All the Bushel shuffled forward together as he plunked down on the tree trunk, his fox tail twitching.
“Where did you come from? We’ve never seen you on the island before!” Watermelon asked.
“You don’t eat meat like a fox, do you?” Lemon asked.
“I come from everywhere!” Vulpes answered. “Here and there and near and far. I travel, you see. It’s why I have a bag. And a hat. Not proper to go traveling without a hat!” He looked at Lemon. “And no worries, little Fruit, I do not eat other animals, though I do eat lots of things! It’s one of the best things about traveling!”
This caught Mandarin Bat’s attention.
“Come sit by the fire with us,” Blueberry Bat offered.
They all hopped down to the sand beside the fire and Vulpes leaned on his bag. The flames had almost gone out from neglect, but DragonFruit threw on some more sticks and breathed fire on it to get it going again. The FoxBat lifted a log that would have been too heavy for them and pushed it up against the side of the flames so it could catch.
Mandarin Orange asked what sort of things Vulpes ate on his travels.
“All sorts,” he told him. “There’s different fruits and veggies all over the place! And then there’s all the stuff people make!”
“What are people?” Grape asked.
“You mean, you’ve never met a people before?” he replied, shocked. “They’re almost everywhere. Some are scary, but most are magic, even if they don’t know it! They make all sorts of fun and wonderful things!” he pulled his bag out from behind him and opened it. “It doesn’t look that big, but I swear it’s bigger on the inside,” he told them as he stuck his upper half down into the mysterious thing. “Aha!” came a muffled sound and he came back up with a strange metal object with a handle and a spout. He stuck his head back down inside again and came back once more with a white bag filled with broken up dry leaves and a jar of thick amber liquid.
“Honey!” Mandarin squealed with joy. He’s rather a fan. “The BuzzBees trade that to us sometimes when Apple and Pear give them a song to sing as they work!”
The FoxBat nodded and held up the honey to the light of the fire. The sun had set now and the light made it look like it was glowing. Batnana cooed at how pretty it was.
“I am going to make you something tasty, right now!” he told them. “Back in a sec!” he flew off in the direction of the stream that came down the mountain to the bay to fill the kettle.
The Bushel talked excitedly together all at the same time while he was gone. Mandarin just knew that this new friend could give him an idea of what to make with his flour!
A minute later, Vulpes returned, water sloshing in the kettle. He plopped it onto the big log right beside the fire.
“When the kettle -that’s the thing with the water in it- when it screeches, it will be almost ready. We’re making the water hot.” he looked around. “Do you guys have cups?”
Mandarin had brought the emptied flour sack with them to hold their hollow acorn shell cups that morning so they could drink from the stream or for if they found a citrus tree to squeeze. He scrambled over to where he had stashed it under the bent over palm trunk and retrieved them.
“This drink was invented by people in the east part of the world. They take special plants and dry them and grind them up. Then they add spices. There’s all different kinds, but this is my favorite! Smell!” He passed the bag around the fire and they all took turns sniffing.
“I smell Cinnamon!” Mandarin claimed. “Lots of other things too, but I don’t know what it all is.”
“That would be the cardamom, cloves and ginger!”
Just then, the kettle started to whistle. Vulpes pulled it away from the fire, opened a latch on top, and stuffed the bag into it. He took their acorn cups and nestled them in the sand so they wouldn’t tip over, and put a big dollop of honey in each one.
“Now, normally there’s milk, but I assume that would be hard to get at the moment, so it can wait” Another minute and he poured the hot water, which now smelled like the spicy bag, into each cup and passed them out.
“I give you: Chai Tea!”