Better Worse 13

It truly was a day of surprises and shocks. They were piling on me, one after another, almost too fast for me to process what was being done. On what was happening to me. But I wasn’t numb in the face of their revelations. Instead I was angry, a fiery rage burning within me. It only grew in intensity the more I was picked on, my anger mounting over all that was being done to me. I was sure I would explode, it was all just a matter of time.

The revelation that a device had been implanted inside me was almost enough to push me over the edge. Especially when I learned it’s purpose was not just to track me but to control me. I wanted to kill for that indignity, and only the fear of being zapped by a high voltage of electricity allowed me to hold back my anger. But just barely. It was boiling inside me, and everyone knew it. Including Alfor.

He was not a cruel man by nature. Alfor did not unjustly taunt me about my situation. Nor was he sympathetic to my plight, not after all I had done and tried to do. I was learning just how ruthless the man could be where his daughter was concerned. He hadn’t been able to protect her from my manipulations, but he was determined to safe guard her future and happiness. Even at the cost of mine.

Things certainly looked bleak for me. But I refused to give up hope just yet. I was just that determined to not end up tied to Allura in marriage. I didn’t know how I would accomplish my escape just yet, but I knew something would die in me if I just gave up without trying to get away. But for now I would do nothing, merely biding my time. Waiting for a chance to present itself.

To that end I was on my best behavior. I let them think I was defeated in the moment, cowed by the threat of the device in my arm. Even when faced with the guards’ insolence and animosity, I did not rise to the bait. I’m sure they would have enjoyed to see me writhing in pain on the floor, and that was a satisfaction I would not give them.

There was benefits to my inaction. The handcuffs were removed. I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to not have my arm’s movement restricted by the cuffs. There were no chains to hold me down, allowing me to move freely and to wherever I wanted. I could have done cartwheels, so happy was I to be free of the chains. I settled for a spring to my steps, walking besides Alfor as we ignored the guards.

There was still an abundance of guards stationed inside the castle. Certainly more than I was used to seeing on Arus. I was free to move about the castle, but not without my every move being watched and reported on. It was a limited freedom, my prison expanded to encompass the entire building now. I would not be allowed outside. They didn’t trust me that much.

Right now I didn’t care. I was too happy to be in a room that wasn’t cramped, wasn’t locked. I am not claustrophobic, but inside such a small cell I had felt as if the walls were truly closing in on me. To have the run of the castle was truly a blessing after a week’s time spent in the dungeons.

I didn’t act grateful though. I never forgot that Alfor was trying to force me into a future I did not want. Nor did I forget that it was Alfor who had imprisoned me in the first place. I was resentful of his actions, angry with the man and the decisions he was trying to make for me. I was even mad at myself, hating that I had been caught so easily. But I didn’t make a scene, not wanting to trigger the device, or even worse, be returned to the dungeons. And all because I knew I couldn’t escape if I was sent back to my cell.

Alfor extended an invitation for me to join him and his family for dinner. It was not a request I could refuse. It was apparent Alfor expected me to do what he wanted, even right down to eating dinner with his family. I saved my energy and did not balk at this, knowing the dinner was ultimately inconsequential. I thought it would hurt no one for me to eat with them.

Diana and Allura were already present when Alfor and I arrived in the dining room. They would rise from their seats to greet us, Diana wearing a strained smile. Allura met my gaze and held it, but her eyes betrayed nothing of what she was feeling. We could have stood forever staring at each other, but then Alfor’s hand was guiding me forward.

“Sit, sit!” He exclaimed. I glanced back at Allura, eyes traveling over her body down to her flat stomach. There was nothing about her to hint at her pregnancy, no special glow or roundness to her belly. And yet she carried life within her. A life that would ruin mine if I allowed Alfor to have his way. I’m sure my expression turned stony, practically glaring at Allura as I took my seat across the table from her.

She matched my glare, lowering herself down onto her chair. Diana was to the right of her, and Alfor to the left, leaving me alone on my side of the table. It was as if a dividing line had been set, pitting me against them. But I did not turn nervous, knowing it would always be like this if I was truly forced to marry Allura.

There were only two guards inside the dining room. They were standing far enough away that our low voiced conversation would not be overheard. Occasionally servants appeared, bringing drink and food to the table. Other than that we were not disturbed, left to eat and talk in private.

It was awkward at best. I was in no mood to make small talk, be it serious or idle. Allura hardly seemed relaxed, barely talking save to answer a direct question from her parents. It left Diana and Alfor to do most of the talking, and it appeared to be no problem for them. They spent the time talking about the day’s events, concerns that had been raised by their people. Things that had to do with the governing of Arus. This was familiar talk to me. After all I had often listened to my father talk about similar at dinner on Doom.

I picked at my meal. The food was scrumptious, a far better fare than what had been served to me down in the dungeons. And yet I was hardly in the mood to eat, given all that I had learned today. Allura picked similarly at her own meal, and I could have sworn she looked a little green. Diana would notice her daughter’s lack of appetite, and cluck in concern.

“Are you still feeling sick, Allura?”

“Sick?” I echoed, shooting a curious glance at Allura. “Is the princess unwell?”

“It’s nothing for you to be concerned about.” Allura retorted.

“Nonsense.” Alfor spoke up. “After all, it is Lotor’s fault you have been feeling this way…”

“Ah…” Suddenly I understood. “You are experiencing morning sickness, aren’t you?” Glaring at me, Allura nodded. I lifted my goblet, using the excuse of drinking from it to hide my smirk. I was perversely pleased to hear she was suffering, though a little upset stomach couldn’t compare to all I had been through.

“It’s all your fault!” Allura snapped. Diana put an arm around her, but the princess shrugged off her mother’s touch. “If you had left me alone, this never would have
happened!”

“I think you are forgetting something Allura.” I told her, setting down my goblet. “It takes two to dance.” I had the pleasure of seeing her cheeks flush an angry red.

“You’re not even sorry, are you?!” She demanded.

I paused, considering my answer. I could have baited her with a lie, and indeed it was tempting to upset her further. But I found myself choosing the side of truth. “Oh believe me.” I said. “I am VERY sorry.” Surprise flashed in her blue eyes, but it quickly died down as I continued to speak. “I’m sorry you are with child….sorry that it is forcing us to wed. Sorry that it will ruin BOTH our lives.”

“That’s not all you should be sorry about!” Allura practically growled at me. “And this child isn’t the reason our lives are being ruined. It’s your greed and ambition, your cruel lies that is the real culprit for any misery and ruin brought down upon us and our families!”

“It is not wrong to be ambitious.” I argued.

“It is when you HURT people!” She retorted.

“I purposefully went out of my way to try and minimize the hurt and suffering that would occur if Arus was to enter into a war with Doom!” I told her. “It is just your misfortune that you and your family would have been the causalities of my ambition.”

This time when Diana put an arm around Allura, the princess didn’t shrug her off. Instead she sat there shaking, her fingers clutching a fork so hard the color bled out of her knuckles. “I despise you!” She hissed. I was ready to retort similar, but then became aware Alfor was glaring at me.

“This is pointless.” I said to him. “She cannot stand me. How do you expect us to make a marriage work between us? To be…HAPPY together?”

“Nevertheless, you will make all the effort to try.” Alfor’s tone was warning me off from making a smart retort. I had a feeling any of my efforts at trying would be met in failure, and wanted to tell him that. “You both will.” He continued, glancing at his daughter. “You will both try to make a life together. And not just for your sakes, but for the sake of the child you two conceived.”

Allura lowered her head, but not before I caught the flash of defiance in her eyes. It was clear she didn’t want to make the effort any more than I wanted to. I began to scheme, wondering if I could somehow use her, manipulate her into helping me make a break for it.

The mood remained tense at the dinner table. Alfor was staring at me, not trusting in my silence for one-second. I busied myself with eating, trying to appear unconcerned with anything that had been said. Diana would glance at Alfor over Allura’s head, and then clear her throat.

“Preparations are well under way for the wedding.” She said. “It will be a small ceremony, but adequate to our needs.” Unsaid was the fact that all they really needed was for Allura and I to take our vows.

I didn’t ask why the rush to have it happen so soon. Not only would they want to minimize the chance of my escaping, they’d also want to get us wed before Allura’s condition became known to the general public. They were trying to preserve as much of their daughter’s reputation as possible, ready to play off this quickie of a marriage as a result of ending the mounting aggressions between their world and mine.

Not that speaking out about the real reason behind this marriage would put an end to it. Alfor had carefully explained to me earlier, that even should I reveal what had happened, he would still force me to marry his daughter. It would make me just as much as a laughing stock as Allura, if the truth were to come out. To be the prince who had tried to ruin the girl, only to be caught and forced to wed her? How utterly humiliating.

Alfor and Diana were still talking about the wedding plans. The details bored me, but more than that, it made me anxious. It was as though the wedding was becoming more of a reality the more they talked about it. And I hated that.

It was also clear they were taking none of Drule traditions into account for this wedding. I didn’t plan to attend, but still it annoyed me to hear my culture being ignored. “Are you purposefully leaving out Drule culture and tradition?” I demanded gruffly. Alfor and Diana looked surprised at my interest.

“Oh of course not, your highness.” Diana said. “If you would speak with the wedding coordinator, I’m sure we could make accommodations to reflect a mix of both Drule and Arusian culture.”

A scheme had formed in my mind, of a way to delay the wedding. I wondered if it was even possible, but was determined to try. “Yes.” I said out loud, fighting the urge to smile at her. “I would like that.” Already I was thinking on asking for things that would take time to get, time that would delay the wedding and give me more time to try and escape.

The more time I had, the better. I was determined to keep trying to escape, no matter how many times it took. No matter how often I might meet with failure, I would endure. A thousand indignities would be better than being locked into a life with a woman I did not love.

“Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to seeing at the wedding?” Diana did not quite smile at me. It was clear she mistook my earlier words to mean I had a strong interest in the actual wedding and the plans that surrounded it. I did not, caring only for the way I could use the wedding as a diversion to cover my escape. But out loud, I did not betray where my thoughts truly laid.

“Yes. My friends.” I said. I was given a strange look, and then Diana glanced quickly at her husband.

“There won’t be time for anyone from the Drule home world to make it to the wedding.” Alfor told me.

I frowned. “No time? Not even for my father to come?”

“He’s a busy King, Lotor.” Alfor retorted. “He has much to do, and it’s not all limited to fixing the mess you created.”

I wanted to snap that we would wait until my father could make the time, but I was more curious about just what had my father so busy. “What do you mean? What is going on?”

“You are aware of the casualties that were suffered during the battle between our ships and yours?” I nodded. “You’ve cost Doom a whole season of promising soldiers. The majority of this year’s graduating class, wiped out in a matter of hours.”

“That is being blamed on me?!”

“It is being blamed on your actions!” Alfor corrected none too gently. “You were the one who led them to Arus. You were the one whose ambitions brought us to the point of near war, and allowed numerous men and women to die in some crazy bid to steal our planet out from under us. Those deaths are on your hands, Lotor…and you have nothing to show for it!”

My eyes surely flashed with my anger. I didn’t like thinking it was my fault that those soldiers, men and women I had called friends, had all died following me. Even worse was the thought of those deaths being in vain. I was neither free, nor ruler of Arus. I truly had little to show for all that had happened save for a future wife and a child Alfor was trying to saddle me with.

I took a calming breath, reaching for my glass. “You’re wrong about that.” I said at last.

“Oh?”

“It’s true those men and women did die…and I regret that. But I do have Arus.” I smugly began to drink from my glass. “Or I will once I am married to Allura.” I glanced at her, seeing those blue eyes of her sparkling with her anger. “You do understand….we will be next in line for the throne….as soon as your parents step down or the unfortunate happens, and they die….you and I will take command of Arus.”

“Allura will not be sharing her throne with you.” Diana announced with a frown. Now I looked at the Queen, a challenge in my eyes.

“Oh won’t she?”

“She will not.” Agreed Alfor. “Lotor, do you honestly think we would reward you with control of Arus?”

I didn’t understand what he was getting at. “How are you going to stop me? I will be her husband. As future King of Arus, it will be my right to rule.”

I saw what could actually be a smirk cross Allura’s lips. She was taking pleasure in what she was about to tell me. “But you won’t be king.” Her tone was soft, but no less vicious. I narrowed my eyes at her, but she continued mercilessly. “The agreement your father has signed…”

“My father?!”

“The agreement he has signed…” She continued as though I hadn’t made that loud exclamation. “It explicitly states you will rank no more than prince consort to my Queen. You’ll have little power when it comes to affecting the governing of Arus.” She smiled. “Arus will remain an independent world, free of any schemes concerning Doom.”

I just stared at her, my mouth slightly open in shock. How could my father have done this? How could he have agreed to a marriage that would not only strip me of most power when it came to ruling my wife’s world, but also allow Arus to remain a free agent rather then become part of the Doom Empire? I couldn’t understand this, nor could I tolerate the thought of remaining on this world. On a world where I would have little power, and always be treated with suspicion and disdain.

My anger was very close to exploding, staring at Allura’s smile. Her eyes were angry, it gave a twisted look to the smile on her face. My hands clenched into fists, I did not like how Allura was taking satisfaction out of my power being crippled.

“You won’t get away with this…” I told them all heatedly.

“Lotor, it’s already been done.” Alfor replied. “There’s nothing left for you to do, except to accept what has happened.”

“To HELL with your acceptance!” I roared, leaping out of my chair. It toppled over at the exact instant a startled servant approached with the desert cart. I was so angry, I wanted to lash out, even at a helpless servant. The two guards who were present in the room were already heading towards the table, intent on intervening should I get even more violent. I would have taken pleasure at the thought of attacking them, but Diana quickly spoke.

“Prince Lotor, control yourself!” She wasn’t quite screaming, her voice loud and authoritative. I wondered if she actually cared for me, or if she just wanted to avoid a scene. Either way, the device in my arm was starting to trigger, my first punch connecting with the jaw of the larger human’s face. Immediately after, I felt the tingles intensify, pain shooting through me as electricity coursed over my body.

With an agonized moan, I fell to my knees, hearing both Allura and Diana scream. I heard Alfor shouting for control, one of the guards kicking me in retaliation for the punch I had landed. I barely felt the kick, too focused on the feel of the electricity used on me. I lay on the floor, writhing in pain, and vaguely heard Alfor speaking to me. “Calm yourself Lotor.” He advised. “The sooner you get your anger under control, the sooner the pain will stop.”

I groaned, unable to muster up the strength to glare at him. “Easier said then done.” I managed to mutter. I was hearing a buzzing in my ears, as though a million bees had entered the room. My body was tense, even as I spasmed on the floor. How long did it take for my anger to fade somewhat? I couldn’t tell you. But eventually I gave in to the pain, knowing it and only it in favor of the anger.

Even once the pain had stopped, I continued to lay on the floor. My ears were still buzzing with sound, but my panting breath was louder than it. Alfor was down on one knee, looking at me with a grave expression. “Is this what it’s always going to be like?” I asked him with a croak in my voice.

“That’s all up to you.” He answered. “You can accept your fate or you can fight against it. I cannot advise you what would be the more satisfactory course for you. But I can tell you which would have the least pain.”

I blinked, and then caught sight of Allura. Her face had gone pale, her mother hugging Allura close to her. Her earlier spiteful amusement was gone, the princess shaken by what had just happened. She couldn’t have truly hated me, otherwise she would have enjoyed watching me writhe. And yet I wouldn’t soften even one bit towards her, locking eyes with the frightened princess.

“Pain or no, I must do what I must do.”

“So be it.” Alfor grumbled in disapproval. He rose off his knee, and stepped away from me. I could hear him speaking to the guards, but my eyes were still locked with Allura’s. Did she understand my answer? Did she comprehend how much I truly wanted to get away? Or was she still too disturbed by what had just happened, to register anything else? Either way, I had to talk to her. If only to get her to rethink the idea of marriage between us.


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