Better Worse 09

I  am shaking by the time I exit from the dungeons. It is an extreme reaction, but the feelings I am experiencing are no less intense now than they had been an hour ago. I am still just as angry as ever, perhaps even more so now that I have seen Lotor. It is no effort to hold onto that anger. I am blinded to any other emotion in the moment. And all because Lotor had made it apparent just how little he regretted his actions of a week ago.

He wasn’t even sorry! My hands clench into fists at my sides. I want to lash out, to strike against something, anything in an effort to appease this anger within me. But even striking Lotor had done little to rid me of my hurt feelings. It had been a momentary satisfaction at best. Gone instantly the more Lotor spoke, the more he mocked me with his words and lecherous looks.

I could have kept on hitting him. But I knew no matter how much violence I exerted towards him, it wouldn’t change a thing between us. We’d still have slept together, I’d still have been abandoned by him. Worse than abandoned, I was USED by him. My skin practically crawled as I remembered the way he smirked at me. He hadn’t even tried to be charming, just unleashed heaps of infuriating male ego upon me.

I meant so little to him. I had known that, but to hear it confirm by his own lips? By the very lips that had so sweetly seduced me? I wanted to scream. Especially with his words repeating in my ears, telling me I was a means to an end for him, the fulfillment of his ambitions. There is little satisfaction to be found that those ambitions were currently out of his reach. Arus was free, and would continue to retain that freedom. Even if the price of that freedom was my reputation and ruined name.

I give a paranoid look to the people I pass by in the halls. I am wondering who if any know of what has happened, if they know the reason why Prince Lotor is currently a prisoner in the castle’s dungeons. Just Lotor’s presence in the dungeons is enough to get tongues wagging, gossip and speculation spreading through out the corridors as the people here question each other on the reason behind the Drule Prince’s incarceration.

I don’t even know the full details of what went down exactly when Lotor presented his ultimatum to my parents. Had there been anyone else present in the room when Lotor had revealed our dalliance? Who else had seen the footage of our coupling? My cheeks surely turned a dismayed red, my emotions angry and horrified at the thought of someone else seeing such a private moment for me. It was bad enough my parents had seen the footage, but if anyone else has, I might surely die from embarrassment!

Even as I think that, my anger mounts. I don’t dare hope Lotor will keep quiet now. He’ll probably tell all to any guard willing to listen. What’s worse, he’ll take pleasure in sharing the story. In increasing my humiliation. The future for me looks grim, Lotor turning me into the laughing stock of the nobility. Damn him, but he’s ruined me. Complete and totally. But at least he won’t have Arus. Never that!

My parents will never give in to his blackmail. The very fact that he is in our dungeons is proof of that. How shocking it must be for Lotor. How utterly maddening to have his plans backfire in his face. But what else could my parents do? They’d never hand over the planet to someone as cold hearted and cruel as Lotor. Not even to spare me his humiliation. I can’t take pleasure to know Lotor miscalculated. Not when I know the ruin that awaits me.

It is scary to think of the kind of future I will have now, thanks to the scandal Lotor has delivered me into. My marriage prospects destroyed, I’ll either have a husband that is hardly an ideal match, or perhaps end up secloistered in a convent somewhere to live out my life paying penance for my sins. Neither option seems the better one. To have the disgust and disdain of an unworthy husband, or to be chided and chastised for an eternity by nuns? Each make me cringe. Each makes me think my father is right to punish Lotor.

Of course punishment won’t come easy for the prince. Lotor is not from our world. He is a Drule, and more than that, he has status. He is the crown prince of Doom, that fledgling empire which consists of a handful of planets. His father surely won’t take kindly to his only son and heir being imprisoned. He will want Lotor set free, and if my father doesn’t comply, war surely will come to our worlds.

I do not want that. Nor do I want Lotor to get away with his crimes against me. I want vengeance, but do I want it at the cost of peace between our worlds? That is a question I cannot yet answer. I simply do not know what is my greater desire. To have Lotor pay, or to maintain peace between our worlds.

Of course, according to the claims Lotor made in the dungeons, war is inevitable between our two worlds. Lotor insists his father, the King Zarkon, has been coveting Arus for some time now. I do not know if that is true. This was the first time I had ever heard of such intentions concerning Arus. My world has always been a peaceful planet, an idyllic paradise that proposers under my parent’s rule. I can understand why another king would crave Arus for his own, especially a ruler of a world as dark and desolate as Doom.

Arus and Doom are complete opposites, one thriving, one dying. It should come as no surprise that the fledgling Empire would turn a greedy eye on our planet, and yet I know relations between us have been friendly enough. We’ve been in an active truce since Lotor and I were children. The prince spent much of his youth on this planet. It was those visits that allowed Lotor to become close to my family. A closeness that apparently moved him to want to see my family spared of slaughter. I do not feel gratitude for that. I am too bitter over the methods Lotor chose to employ. I think he could have found a better way to gain control of Arus, a way to maintain the peace between our two kingdoms without embarrassing me in the process.

Perhaps that is a naive thought. Lotor would have me believe Zarkon would kill every last member of the royal house of Arus. It doesn’t excuse Lotor for what he has done, but perhaps it explains better to me his motivations behind his actions. But a part of me remembers how he had lied to me that night. He might very well be lying to me again, trying to manipulate me into believing his stories. I will not be tricked again, but I will share the concerns he raised in me with my father. King Alfor will decide if what Lotor says is to be believed, if there is a valid concern to be found in Lotor’s claims.

To that end, I march resolutely back to the King’s office. I am nervous to meet with my father, a feeling I don’t often associate with either of my parents. But I remember his earlier upset, the anger in his eyes. Even the thinly veiled disappointment he had shown. I know much of his anger and upset have to do with Prince Lotor, but there is a part that finds me at fault as well.

Knowing that, doesn’t make this any easier. I knock on his door, trying to control my shaking. It is Coran who answers, his dark eyes looking surprised to see me. My father is behind his desk, but out of his seat. He frowns to see me, and I can’t muster up even a half smile.

“Father if I may…I would like a moment to speak with you…”

“Not now, Allura. We are very busy.” My father answers, already turning to look at something on his desk. I am hurt by his dismissal, but I didn’t allow him to send me away.

“This is important.” I insist, and step past Coran into the room. The advisor tries to take me by the arm, intent on guiding me back out. I evade him, walking closer to my father’s desk. “It’s about Lotor….”

That draw my father’s gaze, his expression unhappy while his eyes spark with anger. “What about the prince?”

I try not to fidget, coming to a halt before my father’s desk. “I went to see him…” I expect an angry comment, but my father says nothing. He just looks at me, almost impatient as he waits for me to continue. “He’s been…making claims…”

“He’s been doing a lot of that.” Grumbled my father. He then waves at Coran to close the door. I would prefer if the advisor left the room, but my father doesn’t send him away.

“Then you know?” I ask. “About Doom’s interest in Arus? About how there will be war between our two worlds if we don’t let Prince Lotor go?”

“What has he been telling you?”

“He says if we do not release him unharmed, by day’s end, the ships he has orbiting the planet will begin acts of aggression against Arus. But more than that, he spoke of how his father also wants our planet. He claims King Zarkon has been planning for years to take Arus, just waiting for the ideal moment to strike…in keeping Lotor our prisoner, we might be giving the Drules the very excuse they need to attack us.”

My father is silent a moment. “This is not entirely news to us.”

“Father?”

“We don’t exist in a vacuum.” Coran has spoken up. “Just as King Zarkon has sent spies amongst us, so has Arus hidden spies in Doom’s court.”

My eyes widened at that, but it is my father who speaks. “Doom is not as big a problem as Prince Lotor would like to think…” A grim sort of smile crosses my father’s lips. “There’s a reason they’ve held back on attacking us for years. And it has little to do with upholding our treaty.”

“I do not understand…” I say with a frown.

“You weren’t even born the last time war touched down on Arus.” My father explains. “But King Zarkon remembers. There are few who would forget the planetary might of Arus and it’s military. It is that very military that Zarkon fears to face. Our military is vast, and powerful. A true obstacle should anyone, even the Drule, attempt to invade Arus.”

“But…it’s been years since our military has actively fought a war!” I protest. “Many of our heroes are old now…retired. The new recruits can’t hope to hold the same experience and skill as our veterans…”

“Just because they haven’t fought a war, doesn’t mean they haven’t had the training.” My father retorted. “Those very veterans have trained their replacements. We’ve been maintaining our military, funding it, and training new recruits on the off chance another war should ever happen to Arus. I dare say it is the reason why we have maintained peace with our neighbors, and even far away worlds such as planet Doom.”

“Zarkon’s spies have surely kept the King abreast of our might.” Added Coran. “We made no attempt to hide our accomplishments in that area.”

“But can word of a strong military presence be enough to keep the King from attacking when we have his son as our prisoner?” I wondered out loud.

“We will find out soon enough.” My father answered. “Even now I am readying our troops. We are preparing to deal with Prince Lotor’s small fleet of ships. If they really do attack us come sunset, they will learn the folly of their ways.”

I couldn’t say I was completely reassured, but my father and Coran seemed so confidant about our military. “I don’t think we should risk it.” I said out loud. “Perhaps it would be better to..”

“To what?” interrupted my father. “Let Prince Lotor go free? After what he tried to do? After using you in that way?!”

I flush, and realize Coran must already know what has happened between me and Lotor. Otherwise my father would have been careful to avoid all mention of that use. “No…I agree he must be punished…but not at the expense of Arus…”

“If we let Lotor go with only a slap on the wrist, he’ll keep making attempts on our world. He may do even worse next time.” Pointed out my father. But I couldn’t even imagine anything worse than what Lotor already tried.

“Trust in your father, princess.” Coran suggested. “He knows what he is doing.”

I didn’t want to doubt my father, but I felt uneasy over the path we seemed to be headed in. But it was an unease I couldn’t get my father or Coran to understand, leaving me to sigh, and bow my head. “All right.” I said. “I will leave you to your plans…” It was a struggle to not say anything more, to not reveal how I hoped they knew what they were doing. With a stiff bow, and a worried look on my face, I would leave the room.

The door would be promptly locked behind me. My father and Coran wanted no more disturbances. Not while they were making plans with how to deal with Lotor’s fleet, and the potential threat of King Zarkon. I could only sigh and shake my head, unsettled by how very real the impending war was becoming. It was strange to think that just an hour earlier, I had actively wished for a war. I hadn’t really wanted war to come to Arus, but at the time such a catastrophe had seemed the better option than the truth of my tryst with Lotor coming out. Now all I could think of was how this was all my fault. My fault for believing Lotor’s lies. A lie that had allowed me to have sex with him, and thus potentially endanger Arus and it’s people in the process.

Such thoughts made me feel even worse. I was miserable, and full of self blame. As terrible as I had felt the morning after waking to Lotor’s cruel abandonment, I think I felt worse now. I felt sick at the thought of war touching Arus. I actually felt nauseous, fighting the urge not to gag as I thought of the potential loss of lives. I was scared, and feeling as if everything that would happen would be all my fault. Not even the thoughts that Lotor had manipulated me could appease the self blame. I felt a fool for believing him, a fool for trusting him, and an even bigger fool for having slept with him.

I was pretty deep in self loathing by the time I reached the fourth floor. I wanted to cry in disgust, and was struggling with the feelings of sickness. I was probably making myself sick with all my fears and worries, and the accusations I hurled at myself. It would be a relief to lay down, though I knew even once in bed, I wouldn’t be able to escape my thoughts.

I hurried the rest of the way to my room, and pulled open the door. I stopped up short when I saw my mother sitting in an overstuffed chair situated near the open window. “Mother…”

She turned her face away from the sunlight, and looked at me. Her eyes seemed a little red rimmed, but she wasn’t crying. There was no sign of her handkerchief. She had managed her emotions to the point she no longer needed that bit of cloth. She actually tried to smile at me, her hand gesturing for me to join her by the window. I hurried over, then lowered myself onto the foot stool in front of her. It was an uncomfortable perch, but better than standing when I felt so ill.

“How are you doing?” My mother asked, a critical look in her eyes as she gazed at me.

I hesitated, not sure how to answer that. “I’m…angry…” I finally said. “And scared!” I added. “But mostly I am so upset….”

“With Lotor?”

“With myself!” I tell her. She gives me a questioning look, and it’s all I can do to keep from crying. “How could I be so stupid?” I ask her. “How could I have believed him? How could I have ever thought he loved me?” I don’t give her a chance to reply. They are not questions anyone would have any answers that could calm me. “He doesn’t.” I continue bitterly. “I never meant anything to him. I am nothing…worse than nothing.” I correct. “Mother…he said I was just a means to an end….he didn’t care for me as a person, only as the thing he could use to get Arus!”

“Oh Allura…” My mother says sadly, reaching out to touch my face. She cups my cheeks, and tilts my head so that I can meet her gaze. Her eyes look so sad, she is hurting with me over the pain I have experienced at Lotor’s hands.

“He hates me…” I finish. “He has to! You don’t do this to someone you care about. Whether they are a friend or family, you don’t hurt them this way! I should have realized…should have known from the disdainful way he treated me when we were teenagers….that kind of dislike doesn’t go away over night…he’s always despised me…and I was a fool to hope for otherwise!”

My mother began smoothing back my hair from my face. “It’s not foolish to hope for love.” She tells me. “You like Lotor…”

“LIKED.” I correct quickly. “I could never love the man he’s proven to be! He’s terrible! I don’t care what his reasons are….he used me…he hurt me, and he hurt you and father as well!”

“It is the hurt he’s caused you, that I am most concerned with.”

“I’m fine.” I quickly assure her. “I’ve just learned my lesson where men are concerned.”

“Not all men are like Lotor.” My mother tells me. “I want you to understand that. Not all men will use you, and lie to you.” But I am in doubt about that. I’ve been burned once, I do not want to be hurt again. “There are good men in the universe.” My mother continues. “Men you can trust. To love and to honor you. Men who will be worthy of you…”

“What man will want me now that I’ve been used?” I ask, then quickly try to change the subject. “Lotor claims he was acting in our best interest in doing this.” My mother makes a scoffing sound at that. “It’s awful mother! He said his father has been planning to invade Arus for years! That if we did it King Zarkons’ way, he would have our entire family killed once the planet and people have been conquered! Lotor says his way would have spared us that fate…”

“Whatever his intentions it doesn’t excuse the hurt he did you, my dear.” My mother is fierce when she says this.

I nod, then blink back tears. “We’re going to end up in a war with Doom, aren’t we?” My mother doesn’t seem to know how to answer. “Father is busy with
Coran…they’re making some kind of plans…..I feel awful to know this war will be all my fault!”

“It’s not yours!” insists my mother. “If we end up in war with Doom, it is through Lotor’s manipulations…”

“But I am just as much to blame if not more.” I insist. “I fell for his lies. I was all too willing to let him trick me…the war, the deaths it will cause…it will be my fault as much as Lotor’s!” I burst into tears then, shaking uncontrollably. My mother gets up out of her seat, and moves to kneel down besides me. She embraces me in a tight hug, offering me comfort as best she could. I can’t take it, too distraught in the moment. I’m sobbing so hard, I don’t even hear my mother’s words. I’m too broken down in the moment.


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