“Did mom say when she’d be back?” I asked my auntie, Lisel.
“Just finish your stew, honey. We can talk about that later,” Auntie Lisel replied.
She was always blowing me off like that whenever I brought mom up. I’d been staying with Auntie Lisel for a couple of months now. Mom said she had something really important to do, but she never tells me what that means. I know she goes on adventures and stuff, but I don’t know what kind of adventures. It must be really important, or she wouldn’t leave me behind.
“Did I tell you that the stew was your mom’s recipe?” Auntie Lisel asked.
“Really? She never cooks. Where did she learn to make this?” I wondered aloud.
“She said it was an old family recipe. And when she says old, she really means old,” Auntie Lisel said.
“What does that mean? What family?” I asked.
“You know that your mom is an elf, right?” Auntie Lisel said.
“Of course,” I said, “I’m not a baby. I know what pointy ears mean.”
“Well, have you seen any other elves around here?” She said, leading me.
“No. That’s why I didn’t think we had any family,” I said.
“Well, her family isn’t in Anglachel,” Auntie Lisel said.
“You mean we have family in another country?” I asked, interested.
“Something like that. All the elves live in another realm. Your mom’s family is in what they call the ‘Fey Realm.’”
“Why aren’t we there? Why haven’t I met them?” I said. None of this made any sense.
“Your mom has a complicated relationship with her family. But she still loves them very much. That’s why she remembers things like the recipe for this stew,” Auntie Lisel explained.
“I love you, Auntie Lisel. Do you have a recipe you could show me?” I asked.
“How old are you now? Ten?” Auntie Lisel asked.
“I’m eight years old,” I said.
“Close enough,” Auntie Lisel said, climbing down from her stool. “I’m sure your mom wouldn’t mind you learning a little alchemy.”
Auntie Lisel led me to a room behind the bar of her tavern. It was like a long hallway with shelves on either side. The shelves were lined with bottles filled with different colored liquids, powders, goos, and things with the consistency of something I didn’t know what to call. It was packed so tight it would have been quite a squeeze for someone my mom’s size, but since Lisel was a halfling and I was a kid, we fit perfectly. There were working surfaces all along the wall at the right height for Lisel to work at. She grabbed a few different bottles from the shelves and looked at me expentatntly.
“So what do you think? Do you want to make something that can heal people? Something that can hurt people? Something funny?” Lisel asked. I often felt like my mom’s friends forgot that I was a child.
“Probably something funny,” I replied, knowing that was the most age-appropriate answer.
“How about a powder that will make whoever you douse with it smell really bad?” LIsel offered.
“Yeah! That sounds fun!” I said excitedly.
Lisel opened up a jar with a fine white powder that didn’t really look or smell like anything. Then she grabbed one of the bottles with a sickly green goo in it. She opened the bottle, and the room filled with one of the worst smells. I can’t even describe it. It wasn’t poop or rotten food. It was just bad. Like every bad-smelling thing combined into one horrible scent. She took a small spoon and scooped out just a little bit of the goo.
“Star, this part is important. Make sure you never take out too much of this kind of thing. This is concentrated illusion magic enchanted to smell bad. A little bit goes a long way. You only want a tiny bit of it,” Auntie Lisel explained.
“O.K.,” I managed to croak out. I was just ready for her to put the lid back on that stuff. Mercifully, she did. The room was still smelly from the little bit she put into the stone bowl.
“Come over here, Star. You can do this part,” Auntie Lisel beckoned me.
I walked over to her, and she put a short stone rod in my hand. It had one end that was wider than the other.
“This is called a mortar and pestle,” Auntie Lisel began. “You just have to use the pestle and work the concentrated magic into the base powder.”
I began to do as she instructed, and the white powder started to take on a pale yellow color as the goo started to become part of it. I kept working the ingredients for about five minutes. Once the goo fully integrated into the powder, the bad smell completely disappeared.
“It doesn’t stink anymore. I must have don’t it wrong,” I admitted in resignation.
“No, that’s perfect!” Auntie Lisel praised. My face automatically smiled broadly. “You’re a natural!”
“But how does it work?” I asked.
“Once you throw it on a person, it mixes with the oils on their skin, and it seeps into their sweat glands. Then they’ll be sweating the stink until it works itself out of their system,” she explained.
“That’s amazing!” I exclaimed.
“It really is,” Auntie Lisel agreed. “Alchemy can do amazing things, but be really careful who you use that on. You only want to use something like that on someone that deserves it.”
“Like the guy at the other tavern that mom always complains about?” I asked.
“No, he just gets on her nerves. But, I mean, this isn’t something that would hurt him,” Auntie Lisel considered. “Yeah, that’s the kind of person to use this on.”
“Cool! Mom’s going to love this!” I beamed.
“Maybe not tell your mom about this,” Auntie Lisel said. “She keeps talking about you having a normal life. I think we both know you don’t want that, normal is so boring. But let’s let her keep the fantasy alive a bit longer.”
“O.K,” I said in agreement, though I didn’t really understand what she meant. It felt like I just kept getting these little clues about who my mom is and what she has done in her life. So wanting a normal life is bad, at least I know that much now.
These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!