There was few things that could compare to the moment when she had received word of her parent’s accident and the deaths that had followed the crashing of their cruiser. In fact, nothing had ever come close to the feeling of hopelessness and dread, the emotion shattering grief that had filled her to know she would never see her mother’s smile, never be hugged by her father again.
The waiting for news about Lotor, and whether or not he was safe, came close, and she knew if word had come that he had died, she would have been just as devastated as she had been for her parent’s demise.
Fortunately, the news had been positive, Captain Darius returning to her to report the Drule prince had not only survived the encounter with their enemies, he had won them the victory they had needed. Allura had barely heard the rest of what Darius was saying, too flooded with relief that Lotor was alive. She just barely registered Darius’ words that the prince was injured, having suffered a bad fall.
The reality of his injuries hit her all too soon, she was present when they carried Lotor out on a gurney, the prince heavily sedated. She had wanted to follow him onto one of the ships, but her duty to her people was pressing in on her on all sides, Allura’s attention being demanded. So she had reluctantly allowed Lotor to be taken onto one of the Drule ships, a man named Ryder explaining that they were better suited to tend to the prince’s injuries.
She certainly couldn’t argue with that, not with her home in shambles. The third floor was all but unusable, and the second floor was little better off, bearing the brunt of the rubble that had fallen from the collapse of the eastern tower. It seemed only the first floor and basement were untouched, and those areas were crowded with people, cots being brought out to form make shifts beds to replace the bedrooms of the second and third floor.
She wondered at the state of her own bedroom, having spent the last few days in one of the storage rooms in the basement. It was odd to be sleeping among the reserves of food, but room had been limited. In fact she had shared the room with Nanny and Coran, cots squeezed in among the barrels and boxes of the storage room.
The limited medical facilities of the castle were cramped with soldiers, all humans who had fought the ground forces of the Drules and somehow survived. Their injuries were from mild to severe, the castle doctors working diligently to keep the deaths down to a minimum. The injured Drules had been taken aboard the ships, there to get the medical treatment they needed, and if they were enemies of Lotor and Arus, they were quickly tossed into the ships’ holding cells.
Not that there was much room to house all of the enemy soldiers, even on ships as massive as the Drule war ships. Many of them were currently handcuffed, locked into the barracks until a more suitable solution could be found. They hadn’t even begun to try and weed out those who might be able to turn loyal to Lotor’s side of things, and Allura wondered if those who suddenly professed loyalty at the last minute could even be trusted.
She sighed, and the sound drew Nanny and Coran’s attention, the pair hesitating before her on the staircase. She didn’t so much as flush at the fact she had been caught making that sound, Allura gazing at her two caretakers for a moment. “It’s nothing.” She said at last, but they didn’t seem to accept those words.
“Are you sure about this?” Coran asked, voice concerned. “We don’t have to go up there.” She knew for a fact that Coran and Nanny would have preferred her to remain on the bottom floors, but Allura shook her head, voice insistent as she spoke.
“I have too. I want to see the damage with my own eyes.”
“I think it’s too dangerous!” protested Nanny, not moving a step higher on the staircase. “The third floor is unstable, there’s pieces of it everywhere on the second floor!”
“Then it’s a good thing we are working to repair the damage.” Allura said, calm in the face of Nanny’s agitation. “Don’t worry…” She added, voice softening. “I won’t take that long. You can wait downstairs if you want…”
“No, I will come with you.” Insisted Nanny, looking aghast at the thought of allowing Allura to walk into danger alone. “Besides…I need to see just how much work my maids and I will have, in order to clean this place up, and make it like home again.”
“I hope it won’t be too heavy a work load.” Allura murmured, gesturing for Nanny and Coran to move on up the staircase. She followed them, steps turning less confidant as she got onto the second floor landing. Even here, there was plenty of displaced ceiling, the carpet bearing a thick dusting of plaster that bore numerous footprints on it.
Nanny made a sound, dismayed to see the wreckage, and even Allura shuddered at the sight. It was disheartening to see, and she strolled forward, taking careful step to avoid the rubble as best she could. They passed by open doors, and she was relieved to see that some of the rooms looked intact on the inside. But others made her sad, seeing the dirt and grime, the holes in the ceiling that allowed her to see all the way up to the wrecked third floor.
“This is going to be expensive to repair.” Tsked Coran in a grave tone.
“We’ll manage…” Allura replied, but even she was thinking of the cost. Some of the new buildings to the towns would have to be delayed, she’d have to be selfish and insist on her own home being repaired first.
“We always do.” Agreed Coran, and they turned a corridor. At the far end of it, they could see several people, a mixture of Drule and human working to remove large pieces of rubble that stood blocking a door. The Drules that had allied themselves with Lotor were making themselves useful, trying to help with the clean up of the second floor. Even with their help, it proved to be a laborious task, and Allura wondered how bad the second floor had looked just two days ago.
She continued to walk forward, silently taking note of which rooms were damaged, and which were not. Nanny and Coran also moved, looking around, the woman clicking her tongue in disapproval. But Nanny kept quiet about what she thought, a fact that left Allura grateful, the princess is no mood to hear any negativity.
They drew closer to the working group of humans and Drules, the men not pausing to acknowledge them. They seemed intent on one door in particular, and it wasn’t until Allura was almost upon them, that she realized there was voices coming from the other side of the door.
“Someone is trapped?” she asked in surprise, trying to make out the muffled sound of voices through the door.
“Yes.” A Drule said, bringing an arm up to brush his hand against his sweat stained brow. “We’re working to free them now.”
“Don’t let me stop you then!” She exclaimed, and stepped back so as not to get in the way of their work. But she continued to watch them, and part of her felt excitement bloom with her curiosity. Her cousin Romelle had been missing these last two days, along with the Drule Sabbath, and they had had no word of where either one could be. Allura didn’t want to get her hopes up, but she began to pray that those trapped in the room, would prove to be her cousin and the Drule.
The men working on the door moved slow enough to stir Allura’s impatience, though she understood they were being careful so as not to incur injuries. The voices on the other side of the door occasionally grew silent, and Allura had to fight to keep from urging the men to hurry. But at last the way to the door was clear, and the men began work on removing it from it’s hinges.
Once the last screw was on done, the door fell backwards, and in a flurry of white skirts that were dirt strewn, Romelle appeared. She seemed to be in a hurry, and only Sabbath’s hand on her arm stopped her. He gazed out into the hall, a look of caution in his eyes, and it was Allura who called out to him.
“It’s all right Sabbath.” She smiled gently at the pair. “You’re among friends. The war was won, and it was in our favor!”
Sabbath looked at the Drules that were standing with the humans, then nodded slowly. He relaxed his grip on Romelle’s arm, and she immediately ran forward, throwing her arms around Allura. She didn’t care that her cousin was getting dirt on her, Allura was too glad to see Romelle. She laughed and returned the hug, voice a teasing chide as she spoke.
“You missed out on all the fun!”
Romelle let out a subdued laugh, squeezing Allura tighter in the hug. “It’s a fun I could do without!” She pulled back, eyes critical as she looked Allura over. “Just what has been going on while we were trapped?”
“Oh, nothing much.” Allura answered airily. “Just a full out invasion attack. Fortunately for us all, Lotor and the others managed to beat back the invaders commander, and end this war!”
“Thank the Gods for that!” murmured Romelle. Sabbath stepped closer to them, and Allura glanced at him curiously. He looked as serious as ever, but there appeared to be a kind of relaxation to his energy, the Drule not as tense and agitated as he usually was. She wondered at the cause of it but did not know how to ask without appearing nosy and rude.
“Where is the prince now?” Sabbath asked, and that got some of Allura’s joy to be dimmed.
“He was injured.” She explained. “They’ve taken him onboard one of the warships in order to be treated.” Allura let out a sigh. “I’m afraid the castle doesn’t have enough resources to help everyone at this point and time.”
“It’s all right.” Sabbath assured her. “They will manage. I do not know the extent of the prince’s injuries, but I do know he will fight to make a full recovery.” Allura blinked at that, surprised at his words. “He has much to live for….much to return for.” That got her blushing, Allura glancing shyly downwards.
“Hmph.” Nanny made a disapproving sound, hardly liking what the Drule had to say. She seemed to have more to say, but Romelle stepped towards her, distracting the older woman with a hug. “Princess Romelle!” Nanny cried, and hugged the girl tighter. “I’ve been so worried. I heard you had gone looking for me, and I feel like it’s my fault you’ve been trapped for these past few days.”
“Don’t blame yourself.” Romelle said. “It was my choice to look for you. I couldn’t have stood the thought if something had happened to you, when I could have prevented it!”
“But nothing.” Romelle insisted. “I’m fine, and so are you. Everything worked out.”
“I suppose…” Nanny suddenly glared at Sabbath. “But you were trapped with that filthy Drule for days on end! It must have been awful for you…”
“Er…” To Allura’s surprise she noted Romelle had colored a deep pink. Her cousin actually glanced at Sabbath, then turned away, merely shrugging her shoulders. “I managed….”
Allura glanced at Sabbath, whose expression was unreadable. She saw him lift a hand to brush fingers though his hair, and it was then she realized that all his braids had been undone. She wondered at that, but was distracted by Nanny’s fussing over her cousin.
“I bet you’re glad to be back among civilized people!” Nanny exclaimed, and pulled back to look over Romelle. “You’ll need a bath, and some food. I suspect you’re starving after your ordeal.”
“We both are.” Sabbath interjected, and Nanny hmphed at him. That earned her a frown from the Drule, Sabbath stepping closer to the two women. “Romelle is tired and needs her rest.”
“She can rest after she eats and gets cleaned.” Nanny retorted. She then proceeded to ignore Sabbath, turning to look over Romelle again. “You weren’t injured anywhere, were you?”
“Er no…I’m fine.” Romelle quickly assured. “Just a little tired.” Sabbath gave Nanny a pointed look, which the woman ignored.
“Come…” Allura said, and gestured for Nanny and Romelle to step ahead of her. “Let us go back down to the first floor. We’ll feed you both, and then get you situated somewhere you can rest.”
“That sounds lovely.” Romelle replied, already moving forward. She seemed a bit shaky, walking forward with an odd limp. “I can’t wait to sleep in a real bed…”
“That will have to go unanswered…” Allura said apologetically. “We’ve been making do with cots and blankets…” Romelle groaned at that, Sabbath striding towards her. He seemed overly concerned with the way Romelle was walking, and Allura got the feeling he was warring with his own instincts not to pick her up and carry her.
“It’s terrible.” Added Nanny, as she and Coran began to follow after Romelle and Sabbath. “With the second and third floor in such bad conditions, who knows how long it will be before the bedrooms are useable once more.”
“Oh great…” Romelle grumbled out a complaint, seeming put out by the news.
“Well….you can always return to your kingdom during the castle’s reconstruction.” Allura suggested, and Romelle suddenly spun around, looking alarmed at the thought. Sabbath put out a steadying hand, and Allura thought it interesting that Romelle did not protest the touch.
“I wouldn’t abandon you during this time!” Romelle exclaimed, leaving Allura to wonder why she was so insistent on remaining here in the castle.
“But it might be weeks, or even months before everything is back to the way it was.” Allura pointed out. “It hardly makes for an ideal vacation for you.”
“So we’ll have to rough it for a while.” Romelle shrugged. “It’s no big deal.” Allura just stared at her, shocked. Romelle gave a nervous little chuckle, then resumed walking, Sabbath her shadow.
They turned the corridor, in time to see a new Drule rushing up the stair case. “Now what…” grumbled Nanny, voice a little louder than necessary. But they all ignored her, continuing to move forward so that they met the Drule at the halfway point of the corridor.
“Ryder…” Allura greeted him with a smile, one that faded at the serious look on the Drule’s face. “What is it? What’s wrong? Is it Lotor?” He gave a nod, and she gasped, worried anew. “What’s happening…?”
“First let me assure you he’s come out of surgery just fine.” Ryder said. “He should be able to regain full use of his hand over time, with the proper amount of physical therapy. However….” She tensed up at that however, hardly able to relax over the news of his hand’s repair. “It appears the wound has gotten infected. He’s been raging with a fever for the last twenty-four hours…..we’ve been doing everything we can to keep it from spiking any higher.”
Her concern showed on her face, Allura clasping her hands together. “Is it that bad?”
“It’s a bit…troublesome.” Ryder allowed. “The medicine and ice baths are keeping it at bay, but just barely. Princess…” he suddenly dropped to one knee, head bowed in submission. “Please…..won’t you come and see him?”
“Come and see him? You mean on one of those ships?!” It was Nanny who spoke, the woman shaking her head no, actions frantic. “As if we’d ever allow our princess to set foot on board one of your ships again!”
“Nanny!” gasped Allura, and Coran had his own to say.
“You are being rude Nanny.”
“I am being cautious!” Nanny retorted. “They kidnapped Allura once, I’ve no doubt they’d do it again!”
“Lotor would not do that to me…not now!” Allura snapped, feeling anger amidst her concern for Lotor.
“How can you be so sure?!” Nanny demanded, and Allura bristled with rage.
“Because he loves me!” She didn’t even hesitate, she just blurted out the following. “And I love him!” It was worth it to see the shocked look on Nanny’s face, the way she gasped and paled at Allura’s words.
“It’s true!” Allura finished, and turned to Ryder. “Please…take me to Lotor at once.”
“Of course princess.” Ryder said, and stood. Allura moved to follow him, and Nanny snagged hold of her arm.
“No! You can’t!” Nanny looked on the verge of hysterical tears, nose sniffling as she spoke. “They’ll steal you away if you go onboard that ship!”
“You are overly paranoid!” Allura jerked her arm away, even as Nanny tried to pull her back. It left the older woman unbalanced, Coran reaching out to steady her.
“I have a right to be!” Nanny all but shouted. “After all they’ve done…!”
“You forget that not all the Drule are villains! Some are good, some are bad….and in the end it was Lotor and his allies who helped us to retain our freedom. The least you can do is show him some respect.” Allura retorted. “Now…I’m going, with or without your approval!” She nodded stiffly to Ryder, who didn’t try to hide his grin. She could still hear Nanny making protests, but Allura didn’t pause, not even to reply to some of the more outrageous things the woman was saying. She could hear Coran and Romelle trying to calm down the woman, and Allura almost felt guilty that she left the pair to deal with a hysterical Nanny.
But she was more concerned over Lotor than anything else, the girl walking quicker as she followed Ryder down the stairs. “Thank you for coming with me.” He told her, and she nodded.
“Nothing and no one could keep me away.”
“Glad to hear it.” Ryder said, approval in his tone. It made her wonder if the Drules had had doubts about their prince having a human for a mate. “I have to warn you. He’s very sick…almost delusional at times….”
“It’s that bad…” She whispered, upset.
“It’s the fever that makes him that way. But I…I have hopes seeing you might help heal him.” It was a curious thing Ryder said, Allura frowning puzzled at him. “It’s the mating bond….if he sees what he has to return to….you just might give him the strength he needs to fight off this infection and fever.”
“I…I see….” Allura murmured, shaken. They fell into silence as they traveled through the castle, each one lost to their own thoughts. Allura didn’t know what if anything she could truly do for Lotor, but she was determined to try.