Divine 38

When the carrier pigeon arrived, bearing King Alfor’s invite, Lotor’s first impulse was to be wary. It was after all on the heels of Allura’s deception, and Lotor wouldn’t put it past the princess to try and trick him into visiting her a second time. And yet he had known that if it was from Alfor, then he couldn’t simply ignore the message, not without causing insult to the man.

And yet he didn’t rush to drop everything and hurry to the castle, Lotor continuing to oversee the construction of the first of the Drule settlements. Officially, they hadn’t been given the land yet, but it was all just a matter of signing ink to the proper documents. Unofficially he had Alfor’s permission to start building on the land cordoned off as future Drule territory.

They were already begginning to lay the foundations of their city, digging ditches and underground tunnels to put in place the sewer systems. They hadn’t yet made much progress, the building of the city having just started a handful of days ago. There would still be a long way to go before the Drules could stop living on their ships, and it might take until next year before more cities were built to house his people who had yet to arrive on Arus.

Lotor would keep Alfor waiting until the next day for his visit, the Drule King thinking to arrange it so that enough time had passed that the human would have returned from Pelphine Temple. It was his own maneuvering of the situation, Lotor thinking to arrange it so that if this was a trick of Allura’s, she’d have no way of being alone with him. Not with her father at home, and aware of Lotor’s arrival.

He was shown into one of the receiving rooms, the chamber located on the second floor so that it would be difficult for anyone to reach the windows. That cut down on the number of eavesdroppers, Lotor noting the window’s curtains had been drawn back to allow sunlight to flood the room.

He rose from his seat on the couch when Alfor entered the room, the two Kings exchanging bows of respect to one another. “Thank you for coming.” Alfor said, once the door to the room had been closed. “Please, sit.”

Lotor retook his spot on the couch, ignoring the drinks and cookies on the table before him. Instead he focused on Alfor, trying to keep his curiosity from showing.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why I asked you to come see me.” Alfor said, making no move towards his glass.

Lotor allowed a small nod, but didn’t crack a smile. “You haven’t wanted to see me since the meeting with the Ranseyans.” He wasn’t chiding Alfor, but he did feel put out that the human King had all but cut off communications with him.

“Ah yes….forgive me for not making time for you sooner.” Lotor was surprised by Alfor’s quick apology, and it must have shown, for the human allowed a small smile on his face. “It’s been busy time your highness, I thought it best to focus on the legislation that would allow the land to be handed over to you as quickly as possible.”

“I thank you for that.” Lotor replied, though privately he thought Alfor had been avoiding him because of the proposed marriage between him and Allura.

“How is the construction going by the way?” Alfor inquired.

“We’re still in the early stages of it. We’ve just laid the first pipes in our tunnels.” Lotor told him. “We hope to get the sewer system completed, and the first of the buildings erected before snow falls.”

“I wish you all the luck in that.” Alfor meant it too, Lotor could see that. “I would very much like to come visit your city when it’s completed. I’m sure it will be a marvel to behold.”

“Well, I don’t know about that.” Lotor admitted. “Except for a few comforts, we are trying to avoid building cities similar to what was on Doom. We’re actually thinking of setting up a solar powered system, one that will allow us to harness and collect energy from the sun’s rays.”

“You can do that?” A lift of Alfor’s eyebrows, the man managing to keep much of his amazement off his face. “Will the Drule wonders never cease.”

“I think in time they will.” Lotor allowed with a small smile. “Once you’ve gotten to see all that we can do, eventually the novelty of it will wear off.”

“Perhaps you’re right.” Alfor agreed. “So tell me, your highness. Just what do you plan to call this new kingdom of yours?”

Lotor and the other Drule Lords had been giving it careful thought, trying to decide on what would be the perfect name. “Santasha.” Lotor answered him, a smile curling his lips upwards. “It means second chance in Drule.”

“Santasha.” Alfor repeated, then nodded. “I like it. You certainly earned the right to a second chance at life…and with my people.”

“Thank you, your highness.”

“Well….I suppose you’re wondering why I invited you here.” Continued Alfor, and Lotor allowed a nod of his head. “This is not exactly a social visit, nor is it business.”

“Then what is it?” Lotor asked, even as he worried that Alfor had found out about Allura’s attempt at seduction the other day.

Alfor paused, long enough that Lotor thought the human wasn’t going to answer. “I think I’ve been a bit too…hasty and judgmental if you would believe my daughter.”

“Your daughter?” Lotor lifted a brow. “What does the princess have to do with this?”

“Oh everything.” Alfor was trying for a causal tone, gesturing for Lotor to sample the refreshments set out before them. Lotor lifted a glass, but aside from a tentative sip, made no move to drink the juice. “It seems someone told her about the Ranseyan’s bid for marriage between you two.”

“I see.” Lotor’s tone was calm, his hand not shaking as he held the glass.

“My daughter is at that excitable age.” Continued Alfor when it became apparent that was all Lotor would say about it. “She gets ideas in her head, and is quick to act on them, regardless of the consequences.”

“Yes. I’ve noticed.” Lotor muttered, and Alfor’s lips twitched, as though trying not to smile.

“So you have. But if there is one thing she doesn’t lack, it’s passion about what she believes in.” Alfor said. “She’s been a champion of your people, even after all that has happened, even after suffering at the hands of some of them.”

“I would have never allowed her to suffer their abuse if I had been in a better position to stop them!” Lotor was heated as he spoke, fingers clenching tight around the glass.

“I believe you.” Alfor reassured him. “And yet it did happen…” Lotor did not lower his gaze from Alfor’s, though he felt terrible to hear the man stressing Allura’s torment. “But…her devotion to you…to your people, never wavered, if anything it grew stronger from her ordeal.”

“Your highness?”

“My daughter tells me she cares for you.” Alfor said the words carefully, expression shrewd and calculating as he gazed at Lotor. The Drule King had the feeling the man was judging him, taking in his reactions to the words. Lotor was grateful for his blue skin that could not blush, the King feeling flustered in the moment.

“I care for her too…” Lotor admitted, even if it wasn’t the right thing to say. He wanted Alfor to know that, had a need for the man to acknowledge that Lotor held feelings for Allura that went beyond the diplomatic relationship of two royals.

“And yet, I wonder…” Alfor paused, seeming to have to think on his words. “How strong is that care? Is it strong enough to fight for her?”

“Do you mean to insult me?” Lotor demanded, setting the glass back down on the table. “I’ve done many things, including fighting Carp and slaying Merla to protect her.”

“And yet I note you did not push forward with your marriage suit.” Alfor calmly retorted. Lotor wasn’t sure where this was going, but some of his anger died down in the face of his uncertainty.

“I saw how angry it made you.” He told the human king. “You were clearly bothered by the thought of your daughter being in that kind of relationship with me…”

“And so you rather lose your chance with her, than upset me?” inquired Alfor.

Lotor hesitated, then sighed. “For all my mistakes and deceptions, you’ve stood by me. You’ve helped my people, accepted them when others might not. I didn’t want to turn my back on that support…”

Alfor gazed at him for a long moment. “You truly are committed when it comes to your people’s welfare.” Lotor bristled at that, his gaze a challenge.

“Was there ever any doubt?”

“No, I suppose not.” Murmured Alfor.

“Your highness, really. What is this all about?” asked Lotor. “Do you mean to chastise me for revealing to Allura about the marriage proposal? I can assure you it was only at the height of desperation that I told her, and only to get her to back down from her pursuit of me.” He sighed. “I thought if she knew you didn’t approve, she would give up on this foolish notion…”

“Why is it so foolish?”

“I don’t believe in chasing after something one can never have.” Lotor answered without hesitation. “I’ve made mistakes yes, I should have discouraged her a lot sooner, regardless of my situation with Merla. Maybe then she wouldn’t have gotten this crush on me…wouldn’t be getting hurt at the thought of not being able to be with me…”

“My daughter would box your ears to hear you refer to what she feels as nothing more than a simple crush.” Alfor retorted. “She says she loves you, that she wants to be with you…”

“Why are you telling me this?” Lotor demanded, not prepared for Alfor’s response.

“Because I want to know if you feel the same way!” Lotor was left blinking owlishly at the king, tongue tied in the moment. But Alfor did not smile at having stolen Lotor’s voice. “Honestly your highness, for all your purported smarts, you are remarkably dense when it comes to affairs of the heart.”

“Not dense.” Lotor answered in a hoarse tone. “Just cautious.”

“It’s good to be cautious, but not to the extreme you never feel.” Alfor answered. “Come your highness, I’m allowing you to be totally honest with me in regard to my daughter. What do you really feel towards her?”

“She is a beautiful and charming young woman.” Lotor began. “Courageous, kind, caring. She’s a breath of fresh air, and her willingness to always show consideration to my people, even after the truth came out, even after the torments she went through at some of their hands, leaves me grateful.”

“You clearly admire her.” Alfor noted and Lotor nodded. “But how do you FEEL about her?” Lotor hesitated, which only earned Alfor’s impatience. “Come now, you can’t even say to me the depth of your feelings for her?!”

“I don’t want to get hurt!” Lotor snapped back, and in his agitation rose to stand. “I don’t understand why you’re asking me all this. What good does it do to know my feelings if you won’t even consider a match between us?!”

Alfor stared up at him, and let out a deep sigh. “I see it’s not just my daughter I’ve hurt with my…hastiness. Forgive me your highness….I was being brash and foolish. Please….the question, just answer it with your honest feelings. I won’t judge, and I won’t ostracize you for your answer.”

“I….” Lotor took a breath, needing it to compose himself. “I care for her. I like her a lot, more than I know I should, given your feelings on the matter. I know I could do no better for my heart, for my very soul, than to marry her. If I stopped fighting, if I paused to think about it, and let down my shields, I could love her. No…” He shook his head. “I already do love her…I…” He was shaken by the realization, sinking back down on the couch. “I love her.”

Alfor leaned back in his seat, staring at Lotor, but the Drule barely took note of that. He was too startled by the realization that what he had been fighting for so long was not Allura, but his own heart, the love blossoming inside it. He both wanted to laugh and sob in the moment, thinking he was hopeless for loving a girl he could never have.

“I’m still not entirely sure about this…” Alfor said quietly. “I guess a part of me doesn’t want to have to give up my daughter so quickly.” He snorted then, a derisive sound. “For all the pushing I’ve done for her to consider her prospects, it’s hard on me to realize she’s settled on a choice…”

Lotor was barely understanding him, too lost to inner turmoil.

“But I see now…it would be wrong to keep you two apart.” Alfor shook his head. “It would just lead to a lot of heart break and turmoil, for all three of us. And I do not want to see Allura suffering from having her love denied. So your highness…I may not be entirely happy about it, but I will not stand in your way.”

Alfor’s words had sounded like gibberish to him, Lotor having to shake his head to clear some of his racing thoughts. “I don’t think I heard you right.”

Alfor hardly seemed pleased to have to repeat himself, almost grumbling out the words. “I’m giving you my permission to pursue my daughter’s hand. Although….I don’t think you will have to do much in the way of pursuit. She’d be horrified to know I’m saying this, but she is most eager to be your bride.”

Lotor was too busy processing the first of Alfor’s grumbles to pay attention to that last bit, leaning back against the cushions of the couch. “I can marry Allura?” Alfor gave a curt nod, Lotor’s shock growing. “Then yes, yes!”

“We have things to consider, events to plan, but that can wait for now.” Alfor said, rising out of his seat. Lotor scrambled to stand as well, reaching to shake Alfor’s hand. “I suspect you are too rattled to think of much right now.”

Lotor could only nod, wondering what sort of stunned stupid expression he wore on his face. Alfor managed to extract his hand out of Lotor’s grip, and turned towards the door.

“No doubt my daughter has gotten the word that you are in the castle.” He actually chuckled then. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s not lurking nearby. You will of course share the good news with her, won’t you?”

“Of course!” Lotor managed to exclaim, and followed Alfor towards the room’s door. Sure enough, when opened, it revealed an anxious Allura, the girl not even trying to pretend she hadn’t been listening.

“Your highness…!” She cried out, and looked as though she was about to fling herself into his arms. A clearing of her father’s throat got Allura to reconsider the action, the girl taking hold of both of Lotor’s hands instead. He was aware of grinning stupidly at her, Allura lacing their fingers together.

Lotor stared at her, thinking how beautiful she looked, her eyes shining with excitement. Alfor again cleared his throat, his words a none too subtle urging. “Well, your highness? I believe you have something to ask my daughter?”

“Oh yes…” Lotor managed, and gazed into Allura’s eyes. They seemed to be tearing up in anticipation to what he was about to say. “Allura will you…”

“Yes!” She squealed, not letting him get out the question. “Oh yes!”

Alfor chuckled at that, shaking his head. “At least let him ask you properly.” She blushed in reply, but nodded, and Lotor swallowed, trying to get out the words.

“Allura, will you do me the honor of making me the happiest man on Arus? By agreeing to become my bride?”

“I thought you’d never ask!” She said, and did something daring. Seeming not to care, she went up on tip toe, and pressed an urgent kiss against his lips, her father turning with a loud cough to avoid watching that display. Lotor couldn’t care that they were embarrassing Alfor, he was too happy in the moment, kissing his fiancee back.

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