Mage Consul Lillet Blan did not, generally, have a servant problem in her townhouse. The mansion on Argentine Way had kept nearly all of its staff since the day they'd been hired. The notion of working for the kingdom's most powerful witch, under an elven majordomo, with dragons in the stables, animated gargoyles on the gateposts, a devil in black cat form as a house pet, and who knew what else, tended to weed out the less committed right at the hiring stage. Those who stayed took a (possibly perverse) pride in staying...and after all, mucking out a dragon's stable was little different than a horse's, but it sounded a lot more impressive when flirting with the barmaid at the pub.
It also didn't hurt that the Mage Consul herself was a farm girl who hadn't really gotten the idea so many of the well-to-do had that servants were some exotic kind of animated furniture. Lillet's lover, meanwhile, was about as un-diva-like as a person could get although she, perhaps ironically, genuinely was a diva at the City Theater.
The one staff problem Lillet did have, though, was actually caused by her lack of pretension. There were plenty of nobles in the capital who could not have located the kitchens in their own houses with exploration. Lillet, on the other hand, not only knew where the kitchen was, but insisted on cooking in it, which went to war with the professional pride of her cooks. She'd lost her first one within a week when the woman found Lillet baking hearth-bread one evening. The second had stayed three months until a debate over the quality of the oatmeal had Lillet march into the kitchen and demonstrate how she wanted it—whereupon the cook had snapped, "Fine, if that is how Your Excellency wishes her food, then Your Excellency can cook it yourself!" and flounced out, his moustache-ends twitching.
Lillet had run the kitchen herself for the next week while they tried to hire another one, who'd left after the rest of the staff had made one too many comments about the quality of her pork chops compared to Lillet's.
It was at that point that Lillet had given up on hiring a cook and summoned one instead. Elven palates were close enough to human for it not to make much of a difference, and while no less territorial about their duties than humans it made a significant difference when the encroacher was their summoner.
That was a good thing, because Lillet enjoyed cooking. She was glad that she didn't have to do it every day since being a Court minister and a practicing magician was two full-time jobs that she had to compress together as best as possible in order to leave herself enough time for family and recreation. But she'd have really regretted it if she'd had to miss out on things like baking molasses cookies with her daughter because she thought she had to give up her upbringing just because she'd come up in the world.
Cressidor Blan-Virgine, working the mixing spoon with the furious intensity of a six-year-old doing a Very Important Job, would have regretted it, too, which was even more important to Lillet.
"Is this right, Mama?" Cress asked.
"Um-hm! Exactly." Which it was; her strokes were smooth and she didn't slop over the edges of the big ceramic bowl. "Lots better than I used to do, in fact."
"Oh?" Her daughter blinked in surprise. Lillet smiled at her.
"Uh-huh, When I was your age, I'd always stir too fast and I'd end up splattering dough everywhere and making a mess. Your Grandma Marie would always say that whenever I helped her make hotcakes that she'd have to put in an extra one's worth of batter to make up for what I'd spill."
Cress frowned thoughtfully.
"That's a lot!" she said. They'd also made hotcakes together on Sunday morning before church, so she knew how much batter that would be.
"Well, she exaggerated a little, but I had to learn to slow down and stir smoothly. You're doing much better than I did when I was your age."
Cress beamed. Being at the age where she considered her mothers the highest standard of excellence, the praise meant a lot.
"Thank you, Mama!"
"You're welcome. Keep on stirring; it should be ready to put in the oven soon."
She checked the oven, which seemed to be at the right temperature. One thing Lillet had always wanted was to figure out some magical way to make the oven heat to whatever temperature she wanted, but while she could easily do it on a one-time basis she hadn't yet solved how to make it work without permanently binding some familiar to it, and that seemed like too cruel an option to use. To craft it as an enchanted item was actually very complex, especially the vital ability to heat to different temperatures on command as needed. A single option—"hot" or "not hot"—would work fine, hence her success with the self-heating teakettle, but layering those enchantments caused them to interfere with one another and foul up the whole array.
"Oh, I'm sorry; did you say something?"
"No, but you were staring really hard at the oven. Were you thinking of how to make it magic?"
Lillet grinned, then ruffled her daughter's ash-blonde hair.
"You can tell when I'm doing that, huh?"
"Well, you do do it a lot when we're cooking, Mama."
"I guess I do, at that."
"Do you like magic a lot?"
"Yes, I do. It's a lot like cooking, really: sometimes it's hard work, but it's fun and the results can be really good."
Cress took that in.
"Do you think we could do magic together sometime, too?"
"Maybe. We'll have to see when you get a little older."
"I'm responsible enough to do it now, Mama!" Cress misinterpreted. Lillet shook her head.
"That isn't it. We just don't know yet whether you will be able to use magic or not. Some people can and some can't, and the sense of it doesn't usually show up until a person is ten or twelve or so." She figured that she didn't need to go into the whole concept of puberty with a six-year-old.
"There's no way to tell until then?" Cress asked.
Lillet shook her head.
"I'm afraid not." She didn't even have any clues from heredity, since Cress was adopted and they didn't know anything at all about her blood family.
"Oh. Darn," Cress summed up matter-of-factly. She thought seriously about it for a moment. "Can we have witch cookies?"
"Yes we can, if you help me find where Cook hid the cookie cutters."
Cress clapped her hands; she liked playing "treasure hunt." She hopped down from her chair and dove for the nearest cupboard, then stopped and looked back over her shoulder.
"Mama, are you sure there's no way to tell if I can be a magician?"
"Yes, I am, at least so far as we know."
"Okay. It's just that it's a really long wait." She didn't get depressed, though. Her other mother had done a good job raising her to be practical about the things she genuinely couldn't change. Particularly when they were almost ready to put cookies into the oven.
"If you ask me," Lillet told her, "it doesn't matter if you can be a magician or not."
Cress looked at her curiously.
"Because you're just like Amoretta. You already are magic, to me." And she leaned over and gave her daughter a huge hug.
~X X X~
A/N: This big ball o' fluff was inspired by comments made by my friend Fuyu no Sora on the AnimeSuki GrimGrimoire community, "Exiled to the Couch," and by my wife's molasses cookies (which are rather like chewy ginger snaps, although they're not the same recipe that Lillet and Cress are making since Tarma's cookie dough has to be refrigerated overnight).