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Return to Prince Manor by Snapegirl
Chapter 57 : Baba Yaga's Bargain
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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The odd scent of astringent herbs intermingled with savory beef stew tickled Sarai’s nostrils and caused her to open her eyes.  She couldn’t figure out why she was smelling good things cooking in the middle of the Wastelands. Slowly, she glanced about, catching sight of the round walls of the hut, which were dark with age and smoke that rose to the thatched rafters and eddied about the open hole in the roof.  Upon the walls were strange and bizarre things.  A snarling wolf’s head, the painted mask of a Carnival reveler, a bone rattle, a colorful braided wreath of ribbons, a cloak of feathers.  There was a hearth just beyond Sarai’s feet, where a black kettle was simmering over a small fire.  To the left of that hung cooking utensils on a string, and several frying pans.  To the right was a brazier that burned some sort of herb that made Sarai’s nose twitch, it had a sharp, pungent aroma.  Swords and axes, daggers and bows decorated the opposite wall, some were rusted and old, others looked as if they had just come new from the forge.

Sarai’s eyes narrowed and she could sense the tang of magic from some of the blades.  She saw her own sword and Severus’ staff as well as her bow, leaning against the wall of weapons.  Seeing the Staff of the Magi made her recall that she had last seen Severus bleeding away his life into the snow.  She quickly whipped her head about, searching for her betrothed.

The sudden movement made her dizzy and the room spun about her. Inwardly, she cursed herself for her stupidity and cradled her head in her hand, trying not to throw up.  She groaned softly.

The noise brought the swift patter of feet and suddenly a warm tongue laved her cheek.  “Hello, Cafall.” She murmured, closing her eyes as the misthound whined and his tail thumped against the floor. “How are you, gallant hound?” she whispered in the liquid language of the Seelie.

“That great lug would eat me out of house and home,” came an ancient voice, scratchy with disuse.  “He’s a bottomless pit and then some! Hah!”

Sarai opened her eyes, but this time did not try and turn her head quickly. She gently pushed Cafall’s muzzle away and slowly began to sit up.  She was stiff and sore but she considered those pains nothing to be trouble over, especially when she knew that she had been close to death.  “Most misthounds are ravenous after a long hunt,” she said, still speaking in the tongue of Faerie.  “Whom am I addressing, Old Mother?”

Baba Yaga cackled, her blue eyes dancing with amusement. “Ah, your mother taught you manners, Captain Valinek.  It is always best to be polite to strangers, even if they be old and withered.”

Sarai’s eyes narrowed. The old woman was not wearing a Glamour and yet she wavered in the warrior’s magical Sight, telling her that here was a force to be reckoned with. “Appearances can be deceiving, Old Mother. Especially in Winter’s realm.  Foul is fair and fair is foul,” she quoted an old adage.

“Just so, young one!” Baba Yaga smirked, pleased.  “Do you not know me then? Once I was known far and wide and my name spoken in hushed tones.  Once mortals called me Mother Russia.”

Then Sarai knew her for certain, and said, very cautiously, “You are Baba Yaga, the Witch of the North.” She carefully pushed herself upright on the pallet and eyed the old woman warily. Baba Yaga was not known for her altruism, though she did not serve Maeve or the Winter Court.

The crone gave her a small bow. “Just so, my lady.  You do know that it was my Art and skill which kept the breath and blood in your body?”

Sarai nodded. “Yes. And now I am in your debt.  As is my betrothed, the heir to Prince Manor, Severus Snape.” She turned her head, this time to the right, and saw to her vast relief Severus stretched out on a similar pallet next to her.  Thank the Sun, Moon, and Stars! He is alive! She felt the unaccustomed sting of tears, but quickly blinked them away. She could not afford to show any weakness to their unexpected rescuer. 

“Now there’s a toothsome lad!” purred the witch, ogling the Potion Master’s lean form.  She had removed his outer robe and loosened his shirt, and he looked particularly handsome and yet endearingly vulnerable lying there.  “Were he not promised to you, girlie, I might have had my wicked way with him!” she cackled.  “But alas, the bond between you is too strong for me to manipulate.”

Thank the Bright One for that! Sarai thought in relief.  “Severus’ heart belongs only to me now.” She stated.  “I do have a question. Why save us?”

“You don’t believe I did it out of the goodness of my heart?” asked the other shrewdly.

“I know better.  You are not of the fae, and so you can lie, but I know that you saved us for a purpose.  How may we pay off the debt?”

“All in good time, my dear! First, let us have some tea and black Russian bread with butter.” Baba Yaga said.

Sarai agreed, knowing that once she ate of the bread, Baba Yaga could not harm her as per the laws of hospitality.  She wondered at the old crone’s willingness to offer her refreshments, for the Witch of the North was no fool.

Baba Yaga clapped her hands and the teapot grew feet and poured a measure of strong black tea into their mugs.  Sarai added some cream and sugar to hers and spread butter on the bread and bit it.  It was delicious, rich with currants and walnuts and slightly sweet. 

“There! Now that we have broken bread, I am honor-bound not to harm you.”

“True. But though you yourself may not, you could always pay someone to do the deed instead.”

Baba Yaga clucked at her in disapproval.  “So suspicious! And after I saved your lives too!”

“For what purpose?” asked the half-fae warrior.  “What’s in it for you?”

“Quite a bit, actually. But it can wait until your sorcerer is awake to discuss the particulars.” Baba Yaga drank down her tea, then beckoned a clear glass bottle off a shelf and poured a measure of it into her cup. Then she tossed it back, smacking her lips. “Ahh! There is nothing like a good vodka. Why don’t you wake the pretty boy in the traditional manner, Captain? With a kiss of true love?”

Sarai felt a flush start up her cheekbones, despite having commanded and ruled over men who were far more crude and explicit.  She quickly rolled over to where Severus lay, quickly assuring herself he was in a deep restorative sleep and was not injured any longer.  The many bites and scratches he had sustained from the tygren were gone and most left no scars behind. Sarai gently traced the side of his face and chin with her finger, smiling at him.  “Severus, wake up,” she whispered, kissing him ardently.

Severus’ eyes snapped open. “Sarai?” he gasped when she withdrew.  “I wasn’t sure if I were dreaming or in heaven. Are you hurt? Where are we?”

“Hush,” she put a finger to his lips. “I’m fine. We are inside a hut that moves about and is the known abode of Baba Yaga.”

Severus’ eyebrows went up. “Baba Yaga? But in Russian folktakes she’s evil!”

“No, not evil, just . . .on no side but her own.  Now, relax.  Can you sit up?”

“I . . . think so.” Severus pushed himself to a sitting position. He still felt weak and his head was fuzzy, but he refused to give into the weakness.  He looked down at himself, relieved to see that everything was still attached and worked.  In those last moments before he had blacked out he had been certain he was a dead man.  “Don’t trust her.”

“I don’t.  She has her own agenda.  As almost all the fae you meet do. As yet, I haven’t figured out what it is.”

Sarai quickly fetched Severus some tea and bread, which he consumed hungrily after Sarai’s nod. He examined the interior of the hut with interest and stroked Cafall’s head, the misthound was happily sprawled across his feet. 

Baba Yaga watched this little exchange with a sly smirk, then cleared her throat. 

“Now that you have tasted my hospitality, I shall answer your question, Captain Valinek. Oh, don’t look so surprised, I know of you, for who has not heard of the valiant half-blood who guards Titania, and who has also fallen in love with a powerful mortal wizard who bears the blood of the fae? ‘Tis a ballad for the ages, and the best story to come out of the Summer court in a very long time.  You interest me, and very few people or things have interested me for a long time.”

“You need us,” Severus stated baldly. He had had enough of this dancing about, he wished to be on his way to find his children. Delays, even if they had saved his life, were unacceptable.

Sarai elbowed him, but he ignored her.

Baba Yaga chuckled.  “So blunt. I like that in a man. You’re right, I do need you.  For you can go where I cannot, and bring me what I seek.”

Severus’ eyes narrowed. “How can that be? If you are as powerful as the legends say, you should be able to go anywhere and accomplish anything.”

“Ah, well, the legends exaggerate a little. Though not by much.” She walked to a chair and sat in it, beckoning them to join her around a squat table. She pointed her staff and bowls flew out of an old cupboard and filled themselves with beef stew, then shot over to the table.  Spoons danced their way over as well and settled down before each of them.  “I have always loved animating objects. It has been one of my favorite spells since I was but a child and first learning the Art. Eat.  But while you eat, I shall tell you a tale.”

The two found themselves obeying, despite their mistrust of their hostess. Under the laws of hospitality, Baba Yaga could not harm them, or allow harm to come to them, as long as they were within her home.  Cups of water appeared beside their bowls, and so did more slabs of dark bread.

“Once upon a time, there were three sisters, all were princesses of Fairie, and almost equal in magical ability.  One sister was of the Light, one preferred the dark and cold of Winter, and one was neither Dark or Light, but somewhere inbetween, and she preferred to the mortal realm best of all.  Like her sisters, she could assume any disguise she wished, but the one she chose most often was that of an old woman.  She had learned, you see, that the elderly could pass unnoticed in the mortal realm, and so learned many things. She had also learned that while some revered the old for their knowledge and wisdom, others did not, and it gave her much pleasure to teach the proud and arrogant boyars and haughty ladies a lesson in common courtesy and respect.  Sometimes she helped enterprising mortals, giving them quests and testing them, for such are the ways heroes are made. 

“Soon the mortals began to revere her and also to fear her power, for they had never seen any so skilled in the Magical Arts.  For a long time, the three sisters were content, each in her own domain.  Until the day the third sister met a comely mortal prince named Ivan.  Like many a prince before, she tested him, and unlike many, he passed her tests of courage and loyalty and intelligence.  He displayed great cunning where there was need and he also was fascinated by the magic.  After a few quests, he returned to her, for she had decreed he could name his reward, and he shocked her by saying the only reward he wished was her.  For Ivan had a peculiar gift, he could see through Glamour, and he saw the princess for what she was, and fell in love with her. 

At first she was wary, for no mortal had ever penetrated her disguise.  But Ivan was not seeking to harm her, he genuinely cared for her, and soon she came to care for him also, taking him for her lover.  For a time, they were happy, but she had forgotten the first law of the universe—that a thing which brings great joy may also breed envy. 

“Thus it was, as one day her younger sister, the Queen of Air and Darkness, came to visit, saw Ivan and wished to have him for her own.  She beseeched her sister to share the mortal, but her sister refused. “You only wish him because he loves me, and I know well what fate any mortal has in your grasp. You play with them and then break them.  Well, he is not a toy to be broken, little sister, and you may not have him.”

“But the Dark sister was spoiled and selfish, and she stole Ivan away into Faerie, bringing him to her dark kingdom.  But she soon lost interest in the mere mortal, yet refused to let him go, instead making him her pet. Under that abuse, he lost the will to live and died.  By the time his beloved had found a way into the Dark Kingdom, which was warded against her and her Light sister, it was too late. 

“She raged and wept, but nothing would bring Ivan back. His soul had flown to heaven.  But from that day onward, a relentless enmity was born between the two sisters, and it has never ceased.  The Dark Queen had children with her consort, and one of those sons recklessly decided to apprentice himself to a sorceress known as the Witch of the North.  For a time, all was well, and the sorceress began to hope that some good had sprung from her sister’s womb after all.  She was a fool. He was as tainted as all the others.  He betrayed her in the end, stealing from her a pendant that would allow him to travel back and forth between the mortal realm and Faerie, unharmed by wards or iron.  It was one of her most powerful amulets, forged in blood and tears, the last gift Ivan had ever given her.  To the Winter Prince it is a means to an end, but to her it represents all that was hopeful, good, and kind within her and is a symbol of the love she once had and then lost to treachery.”

Baba Yaga sat back and looked at her guests expectantly.

“You are the woman in the tale, are you not?” Severus asked.

“Yes, and the others are my sisters, Maeve and Titania. Jarillion, may a pox be upon him, is my nephew.”

“You wish us to get this amulet back for you?” queried Sarai. “Is that the price of the debt?”

“No.  The amulet is precious to me, but that is not worth the price of a life.  I wish for you to defeat Jarillion, humiliate him and bring him to me so that he may suffer my justice.  He broke his contract by stealing from me and also by leaving my service without permission.  He killed two of my most trusted servants ere he fled. And now the wretched brat dares taunt me by living upon the edge of the Waste, in a floating fortress where none of his blood may enter.” Baba Yaga ground her teeth together. 

“You don’t wish him dead?” Severus clarified.

“Of course I do. A dozen times over, for he is an evil twisted shoot that needs pruning.  However, fae law declares that only the Queens may mete out death to a royal. And though once I was a queen among mortals, I am that no longer. Mortals today no longer believe in the Witch of the North, and with the encroachment of iron cities and iron automobiles, I am no longer able to dwell among men as I used to.  And so men have forgotten me, save in legends and myths.  Here, in the realm of my birth, I am Queen of Exiles, and I seek only to make those who have wronged and hurt me suffer as I have suffered.”

“I, too, have a score to settle with Jarillion,” Severus stated then.  “He has kidnapped my sons and my young student, Nesmayallindra Highstar, and I fear he means them all grievous harm.  I must find them before they are scarred beyond repair or worse.”

Baba Yaga’s eyebrows rose. “He has dared to lay hands upon one of the royal kindred? Titania’s bastard granddaughter, and from all the rumors, her favorite grandchild? Oh, but he has overstepped his bounds this time! This time not even Maeve shall forgive him his insolence!”

“He seeks to marry your niece,” Sarai told the witch gravely.

“Marry? She is not yet of age!” scowled Baba Yaga. “Or does he mean to force or seduce her, the insufferable rogue? I would not put anything past him, he has no morals and no shred of decency within him.  Does Titania know of his trespass?”

“Not yet,” Sarai said.  “We did not wish to start a war between Maeve and my sovereign.  We thought to rescue the children ourselves and bring Jarillion back to be judged by the court, as is proper.”

“Clever, but you lack one thing.” Baba Yaga said softly.  “You lack knowledge of the Trackless Waste.  But I know the Waste, as I roam it often.  Here then, is my offer.  You both owe me a life debt, and here is the manner you may pay it.  Defeat the Winter Prince in combat, but make certain you do not slay him, else you may be accused of being assassins instead of heroes by Maeve.  Bring him to the court and call for a judgment from Titania. But make as one of your conditions that when judgment has been rendered, I be allowed to pass sentence upon him. Thus will my vengeance be satisfied and your debt be repaid. In return I shall take you to Jarillion’s fortress among the clouds, and there you shall enter and confront him, freeing your offspring.  What say you? Have we a bargain?”

“May we have a moment to discuss it?” asked Severus. 

“Certainly. I am not going anywhere.” Baba Yaga sat back and pulled a small pipe from inside her shapeless robes and began to smoke it.  The sweet scent of mint and pipeweed filled the air. 

Severus drew Sarai off to one side and whispered, “It would seem as if she hates Jarillion as much, if not more, than we do.  Can we trust her to keep her word?”

Sarai considered carefully.  “You know that among the fae, a spoken promise is as binding as one of your Unbreakable Vows.  She would not be offering this if she did not intend to keep her side of it.  I read her aura a little as we talked, and there was no dark area of deception within. She truly despises Jarillion and Maeve and will use any means to bring them low.  Including allying herself with us.  I have a feeling that she has tried to attack Jarillion before, but those she chose to help her failed.  And she did save us, we owe her. Better we pay the debt off this way rather than another.”

“Such as our firstborn child,” said Severus dryly.  “She seems like a dangerous enemy.”

“She is.  Jarillion has bitten off far more than he can chew, though he does not realize it yet.” Sarai declared coldly.  “From Titania he might expect a fair sort of justice, but from Baba Yaga he will be shown no mercy. I can almost pity the bastard.” She smiled tightly.  “Almost.”

“We are agreed then?”

“Yes.”

Together they turned back to where the old witch was seated. 

“Have you made your choice?” the crone demanded, her blue eyes hard as agates.

“We have,” Sarai asserted.

“And?”

“We have decided to accept your bargain.”

Baba Yaga smiled, a smile of cold satisfaction and bitterness.  “Give me your hand and your oath to seal the bargain.”

She held out her hands and they were clasped by both Severus and Sarai.  Solemnly, they swore to fight Jarillion and bring him to the justice of the queen, and to tell Titania that Baba Yaga was to be the executor of said justice.

“Done!  May Fortune smile upon you and this quest! If you succeed, all debts are paid and void between us.” She withdrew her bony feeling hands and lifted them to her face.  Slowly she ran them down her squat form.

A shimmering of silver dust coated the air, dazzling their eyes.

They blinked and squinted and when they could see again, Baba Yaga was an old woman no longer, but a beautiful maiden with hair the fiery auburn of a bonfire and eyes the color of the sky at midday. She was dressed in a fine gold silk robe trimmed with black mink and glass slippers accented with sapphires and rubies twinkled upon her feet.  Several rings adorned her long slender fingers and a cloak of spun moondust and starshine glittered about her. 

She spread her hands and said simply, “Here is my true form, and you are among only a handful of mortals who have ever seen me thus.  For the service you shall render me and because we are distant kin, I shall allow you to see me as I truly am.  Once this was the face I showed to the world, and this was what Ivan saw with his True Sight.” Her eyes suddenly darkened with sorrow. 

“Is Baba Yaga your real name?” Severus wanted to know.

“No.  It means “Grandmother Pain”, roughly translated. For so I became after my Ivan’s death.  I was full of anguish, my heart broken and bitter, and the jagged remains stabbed me every day, as I longed for the one I could never have again.  For a time I lived to cause pain to others, as in that way, I felt my own pain ease.  For a time I was a scourge to all those knights and gallant lords, and the darkness poisoned my spirit.”

“What changed that?”  Sarai queried.

“Time. And a young foundling called Vasilisa.  I found her bawling her tiny lungs out in the woods one evening.  She had been left to the wolves, probably her family couldn’t afford another mouth to feed, and girls were not valued then. I was almost tempted to leave her there, for I had no wish to raise an orphan brat.  But then I looked at her, and saw that not only did she bear a fine fighting spirit, but a great magical gift.  So I took her up and made her my foster daughter and apprentice.  At first I swore I would not let my heart be touched by her. I was stone, all I needed was a servant and a student, I was under no obligation to love her.

“But even the hardest heart can be melted by a child’s smile and laughter. I could not help but love her, she was innocent and wise and grew into a very beautiful woman.  I taught her all of my arts of woodscraft and healing and potion-making and herbology. And when she was grown, she went out among the people of Russia and tended those in need, offering healing and wise counsel when asked.  She became known as Vasilisa the Wise, and lived a long life before she died.  She changed me, made me feel something other than pain and death, and for that I shall always be grateful.  Her descendants are some of the greatest sorceresses in Russia, one of whom married a tsar. So I understand your fear and anxiety.” She swirled her cloak about her, and moonbeams danced across the floor.  “Long and long ago, my Ivan saw me this way, in the moonlight as we walked along the Volga.  He called me his Gloriana, and that is the name I am most fond of.”

She spun about then, light as thistledown, and suddenly was transformed into the old crone again.   “Now then, I must needs tend my cauldron, and brew a batch of potions that shall aid you against the creatures Jarillion has guarding his fortress.  Rest and regain your strength, and when I am finished, we shall travel across the Waste and to the fortress. We should arrive there in about three or four days.”

“Might I be of assistance, Old Mother?” asked Severus respectfully. “I have some talent with potions, I hold a Mastery in that field.”

“Indeed? By all means then, boy, let us see what you can do.” The witch grinned, showing her long pointed teeth, and beckoned him over to her cauldron.  Various vials and powders and herbs flew out of the cabinets and scuttled and scurried across the hut, where they hung in the air, and a huge tome of potion recipes flipped pages and opened up to a specific page, hovering before the two magic users.

While the two conversed in soft tones, Sarai rose and began to clean and sharpen her sword and oil her bowstring and check the fletching on her arrows. A good warrior never neglected her weapons and she would need them in top condition to face Jarillion and his allies.

Cafall rose and stretched out by her feet, his head on his paws, content to wait until his mistress and master were ready to hunt again.  He licked his paws and yawned.  Sarai summoned a bowl of water and another of stew and fed the faithful hound.

Then she took out her whetstone and began to run it along the blade, rasping it slowly up and down. It barely needed sharpening, as it had been made by the best swordsmiths in the fae realm, but Sarai found the exercise comforting. The slow steady repetition soothed her battle worn spirit and calmed her.  After her sword had been ground to a fine edge and she had polished it, she turned to readying her bow.

She made sure it had no new nicks or scratches and used a small amount of oil, rubbing it in to make the wood supple.  She tested the string, found it a  bit loose, and carefully waxed it with beeswax and tightened it. She then checked her arrows, making sure the silveron tips were firmly attached and the fletching was not broken. After she had replaced several broken feathers with new ones, she slid them back in her quiver, satisfied. 

A warrior is only as good as the weapons she wields, was an old saying that her armsmaster had drilled into her by the time she was ten.  Take care of your weapons and they’ll take care of you. That piece of advice had saved her life and the lives of the Blades who served under more times than she could count.  She had always placed great emphasis upon weapons care and her routine inspections of her soldiers’ weapons were of paramount importance. Her temper was legendary when she discovered one of her Blades with ill-cared weapons, and no one whom she reprimanded had ever made that mistake again.  Prince Balin, who had been her student, had once earned himself an entire week of armory duty, polishing and sharpening and oiling all the weapons her Blades used, because he had forgotten to clean his sword after chopping melons in half with it during an exercise. 

As she stared into the fire, half-dozing, she recalled the whispers at court of Queen Titania’s lost sister, who had chosen exile rather than dwell in Summer.  The rumors had been right, but only partially.  Sarai suspected that Baba Yaga chose to dwell away from the court so she could hunt Jarillion and satisfy her vengeance on Maeve and the Winter prince.  And the whispers had named the third daughter of King Lugh the Bright Warlord Morgana.

Sarai had been too busy training warriors and guarding the royal family to pay much attention to the rumor mill, but now she recalled Oberon sneering and saying one time to Balin that he ought to take heed of their aunt’s example and never fall in love with a mortal.  That nothing but sorrow could come of it, and he had been glancing right at Sarai when he said it.  The Captain had never had much love for her haughty cousin, and even less when she heard how he spoke to Nesmay. 

Oberon’s disdain of Aislinn’s daughter was something she found incomprehensible, given how fond he had always been of his sister.  Surely he could see that Nesmay’s birth was not at fault for Aislinn’s death. The Seelie princess had been fading long before because of the betrayal by her former student and lover, and Sarai had doubted if Aislinn would have lasted a season if she had not been carrying a child.  Yet Oberon had taken an immediate dislike of the frail babe and his criticisms had become more barbed and poisonous as the years went by and Nesmay displayed flickers of a talent greater than that of his own son. 

Sarai pondered what Oberon would say when he learned that his niece had been held captive by the Unseelie.  Would his hard heart soften towards the child? Surely not even Oberon would condemn Nesmay for Jarillion’s lust and ambition.  The half-fae warrior thought about how nice Jarillion’s head would look upon a pole and prayed that Titania would forgive Severus for not watching her granddaughter closely enough.  Sarai knew he felt terrible about the kidnapping, and worried as much about Nesmay as he did his sons. 

She rose and sought out her pallet again, the soldier in her urging her to get some more sleep, for once their journey began, she was sure sleep would be in short supply.  As she stretched out upon the bed, her mind began to drift, and the last sound she heard was Severus’ voice, asking Baba Yaga what was the best way to chop an Acadian flower and extract the most nectar. Before she knew it, her eyes had closed and she was fast asleep.

When Severus glanced over at her a scant five minutes later, he saw her fast asleep, her hand beneath her head, her dark curls spilling across the white sheet.  His mouth curled up in an involuntary smile, and his eyes grew soft. 

“You love her, do you not?”

“With all that I am and ever will be.”

“Mind you keep her close, some of us have a tendency to stray.”

“Not Sarai.  She’s as constant as the North Star.”

“That must be her mother’s influence. Or she loves you so deeply that no other man can catch her eye, no matter how handsome or rich he might be.”

“That’s how it is.”

“That is well then.  A relationship between mortal and fae can only work if there is the same deep love and understanding on both sides.  Above all, you must captivate her senses and never lose her interest, Severus Snape.”

“I think being my wife and the teacher of my children, as well as a mother, will hold her interest well enough.”

Baba Yaga nodded, a wistful expression stealing over her features.  “Yes.  Sometimes . . . I think about what Ivan and I would be like, had he lived and had I borne him children.  They would have been beautiful as the summer stars and clever as scholars and I would have cherished them for all for all of their days.”

Severus cleared his throat.  “I am sorry for your loss, Lady Gloriana.”

Baba Yaga shook her head.  “I thank you, Potions Master.  You would understand, seeing as you lost your first love to a dark wizard as well.”

Severus nodded.  “Lily was very special to me.  We grew up together and she had my heart from the first time we met. My son Harry has many of her virtues, and her lovely emerald eyes.”

“You are truly blessed, wizard, to have loved twice.” She stirred the cauldron three more times.  “Now, I believe it’s time to add the powdered rowan bark.”

Severus turned to measure out the correct amount, his movements precise and sure, despite working alongside one of the most skilled potion makers he had ever known. Once he had added it to the steaming cauldron, he moved over to begin grinding the mallow root.  This potion was difficult, requiring a level of skill that most potion makers did not possess.  But once it was completed it would enable the user to shake off the fae Glamour and see things for what they truly were.  Severus had a bad feeling that they were going to need this potion more than he thought and he prayed there would be enough to give his sons also.  Please let them be all right.  For if you have harmed so much as a hair on their heads, Jarillion, I shall make Titania’s justice look like a slap on the wrist.

Dark thoughts flitted through his mind as he continued to brew, like circling ravens above a corpse, and he forced himself to recall his sons over Christmas break, Harry’s sweet and honest smile and Draco’s casual grin, both from very different and yet very similar backgrounds.  His Dragon and his Phoenix.  What was happening with them? And with Nesmay, his hedgehog princess? Even with Baba Yaga’s unexpected help, would he be in time to save them?

How did you enjoy Baba Yaga's tale?

I have taken a few liberties with traditional Russian and Slavic folklore and made her a bit more of a redeemable character rather than evil. Vasilisa, in the folktales, was actually a prisoner of Baba Yaga, but here I felt it more appropriate to make her a foster daughter.

Thanks everyone for reading.

Also, I'm probably not going to be updating this for at least a week as I'm going on vacation to Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I can't wait!
 


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