Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Twenty-Five

Adelina looked up as Sarah walked into the room. There was a slightly pained look on her face. 

“Are you alright?” Adelina stood, walking to the girl. “Is something wrong?” 

Sarah shook her head, a slight smile growing on her lips. “No, the baby is just being a little more active than usual. They’re kicking a lot. I suppose that is a good thing, though it is a little painful.” 

“You are due soon, aren’t you?” Adelina asked. 

Sarah nodded. “Mistress Caspell’s doctors have told me that it should be somewhere within the next month, but they don’t know exactly when. I can feel that it will be soon.”

“Do you feel ready?” Adelina had never really considered how it would feel to be a new mother without having a husband there for support.

Sarah laughed a little, sitting down in a chair. “I believe that I am as ready as I’ll ever be. I’m scared, to be sure. I never imagined that this is how my life would be. I envisioned myself being married to someone that I love, in a cozy home, with children that we both care for. I didn’t think that I would ever allow myself to be in this position. There is a part of me that wishes I had never met Ellian- or that he had married me upon finding out that I was with child.” She took a deep breath, tears filling her eyes. “But then I realize that I would never change my position. If I had convinced Ellian to marry me, I would have been stuck in a loveless marriage with a man that would never remain faithful to me. I would have been forced to follow his rules and live the way that he demanded I live. My children would have grown up with a father that resented them for holding him back from his delusions of grandeur. I loved Ellian. I believe that a part of me always will. He made me feel loved like no one else ever has. I made the mistake of letting that get to my head and clouding my judgment. It is a mistake that I will not make again.” She looked down at her stomach, cradling the bump that held her unborn child. “But my child is not a mistake. They aren’t even born yet, but already, there isn’t anything that I would not endure for them. The shame and the derision that we will face from the people will be worth just holding and raising my child the way that I want to raise my child. I would rather raise my child alone, cut off from the world, than raise it the way that Ellian would deem appropriate.” 

Adelina smiled softly, fighting back her own tears. “You aren’t alone, Sarah. For as long as I am alive, you and your child will always have a home with me and my family. I do not intend to allow you to raise this child alone, no matter what the world thinks.” 

Sarah wiped away her tears, smiling. “You will never know how much that means to me, my lady. You have been so good to me. Far better than I deserve.” 

“You deserve much more than this, Sarah. And I pray that someday you find that.”

“If I find something even slightly similar to what you have with Lord Drustan, I believe that I will be very happy. I doubt that I will be able to find that in my situation, though.” 

Adelina smiled a little. “Drustan and I are far from perfect, but I do believe that love is out there for you somewhere, Sarah. You made a mistake, but that mistake is not who you are. Someone will see that eventually.” 

Sarah sighed. “Thank you, my lady.” She pushed herself up from her chair slowly. “I should get back to my duties now- I just needed a moment to rest.”

 Adelina nodded. “If you need someone else to take care of some of your duties so that you can rest more, please, feel free to ask. There will be plenty of people to help you, if you need it.”

“Thank you, my lady.” Sarah curtseyed and left the room. 

Adelina sighed, running a hand through her hair. It seemed like just a week ago that she had taken Sarah on as her servant. In reality, it had been several months and the baby was coming soon. Adelina wasn’t entirely sure how to act around Sarah and how to treat her. They had grown close, but Sarah was going through something that Adelina couldn’t even imagine yet. Adelina wasn’t sure how to help her, or what she needed. But Sarah didn’t seem to need much support from Adelina. While she had admitted that she was scared, she seemed to have a firm grasp on the situation and how to handle everything. Adelina tried to offer support where she could, and she could tell that Sarah appreciated it, but she didn’t appear to need it as much as Adelina thought she would. 

Adelina put her head in her hands, sighing. There was so much to think about now. Sarah’s baby would be here soon, their ‘rebellion’ would be over in a matter of weeks, and then she was somehow supposed to figure out how to lead a regular life. 

What would it be like, living a normal life with Drustan and Kingsley? Would she find it dull compared to intrigue and intense fighting? Or would it be everything that she had ever dreamed of? She would go from a girl with no family to a wife and a mother- to her own brother- in a few short hours upon triumphing over Haimon. What if she couldn’t handle it? She was hardly equipped to run a household, raise a child, or be a loving companion to her husband. She had been living out of a small cottage when her mother would have been teaching her the essential skills required to be an important lady. She had learned the basic skills of sewing and painting, but she had always been far more interested in cooking, riding, and archery than ladylike activities.

Would Drustan be disappointed when he discovered that she wasn’t the wellbred, trained lady that she was supposed to be? That she couldn’t run a household or order around servants like his mother could? But he already knew what she was like, didn’t he? He knew how her life had been these past several years and that there had been far more important things on her mind than embroidery and delicacy. He wouldn’t be too disappointed, would he? 

“Are you okay?” She looked up to find Drustan leaning against the doorframe. 

She nodded quickly, standing. “I’m fine. Sarah’s baby will be here soon so I’m just trying to figure out the best way to take care of her and make her comfortable.” 

He came into the room, sitting down in a chair. “I’m sure that she will be grateful for anything that you offer her.” 

“I know that she will be. But she’s grateful for everything we give, whether it is actually helpful or not. I’d rather offer something truly helpful over something that she doesn’t need.” 

Drustan nodded. “That’s a fair point. Maybe it would be helpful to find someone who has actually gone through this before. Do you think that you could trust one of the ladies in the village?” 

Adelina thought for a moment. “I haven’t been to visit them in a week or so. And I don’t know that I could trust them not to spread whatever they hear here. I don’t want to expose my own secret or expose Sarah to the humiliation of the entire village knowing her situation.” 

“Another fair point. Is there truly no one that you can trust to go to that would be able to at least be by her side?” 

Adelina sighed. “Bartholomew’s friend. She has never had a child before but she has many younger siblings. And I need to speak with her anyway.” 

“She has been informed of Bartholomew’s passing, has she not?” Drustan raised an eyebrow. 

Adelina nodded. “I had some of Edwin’s men tell her and his family. But I… I need to speak with her myself. I need to explain and let her know some things. Things that he would have wanted her to know. This will be the perfect opportunity for her and I to have that conversation.” 

Drustan nodded. “How would you like us to retrieve her?” 

Adelina took a deep breath. “I’ll go to get her myself.” She held up a hand before he could speak. “I know that it’s risky. But it has to be me. It’s worth it. I’m the reason that her lover is dead, and here I am asking for a favor. It should be me personally.” 

“Are you sure?”

Adelina nodded. “Very.” 

“Then I won’t fight you on it. But I will send men after you if I feel at all suspicious that something has gone wrong.” 

Adelina smiled. “As long as they don’t draw attention to me, you can send as many men as you would like.” 

“Wonderful.” He came over, bending down and kissing her. “Because I don’t intend on taking any unnecessary risks and losing you.” 

She scrunched her nose, trying not to show how much his love made her want to spin around with joy. “It’s nice having someone looking out for me, you know.” 

He winked. “It’s nice having someone that will let me look out for them.” 

“You’re going to be a good father someday.” She answered. 

He laughed a little. “My darling Adelina, believe me when I say that the way I feel about you is anything but the way that a father feels about his child.”

Adelina blushed, putting her head down. “I know. But it’s true. You are going to be an amazing father.” 

He ran a hand through his hair and she could tell that he wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to the complement. 

“As long as I’m nothing like my own father, I believe that I will have hit the mark.” 

Adelina smiled softly. “I have a strong feeling that you will be very different from your own father.” 

“And how could a person not be an amazing father when he has a fantastic mother by his side?” 

Adelina laughed, standing and walking over to pour herself some water. “I don’t know about my being a fantastic mother, but I will certainly do my best.” 

He put an arm around her waist, kissing the top of her head. “Your best will be more than satisfactory, I believe.” 

She leaned against him. How did she find a man that loved her- all her flaws, failings, and issues- so deeply that he was so certain she would be a good mother? Maybe he didn’t remember how ill-equipped she was to be a mother. She didn’t even know what it was to have a younger sibling. She had only had one for a few days before he was so callously ripped away from her. 

But she wouldn’t focus on that. Drustan thought that she could do it- and he would be by her side the whole way. When she was unsure what to do, he would be there to help her. 

She laughed to herself. It would be a long time before any of this would be something she truly needed to worry about. But somehow, worrying about it made her want to be the mother of Drustan’s children even more than she already did. And that was not something she could focus on right now. 

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

Drustan shaded his eyes from the sun, looking over at Edwin. 

“It is coming along, isn’t it?” Edwin smiled, surveying the build site. 

“Yes, I’m sure that my father will be very pleased with this progress report.” Drustan answered. “You are sufficiently ahead of schedule- the already rushed schedule that my father set.”

“Good. I do live to please him.” 

Drustan smiled slightly. “I do find it ironic that he depends upon you to build his new, grand home exactly the way that he wants it and trusts you to order over a hundred men around, but questions your loyalty and threatens your family.” 

Edwin shrugged. “Many of the things that your father does don’t make sense, Dru. He is a man of many dangerous secrets, hypocritical actions, and ironies.” 

“Don’t I know it.” Drustan laughed bitterly.

“You won’t need to endure it for much longer.” Edwin blew on his hands, his breath visible in the cold air. 

“No, I won’t. And I am very thankful for that.” Drustan sighed. “I wanted to thank you, Edwin. For everything that you’ve done for us. I know that I’ve said all of this before but I just need you to know. We wouldn’t be here without everything that you’ve done for both Adelina and I.”

“You don’t need to thank us, Dru-”

Drustan cut him off, shaking his head. “No, I do. We could never repay you for the ways that you have cared for us and what you’ve sacrificed for us.” 

Edwin smiled slightly. “We wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. You two are family to Anissa and I. We wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we sat by while you two fought this alone.”

“Not everyone would feel that way, Edwin. What you both have done is invaluable.” 

Edwin nodded. “Of course. We are happy to do it.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “Just promise me something, Drustan?”

“Anything.”

“Things will be different. Promise me that the way you rule will be nothing like the way that your father rules. That the people will be free and happy to live the way that they want to live. And I know that you say you would never do that. You would never be your father. But I’m sure that there was a point your father said that as well.”

Drustan nodded. “I understand your concerns, Edwin. I wish I could say that I will always be the best ruler, but I know myself and I know who I am. I will always do my best to look out for these people and never rule the way that my father rules. And you are always welcome to help keep me in check when I do begin to rule.” 

Edwin smiled. “Thank you for understanding, Drustan. I trust you. I promise I do. But Anabelle trusted your father and he killed her. I needed to know that you were dedicated to being kept in check.” 

“Of course.” 

Drustan turned away slightly, surveying the building again. He wasn’t entirely sure how to finish this conversation. Did it sting that Edwin didn’t trust him as much as he said he did? That there was even just the smallest amount of doubt in his mind? Of course those things stung. But Drustan could also understand where Edwin was coming from. Drustan’s father had made these people’s lives miserable. He had murdered, imprisoned, and hurt the people that he was supposed to look out for. And Edwin was right- his father had professed good intentions at one point when he was Drustan’s age. Anabelle had trusted his father and they all saw now what that had done for her. It stung but maybe it was a good thing that it stung. It pushed him to prove that he truly was worthy of Edwin’s trust and that he didn’t deserve to be questioned. It kept him in check, as Edwin had said. He could acknowledge that. 

“I should get back to the house.” Edwin said finally. “Anissa has been feeling poorly today and I want to make sure that she is alright.” 

Drustan nodded slowly. “I pray that she feels better soon.” 

“Thank you.” Edwin smiled, turning away. “Have a good rest of your day, Dru.”

“You as well.” Drustan answered. 

The interaction felt slightly tense and awkward but it was better than it could have been, given the conversation they had just had. Things could only go up from here. 

“My Lord?” One of the workers came up to him.

“Yes?” Drustan forced himself to return to his cold and professional son of a baron. 

“We are moving the tables into the kitchen right now and we want to be sure that they are placed correctly to maximize space.” 

Drustan stared at him for a moment. Could these builders truly not make any decisions for themselves? The placement of the kitchen workspace was not that difficult or important. 

But that wasn’t the problem. That wasn’t why they were asking all of these questions. It wasn’t that they were incapable of making these decisions- it was that they were afraid to. His father would likely punish them if even one thing was not done perfectly according to his liking. He couldn’t blame them for wanting his approval and input on everything. Then they could place the blame on him so that his father would turn to him for answers instead of them. It was a perfectly logical and simple solution to their problems and he would not deny them that escape from his father’s wrath, even if it was inconvenient. They didn’t deserve to face his father over ridiculous issues simply because Drustan didn’t want to take the time to approve every detail. 

“Yes, of course. Just show me the way.” Drustan motioned the man forward, following him into the half-finished castle. He would take pleasure in relieving some of the anxiety these builders and their families no doubt felt being forced to work for his father. 

Drustan helped the workers with a variety of different details around the castle, making sure that everything was done perfectly according to the many instructions his father had given. He helped them to move certain things, ensure the sturdiness of some walls, and carry supplies to and from the wagons. 

It felt good, working with his hands like this- and working with other people. He was so used to working by himself, or with the quiet knights who were afraid to have a conversation with him. These men didn’t seem to care that he was a baron’s son. They treated him just like everyone else and everyone worked together, helping each other out. For the first time in so long, he felt like a normal person. There was no talk of rebellion or pain or death. There was no discussing the upcoming balls or decisions of the king. The men just talked about their lives, their families, their friends, and their homes. They didn’t care much about what was going on outside of their own small village. They were certainly afraid of his father and the power that he held, but they didn’t even appear to entertain the idea of that ever changing. They were focused on the present, not the future. 

Drustan couldn’t help wishing that his life was more like this. More carefree and easy. But that wasn’t possible, was it? Right now, everything needed to be about getting rid of his father, once and for all. But after that, he would be a baron. This was the life he had chosen and he was in it now. He couldn’t- and shouldn’t- escape it no matter how much the life of a villager appealed to him. There had to be downsides to being a common person that he just wasn’t seeing. 

Besides that, maybe things would be different when he was ruling. He was comparing the life of a villager to the way that his father ruled. Maybe when he ruled, he would be so different that he would find the same joy in it that these villagers found in their normal, everyday lives. Maybe that was the goal that he was supposed to be striving towards. 

“Thank you for your help today, Lord Drustan.” One of the top men, Tyler, came up to him at the end of the day. “It is nice to know that we have a future leader that is willing to work with us and cares about us.” 

“Of course, Tyler. It is good to know that I have support from my people.” Drustan smiled. 

“Not to say that your father does not work with us or care about us- I am sure that he does. He is just so busy with his important duties as baron that we very rarely get to see that side of him.” Tyler rushed to get the statement out before Drustan could say anything else. 

Drustan shook his head. “It is alright, Tyler. I understand what you mean. I can only hope that when I am finally the baron of this land, I will live up to the expectations that you have for me.” 

Tyler smiled. “I have no doubt that you will, my lord. These men, they see the way that you act. The way that you treat Mister Caspell as an equal and the way that you work with all of us rather than simply ordering us around, as many overseers do. You are gaining their support, my lord, and when you are the baron, many of them are sure to support and follow you in whatever difficult times could come of it.” 

“Thank you, Tyler. Your words of support and encouragement do mean very much to me. It is not often that I hear such high praise. You and your men are doing a fine job here and I am very pleased with the progress you have made. It has been my pleasure to work alongside you and I look forward to doing it more in the future.” 

Tyler smiled. “I look forward to it as well.” 

Drustan walked away, exhaling slowly and smiling slightly. This was the first time that he had ever really connected with his people. The first time that he had spoken to any of them at length in a long time. And it felt good. It felt right. It was like this was where he belonged- working with and for his people, building strong and valuable relationships with them. Was this why Adelina enjoyed going into the village? Because it gave her the opportunity to grow bonds with the people that she would be ruling one day? He had been so concerned about her safety but he hadn’t even really taken the time to look at the positive things that it was doing for her. The peace and energy that came from just being normal for a little bit and enjoying the company of ordinary people. He had been working all day but somehow he felt more awake than he had in years. It was like he had slept for a full day and had woken up completely rejuvenated. He was envious that Adelina had gotten to experience this for so long and he had never realized what it felt like. He would never even attempt to prevent her from doing it again. 

But now there were more important things to focus on. His day of being a normal villager was over and it was time to return to his life as the baron’s son. In order to preserve the one that he enjoyed, he would need to excel at the one that he hated. How hard could it be? He had been doing it his entire life. But something about it felt different now. After today, nothing would ever feel quite the same about living in a castle. And Drustan wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about that.