She existed as a shadow, the sight and sound of her blending seamlessly into the darkness. Dark leather covered her form, the material molded to her body like a second skin. Her bright pink hair was in it’s familiar braid, and wound in coils underneath a dark cap. Nothing would betray her presence, Merla having removed her jewelry and any reflective metal on her outfit.
Her hands were encased in fingerless gloves, her claws sharpened and digging into stone bricks. She had shed her boots so that her toes could help her gain better purchase as she scaled the castle wall. Determined that she was, Merla made quick progress with her climb, pulling herself up onto the third floor ledge that existed between windows.
Her target could be seen from those windows, the girl moving restlessly from room to room. Merla carefully walked the ledge, following Allura as she paced. She itched to spring her surprise, to appear before the girl and sink her claws into that pale throat of hers. But so far the opportunity had yet to present itself, Allura always with people, servants fussing over her.
It was making Merla impatient, the Drule having spent most of the night waiting for the ideal opportunity. She had stalked Allura when the girl was in the castle’s gardens, losing sight of her only long enough to begin her climb to the higher floors. Always the girl was with people, be they human or Drule, Allura putting on her best smile as she tried to hide her hurt at being left behind.
Merla thought it supremely funny that Alfor and Lotor had thought they could protect her better by forcing Allura to remain at the castle. She sneered at what fools they were, knowing they never dreamed she was lurking so close by. They vastly underestimated her if they thought she’d be content to let things end at Pelphine temple, being taken out with a whimper as Lotor’s forces moved in to take care of the situation she had created with the humans. She wasn’t stupid like Yurak and Mogor, she knew that at best the hostage situation could only delay things. It wouldn’t gain them their freedom, nor the crown, Lotor and Alfor weren’t the type of men to give in to demands no matter what was at stake.
The best they could do was hurt them, take something that really mattered to them. Something that was irreplaceable, Merla narrowing her eyes as she watched Allura walk towards what had to be her bedroom. Those annoying servants of her followed, the women were trying to engage the princess in conversation, all in an attempt to cheer her up. They had noticed how withdrawn she had gotten, Allura’s upset making it hard for the girl to even pretend she was happy. They all knew she was bothered by her father and Lotor’s decision, the girl thinking she could somehow help.
She couldn’t, Merla knew that, and yet if Allura had been allowed to travel to Altea, she wouldn’t have been in this prime position. A vulnerable one that Merla intended to take full advantage of. She stepped quicker on the ledge, but was no less careful as she moved, Merla not wanting to meet such an ignoble end such as falling from such a height.
A servant was opening the door to Allura’s bedroom, and with it’s swing, a cat came bounding out. That blue ball of fur was the gift Merla and Lotor had given the princess, one of the precious few animals to have survived the destruction of their home world. Coba came right up to Allura, rubbing against her legs as though he had recognized her.
Allura made a sound of surprise, kneeling down so she could scratch her fingers under Coba’s chin. The cat seemed starved for attention, leaving Merla to wonder how neglected it had been during the princess’ absence. She tried not to sneer, thinking the humans under appreciated the animal, Allura straightening to step inside her bedroom.
The servants did not leave, much to Merla’s disappointment, the women keeping up a continuous chatter as they spread out through the room. One came near to the window, Merla carefully easing back to avoid being seen. The woman began untying the ribbons that held back the drapes, letting them fall forward to cover the window. Merla realized, that now with the drapes down, there would be little chance of her being seen.
She pricked her ears, concentrating on the conversation, listening to the movements inside the room. Allura still wasn’t saying much, leaving the conversation up to her servants. Such was their worry, that they couldn’t help but speculate on what was happening at Pelphine temple.
“What do you think is happening right now?” asked a nasally voiced woman. The sound of something being fluffed accompanied her words, and feet padded across the stone floor. At times the footsteps were muffled, someone treading on the floor’s rug.
“I don’t know…” said another woman, and Merla could easily imagine her shuddering. “I hope it will be over soon…and with little life lost to us and the Drule.”
“King Alfor is a good king.” Said a third woman. “A wise man…he will surely find a way to peacefully negotiate the hostage’s freedom.” Merla held in her laughter at that, knowing the only way the humans were getting out of there was if Mogor and Yurak were taken out. No amount of negotiating would get them to give in otherwise, not when they had so little left to lose.
“What do you think they will ask for?” wondered the nasally voiced woman. “Money, jewels, gold?”
“They’ll want the kingdom, no doubt!” came the answer. “They’ll be greedy for it all….”
“They won’t get it!” It was Allura who spoke up now, holding a fiery edge to her voice. “Neither my father nor King Lotor would ever put their people in position to be ruled by such monsters.”
Allura surely knew what she was talking about, the girl having spent days onboard the ravager as Merla’s prisoner. And not once did Lotor give in to any of the threats and demands she and her allies had made of him, Lotor playing the good King, the devoted King to his people. She wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t have killed Carp, Merla sure the Drule had been pushing Lotor past his comfort levels. He might have even gotten Lotor to give in, if he hadn’t gotten killed first. Pity that, for perhaps if Carp lived, none of this would be happening, she’d be married to Lotor and well on her way to becoming sole ruler of the Drules.
“Of course princess…” A servant said soothingly after a moment’s pause. “I’m sure they wouldn’t do that.”
“But…” A fourth voice was saying, her voice holding a protesting whine to it. “They surely won’t let those people at the temple be killed. Will they?”
“It may come down to a decision. The good of one people for another…” That sounded like the oldest of the servants, the woman sounding weary and wise.
“What do you mean?” Someone asked, and the older woman sighed.
“In situations like these, a King has to decide what is more important. Saving the lives of a few, or protecting the rights of many.”
“I could never make a decision like that!” pronounced the nasally voiced woman, and got a chorus of agreement from the others.
“That’s why people like us aren’t fit to rule.” Noted the older woman sagely. “There’s a lot more to being royalty than sitting around in fancy clothes…isn’t that right your highness?”
“Er yes…” Allura didn’t sound thrilled to be put on the spot, the girl speaking hesitantly. “Though I can’t say I’d be ready to make a decision in this kind of situation.”
“Well, you’re young. And still learning.” The older woman said. ‘But one day, if by the gracing of the Gods, you will show the same wisdom that your father possess.”
“I surely hope so…” Allura replied. “Though I think the true blessing would be for my rule to avoid such occurrences from plaguing our kingdom!”
“No one is ever that lucky.” The old woman sighed again, and Merla heard a door open. “But you’ll have people to rely on, a good support system. Even a husband to lean on when times get rough.”
“Oh yes, a husband!” One of the girls latched onto the potential change in topic, her voice teasing. “You are getting to be that age…I wonder who your husband will be.”
“I think it will be Kesington.” decided one of the other women, and Allura made a startled sound.
“Come now princesss!” Laughed the one who had suggested the name. “I saw you at your birthday celebration. You didn’t deign to dance with anyone else. You allowed young Kesington to monopolize your time.”
“That…that was…” Allura was sputtering, and Merla sneered as she imagined how red faced the princess surely had become. “That didn’t mean anything!”
“So you’re leading him on?” Was the curious question asked, more sputtering from Allura.
Giggles erupted at Allura’s passionate exclamation, and Merla could hear the sound of water being poured. It sounded like a bucketful, water sloshing about into a larger container.
“If not Kesington, then who?” inquired one of the servants, and Allura must have made some motion as her answer. “Surely you have your eye on someone.”
“All right girls!” The oldest servant snapped out her announcement with a clap of her hands. “Let’s not pester the princess anymore.”
“AW!” Came the group’s disappointed reply.
“Your bath is almost ready your highness.” Announced one, what had to be the last of the water being poured.
“Thank you Sondra.” Allura answered, and footsteps were heard.
“This shirt is so fine.” Commented one, surely touching Allura. “The Drule’s seamstresses do amazing work.”
“I wouldn’t mind apprenticing to one.” Agreed another. “I hope they’ll share the secrets of their craft.”
“I’m sure you’ll get a chance to.” Allura said. “They’re eager to do an exchanging of ideas and culture….they just want to be accepted into a permanent home on our world.”
“Do you think the King will let them stay?” wondered one, and Merla heard the rustle of clothing. She wondered if they were helping Allura to undress for her bath.
“I’m sure he will!” Allura, ever the optimist said.
“It might not be up to him.” The older woman spoke, earning displeased sounds from the other girls. “That Merla got the other two kingdoms involved in this mess. No doubt their rulers will have their own say on the matter.”
That seemed to bring a cloud of gloom over the room, the girls making disappointed sounds. Even Allura didn’t seem to have anything positive to say, and the servants finished doing their assigned tasks with minimal talk. The sound of footsteps and the door opening and closing, signaled to Merla the time to move, and she carefully eased back the drapes to peer inside.
The bedroom was empty save for Coba on the bed, the kitten curled into a ball on top of one of the many pillows pressed against the headboard. The door to the room had been closed, and now Merla slinked towards it, making sure to slide the bolt into place so that no one could enter.
In the next room, she could hear Allura, the girl padding about in bare feet. She wasn’t yet in the bath tub, the water not sloshing about. Drawing the dagger off her belt, she began creeping towards the door, debating how quick she wanted to end things. She had only seconds to decide, Merla weighing the options of whether it was worth risking Allura’s screams, and the guards such noise would bring, to making the girl suffer.
The problem was, Merla wanted Allura to pay, the Drule female placing much of the blame for everything going wrong on the human princess. There was a million what ifs, but it came down to the fact that if Allura hadn’t been at Pelphine temple that night, hadn’t screamed, then Merla’s plans wouldn’t have started to unravel. And just as many scenes of torture flooded her mind, Merla wanting to draw out Allura’s pain and suffering.
Ultimately, to her regret, she decided to make it quick, stab the girl, then slice her throat and gloat as the life and blood bubbled out of those wounds. With a vicious look in her eyes, she reached the bathroom door, fingers clenching on the dagger’s hilt. Allura was standing bent over the tub, a bath robe on her body, as she dipped some manner of soap into the water.
Merla advanced on her, quiet as a mouse, arm starting to raise in preparation of the downward stab she would do. She was almost there, when Allura gasped, the girl catching sight of Merla in the water’s reflection. She didn’t do the predictable thing of screaming, nor did she start to turn. If she had turned, Merla’s dagger would have slammed into her chest, but fortunately for Allura, she lunged to the side.
Growling, Merla almost pitched face first into the bath tub, the Drule female quickly righting herself. Allura had backed away from the tub, her mouth opening and closing in shock. She couldn’t seem to find her voice, which was just one more advantage as far as Merla was concerned.
“You!” Merla snarled, advancing on Allura. “You’ve ruined EVERYTHING!” She lunged that final step, intent on stabbing Allura through the right breast. The princess was agile, she’d give her that, the girl whirling to the left, almost avoiding Merla’s slash. But a spot of red appeared on the arm of her robe, dampening the fabric as Allura clamped her hand over the wound.
Merla smiled at her, raising the dagger to her lips, tongue snaking out to taste the princess’ blood. Perhaps she had time to play with the girl after all, and she did owe her for many things. “I’m going to enjoy making you suffer.” Merla hissed, slashed her dagger across the front of Allura’s robe. It tore open the sash, letting the robe fall open, allowing Merla a glimpse of Allura’s body.
Allura blinked rapidly, and seemed to draw her wits about her. “Merla! What are you doing here?!”
“They thought you safe here at the castle…” Merla sneered. “The fools! They never dreamed I’d come personally to collect my vengeance!”
“Vengeance?!” Allura shook her head, but did not take her eyes off the Drule. “You’re insane!”
“Watch your mouth!” snapped Merla, glaring at her. “It’s not insane to want payback! And you did ruin all my hard work and careful planning. Do you know how long it took me to get everything into place? Years! It was years of plotting, years of meeting secretly with the others…I had it all figured out. A strict time table in which things would fall into place…and you had to mess that all up!”
“It wasn’t my fault!” Allura protested, and ducked under Merla’s slash, trying to run past the Drule. Merla’s other hand snagged her by the back of her robe, throwing her against the bathroom’s vanity. It’s drawers rattled, and the items on it’s surface top fell over and onto the floor. Allura was trying to recover from being forcibly slammed into the vanity, when Merla slashed her across the belly.
She felt satisfaction flood her at the sight of the princess bleeding, Merla sneering at Allura. “It was all your fault! If you hadn’t come to temple…if you hadn’t screamed, if you hadn’t been infatuated with MY fiancee….” She scoffed then. “You shameless tart! Throwing yourself at him like that!”
“I didn’t throw myself at him!” Allura protested, her hand now holding her stomach. “And if you want someone to blame, turn an eye to those allies of yours! They’re the ones who left the ship without your permission!”
Before Merla could utter out a retort, Allura had grabbed something off the vanity. She was attempting to slash the dagger across Allura’s breast, when the girl flung the object she had grabbed hold of. A thick, fragrant powder hit her in the face, Merla gagging and choking on the make up, getting some in her eyes and up her nose. She felt Allura brush past her, the girl letting out one wild scream for help.
“Oh no!” Merla hissed, eyes squinted close as she turned to track Allura by sound. “You don’t get away! Not that easily!” She pulled back her hand, and then flung the dagger forward. It seemed to whistle through the air, and then Allura’s scream turned into a pained shout, the dagger making a connection. Merla could hear Allura letting out pained whimpers, the Drule rubbing at her eyes to get the powder out.
She couldn’t quite get her eyes cleaned, they stung from the powder’s contact, leaving Merla to squint as she walked towards Allura. The girl was hunched over on her knees, moaning in pain as her hands clawed at the dagger embedded in her shoulder. She had the presence of mind to look up when Merla’s shadow fell on her, Allura’s face flushed from pain.
“What will killing me accomplish?” She demanded, and even with the pain, she was fierce.
“In the long run?” Merla pretended to think at Allura’s nod. “Nothing. But my short term goal is all about the moment, about getting satisfaction. And princess? Nothing will please me more than seeing the look on Lotor’s face when I present to him your head on a platter!”
“I won’t…” Allura started to say, and Merla back handed her across her face. Allura’s words were lost to her scream, Merla grabbing the human by her hair and dragging her up off her knees. Allura continued to scream, Merla realizing with all this noise there wouldn’t be much time before someone came to investigate.
Allura wasn’t docile as she was dragged towards the bathtub, her robe flapping open further with her struggles, She was scratching and clawing at Merla’s hands, trying to pull herself free of the Drule’s grip. Merla ignored the welts Allura’s nails caused on her hands, the Drule bringing her over to the full bathtub, then thrusting her face first into the water.
Allura’s scream silenced, bubbles appeared in the water, the princess continuing to fight. She was kicking out with her legs, and scratching at Merla’s hands, alternating hitting them and trying to pull them free of her hair. Merla gritted her teeth, and ignored the pain, pressing her body against Allura’s, trying to pin down her movements even further.
“Die you little bitch!” Merla laughed, holding Allura down. In the distant she could hear voices shouting, men and women asking if the princess was all right. Someone tried the bedroom door, it’s lock rattling but holding steady. Merla knew she wouldn’t be able to fight her way past all the humans, but she didn’t care. Not so long as she accomplished her goal of killing Allura. A wicked smirk on her face, she pushed Allura even deeper into the water, waiting patiently for the girl’s struggles to die down.