There had been little point in sleeping this past night, not with the new day fast approaching them, and the last minute plans she needed to make. Merla would have scowled in the moment as she thought of Lotor and the near disaster that had been the incident inside Pelphine temple, all her plans nearly coming undone. And all because of that insipid little princess, the girl treading into areas she should have avoided.
Of course, Allura couldn’t be blamed entirely, Merla knew Yurak and the others were at fault as well, the Drules insisting on disembarking from the ships. She had been in the middle of chastising them, arguing with them that they endangered everything with their presence here in the temple when Carp stumbled upon Allura. Yurak hadn’t had much time to argue his reasons, the girl screaming, drawing to them several priests.
Merla was actually shocked that one of them had had balls big enough to attack a Drule, and she felt not one ounce of remorse that that man had ended up dead. She did however feel anger that Lotor had arrived before she could have the two remaining priests and the girl killed, Merla wanting no witnesses to her dealings with the Drules.
But Lotor had arrived, along with Traad, and quite a number of humans, compounding her problem. So many witnesses, the humans horrified at the death, perhaps even more so at the appearance of the ugly Drules. She knew they thought her lizard like brethren demons, and Lotor had been incensed at the harsh introduction of them to the humans.
She should have known her husband to be would be too weak to do what was needed to salvage the situation, Lotor protesting her actions when she broke the neck of one of the frightened priests. The situation had become more violatile, Merla having to threaten Allura to ensure Lotor’s good behavior. Carp had been all too eager to run claws over the girl’s neck, that man enjoyed killing a little too much even for a beast man.
Even with the threat to Allura, fighting had broken out, Traad quick to try and defend his King. Merla was surprised at just how much Lotor valued Allura’s life, the King interfering in Traad’s fight, and getting injured in the process. Traad was soon killed afterwards, one less witness to what was happening. But his death presented a new problem, the least of which being the humans now knew their Gods could be killed.
Traad’s absence would be hard to explain, just as Lotor and Allura’s would be. She had measures in place, those Lords of Lotor’s inner circle separated, and sent to different ships, all in an effort to quell the staged riots that had become a problem for the Drule. She knew that would only delay them for so long, they would eventually wonder why they hadn’t heard personally from their King.
Merla sighed, pacing the floor of Pelphine temple. Her guards were in place, the lizard beast men who so terrified the humans. Their presence alone seemed enough to keep the humans from acting with violence towards her, and they had the added incentive that Allura would be killed should they act up. She’d rather just kill them, but she realized Lotor was right, the loss of so many humans, especially such high powered figures as Allura and Fordham would be noticed.
Especially by that Alfor, Merla feeling a headache start as she wondered what she would tell the human King. He needed to be told something, he needed to be kept in the dark of what was truly going on at Pelphine temple. At least long enough for Merla to get her other plans in motion. She knew Lotor wasn’t going to make things easy on her, especially if she intended to take the throne from him.
Devoted as he was to his people, he might prefer death to letting her rule, and she knew she couldn’t afford to kill him. Not yet at least, Merla cursing the fact that she wasn’t his wife. If she had been married to him, the throne would be a moot point, Lotor could suffer an accident and Merla could take over. But with no heirs, and no wife tied to him, the throne would be up for grabs, the nobles fighting like cats and dogs for the chance to rule.’
It might lead to war, and though she enjoyed a good battle, she wasn’t prepared for someone to steal what she viewed as her right. She’d simply have to find a way to force Lotor into the marriage, and she had a good idea Allura would be the key. That brat would prove useful after all, provided her imprisonment didn’t ruin everything! Merla growled then, stalking into a new room. The terrified humans scattered at her growl, making themselves scarce.
So far none of the humans had been allowed to leave the temple, Merla and her allies not trusting what they would do and say. Nor were they allowing humans to visit inside, not with all the beast man walking the temple grounds. She knew she should gather them up, force them to go back onboard the ship, but she was loathe to admit she had little control over them.
Not with Yurak running his mouth, Merla entertaining the idea of killing him too. It might tighten her power base, help her to regain control over a people who chafed at being ordered. But for now she held in her murderous impulses, seeking out the trio of Yurak, Carp, and Mogor. They were currently relaxing with several of the terrified temple priestess around them, and Merla wondered if they had raped the humans.
Not that she felt pity for the women, she barely gave their fear and discomfort more than a passing thought, more incensed that the men were enjoying themselves after the upheaval of last night. Merla had to keep her temper from flaring, not quite succeeded as her eyes flashed with her annoyance. She wanted the priestesses gone from the room, but the men seemed determined to keep them there.
“I hope you’re satisfied with yourselves!” Merla bit out through gritted teeth, her hands on her hips. “Last night was a complete and total disaster!”
Their relaxed looks seemed to dissipate at her tone, Yurak sitting up straighter as he glared back at her. “It’s not that bad…” he began, and Merla snorted in disbelief.
“Not that bad?” She demanded, her words in Drule so the humans would not be able to follow the conversation. “We’re having to move up the pace of our plans…Lotor is nowhere near positioned to marry me, and if his men realize he’s gone…”
“They won’t.” Carp said confidently, speaking with a mouthful of grapes his chosen priestess fed him. “Lord Kratos and the others are on other ships…and we’ll just tell his men that he is off visiting the others. With five of our ships, it will take time for anyone to check the story and discover he has not visited any one in particular.”
“Time we may not have.” Merla stressed. “I can only make excuses for Lotor’s absence for so long….”
“Why not tell a half truth?” Mogor wondered, his priestess giving him a reluctant massage. “Tell them he is off with his human lover.” She snarled at that, not liking the knowing laughs the three Drules gave her.
“I know it will be a blow to your pride Merla, but the people don’t need to believe you two are in love to accept the marriage between you. It won’t be the first time we have a King and a Queen who hate each other.” Added Yurak.
“They can’t suspect that hate runs deep enough for me to kill him!” snapped Merla. “If foul play is suspected, my claim to the throne will be in jeopardy. And need I remind you, if I lose, you will lose as well?” They all seemed to stiffen at that, not liking the thought of losing a figurehead who would give the lizard beast man power over both humans and the other Drules.
“We won’t lose.” Carp said at last, a frown on his face. “There’s too much at stake here.”
“Then act like you have a care!” Merla all but shouted. “Stop acting on your own, and going off without consulting me!”
“Calm yourself Merla!” advised Yurak, and she glared at him.
“You’ll know when I begin to lose my calm.” Came her hissed out reply.
“Instead of this needless worrying, and threats, I think we should focus on the other parts of our plan.” Mogor suggested, guiding the priestesses hands to go lower on his body. “We do want the planet for ourselves, do we not?”
“Of that we can all agree.” Yurak said, after Merla gave a nod of her head.
“Then it’s best we start getting rid of these human pests.” Continued Mogor.
“I don’t know…some of them are quite…enjoyable to keep around.” Carp grinned, pulling a protesting priestess down onto her lap. He slipped his hands into her robe, determinedly fondling her breasts as she squeaked and squirmed in alarm.
“You can’t be growing fond of them!” snorted Merla, annoyed with the show he was putting on. “They clearly abhor you…they’d as soon as stab you in the back as look at you.”
“As if they could win in a fight against one of us!” snorted Carp, still molesting the human female. “Besides, it might be nice to be catered to as Gods.” His look was pointed then, his hands busy on the female’s flesh. “You certainly reaped the benefits of that!”
“I have an advantage that you do not.” Merla retorted.
“Ah, it always comes down to looks.” Mogor sighed. “They think us more monster than God.”
“Demons.” Merla supplied with a smirk. “They think you are demons!”
“And what must they think of you?” Carp mused out loud, a shrewd look in his eyes. “Allying yourself with demons such as we?!”
“As if I care what these humans think of me!” Merla retorted. “Besides…” She deepened her smirk, outright laughing as she spoke. “Soon their race will be all but extinct, only a few kept as our slaves.” The three Drule males smiled, liking the thought of the humans’ forced servitude. “We’ll have to get busy.” She told them, knowing she would be the one to lay the ground work for the humans’ extermination.
“Yes, you must meet with the other kingdom’s rulers if you hope to incite them into war.” Carp looked thrilled at the prospect, licking his lips at the thought of the humans slaughtering one another.
“I’m sure Merla will be very persuasive.” Agreed Mogor. “She has a way about her, and these humans are charmed by a pretty face.” Merla refused to give in to his flattery, instead frowning at the tasks set out before her. She strongly wished they could openly unleash the full extent of their military might on the humans, but Merla was conscious of the fact their weapons had such devastating power, it would destroy the environment as well as the humans. And that was something they could not allow to happen, not after all the time the Drules had spent searching for a new world to call their home.
They would have to let the humans fight each other, let their war kill each other off in great numbers. Those that survived would be easier to control, regardless of what they believed the Drule to be.
“Your ladyship…” A new solider had entered, this Drule as fair of face as Carp and the others were ugly. He pretended not to notice the other males, and what they were doing to the priestesses. Instead he bowed to Merla, offering submission to her, even as his words filled her with new upset. “The human King has arrived. His men are insisting on an audience, it’s all we can do to keep them out of the temple.”
“I did not expect him quite this soon.” Merla muttered, than scowled at the lounging Drules. “You heard the man’s words! Clear out…take you and your men with you aboard a ship.”
“Why should we flee in the arrival of this king?” demanded Carp.
“You cannot be seen! You know that. If they see what they believe to be demons among them, the humans will rally together, rather than fight each other.” Merla explained, Mogor and Yurak already standing.
“Come Carp, she’s right. This King of theirs may even insist on searching the temple for his lost princess.” Mogor said, and Carp let out an exaggerated sigh, shoving the priestess of his lap. She landed on the floor with a yelp, but otherwise just lay there, hoping to be ignored.
“At least he can’t search our ships.” Muttered Yurak, and Carp let out a sharp bark of laughter.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried! There’s no telling with the arrogance of this king of theirs.”
The men continued to talk, their loud voices fading the further down the temple they walked. Merla gave a stiff nod to the waiting Drule, and the soldier hurried off to retrieve King Alfor and his men. She tried not to pace, Merla looking at the priestesses, the women huddling around the one who had been molested by Carp.
“Leave me.” She ordered harshly in Arusian, showing neither patience nor care towards the women’s plight. The frightened women nodded, helping the one on the floor to stand, the girl looking very close to tears.
They had just disappeared down one of the corridors opposite the room’s northern entrance, when Alfor’s soldiers burst into the room. The King was last to enter, giving a cursory glance to his surroundings. His eyes lighted on the overturned cushions, and abandoned grapes on the floor, Merla inwardly groaning to realize it did not fit with the temple’s normally pristine image.
“King Alfor…” Merla began, forcing a thin-lipped smile on her face. “To what do we owe the honor of your visit?”
“I think you know.” Alfor answered, striding towards her. “My daughter is missing, her carriage found in town. Her driver is not yet drunk enough to not be able to recall just where he had taken her.”
“OH? Did she pay a visit to the temple last night?” Merla asked, feigning shock. Alfor nodded, and she let a troubled look fill her eyes. “And she hasn’t returned to the castle yet?”
“No. Where is Lotor? Where is your King?” Alfor asked, and she feigned hesitation, wanting to appear as though she didn’t want to answer him. “Lady Merla!”
“He’s missing.” She said at last, losing what little smile she had worn. “He never came back to the ship last night. We’ve been searching for him, but without any luck.”
“Missing?” repeated Alfor, his frown deepening. “And just where would he go?”
“If I knew, he wouldn’t be missing then would he?” Merla inquired, tone mild. She then widened her eyes, pretending to be shocked. “You don’t think he’s with Allura, do you?”
“I don’t want to even suggest such a thing!” Alfor exclaimed with a grimace. “But if both of them are missing….”
“It could just be a coincidence…” She began, earning a patronizing look from Alfor. “I’m sure my fiancee would not betray me, no matter how tempting your daughter made things for him.”
“And yet, you cannot say with any certainty he is not with my daughter.” Pointed out Alfor, and she nodded her head. “Did he bring her aboard one of your ships?”
“Oh no!” Perhaps her answer was too quick, Merla hastening to cover. “We would know the moment a stranger came aboard. Everyone would talk if they saw one of your kind walking with our King.”
Alfor frowned, clearly not knowing what else to make of the disappearance. “And my people would talk if they saw one of your kind walking with their princess.”
“Not necessarily.” Merla said. “If he asked, or even paid them to keep quiet…”
“Money can’t buy the silence of everyone.” Alfor replied. “And someone is bound to know something.”
“Indeed.” Agreed Merla, and played out another hesitation. “One of our smaller ships is gone, a private transport just big enough to carry two people. Perhaps…”
“He’s taken her…” Alfor had paled at the thought, shoulders sagging somewhat. She couldn’t guess what exactly was going through his mind, though she felt hope he was believing the story she fed him.
“I’m sure we’re just jumping to conclusion.” Merla said. “I mean, he could have just taken her for a ride. From what I understand, your daughter has expressed interest in our ships before.”
“I pray that you are right.” Alfor sounded grim then. “I do not want to think of the alternatives if they’ve done something as foolish as run off with each other.”
Merla kept her expression concerned, but inside she was smiling, overjoyed at how easily Alfor took to her lies and manipulations. He was so quick to believe the worst of Lotor, he didn’t seem to want to question too deeply the circumstances surrounding his daughter’s disappearance.
“Your highness, I am deeply sorry this has happened.” She put on a show of regret, sighing deeply. “I do not know what either one of them is thinking, but I hope this doesn’t jeopardize the relationship we are forming with your people…”
“That remains to be seen on whether or not my daughter is returned to me.” Alfor had frost lacing his words, the King unable to keep from displaying some of his anger.
“I understand.” Merla said graciously. “I would be upset to, if some man ran off with my young daughter.”
“I suspect you’d be upset just on the principle of your own betrothed running off with another woman!” exclaimed Aflor.
“Believe me when I say Lotor and I will have words about this indiscretion of his.” Merla told him, and Alfor nodded.
“As will Lotor and I!” He sighed then, running a hand through his hair. “I’m not that surprised at my daughter’s behavior, she is willful and was upset by my decree. But I expected more control from your King!”
“As did we all. Alfor? If there is anything I can do….”
“Use some of those ships of yours to help in the search for our two runaways!” He retorted, words more command than suggestion.
“Of course.” Merla bowed her head, still ever so gracious.
“And you will of course, not mind if we search the temple?” asked Alfor, then added. “Only as a precautionary measure.”
“Not at all!” Merla replied. “It is after all your right to do so. But that right only extends to the temple grounds.” She reminded him.
“Yes…the ships are your domain. And whatever happens there, falls under your people’s law.” Alfor acknowledged, and then was giving the signal for his guard to spread out through the temple. Merla tried to appear relaxed and unconcerned with their search, but inwardly she was anxious, hoping that the beast men were safely hidden away, and that the humans would keep quiet. The last thing she needed was yet another upset to her plans!