Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Nine

It had been three days since that first day in the market and Adelina had gone back once and talked with Claudia and Marie again. They hadn’t given her much more information, but it had been interesting to talk with them more. 

It had also been a week since meeting with Drustan, and she hadn’t heard anything about Ellian’s parents- or anything at all, really. So it was time to take matters into her own hands. 

She had borrowed an outfit from one of Anissa’s servants and put it on under her cloak. She would ride to Drustan’s castle, tell anyone that questioned her that she was a new maid, and sneak into the upper levels of the house. She would look for Ellian there- she hoped that she could tell which one was him- and tell him everything. He would believe her, and he would help her. They had been best friends as kids. That had to mean something, no matter what Drustan thought. 

She had to do this- it was the right thing to do. She was sure of that- regardless of the fact that she was doing it while Edwin and Anissa were both out, and couldn’t stop her. She just didn’t want to overcomplicate things. They would have agreed that finding out where Ellian’s parents were was a good choice. And since Drustan was failing her, this was the best choice. 

She mounted the horse that she had saddled and rode out of the stableyard quickly. She couldn’t afford to get stopped now- she might lose her nerve. Just because this was the right thing didn’t mean she wasn’t nervous that she might run into Drustan or his father. While his father might not recognize her, she wasn’t sure that she would be able to hold herself back from physically harming him and blowing her cover. But if she saw Drustan, he would most certainly recognize her and stop her. And he would not be happy with her for doing this- but could he really blame her? It was his fault that she had to do this, since he hadn’t gotten the information to her in time. So really, when she thought about it, it was his fault- not hers. She doubted that he would see it that way. 

She rode to the woods that surrounded his property, dismounting and tying her horse to one of the trees. She crept close to the road, looking up and down it before walking out onto it and walking in the direction of Drustan’s castle. Hopefully no one would notice that she had appeared out of the woods and would assume that she had walked from the nearest town, which was only a half a mile away. 

She walked up to the castle confidently, acting as if she knew what she was doing. She was internally shaking but she couldn’t let that show. She had to look like she belonged. 

“Excuse me, miss. Can I help you?” A young knight walked up to her. 

She nodded. “No, I’m on my way inside.” 

“What are you here for?” He seemed nice enough, but she knew that he would still turn her into Drustan or his father if he figured out that she wasn’t supposed to be there. 

“My friend works as a maid here, and I needed to bring her something.” It hadn’t been her original plan, but it would serve her purposes better. 

“Oh, what’s your friend’s name?” 

Adelina licked her lips. “Maggie.” 

“Maggie? The kitchen maid, or the upstairs one?” 

“The upstairs one.” Adelina lied. 

“Do you need any help finding her?” 

Adelina shook her head. “I don’t think so- she told me where she would be today and how to get to her. Is that the door to go through?” She pointed to a door that servants had been going in and out of during their whole conversation. 

He nodded. ‘Yes. Let me know if you need any more help- my name is Tristan, and anyone will know me.” He smiled and walked away. 

Adelina had to admit, he was charming. But he wasn’t her type. He was too bright and happy- his bright blonde hair only adding to the effect. She preferred the darker, more mysterious men. An image of a man popped into her head but she pushed it away. She couldn’t think about that right now. 

She walked in the door that she had pointed to and walked with her head down through the kitchen, to the stairwell. There were only a few people in the kitchen and they all had their backs turned. Besides, she looked like just another servant coming in and bringing stuff upstairs.

She watched as a girl grabbed a basket of laundry, carrying it up the stairs into the higher floors of the castle. Adelina grabbed the basket next to it and followed the girl upstairs. 

Once there, she set the basket next to the other one and slipped down the corridor. There was no one around- surprisingly- and she was able to walk down several hallways before she met anyone. She walked past them quickly, not looking at them. She could see them give her a strange look, but they didn’t stop her, thankfully. She wasn’t sure what excuse she could use this time. She had no idea which maid was Maggie, and she didn’t want to risk using that excuse again in case she met the actual Maggie. 

“If I were Ellian, where would I be?” She whispered to herself as she walked. She looked down every corridor, looking for any knights that might be him, but she didn’t see any. 

She needed a moment to regroup and make a plan. She hadn’t gotten this far in her planning when she was at Anissa’s- looking back now, that hadn’t been her smartest move. She would have been better off asking that knight where Ellian was, rather than making up some excuse to get into the house. 

“This all needs to be ready to move by the end of the year.” Adelina ducked around a corner as a loud voice yelled at someone. “As soon as that new castle is done, I want everything moved in.” 

“Yes, Baron.” A quiet voice answered. 

“And if even one little thing breaks, I’m holding you personally responsible, Marguerite.” 

“Yes, Baron.” There was no fight in the girl’s voice. Only submission. 

“Now go. Tell my wife to be ready to pack everything at a moment’s notice. In fact, tell her to begin packing now. I don’t care if we need to live out of crates for months, I want to be ready to move in the moment the castle is ready.” 

“Yes, Baron.” 

Adelina had to hold herself back from gagging aloud and making her whereabouts known. Everyone submitted to this man completely. They didn’t question him, they didn’t defy him. They accepted his words as correct- even though he was a murderer and a liar. How could they? How could they just accept his orders? Why didn’t they do something? Why didn’t they try to fight back? 

But they couldn’t. She had to remind herself of that. He had more power than everyone combined. They would all be executed for killing a noble if there wasn’t proof that he was a traitor. And it was likely that the servants didn’t even know what was truly going on. They were probably just as in the dark as the king was- they knew enough to hate working there but not enough to leave. 

“Why are you still standing here? Go, tell Baroness Katerina what I told you.” Baron Haimon yelled at the girl. 

“Yes, Baron.” 

Adelina turned and walked the other way as the girl’s footsteps scurried closer. She kept her head down, trying to walk as quickly as possible and appear to belong. That was the key to this entire plan. 

She walked into a bedroom, shutting the door behind her. The room was empty, and she took a deep breath. She could relax for a moment and gather her thoughts. 

She scanned the room, trying to find anything that would help her. Her gaze caught on a shirt, laying over a chair. She walked over slowly and picked it up, her eyes widening. She knew this shirt. She had seen this shirt a million times. She groaned- surely she couldn’t have picked the one room that she needed to avoid. There was only one way to find out. 

She took a deep breath- it was necessary. It didn’t mean anything. She had to do this. 

She slowly lifted the shirt towards her face, closing her eyes and inhaling deeply. A warm feeling filled her as the scent of Drustan surrounded her. 

After a moment, she realized what she was doing and threw the shirt as far away from her as possible. She groaned again- how could she have done this? She suddenly regretted not listening to Drustan and coming here against his will. She should have let him handle it, and been patient enough to wait for him to get the information to her. She didn’t know why she had been so stubborn about this- Drustan had warned her that Ellian wasn’t the same. But she hadn’t listened. And now she was practically trapped in his room with no way to get out, no plan, nothing. 

But she had to get out- she was here now, so she had to take a chance and find Ellian. If she couldn’t convince him to help, she would just have to make sure that he stayed quiet long enough for the rest of their plans to fall into place. She would do whatever she had to in order to make that happen. 

She took a deep breath. She would just have to sneak back down to the ground floor and find a way to get someone to show her where Ellian was. All she had to do was stay out of sight the whole way down, and she would be just fine. 

She walked to the window, hiding behind the curtain and looking down. Three stories down, the grass was blowing in the breeze. She stared at it for a moment, a soothing feeling washing over her. It was a simple, small thing, but it made her feel at peace for a moment. She didn’t feel so panicked. 

She could figure this out. She knew that she could. She just had to take a deep breath and think. She was smart. She had gotten out of situations like this before- she had made it out when her father had been killed right in front of her. She had defied the odds before. She could do it again. 

She looked around the room again- there had to be something in here that could help her get downstairs undetected. 

She walked over to his table- there was a platter with empty plates on it. It was evident that Drustan had eaten his breakfast off of it recently and left it for a servant to collect. She smiled to herself- that was her way out. She could take the platter down to the kitchen on her way out, using it as an excuse if anyone stopped her. And then, once she was down there, she would sneak out and figure out a way to find Ellian. 

She picked up the platter, balancing it in one hand and walking quickly to the door. She held her ear up to it- she didn’t hear anything. She opened it slowly, looking up and down the hall just to make sure. The hall was empty. 

She breathed a sigh of relief, slipping out into the hall. So far, so good- she had left the safety of her temporary sanctuary and hadn’t gotten caught. 

She began walking down the hall slowly, careful not to let the plates make any noise. She couldn’t draw attention to herself by making unnecessary noise. She turned the corner and continued walking as quickly as possible- she thought she had heard footsteps walking behind her. 

The footsteps were getting closer, and she looked around frantically, trying to find a hallway to turn down. 

Suddenly, a hand was on her arm and someone yanked her back around. 

“Adelina?” Drustan’s eyes were wide but his voice was low. “What are you doing here?” 

***************************************************************

Drustan was wracking his brain, trying to figure out what in the world would make Adelina come here. She had said that she would come find Ellian herself but he had expected her to give him a little more time. What could have possibly made her think this was a good idea? 

She looked up at him, her eyes blazing defiantly. “You didn’t work quickly enough. I had to find Ellian myself.” 

He groaned slightly, pursing his lips. “And you couldn’t have given me a little warning first?” 

She glanced around quickly. “I knew you would try to stop me if I told you what I was doing.” 

He nodded quickly. “Yes, I would have! For good reason! Do you know what will happen if someone figures out who you are?” 

“No one will figure out who I am, Drustan. No one here knows me.” She rolled her eyes. 

Drustan put his head in his hands for a moment, trying to control his exasperation. “Adelina, of all the foolish, crazy things you could have done, this was the worst.” 

“What, you didn’t want me to figure out that while I’ve been fighting to survive, you’ve been waited on hand and foot?” She held up a tray. 

He stared at it for a moment. “Is that my breakfast tray?” She had been in his room? 

“Not so confident now that your deception has been found out, are you?” She was bluffing and he could tell. She would barely meet his eyes- she never could when she was lying. 

“I live like this because I have to. Because if I didn’t, my parents would get suspicious.” He looked around, making sure no one was near them. “And besides, you haven’t exactly been dying for food and shelter either. You live in Edwin’s house and practically have the run of the place. You aren’t in a bad situation yourself.” 

“That’s different- I didn’t choose that. They offered it. I could deny it any time I want.” 

“And so could I. But it wouldn’t get you killed to deny it.” He crossed his arms. “Don’t change the subject, Adelina. You are in my castle, in my territory, specifically doing the thing that I told you not to do.” Hadn’t he told himself that he wasn’t going to care anymore. That was out the window now. 

“I told you- I needed the information and you weren’t bringing it.” 

“Because I hadn’t had a chance to get out of the house yet. In case you haven’t noticed, it isn’t even midday yet. I haven’t been able to leave and come find you yet.” 

“Do you have the information I asked for?” He could tell that she wanted to cross her arms, but couldn’t because of the platter. 

“Yes, I do, actually.” He raised an eyebrow. 

“Then let’s hear it.” She prompted. 

“Drustan!” His father yelled, his voice echoing off of the walls. He was getting closer. 

They both looked around quickly, trying to find some place to hide. They couldn’t go back to his room because his father was in the way. There weren’t many places to hide in the castle in general, but especially not in this area.

Drustan grabbed her arm. “Come this way.” He pulled her down a corridor, and opened a closet door. He pushed her in, squeezing in behind her and shutting the door. “Stay quiet.” 

“You are squishing me.” She hissed from behind him. 

He pursed his lips- this wasn’t a pleasant situation for either of them. She didn’t have to make it worse by being rude. 

He shifted, moving so that they were facing each other and his back was to the door. She took a step back, creating about six inches of space between them. He looked down at her. 

“Better?” He whispered. 

She glared up at him. “Not much. I liked it better when you faced the other way- I didn’t have to look at you.” 

“What, afraid you’ll be wooed by my charms? Fear not, love. I wouldn’t try to woo you if you were the last woman on earth.” He forced himself to stare straight forward, over her head. 

“We both know that’s a lie.” She answered quietly. 

“You don’t know anything, apparently. Since you didn’t know well enough to stay away from the one place where my father could catch you and absolutely no one would ever figure it out. Do you even understand what would have happened if he had found you? He would have had you killed immediately, Adelina. That’s what would have happened. He probably would have had me do it, too. Which would put us both in a difficult spot, since we both know we have issues when it comes to killing each other.” 

“We would’ve found some way around it. I would’ve figured something out.” 

“If it would have been anything like this plan, I think I would have rather just been forced to kill you.” He glanced down at her. . 

“Very funny.” She rolled her eyes. 

“On the contrary. I don’t find any of this funny- except for maybe the fact that I was right and you were wrong. Again.” He smiled. 

“I think your father has passed by.” She ignored his last comment- it was probably a wise decision. The last thing they needed was to get found out because they were arguing in the closet. 

He put his ear up to the door, listening. There was nothing- not even an echo from somewhere else in the house. He put his hand on the handle to open the door, then stopped. The house was too quiet- he couldn’t trust that. 

“Do you hear anything?” She whispered. 

He shook his head. “No.” 

“Then let’s go while we have a chance.” She started to push him. 

“No.” He shook his head again. “Something is wrong. It’s too silent. I should be able to hear something.” 

She glared at him. “Don’t use that as an excuse. If there isn’t any noise, we should go.” She pushed him again. 

He held her back. “No- I don’t trust it. We can’t go out there.” 

“Drustan, you are being too suspicious. We just have to get out of here. Who cares if something is wrong, as long as it gets us out of here?” 

“I don’t care, Sarah!” A voice was suddenly right outside the door. 

“I can’t do this without you. You put me in this situation. It’s your duty to get me out.” 

“No, it’s my duty to serve Baron Haimon. You were a distraction. A distraction that I have to get rid of.” Ellian answered the girl. Drustan shut his eyes, stifling a groan. Of course Ellian had gotten himself into a situation like this. 

“What am I supposed to do? I have nowhere to go. And once Baroness Katerina finds out about… my situation she won’t let me stay on here. I won’t be able to work anywhere, and my parents are dead- they wouldn’t take me in even if they were alive.” 

“Find some way to deal with it, Sarah. You are a resourceful girl- you’ll figure out a way to live.” 

“I’ll go to the baron and tell him what has happened.” Sarah answered. 

Ellian laughed. “And what do you think that will do for you? He’ll side with me when I tell him that it was one of the other knights. Maybe I’ll even tell him it was Lord Drustan so that he’ll finally disown the insufferable, arrogant-” 

“How could you do this to me? You told me that you loved me.” 

“And I did. At the time. But now… I’m not built to be a father, Sarah. Not to poor children anyway. Baron Haimon has promised to find me an auspicious match. I can’t have you ruining that.” Sarah began to sob. “Don’t ever try to speak to me again, or I will kill you, no matter whose child you bear.” 

There were footsteps walking away and slowly, Sarah’s sobs faded into the distance. 

Drustan looked down at Adelina- her eyes were closed, her expression pained. 

“That was Ellian. Do you believe me now?” Her eyes flew open, and then she pursed her lips. He knew she didn’t want to admit that he had been right. 

“I should’ve trusted you. And I’m… I’m sorry.” The fact that she could barely even get the words out was very reassuring. 

“I’m not looking for an apology, Adelina. I just want you to understand that I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not going to do anything that will hurt you. And I’m not going to let you do something that will hurt you. I can’t. I know it shouldn’t matter, but it does. I can’t let you get hurt. You are too important to me. I’ll die before I let anything happen to you.” 

“How can you go from being so rude and arrogant to this, in the span of five minutes?” She looked up at him. 

That was what she was going to focus on here? His change in demeanor? Not the fact that he had just told her that he valued her life over his own? 

“Be honest here, Adelina. You aren’t exactly making me feel the most welcome for expressing my feelings. Rude and arrogant seems to get through to you a lot better.” 

She glared up at him. “And we are back.” 

He sighed. “We don’t have time to argue about this. We need to get you out of here.” 

“The sooner the better. I can’t be in here with you another moment.” 

He leaned against the door, raising an eyebrow. “Really?”

She looked up at him, her eyes widening. “Don’t do this to me, Drustan. It isn’t funny,” 

He shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just thought I heard footsteps outside. We might need to wait a little longer.” He had all the power here, and until she decided that he wasn’t a threat, it would stay that way.

“Stop it.” She crossed her arms. 

“Stop what?” He smirked. 

“Drustan…” it was a warning that he didn’t care to heed. 

“You have given me no reason to let you out of this closet.” 

“What about the fact that it is kidnapping?” She raised an eyebrow. 

“You walked in here of your own accord.” 

“I could scream.” 

“And alert everyone to your presence? Please.” He laughed. 

“I hate you.” She glared at him. 

“I’m well aware. I’ll get over it.” He probably wouldn’t, but she didn’t need to know that. 

“Do you have to make everything so difficult?” 

He shrugged. “It’s my favorite pastime.” 

She was silent for a moment. “Fine. Since I am stuck in here with you, you might as well tell me what information you got on Ellian’s parents.” 

“How do you ask?” He prompted. 

“Drustan, so help me, I will use tihs.” She pulled out her knife. 

He couldn’t deny- only to himself- that the knife definitely made him a little nervous, when they were in such tight quarters. “I don’t think that’s how.”  

She was quiet, and he could see the battle in her eyes. Would she choose to keep arguing with him or give in to get the information that she wanted and get out of there. 

“Fine. Can you please tell me what you learned about Ellian’s parents?” 

He smiled. “Of course. Thank you for asking so nicely.” 

She scoffed. “Can you just tell me?” 

He nodded. “Yes. They are a day’s ride south of here, in Duke Adrian’s domain. They don’t stay in contact with Ellian because they don’t approve of his choices.” 

“So there’s hope that they will help me?” Her voice was filled with anticipation and there was a hopefulness on her face that he hadn’t seen in a long time. 

Drustan nodded. “There’s a chance. I’ll write to them as soon as possible to feel the situation out.” 

She smiled, even though he could tell she was trying to hold it back. “If they have any evidence, that could be a crucial piece of the case against your father.” 

Drustan smiled back down at her. “And I found something else- my mother’s parents may have evidence against my father too. Hopefully I can get them to agree to meet, and keep our secret.” 

“Drustan…” she started, staring at the ground. 

“And I know, you want to be the one to send the letter to Ellian’s parents. But until we can get them to agree to keep our secret, I think it should be me.” He started to continue, but she held up a hand. 

“No, that’s not it.” 

“Then what is it?” He was confused- she wasn’t upset with him for taking charge. 

“That girl. The girl that Ellian was talking to…” Adelina looked up at him. “I want to help her.”

“How do you want to help her?” 

“I can convince Anissa to hire her at their house. She can be my personal companion. She doesn’t have to know who I am. But I can take care of her.” 

Drustan nodded, smiling a little. “I’ll take care of it. I’ll make sure she gets to you.” 

“Thank you, Drustan. I just… I can’t bear the thought-” 

“I know.” Drustan cut her off. “I know.” 

She sighed. “Don’t take this as something to use against me later.” 

He smiled. “I would never. But I knew you had a heart somewhere under there.” 

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t push it.” 

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