Chapter 7
The White Emissary

Pendragon Tower, Norland, Pendragon

Lucia's mission was simple. She was to travel westward to the village called Tubal-Cain and there she would meet her helper and advocate, one touched by the Light as she was. However, when she finally reached the designated village, she could not sense the one she was meant to find. After two days' time, she took it upon herself to approach the ruler of the land herself. Though it would have been better to have her advocate speak for her, the urgency of her mission demanded swift, decisive action. If she had to go forward without help, she would.
When Lucia asked people where she could find the one who ruled over this land, they directed her to this great tower. Great in size, at least, very nearly the equal to Five Towers in that respect, but its construction was much cruder. These were a simpler people, after all. It was wonder enough they could build anything on this scale. Indeed, based on what she had seen thus far on her journey, they practically lived as beasts.
She checked herself. She would win no allies by looking down on them. Were they not closer to the land and was that not a good thing? She had been enslaved so long that she had all but forgotten. A people closer to the land would better draw from its strength, surely. The power of Nature would quash this abomination that was waiting in the wings.
Was it right for her to plead with them for aid? They were common mortals. If they did agree to help, many would die. Of course, many more would die if the Darkness was not stopped. Would they be willing to make the necessary sacrifice for the sake of future generations, for people all over the world? She was asking much--too much, perhaps--, but she had to ask all the same.
Surrounding the tower was a village much like the one called Tubal-Cain, though there was something different in its character. She could feel a distinct sense of foreboding. There was a danger here, a sort of tension that filled the very air. She had faced perils from man and beast along the way, but this place was like a vortex drawing all danger to it. Was this truly where she would find the help she sought?
Circling the village was a trench about as deep and as wide as a man is tall and past the trench were sharpened logs jutting out of the ground like spears lined up to meet the oncoming enemy. In truth, Lucia understood little about the mortals' ways of war. She had only heard stories and that was enough to frighten her. How much more frightening it would be to witness a war with her own eyes, but that was what was coming, was it not?
So long as Lucia continued on the road, she would cross through a break in the trench and the wall of logs behind it. Waiting for her were several rough-looking men armed with actual spears. They looked little different than the bandits who had tried to attack her on her way to Tubal-Cain. These she could not simply strike blind with her powers, she did not think.
"Who goes they?" one of the men demanded.
"I have come to treat with the lord of this land," Lucia replied. "I am called Lucia."
The man looked to his fellows, not knowing what to make of her. How could she explain herself to them?
"The lord of this land does reside in this tower, yes?" she asked.
"Aye, Lord o' th' Tower," the man replied.
"Will you take me to him?"
"Take ye to 'im? Haw!"
"Truly, I tell you, I must speak to your lord."
"And what have we here?" another man's voice asked.
The owner of the voice stepped forward, well-spoken but ill-favored by the look of him.
"Masser Forktongue," the man with the spear said.
"Leave this one to me," the ill-favored man said. Forktongue, was it? A curious name.
The ill-favored man gave her a slight bow and said, "Welcome to Pendragon Tower, traveler. You wish to speak with my lord?"
"Yes, I do," Lucia replied. "It is a matter of grave import."
"Then I shall take you right away. Follow me."
"Thank you, sir," Lucia said.
"I am no sir," the ill-favored man replied, "just a humble servant of His Highness the Prince."
There was something about the ill-favored man. It was true that one could look foul and feel fair, but despite his generally agreeable manner, she felt this inexplicable aversion to him. Perhaps it was simply that she was so unused to dealing with mortals. Even the best of them had a measure of darkness in their hearts that was difficult for one such she to bear easily. She would have to learn to bear it, though, if she would fulfill her mission.
The ill-favored man led her to Tower, then guided her up the winding stairs to an audience chamber near its peak. The air was thick with the stench of oily smoke from the lamps along the wall and dozens of unwashed men gathered around tables to the left and to the right. She had never found the smell of the mortals to be pleasant, but in such a confined space the effect was multiplied.
Toward the back of the audience chamber, seated on a dais overlooking the two clusters of rude men was a large man who could only be the Lord of the Tower himself. Though perhaps better dressed, he did not seem much better in substance than the coarse men who served him, but Lucia could not judge based on appearances alone.
He had a disinterested look about him as he drank from a jeweled goblet of gold and silver. A hollow-eyed girl at his side ensured the cup remained filled. Was this truly the one who would save them?
The ill-favored man went up onto the dais and stood beside his master. The Lord of the Tower raised one of his meaty hands and all the wild men in the chamber went silent.
"Go on," the ill-favored man said, "say what you have come to say."
This was the chance she had been waiting for. She did not have her advocate to speak on her behalf according to the customs of these people, but she would have to do what she could on her own. The fate of world rested with her.
She knelt down, stretched out her arms and bowed low, saying, "Greetings, O Prince, Lord of the Tower. I am called Lucia. I come from the island to the east. We are mages of great power, but we are in desperate need of aid. We are yoked by a cruel master whose heart is black as night. He has terrible designs on this land and her people. I have come with this warning but also to plead for aid. If you would join hands with me, we could unite against the Archon of Void and overthrow him. Both our peoples would be saved and through our alliance, together we can forge a new age of prosperity."
The ill-favored man who brought her to the audience chamber whispered something into the Lord of the Tower's ear, prompting a low, contemptuous chuckle. His men responded with peals of raucous laughter.
Confused, Lucia asked, "Why do you laugh? This is no jest. This is a matter of the utmost importance. You must believe me."
The Lord of the Tower rose up from his seat and turned to a door behind the seat. He was leaving? Without so much as a single word?
Desperate, Lucia pleaded with him, "No, wait! My lord! You must listen to me! Your lives and your lands are at stake!"
The Lord of the Tower raised his hand and made a beckoning gesture. Two men seized her by the arms.
"Unhand me!" she demanded, struggling against their firm grip. "Please, my lord! You must listen!"
The two men dragged her along after their master. The door led to an antechamber and past that, a bedchamber. Once inside, they threw her onto the bed.
"My lord, what is the meaning of this?"
It was a foolish question and the Lord of the Tower did not answer her. Instead, he told his men, "Hold her down."
"Aye, lord," one of the men replied.
The two men who brought her in held her wrists while two more came in to take hold of her ankles. How could this be happening?
Even though it meant jeopardizing her mission, she could not allow herself to simply fall into the hands of wicked men. Just as she had done with the bandits, she would strike them blind with her powers and make her escape. If she could not forge an alliance here, she would simply find another place, another people to join her. These men were practically in the enemy's camp already.
However, as she tried to draw her power into her hands, nothing happened. It was as if her powers had left her entirely. Then she saw the ill-favored man standing there in the doorway smiling cruelly. Only then did she realize that she had truly walked right into the enemy camp and that her mission had failed.