Saylie Chaterhalm was in her front garden, taking an outside break from the tasks her mentor had set her, when her father arrived at her garden gate. His presence was so unexpected that she just stood there looking at him, in stunned surprise. He was, of course, inappropriately dressed for Bolton-on-the-Edge where sewn seams came apart due to the village's proximity to the Reality Ravine. Additionally, his finely tailored suit was made of wool and the waistcoat he was wearing was silk, so consequently he was beginning to look overwarm. For his part, he was looking at her as if he didn't know what to think and Saylie assumed that was because he'd never seen her wearing anything like her current garments - not only was she wearing a sari-like outfit with a bodice that relied entirely on heavy fusible lining and knots to do its job, but the colour of the sari was magically changing from green through to purple and back again.
"Dad!" Saylie spoke first and walked happily down the garden path towards the gate. "This is so unexpected! What are you doing here?"
"Your mother is trying to get you out of exile, so she came here to speak to the Warden in person to find out how to get you released. I came along to keep her company, and I thought I'd come along while she was doing business and see if I could see you." Her father looked at the building behind her and asked, "Whose house is this? I mean, this is the address we have for you, but this is not a detention facility, is it?"
Saylie sighed. "You know, I would really have liked to have seen that letter I was sent, the one you two read and then wouldn't show to me. It turned out that this isn't exile, this is an appointment. A work assignment, with salary, paid leave, and a remote locality benefits package. This house and garden are mine while I'm here. Speaking of which," she opened the gate, "would you like to come in, sit down and have a cup of tea while we wait for Mum to turn up? She’ll probably need one too to help get over finding out that the Director is not a Warden."
Her father stepped through the gate and Saylie closed it behind him. He looked around. "It's very green here, isn't it?" he commented. "I see you've got copper bells too. I wouldn't have thought they'd grow here, seeing as they come from around Temporlead. Your mother used to get driven to tears by them, the way they just sprang up everywhere in the garden at home. They don't seem to have been such a problem recently."
"Well, that's probably my fault," replied Saylie as she contemplated the plantings she'd added to the garden. Only a few sprays of copper-coloured flowers showed in the beds at the moment, but they were a pleasant punctuation to the garden's undergrowth. "Apparently when I don't give my magic enough to do, what it does is produce copper bells." She looked sideways at her father and added, "The main affiliations of my magic are chaos and vegetative, and its alignment is co-operative. All of which would have been useful to know years ago."
"How did your mother and I have you?" Her father looked surprised. "That's nothing like us."
"Apparently I'm a statistical possibility, but not a probability," answered Saylie. "There's someone here who does that sort of maths and, trust me, I'm not the weirdest kid you could have had."
Her father looked at her sideways. "Oh?"
"You can be glad that none of us is actually a co-operative chaotic necromancer," expanded Saylie. "With minor affiliations in regeneration and healing."
"Members of the extended family would have had the megrims," acknowledged her father. He suddenly turned his head to look straight at the herbaceous bed in full sun against the garden side fence. "Is that black arrowwort you've got over there?"
"It is." Saylie was unexpectedly happy that her father had noticed the plant. "It's supposed to be finicky but it's doing really well there. My mentor has me growing it so I can work on making my own inks." She added shyly, "I've got a panadoo vine started on the shady side of the house."
"Can I see it?" Her father was excited. "I've never seen the plant itself before. It won't grow back in Borasboom unless you have a very expensive greenhouse, and we just don't have the room or funds to build one." So Saylie led him around to the other side of the house and showed him her precious little vine. After that he admitted to being too warm, so she took him inside to take off his coat.
"I'll make tea," she said firmly after showing him where the bathroom was. "I expect Mum will be along shortly, possibly with the Director, so that will be four of us. I can show you how my scribing is coming along while we wait."
Edmard Chaterhalm's working life was spent enscribing spells so he was very interested in his daughter's workroom. He had some comments on things that worked well for him in setting up and laying out a scribing workspace for various projects. "I wouldn't be too upset that your inks aren't what you were hoping for yet," he told her. "You're just starting out. A lot of my early attempts were worse. You know I buy in a lot of my inks and pens these days, but it's good to know how to make them yourself so you appreciate the work that goes into them. Sometimes too the production method will affect your project, and you need to know enough to take that into account. Oooh, what are those?" He walked over to a tray of feathers sitting on a bench.
"Feathers for making quills out of." Saylie went to stand beside him.
"It's these particular ones I was talking about." He pointed at, but did not touch, a large bronze-coloured feather with gold markings.
"Ah, that's one of Franck's feathers," Saylie told him. When he looked blank, she added, "He's a ratite and one of my elemental animae, earth and metal in his case. I did write home about him."
"I know you mentioned some animals, but I was more interested in trying to work out how you were being treated,” her father admitted. “Could I beg a few feathers to take home with me?" He sounded almost envious. "I wouldn't get all the benefits from using them that you do, but there might be some benefits for some work, and they're so beautiful."
Saylie agreed, "They are, aren't they? Now we're talking about my animae, I'm wondering where the other two are. They're housecats, a blue tabby and a lilac with purple points."
Her father ran over that in his mind before he spoke, then asked cautiously, "Water and spirit animae?"
"Exactly. But where are they? They might have gone out the back to eye up Franck's chicks." She sighed. "The cats are six months old while the chicks are about the size of rockmelons, and the cats think they could take one down, but they know that they can't get past Franck, so they just sit there and look."
"Sounds like cats," acknowledged her father. "You mother seems to be taking a while. Do you think I could see Franck while we wait for her?"
"I don't see why not," replied Saylie. "The back door is this way." She led him out through a neat kitchen with whitewashed walls, wooden benches and a black stove, onto a verandah enclosed by lattice that had chopped wood stacked on one side of the door and a short clothesline on the other. The verandah door opened out into the back garden where an initial orderly planting plan had been overtaken by luck, happenstance and enthusiastic growth. The stone pathways could still be seen but mints, salvias and violas had made their own arrangements for suitable growing positions. The mounds of bush daisies scattered through the plantings were each covered in white, yellow, or pink flowers, and a climbing rose with scattered scarlet and orange flowers adorned a trellis and arch on the western side of the garden.
The far end of the garden was marked by an unpainted post and rail fence that had a gateway to the paddock beyond, but no gate. A cat was sitting on each gate post, back to the house and facing north towards the Reality Ravine which lay on the other side of the field. As the Chaterhalms stepped onto the path at the bottom of the steps, a bronze-coloured bird, as tall as Saylie, was leading a flock of a dozen long-legged, mottled chicks with bodies the size of full grown chickens into the garden from the paddock. The adult bird hooted softly and encouragingly at the chicks as he led them through the garden and down the eastern side of the house towards the front garden.
As Saylie looked speculatively at where the birds had gone, and then back at the cats, her father said, "So, that was Franck? I wasn't imagining it that one of those chicks was green, was I?"
Swinging her attention back to her father when she had obviously been thinking about something else, Saylie said, "Oh, yes. That was Franck, and one of his chicks is green. The brown ones are the normal colour. The yellow-white one is a normal pale variant, and the rest are elementally linked. We're not quite sure of their parentage because I didn't have any hens, but Franck obviously persuaded a number of other people's hens to lay eggs in his nest."
"I see." Her father asked, "What were you thinking about? I thought you looked worried for a minute there."
"It might be appropriate," Saylie replied. "Two of my elemental animae are looking fixedly at the Reality Ravine, and the third just took his chicks away from the Ravine. Things do come out of there sometimes. That's one of the things we're here for."
"Shouldn't we go and get help?" Edmard Chaterhalm was concerned. His magical practice did not include combat magic and his defensive magic was usually carefully inscribed on something to be activated by someone else, later on and far away.
"If the problem is here, then help will come here," replied Saylie. “If it's somewhere else, then I will have to go and help there."
Her father said gently, "My dear, obviously your magical studies have moved along enormously since you left home, but you've only had six months’ work on them. Can you do enough to help against," he searched for a word that might be right, "an incursion?"
Saylie smiled at him. "Dad, remember those control exercises Mum gave me that I always failed at?"
"Well it turns out, given how my magic is different to hers and yours, and the rest of the family, that for me that particular technique isn't self-control, it's a suppression spell."
"And you can't suppress yourself," her father stated flatly. "That explains so much."
"Doesn't it just?" Saylie smiled again. "But, thanks to Mum, I am very, very good at suppression."
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