“I truly had no idea how deranged he was.” Maud twisted her handkerchief into a knot.
“There was be no way to know, unless a person was just as evil.” Agatha consoled her friend. “His level of depravity is beyond understanding.”
“He was so beautiful,” Maud sounded like a young maiden again. “It was if I was plucked from the mud, to bloom in the grandeur of the castle. I actually believed he loved me.”
“He puts on a good show, but I came to realize that he felt nothing. Not love, nor fear, not empathy, nor hate.” Agatha narrowed her eyes, remembering Ráfa’s vacant stare. “I didn’t realize how complete his madness, until I was brought to court.”
Maud covered her face with her hands and wept. Agatha moved in closer, her arm around the distraught woman’s shoulders.
“Had I known you were with child, I would have taken you with me,” Agatha said.
Pulling away, Maud wiped her eyes. “No, you did what you had to do. If I left, with Ráfa knowing I was carrying his scion, he would have sent his demon dogs after us. You were right to leave on your own.”
The two women sat in silence for a while. Agatha watched Duncan as he cleared away their food, then sat quietly by his mother. He laid his head on her lap, and Maud absently stroked his hair as the boy drifted to sleep
Maud saw where Agatha’s attention strayed, and looked down at the boy, tears beading along her long, black lashes. She knew what Agatha was thinking – had the boy inherited his father’s malady? Was a new generation of cruelty lying dormant, waiting to claim its birthright.
“He was cursed by birth,” Maud said. “Whether Ráfa’s insanity courses through his veins, or he learns cruelty, there is little I can do to protect him.”
“I see the King in him. The ice, blue of his eyes, the curl of his smile, but what I do not see, is the brutality of his father.” Agatha tried to reassure her friend.
Watching the boy sleep, he would twitch and jerk, and murmur softly. Suddenly, his leg shot out nearly kicking over the brazier, then he stilled, falling deeper into his dreams.
Standing beside his father’s wheeled chair on the precipice of a craggy bluff, Duncan watched the raging storm crashing on the rocks below.
Kicking out with a booted foot, Duncan sent the chair tumbling over the cliff.
With a stifled cry, Duncan jerked awake, “hide!”
The King Ráfa’s guard burst in through the tent curtain. Without bothering to genuflect to his Queen, the brute pulled Maud to her feet.
“The King demands your attendance.”
Snarling, the guard left no chance for refusal.
Agatha and Duncan huddled with bated breath beneath a pile of cushions and rugs, waiting for the guard to leave the tent, hoping their hiding place stayed concealed.