Brother William gazed into the ball of polished glass in front of him. Tantalizing glimpses of the future, shrouded in mist and shadows, flickered and disappeared. Carefully, he put the ball back into its velvet sack and ran his fingers over the exquisitely decorated box in front of him. It perfectly matched the image that he had just seen.
He heard footsteps coming up the stairs. That must be the queen, he thought, opening the door. She had come at last.
“Your Majesty,” he said, and bowed as she swept into the room.
“Brother William, I presume?” said the queen, lowering the hood of her cloak.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
She walked over to the tiny window and peered down at her waiting carriage.
“I risk a great deal coming here. My enemies have spread rumours that I practise the dark arts. My own brother-in-law, the duke of Gloucester, believes that I bewitched the king into marriage. It will do me no good if I am seen with you in this inn. It is said you are a sorcerer.”
“Your Majesty," protested Brother William, "I am but a humble monk.”
“You were a monk,” the queen corrected him, as she sat at the table. “I know your story, Brother William. You were banished from the monastery, and now there is a price on your head.
"Your messenger said that you had a vision that harm would come to my son and that you would give me something to protect him." She pointed to the box. "Is this it?”
“Indeed it is, Your Majesty.”
With trembling hands, Brother William gently pushed the box across the table toward her. The queen studied the painted figures on the sides, lifted the lid and peered in.
“It seems like an ordinary box to me. What more can you tell me? My son’s christening is tomorrow.”
“Alas,” said Brother William, shaking his head, “I know only that one day the prince will be in grave danger. However, this box will protect him if he always keeps it close at hand.”
“But how does it work?”
“When the time comes, the prince will discover its powers. He must place a letter inside the box, and it will bring him aid when he most needs it."
“You speak in riddles, old man!” snapped the queen, grabbing the box. “I can tarry no longer.”
And without a backward glance she hurried from the room, clutching the box tightly under the folds of her cloak. Brother William quickly gathered up the velvet sack and prepared to leave. Moments after he heard the queen’s carriage depart, there was a loud pounding at the door and shouts from the street below. The sheriff’s men had found him at last, but by the time they reached the upstairs room, Brother William had disappeared.