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The Movement of Crowns

By Nadine C. Keels

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“Destiny. There it is.”

No one save Matthias heard the low declaration he uttered into the parlor he was sitting in on a late afternoon, alone, where brilliant, auburn sunlight was flooding in through the room’s massive windows. Those windows afforded a somewhat removed but generally clear view of the activity some ways off along the grounds, where horses that had been gathered from the stables were standing ready for the messengers who would mount them as soon as an affirmative announcement was made, which they would carry out to the main thoroughfare of the capital and beyond from there.

Yet, Matthias was blind to the view. All he could see before him were the abstract results of his own anticipation, even more so after his eyelids lowered to a close, shutting out much of the effect of the rose-gold glow in the room, which he wasn’t seeing anyway, and shielding his bearded cheeks from the rush of searing moisture that had flowed into his eyes upon hearing the telling cry that had just come from a room across the hallway.

There it was.

Matthias would have been present in that other room, had it not been for the doctors who’d been wary regarding his condition, wanting to be certain that he’d completely recovered from his unexpected fever of days before. He felt quite well now, but he was sure the doctors knew what was best.

“In some cases, they know,” Matthias murmured, his steepled fingers coming up over his nose and mouth as he sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his eyes still closed. Yes, it had been those same doctors who’d once warned him that if he did not set out on a different course of action, he may never see this day, a day that arrived after a full ten years of simultaneously fruitful and fruitless, yet unbroken, love. He wouldn’t take back any one of those ten years. He’d never had a serious thought of taking them back, despite what a good many souls across the nation, and possibly even abroad, may have thought or said. What did it all matter now, what anyone else had had to say? All that was of significance, in this moment, was the long-awaited sound that was coming from the other room.

Eventually, the cries quieted. Matthias did not move, at first, when he heard soft footsteps enter and stand lingering on the edge of the lush carpet of the parlor. He recognized those footsteps, and he knew he would not be disturbed as long as the lingering individual thought him to be in prayer. After bracing himself, Matthias lowered his hands and opened his glistening eyes, looking over to see Merry, a favorite servant of his, straightening her apron and tucking a wayward lock of her graying hair back into its slack coiffure. An unusual sight for the ever tidily-kept woman, but she had more than earned having a hair or two out of place and a rumpled apron on this day, for all the work she’d seen to. Matthias sat up, his anticipation escalating but being strangely checked by the smile in Merry’s kind gaze, a smile warm with elation and affection, even while it held a trace of something that bore a strong resemblance to an apology.

Reading Merry’s gaze, Matthias was slow in rising to his feet, one hand running absently over the front of the fine, informal tunic covering his solid chest, his heart knowing what news his servant had brought before she spoke.

“Providence blesses you, my king,” Merry all but whispered, her smile tenderly reaching her mouth as she stepped further into the parlor. It appeared as if she would have shaken her head, but after a glance out of the windows to see the evidence of expectation out on the palace grounds, Merry nodded instead. Matthias’s breath was suspended, due to the blend of joy and empathetic resignation thickening Merry’s voice.

“Your Majesty has been given a daughter,” she said.

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