|The Kingdom of Voices
Author: Chesterfield PM
Methods get drastic and sneaky and Elena has no choice but to remain involved. Suddenly, it seems as though victims are at fault, enemies were never enemies, and allies were never allies at all. Part 8.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 50 - Words: 175,969 - Reviews: 84 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 04-08-13 - Published: 02-06-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3098839
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
36- In Which Elena Takes a Job
Phinn did eventually decide he was tired. He must have been tired all along because once he lied down, he fell asleep pretty much right away. Elena lied next to him, but now she found she wasn't tired anymore.
He had his arm around her and body pressed against her as he slept. And she, reeling over what had just happened, was staring down at the ring that was now on her finger and trying to decipher whether everything that just happened was real or not.
After all, it could have been a curse, right? She rested her hand on Phinn's and felt his warmth and, without even having to look at him, she knew he was the real thing. He really had proposed. And she had said yes.
She wondered when her own mind would start to work against her and make her second-guess her decision. So far, she hadn't sabotaged this by over-thinking it. And, of course, that mere thought prompted her to start over-thinking it.
She was young. She was only seventeen! In her fantasy world, she would be considered crazy if she got married right now. And she had only known Phinn for a few months.
As she thought more about it, she started to realize that she and Phinn had never really dated. In the midst of their fight against Hunt, they had decided to be exclusive with one another, and then an opportunity suddenly appeared and she basically moved in with him. They spent most of their time together and made mutually beneficial decisions. In a way, they were kind of already like a married couple, except now it would just be more official.
Well, now it would be official.
Even as she tried to doubt this decision, she only managed to further convince herself that it was a good idea—maybe it was a good idea.
She knew what people would bring up. They'd bring up his temper.
However, she was beginning to suspect that Phinn's notorious bad temper wasn't even really a bad temper. It was merely his defense mechanism that came out whenever he felt people were disrespecting him, or when he got too uncomfortable in social situations. It used to be that no one respected him, which was why he was always so uncomfortable. These days, even though things got bad, she found Phinn rarely got angry.
She wondered how they were supposed to go about telling people. They weren't going to be surprised, so all she could do was hope they could be happy—not only for her, but for him as well.
There were plenty of things to worry about without freaking out over other people's reactions. Once Hunt was out of their lives, it would be so much better and they could get to planning a wedding. Which would be fun, right? Well, maybe. It wasn't as if she had ever planned a wedding before. But she was being honest with Phinn when she said she wanted a small one. She definitely didn't want a big royal wedding like Hayden's, but Phinn simply declaring that they were now married (like Sage's marriage to her husband) wasn't enough for her.
It would have been easy to go on allowing her head to swirl with more plans for their future, but there was a knock at the door. She shook Phinn awake as she sat up, calling for whoever was at the door to come in.
She gasped excitedly when she saw Danver standing in the doorway, color in his face and dressed proudly in his uniform. He looked healthier than ever before. She was amazed he had gotten so much better so fast.
Her relationship with Danver was essentially neutral, but she would have been very sad if he had been killed. Even though he didn't reveal it with his body language, she knew her reaction to seeing him okay made him feel good.
She went over to him as Phinn remained where he was, looking half asleep. "I'm so glad you're okay," she told Danver.
"Thank you, Ms Elena," said Danver pleasantly. "Lord Phinn, are you well?"
Phinn did not like anyone speaking to him right after waking up since his brain wasn't ready to process anything for a few minutes. "He just woke up," Elena explained to Danver.
She realized she was subconsciously trying to position her hand in a way so that Danver could see her new ring. But Danver either didn't notice or he didn't care because he merely bowed and said, "We'll pick up our new Chaste Beauty in approximately ten minutes. Because Professor Steinorth is not on board, I wonder if you might be good enough to receive her. Will that be sufficient?"
Elena was simultaneously flattered and nervous. "Sure," she said rather unprofessionally as she looked back at Phinn. "We'll both go."
Danver cleared his throat as Phinn yawned. "I think it would be best if Lord Phinn did not accompany you, Ms Elena," he said.
Phinn finished his yawn and didn't look broken up about Danver's proclamation. He did have a reputation when it came to Chaste Beauties, but he had long since changed his ways. Elena found herself inexplicably offended at Danver's implication that Phinn was still at risk for doing something like that.
Not just because it wasn't fair to him, but it wasn't fair to her either. There were reasons for what he used to do—not good ones, that was for sure, but reasons completely separate from lust and violence—and it wasn't as though he was uncontrollable. At this point, Phinn wasn't just her friend or even her boyfriend: he was the man she was going to marry and so she had to defend him if he wasn't going to defend himself.
"You don't have to worry about Phinn," Elena said squarely. "And neither does any girl."
She looked back at Phinn who was climbing out of bed. Danver bowed again as Phinn approached. Phinn shrugged to her and said, "It doesn't matter what he thinks, says or wants, Elle. I don't care, so you don't have to either, all right? Let's go."
For Phinn (especially after just waking up), they was oddly eloquent. She supposed he was right that he didn't need to defend himself against Danver because, in the end, Danver was there to take orders from him.
As Phinn put his hand against Elena's back to guide her to the door, it occurred to her that Danver was Captain of the Guard now. That was the position Hayden held when they first met, and the same position Wood had lost when he attempted to take his own life. She hoped Danver would have better luck.
He watched them go out into the hall and followed them there, though he did not accompany them into the stairwell. "Did you sleep at all?" Phinn asked her.
"Uh…yeah," she lied valiantly, glancing down at her ring again.
Of course he saw where her eyes went, and it made him smile. He took her hand in his so their fingers intertwined. She looked at his bare hand and mused, "Are you going to get a ring too?"
"A ring?" he repeated. "Me? Why?"
"Couples do that sometimes," Elena explained.
"It would be uncomfortable, right?" Phinn said, looking at his own hand with a frown.
"If you don't want it, that's fine," she laughed.
And then the two of them stood there in the stairwell, looking weirdly at each other, and then back at the door.
"Where are we supposed to go?" Phinn asked.
"I don't know," Elena admitted.
Phinn sighed. "Where did you come in when they picked you up?"
"At the entrance, I think. I remember the gates and the courtyard."
"Then let's go there."
As they proceeded down the stairs, one of the doors opened up and Cole suddenly appeared. He was not expecting to see anyone but, when he did, he cheered. "Are you going to meet the new Chaste Beauty now?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm going to explain things to her," Elena said.
"Can I come too?" Cole requested. "I can see the mountains from the window. I don't really care about meeting her. I just want to see the building up close."
"Building?" Elena questioned curiously.
"Anya says it's kind of like an old church," Phinn said. "All these old women run the place. They all used to be Chaste Beauties too, you know? And there are a bunch of girls there in the vision. The women take care of them until they Awaken, and then send them out to the Clouds."
"How do you know all that?" Elena asked.
"Well, everyone knows that much," Cole said. "I mean, you were there, weren't you? Don't you remember?"
She did not recall a building of old ladies on top of a mountain. "No, not at all," Elena replied.
"Not a lot of them do," Phinn said. "It's part of the Awakening process, right? Visions at the beginning are kind of… mixed together, you know? They're not completely separate from one another."
"Yeah," Elena said thoughtfully. "I remember at the beginning, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between what was a vision and what was real. Sometimes the real world elements would walk right into the vision. It was really confusing."
They came out to the ground floor and moved towards the courtyard, past the guards who bowed to them. Once they were out in the courtyard, Elena found that they were amidst a mountain range and quite close to the tops.
Cole excitedly pointed forward at a large building that was on top of one of the peaks. It didn't look particularly special, but it was certainly remote and there were no signs of roads that led to it. Elena wondered how people got to the building. After all, someone had to be bringing the girls there.
And then that forced her to start wondering about something substantially more interesting that she was baffled had never occurred to her before. "Phinn?" she started, crossing her arms. "Where do the girls come from? I mean, they have to be born, don't they?"
Phinn raised an eyebrow at her. "Yeah, they have to be born," he said.
"Who are they born to?" she asked.
"Who?" Phinn repeated, confused. "What do you mean?"
"Just regular people," Cole intervened. "A couple has a baby girl and you can tell right away that she's in the vision world. She's dubbed a Chaste Beauty and sent here."
"Just like that?" Elena said. "They don't have a say?"
"No," said Cole. "What are they going to do with a baby who's unconscious all the time like that? Might as well have a stuffed animal."
Elena turned her head to the side and crossed her arms. "So that means I do have parents in this world," she concluded.
"Of course you have parents, but not real parents," Phinn said. "Just the people who made you. Physically. There's no other connection besides that."
"It's kind of like the Elect," Elena reasoned. "But is there a way to find them?"
"Find them? No," said Cole. "No way. Once a Chaste Beauty is taken away from a family, then all ties are cut with them."
"So there's a chance that anyone could have a daughter who winds up being a Chaste Beauty," Elena reasoned as the Kingdom came to a stop just over the old building.
"Yeah, but it's pretty rare," said Cole.
The old building disappeared underneath the Kingdom as they hovered over it. Elena peered down, searching for an indication that a girl was somehow going to make her way up. Since it was a little unclear how that was going to happen, she checked over at Phinn in hopes that he might know what they were supposed to do next.
He had his hand against the side of his head, massaging his temple, his eyes half closed. "Does your head still hurt?" Elena asked him.
He opened his eyes and lowered his hand. "Yeah," he answered plainly.
"From the Chaste Beauty call?" Cole questioned skeptically, as if there was reason to doubt Phinn had a headache.
"I've had it for a while," he said. "The call just made it worse, all right?"
"I know it's completely ridiculous to even suggest this, but maybe you should have a doctor take a look," Elena recommended.
He didn't even bother responding because she already knew what he would have said. It was entirely possible that the headache was no more than just stress building up. Or maybe it had something to do with his long imprisonment in the Kingdom of Voices. Or a combination of the two. After all, Phinn had been through a lot recently—both physically and mentally.
Then she glanced down at the ring on her finger. And emotionally.
Cole eyed them both, and then eyed her ring. "What's that?" he asked.
"A ring," Elena answered, readying herself for this reveal. She hadn't expected Cole to be the first person they told, but she supposed that everyone had to find out eventually.
Cole wasn't all that enraptured, though. He nodded complacently and leaned over a little in hopes to see the building again, but it was already out of view. "This wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be," he said, referring to his desire to see the building up close.
His complete disinterest in her new ring immediately annoyed her. "Cole," she said sternly, grabbing onto Phinn's arm to make sure at least he was paying attention. "Phinn gave me this ring."
Cole still clearly didn't know what that meant or why it was important to know who had given Elena an innocuous piece of jewelry.
"This is a special ring, Cole," she explained. "It has a really important meaning."
"And what's that?" Cole asked, only sounding mildly intrigued.
She was about to spell it out for him when she felt Phinn tense up.
At first, she thought maybe he was nervous, or even reluctant to tell people just yet. But then he exhaled painfully through his teeth, putting his hand back to the side of his head. He muttered something as Elena turned around to face him.
"Are you okay?" she asked him.
He winced heavily as he pushed his palm against his head as he turned red. He very suddenly and very rapidly worsened, letting out a soft whine that tapered off as he went limp and began to fall forward.
Cole pushed Elena aside and threw himself at Phinn, catching him before he hit the ground. "Phinn?" Elena cried as Cole eased him down, trying not to buckle under his older brother's weight.
"He's unconscious," Cole said, rolling Phinn over onto his back and checking his pulse.
Elena put her hand to his forehead, moving his bangs aside so she could see his eyes. She pulled open one of them, but he didn't flinch. "Why?" she gasped, feeling herself getting hysterical.
Of course Cole didn't have an answer and, by that time, the guards at the entrance of the Kingdom seemed to catch on that things were not going so well. They were halfway over when Cole stood up and waved his arm to them, instructing them to get a doctor. Following Cole's orders, they bolted back in the other direction to go up the stairs.
Cole kept his hand on Phinn's neck, monitoring his pulse. Elena had both her hands over her mouth, as if to make sure that she was still breathing, but then she grabbed onto Phinn's shoulder and shook him a little, hoping he'd just wake up. Cole watched her with an uneasy look on his face. "What?" she questioned in response to his expression.
"I don't think he just fainted," Cole said. "It's not a matter of shaking him awake."
"Well, what happened to him?" Elena demanded, as if Cole would have the answer. She knew her tone was too sharp and almost accusatory, so she quickly apologized.
Cole wasn't offended by her outburst. They both looked at Phinn who seemed only like he was sleeping. She placed her hand on his cheek and tried in vain to coax him awake.
"What happened to him?" she asked more rationally, though a nicer tone was not going to change the fact that Cole knew as little as she did. "He was fine."
"He had a headache," Cole tried.
"This isn't fair," Elena said, clinging onto him more tightly. "He's been through enough. Especially his head. Don't you think it's enough?"
She didn't know what the problem was, but the fact that a problem was even there made this unmanageable. There were tears forming in her eyes that she tried to force herself to stop. She couldn't help but think that Hunt had something to do with this, but that had to be impossible because he was a Kingdom away and he couldn't use magic.
She looked over at Cole. She didn't want to ask him what he thought about Hunt's potential involvement because she didn't want to hear him agree that it was a possibility. But then she saw something that worried her more than that: Cole began to frantically move his hand around Phinn's neck, and then he pulled away, his mouth hanging open somewhat.
Before he even had the opportunity to say what had happened, Phinn's entire body lurched up like he had been electrocuted. Elena and Cole jumped back in surprise, but once he went still again, they came back over. Cole put his hand back on Phinn's neck and then looked slightly relieved, though extremely confused.
"What just happened?" Elena whispered.
"He had no pulse, but it's back now," Cole answered.
Elena stared at him. "Are you saying that his heart stopped and then suddenly restarted itself?" she clarified.
"Yeah, that's what happened," Cole said quietly.
"Isn't that impossible?"
Cole didn't believe it happened, though he had witnessed it so he had to. Speechless, he only stuttered a few syllables and helplessly shrugged his shoulders.
Luckily, that was when the doors to the stairwell opened and the guards returned with not only Kieran Grand, but also Danver. Danver reached them first, almost demanding to know what had happened, as Kieran knelt down and took Cole's place. A few seconds later, more soldiers emerged with a stretcher.
Elena was paying more attention to Kieran as Cole relayed the story of what they knew, which wasn't very much.
"And maybe it was only my mistake, but his heart stopped," Cole said, standing up.
"You revived him?" Kieran asked, checking Phinn's eyes.
"No," Cole answered. "He sort of just…revived himself."
Danver obviously didn't like that answer, but he didn't know what to say about it. Kieran asked for more details, but neither Cole nor Elena could provide them. Danver wandered to the edge of the Kingdom, trying to make sense of this, and then he stopped.
"Where's the girl?" he asked.
"The girl?" Elena questioned.
"The Chaste Beauty," Danver said. "Where is she?"
"She hasn't come up yet," said Cole.
"That's not right," Danver said, and then he pointed at the two guards and gestured for them to come with him. "You two, let's go."
Elena watched him leave with the two guards who were obviously more interested in figuring out what happened to Phinn, but they followed orders. The remaining two soldiers helped Kieran lift Phinn up onto the stretcher and picked him off the ground.
"Do you know what's wrong with him?" she asked Kieran hopefully.
"No, not yet," Kieran said. "But we're going to figure it out. Don't worry about him."
He was about to follow the soldiers, but Elena hastily grabbed onto his arm and asked, "There's no way Hunt could be involved in this, is there?"
"We haven't heard anything from the Kingdom of Wind about Hunt doing anything usual," Kieran assured her. "But, I will contact Sir Jasper and Sir Smith to confirm that."
Elena nodded and let him go. He went with the soldiers carrying Phinn, holding the door to the stairwell open for them.
Cole brushed his hands off and sighed. Then, in passing, he looked back down at her hand and remarked, "What was the special meaning of the ring?"
Elena glanced down at the ring and then frowned, trying to prevent herself from crying. "It's a promise," she replied quietly.
"Promise?" Cole repeated as he put his hands on his hips. Then his face changed somewhat as he let out a long sigh. "Did Phinn ask you to marry him, Elena?"
She hadn't imagined telling anyone in this manner. But the stress over what had just happened burst from her when Cole figured out the meaning of the ring, so she hunched her shoulders and started to sob helplessly. Cole went right to her, forced her arms around him and pulled her into a tight hug, uttering a gentle congratulatory word as she cried.