Chapter 5
Like the Morning Dew

Caer Pendragon, Pendragon

Quite unlike his brothers, who made little more than a token appearance at the annual Council before returning to their own domains, Seth Pendragon had to actually do something about the issues that were discussed. What followed were days of seemingly endless meetings with advisors and lawmakers on the myriad matters of state. Of course, being King was a year-round job, but the season of the Council was where the work was most concentrated.
Seth discouraged professional politicians, favoring representatives with a personal stake in the kingdom, leaders of commerce and the Church, landholders, knights, and scholars. This meant that they had other vocations to attend to and were not inclined to make any more trips to the castle than was absolutely necessary. They favored a few days of intense work rather than a more leisurely pace that stretched for weeks or even months.
Because of the intense schedule trying to deal with a year's worth of the affairs of state in a matter of days, the King had time for little else. It was only as the work dwindled that his mind could be occupied by anything other than politics and only then that he came to notice Cassandra's absence.
Much as he would like to flout the narrow prejudices of the court, there were none who would support and defend a public role for the Elf maiden, not even Cassandra herself. It seemed that the best he could do for her was to grant her freedom of movement within the castle and a hand in the upbringing of his daughter. He wanted so much more for her, but it was not to be.
He would often seek her for counsel and the solace of her company, something long overdue. He summoned the handmaid Linhua, the daughter of Captain Yang and sister of Marshal Xiaolang. She attended to his daughter and would be one of the most likely to know Cassandra's whereabouts.
When she entered the chamber, she knelt before him, more in the fashion of men than a woman's obeisance. A simple bow or curtsy would have sufficed, but it was the nature of her people to make a greater display of submission than less.
"Yes, Your Majesty?" she asked.
"Stand up," Seth told her. "Look at me."
Linhua rose to her feet and lifted up her face. There were some who were submissive in his presence out of fear, but Linhua was not such a timid soul. It was training, discipline, that governed her behavior. Were she a man, she no doubt could have earned the same renown as her brother as a soldier.
"Linhua, do you know what became of Cassandra?" the King asked.
"I do not know, Your Majesty," Linhua replied. "I have not seen her since the Council."
"Did she say anything, act strangely? Anything at all?"
"No, Your Majesty."
Seth furrowed his brow. It would not be unlike Cassandra to betray no hint of her innermost thoughts. Speaking of discipline, was there any human who could keep so tight a rein on themselves as she did? Nevertheless, there had to be some clue.
"Ask around," he said. "See if you can find anything."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Linhua said, "but if Lady Cassandra does not wish us to know something, we will not know it."
She was right. She gave voice to his own thoughts, but he could not let that deter him.
"Try all the same," he told her.
"As you wish, Your Majesty," Linhua replied with a bow. "By your leave."

* * *

For everything a king must endure, Seth found it difficult to wait while Linhua did her work. He felt half-tempted to tear down the entire castle stone by stone for even the slightest clue as to where Cassandra had gone. After a day's search yielded nothing, Seth decided it was time to take the next step.
He summoned a scribe and told him, "Write up a missive. Have it sent to the garrisons, to the watchtowers and to the High City. Tell them to look for Lady Cassandra. If they see her, ask her in my name to return, but under no circumstances are they to attempt to detain her forcibly."
As the scribe dutifully began to draw up the draft of the missive, the chamberlain asked Seth, "Your Majesty, what is this about?"
Not answering him directly, Seth replied, "I'm sure she has her reasons, but I would've liked to hear them first."
The chamberlain was an intuitive man and he did not need much information to piece together the situation.
"Should I arrange for a more thorough search of the kingdom?" he suggested.
Seth shook his head.
"No. We can't spare the men and besides, she's no rabbit for me to sic my dogs on her."
"Her kind is strange," the chamberlain mused. "Do we not have stories enough of fairy folk who dally with humans only to evaporate like the morning dew without warning?"
Seth chuckled grimly to himself and replied, "Well, I certainly hope she hasn't evaporated."
"The draft is complete, Your Majesty," the scribe said.
"Let me see it."
Setting down his quill, the scribe delivered the parchment, kneeling and offering it up like a supplicant. Reading over what was written and satisfied with the wording, Seth handed the parchment back to the scribe and told him, "Make copies enough for the four garrison towns, the High City and the sixteen watchtowers."
"Eighteen watchtowers, Your Majesty," the chamberlain corrected.
"Is it eighteen?" Seth asked. "Eighteen then."
The scribe seemed to be struggling with the figures, mumbling, "That would be..."
"Twenty-three copies total," the chamberlain said. "In addition to the original draft, which I would keep for the archives."
"There's no need to put the missive in the archives," Seth said.
"It is an order from the King, Your Majesty," the chamberlain replied. "That alone warrants it a place in the archives. Unless Your Majesty wishes for this missive to be secret, that is."
"No, I have no need of secrets," Seth replied. "Keep it in the archives if you will."
The chamberlain bobbed his head.
"Yes, Your Majesty."
Seth eyed the chamberlain for a moment, wondering if his pleasant facade and unctuous manner hid sinister motives. No, he was making much of nothing, surely. Though a king had few friends in any true sense, he was not necessarily surrounded by enemies. There was a time for caution, but a surfeit of caution could bring about a man's downfall just as easily as carelessness. Things seemed so much easier when he could turn to Cassandra. He could only hope whatever had taken her from his side would not keep them apart much longer. Without her, he was like a ship without anchor, a tree without roots.