The Lion, the Witch, and the Woodsman, No. 2

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Chapter 5 Gentle Ginger and Rough Annie

Though my preternatural swiftness and sinewy strength allow me to travel at speeds humans can only aspire to, it’s faster still to take the crossroads. When Temple rudely roused me from my nap, I pictured the vine-covered cottage of Gentle Ginger and Rough Annie and chose my path.

Et voila! Here I am.

And now here you are, reader.

Bruce, however, is not here quite yet. Can you make out the path there—through the thicket of smoke trees? The ones with black, grasping branches. That’s right. Bruce will enter there in three minutes. I arrived early to give you a moment to take in the digs.

If you shift your gaze a little to the left, you’ll see the stone wall that surrounds the coven sisters’ cozy clearing in the forest. Come nearer and touch this patch of emerald here. Ultrasupple moss. Moira Thistle’s invention. You’ve heard of it, you say? She traded 100 hectares of this stuff for a single, small vial of perfume hand-crafted by the sisters. That should tell you something about the demand for their elixirs and potions.

Climb up on top of the wall. Be careful. The moss makes it slippery. The garden spread out before you is one of the lushest in all of Euterpe, certainly the most fragrant. Gentle Ginger and Rough Annie are master perfumers and botanists, and they grow all of their own ingredients here. Like Moira, they’ve cultivated magical varieties of all manner of herbs, perennials, and trees.

Look. There’s the infant’s crown over there next to the stream. The flowers smell exactly like the hair of a child spoiled with strawberries and fresh cream. Even wild beasts find it intoxicating. It renders the wearer irresistible to the tender-hearted.

And there—that tall, slender smoke tree. They’ve grafted it onto an old-growth incense cedar. The vaporous pollen that emerges from the bursting buds is more aromatic than you get with a conventional smoke tree. Walking through a grove of these giants inspires a religious experience unparalleled by any cathedral.

Now, look beyond the garden, beyond the fragrant tree, beyond the mound of infant’s crown and the stream. The witches’ cottage nearly disappears into the golden-green of the clearing, engulfed in ivy that smells like everlasting life. Note the little nanny goat they’ve employed to keep the vines from completely overtaking the cottage and the coal black crows that keep watch over the place.

Look closely—do you see the window there? There, just inside, are the two witches Gentle Ginger and Rough Annie, sniffing at the air with their large, beak-like noses. They’ve caught Bruce’s scent.

You’re right. They’re not beautiful by Earth standards, with their brooding eyes and their wild, gray locks and their worn-in breasts. Even by crone standards, the crones are unglamorous, which I use here in the Euterpian sense. Neither Gentle Ginger nor Rough Annie bother to alter their appearance using glamours, but that wasn’t always the case.

In their youth, they were celebrated for their uncanny glamour spells. Gentle Ginger once used stardust and cinnamon to create an unguent that transformed her into a phoenix. No, she wasn’t actually a phoenix, half-wit. Rather, when she rubbed the balm into her young, supple skin, it created an olfactory illusion. Chemically, the potent scent signature shut down the viewer’s visual cortex, causing Ginger to appear as a phoenix.

For her part, Rough Annie galvanized storm-tossed sea water with crows’ feathers and fear to brew a shampoo that caused her hair to cascade in a black tidal wave behind her. She inundated the fishing village where she spent her youth to exact revenge on Mamie October, who had pulled her pigtails once at a Sabbat celebration when they were girls. In a happy coincidence, the orgy arranged to get things back to normal coincided with a mermaid love-in. In the end, the village was restored with a few notable aquatic upgrades, and Rough Annie and Mamie October buried the battle-ax.

Gentle Ginger and Rough Annie spent more than three millennia adding their orgasmic energy to the energy of Euterpe. At some point, it just became old hat. When you’ve seen one orgy, you’ve seen them all. They had other interests to pursue, so like Bruce, they set up shop in the depths of Tanglewood, where they could brew potions without distractions.

Crones are given short shrift in your neck of the woods, but here on Euterpe, the sisters’ decision to live as celibates and focus on pure alchemy makes them notorious in the sexiest possible way. Many a satyr strokes his staff fantasizing that he might be the one chosen to bring Rough Annie to her first climax in a millennia or more. The amount of orgasmic energy that would be released is unfathomable. To be frank, I hardly think a satyr would survive it. A thousand-year orgasm would completely obliterate a dimensionally-challenged wretch like a satyr.

You? You’re asking if you would survive a thousand-year orgasm? Surely, you jest.

Not that it needs to be said, but Gentle Ginger and Rough Annie are powerful witches with or without a good orgasm. But a good orgasm does still offer some advantages to an advanced crone, and like all witches, the two are powerfully aroused by certain scents. At this moment, a most provocative aroma is tickling their olfactory nerves: Bruce the Woodsman, re-emerging after two decades of abstinence.

It may be hard to believe, but Bruce wasn’t exaggerating when he described the notoriety of his lovecrafting. No doubt, both Gentle Ginger and Rough Annie have heard tales of his enchanted broomstick, and they’d like to take it out for a test run. Perhaps they believe Hekate put the man on their path for a purpose—to remind them of pleasures they’d nearly forgotten in their pursuit of learning or, more prosaically, to inspire a provocative, new scent to release at one of the upcoming fashion galas.

In any case, they’ve sprung into action. They’re spry old girls. You’ve got to give them that.

Look there on the window sill. The ladies have already put out a tart with a golden butter crust. The thick dark juices are spilling out: pomegranate seeds steeped in poached pear brandy. Can you smell it? The caramelized sugars of the crimson seeds, the faint tang of ethanol and hand fruit—and longing, the secret ingredient. If you look very closely, you’ll see a little finger of fragrance flying through the garden to greet the woodsman and entice him inside.

He pauses. He inhales.

Note the bulge in his pants.

Honestly, I’m not sure how he made it two decades without a single shag given the frequency of his erections. And there he goes—down the proverbial garden path and into the arms of two giddy grandmothers. I’ll leave you to him.

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