It was well into night fall when Lotor arrived at the outskirts of the destroyed town, the prince pausing to gaze out at his surroundings. Many of the houses were untouched by the devastation that had been unleashed in this town, the buildings upright and intact. Many had their doors and windows boarded shut, a last effort ditch by the people who had once lived here to protect themselves from the invading Drule army.
In the end it had made no difference, men, women, children being cut down, even animals disposed of till there was nothing left but bodies. Lotor was relieved to see the bodies had already been taken care of, people from other towns and villages coming to tend to the dead, to give them proper burials.
There had not yet been time for Lotor’s allies to begin making this town their new home, the place existing only for ghosts and memories. It made a perfect hide out, with no unwanted eyes to see what was being done inside it’s borders.
He didn’t hear the footsteps, the approaching soldier having slipped into stealth mode, but Lotor sensed him all the same. The prince slowly turned, watching as the Drule emerged from the foliage that clustered the pathway between trees. The man like Lotor was dressed all in black, even their belt buckles had been painted so that nothing gleamed on their clothing.
Lotor had tied back his hair, making a long braid he tucked under a black cap. He wanted nothing to betray his presence, Lotor blending as seamlessly into the shadows as the accompanying soldiers did. He couldn’t see them, but knew they were spread through out the town, watching and waiting for his command. He had yet to give it, wanting to take things slowly so as to avoid the confrontation turning even more unpleasant.
“Which house are they in?” Lotor asked softly, having been unable to guess which building Sabbath had made his lair. The soldier raised his hand, pointing towards a building near the center of the town square. Lotor assessed the situation, noting the building was only one story in height. He had seen the blue prints for the typical homes inside this town, and knew the floor plan would allow only several rooms in addition to the kitchen and bathroom. He was counting on Sabbath keeping Romelle in one of the bedrooms, and unless the previous owners had deviated from design, those rooms would be located in the rear of the house.
“Sire, what are your orders?” The soldier wanted to know, and Lotor turned his back to him.
“Stand down for now.” He said, and the Drule couldn’t quite keep his surprise from sounding in his voice.
“I’m going in.” Lotor told him, his face taking on a determined look. “Alone.”
The soldier hesitated, not wanting to question his superior. And yet he did, the words coming out hesitant, as though he feared his prince’s temper. “Are you sure that’s wise? He could turn violent at any moment.”
“He’s only one man. I am sure I can handle him.” Lotor said confidently.
“But he is with his mate. If you try to take her from him…” The doubtful soldier trailed off with a shudder, Lotor turning to smirk at him.
“I’m well aware of what could happen. Which is why I think it’s best to go in there alone, rather than burst in with a squad of soldiers. One may get through to him where many would fail.”
“Then let someone else go in your place, your highness.” Begged the solider, and Lotor arched one perfect brow at him.
“Are you volunteering soldier?”
The Drule’s eyes widened, he was quickly shaking his head no, breath hissing out rapidly. “No sir!”
“Then until you are prepared to do otherwise, do not get in my way.” Lotor tried not to sneer, though he couldn’t keep his expression from turning arrogant. “Now relay my orders, let everyone know they are not to come near that house until I say otherwise.”
“Yes, sire.” They were maintaining radio silence, having left their communicators with their cruisers. Their vehicles had been parked several miles back, the Drules not daring to come any closer for fear Sabbath would be alerted to their presence by their engine’s noise.
The soldier cupped his hands around his mouth, making a bird call. Lotor was counting on Sabbath not to know of the birds native to Arus, the soldiers coming up with new signals on the ride over here. Three long whistles was the call to remain where you were, an answering hoot let Lotor know the order had been understood.
Giving one last nod to the soldier, Lotor began walking his way towards the town square, darting from shadow to shadow. He didn’t stay to watch the soldier vanish into
the bushes, Lotor concentrating on his stealth tactics. The moons were only slivers in the sky, with an overcast of clouds that kept their light from touching down on the ground.
It left him with many pools of shadows, especially close to the houses, the buildings casting large nets of darkness. It would take Lotor almost fifteen minutes to reach Sabbath’s hideout, the prince cautiously turning the door’s handle. It wasn’t locked, it wasn’t even barricaded from the inside, which made Lotor tsk under his breath. “Sloppy Sabbath.”
The hinges didn’t so much as squeak, well oiled in the recent past. He opened the door just wide enough for him to squeeze inside, Lotor finding himself in what had to be the kitchen area. His eyes adjusted to the lack of light in the house, Lotor noticing how cozy the area looked, as though directly defying what had happened to it’s late owners. In fact, the only thing that seemed out of place was the boards on the window, rusty nails hastily jammed in place.
Cautiously, with one hand on the pommel of his sword, Lotor began creeping his silent way towards what he hoped would be the hall. The door was open here, and he slipped through it, giving testing steps on the floorboards. They did not betray him with creaks, but Lotor did not step any faster, knowing haste could cause him to make a fatal mistake.
He listened as he walked, senses alert for sounds, but he didn’t hear any, not even talking or Romelle crying. If they hadn’t had visual confirmation of Sabbath entering this house, Lotor would have been sure it was empty. But the energy readings had been accurate, registering two heat signatures of warm bodies, one much larger than the other. Someone was residing here, and Lotor would be woefully disappointed if it proved to be some of Arus’ homeless.
He passed by open doors, spying the empty family room, and then a child’s room. The toys were undisturbed in that room, stuffed creatures watching Lotor with blank expressions on their faces. He continued his movement towards the back of the house, seeing there was only one door left. It had to be the master bedroom, and Lotor wondered just what he would find.
It was his misfortune that the door was half closed, Lotor easing it open. He stopped up short, spying Sabbath laying on the bed, his body dwarfing Romelle’s. He had his arms around her, cradling her close as they slumbered. She had a hand resting casually on his chest, her face nestled into the crook of his shoulder. Sabbath appeared to be smiling in his sleep, and the princess looked no worse for wear.
Lotor let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, relieved to see they both were okay. At least physically. There was no telling what their mental and emotional states were like, especially after three days alone together. He inhaled, noting the room did not smell like sex, and wondered what it meant that they hadn’t been intimate in that way.
~Have you failed after all Sabbath?~ Lotor wondered, sneaking towards the bed. He was already drawing his sword, though this time he had forgone his usual lazon blade to favor cold steel. It was a practical move, steel wouldn’t give away his presence with a tell tale hum.
Brows drawn together, Lotor reached the bed, gazing down at the troublesome pair. He wondered who he should blame more for the current situation, Lotor narrowing his eyes as he gazed at how peaceful Sabbath looked. It irked him, to think Sabbath could sleep so easily after the trouble he caused, and before Lotor even realized it, he was taking an aggressive pose, sword held at the ready.
He lashed out with his foot, striking Sabbath in the leg, hard enough to jar him. The black haired Drule was immediately awake, doing an odd forward lunging off the bed. He didn’t get far, his hands reaching to attack. And stopped up short, the point of Lotor’s sword at his throat, digging into the hollow.
“That’s good…” Lotor purred in satisfaction. “You’re still aware enough to react to danger.”
“Lotor…!” Sabbath did not dare swallow, conscious that any movement from him could split him on the prince’s sword.
“Easy now…” Lotor said, never taking his eyes off of Sabbath, even when Romelle began to move, the girl slower to wake even after she had been abruptly shoved away from Sabbath’s body. “I’m here to talk.”
“So talk…” Sabbath retorted, eyes locked on Lotor’s sword arm. “I’ll listen.
“You both will.” Lotor said, just as Romelle screamed.
“What do you think you are doing?!” She demanded, face stricken, eyes horrified. Lotor thought it interesting to note she was so distressed by his threatening Sabbath, her actions contrary to that of a reluctant captive.
“Calm down princess…” Lotor told her, and her voice came out louder than his, Romelle staring wide eyed at him.
“I most certainly will not! Not until you put down the sword!”
“Romelle it is fine. I am fine.” Sabbath was trying to reassure her, even with Lotor’s sword digging into his throat. “Lotor is merely here to talk.”
“He can do that without the sword!” Romelle insisted, and started to move off the bed. Lotor cried out a sharp word when he noticed Sabbath tensing up in response to Romelle’s movements, the prince not wanting to have to hurt his friend.
Romelle screamed again, and threw herself against Sabbath’s side, trying to push him out of the way of Lotor’s sword. The prince hid a smile, finding things were more promising than he had dared hope for.
“Romelle…” Sabbath’s expression became angered, the Drule clearly not liking how close Romelle was to Lotor’s sword. “Sit on the bed.”
“That was not a request, but an order!” He snapped out, fangs showing. She gasped, and went wide eyed, glancing anxiously between Lotor and Sabbath..
“But he’ll hurt you…” She said in a small voice, and then glared at Lotor. “Won’t you?!”
“That remains to be seen.” Lotor answered, tone cold. “Sabbath has a lot to answer for, what with kidnapping you.”
“Romelle, the bed, now.” Sabbath said urgently, not even trying to deny what he had done. Romelle ignored him, still clinging to Sabbath’s side, glaring viciously at Lotor.
“Kidnapping? What are you talking about?” She demanded, and shocked them all with her next words. “Sabbath didn’t kidnap me! I went with him willingly!”
“Really now?” Lotor arched an eyebrow, hiding his amusement. This was getting better and better if Romelle was willing to lie for Sabbath. “And why would you do that?”
“I…” She hesitated, seeming at a loss for a reason.
“‘Romelle, please, there’s no need to…”
“I don’t owe you an explanation!” She cut off Sabbath’s words, glaring at Lotor who returned that look ten fold.
“Oh but you do!” Lotor hissed, watching her face pale at his words. “You left without a word, you’ve been gone for days, the whole castle is in an uproar. People are besides themselves, thinking you were abducted. Drule human relations are a disaster now, and we have wasted valuable man power and countless hours searching for you. And you think you can just get away without explaining this?!”
“Don’t badger her!” Sabbath snapped, and the prince inwardly groaned, thinking him a fool for not recognizing the favor Lotor was trying to do for him.
“No, it’s all right…” Romelle told him, though she continued to glare daggers at Lotor. “Though it’s really none of your business. But Sabbath and I…we wanted to get away for a few days. We needed time to…”
“Time to what?” Lotor prodded her, and her temper flared.
“Don’t rush me!” She snapped. “We wanted time to ourselves, needed this time to…to bond.”
“And you couldn’t bond at the castle?” Lotor demanded and Romelle made a scoffing sound.
“Really Lotor. With as crowded as that place is in the wake of the repairs? There’s little room for privacy, and that’s before you take into count Nanny!” A shrewd look then, Romelle continuing. “You know what she’s like. She’d never let us be alone.”
“And what about that incident at the wedding reception?” asked Lotor, and Romelle even had an excuse for that.
“It was a misunderstanding, our tempers flaring. Really, it’s a private quarrel, one not meant to cause distress in any who witnessed it.”
“Hmmph.” His arm was still tense, Lotor holding Sabbath at bay with the sword. He knew now Sabbath would not attack him, especially with Romelle siding with her Drule. “And you Sabbath? Do you agree or not with what she has said?”
“Are you calling me a liar?” Romelle demanded, seeming outrage in the moment. Lotor just smirked at her, and she seemed to hiss. “Sabbath, tell him you did not kidnap me!”
“I did not kidnap her.” Sabbath stated automatically.
“Very well…” Lotor lowered his sword, and Romelle seemed to take a great breath, wilting with relief. Amazingly enough, she recovered in seconds, going up on tip toe to examine Sabbath’s neck. Her fingers trailed over his throat, feeling the skin for any wound Lotor might have left.
Sabbath was staring at Lotor, but looked distracted by the fact Romelle was touching him. Lotor nodded to him, letting his voice come out a gruff growl, speaking in Drule. “I really don’t have time for this bull shit.” He said, narrowing his eyes at the pair. “Especially with a war to worry about.”
“I’m sorry.” Sabbath murmured apologetically, sounding as though he truly meant it. Lotor continued to growl, but now he smiled, sheathing his sword.
“But as your friend, I am glad things worked out for you.”
“What are you saying to him!?” Romelle demanded, incensed that she couldn’t follow their conversation. “You better not be threatening him!”
“Calm your woman down.” Lotor told Sabbath, then switched to basic. “You have a lot of people worried about you, and eager to see you returned to the castle. I suggest you work on your apologies now, so you can be prepared when we arrive.”
Romelle didn’t try to argue that point, looking sheepish. She settled back on flat feet, and went to take Sabbath’s arm, once again clinging to him as Lotor gestured for Sabbath to precede him out the room’s door.
The trio walked through the house, little if anything being said. Lotor let them have the time to think up more lies, thinking it would be interesting to hear just what they would say to explain away this incident.
“I don’t envy you.” Lotor said, his voice making Sabbath hesitated at the door. “A lot of people are angry with you…”
“They can be angry with the both of us!” Romelle rose to the challenge of defending her Drule, tossing a haughty look over her shoulder at Lotor.
“Oh they will. Count on it.” Lotor told her, watching her blanch at the thought.
Sabbath opened the door that led to the outside, and as he walked through it with Romelle, bird calls were heard. Lotor lifted a hand, fingers flashing signals as he called out. “It’s all right. This matter has been settled.”
The hidden Drules came out to surround them, Romelle gasping and pressing even closer to Sabbath in fright. It appeared she was still leery of being around this many Drules, and Lotor wondered if she had even noticed how many female warriors he had brought along for this excursion. The women were there solely for the princess’ comfort, Lotor thinking she would handle it better to be around those of her own gender.
Sabbath wrapped an arm around Romelle, letting her shield herself against him. The Drules were speaking in their native tongue, one woman approaching with a pair of manacles. Romelle roused herself from her fear, glaring as she all but shouted, “There will be no need for those!”
“But…” The female soldier glanced at the prince, Lotor giving a slight nod.
“It was all a misunderstanding.” He explained, lips quirked in an odd half smile. “The mates were merely on a little vacation get away and did not mean to cause any alarm.”
The Drules seemed to relax around them, none had been that at peace with the idea that Sabbath had committed a crime. Lotor held back his chuckle, knowing it wasn’t yet time to be at ease. The real challenge would come when they arrived at the castle, Coran and especially Nanny, proving harder to appease. He hoped Romelle would continue to stick to Sabbath’s defense, and the story she had come up with, Lotor knowing much rode on their ability to prove the Drule had not taken the princess prisoner.