DISCLAIMER: Regarding any characters from Xena WP - Don't own 'em, don't claim to own 'em and don't make a single penny from writing about 'em. All other characters are the fruit of my own dangerous imagination.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To xvnot15[at]hotmail.co.uk

The Love Potion
By XVs Lady Wife


When Autumn begins and the nights draw in, the days are shorter but they aren't much colder. This is the Amazons' favourite time of year. What Amazons like to do best, during the hours after sunset and before bedtime, is to sit or lounge about outside – warming their feet by a fire and their hands on each other. And what Amazons like most of all at this time of year, is to be told a story. Sometimes they like to hear a new story, but often what they want is an old favourite. Cleis' story of 'The Love Potion' is now an old, old favourite but I tell it here as I heard it for the first time. It has changed little during the years – the only difference now is that everyone joins in in places.

This is how the story began then (and it still begins the same way, though a few more years have passed since): -

Cleis: Ten years ago, I joined this nation as your healer. Before I came, you had no healer and I was surprised by how little you knew. When any of you were sick, you prayed to the gods but did nothing of any practical use to help them. I came across some old spells once but really the ignorance that existed then (and still exists in many of you now) was woeful.

Chorus: We asked for a story, not a lecture.

Queen Marpesia: Every story starts at the beginning.

Cleis: The art of healing is not an art at all. It is a science. Religion and magic have little if anything to do with it. The gods have placed healing substances in the world (mostly in plants) which will cure almost every ailment if correctly applied. These substances are there all the time and we have been given the knowledge to use them. There is no point praying to a god to give us healing powers – we already have them. Though it is well to thank them afterwards.

Queen Marpesia: Cleis, my love, a little bit of story wouldn't go amiss.

Cleis: As you all know, I have an assistant in my work. A very capable young woman…

Chorus: And sexy.

Cleis: Called Aella. She knows more about the science of healing than the rest of you put together. Also, she does not interrupt me. She has learnt our profession well and does everything I ask of her. She is a kind, gentle and loving person and I am told that her hair is as soft as silk, her lips as sweet as honey and her breasts are to die for.

Chorus: Hear, hear. Woo hoo. Now we're getting somewhere.

Cleis: Now you're getting somewhere? Hardly. She turned the lot of you down. You followed her around and showed off in front of her and gave her things you'd killed – and she ignored you all. We were beginning to wonder if she had made a vow to Hestia – or if she really thought that Artemis was a virgin and that the rest of us should be virgins too. But then one day, Aella came to me and asked me if I could make her a love potion. Now, love potions and aphrodisiacs are not the same thing.

Queen Marpesia: They have different names.

Cleis: An aphrodisiac is made from plants or animals that Aphrodite, in her playfulness, has put substances in that make you want to have sex. Sex and love are not the same thing. They have different names.

Queen Marpesia: Love makes you want to have sex.

Cleis: It should also make you stop interrupting when someone is trying to tell a story. Can I continue?

Chorus: Please do.

Cleis: Making an aphrodisiac is a science. You gather together the right things, mix them the right way and get pretty much the same result every time. But to make a love potion you have to use magic – and different people need different mixes. I asked Aella for whom she required the love potion because, as I say, you need different potions for different people. But she wouldn't tell me.

Chorus: We know now.

Cleis: Yes, we know now. But that's the end of the story. Every story has a beginning and an end. But if you don't shut up and listen, this one's not going to have a middle.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. I explained to her about the science and the magic – but she still wouldn't tell me who she wanted the potion for. I explained to her about different potions for different people – but she still wouldn't tell me who she wanted the potion for. I had told her the truth – but she still wouldn't tell me who she wanted the potion for. So, I tried lying. I told her that it could be dangerous to give a love potion to someone who was already in love – just as it is dangerous to give an aphrodisiac to someone who is as randy as you lot.

Then she started pleading with me – saying there must be some kind of love potion that works for anyone and isn't dangerous. And then she started crying. And you know what a big softy I am. So I told her that…

The first ingredient for any love potion is a blade of grass that has been stood on by the person you want to love you, in their bare feet. This cannot be any old blade of grass from a field where they once stood with no shoes on. This cannot be a blade of grass that you've stuck in their shoe and retrieved later. This cannot be a blade of grass which you have picked and touched against their foot while they were asleep. It has to be a blade of grass which was growing out of the ground at the time they stood on it (not near it, on it) and you bend down and pick it less than a minute after they stood on it without their shoes on.

She looked at me as if I were mad and I thought it might be fun to give a mad cackle like our Queen (and my love), Marpesia, does when she fights but I'm not very good at the mad cackle and anyway – you know what a big softy I am. Then she gave a deep sigh and said 'Okay'.

She followed the young warriors around for days and I thought to myself Aha, so it is one of the warriors and I laughed a little inside. But warriors never take their shoes off – especially when it is muddy underfoot, which it tends to be in the spring when the rains are upon us. Did I tell you it was spring? Anyway, she followed the warriors around for days and several times she got rather fetchingly wet. But warriors never take their shoes off.

One day, she decided she must try another tack. So she went up to a certain young warrior… Yes, I know you all know who it was. And that's when I knew for certain who it was. And I smiled a lot inside because it is much easier to make a love potion when your heart is in it. Anyway she went up to a certain young warrior and told her that I had asked her to gather lots of May blossom and I thought to myself How did I get dragged into this? Apparently, I needed more May blossom than she could carry and would a certain young warrior go with her and help her gather it and bring it home. And a certain young warrior said that she would be very pleased to be of assistance. So they set out across the meadow together and someone shouted out 'Ooh, Eponin, it's your lucky day' and a certain young warrior…

Chorus: Eponin

Cleis: and a certain young healer…

Chorus: Aella

Cleis: both went the same shade of pink. And someone…

Chorus: Ephiny

Cleis: got a slap upside the head from me.

As they were crossing the meadow, Aella took her shoes off to feel the grass between her toes but, although I am sure she suggested that Eponin do the same, warriors never take their shoes off. I suspect she was told that they'd only have to be put back on again when they got to the other side of the meadow. I don't suppose she was told why warriors never take their shoes off.

When she got to the other side of the meadow, Aella leaned on a certain young warrior

Chorus: Eponin

Cleis: Aella leaned on Eponin to put her shoes back on and she must have nearly fallen because Eponin had to hold on tightly to her while she put the first shoe on and then knelt in front of her to put the other one on for her.

Hours later, they returned across the meadow and again Aella took her shoes off and again she was the only one – because warriors never take their shoes off even though Aella pointed out that they wouldn't need to be put back on even when they got to the village. I think it possible that Eponin may have remarked that she was carrying enough stuff without having to carry her shoes as well and she may have been a little grumpy and she may have said that it would have been nice to have been warned about the thorns. And I think Aella may have said how helpful and strong and clever a certain young warrior was and how she couldn't possibly have managed on her own. And when they got back, it was found to be necessary to clean every scratch very carefully and to put soothing ointment on all of them and there was a particularly bad scratch across Eponin's belly which must have been at least two inches long and so wide and deep that we don't have the fractions to express it. That took a very long time to treat properly and wasn't really finished until Ephiny came home and asked: - "You got an owie there, Po?" – I sometimes feel that Aella and I do not give sufficient credit to the curative powers of sarcasm.

While all this was happening, I went outside to look at the May blossom and ponder its fate. And shortly afterwards Aella joined me. I was looking sadly at the enormous heap of May blossom and she was looking sadly at the whole world. She gave a deep, deep sigh, furrowed her brow and remarked, apparently to the whole world, but presumably just to me: -

"Warriors never take their shoes off."

"Oh, they do sometimes, dear." I answered cheerily.

"But there isn't any grass in her bed" she moaned "… not growing anyway."

I laughed a little inside at this. Not because I enjoyed her troubles – you know I'm really just a big softy. But I knew she'd figure something out eventually and it would be worth the effort. Sure enough she soon looked at me more hopefully.

"Next time it stops raining for a while they'll probably go swimming" she remarked.

"They probably will" I answered – feeling again that little laughter inside.

"May I go with them please?" she asked – looking even more hopeful.

Now Aella is a very good girl, always helpful, always asks permission, never shirks her duties to run off on a frolic of her own – unlike some people I know…

Chorus: Eponin

Cleis: and some other people I know…

Chorus: Ephiny

Cleis: and some other people I know…

Queen Marpesia: Oww

Cleis: so I was pleased to let her go, just this once, and said: - "Of course you can my dear" now she really smiled "… just as soon as you've helped me burn this May blossom" and then she looked dejected again... And I thought to myself How can you be so mean, Cleis? So I said: - "It won't take long and we can use it for your love potion."

"Will it help?" she asked, brightening again.

"Oh, yes!" I said, "If you'd told me who you were after in the first place, I would have said May blossom at the beginning."

"You know who she is?" she asked, blushing ever so cutely.

"Oh, yes." I said "… and if I'd known before I would have said that what you need to start your love potion off is lots of May blossom. It's not really an ingredient – it's more of an auspicious start – burn lots of May blossom and then start on the real ingredients."

"An auspicious start" Aella repeated turning to go back in, considerably happier than when she had come out. But as she got to the door she turned again frowning slightly. "I forgot to say" she said "we need some more of that ointment it's running low." And I suddenly had to blow my nose so that Aella wouldn't think that I was snorting with laughter at what she'd said.

Anyway, a couple of days later, it didn't rain first thing in the morning and it didn't look as though it would rain either, and it didn't rain mid-morning and it didn't look as though it would rain either, and come noon it still didn't rain and it didn't look as though it would rain either. All the warriors ran off to the river to bathe and Aella and I ran out the back to start the May blossom burning.

As soon as the first bit of May blossom caught fire, I told Aella she could go – and she ran off as if I'd lit a fire under her. She got to the river well after the others and it looked as though the water was a bit cold so she decided not to swim herself. She just sat on the bank and watched.

Then Ephiny called out "Aella, come and join us." But she just shook her head.

Then Eris called out "Aella, come and join us." But she just shook her head.

Then Antiope called out "Aella, come and join us." But she just shook her head.

Then Eponin stood up in the water and called out nothing – she just looked at Aella with inviting eyes – and Aella didn't shake her head. But she also didn't move – she just sat there with her mouth slightly open. So Eponin held her hand out invitingly. But Aella still didn't move – she just sat there with her mouth slightly open. So Eponin started to walk towards her. Eponin, stark naked and dripping wet walked out of the water with inviting eyes and her hand stretched out to fetch Aella. And Aella still didn't move. She sat there with her mouth slightly open until Eponin was almost upon her. Then she stood up and backed away a little. But Eponin still held out her hand and very softly said "Aella, come and join us." And Aella said "I…" and then couldn't think of anything else to say. And Eponin took her hand and gently pulled her towards her saying "Come and join us." There was an invitation in her voice but Aella couldn't see the invitation in her eyes because she had come over all shy and was looking down at her own feet. So Eponin bent down and looked up into her eyes and said "Aella?" And Aella looked up a bit and blushed and then looked up a bit more and saw the smile on Eponin's face and blushed even more and then she looked down again – and then she saw Eponin's feet. They were bare and there was grass under them – growing grass. Aella smiled the biggest smile ever. The kind of smile that is rarely seen. The kind of smile that can only be produced upon sight of bare feet standing on growing grass and she knew she had to find a way to get rid of Eponin for long enough so that she could pick her blade of grass. So she looked all around and she looked past Eponin and saw that the others had given up swimming now and were all getting dressed. So she pointed at them and said "It would be just us." And Eponin said "We c…" and then couldn't think of anything else to say and came over all shy and ran away to get dressed. And Aella bent down and picked her blade of grass and walked away smiling.

That afternoon Aella was very quiet. Every now and then she would break into a huge smile but she said very little and seemed distracted. Once she'd helped me finish burning the remaining May blossom and after we'd made up some more of the scratch ointment and taken an inventory of everything else, we sat down with a cup of tea and I asked if she was having any luck with gathering her ingredients. She, almost reluctantly but somehow at the same time triumphantly, took the blade of grass from her bosom where she'd had it for safe-keeping and gave it to me. Then she asked me what the next ingredient was and I told her that

The second ingredient for a love potion is a hair from their head. Not any old hair from anyone. A hair from the head of the person you want to love you. Not a piece of hair that they've cut off but a whole hair that has fallen out naturally (well actually, you can pluck it out but this leads to a very inferior sort of love potion). And – it has to be dry. It has to be dry when it's growing out of their head. It has to be dry when it falls out of their head. It has to be dry when you give it to me. And it has to be dry all the time in between. "Oh, good" she said and smiled again.

Now I have to say that I was surprised at how confident she seemed about this because, in the spring, when it's not raining the warriors go swimming – and catching one with dry hair can be difficult. I was particularly surprised at how happy she seemed the next day when the heavens opened and started chucking it down. It was pouring so hard that we knew that even the warriors would eventually seek shelter. I started to light a fire for them to get warmed up by and just as I had finished, I heard Eponin at the door. "Hi" she said and Aella said "Hi". Then Eponin spoke again "I'm wet" she said and Aella said

Chorus: "So am I"

Cleis: No she didn't. You lot are dreadful and you don't deserve a story. "So I see" is what Aella said. She said "So I see" and stepped aside to let Eponin through. Then I said "BOOTS" and Eponin wiped her muddy boots carefully.

Eponin came to stand in front of the fire and Aella brought a towel for her. She also brought a chair over and set it down with its back to the fire. I assumed that this was to dry the towel over but no… it was part of Aella's plan. Apparently, it's very important to dry your hair when you've been caught in a sudden storm. Otherwise you might catch a chill or, worse still, interfere with Aella's plan. Eponin had to sit in the chair with her back and, more importantly, her hair towards the fire. That way her hair would dry and she wouldn't catch a chill. To be certain that her hair dried properly, Aella leant over her and ran her fingers through Eponin's hair. In fact, by the time Ephiny arrived to dry off, Eponin was sitting in a chair with her legs apart (like she does); Aella had one knee between Eponin's thighs on the chair, her breasts practically in Eponin's face and both hands loosely grasping her hair. The look on Eponin's face suggested that sixty or seventy Christmases had come early and all at once… and I had to explain to Ephiny what was going on. This was not as difficult as you might expect since Ephiny thought it sounded an excellent idea and was surprised that I, as healer of the tribe, had left it to my assistant to institute this important health practice which she was keen to try out as soon as possible since the benefits were so apparent from the look on Eponin's face. So I told her to pull up a chair and leant over her pulling her hair until she stopped sniggering. Later that evening, Aella produced some strands of hair that were definitely Eponin's and definitely dry and she asked me what the next ingredient was.

Now, I hadn't expected her to be so quick with the second ingredient and I hadn't given the third ingredient much thought at this point. So, on the spur of the moment, I told her that

The third ingredient is a petal from a flower that the person you want to love you has held in their hand – or you can bring me the whole flower. Not any old flower that you have picked and they have never seen. Not a flower that you have put in their hand while they were asleep and taken away before they woke up. But it can be a flower that you put in their hand while they were asleep as long as they wake up and see it and hand it to you. Aella smiled smugly at this point so I added that in order to make the best kind of love potion, you really want for them to have held the flower to their nose and smelled it. That wiped the smile off her face.

"You want me to get Eponin to smell a flower?" she asked incredulously.

"You're the one who wants to make a love potion" I pointed out. Then I walked away.

The next morning, while we were working together she broached the subject again – diffidently. "This love potion… You did say, didn't you that you need different ingredients for different people – depending on who the love potion is for?" she asked and I replied "Yes."

"This is a love potion for Eponin. You know that don't you?" she asked and I replied "Yes."

"And a love potion for Eponin needs to contain a flower that she has smelled?" she asked and I replied "No."

She looked at me… and I looked at her. Then I explained again.

"The easy love potion that works quickly but doesn't last very long only requires a flower that she has held in her hand. The longer lasting love potion… the love potion that you can build on… the love potion that contains some ingredients before you declare your love for each other and which you can add other ingredients to later to make your love grow… That kind of love potion requires a flower that she has smelled as well as held in her hand." "Oh" was all she said and then she became lost in thought.

A little later, while we were working together, Aella said to me. "You know the flower…?" and I said "No, what flower?" and she said "The flower that Eponin has to smell" and I said "Oh… that flower. Yes, I know the flower."

"Well" Aella said, "I was just thinking…" and I said "Mmmh?"

"If I got some flowers…" she said and I said "Mmmh?"

"And tied them together…" she said and I said "Mmmh?"

"With a little label that said 'Aella'…" she said and I said "Mmmh?"

"Then I could leave them on the table here and go out." she said and I said "Hmmm?"

"Then when Eponin came in…" she said and I said "Mmmh?"

"She might ask you where they came from…" she said and I said "Mmmh?"

"And you could say that you didn't know…" she said and I said "Mmmh?"

"Because someone left them when you were out…" she said and I said "Mmmh?"

"And you could mention that they smell really nice." she said and I said "Hmmm?"

"And then she might pick them up and smell them." she said and I said "Hmmm?"

"And then I'd have my third ingredient." she said and I said "Hmmm" and I thought for a while and I ran through it again in my mind and I thought of several things that could go wrong but I didn't like to say and then I thought It's your love potion. If that's the way you want to do it. So I said "Okay" and Aella produced some flowers tied round with a little label that said 'Aella' that she must have been hiding somewhere and ran away. And I picked up the flowers and smelled them and put them back on the table.

When Aella came back around lunchtime she found the grumpiest Eponin ever – picking holes in my table with her fork. Ephiny was looking innocent and hurt – and I was whistling in the kitchen. There were no flowers anywhere.

Aella came into the kitchen and said "What…" and I said "Don't ask"

And Aella said "But…" and I said "Don't ask"

And Aella said "Where…" and then, from the other room, Ephiny shouted "It wasn't me" and as we walked back in carrying lunch Eponin said "Shut up" and glared at Ephiny who flounced out and Eponin said a loud word that started with 'F' and ran after her.

I said "More for us then" and sat down to eat.

Aella said "What…" and I said "Eponin wasn't happy that someone left you flowers"

And Aella said "But…" and I said "She doesn't know that"

And Aella said "Where…" and I said "Torn up and thrown out of the window"

And Aella said "I don't suppose…" and I said "No, she didn't smell them first"

And Aella very softly began to say a word that started with 'F' (and it wasn't flower).

Aella and I had a very quiet lunch. I wanted to say "I told you so" but I couldn't – because I hadn't. She wanted to go back in time and try again but she couldn't – so she didn't. Anyway, about an hour later, Eponin burst through the open door of my hut as if someone had pushed her and stood there awkwardly for a while saying "Umm" (much as she does when attempting to recite poetry). Then she drew a bunch of roses from behind her back and offered them to Aella. Well I thought this is going better than I expected. And Aella told Eponin they were lovely flowers and asked if they smelled nice. And Eponin sniffed at the roses and smiled a big smile and said "Yeah. They do." And Aella touched Eponin's hand as she took the flowers from her and it looked for a moment as if they might kiss and then Eponin ran away again because, as she says, sometimes you're so happy you have to run.

Then, of course, Aella wanted to know what the next ingredient was. And I told her that…

The fourth ingredient of a love potion is essence of feather. Obviously it has to be their feather either from their mask or a pen they use to write with. I keep the feather for up to four days though you can have it back at any time if you need it. You must not ask permission to take the feather and all the time it is in my possession, everything you say to her must be true.

"I have to tell Eponin the truth?" she asked incredulously.

"Oh no dear." I said. "You don't have to tell the truth. You just can't lie."

"But she's going to ask me if I know where her missing feather is." she said.

"Probably" I said.

"And I'm going to have to tell her that I needed it for a love potion." she said.

"Oh no no no." I said. "You don't have to tell her that at all. You could say nothing…"

Aella looked at me as if I were a crazy woman and said "Bu…"

"or you could say something totally irrelevant but still true…" I said

Aella continued to look at me as if I were a crazy woman and said "Bu…" again.

"though she might think you were a crazy woman if you did that…" I said.

Aella stopped looking at me as if I were a crazy woman and started looking like a person who has just agreed with a crazy woman and isn't very happy about it.

"or you could just come and ask me for the feather back." I concluded.

Aella sat and thought for a long time occasionally moving her head from side to side as if she were having an imaginary conversation with someone. Then eventually she said "Okay" in a resigned kind of a way.

About mid-morning the next day, Aella brought me a feather from Eponin's mask. Three days later, Eponin returned from her hunting trip with Ephiny – and Aella disappeared. Aella disappeared – but Eponin did not. Eponin followed me around.

From the way she occasionally opened and shut her mouth and from the way she glared at Ephiny, you would have thought she wanted to talk to me alone. But what she actually did was follow me into the kitchen and watch me do the things I needed to do. And follow me into the dispensary and watch me do the things Aella should have been doing. And follow me back into the main room, re-glare at Ephiny, and watch me begin to prepare the evening meal.

Finally she said "Mum. Can I ask you something?"

And I replied "Of course you can daughter." and waited for her to continue.

And I waited… and I waited… and just as I was coming to the conclusion that Eponin was merely establishing a precedent for some future occasion when she might actually have a question – that the something had already been asked and answered – she went on: -

"You know like you and Aella work together."

And I said "Yes"

"And you like spend a lot of time together."

And I said "Yes"

"Do you like talk to each other?"

And I was very tempted to answer "No, we communicate in mime – and if I want her attention when she's on the other side of the room, I throw something at her head" but I said "Yes"

"Does she 'like' like anyone?"

And just as I was about to say "Yes", she went on: -

"Because you know like I like her. I mean I know like everyone likes her you know. But it's like I like really like her. And I dunno like if she likes anyone or what she likes about them or what I could do so like maybe she might like me. And like do you talk about this stuff? You know." and looked at me all hopeful like.

And "Yes" didn't seem to cover it any more so I said: - "Why don't you ask her?"

And she said "That's what Ephiny said I should do."

Now, I wanted to praise her for not automatically following Ephiny's advice which is generally bad

Chorus: Very bad.

Cleis: And I wanted to scold her for not following Ephiny's advice on this occasion since it was good.

Chorus: Very good.

Cleis: And then Ephiny came bursting into the room waving Eponin's mask.

"I thought you should know right." she said "One of your feathers is missing and it wasn't me right. So don't go blaming me right coz I'm just letting you know Okay." and she handed the mask to Eponin and flounced out.

And Eponin glanced briefly at her mask and put it on one side and continued as if nothing had happened saying: -

"But like what she actually said was that I should like ask Aella out you know. And then like if Aella said no then I should like ask someone else. But you know it's like not like that coz you know it's like I don't wanna go out with anyone else, I only wanna go out with Aella and she's not like anyone else and if like she said no then I'd like wanna die you know."

While I was wondering whether I did, in fact, know – and who would clean up afterwards if my head exploded (since presumably I would be in no fit state to do so), Ephiny flounced back in saying: -

"Oh yeah, listen right. I had a really good idea about what you should do about Aella right. Because what you should do right, no, listen, Okay, is. What you should do right so you don't have to 'like' talk to her. What you should do is ask your mum right to make you a, wait for it, ask your mum right to make you a

Chorus: Lurrve potion.

Queen Marpesia: Right.

And Ephiny smirked at me in a manner unbefitting to the saviour that she so clearly was. And Eponin gave me a pleading, begging look unbefitting to the proud warrior that she so clearly is. And I lectured them on the seriousness of the proposition in a manner unbefitting to the big softy that I am. And Eponin said "Oh please. Oh please. Oh please." so many times that I eventually told her about the first ingredient – the blade of grass.

She looked a bit confused but made a note of it and then wanted to know about the next ingredient. So I told her about the second ingredient – the hair.

She smiled a bit and made a note of it and then wanted to know about the next ingredient. So I told her about the third ingredient – the flower.

She grinned a bit and made a note of it and then wanted to know about the next ingredient. So I told her about the fourth ingredient – the feather.

She grinned a lot and stuck her finger through the gap in the feathers of her mask and then wanted to know about the next ingredient.

And I thought Why does there have to be another ingredient? Why don't you just talk to each other? What more do you need? But apparently the time was still not right for talking and there was a need for yet more ingredients. So I told her that: -

The fifth ingredient of a love potion is one of the little white flowers that grow up in the meadow past the waterfall just into Centaur land. Not the clover which also comes in a sort of lilac colour. Not the crocuses which also come in lilac and yellow varieties. But the little white flower that only grows there and only comes in the one colour – white. And it has to be picked by someone with no shoes on by the light of a full moon.

And that should have been that but – no. It turned out that Eponin was worried that she might not get the right flower and then she'd have to wait another month for the next full moon to try again. So Ephiny suggested that she ask Aella to fetch it for her because surely Aella would get it right. But then Eponin said that Aella couldn't possibly go out to Centaur land on her own because it was dangerous. So Ephiny said that Eponin should go with her, to protect her. And I was thinking Yes that's right. I'm your wise old mother and I don't just pick these ideas out of thin air, you know. When I say something, I say it for a reason. And Eponin was all set to go at the very next full moon until Ephiny suggested that maybe they should take a picnic and a couple of bedrolls and make a night of it. And then it turned out that Eponin was way too shy and couldn't possibly and maybe next month. And Ephiny gave up and stormed off. And I smiled at Eponin and said "You take your time – whenever you're ready." and went and found Aella and told her what the fifth ingredient was.

And that explains why, that very evening, the night of the full moon, Aella asked Eponin if she would come with her to protect her on a very dangerous mission that I was sending her on. And they set off together towards the waterfall that marks the boundary with Centaur land. And I suppose it also explains why, when they reached the old oak with the Clematis growing up it, they stopped for a brief conversation and Aella slipped her shoes off and Eponin hoicked her up to pick one of the Clematis flowers. And I suppose it also explains why Eponin staggered a little when she was putting Aella down so that Aella landed on the grass rather than the bare earth that surrounded the base of the tree. And I suppose it also explains why Eponin didn't immediately take the flower that Aella was holding out to her. And why she bent down and picked one of the blades of grass first. And it explains why she still didn't take the flower from Aella even then but stopped to pick something (a piece of fluff or a stray hair or something) off Aella's shoulder first. And it explains why she still didn't take the flower from Aella until she'd said something to Aella and Aella had held the flower to her nose. And why she came running back to the house leaving Aella leaning against the tree looking dazed but very happy. And why she picked up Aella's pen on her way to give me the grass, the hair and the flower. And why she also gave me Aella's pen and said "I love you, mum."

But it doesn't really explain why Eponin turned at the door on her way out and said "Does it have to be bare feet?" in a whiny voice – or why I said "Stop off at the river that feeds the waterfall" and threw a bar of soap at her head.

Long Pause

Chorus: Is that it?

Cleis: Yes

Queen Marpesia: But why did you throw a bar of soap at her head?

Chorus: No, no, we know that. What we want to know is: - what's the sixth ingredient?

Cleis: Look, I'm Eponin's mother and she's listening and she doesn't allow me to talk about sex.

Chorus: Oh. Okay. THE END.

Antiope: Have you nicked my bleedin' pen, Eris?

Eris: You wish.

The End

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