China had been a mistake.
Father Garrett knew that now.
The endless green valleys of Chalan—and the bandits who called it home—were unforgiving towards travelers. From their perches in the gingko trees, they swooped down on unsuspecting itinerants to promptly relieve them of currency, tea, and the burden of anything else valuable. Father Garrett had been warned about them, but it was another matter entirely to meet them face-to-face. The reverend presented only a small obstacle, and after it was over, he sat in the dusty road for some time, rubbing a sore jaw.
It was indecent of the fellows to rob him, and they needn’t have been so rough. He looked about at the scattered remnants of his bag—mostly collars, clothes, the few ragged books they had left him, and a small cylindrical device that had gotten tossed across the road.
“I should be grateful the ruffians did not take everything,” he said to comfort himself, trying not to think about how the encounter might have ended. He also did not want to think about how the loss of his money might alter the rest of his journey. The sun poured over his black hat and clothing, and the garments stifled him like tar.
From his coat, he took a few thin, stamped wafers of a tea brick and slipped them into his wallet as they were the only currency he now possessed. If all else failed, he had heard it was possible to eat these powdered, hammered rectangles of tea. Continue reading