She couldn’t help but flush in embarrassment at all the staring faces around them, people, both servants and the invited guests, stopping what they were doing to openly gape at the scene. Allura could hear the whispered start of speculating conversations, the nobles wondering what kind of scandal they were bearing witness to. And it was a scandal, perhaps of the worst kind, Romelle and her father making things far worse than it had to be.
Currently they were running through the castle, the spry king in the lead, the man red face and bellowing. “Where is he?! Where is that Drule?!”
Romelle trailed behind him by several feet, maintaining an awkward run in her heels as she chased after her father. “Don’t you dare hurt him!”
Allura brought up the rear, mortified and wishing she was anywhere but there. And yet she knew she couldn’t just walk away, she had to try and play mediator between these two. “You both need to calm down!” She was saying, glad she had forgone shoes with a high heel. The last thing she needed was to twist an ankle chasing after her foolish family.
“I’ll be calm when he’s dead!” The King snapped, and Romelle cried out a horrified no.
“You’re overreacting!” Allura hissed, well aware that many of the party guests were stepping out of the side chambers, eyes curious and missing not one moment of the exchange. “Both of you are!” The King stubbornly continued his aimless run, and Allura forced back a sigh. “You don’t even know what he looks like! You’ll never find him at this rate!”
That got the King to slow, the man turning to look at Allura. “Then help me.” He said, angry and annoyed. “Take me to this man, this Drule who’s trying to steal my daughter from me.”
“He’s not trying to take me from you!” protested Romelle, having slid to a grateful halt. “If anyone is going to drive me away from you, from our family, it will be you, father!”
The King opened his mouth to hiss out a retort, but Allura quickly stepped into the conversation. “She’s right you know. This kind of behavior is not helping anyone.”
“Then what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to feel?!” demanded the King, and before Allura could answer, Romelle spoke.
“You could be happy for me!”
“Happy?” He said the word like it was an alien concept, than was shaking his head no. “I don’t know what to feel, but happy is the furthest from the emotions I am capable in this moment.”
“I understand it’s a lot to take in….but running around aimlessly won’t solve anything. You’ll only create a bigger scandal.” Allura pointed out, and the King stiffened, realizing there was far too many people around them in the hall. “Please…..come back to the receiving room with me. Let us talk it out…”
The King exhaled slowly, then nodded. “Fine. It’s best we have this conversation in private.”
Allura didn’t quite smile, relieved he seemed to be calming down. His color was certainly returning to normal, though his eyes still flashed with anger. Romelle wisely did not say anything, turning to walk back to the receiving room. But when they reached the door’s threshold, she hesitated, seeming to not want to go inside.
“Romelle, why don’t you go find Sabbath.” Allura suggested, earning a surprised look from her cousin. “I’m sure he is eager to meet your father.” She stepped closer to Romelle, voice lowered to a whisper. “I’ll work on further calming your father down, so that they don’t kill each other on sight.”
“Thank you.” A pale Romelle whispered, then offered her father a stiff bow. He looked surprised by her show of formality, but said nothing as she hurried off down the corridor.
Allura closed the door, and gazed at the King, who walked over to the room’s large window. He stood there with his hands clasped behind his back, just gazing out into the forest that bordered the castle’s property. She held back a sigh, not sure what to say, and trying to gather her thoughts.
“I’m being foolish aren’t I?” The King suddenly said, surprising Allura with his words.
“Pardon?” Allura walked towards the table where the tea kettle and porcelain cups lay. Enough time had passed by that the tea had cooled, and if Allura had thought the King in any mood to drink, she’d have sent a servant for a fresh pot.
“Reacting so strongly.” He explained. “But still…I don’t know how she expects me to act. She’s dropped a bombshell on me….several. Bad enough she thinks she loves that alien, but to claim to be wed to him…”
Allura kept quiet, thinking it best not to try and explain it wasn’t marriage like the humans had. It was something that was more binding, a union that could not be dissolved through any means. Not even death could end the bond between mated pairs, the surviving one soon following the one who had passed on to the next life.
“She’s not thinking clearly, is she?” Her uncle continued with a sigh. “She’s been dazzled by these aliens…”
“That’s hardly the case.” Allura said, and the King turned to look at her now. “Romelle has never been a staunch worth supporter of the Drule. You could say she’s been one of the most ardent voices to speak against them. She’s been downright hostile when it comes to the Drules…quick to remind us of their bad reputation, and war mongering ways.”
“Then why?” The surprised King shook his head, correcting his words with a growl. “Then how could she have come to think she loves one of them?!”
“The heart’s ways are a mystery to us all.” Allura shrugged. “It wasn’t instantaneous for Romelle, the road for her coming to accept and love Sabbath in return was fraught with hardship…she fought him, fought the attraction between them, and truthfully I thought they’d never get together. Sometimes I’m still amazed at the change in my cousin.”
“Change…” repeated the King, and Allura nodded.
“She’s happy….truly happy now. But it’s more than that, Sabbath makes her eyes sparkle, she enjoys life a lot more with him in it than out. She’s no longer so angry…”
“I find that last one hard to believe.” Snorted the King.
“She could have handled the conversation better.” Admitted Allura, than fixed her uncle with a chiding look. “You both could have. You can’t begin to imagine how nervous she’s been, how worried she was over telling you about the love she found. Uncle…she wants your approval, she craves it. But in her nervous state, she’s probably not thinking straight, maybe even subconsciously trying to sabotage things between you two. She’s so sure you’ll not give her your okay, that you’ll come to hate her for falling in love, that it might be easier for Romelle if she forced a distance between you through her own actions rather than yours.”
“I could never hate my daughter!” The King protested.
“But you can be disappointed in her, can’t you?” Allura asked, and his silence was answer enough. “Please….before you judge her, before you judge them, try to get to know the man who has your daughter’s heart. It won’t cost you anything to speak with him, you might even gain understanding of your daughter’s decision.”
He seemed to be seriously thinking about it, nodding his head slowly. ‘All right.” Allura was instantly relieved, allowing a small smile to appear on her face. “What’s this….this Sabbath like?”
“He’s….” She paused, trying to think on how to describe Sabbath. “He’s kind. Determined and patient, a very serious man. He’s lightened up considerably now that your daughter no longer rejects him.”
“Lightened up?” questioned the King, and she nodded.
“He was…well sad most of the time. Romelle’s rejection was painful for him….” She didn’t want to get into the intricacies of the mating bond just yet, thinking it might go easier on the King if he thought it as a love the way humans experienced it. “But he never gave up…”
“Stubborn eh?” grumbled the King.
“He’d have to be, considering the cold shoulder your daughter gave him for days on end.” Allura told him, and saw the interest in the man’s eyes.
“So how did it happen, if she was so intent on refusing his suit?”
“I’m not sure when it started…not really. She was aware of him yes…maybe that awareness was the key.” Allura shrugged then, remembering how indifferent Romelle tried to play at being towards Sabbath. “But really, my guess would be when they were trapped during the castle’s siege. They spent three days locked in a room together…opinions were bound to change, and feelings formed.”
The King didn’t exactly look thrilled at hearing his daughter had been trapped in a room with Sabbath, but at least he wasn’t shouting. Or running out of the room, intent on bloody murder.
“I admit I missed some of their courtship, my own husband was injured fighting the commander of the invading forces. He got an infection from his injuries, and I was away from the castle, tending to him. But…something had changed between Romelle and Sabbath, I could sense that much when I returned to the castle a few days later. Although..” She was quick to add. “She was still resistant to the idea of being with him. You could say she fought until the bitter end, holding back her heart until she had no choice but to fall hopelessly in love with Sabbath.”
“And this Sabbath..” The King began, not quite frowning as the room’s door began to open. “Does he truly love my daughter in return?”
“Why don’t you ask him that yourself?” Allura asked, as Romelle stepped inside the room, Sabbath on her arm. Romelle looked incredibly nervous, clinging to Sabbath for support as they walked towards her father. Sabbath’s expression did not betray what he was feeling inside, the Drule serious, almost somber in the moment.
“Father…” Romelle stopped a few inches from her dad, and never letting go of Sabbath’s arm, introduced him to the King. “This is Sabbath….my mate.”
The King was without comment on her choice of words, staring steely eyed at the Drule. Even as tall as the King was, he had to crane his head back slightly to meet the eyes of Sabbath. “So….you are the one who has stolen my daughter’s heart?”
“He’s no thief…” protested Romelle. “I gave him my heart freely.”
“I am honored to meet you.” Sabbath said at last, and gave as best a bow as he could manage, considering Romelle was still clinging to him. The King seemed taken aback by Sabbath’s show of respect, and Allura wondered what he had been expecting from the Drule.
“Well, he’s respectful enough.” Grunted the King, gesturing for Sabbath to straighten up from his bow. “I understand you love my daughter?”
“Yes, sir, I do.” Sabbath answered. “I love her more than I could possibly say. I would do anything for her, anything at all.”
“I wonder just how far that devotion would go.” Mused the King, and Sabbath blinked, a look of uncertainty in his eyes.
“You would do what’s best for her? No matter what it was?” Sabbath nodded, and the King nearly smiled then. “Even leave her life if it turned out she had better options?”
“Father….” Just one word, but it held a world of warning to it, Romelle starting to glare.
“Better options?” questioned Sabbath and the King nodded.
“You’re a soldier, yes? You have neither status, money, nor power. What can you give my daughter? What life can you possibly hope to have with her? She’s accustomed to the finer things in life, to the privileges wealth and her title gives her.”
“I would not have my mate live in poverty.” Sabbath said, his upset increasing. “And I am not without resources of my own.”
“I have saved up my money….saved up several years worth of salary, all on the hopes I would someday find my mate, and be able to provide for her. Yes, it might not be enough to have her live in the luxury she is used to, but she would never grow hungry, never want for much of anything with me.” Sabbath told him, and the King turned surprised.
“You weren’t expecting to live off her fortune?”
“No sir.” Sabbath puffed out his chest, proud in the moment. “I take pleasure in being able to provide for her with money that I EARNED.”
“And how will you continue to earn money?” The King asked, then tsked. “You’re a soldier. You’ll leave her behind to fight wars, you might even die and render her a young widow. I don’t want my daughter to know that kind of heart break.”
“That won’t be a problem.” Allura said quickly. “Mated Drules retire from the military. They go on to find other work. We’re exploring several options for Sabbath even now, to find him the best employment possible here at the castle.” She knew they were considering having Sabbath train the castle guards in the way of the Drule’s fighting techniques, and Lotor was musing about other possibilities.
“I see.” The King was grumbling, hardly reassured. “And what has my daughter told you about her options at home? Are you aware that she could marry a noble? Someone of rank that was the same or higher than hers? Someone who wouldn’t have to scramble at the last minute to find new work in order to provide for her?”
“I am aware.” Sabbath confirmed, his voice holding an odd sound to it. It was as though he was trying not to growl, Sabbath locking eyes with the King. “I am also aware that much of these….unions you would have her make, would be loveless matches based on the political needs of your kingdom. You’d barter her off to the highest bidder, one whose power could further help you secure your kingdom’s peace.”
“Yes….yes, I would.” Agreed the King, bold as can be. “Marrying you does nothing for our kingdom….we neither gain power nor money. And there is a border war brimming, one she could stop if she were to marry into that kingdom’s ruling family. But you care nothing for that, do you?”
“It’s unfair and needlessly cruel to place the blame for this war of yours on her and on me.” Sabbath no longer tried to contain his growl, his golden eyes flashing with anger. “I’m sure if you really wanted, you could talk with that other kingdom, negotiate a truce that didn’t hinge on your daughter’s hand. Yes, you might have to make some concessions to the other kingdom, but must you sacrifice your daughter’s happiness as well?”
The king was left to blink owlishly, gazing back at Sabbath in surprise. Sabbath saw he had no answer to that, and strove forward, voice harsh. “She’s lived a good portion of her years fearing to love. Did you know that?” The King shook his head no, still mute. “Romelle knew and feared what her future would be, who she would have to marry in order to make you happy, to keep the kingdom safe. It left her bitter and angry, her heart almost hopelessly closed off from the chance at love.”
“Not closed off enough it seems.” Muttered the King.
“Oh there was cracks in her defense.” Agreed the Drule. “And I thank the Gods for that, for it allowed me the chance to win her love.” He smiled at Romelle now, and she risked one back at him. “You know she has books? Dozens of them about love, which only goes to show how much Romelle has been craving for a love of her own! And you would deny her that? No! I cannot believe you would be so cruel to your own daughter. Sir, she’s found love, she’s found happiness with me. But I know she could be happier if you would just give us your approval.”
“I don’t know if I can.” He said stiffly, then sighed. “At least not yet.”
“Father?” There was a note of hope in Romelle’s voice, the girl gazing at the king.
“What must I do then?” Sabbath asked, and the King hesitated, thinking about it.
“I want to get to know you.” He said to all three’s surprise. “I want to get to know the man my daughter has given her heart to. I want to see what she sees in you, to be able to be at ease with her choice. Will you give me that chance?”
“Of course.” Came Sabbath’s easy answer, earning a slight smile from the King.
“Then Allura….if you’ll excuse us?” asked the King, glancing in her direction. “I know you have a party to attend to.”
“Of course.” Allura was relieved, hardly daring to imagine things could have gone as well as they were currently going. “I’ll leave you to your privacy.” She smiled at Romelle, who looked a little teary eyed. But if she was to cry, it would be from the hope she was feeling, the bit of happiness she had experienced from her father deciding to at least give Sababth a chance.
“I’ll see you later then.” Allura said, then headed for the door. She wouldn’t fault them if they didn’t show up at the party, Allura knowing they needed time to figure how they felt about each other. It might not be instantaneous, and it would take effort, but she felt that Romelle had a good chance of keeping both her father and Sabbath in her life. And that made Allura smile, glad for her cousin, and glad for the Drule.