An Argument Over Tea
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The following short story was written by renown Veesprootian author Zebbaluis Binficury, most famous for writing The Life and Times of Deberik Gimes quadrilogy. It was originally published in the Sunny Times newspaper in 54,490 A.E. (After Existence) to lukewarm reviews, and the work itself became overshadowed by Deberik Gimes about a decade later. Today, Binficury scholars see it as an underappreciated and interesting addition to the author's bibliography.

If one were to ask where the table in the center of the dining room came from, they would be disappointed to know that the only thing anyone really knew about it was that a previous club member (everyone had their own theory as to who) ordered it and had it placed in the room for future meetings.

And if it were being honest with itself, the table didn't really know either.

Its memories before coming to 934 Rewaanauk Way were fuzzy at best, so it often speculated its origins as a way of passing the time. It liked to imagine that it was lovingly crafted in a workshop by some old carpenter. After all, it had curved legs with a design that reminded it of great beasts that the club members sometimes talked about, all attached to a smooth rectangular surface. Who else could put such dedication and care into its design than a kindly old gentleman? But then again, for all it knew, it could've been assembled and created in a sterile factory and carved by multitudes of stone-faced workers, all likely under the employ of one of the aforementioned club members. After all, the chairs also had stylized legs, but they were identical to each other, and their undersides proudly displayed the words EMCAcorp on them, so it wouldn't be surprised if it was the product of some corporation (there were no obvious logos on it, so there was that).

Regardless of where it came from, the table tried to find things to think about. It couldn't really do much else other than listen, think and look around itself. The chairs weren't exactly good conversationalists, and apart from the occasional maid, nobody really gave it much attention. To the table, time was either spent by thinking about whatever topic that came to its mind or listening to whatever discussion Club Fygarup was having.

The table knew from conversations that it was located in 934 Rewaanauk Way, a rather big house in one of the more wealthier neighborhoods in New Devenstafdt. The house was owned by the Fygarup family, rich sugar tycoons with a lineage that dated back centuries. In recent years, a Fygarup patriarch founded Club Fygarup, were only the most richest and snootiest could afford membership. The club members would regularly come to the house, sit around the table with some delicacy on their plates, and talk about the economy, politics, new factories they've built, new mansions they've inherited, how much land they own, and what kind of animal they hunted today.

But the most intense conversations almost always happened when tea was involved. To the table, tea would be associated with the times when that veil of haughtiness broke down. And one very specific meeting.

It was a Moobsday, and the maids had cleaned and prepared the table for the arriving club members. Some of the club members were old money aristocrats who arrived to the house in unicorn-drawn carriages, while others were self made captains of industry who arrived in, from what the table overheard, the fanciest looking cars they could possibly afford.

Then there was Lord Fygarup, who arrived in a car pulled by unicorns. Judging by the heavy breathing and panting after his arrival, the unicorns weren't exactly happy with pulling it.

No club member looked alike. All had different shapes, colors, appendages, sizes, and limbs. Yet all of them wore similar clothing, usually a black suit with a top hat situated somewhere in the head.

They would all filter into the room, shaking appendages and exchanging stiff greetings, then sit in their respective chairs, where the introduction ceremony would start, in which a servant went through all the names of the club members, who would say present upon hearing their name. The table knew all of them by now. There was Sir Brigritsi Polaumus the Second, the compound-eyed businessman who sat on the third chair to the right. Second chair to the left was Count Cfyghanin of Bototy, whose antenna was slightly shorter than everyone else's (he was really self-conscious about it). Who could forget Mister Juppados Waliazik Yeripa, the oil baron who lost a tentacle in the Suzerbani War who sat on the fifth chair to the left?

And of course, at the edge to the left and right first chairs, sat the gracious host, His Most Brilliant Excellence, Lord Frevaldi Gupernuper Xadernau Gebigar Hynderly Vurprus Ravinus Delferatuminario Quesaregindi Dopolo Juhgretomantus Andy Fijstalibedos Fygarup the Thirty Ninth, esq.

Apparently he really liked his name, and got really huffy if the servant missed a name or didn't say it correctly. It didn't help that the poor lad never had a list when announcing. Thankfully, that was the only time anyone had to say his full name.

Then the house cooks brought out the food. This time, however, it wasn't a Derjun octopus or a two-headed boar that was just removed from a spit-roast. They weren't very hungry, so the gentlemen of Club Fygarup wanted something light for a meal while they discussed their priorities, so the meal consisted of blue caviar, ficklenut bread, smoked sausage, green-and-yellow salad, terreberries, and a small cheesecake with purple syrup.

But then ceramic cups would be brought out, along with several kettle pots filled with freshly brewed tea. See, when the beverage was wine or champagne, the club members would all share and drink it with a hearty toast. But when it was tea, every member wanted a different type, and were very specific about the condition it was served in. Thus, every tea for each member was unique in one way or another.

The table remembered feeling a strong sense of unease when the last cup was poured.

The gentlemen would toast with their utensils (to not spill the hot tea) and start eating. The table could only watch as they ate, and wonder how food would taste like if it could eat it. Probably very good, according to their expressions.

Then the conversations would start. "What a beautiful weather we are having!" said Sir Orlgoffin, the orange-furred cyclops who sat on the first chair to the left. "If only somebody could invent a machine for us to keep a weather like this forever."

"I say, old boy!" said Count Cfyghanin. "There are some fine young minds working at Bubosin Industries right now. Mayhaps we could commission such a machine from them!"

"Pah! Those whippersnappers at Bubosin are nothing but trouble, I tell you!" spat Earl Dirling Countinghoof, the oldest of the members judging by his slimy skin. "They're the ones doing that business with the computers. What was it? To 'personalize' them or something? Bunch o' tomfoolery, I tell you!"

"Indeed. Why on earth would you want a personal computer? I say, young folks these days don't know what they are inventing!" said Lord Fygarup. "Back in the good old days, inventors knew what they created were exactly what the masses needed. I think these youngsters need to 'personalize' their lives and do something actually useful!"

They all then laughed. The table wasn't sure whether they actually found that funny or because Lord Fygarup told a joke.

They were pretty enthusiastic about other developments in modern technology, however. "My company had just purchased several of those mining drill trucks everyone's talking about!" exclaimed the five-armed Mister Faxxis Milderky. "Soon, Milderky Mining will be able to dig through several caverns at once without the workers complaining!"

"I think you mean the Pnuema-Truck 99880, developed by Stratosphere Incorporated, owned by yours truly," said Sir Burhko Wusilton with a sly smile on his mandibles.

"Oh yes, that was Stratosphere! Congrats on that, old boy!" laughed Mister Milderky.

Then the conversation would shift to whatever topic the club felt like discussing, from Mister Milderky's recent divorce, to the large stock purchase that Sir Orlgoffin made, to Mister Yeripa expressing his desire to start a PMC ("I've improved on my tactics from the war. This time, a squad should only lose about half of its combatants!"), to Earl Countinghoof ranting about the latest scandal caused by his grandson ("Do you know how hard it is to frame that as a prank gone wrong!?")

And so on and so forth. But all the table could really think about was the inevitable moment when it all goes wrong.

It finally came when they were talking about assistants.

"The nerve of that young woman!" exclaimed Sir Polaumus the Second. "Doesn't she know that she has a paycheck that most would kill for? Yet she keeps on asking for 'better working conditions'. Ungrateful, that girl, I tell you!"

"I say give her a good slap. Worked for my first wife," chuckled Mister Milderky.

"It's not just that. She passes out every 30 minutes, consumes an ungodly amount of coffee, is all jittery, and worst of all, she only finishes 110 of the papers I give to her! She doesn't even remember where she put half of them!" proclaimed Polaumus. "Yes, I did give her a cramped office and made her file literally every page of paperwork that comes into my office, but that is no excuse for such unprofessionalism!"

"Mayhaps this be another reason to turn to Bubosin, old boy?" asked Count Cfyghanin. "While they are a bit eccentric in their endeavors, those computers of theirs are quite handy. You can store all the files you want on them without ever having to worry about losing them!"

"With all due respect, Cfyghanin, you seem to be a bit too focused on collaborating with those upstarts," said the droopy-eyed Baron Jofulton, who sat to Cfyghanin's right. "Why are you so preoccupied with them?"

"You all may jest and laugh, but is it wrong to look to our country's youngest and brightest for progress from time to time?" asked the count. "After all, convincing them to switch sides would be profitable in the long run, no?"

"Are you sure everything is alright with your tea?" asked Jofulton.

That was it. The moment the table was dreading.

Cfyghanin frowned.

"Come again?"

"I'm saying, is your tea alright? Nothing was put in it?" asked Jofulton

"No," said Cfyghanin. "Al least, I'm certain there isn't anything. This is Yumonian tea, my favorite."

"Oh, that explains the smell," said Jofulton.

"What are you saying?" said Cfyghanin, narrowing his eyes.

"I was just worried about your health, old friend! I was certain that you may have drank poisoned tea and rotted your brain as a result, especially with the smell coming from it! But that was just Yumonian tea, I see now."

Cfyghanin now looked angry. "Yumonian tea is positively delicious, you swine! Its taste and aroma is for gentlemen who can handle a tang to the taste buds! But I wouldn't be too surprised that a Relith drinker doesn't find it bland enough to his liking!"

Jofulton dropped his beak in offense. "Bland!? Relith is created to soothe the body and calm the soul! You actually prefer to drink the chemical waste that is Yumonian? Maybe your antenna are different sizes because your brain didn't develop properly!"

"You take that back!" shouted Cfyghanin in indignation. "Relith is down there with Uvko as the worst tea blend ever devised by mortal minds!"

Sir Orlgoffin, the resident Uvko drinker, narrowed his one eye in anger. "Uvko is a perfectly fine drink!" he said. "While everyone else the same 4 or 5 herbs for their blends, Drefus Uvko came up with using Hynfil seeds to distinguish himself from everyone else. If anything, it should be Biree at the bottom!"

Sir Wusilton stood up, his snout morphed into a furious scowl. "Biree is the perfect tea blend! I can't believe that I'm sitting at the same table as a filthy Uvko drinker! What next, someone here drinks Trugofan? If so, I would like to forever sever ties with that primitive ignoramus!"

"Up yours, you filthy Biree lover! I didn't even need those tacky trucks anyway!" shouted Mister Milderky.

The argument continued, escalating as the gentlemen of Club Fygarup, save for Lord Fygarup himself, raised their voices louder and louder as they tried to describe why their favorite blend was superior to all others. It reached to a point where almost all of them where standing from their chairs yelling at no one in particular, wildly gesturing into the air with the digit waving and furor of a passionate preacher (the table didn't really know what that looked like, it was just the analogy one of the maids used to describe their fights). The voices soon became indistinguishable from one another, and all the table could really think about is how much it hurt having to hear so many loud voices all at once.

Eventually, the club members, exhausted with yelling, have sat back down at their chairs to continue their meal. The table knew what would happen next. The gentlemen of Club Fygarup would sit at the table in silence, drinking their tea while giving each other the dirtiest look possible. Then Lord Fygarup would change the subject, and the club members would forget that the argument had even happened in the first place.

The first 15 minutes went as the table predicted. The club members ate their food, not one of them talking. Many drank their tea slowly while looking around angrily, as if to let everyone know that yes, they were drinking the tea and they were liking it. This continued until Lord Fygarup spoke with a smile:

"You know, my dear fellows, on the topic of tea, I have acquired several boxes of lovely Arjung tea from my trip to Muserka. Let me tell you, I have never before tasted a more perfect blend! It is soothing yet energetic, spicy yet mild, calming yet not boring. I could get you all a sample for our next meeting, as it is truly the end all and be all of tea, if I do say so myself!"

Dread filled the table again. Never before had Lord Fygarup decided to weigh in his opinion on tea. The other club members looked confused, as if unsure how to react to the situation. Some mumbled something under their breaths, while others weakly nodded at Fygarup. But then Cfyghanin said out loud:

"The only people who like Arjung are tea-bag drinkers."

There was dead silence. The other club members looked at the count with wide eyes and dropped mouths. Cfyghanin himself had a mortified expression on his face. Fygarup only looked at Cfyghanin with a blank stare. Everything seemingly froze in place. In Club Fygarup, there was no insult greater than suggesting that someone drank their tea from tea-bags. To declare such a thing was to insult not only the man, but also his honor. At this point, the table started to feel scared.

Lord Fygarup then suddenly stood up, his gelatinous mass jiggling as he did so. He put his paws on the edge of the table, gripping it hard. The table could feel how his fat digits painfully pressed against its wood. Between pain and terror it felt, the table, more than it ever wanted to in its entire memory, wanted to flee, to escape, to get away from this room right this instant, preferably as far away as possible. But it knew it couldn't.

This is it, it thought.

Then, Fygarup let go of the edge. He glared at Cfyghanin as the latter wilted. The table couldn't remember the last time Fygarup was genuinely this angry.

"The club meeting is hereby cancelled early for today," he said in an uncharacteristically low voice.

The gentlemen of Club Fygarup all quietly walked out of the room. Soon after, servants would come in to take away the half-empty dishes and roll up the cover. Then maids would come in the clean the table. Its mind was blank.

Some time later, another club meeting was called. The gentlemen of Club Fygarup once again came into the room, as if nothing had happened in the previous club meeting. This time, however, the drink was Rumian champagne, and there was noticeably a lack of Count Cfyghanin of Bototy sitting on the second chair to the left. Apparently, all his assets in New Devenstafdt closed as he moved to Chenenby for "better business opportunities." He had never come back since.

Thus, life continued. The table knew that the outside world probably changed as time went on. Yet, from its point of view, the only thing that really changed was whoever was sitting on one of the chairs. Some, like Earl Countinghoof, passed away, other left the club for one reason or another. But the conversations were always the same, tea arguments including. No matter what happened, the table would remain sitting in the same room, surrounded the same chairs.

It didn't know how long it's been since that incident, but now there was another club meeting being held, this time by different Fygarup, with a bunch of different faces.

But all the table could think about during that meeting was what would happen if it could talk.

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