BABA YAGA THINKS OF LOVE
The witch distrusted the wind. Blowing the tops from the lake, stripping the leaves from recalcitrant trees, throwing the rags of autumn into the cold fire of winter. Aunt Yaga sniffed. The air smelled of mushrooms a boot had flattened, maybe a mouse too. A little furry bit of chew. A raven bowed from the gable of her house and Yaga shook a fist at it. Blackguard. Cheerful Thief. One of her many children, long since disowned.
Any day now, she thought. That silly man, he said he would return. Said he would bring a fistful of Celtic coins dug from a hoard. Lovely old things, heavy as a shovel of earth tossed into a grave. Yaga wanted to see them in candlelight, hang them from a thong and listen for the stories they would tell. Of chieftains and maidens, broadsword songs and long sleeps in the dirt. Silly man, all he wanted was a love potion. Child’s play.
A gust of winds lifted a throw of oak leaves and spun them into a dance. They swept past Yaga and she could feel the power of the wind, the malice and promise of more. It followed a night of hard rain, and had emerged from Yaga’s least favorite direction. Home of her oldest sister. The one who arrives without invitation, simply opens the door to crawl into bed with the sleeping. Sister Sickness, wanting a kiss.
Love, Yaga, thought, what the man wants is a lust draught. Wanton. Flash eyed and breathing fast. Her potion would begin with cinnamon brandy, add a rabbit’s leap, honeysuckle and the whiff of poison. Whisper stones tumble and a tincture of sleep. Bonestrife. She had most of the ingredients already hung from hooks in her pantry.
Because the king’s least dependable guard caught him, the thief thought he would get away. Beguile the queen, make her laugh. Sadly, she had plans for the coins, a new tiara in mind. When they opened his neck he stayed silent. Only the raven saw and chuckled. Took home the news. Yaga poured the potion onto the ground let the frogs find it. Peepers in the snow, frozen bits of randy meat for someone’s breakfast.
Travis Stephens is a tugboat captain who resides with his family in California. An alumni of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recent credits include: 2River, Sheila-Na-Gig, GRIFFEL, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.