Attraction 71

She was watching her cousin pace, Romelle nervous and pale, her anxiety seeming to mount by the second. Romelle’s fingers picked nervously at the front of her gown, and Allura feared the expensive and intricate pearl beading would come undone from the girl’s fidgeting. She had already asked her cousin several times to have a seat, and each time Romelle had refused, continuing to walk about the receiving chamber, her long skirts dragging on the floor.

She, like Allura, was dressed in formal finery, the balls gowns chosen specifically for today’s occasion. Romelle looked lovely in a pale, butter colored gown, brighter bits of yellow being the accent color. She’d be dazzling if she smiled, but Romelle seemed unable to manage more than a worried frown, the princess not looking forward to the day’s events.

Or rather, Allura mused thoughtfully, the guests who were set to arrive at any moment. The castle was currently crowded with many new people, men and women invited from all over Arus, the nobility of the various kingdoms coming here to celebrate. It was Allura’s long awaited birthday, and the castle had been transformed to celebrate such an auspicious occasion.

It wasn’t just the ball room that had been decorated, enough time has passed that the clean up and repairs to the second floor were completed, the bedrooms now made available once more. Construction was currently mid way started on the third floor, though it had been stopped for the day’s festivities. The castle was flying new flags, and displaying Allura’s favorite colors, there was even a banner hanging over the castle’s front doors.

And yet she wasn’t feeling the festive mood, worried for her cousin, who fretted something awful the closer this day came to arriving. She had spent the last week watching Romelle grow quieter and quieter, the girl almost subdued from her normal boisterous personality. Only Sabbath seemed able to cheer up Romelle, but now it had gotten to the point that the girl couldn’t take comfort from her own mate.

It all had to do with a guest in particular, Romelle’s father and how he would react to the news of his daughter being mated to a Drule. A Drule she had ran away with, if their story was to be believed. Romelle had never said otherwise, but Allura knew that Sabbath had indeed kidnapped her. So did Lotor, and privately the two had discussed it, looking back with a kind of amazed wonderment that it had all worked out for Sabbath.

These past two weeks hadn’t been easy for Romelle, not every one was accepting of her lies. Many people were upset she had done this, angry that she had caused them worry with this stunt. They didn’t doubt her story, they believed too strongly that she wouldn’t lie, and they wished that she had told someone of her plan to go on a private getaway with her Drule lover.

There was of course a few who thought it inappropriate for a young lady and a princess to run off with a man, thinking she set a bad example for the other women in the kingdom. Romelle didn’t seem to care, almost defiant in response to this kind of negativity. Not even Nanny could bring Romelle’s mood down, though in truth the woman hadn’t had much to say.

In fact Nanny often went to lie down rather than confront Romelle. Something in her seemed to have broken that day when Romelle announced she was for all intents and purposes married to Sabbath. The older woman was as shocked as she was disappointed, and she had never quite forgiven Romelle for what she had done.

Allura often wonder if Coran wasn’t plying her with sedatives, the girl unused to this subdued mood of Nanny’s. Coran himself was a mystery as to what he believed, the man having questioned Romelle and Sabbath for hours on end before he was satisfied enough to leave the situation alone.

With Coran’s acceptance of the story, the people gradually began to trust the Drules once more. And thus relationships between humans and Drules was almost back to what it had been, the two races getting along for the most part, working on the castle repairs, and preparing for the impending war. This birthday celebration was a rare moment of fun for the people, a moment of calm and joy before they had to get serious once more.

Only, Allura didn’t think she could enjoy the party, at least not until things were resolved between Romelle and her father. Romelles’ brothers were a lesser concern, Allura knowing she would have to win them over towards Sabbath as well. For once Allura was almost glad she didn’t have any siblings, the girl not wanting to think what it would have been like to try and get them to accept Lotor!

“Where are they….” Romelle was heard muttering, fingers still twisting nervously at a large pearl on the lower part of her bodice. Allura nearly grimaced to see her do that, fearing it would twist off in her hands. “They should be here by now….”

“Calm down.” Advised Allura, even as Romelle let out a strangled laugh. “I’m sure they are just delayed by traffic. The roads will be cluttered this day with all the guests that are coming.” Romelle nodded, but didn’t relax. “Romelle, please…have a seat….”

“I don’t think I can be still for that long!” She exclaimed, and seemed to step even quicker. “Oh, I don’t know how I can face them!”

“You’ll do fine.” Assured Allura, even though she had her own doubts. “But really, you need to be calm. If they see you like this, visibly vibrating with anxiety, they’ll know something is up the minute they come through that door.”

That seemed to get Romelle to stop in her tracks, the girl sighing. “Is it really that obvious?”

“Romelle, you’re practically shaking!” Allura exclaimed, then gestured towards the empty seat besides her. “Please, sit. I will be here with you to lend you my support. And we can always call for Sabbath to be here as well.”

“No. No…I need to do this without him. I think it will go better if they meet him after we talk. Oh, I hope they will be understanding!” She took a step towards the offered seat, chewing at her lip uncertainly. “I hope HE will understand…”

“Just…just don’t get disappointed if it takes more than one talk to get him to that point.” Allura told her, watching as Romelle sagged into the chair. “He might be upset at first…but he loves you, and I’m sure with time and patience, he’ll come to understand and want what’s best for you.”

“I hope so…” Romelle was uncertain, and now her fingers fidgeted with the fringe of the chair’s pillow. It was better than her playing with her dress, Allura relaxing slightly. There was a pause, and then Romelle shook her head, clutching at the pillow. “But what if you’re wrong?!”

“I…”

“What if he doesn’t understand….what if he comes to hate me?!” demanded Romelle, and for a second Allura thought she’d burst into tears.

“Oh Romelle….is that what you’re worried about?” Her cousin gave a miserable looking nod, and Allura paused to choose her words carefully. “I’m sure he won’t be like that. Your father is a good man, he can’t possibly come to hate his own flesh and blood.”

“But he’s always been so concerned for his own kingdom…” Romelle whispered. “Always wanting what is best for it, even at the cost of his own children’s desires. You know Avok is engaged to marry a woman he can’t even stand?! The same will probably happen to Bandor when he comes of age. Who knows who he’s got his eye on for me! He’ll be so let down by my choice…”

Allura was well familiar with the concept of a marrying for political gain, for making alliances through marriage that would somehow benefit the kingdom, either through power or money or both. She herself had expected to enter a loveless marriage, the very best she had thought to hope for was that she’d grow to love whomever her husband would be. Lotor had saved her from that, giving her the happy future Allura had thought might be denied to her.

“Yes, he may be disappointed…” Allura began, reaching over to pat Romelle’s hand. “But he should be happy to know his daughter found love. That is the best thing we can hope for, for our loved ones. For them to love and be loved in return.”

“I don’t know about that…..” A doubtful Romelle said with a sigh, leaving Allura unsure of how to reassure her.

“Here…I’ll fix you a cup of tea.” Allura rose from her seat, Romelle nodding her head.

“Thanks….”

Allura began preparing the drink, the kettle still piping hot as it sat on the table. As she began to pour the tea into a cup, a knock sounded on the door, the sound enough to startle Allura into spilling some of the drink.

“They’re here!” gasped Romelle, practically leaping out of the chair. Allura was hurriedly mopping the spill with a napkin, chagrined to have not realized how nervous SHE was about this visit.

“Enter!” called out Allura, and a servant opened the door.

“Right this way please…” There was no need for formalities between them, they were all family here, the King striding forward with a jovial smile on his face. Romelle’s father was a tall man, towering over the servant. His hair was a thick bush of red that was sliced with sliver. His beard was similarly colored, and his blues eyes were lit up with joy to see Romelle.

“Romelle! Allura!” The King said, coming over to hug each girl. Allura let out a nervous giggle, hugging him back as Avok and Bandor entered the room. Avok looked as handsome as ever, his face smooth, showing off a strong chin and sharp cheek bones. His hair was the same shade of red as his father’s, but his eyes were green like his mother.

Bandor at 14 had yet to hit his growth spurt, looking so short next to the two men. His hair was more orange than red, and the curls were tight against his scalp. He lit up when he saw his sister, hurrying forward to fling himself into her arms. Romelle was almost absentminded as she hugged him, Bandor barely noticing as he began to talk her ear off.

“I missed you Romelle!” He exclaimed with excitement. “The castle is never the same when you go off to visit cousin Allura!”

“You know our sister can’t stand our winters.” Avok said, a hint of teasing to his voice. “She much prefers Altea’s warmer temperatures.”

“Avok.” Bandor reluctantly pulled apart from his sister to let her get a hug from their older brother. “It’s good to see you,” Romelle told him, then forced a smile at them all. “Good to see you all.”

“You have no idea how relieved I am to see you in one piece.” Her father was saying. “When I heard the castle nearly succumbed to the attack by these Drules…” He trailed off with a shudder, his mouth frowning. “Distasteful business, these aliens.”

“We saw a few Drule when we came into the castle.” Bandor was excited. “They’re so big! With muscles everywhere. They must be very strong.”

“Not as strong as Avok I’ll bet.” The King proudly boasted. “I say they would be hard pressed to win in a fair fight against my son.”

“I’d give them a right sound thrashing!” Avok said, smirking slightly. “If any of them get out of line, just tell me. I’ll put them to rights straight away.”

“Er….” Allura exchanged a look with Romelle. “That won’t be necessary. These Drules are our allies…”

“I still can’t believe you married one of them!” exclaimed Romelle’s father. “What was Nanny and Coran thinking, letting you do that?!”

“It wasn’t their decision to make.” Allura tried to keep from stiffening up at his comments, her voice holding ice to it. The King didn’t seem to notice, shaking his head with a tsk.

“I’ll never understand the impetuous of youth. But I understand at least it’s a good alliance for Arus, provided your Drule wins against Doom.”

“There is that to consider.” Agreed Allura. “But honestly, I did not marry him from any political desire.”

“Then why did you marry him Allura?” asked a curious Bandor, and she smiled.

“Because I love him.” She explained. “Prince Lotor is a wonderful man, very kind and attentive. He’s strong too, not just physically but of the heart as well. I couldn’t have made a better choice for a husband.”

“Hmmm…” To Bandor there was more interesting things than love. “So he’s strong? I’d like to meet him then!”

“You will, I promise!” laughed Allura. “He’ll be at the party, along with Sabbath.”

“Sabbath? Whose Sabbath?” Bandor wanted to know, and Allura did a side long glance at Romelle.

“He’s…” Romelle didn’t seem ready to answer, Allura sighing. “He’s a good friend of Lotor’s. And a good soldier. He helped keep your sister safe during the invasion.”

“Then we must thank him.” Decided the King.

“Yes, that sounds good.” Allura said, and glanced again at Romelle. She seemed tongue tied, her nerves rendering her speechless in the moment. “I think you’ll be seeing a lot of Sabbath…” continued Allura, trying to ease her cousin into the conversation someway. “He’s…sorta made it his personal mission to protect Romelle.”

“Oh?” Avok arched a brow. “And why would he do that?”

“He’s…he’s very devoted to me you see…” Romelle suddenly blurted out, then turned red in the face.

“Ah, no doubt he’s moved by your beauty!” Her father said, and Allura couldn’t tell if he was teasing or not.

“Something like that…” stammered Romelle. Avok was staring at her, noting her red cheeks.

“Sister, are you ill? You looked a tad feverish.”

“No, I’m fine.” Romelle told him. “I just…”

“Just what?”

Romelle shook her head, changing whatever it was she had been about to see. “Just glad to see you. I was…worried you weren’t coming.”

“Wouldn’t have missed this chance to see my favorite niece for the world!”

“Uncle, I’m your only niece.” Allura pointed out with a laugh.

“Still, can’t deny you’re my favorite.” He insisted. “Even if you chose to marry not of your own kind.”

Allura’s smile froze at that comment, she practically glared at Romelle’s father. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing, nothing.” He said, bringing his hands up in a placating gesture. “Just I know it can’t be easy, what with the cultural differances….and the savage nature of these aliens.”

“Savage nature?!” Allura sputtered, the King nodding.

“You know the stories, I’m sure. The Drules are a bloodthirsty lot, their tales of conquest known throughout the galaxies. I find it hard to believe such a race of barbarians could settle down with we peace loving humans.”

“Love changes them.” Romelle suddenly piped in, and Allura was grateful to hear her take an active part in the conversation. “And they’re not all a bunch of blood thirsty savages. Some of them are quite kind…and caring…and very willing to help.”

“Yes, but wasn’t the majority of the Drules ones who fought against Arus?” Avok asked, and Romelle seemed to color red.

“Not all! Many turned against their King, siding with their crown prince.”

“So a bunch of traitors are they?” inquired her father, and Romelle shook her head no.

“You’re wrong! They’re very loyal, to their prince, to their beliefs….to their mates. And if they hadn’t turned traitor as you call it, Arus would have surely lost the war and been invaded.”

“Mates?” Bandor’s nose wrinkled. “What does mating have to do with anything? What does that even mean?!”

“It has everything to do with it!” A distressed Romelle cried out, and Allura put a hand on her shoulder, trying to calm her through touch.

“Daughter, why are you getting so upset?” The King wanted to know. “Why do you make yourself such an ardent defender of these aliens?”

“Perhaps she’s spent too much time around them.” Suggested her brother, Avok. He was watching Romelle thoughtfully, but the girl seemed unable to compose herself for even a few seconds. “If we’re not careful, next she might talk about being attracted to one!” The last was said teasingly, but Romelle blushed all the brighter, ducking her head downwards. A pause followed that display, and it was not lost on neither Avok nor his father, the reaction Romelle had had.

“Romelle! Do..don’t tell me…” His sputtering trailed off with an awkward pause, Avok’s eyes widening.

The King was quick to fill in the silence, a frown on his face. “You have not gotten attached to these Drule have you?” His eyes seemed to bore into Romelle, the girl fidgeting with her dress once more. “Oh Romelle!”

“His name is Sabbath…” She said quietly, then lifted her head to gaze almost defiantly at her father. “He is strong, patient, and kind. And I love him.”

This wasn’t how Allura expected the news to come out, but she supposed it was better than dancing around the topic, or avoiding it completely. Romelle needed to tell him, needed to let her family know, and make them understand about her situation.

“You love him?” The King’s tone was scoffing, the man giving a shake of his head. “You are too young to even know what love is!”

“With all respect sir…” Allura interjected herself into the conversation before anyone else could. “Romelle is not that much younger than me. Are you saying I am too young to know and recognize the love I feel for my husband?” She arched an eyebrow, eyes challenging as she gazed at her uncle. The man grew flustered, realizing the mistake he had made in saying that.

“No…no, but you have a few months on Romelle. At your age, it makes all the difference in the world.”

“You’re wrong!” Romelle exclaimed. “I don’t even need one more month to know my heart. To know what it wants and feels. I love Sabbath! I want to be with him always!”

“Romelle….daugher, you can’t be serious…”

“Why not?” She demanded, and her hands stopped their nervous fidgeting. “I love him. He makes me feel whole, complete. I am loved in return, I know I will be happy with him!”

“This is your first love…”

“It’s my only love!” Romelle insisted. “There will be no other for me….I can’t imagine living without him!”

Her father seemed to be trying for patience, turning his eyes pleadingly to Allura. “Can’t you talk to her?”

“Sorry….but I know and recognize this love your daughter speaks of. It’s real, and it’s not going away…” Allura said, and Romelle burst in.

“It’s never going to go away!”

“How can you say that?” demanded her older brother. “How can you even know what this…this Sabbath feels for you is even real? He’s a soldier for Gods sake. I’m sure he has women on every planet.”

“You’re wrong! Sabbath’s not like that! He loves me…Allura, tell them!”

“Drules are very serious about love.” Piped in Allura. “They don’t toss that word around lightly, and they certainly don’t go up to every woman they see, trying out such a claim.”

“Hmph.” The King snorted, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I know you’ve probably never heard of the Drule’s custom, their belief in love.” Continued Allura, undettered by the disbelief on the King’s face. “They each have one person, one love…a mate that they will recognize upon meeting. It’s love at first sight for them, and they fall so utterly, with their soul and very being. All they want is to be loved in return, and they do anything for their mate.”

“And you believe this nonsense?!” demanded Avok, hands on his hips.

“Allura, is that why you married Lotor? Cause he’s your mate?” Bandor asked, and his question seemed to remind everyone he was in the room.

“Yes, Bandor, that’s why. Once I realized how deeply he loved me, it was impossible for me not to return his feelings.”

“Avok, take your brother out of the room.” Ordered the King. “I want to talk to your sister in private.”

“But I….” Bandor began to protest, and Avok touched his head.

“Come on runt…I’ll take you to meet some of these aliens up close.” His eyes seemed to glint with malice, Avok smirking. “Maybe we’ll even run into this Sabbath fellow and have a little chat.”

“Don’t you dare!” gasped Romelle, hand going up to her mouth to try and hide her horrified expression. “Do not even consider starting a fight with him!”

“Are you scared I’ll hurt him?” Demanded Avok, still smirking.

“Not at all!” Her words made him scowl, though Allura knew Romelle didn’t mean to insult him. “I’m afraid he’ll accidentally hurt you when he tries to make you come to your senses!”

“We’ll see about that!” Avok snapped, grabbing Bandor’s arm, and dragging the excited boy out of the room. Bandor could be heard talking, right up until the door closed, asking if his brother was really going to fight a Drule.

“Allura….if you would….” The King was looking at her now, expecting something of her. “I’d like a moment with Romelle.”

“I don’t think that’s wise.” Allura said, refusing to leave. “I promised your daughter I would be here to lend my support…”

“And does that support entail helping to make me understand just what the hell is going on?” He demanded, words laced with some anger. She didn’t flinch from his open show of animosity, Allura locking eyes with him.

“I will certainly try my best to do just that. Now please, sit. Both of you.”

“I’d rather stand.” The King said stiffly, and Romelle was nodding.

“Me too.”

“Fine then.” Allura sighed. She knew the polite thing would be to fix them both a cup of tea, but she didn’t trust that the porcelain wouldn’t end up smashed on the floor!

“So…” The King was staring at his daughter, but his question was directed to them both. “Someone make me understand.”

“What more can I say?” Romelle asked quietly. “I’m in love…I’m happy….and if you cared about me…”

“IF?” He inquired sharply, and she nodded.

“If you care, if you love me even a little, you’d be happy for me!” Allura winced at her cousin’s words, thinking emotional blackmail wasn’t the best place to start.

“I don’t know how you can doubt my love for you daughter! I suppose that’s a thought that this Drule put in your head?!”

“Sabbath never did anything like that!” Romelle protested. “It’s a thought I’ve had on my own!” The King continued to frown, Allura stepping forward.

“It’s true. I even heard him say she should not turn her back on her family.”

“But I will if I have to!” Romelle seemed intent on making things worse, glaring back at her father.

“I will not let you choose this Drule over your own family!” The King snapped, and Romelle had an angry retort for him.

“That Drule has a name!”

“I don’t care what he calls himself. This association between you two should have never happened!”

“Why?” questioned Romelle.

“Why?” The King blinked, his frown returning. “Because. You’re a princess, and he’s just a soldier from what I understand. Your cousin at least made a match that will gain Arus power and protection. What can this soldier do for you…? For our kingdom? Nothing, that’s what!”

“I don’t want to marry for political gain!”

“You won’t marry anyone if you keep up this behavior! I’ll shut you away in a convent if I have to!” threatened the King, and Allura gasped in dismay.

“You can’t mean that!”

“I’m not a little girl anymore!” Romelle was saying. “You can’t control me, and you certainly can’t make such decisions for me!”

“I can and I will!” The King and his daughter’s voice were raising, each getting angrier by the minute. “If you marry, it will be a man of my choosing. One who will benefit our interests!”

“No!” Romelle shook her head. “No, I will not be like Avok. I will not be trapped into an unwanted, loveless marriage.”

“You never used to think this way! You knew and accepted your role in kingdom politics!”

“Yes I knew…and yes maybe once I was reluctantly accepting of what you would force on me…But no more!” A glance at Romelle’s face showed her blue eyes blazing, a fire lit within her. It seemed to exasperate her father, the man throwing up his arms in anger.

“Allura, talk some sense into your cousin!”

“I’ve never agreed with this loveless route we of the nobility have been forced into.” Allura heard him scoff, the breath expelling with some force out of him. He looked almost disgusted with them both now, shaking his head fitfully. “My parents were fortunate. They loved one another. And I believe they would approve of my marrying for love…”

“At least you didn’t marry beneath your station.” Snapped the King.

“I don’t want to be a princess anymore. Not if I can’t love who I love!” Romelle cried out dramatically.

“Fine, you love him. But it will be a love that never goes beyond what you feel in your heart.”

“What does that mean?” Romelle demanded, and the King gave her a cold smile.

“It’ll be a love from afar, while you marry the man I pick out for you.”

“NO!”

“YES!” He hissed, and Romelle shook her head, hair settling wildly about her.

“You’re too late father!”

“Romelle…” Allura cried out a warning, thinking it wasn’t the best time to reveal anything more about the nature of her cousin’s relationship with Sabbath. “Don’t!”

“Sabbath and I….we’re already together!”

“WHAT?!” He yelled, and though Romelle flinched, she was merciless as she continued.

“We’re a mated pair. Do you know what that means? It means we are MARRIED according to Drule law.”

“What?! No…” The King’s voice went from a roar to a whisper, his face paling.

“We’ve been married for a few weeks now…” continued Romelle, and Allura didn’t know if she was brave or foolish in the moment. “Everyone in the castle knows…most accept my choice, why can’t you?”

“What have you done?” He asked her, voice still a strangled whisper.

“I acted for love.” Romelle said simply, and the King’s face hardened.

“You little fool!”

“Father!” exclaimed Romelle, the King whirling to face the room’s door. “Where are you going?!”

“I’m going to find this Drule of yours…” The King announced, already rushing out of the room. “And when I do, pray that I don’t kill him!”

“NO!” Romelle was already running after him, hands hitching up her gown’s skirts so that she didn’t trip over the long hem. Allura would have sighed if not for how serious this had become, the princess rushing after her family, praying that there wouldn’t be a scene, and knowing the chances of drama were high indeed.


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