She had had only seconds to react, Allura taking in a great gulp of air. It would have to be enough to sustain her, the girl being thrust face first into the water. She had to fight her first impulse to continue screaming, instead holding the sound in as well as her breath. But she wasn’t docile, struggling against Merla’s hold, her arms lifted so her hands could grab at Merla’s, Allura hitting and scratching all in an attempt to get free.
It wasn’t working, Merla didn’t seem bothered by any of Allura’s attacks, her strength too much for the princess to fight against. She had time to think she was going to die, and faces flickered through her mind, Allura seeing her loved ones and the grief they would feel. The last image she thought of was of Lotor, the King looking devastated, and Allura wondered who he’d mourn for more. Her or his people, the girl sure her father would banish the Drules from Arus as a result of her death at Merla’s hands.
~NO!~ She couldn’t allow that to come to pass, couldn’t allow Merla to damn a whole people with her actions. But more than that, Allura wanted to live, to enjoy life and to explore the possibility she saw whenever she looked at Lotor.
Even as Merla shoved her more firmly, pushing Allura deeper into the tub so her shoulders sank under the water, Allura dropped her arms. Merla surely thought she was in the last throes of dying, but Allura was making a desperate grab for the handle of the dagger embedded in her shoulder. She succeeded in grabbing hold of the hilt, her lungs burning with the need to take another breath. She told her body to be patient, to hang on for just a little while longer, and pulled, red flowing into the water.
She didn’t know what Merla thought in that moment, Allura unable to twist to face the Drule. Instead she lashed out with her arm, trying to stab the dagger into whatever body part was easily available to her. With the water in her ears, she couldn’t even hear if Merla screamed, but then the grip on her hair loosened, allowing Allura to raise her head up out of the water.
She quickly turned, gagging and gasping, taking in those breaths she had so desperately needed. She leaned against the tub, body weak, robe open and stared at Merla from across the floor. The Drule female was enraged, facial features twisted with pain and anger as she scrabbled, hands trying to get a grip on the dagger’s hilt. Allura had managed to drive it in deep, right into Merla’s hip.
“Bitch!” Merla screeched, pain making her movements slow. Allura took in another deep breath, unable to muster her wits together to be able to speak. But she was moving, closing her robe, and taking stumbling, running steps out the bathroom. She could hear the banging in the bedroom, men trying to break down the heavy door. So far the bolt was holding, and Allura knew she didn’t have time to wait for them to break it.
Running for the door, she was intent on unlocking it. Merla was quick behind her, Allura not pausing to look and see if she had pulled the dagger free of her hip. She let out a scream, Merla’s body crashing into hers, there was enough force to knock her down to the floor. She twisted as she fell, turning to face Merla who was dropping down with her. The dagger was in Merla’s hand, blood everywhere as she raised up her arm in preparation to stab Allura.
Allura grabbed onto Merla’s wrist, trying to keep her from lowering that hand. She used both hands to hold Merla at bay, ignoring it when Merla used her free hand to grab at Allura’s wet hair. She vocalized her discomfort, Merla jerking hard on her hair, Allura shocked that nothing got ripped out in the process.
“You little bitch!” Merla spat, muscles straining as she fought to bring down her arm. “Die already!”
“I won’t make it easy for you!” Allura retorted, glaring up at Merla. Her defiant response seemed to further enraged Merla, the Drule jerking on Allura’s hair. Allura tried to twist beneath Merla’s body, wishing the woman’s straddle didn’t prevent her from landing a blow with her legs. Merla continued to pull on her hair, trying to distract Allura into letting go of her wrist.
Allura decided to risk letting go long enough to reach out with her left hand to Merla’s face. She began to scratch at her cheek, digging her nails in as deep as she could, hearing Merla screech and howl in pain.
“Bitch!” Merla shrieked, rearing back from Allura. The grip in her hair loosened, Allura bucking her body in an attempt to knock Merla off her completely. Somehow she succeeded, rolling to the side just in time for Merla to slam the dagger point first into the floor’s rug. A second too slow and that dagger would have been inside Allura, but there was no time to be amazed at her near escape. Merla was already lifting the dagger back up, posed on her knees, and twisting towards Allura.
There was a split second of confusion, and sheer and utter panic, Allura hearing a humming sound that was getting louder. Merla heard it too, and her face turned even uglier with her rage, the woman taking aim to throw the dagger at Allura. The princess kept moving, not wanting to be a still target for the Drule, and it was then that an attack came from the smallest and most unexpected of assailants.
Coba, having roused himself long enough to take assessment of the situation, had landed on Merla’s back. The Drule seemed as shock as Allura was, the cat hissing and growling as it sank it’s claws into Merla. She screamed, distracted by the cat’s actions, free hand reaching behind her in an attempt to snag hold of the cat. Allura had enough time for a vague recollection of Lotor telling her Coba would bond with and protect her, but she had never expected such devotion so fast.
The humming noise grew louder, Allura realizing it sounded like a less powerful version of the engines of the Drule’s ships. The door to her room was shaking, rattling on it’s hinges with each powerful slam on the other side of it. Merla threw the cat down on the floor, and Coba immediately sprang forward, intent on attacking her again. Allura saw Merla ready her dagger to throw it at the cat, and she screamed.
“NO! Don’t!” She lunged forward, colliding with Merla, knocking her off balance. The dagger was lost, she could hear it clattering somewhere on the floor, but she had more pressing concerns, Merla trying to latch her hands around Allura’s neck. Struggling with the Drule, she gripped Merla’s wrists, just barely managing to keep her away from her throat.
Lights flooded the outside of the castle, the humming sound at it’s loudest. She thought she heard shouting, Lotor’s voice screaming her name. “Allura!” The sound of it further enraged Merla, made the Drule female all the more desperate to kill Allura. Her lips drew back, fangs revealed as Merla snarled, curled fingers trying to reach Allura’s throat. Allura bucked violently with her body, not quite managing to knock Merla off.
Instead they rolled, wrestling together on the floor. Allura didn’t have time to do anything but defend herself, trying to keep the enraged Drule from her throat. She heard Lotor call out her name, and he was closer this time. Merla didn’t look up at the sound of his voice, too focused on her attempts to kill Allura. She missed what Allura saw, Lotor swinging in through the window, some kind of thick black cord wrapped around his one arm.
Lights had preceded his entrance through the window, flooding the dimly lit room with enough illumination that it looked like it was midday. Only when Lotor angrily growled out Merla’s name, did the Drule female look up, and she let out an equally annoyed sounding snarl.
“Get off her Merla!” Lotor ordered, and he was too riled up, to angry to be cold and impasionate. He seemed beyond incensed, looking at Merla with such fury that Allura felt a shiver go down HER spine, the princess hoping to never have Lotor look at her in that manner.
“She ruined everything!” Merla shrieked, and Allura noticed Lotor had drawn his sword.
“No Merla.” Lotor retorted, taking a cautious step towards them. “If anyone’s at fault for what happened, it’s you!”
Merla was still trying to make a grab for Allura’s throat, the princess grappling with the woman’s hands. But Merla’s attention was for Lotor and his sword, the Drule female hissing angrily. “You should have married me Lotor! Right at the start, instead of putting me off for years at a time! Then maybe…”
“Then what? You wouldn’t have plotted behind my back? Wouldn’t have turned a greedy eye towards my throne?” demanded Lotor, and Merla had no answer for that. “You ever ask yourself why I kept putting off the marriage?! It wasn’t just because I didn’t love you…if I had thought you could be a worthy queen to our people, I would have been content to marry you, love be damned. But you never once proved me wrong, always so selfish and concerned with your own ambitions. What kind of ruler would you have really been…”
“A great one!” sneered Merla, and Lotor laughed. “I’d do what you won’t do, what you can’t.”
“Oh yes, such a wise and great ruler….taking actions to ruin our chances at living with the humans.” His lips curled into his own sneer, Lotor glaring with absolute disgust at Merla. “Even now, in your moment of defeat, you seek to ensure we are banished from Arus! You’re a sore loser Merla…!”
Merla’s face was twisted in ugliness, the woman not liking one bit what her former fiance had said. “I’ll have accomplish one thing at least!” She snapped back, triumph in her voice. “The humans will never accept the Drules living among them. You’ll either have to leave this world, or fight them for it! Either way, you lose as well, Lotor!”
“Think again!” Allura snapped, and bucked violently against Merla. It drew the woman’s attention to her, Allura letting her get a hand on her throat just long enough for the princess to punch Merla square in the face. She was rewarded with a satisfying screech, Merla howling in pain and reaching up to bring her hands to her face. Allura didn’t know if she had succeeded in breaking Merla’s nose, but she took the chance to knock Merla off her, Allura rolling free and scrambling to her feet.
Distracted by her pain, Merla was too slow in trying to snag Allura’s foot. The princess ran towards, then past Lotor, the King keeping his eyes on Merla. The Drule female was snarling, sounding half crazed as she lunged after Allura.
“Merla stop!” Came Lotor’s warning, Allura turning to look past him. The door continued to bang, there was more voices out in the hall, men taking turns in an attempt to force it open. The wood was splintering from the force, and the iron bolt was starting to give as well.
Merla didn’t respond to Lotor’s command, she said nothing, not even a scream as she leapt towards Allura. Her fingers were curled into claws, her eyes narrowed as she ignored everything but the princess. She had to get past Lotor though, and the King’s arm was already moving. With a sickening squelch, his sword was shoved into Merla’s chest, right between her breasts. Blood fell out of Merla’s open mouth, her expression turning shocked, even as her eyes started to lose their focus.
She fell forward further, driving Lotor’s sword in deeper. Her hands made one last futile swipe at Allura, but they passed harmlessly through the air, the princess evading the attack easily enough. Allura gripped her robe closed, watching the light start to fade in Merla’s eyes.
“Why Merla, why?” Lotor was asking, going to his knees with Merla. He wasn’t trying to draw back his sword, instead shifting to half cradle Merla against him, as he looked for an explanation in her face. “I didn’t want to have to kill you….”
Merla lifted her head to look at Lotor, and it seemed to sap the last of her strength. She just smiled at him, lips stained with her own blood. She didn’t cry, in this moment she looked happy, satisfied though Allura could not understand why. Lotor’s brow was furrowed, he stared down at the female in his arms, Merla going completely limp. It was then that the remains of the door’s strength gave in, wood splintering as it was forced open.
A mix of people, both human and Drule ran into the room, and those that remained in the hall immediately began talking about what they saw. Allura could hear them expressing horror, they weren’t sure just what exactly they were seeing, just aware someone was dead, and their princess was injured. She could feel herself being touched, her governess having pushed herself to the front of the crowd. The woman was fawning over Allura, expressing concern over all the blood on her robe.
“I’m…I’m fine…” Allura started to say, but the adrenaline was fading, leaving her aware of how weak and lightheaded she felt. She almost sagged in her Nanny’s arms, suddenly too unsteady to stand on her own.
“No! You’re not fine, you’re bleeding!” snapped the governess, and immediately the call was taken up for a doctor. Allura ignored that, looking past the governess towards Lotor. He seemed to sense her eyes on him, for he looked up at that precise moment.
“Are you okay?” She asked, and he blinked, unable to hide his surprise. He still held onto Merla, but his attention was all for Allura, Lotor looking her over from top to bottom. She didn’t feel any of the emotions she would have normally felt, too aware of how bruised and beaten she felt, her robe stained with blood and barely holding together to keep her covered.
“I’m sorry.” Lotor said at last, and Allura had to blink back her confusion. “For not getting here sooner. For not realizing Merla would try something….”
“It’s…it’s not your fault.” She assured him, aware the crowd was growing silent, watching their exchange with interest. “You couldn’t have known…”
“I should have been prepared for all outcomes!” Lotor insisted with a growl. “I would have never wanted to put you at risk…not again….” He seemed to shudder, shaking his head no. “I never want you to be hurt….Allura…”
She blushed then, pleased by his words. “Lo….your highness…” She was aware everyone was watching, and knew she had to stick to the formalities. “Thank you. But I am fine. It is the people at Pelphine Temple that I worry about…”
“They’ve been rescued.” Lotor said, to pleased murmurs from the crowd. “There wasn’t even one casualty among the humans…though some did suffer more than others.”
“What do you mean?” She asked, and he frowned.
“Your governess is right. You need a doctor.” He stood now, lifting Merla’s body up into his arms. “We can talk about what happened at Pelphine after you have been checked over.”
“But…” Now she frowned, wanting answers more than she wanted her wounds tended too.
“Allura!” It was her father’s voice, King Alfor walking into the room, a path being opened at his approach.
“Father!” exclaimed Allura, turning in his direction. Her governess let go of her, allowing Allura to stumble those last steps towards her father. Alfor looked her over, his eyes not missing one bruise or spot of blood, the King enfolding her in a fierce hug.
“Thank goodness you are safe.” He said, and she nodded.
“Your daughter is quite the spirited fighter.” Lotor was saying. “It was she who held off Merla long enough for help to arrive. I doubt anyone will make the mistake of underestimating the princess in the future.”
She blushed even further at Lotor’s words, then nearly sagged to her knees. Alfor quickly righted her, and looked around. “Stop standing there doing nothing!” He snapped, and the crowd reacted with guilt. “Someone go fetch a doctor for my daughter!”
“Please…” Lotor spoke up. “If you will allow Doctor Reaver to treat Allura…”
“All right.” She was surprised at her father’s easy agreement, and worried it meant she was worse off than she thought. The crowd outside the room thinned out, people allowing Lotor to walk out of the bedroom. Alfor escorted Allura behind him, the girl staring at Merla’s body in Lotor’s arms.
“What…what are you going to do with her?” She asked, and Alfor tried to shush her.
“You needn’t worry about that woman any more.” Her father told her, even as Lotor started to answer.
“Her body will most likely be burned.” His tone was emotionless. Lotor speaking as though this was a person he had not had ties to. “There’s no room on the ships to hold a true burial. We’ve always had to cremate our dead you see…”
“Oh…” A dull whisper from her, Allura leaning onto her father’s arm. She had many questions, but they were things that could wait, the answers seeming unimportant at the moment. For now she would concentrate on healing, Allura being ushered into a room to await Doctor Reaver’s treatment. Lotor would not wait with her, instead disappearing onto one of the Drule ships, tending to what she did not know.
Not all the Drules would follow him onboard, many remaining inside the castle. They seemed loathe to give up the chance to be among the humans, and their continued presence helped ease any tension that might have developed between the two races. Allura didn’t know what had happened at Pelphine Temple, didn’t know how badly relations had been damaged, but she was left with hope. The hope that things would work out, and the sins of the Drules would be forgiven. She couldn’t allow herself to think any other way, Allura knowing her life would never be the same if Lotor and the other Drules were forced to leave it.