The Secrets of Kings: Episode 7

12:42 PM

Ponce: Groom of the Stool

July 7, 1390, 9:14AM

The princess was gravely distraught. Ponce saw her leaving the Prince’s chamber grasping at the pearl chain hanging around her neck. She was crying and whispered mostly unintelligible phrases as she gasped for air. Her body suggested a severe panic and a mind that was coming undone.
The closer Ponce came to her, the more sure he became about the reason for her current state.
“All lies.” She whispered intently, as her red cheeks and crying eyes finally faced Ponce head on. Tears left translucent streams down each cheek as she looked to him in desperation. “I saw it….it was...Everything...everything!”  She managed before dissolving into a mere babble.
Ponce breathed in as his mind came quick to action. He had been living in fear for years of the day this very thing might happen.  He suspected that she now knew the secret that Ponce had kept for nearly six years. He looked up and down the corridor to ensure that no one else was around before he embraced Princess Quinnella.
“M’Lady please calm down. Why don’t you allow me to bring you to your quarters and we can discuss what has happened.” Ponce reasoned.
“I leave this place... I...I need to go away... Please.... Please help me…” she mustered.
“Of course. Of course. Please…” He begged of her. “Let us get to your room where you can prepare for a trip. You will certainly need to collect your garments and bring essentials. I can bring you to The North House.  It has not been used in years, so you will need to have proper clothing and supplies with you. No worries, Princess. All will be well.”
Ponce had always had a great relationship with the Princess and she seemed to calm a bit at the idea of being able to prepare to leave the castle. He guided the teen princess just a bit further down the corridor and into her room where he sat her in a chair near the window. “Princess, why don’t you choose some garments and collect your necessary accoutrements and I will help you pack them once I return.” He said, turning toward the door. He was going to have to find a way to get the princess out of the castle without much notice and without allowing her to divulge much information. He would also have to create some explanation to forward to the King, as not to create any undue chaos as a result of the princess going missing.
“Please don’t leave me Poncey.” She whined as he reached the doorway.
She had not called him that since she was a little girl. He rather missed her childish affection for him.  That part of him, the part that still felt so close to the princess, felt incredibly guilty or what was about to occur.  However, right now, there were pressing matters to attend to and he could not let such feelings cloud his judgement, so he tried to shake it off. If he was going to set the travel plan into motion with as few people in the know as possible, he would have to move quickly.
“I will be back shortly Princess. I need to order the carriage and I will also order some tea to calm you. Be patient, dear. I will be back shortly.” Ponce motioned toward her wardrobe. “Now pull what you would like to bring with you. I know you would probably prefer a lady-maid but we can depart more quickly if you pull them yourself. I can pack them into your travel trunk upon my return.” He gave a slight nod of reassurance which seemed to resonate with her. She sadly rose from her seat and began to look through her clothes as Ponce took his leave.
As he removed himself from the Princess’s chambers, his mind was racked with all of the things he would need to do to get Quinnella from the palace with as little attention as possible. He rushed up the corridor toward his own small room. Sometimes he saw his chamber being in the same vicinity as the royal family as a bit of a nuisance because it meant he was rarely not “on-call” but today he was incredibly grateful for it.
Once in his chamber, he rushed to his small wardrobe where he reached down to the bottom to retrieve a small sack that he used to use when travelling with the King. The many years since he had the opportunity to use it provided ample time for cobwebs and dust to accumulate. He shook the sack out just slightly before he started stuffing the few pieces of clothing and sparse belongings he owned into it.
He stopped at his desk for just a few moments and scribbled down a note to the King. After sealing it with wax, he grabbed his sack, throwing it over his shoulder, and grabbed the short note he had just composed. He rushed towards the door but stopped in his tracks just outside of it. He stood there for a few moments, then slowly turned back towards the room, re-entered and closed the door behind him before he rushed to his desk.
He slowly reached behind the ink vials to the very last jar in the short row. As he pulled it up, he could see a white powder at the bottom of the jar. He breathed deeply, staring at the vile for some time, assuring himself that it was the right choice to bring this with him. After resolving his inner conflict, he shoved it into his pocket, rushing out of the room and to the entrance of the corridor where two boy messengers stood at their post awaiting tasks. “Boy!” Ponce waived over the thinner of the two.
“Yessir?” The boy asked in a heavy accent.
“Boy. I need you to do two tasks for me.”
“First, I need you to talk to the Horse Master and have him ready a large carriage with two horses. Tell him there is no need for a driver. I will handle that. He should have the carriage prepped and stocked with a week’s worth of food and supplies. Got that?”
“Yessir. When ya need it by?” The boy inquired?
“By hour’s end, tell him to have it pulled up to the east entrance. Tell him I apologize for the quick turnover, but it is urgent. Also, make sure he does not use one of the elite carriages. It needs to be undecorated, plain. Now the second task: I need you to tell the kitchen to prep a hot tea for the Princess. I want you to deliver it to her room after you have inquired about the carriage.”
“Talk to no one but those who are concerned with this business. Now go. Quickly.” Ponce instructed.
The boy nodded and sprinted away from the corridor. Ponce turned to the fat boy and decided he could use his help as well. “You!” He demanded.
“I need you to come with me.” He stated, already moving through the corridor with the boy quickly to be at his heels.
Ponce ushered the boy into the Princess’s room. She had haphazardly pulled together the garments that she would be bringing with her and plopped them on the bed along with her toiletries and other objects that were important to her. Ponce instructed the boy to retrieve the Princess’s trunk from the corner of the room and begin to fill it as neatly as possible with the pieces that the Princess had laid out.
She had retired herself to her writing desk in the far corner of the room  and was looking out the window with sad but intense eyes.
“Once you have finished packing the Princess’s items, please pull the trunk out into the Hallway. Wait for the other boy to return and bring it together to the east entrance and wait for the carriage to arrive. Help one another load the trunk then check with the horse master and see if he needs any assistance in preparing the rations or equipment for the trip.”
The boy gave Ponce a slightly strange look but nodded in understanding as Ponce, once again, exited the room. He rushed down the hall towards the King’s chambers. He knew that the King was due to be in a council meeting across the castle for at least the next hour, so he left the scroll in a small pocket between his mattress and the backboard of his bed. Ponce and the King had worked out this spot for important but private correspondence in the event that one or the other might need to communicate when one or the other might be entangled in other meetings or tasks.  As he began to step away from the bed, he thought he heard a sound . He stopped and looked quickly around the room, but finding nothing. He assumed he must have been feeling a bit or paranoia. And with that thought, he rushed back to the Princess’s room, arriving just in time for the skinny boy to walk up with the Princess’s tea.
Ponce took the tray from the boy so he could assist with the trunk. Once they were out of the corridor, Ponce set down the tray outside of the room and reached into his pocket to retrieve the vial of white powder. After carefully scanning the corridor to ensure no one was around to see what he did next, he took out the cork and shook just the tiniest amount of powder into the princess’s cup, waiting just a moment for it to completely dissolve. After quickly replugging and concealing the vile, he re entered the chamber. The Princess was still at her writing desk, so Ponce set the tray on her bedside table and poured the tea into her cup, mixing in a bit of sugar and milk to help mask the slight bitterness from the powder he had added.
The princess took the cup and drank down every drop of liquid within a very short period time. A few moments later, Ponce could see that the Princess’s tense body completely melted. Her shoulders slumped forward and a small smile formed over her lips. “I think that we should make our way to the carriage, Princess.”
“Yes, Poncy. Let us do just that.” She said almost with child-like joviality. The grin on her face went quirky and her movements became exaggerated but carefree. It was almost as though the last half hour had never actually happened.
Ponce helped her to put on a jacket and fitted her with a hat that contained a small black veil so people would be less likely to notice the reddening of her eye-whites or the dilation of her pupils. As he walked her through the castle corridors, he entertained her with light-hearted stories to keep her from saying too much as they passed by other servants and visitors. Thankfully, he was able to get her to the east entrance and into the awaiting carriage with little to no further issues.
Once he had the Princess safely stowed in the large cart, Ponce mounted the driver’s seat, took the horse’s reins and ordered them, with a swish of a whip to start their journey to the North House. As he left the palace gates, he turned his head back to the castle and prayed that all would work out in the end.

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