Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Eighteen

Adelina took a deep breath as Sarah walked into the room. Drustan motioned for Sarah to sit in a chair and Sarah sat down. 

“I’m sure you are probably wondering what this is about.” Adelina began, folding and unfolding her hands in her lap. “I haven’t told you much about my background. You only know that my true identity is a secret.” Sarah nodded. “And you have likely noticed that Lord Drustan and I- as well as Edwin and Anissa- have been meeting several times since you began working here.” 

“And we understand that this has likely been confusing for you.” Drustan continued. 

“I’ll admit, it has been a bit strange.” Sarah smiled a little. “But I would never want to intrude on your business.”

“I trust you, Sarah.” Adelina answered. “I trust you enough that I am willing to share my secret with you.” 

“Are you sure?” Sarah looked between the two of them. “If I have done something to pressure you into this, I apologize. You don’t have to share anything with me if you aren’t absolutely sure.”

Adelina laughed softly. “It’s okay. I want to share it with you. You have not forced me to do anything.” 

Sarah looked relieved- had she really thought that she had been pressuring Adelina into something that she didn’t want? Didn’t she know how stubborn Adelina was?

“Let me start with the hardest part.” Adelina took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “My name is not Alexandria. It is Lady Adelina Hamlin of Alourin. I am the first and only daughter of Duke Rorick Hamlin of Alourin.” She held her chin high, feeling a sense of pride fill her at saying it for the first time. “Baron Haimon set fire to my home and killed my parents. He took my brother, and claimed him as his own. I barely escaped with my life, and I went into hiding for two years. Now I am here to take back what is mine.” Sarah’s eyes were wide. “We are attempting to find a way to see the king and convince him to take action against Haimon.” 

“Anyone who allies themself with my father will fall with him.” Drustan leaned on the back of Adelina’s chair. “Anyone who allies themself with us will get to move into the new castle, as we rule over this land the right way.” 

Sarah looked at the two of them, her mouth open slightly in shock. “You are Lady Adelina? You lived?” 

Adelina smiled softly. “I did. And I know that this is a lot to take in. It is a lot of information to process at once. You can take however much time you want.” 

“You were the girl at the ball? The one that everyone thinks is the king’s daughter?” 

Adelina nodded. “I am. There were rumors that the king would be there. I needed to be there just in case he was there. And as it turns out, even though the king was not there,” she smiled up at Drustan, “that was one of the best nights of my life.” 

“So I was right? When we were talking, after I first came here?” Sarah asked. 

Adelina blushed slightly. “Yes. I told you that Drustan and I disagreed on a lot of things. At the time, maybe that was true. But we’ve since realized that there are fewer differences, but simply more misunderstandings.” Drustan smiled down at her and she smiled back up at him. “But that isn’t the point. The point here is that I need to know if I have your allegiance.” 

Sarah nodded quickly. “Of course. Anything that I can do for you, I will do.” 

Adelina smiled. “I don’t know quite yet if I will actually need you to do anything. I just know what I need you to not do- which is tell anyone. Even most of the servants in this house don’t know my true identity. Edwin and Anissa know, and a few of the guards at Drustan’s home. But beyond that, no one knows.” A strange look crossed Drustan’s face as she said this, but she figured that he was just thinking about something else. And if not, he would tell her later. 

“I won’t tell anyone, I promise. I won’t betray you, my lady.” Sarah bowed her head slightly. 

“We are trying to find a way to get the king to come to the ball that Haimon is holding to commemorate the opening of the new castle.” She looked up at Drustan, thinking out loud. “By that time, we will have most of the guards on our side, if we can help it. And those that aren’t already on our side at the time will be once they see how many of their companions have turned, and that the king’s guard is on our side.”

Drustan glanced over at Sarah before answering. “There’s just one guard who will not turn, no matter who is against him.” 

Adelina nodded slowly. “Ellian.” She bit her lip. “We’ll need to find a way to distract him. You can’t be the one to do it, because you will be with me- and I want Bartholomew by our side as well. So it has to be someone else. One of the other guards that we trust.”

“He can take down at least two men, if he wants to.” Drustan answered. “That’s two people too many before we will be able to contain him. We have to find a way to keep him away from the action.” 

“I can do it.” Sarah spoke, her voice wavering. Both of them looked over at her. 

“What?” Drustan asked. 

“I’ll distract Ellian.” Sarah answered, her voice becoming stronger now. “I will have just had my baby, so I’ll have an excuse to see him. It’s the only way- and I’m the only person who will be able to keep him occupied long enough.” 

“If you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to. I don’t want to pressure you into anything- just two weeks ago, you never wanted to have to see him again.” It hadn’t been Adelina’s intention at all to force Sarah into this. 

“I know. But that was before I knew that I was going to be a part of a grand rebellion.” Sarah smiled, shrugging slightly. “I can do this. And if there is any way for me to save Ellian from the fate of those that follow Haimon, I want to try.”

“You are a brave woman, Sarah. Far braver than I could ever be.” Drustan answered, and Adelina knew that he was completely serious. “If you are sure about this, then we will work it out so that no matter what, you are safe. You will have someone to protect you to make sure that you are taken care of. If, at any point, you choose not to do it, we will find another way. You have the option, always.” 

Sarah nodded. “Thank you.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t know what will happen once I have my child and how I will be feeling. But if I have recovered enough by the time that the ball happens, I am more than willing to do it.”

“You have no idea how much this means to me, Sarah.” Adelina said. “I know that it isn’t an easy decision for you to make. But it means so much to me that you are willing to do it, no matter if you go through with it or not.” 

“The two of you have done so much for me.” Sarah answered. “And while I can never thank you enough for it, this helps to do that. It repays a little bit of what you have done for me.” 

“You are worth it, Sarah. No matter how much you pay us back.” Adelina smiled. “You are worth it to us, regardless of your situation.”

“I’ve never met anyone who was so generous, without an ulterior motive, let alone four people and with my situation.” Sarah’s eyes were beginning to tear up. 

“You reminded me, Sarah, that we are called to forgive. We are called to forgive every wrongdoing.”

“If God is not going to hold something over you, neither are we.” Drustan nodded. “And no one deserves to be left out in the cold.” 

Sarah smiled gratefully. “Thank you.” She inhaled slowly, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “So what is the next step?” 

Adelina looked over at Drustan, raising her eyebrows. “I believe the next step is to visit one of my father’s old guards. He knows more about the situation surrounding my parents’ deaths than anyone. He’ll be able to help us.” 

“Do you have a plan for how to do that?” Sarah asked. 

Drustan nodded. “We have several ideas. All of them include bringing more of the guards to our side.” 

“And convincing Haimon to formally invite the king to his ball.” Adelina added.

“How are we going to make sure that the king comes to the ball, even if he is formally invited?” Sarah raised an eyebrow.

“He’ll come. He’ll want to know if there is truth to the statements that have been made about my father.” Drustan answered. “And if need be, we will have Andrew do a little extra pushing. In the two years since he left the guard of Duke Rorick, he has made a name for himself and become a well respected noble. I have no doubt that if some pressure is applied by Andrew, the king will come. That will be our chance to get through to him and reveal my father’s ways.”

“What if he doesn’t listen?” Sarah looked between the two of them. 

Adelina shook her head. “He’ll listen. He has to listen.” She sighed. “We don’t have another option if he doesn’t.”

“No, we don’t.” Drustan continued. “But if Andrew, my grandparents, and I are all backing up Adelina’s testimony- as countless others will, once they see that my father is powerless to stop us- the king will listen. He is a good man, from what I’ve heard. Fair and kind, but not overindulgent. He will give us a fair chance, if nothing else.” 

“And we will take that chance as far as we possibly can.” Adelina smiled. “This is going to work. I just know it.” 

Sarah smiled back at her, then yawned. 

“My apologies, my lady. I don’t know why I am so tired.”

“You are pregnant, Sarah.” Adelina answered, smiling softly. “Go now, lay down for a while. Get some well-deserved rest. I will come and wake you if I require you.” 

“Are you sure?” 

Adelina nodded. “I’m sure.” 

Sarah curtseyed to both of them and walked into her room, shutting the door behind her. 

“There’s one more thing that we need to do before we go to Andrew’s home. The risk isn’t worth it if we can’t do this.” Drustan said, once she had left the room. 

“What is that?” Adelina asked, looking up at him. 

“We have to find out who told my father. Because if it is someone we trusted, they will go and tell him as soon as we leave for Andrew’s. And while we cannot put ourselves in that kind of danger, we also cannot put Andrew in harm’s way like that. He hates me enough already.” 

Adelina nodded. “Is there an easy way to find out who it was?” 

“I will speak with my father and see if I can nonchalantly get it out of him. Otherwise, we are going to have to do some deeper digging and investigating. If it is one of the guards, then it isn’t as large of an issue- we’ll just find a nonlethal way to silence them. If it is someone that is not within our tight circle, then we have bigger problems.”

“Why is that?” 

“Because then, one of us slipped up and told someone we shouldn’t have.” The strange look crossed his face again, just as it had either. “And I’m very afraid to find out who it was that slipped up. Perhaps even more afraid than I am of finding out who is telling our secrets.” 

“Why is that?” Adelina raised an eyebrow, confused. Drustan didn’t typically get nervous about things like this. 

He bit his lip. “Because I am afraid that it may have been me.” 

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

Drustan walked into his father’s office, glancing around to see who all was in the room. There were two guards at the back and his father sat at his desk. Besides that, the room was empty. Good- Drustan didn’t want to have this conversation in front of many people. 

“You called for me, my lord?” Drustan stood with his hands behind his back, staring straight ahead. 

“Yes, I want to know if you have heard anything more about that traitor’s daughter. I need updates, and I am counting on you to bring them to me. You do understand that this girl could take everything from you- your title, your land, your future?” 

“I do understand, my lord.” Drustan nodded. 

“So you need to be the one leading the efforts here. I need you to be getting the information and feeding it back to me.” His father looked up from his papers. “Do you understand?”

“I understand.” Drustan finally met his father’s eyes. “Who originally told you about the rumor? If I can talk to him, I can see if there is any other information they know.” 

His father nodded. “Well, I’m sure that if she had more information, she would have told me.” She? “But nevertheless, if you would like to speak with your cousin, I believe she will tell you any more information that you need to know.”

Drustan clenched his jaw. Had he heard wrong? Marie was the one who had told their secret? 

“How did Marie find out about the girl?” He asked slowly. 

“She heard a rumor about the girl being at the ball. And then she saw the girl in the village four days ago. She recognized her from all of those years ago, and came to me immediately after.” 

Drustan nodded, staring straight ahead again. “I will speak to her and see if anything she describes about the girl sticks out as important.” 

His father looked up at him. “This is your chance to prove to me, Drustan, that you have left your past with that traitor behind. I regret ever sending you to that man’s home, but you can redeem yourself from it.” 

Drustan nodded again. “Yes, my lord.”

“You are dismissed.” His father waved him away. 

Drustan bowed his head slightly, then turned on his heel walking as quickly as possible out of the room. 

Where was she? He grit his teeth. It didn’t really matter where she was. She couldn’t hide from him anywhere. He knew that he never should have told her, but he had trusted her. He had thought she would keep his secret. He had been a fool, and now she was going to pay for it. There was no stopping the rage filling him now. 

He burst into the solar. “Where is Marie?” He asked his mother, his voice low.

“I believe that she is up in the north tower, reading a book.” 

Drustan left the room without saying anything more, storming through the castle to the north tower. 

“Marie?” He called up, his voice echoing off of the walls. 

“I’m up here.” She called back down. 

He ran up the stairs, slamming the door behind him, leaving just the two of them in the room below the top floor of the tower. 

“Is anyone up there?” He pointed upwards. 

Her eyes were wide, and she shook her head. “No, it’s just me.” 

He nodded, beginning to pace the floor. “How could you?” 

“How could I what?” She stood. 

“Don’t play that game with me, Marie.” He yelled at her. “I see through your deception now. You cannot hide it from me anymore.” 

She backed against the wall. “Drustan, I was doing it for your own protection. I did it for you.” 

“No! No, you did not. You cannot feed me that lie.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what could have possibly made you do this, but it certainly was not because you were looking out for me.” 

“Yes, I was! I was looking out for you, and I was looking out for Kingsley. Because if she succeeds in overthrowing her father, you two will lose everything. And you are introducing her to Kingsley as if she’s some saint who is your friend, when really, she’s the one who is going to ruin his life.” 

He stared at her for a moment. “How did you know that she met Kingsley?” 

Marie stuttered. “I… I just do.” 

“Marie, if you don’t stop lying to me, I vow to you, there will never be anywhere you can run. You will never be able to escape me.” He pointed a finger at her. “So for once, would you please just tell me the truth?”

Marie cowered against the wall. “Please, don’t hurt me. I’ll tell you everything, I promise. I heard you leaving with Kingsley and telling him that you were going to go meet a friend. And when he came back all happy, I put two and two together.” She shook her head. “How could you take him to meet her? Are you crazy?” 

“Marie, that is his sister! They deserve the opportunity to get to know each other.” 

“He didn’t ever need to know her, or know that she is his sister!” Marie answered. “He’s likely never going to see her again, once your father gets his hands on her.” 

Drustan stared at her. “You really are crazy, aren’t you? You would willingly give Adelina into my father’s hands, just because he says its best. Just because it would mean that I keep my title.” He shook his head. “Did it ever once occur to you that I don’t want my title? That I would rather do the right thing and become a nobody than allow another innocent person to die so that I can become a baron?”

“You say that now, but in a few years, when you’ve forgotten all about her, you will be thankful that I did you this favor.” She sighed. “I just hope that I’m around for you to apologize to.” 

“You are out of your mind, Marie.” He glared at her. “I trusted you. I confided in you. And this is how you repay me? By stabbing me in the back and putting the only person that I have ever loved in harm’s way?”

“Your father would have found out eventually anyway. I just sped up the process.” Marie acted as if it weren’t a big deal. “And don’t act as if she’s the only person that you’ve ever loved- and even if she was, she won’t be the last.”

“Marie, if you don’t keep your mouth shut, I promise you that you will end up in a prison cell right next to my father. I will personally turn the key in the lock if I have to.” He was done playing the dutiful son with his family. That time was over. Now was the time that he became serious. “If you so much as whisper to my father that I am involved in this, and that I am against him, or anything more about Adelina, I will make sure that you never get a chance to do it again.” His life was on the line if she didn’t think that he would be true to his word. 

“You wouldn’t dare hurt me.” She spat back at him. 

“Try me, Marie. Just try, and see what happens.” Drustan crossed his arms. 

“I know that you would never touch me. You would never hurt a woman. I know that.” 

“You’re right, Marie.” He held up his hands, as if admitting she was right. Which he was. “I won’t touch you. But I can’t promise that the people in the dungeon I send you to won’t.” 

Marie’s eyes opened wide- wider than he had ever seen them. “You’ll never be able to live with it if you let this happen to me. I know you. I know that it will haunt you for the rest of your life.” 

“No, it won’t.” Drustan shook his head. “Anything that happens to you is because of your actions. It will be your fault. Not mine. You have done this to yourself, cousin. I will not feel any guilt.” 

“You have to.” She stopped cowering, standing tall. “I am your blood.” 

“So is my father.” Drustan answered through gritted teeth. “And hard as I try not to be like him, he is still in me. And you know what he does to people who get in his way- whether they be blood or not. So no, I don’t have to. And I won’t.” He began to walk to the door. 

“You won’t win. You can’t. It isn’t possible.” She said desperately. “I won’t be the one to tell him that you are involved, but he’ll find out. He’ll know. And he’ll kill you as soon as he finds out.” 

Drustan turned around. “That’s what you don’t understand, Marie.” He smiled softly, knowing that his show of positive emotions would further unnerve her. “I don’t need to be alive to win. This rebellion exists by itself. It doesn’t need me. So even if he kills me, he will lose. Pick your side, Marie.” He opened the door and walked down the stairs, not bothering to close it behind himself.

“I already have.” She called after him. 

He shook his head and clenched his jaw. He wouldn’t feel guilt about her fate- he had told the truth there. But he did feel pity for her. She had chosen his father, who had never once said anything nice to her. It made him wonder just how lost she was that she would choose him over Drustan. He had always thought that her life was so much better than his. He had envied her loving parents and her sheltered life growing up. But now, he saw her life for what it was. Hers was just as broken as his. That was why she spent so much of her time at his family’s castle. She was escaping her life when she was at his home just as much as he was escaping his life when he was with Adelina. 

There was one large difference, though- large enough that it kept him from feeling guilty about what could happen to her. 

That difference was that he was choosing to change things. He was choosing to break the cycle. He wasn’t letting his upbringing dictate how he lived the rest of his life. And she was. 

He blew out a breath. In a few days time, he would be at Andrew’s home, a day’s ride from here. For just a little while, he wouldn’t have to worry about his father breathing down his neck. He would be able to be helping their cause, while also spending time with Adelina without his father’s threats hanging over them so densely. 

As he walked into his room, he stopped short to find Bartholomew inside, staring out the window. 

Drustan closed the door slowly behind himself. 

“What news do you have for me?” Drustan asked. 

Bartholomew turned around, his expression grim. “Your father is preparing his men to begin searching the village at the start of the month. We only have so much time to get Adelina out undetected.” 

Drustan nodded. “That gives us nine days to put our plan into action.” He ran a hand through his hair, blowing out a breath. “Someone will need to go tell Adelina to prepare. We’ll start our journey the same day that they begin searching the houses.” 

“As you wish, my lord.” Bartholomew answered. “Did you learn anything from your father?” 

Drustan nodded. “My cousin is the one that told him.”

“Marie?” Bartholomew raised an eyebrow. 

Drustan nodded. “I told her, when I first found out about Adelina. I thought that I could trust her. Apparently I couldn’t.” He sighed. “But she won’t say anything more, and that’s what is important.”

“I’m sorry, Drustan. I know that Marie was special to you.” 

Drustan shrugged, trying not to come off as dejected as he felt. “It’s not important anymore. She chose her place, and I chose mine. And so long as I know that I am on the right side, then I can be okay.” 

Bartholomew put his hand on Drustan’s shoulder. “Things around here are about to change, Drustan. Not everyone understands that.”

Drustan forced a smile. “I know.” He took a deep breath. “Now isn’t the time to worry about all of that. Now is the time to get ready. Because once we begin this plan, it won’t stop. We are going to be going full speed ahead. My father is about to finally get what he deserves.”