The Kingdom of Voices

1- In Which Elena Rehashes the Information

The Kingdom of Clouds was locked down. Soldiers were everywhere, guarding every floor. Civilians were isolated onto two floors and were not permitted to leave.

This meant Elena was separated from just about everyone she knew. She was stuck in an area with random people she had never met, never interacted with, and would probably never see again.

It had been two full days since Judge Hunt made his attack on the Kingdom. And they still were not lifting up into the air, which was where a Kingdom should be.

Elena had never gone this long without seeing the friends she had made over the past several months and she was getting understandably antsy. There was no information moving throughout the Kingdom. She was completely in the dark.

If it wasn't for Irving, she would have likely gone utterly insane.

William Irving had been a prestigiously ranked soldier up until recently when he had sustained massive injuries in order to rescue Elena. His injuries were so extensive that he was relieved of duty and it was widely accepted that he would probably not ever walk again.

But, thanks to a blessing performed in the midst of Hunt's attack, Irving's body was completely healed and he was somehow even in better shape than before. For the past two days, Elena had practically followed him around not only because she felt lonely, but also because she worried he felt lonely too. In addition to the massive physical damage, Irving had also endured a curse that caused intense psychological damage because it made him feel isolated for anywhere between six months and a year (he was never very specific about the time frame because he didn't like to talk about it).

Elena would have still been on his heels, except he was granted access to another floor to begin his psychological evaluation. When he had been injured, his dismissal from duty was a given. But, now that he was physically all right, he insisted on being evaluated to see if it was possible for him to return to duty. He confided in Elena and admitted that he didn't anticipate he would be able to, but it would bother him if he didn't at least try.

So, with Irving elsewhere, Elena really was on her own for the first time.

There was one room on that particular floor that Elena liked to visit when she was lonely. It was generally full of people, but not this early in the morning. Since she saw Irving off, she figured she'd take a short detour on the way back to her room.

It was the civilian library, but it didn't do anything for her since she couldn't read the language of this world she had only recently entered. The real reason she liked the room was because there were seven paintings in it—seven wedding paintings, each featuring the former King and his seven wives in the past.

She liked to look at the paintings because most of the Sons bore a strong resemblance to their individual mother, so it felt almost like she was able to see them. She appreciated the fact that it was a bit sad and pathetic to spend time staring at paintings of relatives of her friends, but she passed the point of caring.

The King's first bride was Adrianne, a very poor and very beautiful young woman from a small city. By all accounts, everyone loved her, though she had died tragically a little over a year ago. Since the King only married Adrianne for her beauty, it was no surprise that the single offspring she produced was exceptionally attractive as well.

Lawson was the King's oldest son and one of Elena's closest friends. He was the first of the Seven Sons she had met. He was an extremely proud and pompous person, fully aware of how aesthetically pleasing he was and how much respect he expected. But, at the same time, he could be charming and sweet. Thanks to various circumstances, Elena had gotten the chance to see the person he really was because he was forced to rely on her in many difficult situations. Elena liked to listen to him talk and she liked spending time with him; and with his jet-black hair and bright green eyes, he really did look just like his mother.

The second wife of the King was not so universally admired by the people or the soldiers. Cecilia had only recently passed away, though no one seemed particularly torn up about it. Although she was supremely intelligent, she was also somewhat of a lunatic. She oftentimes yelled at people for no reason, or did more radical things like torture her young son for most of his childhood.

Quentin was her son and he had since grown up, though he was not without his own emotional scars as a result of her madness. He did not like being touched and, generally, did not like interacting with people either. With light brown hair and round, brown eyes, he resembled the King more closely than he resembled his mother, but he did inherit her famous intelligence and, unfortunately, perhaps some of her madness. Although Elena had never seen it in full force, Quentin apparently had an evil split personality that would lash out if he got angry enough. But, in most situations, Quentin had nice things to say and was calm and level-headed—usually.

The third painting was odd to look at because she knew the King's third wife, Anya, on a personal level (and she was the only one of the seven still alive at this point). The painting had been done at least twenty years ago, so Anya definitely had a less weathered face back in her teens. But it wasn't just age that wore Anya out—she had been through a lot and it had made her somewhat of a severe and angry woman. She was quick to confrontation and would not settle for anyone telling her what to do.

Elena would put up with all of her grief, however, because she was dating Anya's son, Phinn. Although Phinn was currently in Hunt's captivity (this fact being the greatest source of Elena's anxiety), Elena could safely say that the two of them were quite serious. He, like his mother, was quick to anger and got stressed out easily, but he could also be oddly shy about certain things like displaying affection and expressing himself. Elena spent most of her free time trying to anticipate how he would react. Of all the Sons, his appearance perhaps was the most composite between both his mother and his father, though he did have Anya's big brown eyes and messy brown hair. Elena missed having him there next to her. People always wrote Phinn off that his opinion didn't matter because everyone thought he was stupid and irrational, but he could be intelligent if he allowed himself to think something through before leaping to his first reaction on the matter.

The next two paintings were nearly indistinguishable from one another because the King's fourth wife and his fifth wife were identical twins. Elena looked back and forth between them, legitimately unsure of which one was Helene and which one was Eva. Everything she knew about the two women was in regard to their vastly differing personalities and that didn't show in their paintings. Helene was an extremely musically talented woman who played several instruments and behaved like a proper lady. Eva, on the other hand, was much wilder and would rather enjoy the music than play it. But, in their wedding dresses and standing next to the King, they were impossible to tell apart.

Although Helene was the King's fourth wife, her daughter, Sage, was the King's fifth child. Sage was serious and unforgiving—she was much more like a boy, in reality. She did take after her mother with a short stature and an extremely thin frame. With sparkling blue eyes and thick, blonde hair, it would be very easy for her to be a very pretty young woman (again, like her mother), but she actively worked against that image. This might have been the burden that came along with being the first daughter, but her mother admitted to Sage that she would have preferred a son. This resulted in a fierce hatred for Eva's son, Turner.

Turner was, in turn, much more like Helene. He was graceful and talented, though it was sometimes tough to tell because he liked to party a little too hard. Elena considered him one of her closest friends because he had always been nice to her from the very beginning. He was extremely unlike all his siblings because he did not like to fight. The more that time went on, Elena started to wonder if maybe the reason he had taken a pacifist stance and backed out of the small civil war among the children might have been perhaps because he didn't think he would be able to beat any of them. He had a thin and fragile frame like Sage, which made him noticeably different from his brothers to the point that he probably would not be able to take on any of them in a physical confrontation (and maybe not his sisters either).

The King's sixth wife was Rose, though Elena had never seen her in any other context besides this painting. From what she had heard, Rose was a meek and quiet woman with no particular skills. The rumor was that after being married to Eva, the King was exhausted and wanted a woman to just take orders from him, which is why he married Rose. Elena didn't know much about her. No one ever appeared to have anything to say about her.

It might have also been because, out of all the Sons, Elena was least close to Ryder, who was Rose's daughter. Ryder initially presented herself as responsible and friendly, and Elena had actually been fooled for a bit to the point where she began to respect Ryder. Things changed over time, and Ryder displayed many selfish tendencies that confused Elena since it clashed with what she knew about Ryder. However, she finally came around to realizing that Ryder had never told her anything true about herself and, deep down, she was perhaps the most selfish of them all. She was attractive—she took after her unremarkable mother with the straight black hair, though she had her father's brown eyes—but only on the outside. Elena could once say she liked all the Sons, but she was pretty sure she didn't like Ryder.

The last painting was the King's final wife, Luna, who was the only one who he did not divorce. She died in childbirth and he never married again. Elena didn't know so much about her either but, from the painting, she could tell that she was young and beautiful, like most of the King's wives. She was fairly certain she had heard someone say that Luna got sick often but, aside from that, no one ever talked about her.

Not even her son, Cole, knew anything about her since he had obviously never met her and had never bothered to find out about her either. However, he had vowed that he would take his time to learn about her in the near future because Cole had gone through his own recent transformation. He looked considerably older and did bear a strong resemblance to the King, though most of his features still took after his mother. He had her same blond hair, though his eyes were a deep brown. Actually, he began to look a lot like Phinn, though he did not act like him whatsoever. Cole was whiny and lazy, yet, at the same time, he could be heroic and valiant. He hoped to be a hero someday since he had spent so much time a coward. Thus far, Elena would say he had proved himself very well.

There didn't appear to be an empty space for Hayden and his painting for his recent wedding to his wife, Emma.

And that itself was kind of a weird situation. Hayden used to be a soldier until he got shot and, nearly at the same time, realized he was actually a half-brother of the King. Then the King died and, as it turned out, the King elected Hayden to become the next King. And so now Hayden was King.

And he was married to Lawson's cousin, Emma. Yes, the family tree was terribly mangled, but as far as Elena could see, there was no incest involved. Hayden had married his half-brother's first son's cousin. They were not related in any way.

She glanced around the room at all seven of the paintings. At this point, some of the Sons were married, so she wondered if any of them had paintings to go with their wedding day as well.

Quentin had been married to his wife, Jennifer, for several years at this point. She was even extremely pregnant, perhaps due in only a few weeks. She had actually seen a couple of their wedding paintings, so it was safe to assume there was a big official one hanging up somewhere in Quentin's Kingdom. And, although he was the second son, he was the first to marry, which put a lot of stress on his siblings to do so as well, especially Lawson.

Lawson had married his wife, Faye, in a private ceremony only a few weeks earlier. In fact, it was so private that literally no one knew about it. He had planned to make it public, but then Judge Hunt made their lives difficult before they could. And, considering Lawson's affinity for getting paintings done so he could see himself, she was sure there was one of them somewhere that was also secret.

Sage had only married her husband, Garrett Kidd, a couple of days ago. She had done it as a spur of the moment thing so she could have the authority to make a fleeting medical decision for him. The two of them never even had a wedding and, considering Garrett was so injured that he couldn't even stand up straight, Elena wasn't going to assume they had taken the time to get a painting done to commemorate the event.

Ryder had a fiancé, Dane Reynold, though her situation was a bit complicated only because she had made it clear in the past that she would rather he die than make her give her Kingdom up. It was tough to say if that relationship would last all the way to a wedding.

Turner and Cole weren't thinking too seriously about marriage. Turner had girlfriends, but ever anything serious. Cole was too young to care, though Elena doubted he would have any trouble finding a girl when the time came, especially with his heroic makeover.

Phinn was difficult to define. Elena was his girlfriend, yes, but she didn't think marriage was in their near future. At least that was what she thought until Anya revealed to her that Phinn might have been thinking about proposing. It made her uncomfortable, but also kind of thrilled. She didn't know why. They hadn't even been dating for two months and it seemed too fast to suddenly get married. She couldn't figure out what she would do if Phinn suddenly asked. It used to be so clear to her.

But, maybe none of that would matter since Phinn was captured by Hunt. Hunt wanted to keep Phinn indefinitely because he was syncing all of the Sons' Kingdoms to him. As long as he had Phinn alive somewhere, the Kingdoms would fly and he wouldn't have to be careful about killing all the other Sons.

Clearly, it was a bad situation for everyone involved. The threat of death was horrible, but the alternative seemed just as miserable.

Elena wished there was something she could do besides offer moral support. Marooned on the civilian floor, she couldn't even really do that either. She thought that someone would at least be along to bring her to one of the floors to look at the wall of prophecies they had discovered, but maybe that wasn't a priority right now.

Elena had been identified as a character called the 'Red Lady', who appeared on the prophecy wall twice. Her first job was finished: to determine that Hunt was human and not a demon as they had previously thought he was. Her second job was, apparently, to reveal his weakness based on various cryptic factors that were mentioned. Unfortunately, the only thing they could identify in the prophecy was that she was the one who had to do it.

The singular conclusion she could make was that everything had taken a backseat because Hunt's most recent attack was top priority. In the past, Hunt had been surprisingly forgiving with various hostages and opponents, demonstrating several times that he didn't necessarily intend to kill anyone who didn't directly oppose him. However, he definitely did not like a certain group of soldiers who foiled all of his plans during his previous attempt and had stated that he intended to kill them.

Which is why it was so strange when he was faced with the ringleader of those soldiers, Alexander Wood, and he actively decided to keep him alive. Alexander Wood was a genuinely nice person: handsome and loyal, as well as a close personal friend of Hayden's. If he had one fault then it was that he was a little forgetful, which made him often put his foot in his mouth when he accidentally revealed information that was supposed to be confidential. Yet, he was a great soldier, having recently ascended to Captain of the Guard following Hayden's retirement. But Hunt did not try to kill him.

Hunt killed all of the soldiers that had been in the same room as Wood. But he merely restrained and sedated Wood when it would have taken much less effort to kill him. At the time, Elena had barely noticed how strange it was, until Hunt mentioned in passing that he and Wood entered a contract with each other, which was why he didn't kill him.

Did that mean Wood was evil? Was he working with Hunt? She didn't know the answer to that question. She told higher-ups about that conversation with Hunt, and they had used her words as grounds to imprison Wood and investigate him for treason.

It was fair to assume that their priority was trying to determine whether a man with that much authority in the Kingdom was actually working with Hunt or not. She supposed it was a legitimate concern, though she doubted they would find any evidence. She trusted Wood. He had saved her plenty of times and lived his whole life serving the King.

Still, when it came to Hayden, their King whose health was deteriorating, she guessed they did believe they could not be too careful.

But maybe they could. Elena maintained Wood's innocence, and was particularly annoyed that her words had been twisted. With any luck, Irving might come back from his adventure on different floor with some new information.

It might have been too much to hope for.