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Slayers - Tea Leaves

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By Skiyomi
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Tea Leaves.

Filia had known that life wouldn't always be easy for a dragon living among humans. Hadn't she encountered places in her journeys where dragons were feared or completely forbidden? And even most otherwise kind and fair humans could have a tendency to be a little nervous around a creature that could breathe lasers and level buildings.

Thankfully, the thriving family community of Achaea had welcomed her with open arms. She had been treated with only the greatest courtesy since she arrived there with Jillas, Gravos, and Val in his little egg to set up shop. She had plenty of business and was surprised to find herself becoming a pillar of the community.

And that was the thing really. Because even though no one in Achaea thought ill of her for being a dragon, it did mean that she was… well, someone 'not quite like us'. The people of Achaea didn't consider this a bad thing, in fact… there were times when hard up villagers needed people 'not quite like us'.

Most of the time this involved matters that humans really had no control over. Dragons had a stronger connection with the gods, and were known for their powers of prophecy. When the people of Achaea got uncertain, they knew that there was a dragon in town who might have the answers.

Filia accepted this with patience. Almost always what her inquiring visitors needed was not a prophecy, but an understanding ear to share their problems with and a little friendly advice. It was worth it to earn their esteem and sooth some of their worries. Plus it ensured that her status as someone 'not quite like us' didn't dip to the negative.

But Mrs. Babbage was another story entirely.

Mrs. Babbage was Achaea's florist; a heavy-set, sunny sort of woman who would blush to admit that she had left middle-age in the dust. She was a sweet lady, and wouldn't have normally been any trouble to anyone. But Mrs. Babbage had a hobby.

Filia should've heeded the signs, but she didn't. When she'd met Mrs. Babbage and the woman had gleefully informed her: "I'm a bit psychic, you know" Filia had just smiled to herself. An interest in divination was not at all uncommon and there were plenty of people like Mrs. Babbage that were under the impression that an overactive imagination was the same as a psychic gift. It was harmless.

So she'd taken Mrs. Babbage up on her invitation to tea and sat patiently through her long story about how the inner eye ran in her family. About how her great grandmother had predicted the Rautfian Solar Eclipse. It hadn't been her fault that she predicted it three days after it actually happened. The woman didn't get out much and hadn't been looking at the sky in any case. It was still uncanny.

But what Filia really had objected to was after the tea had been drunk and Mrs. Babbage insisted on a tea leaf reading. Filia didn't particularly care for those. The future she liked to see in a cup of tea was one that guaranteed a delicious, warm beverage. But she wasn't really in a position to refuse so she ventured her best guesses which Mrs. Babbage lapped up.

And then it had been Mrs. Babbage's turn to read Filia's. Mrs. Babbage had apparently just heard of tea leaf reading and was much worse than a novice. She'd mostly predicted brown blobs in Filia's future.

And ever since that day it had been impossible to shake Mrs. Babbage's attention. The woman had thrown herself into what she now referred to as tasseomancy. She'd researched and practiced in the cups of family, friends, and people who had just left their drink out in cafes. And she was raring to show Filia how much she'd improved.

Which was why Filia wasn't exactly thrilled when she opened the door to see the florist's eager looking face. "Mrs. Babbage?" she said helplessly.

"Afternoon, Miss Filia," Mrs. Babbage chirped brightly. "I said I'd be by for tea."

"Oh, right," Filia said wearily, setting down the large vase she'd been hefting. "It's Tuesday."

If Mrs. Babbage noted the not-so-thrilled tone in Filia's voice then she did a good job of hiding it. Filia sighed to herself. She felt obliged to indulge Mrs. Babbage. The woman clearly just needed a friend. And anyway, spending a half-an-hour pretending she was a fortune teller was probably a nice vacation from her day job.

"Come in, Mrs. Babbage," she said.

*****

The conversation over tea was largely focused on one subject: Mrs. Babbage's ever growing collection. Apparently the woman had bought a beaded curtain for her tea room and a golden star chart that her husband had given her some trouble about buying. She'd also picked up another deck of tarot cards. That must make twenty by now.

She despaired at where to find an affordable crystal ball. There were pretty ones you could mail-order from magic shops all over the country, but they tended to be on the ridiculously expensive side. Abner wouldn't let her get one.

Filia wasn't a complete stranger to scrying. It was something that she had learned in the temple although dragons do not use it much, the reason being it's too easy for the monsters to tap into something like that to spy.

But she knew enough to say: "You know, you can actually get the same effect as a crystal ball in a basin of water with ink in it. That's much cheaper."

Mrs. Babbage had looked at her blankly. "Yes, but," she said, "without the crystal ball, then what's the point?"

Well, Filia couldn't argue with that logic. Mrs. Babbage hadn't started dabbling in fortune telling to do things without flair.

They finished their tea and the part of the meeting Filia had been dreading had arrived. She tried to minimize some of the trouble as the woman traded their cups by saying: "If you're trying to practice then why don't you just read both our fortunes?"

"Oh, but I can't," Mrs. Babbage said, looking aghast. "It's very dangerous to read your own fortune. It says so in Elder Rafu's Beginner's Guide to Tasseomancy," she said, holding up the book that she proudly told Filia that she'd sent away for from New Sairaag. Her brow furrowed. "Don't you know that?"

"Of course," Filia said quickly, deciding it was probably better not to challenge the woman's perception and keep her status as the inner eye of Achaea. "I was just testing you," she said, hoping the woman would buy this.

Mrs. Babbage beamed proudly, so it clearly worked.

Filia sighed and looked down at Mrs. Babbage's cup. Why tea leaves? she wondered. It might as well be clouds. She tilted the cup and adjusted her features into a look of concentration.

"Good news," she said, with a smile. "It looks like within the next year heaven will be blessing you with a new addition to your family."
Mrs. Babbage's face glowed. "Really?" she said happily. "What symbol tells you that?"

Filia didn't need tea leaves to make that prediction. There were advantages to having the entire town lay their troubles before you. And that was that you tended to know everything that was going on without messing around with any inner eye. And she was well aware that Mrs. Babbage's daughter Melinda was stepping out with the barber's son. It was really only a matter of time. The girl couldn't count.

"It's sort of looking at all the signs together," Filia hedged. "You know, like the big picture."

"Wow!" Mrs. Babbage said, impressed. "I can see I've got a lot of practice to do."

"Oh, no," Filia said. The last thing she needed was more tea dates with Mrs. Babbage. "There are a lot of different ways to do this. I'm sure you'll do fine."

Mrs. Babbage nodded and uncertainly took up Filia's cup. Then she remembered her role and said, in what she thought was a mysterious and ethereal kind of voice: "Now we will part back the mists of time and seek out your destiny."

Filia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Instead she gave the woman an encouraging nod.

"The first thing I see," Mrs. Babbage said, peering in the cup, "Kind of looks like an animal… I think a wolf?" she turned a few pages in her book. "That stands for jealousy."

"What about jealousy?" Filia asked politely.

"What?" Mrs. Babbage said, turning uncomprehending eyes up to Filia.

"Well… will I be jealous of someone or will someone be jealous of me?"

Mrs. Babbage looked down at the book and then back at Filia. "It doesn't say. I suppose it just stands for… you know, general jealousy."

"Oh."

Mrs. Babbage looked back at the cup. "And… you've got an umbrella here," she looked down again, "that represents annoyance."

I wonder, Filia thought dully, what it would be like to have an annoying life.

"But wait," Mrs. Babbage said, frowning. She flipped a few pages and then looked up. "What's the difference between an umbrella and a parasol?"

Filia hadn't been expecting an impromptu vocabulary quiz. "Uh… is there a difference?" she asked.

Mrs. Babbage bit her lip. "It's just that… well, an umbrella does stand for annoyances, but a parasol represents a new lover. I'm just not sure which is which. So you're either going to have annoyances in your future or a new lover."

"Or an annoying new lover," Mrs. Babbage added as the thought struck her.

This was looking to be a dismal cup. Filia might have worried if she thought Mrs. Babbage had even a shred of psychic power.

"Does a triangle shape mean anything?" Mrs. Babbage asked, half to herself as she flipped pages. "Ah yes," she said, pointing at the relevant passage. "It means something unexpected is going to happen."

Perhaps her annoying new lover would show up and be jealous of something. Considering Mrs. Babbage's dearth of clairvoyance that would be what Filia would expect least.

"And there's a wiggly line," Mrs. Babbage said, adjusting her new shawl. On the basis that 'wiggly line' probably wasn't an omen in any book she browsed through looking for a suitable substitute. "That's probably the snake," she said finally. "That means an enemy… but also wisdom?" She looked questioningly at the book.

"Well," Filia said with a fixed smile. "Forewarned is forearmed. Thanks for the reading, it's been lovely to see you but—"

"Wait," Mrs. Babbage said. "There's one more sign in the bottom of the cup." She flipped to the end of her book and frowned again.

"Well, it's not in the book," she said uncertainly. "But there's definitely like… an X at the bottom of the cup."

"I'm sure that's just—" Filia began, and then snapped her neck to look at the other woman, suddenly completely alert. "What?!"

"Yes," Mrs. Babbage said. "It's very clearly an X." She looked a little uncomfortable. "Usually I have to squint and close one eye to see anything much," she admitted reluctantly, "but this is a very clear cup."

Filia snatched her cup back from Mrs. Babbage, ignoring the woman's protests of disturbing the fabric of space-time. She stared into it disbelievingly. Then set it down with some force away from her.

She looked up at the now slightly disconcerted Mrs. Babbage with determined anger in her eyes. "I'm making another pot.

*****

Five pots of tea later – all of different kinds as if that would somehow help – and Mrs. Babbage was getting very edgy. She wanted to leave. The normally sweet and patient Miss Filia was starting to worry her. Plus she'd drunk much more tea than she ever wanted to.

Filia stared into yet another one of her own cups, ignoring the advice of Mrs. Babbage and Elder Rafu altogether. No matter what she did, it was always the same signs in the same arrangements, dangerously clear. Drawing together to create more specific meanings. Mocking her.

"Umm… Miss Filia are you alright?" Mrs. Babbage tried.

But Filia didn't seem to be occupying the same realm as her guest anymore. And it was at that point that Rosemarie Babbage saw Miss Filia scowl darkly at her cup; hurl it against the wall in a shower of porcelain; and scream to the universe, Mrs. Babbage, and destiny in general:

"The tea leaves are WRONG!"
Another short for Beloved Enemy's 100 Nights of Summer Writing Challenge! Join in the fun: [link]

Theme #70: Tea Leaves.

Rating: T
Fandom: Slayers
Pairing: Xellos/Filia
Genre: Comedy/Romance

Themes done so far:
-Exorcism: [link]
-Tea Leaves
-First Kiss: [link]
-Guilty: [link]
-Dwelling On It: [link]
-Unoriginal Sin: [link]
-Game: [link]
-Terms & Conditions: [link]
-How to Impress a Woman: [link]
-Wolves and Their Prey: [link]
-Good Deeds: [link]
-Amusement Park: [link]
-Flower Garden: [link]
-Gemstones: [link]
-Childish: [link]
-You are Answerable for your Fantasies: [link]
-Clipped Wings: [link]
-Totally Smashed: [link]
-Just Because You Can Do It, Doesn't Mean You Should: [link]
Published:
© 2010 - 2020 Skiyomi
Comments10
anonymous's avatar
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AmberPalette's avatar
l;widjfl;asjdfajklsdf YAY XDDDDD I have nothing more articulate to say. JUST YAY. XD
Skiyomi's avatar
XD Glad you like.

Who can argue with destiny? Filia, that's who!
AmberPalette's avatar
XDDD In FUTILITY! :evillaugh:
Keihou's avatar
Oh this was greatly amusing. When I started reading it, I thought it was just going to be a sweet little slice-of-life fic, but then came the twist.
Skiyomi's avatar
:D Thanks! That's the thing, it ends up being a Xellos/Filia fic even though his name is never spoken.
sylvacoer's avatar
:XD: Way to screw with Filia's head, Xelloss!
Skiyomi's avatar
It *could* just be destiny :P But it's nice to think that Xellos is behind it all.
littlecloudflower's avatar
Ah...I love how Xellos has influence even though he doesn't appear! :)

Perhaps it's really Xellos' doing, though...
Skiyomi's avatar
Yep. His name isn't even *spoken* but he's still effecting stuff. ...Because it's DESTINY!

Could be. The tea leaves seemed unusually stubborn for tea leaves after all. And the wolf and triangle (cone) symbols wouldn't exactly follow the tea leaf interpretation guide in their TRUE meaning.
littlecloudflower's avatar
I'm so excited! I just finished my first prompt, and actually liked it! I think you inspired me to stop being lazy and just type it up...Thanks. :)
anonymous's avatar
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