Adrianna felt her heart stop as she became aware of the eyes of the entire room turn and focus on her. She had never been asked for her honest opinion before and now she was being put on the spot she didn’t know what answer to give. Matteo’s gaze had become pleading, knowing she agreed with him and willing her to speak out. Countess Novia looked at her expectantly, also knowing what the response was most likely to be. The rest of the room watched in anticipation, anxious to see what side their newcomer would take.
“I believe,” Adrianna began, her voice a little croaky, “that actions can speak louder than words.”
“That’s absurd,” one man at the other end of the table protested. “When people start smashing things up everyone who believes in the cause gets blamed, not just the extremists that did it.”
“I’m not suggesting that we start smashing things up,” Adrianna replied, not going to be defeated now she had spoken out. “I’m only saying that demonstrating that we deserve to be heard in a peaceful, non-violent manner will surely grab the attention of the authorities far more than all of us sitting in a room together discussing political ideas.”
“That’s exactly what I meant,” Matteo said, backing up Adrianna’s argument.
“But what happens when you do get a few rogues who think they can help even further by attacking an official or trying to assassinate the King and his advisors? If they are connected with us then our cause is lost.”
“Everyone will assume that we have the same intentions,” Lady Basso interjected.
“Then we just have to be careful not to associate ourselves with people who will use violence to ruin our cause,” Adrianna said.
“That’s a very sweet thought,” Eduardo said, putting his hand kindly on Adrianna’s shoulder, “but a little naïve. You can’t trust everyone on face value anymore. Just because they say they’re not going to cause chaos doesn’t mean they won’t do it when it comes to the crunch.”
“I resent you calling me naïve,” Adrianna replied stiffly. “I might not be as experienced as some of the people sitting around this table but I know what I want and I’m not going to allow anyone to stand in the way of me achieving what I aim to do.”
“She’s got spirit, I’ll give her that,” a woman sitting two seats down from Adrianna whispered into her neighbor’s ear.
“But you can’t just jump in and trust everyone who claims to support your cause,” Lord Basso retorted. “There are all sorts of people out there who will join radical groups just to cause trouble.”
“Like the riots that happened ten years ago,” a voice from the far end of the table piped up, “when the King wanted to bring in a higher tax on merchants trading with the Indigo Isles because they were bringing in cheap goods and selling them for a lower price than locally produced items.”
“I was a member of a radical party who wanted to join the protest against the tax,” another man spoke up.
“And you all remember how it ended,” Eduardo said seriously, receiving nods from around the table.
“How did it end?” Adrianna asked. “I was only ten when this happened so I didn’t know about it.”
“A small group of radicals decided it would be a good idea to break into the palace and threaten the King,” Matteo said flatly. “Not only were they going to make him take back the tax but they were going to make him renounce his claim to the throne and declare Verenia a republic.”
“I don’t remember any of this,” Adrianna said, confused.
“It’s because it was all hushed up,” Matteo replied. “The King’s guard stopped the men before they could do any real damage. The men were branded traitors and were executed for attempting to murder the King.”
“Which was perfectly right,” Lord Basso insisted.
“I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have paid for what they did,” Matteo said, ‘but they way the whole affair was handled was terrible. The King practically accused everyone taking part in the peaceful protest march that happened on the same day of attempting to stage a revolution against him. It scared off anyone who might have shown an interest in taking a stand against a stupid and repressive tax.”
“Which is exactly why we stay hidden until the time is right,” Eduardo said calmly, not allowing himself to become flustered or stressed by the argument taking place around him. “I understand your impatience to get things done Matteo. I was like you once too. But when you get older you see that you can’t always charge head on at a problem. You have to play the long game; work out where your strengths and weaknesses are and then, when the time is right, strike.”
“But the time is right now,” Matteo argued. “Tension has been building for decades behind the way we are politically represented. Women in particular have grown more and more hungry to fight for their rights and more are willing to stick their necks on the line to make it happen. With so much support behind us we should take this chance to form an organised group and force the King to take notice of us.”
Adrianna hung on Matteo’s every word. The enthusiasm and passion in his voice was enough to make anyone agree with him and believe that the time was right.
“That all sounds very revolutionary,” the woman two seats down from Adrianna muttered again.
“It’s that sort of attitude that will stop us from getting where we want to be.”
“Matteo,” Countess Novia, who had been strangely quiet up until that moment, said, reaching across the table and putting her hand on top of Matteo’s. “I think that’s enough talk for one evening. I’m sure we can find something else to discuss over dinner and save some radical talk for later.”
Matteo nodded reluctantly and turned his attention to the food on his plate in front of him.
Adrianna couldn’t help feeling slightly disappointed. She had been beginning to understand and agree with Matteo’s argument before he had been stopped and she was enjoying the atmosphere of serious political debate that she had not experienced before. But she didn’t say anything, instead following Matteo and becoming exceedingly interested in her dinner.