The third floor of the castle lay in shambles, wreckage of the walls laying in pieces all along the corridor. Lotor could see the inside of some of the rooms, they laid exposed to his eyes, showing off the damage inside. Bits of furniture were knocked over, or broken into pieces, dust and dirt was everywhere, and valuable paintings and books lay ruined.
The behemoth sized carrier ship had driven through the eastern tower, smashing wall after wall, and digging up the floor to send chucks of it tumbling down to the second story. In some spots, there was holes, gaping wide to reveal what was on the other side of a cracked wall. It was through one of those holes that Lotor caught his first sight of the enemy Drules, the men moving about several corridors away.
He had yet to find Morduck, but just knowing he was in the building was enough to have Lotor’s blood boiling, and his feet stepping quicker. Ryder had to quickly remind him to be careful, the floor was too unstable for the careless stomping of his feet. Lotor tried not to bristle with impatience as they made their way to where the other Drules were gathered, the prince missing little of the sights.
The carrier ship wasn’t that badly damaged, save for the front of it’s hull. There it bore dents, and shattered pieces of metal, and scarring from the castle’s electrical shielding. The shielding hadn’t been able to stay up, but it had managed to make it’s mark on the ship before being knocked offline.
An emergency hatch was open on the side of the ship, the door located just short of being on the part that was outside the destroyed tower. It was through this hatch that Drules exited and entered the ship, the men carrying glowing sticks that allowed for light to flood the darkened tower. Lotor’s eyes quickly adjusted to this new light source, and he began to count how many soldiers he saw.
There was enough here to overwhelm his small party of Drules and humans, and Lotor put a nervous hand on his sword’s hilt. It was his first instinct to touch his sword, though he had several blasters and laser pistols on him, looted from the corpses on the second floor. It was just his preference that he rather fight with a sword, and it left him uneasy that he might have to rely on other means for this battle.
They continued to walk, only to be stopped by an angry voice shouting across the hall. Lotor already turned towards it, anticipation burning through him. He knew that smarmy sounding voice, and he almost growled out the man’s name.
“Why have you come back?!” Morduck snarled, and a group of soldiers around him obscured Lotor’s vision of the Drule. “I ordered you to go down and take care of Lotor and the humans!”
“Ah…Commander…” Ryder’s voice, calm and full of apology. “There’s a bit of problem in doing that.”
“Problem?” Morduck demanded sharply. “What problem?”
“The rubble from the collapsed part of the third floor…it’s blocking any and all conceivable paths to the first floor.” Came the smooth lie from Ryder. “The advance party you sent before us is working to remove it, but without the proper tools…”
“Get back down there and help them!” ordered Morduck.
“We need more man power…” explained Ryder. “Not to mention tools….Can you send down another contingent of men, while we retrieve the items?”
“Fine.” A curt word from Morduck, and then the soldiers around him were moving so that an opening appeared in the group, allowing Lotor his first glimpse of the hated Drule. “You there…go downstairs.” He gestured for the Drules to move, and the soldiers obeyed without hesitation. They walked past Lotor’s group, and though the prince grew tense at their nearness, nothing happened.
Ryder led Lotor and his group closer to Morduck, the prince noticing there was a cache of weapons and an assortment of tools and implements that had been carried off the Drule warship. Ryder walked over to that assortment, and began browsing for something, taking care to hand freshly charged weapons to Darius and his men. Morduck seemed to pay them no mind, and the soldiers on the floor lessened their numbers by twenty, as they went down to deal with the blockage on the second floor.
There wasn’t much time to delay, Lotor knew the soldiers would go down and find that not only was there no blockage on the floor, but also encounter the soldiers that had been left behind to lay in ambush of them. Holding onto his impatience, Lotor kept glancing at Morduck, to the point the man noticed and growled.
“What?! Do you have something to say to me?!”
“Actually I do…” Lotor said, aware of the heavy weight of what was a rapid fire assault rifle in his hands. His tone was impertinent, and before Morduck could issue out a retort, Lotor turned and opened fire on half of the remaining soldiers standing on the floor. There wasn’t much time for them to react, the soldiers dropping to the floor, stunned unconscious by the lasers in the rifle.
Darius and his men reacted to Lotor’s actions, using the weapons that had been handed to them to fire off their own ammunition at the soldiers. Lotor could hear them screaming, the shouts startled, Morduck sputtering angrily, as he moved to draw his own pistol. None of the laser fire came close to touching him, the commander being forced to watch his own soldiers be cut down before him.
Some of the Drules avoided being shot, having quicker reaction times as they lunged out of the way, into doorways, or behind rubble. They began to fire shots back, and one of the humans went down with a scream. With his mask on, it was impossible to tell which one, but Darius’ men reacted with anger, several shots being lobbed towards the one who had murdered their coworker.
Morduck had recovered enough to shout out a command, his own pistol firing in an attempt to pick off one of Lotor’s allies. “Call back the soldiers on the second floor! We have a breach of security!”
“All the reinforcements in the world won’t do you any good!” Lotor tossed down the assault rifle, and drew off his mask. Morduck didn’t so much as gasp, having guessed the identity behind at least one of the resistance.
“Lotor!” He hissed, and fired off three quick bursts of red lasers at the prince. Lotor already had his sword drawn, and with a twirl, the lasers were deflected back towards Morduck. The Drule commander was forced to do a little dance to avoid being shot, one of the lasers just missing his arm.
Trusting Darius and Ryder to guard his back, Lotor began to advance on Morduck, his sword blocking each of the man’s frantic shots. “This has been a long time coming commander…”
“Indeed it has Lotor!” Morduck shouted, and took aim at Lotor’s head. He didn’t seem perturbed that the prince was blocking his shots, but he was beginning to back up with each step Lotor took forward. “You’re a traitor to your world! Do you know what your father will do to you, what he will give me, if I bring you in?!”
Lotor could very well imagine, but he didn’t waste words on that. “You tried to hurt my mate.” The words were hissed out, Lotor’s eyes narrowed into a glare. “You threatened her with torture and death….for that alone I will kill you!”
“It all comes down to that blond bitch, doesn’t it?!” Morduck hardly seemed bothered by the growl Lotor let out, the man hateful. “She’s weaken you, clouded your mind and your good sense. Look at you!” Morduck made a scoffing sound, and fired again. “Pandering to the humans, allying yourself with them, you’re like a dog that has been leashed. A snake that has been defanged.”
“I’m hardly defenseless” retorted Lotor, and Morduck let out a laugh. “Nor have I been weakened by being mated.”
“Your mind’s been addled!” shouted Morduck. “To even think of turning against your own men….”
“You want to talk about turning traitor?!” Lotor interrupted with a shout. “What about you?! Going behind my back, running to my father to have me stripped of my command!”
“What I did, I did out of necessity!” Morduck was hardly repentant, his hand reaching for his spare pistol as his current one fired off the last of it’s charge. “I acted for the good of the Doom Empire. You were weakened, thinking of nothing but that woman! You couldn’t even lead us, and frankly I’m surprised you have the presence of mind to stand here before me! How do you think your people will feel, to know you threw everything away for a woman?!”
“Not all of us agree with the King!” Ryder shouted, lending his voice to support Lotor. He continued to fire lasers at the remaining soldiers, but the enemy Drules were rapidly being dwindled down in numbers. “How do you think the people will react when they find out you and the King ignored the sanctity of the mating bond! That you would try to do harm to the prince’s mate!”
“We’ll be a nation divided!” added another Drule, one Lotor did not know the name of. “And I believe there are more who will side with the prince then the King over this!”
“It’s the hopes and dreams of the people to be mated!” said another Drule. “And you would have us turn our back on it, spit on that dream!”
“Not all of the Drule care for this mating nonsense!” retorted Morduck. “Your father is prime example of this!”
“Then my father is a fool!” Lotor hissed, sword twirling, lazon flashing. “He’s a miserable old man, who spent his whole life cowering away from love! He never found his mate, and he wants the rest of us to be as pathetic and devoid of love as he is!”
He was almost within reach of the retreating commander, Morduck snarling viciously. “You don’t have to be alive for me to collect a reward from the King!” The shots came quicker, Morduck almost frantic as he twisted, arm extended towards Lotor to keep his weapon trained on the prince. But he was making to run for it, and Lotor snarled out a command.
“Don’t run from me!”
The words went ignored, Morduck almost careless as he fired at Lotor. The prince took off running, no longer doing a slow advance, sword arm busy as he deflected the lasers. Behind him he could hear both Darius and Ryder shouting, but he didn’t even try to pay attention to their words, not even the warning Ryder shouted out.
“Be careful, the floor…!”
Morduck’s feet pounded the dirt strew carpet, the man nimbly avoiding rubble. Lotor leapt over a large piece of broken wall, landing heavily on his feet. His sword arm swung out, Lotor attempting to slash open the back of Morduck’s shirt.
“Coward!” Lotor spat out, disgust evident in his tone. “Stand and face me!” That got no reaction from Morduck, the man continuing to lead Lotor on a merry chase. “You speak about loyalty to our world….and yet you do not have enough of it to fight me in defense of it!”
Morduck spun around at that, and Lotor’s sword nearly lopped off his head. But the man was dropping to one knee, hand reaching to pull a dagger out of his boot. “I didn’t want to have to waste any more time on you!” sneered the commander, and he rose with an upwards jerk, dagger posed to slice open Lotor’s belly.
Lotor let out a hiss, and just managed to avoid that slash, hearing Morduck’s taunting laughter. “All your efforts are wasted! Doom’s forces are practically knocking down the castle’s door as we speak….it won’t be long before we take the castle!”
“If I kill you, there will be no one else left to command them!”
“Pardust…” Morduck began, and Lotor cut him off with a laugh.
“General Pardust is on my side! Or did you not realize it when he led those ships to fight against yours?!” Lotor smirked, and slashed his sword forward, tearing open Morduck’s shirt. “Your chain of command is in shambles, the next in line is on my side! You’re finished Morduck!”
“I’m not dead yet!” Morduck retorted, and stabbed forward with the dagger. Through a twist of immeasurably good luck, it speared into Lotor’s hand, causing the prince’s fingers to relax their hold on his sword. Lotor bit back a howl of pain, and lashed out with his leg, his knee ending up in Morduck’s stomach. The dagger was dropped as breath was expelled from Morduck’s body, and then Lotor threw himself forward to grab hold of the commander.
The Drule twisted, trying to wiggle free of Lotor’s grip. He got himself positioned to give Lotor an elbow to the face, the prince snarling and back handing Morduck. His nose crunched under Lotor’s fist, blood coating his nose and lips, and Morduck howled in pain. But he didn’t let the pain distract him long, Morduck shoving at Lotor, trying to knock him off balance.
Lotor growled, the time for words over with as he slammed Morduck into what remained off a near wall. The force of his slam and the instability of the wall was such that pieces of it came down, stirring up dust and dirt. There was no time to choke on the dust, the men brawling, pushing and shoving, throwing punches, and kicking out legs. Lotor felt increasingly frustrated at how long this was taking, and the pain in his hand made him roar with anger. He knew Morduck need only delay him long enough for the castle to be taken, and then reinforcements would come.
Morduck was laughing, smug satisfaction radiating off him as he got his hands around Lotor’s throat. They began to squeeze, and Lotor raised his knee, slamming it into Morduck’s unprotected crotch. The commander let out a groan, fingers loosening their grip, enough for Lotor to twist free. The prince followed his freedom by snagging
hold of Morduck’s jacket with his good hand, heaving him over his shoulder.
Morduck was airborne a short distance, before slamming onto the floor. Lotor immediately jumped on him, intending to pummel the commander with his fists. He got as
far as two punches, and then heard an awful noise, the floor groaning in protest from the abuse. Both his and Morduck’s eyes widened, the men freezing. For one-second, over a shared glance, a silent truce was called, both of them wanting to get away from the danger.
But there was no time, they didn’t even get further than pulling apart, and trying to crawl forward when the floor gave in. With a mighty cracking sound, the floor beneath them caved in, Lotor and Morduck tumbling downwards with startled shouts. They could heard the human and Drules shouting as well, but the words offered them no comfort, and soon even that was drowned out by the sound of the collapsing floor, and the rubble that fell with them.
Lotor hit the floor face up, and threw his arms over his head, trying to protect his face from falling debris. He coughed up plaster, dust and dirt covering his body. A heavy peace of ceiling lay on his bottom half, and for a second Lotor welcomed the weight, for to feel it meant he was still alive. The debris lessened in volume, only a few rocks the size of his fists continued to fall.
It was hard to see through the cloud of dust, and he twisted about, reaching to shove the piece of ceiling off his waist and legs. It was a struggle, even for him, the broken ceiling refusing to move. But bit by bit he got it off, pieces of it breaking off at the edge. There was no time to relax once free, he was aware his enemy could come for him at any time.
The thought spurred him to his feet, Lotor holding his bleeding, injured hand close to his chest. He worried that an infection would happen, the wound just as dirty and dust covered as the rest of him. Above him, he could hear the concerned voices of Ryder and Captain Darius, but he didn’t dare shout that he had survived. Not without betraying his position to Morduck.
A cough was bubbling up within him, Lotor nearly choking as he tried to hold back. Some of the dust settled, allowing him to see a bit better though the area was darker here than on the third floor. As his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, he let out a gasp, having spied Morduck. The man lay on his back, and protruding from his chest was a sharpened piece of rubble. It had cleanly speared him through from back to front, it’s large tip coated red with the Drule’s blood.
“Morduck!” Lotor shouted, at a loss to how he felt about this development. He almost felt like his kill had been stolen from him, and though he had wanted Morduck dead, he almost thought this way too violent, too ripe with suffering.
“Lotor…” Morduck let out a broken sound, and blood streamed past his lips. There was no doubt that things inside him were ruptured, the Drule didn’t have much time to live.
Lotor walked towards the Drule, staring down at him with an expressionless face. Morduck struggled to say something, his mouth opening and closing several times, before ending on a gurgle. His eyes did not close, he was left to stare sightlessly at Lotor. The prince hesitated an instant, then lowered Morduck’s eyelids. Once again he was aware of Ryder and Darius’ shouts, and now he turned his face upwards to yell at them.
“I’m okay!” He shouted, tone emotionless. “Morduck is dead!”
“Thank God!” He heard Darius shout.
“Ryder…Get a communication out to all the Drules. Tell them their commander is dead, and that Pardust is the next in command.”
“Right.” Ryder said, voice yelling to be heard. “General…I mean Commander Pardust will have the invasion stopped immediately!”
“He better.” Lotor murmured, thinking he wouldn’t be able to handle another betrayal. It was too soon for relief to flow through him, Lotor staring at Morduck and knowing that except for the twisting of fate, that could have been HE who had been speared on a piece of ceiling. With a shudder he walked away from Morduck’s body, going to sit on the far side of the room.
His hand still bled, and he shifted, jerking off his armor, to reach for the shirt beneath it. There he tore off large strips off it, and began winding it around the wound in his hand. He tightened the shirt strips to stop the bleeding, and then just stared at his bandaged hand. He hoped the damage was fixable, and he cursed himself for the carelessness he had shown in allowing Morduck to get in that blow.
He wasn’t even sure what part of the castle he was in, everything was too grime covered to make out any familiar markings. It seemed to be a room though, and he hoped the entrance wasn’t barricaded shut. With a sigh, he settled himself more comfortably, and closed his eyes, thinking no one would fault him if he took a little rest.