Her heart was beating faster, all but singing with joy as Allura stared up at the handsome God, her eyes focusing on the shape of his mouth. His lips were as blue as the rest of him, and they parted now, doing a husky whisper that left her leaning in closer to him, Allura desperate to make out his words. She was lying to herself if she believed hearing him was the only reason she was pressing into his chest, Allura finding she was less concerned with the words he was saying and more consumed with the look in his eyes.
He was looking at her, truly seeing her, the God liking what he saw. His gold colored eyes seemed to blaze, the color darkening with an emotion she was not familiar with seeing. At least not directed at her, Allura never having been the object of desire in her scant eighteen years of life. She found that she liked being looked at with that feeling, at least so long as it was the God Lotor who was experiencing the emotion.
Her mouth suddenly dry, she licked her lips nervously, Allura not missing the way the black slit of his eyes thinned out in response. He asked her something, but Allura was more interested in pushing his reactions, flicking her tongue across her bottom lip once more. The gold of his eyes almost swallowed up the black slit, Lotor’s eyelids drooping, giving him a spoiled, indulgent look.
It was strange, but Allura had the feeling he wanted to kiss her. What’s more, she wanted him to do it, the girl tempted to go on tip toe to help him achieve his goal. His words breathed out, Allura long since ignoring them to concentrate on his mouth. A mouth that was hesitantly descending towards hers, the God seeming unable to resist bringing his face downwards.
It was like a slap in the face when the voice intruded, the woman snide and sounding as though she was speaking from a distance. A distance that was an illusion, the Goddess nearly on top of them, her eyes narrowed into a hateful glare. Her presence affected the God, Lotor blinking rapidly, his eyes losing that desire ridden look. She could feel him straightening, his arms stiffening around hers, though his hands did not immediately let go of hers.
“Merla…” Lotor said, voice even and not betraying what he felt in the moment. “Do you want something?” She said something in Drule, her tone dripping with animosity. Lotor continued to speak in Arusian, his hands slowly dropping to his sides. “I was just showing the princess how to handle a sword.”
“Oh?” The Goddess switched back to Arusian, her words sharp, her intent to cut deep with her insinuations. “Are you sure that is the sword you want her to be handling?”
“What other sword could there be?” Lotor asked, tone bland. Another angry retort in Drule, Merla crossing her arms over her ample chest. Allura had no idea what the Goddess had said, but she knew she didn’t like the way the woman was glaring at her. Allura gripped the hilt of the sword tighter, grateful when Lotor angled his body to block the Goddess’ view of her. It didn’t stop Allura from hearing her words, or the angry tone as the woman alternated between Drule and Arusian.
“I didn’t realize the princess was such a shameless flirt!” Allura’s mouth dropped open in shock, but it was Lotor who retorted.
“You misread the situation Merla. There was no flirting going on, least of all on the princess’ part.”
Merla sounded as though she didn’t believe him, snarling out a reply. “I know what I saw Lotor. You were about to kiss her!” She shouted something in Drule, tone venomous. Whatever she had said it got Lotor to react, the God hissing out a response in that strange sounding language of theirs. A loud drawn in breath from the Goddess, and then a flurry of angry words escaped her.
Allura could only stand there, close enough to feel the heat radiating off Lotor’s body, listening to the two divine beings squabble. She felt awful for the situation, knowing she was at least partly at fault, Merla’s words ringing true. She had in effect been flirting, subtle though it had been as Allura tested the waters between them. She tried to tell herself it was because she had never dreamed the God would react to her, not to her clumsy attempts.
Other Gods were looking this way, though none dared to approach. She supposed it was due to the respect they had for their King, allowing him and the Goddess a modicum of privacy. It didn’t stop them from staring, them and her people, the wood cutters having stilled their axes to turn and gape at the scene. Merla and Lotor seemed not to notice, Allura wanting to bite down on her knuckles to quell the nervous reaction building up inside her.
She couldn’t believe she had driven two Gods to argue, Allura staring at Lotor’s profile. He looked madder than she had ever seen him, leaving her to wonder what sort of expression Merla wore. “Please…” Her voice came out a whisper, lost amidst the arguing. Allura licked her lips, well aware that was the traitorous action that had led the God to wanting to kiss her in the first place.
“Please!” She tried again, raising her voice to be almost as loud as Merla and Lotor’s. “Don’t fight….not over this…not over me…”
“You think this is about you?!” Merla demanded, voice scoffing at Allura. “Don’t flatter yourself human.” She was sneering out the words, Lotor’s jaw clenching in response. “In the grand scheme of things, you don’t matter one iota!”
“If that is true…” Lotor began, voice hostile as he asked his question. “Then why are you acting so threatened by her?”
“I have a right to demand that my fiancee conduct himself in a manner that respects me!” Merla retorted.
“I respect you.” He was quiet now, seeming to have exhausted himself from all the yelling they had done.
“Do you? Do you really?” Merla demanded. “Because right now your actions say quite the opposite. Everyone saw you, you know….with your arms around that…that strumpet!”
Allura’s cheeks flamed, the girl hardly believing what the Goddess had just called her. Lotor looked no less pleased than Allura, making his displeasure known. “You are being rude to the princess.”
“As if I care!” Merla cried out.
“You should care!” Lotor warned her, but Merla took no heed of his words. “The princess and her father, their people, have been kind to us…they’ve…”
“They’ve only given us the proper respect and adulation we deserve!” interjected Merla, Allura noting the hard look that came into Lotor’s eyes. He suddenly switched to Drule, voice low but angry, Merla sputtering out feeble protests. Lotor stepped away from Allura, and grabbed Merla by her arm, nearly jerking her off balance. Merla looked shocked at that, her voice silenced for the moment as Lotor dragged her away from Allura.
Allura just stood there, mouth agape as she watched the two quarrel some distance away from her. Even from here she could faintly make out their words, seeing the way Merla angrily gestured, the Goddess oocasionaly shooting Allura pointed glares. Allura visibly winced at the animosity the Goddess was showing her, the girl fretting on what this could mean.
But even more, she wondered about herself, Allura suffering doubts on what she had done to the God. On what had almost happened between them. ~I am a wicked, wicked woman.~ Allura decided, feeling the heated flush in her cheeks. ~Toying with a taken man!~ Not only had she tempted Lotor into almost kissing her, she had done it within view of Merla and their people!
No wonder the Goddess was upset, Allura doing grave insult to the woman. She was lucky the Goddess hadn’t struck her down, Allura wondering if her people would suffer for her sin of seduction. The Goddess could convince Lotor to stop the miracles, to grant their blessings to some other kingdom. And it would be all Allura’s fault, her people suffering instead of prospering.
~I have to make this right with her.~ Allura decided, firming her resolve as she gained a white knuckle grip on Lotor’s sword. ~I simply must apologize.~ She was already walking towards them, their voices growing louder. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know what they were saying, Allura knowing by their tone it wasn’t pleasant. The sword hummed in her hands, alerting the two Gods to her approach.
Merla took one look at Allura, and with a haughty hmph was turning, flouncing off so that her hair bounced as she moved. Allura was crestfallen, realizing the Goddess had in effect dismissed her, the princess losing what could be her only chance to offer up an apology. Lotor muttered something in Drule, and then was turning to her, a forced smile on his face. It didn’t reach his eyes, his expression strained from the argument he had shared with Merla.
“I’m sorry.” Allura said, tone meek, her eyes lowering. The God exhaled, a deep sigh escaping him before he spoke.
“Don’t be.” She continued to stare at the dirt, hearing him continue. “If anyone is at fault it’s me.”
She felt he was being kind, Lotor trying to take the blame for her offense. “The Goddess….is so angry. Will she not allow me the chance to apologize to her?”
“You shouldn’t have to apologize!” His answer came quick, almost harsh, Allura risking a glance up at his face. He had lost his smile, Lotor looking in the direction of Merla. The Goddess had her back to them, her head held high as she stalked past a few basket carrying maids. “You did nothing wrong.” He repeated, and she shifted, feeling awkward.
Allura wanted to ask if he had really been about to kiss her, the girl wanting to know how he could be tempted by a mere mortal such as herself when he had a beautiful Goddess like Merla for his bride. But she couldn’t bring herself to voice her questions, almost scared at what his answers would be. Even worse would be if he laughed, Allura sure the God would agree she wasn’t worth his time and attention.
“Here…” She said instead, and was passing his sword to him. He took it without comment, Lotor sheathing it into the leather scabbard on his hip. “Thank you for letting me hold it.” Another shift, Allura all but fidgeting in place. “I…forgive me for imposing. I will ask someone else to instruct me in the way of the sword.”
He hesitated before speaking, Lotor at last sighing out an answer. “I suppose that would be best.”
An awkward silence developed between them, Allura feeling saddened by it. The easy camaraderie they had shared was gone, destroyed by her foolish desires and the Goddess’ anger. Allura strove for some way to restore it, unable to bear losing his friendship. “How many days will it take you to finish here?” She gestured at the clearing around them, the woodcutters having returned to their task.
“It will take some time…” He sighed, and she could not tell if it was the situation with Merla that caused that sound, or if it bore the frustration of the slow progress of the human’s work. “Even if we worked night and day, it would still take a few weeks.”
“I see.” Again that silence, Allura asking another question to fill it. “What is involved with making these…greenhouses?”
“Many things.” A vague answer, Lotor’s hand lifting, fingers grasping at the air. “We’ll need a lot of glass, and to set up portable power sources until we can build the building that will supply the energy to control the houses various functions.”
“It’s mainly a question of heat.” Lotor answered. “We’ll need to maintain a certain temperature year round in order for things to continue to grow, even during the winter season. Light plays a factor in it too, and we’ll set up automatic sprinklers to water the crops at the appropriate time. These green houses are self sufficient once set up, it won’t take more than a handful of people to monitor them to make sure all processes are working as they should.”
She thought it a small miracle to be able to grow much of anything during the winter months, Allura feeling some of her tension melting away as Lotor explained the green houses to her. “And guards to keep bandits and animals away? Will you employ them as well?”
“We won’t need too.” He smiled then, the look genuine. “The doors will be locked, and we can set up an electrical current throughout the building’s walls. Anyone who tried to force their way in would be zapped.”
She was trying to explore all the angles, not meaning to worry him. “But what if they threw rocks from a distance? Would they not then be able to get in?”
“Our glass is more durable then that!” He actually sounded a tad boasting, the God proud of his people’s accomplishments. “It’s proofed against weapons, lasers bounce off it, and a rock wouldn’t make a crack in it’s surface.”
“That is wonderful!” Allura exclaimed. “I cannot wait to see the green houses when they are completed.”
“You’ll have first pick of the crops.” He promised, still smiling. “Tell me princess, what is your favorite fruit?”
“Strawberries.” She answered promptly, knowing how much she missed the red berries during the winter months.
“Then we will be sure to grow plenty of those for you.” Allura smiled at him, thinking he was too kind to her.
“Be sure to grow some blackberries as well.” She told him, thinking of her father’s favorite fruit. The seeds for that fruit was rare, but she would make sure to include them among the ones her people were supplying to the Gods.
“Anything else?” Lotor asked, and Allura had to think.
“Ummm….” She shrugged then, knowing they could be here all day if she started listing the fruits and vegetables that were favorites among her people. “I will make sure to personally inventory the seeds, so that you can grow plenty of things, including the more popular foods.” He nodded to that, and Allura realized the conversation was drawing to a close, the girl desperate to keep it going.
“When will your representatives visit with my father’s aides?” It was a departure from the previous topic, but still along the same lines, Allura knowing her father was busy working with Coran and the other royal advisors on the treaty they would forge with the Gods.
“Soon.” Lotor said. “We are still holding meetings, trying to settle on our conditions for the agreement between our two peoples.” The Gods weren’t content to meekly sit back and let Alfor make all the demands, and Allura respected them for their savvy. She also knew it would be a long process, the treaty being passed back and forth between them, studied and taken apart, things rejected and approved. “I’ll be glad when things are settled. My people are eager to begin building the first of our cities.”
“Oh I can’t wait to visit one!” Allura exclaimed, her excitement getting the better of her. “I bet it will be beautiful! And full of marvels!”
“I don’t know about beautiful, but I am sure we manage the marvels part of it.” He grinned them, the God having relaxed completely by this point. “My people will be glad to get off the ships…”
“I would like to go on one someday…” She immediately reddened at what she had blurted out, Allura thinking she was too bold in her request. The God’s smile did not vanish, though he turned hesitant at the idea.
“Perhaps someday.” He said at last, Allura wondering if he merely said that to placate her.
“Perhaps.” She agreed, and touched her fingertips together, fidgeting nervously. It was clear their conversation was all but over, and still she lingered, Allura not wanting to leave Lotor’s side. She dared not think he felt the same way, the God turning to eye the forest. Just when she thought he had dismissed her entirely, Lotor spoke, voice soft.
“I am sorry our picnic got ruined.”
“I am too….” She said, thinking of the spilt basket and it’s ruined food. “But there will always be another time for it. At least…” Another blush was upon her, Allura lowering her eyes. “I hope there will.”
“Do come visit me again princess.” His tone was warm, Allura’s eyes filling with her pleasure to receive his invite.
“I will!” She promised, and that seemed to be the end of it, Lotor smiling at her once more.
“Shall I walk you back to your carriage?” He asked, and Allura very badly wanted to take him up on his offer. Anything to remain in his presence! But a glance in Merla’s direction showed the Goddess was watching them, Allura not wanting to push things any further than she had.
“No…I am sure you are very busy. But I thank you all the same!” Her words were formal but colored with warmth, Allura dropping into a low curtsey. The God gave a slight incline of his head in return, bidding her farewell. She quickly straightened and began walking to the carriage, feeling as though his gaze followed her all the way. Her driver was waiting for her, the man hurrying to open the carriage door.
“Thank you.” Allura said, and with his assistance, climbed inside. Her nanny was there, the woman having regained some of her color. “How are you feeling?” Allura asked, feeling a twinge of guilt for not having spared a thought towards her nanny all this time.
“I am fine. I will be much better once we return to the castle!” Her nanny had never been one for the wilderness, the woman preferring to remain close to the city and castle. Allura took her seat besides the woman, then rapped on the carriage wall, alerting the driver that she was ready. She heard him let out a shout, the reins cracking as he goaded the horses into moving.
“Did you enjoy your visit with the God?” Her nanny inquired, and Allura immediately sought out Lotor through the carriage window. He met her gaze, and raised his hand, waving bye to her. She returned the gesture, a flush feeling of pleasure surrounding her.
“Yes.” Allura said at last, keeping her eyes on Lotor until he became a speck in the distance. “I did.”
“I can tell you one person who did not.” Her nanny said, and Allura turned to look at her. “The Goddess was most upset. I could hear her shouting all the way to where the carriage waited.” Guilt flared within her, Allura not saying anything. “She’s a strange one, that she is.”
“Is she?” Allura asked, and her Nanny nodded.
“Always going around with that sour look on her face. I know she is a favorite among the men, but…” Her nanny paused, waiting for Allura to prod her to continue.
“But what?” Allura asked, knowing the woman was a font of information, always gossiping with the servants.
“I don’t see how the God could prefer her to you.” Her nanny surprised her, Allura staring shock. “That one, that Merla doesn’t have a very pleasant demeanor. Oh she hides it behind that language of theirs, but even though we cannot understand her words, her tone is apparent in it’s disdain for us.”
“I thought it was just for me.” Allura admitted, and her nanny shook her head no.
“She’s quick to make use of us, while sneering openly at us. She’s no benevolent Goddess, I can tell you that much!” Which is why Allura knew she should do her utmost to at least avoid getting on Merla’s bad side. She knew how to do it too, it would take just one simple act, Allura staying away from Lotor completely. But her heart hurt at the thought, the girl wanting to be around him, to bask in his attention even if he thought her nothing more than a spoiled child. One whose company he must endure if he wanted to secure homes for his people.
A deep sigh escaped her, Allura leaning back against her seat. Her nanny misread her exhalation, reaching over to pat her knee. “Don’t worry too much about it princess.”
“How can I not?” Allura murmured softly, finding she was wishing Merla was completely out of the picture. Maybe then she’d have a chance with Lotor. ~What a foolish thought.~ She felt stupid for wanting him, for desiring not only a taken man, but a God at that. And yet her heart wanted what it wanted, Allura realizing it was more than just a crush she had on him, but a full blown attraction.
An attraction that Merla seemed to pick up on, Allura amazed to think the Goddess was jealous. How could she be when Allura felt the woman was a million times more beautiful than she, Allura unable to compete with beauty that was divinely made. There simply was no comparison between them, Allura holding back her sighs, thinking she had little chance at competing with the Goddess. Nor should she want to, Allura knowing Merla had been in Lotor’s life for a lot longer than Allura.
~It would be best if I stayed away from them both.~ Allura realized. She raised a hand to her forehead, fingers massaging at her temple. Staying away would be easier said then done, Allura feeling as though something pulled her to Lotor. She wanted to pray for strength, and realized she didn’t even know who to address her prayers to, Allura not wanting to risk Lotor and Merla learning of it.
~Please…~ She thought, offering up a silent prayer to whoever was out there listening. ~Grant me the strength to be strong. The strength to do what is right for him.~ But even as she thought those words, Allura was doubting her sincerity, already looking forward to the next time she would meet with King Lotor.