Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 174,460,927 Issue: 409 | 11th day of Gathering, Y11
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Ummagine Tea


by blackghoulmon

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Have you ever had Ummagine Tea? And I don’t mean the watered-down stuff the Coffee Cave sells (that has almost no flavor!) I mean real Ummagine Tea, made from fresh Ummagines sliced and boiled in pure water for an hour or two. It’s my favorite drink, and I can’t live without a mug of it in the mornings. Because my owner, BG, and I live in the Lost Desert, it’s easy for us to get the vegetables we need to make the tea. They’re always available to buy, and the Fruit Machine gives them out if we get lucky. But the best way to get Ummagines is to go find them ourselves.

      As we probably all know, Ummagines grow deep underground. However, “deep underground” generally means three to four feet or so. And the part of the plant aboveground is very distinct; I’ve learned to spot them from a good distance away. Shopkeepers in Sakhmet gripe about how hard it is to dig up Ummagines, but really, it’s not that bad if you know how.

      That’s what confuses people. See, I’m a royal girl Uni, but I’m no princess. I never wear my princess outfit either. That’s because I love to get dirty, and my favorite outdoor activity is digging huge holes in the sand. So when BG and I go looking for Ummagines, it’s a piece of cake for me to dig them up. All we have to do is find a plant that has ripe ones beneath it.

      I remember one particular Ummagine hunt quite well. I woke up that morning and could smell the tea simmering in the kitchen. BG wakes up well before I do, so he has the time to get the tea ready. I quickly hopped out of bed and hurried to the kitchen to find my daily mug of tea sitting at my place at the table.

     “I finished the Ummagines this morning,” BG told me as I sat down to drink my tea.

     “Are we going to go dig up some more, then?” I asked curiously.

     “Yeah, we can do that.”

     “Yay!”

      Breakfast went quickly, then BG and I began to gather what equipment we would need to go gathering. My owner started to fill some canteens while I watched, wondering what I should do to help.

     “Can I do anything?” I asked.

     “Look in the storage room for a container to put the Ummagines in,” BG responded.

     “How big of a container? Are we going to spend the whole day doing this? Or just the morning?”

     “Get a large one. I don’t know how long we’ll be out there.”

     “OK, got it.”

      I ran upstairs to the storage room and began to poke around, looking for something to carry the Ummagines. After about a minute I found a bucket that would do nicely. I carried it downstairs to BG.

     “I’ll get my spade,” he said.

     “I thought I was going to do the digging,” I responded.

     “What if you get tired?”

     “That’s what the canteens are for!”

     “Better safe than sorry.”

      I’ve never won an argument with BG. I likely never will. So I swallowed my pride as he retrieved his gardening shovel.

     “OK, load up,” he said at last. “We’re ready to go.”

      Shortly before BG adopted me, he and a friend raided the Virtupets Space Station and stole a pair of two-man space fighters. The fighter that he kept for his own is a wonderful time-saver, as we can circle Neopia in several hours at full speed. It’s also very useful for hunting Ummagines. All we do is fly it about twenty feet off the ground, and look for the telltale leaves of an Ummagine plant. Then we land and dig up the vegetables.

      BG and I stashed our equipment behind the fighter’s twin seats, then climbed aboard and took off. I looked out the cockpit windscreen, keeping my eyes open for Ummagine plants. I’ve become very good at spotting them from the fighter. BG leaves the looking part to me, as he has to watch all the dials and gauges on the fighter’s control panel, as well as mind where he’s flying; a sand dune can appear almost out of nowhere when everything looks the same on the ground below.

      After about ten minutes of flight, I spotted what looked like two Ummagine plants.

     “Bank to the left,” I told BG. “I think I see some.”

      He brought the fighter around and slowed it to minimum speed. Sure enough, there were two plants side by side.

     “Yes! I was right!” I cheered.

     “You’re usually right,” my owner responded.

     I blushed. BG had taught me well.

      We landed the fighter and climbed out to examine the plants. The main problem with hunting Ummagines is that even when you’ve found a plant, you never know whether there is a ripe vegetable beneath it. That’s where BG’s pocket staff comes in handy. It is a small wooden staff, maybe about a foot long, with a green gem on the head. It was blessed by a light faerie some time ago. When it touches the leaves of an Ummagine plant, the gem will flash once for each ripe Ummagine the plant has.

      BG touched the staff to the first plant. There was only one flash.

     “OK, I’m on it!” I said quickly, starting to dig.

      After maybe a half-hour, I finally hit the Ummagine.

     “I found it!” I cheered.

     BG chuckled at my enthusiasm.

      I pulled the vegetable off the plant roots and tossed it up to my owner before hopping out of the hole.

     “This is a big one,” he noted, weighing it in his hand.

     “I guess that’s why the plant only had one vegetable,” I mused. “It grew rather big.”

      BG dropped the Ummagine into the bucket, then touched his staff to the other plant. This time, there were three flashes.

     “All right!” I laughed. “We’re lucky today!”

      I set to work immediately. But I stopped when BG picked up his spade.

     “Can’t I do this myself?” I asked.

     “Don’t whine at me,” my owner responded. “It’ll be faster this way. Then we can go find more plants.”

      BG had a point. Between the two of us digging, it only took an hour to retrieve the Ummagines. These three were smaller than the first one, but that was to be expected. Once we had filled in our holes, we put our equipment back in the fighter and flew on.

      Hardly five minutes after leaving the first site, I spotted a single plant growing atop a small sand dune. When BG touched it with his staff, there was only one flash. I began to dig right away. But when I hit the Ummagine, I was quite surprised.

     “Hey!” I called up to BG. “This is a conjoined Ummagine!”

      I tossed it up to my owner, then followed it. BG was laughing at the ridiculous-looking vegetable. And soon I was too.

     “The staff only detected one Ummagine,” I remarked. “Shouldn’t it have detected two?”

     “I guess if they’re conjoined, then it counts as only one,” my owner noted.

      We flew on, but we had no further luck that morning. We decided to return to our Neohome and have a quick lunch, then go off in the other direction and keep looking. So that was what we did.

      After a short while of flying, I spotted something unusual: FIVE Ummagine plants!

     “This is amazing!” I said in excitement as BG landed the fighter.

      But my excitement faded when the staff found no ripe Ummagines on any of the plants.

     “Darn!” I grumbled. “I was hoping for a lot of Ummagines.”

      We moved on, and it wasn’t long before we found a cluster of three plants. The first plant had two Ummagines, the second had none, and the third had another two. We now had nine Ummagines, but we agreed to keep going.

      Nearly two hours of idle flight passed before I spotted another cluster of five plants. This time, I wasn’t excited, as I figured that there would be no Ummagines here either. At first, I seemed to be right, as the first four plants had none.

      But the fifth plant had...

     “SIX?!” I practically screamed as the staff flashed.

     “That can’t be right...” BG responded with a raised eyebrow, touching the plant again. Again, there were six flashes.

     “OK...” he muttered. “I’ve never heard of that before.”

      I was quivering with excitement, and started to dig. BG joined in. As it turned out, I was secretly glad that he had brought his spade, as after digging up four Ummagines I was quite tired. My owner got the remaining two.

     “Fifteen all together,” he commented.

      The conjoined Ummagine wouldn’t fit in the bucket, so I carried it in my mouth as we headed back to the fighter to return home. I had to resist the urge to bite into the vegetable and drink the juice. The tea tomorrow morning would be great!

      As we flew back home, I looked through the Ummagine bucket.

     “Could you make some tea when we get back?” I asked BG, laying my head in his lap. “Please?”

     “Sure,” he answered, petting me. “Would you like a bubble bath too?”

     “Oh, yes, please!”

      Back at the Neohome, BG put all but one of the Ummagines in the refrigerator. He washed and cut the last one in half, then sliced up one half and put the slices in a large pot with water and set it to boil. He then cut up the second half and diced it into small cubes to add to the tea when it was ready.

      It would take an hour or more for the tea to finish brewing, so BG gave me my bubble bath and we played with my favorite plush toy. The scent of Ummagine tea got stronger and stronger, making my mouth water in anticipation. Finally, it was ready.

      BG poured two cups of tea, then put the rest in the refrigerator. He dropped a couple of Ummagine cubes into the tea mugs, then handed one to me. It was delicious, as usual, and I felt quite relaxed and happy.

     “We won’t have to go hunting Ummagines for a long time,” my owner said as we drank our tea. “I guess you’ll have to do your digging in the backyard for now.”

      I made a face at him, but started to laugh anyway.

     “Fair enough,” I remarked. “I’ll get my practice in for next time. I’ll wager that I can dig up all the Ummagines we find on our next hunt without your help!”

      We laughed.

The End

 
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