The forest seemed an endless sea of trees, the large towering oaks lining either side of the dirt flattened road. Allura stared at the trees without really seeing them, her eyes constantly blurring with tears. She had long since ceased brushing at her eyes, each angry movement doing little to stop the flow of her upset. Nor did her rapid thoughts help to calm her, Allura endlessly repeating the events that had happened this night.
She saw herself dancing with the God, remembering how good it felt to be in his arms. They had talked and laughed, sharing smiles and warm looks. It was memories that should have made her smile, but the experience was tainted with what had happened next. Allura could remember straightening up from the God’s impromptu dip, both she and Lotor turning in time to catch sight of Merla.
For as long as she lived, Allura would never forget the look in the Goddess’ eyes, the woman’s expression sly, calculating. It grew even worse when her father stepped out of the shadows to stand next to Merla, his face red with his anger as he stared at his daughter in Lotor’s arms. He hadn’t said anything to her, hadn’t had the chance for Allura had immediately pulled away from Lotor, and broken into a run.
She had been almost blind with her upset, her emotions in a whirl as she ran across the courtyard to enter into another part of the castle. She didn’t seek to compose herself, instead rushing the long way back to her bedroom. She had slammed her door shut, and all but threw herself onto her bed, right hand curled into a fist that she brought down against the mattress.
She hadn’t quite screamed, her voice muffled against the pillows, Allura pounding her fist again and again
on the mattress. Still she made quite a show of it, her mice friends alerted to her upset, and creeping out of the woodwork to approach her. She had barely looked up at their squeaks, to focused on worrying over what would happened when her father chose to approach her.
She had seen the look on his face, the way his eyes had flashed with displeasure at the sight of her nearness to the God, Lotor. Even worse had been his glare, his anger being magnified by whatever Merla had whispered in his ear. She had been all too quick to realize her actions this night would have repercussions, and that her escape from the courtyard had only delayed things for the moment.
Allura wasn’t sure how long she had sat in her room, trying to calm herself down. A glance out the window had shown the moon high in the sky, it’s beams allowing a pale light to filter into her darkened bedroom. She had known she was making things worse by not returning to the party, but Allura had been unable to bear the thought of returning, of plastering fake smiles on her face, and feigning a happiness she did not feel.
It wasn’t until she heard the first whistle of the fireworks being shot into the sky, that a harsh knock
sounded on her door. Allura immediately straightened from her slouching position, looking towards the door. Her mice friends let out panicked squeaks, and made a run for the darkness beneath her bed, just barely managing to get out of sight before Alfor had thrown open the door.
She had somehow managed to hold in her gasps, staring at her father with huge eyes. His color had returned to normal, he no longer looked so furiously angry. But there had been a hardness to his expression, a deep frown of disapproval that almost made her flinch. She was far too unused to being looked at in that way by her father.
Even so, Allura had tried to be civil to him, nervously tittering out a greeting. A greeting he seemed to dismiss, Alfor turning to close the door. Allura did not fail to notice the way her father took up position before it, the man’s intent clear. He was blocking her only escape, determined to keep her there for as long as it took to reprimand her.
She had been so nervous, bringing her fingers together to fidget the tips against one another. She hadn’t even realized she had dropped her gaze, not until her father had bade her look at him. She had hesitated, but ultimately obeyed, feeling a cool wetness come to her eyes at the sight of his expression.
For the longest time they had just stared at each other, Alfor seeming to gather his thoughts. He didn’t outright tell her he was disappointed in her, Alfor letting out a deep sigh that seemed to tire him in the process. “Allura…” He had began, his own hands resting by his sides. “Just what were you doing with that Drule?”
She hadn’t liked the animosity in his tone when he spoke of Lotor, voice dripping with disgust as he pronounced the word Drule. It had made her feel defiant, Allura lifting her chin to stare determinedly at her father. “I did not do anything wrong!”
“Allura, you were in his arms!” Alfor had snapped back, his hands curling into fists. She hadn’t backed down, stubborn as she had issued her own retort.
“We were dancing! People hold each other when they do that!”
“And do they often skulk about in darkness, sneaking off with another woman’s betrothed?” His question had some of the defiant fire in her die down, Allura paling at the words. Her father had not missed her reaction, his look turning shrewd. “Allura…Merla’s told me about your…indiscretions.”
“Indiscretions?!” She had gasped out the word, gaping at her father in shock. “Just what has Merla told you?!”
“No need to sound so hostile.” Her father had said, disapproving of the excited way she had snapped out her question. “Lady Merla has merely alerted me to the girlhood crush you have on her man.” Allura’s cheeks flamed with humiliation even now as she recalled the kind way her father had tried to talk to her. “I understand it’s natural for a girl your age to develop interests in men, but you have to realize it’s not healthy, this infatuation you have with a taken man.”
It was horrible, hearing those words, and even more so because Allura knew she could say nothing to refute them. She was infatuated with a man that was all but married to another, and what’s worse, she had been blatant in her attempts to get closer to him, Merla be damned.
She didn’t know what her father took her silence to mean, Alfor continuing, his words making her reel back
in horror. “Even if King Lotor wasn’t already engaged to someone else, he would still be an unsuitable match for you.”
“And I suppose someone like Kesington would be better?” Allura recalled the way her father had frowned at her tart tone, the king nodding his head.
“Lord Warlime’s son is a fine young man. He is smart, polite, and capable of managing the family’s estate. You would do little better than to marry one of his stock.” A pointed look had followed. “What’s more, Kesington, unlike King Lotor, is neither engaged to another, nor is he a…visitor to our world.”
And there was the heart of the real problem, Allura not quite frowning as she recalled the exchange that had followed her father’s words. She hadn’t quite yelled, but her voice had come out too loud for either one of their liking.
“And that’s the real problem, isn’t it?” Allura had demanded, hands on her hips as she rose from the bed. “You don’t like King Lotor because he is not an Arusian!” Her father had hesitated at that, but it was enough to let her know she was pretty much on the mark. “You’re prejudiced father!” Allura had accused, continuing her loud way of talking. “You have been against Lotor and the other Gods from the moment they set foot in our courtyard.”
“It’s not prejudice!” Alfor’s tone had been so quiet in response to Allura’s upset.
“It is!” She had insisted, even as Alfor shook his head no. “If not that, then what?!”
“I just don’t want to lose you!” Alfor had blurted out to Allura’s shock. She was left blinking owlishly at him, lips opening and closing as she had waited for her father to explain. “They may be Gods, they may not be. I don’t know for sure…”
“Even after all this time, all that they have done, you still doubt?” Allura had asked.
“If they truly are divine in nature…” Alfor had said, seeming to ignore his daughter’s question. “Then there are the stories we have to consider. Our history speaks of the Gods showing interest in mortal women….in taking them to the heavens. I do not want the same fate to happen to you.”
“Father…” Allura hadn’t known what to say, moving to approach him. She had tried again, placing a hand on his arm, offering him a sad smile. “King Lotor is not going to take me anywhere, let alone the heavens.”
“How can you be sure…?” Alfor had all but whispered, leaving her to shrug helplessly.
“King Lotor isn’t that kind of man.”
“You think you know him, but how much of what he has shown us is his true self?” Alfor had asked, shrugging off her hand. “Allura…I’ve seen the way he looks at you…” Foolishly her heart had leapt for joy at that, though she tried to play it cool before her father’s stern gaze.
“How he looks at me?”
“It’s more than just a kindness of one ruler to another.” Alfor had scowled then. “And Lady Merla has been filling me in on what else has happened in my absence. About the way you two act around each other, about the temptation you present to the Drule King.” Before she could even protest this, he had continued, shaking a finger at her. “Do not try to deny it Allura. You have been purposefully baiting King Lotor.”
That had caused her mouth to drop open in shock, Allura gaping at him. Alfor had continued, and for all his aggravation, he was tired. “I’ve heard about your visit to the green house location. About almost kissing the King.” She had flushed at that, never dreaming word would get back to her father.
“More talk from Merla?” Allura had hazard a guess, her father confirming it with a nod. “Surely she embellished that little incident!”
“But you don’t deny it almost happened.” Alfor had pointed out, his frown deepening. Guiltily, Allura had lowered her eyes, her father taking that as proof enough. “Merla had warned me you’d try something tonight.” That had gotten Allura to lift her gaze, the surprise showing in her eyes.
“Yes. I didn’t want to believe, didn’t want to think my daughter could be so foolish.” Alfor had replied. “I could barely believe my eyes when I saw you with him….just as Merla had said you would be.”
“It was a set up…” Allura had dully realized, arms going limp at her sides. Her father hadn’t bothered to deny it, leaving Allura to curse at herself silently, for her foolishness. Of course Merla wouldn’t leave Lotor’s side, not for as long as she did, not without an incentive. And what better incentive than to try and trap Allura into doing something damning.
“Call it what you like…” Alfor has said, his words drawing Allura back into the conversation. “But such behavior cannot be allowed to continue.” She hadn’t gotten a chance to ask him what he meant by that, Alfor’s next words making her go cold with shock. “From tonight onward, I forbid you having any contact with King Lotor.”
“You…you can’t mean it!” She had protested, and foolishly, tears had welled up in her eyes. But they hadn’t fallen, not yet. “Father no! Anything but that!”
“It’s for the best Allura. For everyone involved.” He smiled, but it was without humor to it, bitterness in his
eyes. “I want you to come back to the party.” She had just fixed him with a sullen stare, Alfor sighing. “It was very rude of you to just leave like that. A lot of people were involved in getting this party ready, much time, effort, and money spent. Not to mention you abandoned your guests.”
“You’re not scared that I’ll do something intolerable towards King Lotor if I return to the party?!” She had been snide as she asked that question, Alfor’s lips pursing into a frown.
“His highness and the Drules that had accompanied him have all left the party. King Lotor extends his apologies for not being able to stay any longer.”
“So I don’t even et a chance to say good-bye to him?” A crestfallen Allura had asked. Alfor nodded, and it
was then that she turned her back on him. “I won’t go. You can’t make me return to the party, to act as if I have something to celebrate!”
“You’re young….and mistakes are expected of you.” Alfor has said. “One day you will get over this crush, and realize the wisdom of my and the Lady Merla’s actions.” Her father’s words had made her want to snort in derisive amusement. Allura shaking her head no. But she kept her angry exclamations to herself, Allura angrily brushing at her eyes even as her tears began to fall.
If her father had noted her tears, he was without commenting, turning to leave the room. “Can I…” Her voice
stopped him, Alfor glancing over his shoulder towards his daughter’s back. “Can I at least see King Lotor one last time? To say my good-byes? Please?” She was all but close to begging, and her tears came faster when he refused her.
“No. It’s better to make a clean break and avoid him at all costs.”
“But he’ll think he did something wrong if I don’t go and explain. He’ll think I hate him!” Allura had practically wailed that out, her anguish becoming more palpable at Alfor’s next words.
“The Lady Merla will explain everything to him.”
“I just bet she will.” Allura had said bitterly. Alfor had had nothing to say to that, merely looking at her one last time before leaving the room. It was when the door closed that Allura had collapsed, her hands covering her face as she began to cry loudly. Her sobs seemed to have echoed back to her, and she could barely hear the concerned squeaks of her mice companions.
The fireworks had long since stopped, the room dark again save for the moonlight. And still Allura cried, feeling as though she was already mourning the loss of King Lotor in her life. Her mice friends continued to chatter at her, trying to get her attention. “What should I do?” Allura has asked, sniffling. “How can I bare this pain in my heart, this pain at having to separate from him?”
Pip had climbed up her dress, and settled into her lap, squeaking for her to tickle under his chin. She had been absentminded as she touched the mouse, the other three coming closer for attention. She had continued to cry, and she wasn’t sure how many minutes, how many hours she sat on the floor, her mice friends trying to comfort her. They had tried the impossible, Allura inconsolable. But somewhere, even with her pain, her mind had continued to work, until she had come to a decision.
“I have to see him!” Allura had announced to the room, using her sleeve to dry her face. “I need to see him….to explain to him what’s happened.” She refused to think of it as saying good-bye, Allura having gotten up off the floor, the mice dancing around her feet. She avoided them as she hurried to her closet, pulling out a light spring cloak.
With the cloak in place, she had hurried down to the stables, seeking out the head coachman. He had been surprised to see her, and even more so by her request, Allura ordering a coach be made ready for a journey to the city capital. The head coachman had tried to dissuade her from such a late night journey, but he could only offer feeble protests but not outright deny her. Not when Allura was his princess, her word absolute and overridden only by that of her father’s.
This brought her to the present now, riding in the coach that had been made ready for her, the driver lashing the horses to go as fast as they dared. It was dangerous to travel at night at such speed, but Allura could hardly muster up the nerve to care. She was stuck in her misery, locked into replaying the events, and wondering just what she would say once she came face to face with Lotor.