The castle gates swung slowly open as they galloped toward them, ancient hinges and mechanisms groaning with the strain, and they had soon passed through the arched entrance and into a courtyard beyond. Waiting there were the three mages along with several other people that Seymour did not recognize. He waved urgently at Alt-Mage MacQuarrie as he brought Wyrinther to a skidding halt on the cobblestones.
"Close the gates!" he shouted. "We've been followed!"
With a signal from MacQuarrie's hand, the gates began to swing closed without any aide from a gatekeeper. They shut with a final, satisfying thump and a latch clicked to lock them. Seymour dismounted the panting mare, giving her a congratulatory pat on the shoulder, and helped Seoc down. Simon, meanwhile, climbed out of the saddlebag and jumped to the ground, collected himself, and took off at a sprint, running for his brother. He leapt at his twin, colliding with him with nearly enough force to send them both sprawling. They stood, hugging each other tightly, for a long while, and Seymour could see fat, salty tears rolling down Henry's pale face.
Seymour turned just as Seoc was lost from view, sandwiched between two sobbing women, one of whom looked like an older, female version of Alisdair MacQuarrie, and the other a young woman of twenty with long, curly red hair. It seemed as if Seoc's family had come out to meet him. Somehow, Seymour doubted that Seoc's father had shown up for the occasion.
"Thank you, detective."
Seymour smiled, moving his gaze to the Alt-Mage and taking his proffered hand. "It was no problem at all, my good fellow. Although I do hope that any suspicions of my involvement will remain off of my record."
"I'll see to it."
"Brilliant. Ah, Lady Mialina! You certainly look splendid this evening."
She glanced briefly down at her blue, satin, jewel-encrusted gown and adjusted her diamond-studded tiara before looking back at him. "Dzank you. But you d'thon't," she informed him frankly.
He laughed and considered his tattered, muddy clothing. "Sacrifices of the trade, m'dear."
The fading sunlight sparkled in her mismatched blue eyes, betraying her smile before it reached her lips. "It matters not. Your dzings are up in your room, I trust you vill change before our meal. I have a servant take you dzere?"
"That would be marvelous."
A chambermaid appeared and led him through the doors of the main castle building, through a large hall, down a narrow corridor, up a spiraling tower staircase, and down another corridor. His room was near the end of this, and when he entered, he found that it had a small balcony adjoining it, looking out over the castle grounds and the vast forest beyond its exterior walls. He strode out onto it and gazed down upon the landscape--the steep mountains that formed the valley rim, the dark stain of woods below, and the distant sparkle of the Carvil River, where it rounded a bend and flowed into the Waelyngar. Noticing movement, he diverted his eyes to the road, where the sheriff's posse had finally arrived at the locked gates. Farther down along the faint brown snake of dust, it looked as if the farm-equipment-wielding rabble had finally managed to cross the river and was now shambling along towards them.
Seymour strode back into his room, washed his face and hands in the basin, and changed into more presentable attire. Things might get ugly by the end of the evening, but for the moment, a good supper was on the top of his list of priorities.