Morgan's power came back in a rush, like a cairn of dried Winterdark trees set ablaze.

It came back with a headache on its heels. Four days hadn't quite been long enough a block for the channels to heal so they squirmed and surged as they came back to life. He sagged to his knees, eyes watering, while the channels rediscovered their connections and nestled back into place in his mind. He wasn't sure if it had just been his recent musings but the channels themselves seemed larger than before. Within seconds his thoughts returned to Seth.

Moments later he was settling in at the foot of Seth's bed for a protracted scan. Seth hadn't continued to improve after that first day. He still seemed to be trying to understand his surroundings with all his might, but he wasn't really getting anywhere. As soon as he got a look into Seth he understood why. Metaphysically Seth was bent up and stuck together by the bindings of the collar. It was like someone had taken a fine garment, wadded it up, and then put random stitches in and through the wad to keep it shaped in a crude lump. Now that he'd healed enough to be safe to probe, it was obvious that all of his physical pathways were crossed up and bleeding energy into one another. Nothing would be able to pass through that mess and make any sense.

Morgan dropped a line into the earth to keep his energy up and began to work on Seth. The process was incredibly slow. He would seek out a tangled channel and then identify the binding node of the collar spell that was holding the tangle closed, and snuff it out. He'd gotten the idea from when he'd seen the spell damaged. If he held both ends of the strand together he could pop the node like a grape and it would heal into a solid strand. Of course he'd always check to see if the node was the start of the strand, but he didn't get that lucky. The individual nodes would eventually re-grow themselves but if he could get Seth straightened out enough they would grow the way they should have in the first place.

He did just over seven hours of work on Seth in that first sitting, rising out of the trance only once to tell Mieka what he was doing and hand off the responsibility of watching Shiea. Every time he popped a node Seth would twitch or groan. At the end of that session Seth had regained essentially unimpeded access to his sensory and motor centers. There was plenty of more work to be done but Morgan couldn't take the concentration and emotional strain any longer. To the plus, the prospects were excellent that Morgan might be able to remove the collar by the time he managed to finish. More than half the nodes in the collar were involved in bad implantation in Seth. That meant that there was a fifty percent chance that he'd come across the initial node while he cleared the tangles. The bad bindings would act as markers of which nodes hadn't been checked. If the initial node was one of the bad bindings he could find it, memorize where it lay in Seth's physiology, rest up, then go right to it fresh and ready to destroy the spell.

Just after he finished that first grueling session he reached out to touch Seth to say he was done for now. The man didn't grin but he did let out a long breath and fall almost instantly to sleep. The whole thing must have been like slow torture and Morgan hadn't dared allow any kind of emotion to pass between them. Even that had been a kind of strain, being unfeeling was hard work no matter how much it was necessary. He needed to do something simple to relieve his mind.

* * *

Morgan went into the small private vale just off his porch and sought out a couple of small clear stones. The little unassuming lumps of granite would make excellent spell locks. The enchantment took only moments, and again he wondered at how easy it was to perform enchantments, the skill having been hidden from him for so long. These locks were only the second and third complete enchantments he'd cast in his entire life and yet the strictures flowed in him as if he'd done it a million times before. These weren't lasting, they wouldn't survive his death by very long, but still.

The spell locks were, of course, a cheat. With a lock he could cast a simple transient ensorcellment and tie the open strand he would normally need to maintain into the lock. The lock would keep the spell open like a full enchantment until he, or any other mage that cared to, lifted the lock out of the spell. When that happened the spell and the lock would be lost. A cheat yes, but a very useful cheat. Sometimes the art in magic was more about finding the loophole more than solving the problem.

With his spell locks in hand he returned to the house and reset the spells that heated and filtered the water and kept the cold box cold. Since the spells, now that they would be locked, wouldn't be any kind of drain on him he embellished them. It was kind of a first play with his newly appreciated capacities. There wasn't much more to be done with the water heating, hot water was hot water after all, he simply applied it to every sluice in the house and set it up so that it would respond to the reasonable will of the operator; within safe limits the water would run at any temperature desired. This simple cold box spell became a zoned temperature controller. Every part of every room in the house would get no hotter and no colder than was comfortable, with the exception of the one cupboard, most of which would stay nicely chilled and a small part of which would be freezing cold. This spell too would respond to the occupants within reason. He set the spell locks, one just above the bath sluice and the other just inside the kitchen. They quickly phased into their respective spells and he felt the burden of maintenance lift away from him. The work was so complete that, if he died, the spells would even keep on working until the mass of the stones had been consumed. The small stones were still visible, and appeared solid, but could not be touched except by an adept; anyone and anything else would pass right through the small apparitions.

The spells were subtle and complex, and represented a substantial outlay of power. They had flowed out of him virtually without effort. The knowledge was from a decade of researching random, dangerous relics. The fear came back on him for a moment. There were no examples of this kind of power anywhere else in the school or it's library. He'd worked into the late hours of the night and he decided to sleep on his issues. In the morning he'd talk to Liane and Mieka; they would have a good healthy perspective. He decided to leave a note telling them that the hot water was back, forgetting until he had actually set quill to velum that he couldn't remember how to make any letter in the alphabet, he spent several minutes trying to resurrect enough memory to draw a simple arrow but couldn't tell if it was successful. Deciding that either they would figure it out or he could tell them when he woke, he settled into the couch next to the bed occupied by Seth.

* * *

Morgan woke to find Seth's bed empty and stripped of it's bedclothes. Startled awake he looked about the house. The bedclothes were soaking in the sink and he found Seth on the porch, exercising.

“Seth! You're all right!” He leapt at the giant and wrapped his arms around him in relief.

Seth didn't really respond and Morgan let go of him and stepped back. “Seth?”

The man blinked at him placidly like a farm animal trying to comprehend the farmer. Morgan didn't know what he expected; when he'd stopped the night before Seth had still been a tangled mess. What he'd accomplished this morning was remarkable, all things considered. For the first time in five days Morgan felt that eventually he'd see the old Seth again. He hugged him again and felt him wince.

A quick vrec showed him that Seth, the real Seth deep down, was struggling against the improper bindings, and some of them were lifting free a little. He didn't know how to tell him not to tear at them like that. Whenever he said or did anything Seth's incomprehension made him struggle harder. He patted the man reassuringly and went back into the house, giving Seth the chance to work out what he could in his exercise and hoping it didn't greatly reduce his chance of breaking the spell outright.

* * *

Morgan hadn't slept long enough, but he couldn't fall back to sleep. He drew deep from the elements flows around him to replenish his physical needs and managed a nice hot bath before Seth finished or the others woke. He didn't take a long soak because the pressure of his thoughts was beginning to ride him like a hagfish. Seth padded quietly through the house shortly after Morgan finished his bath, then passed back outside with an armload of clean but soggy bedding.

Liane and Mieka enjoyed a particularly intimate shared bath. An occasional exuberance that Morgan had grown used to not sensing over the years. By the time they were finished Morgan had shown unusual morning industry and had prepared breakfast. He went outside to fetch Seth and found him trying to wield his staff. He was doing terribly. Morgan barked out his name, Seth started and dropped the weapon. When he turned around he had a bruised knot on his forehead.

“Come in for breakfast.”

Seth stood there uncomprehendingly, frustration plain on his face.

“Seth? Can you understand me?”

The blank stare continued unabated but the frustration visibly built toward fear.

Morgan walked over, slipped his hand up to the back of Seth's neck, pulled his head down and gently pressed their foreheads together. It was the kind of gesture he'd learned for dealing with some animals in distress. It largely worked. He led Seth into the house and sat him down for Breakfast.

The meal turned into yet another impromptu family meeting and from there into a kind of general therapy session. Morgan kind of dumped his concerns about his rising abilities on Liane and Mieka. He had to stop several times and reassure Seth, who didn't even recognize his own name when it was spoken. When he'd finished disgorging what had been bothering him for those last few days Liane jumped in first.

“Are you saying you're going to blow us all up?”

“No, of course not. I'm just worried that I'm becoming something...”

Mieka cut him off, “Forget that, it's not like you're losing your mind or something, you are just really good at what you do.”

“I don't think you understand. Power corrupts. History shows that...”

Mieka interrupted him “Paranoid loners that hide behind their walls turn into assholes. It's not the Talent.”

Liane said “And what's to understand, you could maybe level the school with a thought? Maybe you can only mess up the weather and break all the glass out of the windows. Both are really big and neither makes you someone you aren't already.”

“But what if it goes to my head and ...”

Mieka said “We've both known you for years, it isn't going to your head, except to get you all itchy about things.”

The conversation proceeded along those same lines until Liane got tired of the whole thing and pointedly mentioned that Morgan had more pressing problems to solve, namely Seth. Morgan was sure that he hadn't managed to get his point across to his friends, as his friends were sure that he'd figure out what to do about himself in good time. He felt a little better for the effort even if they didn't seem properly concerned.

Morgan took Seth over to the couch and got him to lie down. He reached in, checked and popped the first binding, and then came back out. He did his best to make Seth understand that that had been him, and when he figured he'd gotten that through as far as it was going to get he went at the bindings in earnest. Morgan decided that he could go another seven hours that day, and have two more days like it before he'd finished pulling the bad bindings.

Just over four hours into the session everything changed. Seth's inner strength took over and he ruptured nearly all the remaining bad bindings in a single massive two minute full-body spasm. Even as Morgan went after the last few he felt Seth seize him in a ferocious hug.

Morgan came back to himself and pried his way out of the man's grip.

“Are you okay now?”

Seth reached for words but didn't have any. His brow furrowed and he looked like he was going to explode from effort.

“Wait, wait...” Morgan locked eyes with him. “Can you understand me at least?”

Seth tried to speak again.

“Just nod your head or something.”

He paused and nodded his head.

“Good. You've been through a lot and you're still pretty torn up inside, don't worry about talking for a while... We'll figure everything out and get it fixed okay?”

Seth nodded again, looking a little more relaxed, but he was still flexing his like he was trying to talk.

“First though, I want to say I'm really sorry.” From there he went on through everything he knew and guessed about the collar and what happened. Again he started with why Tor had collared him in the first place and ended up just shy of asking Seth why he had given in to the collar spell. The question would be cruel, and Seth couldn't speak. He figured that would have to come out on its own, if it ever did. He did his best to make sure that Seth understood how guilty he felt. Seth just seemed to sit there and listen with barely any reaction at all. Run out of things to say and feeling awkward, Morgan just said “well, okay then” and stood up.

Later that day Morgan caught Seth outside practicing with his staff. He was glad to see that he was back in form. Seth looked a little unstable, but that was reasonable after the strain of the last few days. Morgan left without interfering. He figured that Seth was probably pretty angry at him and would need some time to cool down.

He set off to find that hidden something that he just knew was there in the house somewhere.

He started by walking the entire length of the entrance tunnel, probing into the stone, and finding nothing. For all that he had this new-found affinity for stone the distance he could probe through it was still normally limited.

He considered entering the stone the way he had during the walk, but if there were active bindings or constructs fused into the rock, that would not be safe. He wasn't positive but he guessed that when he entered into the stone he became part of it. That maybe meant that if the stone he entered was bound he could become bound himself.

After finishing the tunnel, He moved on to the house proper. Starting in the front room he tried to build a mental map of the house. The floor plan was simple. Two master bedrooms and a study on the left; den, linen closet, bath, and Shiea's room on the right. At the end of the hall a door led into the studio. A door at the far end of that opened into a greenhouse kind of place that Mieka kept green and everyone called `the workroom' because they all used it for inspiration or alone time. The workroom had an all-glass facing but its exposure was separated from the patio by a stone abutment, which had saved the high glass wall from more than the few cracks it already had.

Halfway through his second pass from the front room to the work room Seth began to shadow Morgan's movements.

He stayed silent and in the hall, watching Morgan pace his way through each room. Morgan became intensely aware of the scrutiny, all the more because Seth was fully armed. The few times he made eye contact with Seth he found no hint of feeling in the big man's face. It was totally strange. It should have been disconcerting but he couldn't find any fear of the man in himself. After he finished the second pass he stopped and explained what he was doing and why.

Seth's bland and passionless continence was maybe a little unnerving. At first Morgan thought Seth didn't understand, or didn't care, but then the big man suddenly turned and stalked quickly down the hall. When he got to the far end he started back, stopping at the linen closet. He opened the door and looked inside for a moment and then went through the next nearest door into the den. Morgan followed and Seth laid his hand against the wall nearest the closet. The light came on in Morgan's head. The closet didn't go as far back into the hillside as the rooms on either side of it.

Morgan probed through the stone and found it hollow.

Weighing the possibility of releasing something bad into the house, against the probable danger of only having magic as a way back out of whatever lay beyond the wall, Morgan decided that it would be better to breach the wall than it would be to walk through it.

“Seth, I need an iron rod about so long. Any Ideas?” Morgan held his hands about as wide apart as his shoulders.

Seth thought about it for a moment and then turned and left the room. He came back a minute later with the iron poker from the fireplace. He grasped the business end and the shaft in either hand and twisted. The threading held true and he managed to unscrew the end with only minor difficulty.

The resulting shaft was exactly to his need, even if the handle was unnecessary.

“I'm going to cut out wedge-shaped blocks that will come sliding out by themselves. I need you to catch them and set them aside.” Seth didn't even acknowledge that Morgan had spoken which Morgan decided to take as ascent.

Morgan set up a lattice of energy to guide the iron shaft while making a plan. The gap created by the rod would be fairly large and both faces would be quite smooth, but if the cut wasn't straight and even the stone would lock together like puzzle pieces. He struck the iron against the wall to start it vibrating. Then he tuned and reinforced the vibrations and restructured the metal until it sang a clear chord. Then he detuned into a brutal discord that made the stone, and his jaw, ache in sympathy.

The sound made by the bar was barely audible but the energy Morgan invested into it was immense. The idea was not to cut or burrow into the stone so much as persuade it to flow around the iron and out of his way. The rod sank into the stone facing with ease, the extra rock puckering around the hole in a very un-stone-like way. Morgan listened and scanned the stone carefully as he moved the iron along its path. If he were to blunder unawares through flaws or different kinds of stone the tuned energy could leak directly into the stone and make it shatter or explode. The technical term was denaturing. At these power levels the typical result was death. There was no good way to control elemental energy at so intimate a level and maintain a protective barrier between himself and the target. With all his lessons, both learned and taught, Morgan made the task look like slicing bread.

He made four vertical cuts from just over Seth's height to the floor and then joined them with a cut across the top. Having described the new doorway's outline he began making crosscuts with the rod at about a thirty degree angle. Each time he reached a vertical cut a brick would be set free and begin sliding out of the opening under it's own weight. The cut faces were smooth as glass and only the puckering effect kept their edges from being dangerously sharp. As each block came free Seth deftly caught it and stacked it to the side. The fact that Seth had to wait between bricks was testament to the care Morgan took not to get them dead.

It took the better part of two hours to cut the doorway, the floor level cuts being particularly tricky since he'd had to use a tweak of energy against the handle of the rod, making it fall to a fine iron dust, so that he could get the rod level with the floor. He'd decided to cut the complete doorway since if he just cut an access it would be a hassle to recreate the spell to complete the job. Morgan could think of several reasons that it would have been better to hire a stone mason to do the job, not the least of which were his frayed nerves. If he hadn't been so curious and if this weren't the kind of thing that was best kept secret, he'd never have used such a dangerous technique. He never even thought of just going and getting a sledge hammer until Mieka brought it up casually during a conversation several weeks later.

Morgan grabbed a lamp and started for the opening but Seth shouldered him out of the way and preceded him. Seth went into the small space and stood with his back against the far wall. Morgan started in and slipped on the smooth surface of the fresh-cut stone. Lightning fast, Seth's arm shot out and grabbed Morgan's shoulder. Morgan started to laugh a little nervously but Seth still didn't have any kind of discernible emotion. Morgan felt better and worse about Seth; better because now he knew that Seth was still watching out for him, worse because before the accident Seth would have laughed at him not just turned back away.

The small space they had opened up was maybe seven feet wide and ten feet long. A tight stairway started a left-handed spiral down at the end of what amounted to a short sealed hallway. Sticking to the right wall so that he could see as far around the spiral as possible, Seth advanced down the stairs slowly, ready to draw steel at the slightest need. Morgan followed two stairs behind holding the lamp over Seth's head to give him the best light.

What struck Morgan first, as scary excitement yielded to curious excitement, was the complete lack of stuff. There were no spider webs, grit or guano under foot, not even a layer of dust. Wherever they were going, it had been sealed perfectly. With Seth watching ahead Morgan felt safe to look closely at the stairwell as they descended. From what he could see the stairway had been cut from the hillside using a technique something like he'd used to breach the wall. There were no seams, joints, or chisel marks on any surface, even the treading of the stairs looked to have been textured using sorcery.

Morgan lost track of the direction after about three turns down the shaft. At the bottom a small hallway stretched maybe twenty feet and ended in a “T”. Morgan saw a familiar pattern of scoring in the ceiling and decided to risk a quick scan. It was what he thought. The school used a persistent lighting spell which ran along identical pathways along the ceiling of the common areas of the School of Disciplines. Of course the other schools were afforded no such courtesy. Apprentices were made to continuously feed the spells as part of their duties, a waste of energy but one which served to impress the visitors. Risking a little more, he felt his way along the pathways that had been eroded through local space by the previous usage of the spell. There were a few connections from the old light spell to some other constructs, probably each part of a general maintenance spell, but nothing threatening. He energized the long dormant lighting spell, cautiously easing power into only and immediate fraction the web of secondary effects.

A hazy tube of luminescence began to form a few inches below the ceiling. It never got to looking solid, or all that bright, but soon everything was awash in a clean neutral white. Fresh air soon began wafting from no discernable source. Morgan shrugged, blew out his lamp, and set it down against the wall. He'd figure the air thing out later. Seth was looking at him. If it had been the old Seth it probably would have been a look of reproach for announcing their presence to whatever might be waiting for them down there.

Morgan didn't much care.

Anything that could have survived several centuries in a sealed set of rooms probably wouldn't care much about the light either.

* * *

This time Morgan shouldered Seth out of the way, sort of, and headed left. The corridor simply opened into a large square room scattered with stuff. Mostly enchanted stuff. He knew that because the mundane stuff had largely gone to dust. Well not dust exactly. When he touched a chair it had simply dissolved. It made sense. With no drying and dessication, and without any kid of air movement the mundane organic things had become separated like standing milk. As soon as the things were disturbed they crumbled. It was the large number of things that didn't become dust that intrigued Morgan.

Morgan went back to check the rest of their new found basement.

At the other end of the short hallway was an even bigger find. The construct Morgan had felt during the teleport. The room was circular and about forty feet wide; the whole room was one large casting circle cut out of the living rock. In a way the room was really two rooms, one inside the other. The outer room was a perfectly circular corridor about three and a half feet wide and the inner room was a pentagon. The two rooms were arranged so that the points of the pentagon laid on the outer boundary of the circular corridor. The stone that would lie within neither space had been left, forming five pillars. The corners where the outer curved face met the inner flat ones were sharp enough to draw blood. Virtually every vertical surface was covered with glyphs and symbols. The floor and ceiling were inlaid with marble and quartz. Shafts, some as wide as a fist others fine as a quill, were bored straight through the structure at odd angles, passing deep into the surrounding rock.

Unable to read the inscriptions, Morgan had no idea what the room was for. He wasn't even sure if he'd ever read the name for anything this complex. Running the name fragments through his head; pent, sect, lith, ari, len, zo, liagh, gram, chai, set, bahl, and qat all seemed necessary to cover the shape. This was definitely out of his league. That little nagging voice in the back of his mind sheepishly suggested leaving immediately, sealing the wall back up, and saving the whole mystery for his retirement. Unfortunately he knew he didn't have that kind of common sense.