It was a long corridor they found themselves in, dimly illuminated by torches, and cracks in the wall that allowed a few rays of sunlight to trickle in. There was a dank musty smell that took some getting used to, and the lack of dirt and dust showed this passageway was used often. It was small, almost uncomfortably so, the top of Allura’s head almost reaching the ceiling.
“I hope this leads to an exit…” Allura said, a note of trepidation in her voice.
Lotor thought to himself, having had to bend his body forward, and crab walk with bent knees in order to traverse the passageway. As if things weren’t complicated enough, he had to drag Corral along behind him, her skirts brushing against the walls.
“You know you won’t get away.” Corral said, the U. N. I. T. Y. around Lotor’s neck translating her words for him alone to hear. “Oh you can try, but…” She let out a short bark of laughter. “You won’t get very far.”
“Be quiet.” Lotor snapped back, mind racing desperate to work out a plan of action that would not end up with Allura and Corral dead.
“You know we wouldn’t even be in this predicament if SHE hadn’t shown up…” muttered Corral. Allura turned to glance at Corral as though she could sense the redhead was talking about her. “Hmph!” Corral stuck up her nose, face turning to the side in a snub meant for the Arusian Princess.
A bushel of emotions passed over Allura’s face. Hurt, confusion, anger, and even a little pride, for Lotor loved her, not Corral! The conflicting emotions did not go unnoticed. “Allura? Is it your shoulder?”
“I’m fine Lotor…” Allura replied, looking away. “It’s just…”
“I wish we had left this behind…” Allura murmured, fingering Hagger’s staff. “Evil thing…It makes my skin crawl just by touching it.”
“You won’t have to carry it for long…” promised Lotor. “We’ll get rid of it the first chance we get…”
“Why not destroy it?”
“I don’t think we have the means to do that.” answered Lotor. “The best we can hope for is to keep it out of Hagger’s reach for as long as possible.”
In the chapel, pandemonium had died down to a mildly chaotic atmosphere. Most of the guests were huddled in the back, a few hysterical sobs breaking their silence. The debacle at the entrance to the cathedral was slowly clearing up, as those outside finally got the message to back up.
Over by the alter, Anador and Lapis were in a heated argument, she demanding to know why no one was doing anything. Anador trying to make this stubborn woman understand they would take action, just as soon as they got the grenade safely out of the way.
Zarkon had sat down next to Hagger, who had finally gotten control over her hysteria. “He’s left me…” Zarkon confided quietly. Hagger turned to look at him, but did not speak a word. “He chose a woman over his family…over his own blood…”
“Lotor thinks he can get away with that…” Zarkon turned to make eye contact with the witch, his lips slowly spreading back to reveal his teeth. “What he doesn’t realize is…no one, not even family LEAVES me.” A sickly smile was on his face. “Not alive anyway…”
“But sire…he’s your son…” Hagger said, dutifully echoing the words she often used to persuade Zarkon from murderous rages directed at his son…his only heir…
“Not anymore he’s not…” His eyes looked cold and empty. “He means nothing to me…nothing to the Drule Empire…”
“…” Hagger did not know what to say, what he expected her response to be.
“Hagger…” He whispered seductively, placing one hand over hers. “Help me dispose of the impertinent wretch…” Zarkon said softly. “Today…now…”
“I can’t…not without my staff…” Hagger replied. “To do a powerful spell one requires something upon which to channel your will through.”
“Then use this as the incentive to wield your magic.” Zarkon said. The next words he spoke were enough to make the witch cry out in pure delight. “I will make you my Queen, and lay the Drule Empire down at your feet if you stand and wield thy magic without aid of your staff.”
A hesitant smile appeared on Hagger’s face. This was more than incentive, this fueled her desire, gave her the strength needed to not only cast her magic, but to impose her will on the powerful arcana. Zarkon and the Empire would at last be HERS!
They had at last reached the end of the tunnel. An ancient looking door made of molding wood, it too proved to be unlocked, when Allura slowly pushed it open, the hinges creaking in protest. “It’s open…” Allura said, stating the obvious. “But is it safe…”
“It could be a trap…” Lotor said, then shrugged. “Or it just be the locks rusted through. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’ll go first.” He started to move past Allura, who flattened herself against the wall. It was a tight squeeze, eliciting delicious tingles through both, as their bodies brushed against each other’s. A slight blush was on Allura’s face, and for a moment she looked about to smile…and then Corral was pulled past her, eyes staring dagger holes into Allura.
“Is it safe?” asked an unsettled Allura.
“For now…” Lotor said, looking about. Allura quickly exited the passageway, pleased to see there was more room out here. There was however a lack of windows, only plain gray walls, and a steel staircase that circled up and around in a spiral motion.
“We’re in one of the towers…” Allura said nervously. “What do we do now?”
“We go up…” Lotor said. It was after all, the only choice left to them…
“Why don’t you send some men after them!?” Lapis shouted, pounding her fists against Anador’s chest. “Look at them, they’re all just standing here, looking as useless as the day they were born!!”
“Lapis calm down!” Anador snapped, roughly grabbing hold of her wrists. “The situation is being dealt with!”
“You lie!” Lapis jerked her hands free. “I don’t see anyone doing anything except talking! How is that helping? Whose going to do something about that silly little grenade?!”
“That would be me…” interjected Hagger, before Anador could explain that the “silly, little grenade” could take out the whole front of the cathedral if it went off.
“You?!” scoffed Lapis, giving the witch the once over. “I am not reassured in the slightest.”
“I didn’t mean you to be…” Hagger said snidely, pushing past them to start up the steps. She shook her sleeves, the material sliding back to reveal her arms up to the elbows. Arms bent, she held her hands over her chest, fingers in constant motion, making weird symbols. She began chanting in another language, words consisting of guttural growls and hissed syllables. The air around the grenade began crackling with energy, and the little piece of plastic that had cause so much worry began to teeter over the edge of the steps. There was a loud gasp, and everyone held their breath in fear, as the grenade fell over…only to bounce down the three steps, and roll to a stop under a pew.
“What did you do?!” asked Anador, his sister’s mouth hanging wide open with shock. “Why didn’t it go off?”
“Oh it did. Only I directed the explosion to occur elsewhere.” Hagger cackled, pleasantly surprised with the results. She decided not to mention she didn’t know exactly where the burst of energy may have been sent. She was aiming for a lake near the castle. What she would later find out was, it had ended up in the dungeons, allowing several prisoners to escape their imprisonment.
“Well, quit gawking Andy…” A lively Zarkon hurried up the stairs, several Doom soldiers following close behind. “Time’s a wasting, and our quarry has one Hell of a head start.”
“Ah yes…” He was still shaken up, otherwise he would have protested against being called Andy. “You six!” Several Demosian soldiers turned to face their King. Anador crooked his finger in a “come here” motion, and then pointed at the floor before him. They hurried up to fall in line before him.
“We’re just going around in circles…” Corral muttered.
“Ha ha, very funny…” Lotor muttered, as they continued to climb the spiral case. They hadn’t even gotten that far, maybe one complete pass around, nearing what would most likely be the second floor of the cathedral. They could still see the doorway they had exited through…and could also hear the sound of marching footsteps…and the very loud voice of King Zarkon, who had this to say about the inner recesses of the cathedral. “Apparently they don’t keep this part of the cathedral in very good repair.”
Lotor and Allura exchanged panicked glances. “They got past the grenade so soon?!” The princess squeaked out, the color draining from her face.
“There they are!!” shouted a voice.
“Corral?!” Anador yelled, from somewhere back in the passageway.
“Daddy!!” cried Corral hopefully.
“Shit…” Lotor cursed, fingers tightening around the sword he held. He glanced down at the guards who were swarming onto the stair case. “Allura, take Corral and go! I’ll hold them off…!”
“Lotor no!” protested Allura, refusing to take hold of Corral’s arm. “Not without you…”
“Allura, we don’t have time to argue…
“You got that right!” Allura said, and went to lean over the hand railing.
“What are you doing?!”
A smile crossed her face, as she fiddled with her belt. “I came prepared.”
“You got another grenade?” Lotor asked hopefully.
“No…but I do have this!” She flung down several small ball shaped objects, that went off on impact, filling the lower half of the tower with thick gray smoke. Those on the stairs backed down, blinded and not willing to risk their necks on the spiral case unless visibility was restored. There was angry shouts, and loud coughing and sputtering as they choked on the air polluted by the smoke bombs.
“I love a woman who comes prepared.” Lotor grinned at Allura.
“It’s a major turn on for you, huh?” She winked at Lotor, before turning to continue running up the stairs. “You’ll have to make me a list sometime…”
“It would start with, Allura, how much do I love thee…let me count the ways…” replied Lotor.
Corral was oddly quiet, watching this good-natured exchange with interest.
“Lotor!!” A man screamed, emerging from the smoke onto the stair case. He unsheathed his sword, pointed end gleaming as he aimed it at the former prince. “Prepare yourself!”
“Oh brother…” Lotor murmured, pushing Corral behind him as the man raced up the stair case, face soaked with sweat and smoke. “This fool is eager to die!”
“Don’t touch me!” protested Corral, trying to pull away from Allura.
“Stop fighting me!” snapped Allura, trying to lead the would be bride up the staircase. The clanging of blade against blade was sounded, as Lotor and a guard from Demos engaged in battle. “Come on!” She said, tugging on Corral’s arm. The Demosian princess having offered a minimal amount of resistance, reluctantly followed Allura up the stairs. They were now nearing what would be the fourth floor, and Allura let out an excited cry to spot another door.
“Lotor!” She cried. “There’s a room here!”
“Get in…” Lotor called back, slowly backing up the stairs, parrying the other man’s blows. He didn’t turn to see if the two princesses obeyed or not, too intent on his foe. “This ends now…” he said through gritted teeth, knocking the sword out of his opponent’s hands.
“So very true…” The soldier agreed, pulling out a small dagger. He foolishly lunged at the prince, in the hopes of spearing his heart. Instead he was sent flailing over the edge of the hand rail courtesy of Lotor. With a bloodcurdling scream the man flew down to smash into the floor.
Lotor glanced over rail, seeing the smoke was starting to clear away, even in this windowless tower. “So soon…” He murmured, brow furrowed. And then he saw Hagger making motions, forcing the smoke to dissipate though unnatural means. With a whispered curse Lotor turned, and rushed into the newly discovered room.
“It’s a dead end…” Corral informed him quietly, the blank expression on her face masking what her true feelings were.
“Maybe not…” Allura said. She had found the winch that removed the heavy pane of stain glass, and was now peering out of the room’s lone window. “There are horses out there…We’d have to jump to get to them…”
“Good…” Lotor was only half listening, instead pulling a large armoire over to the door. “This barricade won’t hold them for long…not with Hagger out there casting magic…” He started to move towards the window, intent on seeing just what sort of conditions they had to deal with, when Corral blocked his way.
“What will you do now?” Corral asked Lotor, she stepped close to him, presumedly to hear the translation from the U. N. I. T. Y. unit. “How far are you willing to go for love?”
“You’re not uh…gonna start on that marriage thing again are you?” Lotor asked warily.
“What makes you think I even want you after this?” She asked, arching an eyebrow. “You are entirely too arrogant for your own good Prince Lotor. I asked that question without any ulterior motives…”
“Okay then…I would do anything to insure Allura’s life…I would die if need be…” That answer seemed to make Corral sad, and though the reason was lost on Lotor, it was not on Allura. “Corral…” She said, stepping close to the princess. “He didn’t see you as a fate worse than death. He WAS going to marry you…he would have gone through with the ceremony, if I hadn’t shown up…”
“Which was an entirely foolish thing to do.” added Lotor. “Especially after I advised you to leave.”
“Funny, your advice was more like a direct order.” Allura said half jokingly.
“Allura…” Corral now directed her query to the blonde princess. “How far would you go for love?”
Allura hesitated, Lotor and Corral’s eyes focused on her. “I…this is all so new to me…love for a man…love that is not born of family ties, or love that is that of a good friend…I think I would be willing to die for him…I came all this way…traveled to another galaxy all by myself, even before I could admit to myself that my actions were born not from duty to my people, but duty to myself…I love Lotor…I want to be with him no matter what…” Allura was blushing beat red by the time she finished her little speech, Lotor staring in pleased surprise at her.
“Is that the answer you were looking for Corral?” Lotor asked.
The redhead cocked her head to one side. “It is…enough…” She moved towards the window, gazing down at the ground below. Only four floors away, but what a jump that would be! Broken bones, or worse yet…land wrong and end up dead. A little bit to the right of the window, the horses that had pulled her bridal carriage stood grazing on a haystack.
“Don’t worry…” Lotor said, trying to sound reassuring to Corral. “You can stay here…” The redhead smiled in relief. “Allura, I’ll go first…” He climbed up onto the window sill, gripping the wall with his hands. “That way I can catch you…”
“Be careful.” Allura said.
“Is that an order my love?” He said with a smirk.
“No…a prayer…” Allura replied worriedly. He winked confidently, and then jumped out the window, causing the two princesses to let out startled shrieks. They rushed forward, both peering out the window to check on Lotor. “I’m okay!” He called, sliding off the haystack, yellow-brown fibers sticking in his hair.
“Guess it’s my turn now…” Allura said, setting down Hagger’s staff. She wiped sweaty palms on her shirt, before nervously getting onto the window sill.
“Take your time Allura…” Lotor said, feeling immense trepidation as he watched her balance out the window.
“Allura…” Corral tugged on the girl’s pants. Allura looked down at her rival. “The…U.N.I.T.Y. device…” Corral spoke slowly and hesitantly in Basic, hands gesturing at her neck. “Lotor…trap…tracking him…”
Allura’s eyes widened in understanding. “Thank you Corral…” And then she shut her eyes, and jumped. Her clothes rustled as they flapped in the breeze, hair whipping about wildly, the princess doing her best not to scream. She let out an “UFGH!” when she hit something solid. “It’s all right…” She heard Lotor say. “I got you.”
“That you do indeed…” She murmured, twisting about in his arms, so she could wrap her arms around his body.
Lotor smiled, and nuzzled the top of her head with his chin. Still carrying her, he approached one of the tethered horses, and placed Allura on it’s back. She sat perfectly still for a moment, whispering a prayer of thanks that neither one of them had been injured seriously. Lotor stood next to her, just watching her, amazed that such a brave and special woman would willingly give him her love.
“Amen…” Allura finished, and opened her blue eyes. She frowned at the U. N. I. T. Y. device. “That has got to go.” She pointed at his neck.
“Oh yes…don’t really need it anymore…” Lotor said, unfastening the collar. “You and I certainly do not suffer from any communication barriers…at least not anymore we don’t…” He wiggled his eyebrows at her, and she couldn’t help but giggle. “That’s not what I meant Lotor!” She admonished. “No…I think there’s a tracking device hidden in it.”
Lotor suddenly started cursing in Drule. “Of course!” More cursing. “So that’s how they were always able to catch me when I tried to escape!” He slapped the palm of his hand against his forehead. “How could I have been so stupid to have not figured it out?!”
“Well you were under a lot of pressure…” replied Allura.
“But still…I don’t appreciate being made a fool of…” He grinned, a wicked look in his eyes. “It’s time I return the favor.” He walked over to the other horse, and tied the collar onto the horse’s muzzle. He then unhooked the reins, and led the horse over to Allura’s side. “Beloved…which way are we headed?”
“Um…that way…” Allura pointed to the East.
“Then our pursuers shall be headed West.” He turned the horse around, and then with one hard slap on it’s rump, sent it off running. “I hope you won’t mind sharing a seat with me.”
“Mind?!” Allura asked in disbelief. “I insist!”
“Good…” Lotor was about to get on behind her, when she stopped him. “Wait Lotor…”
“Just this.” She leaned forward to give him a quick kiss on the lips. “That’s my promise to continue this when we have more time to dwell on pleasantries…”
“I’ll hold you to that promise.” teased Lotor.
“I’m counting on it.” Allura had a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. “Now get up here!” She ordered, holding out her hand. He took it, and swung up onto the back of the horse. With a blissful sigh, the Princess of Arus leaned back against Lotor’s chest, relishing the feel of him, while one hand played idly with a loose thread on his leg. With a slightly bemused smile, Lotor took up the reins, his arms on either side of Allura, and issued a powerful, “YA!!” The horse took off at a brisk run, pounding off to the East, as the twin sun’s of Demos slowly began their descent in the West.