It was sometime after Noon before the hungover Anador woke up. The temple pounding intensity of a headache brought on by too much drinking, drowned out any memory of what had gone on the night before. As far as he was concerned a good time had been had by all, especially his daughter and Lotor. All was right in HIS world…except for the fact some fool servant had left the curtains open, and the hot twin suns of Demos was currently shining sunbeams down onto his bed.
With a groan, the king rolled over to his side, turning his back to the window. The room wavered before his eyes, and for an instant he thought he would be ill. But the moment passed, and his stomach grudgingly settled down. “I really shouldn’t have over done it like that…” He muttered into his pillow. He normally wasn’t a heavy drinker but the stress of the last few months had gotten to him. Amidst wedding plans, and dealing with a reluctant bride groom, he had also been fighting a war. He hadn’t had much chance to relax. And now that Lotor seemed to have accepted his future role in Corral’s life, he saw no need to keep as close an eye on him as he had been doing…at least…not personally. He felt that for one night, someone else could worry about any possible problems while he relaxed. And so he had started knocking back the drinks, soon other drinking buddies goading him onto more and more until the end result of all that fun had knocked him out into a deep sleep.
He wasn’t even aware of how exactly he had made it back to his chambers. He supposed Maltilda had gotten some of the men to carry him back to his chambers, and put him to bed. He sighed deeply. At least his dear, departed wife was not around to have seen last night’s display. Bad enough his sister had been around to witness it. He winced, knowing he would hear an earful from Lapis about last night.
In fact he was surprised she wasn’t already here, all stern and disapproving of him sleeping in this late. And she would be right this one time. He shouldn’t be sleeping in. NOT with the wedding just a few days away. Struggling free of the bed sheets, Anador stood up. There would be time enough to sleep AFTER the wedding.
Someone was playing with Allura’s hair. Whoever it was had a gentle, soothing touch, that lulled the princess into a false sense of comfort. It wouldn’t last, for as the princess roused ever closer to awakening, the rush of memories from last night flooded into her brain, consciousness forcing her to awaken with a startled gasp. Her eyes flew open, revealing it was not her Nanny currently fussing over her hair, but a stranger weaving crystal beads into her currently multicolored strands.
“Who are you?” demanded Allura, jerking her head out of the scantily clad brunette’s lap. “Where am I?!” She cried upon taking a good look at her surroundings. They were in a plain room, stark metal walls, the ceiling and floor, all a matching hue of gray. The room was bereft of furniture, forcing the occupants, all of which were beautiful women in various states of undress, to perch on the cold floor. Some had managed to secure brightly colored cushions to sit upon, jealously guarding their prize from the others. A sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach hinted to her that she was in a harem, or something very similar to it…
“Does it matter?” The brown haired woman replied softly, not making it clear which of Allura’s questions she was alluding to. Perhaps both, she had a distinctly depressed air about her.
“Of course it matters!” snapped Allura. “I was brought here against my will! Kidnapped! I would like to know why?!” She felt too upset to bother pressing the issue of introductions right now.
“Can’t you guess?” The woman let out a humorless chuckle. “You can’t be that naive girl!”
“I’m not naive!” Allura retorted. Just sheltered. She thought. “I would just like some answers…”
“If you must know, we’re on one of the many ships that are property of the slaver, Lord Mika.” Allura frowned. That name didn’t ring any bells, but for some reason she felt as though she had met this Mika person. “You see? It’s not as if knowing made anything better.” The brunette stated morosely.
“Ignore Humi, dear.” A sultry voice said from behind Allura. “She hasn’t yet reconciled herself to life as a slave.” Turning to gaze at the speaker, Allura’s eyes widened slightly. The woman was rather busty, dressed in skimpy chainmail bikini, and was very tall. Allura would guess her to be over six feet, and she had lightly tanned skin, with amazing hair. It was sky blue, and trailed all the way down to the back of her knees. She had a mature air about her, making her seem older than her apparent age, which was only a few years more than Allura’s sixteen.
“And I suppose you have Selina. “The brunette, Humi, said to the newcomer.
“Of course I have!” tittered Selina. “After all, it’s not a hard life to adjust to. A roof over one’s head, food to eat, and clothing…” Her lips quirked into a smile, as she gestured at what little she wore. “…to keep you somewhat decently covered. All this in return for just looking pretty.”
“I think the deal requires a little bit more than just being something to look at…” muttered Humi.
“What happens when your looks fade?” asked Allura, feeling a mixture of fascination on top of being appalled. She had never imagined somebody could claim to be satisfied with life as a slave!
“A person of my kind of beauty is eternal. I will only grow more gorgeous as the years goes by.” It was a rather conceited thing to say, but it sounded as though Selina meant every word of it. And perhaps it was true, thought Allura, staring at the blue haired Amazon. Who knew what planet she came from, or what her people’s genetics were like.
“I still think it’s…” Allura hesitated, wanting to say pathetic. She controlled herself, not wanting to alienate a potential ally…”Sad…You should be looking for ways to better your situation, not embrace it!!”
“Don’t waste your words on me.” Selina replied, unknowingly sparing herself from one of the princess’ slavery rants. “My life here is far better then it ever was when I was a free woman. Back then I had to do hours of back breaking labor just to earn enough credits to put food on the table.”
“Oh…” Allura didn’t know how to respond to that. It was beyond her experience. Even when Arus had been overrun by Zarkon’s forces, her people forced into hiding, she hadn’t needed to worry about taking care of basic needs. Coran had always managed to find food so she needn’t feel hunger pangs, clothes to keep her warm during winter, covered in summer.
“Cheer up.” Selina said, taking note of Allura’s downcast expression. “Since being taken, I’ve had a good master. Almost sad he died.”
“She’s just excited to have been selected to be given to some prince.” Humi explained. “Everyone here is going to–”
“SOME prince?!” exclaimed Selina, cutting off Humi’s words. “He’s not just some prince as you so carelessly put it. He’s THE prince, handsome and rich, and rumored to be quite the ladies man. I’ve heard tales of how amazingly good Prince Lotor takes care of his harem girls. He’s said to be a very kind hearted master.”
“LOTOR?!” squeaked Allura.
“See, even she had heard of him!” Selina said approvingly.
“Lotor!” Allura exclaimed again. her heart beating a little faster in excitement. “You do mean Prince Lotor of Doom, right?”
“How many other Prince Lotors have you heard of?” asked Selina. “Of course Lotor of Doom!”
“You don’t know how glad I am to hear that.” Allura said, breathing a deep sigh of relief. By her reasoning, if Selina and these other women were to be given to Lotor, then it must mean they were still on Demos, maybe even near the castle! She wouldn’t let herself dwell on the thoughts that perhaps they were being delivered to Doom. It would do her no good to depress herself with thoughts that she was being taken further and further away from her intended destination.
“Do you have a crush on him or something?” asked Selina, carefully watching Allura’s face.
“What? NO!!” protested Allura, her cheeks deepening to a bright pink color. “I’m uh just relieved to be going to such uh..an easy master…” She lied.
“We all are!” grinned Selina, ignoring Humi’s protests of just the opposite. “I love it when they’re easy on the eyes. Makes my job so much easier.” She laughed vigorously, her whole chest bouncing from the force. (Think Slayer’s Naga people!)
“Um…right…” Allura said, just as a loud whooshing sound was heard. Most of the other women ignored it, continuing to quietly talk amongst themselves. But not Allura. “What’s that?!” She cried, leaping to her feet.
“Relax sweetie.” Selina said, amused. “Just the bay doors opening.” She frowned. “I don’t think it’s time for a meal…”
“Maybe they got another slave…” muttered Humi.
At the far end of the room, a seam had appeared in the wall, letting in sunlight through the widening crack. Humming and whirring was heard as the motors turned, laboring to pull apart the slates. When at last the noise died down, a wide opening, far too large and misshapen to call a door, had appeared, showing the view of a forest borders the ship was parked next to. Allura was shocked to see no one trying to make a run for freedom, perhaps some were as contented as Selina to remain where she was. Others perhaps feared being beaten, as a grinning man walked into the room, a vicious looking lazon whip coiled in his hands, while still more guards took up position just outside the ship.
“YOU!!” Allura cried out, an angry look on her face. She hadn’t meant to call attention to herself, but the shock of recognizing him had forced her into action. It was the man who had accosted her when she first arrived on Demos!
“Ah there you, my pretty.” Smirking he strode over to her. “I’m surprised to see you awake so soon. Most people sleep a lot longer when doused with chloroform and directly injected with an anesthetic.”
“Well I’m not like other people.” hissed Allura, eyes blazing with anger as she held her position, refusing to give him the satisfaction of causing her to back up even one step. “And I ORDER you to release me this instant! Me AND these poor women you have wrongfully imprisoned!”
Selena and Humi blinked. This was a first. No one had ever thought to ask that any of the others be free. They had always been to concerned with saving their own skin. It was a nice gesture, but a foolish, hopeless one all the same.
The man, Salteris stared at her for a few seconds, before tossing his head back and laughing. “You order me? Ha! Who do you think you are? Some sort of royalty?”
“I’m am pri…” Allura eyes widened as she realized just how close she had come to revealing her identity. “I don’t have to be a princess to be treated like a feeling person!”
“I’d be interested in seeing just what kind of feelings you have in bed…” Salteris said, leering at Allura. “But besides that, your comfort does not concern me.”
“You pig!” Allura hissed, only managing to keep from slapping him, because he was not yet in reach.
“Oink oink baby.” He said mockingly, moving closer to her.
“Ah Salteris, you caught her.” Another man had arrived, another familiar face to Allura. Short and plump, bright yellow robes trailing on the floor, a black hat with a yellow feather on his head. “Lord Mika…” She heard Selina whisper softly.
“My Lord…” Salteris turned from Allura, bowing to Mika.
“Lord Mika, there has been a terrible mistake.” Allura began. “I am not a slave…”
“Not many start their lives out as slaves.” Mika said, a sardonic smile on his lips. “Nor do many admit to it when caught.”
“But I am speaking the truth!” Allura protested.
“The truth matters little to me.” Mika replied. “What knowledge I do value is the fact that there are no records of your working at the castle, nor has there been any reports on any stolen or runaway slaves matching your description.” He came to her, catching her chin with his fingers, forcing her face up. “That makes you fair game to me, pretty girl.”
“Monster!” Allura cried, helpless to do anything else. “How can you stand to make money off of other’s pain and misery?”
“It’s an easy enough job. My sleep is not interrupted by a guilty conscience. Besides…” He chuckled. “If not me, then someone else would do it.” He pushed her backwards, causing her to fall onto Humi and Selena. “Dress her in something more appropriate.” He ordered. “It would not do to present her to Prince Lotor in a scullery maid’s uniform.” He turned to leave, although Salteris did not.
“Salteris!” Mika shouted, when he was almost off the ship. “Stop ogling the merchandise! I have needs for you to see to!”
Salteris let out a regretful sigh. One thing he regretted about working for Mika was the fact that the man never let him have any fun with the slaves. He insisted that if his men wanted to have any pleasure from one of his girls, he’d have to purchase her like all the other men did. But this new slave wouldn’t know that, and he could enjoy terrifying her with lies. “Some other time sweetness.” He said huskily, the lustful look in his eyes scaring Allura almost to the point of passing out. Selina and Humi whispering words to soothe her, distracted her from watching him swagger out of the ship. Shuddering she thought, Lotor better appreciate all I’m going through for him!
Between dealing with the troubles that came with keeping a Kingdom running smoothly, and working out the ever changing wedding plans (How he wished Corral’s mother was still around to handle that time consuming, patience taxing aggravation.), it wasn’t until the evening’s meal, before Anador had a moment’s to himself.
He sat himself down at the table with his usual pile of paperwork. He had some wedding things to go over with Lotor and Corral. Not that Corral had shown much interest in the planning process once she and Lotor had started spending quality time together.
He became caught up on a new tax increase proposal that was being highly debated among his people. The well to do people argued it was justified, what with the war being fought. Others insisted Demos should get the money elsewhere, surely the Empire had plenty of slave planets to steal from. The Nobles then retorted with the argument that soon with the union between Doom and Demos, they’d quickly be able to return the money to the public, via new public facilities, and education policies. The lower class quickly shot back with the retort that if they were so sure they’d get their hands on more money so quickly, there shouldn’t even be a need to take money from them. The tax debate seemed endless, and it was a while before Anador set the document down. And by then the food was in front of him, having long gone cold and remaining untouched, Corral and Lotor’s seats still empty. He frowned. “Where the Hell is everyone?!”
Intending to find out just that, he marched out of the dining room, through the corridors, and up the stairs, coming to a halt before his daughter’s bedroom. “What the…” He frowned, seeing a tray with lidded plates of food before the doors. Since when does she take meals in her room?
“Corral?” He called out, knocking his hand against the door, even as he was already twisting the doorknob open. “Are you in there?” The door refused to open, even when he roughly pulled hard enough to rattle it on it’s frame. “Why is this door locked?”
“Go away!” Corral’s muffled voice shouted. “I told you, I don’t want to see anyone!!”
“Not even me?” He asked, still trying to force the door open. There was no answer. “Corral, as your father, I command you to open this door this instant!”
He thought he heard a sound, like someone perhaps stifling a sob. Silence for a few moments more, feet padding closer, then the unlocking of the door. He pulled it open, and rushed into the room, giving a desperate glance around the room to make sure she was alone (He didn’t put it past Lotor to be in here seducing his baby girl before the wedding!), before he looked at her clearly. What he saw shocked her. She was still in her nightgown, hair wild and unbrushed, eyes even redder than usual, wet tear tracks down her cheeks.
“Corral, have you been crying?” It was a stupid thing to say, of course she had been. He could SEE that. And yet, just like when someone got stabbed during a fight, there was inevitable the moron who asked, “Are you all right?” or “Did that hurt?” Right now he was that moron, instantly regretting stating the obvious.
Her lower lip trembled, more tears appearing in the corner of her eyes, threateningly to overspill. “DADDY!!” She cried, and threw herself into his arms.
“There there…” He whispered, rubbing her back as she sobbed into his chest. “Just tell me what’s causing this and Daddy will make it all better.”
“Yoooooooou caaaaaaaan’t!” She wailed. “No one can!”
“How can you be sure when you haven’t told me what happened.” He said reasonable.
“Because I just know!” Corral sniffled. “You can’t wave a magic wand and fix this!”
“Fix what?” He asked patiently.
“He doesn’t love me anymore!”
“Lotor!!” She exclaimed.
“Lotor?” He gently peeled her off of him, so he could look her in the face. “Now Honey, we talked about this. You can’t rush love. Sometimes it takes a while to build up to that point, regardless of what the romance novels say.”
“And you have been making progress.” Anador continued, not letting her get a word in edgewise. “You two have been spending a lot of time together these last three days, getting to know each other. I’ve heard the progress reports from my spies. The prince has definitely started to develop feelings for you.” Instead of calming her down, this had the opposite effect. A torrent of tears was let loose, and she ran from him, flinging herself face down on her bed.
“What was that Corral?” Anador asked. “You know I can’t understand you when you have your face pressed into a pillow.”
“Lies…” Her shoulders shook with suppressed rage. “It was all lies!”
“What was?” He reached out to touch her head, and she leapt to her feet, throwing off his hand.
“Everything! He was USING me!” Her voice still had a wavery edge to it, but at least her tears had stopped. “Using me!” She repeated, her eyes taking on a hard edge to them. “I would have given him everything, every last piece of me, my heart and soul! And that meant nothing to Lotor! He spit me in my face is what he did!”
“Um…” Anador was still not completely sure what had happened. “Did you two have a lover’s quarrel?”
“Don’t say lover! That word doesn’t apply to him and I!” She grabbed a pillow off the bed, and flung across the room. “Daddy, he was only being nice to me so he could escape!”
That immediately got his dander up. “What?” He said through tightly clenched teeth, hoping perhaps he had heard wrong.
“E.S.C.A.P.E.” She spelled it out for him. “Escape! He was only pretending to like me! If it wasn’t for Aunt Lapis…”
“My sister is involved with this too?” Anador sat back down. He should have known if trouble put in an appearance, Lapis would follow right on it’s heels.
“She saved me from making a big mistake last night daddy!” Corral blushed. “Lotor…he uh…um…”
“What did he do exactly?” Anador asked.
“Um well…” She suddenly found a piece of lint on her nightgown to be absolutely fascinating. “Kiss me…and some…other stuff…” She laughed nervously. “But that’s not important!” She quickly added, at her father’s outrage gasp. “He tricked me, and was going to tie me up, and make his escape! If Aunt Lapis hadn’t arrived with the guards who knows what would have happened!”
“He would probably be halfway to Doom by now.” Anador said. “Which would save me the trouble of shipping his body back in a coffin.”
“Oh daddy no! Don’t kill him!” Corral protested.
“You’re right.” Anador nodded. “That would only make more problems for us with Zarkon.”
“That too.” agreed Corral. “But you can’t send him back till after we’re married.”
Anador blinked. “You would still marry that swine after what he did?”
“Of course.” Corral proudly swelled up with the heroic sacrifice she was about to make. “I am the Crown Princess and sole heir to the Demos Empire. I will not have it said that I shirked my duties to my people, just because of a dislike for my groom.” Besides… She thought to herself. Lotor is REALLY handsome! Even anger couldn’t blind her to that, and the fact that when he put his mind to it, Lotor could be really nice, very charming. “I will cement the alliance between Doom and Demos by marrying Lotor, and having his child.”
“Corral…” Anador said, impressed by his daughter’s resolve. “Your people will be so proud, as am I.” He gave her quick hug. “Are you going to be all right by yourself?”
“Yes daddy.” Corral said, rolling her eyes. What did he think she had done all day?! Have a tea party with some friends?!
“Good…” He smiled cruelly. “I think I’m going to have a little talk with my future son in law. Tell him he better start behaving or ELSE.”
“Um…” Corral said, as he reached the doorway. “I think Auntie had a similar talk with him…”
“Oh she did, did she?” Anador said, almost ready to pity Lotor for that encounter.
“Yes, when she tossed him into the dungeons.”
“She did WHAT?!” screamed Anador, horrified. “On whose authority?!”
“Daddy. Lapis makes her own rules.” She smiled at him, thinking him a bit senile for forgetting that. “You KNOW that.”
“Shit!” cursed Anador, rushing out of his daughter’s bedroom, intent on doing some damage control. Lapis had already had a whole day to do whatever she wanted to Lotor. It frightened him to think his sister might have foolishly done something that would get back to Zarkon. Something that the Ruler of Doom might find unforgivable…