The security entering Queens Landing was a joke, too long in the telling, and not a good one. The city was small and old, bordering on the ancient. Like Queens College, every century or so, usually at a time when the monarchy passed from man to woman, a debate would flair over what queen of which age had lent her title to the many “Queens” what-have-you dotting the area. Almost perfectly opposite those times of genteel inquiry by the literati there would come a time of hardship, unrest, or famine. In those bad times the sheltered and defensible harbor of Queens Landing was most likely to become a bone of ardent contention. To that end the city was walled, the gates well positioned and rather small, and the guard uncommonly arrogant. Inflamed by the visiting court, these factors made passage into the city almost not worth the trip.

Tradition and simple wisdom required that Morgan, with his goods and business, make his way through the gates apart from Lady Teichia and hers. After all they really could not speak for one another the way they could for their own retainers. More than one political maneuver in the history of the realm had been spoilt by attentions aroused for less cause than arriving in the wrong company. The lady was truly a master of her station and she passed her entire entourage into the city nearly without breaking stride. Morgan fared nowhere near as well.

At each gate to the city there was a long, slow moving line of people, horses, and carts waiting to get into the city proper. Scribes and guards were working the line like novelty vendors at carnival, asking each person what business they had in the city, checking paperwork, and so on. When he was finally approached Morgan produced a letter from the school which repeated the requirement that he swear fealty. The letter was properly signed, sealed, and so forth by all the correct officials at the school. That it's planned use was ten months away was never mentioned. When he was asked to step out of line and accompany the guard to the gate-house Morgan didn't know what to think.

At the gate-house, which was actually a largish freestanding wooden structure outside the city walls, Morgan was obliged to leave his belongings outside the building, an act that included chaining Seth, like with actual chains, to a sturdy post amidst a light but sorry sampling of other slaves, and then to go inside and wait. Most of the space inside seemed to be devoted to a large number of simple benches occupied by a wide cross-section of humanity with a smattering of other sentient races sprinkled throughout. At the far end minor functionaries were summoning people by name. Their job seemed to consist largely of listening to any number of ranting excuses and then telling the supplicant that they lacked some from of paperwork and sending them back into the crowd to continue waiting.

Morgan's hours-long wait was, it turned out, because he had not countersigned his own orders. An act he could have performed at any time up until he'd handed them to the guards. An act he also didn't know was necessary and served no purpose he could imagine. After finally getting to talk to someone who would actually answer questions instead of simply asking them, it only took a few minutes to sort out. Seth was questioned separately and then the transgression was redressed. Morgan had missed the whole first day-session of court. If he hadn't ridden in with lady Teichia he could have easily arrived on the last day of court instead of the first, and missed it completely for that mistake.

* * *

Morgan lightly asensed the city as he passed through the gates. Various hot-spots throughout the city were clearly obvious, and a surprising amount of low-level energy glossed his perceptions. The city obviously contained a good number of herbalists, practitioners, and hedge mages plying a generous trade in spells, charms and potions. High in the castle he could sense a significant water elemental bound in a cistern that fed fresh water out to the entire city. The creature dozed contentedly, dreaming out the pathways its water traveled, living the ebb and flow of the city that drank its essence. He touched his mind to the creature and added a thread to the tangle of its outer bindings as law required. Taking as he did so, a quick survey of the other full mages in the city.

They traveled a short distance around the rim of the bowl that made up the harbor city and then down an angled street, Morgan scenting and gathering in the trail of his own residual energy which had sloughed away from lady Teichia's wagons as they'd moved through the crowded streets. When they reached the inn Seth dealt with stabling the horse while Morgan turned loose the traveling bindings over the wagons and replaced them with a more subtle weave suitable for overnight protection. They dumped their gear in their room, played out their separate nightly meal rituals and went out for Morgan's staff work.

Several members of the guard had taken to joining them each night. Seth and Jase walked among the practicing men offering advice, encouragement, and the occasional example. Jase was still less than comfortable with Seth in general but they had developed a rhythm between them that seemed to be working out all right. Jase even took a bit of technique from Seth a couple of times. There was perhaps a tad too much enthusiasm between the two whenever they were sparring for the benefit of the onlookers, but nothing too unseemly happened.

Seth drove Morgan to exhaustion, and not just Morgan's definition of the term. When Morgan started to show the first signs of quitting Seth stopped letting him find his own pace. He stood behind the padded post and barked commands at him. He would touch the post where he wanted Morgan to strike and snap the order out, naming the target or organ, and then take his hand away just in time to avoid the blow. Morgan did his best to please Seth on one level and on another, his best to smack that hand and erase his smug, confidant grin. Morgan had surrendered his trust to Seth's judgment and even with his heart pounding in his ears and his head feeling light he kept up the increasing rhythm. Only when his blows became wild and he started to stagger did Seth call a halt. It was harsh treatment but it would get Morgan ready to save his own life in short order.

Seth helped Morgan cool down after his workout and then through his bath. When they got back to their room they found that someone had gone through their belongings. Whoever it was had been careful, trying to put everything back exactly the way it had been, but everybody does things a little different and you know when someone else has crammed your things back into your pack. Morgan kicked himself for forgetting to throw wards over their own stuff after having been so careful with the wagons. Morgan asensed the packs but found no foreign energy. Whoever had done the job had had magical cover, otherwise there would be mundane traces.

They emptied the packs onto the bed and did an inventory. Nothing was missing. Nothing had been added. Morgan sifted through everything with every sorcerous nuance he could think of and found no traces. He began to doubt that anybody had actually touched their gear. Talking as softly as possible Seth and Morgan went over the evidence of intrusion and concluded that someone had in fact gone through their stuff no matter how senseless it seemed.

Running through the possible reasons for the intrusion Seth brought up the idea of diversion. Morgan goggled and then snapped ready for attack and sent his senses spinning down and out to the wagons and the horses. It took a wile to check the wards but they showed no sign having been disturbed. Morgan sought out each member of the party and found them each healthy and undisturbed. Finally he ran over his room and everything in it board by board and nail by nail. There simply was nothing else that had been disturbed. Morgan set a weaving over and through the room that would dampen sound and magic and barely let air pass and drove out the tiny creatures that make their homes in even the best kept rooms as he did so.

When he returned to his body Morgan found Seth sitting behind him, guarding his body, a sword across his knees and an intense but relaxed look on his face. Morgan summoned a feeita and bound the tiny elemental to an empty candle-holder. He set it to creating a continuous gentle stream of pure, fresh, breathable, temperate air. When his ears popped gently at the increased air pressure and he could feel the air seeping out of the room through the bindings he felt content. Nothing was getting into the room without him knowing it.

They went to bed, Morgan insisting that Seth share the bed with him because the bindings on the floor sent a tiny shiver up his spine whenever anything on the floor moved. As he drifted off to sleep, warmed by the furnace-like heat pouring out of Seth, Morgan reconsidered the intrusion. One of several things had happened. Someone spotted him as mage-gifted and had tried to loot him for some stray enchanted object he might have left unguarded. A casual sneak thief with a wisp of talent who probably worked at the inn had searched their things and didn't find anything worth risking their mundane job over. Some mysterious foe had searched the their things and was satisfied that nothing more needed to be done to trip them up. Or, just as likely, whomever it had been had come and tussled their belongings just to play with Morgan's head. A last reasonable possibility was that he and Seth were collectively losing their minds and falling into the ever-waiting maw of paranoia.