Chapter 7

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"Oh," the King moaned in the silence of the great hall. He rubbed his temples with his hand, holding his head. 

"So many things to take care of..."

The villages, the farms...that was just the tip of the iceberg. His soldiers had reported grumblings among the townsfolk about the sudden spike into poverty. He knew he needed to meet with his advisors before rumors of possible revolt began. Later, he needed to meet with the Commander and the General of Crestonia's armies and decide on where they were going to station the soldiers, next. Everything, yes, had been peaceful with neighboring kingdoms, but one in particular they had been sending spies in to investigate. There had been speculations that they had been building their armies, and even recruited a few giants from their lands. A formed alliance with giants could prove to be very threatening. 

Markson had a sudden pain in his chest, and hunched over. Not a moment later, it quickly subsided. Worried about his health, he motioned to a guard who was already hurrying to his aid. 

"Please, send for the royal physician. I am not feeling well, lately."

"Right away, your Majesty," and hurried out of the court expeditiously. 

"Your Majesty," the physician began after monitoring his pulse for several minutes, "it appears you are faint and weak in your heart. You are suffering from an emotional state of grief There is physical stress on the heart."

Markson sighed. "It's my Queen...I haven't gotten over her passing. I miss her, terribly. Her sons miss her, too. The Princes do well with learning from their tutors, instructors, but I am not to them what she was. She was truly a mother."

The physician nodded, and Markson continued. 

"One day, one of my three sons will inherit the throne. There is no law that states it must be passed to the oldest. At this time, I'm not sure who is worthy to be my successor. And, Snow. The Princes are fond of her, but too caught up in other affairs than to be preoccupied with their baby sister. Maybe that will change when she is older and more mature, but she doesn't have a mother. I need a Queen who will be to her, what Clarice would have been."

Markson leaned over, choking out a horrendous cough. 

"Your Majesty, if I may, between carrying the burden of your children, the Kingdom, searching for a Queen, it is proving to be too much. Your state of health has rapidly been declining. I suggest you place your current duties for this week unto your most trusted men and advisors. Otherwise, your state could worsen."

"Yes, well, Im afraid I have no choice." The King gripped the arm of his chair, leaning forward. "Thank you. Please stay nearby, as I may need you on call."

"Of course, Sire," He spoke with a low bow, walking out to the adjoining room.

"Fredrich, please write this down and deliver it to each required man. First, I need the Commander and General of Crestonia's Armies to reach a consensus together on where to move the soldiers and report back to me for confirmation...that will be sent to them. Also, I need a detailed report from the spies we dispatched. Send the report to the Commander as well."

"Then, I need the help of my advisors with the people and their farms and vineyards. Clarice knew how to take care of the people. Let them adhere as close to her design as possible. Also, partnering with neighboring countries to bring in more materials for farming, welding, sewing...maybe in the future, we could expand our borders to bring more commerce, leading to more economic growth.

"I want reports on the Princes studies, and if they are excelling at their lessons. I want a conference with each prince, personally. My sons an I haven't spoken much lately."

Markson's brow furrowed as his thoughts shifted to little Snow. "I believe we should have gathered information on the servant's of this castle by now. I believe my men know I want reports on their whereabouts at each hour and to report any suspicious behavior. I also want extensive looks into each servant's background. If there is a spy among us, I will find him." His eyes narrowed as he clenched his fist.

"Continue to keep guard's posted around Snow's room, including the nursemaids. And...what is that one nursemaid's name, whose safety is now compromised?"

"Lyn, Sire."

"Ahh, yes..." He sighed. "Lyn, really beautiful. It's a shame it has come to this. Anyone could threaten her into presenting them before me, an infiltrating my Kingdom. I'll deal with the one who leaked such precious information, harshly." He shifted his jaw, a frown pulling at the corners of his mouth.

"I can't put Snow's safety at risk," Markson sighed.

Fredrich stopped writing, eyeing him, waiting for his next decree.

"Fredrich...relieve Lyn of her position as nursemaid. Bring in the most notable woman to replace her. Until we know more, Lyn cannot be around the Princess. She may have any position she desires in the castle. Give her a title worthy of her. If...if she is approached by an enemy, only then will we send her away. Do not reveal this to her as a possibility. I don't want worry, or gossip among the servants . Also, we don't want Lyn to hesitate reporting to us. Have guards watch her from afar. Have my advisors map out an escape route for her and her husband, so we will be prepared to take action if needed."

Fredrich's quill wrote endlessly, constantly refreshing the tip in the inkwell. But, it seemed the King had concluded his orders for the next month. Markson placed his seal on the bottom. At that, Fredrich rolled up each scroll tightly, entrusting the messages unto the highest ranking guards. Each person would receive their orders soon enough.

The King blew out his candle, laying in the darkened royal bed chamber. He patted his dear wife's bedside, stroking it tenderly. He rolled over, feeling a sense of vast emptiness. The sooner he could sleep, the sooner he could forget she wasn't going to join him in bed. Clarice was not coming.

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