"I'm .... not sure. Maintenance, perhaps?" Blackwood folded his wings as he perched tidily on the slope of the globe. "I thought it must be the previous contractor at first, but now that you ask, Master Corydalis said their contract is terminated. Perhaps they needed to dismantle their gatherer?"
"No, it's still here." Smoke frowned, and tested the hinged hatch in the globe. It was latched from the inside. There wasn't any point to dismantling a gatherer after one was erected; it wasn't as if the components of the enchantment could be re-used for anything.
"I'll be right back." Blackwood shifted to drop to the observation platform that ringed the globe, then shifted to his humanlike shape and went inside.
Smoke studied the gatherer that was already in place. Just as the Blackwood had related, the gatherer's tendrils all showed that the compound was secure. The wards secured Courthall against all the normal axes of disaster: flood, fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, and a long list of individual pests: mice, rats, termites, kitchen ants, fleas, rabbits, moles, carpenter ants, and more. Wards could not protect against sapient sabotage, but everything else was covered.
The wards, according to the gatherer, were braided, which made Smoke cringe inwardly. They disliked that style of warding. Braiding one's wards meant that every part of the ward: protection against each different kind of disaster -- was tied to every other kind of protection. Braided wards were very strong in some senses: they rarely failed due to insufficient power. Where a single-strand ward against earthquakes might crack under a sufficiently powerful earthquake, a braided ward was more likely to have the resilience to withstand. But braided wards were weak in exactly the way that might cause the problem Blackwood had reported: if one strand of the ward had been constructed badly, it was hard to parse out that it wasn't doing its job. The gatherer would tell you "this is a ward designed to do this long laundry list of things, and the ward is still here, so it's presumably doing all of these things". Braiding had been the most popular way of doing wards for a few decades, until individual strands started to fail and one couldn't easily parse out what had gone wrong. If all one knew how to make was braided wards, one couldn't fix a single strand on the ward: one had to take it out and replace the entire thing..
That wasn't a problem Smoke had: they could install individual wards against different types of vermin without needing to reinstall the other portions of the ward. That might explain why the government had wanted to hire them, specifically. Most enchanters specialized in either one or the other. Smoke had trained in both, even if they preferred not to craft single-strand wards.
While Smoke was still trying to sort that out, the hatch in the roof opened. A human woman with bright black eyes flashed a grin at Smoke.. "Hello, honored," she said, politely, as she climbed up. "I'm Licorice. I work in maintenance. My friend here said you had some questions for me?" Blackwood followed behind her, with a bemused tilt to his head as he stood to one side on the roof and watched them.
"Hello, Licorice." Smoke offered their hand. "I'm Smoke; I was hired today to repair the Courthall wards. I was just wondering if you'd been working on the gatherer here?"
"The what?" Licorice bowed over Smoke's hand, like a servant to a superior. She wore a uniform of green with gold buttons: the same colors as Blackwood's, but hers had an informal look rather than crisply tailored. Her glossy brown hair was braided into a long tail; there was something sleek and fit about her small frame, despite the baggy clothes. "No, honored. There were some complaints that the seal on the door up here leaked, so I was looking into that. Is there anything I can do for you?"
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