49- In Which a New Traitor is Found

Elena tried to get some sleep, but that was unrealistic. Within a few hours, Lawson was at her door, and she was glad to see that he had scraped by without sustaining any major injuries. Surprisingly, he was with Turner, who had a nasty looking scar near his ear that had been stitched up.

"That looks like it hurts a lot," Elena said, unconsciously reaching out to touch it.

He dodged. "Don't touch it," he instructed her.

"Sorry," Elena said uneasily.

"They're waking Cole up," Lawson said.

"He's all right?" Elena asked, suddenly feeling so much lighter.

"We'll see after he wakes up," said Lawson. "He survived. That's good. But there might be some side effects."

"Probably not, though," Turner added. "He got the treatment pretty quick."

"Can we see him?" Elena requested.

"That's why we came to get you," Lawson said.

"Of course," Elena said, nodding eagerly.

She quickly got dressed while they waited outside. She asked about Quentin and Ryder as they went up the stairs, and Lawson dismissively answered that they were both awake but undergoing some tests just to make sure Hunt didn't do something to them. Elena reasoned that if the two of them were awake, then Wood was likely awake too.

"And Sage?" she continued.

"In with Garrett," Lawson said.

"Of course," said Turner. "She hasn't left his side."

"She's okay too, isn't she?"

"Yeah, she's fine," said Lawson. "We all got pretty lucky."

"This is going to leave a mark," argued Turner, resting his hand on his brand new scar with an animated frown.

Lawson raised an eyebrow at Turner and then gestured at his own scar that ran down between his eyes. Turner crossed his arms and nodded understandingly.

"Let's go see Cole," Elena urged.

Lawson looked thoroughly amused with her excitement as he led the way up the stairs. Elena really was happy that Cole was waking up. If Cole was awake then that would mean all the Sons were together and okay—except for Phinn, of course. But she couldn't let herself think about Phinn or else she'd just get depressed.

With Lawson and Turner's clearance, they were able to bypass all security. Lawson conducted himself professionally with the guards as Turner just stood back and allowed his oldest brother to deal with that stuff. It was that moment that Elena remembered who Hayden had named his successor: Turner.

She wondered if he had made the official announcement or if it was still only a conversation between him and Elena.

Then, as she glanced at Lawson's turned back, she deduced that Lawson would not be all chummy with Turner if he knew who Hayden had chosen. It was definitely still a secret. Elena vowed she would not be the one to break the news to anyone.

They entered the guarded hospital room and Elena was immediately overcome with joy. Cole was not only awake, but he was sitting up in bed. He was pale, stressed out and hunched over, but he was awake and clearly cognitive.

His eyes did light up a bit with their familiar sparkle when he saw his visitors enter the room. As Elena went over to hug him, she deduced that it wasn't a sparkle of happiness, but an indicator that tears were on the way. He sniffled softly as he wrapped his arms around her and clung tightly like that day a long time ago—the day he fell into the water and died.

He wouldn't let go of her for a while, as if somehow he would fall if they released each other. All the while, he was trying to convey something, but he couldn't say whatever it was through his blubbering. Elena began to laugh a bit in spite of everything and, once it went on for too long, Turner took it upon himself to give Cole a shove and tell him to get a hold of himself.

"You're a man, aren't you?" Turner said in reference to Cole's tears. "You can't get away with crying all the time like this."

"I don't cry all the time," he whimpered through his sobbing when he finally let Elena go.

"You're crying right now," Turner said.

"Well, you have brain damage," Cole said.

Turner glared at him and Lawson cleared his throat to stifle the potential confrontation that was about to break out. "Cole, we're all very happy to see you alive and apparently doing well," Lawson said in quite a rehearsed manner.

"You all are?" Cole questioned skeptically. "I don't see anyone else."

"Everyone else is otherwise occupied, but they're happy nonetheless," said Lawson reassuringly.

"You don't have any side effects from the poison or the treatment, do you, Cole?" Elena asked, hoping to get things to a less awkward place.

"I don't think so," said Cole, looking down at himself as if that would be any indication rather than how he was feeling. Then he put a hand to his ear and rubbed it. "My ear's ringing a little bit," he said.

"That's a really common side effect of the treatment for kids," Turner said, looking to Lawson for confirmation.

Lawson nodded reluctantly. "If you recall, Cole, Jackson lost his hearing in one ear," he said.

Cole appeared surprisingly at ease about Lawson's diagnosis. He merely lowered his head and considered this thoughtfully, continuing to rub his ear disapprovingly.

"I was so worried about you," Elena said, hoping to get his mind off that particular stress. "You were really lucky Turner was there."

"You need to stop falling in the water," said Turner, crossing his arms.

"I have no control over that," Cole protested. He glanced down at the needle in his arm and frowned heavily. "How much did I miss?"

Before they could go into anymore details, there was a knock at the door. They all looked at each other questioningly, wondering who else could possibly want to access this room (who wouldn't have been intercepted on the way). Elena decided to go over and open the door, quickly discovering it wasn't access to the room their new guest wanted, but access to Elena.

Olivier was there with tears in her eyes, nearly shouting, "What did you do?" as soon as she saw Elena.

Lawson immediately came over and gave Olivier a look, displaying straightforwardly that he didn't have to know the context of this argument to unconditionally be on Elena's side about it.

As much as Elena appreciated his gesture, she got the feeling Olivier's emotional state had something to do with what happened to Wood, though she couldn't fathom why Olivier would find her solely to blame about it. "You accused Alexander of treason," Olivier explained, fuming though tears still streamed down her face.

"I didn't," Elena said defensively.

"You are the only one specifically listed as his accuser," said Olivier.

"There has to be a mistake," Elena said. "I never accused him of treason! Really!"

"In his arrest report, it says that you suspect him of treason because of various suspicious incidents surrounding interactions with Judge Hunt," Olivier clarified. "You accused him of working with Hunt!"

"I mean…" Elena stuttered, looking back at Cole and Turner to see that they too were paying very close attention. "Sir Danver asked me what happened and I told him. I never said that I thought anyone was working with Hunt or that… treason—or anything. If it says I did then someone lied because I didn't."

Obviously Danver lied. Saying that she suspected Wood of treason perhaps carried more weight or enabled some kind of loophole. It was really rude of him to put her in this type of position when she had been the one adamant about keeping Wood out of the dungeon.

"If that's true then if you recant the accusation then they should let him go," Olivier said.

Elena was fully prepared to act upon Olivier's most recent statement, but Lawson took hold of her arm and shook his head. "Elena, if you have any doubt in your mind of Wood's innocence, then you should allow a trial to play out," he said. "They will get to the bottom of it and determine the truth. If he's really is innocent, then there's nothing to worry about."

"He is innocent!" Olivier maintained.

When Lawson said it, it seemed perfectly reasonable. After all, though she had never said she thought Wood was guilty of treason, she had to admit it was very strange that Hunt had actively not killed him. And what was that whole "contract" thing about? It was possible Hunt had only said it to cause this controversy, but he hadn't elaborated so there was no way to know for sure.

Unless they asked Wood! "I want to ask him something," Elena said to Olivier.

There was definitely some disconnect from what she had said and Lawson's remark (but everyone was pretty accustomed to apparently arbitrary things bursting from Elena on occasion). Olivier didn't miss a beat, though, and quickly said, "He's in maximum security so I don't have clearance to see him."

"Why maximum security?" Elena demanded of Lawson as if he was the one who had put him there. "They're treating him like he's already guilty!"

"I don't know for sure," Lawson said. "Though, I'd have to guess it's because of his magic ability and knowledge of the layout of the Kingdom. Even in maximum security, it would probably be fairly easy for him to break out. If he's smart, though, he'll stay put." He stepped out into the hall and gestured for Elena to follow. "My clearance will get you through. I'll take you."

"Thank you," Elena said graciously as she urged Olivier to come along.

Lawson did not say anything else, allowing Olivier to lead the way. Elena said goodbye to Cole and apologized for leaving so soon, hurrying after them. She passed by the door she knew Jasper was in, and fleetingly pondered about whether Anya was inside too. As they entered the stairwell, she thought about the sheer volume of important people on the floor. In addition to a majority of the Sons, Hayden was there, along with Winter, Irving, Clinton, Jasper and Garrett. Probably even more. If Hunt appeared now, he'd be like a kid in a candy store.

Wood was one of the very few who did not require medical attention. He was isolated from his friends and coworkers—from everyone—because Elena had spoken too carelessly and allowed Danver to twist her words.

Lawson's clearance as one of the Seven Sons (a name which should probably be changed to the Seven Nephews) allowed them to enter the dungeon and proceed to the end of the hall to a locked door with a guard stationed in front of it. The guard to a bit of coaxing, but eventually stepped aside and let them enter, handing over a key to one of the cells.

They had to descend down another set of stairs to narrower hallway. This one had doors on either side, but they were thick and metal rather than a set of bars. Using the key given to them by the guard, Lawson found the right door and unlocked it.

Surprisingly, the room was rather spacious, though needlessly so. Wood was the only one inside and he could not move very far from where he was placed. Although the room was well-lit, Elena was immediately reminded of the room she had been held in while in Hunt's captivity.

Danver had reassured her that Wood would appreciate the procedure of the situation, but Wood definitely did not look happy or understanding of the position he had woken up to. His wrists were bound in front of him with no slack between them. Not only was there a chain from his wrists that connected to a loop in the floor to keep him in place, but one of his ankles was similarly connected as well. It looked as though everyone was taking this accusation very seriously and not shirking on any of the procedure at all, even though Wood was Captain of the Guard and a close personal friend of the King.

Wood himself just looked exhausted. He was leaning against the wall and barely acknowledged them when they entered, like he had already given up. His perpetual smile was completely gone, as if it had never been there in the first place, and the sheen in his eyes reflected that his first reaction to learning of his accusation perhaps had not been the manliest of reactions.

He did look a little livelier when he saw Olivier. She squeezed by Lawson and Elena, rushing over to him and getting down her knees. At first, he remained in the position he was in, but then he relented and reluctantly leaned forward so she could hug him (strictly for her benefit).

Elena put both her hands over her mouth as she watched him look up at her with sincere venom in his eyes. She had never imagined Wood was even capable of making a face like that. "There's been some kind of mistake," she murmured so softly that she was barely able to hear her own voice. After a nudge from Lawson, she got a bit closer and repeated herself so he could hear.

Olivier let him go and he looked down at the floor, folding his legs and resting his hands on his knees. "Alexander, Elena said she never accused you of treason," Olivier said, resting her hands on his back because he was slowly but surely curling into a ball. "She can just recant it and they'll let you out."

"No they won't," Wood uttered, shaking his head slightly. "The preliminary investigation has begun. Supposedly, evidence has already been found." He clenched both his fists but didn't lift his head. "Evidence! There is no evidence! I am not a traitor!"

He was speaking through his teeth, literally shaking as he made his exclamation.

"So this will be taken further," Lawson inferred.

"Yes, it will," said Wood.

"They'll find you innocent," Olivier said. "You're innocent, so of course they'll find you innocent. It's just a matter of waiting it out."

Wood shook his head again, this time with more enthusiasm. "There's not a chance," he said confidently. "No chance at all. In my years of being a soldier, I have never seen them release anyone accused of treason after evidence has been found. Regardless of how insignificant or flawed the evidence… I have never seen anyone walk away."

"But you're innocent," Olivier repeated.

"I know that," said Wood. "And maybe they know that too. But they won't say they were wrong."

"What will happen?" Elena asked. She wanted to comfortingly rub his shoulder or hug him or something too, but she was worried that he was mad at her and wouldn't want her touching him.

"I'll be branded a traitor and be treated as one."


At last, he raised his head, revealing he had become quite upset: his face was all red and his eyes filled up with tears. "Traitors are put to death."

Elena felt like her ears filled up with water because she couldn't hear whatever it was Lawson chose to say after that. She was pretty sure they were talking about pardoning while Olivier cried, but Elena turned and stood up, facing the cell door.

Now her whole head felt underwater. This made no sense.

"All because Hunt didn't kill you?" she heard herself say, though she didn't consciously decide to say it.

There was a short pause. Then, with conviction, Wood stated, "I don't know why he didn't kill me. I wish he had."

"Don't say that," Olivier pleaded.

"If he had killed me, I could have died as a soldier with honor. Now I'll die a traitor and that will be my legacy."

"He said that the two of you had entered a contract together," Elena added, still having a difficult time with the thought of turning around to look at him. Although this wasn't entirely her fault, she did feel responsible.

"I have no idea what that means," he said. "I haven't made any deals with Hunt at all. Elena, you have been there every single time I've even encountered him since before he disappeared almost fifteen years ago. When he said that comment about the contract, that was the first I had heard of it too."

"What can I do?" Elena asked.

"There's nothing you can do," Lawson said before Wood could start. "The only people who can grant a pardon are the King and Queen."

"If Hayden planned on granting me a pardon, he would have done it already," Wood said quietly.

"When we return to Cerah, I'll talk to Emma," Lawson said. "I can't make any promises, Wood, but I'll try."

"What about Anya?" Elena asked.

"Anya?" Olivier questioned. "You mean…Phinn's mother?" She looked at Wood who was furrowing his eyebrows thoughtfully. "The previous King's third wife?"

It seemed like no one in the room knew the answer to that question. Even when Elena looked to Lawson, he shrugged, and Wood confessed that it was a rather tiny technicality that he had never considered before.

"You can ask her, Elena," said Lawson. "Though I wouldn't expect muchr."

"Lord Phinn usually listens to you," Wood remarked. "Does Madam Anya as well?"

"I can't claim that she listens to me as much as Phinn does," Elena admitted, "but I think she at least values my opinion even if she won't admit it. I'll talk to her right now and I'll get that pardon for you."

It was obvious that Wood wanted to be angry with her because of the initial accusation of treason, but he was too grateful with her enthusiasm to fix things that he only nodded appreciatively. "Thank you," he said, though his smile was still elusive and he didn't look particularly hopeful.

"Come on," Lawson said to her, gesturing to the door.

Elena quickly said goodbye, wishing that Wood had been a little happier at her suggestion, but she could understand why his spirits were low. When she got out into the hall, she noticed Lawson wasn't following her as he closed the door behind him, leaving Olivier inside.

"I'm going to wait for a bit," he said. "She won't be able to stay here if I go too. I figure they should have a few minutes to talk alone. If you aren't able to get the pardon, the investigation will continue. And, if he's found guilty, she won't be able to talk to him again."

Elena felt her heart sink a bit at Lawson's bleak assessment of the situation. "That's really nice of you, Lawson," she said. "But I'm going to get the pardon."

"You shouldn't blame yourself for how your words were reinterpreted. Danver clearly wanted this to happen, and if wasn't your words, it was going to be someone else's."

"Why would Danver want this to happen?" she asked.

"Perhaps he's suspected Wood of treason before."

"Is he not allowed to accuse anyone? Is that why he needed to pretend I did it?"

"You can't accuse someone based on a feeling. There has to be some hint of proof. You stated that Hunt said there was a contract between the two of them. That was enough proof to warrant an investigation."

"I'll end it," Elena decided. "I'll get the pardon."

"Go on," Lawson urged her. "Get it."

"I will," she said.

He nodded again as Elena hurried up the stairs.