Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Two

Adelina breathed a sigh of relief as Edwin walked into the bedroom. 

“He’s gone?” Edwin asked.

“He just left.” Adelina confirmed. “But I’m afraid that he saw me in the window.” 

“He would’ve come in here if he thought that it was you. He wouldn’t have let anything stand in the way of seeing you again. He may be suspicious but he won’t do anything about it yet.” 

“You’re sure?” 

“You know Drustan- he’ll think about it for a while and try to figure it out for himself before he comes to us.” 

“I thought I knew him. But apparently I didn’t.” Adelina sighed. “I need to tell you what happened two years ago.” 

Anissa nodded. “Tell us everything.” 

Adelina took a deep breath. “It started the day that Drustan’s older brother, Clay, died. At the same time, Katerina supposedly gave birth to her son. His father immediately took him from my father’s castle and began training him to take over as Baron of Nyro when Haimon died. Drustan seemed cold and distant- I left him a note to meet me behind the stable to say good bye and he never came. I watched him leave through the window. That was the first time I had ever seen Haimon. I’ll never forget that day. I wanted to scream at him for taking Drustan away from me but I couldn’t find the air to breathe, much less scream.” 

“So you think that Drustan was upset with you about something?” 

Adelina nodded. “It’s the only thing I can think of. He had always told me that he hated his father and loved being away from him. But it was like he couldn’t wait to get away from me.” 

“Maybe there’s another explanation.” 

Adelina shrugged. “Maybe. But there’s more- a few days later, my parents were acting strange. I was in the library until late that night. I was reading by candlelight when I heard footsteps outside. My parents and Baron Haimon came in. Haimon tried to convince my father to raid the lands of some of the other nobles who were considered traitors to the crown. My mother seemed to agree with him- I think she was afraid of the power that he had and what he could do to our family. When my father refused, Haimon forced my mother to leave the room. He killed my father in front of me, and told his men to kill my mother and I. He took my baby brother and claimed him as his own.”

“Wait- Kingsley is your brother?” Anissa’s eyes were wide.

Adelina nodded. “His name is Asher. I think Katerina’s baby died at birth- Haimon said that Asher would do well in place of Katerina’s failure. If they had hidden it well enough, everyone would think that Asher was their baby.” 

Edwin shook his head. “That’s horrible.” 

Adelina nodded. “I know. But that’s not even the worst part- Drustan told his father to kill me especially. His father said so. His father also said that my mother was in love with him but that has to be a lie. My mother had always told me that she loved my father.” 

“Drustan wanted you dead?” Anissa asked. 

“His father said that Drustan had mentioned me especially.” She put her head in her hands. “So I ran. I took Alistair and I ran for my life. I took some books and my father’s cross necklace and left. I watched my castle burn behind me.”

“Where have you been all of this time?” 

“I went to the woods two day’s ride from here. I met an old couple there- the man used to be one of the king’s soldiers. They took care of me and kept me safe. They told everyone that I was their granddaughter. Chadd taught me how to fight and defend myself- I’m not the best but I get by. Clemence taught me how to cook and clean and take care of myself. When I combined both of their teachings, I was able to begin fending for myself entirely. It helped me get here safely.” 

“How long have you been in the area?” Edwin crossed his arms.  

“Just a day or two. I stayed at The Tempest Inn, but had to leave quickly this morning. I think the inn keeper may have figured out who I was.” 

Anissa thought for a moment. “I think one of Haimon’s old men owns The Tempest, so it would make sense. We’ll have to hope that he was unsure enough that he wouldn’t tell Haimon.” 

Adelina sighed. “I don’t know that I care if he does.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Haimon should know that I’m coming for him. I’m going to get the justice I deserve. People need to know the truth. I know that Haimon has been spreading rumors that my father was a traitor and deserved to die in that ‘accident’. My father was no traitor and everyone is going to know that. Even if I die trying, Haimon and Drustan will face justice for their actions.” 

Edwin held up a hand. “Wait a moment- I think something has to be wrong here. Drustan has been devastated ever since you ‘died’. He has never been the same. He has turned cold- I’m one of the only people who only shows the old warmth to. There has to be a mistake somewhere.” 

“What else could his father have meant?” 

“I don’t know. But I think that there has to be more to this story.” 

Adelina shook her head. “I don’t care. Either way, Haimon killed my parents and took my baby brother. I’m going to avenge them and get Asher back. I have to.” 

“What will you do?” Anissa asked quietly.

“Whatever I have to.” Adelina shrugged. “I hope to get an audience with the king but I’ll do anything to let Haimon know that I didn’t forget what he did. He knows I’m alive- I’m surprised that he didn’t come for me or thought that I wouldn’t come after him.” 

Edwin sighed. “I don’t know that Haimon knows you are alive. Unless he is a better actor than we thought, he thinks you are dead. So does Drustan. It could be that his men never told them that you weren’t actually dead. They may have set the fire in your room specifically to cover their mistake.” 

Adelina thought for a moment. “I suppose that could be. But it’s even better then. He’ll never see me coming.” 

“So what are you going to do?” Anissa asked again. 

Adelina sighed. “I need to figure out where the king is and I need to go to him. That is my only hope right now. And I need to avoid Haimon and Drustan until then.” 

“You’ll be safe here. We can hide Alistair somewhere else, and you can stay hidden here as long as you need.” Edwin answered. 

“Don’t you work for Haimon? Will this jeopardize your position?” 

Edwin laughed bitterly. “This will jeopardize a lot more than my position. But if there is one thing that I’ve learned in my life, it’s that I have to do the right thing, no matter what. I can’t just sit by and let things go wrong around me. You need help and you deserve justice. Whatever we can do to help that, we will do.” 

“You’re my best friend, Alina. No matter how long you have been gone. We’d never be able to turn our backs on you.” 

“And your friendship with Drustan?” Adelina asked softly. 

Edwin shrugged. “He’s still going to be my friend, Adelina. Something about your story doesn’t add up. I’m not saying that you are wrong- I’m saying that Haimon was unintentionally messing with your head. And until I figure out what really happened, I’m not going to throw away twenty years of friendship. I can’t and I won’t. If you can’t be okay with that, you’ll have to deal with it.” 

Adelina nodded. She could respect that. “If you get your back stabbed, that is your choice.” 

Edwin nodded. “And when I don’t, maybe you and Drustan can get along again.” 

She couldn’t help smiling a little- Edwin had always been firm in his opinions. It was something she had always liked about him. He was wise and stubborn but not foolish. He knew when to back down and when to stand his ground. Just because she didn’t agree with him didn’t mean that she wouldn’t be friends with him anymore. And she wasn’t about to lose her only allies over Drustan- he had already taken too much from her. 

“You know,” Anissa stood and walked to one of the small tables, “I received an invitation from Baron Haimon today to a ball two weeks from now. I believe there are rumors that even the king will be in attendance.” She picked up a small paper, reading it.

“Why would the king go to a ball held by a baron?” Adelina asked skeptically. 

“I think he wants to make sure that Haimon will be loyal to him. Haimon doesn’t know it but there are rumors that he isn’t loyal to the crown. By honoring Haimon, the king would ensure that Haimon will stay loyal- at least for a little while.” Anissa answered.

“Nothing lasts forever with Haimon. Surely the king knows that. It is pointless to even try- why not just put Haimon in jail?” Adelina asked. 

“Because to the king’s knowledge, Haimon hasn’t done anything that warrants arrest.” Edwin explained. 

“He’s the king. He can do anything he likes.” Adelina pointed out.

“Yes, but if he were to arrest a well-known noble for no reason, it might send the people that are against him over the edge. All of the traitorous nobles know Haimon and trust him. They don’t know that he is trying to take their land yet. They believe him to be on their side. If he were to be arrested for no apparent reason- or just on the grounds that he might be a traitor- it would open the doors to a number of issues. They will feel threatened- if someone as important as Haimon is arrested, they will become fearful. There will be no end to their attacks on the king then.” 

“So he is letting a traitor and a murderer live, just to keep his throne?” Adelina was disgusted- maybe this king wasn’t as good as she had thought.

“Think about it, Adelina,” Anissa said softly, “would you not do the same thing? If you were king, would you not do nearly anything to keep that throne. You are going to have to compromise in some areas. He is letting Haimon go for now so that he can continue helping others. I can’t say that I necessarily agree with it- I want Haimon behind bars as well. But if King Rupert loses his throne, then there is no way for him to help the countless other people elsewhere in the country. Who knows who would take the throne next if he were to be overthrown.” 

“Just because things are bad here doesn’t mean they are bad everywhere. We have to put things in perspective. It’s for the greater good.” Edwin sighed. “It’s not an easy situation, and I don’t think anyone likes it.”

“If the king doesn’t do something about Haimon soon, I will.” Adelina answered. “Whatever I have to.”

“Think this through, Alina. Don’t do something you’ll regret.” Anissa warned her. 

Adelina shook her head. “I won’t regret anything that I do to avenge my parents. Anything I do to get my little brother back.”

Edwin sighed. “Then you should know that while we support your getting justice, I think I speak for both of us when I say that as soon as you do something illegal, we can no longer help you.” 

Adelina nodded. “I know. The unlawful things are my last resort. I plan to use every other option first, unless forced to protect myself.” Even as she said the words though, it was clear that all of them knew this would likely end with someone dead. 

“Now that all of that is out of the way… my point was that you should go to that ball and see if the king will be there. If you can convince him to talk to you without Haimon noticing, you might have a chance at getting justice.” Anissa brought the conversation back around, and Adelina chose not to fight it. 

“Drustan will recognize me as soon as I walk through the doors- his father probably will too.” 

Anissa smiled. “That’s where Haimon’s secrecy is on our side. He only holds masquerade balls. When no one can recognize him, he tries to sneak into conversations and figure out what people really think of him. Everyone has figured it out by now but they let him believe they have no idea. He always wears the same outfit, and everyone can recognize it by now. It’s this hideous purple outfit that only makes him look more like a plum.” 

Adelina smiled a little. “I’m sure it’s quite a sight.” 

“As l was saying- no one will recognize you as long as you keep your mask on. You can go with Edwin and I, as my cousin from a few days away. And if the king doesn’t end up being there, no one will be the wiser. You’ve changed so much in the past two years that even if you talk to Drustan, he won’t realize who you are. Just keep your voice high, and your eyes wide. He’ll never recognize you if you do that.” 

“Are you saying that I have a low voice and small eyes?” 

“I’m saying that when he knew you, you had a lower voice- which you still do- and you always narrowed your eyes at everyone because you were suspicious. Which is something else that you still do.” Anissa raised an eyebrow. “Now, we have far too much to do before next week, so stop thinking of so many problems.” 

“I’ve only listed the problem that the king might not even be there. Other than that, I’ve only protested your inaccurate description of me.” Adelina held up her hands. “I don’t see any other problems in this plan- other than the fact that if we are wrong and one of them does recognize me, they’ll kill all three of us.” 

“Drustan will protect us from his father.” Edwin answered. 

“You don’t know that.” Adelina countered. “He could be just as bad as his father. Maybe he’s putting up an act around just you, instead of around everyone else.” 

“He’s not doing that, Adelina. You know him even better than I do, even two years later. There has to have been some mistake somewhere. I have never heard or seen Drustan talk about someone the way he talked about- and still talks about- you.”

“Whatever the case, you and I both know that he has no power over his father. With Asher being groomed for the title, Haimon could easily kill Drustan and have another heir.” 

“You believe whatever you want, Adelina, but I know the truth.” 

Why had she thought that stubbornness was admirable? 

*********

“You sent for me, Father?” Drustan walked into his father’s room, preparing himself for whatever his father had to say. 

“Yes, I did. Close the door.” His father answered sternly. 

Drustan pursed his lips and shut the door. “What do you need?” 

“I need you to go check on the castle land again. I want that done as soon as possible.”

“Father, I already told Edwin that it needs to be done by the end of the year. That alone is an unreasonable amount of time- we cannot push it any more.” 

“If you help, it might go faster.” 

“Father, I don’t have time for something like that. I have been making the rounds of the fields and all of our lands, making sure that everything is running smoothly. And I’ve been on the training grounds every spare moment, trying to improve my swordsmanship and horsemanship.” And trying to make his father proud.

“I know. But you are good at overseeing things- better than that Edwin. You have many faults but overseeing is something you are at least average at.” Of course the compliment was accompanied by an insult. 

“What would my presence do except make the men more nervous?” 

“If the men are nervous, they will be more eager to please.” His father answered, rolling his eyes. 

“I don’t think that’s a wise decision, Father.” 

“You don’t tell me what the wise decisions are- I tell you. I’m your father.” 

“And as your son, I respect your opinions. But as the heir to your title and your oldest child, I feel that my opinion matters too. If you want me to be a good leader when you are gone, you need to let me make some of my own decisions. I will be loyal to you, Father, for as long you are over me. But somewhere along the line, I need to take charge of some things.” It was best to make his father think it was in his own best interest to give Drustan some independence.

“Fine. Maybe you aren’t as careless as I thought you were.” His father sighed and waved him away. “Go work on your horseback riding. I watched you come into the yard earlier and your form was sloppy. It needs work.” 

Drustan nodded slowly, bowing slightly. “Yes sir.” he began to walk out when his father’s voice stopped him. 

“Oh, and Drustan?” 

“Yes, sir?” He turned back. 

“I heard you playing with your brother. Don’t ever do that again.” 

Drustan paused for a moment, his heart sinking. “Yes sir.” 

He left the room before all of the anger and sadness inside spilled out of his mouth. His father was a wise man- he made a lot of mistakes but he would only ever do what was best for Drustan and Kingsley. Drustan knew that. But then why would he tell Drustan that he couldn’t play with his brother? That didn’t seem right to Drustan. He didn’t believe that he knew everything but he was pretty sure that playing with his brother would only help both of them- not hurt them. 

He stormed out of the castle, desperately needing fresh air. If he didn’t get away from everyone he wasn’t sure that he wasn’t going to be able to stop himself from hurting someone else.

He was so tired of the lies- his father seemed to be lying to him, his mother was probably lying to him. And he was pretty sure that Edwin and Anissa- the people that he trusted more than anyone else alive- were lying to him now too. Why else would they have Adelina’s horse, but not tell him about it? 

He walked through the forest, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do now. He had no one to trust, and nowhere to go. 

He punched a tree in frustration, quickly groaning and stumbling backwards. He was going to regret that. His knuckles were already bleeding and his hand felt like he had tried to punch a stone wall instead of just a tree. 

“What am I supposed to do, God? I can feel that something is wrong but I have no idea what it is. My father can’t be right, can he? But Rorick always told me that I should respect those in authority over me. He told me it says that in the Bible. So what am I supposed to do here?” 

Adelina’s father had always talked about a God. Drustan had never given much thought to it. With a life like his, he didn’t have much room for God. After all, how could a good God let something like this happen to him?

And yet, in moments like these, where he felt so unsure, God was the first thing he thought about. 

He became lost in thought, his guard dropping for a moment. Suddenly he heard a twig snap somewhere nearby. He spun around, looking for the source. 

He searched the area but couldn’t find anyone. If someone had been following him, they had cleared out quickly and quietly. He kept looking around as he began walking back towards the castle. His alarm at potentially being followed had helped to get rid of most of his anger. 

He made his way over to the stable and saddled his horse- maybe seeing how the new castle was coming along would make things better. There was something calming about that land. Maybe it was because it was where he had spent so much time with Adelina, or maybe it was because it was going to be his new home, but either way, he liked it there.

It was beautiful land- a large clearing with forest all around. The castle had been sturdy as well, until the fire happened. This new castle that his father was building would be much safer and made out of stone instead of wood. It would be the perfect picture of a modern day castle. 

“It’s good to see you, Drustan.” Edwin walked over as Drustan rode up. “Are you here to check on the progress?” 

Drustan nodded, dismounting. “Something like that. Anything that I could do to get away from my parents for a little while. And this is something that my father would view as an acceptable pastime. He told me to work on my riding form so I did that on the way here.” Drustan smiled bitterly. “He can’t complain about that, can he?” 

“No, I don’t suppose he can.” Edwin sighed. “Would you like to see how things are coming along?” 

Drustan nodded. “The sooner this place is finished, the better.”

“You really want it finished? I would think since it is on Adelina’s land, you’d be opposed to it.” 

“It’s been two years, Edwin. I’d rather it be me living on this land than anyone else. At least I know the history.”

Edwin nodded slowly. “I suppose that’s reasonable.” 

Drustan nodded. “Either way, it’s what my father wants. And what my father wants, I want.” 

“And what does your father want, exactly? Other than this castle finished.” Edwin smiled, but it was clearly a bitter smile. 

“Peace and justice.” Drustan answered. “He wants the king to be fully in control, without any opposition.”

“There will always be opposition, Drustan. No matter who is in power, or who puts them in power.” Edwin sighed. “But I don’t want to argue more.” 

Drustan took a deep breath and nodded. “I don’t want to argue either. We have our differing opinions but I don’t want that to come between us. You’ve been my best friend since we were kids, Ed. And you’ve been loyal to me. So surely you can understand how I feel about my father.” 

Edwin shook his head. “I don’t understand at all, Drustan. My loyalty lies with people who are good and trustworthy.” He sighed. “And against all odds, I believe that somewhere under this cold exterior, you are still one of those people. You just need to realize it.” 

Edwin walked away, back to one of the workers and began instructing him. Drustan stared after him for a moment, unsure what he was supposed to do now. He had a feeling that going after Edwin and arguing would be very unwelcome but he really did want to know how the building was going. He didn’t know if he could talk to Edwin without addressing what he’d said, though, so it would probably be best to just leave. 

He took a few steps backward, then turned and walked back to his horse. 

“Drustan.” Edwin called out, and Drustan turned. 

“Yes?” 

“I don’t mean to hurt you, Dru. I just want what’s best for you.” 

Drustan nodded. “I know. But if even I’m not sure what’s best for me, how can you know?”

Edwin sighed. “That’s a good question, Drustan.”

“I know.” Drustan answered, turning his horse and riding away. 

He rode home slowly, trying to process everything that Edwin had said. He wasn’t sure why Edwin kept pushing this so hard- he knew that Drustan had to be loyal to his father, no matter what. 

Drustan knew his father made mistakes- he could be harsh and extreme. But he only ever did what was necessary in order to keep peace in the kingdom. Or at least that was what Drustan had always believed. Could he be wrong? 

Drustan frowned, a weight suddenly settling on his heart. If he believed Edwin and his father were both good men, but they both hated each other, who was right? One of them had to be wrong, but Drustan had no idea who it was. He had always trusted his father without question. But things had changed in the past two years- ever since Adelina died. 

The circumstances surrounding her death were suspicious, to say the least. The timing alone was enough to raise questions. Drustan had left their castle only a day before- three days after Clay’s death, and four days after Kingsley’s birth. Everything had been happening very quickly at his house, and then suddenly Adelina’s father was a traitor and the whole family was killed in a fire? And his father was far too supportive of whoever had set the fire. 

Drustan mentally froze. His father had always expressed support for the arsonists, and had continually claimed that Rorick was a traitor. But Drustan had trained at Rorick’s castle for years and never heard anything suspicious. And Drustan had never heard anyone but his father talk about Rorick being a traitor. 

And now, suddenly, Edwin was beginning to speak out against his father? He had never done that before. Adding all of that to the fact that Adelina’s horse had been in Edwin’s stable, it was all too much evidence against someone. But who? Who was in the wrong here? Drustan was determined to find out, whatever it took.