The Secrets of Kings: Episode 1

7:30 AM

Ponce: Groom of the Stool

October 3, 1384, 12:27AM

Ponce could feel the muscles in his short legs tighten as he rushed down the cool stone corridor of the palace. He gripped a sealed scroll in his hand gently enough not to crush it but with enough firmness that there was no chance that the scroll might be caught by the winds passing through the open archways and be swept into the night. He was on official business of the King and he had to ensure this sealed scroll was delivered quickly and safely to the King’s Herald.

The murmur of the crowd that had gathered around the palace had grown since he was last in a part of the castle where he could see or hear them. Once word spread that her Royal Majesty, the queen, had gone into labor, the people of Frowena naturally flocked to the palace in anticipation of a long awaited birth announcement. It had been nearly eight hours since the first of the people had arrived. Most were very anxious to know whether this pregnancy of the King and Queen would produce a viable male heir.

The Queen’s health had been dubious ever since the first pregnancy, with several pregnancies losing their viability, and many months and, sometimes even years between conceptions.  The Masters were largely in agreement that this would be the last pregnancy that the Queen’s body would be able to accommodate. Although the king and queen already had a child, a princess who was well loved, she did not possess the parts associated with fitness to rule a great kingdom. The stakes were high that the Queen produce a royal heir so the country would never fall prey to the nefarious whims of the King’s younger brother or his like-minded progeny.

Ponce finally came to  a large wooden door and knocked three times. The sound was deep and carried far into the depths of the palace in either direction. There was a slight sound of stirring from beyond. After a few moments a slight click followed by a roaring creek indicated that the large wooden door was opening.

The King’s Herald had retired for the evening in the small sitting chamber that stood just before the official messenger’s balcony. After the announcement of the Queen’s labor earlier in the day,  he anticipated that he would have to address the people before the light of day. His old, worn body did not move as quickly or swiftly as it once did, so although his chamber was only a short distance from the messenger’s balcony, retiring as near as possible to his workspace seemed the most reasonable decision.

The Herald waved Ponce into the chamber with his age spotted hand and pushed the heavy door closed after Ponce entered. Ponce extended his hand to deliver the scroll, carefully ensuring that the King’s seal was clearly visible.

The Herald took the roll from Ponce’s hand, gently nodding his head in thanks for the delivery. The Herald silently walked over to a small table in the corner where he lit several candles, adding a brightness to the amber glow of the torches that already lit the room. After carefully breaking the stamped wax seal with his shaky old hands, The Herald unrolled the short paper and squinted his aged eyes so that he could carefully read the information that the King had sent to him. He stroked his long white beard as he took in the King’s words.

After carefully absorbing each one, he walked to the double doors leading out to the balcony. The doors opened with a heavy, guttural moan. Ponce followed him, taking a torch near the door into his hand and proceeding to light the torches surrounding the balcony so that the Herald would be seen by the people as he delivered his message. With each additional torch that was lit the crowd became more quiet, offering their attention to the terrace.

Once the lighting procession had concluded, the Herald stepped to the balcony’s edge and looked upon the crowd. Ponce arranged himself a few steps behind the Herald and a few feet to the side so that he would not be a distraction. Although his position would not allow him to see the whole of the crowd, he could still see the expanse of onlookers, all of whom had become virtually mum, waiting in anticipation for the Herald to deliver his message.

The old man cleared his throat. For all of his relative quiet in the chamber before, Ponce could not help but feel a sense of awe at the booming nature of the Herald’s voice as he addressed the King’s constituents.

“Welcome!” The Herald’s voice echoed into the distance. “Tonight is a night of great excitement for the Kingdom of Frowena. But also…” He paused for a moment from his slow but powerful articulation before he continued. “...of great sadness. His royal majesty, King Corbin has sent word that his faithful Queen has perished.”

The collective gasp of the crowd was followed by releases of small cries and soft sounds of weeping from the women and men who loved the kind hearted Queen Emmaquinn. The Herald gave the crowd a few moments to mourn before he continued. Ponce hung his head.

“We will always feel a fondness for Queen Emmaquinn, but will always remember her through her children, the young Princess, the spitting image of her mother, and her newborn son, royal heir to the throne, Prince Remedy, who will someday rule this kingdom.”

    Ponce bit his tongue and continued to look to the ground as the Herald continued addressing the crowd; speaking of legacy of Emmaquinn and how the jewel of her womb, which she had just delivered unto the kingdom that very evening, would deliver the kingdom from the evils that may have consumed them, without the birth of the Prince. Ponce, however, was feeling conflicted. He knew that portions of the Herald’s announcements were not quite the truth, but he said nothing because the whole of the kingdom might suffer if the truth were to be revealed.

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