Amidst the people of her father’s court were the newcomers, the bold colored Gods who had joined in the festivities. They danced and they laughed, and though their loud voices sometimes startled her people, soon the nobles grew used to the sight of the Gods’ merry making. It wasn’t long before both races were side by side, enjoying one another’s company.
It went beyond talking, some of the Gods inviting women to dance with them. Those noble ladies looked thrilled at the prospect, eagerly going into the arms of the handsome Gods, and dancing around the room. It left Allura to wonder what they talked about, the girl spying one woman with her raven black hair tossed back as she giggled at something her green skinned companion whispered in her ear.
Whatever had been said, it was clearly more amusing than the conversation, or lack there of she had had with her own partner. Kesington was simply too awkward around her to speak, the young man spending much of his time looking anywhere but at Allura! He stuttered the few times she tried to engage him in conversation, his face turning a bright shade of red whenever he had to look at her.
And yet she endured his company, Allura knowing the alternatives weren’t much better. There was several young men present at her celebration, some even eager to dance with the princess. A part of her knew she was being rude in allowing Kesington to monopolize much of her time, she should be mingling and getting to know the other men. She knew she was now at the age where she would be expected to actively pursue marriage prospects. Allura looked at that duty as a chore, the girl not wanting to spend time getting to know anyone but the God, Lotor.
She knew that was a foolish desire, knowing there was many obstacles in the way of them developing a relationship beyond friendship. The least of which was his intended bride, the goddess Merla who even now, kept a careful watch on Lotor. Allura couldn’t help but inwardly seethe at the possessive way Merla clung to Lotor’s arm, a self satisfied little smirk on her lips.
Every time Allura turned to seek out Lotor, Merla was there, the woman a constant presence by his side. It left little chance for Allura to approach the God, the girl wanting nothing more than to steal a few moments alone with the Drule. Instead she could only watch from afar, seeing Lotor make polite conversation with several of the nobles, his own face seeming to bear a tension she could not explain.
She held back her sighs, not wanting to alert Kesington to her distress, even as she plotted for ways to get rid of Merla. She knew Kesington would be of no help there, Allura dreaming of sending someone to ask Merla for a dance. She even harbored thoughts of accidentally on purpose spilling a drink on Merla’s dress, Allura wanting to send the Goddess running from the room.
But it was all dark impulses, ones she wouldn’t act on, Allura continuing to dance about the room with Kesington. When she wasn’t staring at Lotor and Merla, she’d occasionally catch sight of a blue ball of fur, the kitten like creature the Gods had gifted her with playing amidst the feet of the dancing couples. Coba seemed far too nimble, easily evading the people’s feet, even as he pounced towards the moving skirts of the female dancers.
Not even the kitten’s antics could cheer her up, Allura once again peering past Kesington’s shoulder to seek out Lotor. He was in the midst of cutting himself a slice of cake, appearing not to notice her staring at him. But Merla did, the Goddess boldly meeting Allura’s eyes, a knowing look shining in the gold. She wasn’t so crass as to stick her tongue out at the princess, but she did go so far as to caress her fingers down Lotor’s arm.
Such a touch surprised the God, Lotor turning to look at Merla. Allura was too far away to hear what the Goddess said, seeing her lean in to whisper something in Lotor’s ear. He didn’t quite smile, looking amused as he handed the piece of cake to his betrothed. Not even once did he glance in Allura’s direction, leaving the girl’s ears to burn as she wondered what Merla had told him.
A spin from Kesington had her turning from the Gods, her back to Lotor and Merla. She saw her father, Alfor standing off in the distance, surrounded by a multitude of simpering nobles. They were all talking at once, vying for his attention, though Alfor looked up at that precise moment to gaze at his daughter. She smiled at him, and he raised his glass in a toast to her, the nobles quick to follow his movements.
Allura nodded, and then she made another turn on the dance floor, catching sight of servants entering with brightly wrapped packages. The boxes were of all sizes, both big and small, presents from the nobles. The servants were currently stacking the assortment of gifts near the banquet table, the time when Allura would be expected to open them drawing near.
It was an impressive amount of gifts, the people invited to the party having spared no expense when it came to paying their respects to the birthday girl. She knew many of them were hoping to win approval from her father, wanting to win acceptance through her with these presents, these bribes. She was grateful for the gifts all the same, Allura knowing how lucky she was to received them.
The kitten Coba had noticed the gifts piling up, the tiny creature sneaking over to bat at a spiraling piece of ribbon. The servants worked around the kitten, being careful not to step on such a precious gift, Coba blissfully unaware of the burden he was making of himself.
The night was still young, the attendants of her celebration seeming tireless. Allura knew she would simply have to endure the merry making for a few hours more, the girl unable to feign an illness to get away from the party that had become such a disappointment to her. She couldn’t even look forward to opening her gifts, Allura fighting back another mournful sigh, Kesington’s guidance leading them closer to the Gods.
The youth nearly trod over her feet when Allura came to a sudden halt. She barely heard his whispered out apologies, Allura looking to the right and the left, trying to figure out where Merla and Lotor had gone. She could see the crumbled slices of cake laying on the table, the only sign of the Gods’ presence. Other Gods were still dancing, but the one she was most interested in had vanished!
Her head turning to the right, and to the left, Allura peered about the room, looking for any sign of the royal couple. The pink hair was hard to miss, Allura spying Merla walking out of a side door, her black skirts dragging across the floor. Lotor wasn’t with her, and Allura felt excitement flare up in her, the girl knowing this was her chance at long last!
“Thank you for the dance.” Allura said, interrupting Kesignton in mid apology. He looked startled by her thanks, not having expected it after his near miss with her feet. “If you will excuse me now…”
“Of course princess!” Kesington quickly said, letting go of her hand and her waist. He did a stiff bow, all red faced around her. “You honored me with so many dances.”
“It was an honor I enjoyed.” Allura lied, her tone absentminded as she scoured the room for signs of Lotor. She was already stepping away from Kesington, spying several of the young men perking up to see her put an end to her association with the black haired youth. But she had no time for them, neatly dodging their attempts to draw her into conversation, Allura polite but firm as she turned down their requests for dances.
Instead she maneuvered herself through the crowd, eyes anxious as she looked at each blue skinned God that was present. Besides Lotor, there was only two more with the same shade of blue as his own coloration, and neither man bore the luxurious mane of white that the King had. She tried to keep the disappointment off her face, Allura feeling anxious, knowing Merla could return at any moment. Return and reclaim her place at Lotor’s side, Allura knowing she had to get a hold of the King before the Goddess did.
He wasn’t by the table, nor was he dancing, Allura realizing she had yet to see him on the dance floor even one time. She eased her way past various nobles, scanning the darkened corners of the room. Still no sign of him, her anxiety mounting. She at last pushed her way to the carved entrance that led out into the inner courtyard, Allura raising her hands to rub at her sleeve covered arms.
Giving in to the urge to sigh sadly, she nearly jumped out of her skin when a voice spoke to her. She immediately recognized it as Lotor’s, the girl flushing in excitement. “Your highness!” She exclaimed, whirling around to see Lotor cloaked in the shadows of the wall. He was looking amused, holding a wine goblet in hand as he studied her.
“Hello princess.” Lotor said, goblet poised by his lips. “Isn’t it a bit early to leave your own party?”
“I wasn’t leaving!” Allura said, watching him take a sip of his drink. She managed to keep from blurting out the truth, that she had been searching for him, instead stating the following. “I merely needed some fresh air.”
“Ah…yes. It is a bit stuffy in there.” Lotor nodded, licking his lips to catch stray drops of the wine.
“Is that why you’re out here?” Allura asked, taking a step towards him. He nodded, seeming to hesitate before speaking.
“It’s a bit overwhelming in there, with all the flowers and perfumes.” A chuckle then, the God shaking his head. “I feared if I remain inside for much longer, I’d get a headache…”
“I see…” She said quietly, clasping her hands together before her waist. She fidgeted in place, eyes cast downwards as Allura nerved herself to speak honestly with him. “I’m glad you did step away from the party.”
“I…I wanted a chance to speak with you.” She continued, Allura risking a glance at him. His expression was unreadable, the God watching her closely. “To thank you for coming. To thank you for the kitten.”
“Ah, Coba was more Merla’s idea than mine.” Lotor told her, and she quirked an eyebrow at him. “She heard the castle suffers from a rodent problem, and thought a kitten would be a very practical gift for you to accept.”
“I see.” Allura was less than pleased by his words, thinking of the mice that were her friends, and the fact that Merla had had a hand in choosing Coba as her gift.
“It was a very…giving gesture on her part.” Lotor continued, trying to fill up the silence Allura had allowed to foster between them. “I’m really quite surprised she could be so thoughtful to another.” Allura was in no mood to hear Lotor praise the Goddess, the girl working to hide her distress. “I’m glad you invited us to your party.”
“It was only you I wanted to come to the party.” Allura confessed, shocked by her boldness. “The Goddess and the others are welcome of course, but it was you who I really wanted to see.”
“You do me honor with your interest, princess.” Lotor replied, a smile on his face. “In truth….I wanted to see you too.”
“You did?” Another step had her almost in touching distant, Allura looking hopefully at Lotor. “Why?”
“Why?” He frowned at her question, Allura nodding her head.
“Yes. I want to know why.” She was so tempted to reach out and touch the God, wanting to feel the firmness of his muscled arms. He paused before answering, taking the time to finish off his goblet of wine. Allura brimmed with nervous energy the entire time he drank, anxious for his answer.
“Well….you are the daughter of Alfor, the princess of the people whose land we want to share with.” Allura nearly deflated with disappointment at Lotor’s answer, her face turning crestfallen.
“Is that all I am to you?” She asked, shoulders sagging as she backed up a step. “Just the daughter of the King, just a figure head to deal with?” His own eyes had widened, the yellow seeming to glow brightly in the moonlit courtyard.
“Princess no. I didn’t mean to give you that idea!” Lotor said quickly, growing even more surprised at her loud outburst.
“Then don’t be so formal around me!” She snapped. “You never call me by my name, you always refer to me by my title.”
“Do I?” he wondered, and she nodded.
“You do! It gives an illusion of distance between us….”
“Perhaps distance is what I, what we need…” he murmured to himself, but loud enough for Allura to catch the words.
“What do you mean?” She asked, seeing him shake his head no. “Please Lotor, tell me?” Her eyes as well as her word implored him, Allura staring intently at him. She was surprised when he sighed, the sound quick but heavy, the King stepping towards her. She was even more surprised when he reached out to touch her, his finger tips hovering just before the curls on the left side of her face.
He was close enough that Allura swore she could feel the heat of him rising off Lotor’s body, the girl staring up into his eyes. He had such a strange look on his face, the King fighting not to complete the touch. She didn’t make it easy for him, Allura leaning forward so she brushed against his fingertips. It was an action that had him swearing, a harsh Drule word as he snatched back his hand.
But Lotor didn’t step away from her, staring almost helplessly at her. “It’s you…it’s me…it’s this…attraction between us.”
“Attraction?” She didn’t deny it, Allura feeling thrilled to hear him put name to the tension that was between them.
“Yes…You call to me…like a moth to a flame I am drawn to you….I don’t know why….something about you, something endears you to me…”
“And I to you.” Allura admitted, wishing he would try to touch her again.
“It’s wrong.” He practically growled out those words, suddenly flinging his wine goblet onto the ground. The few drops that remained inside the goblet, spilled onto the stones, but neither Allura nor Lotor paid it much mind.
“Why is it wrong?” She shook her head then, bringing her fingers to his lips. Lotor made no move to evade her, the girl speaking quickly. “Don’t say it. I know….you already have a bride…I shouldn’t be trying to tempt you away from her…”
“You shouldn’t….” He agreed, lips moving against her fingertips. “But there’s more than just Merla to consider…”
“Yes, I know. You are a God. A mere mortal such as myself shouldn’t dare dream of being with you.” It was sadness that made her speak, and sadness that shown in his smile, Lotor suddenly shaking his head no.
“Gods…” He scoffed, voice dripping with derision at that one word. “I’m beginning to hate that word.”
“Hate it? Why?” Allura asked, and now he turned evasive, Lotor avoiding looking at her. “Lotor?” She actually touched his arm, trying to get him to look at her. He turned at her touch, reaching out to catch hold of her hand. She shivered in delight at the contact, liking the warmth and the way his large hand enveloped her smaller one.
“It’s nothing.” He said at last, and she shook her head no.
“It doesn’t sound like nothing.” Allura pointed out.
“You should go back inside….” He said instead, avoiding answering her question. “The party won’t be the same without you. People will miss you…”
“They won’t even notice I am gone.” Allura interrupted, sighing.
“I’m sure that’s not true.” Lotor said, then quickly added the following. “What about that young man you were dancing with?”
“Kesington?” She almost colored at the mention of the youth, Allura dismayed to know Lotor had been watching them so closely. “Oh…he’s…he’s not anyone important to me….I just met him tonight.” She added, flustered to the point of babbling. “My father introduced him to me and one thing led to another….It means nothing, really…”
His earlier upset had faded, Lotor looking amused at what she was saying. “You don’t have to explain your relationships to me…”
“But I want to!” She blurted out in protest. “I want you to know he means nothing, he’s just the latest in a long line of suitors my father has tried to foist off on me.” A sigh then, Allura fidgeting. “He’s eager to marry me off. Says it’s my duty to continue the royal family line….”
“What do you want?” Lotor asked, tone curious.
“What do I want?” She paused, surprised. “You know…no one has ever really asked me that before. Not about this….” She smiled then, but it lacked good humor to it, the girl more frustrated than happy. “But I…I want to be free to marry for love, not for duty. Not for any obligation to the throne.” A forced laugh then, Allura gazing up at him. “I’m not even sure I am ready to be married. Eighteen is awfully young. And there is still so much I want to do….”
“Like what?” A soft question from the God, his eyes intent on hers.
“I’d like to travel the world someday…see new sights….meet new people….I know they won’t ever let me leave the kingdom….not so long as I am the sole heir to the throne….but still I dream….” She fought not to look away, finding it good to confess this all to someone. Lotor was more than just a convenient outlet for her held in desires, he was special, the kind of person she wanted to confide in her secret dreams. “I read books.” Allura said this as though it was the greatest of secrets, Lotor holding back any looks of amusement.
“Do you now? And what kind of books are they?” He asked.
“Oh wonderful books. They tell tales of fanciful things, of wondrous things, impossible things. Of fascinating people, and…and love…” She finished that last word with a blush, still watching him carefully. “I want to experience a love like in my books. Something real, something genuine, not this courtly machinations of my father and the nobles around us.”
“Keep dreaming princess, I am sure you will get your wish someday….” Lotor said with a smile.
“What…” She hesitated, not wanting to be so bold with him. “What if I told you I found the one I wanted to experience those dreams with?”
“Princess…” A hint of warning in his tone, Allura quickly brushing her fingers against his mouth to stop him from speaking.
“Allura, call me Allura!”
“All right. Allura…” He allowed, and she smiled.
“It feels wonderful to hear you call my name.” Allura almost giggled, so giddy was she. “Somehow….I feel special when you say it, when you look at me.” She cautiously lowered her hands, daring to graze the tips of her fingers against his collarbone. “You see me for me, and not just as my title, don’t you?”
“I…I do…” He agreed, swallowing hard. “But…”
“Oh don’t ruin it with buts!” Allura interrupted him. “Don’t tell me the reason why we can’t be. Not right now….Just for this moment, let us be together…not as God and not as princess….”
“I think I’ve had too much to drink.” Lotor suddenly said. “I find myself wanting to go along with whatever you have to say…”
“Oh you do, do you?” She smiled then, and reached for his hands, tugging herself closer to him so that her chest brushed against his front. “Then Lotor? Would you do me the honor of dancing with me on my birthday?” She was already putting his one hand onto her waist, Allura lacing her fingers with his. He opened his mouth, and she knew he was going to protest, Allura quickly speaking to stop Lotor. “No don’t! Please……no over thinking this…just humor me with this one request. A birthday gift from you to me, with no others’ input…”
“You make a very persuasive request.” Lotor said, and to her delight, she felt him tightened his grip on her hip. “All right Allura, one dance.”
“Yes, just one dance!” She knew her eyes had to be sparkling with excitement, Allura practically leaning into him. Out here in the courtyard they could just make out the faint strains of music, the musicians working diligently to entertain the party guests. Allura wanted to hum along to their music, so excited was she to once again be in the God’s arms.
Allura was all smiles as she danced with Lotor, the God nimble on his feet as he danced her around the section of courtyard closest to the banquet hall. Her dress flared out around her legs, petticoats rustling as they moved. “You’re very good at this.” Allura told him, a pleased blush rising to her cheeks at his answer.
“It’s because I have a good partner.” Lotor told her, eyes twinkling. “I haven’t had much occasion to dance. It’s been difficult times for my people, with little joy for us to partake in.”
“Then I’d be honored if you could find some joy tonight.” Allura told him, doing turns with him around a tree.
“Allura, it’s always a pleasure to be in your presence.” Lotor replied, and Allura knew she looked as pleased as she felt, at hearing those words from him. “You…you make me forget things for a while. Forget my burdens and responsibilities. It’s nice…” His tone had turned wistful, Lotor dancing her closer to the windows of the banquet hall. “It’s freeing.”
She understood what he meant, because Allura felt the same way, the girl giving his hand a comforting squeeze. She laughed when he suddenly dipped her, her long hair brushing against the stone cobblestones of the courtyard. She was still giggling when he helped her to straighten, the laughter not quite dying as she caught sight of Merla. The pink haired Goddess was standing across from one of the windows, a calculating look in her eyes.
Even worse was the man who stepped closer to her, Allura gasping as she saw her father looking at her disapprovingly. She felt Lotor pull to a stop, his hands dropping away from hers as he turned to look at the pair. Merla had a strange smile on her face, the woman keeping an eye on the God and the princess as she leaned in to whisper something in King Alfor’s ears.
Whatever she had said, made the man’s face reddened, his blue eyes looking angry as he glared at his daughter. Allura gulped nervously, recognizing that look for what it was. Trouble, and of the worse kind, her father’s involvement in the Goddess’ grievances sure to mean a harsh word, and maybe even strict punishment dealt to Allura. She inwardly groaned, even as she bit out a hasty apology to Lotor, running from him as she dashed across the courtyard. She didn’t stop at his shout, didn’t so much as look back, hurrying to one of the doors that led into another part of the castle.