Agatha remained huddled beneath the rugs with Duncan, afraid to even breathe.
Straining to hear whether the guard had companions, Agatha dared to lift a corner to look out into the open tent. Duncan stayed her hand, laying a finger against his lips.
He scooted backward away from her, slowly uncovering his head. Looking around Duncan made his way to the open tent flap. From inside the dark canopy, he counted the guards milling around the King’s marquee. He flipped close the open tent panel, then secured the ties.
“Noone, you can come out now.” He kept his voice low. “The guards are all at the King’s tent, we should be safe for the moment.”
Agatha paced around the tent like a caged animal, her ever-present rosary in one hand, fervently counting each bead.
“We should be safe?” She turned on the young prince. “We should be concerned about your mother’s safety.”
She spat out the word, “your.”
“The queen will be safe,” the boy said, pulling a gap in the flap to look out.
“But that guard,” Agatha seemed confused. “He was so harsh.”
The prince covered his mouth, suppressing a giggle.
“He was convincing, wasn’t he?”
Agatha sat down, unable to speak.
Duncan joined her on the floor.
“That guard is part of my personal garrison. He had to make it look like he was following the King’s orders, but he makes sure the queen… my mother, is not harmed. I told her about the subterfuge only yesterday. It made the charade all the more believable.”
“And you trust this man?” Agatha was still working her rosary. “Trust him to carry out only your wishes?”
“As much as I can trust any man, or woman.” Duncan picked up the crucifix that hung at the end of Agatha’s beads. “Do you trust this deity you pray to, that He will protect you?”
Agatha gathered her beads and placed them in Duncan’s hands, curling his fingers around the rosary – the warmth of her prayers still evident.
“I do.” Agatha said. “But I also know he expects me to protect myself as well. He gives me the strength and courage to make difficult decisions, and the intelligence to carry out those decisions.
“I also trust that He will put other people in my path who can help me. We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
Duncan opened his hand, studying the rosary. “Were you put in my path?”
Agatha finally allowed herself a smile. “I was, but long before you were even born.”
“I know who you are, who you really are Noone.” Duncan watched for Agatha’s reaction. When she didn’t flinch, he continued. “You know how old women tell children stories about monsters to make them behave? I already knew about monsters. My nanny told me about you, to give me hope.”
Duncan handed Agatha’s rosary back to her. “Will you help me now?”