It was well after midnight by the time they arrived in Altea, the city capital cast in shadows for the most part save for a few lit torches located on the most prominent streets. That included the street that led to Pelphine Temple, but for once the outside was empty of people. No stray worshippers were to be found, Lotor had learned they had all been admitted inside earlier, Merla’s crew allowing them to think they had a chance at worshipping with their Gods.
There was a few stray Drule lurking just outside the temple doors, fully armed and watching the streets with intent menace on their faces. No one would be able to approach the front of the temple, not without these men raising up the alarm. Other Drules prowled the outside perimeter of the temple, but they were few in number. It seemed most wanted to be inside where the action was happening, these men and women taken a special interest in tormenting the imprisoned humans.
The back of the temple was lit up as though it was mid day, over a twenty torches lit up to illuminate the rear courtyard and gardens. Drules prowled that area as well, but like with the rest of the temple, their numbers were small. Visual confirmation had put about thirty Drule inside the temple, a number small enough that the frightened humans should have been able to overwhelm them, provided they had known how to fight.
However, between the humans belief that they were among Gods and Demons, and the Drules bearing weapons that included laser pistols, they didn’t dare try to put up a resistance. If they were to be saved, help would have to come from the outside, and Lotor was already formulating plans with Cossack and Alfor. That the human King had insisted on riding out to Pelphine temple surprised Lotor, the Drule having expected him to remain back at the castle with his daughter. But Alfor had been insistent, leading his fifty something soldiers to the city, the Drules following on horseback.
It had been strange to ride out with so large a group, but they had understood that they couldn’t use the ships. Merla’s crew would hear the engines, and instantly be alerted to Lotor’s arrival. And that was something they did not want, Lotor and Alfor agreeing that they wanted to take out the bad men before any demands could be made. Once demands were issued, it wouldn’t be long before the killing of humans started in earnest, Merla and the others growing impatient as they waited for the two Kings to give in or to fight.
Currently they were inside one of the larger buildings near the temple, some official government building that should have been empty this time of night. There was even men up on the roof, using telescopes to track the Drules movement at Pelphine temple. Fortunately for them, Pelphine’s roof was not easily accessible, the top slanted so that no one could stand on it. Merla’s people were limited to ground surveillance, and seemed to have no idea trouble had come for them.
Lotor himself was looking over a hastily drawn blue print, one that showed the layout of the temple. Another Drule was speaking, telling him and Cossack just where the other Drules were. Fortunately most were on the main floor, with only two or three on the upper levels. The humans were all kept on the main floor as well, crowded inside one of the worship rooms where many a ceremony and daily prayers were offered up to their Gods.
They were all kneeling, crowded together and clinging to each other’s arms. The Drules walked up and down the aisles, keeping a watchful eye on the humans, and sometimes picking people out of the crowd to torment. There had been beatings, and rapes, the actions serving no purpose save to be cruel and further terrorize the humans. Lotor despaired at hearing the treatment the humans suffered at their captor’s hands, sure that would further increase racial tensions and fear between the two races. The only saving grace was that so far no one had been killed by the Drules.
Lotor knew he and his men had to get in there and put a stop to the madness before anyone did get killed. He studied the crudely drawn blue print, trying to decide which was the best point of entry. The rear courtyard was out, it was too lit up by the torches for his men to skulk from shadow to shadow. The front doors seemed impossible to breach as well, the Drules there would quickly spy them coming down the street and raise the alarm.
They were left contemplating the side streets, and the upper floors. “If we take them out here and here…” Cossack said, fingers touching both the eastern and western alleys. “We can then climb up and enter through the second floor.”
“And what will you do once you get inside?” inquired Alfor.
“Well…I was figuring we’d lure a few Drules out at a time, subdue them, and when the others came looking for them, take care of them as well.” Cossack explained.
“Will that work?” Alfor asked, looking at Lotor.
“We might be able to deal with a few of them that way…” Lotor agreed. “But we’d have to be quick….they’d realize eventually that the others weren’t coming back…”
“Well we can’t go in weapons blazing…” Cossack grumbled. “The humans AND the bad guys would panic. And no doubt Merla’s cronies would get off a few killing shots before they were subdued by our stun blasts…”
“We may have to release the tear gas…” Lotor mused, and Alfor lifted an eyebrow.
“Tear gas? What is that?”
“It’s gas that will debilitate them, both humans and Drules. But it’s not harmful. At most they will be reduced to coughing and crying fits….” explained Lotor. “We ourselves will wear masks to prevent the gas from affecting us. We’d then march in and take care of the remaining Drules.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Cossack grinned.
“Are you okay with this, your highness?” Lotor asked, and Alfor paused to think about it.
“It truly won’t harm anyone?”
“I swear on it. At most they will feel a temporary discomfort, but that will last only until the gas clears out.” Lotor told him.
“Then do it.” Alfor decided, and Cossack turned to relay the orders to the gathered soldiers. The Drules began to nod, several moving to rifle through the supplies they had brought with them, until they found the packs with the canisters of tear gas. Others began to hand out masks, each Drule taking one, and putting it so it rested on top of their heads.
The humans did not receive masks for they would not be a part of this stage of the plan. Held in reserve, they would wait until the all clear signal was given, and then rush into the temple. Their job would mainly be to reassure the human hostages that they were safe and that everything was okay. It wasn’t exactly the most glory giving mission to receive, but Alfor’s men were more concerned with saving lives than doing outrageous heroics. Some of them even had friend and family inside the temple, lending a more personal touch to this mission.
Lotor did not want to fail them, did not want even one human to die. It was more than just guilt driving him, Lotor liking the humans, and wanting what was best for them.
“Here.” Cossack said, drawing Lotor out of his musings. The King took the mask from Cossack, Lotor having insisted on accompanying the Drules into the temples. He already had his hair tied back in a braid, and tucked in under the back of his shirt. The black mask would further hide his white hair, and Lotor had changed into all black leather.
All the Drule soldiers were dressed in black uniforms, and some had even painted their faces with black make up. It was all part of their stealth maneuvers, the Drules wearing worn in shoes that would not creak on the marble floors of the temple.
“Let’s go.” Lotor said, and with Cossack in the lead, the Drules began walking out of the building. Lotor was about to follow them when Alfor touched his arm, the King wearing a concerned look in his eyes.
“Be safe your highness.” Ordered King Alfor, and Lotor could not hide the surprise in his eyes. “Your people would surely mourn the loss of you…as would my daughter…”
“Thank you, I will.” Lotor said, trying not to think of the last time he had seen Allura. She had been wearing a hurt expression, but her beautiful blue eyes had flashed with anger, the princess infuriated that both Lotor and her father had insisted she be left behind. Allura had wanted to come along on this mission, though what she had thought to do to help, she could not say.
Both Alfor and Lotor had quickly decided against her involvement, and her father had all but grounded her into compliance. His last view of Allura had been of her back, the princess choking back some angry retort as she ran out of the room. Alfor had sighed and said it was for the best, not wanting to risk the chance of his daughter falling into further danger.
Lotor had agreed, knowing that right now the safest place for Allura was at the castle. But it had hurt, the betrayed look in her eyes, and the way she had glared before turning her back to him. Lotor didn’t even know how to make amends to her, and he wondered how long she’d nurse her sore ego. He didn’t think she’d hold a grudge though, figuring Allura would have to understand eventually why he had sided with Alfor.
Surely she’d be so overjoyed at her people’s rescue, she’d forget about her anger. He just hoped that everything would work out, and there’d be no deaths to report. “Your highness…” hissed a Drule soldier near to him. “Are you well?” Lotor blinked, realizing the soldier had been trying to gain his attention for the last few seconds.
“I’m fine.” Lotor insisted, shoving thoughts of Allura out of his mind. Now was most certainly not the time to be distracted! “What is it?”
“The commander is moving your men into place…” said the soldier. “We’re to wait behind that tree.”
“Fine.” Lotor tried not to frown, realizing Cossack was trying to keep him out of trouble. Lotor wanted to be in the midst of the action, but realized that so long as his thoughts continued to distract him, it was better if he stayed some distance from the enemy. Besides, it wasn’t like he wouldn’t get his chance to confront Merla, Yurak and Mogor inside the temple. He was looking forward to that, provided the humans were well out of danger.
He moved into position behind a tree, it’s trunk large enough to hide not only him but the accompanying soldier. It’s foliage cast shadows down on them, Lotor peering past the trunk at the temple. He couldn’t see anyone save for the Drules on the main doors, but he knew his men were quickly spreading out towards the two alleys. It would take another twenty minutes before the alleyways were clear of their patrols, Cossack and several other soldiers having subdued the enemy Drule without so much as a peep issued.
By the time Lotor stepped into the western alley, the enemy Drules were trussed up, arms and legs secured in thick rope and binding shackles. They had been gagged, and only the threat of a sword at their throat kept them from making muffled protests. Their eyes glared at their captors, the Drules infuriated at what had happened. Cossack didn’t even take the time to gloat, watching as one of his men took a harpoon gun off his back.
The harpoon was aimed at one of the windows, it’s jagged, double edges sinking into the stone. A rope descended down from the other end, thick cord that was given a testing pull, as the soldier made sure the harpoon was fastened securely. The rope itself was made to handle close to five hundred pounds in weight, and the first soldier who climbed up it’s length, soon disappeared from sight.
They waited in the alley, fearing discovery, and it was only a scant five minutes later when the Drule appeared, giving a thumbs up sign. Another soldiers had been subdued, and now Lotor and his men began climbing up the rope, several more harpoons being sent up to other windows. On the eastern alley, a similar situation was occurring, and only a handful of Drules remained on the ground, dragging off their prisoners.
The prisoners would be taken back to the building where Alfor and the human soldiers waited. Lotor trusted that they would restrain themselves from hurting the prisoners too badly, especially with King Alfor there to monitor the situation. But should they try to escape, even Alfor would not be merciful, the King turning a blind eye as his humans fought with the Drule prisoners.
Reaching the top of the rope, Lotor grabbed onto the window’s ledge, and hauled himself up over it. He was one of the last Drules to enter the temple, it’s corridors darkened. They inched carefully through the halls, and met up with the Drules that had climbed up from the eastern alleyway. Several proceeded to climb to the third floor, and not even their footsteps betrayed their presence, the men quickly catching and subduing the Drule watchmen on that floor.
That left just the first floor to deal with, Cossack sending ten soldiers downstairs. They would work on the corridors outside the large worship room, taking prisoner any of the Drules that patrolled those halls. It would be a thirty minute wait, soldiers returning long enough to hand over their prisoners to the waiting Drules.
Cossack settled in place next to Lotor, watching the staircase with him. They were quiet until the commander broke the silence, Cossack whispering to his King. “How long do you think we have until Merla starts sending demands to the castle?”
“Maybe a few more hours…She doesn’t have a ship to use, so they have to rely on horses…and that will take time going back and forth. Though frankly I’m surprised she’s not aware that we know already what she has done.” Lotor frowned. “If I was her, I’d be wondering why she hasn’t heard from us…”
“I’d be worried if I was her.” Cossack stated with a grin. “Yeah, no doubt about it, Id be shaking that fine ass of hers, quaking in my boots. Cause I’d know you’d come down on her hard, and without mercy.”
“Let’s hope she’s not thinking like that!” protested Lotor. “If she’s that scared, she’s liable to start killing the humans to send a message for us to back off.”
“Would she really dare?” wondered Cossack out loud. “I mean it will only make her situation worse if she adds murder to her list of crimes.” He sighed then, shaking his head. “She’s such a stupid bitch…her actions only mess things up for all of us.”
“She got greedy.” Lotor pointed out. “Greedy to rule, and greedy for this world.”
“The humans aren’t bad.” Cossack mused. “I certainly wouldn’t want to take this world from them. I hope we can live here, and coexist with these people.”
“I think we all want that.” Lotor said, then hesitated. “Well, most of us aside from Merla and her allies!”
“Shame that. All this fuss over a world big and lush enough to support both we Drules and the humans.” Cossack straightened up, spying the latest prisoner to be dragged up the stairs. “That brings the count to seventeen…” He grinned then, doing a mental count in his head. “With the five we sent to King Alfor, there should only be what, eight Drules left, including Merla, Yurak and Mogor…”
“That’s eight Drules too many…” grumbled Lotor.
“We can handle that many.” Cossack insisted. “But if you think we should wait and try to lure out more…”
“There’s been too much time!” A soldier spoke up, drawing Lotor and Cossack’s gaze to him. “It’s already been nearly twenty minutes since we started gathering up prisoners…they’re bound to notice their dwindling numbers…”
“Damn, he’s right.” Muttered Cossack. “With two on the main doors, that leaves six inside the main worship room….I think it’s time we use the tear gas. Agreed?” He looked to Lotor for confirmation, the King nodding and pulling on his gas mask. The other soldiers immediately copied his actions, and only about seven remained behind to watch over their prisoners.
“Let’s go.” Lotor said, voice muffled by the mask, his breathing sounding distroted. He wanted to draw his sword, but did not dare, knowing the hum of lazon would give away his approach. The Drule soldiers stood, drawing their own weapons, and several pulled out the canisters of tear gas. Moving silently, they made their way down the stair case, two of the Drules inching towards the main worship room.
Lotor watched as they pulled back the pins on the canisters, then rolled them into the room. They were already smoking as they rolled, thick streams hissing out, the only alert Merla and her allies got. He heard a questioning shout, it sounded like Mogor demanding what was going on. Yurak quickly followed with a scream off his own, ordering they open fire on the humans. But by then his voice was choking on the smoke, he could barely get out the words for he was coughing so badly.
Lotor thought it interesting to note he did not so much as hear a scream from Merla, the woman silent as the canisters exploded, filling the room with it’s debilitating smoke. The room filled with the panicking cries of the humans, both they and the Drules coughing up storms as the tear gas took effect. Not only did the smoke make them choke, it filled up the room so that it was hard to see, the six Drules unable to risk opening fire without the chance of hitting one of their allies.
“Let’s go!” Lotor shouted, and with a forward throw of his arm, Cossack and the soldiers rushed into the room. Lotor drew his sword for good measure, spoiling for some action after all that waiting. He charged into the room, and the humans couldn’t so much as gasp, too busy coughing and crying. But they were pale, incredibly frightened, some of them bloodied and bruised. A few women’s clothing was torn, they had not escaped the lusts of their captors. Lotor felt enraged to see that kind of treatment of women, the King remembering how upset and terrified he had felt when Carp had tried to rape Allura.
“MERLA!” He bellowed, letting her know he was there. “YOU BITCH! COME OUT AND FACE ME!” Lotor could hear the sounds of his men shouting, they were subduing the remaining Drules, and it wasn’t until they were positive everyone was apprehended, that they sent out some men to go get Alfor. On their way out of the temple, they ambushed the two Drule on the temple doors, leaving not one of Merla’s allies free.
Lotor waited impatiently for the smoke to clear, standing near a cluster of terrified humans, and trying to reassure them. “It’s all right.” He was saying. “You’re safe now….the bad men and women won’t hurt you anymore…”
The humans were still weeping, this time the tears born of their pain and upset. They didn’t know who to trust, just knew that Lotor and his soldiers had the same looks as those that had mistreated them so badly. They sobbed, and cuddled closer to each other, trembling violently as the Drule soldiers spread through the aisles, trying to check on the humans. By the time Alfor and his men would arrive, the Drules would be in the midst of first aid, tending to the wounded, even offering the shirts of their back to the abused women.
Lotor would barely take notice of this, and of Alfor’s arrival, the Drule King staring shocked at the prisoners. There was Yurak and Mogor, angry and sullen, glares on their faces as they were held at gun point. There was four other Drules tied up, three men and one woman, and that woman was most noticeably not Merla. With a sinking feeling of dread in his stomach, Lotor approached Yurak and Mogor, trying to appear calm.
“Where is she?!” He demanded, fighting his first impulse to drop his sword and grab one of the Drules by the throat. He found he wanted to shake the answers out of them, Lotor trying not to snarl. “Where is Merla?!”
“Merla?” Mogor looked at Yurak, playing dumb. “I am not familiar with that name. Do you know a Merla, Yurak?”
“I’ve never heard of her before this day.” Yurak answered, and this time Lotor did growl.
“Damn it, don’t play stupid with me! You know the bitch of who I speak of!” They looked at him smirking, but maintained silence, further infuriating the King. “Where is she?! What are you planning now?!”
“Planning?” echoed Yurak, still smirking. “What is there to plan? You’ve clearly defeated us….there is nothing left we can do…we must accept our fates, and our punishments…”
“I don’t believe this attitude of yours!” Lotor snapped. “You’re taking the news of your defeat too well…you have to have one last ace up your sleeve.” They just continued to wear smirks, Yurak not even flinching when Cossack grabbed one by the back of his shirt’s collar, and put a newly sharpened dagger to his throat.
“Answer the King!” Cossack ordered. “Answer before I tear open a new breathing hole in your neck.”
“I’ll die if you do that!” pointed out Yurak, a hint of alarm in his voice. “And then you will never find out what you need to know…”
“There’s two of you.” Lotor retorted with his own vicious smirk. “I only need one of you to spill the truth. If the other can be persuaded to talk through your death, then why not…”
“I…” Yurak hesitated, and Mogor said nothing at all. Lotor made a show of sighing, rolling his eyes.
“Cossack, do it…”
“With pleasure, your highness.” Cossack began to saw the dagger into Yurak’s throat, the first slice causing a trickle of blood to leak down the Drule’s skin. Yurak immediately began screaming, not having a taste for his own death.
“She’s gone to the castle!”
“Quiet Yurak!” snapped an enraged Mogor. He didn’t like that his comrade was squawking like a bird, revealing Merla’s whereabouts.
“The castle?” Lotor repeated, Alfor having drawn near to see what the commotion was about. Lotor’s heart leapt into his throat, he met Alfor’s eyes at the same instant the man spoke, his skin going pale.
“She’s gone to kill Allura…” Lotor realized, and was whirling around. “Someone! Get me the fastest horse!”
“You’ll never make it in time!” laughed Mogor. “Merla will most likely have already killed that human bitch of yours! Ha ha! Such a pity your highness…you were so close to having EVERYTHING!” He continued to laugh, even when Cossack dropped the dagger from Yurak’s throat, the commander viciously backhanding Mogor across the face.
Lotor continued to shout for a horse, and Alfor’s voice joined his, the King demanding the same thing. They were in complete agreement that they must return to the castle at once, sharing the same fear for Allura. Lotor felt he was entering as state of denial, refusing to believe that that beautfiul girl’s life could be snuffed out so quickly. He had only one hope, and that was the thought that Allura was tougher than the Drules gave her credit for. He hoped that toughness would be enough to help her last against Merla’s attack, if only long enough for help to arrive.