes precisely.” She frowns more severely at the tea. “I was not expecting that.”

“Our tea brewer designs blends to appeal to a broad spectrum of tastes. I specialize in targeting individuals specifically.”

I let that hang in the air for a long moment.

“I will remember that,” the customer finally manages.

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One thought on “Zalfrey Venom

  1. A/N: So, funny story about this one. I keep a running document of prompts for future Tea Shop Interludes as ideas occur to me, right? Last week I pulled it up, found a prompt that looked good, went about my business. Then when I went to save the new Tea Shop Interlude I discovered–exactly where they should have been, I only didn’t notice them before because it would have involved scrolling down (my Tea Shop Interludes are listed in chronological order that I wrote them, and we’re past 30 now! o_O)–full outlines for two new scenes.

    I had no memory of writing these outlines until I rediscovered them. The dates indicate I did this the week after my wedding, which explains why. Apparently I was still so mentally exhausted at that time that my brain didn’t manage to record drafting entire scene outlines into long-term memory?? which is both hilarious and horrifying.

    But one of those outlines was for a scene responding to *the exact same prompt* I wrote last week, but with entirely different details. And coherent, too, so my brain was at least working that well.

    Anyway, I decided to also write the one I outlined first, mostly because I’m amused that I came up with two functional takes on the same one-line prompt I’d left for myself, but also as a kind of illustration. It reminds me why organization in tracking stories is important: not because I won’t have new ideas, but because I won’t necessarily have the *same* idea a second time!

    Then again, in this case I’m happy with both of them, so there’s another reminder: a story seed is not the same as a story. Different writers will do different things with the same prompt, but *so can the same writer*. Ideas alone aren’t what make a story. ❤


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