The Kingdom of Mist

1- In Which Phinn Chickens Out

Elena looked out the window of the giant floating castle called the Kingdom of Mist, gazing down upon the beautiful city of Dorn. She wanted to see the Kingdom of Clouds, but it wasn't there. This meant she had to do (or should do) her duty as the Chaste Beauty and serve the Lord.

The thing is: Elena's a little nuts (maybe). It started following the brutal deaths of her parents. She started having these lifelike realistic dreams with people involved and crazy (and dangerous) adventures. The people in the dreams tried to convince her that the dreams were reality, and reality was the dream.

Slowly but surely, Elena came to realize this was actually the truth. That was, to say, the dream was reality and reality was the dream. This meant everything she had ever known for the first seventeen years she had been alive was false.

People did a good enough job explaining things to her. She was a "Chaste Beauty", gifted with visions so she would enter a trance and receive information to bring back to reality in order to help combat their enemies. Up until a few weeks ago, the only enemy a Chaste Beauty ever had to face was a race of creatures called The Others. Recently, however, the beastly (but stupid) Others had teamed up with a man involved deeply in the dark arts and looking for vengeance: Judge Hunt.

He sought vengeance against the Seven Sons, whose mothers had wronged him in the distant past. Lawson, son of Adrianne: handsome and confident, but manipulative. Quentin, son of Cecilia: honorable, though a little extreme in his methods of negotiation. Phinn, son of Anya: violent, rude and entirely uncomfortable to just be in the same room as. Turner, son of Eva: forgiving, kind, but unreliable. Sage, daughter of Helene: jaded and angry, tiny and boyish. Ryder, daughter of Rose: charismatic, charming, and entirely condescending. And Cole, son of Luna: adorable, but cowardly and self-serving. All seven of the King's children had their faults, but certainly none of them deserved the fate Hunt had chosen to give them.

It was still unclear what exactly he intended to do with them, or why he was targeting them in the first place since they were very young children when Hunt had been condemned to death. Elena guessed it had something to do with wanting their enormous flying Kingdoms, because he would poison them into a painful coma rather than kill them. After all, if they died, then their Kingdoms would fall from the sky. Whatever he was doing, it had to have something to do with the Kingdoms.

He wasn't trying to kill them. He proved he was perfectly capable of killing. After all, his servants seemed to have no trouble killing Hayden, Captain of the Guard in the Kingdom of Clouds. Hayden was the probably-illegitimate-son of the King: heroic, selfless and completely devoted to his work. Hayden had worked under Judge Hunt, and made the final confirmation of his identity only a few hours earlier. When they stood face to face, it seemed Hunt reconsidered his decision, claiming he worried Hayden would return from death to kill him (a plausible form of revenge in this world, apparently). In the end, Hayden was left shot and poisoned, currently resting and hopefully recovering.

It didn't seem as though there was any way to combat Hunt. He was extremely powerful and he had seemingly invulnerable servants. In one of Elena's visions, she had seen a strange book, and she imagined there were some answers in there, or some clues to defeating Hunt and his servants. But that book was in the Kingdom of Clouds, the vessel of the King, which none of the Sons had permission to enter. Thus, finding the Kingdom was nearly impossible.

There was one way to do it. They had to Awaken another Chaste Beauty. And, unfortunately for Elena, there was only one way to do that: the current Chaste Beauty had to either die or lose her virginity. Elena would rather not die, so this meant she had to have sex with one of them so they could get to the Kingdom and get the book. Awkward.

There was a somewhat hesitant knock at the door. Elena was too nervous to even answer, so eventually her visitor pushed the door open and revealed himself: Phinn.

Of all the Sons, Phinn was probably the most complicated, though the others might debate that. Phinn attempted to make himself straight-forward and simple, but merely that attempt is what made him so unusual. For all intents and purposes, Phinn was a huge jerk to everyone and took great pleasure in stealing the chastity of former Chaste Beauties. But, a truce among the Sons when Elena arrived prevented him from doing so to her and, as a result, she might even go so far as to say the two of them had actually become friends. She liked him. He was handsome when he wanted to be, and sincere if he tried hard enough.

Standing in her doorway, she thought maybe he had done something different with his normally wild blond-brown hair. He looked very clean and tidy (which was odd). Also, she could tell he was wearing something almost nice because it was a deep crimson red and buttoned up the front. Normally, he would just wear an assortment of mismatching and stained jackets, but Elena was able to conclude that he had cleaned himself up—for her.

Even his demeanor seemed different. He stepped into the room and quietly shut the door behind him, keeping his eyes pointed at the ground, as if actually waiting for her to invite him to approach her.

She moved away from the window and sat down on the bed, clearing her throat as she did so. "Come in," she offered him.

He stepped from the door and slowly moved across the room, maneuvering himself in a way that seemed almost shy. She knew exactly why he was there and had no idea why he was being so weird about it. He was the one who took girls' virginity with such frequency that she imagined it would be like any other thing for him, like brushing his teeth.

He remained standing in front of her for about a minute and then sat down next to her, leaving a gap of several feet between them.

Finally he took in a deep breath. "Quentin told me to tell you that our father's Kingdom isn't here," he said. "And it'll take about two days to get to Cerah. He docks there sometimes. He might be there."

Elena knew it was supposed to be her choice, but the reason Phinn had been sent to deliver this information was because he was the only one fit to do the deed (that is, to have sex with her to Awaken another Chaste Beauty). Lawson and Turner were weak from battles and poison; plus, Judge Hunt's magic had put a strange substances on their faces to cover their mouths keep them from speaking. Cole was too young and Quentin was too married. They were all hoping Elena would just do it with Phinn.

"That's a nice shirt," Elena said, awkwardly changing the subject. "Is it new? It looks new."

Phinn looked down at himself (as if he had forgotten what he was wearing) and reported, "It's actually pretty old, right? I wear it all the time actually. There's usually stuff over it, though." He sighed and gripped the edge of the bed. "All my other stuff's being washed. There was blood on it, all right?"

Phinn continued to sit patiently, but he soon began to tap his foot. This good behavior wasn't going to last very much longer. She could appreciate how hard he was trying to make this less scary and to leave the ultimate choice (the starting time) up to her. She could tell him she would rather wait until they got to Cerah to make sure the Kingdom of Clouds wasn't there, or she could jumpstart the process of Awakening the next Chaste Beauty in line.

"You know," he said, "sometimes the next Chaste Beauty takes a few hours to Awaken, and sometimes a few days. Sometimes a few months, you know?"

"What are you saying?"

"Even if we do this, we might not learn where our father's Kingdom is for a long time, see?"

"So you're saying it could be pointless."

Phinn looked like a deer in the headlights as he slowly nodded. It seemed almost as if he couldn't remember what he had said so he wasn't sure what Elena was responding to. But he knew, of course, especially based on how he responded: "Or maybe we'd find out right away, you know? There's no way of knowing how long it would take."

Elena put her hands on her knees and tightly gripped the material of her skirt. They needed that book, and they needed to get to the Kingdom of Clouds to get it. "Then," she started quietly, "we should do this as fast as possible. You and I know what it's like to be restricted by that stuff. You would want everyone to do everything they can."

Phinn stared steadily at Elena, as if not quite sure what she had meant to agree to.

"Come on," Elena pleaded. "Don't make me say it."

"Okay," he said. He looked straight ahead for a few seconds, then he stood up, moving so he was standing in front of her and getting close.

She felt her heart rate speed up instantly. "Wait!" she exclaimed before he touched her.

"What? I thought you said you wanted to go as fast as possible, right?"

She nodded quickly. "Lock the door," she said. "Turn off the lights."

He looked at her skeptically. "Why?"

"I'd be more comfortable."

This thought had clearly never crossed Phinn's mind before in all the years of raping girls. He had never seen the need to make anyone feel comfortable during the process. He had never actually known any of them. And, for a few seconds, it didn't look like he even believed her (as if she might have lied to him about her comfort level). He stared at her for a long while before he finally turned around and went to the door, making sure it was locked, and then flipped the switch to the light.

Elena leaned over and turned on a small lamp so it wasn't completely dark. She thought this would relieve her fear, but the anticipation only made it worse. Her heart was pounding so loudly in her chest, she could hear it resonating in her ears. It was starting to hurt. She could feel her breaths quickening with every step Phinn made on his way back over to her.

Phinn stood before her, and slowly reached out his hands for her wrists, taking each one and holding them loosely. He eased himself forward so she was laying down on her back, and he leaned over her, putting his weight on her wrists and effectively pinning them on either side of her. But he was doing so very gently, as if he just so happened to be there.

"Why are you holding me down?" she whispered, terrified.

He glanced at where he was holding her, and gradually let her wrists go, putting his palms against the bed beside them instead. "It's how I always do it," he said honestly.

Elena pulled her arms over her body. "Have you ever done this before?" she asked.

"You know I have."

"No, I mean without holding a girl down. Without forcing her."

She bit her lip nervously, thinking about all the girls who had been in the same place as her, staring up at him as he held them down, without the luxury of a locked door or the lights off.

She could tell he was thinking, trying to remember. But judging by his instinctual act of holding her down, she guessed he had never had a consensual relationship. Besides, he told her once that he had never even kissed anyone before.

"No," he answered finally.

"What do you usually do after you have her pinned?"

"You don't want to hear about that."

"Yes I do."

He kept his round eyes fixed on her. "There's not much to it," he said.

"You do it real quick? Do you humiliate her? Do you hurt her or scare her? Or do you…only do what you have to do so she's not a virgin anymore?"

She could feel the tears bubbling up in her eyes. He backed away from her and sat down far away again. She remained laying where she was, embarrassed for crying in front of him and hastily wiping her tears away. Though, he had probably seen plenty of girls sob underneath him before.

"I don't think I can do this."

The words came from him, though she was the one thinking them. She took a deep breath and pushed herself up so she could see him better. He was looking at her out of the corner of his eye, still facing forward and leaning his elbows on his knees.

"I'm sorry," she barely managed to squeak.

"I don't get it," Phinn said, sounding angry as he stood up and started pacing. "I've done it tons of times, you know? With girls a lot uglier and stupider than you too. But you're making this impossible!"

He suddenly yelled and practically lunged at her, taking her by the wrists and pushing her back to the bed again, roughly this time. She called out in surprise and fear as he climbed on top of her, balancing on his knees on either side of her waist. She tried to push him off of her, but he held her in place, using his superior strength and weight to keep her down with very minimal effort. The look on his face was furious and terrifying. The tears flowed freely from her eyes as she tried to hold her breath until it was all over.

Then he eased off. His hold on her arms loosened, and he leaned back so she could sit up if she wanted. The fury in his expression faded, and his eyebrows relaxed. His entire body eased back.

But Elena did not move. She almost wished he would just do it and get it over with. She was too scared to do anything.

He raised his hand again, and she winced. He rested it on one side of her head, bracing himself as he leaned forward, his confused face getting closer to hers. When he was close enough to kiss her, he stopped, and let out a heavy sigh of defeat.

"You won't do it?" she inferred timidly.

"I can't," he said.

"But what about finding your father's Kingdom?" Elena asked frantically. "We have to get that book and stop Judge Hunt. This is the best way."

"Are you trying to convince me to rape you?" Phinn questioned quizzically.

"Yes," Elena admitted.

Phinn actually laughed a little and leaned away from her, rolling over so he was next to her. They both stared up at the ceiling. "I thought there was something wrong with me," he sighed.

Elena turned her head to watch him. He turned his head to look back at her, and their eyes met briefly.

"You've done this to me, Elle," he said quietly.

"Done what?" Elena asked.

He grunted and abruptly stood up, practically running to the door and unlocking it. "I don't know," he said.

He didn't turn the light on, but he left. Elena sat up and stared at the closed door.

Done what?