The Kingdom of Thunder
1- In Which Elena Has Awakened
Elena thought she might feel different. But she felt the same.
When it was all over, she rolled over and closed her eyes tightly, trying to spark a vision. She opened her eyes again, but she was still in the Kingdom of Thunder, a giant floating castle in the sky taking her from one city to the next. They were going to Dorn to change to a different Kingdom so Cole would not be in danger.
The Seven Sons of the King (and his seven wives) were in a distinct kind of danger. And the danger always worsened whenever the Son was in his (or her) appointed Kingdom.
There was a man named Judge Hunt who was into all kinds of dark magic and bad stuff like that, out to get revenge against the Sons and their mothers for various things in the past. Basically, he sought to control them by Infecting them each with a demon that he was able to control. What he planned to do after that was still unclear, but it was probably going to be very evil (or something).
Lawson of the Kingdom of Rain and Turner of the Kingdom of Hail were currently both Infected with Thars. However, thanks to a recently developed antidote, they were able to suppress its effects. They didn't know how much longer that would work, but they were going to use it for as long as possible.
Ryder of the Kingdom of Snow and Quentin of the Kingdom of Wind were both currently captured by Judge Hunt, their adversary. Ryder was also Infected, and there was a very high chance that Quentin was cursed. Things were not looking well for them.
Sage of the Kingdom of Mist was heading the rescue effort, trying to get the antidote to Ryder in time to rescue her from a full Infection. However, it had been a while since they heard anything from her, so there was really now way of knowing if she had been captured at some point, too.
Lastly, Cole of the Kingdom of Thunder and Phinn of the Kingdom of Storms were both currently not captured and not Infected. They were certainly the luckiest at this point in the story.
And that was the short version. Once they got to Dorn, hopefully Sage would be there. And it would be even better if Sage had rescued Ryder and Quentin from capture. They could only hope things had gone so well.
As for Elena? She was the Chaste Beauty. She awoke from the "fantasy world" which we all view as the "real world" to have visions that would help the Sons combat their enemies. However, she had been the Chaste Beauty for several weeks, and was at a point where her visions had become distinctly unreliable. She had even managed to cause some serious problems for the Sons when she had completely misread one of her visions.
The only way to get a new Chaste Beauty was for her to become not so chaste anymore. Essentially, she had to have sex with someone and 'retire' so a new Chaste Beauty would Awaken with reliable visions.
But it was difficult. Elena had feelings for all the Sons. She saw them as her friends. And, well, it was hard to just walk up to them and ask for something like help with retiring because those feelings were often confusing for the Sons. Elena could recognize this, which is why she did it in secret.
Hayden had a more confusing role in the story. He was the King's Captain of the Guard. Retiring unwilling Chaste Beauties was apparently in his job description as well, so he had some experience in the matter. Elena thought it would be best to ask him because it was like business for him. But it didn't feel entirely business-like, because over the past few weeks, she and Hayden had become very close friends.
Still, he did it for her. And now she sat up and looked over at him sitting at the edge of the bed. She cleared her throat and he looked back at her, smiling politely.
"Are you all right?" he inquired nicely (and quite gentlemanly).
She nodded shallowly. "I feel good, actually," she admitted.
"What did you expect?" he said, still smiling.
"I don't know," she said. "I thought I would feel bad. Well, not about what happened. Just about…well…"
"The Sons," Hayden inferred.
"You won't tell them, will you?" she asked.
"No, I'll leave that to you," Hayden said. "Though, you will tell them, won't you?"
"Yeah…" Elena said quietly. "I guess I have to find the right timing."
Hayden was strong, very tall and extremely handsome. It was rather comforting to have him on her side, knowing he would take care of her. His blond hair was perfectly groomed, and his blue eyes kind of sparkled when he smiled at her like that. He was always polite and always had the perfect thing to say, like he had a script somehow. And he was older than the Sons, though Elena supposed he was pretty much in a different generation.
Hayden had become Captain of the Guard years ago, but he never would have had the opportunity if it wasn't for his striking resemblance to the King. His mother was a prostitute, and came forth with the claim that the King had fathered her child. The King always denied the story, but it was difficult to do so with their obvious similar appearance. However, very recently, Hayden had come to the realization that his mother was lying. When she said she had a relationship with the King, she actually had that relationship with the father of the King. This meant that Hayden was the current King's brother, rather than his son.
Hayden wanted this to be a secret from the King. He knew that if word got out that he was the King's brother, he would lose his job as Captain of the Guard. He had good reason to want to keep this job because it came with another enormous perk aside from being a high ranking soldier and retiring Chaste Beauties. As it turned out, the entire title of 'King' was only a figurehead position. The actual Kingdom was ruled by three representatives, one of which was Hayden. So of course Hayden didn't want to lose his job.
In spite of all this, Elena felt Hayden was an honest and kind person. Well, not so much honest. The more she got to know him, the more she realized just how much he had to lie to the Sons, and so she began to wonder how much he lied to her as well. Though, she imagined if she ever found out the true extent to which he lied, she wouldn't care all that much. Hayden had saved her life on so many occasions (and she had saved his) that they had a bond that couldn't be broken by just a couple of lies. This was another reason why Elena trusted him with her chastity. She knew he respected her, no matter what.
"I hope you don't plan on waiting too long," Hayden advised. "If they get the alert that a new Chaste Beauty has been Awakened before you inform them what happened here, then that will probably make it more difficult for you."
Elena nodded. "That's true," she said.
It was important to tell them sooner rather than later. After all, sometimes it took several months for the new Chaste Beauty to Awaken, but other times it only took a couple of hours. It was impossible to tell how long it would take (knowing Elena's luck, though, the next girl would be alerting them to her presence in the next few minutes).
As they left the room, making sure everything was back in the correct place, Hayden cleared his throat as he held the door for her. "Elena," he began, "I know your biggest concern was ensuring that things between us didn't…"
"Get weird?" Elena filled in for him when she noticed he couldn't recall the exact ungraceful words she had used.
"Precisely," he said. "You didn't want things to get weird. And I see no reason why they would."
"Neither do I," Elena agreed as the two of them entered the stairwell.
"And they won't," Hayden assured her.
"I'm glad," Elena said.
Though she was admittedly feeling a little uneasy. After all, she still had to tell the Sons what they had done, so it wasn't as though they could just decide never to talk about it again (even though that might make things more weird). She knew that when she told the Sons, a few of them might have some words for him…and for her. She didn't mean to sound conceded, but she imagined some would be angry that she didn't ask one of them to help her retire.
It wasn't though Elena was particularly pretty, though she wasn't ugly either. She was sort of only plain. Sort of shortish and with frizzy hair that she didn't normally take time to pretty up. Sincerely, she wished she could be much prettier. That might explain the Sons' inexplicable attraction to her.
Gradually, she had come to understand that it wasn't really sexual attraction they were feeling towards her, though they seemed to think it was. For the most part, she imagined they were all simply terribly confused, and mistook that as feelings of amorous love. It was really only circumstances that brought her to this point. Because of Hunt's actions and the need for a first-time-ever treaty among the Sons, several rules had been put into place that included no sexual interaction between any of them and the Chaste Beauty (which was her).
As a result, particular Lords who might normally never speak to a Chaste Beauty had to suddenly do just that. For example, someone like Phinn, the third Son, would generally do only one thing with a Chaste Beauty, and that one thing did not involve talking. And, it would always be against her will. Then there was Lawson, the oldest Son, who was so utterly confused that he actually went so far as to speak of marriage. Sure, he hadn't actually specifically proposed to her yet, though he had done something similar to that. She imagined he didn't quite know how it should be done and was waiting for a better situation to present itself.
Now, after she had this interaction with Hayden, she felt that maybe they wouldn't see her as so forbidden anymore. She would become ordinary and their interest in her would wean. She sort of hoped for this, but at the same time, didn't want their interest to totally disappear. After all, she liked them. She felt she could be friends with all of them in some kind of capacity. But they would be angry to find out what she had done with Hayden. And maybe that would also make them not interested in her anymore.
It was usually fairly difficult to predict how they would behave. All of them were so radically different from one another but, at the same time, so utterly the same. There seemed to be a trend among the Sons that always rooted back to an extremely troubled or strained relationship with their mothers. And, all of them had different mothers, so they all had different trauma. At times, it was hard to keep track of.
Lawson seemed very close to his mother, Adrianne. However, she had been killed in an extremely brutal manner one year ago, and it was somewhat his fault. Of all the Sons, perhaps his relationship with his mother appeared to be the most normal, though Elena imagined she was still missing a piece of the story.
She had heard quite extensively about the methods which Quentin was abused by his mother, Cecilia. She was somewhat mad and, as a result, didn't treat Quentin the way a human being should treat another one. When he was young, he was forcibly removed from her care, though he still displayed odd behavior that Elena was finally able to explain once she learned about Cecilia's tactics as an unfit mother.
Anya, Phinn's mother, seemed to induce a more conventional method of abuse on her son. Generally, this came in the form of smacks and aggressive words, though she did to care for him very much. Oddly, he also appeared to reciprocate most of her feelings (including those of abuse). The way those two interacted with one another was one of the strangest things Elena had seen thus far.
Turner and Sage's mothers were identical twins, and there was a lot of drama in that family. Apparently, Turner had been raised to be like his aunt Helene (who was Sage's mother) while Sage had been raised to be like her aunt Eva (who was Turner's mother). Both women were dead at this point so there wasn't a way to ask them to be sure. Still, they didn't pay much attention to their children while they were alive, which resulted in rather stilted and awkward relationships. Sage and Turner rarely spoke affectionately of their mothers, to the point where Sage could hardly be bothered by her own mother's very recent death.
Ryder barely knew her mother, Rose, before she passed away. Out of all the mothers, Elena perhaps knew the least about her simply because Ryder shared this lack of knowledge. Though, maybe that was a good thing, considering the other mothers' track records of being less-than-perfect.
Lastly, Cole's mother, Luna, died when he was born. Everything he knew about her he had to learn from books, plays or what others told him. He didn't appear that impressed with her. Maybe she would have been a good mother, or maybe she would have been worse than Cecilia. There was no way to be sure.
In the end, the King hadn't married these women because he thought they would be good mothers or even good wives. He married them because he was looking for a woman to keep him interested, and they all failed to do that for him. So maybe he thought it would be best to stay single (also, apparently Anya had castrated him, but no one talks about that).
"Do you suppose you'll tell them all together?" Hayden asked as they reached the proper floor where all the Sons were. "Or take them each aside separately to let them know?"
Elena did wonder about that. She did feel that some of them wouldn't really care. Like Cole wouldn't really care one way or the other. Turner had once showed interest in her a long time ago, but he seemed so distracted with his own suffering that he had barely attempted to start anything since his own Infection. Then again, it could also be because one of his brothers had told him to back off.
She guessed the only people she was really worried about handling the news poorly were Lawson and Phinn. Lawson would probably be hurt (since he was keen on the idea of marriage) while Phinn would be sort of outwardly violent. She definitely didn't want Hayden to end up getting punched because he had done this favor for her. That wouldn't be fair for anyone involved (but especially Hayden).
"Maybe it would be best to tell Phinn first," she decided. "And I'll let you know before I tell him."
"You think he'll come after me?" Hayden questioned, looking surprisingly amused.
"He might," Elena admitted.
"Then I shall be cautious around him," Hayden said.
"Do I sound diluted?" Elena wondered out loud. "I mean, to think he might come after you?"
"I think your fears are quite justified, Elena," said Hayden. "I've said this before. You have a way with him. He is oddly taken with you."
And that was the mistaken attraction mentioned before.
Hayden pushed the door open to the floor where the four Sons were: Cole, Turner, Phinn and Lawson. But there was a commotion coming from the room where they had been staying. Hayden drew his gun and remained where he was for a second, standing in front of Elena, not allowing her to move, but then there was a loud thunk and a groan (that sounded like Cole), and he took off running towards the action, leaving Elena where she was.
So…should she wait there, then?