Anne returned, as Patch had predicted. She knocked politely and waited to be asked in. She unloaded all her bits and pieces onto the kitchen counter. She unwrapped some from cloths or papers and lined them up, in order, referring to the list. She was smiling so contentedly that she actually hummed from time to time. There was an unheedful forcefullness to her. Cordelia pictured broken furniture.
At the end of her unpacking, Anne took a packet of sandwiches and a thermos from a side pouch. She stowed these on the kitchen table, kicked the empty backpack under the table, and handed the list to Cordelia, flipping it over as she did.
"I wrote the information you wanted on the back. Did I miss anything?"
Cordelia surveyed the collection. "No." She took the list to the living room and began to collect books. "We'll beging with the information. I don't expect anything we do today to have much effect. But in witchcraft, simplest is best. The less you interfere with things as they are, the less things can go wrong and the fewer the side effects."
For a girl who could shrug off her talent and get on with life, Anne watched Cordelia closely. At times it was obvious that she was biting off questions. Cordelia began to explain as she went along.
Anne's mother's horoscope revealed no obvious weaknesses or handholds. At least, none that Amily had not already found. They progressed through a series of minor bindings and banishings and wards. Cordelia was careful to use all of the components that Anne had collected. No need to insult the girl. In the end, of course, everything failed.
"Well, we know that nothing simple will work. I didn't expect that it would, but it would have been much easier if it had."
"No problem. I'm only out a couple of weeks. I got rid of the tracts, too. That eased it a bit, temporarily. I'm still sticky, though. Do I have to keep that?"
"As an indicator, yes. When we hit something that works we'll feel the curse fade."
"We will? I will? Cool! What do we try next?"
"The next phase is a little more complicated, but around the same energy level. We're going to try area effects. The bond between a mother and child is strong. It's also reinforced by a woman's power in the home she has made. We're going to plant wards and bindings and commands in and around your mother's home. Can you stay out of the house for a few days after they're planted?"
"Sure. Could I stay here?"
"Only during the day."
"Cool! Is it likely to work?"
"Not within the house. But we might get lucky and free you outside. If we only disrupt it a little, you may have to move."
"She'd have a cow over that."
"Which might distract her from the tracts."
"Maybe." Anne bit her lip.
"This next list will be less exact. I'll describe the kind of thing we need and you'll have to decide which article best fits. They can't be things she'd miss immediately, though."
This time Cordelia escorted Anne out.
"It might take longer to get this stuff."
"That's fine. I thought it would take you at least a month to collect the last batch."
"Really?" Anne was flattered.
"Really. Take your time. Come here if you need to for acute attacks."
The bounce in Anne's step as she left made her look as if she were dancing - or galloping. Patch flew to Cordelia's shoulder.
"You're going to lose her," the bird croaked. "you'll be no use to her when this is over." The bird flew outside, leaving Cordelia stunned. Patch was right, of course. Cordelia hadn't realized that she wanted the girl to stay. It was surprising how much harder that made things.
"You won't help her," patch called back. "She'll leave if you do. You'll keep her hanging."
Cordelia slammed the door, shutting her familiar out.