Pride 08

It had taken another three hours before Lotor was able to retire from the night’s duties. Every second had been a slow torture, Lotor impatient and snappish, snarling at his men when they proved too slow in their tasks. The downloading of the data from the castle’s computers had taken longer than expected, the translation process hitting a snag when they came across encoded files.

Even now, men and women worked to break the code, the Drules excited and confidant that the encoded documents must contain something important. It was an idle curiosity that had Lotor wondering what those documents held, the prince figuring that most if any secrets found, would prove useless now that Arus had fallen. At best, they would hold the key to Voltron’s construction, and perhaps detail some secrets of the Galaxy Alliance. But with Alfor dead, his body stuffed and mounted, the Alliance would be falling apart, it’s people scrambling to make sense of the chaos that followed the death of their leader.

Lotor felt certain it would be mere child’s play to destroy any stray remnants that remained of the alliance, and if any of the worlds associated with it, tried to put up a resistance, they too would end up as crushed and devastated as Arus now was. It was no lie to say Arus was ruined, much of it’s cities and towns destroyed. The Drules had not stopped their razing of the towns once the planet had been conquered, no mercy was shown to their care and comfort of the people. Zarkon had wanted a message sent, one that would reach the other worlds and horrify the people there.

The cities and towns were reduced to mere rubble, the people enslaved or being hunted down. Some would board the Drule ships, and be taken to the home world, forced to toil there as slaves. But many would remain on Arus, forced to work the land, dig out it’s resources night and day with little respite. Zarkon wanted Arus ruined, wanted every bit of good taken from the land and brought out to use in the Drule Empire.

Lotor almost thought it a pity that such a rich and fertile planet was doomed to be nothing more than useless rock, but knew the Arusians had brought it upon themselves. Or more specifically, their King had brought this fate to them, and all because of his arrogance and hatred of the Drule. If Alfor had only agreed to the union Zarkon had proposed, then none of this would be happening now.

Lotor let out an angry snort, thinking back to that day. Three years had passed since then, and the hurt and anger of that day had not lessened one bit. Lotor still remembered how he had felt when he first saw Allura, the memories colored so that it almost pained him to think of her beauty. He had been awestruck by her, by the thought that this beautiful creature could be his, and any protests he might have had at the thought of his father marrying him off had died at the first glimpse of Allura’s face.

Even at fifteen, young and innocent, it had been clear that she would only become more stunning as she aged. He had wanted her then, and badly, had even tried to argue his case with her father. Alfor had been hostile and unimpressed by anything Lotor had had to say, the human’s words laced with derision and disgust. As shocked as Lotor had been by Alfor’s insults, nothing had prepared him for the venom of the princess’ own words. He would have preferred to have lived in ignorance, let himself imagine anything but the truth of what she had said. Maybe then his heart wouldn’t have hardened to the point it had, Lotor not being driven to despise the princess and all she stood for.

Allura represented not only Arus, but the rejection he had received, and the deaths of all the Drules that had followed the warring during those three years since that call. She and her father had been the face of his enemy, the figurehead that brought home the reality of the war Doom was engaged in. Before that Lotor hadn’t been concerned with the fighting, content to let his father deal with Doom’s enemies. He had felt untouched by the war, isolated from what was going on around him, and uncaring of the repercussions the fighting brought to Doom.

The insult Alfor and his daughter had given Lotor had changed all that, motivating the prince into action. He became the perfect little soldier, a student of many things, learning all kinds of skill and knowledge to better prepare himself for the challenges Arus offered his world. Initially he had studied with the intent of finding a way to pay back the insult, Lotor wanting to put a quick end to the war and capture Allura. He had harbored vivid fantasies of what he would do to her, the indignities he would make her suffer. That was before the war began to touch him more personally, Lotor making friends with some of the soldiers he trained with.

They were good men, these soldiers that would become his friends. Men who should have had the best and brightest of careers. They would have moved on to command their own fleets if not for their lives being snuffed out by Arus’ defender. Each friend’s death had hardened Lotor, the prince understanding that if Allura and Alfor had agreed to the union, to the marriage, then those men would not have died.

It was a personal loss he suffered, far more serious than the insults given to him by the King and princess of Arus. And with those deaths, Lotor took a closer look at what was happening to Doom, noting how the people suffered for all the worlds lost to the Empire. His people were close to starving at times, not enough food being produced to feed all of them, especially the poorer classes.

Many enlisted in the Drule military for the wealth and prestige promised to them, the chance to be able to feed their families. Many died though, and Doom wasn’t always able to pay the deceased’s family a proper pension. Doom’s slums were crowded with those survivors, Drules living in squalor, unable to earn enough money to raise themselves out of such a wretched state.

Each planet won, improved the situation on Doom, though it was never enough. Not when they needed every resource available to them to keep the worlds they had conquered. Arus, and eventually the Galaxy Alliance, was always attacking, always trying to free the worlds from Doom’s grasp. They were a nuisance on all levels, and Lotor could only thank the dark Gods he worshipped that Doom had finally found the key to their success.

With Arus fallen, it wouldn’t take long for Doom to build itself back up, to regain it’s former glory. The tides had at last changed, Doom would prosper once more. It was just a pity it had taken Haggar as long as it had for her coven to come upon the spell that would destroy Arus’ robot. He shook his head, making a tsking sound, Lotor staring moodily through the glass window.

He still hadn’t returned to his own ship, instead wandering the corridors of the medical bay of one of the smaller ships in his armada. It was here that many of the injured had been brought, those who had suffered life threatening wounds being given the best care the Drule could offer in these limited settings. Even now Cossack and Haggar were among them, the pair being given priority above many of the other injured. Cossack because he was both a commander and the prince’s dear friend, and Haggar for she was a member of the council, holding power that was just below that of the King’s.

Currently, Lotor was in the observatory, staring down through the glass ceiling at the Drules who worked on his friend. Cossack had been pumped with anesthesia, the Drule unconscious for hours now as the doctors worked to remove the shrapnel from his body. It was quite a sight to see all that open flesh that was being worked on, the doctors having to slice him open to retrieve the pieces that had burrowed in deep in Cossack’s body.

It was troubling, Lotor tensing up every time one of the doctors called out an order. Bags of blood were constantly being replaced, Cossack was losing so much of the vital liquid, and was only fortunate in that his blood type was common enough among the Drules. Even worse, there was a troubling amount of shrapnel buried in the flesh along his spine, the doctors carefully digging it out. Lotor knew enough to be worried that the commander might suffer some form of paralysis from the damage done by the shrapnel, and he prayed that his fears would be unfounded.

The areas of Cossack’s body that had been worked free of the shrapnel shards were sewn up, tight stitches that would still leave some scarring. Cossack would have quite a story to tell if he lived, able to show off the scars from his brush with death. Lotor just hoped his friend would survive and be around to boast of his injuries, the prince’s hands tightening into fists as he thought of what Allura had managed to do to Cossack.

He might have been impressed by the princess’ blood thirstiness, if and only if she hadn’t endangered Cossack and the other Drules with her actions. He didn’t register that Allura had been acting out of grief for her dead father, Lotor just wondered why she had been so foolish, so suicidal as to take up arms against the Drules. She had even shot at him, a fact that might have amused him if not for the deadliness of her weapon.

To Lotor, Allura injuring Cossack was just one more cause for payback, Lotor vowing she would pay for the mangling of the commander’s body. He had many ideas of just what she could do in an attempt to earn penance, but he was too tense to smile over any of them. Cossack’s situation was too real, too raw and pain filled to allow Lotor a moment of relaxation, the prince full of anxiety and knowing he would not be able to calm down until he knew the commander would be all right.

He didn’t give himself over to pacing though, just standing before the edge of the glass ceiling, staring downwards with an impassive expression. The doctors and nurses tending to Cossack were already tense, they didn’t need the added pressure of the prince of Doom glaring down at them. Indeed they were being careful not to look up, none wanting to catch his eye and betray what they were feeling about the situation.

That was fine with Lotor, the prince knowing he’d fly into a mindless rage if so much as pity or sympathy flashed in one of their eyes. Nor did he want to see any hints of doubt, Lotor wanting them to be pulling for Cossack to survive this surgery.

A gash in Cossack’s shoulder was sewed up, stitches a stark black in the commander’s blue skin. Elsewhere on his body, a new incision was being made, blood welling up as they sought to get out a larger piece of shrapnel. He was focused on what they were doing to his friend, refusing to look away as a sort of homage to Cossack. If the commander could endure this surgery, the least Lotor could do was watch without flinching.

So focused was he on Cossack’s body below, he almost missed the approach of an orderly. The green clad Drule was nervous, Lotor not even turning to eye the man. But he barked out a word, question sounding as hostile as he felt for this interruption.

“WHAT?!”

“Ah, prince Lotor sire. Forgive me for the interruption.” Stammered the Drule, the orderly a flurry of nerves as he bowed hastily to the prince. “It is witch Haggar…”

“What about Haggar?” Lotor demanded, thinking of what he knew about the witch’s situation. She had suffered a backlash of magic power, burns appearing all over her once lovely skin. It should have been enough to kill the woman, and yet somehow she had survived, stubbornly clinging to life.

“She…she’s requesting an audience with you sire.” Came the answer.

“She’s awake and lucid?” Lotor was aghast then, knowing the amount of damage that had been done to her was too much pain for one person to endure.

“Yes. The doctors’ given her something for the pain, but she’s refusing to rest until she can talk to you.” Explained the orderly. “She says it’s of an urgent matter…”

“It must be, if she’s refusing to escape to the peace sleep can offer her.” Muttered Lotor. The orderly made a questioning sound, and slowly Lotor nodded. “Very well. Take me to her.”

“Yes, sire.” Another bow, Lotor pausing to stare one last time at the operated on Cossack. With a shudder, he prayed this wouldn’t be the last sighed he’d have of his friend, Lotor following the orderly to Haggar’s room. The Drule wisely did not try to engage Lotor in conversation, merely leading him down the quickest path to the rooms where the patients recovered.

Haggar had a private room, and the nurse that was replacing her iv bag of pain medication, nodded once before leaving Lotor to his privacy with the witch. The orderly had disappeared once they reached the room, and thus Lotor was left all alone with Haggar. She was swathed in bandages, the white marred a sickly yellow and green color, pus from the burns soaking through the gauze. The bandages would have to be changed and frequently, and Lotor found he was relieved he couldn’t see the damage they hid.

Even Haggar’s face was covered with bandages, with only a slit for her nose, lips and eyes. Her eyes were currently closed, leaving Lotor to think she had at last given in to the need for sleep. That thought lasted only as long as it took for her eyes to snap open, the yellow looking a feverish shade as she weakly lifted a hand in his direction. That hand shook from the effort it took to raise it, and yet Haggar did not make a whimper of pained sound.

“Prince Lotor…” Even her voice sounded affected by her injuries, the once seductive lilt now raspy and croaking like a toad. “It’s good that you’ve come to see me.”

“You need your rest Haggar.” Lotor told her, moving closer to her bed. But he made no moved to touch her lifted hand, frightened he would hurt her if he did. “You shouldn’t be insisting on anything but more pain medicine.”

“All the pain medicine in the world won’t dull what has happened to me.” She whispered in that awful croaking voice.

“What happened exactly?” Lotor asked. “What went wrong with the spell?”

“It was too powerful…even with the combined might of my coven. I was a fool to try it…”

“My father wouldn’t have allowed you to not use it…” Lotor pointed out, and she tried to nod her head. “But that is not why you’ve called me here, is it?”

“I’ll deal with your father on my own terms.” Haggar told him. “Instead I have a warning for you.”

“A warning?” Lotor lifted a brow at that, hearing Haggar cough.

“It came to me in a vision.” She continued after she finishing hacking up a lung. “You must…must stay away from the princess of Arus.”

“Stay away from her?! Are you mad?” Lotor demanded, but his laugh died before it could be let out. “Haggar no, I have waited too long for this moment.”

“Listen to me sire!” She all but snarled now, desperation in her voice. “That pretty face will be your undoing! I’ve seen it!”

“You’ve seen what exactly?” Lotor asked, folding his arms over his chest as he stared at her.

“It wasn’t a clear enough vision to tell me exactly what your fate would be. Just that there would be immense pain, and ruin brought upon you if you bed the princess of Arus.”

“Haggar…”

“NO! You must take me seriously.” She was trying to sit up now, and Lotor almost reached out to push her back down to the pillows. “If you touch that girl now, it will be your end! You must stay away from her, avoid her temptations or it will be your end…maybe even the end of the Drule Empire!”

“She’s just a girl…” Lotor pointed out with a sneer. “She has no power or wealth to her name now, even her title is meaningless now that her planet has fallen. What can one slave do, no matter how pretty she is?”

“I don’t know..” Haggar admitted, still agitated and upright, and staring imploringly at him. “And that troubles me all the more!” He was hardly convinced by her words, and Haggar saw it, reacting with desperation and displeasure. “Sire please! She is capable of so much more than you think! She shot down Cossack’s ship, who knows how many others she can hurt. Her hands are stained with blood, with the blood of all the Drules that died upon her refusal to wed you…don’t add your own blood to her accomplishments!”

“She’s nothing…” Lotor said, trying not to be shaken by the conviction he saw in Haggar’s eyes. “And visions can be overturned if we take the right actions…”

“Visions are a warning of what not to do, to avoid a ruinous fate. She could be the death of you…don’t let your lust cloud your judgment…take your revenge, but do it in some other fashion!”

He was more than sullen than, lips curling into a scowl. Lotor didn’t like what Haggar was telling him, and yet he also knew her visions were the most accurate of all the witches and warlocks the castle employed. If she truly saw there was danger in having sex with Allura, then he’d be a fool to ignore it. Even if he had spent three years dreaming of the moment he’d be free to take what he wanted, and sink himself deep inside the princess of Arus.

“Haggar rest.” Lotor said, and she shook her head, frantic. “I…I will consider your words.”

“You must do more than consider them!” She snapped back. “You must do everything in your power to not lay with her! Your highness, in my opinion it would be best if you just killed the girl, that would avert the fate the vision foretells completely!” She could see that that idea did not appeal to him, the witch falling back against her pillows, as though drained of her energy. “Sire please…” Haggar begged weakly. “Do not let a moment’s lust be your undoing.”

“It’s not a moment!” Lotor retorted. “This…desire I have for her has been building for years…” Haggar opened her mouth to protest but he was speaking over her. “But I will hold off…for now.”

“That for now is the best I’m going to get, isn’t it?” Haggar asked, then let out an odd sound that Lotor could almost swear was her attempt at a chuckle. “Fine.” She said at his nod. “When I am better, I will attempt to further decipher this vision. There may even be a way to counter it…BUT!” A thin finger was held up, only the clawed tip not wrapped up in bandages. “Do not get your hopes up. It’s better to find someone else to bed, then one that could lead to your death. Alfor was always a troublesome thorn in your father’s side, his brat may continue the tradition with you.”

“I’ll handle her, don’t you worry about it.” Lotor grumbled, and Haggar settled more comfortably against the pillows. But she stared at him, worried gaze following him as he left the room and closed the door. He scowled at the people in the hall, and they scurried away, not wanting to fall victim to his anger. And he was angry, incensed beyond belief that his moment of revenge was being thwarted. He didn’t give in to worry, not yet, though he did wonder what Haggar’s vision could mean. What sort of ruin and pain could Allura bring to him? He didn’t know, and Lotor was sure he didn’t want to find out.


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