[google-font "https://fonts.googleapis.com/css2?family=Inconsolata] [center [pic https://i.imgur.com/tx7Ahsg.jpg?1]] [size12 [center [i [b Everything burned.]]] As he watched flames take the building, burning anyone trapped within the magical barrier to a crisp, Maverick could hear his mother's voice in the background, unusually deadened. That soothing lilt was a monotone as warm arms wrapped around his young form and she spoke the most important lesson he knew. [center [i [b Magic should never be careless.]]] That warm embrace was too hot for him as the fire licked into the sky and heated up the air to match. It devoured the oxygen around them hungrily while his father worked furiously in the background to counter-spell even a small section of the barrier. It ultimately failed.
Anyone who was stuck inside the barrier erected by Abraham Bennett was left there to either suffocate or burn up to a crisp.
It was the last practice he spent time with his mother and father on. Shortly after that, he lived with his mother's family for a time. It was a gentle reprieve from traveling, but it was a gilded cage too. Maverick liked his lessons in protection wards well enough. He was shocked to learn that his maternal grandfather made quite the enterprise on selling protection ward services to more influential practitioners. These wards were capable to keeping out the most malicious, intrusive magics and curses. Maverick also enjoyed learning how to disarm these curses as well, however, earning the ire of his mother's family. From there, he learned about counter spells, charms of other kinds, runes, magics to perceive magical works through illusory crafts, and so on... One subject always led to another, and with the connections on his mother's side, he learned as much as possible until he was asked to stop or leave.
Maverick made his choice to return to his parents after that point, but he now felt lost. Without his continued magical research, what would he do with his life? Well, his parents had quite the solution.
The "man", his mother's less than flattering nickname for the Elected Governing Body of Private Practices, had an opening for a Private Practice Overseer, the position often held by someone that would oversee the construction and establishment of such a place. It... was fine. It would have to be fine. Mav didn't know where else to go, and for someone who was past his youth, that didn't sit right with him. So he studied for the position, fought for it, made it all he knew... And found himself on his first assignment shortly after. His file included a hand-typed note from his father:] [Inconsolata [center Maverick, This estate was seized directly from the Bennett family in regards to their illicit magical practices. I'm sure you've read the file, making you fully aware of how aggressive this move was by the Governing Body. To help ease the transition, you will be working with a former coven member of the Hyland family. Helios has volunteered to assist you with this first assignment, as there is suspected to be plenty of the Bennett family's old books and crafts locked away in their estate. After the fire, I realize this might bring up some trauma from what you once witnessed... Son, I trust you will withhold your judgement until you have fully established this Practice. You have always been pragmatic in regards to whatever resources have been offered to you while maintaining your pride in your work, but I worry you'll be facing some unpleasant memories from your younger years. If you start to feel distress, request a re-assignment immediately. The Governing Body is fully aware of your circumstances, and I personally would like to see you come through your first assignment in one piece. Sincerely, Alvin Lowell.]] [size12 It was sweet, but ultimately unnecessary. Mav saw no reason to step back from his first assignment. He didn't know what else to do, stuck in the rut of nothing new to work on without the connections from his grandfather...
Perhaps it was time to work on his own grimoire? But such a task was not undertaken lightly, and this was often better suited to someone who was well-established, able to survive on their crafts alone. Maverick was not in such a position yet.]
That was the crux of the problem, wasn't it? He had managed to make it all the way to the café before he realised that he hadn't a clue how his new business partner took his coffee, if he drank it at all. [i But,] that was fine, he reminded himself as his hand migrated from his pocket to tug his autumnal wool muffler down, it's the thought that counts.
[b [#E8AE27 "You see,"]] he let out a small huff of a laugh, [b [#E8AE27 "I'm getting coffee for a colleague, but I don't know what he drinks."]] The laugh bubbled louder, as the scope of the situation fully set in. Here he was; ordering coffee of someone who's name he can't quite place, with the half-baked idea to listen in on the five people before him to gauge what was a common drink. Thankfully, his laugh brings a small smile to the barista's lips.
[b "Well, what are you having?"] [b [#E8AE27 "Americano."]] [b "Then I would say maybe get a Flat White, and let him pick the drink?"] Their tone is light-hearted, almost hesitant on the vowels. It reminded him of his sister, the first time they brought her to a meeting with the fair folk, almost shaking in her shoes while trying to navigate their sugar-spun truths without being played like a fiddle.
[b [#E8AE27 "Sounds great, oh, and you don't happen to have,"]] he leaned back to glance at the display case of baked goods to make sure there weren't labels he'd missed, [b [#E8AE27 "anything with honey?"]]
He left the café with the two coffees and a honey-almond danish pastry, and crossed the cobbled street with hurried steps to continue on his way towards the woods near the old cottage. It's his second stop before the Bennett estate that would be his workplace and home for the unforeseeable future. Rumours about what the Bennett's had done to a practise was well known in the area, and part the reason he had been so intrigued when there was an opening for someone with coven knowledge, and had gladly offered his own. The morning fog had all but dissipated, allowing the warm golden sunrise to cascade through the orange leaves much like a golden halo, and while the fallen leaves were too moist to have a satisfying crunch, it was still very much a joyous walk. He found his thoughts, as he weaved through the familiar trees with their peeling white bark, briefly straying back to the question of where he had heard the name Lowell. A scuttle of leaves above him snapped him back to focus.
[b [#E8AE27 "I knew I should've put a ward on it,”]] his tone joking. He isn't even sure there exists a scent blocking ward, but it's worth the sound of fairy laughter.
[b [#E8AE27 "I'm just passing by, it's a gift."]] He clarified as he released the bag to let it float onto one of the bigger branches within sight, before swiftly turning on his heel. The fact that they met him near the edge meant they already knew, but it never hurt to be crystal clear with the fair folk.
After another while of walking, the sky having gone from pink to orange, the Bennett estate came within looming sight. Anticipation trickled through him, autumn leaves dancing around his feet all the way into the vestibule. He hadn't bothered knocking on the door, simply unlocking it with the key he had gotten along with the file he hadn't read, shouting a simply 'morning' into the emptiness. He made swift work of unwinding his scarf and shrugging off his duffel, cup carrier floating just out of reach to give him access to both his hands, before he grabbed it again—with both hands this time as if to remind himself that he had too much work to be taking a nap— and turned into the long reception hall.
[b [#E8AE27 "I brought coffee, where you hiding?"]] he shouts, only slightly aware of how loud it echoes.]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/tx7Ahsg.jpg?1]] [size12 The inside of the Bennett Estate was still furnished with their belongings, giving Maverick an uneasy feeling. He felt like a violating ghost, intruding on the family's grounds. Then again, there was a reason all of their items were left behind. It was a point in his assignment... [center [b First] Dispell and itemize the entirety of the estate and its items. Be sure to handle all spell works, crafts, charms, runes, potions, and other magical items with extreme caution, as Abraham Bennett was an avid user of malicious magics.]
One never knew what chair was cursed to break, what knives had poison, or what lights were intended to blind. Because of this, Maverick was also looking into a mass dispelling of the entire estate, but something in the magic on these grounds thrummed like a base out of tune. It was deep, but it was unsteady. Of course, Maverick was quick to start in a room that would best suit him. With the layout in his file, he easily found the study and began dismantling the collection of academic pursuits that were popular of the Bennett family members. According to genealogy, the surviving members were Abraham himself, his daughter Catarina, and the former matriarch Agatha Bennett, who was currently sitting in a Governing Body's holding cell with her son.
The work was quiet and peaceful. This was because Maverick was doing it alone, which he shouldn't have been at that point. Mav knew he had been early, but he hadn't expected Helios to be late! How aggravating... As he sorted through a stack of journals from the little Catarina, numbly reading the pages for any hint of grimoire activity, he realized how it was half an hour past the initial arrival time that had been set for them.
As if conjured by his annoyance, he heard a chipper voice carry through to the study. Maverick winced and picked up a pen and piece of paper. He scribbled a little note on the back of it. [center [i Please do not yell so loud. I am in the study.]] Such a simple note was folded into a little plane, and Maverick held the piece to his lips. With a simple puff of air and a spoken word, the plane took off gently toward the source of this sound.
The plane was a simple work of magic Maverick had picked up in his youth. All it took was a careful thought, a simple note, and a simple action. It was the first work of magic his mother had taught him, an attempt to break him out of his shell that ultimately didn't work as she'd hoped. Still... it was the most sentimental he came to magic. It was his first spell, learned from a gentle woman who loved him dearly. As the plane landed at Helios feet, one might even catch a whiff of Sweet Pea and Gardenia, flowers his mother frequently kept as the smell permeated his memory of the spell.
[size12 He noticed the scent before he noticed the plane, like the jasmine shrub next to the cottage but not quite, more like honey, not as heady. The thought of flowers quickly escaped him as the movement of the plane caught his eye, and he froze in his steps to trail its journey with his eyes until it landed safely in front of his feet. Out of everything he'd been told of Maverick Lowell, he wouldn't have expected games, perhaps he wasn't as intimidating as people claimed.
[i Except it wasn't an invitation to play follow the clues.]
The cup holder was moved from hands to the floor, as he crouched down to pick up the plane properly. Gentle fingers unfolded the plane much like a gift, as his lips quirked into a curious smile. A smile that quickly became pressed lips hiding a laugh at the sight of the words. Not a morning person then, he thought, the coffee seemed to have been a good idea after all.
He folded the note in half and put it in his back pocket, before standing up with the cup holder once more held with both hands. A twinge of regret that he hadn't checked the file for a floor plan overshadowed by the return of anticipation like sunshine through the overcast, as he continued to walk down the hallways where the plane must have come from. Maverick might not have intended it a game, but it seemed it was one none the less.
As he crossed the second archway, the sight of bookshelves caused him to slow his movement, head craned forward and to the side to glance around the edges to see if Maverick was hiding in any of the nooks. A thought came to him, and he couldn't stop the impulse as he neared the last shelf, and at a conversational volume, he let out a hoot much like a horned owl just as he rounded the corner, wide grin ready to face Maverick. Except the man was not behind the last shelf either.
Luckily the three doorways leading elsewhere were close enough to where he stood, that he could hear the rustling of movement to identify where the study actually was. In order to hide the fact that he had no idea how the estate was laid out, he let out another double hoot as he got closer to the door.
[b [#E8AE27 "Sorry I'm late,"]] he said, only after glancing into the room to make sure that Maverick was indeed inside. Which it seemed he had been for awhile, if the stacks of what looked like journals was anything to go by. One of which jostled precariously as he placed the cup of americano on top of, thankfully steadied quickly by magic, though he still made sure to put the flat white next to another stack just to be safe. [b [#E8AE27 "I got us coffee, didn't know what you liked—here's americano, and this one's a flat white, your pick."]]
Once he only had the empty cup holder in one hand, he made sure to wipe his right hand on the outside thigh of his black slacks, before offering it in formal greeting. [b [#E8AE27 "I'm Helios, of house Hyland. Pleasure to meet you."]]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/tx7Ahsg.jpg?1]] [size12 Once the note was sent to the other man, it was out of mind. Mav reclaimed his neurotic focus on the journals. Sure, he could be looking through the official documentation, but one might find out much more from the personal writings of another. Of course, most of these felt... superficial. Maverick remembered how his grandfather used to hold such a superficial cover on his work, hiding the best works for the highest bidders. It was a smart move, if a cruel one at times. Maverick never fully understood the need for such a business tactic. Sure the investment would be better served to the family if their services were more accessible. A higher quantity clientele would allow for more opportunity. Perhaps a situation he might have never touched before could inspire a new idea. Maybe-
A sharp hooting sounds caused Maverick to slam the book he was reading shut in shock. How [i childish]! Maverick watched with annoyance as two cups of coffee were placed by him, any unbalance quickly corrected with flippant magical use. Maverick's eyes traveled from one cup to the other, then he looked sharply at Helios. This was his partner for the Bennett Estate.
Helios Hyland. Former from a coven, recently transitioned into Private Practice. His family specialized in nature magics, with Helios being particularly good with plants. He had quite the skill set for it too, as if he breathed the vines and leaves around him. It made quite the impression on the Governing Body, and his change into Private Practice in general was a massive turn in the Governing Body's favour. Maverick didn't realize he was practically a fop.
[b "I dislike coffee,"] he informed Helios. Despite the cold response, it was... a generous offer. He understood the urge, seeing as one liked to make a good impression when meeting someone use. The gesture was ultimately meaningless to him, however. There was a little guilt that while Helios had gone out of his way to provide him with a warm beverage, all Maverick could do was respond that he didn't like it. It was rude. In his panic, he tried to correct the blunt response. [b "I like tea instead."]
There. That should fix it. With that, he pulled out his file, deciding to himself that now was a great time to move on to the work at hand. [b "The entirety of the Bennett Estate is our responsibility, meaning we have been given the privilege of decided how to establish this new Practice as well. I hope you came prepared with ideas past coffee."] Maverick had intended for it to be a bit of a joke, but he sounded more bemused than he intended. Well... Too late to correct it now. Either Helios would actually have ideas, or he wouldn't. [b "While I was waiting, I started going through any archives left in the study, beginning with personal affects. I'm... disappointed to say that nothing overly useful is here, but I would like to take in a thorough account of the archives left in the study before we move on to other rooms."]
Maverick had quite the commanding personality. His mother would call it "bossy". His father once called it "determined", which was his nice way of saying "stubborn". Maverick simply preferred having a plan sooner rather than later, but he wasn't completely opposed to other ideas... So long as they provided a more efficient plan.
[size12 [b "I dislike coffee,"] was the first thing out of Maverick's mouth, and Helios felt much like a teen in the middle of the woods being told by one of the Fair that his offering was inadequate. But unlike the fair folk, who would leave you to flounder for another offering while tittering at your fear, Maverick appended his words. [b "I like tea instead."]
While it was unlikely the estate still stocked tea, he was certain his sister had overstock; It was in the middle of cranberry season, and after the number he'd done on her mint plant she'd hardly run out anytime soon. He glanced at Maverick to ask for his opinions on cranberries, when he noticed the man had pulled out his file, right back to business—all the overstock then, he noted to himself. With a swift move he flicked the cup holder into the corner like a frisbee, and grabbed the coffees with his hands to move them out of the way as Maverick started talking again.
[b "...I hope you came prepared with ideas past coffee."]
Helios felt the tickle in his stomach, and his gaze flickered between the cups, Mavericks face, and back again, before his sides started to ache in contained laughter. He wondered what Maverick’s reaction would be if he shook his head. He, much belatedly, raised his americano to his lips to hide his smile by taking a sip, knowing very well that he radiated mirth. The way Maverick steamrolled on did nothing to stop it either, as the realisation that [i this] was what his sister had meant about Marvick acting like he owned the place truly settled in. Intimidating, she had said. He turned away to hide the fact that he pressed his lips together, making a humming noise of acknowledgement to let Maverick know that he was listening, and moved put both cups of coffee on a surface away from all the papers. It wasn’t funny. Maverick probably hadn’t meant it to sound like a joke. He probably just wanted to get a move on because Helios was late. It wasn’t funny.
[b [#E8AE27 “Well, I could check the garden for herbs,”]] he suggested, as he reached the windows on the opposite side of the room, breath marginally more even but still airy with contained laughter, [b [#E8AE27 "but I think you've—“]] the laugh finally burst in an undignified snort as he notices a bird throwing leaves into the air looking for sticks, but he pressed on, words choppy with breathless laughter. [b [#E8AE27 "got the right idea about the archives. Please come look at this bird.”]] He glanced back at Maverick, then once more at the bird, before turning his back to the window and breathing in deeply through his nose to focus on something else.
[b [#E8AE27 “I’ll start here.”]] He meant to grab a journal off of the pile, but the image of the bird getting a leaf onto its head was distracting enough that rather than come to his hand the journal he reached for with his magic hit him square in the chest, and the fumbling to catch it before it fell to the floor made the laugh erupt into a hearty guffaw. The hand not pressing the book steady against his chest relocating to his knee to support himself as he lowered himself to sit on the floor.]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/tx7Ahsg.jpg?1]] [size12 There was a moment of silence that Maverick could feel on his skin. It was the simple gesture of Helios sipping his coffee, taking in a different account of the room than he did. Normally, Mav would appreciate the alternate perspective. One did not further their education by sitting in an echo chamber. He wondered just what Helios was seeing that he could not, and for a second, the late start and jovial behavior that would often put Maverick off was dismissed. Sometimes a person had a bad start to their day. His point was even fair. The Bennett's were known for curses and malicious magics. Not popular, but not necessarily a bad tool to know either. Thoroughly examining the garden and grounds for the herbs grown would give them a good idea of any reagents used to craft-
[b "Bird."] Maverick sounded as if he made a statement as opposed to a question, but he was absolutely puzzled as to why a bird was entertaining. Still, it was worth an investigation. Strange animal behaviors could indicate strange magics at work, right?
Nope. It was just a bird being a little silly. Maverick shrugged. Well, nothing for him to further examine here. It seemed to enthrall Helios though, distracting him so far as to send a book zipping into his chest. Maverick winced as it thudded into the man, who seemed to lose himself a little more in his humour. Now he reached some annoyance.
[b [i Verba mea manu!]] Latin was a dead language, not subject to the level of interpretation that other languages had, making it excellent for a quick and dirty calling so long as you could maintain your focus on the object. As he called, the book Helios had summoned before now flew into Maverick's outstretched palm. Mav's eyes followed the book from point A to point B, never leaving its intended target until it was securely in his fingers. [b "Some of these books travel back to generations before The Governing Body was even an idea. Please be more cautious."] Maverick gently set the book down. [b "Perhaps, due to your skill with Earthen magics, you should begin outside in the garden while I continue in here. We can reconvene in a few hours for lunch and to go over our findings."]
It bothered him how easily swept away Helios was by the most trivial things, but perhaps his approach was wrong. Helios was formerly Coven born and bred. Maybe setting him where his skills were strongest would allow for the greatest results. It would also allow Maverick a little more time to sort through the study and assess the familial situation the Bennett's had held. It was a poorly kept secret that, at least to the most recent generations, there was a falling out in the family itself, splitting it in two and threatening the creation of yet another coven practicing dangerous magic.]
[size12 A tug on the journal pressed against his chest had Helios instinctually drop his hand, gaze flicking towards Maverick—expecting a look similar to the one his sister had when he messed with her mint plant—who’s eyes were on the journal, which felt more like a scolding than any words. His laugh gained an embarrassed lilt as Maverick spoke of caution, empathised by setting the journal down gently.
[b [#E8AE27 "Yeah, sorry, will do."]] With remnants of laughter still falling past his lips, he pushed himself up off of the floor again, and dusted the back of his slacks off on his way towards the door as he said, [b [#E8AE27 "I'll pick you a nice bouquet while I'm out."]] And with that he grabbed his coffee still safely on its perch, and instinctually reached out with his left hand to give Maverick's shoulder two gentle taps in quick succession on his way out the door.
The way back towards the vestibule was quick, and before long he stepped out in the brisk autumn air, once more wearing his jacket. He took a bigger sip of his coffee, as he wandered around the house with his eyes on the grass looking for flowers. It didn't take long to spot the warm pastel purple of colchicum peaking through a bundle of leaves near the corner of the estate. He crouched down to its level, and brushed the leaves surrounding it away, before tilting his head further out over the garden, where he notices a cluster of herbs he was there to look for.
[b [#E8AE27 "I'll be back for you,"]] he promised the colchicum with a little nod, and bounded over towards the cluster, noting sage easily, though not too far away were yellow bulbs of wormwood, growing closer to the woods. The Bennett's seemed to not care too much for the weeds of the forest making their home on their land, and Helios couldn't help but think that was nice of them. That was when he caught eyes of a greenhouse that was tucked away out of view from the study window and the entrance alike.
If there was anywhere the Bennett's would keep their other herbs and a trowel it would be there, surely. Perhaps they even had a pot, he thought, a tiny one where he could repot one of the colchicums to keep in the kitchen. They could give it a name, watch it grow as their friendship and the Private Practise did, a little lady watching over them and bringing the smell of garlic—The air shifted and he froze mid-step. He had almost walked right into the greenhouse door. Which would have been a terrible idea if the way the air suddenly felt heavy was any indication. Thick in a way he hadn't noticed inside the house, but realised now had been there all along. The pot would have to wait, he realised, Maverick would want to take a look at whatever clung to that door.
He left the greenhouse with a sigh, and turned back to the grass, he was out there to check for herbs and see if the soil was good for planting, which he technically didn't need the trowel for. There were plenty of little molehills that allowed for easy soil sampling, and he made quick work of crouching in front of one of them, putting his coffee down and grabbing the grass close to the ground, before twisting roughly to get a chunk of earth along with the roots. A quick glance was shot towards the estate before he dug his fingers into the newly made hole to grab a small lump of soil, which he promptly crumbled and shoved in his mouth. It was tart enough to make his nose wrinkle, and he resolutely downed the rest of his coffee to get a better acidic flavour on his palette. Cup in hand, he realised he didn't even need a pot to bring the colchicum inside, and thus dug his hand back into the dirt to fill the paper mug two quarters full, before returning the tuft of grass to its hole.
When he shrugged off his jacket, hours later, he'd poked around in the dirt with magic to find bulbs and roots of spring flowers, most of which were merely decorations. There were some herbs too, but by no means anything outside the usual for most witches. It was safe to assume that whatever herbs and plants really mattered would be in the greenhouse with the cursed door.
He stopped himself from hollering his entrance this time, remembering the note from that morning, and whispered to the colchicum in the cup that Maverick didn't like him yelling. She had gotten mopey when he dug her out of the ground with his hands, but he was hesitant to assist her since they would be moving her to another pot which would just jostle her even more. But he attempted to make up for it by lifting her up to eye level to show the library, and point out the study. Even though that wasn't where they were going. He didn’t bother to look as he shouldered open the door to the kitchen, carefully cupping his hand in front of the plant to hide her from view. It was a surprise. [b [#E8AE27 "I got you something [i better] than a bouquet"]]
Except Maverick was not in the kitchen.
With a big backwards step, he leaned out the door to look towards the study, before a chuckle bubbled up. Maybe his sister had a problem with Maverick because they were too alike. He shook his head and gave the cup in his hand a little pat before redirecting himself towards the study, just to see if the man was still with his nose buried in a journal. This time, however, he did not hoot to announce his presence. Instead he merely nudged the door open with his shoulder and looked in; to find Maverick, just as he left him, with his journal. A journal which Helios made a point to lean over and snatch out of his hand to get his attention.
[b [#E8AE27 "So the gardens full of grass, some flowers. They've got the usual herbs; rosemary, sage, lavender. Some weeds. I think they're from the woods. If you like vodka there’s wormwood, and hemlock too, I picked one for your bouquet but I forgot it out there. Soil's weird though, nothing a little limestone can't fix though. But the [i real] gold's this baby."]] He held up the cup to show the colchicum; four naked stems opening up to pale purple flowers, one a little bent from the jostle, the others hanging a little lopsided with a torn flower. Then walked backwards towards the door again, continuing to talk to coax Maverick towards the kitchen where they were supposed to be. [b [#E8AE27 "She's a colchicum, naked ladies, or autumn crocus, but they're not even the same order anymore. I thought we could decide on her name together, find her a spot where we can be reminded of our first day? Do you think there's enough sun in the kitchen, or maybe we should set het up here in the study? Oh, and we need a new pot, she’ll be much prettier when we move her to a better pot where she can grow. Speaking of pretty—they have a shrub I want to look at in a greenhouse, but the doors cursed. I’m sure they have pots there too, don't you think this place would look more cosy with some plants?"]]]
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