With a smile on his face, Lotor stared down at the human girl, noting the way her tears trickled down her face. She seemed overcome with emotion, and he understood she had dropped down because her body had no longer been able to support itself upright in the moment. She was on her knees but slumped downwards, lacking the rigid, straight back kneeling the other humans were doing.
The man with the funny hat was still sputtering about, indignation in his tone at being ignored. He didn’t dare approach the Drules though, not when they had so thoroughly dismissed him with their actions. Lotor continued to look at the girl, hearing his companions shift about, the Drules studying their surroundings. He knew it was a lot to take in, their senses being assaulted by new stimuli.
But all the new sensations were welcome, even as their eyes struggled to adjust to the bright sunlight. The air was fresh, almost sweet smelling, the gentle breeze carrying the perfume of flowers to them. Lotor had never realized flowers could smell so strongly, having never experience the plants in full bloom. The wind here caressed their bodies, slight enough that it didn’t even stir their hair or rustle their clothing. Such a contrast to the fierce winds that blew constantly on Doom, the very wind seeming to howl in anger.
It was warm here, pleasantly so, Lotor realizing they would soon have to adapt their clothing to the hotter seasons. But that was a future concern, Lotor knowing there was more pressing matters to attend to.
“How boring.” Merla said, before Lotor could speak out loud. “Is that all these humans are capable of? Praying and kneeling?” He heard Traad shushing her, the man hissing out an urgent Drule word for silence.
Merla took no heed of Traad’s command, stepping forward to stand besides Lotor, her gaze holding contempt as she looked down her nose at the human girl. “I don’t think they’ll be giving us much of a fight…not when they’re so ready to lick our boots.”
“They’ve just met who they think are Gods.” Kratos pointed out, directing a stern gaze at Merla. “Would you not react in the same manner?”
“I’d never just drop down to my knees!” Her tone turned smug, Merla adding the following. “I kneel for no man!”
“You’ll kneel for me!” Lotor’s reminder silenced her for the moment, Merla making an indignant sound. He didn’t bother to try and soothe her embarrassed feelings, instead switching back to Arusian as he addressed the human girl. “Please…there is no need for you to do that. Rise and stand before me…”
“I don’t think my legs can support me in this moment.” Confessed the girl, her cheeks turning redder in color.
“Then I will lend you my strength.” He decided, and extended his hand before her face. She stared at it surprised, eyes blinking rapidly, her tears having stopped. “Come.” Lotor said, voice a kind tone. “Take my hand.” A smile crossed his lips, he found he couldn’t resist teasing her. “I will not bite….much.”
She had been about to grasp hold of his hand, but at that last word she hesitated. Lotor held back a chuckle and took hold of her hand, feeling an electric jolt spark between them. His own eyes widened slightly, Lotor trying to shrug off the sensation touching her hand had caused. She was unresisting as he pulled her to his feet, the King placing his other hand on her hip to steady her before him.
She was even prettier than he had first thought, Lotor losing himself in the blue of her eyes. His companions wisely did not comment on the silence that ensued, the girl parting her lips to sigh out a question. “Why have you not come to us sooner?”
Lotor blinked, realizing he had been staring. A moment’s pause, the King thinking on her words, trying to decide what to tell her. “It was not yet our time to descend to your world.”
“But it is now?” She asked, then flushed, shaking her head. “Forgive my impertinent tongue. I only wish to understand…”
“We all do.” Said a new voice, a man’s. Lotor’s companions turned to eye the newcomer, but Lotor kept his eyes on the girl. She stared back at him, almost helpless to turn away, even as the man walked forward. “What is it that you want from us? Why have you come now, when it’s been centuries since you last stepped foot on Arus?”
“You have many questions.” Lotor said, avoiding giving answers. “You are not…” He chose his words carefully, lips quirking as he state the following. “…bothered by our arrival?”
“No bothered, not exactly.” The man came to stand beside the girl, and Lotor noted his coloring. Pale like the human he touched, he had brown hair and a beard. He didn’t resemble the girl save for her eyes, colored the same bold blue and hinting that there was some family connection between them. He was dressed differently from the humans in the courtyard, Lotor realizing this man was clearly some higher authority figure with his expensive looking suit.
“And you are…?” Lotor let his words trail off into a question, the brown haired man drawing to his full height.
“I am Alfor…King of these people.” He then gestured to the girl, lips twitching as though he fought to keep his expression neutral. But Lotor noted the disapproving look in his eyes at seeing the Drule still touching the human. “This is my daughter, Allura.”
“Allura.” Lotor repeated, and the color bloomed on her face. He wondered what the cause was, feeling a tremble go through her though she made no move to pull away from his hands. He wondered if he was breaching some form of etiquette at holding onto what was the princess of these people, but he made no move to let her go. Lotor told himself it was merely a kindness he offered, supporting her until her legs grew strong enough for her to stand on her own.
“I am Lotor.” He said, wanting to be on equal footing with this Alfor. “King of my people.”
“You’re King of the Gods?!” Allura squeaked out, eyes wide with astonishment. She hastily moved to pull back from him, Lotor feeling a twinge of regret at feeling her slip free of his hold.
“Yes.” He noted Alfor’s tension seemed to ease away once his daughter was no longer being touched by Lotor, leaving the Drule to wonder what the King thought he’d do to her. “This is the Lady Merla.” He gestured at his betrothed, wishing the woman wouldn’t scowl so at the humans. “My bride.”
“Charmed I’m sure.” She said haughtily, nose raised to the air as though she could not be bothered.
“And this is the Lord Kratos.” He began introducing the men, gesturing next at the short haired one. “Traad.” The purple skinned Drule was next, his shoulder length green hair looking like a dark jade gem. “Albatos.” And finally there was the pale green Drule, the man bearing a large war axe strapped to his back. “And Phor.” The men murmured greetings, hiding any tension they might have felt at being surrounded by humans.
“It is an honor to meet you.” Allura said, and to his surprise she gripped her skirts, and did a low curtsey. King Alfor merely nodded, the man not ready to bow before anyone, not even his so called Gods.
“Yes, it is.” Agreed Merla, her tone haughty. It left Allura blinking in surprise, the girl clearly taken aback by Merla’s attitude.
“Such strange names.” Alfor noted, drawing Lotor’s attention away from his daughter. “Like none we’ve heard. Certainly…” His tone was pointed, the man watching Lotor carefully. “Not the names we have known our Gods by.”
The man with the strange hat saved Lotor from answering, his courage gathered as he hurried to stand besides the king and princess. “It’s an easy enough explanation.” He said, voice breathless and face red with excitement. “We’ve never presumed to know our Gods real names…..we’ve merely given them earthly approximations, something to grasp on to as we devoted ourselves to your worship.” The man was bowing, an expectant look in his eyes as he waited for his Gods to acknowledge him.
“This is Fordham.” Alfor gestured to the man, expression carefully guarded. “The Lord High Priest of the temples in Altea.”
“Your ever devoted servant.” The one identified as Fordham said, doing a stiff bow. “If there is anything you need, anything at all, do not hesitate to ask me.” His eagerness to be of service to his Gods was apparent, the man practically simpering as he spoke.
“We shall keep that in mind.” Lotor answered, knowing this man could prove to be a valuable ally. But the king of these people would be the real key to making peace or starting a war, Lotor knowing they needed to impress upon him the advantages of having the Drules among them.
Alfor was looking as though he did not like the priest’s readiness to offer the Drules whatever they needed, the man clearing his throat before speaking. “I’m sure we have much to talk about. It would benefit us all to step inside, away from eager eyes and tongues that are quick to wag with gossip.” Lotor had to smile at that, well aware that the rest of the humans in the courtyard were paying strict attention to the exchange.
“All right.” Lotor said, giving a slight nod of his head. “We would be honored to visit with you inside your home.”
“My king…” Kratos interrupted, voice speaking in Drule. “Are you sure that is wise? We will be separated from our protection…” None of the Drules risked a look upwards, knowing the four ships that hovered in the sky cast shadows down in the courtyard.
“They will not harm us.” Lotor said confidently.
“You cannot be sure of this!” Traad protested, and Phor spoke up.
“At least take more men with us into the castle!”
“To do so would imply we did not trust their gracious offer.” Lotor retorted, smiling at Alfor and Allura. “We mustn’t upset them.”
“Problem?” Alfor questioned, face not betraying what he thought of the Drules’ exchanging of words.
“Not at all.” Lotor assured him. “My companions are weary, and looking forward to the chance to sit down.”
“I didn’t think Gods were capable of getting tired.” Alfor murmured, leaving Lotor to wonder if he had misspoke.
“All manners of creatures, Gods or otherwise are capable of becoming tired when they exert themselves enough.” It was Merla who spoke, the explanation coming easy to her. “And we have traveled far, and for too long. Please…we welcome your kindness.”
“All right.” The King of Arus nodded, and gestured for them to follow him. Allura and the priest cast one more look at the Drules, before turning to follow after the human. Lotor stepped forward, Merla right behind him. It left their companions no choice but to follow, the men grumbling complaints under their breath.
“This is risky business.” Muttered Phor.
“Indeed it is.” Agreed Kratos. “What if they ask us to perform a miracle? What then?”
“If they become hostile…” Merla kept a smile on her face, showing false pleasure at being near to the humans. “We will simply kill them. It shouldn’t be that difficult to fight our way out of the castle.”
“No killing!” Lotor snapped, Allura turning to stare shocked at the venomous quality to his voice. He gave her a reassuring smile, but continued to admonish his companions. “We don’t fight, we do not hurt these humans unless we have no choice. We’re here on a mission, do not forget that.” His companions chorused their promises, Merla sighing, finding Lotor’s words a disappointment.
The humans were still kneeling, watching the procession of Drules and humans walk towards the open doors that led into the castle. Lotor wondered if they’d kneel all day, even as Alfor turned to address him. His polite mask looked strained, as though it pained him to admit the following. “They are waiting for permission to move.” Lotor made a polite sound, waiting for Alfor to continue. “If you would be so kind as to grant them it…”
“Ah…” He understood now, and he turned to face the people in the courtyard. “People of Arus! Please! Return to what you were doing! You needn’t spend any more time on showing your devotion! ” An uncertain murmur from the crowd, the people hesitant to move.
“What he means…” The lord high priest spoke up, voice raised to be heard through out the courtyard. “Your Gods are pleased by your show of faith. You may go about your lives, looking forward to the next chance to worship properly at their feet.” That seemed to make the humans more confidant, some of the younger ones rising to their feet. The older humans still seemed hesitant, needing assistance to rise off their knees.
“You’ll come to the temples won’t you?” Fordham asked, the priest looking eager. “The people of the cities will be eager for a chance to show their devotion, to meet their Gods.”
“We shall…think about it.” Lotor said, not wanting to make any promises.
“At least come to Altea!” The priest exclaimed, and Alfor allowed a slight smile to cross his face.
“Careful Fordham…you’re close to begging.”
“Maybe I am, but the citizens of the city have a right to see their Gods. To bask in their divine presence.” The priest retorted. They walked as they talked, entering the castle, Lotor gazing about in interest. It was all stone walls inside here, with many woven tapestries hanging on the walls. They did double duty, performing both as decoration and as a method for warming the stone, protecting the castle’s inside from drafts.
Right now it was warm, but Lotor had no doubt that during the winter months the castle would be cold, leaving the people who lived here to be bundled up in furs. His people could help them, teach them how to better insulate their homes, to protect against the elements, both hot and cold.
The tapestries weren’t the only thing he noticed, Lotor spying torches hanging on the walls, unlit for the moment as the windows carved into the stone walls allowed for plenty of sun light to illuminate the castle. It was just another sign of their lack of advancement, the humans having not discovered the wonders of electricity. He knew changes would have to be made before his people could settle on this planet, changes that would allow them to have the comforts they were used to, light and heat and modern plumbing being worked into the buildings, both old and new.
The corridors were long, with many doors situated into the East wall. The West wall was carved with windows that over looked the inside courtyard, most of the people having vanished to go about whatever duties they were assigned to. Elaborate rugs were on the floors, intricate designs whose color had faded from constant exposure to the sun.
The priest was still talking, Merla looking amused at what he had to say, but Lotor had tuned out most of what he said. Now he rejoined the conversation, realizing the man was in the midst of describing the city of Altea to them. “It’s the largest of all the cities on Arus.” He explained, gesturing animatedly. “It has to be, since it is the castle capital of the world!”
Lotor and his people already knew this, having chosen to make their first appearance on this planet in the largest of the three kingdoms that governed rule over the humans. It was Lotor’s hope that King Alfor would be the first to be swayed to the Drules’ cause, and with his help, they would convince the other two governing houses. Even if they could only convince two of the three kingdoms, the Drules could settle somewhat peacefully on this planet, using the humans help to subdue any resistance.
The priest began describing the main temple, showing pride in it’s design and size. “And it is open all hours of the day and night, our doors never closed to those in need.” Fordham was saying. “Hundreds flock weekly in pilgrimage to the Pelphine Temple, all in devotion to your and your divine brethren. If you were to put in an appearance, even for a day, an hour, you’d have dozens of people ready to serve your every whim.”
“Now that…” Merla purred in Drule. “Is something I would very much like to experience.” The priest looked startled by her tone, the man having not a clue towards what her words had meant. He smiled uncertainly at her, nearly tripping over his own feet as they turned a corner. There was a large door at the end of the hall, King Alfor tsking to see there was no guards standing ready beside it.
“It seems our arrival has disrupted your daily routine.” Lotor spoke, watching as Alfor pulled open the door. It creaked and groaned, it’s hinges well worn out from years of usage. “I apologize for the inconvenience.”
“It’s all right.” Alfor said, ushering Lotor into the room. “We could use a little excitement around here.” Their entourage followed them inside, Lotor noting it was a cozy looking room, a small dining table taking up space in the center most section of the floor. This wasn’t a banquet hall, the table too small to seat more than a handful of people on each side. No, this was a room for more private dinners, a more intimate setting where people would not need to shout to be heard.
“Please.” Alfor gestured at one end of the table, Lotor stepping towards it. “Sit.”
The King of Doom took up position at one head of the table, Merla sitting down next to his right. Kratos and the other Drules remained standing, an ever watchful guard of Lotor’s back. Alfor was without comment about that, the man sitting down at the opposite end of the table. The priest sat down to his left, the right seat remaining open for Allura. But before she could sit Alfor was speaking, fondly touching her hand.
“Allura, please. Won’t you pour our guests a drink?”
“All right father.” She was without complaint, walking over to a small side table in which several jugs, pitchers, and goblets sat situated on it’s surface. There was even a tray, and she began putting goblets on top of it, calling out a request. “Is cider all right with you?”
“Do you not have anything stronger?” demanded Merla, and Lotor reached out to touch her shoulder.
“Cider will be fine.” He said, flashing Merla a warning look. He did not want anyone to get drunk during this meeting, thinking the last thing they needed was to have their judgment impaired. Merla’s lips pursed together, the woman annoyed at being denied her drink.
Allura poured the cider into the goblets, then carried the tray over to the table. She served the Drules first, setting the goblets down before Lotor and Merla, handing the rest to the four standing males. She then walked around to her father’s side of the table, the priest already reaching for his goblet. Alfor’s remained untouched, Allura taking her seat beside him and sipping nervously at her drink.
Lotor decided to echo Alfor’s movements, choosing not to drink until he did. His companions were eyeing their drinks with suspicion, and only Merla deigned to taste the cider, muttering a comment in Drule about it being too sweet for her liking.
“I’ll get right to the point.” Alfor said, and Lotor almost smiled, appreciating his blunt manner. “Your arrival here on Arus troubles me.”
“Your highness!” The priest gasped in objection, looking mortified that his King was not falling over himself to worship at the Drules’ feet.
“No, it’s all right.” Lotor said, holding up a hand to silence the priest. “Please your highness. You can speak freely to me, as one ruler to another.”
“I appreciate that.” Answered Alfor, giving a nod of his head. “And I hope you will be just as understanding as to the reason being hide my troubles.” Lotor nodded in return, giving him leave to continue. “Before you departed from your….ships, there was an announcement. Words that troubled me. You spoke of us welcoming you, that to do so we would know prosperity.”
“Yes.” Agreed Lotor, and he risked a smile. “My people are ready to impart new knowledge to you and your own. To better your society and the comforts you know.”
“That is a good thing!” said the priest, and Alfor placed a hand on his shoulder to silence him from speaking any further.
“I am most interested in what you have to offer. But I also know you threatened us should we refuse you.”
“Ah….you are speaking about the demonstration with the tree…” Lotor said, and now he wondered if that had been a mistake to do.
Alfor nodded. “Yes, indeed. I know if that is your power, we stand little chance against you. We would be foolish to try….but neither would we want to be enslaved by your people….”
“If you mean to fight us…” Merla blurted out before Lotor could speak. “Then you truly are stupid. You cannot hope to win, not with the powers we hold!”
“Ah, the lady speaks the truth.” Alfor said, facial expression grim. “And it leaves me wondering. What is your true nature? Are you Gods? Or are you demons?” A gasp followed his words, Allura looking shocked by her father’s question. Equally mortified was the priest, the man starting to issue out angry objections that the King would ask such a thing.
Lotor allowed him to talk, leaning back in his chair, considering his words. He knew it was important that he answer correctly, not wanting to outright lie to this King. Alfor continued to ignore the priest’s angry chatter, locking eyes with Lotor as he waited for the Drule to speak. It was slow in coming, but at last Lotor smiled, but his eyes held a bit of coolness to them.
“I think we need to disperse with these titles, and think in more clear terms.” He said. “What you really want to know is if we are friend or foe. And that, King Alfor…all depends on you. But I warn you now, it is better to make a friend of my people than an enemy.”
Alfor nodded, seeming to accept that. “Why have you come here?”
There was many excuses he could have given him, many lies he could have used to placate the man. Instead Lotor chose the truth, letting his words ring out to the sound of gasps from both sides of the table. “We’ve come to move in.”