"Maybe it’s in our blood to be fighters, but maybe we’ve never known to be anything else."
Adaline has reached Libertas, but it isn't the freedom she had imagined. A war is brewing between the gifted and the non-gifted, a line of separation that is slowly crumbling away.
Adaline and Alexander must learn how to use their gifts to fulfill the prophecy that declares them the saviors. But there is so much Adaline doesn't know about her past and her future. While she feels in control of her actions, she soon learns that she's at the will of another one of her father's plans.
In this thrilling and emotional novel, Adaline rises to her new titles. The Princess of Libertas and the Savior of The Gifted.
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Forty-one, forty-two, forty-three.
My eyes trace the last tile on the floor and I fight the urge to count them all again. Don’t fall back into old habits.I rip my eyes up from the floor.
The bare mattress chills my legs through my black pants. I lean back against the cinder block wall and stare across the naked room. The backpack and sword I carried here are tossed to the side. There’s a small desk in the right corner of the room with drawers I haven’t had the energy to investigate. In the far left corner, a tall skinny mirror hangs, and I’m actually terrified to step in front of it.
Cold white tiles stretch across the room, making it seem awfully bright. The wall across from me is made up of three large panes of glass with a half circle window above them. Outside, the sun has reached what I would say is about noon, maybe a little before. The blue ocean ripples in the distance, just beyond the wall that encloses all of Libertas. My room has a gorgeous view, but on this island, I have a hard time believing there is a bad view.
My hair is dried and full of saltwater. I haven’t been motivated to change out of my clothes, even though I was presented with clean ones days ago. I don’t want to accept this. I don’t want this new world or this new life. It was hard enough the first time my life changed paths when I was thrown in prison, and then it changed a second time when I escaped the prison. I don’t need this third life change. I don’t want the life that has been prepared for me here in Libertas.
We’ve been on this island for about three days now, but I haven’t left my room. I just sit here and try to deny this world where my father lives and my mother is forgotten and left behind on Dather. A few people come to check on me and bring me food throughout the day. They even bring by some bedding and offer to prep it for me every night, but I refuse to move or to talk to them. They’ve mentioned my father has requested to see me multiple times, but Linda has told him to give me space.
“Come on Adaline, open the door.” Alexander’s voice finally breaks through the barricades I had on my mind from the world outside these walls. “Adaline.”
Alexander stops by my room multiple times during the day to see if I’ll let him in. Reluctantly, this time, I get up and approach the metal door. We all get temporary rooms that share the same long hall here in the castle until they prepare our living quarters. Surprisingly, we ended up being a little ahead of schedule. Lucky us.
“What’s up with you?” Alexander immediately questions me when I pull the door open.
I don’t answer. Instead, I turn my back to him and sit back down on the bare mattress.
“Are you not happy your father is alive?”
I look at Alexander for a long time before finally saying, “It’s easier to forgive a dead man.” It’s the first thing I’ve said since we arrived.
“What does that mean?” Alexander asks under his breath, and he takes a seat next to me. His eyes scan the room and me, taking in the disastrous state we’re in.
“It means I was able to forgive him for abandoning me, and being responsible for my mother and Titus dying, because he was dead. It didn’t do any good to go on hating someone who was dead. Now he’s not dead but my mother and Titus are. That’s not fair,” I say flatly, sounding like a child.
“You didn’t even give him a chance. You don’t even know his side of the story,” Alexander says.
“You really think he’s going to have a good reason for the murder of my mother and little brother?” I ask, shocked.
“No, but I honestly don’t think he knew they were going to die. You didn’t see how confused he looked when he didn’t see them with us after you stormed off.” We both fall silent as I try to fight the fact that Alexander could be right. “You need to talk to him,” Alexander says in a soft voice. “Especially with what’s happened with Molly.”
I can feel my hands tighten into fists and tears brim my eyes at how frustrating it is for me to try and give him a second chance. I know they have Molly locked up here, still trying to figure out what King Renon’s motives were for leaving her as bait in those tunnels. And I fell for it. I brought her here and he knew I would do that. I feel Alexander push his hand into mine and squeeze it tightly. “It’s a good thing that your father’s alive. You know it is.”
“Have you forgiven your father?” I ask him and my angry eyes flip to meet his.
“What do you mean?” Alexander begins to backpedal.
“Your father, George, left you alone in a castle ruled by a brother who tried to kill you when you were a baby. He and my father let Marin suffer on the old Libertas for seven years,” I begin to list off and Alexander’s face hardens.
“I have forgiven him,” Alexander says and I shake my head.
“You’re just telling yourself that. It’s not that easy, is it?” I turn back to him and he’s quiet, contemplating the truth I’m speaking.
“I’m at least trying to forgive him,” Alexander says and I don’t know how to respond to that. “My father, mother, and I sat down the night we got here and talked, Adaline. It didn’t fix everything they did to each other or me, but we are taking the right steps.”
“So they know you’re aware King Renon is your brother?” I ask defensively. “What about how Molly is your sister?”
“We did talk about it,” Alexander says, and I’m surprised. “My father told my mother I knew.”
“I bet she was angry he told you without her there,” I say and think about how Marin must have reacted.
“She was upset at first, but it was a small detail compared to what Molly announced,” Alexander says as he remembers how much his life has changed in the last couple of days.
“So does Molly know you’re her brother?” I ask gently.
Alexander shakes his head. “No, and we agreed to not tell anyone else right now. My parents don’t even know that I told you.” His eyes land on mine, begging me to agree to keep his secret.
“I won’t tell anyone,” I agree and Alexander relaxes next to me. “But you can’t live in this secret forever. They are about to start a rebellion against your brother. I think the rest of Libertas should know that.”
“I understand, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s the right time,” Alexander says sheepishly. “Now stop deflecting the conversation away from you and your father,” Alexander says and nudges my shoulder.
He says it lightheartedly, but it makes my stomach turn. I can feel his eyes burning into the side of my face and reluctantly I lift my eyes to meet his.
“I’m not going to see him,” I say through a tight throat.
Alexander’s head falls. “I figured you’d say that.”
I watch as he rises from the mattress and moves to the open door of my room. He leans his head out and exchanges a hushed conversation. My heart picks up; nervous about who could be standing outside these walls. I knew I shouldn’t have let him in, but before I can get up and seal myself back in my room of solitude, Cooper walks in. Alexander slips out into the hall and closes the door behind him.
“So, you’ll let Alexander in, but not your older brother?” Cooper asks me. He walks to the window, shoving his hands into his pockets.
“Because I know you’re on our father’s side,” I say dryly, and apparently so is Alexander.
“Mother would want you to forgive him.”
He says the words so matter-of-factly they take me by surprise. My heart clenches in my chest.
“You have no idea what she would want,” I say, but stop myself from getting lost in my anger. I spent seven years with her in a prison cell under King Renon’s castle. I, more than anyone, know what she had to go through because my father left us.
“Adaline,” he drops his voice, so gentle in comparison to my anger.
“How can you forgive him for leaving you in the woods?” I ask.
“Because I understand it was for the greater good of our world. I found you and I helped bring you to Libertas. You can fulfill your destiny now.” His words bleed with passion, but I see the light falter in his eyes.
I stand and cross to him. “Don’t lie to me and tell me you aren’t even the tinniest bit upset that you didn’t get a normal childhood. He ripped our family apart.”
Cooper presses his mouth into a thin line. “Sometimes,” he admits and heaves a sigh. “But I know this is bigger than me and him. It’s so much more than that. Whether you forgive him or not, you have to come out of this room at some point. Father needs us to start working together. He wants you to come meet with him now.”
In a matter of seconds, Cooper has lit the reality of this on fire. I was brought here as a piece in a prophecy to free the gifted. I have a role to play here. I don’t think I will ever forgive my father, but I do want to try and save what I can of this tattered family.
“Will you come with me?” I ask quietly.
“Of course,” he says. We leave my room and walk into the hallway that branches off from the foyer we were in the other day. First, I’ll talk to my father, and then I need to figure out what is going to be done about Molly.
We walk back through the hall, now empty and deathly silent except for our footsteps against the white marble floors. I look up to the double grand staircase, and the moment from days ago when I saw my father for the first time in seven years replays in my mind, his words still echoing.
“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” he had said.
“Father?” my small voice choked out.
Then, he had seen Molly, and when she said she was King Renon’s sister my stomach hit the floor. I turned slowly seeing the shock set on everyone’s face. I brought her here, it was my fault. I felt my heart quicken with everyone waiting to see what would happen next, and for a second I wasn’t sure what to do. So I ran. I ran away from everyone. Linda found me sitting outside the castle and walked me to my room.
“Are you okay?” Cooper asks, laying a soft hand on my wrist.
“What?” I ask, and realize I had gotten lost in the memory for a second. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I say and we walk up the staircase. At the top, two grand doors are propped open. We both walk in and I look around the elegant room. It seems to be a den. There is a large wooden desk in the back of the room with two enormous windows behind it. Some sort of seal is carved into the front of the desk and I can only assume it must be the emblem for Libertas. It’s a mix of all the gifted symbols. Very fitting.There is a set of chairs in front of the desk and two couches in the corner of the room, but the most amazing aspect are the rows and rows of bookshelves. There have to be hundreds of books in here.
“Adaline?” My father’s voice comes out broken and I snap my head from the books to him. He walks in from a room that’s connected to the den.
“You wanted to see me,” I say and can hardly recognize my voice.
“Do you want to sit?” my father asks as he lowers himself into the chair behind the desk.
I look to Cooper, letting him lead me. He nods and we walk and sit across from our father.
We sit here in awkward silence until finally, he says, “I’m so sorry.”
I can feel the tears coming again. I look away from him and say, “Yeah, well, that doesn’t change what’s happened.”
“I didn’t know they were going to die, Adaline,” he almost whispers.
“That’s not going to bring them back!” I yell and cut him off. “Nothing’s going to bring them back.”
“I know, and trust me, I’d give everything I have to get them back,” my father says, leaning forward on the desk.
“Mother knew,” I say and look down to the floor. “I could tell she knew the day they came to take us to the prison, and the day they came to kill her, but she wouldn’t let me save them.”
“That’s not your fault,” Cooper says, putting a hand on my shoulder.
I squeeze my eyes tight because I know that I don’t only blame my father for killing my mother and Titus. I also blame myself. I shouldn’t have let them die. I should have done something. I had this gift of an enhanced sense of sight and I did nothing.
“I should have saved them,” I squeeze out, and finally, for the first time, I accept the blame I’ve been trying to push on my father.
“Adaline, no one is to blame for their deaths. There are things that are set in people’s lives. We can’t change that,” my father says, and he gets up and moves around the desk. When his cold hand rests on my arm, I flinch back from him.
“Don’t,” I snap. “I don’t want you to comfort me.”
My father’s eyes sadden. I pull my tears back and wipe the ones that escaped off my cheeks.
“I didn’t come here to make amends. I’m not here to forgive you. Cooper said you wanted to see me. If this isn’t about the war you’ve been master mindedly planning my entire life, then I’ll go.”
“I want to make this right,” he says, still trying to reason with me.
“Tell me about the rebellion,” I say shortly. I have no interest in hearing about anything else right now.
“I wanted to be the one to explain it to you and Alexander,” my father says. He moves back to his chair on the other side of the desk.
“Mio thought you were dead, so he told us,” I say, still keeping my voice flat.
“Yes,” my father says, nodding. “We are moving toward a rebellion to free all the gifted, and give justice to those that are gone.”
“Mio told me that Alexander and I are supposed to play an important role in this rebellion,” I say, hoping my father can shed some light on the mystery.
“This rebellion has been on pause, waiting for you to arrive. There’s a prophecy that refers to you both as the saviors, but we’ll discuss this later,” my father says. “I assume you’re about to have more important matters to attend to.”
I turn over my shoulder and see Linda enter the den. “The council is ready to discuss the residency of your group.”
“I’ve got some work to do here, being the King of Libertas is no small task,” my father says.
“You’re the king?” I ask. Suddenly him at the desk with the seal in this den clicks the pieces in place. I knew my father was of some importance to Libertas and, I guess this den is grand enough to be for a king, but I just see him as my father.
“I am. I’ll tell you about it later, but you both should follow Linda to the council room,” my father says.
Cooper and I leave with Linda and head back down the marble staircase and deeper into the castle. At the end of the main hallway, two guards stand at attention, flanking a wooden double door. The wooden doors take me by surprise, as everything else in the castle is marble and rough stone.
“This council room has seen the arrival of every single person in Libertas,” Linda tells us. Both of the guards pull the doors open, and we see that the entire council room is crowded with people. “This room is the oldest thing on Libertas, and is completely refurbished from the original council room that was built on the old Libertas.”
As we walk into the historic room, I feel the weight of all the past councils land on me. Inside, there are rows and rows of wooden pews. We walk in and I notice that there is a balcony of another twenty or so rows above us that are also filled with unfamiliar faces.
“Everyone wanted to be here for your arrival,” I hear Linda whisper in my ear as she leads us down the center aisle.
Along the left side of the room, twelve citizens are sitting in a huddled group. At the front, there is a podium with an older man sitting behind it. An empty stand is placed next to him.
I notice Mio and Cinder in the first row and see that the rest of the group is here. My eyes scan down their familiar faces. Toby is here, as well as James, Albert, and Essie. Alexander and Zavy sit together at the end of the front pew, whispering back and forth.
Alexander’s mother, Marin, is absent, but I remember she’s been helping move the gifted to Libertas for a long time. I’m sure she has already been approved for residency here.
Then, my eyes land on Molly.
“Adaline,” her young voice calls to me. She stands and slides out of the pew. “I’ve been asking to come see you,” she begins to explain and I kneel to her level. I notice she looks much healthier than a couple of days ago and I wonder what kind of medicine they have been giving her.
“I thought they had you in a holding room,” I say and glance back to Linda.
“Her residency is in question as well. She is a part of your group,” Linda says and disgust bleeds from the comment. I catch her roll her eyes, clearly frustrated with me for bringing Molly here.
I remember when my memories were returned to me at Cooper’s camp, and I’m sure the last few days have been very confusing for her. Just like for me, the journey was real for her and the relationships she built with me and my group were true. But King Renon had to have planted her there for a reason, and if she jeopardizes this rebellion it will land on my shoulders.
“I swear I don’t know why he sent me here. I’m not trying to hurt anyone, I promise,” she pleads to me and I hear Linda let out an exhausted sigh.
“She’s been saying that nonstop since you arrived. Let the Council decide if she should stay and then we’ll see what information we can get out of her,” Linda’s bitter voice rings as she turns to leave the council room.
I look at Molly’s frightened eyes and I believe her. She’s just a child. She’s not responsible for what her brother did.
“Do you want to go back?” I ask Molly and her eyes shift. It’s probably the first time someone thought to ask her what she wanted instead of treating her like the enemy or a spy.
“No, I want to stay with you,” she says softly. “My brother.” She lets the air hang heavy for a moment before continuing, “He’s horrible. I don’t want to be sent back to him or that castle. He scares me.” Her voice begins to shake and I lay a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“It’s okay, Molly. I will fight for you to be able to stay,” I say and I motion for her to sit back with the group.
I don’t know what King Renon’s motives were, but I swore to protect her and keep her safe. If that means fighting for her to stay in Libertas, then that’s what I’m going to do.