Adrianna cautiously followed Countess Novia out of the busy drawing room and back into the entrance hall. She said nothing as they made their way towards the stairs and up into the heart of the building.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to find my way back,” Adrianna said, trying to remember the route the Countess was taking her on.
“You’ll be fine,” the Countess replied. “You’ll come back down together.”
Adrianna still had no idea who she was being taken to see. Fear was beginning to grip her as she grew closer to her destination. What if the person she was meeting intended to do her harm? What would she do then? She quickly told herself to stop thinking like that. Countess Novia would never put her in that situation.
“Here we are,” the Countess said, opening a big wooden door on the right hand side of the corridor. “Come down when you are ready.”
After a gesture from Countess Novia, indicating that she should enter the room, Adrianna stepped through the doorframe and into the darkened library. It took a little more encouragement for her to take a few more steps into the room, the door shutting behind her as she did so.
“Hello?” She called out. “Is anyone there?”
“Adrianna,” a voice replied. “I’m over here.” Adrianna followed the sound of the voice, turning around a bookshelf to see a figure leaning nonchalantly against the wall. “It’s lovely to see you again.”
“It’s good to see you too Matteo,” Adrianna replied. “I hadn’t thought that we would be meeting again so soon.”
“On the contrary, I expected us to meet long before now, but when Countess Novia arrived at your house two days ago she was told you weren’t allowed any visitors. They said you were unwell. I hope you are fully recovered.”
“It wasn’t that kind of illness,” Adrianna replied, “but I am very well thank you.”
“If it wasn’t that kind of illness then what sort was it?” He asked, unashamedly rooting around for more information.
“If you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about it,” Adrianna said firmly. “It’s a personal matter that I’m dealing with myself.”
“Understood,” Matteo replied, looking impressed by Adrianna’s strength of character.
“So what was it you wanted to speak to me about?” Adrianna asked.
“Why did you come here tonight?”
“Because Countess Novia invited me,” Adrianna replied, confused by the bluntness of Matteo’s question.
“So you didn’t come because you believe that our country needs reform?”
“I do think that, but I wasn’t aware that was what this meeting was about until I got here. Countess Novia simply said that there was a gathering of like-minded people; people who thought like me.”
“So that’s why you came?”
“I suppose so yes. It’s not easy to find other people who are willing to voice their opinions in the same way that you are.”
“That’s where I think you have been misguided with the group of people gathered downstairs,” Matteo said, leaving his place against the wall and walking slowly towards Adrianna.
“What do you mean?” She asked, her skin tingling as she felt Matteo move closer towards her.
“I mean that although they may share the same views as you and want a reformed Verenia, they won’t act on it.”
“I’m not sure I understand where you’re coming from.”
“The people downstairs talk a lot about reform. They swap ideas and discuss plans for how a new system could work and be more effective than what we have now; a King choosing his advisors without any thought in regard to the public and what they want. But they would never risk being caught. Their arguments stay within the four walls of this house, never to be spoken of to another living soul.”
“And you don’t agree with that,” Adrianna assumed.
“I don’t. Why should we have to hide what we think? This isn’t a military state. We need to show the people in power that we have voices too and they deserve to be heard.”
“So what are you suggesting?”
“You agree with me?” Matteo said. “That we should stand up for what we believe in rather than keep it hidden.”
“It depends on how you want to make your views heard. I’m not a pacifist Matteo, but I will not take part in any form of violence that will cheapen our cause.”
“You’re a woman after my own heart,” Matteo laughed. “I am a member of a group, much larger than this one. We plan peaceful, non-violent protests in order to get our ideas across. Using violence in order to be heard would just send the wrong message, implying that we are just rioters without any sense of purpose. We aren’t mindless vandals so why should we behave like them.”
“Why are you telling me about this?” Adrianna asked, knowing that Matteo wanted something from her.
“Join us,” he replied simply, his hands clasping her shoulders, making Adrianna’s pulse race. “Having you on our side would make us feel like we’re making some progress. People of your class are willing to embrace change but very few are willing to do anything about it. Having Lady Adrianna attending our meetings and taking part in our rallies would make everyone feel that we are united.”
“You want me to be some sort of mascot? A lucky charm that will help you make a statement? I’m not that sort of person Matteo. Either I’m a proper member of your group and can get my hands dirty or I don’t take part at all.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less. So you’re in?” Matteo stood back and held out his hand. “A proper member of the Rights and Reform Movement?”
“Is that what you’re called?”
“At the moment, yes. We’re trying to think of something catchier.”
“I like it.”
“So you’re definitely in?”
“Definitely,” Adrianna replied, taking hold of Matteo’s hand and shaking it firmly. “When do you meet?”
“Tomorrow night. Will you be able to get out?”
“I think so. My father doesn’t have anything planned for tomorrow night so I’ll pretend to have a headache and have an early night. I’ll be able to sneak out my window and across the garden without being spotted.”
“I’ll wait for you at the end of your drive, that way no one will be able to connect your escape with me if you are caught. I’m sure you’ll be able to make up an excuse for being outside at night.”
“I’ll think of something.”
“That sounds like a plan.”