Mask 08

The march of time continued, slow to some, fast to others, the passing of the days occurring one way or another. To Allura, she found the hours seemed to drag on, seconds taking minutes, minutes taking hours. She often paced inside the room appointed to her by the Baron, constantly staring at the chrono meter on her vanity’s table. No matter how much she willed it otherwise, time would not go faster, taunting her with it’s apparent slowness.

She wasn’t normally so aware of time’s passage, Allura often having plenty of things to keep her busy. Her studies, her pilot duties, governing her kingdom, even sneaking time out for her friends. Back on Arus, time had always seemed in short supply, leaving her with barely enough hours to do everything. Here there seemed to be nothing but endless waiting, Allura left with nothing to occupy her with but worried thoughts.

Allura wasn’t the only one worrying, though Lotors’ thoughts took a far different path from that of the princess. Where Allura spent much time concerned with the safety and well being of her nanny, Lotor found himself devoting much time and energy to planning the eventual rescue of the woman. He had known it wouldn’t be easy, but he had promised Allura and intended to keep his word, one way or another.

It didn’t stop him from letting out uncharacteristical sighs, the sound carrying his heavy frustration as he stared at the papers spread across the Baron’s desk. The papers were crinkled from one too many handlings, numerous charts and writings detailing plans Lotor had dismissed as failures. He would settle for nothing less than the perfect plan, knowing everything rode on his ability to carry out Nanny’s rescue.

His friends, now reluctant accomplices in the rescue scheme, thought he was mad to be going this far for a woman. The Baron Krieg and Duke Alistair did not understand his need to please Allura, his desire to gain her willing compliance to pledge herself to him in marriage. They felt he was risking everything to save Nanny, all to gain what he already had in his grasp.

In truth he sometimes regretted making this promise to her, Lotor wanting nothing more than to carry her off to Doom. He knew he wouldn’t be able to relax so long as they remained on planet Alazne, not with Tristan’s forces scouring the countryside for them. His soldiers had yet to come across the Baron’s home, the mansion being located some distance away from the nearest village, but already signs of Tristan’s desperation was being shown.

It was no rumor that all Drules on the planet were being detained on sight, the servant the Baron had sent out to purchase new clothing for Allura just barely managing to avoid being arrested. Other Drules weren’t so lucky, being unlawfully imprisoned under the suspicion that they had to know something. The news report was making light of the captures, telling the viewers the Drules were not being harmed. But Lotor doubted the truth of that, knowing Tristan was hardly the squeaky clean do-gooder he
pretended to be.

Lotor wanted to ruin the image Tristan presented to the unsuspecting public, bring down their charitable hero. But proof was harder to come by, many of the Lords and Ladies who knew Tristan for who he really was, were too scared or uncaring to testify against him. Lotor knew the press wouldn’t accept his own account of Tristan’s sordid dealings, they were too in love with who Tristan pretended to be to believe the word of a known scoundrel and rake of a prince.

Allura might have been able to get them to see the truth, but that was before he had absconded with her. Anything she said now would be held in suspicion, the people thinking Lotor had cowed her into lying to besmirch Tristan’s reputation. Even worse, the troubling details of what Tristan wanted to do to Allura would end up revealed, adding humiliation to the many crimes Tristan had committed against the princess of Arus.

Lotor understood that the humiliation was what Tristan had been counting on, the foul prince hoping Allura would be too shamed by the rape to confess Tristan’s sins to anyone. Lotor wanted to protect her from that shame, to shield her from any fallout that would ensue the revelation of Tristan’s true nature. Lotor was also well aware of how his own reputation could only hinder Allura’s case, the prince knowing what many would assume about his relationship with the abducted princess.

The thing Lotor most wanted to do right now was return to Doom, to be far out of Tristan’s reach, where he could control the media, and keep Allura ignorant of what the news reporters were saying about her. It was unfortunate, but there would always be speculation and gossip so long as Allura remained tied to Lotor. In fact what could be said might prove even worse than the actual truth of what Tristan had tried to do, though Lotor thought Allura would gladly endure it so long as she didn’t have to be married to that cold hearted bastard.

Allura hadn’t spent much time with Tristan, but it had been long enough to do damage to her, both in body and in mind. Lotor was just glad she wasn’t irreparably hurt, her bruises fading, her cuts healing. He couldn’t be sure about her the state of her mind, Allura acting guarded when it came to her private thoughts. But he heard talk from the maids assigned to her, the servants telling him she was skittish around other Drules, especially those of the male persuasion.

Allura was also refusing help in getting dressed, the girl seeming ashamed of her body. Lotor wonder how long that would continue, the prince suspecting it had much to do with the marks on her body. He hoped once the bruises faded, Allura would no longer be so shy, and feared what would happen if she remained that way.

“Damn him.” Lotor muttered under his breath, more interested in cursing Tristan’s name, then working on the plans to rescue Nanny. He still regretted not killing Tristan
when he had the chance, even as he knew that would have only worsen their problems. It wouldn’t be the first time Lotor would be up on murder charges, but it would be harder to escape without several fleets from Doom backing his attempts to leave Alazne with the princess.

As of now, no Doom ships, be they a vessel of war, or a simple cargo shuttle was allowed to land on Alazne. For that matter, currently all ships were landlocked on Alazne, a fact that surely had the people grumbling. It was a busy season for them, the time when they exported a lot of their goods to other worlds. Money would be delayed, maybe even lost as long as this ban on flights continued.

Lotor felt certain the ban couldn’t last indefinitely. They simply had to wait it out, and evade capture in the ensuing weeks it would take the people to tire of this nonsense. Then they could take a ship to another nearby planet, and charter a trip back to Doom. He knew he wouldn’t be able to relax until he got Allura back to his planet, it was only then that Lotor would be in complete control of the chaotic situation.

Here they were too many variables out of his domain, the least of which was the fact that he had just spied a glimpse of turquoise, the bright color moving about the garden outside the study’s window. It was Allura, unaware that her appearance in the garden intruded into his thoughts, the prince frowning as he waited for one of the servants assigned to her to appear. None did, leaving Lotor to worry, wondering why his strict order that Allura be accompanied at all times within the mansion’s grounds was being so flagrantly disobeyed.

Allura was oblivious to the fact she was being watched, not quite smiling as she brushed fingers against the soft petals of the flowers nearest to her. She liked feeling the warmth of the sun shining down on her hair, the girl lifting her face upwards in welcome admiration. She wouldn’t have been so quick to tuck back her hair behind her ear if she had known she was being watched, Allura leery of revealing the bruise on her cheek, a reminder of Tristan’s slap.

Her bruises had progressed to the point of being a mottle of ugly colors, yellow and brown and looking far worse than they felt. She still felt shame to look at them, and she went out of her way to avoid flashing her bruises to the servants. Fortunately for her, most of them were easily hidden by her clothes, Allura wearing long skirts, and oversized sleeves that hid her bandaged hands from sight.

She could have done without the low cut decolletage of the gown’s bodice, but powder easily took care of covering the bruises on top halves of her breasts. It still didn’t stop her from glancing down one time too many, almost paranoid in her checking to make sure the powder hadn’t rubbed off. It never did, not without a moist cloth, and yet still Allura worried, feeling as though the bruises and bite marks were a mark of shame.

Tristan hadn’t been discreet in his handling of her, his hands and mouth rough, the man leaving imprints of his fingertips on her wrist, her breast, even on the inside of her one thigh. He hadn’t gone so far as to draw blood, though Allura had ruined her nails in her attempts to injure him with scratches. She tried not to think too much about the actual rape attempt, figuring her dreams were troubled enough, but sometimes, at the most inopportune moments, she flashed back to those horrific moments.

She shook her head, her hair bouncing around her face, Allura willing herself not to let her mind devote even a single more second to Tristan and his dastardly deeds. Instead she tried to think positive, recalling how confidant Lotor was acting about rescuing her Nanny. She knew she’d have the unenviable task of breaking the news of her engagement to the Prince of Doom to her friends and family, Allura often imagining scenarios of how that would go down. None of them ended well, and she tried to tell herself that if she could make Nanny understand her reasons for agreeing to marry Prince Lotor, then Coran and the Voltron Force would be a piece of cake.

~They have to understand.~ She thought with a frown. ~I had to save Nanny. There was no other way…~ Allura felt she was telling herself that as much as the people in her head, the girl still so uncertain about the bargain she had brokered with Lotor. He had been surprisingly understanding of her need to save Nanny, and Allura understood he had no real reason to try and rescue the woman, save for the desire to keep Allura happy.

She was once again taken a back by how different Lotor was from her preconceived notions about him, Allura wondering what else she had been wrong about. Certainly about Tristan and his party, and maybe the planet Doom wasn’t as fearful a place as she had been led to believe. Certainly the Drules that worked in the Baron’s mansion were a lot nicer seeming than the ones she had met during the battle to free her planet from Doom’s greedy grasp.

~Maybe we’ve been wrong about them.~ She thought to herself. ~Maybe goodness does exist among the Drules after all.~ She wondered if through her marriage to Lotor, if she could bring change about to Doom. Allura tried not to let her thoughts get ahead of herself, the girl knowing there would still be Zarkon to contend with. She had no doubts about Zarkon’s true nature, the Drule having killed her father personally.

~Maybe I could get Lotor to see my side of the war….we could work together to overthrow his father, and bring peace to the galaxy!~ Thoughts like that excited her, Allura knowing she shouldn’t get her hopes up. But it was one way of coping with her impending marriage, the girl knowing she wouldn’t be able to sit idle and watch as
Doom ran roughshod all over the Denubian Galaxy.

She was still thinking on ways to sway Lotor to the side of justice, when she heard footsteps approaching her spot in the garden. It was no light tread she heard, but an a rough, angry trod, the runner in a hurry. She turned in direction of the footsteps, and stopped up short to see an agitated looking Prince Lotor a few steps away from her. His hair was in disarray, white locks messily strewn about the sides of his face. He wasn’t out of breath, though the slight increase to it’s pacing suggested a few more minutes of fast running and he would be.

Perhaps the most troubling thing of all was his frown, and the way his eyes had flashed with worry a moment before he looked at her. She stared back at him, her expression devoid of emotion as she watched Lotor cast a look around the garden, his frown deepening. Worry began to gnaw at her insides, Allura growing concerned about Lotor’s anxiety.

“Lotor?” She took a step towards him before remembering herself, seeing the prince’s attention drawn back to her. “Is something the matter?”

“I saw you were out here alone…” Came his gruff reply, Lotor still looking about, his movements almost impatient as he searched for something. “Where are the maids assigned to you?”

“I wanted a moment to myself.” Allura told him, seeing none of his unease dissipate. “I told them they could go on break. Was that wrong?”

“It’s dangerous for you to be wandering around outside the mansion alone. If the maids were on break, you should have brought a guard with you.” Lotor told her, seeing how Allura frowned at that suggestion. “It’s for your own safety.” He added, but the words did nothing to appease Allura’s upset.

“Is it really that dangerous? It’s just the garden…” Allura began, and Lotor shook his head no.

“What if someone sees you from the road?” He followed her glance to the fence that bordered the garden’s edge, Allura spying a dusty, straw strewn path that wound it’s way around the baron’s mansion, and onto the main highway road. It felt as empty as it looked, not a cruiser or carriage in sight, but that didn’t mean one couldn’t happen along at any moment.

“I…I’m sorry.” She began, hanging her head sheepishly. “I didn’t realize…”

“It’s fine…Let’s just get inside where neither one of us can be seen!” Lotor said, and to Allura’s surprise, offered her his arm. Allura hesitated an instant, before taking hold of it, a slight tremor going through her at being so near to Prince Lotor. It was strange, but right now he was the only male she felt comfortable around, the only man she could tolerate to touch. But the touch was not without it’s difficulties, Allura still a bit hesitant over the contact.

Lotor was thankfully without comment about the shaking of her arm, moving her at a hurried pace through the garden, the flower vines extending all the way up the walls of the mansion’s side. She didn’t spy any guards waiting for them, Allura realizing Lotor must have rushed out on his own when he realized the risk she was putting them both at. She felt heat rise to her cheeks, an embarrassed blush for her apparent foolishness.

“I’m sorry you have to stay cooped up inside the mansion.” Lotor’s voice broke the silence, his deep baritone startling her. She turned wide eyes to him, seeing Lotor looking not at her, but a rose bush, golden eyes looking almost sad. “I know it must be dififcult….to stay away from the sun and the flowers…especially knowing what awaits us back on Doom.”

She bit back a comment, sadness taking hold of her as she realized this time on Alazne was precious, if only for the fact it might prove the last in a long while before she got to enjoy something as simple as a sweet summer day. Doom was known to be a cold, cruel planet, where winds battered at one’s body instead of gently caressing it. The sun could never shine down enough light to warm it’s surface, and as a result hardly anything grew in the craggy terrain. Certainly not roses, or any of the multitudes of pretty flowers here in the Baron’s garden.

She seemed to sag in place, only her hand on Lotor’s arm kept her from falling completely, Lotor turning concerned to catch at her waist. The sudden touch on her hip had her hissing, but she stamped down the paranoid fear, telling herself this was not Tristan who grabbed at her. “I’m fine! I’m fine…” Allura said to Lotor’s unasked question, forcing herself not to jerk away from his hands. “It just hit me all of a sudden, how much I’ll be giving up in living on Doom with you.”

“It won’t be all bad…” Lotor said, trying to sound reassuring to Allura. “I’m sure you will find something positive to outweigh the negatives.” But even he sounded doubtful of that, Lotor having given a hard thought on what life would be like for Allura on Doom. She seemed so soft and fragile, like delicate porcelain. She was hardly the tough, thick skinned types who made a life on Doom. If Lotor did not constantly keep a watch out for her, they’d ruin her, tear her up as easily with their words and machinations as a cat did a mouse with it’s claws.

It almost made Lotor want to give her up, to spare her the hardships that would follow them on Doom. But he simply wasn’t that noble, unable to bear the thought of allowing Allura to go and be happy with someone else. Lotor found himself with a growing need to apologize to her, the prince trying to ignore the sorry that wanted to come out.

“Come!” he ordered with a shake of his head, realizing they were still standing at the entrance to the garden. “We can talk inside.” He let go of her waist, but kept hold of her hand, leading Allura back inside the mansion. There were no guards at this entrance, a fact Lotor would quickly remedy with much shouting and stern talking. But for now he maintained his calm, guiding Allura towards the mansion’s study.

“What’s this?” Allura asked, looking curiously at the cluttered mess a top the room’s desk. She immediately colored for her voiced curiosity, wondering if she should have kept silent about Lotor’s work. She didn’t know if he would be the type of husband to welcome her inquiries into his work affairs, the princess prepared to lead a life shut out of most of Lotor’s dealings.

“This?” He actually tugged her nearer to the desk, allowing Allura to study the plans laid across the table top. “Ah….plans for the rescue of your Nanny. Though so far I’ve rejected them all….”

“Rejected? Why?”

“None of them seem feasible. It won’t be easy, getting to your Nanny and bringing her back.” She was surprised by Lotor’s admittance, Allura asking a hasty question.

“But you will manage, won’t you?” She cast an anxious glance at his face, touching his arm once more. “You won’t go back on your promise, will you?”

“No, Allura, i won’t. I intend to keep any and all promises I make you.” vowed Lotor, pleased when a small smile lightened up Allura’s face.

“I’ll remember that.” She said, blinking rapidly as Lotor reached out to touch her hair. She didn’t quite flinch, letting him stroke her golden strands behind her ear, revealing the bruise on her cheek. He frowned at the sight of it, the prince unable to say it looked better than it had the day before. “It’s natural.” Allura assured him, seeing Lotor look quizzically at her. “The bruises always look worse before they fade away.”

“I don’t think it can get much worse than this.” Lotor muttered, and let her hair fall back into place.

“No doubt Tristan nurses bruises of his own.” Allura said lightly, bending down to gaze at the top most documents on the table. Most of the writing was in Drule, leaving Allura unable to understand what sort of plans Lotor was making.

“I’d have killed him if you hadn’t stopped me.” Lotor’s comment gave her pause, Allura unsure of how she felt about her would be rapist dying at Lotor’s hands. A minute passed, and then another, Allura at last sighing.

“It’s better for us that you didn’t. It would have complicated things even further, made Tristan a martyr.”

“We wouldn’t want that. No, a far better punishment would be to reveal the kind of man he really is.” Lotor said, following up his words with a silent thought. ~And then kill him!~

“Do you think anyone would believe us?” Allura asked, and Lotor shrugged.

“Not me. My word isn’t a trustworthy sound bite. But the Princess of Arus might be able to sway them. Certainly, your accusations would cause a scandal. Unfortunately that doesn’t come without problems for you.”

“For me?” She straightened in surprise.

“Yes.” Lotor nodded. “You’d have to tell them what Tristan tried to do, and about the party…..and he would put his own spin on things, and try to ruin your reputation. It
might be more trouble than it’s worth. The media can be vicious when it comes to spreading slander.” Allura appeared to be thinking about what he said, actually chewing on her bottom lip in worry. “Do not worry. I’ll protect you from the news hounds.”

She nodded, then gestured at the documents on the desk. “When will you be ready to rescue Nanny?”

“Soon.” He said, forcing a smile on his face. “Baron Krieg is using the connections he has to Alazne’s shadier aspects of society to get us some more help. The men he employs in his mansion are only good for brute force, many of them unfit for Doom’s military. We need a few men who have specialized skills, such as a hacker and a locks pick.”

“And these men, they can be trusted?” Allura asked, worry in her eyes. “They won’t turn on us for the reward Tristan is offering?”

“They may be greedy and underhanded, but these man have no love for Prince Tristan. They’ll help us, if only to get back at that brat.” Lotor told her.

“I hope so.” It didn’t go unnoticed to her that Lotor had not answered the question of trust, leaving Allura to frown. But before she could press him any further, the sound of running was heard, the second time today in a matter of minutes. Both Lotor and Allura turned in time to see the room’s door slam open, the Duke Alistair appearing in it’s frame, his manner one of riled excitement.

“Prince Lotor!”

“What’s wrong?” Lotor asked, taking a step towards the Duke. “What’s happening?”

The Duke was panting, clearly having run a long distance to reach this part of the mansion. “People! Coming up the road. They bear the colors of Tristan’s enforcers in this part of the country!” Those words were followed by a panicked shout, Allura voicing her fear, as Lotor fought not to curse out his frustration. It would be a battle he lost, the prince hearing one long steam of swearing escape his lips after another.

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