Licorice laughed. "I'll say!" She winked back at Smoke. "Good of you to keep us poor janitor-types in mind. What do your wards do, then?"
Smoke wondered if she was being facetious or if corpses were still an issue at Courthall. Normally vermin stopped trying to enter in any quantity with lethal wards as old as the Courthall ones. "I use a combination of deterrence and sterilization. If it's a small incursion, like a single nest of ants or a couple of mice, the wards only prevent them from entering the building. If the wards keep encountering a type of creature -- for example, termites keep exploring the edge of the ward -- then it infects the insect with a contagion spell, one that will sterilize that individual and pass itself along to any other insects of the species it encounters. The contagion can only replicate itself so many times, so it won't exterminate a species. But it provides some population control for the overall area without having to put any death-magic into the environment. It also does some good against the rare vermin that are unaffected by preventive or death wards, because the contagion will still stick to them and infect their fellows."
Licorice tilted her head. "Some vermin are immune to wards? Is that how they're getting through?"
"No -- or at least, that shouldn't be it. The gatherer should have noticed if something just walked by the wards. And immune vermin are extraordinarily rare in the three species that are a problem here. Immunity is more of a concern with cockroaches." They'd reached the cellars by now, and Smoke frowned, studying the wards down here. The braided wards covered floor and the top and bottom few inches of the walls, but not the entire wall. That was sufficient for most things the wards were designed to protect against, but Smoke always did a lattice over the entire wall in any underground areas when she was warding against vermin. Yes, in theory, crawling insects couldn't get down from a wall without crossing the top or bottom barrier, and fleas came in through entrances on people or pets, not through walls. In practice, things got shoved up against walls, and insects could crawl along shelves to find a safe path down. Someone must have already warned Courthall about that in this cellar, because the shelves, cabinets, and other furnishings were all set back at least six inches from the walls. Smoke crouched to examine the gap. "Did they rearrange the cellar after the infestation?"
"Mm? Oh, yeah. Couple months ago. I think the old enchanter said they couldn't stack things against the walls. Didn't help, though."
Ants almost always had their nests outside of buildings, so it should have helped if that was the problem. Still, in a building the size of Courthall. Smoke scrunched her whiskers, thinking.
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