Pelphine temple was always at it most quiet in the afternoon, when there was a break in the hourly schedule of masses. The temple actually closed it’s doors at this point, a none too subtle dismissal of it’s visitors as the priests and priestesses all took time for themselves. For over two hours the temple would remain closed, a late lunch being served to those who lived in the temple.
Once the meal was eaten, the priest and priestesses would take the remaining time to recuperate, resting or studying in the archive room. Those lower in the temple’s hierarchy would busy themselves with work, cleaning the rooms that were made available to the public, or sorting out the daily donations the temple had received. There was always some kind of work to be done, and Lotor wondered how the apprentice priests found the time to fit in their studies.
Especially with the Drules disrupting an already busy schedule, the various Lords and Ladies all but making a nuisance of themselves as they insisted on visiting the temple. Lotor tried his best to keep them occupied elsewhere, but it was an idle time for his people, the unseasonable storms slowing down work on the greenhouses. The rain made it impossible to make any progress, setting the Drule’s work back by days, as they waited out the storms.
With nothing to do but wait, many of the Drules allowed off the ships chose to spend their days at the temple, seeming to enjoy the shock and awe they caused in the humans. Especially those new to the temple, the ones who didn’t get to deal with the Drules on a daily basis. When first ushered into the presence of a Drule, the newcomers tended to react in one of several ways. Most often they started crying, dropping to their knees in a show of devotion. Others tended to just stand there staring, jaws agape as they stuttered. In some rare cases they fainted, shock making them pass out.
Upon recovering their wits, they were like eager lap dogs, wanting to do favors for those who they considered their Gods. Favors the Drules were quick to capitalize on, sending the humans on errands both big and small. Sometimes Lotor felt he was running himself as ragged as these humans, trying to control his people’s behavior. He was constantly reminding the Drules that they were perfectly capable of doing their own work, having no need to monopolize the humans’ time.
Especially during this busy season when they were planting crops, trying to get enough food to grow in time for the summer harvest. The humans were down to the very last of their winter food, dried fruits, vegetables, and jams that had been canned to preserve their freshness. The animals were coming out of hibernation, and the humans were arranging hunting parties, intending to get both meat to eat, and furs and skins to use in the making of goods.
Even the city’s expansion was ready to continue, new buildings about to be built now that the ground had softened enough for their shovels to dig in the dirt. That brought up worries of his own, Lotor knowing the Drules only had a limited amount of time to start work on their own city. Not if they wanted the first buildings completed in time for the first snowfall.
He also knew they would have much to do, ditches needed to be dug and cleaned out, a complex sewer system set up to carry out the waste of the city. They’d have to build plants, Lotor knowing they couldn’t rely indefinitely on portable power sources to heat and light their homes. He also knew they had to tread carefully in the advancements they used, the Drules not wanting to damage the environment any more than necessary.
Pollution would happen, it was an unavoidable fact of life. But they could minimize it, avoiding factories and land bound cruisers that ate up fuel and filled the air with infected smoke. It meant the Drules would have to learn a new way of life, no longer relying on factories to mass produce their goods. The humans could teach them valuable lessons about using their own two hands to make the things they needed.
Of course, if Lotor was to listen to his people’s newly developed opinion, the Drules would not need to do anything for themselves. Merla most of all was a big advocate of this route, wanting to use the humans as little more than slaves, wanting to take without giving. She felt if the humans were so eager to be used, than the Drules should take advantage of them.
It was a popular stance she took, and Lotor knew his own view of the situation left many disapproving of his decisions. They couldn’t outright do anything about it, but they could grumble and complain, the bolder ones playing up their role as Gods to the naive humans.
“If only the humans weren’t so quick to believe!” Lotor sighed, easing open one of the second floor’s windows. He was relieved to see much of the crowd had dispersed, the people going off for their own meals. They wouldn’t stay away for long, attendance at Pelphine Temple increasing daily, the humans eager to impress upon the Drules how devoted they were to worshipping them.
It left Lotor actually wishing the humans behaved more like their king, Alfor having proved suspicious of the Drule’s nature right from the start. In fact he continued to do so, making his wariness known in the stipulations of the treaty they were forging. Alfor was taking things seriously, limiting Lotor’s rule to the lands the Drules would receive.
Not that he yet to award them much, save for the land cordoned off for the green houses. Lotor tried not to show his impatience with the human king, knowing if the situations were reversed, he would devote just as much time to the careful choosing of what land to give up to the newcomers. A careful balance would be needed, the humans couldn’t afford to give up a prime piece of land to the Drules. Nor could they do them the insult of giving them some inhospitable terrain, the land had to be viable for the Drules to eek out a living.
Alfor was also showing hesitation at just how large a settlement to allow the Drules, the king growing daunted at the revelation that there was seven more ships that had yet to arrive. The numbers were large, enough that even had the Drules not proven they had weapons that could devastate the land and it’s people, they would be a force to be reckon with.
Lotor knew they were imposing on the humans, and he hoped that the miracles they worked with the sick and the increase in food production would more than make up for their intrusion into the kingdom. They were also willing to fight for Alfor, or at least Lotor was, the Drule King ready to force his people to engage in human wars. Alfor’s kingdom could not be seen to have been weakened by the arrival of the Drules, they needed to help not hinder it’s growth.
The treaty they were forging was growing by leaps and bounds, more stipulations added from both sides. Ideas were considered, and then rejected, the aides of Lotor and Alfor working to find a middle ground both sides could agree too. One thing Alfor was absolutely insistent on was that the Drules did not try to take more than was offered to them, the King limiting their right to make war on their own. They could lend aid to what skirmishes Alfor was involved in, but they could not start their own fights, neither with this kingdom, or the other two.
Lotor was in the process of trying to work out an arrangement, one that would allow the Drules to wage war if they so chose sometime in the distant future. He pushed for it, allowing enough time to go by that the peace would exist for not only Alfor and Allura’s rule, but the girl’s children and grandchildren’s time upon the throne. He didn’t expect the Drules to have the desire to wage war, but the option needed to exist, all the same.
The population would grow out of control if they didn’t have occasion to die in battle. With the medical advancements the Drules had achieved, sickness was little threat to the health and well being of the Drules. Following this line of thought, Alfor sought to limit the number of Drule children born, the king so leery at the high number of immigrants set to arrive.
Lotor couldn’t allow his people to die out, so he fought Alfor on his baby making policies, refusing to limit the number of children that could be born in any given year. And that wasn’t even touching on the possibility of Drules and humans mingling their blood to create a new race of beings! They didn’t even know if a hybrid of the two races could be created, but Lotor had a feeling they might find out soon enough.
His thoughts turned darker, Lotor stifling his annoyance at knowing his people were willfully abusing their positions by taking human lovers to bed. The humans viewed it as the utmost sign of favor, supposedly glad for the Drule’s attention. Lotor harbored doubts about how willing they were, fearing the humans felt they had no choice when asked by a Drule for their favors.
Even with the near fool proof preventatives the Drules used to keep unwanted pregnancies from happening, there was a slim chance for error. An error that could result in the answer to his breeding question, Lotor wondering what a half Drule, half human baby would look like. Some would see it as the ultimate sign of favor, but there were still others, especially among the Drules, who would be appalled at the thought of half breeds running about.
He wondered who the potential halflings would swear allegiance to, Alfor adamant that the Arusians continue to be ruled by a human King. Alfor did not want the Drules interfering in his rule, the king beginning to take steps to limit the newcomers’ power and influence on the humans. It would be difficult to uphold, the humans still too enthralled by the Drules. Alfor could make all the laws he wanted to forbid the Drules the ability to influence the humans and their decisions, but it would be difficult to uphold, the people refusing to lose their belief that Gods walked among them.
Lotor and Alfor both hoped that in time, once the novelty of the Drules’ miracles wore off, the humans would cease their worship. That they would come to accept the Drules as just another race of people, new neighbors that should be welcomed into their fold. Right now it seemed a long time in coming, the humans seeking out Drules for counsel on their problems, and the things they must do.
Alfor had been once chief in deciding outcomes of squabbles among the humans, now instead many approached the temples, hoping to gain audience with the Drules. They sought guidance for their affairs, big and small, even asking what they should plant first for the approaching harvest season. They seemed to think the Drules would not steer them wrong, that they held some divine intellect that would allow them to see what path was right for a particular human.
It left Lotor shaking his head, the King almost amused by how dependent the humans were making themselves on the Drules. In truth the Drules needed to learn from the humans, to start figuring out the things they needed to do if they were going to coexist with both people and nature. At least they had a start on the food situation, even if the construction of the greenhouses were being delayed by the storms.
Storms that appeared to have no end in sight, the king staring out the window at the darkened sky. The clouds were thick and colored a dark gray, looking almost ominous. For all their advancements, the Drules had never figured out the key to controlling the weather. That would have been a true miracle indeed, though Lotor wondered if controlling the weather would be just another way to ruin a planet.
He was still gazing out into the city, thoughts as turbulent as the sky, when footsteps approached him. Lotor didn’t turn right away, watching the rain drops fall faster, pelting the windowsill and the ground before the temple. “Another dreary day…” He murmured in the human’s language, an instant before he caught whiff of Merla’s perfume. He inwardly sighed, gearing himself up for battle, even as he turned to look at her.
And stopped, Lotor blinking owlishly at the sight of Merla garbed in form fitting black robes, the style reminiscent of the faceless statues in the treasury room. The robes fell just past her knees, revealing her legs which wore silver sandals that laced up the length of her leg. The black color suited her, making her pink hair even bolder a color. She wore leafy laurels in her hair, a kind of thorn crown nestled on top of her head.
“What’s this?” Lotor demanded, feeling worry to see Merla looking every inch the Goddess the people claimed her to be.
“Do you like?” Merla asked, turning slowly in a circle to show off the back of her robe. Lotor wasn’t sure how to answer her question, knowing she did make a pretty picture in those robes.
“It’s….very nice.” He allowed, forcing his expression to remain blank lest he give in to the frown that wanted to form on his lips. “But I fail to see why you are wearing that get up.”
She pouted at him, right hand resting on her hip. “Only nice? Could you not come up with a better word to describe my beauty?”
“If you know you are beautiful, than you need not ask me for my opinion of you.” Lotor retorted, seeing her pout harder. “Where did you get these clothes? What purpose could wearing them serve?”
“It was given to me by some of the humans.” Merla at last explained. “They busied themselves with making adjustments to fit my frame, and to dye the color to one that would suit me.”
“And you chose to humor them by wearing it?” Lotor asked, tone suspicious. Merla wasn’t the type to do nice things unless it was to her benefit, and Lotor failed to see how wearing the robes would gain her anything.
“Well, yes…” A hesitation then, Lotor could see the debate on her face, Merla considering how much to tell him.
“Merla…” Just her name, but it held a warning in it, Lotor in no mood for her lies and attempts to avoid answering his questions. Her expression turned sullen, Merla acting put out by this line of inquiry.
“They had a reason for giving me this outfit.”
“And that reason is what?” Lotor asked, watching as she lifted manicured nails to play with the loose hair on her right shoulder.
“They want me to pose for a sculpture.” His brow lifted at that, Merla hastily adding the following. “They’re asking all the Drules. They are most…..eager to honor their Gods, to capture our divine beauty with accurate stone representations.”
“And statues.” She added, a smirk chasing away her pout. “I’m sure they would make one of you. After all, you are our King.” He knew what she was doing, trying to distract him from what was going on, to tempt him into allowing this behavior. “Oh Lotor, honestly. Don’t look at me with such mistrust in your eyes!”
“Just what do they intend to do with these statues?” He gruffly asked, seeing the hesitation on her face. “Merla?”
“Oh….: A graceful shrug of her shoulders, Merla pretending to be unconcerned. “There’s been some talk…”
“Talk?” he prodded her, Merla nodded.
“Of replacing the statues in the temples.” Lotor could tell by the look on Merla’s face that she knew this was wrong, the woman bracing herself for chastisement from her king. “It was the humans idea….” She added, a defensive air to her voice. “They can’t stand worshipping false idols a moment longer…”
“A pity for them that that is what we Drules are!” Lotor muttered, a hand lifted to brush back his hair. “This cannot be allowed to continue…”
“What can’t?” Merla asked, playing innocent in the moment.
“This false worship of us.” Lotor clarified. “Accepting our help is one thing, asking our advice is another, but when we start destroying their Gods completely….”
“But we’re not destroying them!” Merla quickly protested. “If anything, we’ve brought those legends of theirs to life!”
He made an unhappy face at her, Lotor holding back his sigh. “We’re poised on the brink of replacing their Gods, of turning their beliefs upside down. I think Alfor is right to want to limit this kind of behavior.”
“Oh Alfor.” Merla practically sneered, lips scowling at him. “What does he know?”
“A good deal more than his people!” Lotor pointed out. “They are too quick to believe, and what will happen when the truth comes out about us?”
“You mean if the truth comes out.” Merla interjected.
“When.” Lotor insisted firmly. “It’s only a matter of time…I think it’s best to agree to Alfor’s condition that we step down as Gods, and work to coexist as people alongside the Arusians.” He could tell she didn’t like that, her eyes narrowing into a glare. “We cannot continue to interfere with their lives, not in the way we have. The treaty will help to minimize the damage we could have done.”
“Treaty!” scoffed Merla, crossing her arms over her chest. “Treaties are only as good as the paper they are written on. Far too easily broken.”
“Indeed.” Lotor agreed. “Which is why it’s up to we rulers to abide by the stipulations written out in the agreement. To do each other the courtesy of honoring the promises detailed in the treaty.”
“Good luck with that.” Merla retorted. “I doubt the humans will want to stop worshipping us anytime soon, regardless of what you and Alfor agree to!” Her words rang true, Lotor knowing he had worried over that exact thing. It must have shown on his face, for Merla smiled, a look of triumph in her eyes. “You know I am right.”
“Knowing doesn’t make it any easier to accept.” Lotor told her. “It just leaves me more determined to take steps to stop this sort of behavior before it gets worse.”
“What do you intend to do?” Merla’s turn to be suspicious, her eyes wary as she looked at him. Lotor wasn’t sure, shrugging his shoulders.
“We can start by refusing these statues of theirs.” He said at last. “And perhaps we shouldn’t hang around the temples as much. It’s their holy ground, and as such it most confuse them to see us coming and going from the building all the time.”
“Where would we go?” Merla demanded. “We don’t even have a home to call our own, and I refuse to spend one more instant cooped up on the ships.”
“What would a few more months matter when we spent two years on those ships?” Lotor asked. “Besides, many of our people continue to remain on board our ships, unable to set foot yet in the human cities.”
“And they hate that they can’t!” Merla was quick to remind him. “Unease and resentment are festering, our people eager to go out.”
“They will. And soon.” Lotor told her, wondering if the quickest way to end the human’s fascination with the Drules was to introduce them to the less aesthetically pleasing beastmen.
“Not soon enough for some.” Merla said.
“I’m surprised you would advocate for them, even in the slightest.” Lotor told her, and Merla shrugged.
“I am not blind. I can see the tension developing among our people, the animosity in the air. If we’re not careful, fighting will break out…and we do not need to return to the time when our two races were separate warring factions.”
A rare moment of sense from the woman, Lotor almost smiling at her. “Indeed. I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to start introducing more of our people…” A sigh then, Lotor shaking his head. “An opportunity that never seems to present itself.”
“Poor Lotor.” She almost sounded sincere, Merla expressing sympathy to him. “Such difficulties you are having. You need to take a break, a moment to yourself where you think of something other than treaties and the integration of our people.”
She actually made sense, Lotor nodding his head. The problem was he didn’t know where to go, the city proving difficult to move around in, even with guards accompanying him. The humans were too quick to swarm any Drule who left the safety of the temple, desperate for blessings and wanting to bestow gifts on their Gods.
“Lotor….” Merla did not quite purr out his name, stepping closer to him. He could tell by the look in her eyes she had thought of something, and he waited with some interest for her to share. “Why not indulge yourself among the humans? Their antics do amuse, and you might find yourself distracted for the moment.”
“Indulge?” He questioned sharply, and gave a shake of his head. “I do not even want to know what you mean by that.”
“Nothing untoward.” She hastened to say. “Just you may find you have a taste for playing God to these humans.”
He was sighing then, rising from his perch by the windowsill. “You haven’t understood a word I have said, have you?” He frowned at her, an expression she mirrored. “Or do you think me so weak to cave in to the temptation to be the Gods these people so desperately want us to be?”
She opened her mouth to speak, but kept quiet at the sound of approaching footsteps. It was a human man, dressed differently from the robes the denizens of the temple wore. Instead he was dressed in blue and gray colors, a belted tunic with skin tight leggings. He caught Lotor’s eye, the king gesturing the human to draw closer to them. The man looked relieved to be acknowledged, pausing to drop into a low bow.
“What is it?” Merla demanded, annoyed at the interruption.
“Be polite.” Lotor advised her in Drule. To the human he spoke kindly, urging him to stand up from the bow.
“I bring a message.” The man said, pulling a piece of parchment from the satchel at his side. He handed it to Lotor, the King noting the shaking of the man’s hand. Lotor gave a cursory glance at the parchment, knowing he had yet to be able to master reading the human’s written words. He assumed it was the latest revisions of the treaty from Alfor, Lotor looking for the King’s seal. He didn’t find it, seeing instead a neat cursive, someone else’s signature at the bottom of the parchment.
“What’s this?” Lotor asked, noting that whatever it was, it was short and to the point.
“It’s from princess Allura.” The man explained, and Lotor hid his surprise. “It’s an invitation to her birthday celebration. She hopes you will find the time to attend.”
“Tell the….” She hesitated so long, Lotor wondered what word Merla wanted to use for Allura. “…princess, that his majesty is far too busy to attend such an insignificant event.” The man gasped, shocked by her words, and Lotor fought his growl of displeasure.
“Pay no mind to Merla.” He told the man, and forced a smile. “I would be delighted to come to her celebration.”
“Wonderful!” exclaimed the man, and gave another bow. “It’s set for tomorrow evening. Formal wear is required.” Lotor nodded, and the man bowed once more, Merla waiting impatiently for him to leave.
“You can’t be serious!” She exclaimed, tapping her nails on the window sill. “You can’t really be thinking of attending that brat’s party!”
“Why not?” Lotor asked, inwardly laughing at Merla’s upset. “You were just saying I need to do something for myself. Something that will distract me from my worries. An evening of celebrating sounds like just the thing.”
“I would rather you stay worried than go near that girl!” Merla snapped. “She’s trouble…”
“Trouble for who?” Lotor asked, already knowing the answer to his question. “I think she is quite delightful. Charming even.” Merla’s lips pursed together, the woman growing angrier. “It would be an insult to turn her down.”
“Oh by all means, we cannot insult the princess now can we?” Merla was sarcastic, hands on her hips now.
“Indeed we can’t. She is King Alfor’s daughter, and as such we should play nice with them both.”
“I don’t want you to play with her at all!” Merla all but shouted. “I don’t like this…I don’t like her interest in you….she can only be a distraction at best. One you don’t need.”
“Her interest is harmless, and might help us to forge a better relationship with her father and his people.” Lotor pointed out. “She means little to me save for the advantages she could earn us.” He was lying through his teeth, trying to convince both Merla and himself of his words. He tried to ignore the pleasure he had felt at having received Allura’s invitation, the King wishing he could read the words she had written to him.
Merla stared at him for a few seconds longer, eyes narrowed as she tried to read his true feelings. “That better be all she is to you.” She said at last, a slow smirk revealing itself on her face. “Because Lotor? If she is not…you and she will learn just how vengeful a woman I can be!” With those threatening words she was flouncing off, feet hitting the floor hard.