Lucky Substitutions by Nicole DragonBeck

For Erika

I don’t think lizard eye is a vital ingredient in a love potion.

“It’s what it says!” Mayva protested, pointing at the old page with one hand, the other hovering over her cauldron, posed to drop an eye of Newt into the seething potion.

Well, I think it sounds fishy. You should read it again.

Mayva sighed and looked at the recipe again. “It says lizard,” she confirmed. “Hang on-” she leaned closer. “It looks like the first letter is rubbed out. Maybe blizard?

Blizard eye? You do know that word is spelled with two z’s, right?

“Hey!” Mayva barked. “If you wanted to come down here and do this, be my guest. Oh, wait, you don’t have a body. So if you have something valuable to contribute, by all means, speak up. If not, shut up!”

An ominous silence greeted her tirade. She waited for George to say something, but the silence just stretched on.

“I’m sorry,” Mayva said at last. “That was low.”

It’s fine.

The curt reply wasn’t reassuring, but at least it was something.

“Okay,” Mayva said, infusing her voice with enthusiasm she didn’t feel. “Let figure out this thing, so we can get paid, and then move on.”

Wizard.

“What?”

It says wizard eye. It’s just half of the first letter that’s missing.

Mayva looked again and saw George was indeed right. Her disembodied friend had his uses. She searched through the witch’s cupboards.

“There’s no wizard eye in here,” Mayva said.

Don’t you dare start think about substitutions now.

“If I don’t get the duchess her love potion, we’ll be eating potato eyes and carrot peelings while sleeping in a doorway.”

Well, you’ll be eating peelings and sleeping in the doorway. I’ll be as comfortable or uncomfortable as I ever was.

“Thanks for the support,” Mayva muttered, already flipping to the back of the grimoire for the substitutions. “Okay, one wizard eye is equivalent to three drops of blue moonlight, the kiss of a dragon, two-sevenths of a thimbleful of ashes of a baptized witched burned on a cedarwood fire.”

Sounds like it might be simple to go find a wizard and dig out his eye with a spoon. You don’t think this hedge witch has those kinds of things here, do you?

“Actually she does,” Mayva said, holding up the moonlight and dragon’s kiss with a triumphant expression.

And the ashes?

“That’s what this is for,” Mayva said, flipping through the charts of substitutions.

She had to go back and forth quite a bit because the only listing for ashes of baptized witch was burned over a fire of oak and ironwood, so she found a substitute for cedarwood and fire, which included several more substitutions for rare ingredients like second-sight of a blind babe and shame of a broken warrior. After some fancy footwork, Mayva was left with a table of half-empty bottles and pouches and a steaming cauldron of thick, pink potion.

“Well, at least it looks like it’s supposed to,” Mayva said.

Haven’t you ever heard looks can be deceiving?

“Enough with the pessimism,” Mayva said. “We’re almost done.”

She filled a stopper with the potion and turned. She stepped on something underfoot and windmilled as she tried to steady her balance. She steadied herself on the table and managed to keep her feet, though the table wasn’t so fortunate. The ingredients and the cauldron slid to the floor with a great crash, and the essences and powders and the love potion spewed everywhere.

Mayva blinked and looked at the mess she’d made of the witch’s cottage.

“So much for getting out of here unnoticed.”

Mayva screamed in shock and spun to find someone standing next to her. “Who’re you?” she asked.

“You might not recognize the face, but don’t you know the voice?” the young man asked.

“George?” Mayva said, an incredulous expression on her face. “How…what happened?”

George shrugged his very solid shoulders. “I don’t know, but if I had to guess I’d say it had something to do with those substitutions you made.”

Mayva looked down at the vial of pink liquid she had in her hand. “So this is not a love potion then?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then what is it?”

George touched his face, his nose and lips, and his arm, then shook his head. “Something much more powerful.”

 

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