Night of the Shadow Puppets: A Father Garrett Tale

Father Garrett

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


Here is a selection from the first chapter of my novel, Fortune Days. Please enjoy!



It appeared innocently enough, packed in crates of hammered tin from faraway places over the oceans. Soon, it was invited into every English home, from the best to the least. Slowly, inexorably, it shifted into necessity rather than luxury, and the day arrived when the working man and the diplomat both kept time by the whistle of the kettle rather than the chime of a clock.

– J. Penn, HRM Historian on Tea Affairs

The year was 1851, and the world was steeped in Tea.

While Science built societies and ordained men to carry out her distinguished Work, others, less known but no less skilled, quietly hastened after Knowledge. These pursuits took place in the unsophisticated laboratories of starry-eyed dreamers, inside the half basements of curious tinkers, and on one particular morning, on the third floor of Mrs. Rigby’s boarding house as a jar of developing chemicals descended at an astonishing rate to meet the pavement below.

Madeline Bird, the tenant in possession of the windowsill from which the jar fell, snatched up the second jar before the sudden windstorm could claim it, too. She leaned out of her window as an airship skimmed over the rooftop, its bow pointed towards the harbor. Madeline’s mousy brown curls whisped about her face while the sleek wooden craft bound in gleaming rivets pressed on.

“You’re a beauty, aren’t you?” she whispered as the schooner moved beneath the clouds. Its engines resolved from a roar into a rumble.

Deeper in the sky beyond the airship, she could make out the shapes of others as they soared over the city with the cargo of the Empire, going out with goods, wool, and coal and coming back with black, green, and white tea. When the ships drifted closer, Madeline could see their busy crews beneath white sails.

She beamed, thinking, Soon, I will be up there, too. I’ll see where those crates come from—I’ll see China for myself. Continue reading