The gates gleamed, their mirror surface polished and clean. Ryder idly wondered just who among the Drule had had the spare time to tend to it’s cleaning, especially when there was still so many unkempt rooms inside the mansion. They weren’t trying to completely restore the mansion, but they were trying to make as many of the rooms as livable as possible. The work extended to the cottages. There simply wasn’t enough spare bedrooms inside the mansion, to comfortably house the large group that had come to Simestia.
Not many of the Drule had been off the property. That included Ryder, who was about to get his first true look at the people in the capital. Of course, there had been the drive to the mansion, the day they had arrived on the planet. But back then, Ryder had been busy. He had spent much of the drive, with his portable out, eyes glued to the computer screen. He regretted that now, for the frivolous use he had made of his computer had helped to drain the life of the battery of the portable. But then he hadn’t yet known the situation on the estate’s grounds. The one where many of the wires had been damaged, gnawed on to the point they had split apart.
Ryder couldn’t say he was looking forward to seeing the city. Not given what he had to do. As the gates opened to let the cruiser drive through them, Ryder did a side long glance at the two sitting besides him. Against the opposite window sat Vorlac, the silver eyed Drule looking bored at the moment. That boredom wouldn’t keep him from noticing things, the man paying a closer attention to the woman who sat between him and Ryder.
Ryder tried not to look at her. But even if his eyes had been blind to her beauty, his other senses would be aware of her. His nose picked up her fresh, clean scent. She wore no perfumes, being a woman bold enough to flaunt her own natural scent. He thought he could pick up the faintest scent of soap, but other than that she had no identifiable smell associated with her.
When they had first gotten into the cruiser, Ryder’s nostrils had flared several times. He had been unconsciously trying to figure out just what she smelled like, the soap so faint it teased him but never gave up it’s true nature. Best he could figure out, it had had a flower crushed into it at some point.
It wasn’t just her scent he was aware of. Ryder was conscious of her body, her overly pleasing softness pressing against the side of his arm. She hadn’t wanted to sit next to him, anymore than Alexandria had wanted to sit squeezed between the two men. Ryder wasn’t exactly happy with the situation, on edge from more than the fact that Vorlac kept accidentally brushing up against Alexandria’s other side.
Ryder kept himself as rigid and still as Alexandria. Save for their breathing, they could have been mistaken for statues in the moment. The warmth of where her body touched against his, burned him with awareness. It was as though they were both naked, with more than just their bare skin pressing against one another, given the effect this touch was having on Ryder.
He was half aroused just from the priestess’ close proximity to him. He wanted to growl, to snarl and rage with sexual frustration. Masturbating had done NOTHING to take the edge off the lust he felt for the priestess. If anything, it had only exacerbated the problem, Ryder feeling unsatisfied and restless. If he had to think of an example, he felt as though he was a teenager again, reaching sexual awakening as his body matured for the first time.
It was making him cranky. He hadn’t enjoyed the raging boners he had suffered from as a boy. He preferred having control over his body, over his desires. With
Alexandria around, he had none of it, even his thoughts were not completely his own. He kept right on thinking she was some sort of witch, even as he stared at the faint reflection of her on the window next to him.
It wasn’t a true mirrored surface. It was clear enough to let them see and be seen. Ryder stared through the window, at first not really noticing the sights as the cruiser drove through the city streets. His eyes would pass over the humans walking about, but he didn’t really see them. He just kept thinking about Alexandria, and about how much he despised the effect she had on him.
It wasn’t until they passed by what had to be the seventh intersection, that Ryder came to a jarring realization. He didn’t quite gasp, turning his head quickly. He got a sense of Vorlac’s amused expression, but Ryder was looking at Alexandria’s ears.
“So you finally noticed.” Vorlac said, and Ryder brought his gaze upwards to frown at him. “Yeah, it took me by surprise too when I came into the city this morning.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked, but by Vorlac’s grin he knew the man had wanted Ryder to feel the same shock he had felt. And he was shocked, for every person they had passed, had had some sort of Drule feature to their appearance. From ears like the priestess, to the gold and silver eyes that were so reminiscent of a feline’s. Even some of the people coloring had been affected, the faintest tinge of blue or green or purple to their skin. The skin coloring was so faint, Ryder had first thought he had imagined it, or assumed it was a trick of the light. But there were to many Simestians walking around with Drule pigmentation faintly coloring their skin.
The shifting of the priestess besides him, drew both men’s attention to her. She was trying to look out the window, curious as to what they had seen. She’d frown when all she saw were people and buildings long familiar to her.
“Just how thoroughly have the Drule mingled with your people?” Ryder asked her, his voice gruff and demanding. That emerald gaze was lifted towards him, Alexandria not misunderstanding what he was getting at.
“The Drule have affected our every way of life. From our culture, to our religious beliefs, to the blood running in our veins.” She told him this quite calmly. She was not mad, just accepting about how the Simestians had evolved.
“It’s been about fifty years since Zarkon first came to Simestia.” Vorlac stated. “That makes you what? Third generation Drule?”
“Fourth actually.” He saw the green of her eyes turn a darker shade, the color signaling her upset. “My great grandmother was only fourteen when she was raped by a soldier.”
“Damn.” Vorlac said. “I’m sorry.”
“You were not the Drule that hurt her.” Alexandria said in response. “I cannot hate an entire race for the crimes of the Drules that came before them.”
“Then you’re different from most in the Denubian Galaxy.” Ryder told her. “Most do not hesitated to hate every last one of us.”
“They fear, and are ignorant.” She replied. “Princess Allura herself once made that mistake.”
Ryder still didn’t believe that Allura had so thoroughly changed her thoughts and feelings about the Drule. He found it just as hard to believe that she was ready to play champion to the people of Doom, that she wanted to kill Zarkon to free everyone from his cruelty, not just the humans.
“Please.” An earnest expression on her face. “You must allow me to make that call for her. It is for the sake of all people everywhere, that she must be free to return to her world. To gather the forces needed to take down Zarkon.”
She, like Lotor and Allura, didn’t know the Drules were working on just that. Alexandria had no idea of the plotting that was going on, the careful managing the Drules were attempting to do. That included trying to get Lotor healed to a place where he could lead the Drule into battle against Zarkon. A battle that if he won, would end with Lotor on the throne, rebuilding the foundations of their society into something better.
But the timing wasn’t right. Haggar didn’t even have the start of an army ready for Lotor to take command of. They had little save for the money from Lotor’s own private fortune, Haggar needing to make alliances and obtain financial backing to outfit the Drule warriors. Weapons, armor, ships, they all had to be purchased. If the few nobles that did NOT tolerate Zarkon’s cruel antics, could be persuaded to back Lotor, their own private armies would do much to help bolster soldier numbers.
Ryder could respect the ideas of Allura’s. But he didn’t think it was possible to get any let alone half the Alliance planets to back the Drules attempt at rebellion. The prejudice was too strong against the Drules, too many would be happy to see the entire race exterminated. To Ryder it felt like the Drules were really on their own, and all because their people were a friendless race, enemies of both free worlds and enslaved ones.
The priestess was still waiting for his response, patient as he let his thoughts run his course. He would disappoint her, shaking his head no. “No can do. Allura’s not going anywhere, and neither are you.”
She didn’t quite glare, her eyes turning to emerald flames. But she wasn’t anywhere as angry as when he had stuck his hand down the bodice of her dress. Ryder quickly looked away from her, biting down on his lip to hold in a moan. A surge of pure heat had gone through him, Ryder remembering how he had touched her breasts. His hands flexed in the fondling motion he had wanted to do on her. He tasted blood in his mouth, having bit down that hard to control his voice.
It was ridiculous. He had not only seen beautiful women before, he had bedded them. Both human and Drule. He was an incorrigible flirt, a charmer who with a word and a certain look could make the panties fly off even the most prudish of women. And yet this mere slip of a girl, had him turned inside out, his cock raging out of control with a need stronger than it had ever needed before.
Once again he wondered if she had some witch in her. Not many human races were capable of wielding the magical energies that existed in the universe. But the Drule could, and she had Drule blood running through her veins. She wasn’t even a halfing, her blood diluted by four generations. And yet the mark of the Drule was upon her, manifesting itself in the shaping of her ears.
He wondered if her ears were as sensitive as a Drule’s. Just as quickly as he had that thought, the urge to lick them came over him. Visions played in his head, Alexandria squirming on his lap, as Ryder held her trapped. His hands would touch nowhere near her erogenous zones, his mouth working over one of her ears being enough to make the priestess moan. He nearly moaned then too, imagining how she would squeal when he took the pointed tip of her ear and sucked it gently between his lips.
To a Drule, the ears were sensitive much like a woman’s breasts, or a man’s cock. They couldn’t climax from ear play alone, but it was a highly erotic feeling to have one’s lover pay attention to one’s ears. Humans missed out on much with their short ears, that held so few nerve endings. Ryder could admit to being intrigued by the thought of a mostly human hybrid being able to know that pleasure.
“So….when you say the Drule affected your culture, that’s mean what exactly?” Vorlac was asking. Ryder tried to come out of his lustful haze, keeping his attention on the window rather than looking at Alexandria.
“Just about everything has been influenced by Zarkon’s taste. From the clothing, the money printed, to the foods we eat. Even the Gods we believe in, were cast out in favor of the Drule ones.” Alexandria explained. “There’s few things that remain our own….”
“And yet you still take confession….” Vorlac noted.
“Much as Zarkon tried, he wasn’t able to completely abolish all aspects of our religion.” She was looking at Vorlac, and Ryder found that irrational surge of jealousy coming upon him. He couldn’t stand it when she looked away from him, and it was doubly worse to have her looking at another man. Even if that man was a good friend of his!
He wasn’t able to do much more than growl, seeing in the reflection of the window how Vorlac’s eyes widened at the sound. The priestess turned his way too, the angry growl making her nervous. At the moment, his tongue wouldn’t work to properly say anything. Not that Ryder was going to announce he was getting upset that Alexandria had turned her attention briefly on Vorlac.
“Sure would have been useful if Lotor had told us some of this.” Vorlac finally said.
“Perhaps he did not know.” Reasoned Alexandria. “He was just a little boy according to the stories of the last time Zarkon brought his family to Simestia.”
Ryder was surprised, a reaction Vorlac echoed. “Hold on. Lotor was here on Simestia? When?”
“I don’t know the exact dates.” She sounded apologetic. “According to the stories, Zarkon’s son could not be more than five, maybe seven years of age at that time.”
Ryder had turned, his expression grim as he looked at Vorlac. “Why do I get a bad feeling about this?” The silver eyed Drule asked.
“Lotor let us believe he only KNEW about this planet from hearing his mother speak about it.” Ryder said. “I don’t like this though. I don’t like that Zarkon could have been to this planet as recent as nineteen years ago.”
“That’s still a long time…” Vorlac pointed out. “He’s pretty much abandoned the world, save for the tax he collects from the people. I’m sure he won’t even think to come here, let alone get suspicious that the missing group of Drules could end up on this particular planet.”
Ryder was scowling. “Still don’t like it.”
“You think we should leave?”
“Yes…no….” Ryder shrugged. “It’s not like we have many choices on where we could go.”
“You could go to Arus.” The priestess suggested with such innocence it had to be faked.
“That is not an option.” Ryder snapped at her. She just blinked at him, looking a bit disgruntled by the way he had responded. He told himself he did not feel bad, Ryder turning to look out the window as the cruiser began to slow down. “Is that it?” He asked, nodding at a large building that took up most of the street.
“Yes.” Alexandria said. “That is Masia Temple.”
“That’s a Drule name.” Pointed out Vorlac. No one responded, Ryder looking at the building. It didn’t look like a Drule temple. At least that much hadn’t been changed. Instead of the black onyx with bold red accents, the building was made a white marble, that had faux gold glinting on the windows. Steps almost as wide as the building led down to where the cruiser was parking. There was some people sitting on the steps, but they didn’t look like they belong to the temple. Ryder assumed they were worshippers, and not temple personnel.
Ryder didn’t immediately open the side door of the cruiser. Instead he locked eyes on Alexandria, letting his gaze pin her in place on the seat. “You are not to offer any information.” He spoke harshly to let her know he would not tolerate any defiance in this matter. “Certainly you will not reveal that Prince Lotor has returned to the planet, and the Princess of Arus is with him.”
“Just let us do the talking.” Vorlac ordered in a kinder tone. “It’ll go better for everyone if you don’t kick up a fuss.”
“I do not believe you will hurt anyone.” Alexandria insisted softly.
“You shouldn’t assume the best about everyone you meet.” Ryder advised. “We’re going to great lengths to rid ourselves of Zarkon. If you think we’re going to let a few of the locals jeopardize our plans…” He let his words trail off, the unspoken threat ominous without being voiced.
“Then why haven’t you killed me already?” Alexandria asked.
“We’re not completely heartless.” He told her. “We want to avoid bloodshed if we can. But believe me, if you put our backs up to the wall, we’ll come out swinging.”
“That’s right!” Vorlac was enthusiastic. “We’re willing to fight, to die for what we’re trying to do. Can you people say the same?”
By her silence, it was obvious she could not. Ryder stared at her a moment longer, angry gaze working to intimidate her further. She stared back, her green eyes troubled. He didn’t think she was affected by the looks he was giving her. She was more worried by what he and Vorlac had said.
“Let’s do this before it gets dark.” Vorlac urged, Ryder moving to open the cruiser door. He stepped out, and though he wanted to grab hold of Alexandria, he knew the people would become suspicious of that touch. It took immense restraint to just walk with her besides him, Vorlac trailing several inches behind them. The people on the steps recognized Alexandria, hurrying to stand and greet the priestess. Ryder tensed besides her, but Alexandria only smiled and nodded the greeting back.
The people were content with this, allowing the trio to continue up the stairs. There was two temple guards in front of the open doors. They barely reacted to the sight of Alexandria’s being accompanied by two Drules, one gesturing to them permission to go on and enter the temple.
It was quiet inside, hinting that whatever ceremonies and mass they might hold, it was not yet time for the congregation to gather. Ryder didn’t look around much, his senses attuned more to the woman walking besides him. But he heard Vorlac whisper out names, the Drule recognizing the Gods and Goddess whose statues line the hall they walked down.
Another priestess approached. When she attempted to speak to Alexandria in the Simestians’ language, both Drules tensed. One of the things they had earlier made clear to Alexandria was that she was not to speak in anything but Drule or Basic. This was the first test, to see if she would respect that command.
“Yes, I am back Terenga.” Alexandria forced a smile. She was speaking in Drule, but Ryder couldn’t relax. “But only for a short while.”
“What?” This Teranga frowned, eyes darting nervously at the Drule males. “You can’t possibly leave. We’re already stretched thin preparing for the rituals for the upcoming festival.”
“Are you her superior?” Ryder interrupted. Teranga looked startled to be spoken to in so rude a manner. She wordlessly shook her head no, and Ryder felt a smug satisfaction. “Then she needn’t explain herself to you.”
“But…” Teranga opened her mouth to protest, but Alexandria quickly interrupted her.
“Is the High Priest Philomart in his office?”
“Yes. I believe he wanted to dedicate some time to preparing his speech.” Explained Teranga. She glanced nervously at Ryder. “He said not to disturb him unless it was important.”
“It’s important.” Ryder stated. The girl’s eyes hadn’t lost her frightened look.
“We won’t bother him for long.” Alexandria promised in a reassuring manner. Teranga nodded, and made excuses as to why she couldn’t accompany them to the high priest’s office. It didn’t matter, Alexandria knew the way. She’d actually pause to chastise Ryder, an admonishing look in her eyes. “You will never ease the galaxy’s fear of the Drules, if that is how you choose to behave.”
“What’s wrong with my behavior?” Ryder demanded, though he knew exactly what she referred to.
“You were rude, and you purposefully set out to frighten and intimidate Teranga!” snapped Alexandria.
“I got to admit, she’s right.” Vorlac spoke up, which earned him a glare from Ryder.
“We did not come here to make friends.” Ryder reminded him.
“I know.” Vorlac sighed. “But might be nice not to be so hated for once.”
“Be patient.” Ryder said without conviction. “Once Zarkon is dead, maybe then we can work on forging friendships with the humans.”
“Hope I live that long.” The silver eyed Drule murmured. He was at least ten years older than Ryder, old enough to have had two small children with his wife. His family was gone now, but Vorlac wasn’t yet that old. Certainly there might be a chance for him to see the Drules recover and make friends with other worlds.
“Don’t talk like that.” Ryder said in a softer tone. “You’re not so old that it’s not possible for you to see such things in your lifetime.”
“True. But I also know Zarkon has been terrorizing the galaxy for fifty something years. It’s been decades of damage, people spending that time learning to hate and fear us.” Vorlac sighed. “Look at how some of the people here look at us. With open suspicion. Not all of them are like you, priestess. They haven’t let go of the hate of what Zarkon did all those years ago.”
“Too many people give power to the memories of what happened in the past.” Is what Alexandria said in response.
“Don’t I know it.” Vorlac muttered. Ryder knew all the Drules understood that. They all had some kind of past they were doing their best to overcome, maybe even forget about. Some like Lotor, struggled harder than others with that.
Alexandria stopped in front of a door, knocking three times. An annoyed sounding voice called out. “May we come in?” Alexandria said in Drule. The voice answer again in Simestian. “Yes, I am with two of the visitors.”
A curt word was given, and then Alexandria was pushing the door open. A middle aged human was standing before a simple desk, papers spread out over it’s top. His hair was just beginning to gray, giving him a salt and pepper look. He looked human except for his eyes, which were a fierce orange gold slitted in the middle with black. His skin was a caramel shade, standing out in stark contrast against his white and gold robes. The fashion of the robes he wore, resembles the style King Zarkon preferred. But this human wore them better, the fabric not anywhere as loose and baggy as Zarkon’s manner of dress.
“High Priest Philomart….you remember Vorlac.” Alexandria said, and the man nodded. “And this is Ryder.”
He nodded his greetings to the priest, but before he could say anything, Philomart was speaking.
“Thank you for bringing her back. But you needn’t have come all the way just to say hello to me.”
“We have business beyond a simple greeting.” Ryder told him.
“Oh?” The Simestian was curious. “Was everything not satisfactory with my priestess’ service?”
Ryder bristled with possessive anger, not liking how the priest had said Alexandria was his. “Everything was fine.” He forced a smile on his face, which was a strained effort at best. “More than fine in fact. We enjoyed her presence so much, we would like to extend an invitation for the priestess to remain among us. In an official capacity of course.”
High Priest Philomart looked shocked. “You what?”
“There are many among us.” Ryder explained. “Many who would take comfort of having a representative of the temple there to heal them, take confession, even performed mass for them.”
“They are welcome at the temple…” Philomart began.
“Some of my people are too…sickly to be able to make the visits here. They are bed bound, but would offer immense gratitude to you and your temple if you allowed them this small kindness.”
“It’s not that I would object to helping them in this manner.” The High Priest said. “But this is a busy time for us. An important holy day is nearing, and I need every hand available to help me prepare for the rituals.”
“We would make it worth your while.” Ryder said. He gestured, and Vorlac stepped forward, several heavy bags dangling from his hands. “It is not much…” That was a lie, Ryder offering the priest the fifty-thousand Alexandria had said she would not be silent for.
“You mean to buy her services?” The priest didn’t seem pleased. If anything he was aghast, even though he hadn’t yet seen the money.
“Think of it as a donation, your grace.’ Vorlac suggested, tearing open the ties to one of the bags. Immediately gold coins spilled out onto the desk, the priest gasping. He was shocked, but couldn’t take his eyes off the gold.
“There’s much we can do with this.” Philomart murmured, hands digging into the spread out pile that Vorlac was still adding too. “Many people we can help.”
“Then it’s agreed?” Ryder asked, sure it would be a definite yes. He was surprised though when Philomart hesitated.
“Alexendria…what say you?”
“Me?” She hesitated long enough, that Ryder wanted to pinch her. But he could do nothing, not even growl or give her a mean look without alerting the priest that something was wrong.
“Do you want to stay with the Drules?” He asked, the priest sounding impatient now.
Another long hesitation, before her shoulders sag. “I would take it as my sacred duty to help those in need.”
“Then it’s a yes?” Ryder asked sharply.
“I’ll have to pack a bag though.” She said, and started inching towards the door. “If you will excuse me, I will be right back.”
“I’ll go with you.” Ryder wasn’t about to let her go alone.
“That’s highly inappropriate don’t you think?!” Her eyes flashed defiant, as more gold coins clattered on the desk. The priest wasn’t even paying attention, one hand waving Ryder and Alexandria to leave. Ryder smirked, and all but pushed Alexandria out into the hall. She waited until the door closed, before she exploded in outrage. “Is there no end to your lies and your manipulations?!” She was shaking, absolutely livid with him.
“I do what I must, to protect my prince and my people.” He retorted. “Now get moving.” Ryder ordered, gesturing her to lead him to her room. She glared at him a moment longer, and then with an angry huff of sound, turned away. Ryder moved when Alexandria did, feeling the eyes of many curious temple personnel on them as they walked deeper into the building.
They would end up on the second floor, in a part of the temple where few outsiders were ever allowed the privilege of seeing. Alexandria did not talk to him, her body stiff, her movements practically making her stalk forward. He didn’t think she was that angry about the way he had lied. No, Ryder thought Alexandria was upset that he had thwarted her attempt to leave without him. As if he would ever be fool enough to let her wander off and tell someone else what was really going on back at the mansion.
She opened a door to a very small bedroom. The bed was barely big enough for one person, and it only had one pillow. It hardly looked comfortable, in fact the whole room felt that way, as though it was nothing more than a cell. Alexandria had clearly tried to make the room feel like a home though. There were feminine touches, flowers on the window sill, and embroider curtains over the shutters.
A shelf to the right of the bed, held several books in between vases. There were no flowers in the vases, but some kind of dried herbs. Medicinal from the smell of it. Ryder lifted a questioning brow. “You’re an herbalist?”
“I have some minimal skill with healing the body and not just the soul.” She answered in a voice that was still angry.
“Guess it comes in handy, for a priestess to be able to tend to the sick.” Ryder murmured, then walked over to her closet. He found a large satchel on the floor of it, a pair of slippers and another set of sandals laying besides it. He grabbed them, stuffing them into the satchel. Ryder then reached for the gowns that hung on the rack, tossing them at Alexendra. “Get busy folding”
He saw her glare, and then he was walking over to the dresser across from the bed. He began pulling open the drawers, ready to grab any clothing he could find. Only to get a most unexpected surprise, Ryder staring down at what was revealed. It was her underwear draw, a pile of panties just sitting there. They were plain in appearance, no bows, no frills. They weren’t even silk, but made of some kind of cotton. They shouldn’t have even stirred his imagination, but suddenly Ryder was sweating. Envisioning the priestess with nothing on but a pair of these plain white panties.
She didn’t know what he was doing. She couldn’t, because Alexandria would have stopped him otherwise. Ryder reached for the top of the pile, his hands trembling badly. His fingers lifted up one of the panties, and his vision went black temporarily. All because he saw that they weren’t as simple as he had first thought, having string side ties that could easily come undone from vigorous motion. Even worse, the vision of a panty clad Alexandria called to him, Ryder imagining taking hold of the strings. Of slicing through them with his claws, so that the panty fluttered apart in two halves, leaving the priestess revealed.
“Sweet mother of God.” Ryder moaned before he could stop himself. It was official. He was truly going out of his mind if a pair of panties could affect him so. The panties were crushed in his grip at the sound of her voice, Alexandria sounding shocked.
“What do you think you’re doing?!”
He couldn’t look at her. Nor was he aware of how long he had been standing there, her panties clutched in his hands.
“Don’t touch those!” Alexandria said, trying to reach for the flimsy panty. Ryder avoided her reaching hand out of sheer desperation, knowing he’d do something they’d both regret if he allowed her to complete the touch. As it was, he wanted to growl at her in a predatory, possessive manner, intent on keeping the pair of panties in his hands. It was a ridiculous impulse, almost as upsetting as the fact that his body was screaming for him to pin her to that far too small bed, and kiss her.
“Hurry up.” He half grumbled, half growled. She was still protesting, as he violently yanked out the whole drawer from the dresser. He’d then turn it upside down over the satchel, letting the pile of panties fall into it. He’d add her folded up gowns to the contents, Alexandria handing him a robe she had got out of one of the other drawers. No more words were exchanged, the two all both ignoring each other as Ryder lifting up the now heavy satchel. She preceded him out the door, hair and skirts bouncing wildly with her agitation. Ryder was no less agitated, and not even the fact that he had somehow manage to pocket a pair of Alexandria’s panties without her noticing, could calm him. Not when Ryder was wondering how he was going to endure living in the same building with her for even one day, let alone the weeks and months they might spend on this planet.