Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Seventeen

Adelina looked up quickly as Bartholomew walked into the room. His face was grim, and she could tell that he was not bringing her the good news that she had hoped for. 

“What happened?” She stood. 

“We have a very serious problem, my lady.” He seemed hesitant, as if he didn’t want to tell her.

  “Is Drustan alright?” Why would he have sent Bartholomew to speak to her, unless something had happened to him?

Bartholomew nodded. “For now, he is okay.’ 

“What do you mean, for now?” She walked up to him. “Please, Bartholomew, just tell me what is going on.” Why was she constantly having to drag information out of these men?

“Haimon knows.”

Adelina felt the blood drain from her face. “What?”

“Haimon found out somehow. I don’t know how, or how much he knows, but he found out. Drustan and I are still determining if it was one of our men that recently switched to our side, or if it was someone else that figured it out.”

“Does he know that Drustan is involved?” 

“So far, it appears that he doesn’t. Drustan sent me to you right after a meeting with his father. If his father had known, Drustan would likely already be in the dungeon. So for now, we are just assuming that whoever told him either didn’t tell him about Drustan’s involvement, or didn’t know about it.”

“That’s good.” Adelina began to pace the room. “So what is the next step?”

“Once we find out who the traitor is, we will take care of them quietly. No killing, just get them to a place that they can’t harm us anymore. And then we’ll figure out how to deal with Haimon.”

“Did Drustan say what Haimon is planning on doing?” 

“He wants to search the entire village for you. He knows that you are close.”

“Will he search here?”

“I am sure that it will be one of the last places he checks, simply because they are such a rich family that he wouldn’t risk insulting them. But he will check it.”

“Which means that I need to get to a place to hide, and soon.”

“Correct.” Bartholomew sat down. “That’s also part of why Drustan sent me here. He wants us to develop a plan so that before Haimon even begins searching, you are too far out of his grasp. Is there anywhere that you can go that you can still be working on furthering our cause without Haimon being able to reach you?”

Adelina thought for a moment. “Andrew. I could go to see Andrew. But Drustan and I said that we would do that together.”

Bartholomew thought for a moment. “I have an idea.”

“I am open to suggestions.” She motioned for him to continue. 

“What if Drustan and I come with you to meet with Andrew- and a few of the guards that are loyal to us. There are only five of them right now, but the rumors are spreading. More are becoming willing to join every day.”

“How would that work? Wouldn’t Haimon notice that his son, and several of his guards disappeared?”

“We would tell him that we have a lead on you. We would make up where we thought you were so that if he sent men to follow us to be sure, they would be going the wrong way. We would accompany you to Andrew’s, so that you would be well guarded, and stay with you there. Then, we would accompany you back. We would tell Haimon that we couldn’t find you, and you must have tricked us and headed further north. Towards Draven, and the king’s palace.”

“But if he goes to the king, won’t that make it less likely that, when the time does come, the king will listen to us?”

“Not if Drustan plants the idea in his head to invite the king to the grand ball that he is holding in honor of the new castle. Then, if the king accepts, Haimon will believe that he is on Haimon’s side. But before Haimon can appeal to the king too much, we will swoop in and present our own case.” 

Adelina nodded. “It could work, so long as we are careful. But we will have to have it perfectly planned out. We cannot afford to make any mistakes. It all has to go exactly the way that we plan it.”

Bartholomew smiled reassuringly. “It will, Adelina.” 

“Thank you, Bartholomew.”

“I’m just doing what I promised you I would do.” He stood, preparing to leave again. 

“Bartholomew, wait.” Adelina motioned for him to come back. “If this doesn’t work… I need you to do something for me.” She took a deep breath. “And I ask you this because I trust you more than anyone in my life to do what I ask you. You are the closest thing that I have to a family right now- even over Drustan. You are the last remnant of my father’s legacy, besides my brother and I. He raised you as his own and you know better than anyone the pain that I have been through these past two years. Even Drustan cannot relate to this situation in the same way that you and I can. That is the only reason that I am asking you.”

“What is it?” She hated to ask him this, but it had to be done.

“If Haimon captures me at any point, he will kill me immediately. I know that he will. He will not give me a chance to escape. Even if some of his guards see it, he’ll do it anyway and dismiss me as a traitor to the crown.” She looked down at her hands. “If I die while trying to get justice for my parents, I need you to kill Haimon.”

His eyes widened for a moment. “What?” 

“I know. I know that revenge is wrong. I know that I shouldn’t want it. I know that everyone thinks that I want justice and not revenge. And to a point, I do. But if I die, there will be no other way to get justice for my family and I. Drustan will be too grief stricken to do anything. I know he will be. So I need you to be the one to do it for me.” 

“Adelina… that is a lot to ask.” 

“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think that it was necessary.” She took a deep breath. “If you will not do it, I will find someone else who will.”

“And do you plan on telling Drustan about this?” 

“I will leave him a note explaining everything in my mother’s rose greenhouse, that is in the meadow next to the new castle. I’ll tell him to take care of Asher, and not to blame you.” 

“Adelina,” Bartholomew sat down again, leaning forward and looking up at her, “I don’t think that this is a good idea. If anything, because of your death, Drustan will likely have an easier time convincing the king that his father is corrupt. And you and I both know that revenge is not the path to take.” 

“Can you deny that after my parents’ deaths, you did not seek revenge?” 

“Of course I sought revenge, Adelina. I was a foolish, stubborn eighteen year old boy who had just lost everything that was dear to him. I never had my own parents, Adelina. I am only a knight because your father took pity on me and brought me on as a squire, and then eventually made me a knight. The only reason that I never executed my need for revenge was because I wasn’t sure where the blame fell. And over time, I grew up, and I matured, and I realized that revenge would have gotten me nowhere. It destroyed me inside for nearly a year, just like it did for you for two years.” 

“I cannot let Haimon go unpunished.” Adelina did not want him to reason with her right now- she wanted him to just accept her request. He had said that he would do anything for her. Clearly that hadn’t been true. “I will do what is necessary to punish him. There is nothing I will not do to ensure that he doesn’t get away with this.”

“And I swear to you, he will be punished.” He sighed. “When I heard that you were still alive, and that Haimon was behind all of it, I nearly killed him. But Drustan stopped me because he knew that Haimon’s downfall should be at your hands.”

“Killing him would do just as well to bring about his downfall.” Adelina could feel the darkness that had receded from her heart slowly creeping back in. “I will do whatever I have to in order to get justice for my parents. And I will kill anyone who stands in my way.”

“Killing him would not be justice, Adelina.” Bartholomew stood, no longer trying to beat around the bush or reason with her. “What is more punishment? For him to die immediately? Or for him to live out the rest of his miserable life in a dungeon? Because I assure you, the dungeon will be far more satisfying for you. And you will not have his life hanging over your head.” 

“Don’t lecture me, Bartholomew.” Tears began to fill her eyes, the pain of her father’s death becoming fresh all over again. “Not to save him. He does not deserve to be saved.” 

Bartholomew nodded. “No, he doesn’t. But that isn’t up to us, Adelina. You are not God. Drustan said that you all talked about this already. Where is this coming from?” 

Adelina shook her head. “I don’t know.” She bit her lip to keep it from quivering. “What kind of God lets this happen to me without consequences?” She whispered. 

Bartholomew’s face fell. “Adelina… don’t go there. Don’t let yourself begin to think like that.” He took her hand. “You know that there is a reason, and a purpose for all of this. I know that it hurts. I know that that darkness inside of you hurts.” He clenched his jaw and Adelina could tell that he was getting emotional too. “I know, because it’s in me too. It’s still there. And I’m not sure that it will ever go away. But I do know that killing him won’t help it. It won’t bring your parents back.” 

“But it might make him and his family feel the same pain that he has made me feel every day for the last two years.” She knew that it was wrong. She knew that she shouldn’t wish that on them. But she couldn’t help it.

“Drustan is his family, Adelina. Asher is his family, Adelina. Would you really wish that on them?”

“I didn’t mean them.” She answered quietly. She had been wrong. She knew that. But she felt as if she was too far in now to take it all back. 

Bartholomew shook his head. “Why would you wish this pain on someone else? You know how it tears you apart inside. How it drags you down everyday.” A tear slipped down his cheek and he hastily wiped it away. Sadness filled her at the thought that she had caused him pain. “The Adelina that I knew would have never wished for someone else to be hurt, even if it was her enemy. She loved, not hated. She believed in hope. She believed in forgiveness.” 

Why did people have to keep bringing up who she used to be? That was two years ago- no one was the same person that they were two years ago. “The Adelina that you knew was destroyed when her father was murdered right in front of her. The Adelina that you knew needed to grow up. The Adelina that you knew was a child.” She shrugged sadly. “I’m not the same person anymore. I wouldn’t be, even if my parents were still alive. That isn’t how life works, Bartholomew.” 

“But you wouldn’t have changed this much.” He walked to the door. 

“Please, don’t leave like this, Bartholomew.” She whispered. “I don’t want you to be angry with me. I can’t deal with this darkness alone.” 

“You aren’t alone, Adelina.” He smiled sadly. “You are a good person, my lady. Don’t let that monster take it away from you.” 

“He already has. He has taken everything from me…” she shook her head, looking at her hands in shame. She could never get rid of this pain. This weight that was on her would never go away. And nobody wanted to be with a girl like that. 

“You think that he has. But he hasn’t. You can still get it back. I’m here for you, and Drustan is here for you.” 

“I don’t know any other way to make this pain go away.” Every single feeling of despair that she had felt in those first ugly days was overwhelming her now. 

“This isn’t what your father would want, Adelina. Don’t do this to yourself.” Bartholomew shook his head. “If you do this, you are no better than Haimon is. And I will not take part in that.” 

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

Drustan opened his door at Bartholomew’s knock and let him in. Bartholomew’s face was sad- not serious like normal, but truly sad. 

“What’s wrong?” Drustan motioned for him to sit in a chair. 

Bartholomew lowered himself into the chair slowly, looking down at his feet. 

“I think that you should go visit Adelina, Drustan.” He looked up at Drustan, his eyes filled with regret. 

“I was planning on it soon.” Drustan was confused- why was Bartholomew so upset? “Did something happen?” 

“I think that Adelina is in a darker place than any of us realized.” Bartholomew answered, and he seemed to be considering his words carefully. “And you are the only one who can talk her out of it.” 

“What did she say?” Drustan was suddenly worried- more worried than he had been when his father told him that he knew about Adelina. 

“I don’t want to cause a problem between the two of you. But she’s getting desperate, Dru. She’ll do anything for justice- or revenge. Whichever comes first.” 

“I thought that she was content to wait for justice?” Why had Drustan not been able to tell? 

“I thought so too. But I think that when she found out that Haimon knew about her, something changed. She’s scared out of her mind, and she’s disguising it by being angry and vengeful.”

“I’m going there now.” Drustan picked up his sheath and sword, fastening it around his waist. 

“She needs help, Drustan. And I am not the one that can give it to her.” He hung his head. 

“Why not?”

“Because deep down, I feel the exact same way. And I can’t help her if I haven’t even been able to help myself.” 

Drustan put a hand on Bartholomew’s shoulder. “We’ll talk about this when I get back.” 

Drustan walked out of the castle quickly and into the yard. 

“Where are you going?” Marie caught up to him.

How did she keep catching him at times like this? 

“On a ride.” Drustan wasn’t in any more of a mood to talk now than he had been the last time. 

“Well, be careful.” She sounded slightly hurt, but he couldn’t bring himself to be sorry. He had much bigger things to be worried about than her feelings. “You know how suspicious your father is right now.” 

She began to walk away, as Drustan froze and turned back to look at her. How did she know that his father knew? He shook his head, scolding himself for being so suspicious- he was nearly as bad as his father. Everyone in the castle probably knew by now. And he trusted Marie not to tell his father anything. She probably was just genuinely warning him. 

He wanted to say something to her, but she was already almost inside the castle. He would just have to talk to her when he got back- Adelina was what was most important now. 

He saddled his horse quickly, forcing himself to ride out of the castle at a controlled speed that wouldn’t raise suspicion. 

Once at Edwin’s house, he handed his horse over to one of the grooms and made his way inside. 

“Drustan, we weren’t expecting you today.” Edwin greeted him in the kitchen. “Adelina told us that something had gone wrong.” 

“Where is she?” Drustan didn’t stop to talk to Edwin, but kept walking towards the stairs. 

“She is up in her room, I believe, talking to Sarah.” 

Drustan ran up the stairs, knocking on Adelina’s door. 

“Come in.” She answered. 

Drustan opened the door and the smile on Adelina’s face fell. 

“Drustan.” She looked over at Sarah. “Your timing is… impeccable, to say the least.” 

“Sarah, please leave us.” He motioned to the door, noticing for the first time how pale the girl was. 

“Is something wrong, my lord?” Adelina stood. 

“I’m not sure. I need to speak with you in private, Lady Alexandria.” He sounded angrier and harsher than he felt, but he couldn’t help it. 

Sarah stood slowly, glancing with wide eyes between the two of them. “Yes, my lord.” 

Drustan waited for her to leave before shutting the door and turning back to Adelina. 

“Bartholomew told me what happened today.” He began quietly, trying to cool his temper. 

“How much did he tell you?” He could see the shame and sadness in her eyes, even as they would not meet his. 

“Enough for me to be concerned.” He sat down in a chair next to her. “Al, I thought that we had discussed this, and that we were in a good place now. You nearly forgot all about any of it for a month. And now you are willing to do anything to get vengeance?” 

“I regretted it as soon as I made it known.” She spoke quickly, as if trying to explain it all before he could interrupt her. “And I’m better now, I really am. Talking about it with Bartholomew truly did help me to see the error of my ways. And I know that I talked about this with you, and Edwin, and Anissa, and that I truly did seem fine. And I was, for a while there. But then, when I lost sight of the goal for a while, I felt as if I had failed my father.” She was speaking faster and faster, and she was beginning to cry. “As if he would be ashamed of me for not getting justice for him. I felt so ashamed of myself that I didn’t know any other way-”

“Adelina, stop.” He interrupted her softly. “You are working yourself up, as if I’m going to be angry with you if you don’t explain it. I’m not angry with you, Adelina.” He took her hands, rubbing the back of them gently with his thumbs. “I’m scared, Al. I’m scared of what this is doing to you, and what it will do to you if you continue down this road.”

“I’m not going to go down that road, I promise. When I’m tired, and I’m feeling emotional, it just comes out. I didn’t know how to stop it. And Bartholomew seems to be the only person who really understands what is going on with me. Not that you don’t, it just-”

“It’s different. I know.” He nodded. “I’m never going to quite be able to understand it like you and Bartholomew do. I was in a similar position to Bartholomew, but I wasn’t there when the accident happened. I didn’t have to deal with the aftereffects. I think that’s what sets him apart- and you, to a degree. You may not have been there for everything that came after, but you had to deal with it in your own right.” 

“I don’t truly want vengeance, Drustan. I promise that I don’t. But I can’t promise that there won’t be moments where I think that I want it.” 

Drustan smiled softly. “I know. And that, to a degree, is okay. Just please, tell me next time. Don’t hide these feelings from me, Al. I want to know what you are going through and what you are feeling. I want to help you.” 

“I know… and if you had been the one to bring me the news, I would have told you. It just so happened that since Bartholomew saw me first, he found out first.” 

“Would you have told me, if Bartholomew hadn’t?” 

She didn’t answer for a moment, and he could see the battle going on behind her blue eyes. “I would have eventually. Maybe in a different way. But I would have told you at some point, if it got bad enough.” 

“What would have kept you from telling me?” 

“Shame.” She answered immediately. “I’m ashamed that I can’t handle myself. That I can’t control that urge in me. I should be able to control it. I should be strong enough.”

“No, Adelina, you shouldn’t be. You will never be strong enough to control it.” Drustan sighed. “I know that you want to be. But you are only human. The only person that can truly help you here, and help you to control it is God. Not me, and not Bartholomew. This darkness in you, it isn’t from you. It’s from the devil. And only through God can you fight it.” 

“I’m so tired of all the fighting.” She said softly. 

“I know. But we knew that there was going to be a struggle here. You’ve been through so much, Adelina. And we are trying to do something crazy.” Drustan sighed. “And life is filled with fighting, even without all of that. The fighting is never going to stop. But God takes care of it for us. We can lean on him. We don’t have to be the ones fighting all of the time.” 

She took a deep breath in, and he could see a peace coming over her. He silently thanked God that it was working, and that his words were getting through to her. He had been so afraid the entire ride over that she was so far into the darkness that she couldn’t come out. 

“You are a good person, Adelina.” He stood up, drawing her up with him. “And God has not given up on you. He won’t give up on you, even if you do kill my father. But my father does not deserve the satisfaction of knowing that his actions affected you to the point that you would disregard everything your father taught you. You have to be better than him, Al. He kills people for revenge- you don’t. You allow God to have the final say. If God takes my father’s life, then it is his time to go. But we don’t get to decide that.” 

“I know. I know now, more than ever.” She placed her head against his chest. “And I’ll tell you next time this happens, I promise. I won’t hide it from you, if it happens again. Though I’m praying that it won’t happen again.”

“I’ll always be here to talk to you, I promise.” He wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on top of her head. “Always.” 

He felt her sigh deeply and she put her arms around him. He smiled to himself. His entire life, all that he had wanted was for Adelina to feel safe with him. And after several ups and downs, he was sure that he finally had that.

“We should tell Sarah everything.” Adelina whispered. 

“You think so?” Drustan asked. 

She nodded. “She already suspects that something is going on. It would be simpler just to tell her, rather than let her find out through rumors.”

“Then we’ll tell her next time I come. I don’t think that we should do it today.” Drustan ran his fingers through her hair gently. “You need to get some rest right now. You’ve had a long day, and you need to relax for a bit.” 

Adelina yawned, as if confirming his words. “I agree.” She looked up at him. “Do you think that she’ll respond well?”

“I’m sure that she will.” Drustan smiled. “She loves you- she’ll keep your secret.” 

She nodded. “I hope you’re right.”

“I am.” He winked. 

“That’s a bit cocky, isn’t it?” She teased, smiling slightly. 

He shrugged. “Maybe a little bit. But I tend to feel cocky when I have a beautiful girl in my arms.” 

“Do you now?” She smirked. “Well, since arrogance and cockiness is generally a bad thing, maybe you shouldn’t have a girl in your arms.” 

“Don’t you dare.” He held her tighter, raising an eyebrow.

“I would never.” She smiled and put her head back down on his chest, rubbing her cheek against his shirt. “Dru?”

“Yes, love?”

“Will you pray for me?”

He kissed the top of her head. “I’m always praying for you, Adelina. Every moment of every single day.”