He was inside one of the fancier offices located in the Castle of Lions, a room that had been chosen for it’s tasteful decorations, and the wealth it hinted at. It made the perfect back drop for him, Lotor being sure to stay seated underneath the large crest of the royal family, the shield lined with real gold, and covered in sapphires and rubies. It was one of the richest pieces he had seen inside the castle, and Lotor had learned from Allura it had been part of her family’s holdings for well over a century.
On either side of the shield, were windows, their curtains drawn back so that one could view the mixing of humans and Drules walking the grounds. It sent a message to those who would see it, to show the unity of the two peoples, and strengthen that impression to the men and women Lotor was contacting.
Everything was calculated to send a message, Lotor remaining relaxed in his seat, not betraying his inner nerves as he talked with various Lords and Ladies of the Drule high court. Each call brought him closer to increasing his numbers of soldiers, of ships, of weapons, and Lotor had spent much of the morning hours contacting each individual.
Each call started out almost the same, the nobles acting shocked to see him. They too had believed the lies General Pardust had fed Zarkon, believing their King’s word that the invasion was going in Doom’s favor. They hadn’t known much beyond that, save that Zarkon had disinherited Lotor, disgracing the prince’s name at court. They hadn’t know the reason behind the disgrace, and they reacted with the proper amount of astonishment to learn that he was mated, his every action done in the name of that love.
It was interesting to note the different reactions he got, once the astonishment faded away. Some were properly outraged to think their King had disowned his own son for finding his mate, for threatening Allure’s life. They recognized the sacredness of the mating bond, and understood how such a thing must not only be acknowledged, but honored, cherished. They offered him his congratulations, a few even outright gave him their support.
For some it took some maneuvering, Lotor having to use all of his available arsenal to wheedle out favors from the nobles he called. Many of the names on the list General Pardust had given him, were names he recognized, people he had allied with at the courts. Some owed him, either for their fortunes, their positions, or even their continued well being, and though leery, they were quick to throw in their support when pushed.
A small handful of others however, no amount of coaxing could get them to side with Lotor. He was turned away, disappointed and knowing it wouldn’t be long before they contacted his father. He wondered if Zarkon would even bother to call him personally to declare war, to shout and scream accusations, to do his usual show of threats and vicious promises.
Lotor bowed his head, a troubled frown on his face as he paused between calls. Arus’ time of limited peace was quickly running out, by the end of the day they would know what Zarkon’s reaction was, and the preparations for war would become more intense. Now more then ever, Lotor needed his mate, needed her reassuring touch, and to see her beautiful smile.
However, he was trying to be good, downright avoiding Allura in an effort not to seduce her before the wedding. It nearly destroyed something inside him to stay away, and it left Lotor wondering how he was going to handle the long months at war, when he could barely manage a few hours away from Allura’s side.
He sighed, and glanced down at the papers spread out on the desk. Many names were checked off, but there was still a significant amount remaining, nobles he still had to call. He would call them all, Lotor not content with the amount of men and provisions promised to him. Some might say he was being greedy, but Lotor felt he was being practical in his desire to raise as big a military presence as possible. He knew Zarkon would attempt the same, and it would be the clash of two titans when their forces met.
It was strange, but Lotor often thought how much of this could have been avoided if Zarkon hadn’t given Morduck the orders to harm Allura. It was an odd twisting of fate, leading Lotor to lose a father, but gain the love of his mate. He couldn’t help but wonder if Zarkon had reacted in a different way, if Lotor would have kept his relationship with his father, but lost any chance at gaining Allura’s affection. It made him wonder why he couldn’t have had both, and Lotor was only grateful that not all of the people of the Doom Empire had turned their back on him.
Lotor knew he had to stay positive, that he had to keep thinking on how he would gain the throne when this war was over and done with. But he couldn’t stop from thinking what it would cost him, the time away from Allura being almost more than he could stand. It wasn’t that strange that Lotor sometimes harbored the thought of staying behind with her, of commanding from Arus. But that seemed just a fantasy, he knew he had to be seen leading the forces into the heart of battle.
He didn’t even want to entertain the thought of bringing Allura along on one of the war ships. A battlefield was no place for a man’s mate, no matter the comfort her nearness might lend to him. He’d find a way to endure their separation, and once victorious, would return to her side, ready to love and make up for all the time they had been apart.
Lotor couldn’t know if his men were nervous at the thought of following the command of a mated Drule. These days it was unheard of for a Drule who had found his mate to go into battle, and Lotor couldn’t think of any examples of a mated Drule leading troops. These thoughts left him stressed, Lotor wondering how they were going to hold it together under his command.
Luckily he had others to bolster him with support, Lotor knowing he’d have to rely on General Pardust to make and override some of his decisions. Lotor did not want to lead his men into a defeat, and would do anything to avoid such a thing from happening. He felt he was a handicap to his army, and Lotor could only be glad he was the only mated Drule that would be involved in the fighting.
He reached for his cup, the mug still steaming with the hot drink that had been delivered to him. As he began drinking down the liquid, a knock rapped loudly on the office door. Lotor paused a moment to swallow down another mouthful of the drink, and then he was calling out, “Enter!”
The door swung open, revealing Sabbath standing between it’s metal frame. The black haired Drule’s clothes were coated with a fine layer of plaster, Sabbath having been busy helping with the repairs of the castle’s upper floors. Lotor wondered if Sabbath used that time to keep himself distracted from thoughts of Romelle, and the prince wondered how the Drule was managing. Especially now that they had had sex, Lotor knowing from experience how difficult it was to stay away from Allura now that they had officially mated.
“You wanted to see me?” Sabbath was saying, and Lotor drew himself out of his private musings.
“Yes.” Confirmed Lotor, gesturing for Sabbath to close the door, and come closer. “I have something for you.”
“Oh?” Sabbath barely looked curious, keeping a somber expression on his face. Lotor held back a sigh, and picked up a data pad that was laying on top of a small stack of books.
“Here, take this.” Lotor handed the data pad to Sabbath. The Drule took it without a word, though a look of confusion was in his eyes. Data pads were a common enough device, everyone had them, especially those Drule who composed Doom’s military. “I’ve taken the liberty of downloading some reading material for you. Ones I am sure you will find quite interesting.”
“Your highness?” Sabbath still did not understand, gazing across the desk at Lotor. The prince hid a smile, and picked up the two books that had been under the data pad.
“A gift for you.” He said, and handed the books to Sabbath. The black haired Drule blinked in surprise, having spied the covers and the lewd way the couples painted on them groped at each other. “These are Princess Romelle’s hidden treasures.” THAT got Sabbath’s attention, the Drule taking another look at the covers, actually tracing a finger over the embossed words printed there.
“These belong to Romelle?” Sabbath asked, and Lotor nodded.
“These are just a few of the nearly dozens of similar books she has.” He smirked then, thinking of the contents inside the books. “I thought you should know about them. Know about what’s inside them, the kind of things these stories tell.” He paused, but Sabbath seemed to have nothing to say to that. “They’re very….specific kinds of tales…all about sex and romance…of certain kind of men. Heh…I dare say it would be wise of you to read and study these characters well. It is my belief they would be invaluable to you, as it paints a precise picture of the kind of man your mate is yearning for.”
“These are….instructional booklets?” Sabbath asked, and Lotor paused.
“In a way.” Lotor allowed with a smirk. “Certainly you’ll find them useful. I’ve had translations of these books downloaded into the data pad. I’ve even taken the liberty of having key pages highlighted, the ones that Romelle seemed to especially favor.”
It didn’t take much more than that to get Sabbath, whose curiosity was increasing by the moment, to switch on the data pad. Lotor watched, amused as the Drule began scanning the contents written on the screen, eyes looking astonished.
“My savage surrender?” He read out loud, and fixed Lotor with a questioning look. “The Barbarian’s claim? Odd names for books.”
“What is strange to you and I, is popular among the young ladies of the human worlds.” Lotor answered with a grin. “In fact, Romelle has a whole box full of books like this….and if you think the names are odd….wait until you read what goes down inside these books!”
Sabbath gave him a look, as though commanding Lotor to just tell him. The prince kept on grinning, waiting rather impatiently for Sabbath to read one of the translated passages. Lotor knew the impact would be lessened if Sabbath had gone into the book prepared, and he leaned back in his seat, watching Sabbath’s expression carefully. The black haired Drule was reading, eyes scanning the words on the data pad, when his eyebrows raised. Lotor fought a snicker as Sabbath looked up to cast him a questioning look, his hand gesturing for Sabbath to continue reading.
Drules could not blush, but there was other ways to tell judge their reactions, Lotor noting the slight widening of Sabbath’s eyes. and the in drawn hiss of air he took in. His fingers seemed to tighten on the delicate data pad, Lotor almost ready to warn Sabbath to be careful not to damage it.
“This is…” Sabbath began, seeming unable to stop reading. “This is what my mate likes?” His voice strongly hinted at his shock, but Sabbath couldn’t help but look interested.
“So it would seem.” Lotor said, seeing Sabbath do a double take at what had to be a particularly spicy paragraph.
“And you say she has a whole box of these kind of books?”
“Yes.” He couldn’t stop grinning, pleased with himself. “And they are all very similar in tone, even if the settings and characters are different. It seems Romelle has pretty specific desires…ones that would benefit you to cater to them.” Lotor chuckled lightly then. “It must be difficult being a princess….Of being catered to by men eager to curry favor and submit to your every whim. I doubt any of these humans would give her what she wants….”
“But you think I can?”
“You’re her mate.” Lotor answered simply. “Of course you will. Now, I want you to take the rest of the day off…” He held up his hand to stifle Sabbath’s protests. “Use this time to familiarize yourself with these books, and the behavior of the men within their pages. That way you’ll be able to take the steps needed to not only catch her attention, but keep it.”
“Yes, your highness.” Sabbath agreed, attention still riveted by whatever he read on the data pad. Lotor continued to smile, looking forward to whatever attempts Sabbath would make in an effort to win Romelle’s affection.
Slow to move, and entirely focused on the data pad, Sabbath began to head out of the office. He almost collided with Coran, the mustached man making a startled sound as he side stepped the Drule. Sabbath glanced up from the data pad long enough to murmur his apologies to the royal advisor, before continuing onwards, Coran stepping into the room.
“Ah Coran.” Lotor said, a smile on his face as he moved to stand and greet the advisor. “To what do I owe this visit?”
“Princess Allura asked me to speak with you.” Coran said, closing the office’s door.
“She did?” Lotor questioned, wondering if Allura was purposefully avoiding him like he was her. “About what?”
“About the wedding.” Coran’s answer had Lotor alarmed, the prince’s smile dying down into a frown.
“Is there a problem? It’s not going to be delayed is it?”
“Please. I meant no cause for alarm.” Coran reassured him, a hand held up in a calming motion. “The wedding is still scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.” Lotor grew relieved, sitting back down in his chair. Coran joined him, sitting before the desk, a serious look on his face. “But the princess was concerned about your familiarity with the proceedings of the ceremony. I understand it will be very different from what you Drule are used to.”
Lotor could admit, at least to himself, that he had been just a little worried about what would be involved with this ceremony of the humans. He fixed Coran with an interested look, giving a slight nod of his head for Coran to continue.
“It’s shame really, that we don’t have more time to prepare.” The advisor sighed. “Traditionally there would be a rehearsal, followed by a fancy dinner. But with all that is going on, we’ve had to skip that step. However, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to manage tomorrow.”
“Just what is expected of me?” Lotor asked.
“Well…you are to stand at the altar with your appointed man. It is tradition that the groom have a close friend stand up with him, and take care of the rings.” Coran paused. “You do have a best man picked out don’t you?”
“Best man…” Lotor said blankly, and Coran sighed.
“Allura has picked her cousin to be her bridesmaid. The groom’s best man is expected to be Romelle’s escort for the festivities….”
Lotor flashed a broad smile at that, thinking the solution obvious. “I believe I have a Drule in mind to fill the position.” He was thinking of Sabbath, marveling how fate kept giving him opportunities to throw the two together. Surely Allura had picked her cousin with the intent for her to be matched up with Sabbath, and Lotor would not disappoint her.
“That’s good.” Coran nodded approvingly. “You and he are to arrive at the ball room at least an hour earlier than the bridal party. It’s mainly to greet the guests, and get to speak with the priest that will be performing the ceremony. I shall be on hand to present the rings to your friend, and I will be acting in lieu of the princess’ dearly departed father, by walking her down the aisle.”
“It is tradition for the bride to be given away to the groom…” explained Coran. “I will hand her off to you, and the gesture will signify the trust I am placing on you to take good care of Allura.” The look the advisor gave Lotor hinted he should not ruin that trust.
“I assure you, I will always take good care of Allura.” Lotor answered, and Coran didn’t so much as bat an eye.
“The priest will read several passages from our holy books, and you and Allura will be given candles. Together you will light a flame, it’s supposed to signify the love you have for each other, forever burning.” Continued Coran. “There will be an exchanging of vows…Allura has opted to forgo the writing of new ones, due to the press for time and the duties occupying you both. Fear not your highness, it will be a simple matter of repeating the words the priest says.”
‘All right.” Lotor thought this sounded simple enough.
“Now this is the important part.” Coran said, mustached twitching. “When the priest asks you if you take Allura to be your bride, you must say I do. Do not hesitate, even for a moment!”
“I won’t!” Lotor quickly assured him, wondering what would happen if he hesitated.
“After you and Allura agree to the vows, the priest will pronounce you man and wife. You will be allowed to exchange a kiss to seal this agreement. Do try not to over do it in this area.” Warned Coran gravely.
“I’m sure we can manage to restrain ourselves.” Lotor’s tone was dry, the prince wondering what Coran thought he would do when given permission to kiss Allura.
“Yes, I’m sure you can.” Coran agreed. “I want to say, I am most impressed with your resolve.”
“Agreeing to Nanny’s…suggestion.” clarified Coran, and Lotor let out a snorted out laugh.
“It was more outright demand than suggestion!”
“Either way, I thank you for agreeing to it. I know it couldn’t have been easy. Our culture has certain demands in place about women, especially those from a high born, respectful family. We wouldn’t want any negative talk to be generated about the princess, there’s enough of that going around.”
“Whose talking disrespectfully about Allura?” Lotor demanded gruffly, but Coran waved him off.
“You can’t be surprised by this. She spent nearly a week unchaperoned aboard one of your ships with you. That alone was enough to get tongues wagging. We’re fortunate the princess did not end up pregnant during that time…..indeed, any child you two may conceive within the first year will be looked on with suspicion.”
“Why?” A confused Lotor asked.
“Our culture is very specific on the making of children. It’s frowned down upon to conceive out of wedlock, and there’s been more than one case of a young couple hurrying to wed to cover a child’s date of conception.”
“Your people seem a very repressed, and judgmental society at times.” Grumbled Lotor. “Children to the Drule are special, no matter how they were conceived.”
“I guess you could say we Arusians love a good scandal.” Allowed Coran. “Fortunately there is much happening to keep them from looking too closely at the circumstances surrounding you and Allura’s whirlwind courtship.” A polite pause, and then Coran was continuing. “How goes the preparations?”
“They go well.” Lotor said, allowing a smile to show. “I’ve spent much of this morning making calls, and I have over a dozen promises of support.” He kept quiet about the number of nobles who had turned him down, Lotor choosing instead to focus on the positive. “They’re gathering resources, I expect by the end of today to have documents showing the projected numbers of money and soldiers they can send me.”
“That’s good to hear.” Coran seemed to relax slightly. “Arus’ men are also preparing for the battle, we have several hundred men and women who have already voluntarily enlisted to go to Doom.”
“I’ll have to arrange with Pardust training programs for them, so that they can learn the Drule ships.” Lotor said.
“Are they that different from Arusian ones?” Coran wanted to know.
“In some regards they are much the same, but in others…” Lotor sighed. “Fortunately we can program the computers to switch from Drule to the human language at will….Much of the battle will take place in the atmosphere above planet Doom, but we will need ground forces to engaged Doom’s military, as we take the castle. It won’t be an easy war, one without quick resolutions. My father will throw everything he has at us…”
“It will be rough on princess Allura.” Coran murmured. “To be separated from you, for any amount of time.”
“It will not be any easier for I!” pointed out Lotor, looking as unhappy as he felt in the moment. “But I must do what I must, to ensure her safety, and peace for Arus and Doom.”
“That you must.” Agreed Coran, and then the man was rising to stand. Lotor stood with him, holding out his hand to the advisor. Coran gripped it, and they shook, exchanging a solemn look. “I’ll leave you to your calls now, your highness.”
“Yes.” Lotor nodded, and just before Coran opened the door, he called out to him. “When you see Allura, relay her a message of my love for her.”
“I will.” Promised Coran, and then he stepped out of the room. As the door clicked close, Lotor sank back into his seat, a heavy sigh escaping him. His heart felt heavy, his mood turning depressed. But he knew he couldn’t afford to spend any more time thinking on that which troubled him. Not when he still had calls to make. So with a shake of his head, Lotor plastered a polite smile on his face, and began to type in the digital codes for the next noble’s home line.