48- In Which Suspicions Escalate

Winter was hospitalized immediately, but everyone maintained that he would be all right. Once Irving was released from his binding to the floor, he was taken into a hospital room as well to inspect him for injuries, though he argued that he was fine. Still, everyone insisted.

Many other soldiers piled into the hospital wing. The Others had evacuated the Kingdom at about the same time Hunt and the Kingdom of Voices had disappeared. For all intents and purposes, the battle appeared to be over and it was time to clean up.

Danver returned and wanted a full report. However, following his first inquiry, they couldn't get too far into it. He asked where Wood was, and Elena tentatively looked over at Hayden to see what he would say. Hayden merely told Elena to take Danver to where Hunt had left Wood, though he didn't mention the universal theory that there was a chance Wood could be evil.

Elena took Danver to the room, and he was quite displeased with the amount of dead soldiers there, and even more displeased to find Wood the way he was: still bound and still sedated. As he moved towards Wood, he saw Kieran Grand seated in the opposite corner of the room, looking down at the soldier lying in front of him.

"Sir Grand, report to the hospital floor," Danver instructed.

"Sir?" Elena repeated, knowing that title was reserved for members in the King's Guard.

Danver ignored her as Kieran looked up from the soldier he had previously attempted an Intervention on. His face was completely sullen. It was obvious to Elena that the Intervention had not worked and the soldier was dead.

Although Kieran had his orders, he remained where he was. Danver also ignored this problem and went to Wood. Elena double-checked to make sure both Quentin and Ryder were there as well and, when she saw them, she decided Kieran needed human interaction more than Danver needed help being disappointed.

So she went over to Kieran and put her hand on his shoulder. He tried to smile at her and nodded thankfully. "He really didn't have a chance," Kieran confessed, looking back down at the soldier.

"There are a lot of injured soldiers being taken up to the hospital floor right now," Elena said.

Kieran took in a heavy sigh and nodded. "I'll go," he said.

He started to stand and looked over at Danver staring down at Wood. "Sir Grand, retrieve hot water and three stretchers," he called back without looking up. "One for Sir Wood, one for Lord Quentin and one for Lady Ryder."

"Yes, Sir," Kieran said as he went to the door, but he stopped himself before he left. After some hesitation, he finally turned again and said, "Sir Danver, it might have been nothing, but I feel compelled to report some strange incidents to you."

"Strange incidents?" Danver questioned, already sounding annoyed.

"When Hunt attacked, he and his servants killed soldiers indiscriminately," Kieran said, speaking quietly because he obviously didn't want to say this.

Elena was positive he was going to report on the suspicious circumstances surrounding Hunt's interactions with Wood.

"However, he deliberately avoided killing Sir Wood," Kieran went on. "I thought the mental attacks were to handicap him so it would be easier to attack him. But he only attacked until Sir Wood was weak enough to be restrained and sedated."

"You're saying that Wood was kept alive."

"Yes, Sir. As it was observed by me."

"Go," Danver said, gesturing to the door.

Kieran bowed and hurried out of the room to retrieve what Danver had asked for. Elena called after him and met him a few strides outside the room, quickly asking him, "Do you really suspect Sir Wood could do something like that?"

"Something like…?" Kieran led, looking confused.

"Like work for Hunt."

"I don't want to suspect Sir Wood of that," Kieran answered, speaking quietly as he awkwardly checked back at the room to make sure Danver wasn't coming out to overhear. "But it did seem very odd to me."

"Hunt didn't hurt you either," Elena pointed out.

"I didn't engage Hunt," Kieran said. He waved his hand and shrugged. "I suppose if you want to look at it like that, then you can suspect me of treachery as well. But, considering Sir Wood's rank and his many encounters with Hunt, it makes it all a bit more suspicious."

"Are you a soldier?" Elena asked, recalling that Danver had referred to him as 'Sir'.

"I am," said Kieran.

"Are you one of the fifty soldiers in the Guard?"

Kieran shook his head. "There are six soldiers that serve as medics," he replied. "The Guard is officially comprised of sixty people. The Captain—that's Wood—the three Executives, the six medics, then the fifty soldiers. You see? Sixty."

Elena nodded to show she understood, but then she heard Danver clear his throat from inside, so she figured he wanted to talk to her.

"Excuse me, Ms Elena," said Kieran politely.

"Thank you," she said to him as he hurried off.

Elena reluctantly entered the room and went over to Danver so she was also standing over Wood. "You were here as well, weren't you?" he asked as he reached down and pulled the two needles out of Wood's back. "During the fight against Hunt, I mean."

"I was here," she confirmed.

"Were the observations made by Sir Grand accurate?"

Elena lowered her head and stuttered.

"This is important, Ms Elena. Hunt has many traitors within the Kingdom of Clouds. Wood may have been working with Hunt for a long time now, pulling strings to attain this position so he could be involved in the Audience."

"But Hunt tried to kill him last month in Siegler."

"Ms Elena!" Danver abruptly shouted so she jumped up into the air in surprise. "Do you see all these casualties? These were all good soldiers! Wood might be directly responsible for their deaths so if you have any information for me, then say it now!"

Elena felt immediately overwhelmed by his demeanor alone, and also with the responsibility of reporting information like this. "But—" she stammered helplessly, "what will happen if what I say is wrong?"

She was terrified of implicating him if this was just a huge misunderstanding.

"There will be an investigation, and if your observations are incorrect, then he will be found innocent of any accusations," Danver responded.

Elena really wished it didn't have to be her in this situation. But Kieran Grand had noticed odd behavior as well. Even though Wood was unbelievably nice, there was undeniable testimony from everyone that, prior to sentencing, Hunt was a perfectly nice guy too.

"Okay," Elena said, taking a deep breath. "Hunt said he didn't want to kill Sir Wood."

"He said it?"

"Yes. And…he also said he had a contract with him too."

"Wood said it?"

"No, Hunt said it."

"A written contract?"

"I don't know," Elena said, shaking her head. "When I asked Hunt if he and Wood were working together, he didn't answer. But he did smile."

"That's interesting," Danver said, looking down again.

"But why would Hunt tie him up and sedate him if they were working together?" Elena challenged. "Why would he try to kill him back in Siegler?"

"To make it look like they weren't working together," Danver said, his face tightening at the thought.

The thought that Wood was secretly evil this entire time made her feel sick to her stomach. In reality, though, he had never actually done anything to indicate that he might be a bad guy. The only thing that had happened was that Hunt had not killed him. No one would have reason to suspect him if Hunt had killed him.

She supposed that was the problem.

Elena stayed there with Danver for a little while longer. She decided to wait outside because the amount of blood inside was making her uncomfortable. It was finally at this time, when she was not thinking about everything else, that she was able to remember that there were other really bad things that she had stopped thinking about during this entire tussle with Hunt.

Phinn was captured. He had disappeared in the Kingdom of Voices with Hunt. At least Ryder and Quentin didn't unsync to their Kingdoms so there wouldn't be any additional pain for him. Elena sincerely hoped Hunt was humane enough to keep Phinn sedated, otherwise he'd be getting into the worst of it very soon.

And then there was Cole. She hadn't checked on him since before Hunt attacked. She didn't know how many hours had passed, but he'd be deep into the treatment by now. Because of Cole's weight and age, the treatment was a serious risk for him and he needed to be undisturbed. There was so much commotion on that hospital floor that she hated to think that had worsened his condition.

Several soldiers approached the room with stretchers. She peeked inside as they went in and rested the stretchers down and began using the hot water to release Wood from his binding. Danver oversaw the entire procedure, ordering the soldiers to take Ryder and Quentin upstairs because although they weren't injured, they needed to be monitored and protected in case Hunt came back for them (though Elena highly doubted that would happen).

However, he knelt down beside Wood and instructed the soldiers to inspect him for injury right here and now. Elena did not disguise the fact that she was observing all this happen. As she recalled, Hunt hadn't physically struck Wood at any point. The only reason for all the blood on his face was from the mental attacks. In the end, Wood would definitely wake up with a killer headache, but with no other ailments while almost everyone else in the room was dead.

She could see how it was a bit suspicious now.

Although she could have said he wasn't wounded, Danver would have likely wanted to check anyway. The soldiers reported he was in good health, and Danver nodded. "Take him downstairs," he said.

"Sir?" one of the soldiers questioned curiously.

"Downstairs?" Elena interjected.

"If he is working for Hunt, we can't take any chances," Danver snapped at her. "It is procedure to take a suspected traitor to the dungeon. If he is innocent, he will understand."

"The dungeon?" Elena repeated with disbelief.

"You have your orders," Danver said, glaring at the soldiers.

"Yes Sir," they muttered, moving Wood up onto the stretcher.

"So anyone you accuse of being a traitor is automatically sent to the dungeon?" Elena demanded as she watched the soldiers shuffle by and leave the room.

"Ms Elena, do not fight me on this," Danver commanded. "There is nothing you can say that will change what is happening. When he wakes up, we will question him. If we find him innocent, then we will release him and he will not fault us for our caution."

"I don't like that," Elena said, taking a step back from him.

"Whether or not you approve of our procedures is not among my many concerns," said Danver harshly. "People in this Kingdom seem overly concerned with keeping you humored, but I have no interest in that. If Alexander Wood is a traitor, I cannot have him anywhere near our King. If there is a one percent chance that he is a traitor, I will do whatever I can to make sure he is not a threat. Do you understand, Miss?"

His voice was mean and coarse, but he did try to pull it back a little bit to at least sound reasonable. She could understand his point of view and his extreme caution with the notion of traitors, especially considering their enemy.

Elena bit her lip and lowered her head. It hadn't occurred to her that considering Danver's age compared to most of the other soldiers she had interacted with, he was likely close friends with Steinorth. He also must have worked with Hunt rather than only been trained by him. The betrayal was a lot closer to him than the younger guys.

Although she hated the thought of Wood spending time in the dungeon because he was wrongly accused, she hated the thought of something happening to Hayden or any of the other Sons because they had been too trusting. She didn't want anyone else to get killed.

"Okay," she said, nodding.

Danver had only waited for her confirmation to be polite. He didn't actually care, and he fully demonstrated this by leaving the room without even so much as a small reassurance that she had done the right thing.

She wasn't sure if she had done the right thing. She liked to think she did, but her gut told her fiercely that she hadn't, mostly because she just didn't want to believe that everything Wood had said was all a lie.