An Alternative To Frog

(Originally written for a fiction blog hop, August 2015)

The pigeon perched near the stove, drying out from the summer downpour. Granny had left me minding the shop while she attended the Hedgewitch conference in The Fells, but the steady stream of messages was a good indication of how much she trusted me.

I squinted at the hurried scrawl, Granny’s writing wasn’t easy to work out at the best of times, ware… wolves?

There had been a case about werewolves a while back, the other kind, wolves that turned into humans. As far as I could recall they’d liked it far too much and it hadn’t turned out well. It sounded like something that Granny would discuss at the conference, The effect of lupine nature in village societies.

“Maybe she sent the wrong message.” I imagined my tiny grandmother readying her notes only to find a scrap of paper saying, Home for tea on Tuesday.

I couldn’t resist a smug glance at the potion bottles on the shelves. I’d never match Granny in witchery, but at least my labels ensured no-one would mistake an ingredient.

Poggitt croaked and tapped the crumpled parchment I’d been examining before the pigeon had arrived.

“I haven’t forgotten it,” I told him, “but it’s not just a case of translating Granny’s writing. I’ve got to patch each spell back together and find an alternative to frog.”

In a rare fit of cleaning I’d discovered where he’d hidden the torn shreds of every spell that listed frog anatomy in its ingredients. Realising we’d need those spells soon to fill some spaces on the shelves, it had dawned on me that I’d become too attached to him to use him for parts. “I don’t know what makes frog important to the spell though, I can’t just throw in some chicken and hope for the best.”

The pigeon gave a trill of alarm and I jumped, realising that someone was standing in the shadow of the doorway.

“Hello, are you the proprietor?”

Granny’s cottage was in the Mere-woods. Far enough from the village to give prospective customers time to really think about how much they want to mess with magic.

But this was no villager.

He moved into the light, and the common sense I usually prided myself on dribbled away before a three-cornered smile and a physique that his damp clothing set off nicely.

Poggitt’s tongue flicked out, snapping up a morsel that had slipped in to escape the weather and nudged me out of my daze.

“Oh, uh, proprietor… yes, that’s my grandmother. I’m Skye, I’m looking after things while she’s away.” He had that hint of bad-boy that Granny had always said would get me into trouble one day, and I fear my attempt to look professional failed miserably.

Poggitt clapped webby hands to his head in disgust and I pulled myself together, “How may I help you?”

That three-cornered smile deepened (how did he do that?) and I felt myself go all warm and unnecessary, “I’m looking for a Spirrelli Dagger.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m not licensed to sell those.” That wasn’t strictly true, but Spirrelli Daggers were rare and Granny was picky who she’d sell one to. That little white lie was all that stopped me from letting him take his pick of every dagger in stock and anything else he fancied too. That and the cold-fish eye Poggitt was giving me from the corner.

“Never mind.” While Poggitt and I had engaged in a glare-of-death, my visitor had been surveying my neatly marked shelves and now swung round with a bottle balanced in one hand, “I’ll just take this.”
Poggitt was shaking his head.

The top shelf held the potent and rare potions. Out of reach of most people, unless you were a six-feet-plus tower of gorgeousness, at which point my careful labelling came in extremely handy.

He held the last bottle of Tavier’s Scourge.

Quite possibly the last in existence since someone had attempted to destroy all the recipes requiring frog anatomy.

Transformation spells varied, but Tavier’s Scourge was the only one that made the change permanent. While that may sound fine, it’s not so good if you’re on the receiving end and it’s your spurned lover turning you into a syphilitic toad. It’s a banned substance in many Principalities and even here you needed a special license for it.

Which only left the question of why my dreamboat customer wanted it.

And that’s when I caught his reflection in the Bonnetti Mirror that Granny kept in the corner, and suddenly her cryptic message made sense.
I remembered all too clearly what had happened in that village where the wolves had run amok. Wherever he’d got the illusion spell, it was good. Too good. Tavier’s Scourge would multiply his effect on me tenfold and seal it in place, leaving me a willing slave to this charming fiend. But he needed one more thing.

“It won’t work, you need a true-love kiss to secure that spell.”

He flashed that damned smile at me, “You can help there sweetheart. I promise I’ll make it feel like true love.” And even though the mirror had shown me the fur and fangs beneath the glamour, I could still feel that fatal pull of attraction as he leaned towards me.

I dug my nails into my palms, unable to move as he flipped the stopper from the bottle.

Then something moved on the edge of my sight and as if in slow motion I saw Poggitt crash into him, his tongue snapping out to secure the spinning bottle.

There was an implosive flare of black light and when my vision cleared I saw, amidst the splintered remains of the bottle, a man and a frog.

The man was naked, with a wide, firm-lipped mouth and slightly protuberant eyes.

The frog was furry and had a triangular shaped mouth.

I think there must be a lot of fibs about true-love kisses, or maybe I was affected by the glamour-spell. I don’t know why it worked but I kissed them both and it sealed the transformation in place.

I had until Tuesday to decide what to tell Granny, but I no longer needed to look for an alternative to frog.

© Angela Wooldridge August 2015

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