The Shenkuu Teahouse
A long time ago, long before the crew of The Cyodrake’s Gaze revealed it to the rest of Neopia, in the land of Shenkuu there lived a little princess by the name of Luna. Her father, Emperor Basdin, was a good ruler, kind and just, and Shenkuu prospered in peaceful serenity.
The Emperor loved his children dearly and gave them everything they wanted, but Luna was never quite happy. She was the youngest, and was often bored growing up. Her older sisters, Anninu and Shakuri, were busy with lessons nearly all day. Because Shakuri was the eldest and the one who would inherit the kingdom from their father, she spent many hours learning how to be a good ruler. Anninu, the second eldest, would become Empress’ Advisor. She, too, spent many hours learning to do this. This was all well and good, but it left nothing for Luna, the youngest. This didn’t bother her for many years, for she had everything she could ever want, although despite this she grew up to be a sweet, caring girl under the watchful eye of her mother, the Empress Havanya.
Although she loved lots of things, Luna had one passion above all else: cooking. From the time Luna was five, the palace cook Mari, a cheerful yellow Ixi, allowed Luna to help her in the kitchens. Luna soon discovered that she was a genius in the kitchen. But after many years, Luna began to grow tired of simply helping in the kitchens. She was sixteen now, a beautiful red Ogrin, and her mother had begun to hint that it was time Luna found something to do for real. And then Pirmikka, the girls’ baby brother, was born. He was the only boy. Therefore he would grow up and inherit a lot of land and money and be rich and important and forever known as the Empress’ Brother. And so one day, Luna went to her father and told him what it was she really wanted.
“Open a restaurant?” Emperor Basdin was shocked and horrified. “My dear daughter, you are a princess! How could you ever think of such a thing?” He twisted his thickly embroidered silk robe, looking terribly worried.
“But I’m good at cooking,” Luna protested. This was her dream, her one great passion. “Please mayn’t I, Father?”
“Absolutely not; I will not hear of it,” Basdin declared, thumping his Royal Scepter on the floor of the chamber. “Go find yourself some nice embroidery this instant, Luna.”
Luna fled the room in tears, and raced to the huge palace gardens. She found her two sisters in the rose garden, sitting on the edge of the fountain, moaning about their homework.
“What a silly way to curtsey; why must it be different for the Jamsahm?” Shakuri asked plaintively, dipping one paw in the fountain.
“He doesn’t even rule much land,” Anninu agreed with a sigh. Both sisters looked remarkably alike: both were tall, slender red Ogrins with large almond-shaped dark eyes and high, narrow cheekbones. Both wore dresses of embroidered silk; Anninu’s was peach, Shakuri’s brilliant yellow.
“Who is the Jamsahm?” Luna asked, her tears dissipating with her curiosity. She sat down next to Anninu.
“A strange ruler of a bordering land who likes to argue with the Emperor of Shenkuu,” Anninu answered sadly. She reached out and patted Luna’s hair. “What brings you out here, lovely Luna? You know, you’re the only one of us with a pretty name,” she added meditatively. “Trust Father to think up the silliest names. Mother named you, Luna, and aren’t you lucky.”
“I suppose there’s worse things than being named Luna,” Luna agreed. She sighed. “But Father won’t listen to me. He says my request is preposterous.”
“What were you requesting?” Shakuri asked, stretching out and fanning her piled-up dark curls with one hoof.
“To open a restaurant,” Luna admitted. “You know how I love cooking, and there’s really nothing else for me to do, save manage some obscure piece of land.” She made a face.
“Hmm...” Shakuri considered this for a bit. “You might talk to Mother.”
“Oh, yes!” Luna cried, jumping up. it was nice having sisters, even if they were so much older than you, and tended to leave you out of things. Anninu smiled.
“Well, Luna, I hope Mother is more open-minded than Father today. Have fun.” She waved as Luna sped off along the path.
She found Empress Havanya in one of the palace’s many sitting rooms, embroidering a new gown. It had long been a tradition for the Royal Family to embroider their own clothes. She was stitching a minuscule bit of a peacock in brightest blue when Luna burst in.
“To what do I owe this sudden and very hurried surprise?” the regal brown Ogrin Empress asked, laughing, as she set down her embroidery.
“Mother, I wish to open a restaurant,” Luna said, getting straight to the point. “But Father says no.”
“And what does Father know of restaurants?” Havanya asked, her warm brown eyes twinkling. “I have seen what wonders you work in the kitchen, my little Lu. I think a restaurant would be perfect. I shall see to it at once.”
The Empress was as good as her word. By noon the next day, one of the unused guard houses along the palace’s outer wall had been converted into a cozy little teahouse, complete with tiny kitchen. Luna spent the rest of the day busily moving in sacks of herbs and ingredients and bags of old crockery, and by evening, the smell that came from the little house was so delicious that people were flocking to see what had caused it. Luna served them tea and little sticky cakes and biscuits and all manner of treats so good that more people came, and Shakuri and Anninu complimented Luna again and again. Havanya was there, too, sipping tea and smiling at Luna.
“I like it,” she announced, and at once palace staff began to mutter:
“The Empress said she likes it! The princess has set up a teahouse, and the Empress likes it!”
Even Pirmikka’s young red Mynci nurse brought little Pirmikka along, and the baby Ogrin ogled at the display and shouted lots of words like: “Pandy! Cakey!’ and ‘Tee!’
The next day after lessons, Luna hurried to her little teahouse to find there was already a long line of none other than the Jamsahm himself (who turned out to be a rather frumpy green Ixi who was not in fact himself at all, but herself, being a lady), and her Royal Retinue, all hungry and thirsty from their long travel. Luna set about serving them at once, and heard the Jamsahm say:
“Why, this butterhotch tea is nearly as good as home!”
Later, when the Royal Retinue was sitting around drinking and eating, Shakuri crept up and told Luna in an awed whisper that the Jamsahm was very greedy and picky and almost never complimented anyone, and this made Luna feel very proud.
But what really made the little Ogrin princess proud was when near the very end of the day, Emperor Basdin suddenly appeared, and boomed out in his very deep, loud voice:
“It seems I was wrong, little Luna. I apologize. You have made everyone very happy indeed, and considerably improved the Jamsahm’s mood, so much that I was able to secure the negotiations.”
And he pulled Luna close in a rather gruff hug.
Later that day he made a Royal Proclamation, and sent out Royal Proclamationers to spread the word throughout Shenkuu. And this is what it said: “I, Emperor Basdin the second, hereby declare that the Youngest Princesses of Shenkuu from here forth be offered the job of Royal Teahouse Keeper.”
And ever after, there was always one bored young Princess (the next one was Luna’s niece) who found her talent in running a little Teashop on the outer wall of the palace, and visitors to Shenkuu’s Royal Palace never went thirsty or hungry again.
So if you ever happen to visit Shenkuu, stop by and say hello to the Teahouse Keeper (who is probably related to the Royal Family), and taste the delicacies invented and improved by generations of talented young princesses. And remember Princess Luna, a little red Ogrin whose dream came true.
Author's Note: There is also no Shenkuu Teahouse, but I wish there were, and there are quite a few little buildings that look likely. Someday, perhaps, Shenkuu really will have a Teahouse. For now, it exists only in my imagination.