The man that stood before him was a simpering, cowering fool, the Drule openly flinching at any sudden movement Zarkon would make. The man knew what he was saying was upsetting the King, but then there was little he could do about that fact. Zarkon had been angry for days on end, suffering from a bout of pure rage ever since the battle in the air space over planet Doom had begun to take a turn for the worse in the King’s favor.
By the time Lotor’s ships began descending down onto the surface, Zarkon had reluctantly agreed to evacuate the castle, all at the behest of his council of advisors. Many of those men and women were dead now, killed by Zarkon’s own hand, the King giving in to his tantrums over losing his base of power. It hadn’t mattered that those Drules hadn’t been at fault, they had just had the misfortune of standing a little too close to Zarkon when his fits overtook him.
He was mad at his son, that traitorous spawn of his loins that had turned his back on his own father, all because of that lust that over took him at discovering his mate was the princess of Arus. Zarkon quickly discounted the fact that he was the one to first cut ties with Lotor, threatening him and his mate with total annihilation. All that seemed to matter was his son has become afflicted, suffering from that madness that many of the other Drules experienced.
Love! His lips curled into a sneer, Zarkon looking as disgusted as he felt inside. He didn’t understand that emotion, didn’t understand the driving need that filled mated Drules with their new purpose of life. He certainly didn’t understand why Lotor had been so weak as to become mated, especially after the attempts he had made to manipulate his son’s genes to be free of such poison.
He thought it should be easy to avoid love, had he not spend nearly seventy years free of it? Free of finding his mate, and becoming her dog to call, of losing his mind and his free will. Why couldn’t Lotor have been the same?!
The man before him saw the narrowing in Zarkon’s eyes, something like a whimper escaping him. That sound called to Zarkon’s predatory instincts, the King reaching out with his claws to snag the Drule by his shirt’s collar. He sneered as he gazed at the terrified man, and Zarkon did not think much of the fact that a Drule that was nearly four inches taller than him could be so scared. It was simply the natural order of things, the Drules fearing their rightful leader.
And he was their leader, crown or not, Zarkon refused to think of himself as the former King of the Doom Empire. He was merely displaced, waiting for the time when he could snatch it back from his son’s cold hands. If it took him another decade, another lifetime, he would have his throne back, and he would make all who had a hand in this fiasco pay, starting with Lotor’s bitch of a mate.
“What did you say?” Zarkon growled to the Drule he had grabbed, glaring into his face. His tone of voice seemed to dare the Drule to repeat himself, Zarkon wanting to hear something other than the truth.
“Lotor….he…he still lives.” The Drule stammered uncertainly, and Zarkon’s eyes narrowed into thin slits. “Our assassin failed before he could even get close enough to him…he…was apprehended outside the castle walls…”
“Worthless!” raged Zarkon, and with a growl that screamed out his throat, he slammed the man face first into the wall. That Drule cried out, but Zarkon knew he was relieved. Relieved that the King hadn’t gone with his first impulse, that of tearing the man’s throat out. “Useless, all of you!”
There was other Drules in the room, the surviving members of his council, along with soldiers that made up his personal guard. Two slaves were present, ready to leap into action should the King have need of them. But he barely paid those two any mind, his rage focused on the politicians before him. Their faces were all schooled to be blank, they were trying not to reveal any emotion, though he could scent the overwhelming fear they felt.
“Is there not one among you that has a viable plan, a plan that will rid me of Lotor, and gain me back my throne?!” Zarkon demanded, but they had no answer for him. He scowled, and jerked the man away from the wall, throwing him in the direction of his council. That group quickly scattered, letting the Drule male flop down to the floor. He wisely did not get up, just laying there. He didn’t even make a sound, not wanting to trigger another assault from Zarkon.
Zarkon huffed out an angry breath, stalking over to the ornate chair they had made for him. It was no throne of Doom, missing the gold gilt frame, and glimmer of a thousand jewels. Jewels he had caressed a million times, knowing the throne was just one example of the wealth he had commanded. But no more, his wealth was all but gone, Zarkon practically a pauper save for the few dozen chests of gold he had thought to bring with him when he fled.
The loss of his personal fortune irked him, Zarkon feeling especially murderous to think of how crippled Lotor had made him. The allies of his that had remained on Doom had been quickly taken into custody, the fools thrown into prison where they would be of no more use to Zarkon. Not that he thought the nobles that had fled Doom with him were of much use, the lot too simple minded, and fearful.
He supposed they had a right to be, their fate intertwined with his, they had little choice left to them. It was either remain with the mad King, and risk being killed by his own hand, or return to Doom and face life imprisonment by his son’s decree. Neither option seemed to appeal, though the few who had thought life was better even in the dungeons, had quickly been killed when they attempted to sneak off the planet.
Zarkon snorted, thinking how planet Valexion could not compare with Doom. It was too nice, too comfortable, it made the people here soft. Certainly soft enough to conquer, the humans lacking the hard edge of the Drule. And yet he couldn’t even set out to subdue the population of Valexion, Zarkon in exile, having to hide his presence on this world. On any world, Lotor sending twice as many assassins after him, more than Zircon could ever hope to afford to send after his traitorous son.
Valexion wasn’t even a part of the Doom Empire, but one of the worlds previously untouched by the Drules. Located on the farthest reaches of the Denubian Galaxy, Zarkon had thought little of this world. Certainly not enough thought was put in towards conquering it. He was hoping it’s isolated state would keep Lotor from searching for him on it, Zarkon needing the time and freedom to plan. To rebuild his military, to somehow regain his fortune.
Gold was being invested into the galactic stock markets, Zarkon hoping to make a quick buck that way. He strong armed his council into doing the same, making them use their personal fortunes to earn him further financial support. But it would take time, and Zarkon chafed at the slowness of it all. And at the fact that he wouldn’t be able to live forever in the luxury he was used to, especially if he wanted to keep sending assassins after his son.
His son! He felt the rage coming over him again, Zarkon scowling as he fought the impulse to rant and rave like a madman. He would not lose control, would not lower himself to the indignity of rambling impotent threats. And yet his fingers clenched on the arm rests of his chair, his teeth gritting together as he fought to contain the growl that wanted to come out.
He thought he might never be able to calm down again, least not until his own claws were in Lotor’s neck, tearing out his throat. Assassins were so impersonal, and he wanted to see the look of horror in Lotors’ eyes, the recognition that Zarkon was killing him, and reclaiming everything he had stolen from his own father. But more than that, he wanted to make the bastard pay, force him to watch as Zarkon defiled and then snuffed out the life of the mate he so adored.
Thinking of the agony and grief Lotor would go through, that almost made him smile, and the curling of his lips into a smirk had the nobles unsettled. They knew it was never a good thing when he smiled, and they all seemed to take a step back from the direction of his chair.
“I have given it a great matter of thought.” Zarkon said, unable to relax enough to sit comfortably in his chair. “If normal means can’t get the job done, it’s time to look elsewhere.”
“Wh…what do you mean?” A female dared to ask, then seem to squeak when Zarkon’s eyes narrowed onto her.
“Magic.” Zarkon’s voice was a dangerous purr, the King trying out the foreign concept for them. “You know I haven’t held much stock in our brethren who parted from our world to study the dark arts of another’s race. But now is the time to reconsider that stance. Especially if it can give us what we want.”
“But magic? Really sire…” The male who was speaking was sounding dangerously close to scoffing, so disbelieving was his tone.
“We must use every asset available to us!” Zarkon snapped, voice just this short of shouting. “If these witches and warlocks can use these outside forces to manipulate things to our advantage, I see no point in leaving their talents unused.”
“It’s worth a shot.” One Drule agreed with him, surely trying to curry favor with the King. “I’ve heard of the great things they can accomplish.”
“Oh? Such as what?” Another asked, curiosity overriding his derision.
“The great beasts.” Explained the first Drule. “I hear they have command over them, and are able to make them do anything, even destroy another planet.”
“The great beasts? You mean robeasts? Ha! Surely that is just an old wives’ tale.”
“We’ll find out soon enough.” Zarkon said, nodding at the guard standing closest to the door. “I took the liberty of inviting their head representatives to this meeting of ours. They’ll tell us what we want to know….we may even get a demonstration of their powers….”
“You invited strangers here without asking us first?” A woman demanded, her anger such that she almost didn’t cower at his look. “Your highness, you know how dangerous this is! What if they betray our location to Lotor!?”
“It’s a valid concern.” Said the male who had almost scoffed earlier. “We went to a lot of trouble to hide from Lotor.”
“And we will continue to remain hidden.” Zarkon said, the guard pulling open the room’s door. He could smell the new arrivals, almost a dozen of Drules, consisting of equal amounts male and female, marching into the room. The grumbles of his council faded away, the people turning to look at the newcomers. The Drules were dressed in dark robes, heavy velvet with hoods that obscured much of their features. Only their eyes could be seen in the shadows of their faces, glowing silver or gold, and in one case green.
They stalked forward towards Zarkon’s seat, dropping to their knees before him in a show of respect. “Great King…” said the apparent leader, the voice betraying her as female. “To what do we owe the honor of this summons.”
Zarkon found himself leaning forward in his seat, staring at the cloaked figures. He didn’t understand why, but he was breathing more deeply, taking in the new scents in the room. There was a mixing of herbs, sage and thyme, and others he could not identify. And underneath it all, there was a smell that smelled like burnt amber, a smell he would later learn was associated with the discharge of magical energies.
“Your highness?” One of the female members of his council spoke, jarring Zarkon into the realization that he had been just staring for a long while, doing nothing but breathing.
He shook his head, trying to clear the fog in his mind. It was with some surprise he noted he no longer felt as angry as he had just moments before. He was ready to write it off as filling with renewed hope, the hope these strangers were bringing with them.
Still taking great whiffs of air, he began to speak, but his words were distracted. He was distracted, his eyes looking from person to person curiously, longing to see what was under their hoods. “I’m sure you’re aware of what is going on. My son now sits on the throne, crowned King of an empire he does not have the right to.”
“You want it back.” Said the lead witch, and he nodded.
“I do. But more than that, I want to make him suffer. I want him dead, I want him miserable, I want him to die knowing there was nothing he could have done to stop me from killing his mate. I want to revel in his anguish, want to…want to…” He stammered, realizing he wanted to locate the owner of one scent in particular, wanted to surround himself with that smell for all eternity.
“You want to what?” Came the inquiry, though who asked it he could not say. Zarkon blinked, and rose from his seat, beginning to pace agitatedly.
“There are worlds that need to be destroyed. Especially Arus…I want to take everything from Lotor, want to ruin it all before I bring him to his knees. I want to…” He licked his lips, finding his pacing had brought him closer to the group of witches and warlocks. And the closer he got, the more one scent stood out, calling to him. He didn’t understand it, didn’t know why he could suddenly be so enamored of a smell.
“Sire, are you feeling all right?” One of his council asked, and Zarkon growled.
“I’m fine. Never better!” But he knew he was not, prowling closer and closer until he stepped into the group of magic users, uncaring in the moment that one might try to kill him. He could hear the protesting murmurs of his council, they didn’t like that he risked himself in this manner. He was beyond caring of any danger, pushing aside men and women, stalking closer to the scent’s source.
He found it in a petite sized form, and even with the hood in place, he could see the owner was slightly hunched over with age. Her hands, which were not covered by the sleeves of her cloak, bore the wrinkles that came with time, and her skin was a darkish blue, so dark a color she was almost purple. There was a fine tremble in those hands, as though she was nervous that he was so near to her.
Nerves he could deal with, Zarkon liking it when people feared him. But there was some small part in him that didn’t want to nurture that fear, some part that protested that this witch, this person above all others should not be scared of him.
He should have realized something was very wrong right then and there, should have struck down this witch dead before anything else could happen. But instead, like a fool, he lifted his hand to her, reaching to touch her hood, than pausing at her gasp. His hand hovered uncertainty in place, not yet touching, and he whispered in a dry voice. “Your hood…remove it…”
“Why?” Came the low voice, and he would have been horrified to realize he had sounded as uncertain as this woman now did.
“Because I asked.” He said, some of his previous fire returning to him. The head bowed, and then those trembling hands were reaching to lift it back, revealing an aged Drule, with short gray hair, that was curled tight to her head. She wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination beautiful, age and untold hardships had taken their toll on her, leaving her scarred and covered in wrinkles. And yet to Zarkon, she moved his heart in a way it had never, ever moved before, the king thinking she was the most loveliest of creatures he had ever seen, be they human or Drule.
“Sire?” She whispered, voice a dry croak.
“Mother of God!” Zarkon whispered to her, staring stunned at her. He knew now what she was, knew now why he had been drawn to her, an irresistible pull that had him rooted to the spot before her. She was everything to him, she was all the good things anyone could have desired for themselves, all warmth and life. She was without a doubt, the welcoming home he had been unconsciously waiting for, and if he could have, Zarkon would have hated her in the moment.
She was his mate, and as drawn to her as he was, a part of him still desperately wailed, making one last bid to deny her. But this love was undeniable, rooted deep in his genes, and laying a possession on his soul. He was hers, and he would do anything to have her, kill anyone, or give up anything, just to have her welcome him back.
With a great gasping breath, Zarkon fell to his knees, the gathered group of people, Drules and humans alike shocked at his show of submission. He didn’t care, taking hold of her hands, and planting worshipful kisses all over them. He was this close to crying, and only his iron strong will kept him from that last indignity. It didn’t matter, she was crying to, having recognize him for what he was, and accepting him in the moment.
“Your highness….” His mate wept, and he let out a gruff protest.
“Please…Zarkon. Call me Zarkon.” He begged her, and she gave him a weak smile.
“Zarkon.” She agreed, and that was enough.
The witches and warlocks had realized what had happened, and he sensed they were happy. More than happy, they seemed satisfied, and they began ushering the shocked nobles out of the room. The guards were less easy to herd, but they too eventually left, leaving the new mates the privacy they deserved. Zarkon could no longer think about killing his son, his desire for revenge ended the moment he had seen his mate’s face. Now all that was left to him was to keep her, and make her happy, the former king determined to spend the rest of his days on this mortal coil pleasing his woman.