Pride 04

His hands were shaking, Alfor scowling at the static filled monitor of the view screen. He found he wanted to scream, to vocalize the sheer rage that was coursing through him. But that could not be allowed, Alfor trembling from the effort to control himself. His hands were on the control panel of the monitor, he could hear the keys making a protesting whine as he pressed down hard on them.

If he wasn’t careful he’d break something, and the view screen seemed the most tempting of targets. Even better would be if Zarkon’s smug mug was still on it’s monitor, Alfor wanted to unleash an attack against he who had upset him so.

Zarkon’s words, both mocking and threatening still echoed in his ears, Alfor shuddering as he heard the Drule goading him. Zarkon had said Allura would suffer for Alfor’s refusal, made into nothing more than a play thing for Drule soldiers. The thought frightened and sickened him, but more than that it angered him, Alfor’s protective rage as a father being fueled.

He wasn’t’ sure if he was glad Zarkon had ended the transmission when he had, the human King unsure of what he would have said in response to such a depraved threat. It might have been better to get cut off before he said something supremely foolish, and yet it wasn’t satisfying, Alfor wishing he could have issued his own threat to Zarkon and that brat of his.

He hadn’t paid much attention to Zarkon’s son, especially not during the first minutes of the call to Doom. He had thought him unimportant until Zarkon had announced his intentions to wed the boy to Allura. Worse yet, Allura had somehow managed to sneak away from his aides, the girl poking her head into the room. Alfor had seen how Zarkon’s whelp had reacted to her, the boy’s eyes taking on a lustful gleam as he outright leered at her.

That look frightened Alfor almost as much as Zarkon’s threats, the human King knowing the Drule prince had desired his daughter. Desired her more than was healthy, the boy open with his lust. If there was one thing Alfor could do, he would protect her from that boy, and not just from Lotor, but from all the Drule. And to that he would have to continue his fight with the Doom Empire, Alfor determined to gather more and more worlds for his dream, that of a galaxy alliance.

Such an alliance would take careful planning, and more funds than Arus currently had, Alfor knowing his world was running itself ragged financing his military endeavors. Even with their exports thriving, there never was enough money, Alfor sighing. He’d have to do as Coran suggested, and start actively asking the worlds he rescued to show their gratitude in a more appreciative manner.

Of course there was one other option, one he did not even want to think about. Zarkon’s gift, the Drule having sent a small fortune in an effort to lull Alfor into a compliant mood. No doubt that money and jewels were tainted, fortunes stolen from hardworking worlds that had had the misfortune to fall to the Drule’s invasion. He didn’t think it was right to use that money for his own purposes, nor did he feel well at the thought of returning that wealth to Zarkon.

He knew the Drule King would have no hesitations in using that money for his own purposes, and Zarkon would certainly get a sick pleasure out of the thought of using his gift to Alfor to further his own ambitions. As much as it was the right thing to do, to send the gifts back, Alfor did not want Zarkon using that wealth to fund more ships and soldiers.

He cursed, realizing he had no choice but to keep the gift, appearances be damned. He could still snub the Drule King, Alfor keeping the gift but refusing the alliance Zarkon had hoped to make. He wondered why Zarkon had even approached him with such a foolish proposal, as if Alfor would ever allow the Drule to capture all of the galaxy, even on the premise that it would bring peace to Denubian.

“He must think I am a fool!” grumbled Alfor under his breath, at last turning away from the monitor. He needed to find Coran, needed to make plans, but more than that Alfor needed to calm down. A mind in conflict would not help him to do the necessary things, Alfor taking one steadying breath after another. By the time he was taking his fifth breath, he was exiting his study, looking for his advisor.

He found him just outside the throne room, the man in a deep discussion with the captain of Alfor’s guards. Alfor wondered where those guards were when Allura was sneaking out of the throne room, the man not liking that she had intruded into a private call. He might have been amused once by her curiosity, but now he simply felt horror to think Zarkon and his son had laid eyes on his innocent daughter.

“Coran.” The captain bowed, then hurried away, the advisor turning to look at his king. “We need to talk.”

“Ah yes, we do.” Agreed Coran, face so serious and unsmiling. “There’s a ship in our court yard….it’s crammed full of people…”

“People?” Alfor blinked in surprise, then growled. “You mean slaves.”

“Yes. We haven’t had time to do a full head count, but the crowd is large enough that I would not be surprised to know it is the five hundred slaves the king of Doom sought to gift you with.”

“Damn him!” Alfor muttered, and Coran raised an eyebrow at that. “Some good can come of this. I intend to free those slaves…”

“Of course sire…But there is the matter of where to put them once free…Arus is hardly suited to see to the welfare of five hundred new people….we won’t be able to house them all, and with the job situation the way it is at the moment, I doubt they will be able to all find work to feed and clothe themselves.” Coran sighed. “It’s quite a burden Zarkon has dropped in our lap.”

“We’ll find a way.” Alfor insisted. “If I have to, I’ll employ them as soldiers and take them with me to battle Zarkon’s forces.”

“Are you sure that’s wise?” questioned Coran. “We know nothing of these people. They could be spies, saboteurs, or assassins. Even all three.”

Trust Coran to think of the negatives, Alfor frowning. “I don’t think they are. But we’ll have to keep a close eye on them just in case. But really, Zarkon was too intent on getting in my good favors to plant a killer among his gifts.”

“How can you be so sure?” asked Coran, and Alfor took him by the arm, leading him further away from the throne room.

“I have much to tell you.” Alfor said, glancing around shifty eyed in an attempt to make sure there was no one near to eavesdrop. “I’ve spoken with Zarkon. It did not go well.”

“Hardly surprising, given the nature of your relationship wtih him.” Murmured Coran. “But still. He must want something if he went to all this trouble of sending you such expensive gifts.”

“Oh it’s no trouble when the gifts are stolen!” snapped Alfor, bristling with annoyance. “Zarkon would never dip into his own precious coffers. Make no doubt about it Coran, the gift—bribes, are all from worlds he conquered.”

“I am not surprised.” Coran replied. “But no matter their origin, he wanted to impress you.”

“He wanted to seduce me!” Alfor retorted, and fought not to pace from his agitation. “You can’t believe what he suggested….what he wanted our two kingdoms to do.”

“What?”

“He wanted us to enter into an alliance.” Coran’s eyes went huge at that, the man almost gaping at his king. Alfor nodded grimly. “He’s a fool to think I would agree. He actually talked about attaining peace through force! Force!” Alfor snorted then. “As if the galaxy would be better off brought to heel under his control, many of the people enslaved.”

Coran didn’t seem to know what to say, just listening with that shocked look on his face. “I could barely keep from laughing in his face.” Continued Alfor. “But that impulse was quickly squelched when he revealed just how far he was willing to go to tie Arus to Doom.”

“What did he want to do?” Coran asked, and Alfor stiffened, fingers to his lip for silence. A maid walked by, pausing long enough to give a curious look to the two men, before the King waved her away.

“You must swear to me this goes no further than your ears.” Alfor said, voice dropped to a whisper as he leaned into Coran’s side.

“I swear it. You need never question my loyalty.”

“He had his eyes on Allura!” Alfor felt himself shake, his anger not gone yet.

“Allura?!” gasped Coran, and the king nodded.

“He actually wanted to marry her off!”

“To Zarkon?!” Coran looked as sick as Alfor felt, the human King grateful Zarkon wasn’t THAT depraved.

“Oh good gods, no. To his son!” Alfor clarified, and Coran frowned.

“I was not aware the crown prince was old enough to marry…”

“Apparently he is. He’s certainly old enough to know desire.” Alfor made fists, a glower on his face. “You should have seen the way he looked at Allura!”

“She was present for this?!”

“She snuck into the room. Fortunately we were all speaking in Drule, so she doesn’t know what that tyrant wanted for her future. As it is, I’m sure she’ll have nightmares for weeks just from looking at Zarkon!” exclaimed Alfor. “I hurried her out of the room, and made it be known to both Zarkon and his son how distasteful the idea of a marriage between our children was to me…and I made sure to let them no there was no way it would happen.”

“They were not pleased, were they?” asked Coran.

“Of course not. That brat of his had the gall to actually argue with me!” Alfor was grim then. “He wants her Coran…wants her in a way that disturbs me. I’m no less horrified to think of the threats Zarkon made against her when he finally got it through his thick skull the alliance wasn’t going to happen.”

“Do I even want to know what he said?” The advisor wondered, and Alfor shook his head no.

“Think of the most depraved thing you can imagine, than triple it. And maybe then you’d be close to knowing what Zarkon said about Allura and Arus’ future.”

“We cannot allow that to happen”! A horrified Coran exclaimed. “We must stop them!”

“We will. One way or another.” Alfor told him. “I intend to leave immediately. I must prepare the worlds we have saved for the upcoming battles…now more than ever, it is imperative we stop the Drules from taking over the galaxy.”

“Of course.” Agreed Coran. “It’s time to put an end to the Drule threat.”

“I don’t expect it to be easy.” Admitted Alfor. “It will take time and resources…whole worlds will have to sacrifice in order to get the funds needed to make a move at the heart of the Doom empire. Even with our robot, we’ve never been able to free a world already settled by the Drule. At best we’ve only been able to chase them off from a world in danger of being invaded. We’ll have to step up our game if we want to free those captured worlds as well…” He hesitated then. “As abhorrent as it is to me, Zarkon’s gifts will come in handy.”

“Sire?” Coran seemed surprise. “You mean to keep them?”

“I mean to use them.” Alfor corrected him with a grim smile. “As disgusting as it is to use wealth stolen from other worlds, it would be worse to return them to Zarkon. He would have no qualms about using that fortune to fund his own armadas, and if we’re going to combat him on fair ground, we need to lose our hesitation as well.”

“I..I understand.” Coran said at last.

“You’ll help me?” Alfor asked, and Coran nodded.

“Of course. I’ll get to work on cataloging the assets, and dividing them up so that they go where needed the most.”

“Good.” Alfor gestured for Coran to walk with him back to the throne room. “I also need you now more than ever to keep an eye on Allura. To watch over and guide her. These battles will take me from Arus, for longer and farther than I can imagine. She’ll be all alone, save for those who can offer support to her. I know it won’t be easy on her, her father gone for much of the time…” He sighed then wistful, knowing he should by all rights be enjoying watching his daughter grow up. “Allura can never know of Doom’s threats, and that laughable alliance they proposed.”

“It will be our secret.” Promised Coran, and then the throne room’s doors were opening. The wagon with the chests holding Zarkon’s gifts were still in the center of the room, many of the Lords and ladies of the court crowded around it. They seemed to step back guiltily when they realized Alfor had returned, but the King barely paid them any mind. He was too busy seeking out Allura, spying her talking to two young girls, daughters of someone of the court.

She seemed to sense his eyes on her and turned, offering him a shy, uncertain smile. He felt a pang in his heart to see her, worry eating away at him as the threats of Zarkon echoing in his mind once more. It just firmed his resolve, Alfor knowing he would have to do everything possible to make sure Zarkon’s words did not become true, the galaxy and his daughter needing to be saved from the Drules.


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