Agatha looked out of the window of the old cottage watching her son run around the yard. These moments of peace were few and far between. They had been on the run for so long. No matter where they went, shadows always seem to find them. Alastair had paid the ultimate price a year ago to make sure she could escape with their two children, and she missed him terribly.
Agatha’s young daughter made a loud noise in the chair at the small table.
“Dearest Malin, what is the matter?” Agatha asked her daughter.
“I’m hungry,” replied Malin in her little voice.
“I know dear. It’s almost time for dinner. I will call in your brother in a moment.”
Malin stuck out her bottom lip making Agatha giggle. “Fine, you silly girl.” She gave Malin a small piece of apple and went back to preparing their meager meal.
Agatha’s life was so different than the one she had been accustomed to. She had grown up in the great palace of Aurumist. She had been queen over the entire kingdom. Now she was in an old cottage held up by only magic. She was filthy, wearing practically rags, but she was alive. She missed her sweet Alastair, but she still had her children.
She heard a knock at the door in the front room. She looked out the kitchen window and saw Von happily playing. She looked at Malin who was eating her apple. Agatha moved slowly to the living room, prepared to fight if need be. She looked out the front window carefully and smiled. She quickly walked over the door and opened it. And she was immediately taken up into a hug.
“My queen,” said Alicio in Agatha’s ear as he hugged her.
“Alicio!” squealed Agatha. She had missed him. She hadn’t seen him in over two years. She felt his protector’s magic wash over her, making her sigh in contentment.
Alicio put her down and walked into the small front room. He wasn’t alone. A man about Agatha’s age came in behind him, and Agatha recognized him immediately.
“Brien! It is so good to see you alive and well,” said Agatha.
Brien bowed low and replied, “My Queen, it is my honor and pleasure.”
She invited them into the front room and offered them a seat on the old furniture. They sat down carefully. Agatha walked to the kitchen to grab Malin, and she tapped on the window to get Von’s attention. He looked up, and she motioned him to come inside.
“I’m sorry to receive you in a place like this, but we have been running for so long. We were just happy to have a roof over our heads for a while,” said Agatha sitting down in a chair with Malin in her lap.
“It’s no bother, your majesty,” said Alicio as Brien nodded. “We’ve come to tell you we know how to keep you and your family safe.”
Agatha gave both men a surprised look as Von came running into the room. He paused when he saw the men.
“Is this the young prince?” asked Alicio. “He has grown into quite a young man.”
Alicio offered his hand to the 8-year-old boy who looked at his mother. Agatha nodded and Von shook Alicio’s hand.
Von sat down on the floor close to his mother staring at the two men with wide eyes.
Agatha looked up at Alicio. “You said, you have a way to keep us safe. Somewhere we won’t have to run anymore?”
“Yes, we have a place and a plan. We are building two safe villages as we speak. One is on the edge of the River Valley, and the other in the forest of the Great Surrounding,” said Alicio.
“Alicio and I will be staying in the forest, and several other families will be staying in the new village in the River Valley. You know many of them including the Wendells. You remember them, don’t you?” asked Brien looking at Agatha kindly.
“Yes, of course I remember them. They were trusted friends to me back in Aurumist. So, would I and my children live in the forest village then? You will want to be near us won’t you, Alicio?” asked Agatha looking at the man who was her protector in the palace.
Alicio and Brien shared a look before Alicio started speaking. “Your majesty, I do want you close to me, and I was thinking the forest village is the perfect place for you. We have to keep you hidden from outsiders the best we can, so we will have to clever about this. Our number one priority is keeping you and your children safe.”
“What do you mean?” inquired Agatha as a feeling of unease came over her.
“My queen, Agatha, I am so sorry for your loss this past year. We just recently became aware of Alastair’s death. I wish we could have found you sooner and brought you to us safe before you lost him,” said Brien.
Agatha nodded and looked down, tears in her eyes.
“You will not know it, but I lost my own excellent wife two years ago. She died in childbirth. The babe did not survive either,” said Brien quietly.
“I am so sorry, Brien. I did not know. I know that was a horrible loss it must be to lose both your wife and child,” replied Agatha looking up at Brien.
Brien smiled sadly. “Agatha, I feel we have been good friends for a long time, and I hope you feel the same. I have always been very fond of you.”
Agatha gave him a small smile. “Of course, Brien. We have known each other almost our whole lives. I have always considered you a dear friend.”
“Good,” said Brien. He looked nervous. “I know I could never take the place of Alastair. I know it, but I would like it if you would consent to be my wife, Agatha.”
Agatha’s eyes went wide with shock. “Brien!”
“Don’t say anything yet. I offer you protection and my name. I know it’s not as good as your own bloodline, but I am from an old family. We have long been great allies of your line. I will give you a good home, and I will care for you. I will expect nothing of you. I want only to keep you safe.”
“And my children?” asked Agatha.
“My queen, your children are the most important people in this kingdom. They must be kept safe,” said Alicio. “The safest thing to do would be to split them up.”
“What!” exclaimed Agatha her eyes snapping to Alicio. “You want to separate me from one of my children?”
“Not forever. You would still visit Prince Von. You can see him multiple times a year,” reassured Alicio. He got up and kneeled before his queen and took her hand. “Von is almost at an age where he would have left you to study with a family friend, anyway. I know it will be hard, but we must protect your bloodline.”
“I will be thrilled to have you and your daughter. She will take my last name,” said Brien. “She will be my heir, and I will make sure you see your son often.”
“Where would he go?” asked Agatha sadly looking at her son.
“To live with the Wendells. They have two boys already, and he would fit right in. He will take their name, and they will take good care of him. They will show him love. They are good people. You know this,” said Alicio getting up and returning to his chair.
“I’m so tired of running,” whispered Agatha as tears coming out of her eyes.
“Mama, am I going somewhere?” asked Von catching on to the conversation.
Agatha looked up at Alicio and then at her son. “Yes, dear. You are going to go see some old friends of mine in a wonderful new place. We will be apart for a while, but I will see you soon.”
Von looked confused. “Where will I live?”
“In a beautiful new house that is being built. It is in a wonderful place called the Valley. There are lakes and streams for you to play in. You will have two new brothers as well,” explained Alicio looking at Von.
“But Mama won’t be there?” asked Von.
“No, but you will see her often. I will collect you myself when it is time for a visit,” said Alicio.
“Brien, I will live with you as your wife, if you understand I might not every be able to give you children. I don’t know if I can…”
“Please Agatha, don’t worry. I meant it when I said I want nothing from you. It will be enough to keep you safe. I do not need children. I will treat your daughter as my own. What is her name?”
“Malin,” said Agatha playing with her daughter’s dark blond curls.
Brien got up and kneeled down in front of Agatha and her daughter. He held out his hand to the young girl. Malin studied him and then started tracing his hand with her small finger. Brien smiled.
“She is lovely. You will have to keep me from spoiling her,” said Brien.
“So, you will come with us, my queen?” asked Alicio?
“Yes, I will come; thank you both,” replied Agatha.