Duty 13

The building wasn’t a true castle. At least not like any castle Allura had ever seen. She supposed it could be what passed for one amongst the Simestians, but to Allura it was nothing more than a large house, grand though it was. It was a three level house, though Allura did not yet know if there was a basement floor in addition to the three she had counted from the outside.

It was made up of a dark brown stone, and had ivy and creeping moss covering much of it’s sides. The yellow and orange of the moss almost swallowed up the stone from sight. There had not been enough time to even begin to remove it, other repairs needing to be done before the house could be deemed livable. Allura knew this because Lotor had told her so. He would explain to her how a small party of Drules had advanced to Simestia ahead of the group Allura had traveled with. Those Drules had been busy, repairing the house, bringing in supplies, even seeing to outfitting a wardrobe for Allura.

She hadn’t meant to, but some part of her couldn’t help being interested at the mention of clothing. Lotor had grinned at her reaction, promising her that soon she’d be out of the maid’s outfit. She had immediately paled, fearing just what he meant by that. Did he intend to ravish her now, inside this house? A real thread of panic began to form inside her, Allura trying to edge away from Lotor. He would notice, and take hold of her hand, all but dragging her up the steps that led to the main entrance of the house.

They passed by other Drules, the men and women moving about, carrying things inside. They hadn’t brought much with them. In fact it seemed they had carried only enough supplies on their ships to last just a few days longer than the actual travel time from Kirentya to Simestia. To Allura’s eye, it looked as though they planned to stock up on supplies elsewhere, might even bolster the local village’s economy by purchasing the needed goods from the people here.

Ryder was standing inside just past the entrance, a data pad in hand. He was studying it with a frown, occasionally looking up to bark out orders at people. Lotor drew Allura along with him, the pair approaching the Drule with the blue streaked hair.

“Problem?” inquired Lotor.

Ryder didn’t so much as flinch in reaction, staring down at the information on the tiny screen. “Just a bit.” He admitted with a sigh. “Seems the wiring is all messed up. Some kind of rodent chewing on the tubing. They’ll have to be replaced before we can get power for the mansion.”

“Is it that big a problem?” Lotor wondered. “I mean, it’ll take what…two, three days to fix it all?”

“Try more like a week.” Ryder grumbled. “The local village is out of basic materials for the job. Mordis already sent ahead to the next nearest village to see if they have the things we need. It’ll take time and money to get everything repaired. Our current situation leaves us with just the basics, some minimal lighting. Damn climate control isn’t even working…forget about our electronics.”

“It won’t be so bad.” Lotor said reassuringly. “It’ll be like one of the Academy’s camping trips. A bit of roughing it won’t harm anyone.”

“No, it won’t.” Agreed Ryder. “But it will delay us further. Can’t get to work on those forgeries and fake ids, if the computers are down.”

Lotor frowned, but Allura felt relieved to hear that. She was in no rush to be carted off to a new life in another galaxy. It might be a hopeless situation she found herself in, but Allura thought it better the longer they remained on Simestia. Even as isolated as this world was, it was still part of the Denubian Galaxy. There was always the chance for her to escape, or for help to arrive. The chances were certainly increased then if Allura ended up in another galaxy, far from everything she had ever known, and dependent on Lotor and these other Drules.

“Guess it can’t be helped.” Lotor sighed, and now it was Ryder’s turn to be reassuring.

“It won’t make that much of a difference. After all, we don’t have to worry about anyone coming after us so long as they think you’re dead, and the impostor princess remains on Arus.”

Allura felt she couldn’t remain quiet any longer. “That impostor is bound to slip up eventually. And when that happens, the Voltron Force and the Alliance will tear apart the galaxy looking for me.”

“We’ll be long gone before that can even happen.” Lotor told her.

“Besides…Mara’s not one to make mistakes.” Added Ryder. “She’s an expert at acting.”

“An expert at deceit and manipulation no doubt!” grumbled Allura. She looked at Lotor, then at Ryder. “Does not either one of you feel bad about what you’re doing?
About this deception you have put into place? Lotor, your own father and people think you’re dead…!”

“It’s because everyone believes I am dead, that this plan is able to work.” Lotor retorted. “Allura…the people who matter, the people who would mourn me, are here with us now. No one else need to know the truth, nor would they care.”

She frowned at that. “Not care? How can you say that? Especially after what I’ve been told. Your….friends here went through a lot of trouble to paint a picture of how invaluable your…kindness to the people of Doom has become. If you are gone, dead or otherwise, who else would be there to support them? Who else to take care of them, lend them medical and financial aid?”

Those questions troubled Lotor, his lips flattening into a thin line. Allura noted Ryder did a sidelong glance at Lotor, but otherwise did not react to what she had said. She wondered what that look meant, even as she waited for Lotor to somehow offer up an excuse for what he was doing.

“The trust funds and charities I have set up will continue.” He said at last. “Haggar will see to that.”

“Haggar?” Allura repeated in disbelief. She couldn’t imagine the witch ever doing anything to help anyone, especially not without benefit to herself. “And you trust her? To the point you’re certain she won’t take the money and use it for herself instead?”

“Haggar has no need to steal. From me, or the people I seek to help with that money.” Lotor answered, tone stiff with displeasure. He grew even more so when she frowned, Allura wanting to know how he could be so sure about that. “The witch is loyal…”

“Loyal to herself maybe….”

“You don’t know her.” Lotor retorted. “Not her true self. Not the sides of her that have nothing to do with being Arus’ enemy. Haggar is loyal, to me and to Doom. She’ll do what she can to help. and not just me but the people of Doom.”

For one brief moment Allura just stared at him, hardly able to comprehend the idea of Haggar being loyal or devoted to helping others. To Allura, the witch Haggar always had an angle, some manipulation to work to better her own situation. But Allura couldn’t figure out how Haggar would benefit from Lotor running away from his empire and responsibilities.

“It won’t be the same.” Allura finally said out loud. “If what I’ve been told is true…”

“It is.” Ryder interjected in a gruff tone of voice.

“Then the people of Doom need their prince. They need you, Lotor.” He looked uncomfortable, shifting his stance and turning his gaze away from Allura’s. She held in her sigh, and glanced at Ryder who was watching them both intently. “Tell him I’m right.” She implored.

Ryder’s own expression was unreadable, the man locking eyes with Allura. There was a look in their golden depths, but she couldn’t decipher the feeling behind it. “Princess, somehow I get the feeling it’s not any desire to help the people of Doom that moves you to speak.” His tone was cool, she could practically imagine the icicles forming around his words. “If anything you’re motivated by the desire not to leave the Denubian Galaxy.”

Allura opened her mouth, ready with a heated retort. Then promptly closed it. His words were truer than she would like to acknowledge, Allura wanting to remain in the Denubian Galaxy. And all because she knew her chances for rescue or escape would be less once she was taken elsewhere. More than anything, Allura wanted to go home. To return to Arus. It was that desire that motivated her, and she might say just about anything, even advocate Lotor’s return to his war mongering ways, in order to achieve it.

“I don’t want to leave the galaxy it’s true.” She finally acknowledged. “Nor do I like the thought of people suffering, especially if there is a chance someone could help them. Your prince, he is in prime position to offer aid. And no matter how much money he gives Haggar to distribute, it won’t be the same as if he was there working to improve his kingdom!”

“My hands are tied in that regard.” Lotor’s voice drew her attention back to him. “Zarkon likes how things are. As long as he’s alive to maintain the status quo, nothing will change. Nothing will EVER change!” His hands had curled into fists, Lotor looking a mix of frustration and anger.

It was beyond Allura to truly suggest someone murder another person. Even if that person was one as twisted and evil as Zarkon. “Can’t you…force him to step down…?” She asked hesitantly.

“Zarkon won’t go quietly. There would be a fight, a battle for succession. Even if I had the backing of the majority of the nobles, it would still bring war to planet Doom. It would be bloody and costly both in money and lives.”

“Some sacrifices may be needed in order to bring change to Doom.” Allura told him. She glanced at Ryder, who was studying her carefully. “What do you think?” She asked him. “Or is it so long as you can start over elsewhere, you don’t care that you’re running away? That you’re abandoning Doom to a tyrant?”

“There are things you don’t understand.” Ryder said. “Things you can’t possibly guess at. But if you knew…”

“RYDER!” Snapped Lotor loudly. For one brief moment, Ryder’s expression took on a guilty look. Allura looked at both men, and frowned.

“Knew what?” She asked. It was apparent by both Drules’ silence she wasn’t going to get an answer. “Tell me…”

“It’s nothing.” Lotor said.

“It doesn’t sound like nothing.” Allura pointed out. “If anything, it must be pretty serious. Something that has motivated you to turn your back on everything. Something that makes starting over seem the easier option.” And still neither Drule said anything, Allura’s frown deepening. “I have a right to know!” She snapped, placing her hands on her hips. “Especially since you’ve dragged me into your mess! If I’m going to start my life over, I should know the reason why!”

Ryder’s expression was back to being unreadable, though his gaze slid towards Lotor. “She has a point…” He began, and Lotor actually let out a growl.

“Point or no, you know my reasons.”

“That I do.” Sighed Ryder. But Allura got the feeling he wasn’t entirely happy about keeping her in the dark about it. She couldn’t really do anything about it now though. It was clear Ryder would keep silent so long as Lotor was around. But maybe, just maybe Allura could get the full story from Ryder, provided she could question him without Lotor getting in the way.

“I don’t understand.” She said out loud. “Why the secrecy…what’s more I don’t like it. I don’t like any of this!” She added with a glare. She was faced with two unreadable Drules, though beneath their blank expressions Allura could sense the tension contained within them. This subject matter was upsetting them, though Allura came away with the suspicion that each man had his own reason for getting upset.

Ryder glanced at Lotor once more, then began fiddling with his data pad. “The wiring problem extends to the cottages.” Allura fumed silently, realizing it was a clear dismissal of the previous topic of conversation. “Some don’t even have regular lighting. And forget about climate control…”

“It won’t be a problem during the day.” Lotor replied. “But the temperature drops pretty fast come nightfall.”

“The mansion is equipped with a working fireplace.” Ryder continued. “Mordis made sure to get the chimney cleaned out, so it’s in working order. Although…” A teasing smirk. “I’m sure you’d much rather rely on blankets and body heat to stay warm.” Ryder glanced at Allura, smirk getting more pronounced. She turned flustered at the implication, knowing she did not want to spend her nights snuggling with Prince Lotor. Even worse, she had a feeling Lotor would want to do a lot more than just snuggle!

“We’ll manage.” Lotor said, not giving any hint towards where his thoughts lay. “What about cooking….? Is the wiring damaged in the kitchen as well?”

“Most of it.” Grimaced Ryder. “Seems we’ll have to hold a cookout on the front lawn. It really will be like camping…”

“Better to rough it, than to go without.” Lotor told him. “What about the upstairs bedrooms? Are they ready yet?”

“Oh yes.” Again that smirk from Ryder. “It was one of the first tasks Mordis and the others completed. The master bedroom should meet with your approval now that’s it’s been aired out, and thoroughly cleaned.”

“Excellent!” Lotor smiled, and reached for Allura’s hand. She was still fuming about being kept in the dark, but unease was also manifesting, which caused her to try and avoid Lotor’s reaching hand. She didn’t have much success, the prince snagging hold of her right hand. Allura gave him her fiercest glare, which seemed to bounce right off of Lotor. “You’ve got everything under control?” At Ryder’s nod, Lotor was moving, dragging Allura along behind him. “Then if you’ll excuse us?”

“Go.” Chuckled Ryder, his attention returning to his data pad. “Make yourselves comfortable and have some fun.”

Allura didn’t think she’d like the idea of a Drule’s idea of fun. Especially if it involved going into a bedroom with Prince Lotor! Her steps were reluctant, Allura all but being knocked off balance as Lotor moved at a brisk pace. Seeing his hurry only increased her nerves, Allura too upset and worried to do much noticing of her surroundings. There was many open doors, revealing rooms that weren’t all cleaned. She’d catch vague impressions of cobwebs in the corners, of dusty cloths covering furniture.

Other rooms had had a thorough cleaning, but Allura wouldn’t discover which ones until much later. This house was one that hadn’t been used until recently, as the dirt and disrepair showed. She’d almost be worried to walk up the stairs, the wood rickety and moaning in protest. Lotor had no concerns, leading her up the two flights to the third floor.

There weren’t any Drules on this floor save for Lotor. The doors here were open as well, revealing empty bedrooms that hadn’t gotten the treatment Ryder implied the master bedroom had received. It made her wonder if this meant she and Lotor would have the third floor all to themselves. Allura hadn’t seen much of the second floor, but she assumed it held bedrooms as well. Somewhere for the other Drules to sleep, since there was too many to fit comfortably inside the cottages she had seen.

Not that knowing the others would be near by was any great comfort to Allura. She assumed there would be no help coming from them if their prince turned frisky. If anything, Allura thought they’d listen to the sounds of Lotor’s aggression with approval. It was not a mean spirited thought she was having, just what Allura believed to be honest fact. Even worse, this certainty that there was no help, no stopping Lotor from what he intended to do with her, it made Allura start to panic. To the point her hands grew clammy with sweat.

Lotor had no comment for the dampness on Allura’s hands. Instead, he walked determinedly towards one room in particular. Allura tried to dig her heels into the floor, but found herself crossing the threshold into what had to be the master bedroom. It was dim in here, clean curtains drawn over the windows to block out the sunlight. Someone had taken the time to place a battery powered lamp in one corner. It was it’s weak light that allowed Allura to make out some of the details of the room.

There was a vanity in the corner opposite the lamp, an array of things laying out on the table. Not quite in the center of the room, was small table that could seat two. Perfect for taking in a morning’s meal. There was even a love seat situated next to one of the covered windows. And two more doors, one of which was open. She could just make out the end of an ivory bathtub, which let her know what that room was.

The other door would turn out to be a small walk in closet, the room stuffed to overflowing with clothing. There was some for Lotor, but the majority of the wardrobe seemed to be devoted to Allura’s pleasure. But it was not yet time for Allura to discover her new wardrobe, the princess trying not to panic now that they had reached the bedroom. Her eyes drifted towards the bed, whose mattress lay on a mahogany wood frame. It was far larger than any bed she was used to, Allura realizing this was a bed meant for a couple to share.

She was still staring at the bed, dread in her stomach when Lotor closed the door behind them. He didn’t slam it shut, and yet Allura still jumped at the sound of it closing. Even worse, Lotor noticed her reaction, the man speaking to her.

“Easy Allura…” He spoke softly, approaching her from behind. “There’s nothing to be frightened of. It was just the door closing. It’s not even locked.”

Bitterly, she thought he hadn’t locked it because Lotor knew there was nowhere Allura could escape to. The other Drules would stop her. They would bring her back, hand her over to Lotor and whatever he intended to do to her in this room. Her panic increased a notch, Allura’s lips parting as she forced herself to take a deep breath. And then another, Allura trying to master her fear through concentrating on her breathing.

Any attempts at breathing normal were lost when Lotor put his arms around her. She found herself being pressed against a broad chest, Lotor inhaling, breathing in her scent. “God you smell good.” He commented, rubbing his cheek against her scalp.

Allura was frozen in place, body stiff and unyielding. She wasn’t hyperventilating, but neither was she able to concentrate on taking calming breaths. “Lo…Lotor…do…don’t…” She stammered, hating how the words weren’t coming easy to her. She had not yet tried to pull away, having turn into a living statue in response to being hugged by Lotor.

“Don’t deny me this, Allura.” Lotor almost sounded as though he was begging. “Don’t deny me the chance to hold you.”

She couldn’t stop him. Allura knew that. The difference in strength between them was vast. But she couldn’t even move her arms, not even to make the attempt to try and pull him off her. A part of her wondered if she could move into the stance Hunk had once shown her, the one which might allow her to do a shoulder throw to her opponent. But could she even managed to lift a Drule as large as Lotor?

Wondering these things didn’t help calm her. It just made her aware of the overwhelming differences between Drules and humans, especially Drule males and human females. But at least she hadn’t started to cry, or to wheeze. That was something, especially with Lotor this close and touching her in this way.

“You’re trembling.” Lotor noted in a soft tone of voice. Allura realized with a start it was true. At some point she had started shaking, slight at first, until the trembles became noticeable to the one holding her.

“Ye…yes…” She managed to say.

“Is being held by me that detestable a thing to you?” Lotor questioned. She wondered how to answer that. Wondered if the truth was wise in this moment. Apparently Allura took too long, for Lotor was speaking again. “It’s my fault…”

“Your fault?” That was the last thing she had expected him to say, and it left Allura confused.

“If I hadn’t gotten sick…” Lotor sighed. “We’d be over this hurdle already, if I hadn’t had that relapse. You’d no longer be so tense around me, so fearful of my touch.”

“You expected a miracle to happen in a few days time.” Allura retorted.

“Is that what you think it will take?” Lotor asked. “A miracle for you and I to be together? To touch, to love, to be happy?”

“Yes.” She managed to move enough to shake her head. “I don’t love you.”

“Not yet, you don’t.”

She frowned though he couldn’t see her expression with her back to him. “Not ever. This is crazy Lotor. You’ve kidnapped me! You’re intent on dragging me off, to force me to live a new life with you. As if I could ever be happy abandoning Arus….my home, my people, my friends and family.” He didn’t say anything, but his hold loosened. “Maybe you can be happy with running away. But I can’t…I won’t!” She stepped away from him, Lotor no longer trying to hold her to him. “Lotor…”

“Would you still feel that way, knowing what is at stake?” Lotor interrupted her. “Knowing that without me to run interference, Zarkon’s military would kill you or worse?” She shivered, and he noticed. “Yes…you have a right to fear. Zarkon hates you, hates you for what you stand for. Hates you for the resistance you offer him, and the hope you’ve given others. But more than that, he hates you for what he thinks you’ve done to me….”

“You? What have I done?!”

“He thinks my love for you has ruined me. I’m a valuable tool to him. Or at least I was until he involved me in the take over of Arus.” She had turned to look at him, aghast. “To some extent he’s right. If not for you, Arus would have fallen a long time ago.”

“Don’t be absurd.” Allura tried to scoff, but couldn’t muster up the proper amount of bluster. “We have Voltron. Our defender would never fall.”

“How little you know. How little you realize!” Lotor exclaimed, seeming agitated. “I’ve interfered in Doom’s plans for conquest time and time again. I’ve held back attacks, modified plans to keep you from being harmed. Even knowing my interference would cost us victory, I still acted to protect you. If I didn’t care, if I didn’t love you, it would have been easy to make Arus fall!”

She stared at him, Allura not sure what to believe in response to what Lotor was saying. “Don’t hate me for continuing my attempts to protect you. I want to save you from Zarkon. And this is the only way I know how, the only way I can guarantee you won’t be killed, or suffer such indignities that death would be preferable! Without me, you stand little chance of surviving Zarkon’s wrath. And that is something I find unacceptable!”

Allura had no idea what she could say to something like that. She didn’t want to agitate Lotor any further, nor did she want to fall into his arms in gratitude. But her mere silence was upsetting him, Lotor starting to scowl.

“Lotor…I…” A pause, Allura trying to figure out what to say. “I had no idea….”

“And now that you know?” Was that hope in his eyes? But she was dashing it with her words.

“It changes little…no…it changes nothing.” Allura said. “I still don’t want to leave the Denubian Galaxy. I still want to return to Arus, to fight. Whether I live or die, whether or not I am tortured most cruelly, I have to know I tried to fight. To stand up for what I believe in.”

“I’m doing what I have to, to survive.” Lotor retorted. He stepped towards her, his hand cupping her cheek. She managed not to tremble, not to jerk back in reflex. “But more than that, I am making sure you survive as well. We may never agree on this. But it is my wish that you won’t hate me completely for trying to protect you.”

“It’s not wrong to want to protect somebody…” Allura noted Lotor was bending down, as though intent on kissing her. But then her words stopped him cold. “But your methods? They leave much to desire. You can’t decide what is best for me, and then force me to do it. Not and expect me to be happy, and not resent you for it.”

He abruptly stepped back, hand dropping away from her face. Allura stared at him, her eyes earnest and pleading for him to understand. For Lotor to do the right thing, and return her to her world.

“There’s a closet behind that door. I’m sure you will find something infinitely more pleasing to wear than that maid’s uniform.”

“Lotor!” Allura exclaimed, but the prince was turning away from her. “I don’t care about the clothes. I just want to go home!”

But he didn’t respond, walking over to open the door, then leave. She hurried after him, but he closed the door behind him. She screamed out his name, then pounded her fists on the door. It wasn’t locked, but his dismissal was apparent. Lotor no longer wanted part of this conversation. It was frustrating, Allura kicking the door to vent her upset. And then she was whirling away from it, running over to the covered windows.

She didn’t really think there was a chance to escape. Not with so many Drules on the estate. And yet Allura still harbored a delusional thought of climbing down the outside of the building. She ripped down the curtains, then gasped. The windows had bars on them. It would be the same with other two windows, each one thoroughly barred so that she could slip no more than a hand between them.

Allura almost screamed in frustration. The bars only made her feel like she as in prison, made her feel like the captive she truly was. It would be a long time before she calmed down enough to do anything but glare at the windows. Even longer before she could focus enough to scheme, Allura wondering how and if she would get the chance to plead for help from the village locals.

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