The ground chosen for the meeting was a large field, grassy plains extending for miles in all directions. In the distance, to the north of where he stood, Lotor could make out mountains, those towering heights of stone that needed to be passed to reach Ranseya’s kingdom capital. If he turned, and peered past the five Drule ships, he would see the start of the forests, the wood stretching on for so many miles, the nearest city was swallowed up from view.
And between the mountains and the forests, was the armies of Alfor and Ranseya’s rulers, numerous tents set up on the plains. There was an unspoken line of division between the two armies, each side being careful not to cross into the territory of the others. Armed soldiers prowled the field, watching the opposing side with open suspicion.
There was tension in the air, the two kingdoms not forgetting the hostilities of the past. Often they had met on fields like this, to fight over the land that divided the two kingdoms. Ranseya would love to expand it’s borders, and though Alfor was not a greedy King, he would not allow his own territory be lessened without a fight. It was fortunate the two had never engaged in all out war, Ranseya content to do battle with it’s other neighbor, Altrexia.
The queen of Altrexia had yet to put in an appearance at this meeting, and Lotor wasn’t holding out much hope that she would show. She had been adamant right up to her last missive that she would not be brokering a truce, temporary though it might be, to attend this meeting. Lotor would have liked to have been able to impress upon her his people’s need for Arus, but he would have to settle for making a case to the rulers that did deign to show up.
Fortunately for him, King Lezard and his queen had been willing to attend this meeting, the royal pair keeping an open mind about the Drules and their needs. They were by no way ready to just allow the Drules the freedom to make a home on Arus, but they were open to the possibility of being persuaded to do just that. He felt confidant he had King Alfor already on his side, the man willing to work with Lotor and the Drules, and allow them to live on his land. But it came with the condition of getting the majority vote in favor of this.
The majority would involve getting one other of the planet’s three kingdoms to side in favor of the Drules, and thus everything of value hung on this meeting. If he could gain Lezard and Lenneth’s backing, it would not matter what Altrexia’s queen wanted. Last he had heard, she had been threatening war if Alfor allowed the Drules to remain on his land, the queen seemingly eager for any chance to do battle.
Her threats of war were almost enough to strip Alfor’s backing from the Drule, but in the end the King had decided he would not be cowed by another ruler’s threats. He would make his own decisions, and deal with the fall out, whatever it might be. Lotor didn’t know what Ranseya thought of this, but Altrexia was already in the midst of a war lasting years, and thus could not further threaten Lezard and Lenneth into doing their queen’s bidding.
It didn’t make him less nervous, Lotor realizing his hands were sweating under his leather gloves. He tightened his fingers around the reigns of the horse he had been given, a large dapple gray stallion, that occasionally snorted and pawed at the grass. His friends, all Lords in their own right, were also mounted on horses, the large stallions the only breed sizable enough to support a Drule.
Behind them, was a horse drawn cart, loaded down with items hidden by a blanket. Lotor wanted to bring the rulers on board one of his ships, and give them a tour of the Drule’s marvels, and yet he wasn’t sure how open they would be to such an idea. As such, he was bringing to them some of the technology of the Drules, Lotor wanting to use them in a presentation of his cause.
They were too many beasts about, horses and elephants, to risk bringing in the ships any closer. As it was, they had just avoided causing a stampede of epic proportion with their arrival, the animals spooking at the hum of the ship’s engines. They had parked in the distance, and thus needed the horses to make quick progress to the camp.
They were entering on Alfor’s side, the soldiers parting to allow Lotor and his entourage in, the Drule scanning the crowd for signs of familiar faces. There was Coran, over by the largest of tents, speaking with someone who was standing in the shadows of the tent’s flap. The tent was like no other on the field, large enough to resemble a round, one story house. It was in there that the meeting between rulers would be held, the soldiers and aides left to guard the ground from attack.
If he was honest with himself, Lotor would admit he was really searching for a sign of Allura. The princess had spent the last five days trying to wheedle an invite to this meeting, as determined as Alfor was adamant she remain behind in the castle. King Alfor was leery of bringing his only daughter into a potentially dangerous situation, and so close to another kigndom’s territory.
He spied blonde hair, and felt hope grow in him, even as he realized it wasn’t a bright enough color to be the gold of Allura’s. A quick scan of the women stationed around the large tent revealed no sign of the princess, and it was all Lotor could do to hold back his sigh. He continued to drive his horse forward, ignoring his soldiers’ advice that they proceed ahead of him.
The Drule Lords rushed to get their steeds into a trot that could keep up with the King’s pace, Lotor quickly arriving before Coran. His horse tossed it’s head, nostrils flaring and forcing Coran to make a grab for the straps of it’s saddle. Coran hardly looked thrilled to be playing ranch hand, the man more used to dealing with paperwork than animals.
Lotor didn’t wait for Coran to get the horse under control, nearly sliding off the stallion’s back. He debated taking off his gloves, but decided against it, wanting the leather to conceal the nervous sweat on his hands. He nodded his hello at the struggling Coran, and started to move towards the tent’s flap. Kratos and Phor hurriedly dismounted, and moved to follow him, and Coran called out a protest.
‘If you will just allow me a moment to introduce you…” A soldier took pity on the advisor, taking the reigns of the stallion away from Coran. The mustached man nearly sagged with relief, nodding his thanks to the soldier. A gesture followed his nod, soldiers lifting the flap up, as a trumpeter played an introductory note on his instrument. Coran stepped inside the tent, his throat clearing before he spoke.
“May I present, his highness, King Lotor of the Drule. As well as Lord Kratos and Lord Phor.” Coran followed up these words with a bow, and Lotor heard Alfor speak a reply.
“Welcome King Lotor. Phor, Kratos.” Lotor had to duck down a little to avoid hitting the top of the tent’s entrance, Phor and Kratos doing the same. Once inside, he saw Alfor, the man wearing a small smile as he greeted them. “Please, allow me to make introductions.” He was already gesturing to the couple seated on cushioned chairs to the right of him, the man and woman rising.
“This is King Lezard…” Alfor said, the introduction more formality than anything else. “And this is Queen Lenneth.” Lotor couldn’t help but stare at the Queen, noting she held a kind of ethereal loveliness that was humbling to behold. She grew even more dazzling when she smiled, a light coming to her sapphire eyes as she did a slow curtsy. Her husband beside her was bowing, and that triggered a reaction in Lotor.
“It is an honor to meet you, your highnesses.” Lotor said, mimicking the exact bow that Lezard had given him. It was neither too low or too high, a proper show of respect given to each other.
“It is our honor to meet you as well.” Answered Lenneth, and Lezard’s lips quirked as though he was trying to hide some kind of expression. “And on more even ground this time around.”
“Ah yes…” Lotor managed not to frown, recalling how Merla had met with them just a scant few weeks ago. “I hope you won’t hold anything Merla and her accomplices tried to do, against me and my people.”
“We understand it was done without your backing.” Lezard replied, fingers sliding his gold glasses back up his nose. “Nor without the support of most of your people.”
“Indeed.” Lotor nodded. “The majority of my people want nothing more than to live peacefully with your people.”
“And what of the ones that do not want that?” Lezard asked shrewdly. “Do they hunger for war?”
“We’ve imprisoned those who allied with Merla. They will not be making trouble for you, or us any more.” Lotor answered smoothly.
“And you’re sure you’ve got all of them?” Lezard wanted to know. “No stay support lurking out there, ready to free them and cause more problems?!”
“If there is any remnants of Merla’s allies remaining, we’ll quickly ferret them out.” That was Kratos who spoke, looking supremely confidant in the moment.
“But…how can you be sure?” Lezard pressed, and Lenneth laid a hand on her husband’s shoulder.
“Please….we can never be entirely sure to rid ourselves completely of those who would do us harm. I’m sure his highness is doing everything in his power to avoid a repeat of the incidents that happened.” Lezard seemed to grumble softly in reply, but his expression had softened at his wife’s touch. “Let us sit and have refreshments.” Suggested Lenneth, gesturing at the seats cloistered together.
“A fine idea.” Agreed Alfor, and a servant hurried to prepare drinks for the gathering. Once everyone was seated, and had the drink of their choice, talk resumed. They began to discuss the things Merla and her cohorts had tried to do, Lenneth seeming to shudder in distaste at the thought of a a planet spanning war. Lotor learned that Lezard and Lenneth were not eager for war, that it was Altrexia that had instigated much of the feuding between their two kingdoms. The blood was bad between them, and Lotor got the feeling that Ranseya’s rulers would do the opposite of whatever Altexia’s queen wanted, just to spite her.
It made him feel hope they would agree to the Drule’s continued presence on Arus, Lotor hiding the smile that wanted to come out by sipping at his drink. Lezard
was currently questioning him about the fact that the Drules had represented themselves as Gods, Lotor feeling ashamed at that deception.
“I’m not trying to condone what we did…” Lotor said, abashed. “It was an error of bad judgment on my part…I should have been truthful from the beginning…”
“Yes, you should have been.” Agreed Alfor, without humor in his expression.
“I wanted my people to be accepted so badly…” continued Lotor with a sigh. “I didn’t think of the damage that could be done because of such a lie….and by the time I did realize that, it had rapidly spiraled out of control, the people in active worship of us….”
“Some of us never believed you were Gods to begin with.” Noted Alfor, and Lotor nodded. “And yet we were hard pressed to be able to understand how else you could do the miraculous things that you did.”
“Yes, just how do you those things?” Lezard inquired, leaning forward in his seat, an eager look in his amethyst colored eyes. Lenneth let out a small laugh, bringing one delicate hand to cover her mouth.
“You must forgive my husbands enthusiasm. He’s always loved to learn about new things.” She explained, the smile brightening her eyes.
“Nothing wrong with that.” Commented Alfor, his own smile lightening some of his stern features. “And the Drules do have quite the extensive amount of knowledge to offer us.”
“So we’ve heard.” Admitted Lezard. “Some of our people have traveled to your capital, eager to meet with…” his lips quirked, an odd half smile appearing. “The Gods. They came back speaking of wonders they had seen, of medical advancements and the ships you traveled in. Some even repeated stories they had heard of things the Gods had carried with them. We are very intrigued, and want to know what is real, and what is just story.”
“Well…We can’t do miracles, not in the way a true God can do, but we can help your people.” Lotor told them. “We’ve had centuries to develop our knowledge, to come up with ideas and inventions to make life better…or worse…”
“Worse?” Lenneth seized on those words, a curious look in her eyes.
“Our world…” It was Phor who spoke up, a sad, serious look in his eyes. “It was once beautiful, lush and fertile. A world able to support us and the many forms of wildlife that existed there. It’s…its gone now.”
“Gone? Gone how?” Lezard asked, and Phor lowered his gaze, leaving it up to Lotor to answer it.
“We destroyed it.”
Lenneth gasped at that, dismayed by his words. “Destroyed it how?”
“Through wars, and pollution. Our weapons were such, that it was easy to destroy the land, and the people that lived on it.” Lotor explained, watching the Queen shiver as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Can you keep that from happening here?” She asked softly, and Lotor nodded.
“We believe so. We are determined not to repeat past mistakes.” He glanced towards Alfor, the man taking his turn to speak.
“We have been discussing at length the kind of technology that should be allowed onto the planet. King Lotor and I have agreed that the weapons should be avoided at all cost. They neither benefit nor advance society, they only bring death and destruction.”
“Let’s not be too hasty.” Lezard said, a gleam of some sort of greed in his eyes. “Perhaps some of the weapons could be used for good. Lord knows we would like to put an end to the battle with Altrexia…”
“Dear…” protested Lenneth, whose hand was patted comfortingly by her husband.
Lotor had been afraid of a ruler showing greed for the Drules’ weaponry, and he nodded at Kratos now. “I don’t think you understand just how devastating our weaponry
truly was….this perhaps will allow you to change your mind…”
“What is that?” Lezard sounded suspicious now, eyeing the round object Kratos held in his hands.
“It’s an image projector, your highness.” Kratos explained. “We are able to capture and project images of whatever we wish. This particular device holds images of how our home world once looked….and what it turned into after we were done running wild on it’s lands.” He pressed a button on the device, a hologram filling the space before the chairs. It was as long in length as the tent, and nearly reached the canvas’ roof, showing the verdant world that Doom had once been.
It wasn’t all green, the colors different from that of Arus. There was a predominately red and orange theme to the grass and flowers, making Doom’s world look like it was in perpetual sunset. The waters of the ocean were a dark purple, white cresting on the waves, and occasionally fins could be seen breaking through to the surface. The clouds were white, large and fluffy, and flocks of sea fearing birds could be seen soaring past them.
It wasn’t just the wilds of Doom they showed the Arusians, the image moving, going towards the cities. At first they were just small towns, but as time was rapidly fast forwarded, large, sprawling cities were erected in their places, the woods disappearing as the buildings took up more and more space. The sky began to change, the clouds losing their pure whiteness, turning shades of gray. The sky itself began to fill with smog, turning the blue black until Doom seemed in a state of continuos night.
There were factories shown, constantly pumping pollutants into the sky, and into the nearby lakes they were connected to. And as the cities grew in size, war began to break out, battalions of soldiers spread through the city streets, fighting it out as ships flew overhead, blasting buildings. As if that wasn’t devastating enough, nuclear bombs were dropped, obliterating both solider and civilian in an innocent, the city destroyed, with only it’s stone blasted ruins to mark where it had been.
The cities weren’t the only to suffer, the bombs had far reaching effects that touched the land around it for miles all around. The animals were killed, the land made barren, a desolate wasteland where little to nothing would grow. The rains came, and the images showed the acidic water killing off what little plants there was.
The image played on for the better part of an hour, and the change in Doom was startling from what it had started out as. The room had fallen quiet while the holograms played out, not even gasps were heard, the humans humbled by what they saw. When at last it petered out to an end, there seemed to be no words that could be spoken by the humans to properly convey their horror.
“We won’t let this happen again.” Lotor spoke, breaking the silence. “Not to the world we settle on. We know far too much how valuable Arus is, that the galaxy, for all it’s size and planets, is all but barren when it comes to supporting life. You say we Drules do miracles, but you fail to realize that your world, that Arus is OUR miracle. One we would not throw away…”
Lezard was doing a slow blinking of his eyes, trying to adjust to what he had seen. “And how fo you propose to keep this from happening? By limiting the weapons?”
“Partly that.” Lotor nodded. “But also, we will have to learn of a new way to live, to do away with some of the niceties we are accustomed to. We don’t want to risk polluting the sky with factories to produce energy…We’ve been working on other energy sources with some modicum of success.”
“We can help develop your world.” Added Kratos, switching off the holo device. “To help nurture and guide you in the right way, the ways to avoid making the mistakes we did…”
“I don’t know…” Lezard shook his head, frowning. “Would you not be tempted to use the knowledge you have, even the bad stuff at some point?”
“I can make a promise to you, one backed up by the rest of my people.” Lotor said. “That so long as the Drules of Doom remember what has happened to our home world, we will not seek to use knowledge that would damage Arus. Even Merla, and her accomplices, were hesitant to use means that could damage Arus in their attempt to take over.”
“No, they were content to let us all fight each other to the death.” Lezard pointed out bitterly. “Is it even possibly for Arus to be able to support both the humans and the Drules? I mean how many of you are there?”
“There’s roughly fifty-thousand waiting to arrive.” Lotor answered. “And yes, Arus could easily handle that number. You’ve yet to develop much of the planet, we could establish settlements in each kingdom, taking only what we need, and giving back to the communities that welcome us.”
“What would you give?” Lenneth asked, and Lotor smiled in her direction.
“Our knowledge of healing, which I’m sure you’re people have reported back to you. We have medicines, and machinery that help to prolong and save lives. If you like, you could speak to Doctor Reaver and her associates…” suggested Lotor. “They would be better equipped to explain to you those areas.”
“Yes, we would like that.” Acknowledged the queen.
“What else?” Lezard demanded, and Lotor held back an annoyed sound.
“We’ve been working with Alfor to increase the amount of food production. We’ve completed houses that will work all year round, no matter the weather to grow fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs. Your people need not starve during the cold months any longer.” Lotor told them.
“My people have also expressed an interest in apprenticing with the Drule.” Piped in King Alfor. “They have a way of making things much faster than we do, and many of the ladies are envious of the clothing produced by the Drules.”
“Knowledge is easily available among my people.” Added Lotor. “We know many things, and it is not limited to the nobility this knowledge. I dare say we could help your people to expand their knowledge, so that they are no longer limited to just their areas of work expertise.”
“There’s also…what is it called, that thing my daughter raves about so much?” Alfor asked, with a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.
“Ah, modern plumbing.” Supplied Phor. “We’ve a system of underground pipes and streams, that would bring in water into your homes. Water you could heat in an instant with the turning of a knob. It would make bathing easier, as well as help the ease of toiletry.”
“I invite you all to come aboard my ships.” Added Lotor, having spied how intrigued Queen Lenneth looked at the mention of modern plumbing. “To witness these things for yourself and more.”
“More? What else could there be?” Lezard asked, seeming astounded.
“Why, we have devices where we can instantly communicate with each other.” Kratos told him. “You’d no longer have to rely on letters and carrier pigeons. You could find out what is going on in the world in an instant, all by talking with another person, seeing their face, and hearing their voice.”
“It sounds magical.” Commented Lenneth.
“I suppose it does. Though once you have an understanding of how it works, you’ll see there’s no magic or miracles at work. Just hard work and intelligence.” Lotor told her.
“And all you ask in return is to be allowed to live among us?” Lezard asked, wanting a clarification. “Nothing else?”
“Land, and the acceptance of my people amongst yours.” Lotor allowed. “We would like to also do an exchanging of ideas, my people could learn a lot from you Arusians on how to live off the land without harming it.”
“There would be conditions.” Warned Lezard, and Lotor nodded his head.
“Of course. King Alfor and I had spent weeks going over the things we Drule would and would not be allowed to do on his land…I expect no less from Ranseya.”
“I’d like to see a copy of the conditions you and his highness came up with.” Lezard said, and smirked. “To get a feel for what I should allow for the Drules on my land.”
“Of course. I’ll have my scribes write you a copy, and have it at your tent this very evening.” Spoke Alfor.
“Very well, until then I would very much like to tour your ship.” Lezard was already rising from his seat, Lenneth following suit.
“Of course.” Lotor nodded, also standing. “Though I must warn you, some of the sights you see…may be…different from what you are used to.”
“You mean the people, don’t you?” Inquired Lezard, and Lotor nodded without hesitation. “I had heard there was deformities among your people. Hmph. Such abnormalities should stay hidden, don’t you agree?”
“There are neither deformed nor abnormal!” It was King Alfor who bristled with rage, all but glaring at Lezard. “Your highness, I have met with many of the Drule, including the ones most people would deem…..strange looking. They are no different from you and I, save for their looks, it would be a crime to hide them away from your people.” Lezard looked ready to argue, Lenneth touching his hand.
“Well, let me meet them first.” Lezard grumbled, and Lotor and the two Drule Lords relaxed somewhat.
“I must tell you now your highness…” Lotor spoke to Lezard. “None of my people shall be hidden. You must accept all of us, or none of us at all. But I will not divide my people, and let half of them live in shame, not any more.”
Lezard blinked, taken aback by the growl in Lotor’s voice. “So I see.”
“Forgive us.” Lenneth said, apologizing on behalf of her husband. “We did not mean to offend your people.” Lezard wisely kept tightlipped in response to that, the rulers walking towards the tent’s flap.
“What will you do if given land?” Lenneth asked, and Lotor glanced her way. “I mean…will you conced to the rulers that are already there? Or try to establish dominance among the territory?”
“A wise concern my lady.” Alfor noted. “One of the stipulations in the agreement I am working out with King Lotor is that the Drule cannot make war with my people for my rule, as well as my daughter’s and her children’s’ rule. You’d do well to consider it for yourself as well.”
“Sage advice.” Noted Lezard with a nod. “And one will we definitely take to heart. But…what about the Drule then. Does your agreement mean that they look to you as King, rather than his highness Lotor?”
“No.” Lotor said abruptly. “I rule over all the Drule. They will not look to a human ruler for their concerns. I’ve agreed not to interfere with King Alfor’s reign unless asked, and he will do the same where my people are concerned.”
“It sounds as though we might be on the verge of establishing a fourth kingdom then.” Lenneth said, and they all paused before the closed tent flap. The men turned to look at her, but she did not so much as blush. “Could we not agree on giving land to the Drules that border each other? Nothing to rival the size of our kingdoms, but enough land to be adequate to their needs.”
“That could work.” Agreed Lezard cautiously. “And that way both kingdoms could…monitor the situation in the Drule’s land.”
Lotor wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought of being watched constantly, but knew this was going better than expected. “I would not be against that.” He allowed and Lezard smirked then.
“Of course you wouldn’t. You’d be getting what your people need, a new home. Although…” He trailed off with a glance at Alfor.
“What is it?” The King asked, and Lezard shrugged.
“I was just thinking….perhaps a more binding agreement could be made…”
“Oh?” A curious look from all around, Alfor lifting his brow. “And just what do you propose?”
“There’s nothing more binding than an alliance between kingdoms…” Lezard continued, and smiled fondly at Lenneth. “A unification through marriage works wonders to help ease resentments between a troubled people.”
“Marriage?” Lotor repeated, sure he was misunderstanding.
“Of course, my Lenneth is off the market for that.” Lezard took a possessive hold of her arm, the woman smiling at her husband. “But there’s always other options…” He glanced at Alfor now, who had paled. “Your daughter is of a marriageable age is she not?”
“If we’re going to talk about alliances…” Alfor began, tone a bit snide. “Why not mention the Queen of Altrexia? Queen Alicia is recently widowed…”
“Alicia?” Lezard snorted in disgust. “She wouldn’t even deign to come to this meeting, let alone aid the Drules. You think she would really marry one?”
Alfor and Lezard locked gazes, eyes practically sparking with a challenge. Lotor suddenly felt like he had no say in the matter, looking back and forth between them.
“You expect me to give up my only daughter…” Alfor began, and Lezard cut him off with a laugh.
“If you truly mean to live in peace with the Drule, then you shouldn’t mind making one part of your family…” Lezard smirked. “If we had a child of marriageable age, you can bet we would make the same offer.”
Alfor seemed to glare at him. “An arrangement can be made to tie your family to the Drule as well.” The King said. “Don’t forget, it is not out of fashion to engage infants to a person of power to cement an alliance.”
Lenneth had slipped free of Lezard’s hold, and moved to touch Lotor’s arm. “They’re getting awfully upset over such a little thing.” Her words made him wonder if Queen Lenneth had been engaged to marry Lezard through a similar political arrangement.
“It’s my future and Allura’s they seek to decide!” Lotor grumbled to her.
“I’m sure you’ll let your feelings be known once they calm down.” Lenneth assured him. “Until then, I for one would very much like to take that tour.”
Lotor smiled, and bowed to her, ignoring the squabbling kings. “Then my lady, come with me.” He offered her his arm, and she took it, Kratos and Phor following in their wake as they swept past Alfor and Lezard. The two Kings noticed their exit, and were forced to out on hold their argument, hurrying after Lenneth and the Drules.