This story was originally intended to be part of the Rin & Girey/Into Lannamer novel. First written in 2010 to a prompt by Eseme for "something about tea", I've cleaned it up a bit. Considering there's a good deal of discussion in Edally Academy's current book, The Missing Treaty, about the Coffee Treaty, this seemed like an appropriate story to repost.
The only context that might be necessary: Rin was a medic in the Calenyena army; Girey, the Prince of the defeated Bitrani, is being masqueraded - not quite willingly - as a duke's son while Rin transports him to her home, the eponymous Lannamer.
Tea-time was one of Rin's favorite rituals, one of the few gentilities that remained to her after years at war. On the trail, it became even more precious - a welcome relief from the saddle, a pause to fill her stomach, the kick in the tea that would keep her awake until it was time to camp.
She brewed the tea herself, the clever little kettle one she had carried from home, the pot and cups wooden trail-gear, the tea the best she could get her hands on. Tea weighed almost nothing, after all. She laid a wide napkin out of the ground, her smirk more for herself than for her "guest", and set out a tin of the hard little road-cakes that, unlike most sweets, traveled fairly well.
Her guest echoed her smirk back at her. He sat across the tablecloth from her, cross-legged and straight-backed, as if they were at some Duke's manor and not in the middle of the stonelands on a barren stretch of rain-scoured rock.
“Our ancestors fought a war over tea,” she told him, as she poured the almost-boiling water over the leaves. “Was that in the books you read?”
“Our ancestors fought wars over just about anything – just like our fathers and grandfathers.” He opened the tin and carefully laid out two cakes each. There weren’t many left in the tin, but, then, they were nearly at the end of their journey.
“Ah, but this was specifically called the Tea War. It wasn’t in your history books?”
“I was never very good at history,” he admitted.
“A pity, in a Duke’s son,” she teased. He, whose nation had fallen in bloody ruin, glowered but didn’t take the bait.
“A war about tea?” he prompted instead.
“One of those situations where a diplomatic meeting went awry. An argument about whether tea should properly be taken with lemons, or with cream and sugar.” She poured tea into the two cups, as carefully as if she’d been serving the emperor. “Luckily, we have neither, so we have nothing to fight over.”
“Who won?” He took his cup cautiously with his shackled hands.
“Does it matter? The wars go on. We win, you win, and it starts again twenty years later.”
“Easy for you to say.” He brandished his chains at her. “Who won?”
“Neither. The two nations, meeting over a table for mediation with seaside Arran-”
“There’s no nation called Arran on the coast - or anywhere.”
“Not anymore. The Arrans, you see, drank coffee. A temporary alliance was formed, and Arran was annexed into the two nations.”
“The Ara cities? Didn’t we fight a war over that?”
“Barely a skirmish.” She sipped her tea, letting a heartbeat, and another, pass. “Your people won that one.”
tea fields image from Wikipedia.