She shifted restlessly in her seat, listening to the slight sounds the couch made in protest to her fidgeting. A tea cup was placed in her hands, Allura staring down into it’s pale colored liquid, watching the steam rise up off the surface. She just barely remembered to say thank you, her bowed head not catching the looks her cousins exchanged.

Even without seeing the concern in their eyes, she could tell they were worried. They had been for a long time now, the days blending into weeks, as time marched on. Allura could scarcely believe it was a little over a month since she came to this world, the memories of Arus and her arrival on Pollux still fresh in her mind. As fresh as though it had all happened the day before.

She lifted her cup, intending to drown her sighs with the act of drinking. Appearances must be kept up, she had to try, if not to be happy, than to be calm and collected. It was difficult when inside she was anything but, a raging maelstrom of emotions churning her up. The hot liquid of her tea seemed to burn it’s way down her throat, the taste bitter. But then everything she ate or drank was like that, Allura forcing herself to eat only enough to keep her going.

“Allura….” Her cousin Romelle’s voice, Allura risking a quick glance into the blonde’s blue eyes. It still unsettled her to see a gaze so similar to her own that wasn’t her mother’s.

~Mother!~ Allura thought with a pang in her heart. Another swallow of the tea, to keep her from sobbing out loud.

“Allura…” Romelle was trying again, Allura making a questioning sound to show she was paying attention. “Do you want to go with me to the city? There’s a festival today, to celebrate the spring harvest.”

“A festival…” She murmured, and now Bandor, the youngest of her three cousins spoke up.

“Yeah! It’ll be a lot of fun.” He smiled at her, a big toothy grin that didn’t match up with the worry in his eyes. “There will be games and rides, and all kind of foods!”

“And shopping!” added Romelle, surely trying to entice Allura’s interest. “Think of the dresses we can get!”

Allura took a long drink of tea, pretending to consider it. But the truth was she had no interest in it, in any of it, the girl at last shaking her head no. Her cousins seemed to deflate, another look being exchanged between them.

“Allura….you can’t keep doing this…” Romelle began, seeming to pause for Allura’s objections. She received none, Allura just staring at the near empty tea cup in her hands. “You can’t keep yourself locked up. You’re withering away, we can all see it.”

“I’m fine.” Allura spoke at last, forcing a small smile on her face. It was all she could manage, and the sight of it seemed to make her cousins uneasy. “I just need time.”

“You’ve had time!” Romelle pointed out, Bandor placing a hand on her to draw his sister’s attention. She glanced at him, and he shook his head, cautioning her against going down that route. Romelle seemed to sigh, and it was Bandor who spoke.

“You like this planet’s ambrosia, do you not?” A nod from Allura, the boy continuing. “I’ll be sure to bring back lots of it then. So eat up!”

Allura wondered if she’d even be able to manage to down more than a few mouthfuls of her favorite Polluxian treat, the girl not answering her cousin’s command. Instead she finished her tea, pretending not to notice the frustration in his eyes.

She knew she upset them, knew they were struggling just as hard as she. But Allura couldn’t help it, the girl in mourning, both for her people and her planet. She held back a shudder, trying to keep back the memories, of smoke in the sky, and the screams that had followed.

“Please…” Allura was already standing, tea cup left on the table by the couch. “Excuse me. I…I am not feeling well.”

“Should we take you to the castle physician?” asked Romelle, also rising to stand.

“No.” Allura decided, knowing there was nothing the doctor could do. It was a sickness no medicine would be able to heal, maybe nothing would. “I’ll manage.” Another forced half smile, Allura bowing her head slightly to her cousins. “Please…enjoy the festival on my behalf.”

“Allura…” But she was already turning away from Romelle, walking as though in a haze out of the room. She caught the barest wisp of conversation, Romelle and Bandor expressing their concern.

~I’m sorry.~ Allura thought, closing her eyes for one brief second. She wished she could stop being so selfish. Wished she could be what they wanted her to be, act in a way that wouldn’t leave them so upset and frustrated with her.

Truth be known, she echoed their feelings, Allura wondering just what was wrong with her to be so mired in depression. ~I am a princess.~ She thought to herself. ~I should be able to get over this. Should be able to conduct myself in a manner befitting my station and my people.~

But just as she thought that, an even more insidious thought was working it’s way through her. ~Princess in name only, and even that is tentative.~ She shuddered, passing by people, castle servants and guards who bowed and whispered greetings to her. She moved through them like a ghost, barely remembering to keep up appearances.

~I must smile so they don’t worry.~ Allura thought, returning their greetings. ~I mustn’t let them see, mustn’t let them see my pain.~ But even with that false act, everyone surely knew about the pain in her heart.

The tears weren’t falling, but her heart was crying. She brought a hand to her chest, clutching at her bodice. Once again she thought the flames, and the smoke, shivering as though it was really happening.

The castle had been burning, flames licking everywhere, wood turning to ash, and timbers falling. A maid had been trapped under a beam, still alive but screaming as the flames ate at her body. Allura had wanted to stop and help her, but the beam was too heavy, too covered in flames for the four men who escorted her to risk touching. She was dragged away from that sight, protesting all the while.

There had been other, horrific sights to be found, even once clear of the burning castle. The sky had been thick with the black smoke, the nearest town was on fire, and so were the crop fields. And in the sky, hovered the ships, lasers firing, blasting bright illumination against the smoke.

How brave her people’s defenders had been, fighting against the invading force. It hadn’t mattered in the end, the Arusians were grossly outnumbered by the invaders. They could only delay the inevitable, Allura being dragged over to the ship yard that bordered the castle’s property.

Her parents had been waiting for her there, Allura could remember hugging her mother good-bye. Her father had had a grave expression on his face, the man fully dressed in armor. He would go to do battle personally with the invader’s leader, all in the hopes that winning would stop this madness.

She had wanted to be confidant in her father’s battle prowess, but inwardly she had feared this would be the last time she would see him. How right that premonition was, Allura being shoved into a ship, her last sight of her parents through tear blurry eyes.

Allura wished they had come with her, but understood they would never abandon their people to face the invaders alone. Her father was determined to fight, her mother just as determined to stay by his side and lend her support. But Allura could be spared, the girl being sent far away, all on the chance that if something went wrong, the royal line of Arus would continue.

How horrible for everyone that fate allowed her father to be slain in battle. Her mother died soon after, rumors coming that she had killed herself rather than be taken by the enemy. Either way, it left Allura alone, the girl displaced on a planet where her cousins’ father ruled.

Arus was enslaved. That was a fact that made her heart pang all the more harder. Allura shook her head, leaving the castle, to step out onto the grounds. It was one of the rare times she left the inside, the girl wandering past guards to pace unseeing out in the sunshine.

It didn’t feel right to be able to breathe the fresh air of Pollux, to bask in the warmth of it’s sun. Not when her people were enslaved, forced to do God knew what for the invaders. She should be making plans, plotting for ways to get back her planet. But she couldn’t think, and even if she could it wasn’t as though Pollux had the manpower to spare for such an endeavor.

She followed the cobblestone pathway that led out the courtyard, the stones starting to become sparse the farther she traveled. She was wandering, aimless save for the cobblestones, finding she was led to a clearing that was surrounded by thick trees. She could just barely see the castle from here, the canopy of the trees blocking

“Mother…father…” Allura spoke, her voice sounding hoarse from it’s disuse. She thought they’d be disappointed to see her now, to know she was listless, and doing nothing about the situation on Arus. She could barely tend to herself, her cousin Romelle having to goad her every step of the way.

“I’m so sorry…” She whispered, falling to her knees in the grass. She didn’t care if the grass stained her dress, Allura hunching over, arms wrapped around her as she began to openly sob. Here away from the castle, away from prying ears, she could give in to her grief privately.

“There’s nothing I can do.” She continued to whisper, shaking from the force of her sobbing. “I’m only a burden to everyone now…existing on the kindness of others..I..I..” She hiccuped, and then lapsed into wordless crying. Her voice seemed to echo around her, Allura lifting her hands to cover her face.

“If only you were still here…” She moaned. She felt certain if her mother and father had fled with her, together the three of them would have been able to devise a way to reclaim their planet. “It’s too much…” Allura cried. “I’m just a girl….what can I do…”

Sometimes she wondered if her parents had died because she hadn’t had enough faith in them. That if she had believed they’d return to her, they would have. “Such a faithless daughter…” She mumbled, choking on her tears.

“Is it that sad that you lost your world?” A voice, a man’s, foreign and unfamiliar to her, spoke. She instantly stiffened, chagrined and ashamed to be caught crying like this.

Allura lifted her head, and lowered her hands, turning to peer in the direction of the voice. And gasped. He was tall, neck bending so. He’d tower over her even if she had been standing, Allura shivering at the sheer size of this man. But that wasn’t the only reason to fear, the girl noting his blue skin, and white hair, and the delicately pointed ears on either side of his helmeted head.

She knew her eyes had gone huge, Allura staring fearfully at the man who looked just like one of the invaders of her planet. She hurried to stand, clumsy in her attempts to move. He made no attempt to help her, just watching her amused.

“Who…” She shook her head, Allura not wanting to know this man’s name. “Why are you here?! Leave now or I’ll scream!”

“This planet is going to be mine soon.” He was casual as he spoke, the Drule turning to study their surroundings. “So I’m taking a preview of it before my men come.”

“Yours?!” She gasped, and then snarled. “This planet will never be yours!”

“Of course…so will the people here.” He smiled, and suddenly advanced on her, Allura swallowing her scream at the nearness of his face to hers. She nearly fell over when he grabbed her by the wrist, jerking her closer. “That includes you.”

“N…..NO!” This time she did scream, and she struck out with her free hand, slapping him so viciously it dislodge his helmet. For one brief instant he looked angry, and then his lips curved upwards in a smile.

“That’s quite a fiery response.” She stared back at him, and saw his tongue snake out, licking across his bottom lip. She quickly looked away, only to find the invader’s fingers grasping her chin, forcing Allura to look back at him.

He studied her for a long moment, free hand reaching to brush back her unruly curls. His smile deepened, he was pleased for some reason. “Now that I looked closely, you’re actually just my type. Heh..” A chuckle then, her eyes going wider at his words. “To think I nearly lost you when you escaped that shitty planet.”

She reacted in anger to the slur on her world, her eyes narrowing. “Arus is not shitty!” She snarled, too upset to flush properly at cursing. Both her hands lashed out, she was trying to shove the Drule away from her. She slapped and hit at him, crying out louder. “Leave me alone!”

She wasn’t even looking at him as she struck him, head turned to the side as she looked for the pathway that led back to the castle. “Stop!”

He growled now, jerking her arms back behind her back. “Hey now!” He said. “Aren’t you overreacting just a little?!”

She continued to struggle, even when he pinned her in his embrace, his face bent close to hers. She had a dizzying moment of fear, wondering if he would try to kiss her. “Overreacting? Your people stole my planet, your people killed my father!”

“All casualties of war…” He said calmly, his lips seeming to purse. She didn’t want him to kiss her, Allura turning her face to the left and the right, frantic to avoid his lips. “It’s unfortunate but necessary..” He added, exchanging his grip so his one hand held onto her wrists, leaving his other free to grab the back of her hair.

“No…!” She protested again, just an instant before his lips claimed hers. It was a harsh, demanding kiss, the Drule trying to possess her through his mouth. She cried out in disgust, finding he had shoved his tongue in her mouth. Her arms jerked against his grip, never had she wanted to hit someone as badly as she did now, Allura cursing him for stealing her first kiss.

~They’ve taken so much from me!~ She complained in her mind. ~What more will they ask of me?!~

“Hmmm…” He smiled at her, voice purring out satisfaction. “Sweet.” Another lick of his lips, Allura panting, sure she was red faced with her anger. “You’ll be a fine addition to my harem…”

“Harem?!” She scoffed at the word, shaking violently in his grasp. “Never! I rather die first!”

“It would be such a waste if you did….however…” He suddenly shoved her away from him, in one fluid swift movement he drew his sword. Allura fell to the ground with a cry, not understanding what was happening or why his sword blazed like lightning.

“What?!” The Drule was turning away from her, swinging his sword in a wide arc. It clashed into another’s blade, actual sparks being cast up in the process. She looked wide eyed, trying to see who he was attacking.

“You dare interrupt me?!” The Drule demanded, and she nearly sagged with relief to hear the familiar voice of her oldest cousin.

“Your presence here is neither wanted nor welcome, Drule bastard!” Prince Avok said, swinging his sword at the invader.

“Bastard?’ The Drule tsked. “I know quite well who my parents are, thank you very much! As for a welcome, I find the girl’s to be much more pleasant than yours!” They were dueling, Allura scrambling backwards in fear. “Stay there girl!” The Drule ordered. “I’ll be finished with him in just a moment!”

“You’ll find it harder than that to put me down, dog!” Avok boasted with a snarl. Allura hurriedly got to her feet, not sure what to do. “Allura, run!” Avok advised, never taking his eyes off the Drule. “Get back to the castle….!”

“No, Allura, stay!” The Drule seemed to speak her name with a special purr. “Running will only delay the inevitable!”

They continued to fight, Allura starting to pick up her skirts to do as Avok told her. The Drule suddenly lashed out with his foot, knocking Avok back. In a split second he turned, running towards Allura, sword seeming to gleam. A scream tore it’s way out of her throat, and then Avok was there before her, swinging his sword menacingly at the Drule.

The invader brought up his sword, just barely managing to block the blow. His eyes narrowed, he glared angrily at Avok. Their swords were both moving though, swinging again and again, only to clash and block each other from doing an injury on their opponent.

Sounds came from behind her, Allura risking a glance to see the approaching castle guards running towards the clearing. The Drule noticed them too, and sighed. “I know when I’m outnumbered.”

He started to back away, then locked gazes with Allura. “The name is Lotor. Prince Lotor. Don’t forget it.” She knew then and there she’d always remember, the fear locking her throat, making it impossible to speak.

“You’re not going anywhere…” Avok roared, rushing towards the Drule. Lotor neatly sidestepped him, and then was turning, rushing deeper into the woods. “After him!” Avok told the arriving guards. “Don’t let that scum get away!”

“Yes, sire!” A guard answered, the men rushing off after the Drule. Allura could tell Avok wanted to go with them, but he turned to her, putting away his sword in the process.

“Come cousin. It’s not safe out here.” Avok took her by the arm, already leading her back towards the cobblestone pathway. She could barely walk, shaking badly from the encounter.

“Thank you for coming when you did…” Allura told him, clinging to his arm.

“I shudder to think what that bastard would have done if I hadn’t come looking for you.” Avok answered, and Allura shivered.

“You were looking for me?” Allura asked, surprise in her voice

“Yes.” Confirmed Avok. “Representatives of the Galaxy Alliance have arrived. They wish to speak to you about Arus.”

“I see..” Allura wondered if she’d be able to gain their help in reclaiming her planet. She knew the alliance was very busy, holding several hundred planets in it’s membership. Would they really be able to lend aid to one of their many numbers? She didn’t know, but Allura felt she had to try to persuade them to her cause. But more than that, she was worried for her cousins, Allura remembering what that Drule Lotor had said.

“Avok! That man…he said something about Pollux would soon be his!”

“Don’t worry Allura.” Avok said reassuringly. “Pollux will not fall so easily to the Drule.”

She hoped so, but had her doubts, shivering once more as they neared the castle. She glanced up to the sky, paranoid that she would see smoke and ships. but it remained clear, a beautiful pale blue color. It seemed today wasn’t the day for the Drule to attack, and she was grateful for that. But as glad as she was, she knew it couldn’t last, others would appear. And this time she was determined not to run when they did.

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