Agatha sat on the beach, her face turned upward to let the sea breezes and sun wash over her. Deftly fingering the beads of her old rosary, she silently recited her blessings, ending with the name of the priest who gave his life for hers.
The open expanse of the shoreline was a stark contrast to the forbidding catacombs Agatha was remembering on this day. A lifetime ago, she escaped the ghosts who haunted the tunnels, and a demon bridegroom who only needed her as a broodmare.
Time and distance didn’t lessen the fear of being found. She hoped that those who would hunt her down, were either convinced she was dead or that they were. She couldn’t go back to her family she left, she could only keep moving farther away.
The landlocked kingdom of her past was a week’s journey from her adopted coastal home, but she was still wary of travelers, fearing someone might recognize her even all these years later.
The warmth and sun made her drowsy and for a moment, she drifted off to a serene sleep. A familiar voice roused her, a sudden and frightening jolt from her past. Frantically looking around, she spied a small party farther down the beach.
A swarm of courtly dressed sycophants were erecting a colorful tent. A boy was a short way from the crowd building a teetering sandcastle. She knew his face, and her heart seized inside her chest.
Looking around, she searched for the one thing she had hoped she’d never face again… her long-hoped, dead bridegroom. When she escaped him, guided by the spirits that haunted the castle catacombs, she knew the Prince would try following her. A journey she prayed ended badly for him.
The child prince now merely yards away, was the mirror image of his father. When he suddenly turned toward her, she nearly screamed. He had the same smile, only it lacked his father’s cruelty.
Leaving his toys in the sand, the boy wandered over to Agatha, who was now standing. Bowing her head in obeisance to the young monarch, she only wanted to run.
“Who are you?” The question came without a hint of malice, only youthful curiosity.
“I am no one, m’lord, just a simple weaver from Paxon.” Agatha kept her head down, unsure how she would react to being so close to the face that disturbed her dreams.
“Do you make the tapestries that hang in the Great Room?” Wonder and expectation filled his voice.
“No, your highness. I weave blanket cloth for the guild.”
“You know who I am?”
“Yes, your highness. I recognize your banner.”
“My father is the king. He is here.” The boy pointed to the tent. “He’s wrapped in blankets in the wheeled chair. It’s hard to push through the sand. The men had to carry him. The healers said the salt air would be good for Father.”
Agatha winced, wanting badly to ask why his father required healers.
“This is my first trip to the seaside.” The boy was no more than 10, meaning he was conceived before she left. The Prince didn’t waste time grieving her disappearance, marrying the boy’s mother so soon after her escape.
“I hope your stay is enjoyable, m’lord.”
“He is quite mad, you know.” The boy sounded sad. “I hear stories that the ghosts possess him. Nurse told Cook that Mother will be named regent soon, like Father was made king when his brother died right before I was born.”
“I am so sorry m’lord.” Agatha’s heart ached for the little boy.
“Will you be here tomorrow?”
“If you would like, m’lord.”
With that the boy ran back to the tent, and to his father. Agatha turned away, praying her nightmares weren’t coming true.