Regret 18

The needle going into my skin makes me hiss, pain prickling along my flesh. The nurse doesn’t hesitate at that sound, her hands steady as she works to sew close my self inflicted wound. But a glance up shows the chastisement in her eyes, the woman vibrating displeasure over my refusal to take any drugs. I almost regret that choice, but know I cannot afford to have my mind addled even a little by drug or drink. Not when I need all my wits about me, my mind spinning, making plans. Trying to cover all bases for the chaos that will erupt once Garrant’s murder is made public knowledge.

His death opens up new problems, the least of which being he had been a well liked and celebrated commander in my employ. He had led many a successful campaign, had added whole worlds to the Empire with his attacks. Certainly he would be deemed more valuable than an already disgraced former queen, my people not understanding nor liking why I would leap to protect Allura from a rape I had initially done nothing to stop.

My jaw clenches now, the nurse misreading that as a sign of my pain and discomfort. But my expression has little to do with the needle threading through my side. I am thinking of what had happened tonight, and of the repercussions my actions will have had. Of the tests I have failed, of how my actions will have done nothing to reassure anyone, and only bring suspicion down on me.

I am a fool for I know there is a little I would have done differently this night, save to prevent Garrant from ever leaving with Allura in the first place. Maybe then the man would still be alive, though my own standing would still be called into question, my people alarmed to realize Allura was still a weakness.

A weakness some sought to exploit. I keep from scowling, thinking of Merla and Hazar. Knowing they have endeavored to set into motion so much of what had happened this evening. Even the dinner, the gathering of so many important Drules, was their doing. I should never have allowed it, should never have had to prove myself to them. I should have been beyond playing their games, and yet I had wanted to show everyone, myself included, that Allura didn’t have any true effect on me and my rule.

How wrong at least one of those things was proving! I was still suffering under her spell, still ensnared in her grip. I felt for her, and it wasn’t limited to my hurt and the need for revenge against her. I wanted her, wanted something more than just the use of her body, and the pain she didn’t always try to hide from me. I didn’t want to look too closely, didn’t want to examine what that something could be. Not with all that’s happened, the damage we’ve both done to each other. I certainly didn’t want to think I was in love with her in some way, to acknowledge that the heart I thought destroyed, might still be hers.

I tried to tell myself it was only that she was a possession I would not share, a toy I had not yet grown bored of. That that was the only reason I had flown to her rescue. But even to myself, the words were hollow, a lie that had no power to convince anyone. I almost laugh then, knowing my people fear but not knowing how to convince them that Allura and any distorted love for her that remains has no power to change me or the Empire.

That much I still believe. No matter what my personal feelings are, I won’t run my Empire into the ground, trying to please Allura. Nor is there a point to attempting such a thing, not so long as she refuses to be won by me. She’ll never give me her heart, never return even a fraction of my feelings that is not based on hate and pain. I’ve done too much, hurt her too bad to ever hope for love or even for her to be happy by my side.

I’m not even sure I can be happy with her in my life. But I know I haven’t been able to let go, to try and attain happiness without her. I’ve hung on, letting my need hurt me as much as her, and even now the damage continues. What does a dagger to my side matter, when I do worst where Allura is concerned?

Damned if I do, and damned if I don’t, I’ve set us both on a path that seems to beget only destruction. I can only be grateful it’s been limited to just a few people, though perhaps Garrant’s murder will make it harder to contain. I want to curse then, knowing I’ve not only failed my people’s test, I’ve complicated things even more.

Those complications I have to start to deal with now, the last of the thread being tied off. I’ll have a scar when that wound heals, but it’s not the first I’ve earned because of Allura. Nor does it compare to the ones she’s left on both my heart and soul, the damage she’s done extensive and having never properly healed.

This wound at least is a cleaner cut, and nowhere near as painful. But my body has always been strong, always able to withstand Allura’s abuse. Even when my heart would break, the body remained, strong and able to endure.

Just as I will now have to endure an interrogation, Haggar having arrived to answer my summons. She’s taken her time too, feeling no true urgency to hurry away from whatever dark dealings she had been attempting this night. Not even that I have been injured makes her worry, her yellow gaze sweeping over my exposed torso, noting my stitched side, and the blood that has left splattered splotches on my pants.

“So.” Haggar says, no sigh or emotion in her voice. “The little bitch finally tried to kill you?”

“Not quite.” I retort cooly. “Someone tried to take liberties with my property.”

“So you what? Leapt to defend the tart’s remaining virtue?” Haggar was snide, then aghast when I gave a grim nod. “Lotor, you didn’t!”

“No one takes what is mine.”

“Even when that something is worthless?” Haggar’s question has me fighting back the urge to snarl. I want to lunge forward and slap her, choke her for her impertinence at implying Allura has no worth.

Haggar tsks, the look in my eyes betraying my sudden anger. “Oh Lotor. Honestly. You can get sex from anyone, both willing and not. You don’t need Allura for that.”

“It’s never been just about sex.” I insist.

“Then what has it been about?” Haggar demands, than shakes her head. “This grudge you carry. It does you no good. You hurt yourself, and you jeopardize your position the longer you continue to associate with Allura. The Empire already worries….what will they think now that you have been injured defending that foolish woman?”

“They’ll have more to worry about that their King’s injury.” I say. Haggar looks worried then, and I don’t’ try to lessen or delay the blow that follows. “I killed Garrant tonight.”

“The commander?” She gasps in response at my nod. “Lotor, he was a venerated and highly decorated war hero! He was idolized by many, and has done much in the way of adding to the Empire’s holdings.”

“I’m well aware of that.”

“And yet you still killed him!” Haggar grumbled out an exclamation. “Why? What was the point?”

“I needed to make an example of him.” I say.

“So beat him, whip him, torture him! But you should not have killed him! Not over Allura!”

“It was not just because of Allura.” I lie. “He challenged me. Disobeyed a direct order. I could not allow such a flagrant disregard of my authority to continue. If even one person is allowed leniency in this regard, others will attempt similar. You know this to be fact.”

“Just what is it about that woman that makes men’s minds so addled.” It was a question that Haggar expected no answer to. “Both of you should have known better. No woman, no matter how beautiful, is worth the trouble Allura brings. And now a commander idolized by many is dead, the circumstances all the worse for your and Allura’s involvement!”

“Don’t I know it.” Now I was the one muttering, but for all Haggar’s age, her hearing remained as sharp as ever. “This was no accident, no mere chance that Garrant took a liking to Allura.”

“Oh?” Haggar’s concerned gaze turned even more so.

“You have to know what tonight was, what this gathering was truly about.” I say.

Haggar nods, frowning. “It was a gathering of representatives for the Drule people’s concerns.”

“Concerns I was suppose to relieve them of.” I sigh now. “They’ll know I have failed in that regard when word breaks of Garrant’s murder.”

Haggar turns angry then. “You should have just let him have her! You know what will happen, what the others will say! Merla and Hazar won’t want to miss this opportunity, they’ll use your obsession with Allura to rally the people.”

“They will try to.” I answer. “But they will find it not so easy to take my crown from me.”

“You should have never allowed Hazar to live! Without him, Merla would not…”

“Merla….” I interrupt Haggar with a hiss. “Would have found someone else. She’s always been a conniving bitch…eager for control of my Empire. She makes nearly as much trouble as you claim Allura is responsible for.”

“Well it’s too late to kill her.” pointed out Haggar with a grimace. “Even if you killed both Merla and Hazar now, it wouldn’t minimize your problems. If anything, it would add to them. Merla and Hazar both have their own supporters, people who would protest their passings. It wouldn’t be easy to silence that many, and the more you killed, the more you would stir up the Drule people’s anger and insecurities.”

“Indeed.” It’s all I say, but Haggar snorts all the same.

“This is a fine mess. A fine mess your obsession has thrust us into.”

“Everyone fears Allura needlessly.” I insist. “She has no power. She can’t even influence my decisions.”

“And yet you killed for her!” Haggar snaps. “What is that if not influence at it’s most strong?”

“I didn’t kill for her, but over her.” I correct.

“You think that will matter to anyone else?” Haggar shakes her head. “No. All they will see is you acting to protect her. They won’t care if it was love or a possessive need to keep your toy free of all other’s hands. You failed exactly like Merla and Hazar were hoping. As far as they are concerned, you are still as in thrall to Allura now as you were ten years ago!”

Haggar began to pace, her agitation apparent. “You need to distance yourself from her.”

“That is not happening.” I retort calmly.

“At least go a few days without her in your bed.” Haggar says. I surely grimace at that, the witch responding. “You’re not even in any condition to fuck her at this rate.” A pointed look at my side.

“There are other ways to gain satisfaction from her.” I lewdly imply.

“I do not even want to know.” Haggar says flatly. “But for your sake, I will pray to our Gods in the hopes you tire of her soon.”

“You do that.”

“Where is she anyway?” Haggar then asks.

“She’s…secured.” I answer.

“She needs to be gone.” Haggar grumbles. “Her execution would absolve you of this mess. Hmph. But you won’t even consider that will you?”

“If you know the answer, why do you even ask?”

“I suppose a part of me hoped the suggestion would get you to see sense of killing Allura.” Haggar replies. “But you’ve never been able to reason where she is concerned.” She sighs then. “How injured are you?”

“I’ll live.” I say as Haggar draw near. “It was a lucky thrust. Both for Garrant and for me.”

“So he didn’t hit anything vital?” Haggar questions, hovering fingertips over my stitched up side. She’s staring, appraising the severity of my wound.

“It was a clean cut. Went in without rupturing anything important. It bled more than it hurt.”

When Haggar looks up, her eyes are suspicious. “Strange that.” She murmurs. “You would think a veteran warrior would be capable of something more damaging than that.”

“Like I said, he was lucky. Lucky to have even gotten that one stab in.”

“Hmmm.” A mere sound from Haggar, but I am uneasy all the same. I don’t need her prying, don’t need her or anyone else stumbling upon the truth of my injury.

“I must inform the others.” I say, standing up and drawing away from Haggar.

“Yes,” The witch nods an agreement. “The longer you delay, the more reason they will have to question the circumstances around Garrant’s untimely demise.”

“There’s no stopping them from doing that either way.” I point out. I reach for my ruined shirt, my blood and Garrant’s having seeped into the fabric. “But I will try to minimize the scandal that will follow.”

But I am nowhere confindant about that. A scandal will happen, trouble following on it’s heels. I expect the fall out of my actions tonight to be big, to have far reaching consequences not only for myself, but for my rule as well. I’ve played into Merla and Hazar’s hands, and what’s worse is that I had done so with the knowledge that that is what I was doing.

The night had been a series of traps for me. Tests and manipulations to see just how I would respond. If I had only been able to ignore Allura’s plight, to remain indifferent to the fate Garrant intended for her, my enemies would never have gained the foothold they needed. My people would have left reassured, confidant Allura had no power to affect my judgement. Now they will feel anything but that, might even use this as an excuse to throw their luck in with Hazar. There will be strife among the Doom Empire once more, and I can only wonder just how far Merla and Hazar will go, if their actions will be limited to political maneuvering, and back stage manipulations, or if all out civil war will happen.

Either way spells trouble for me, though a war among the Drules will be worse for the Empire. It could drag on for years, and it’s been a long time since the Drules have warred against each other. Our race is one built on fighting, our people warriors. There won’t be a quick end to a battle that puts Drule against Drule, and the consequences of such a war could have devastating consequences. We nearly ruined our home world with the fighting our ancestors did, and the only thing that kept Doom from being completely destroyed was that our attention had shifted to the other worlds. To the people who inhabited those worlds.

I wonder who the bigger fools are. Merla and Hazar for even considering unleashing the Drules against one another, or I for falling into their trap. Whatever the case, I want this problem gone, want Merla and Hazar dealt with. But Haggar is right. I can’t kill them. Not now, not without stirring the anger of so many others. Not without being prepared to kill dozens if not hundreds of other important Drule figures in an attempt to silence the outcry Merla and Hazar’s deaths would cause. I am exactly where Merla and Hazar want me, and I can’t truly act until they make an official move.

I am frustrated and angry, maybe even disgusted at myself. Caught by more than just Merla and Hazar’s schemes, Allura has got me in her grip. Will the glorious Empire I’ve built be stolen from me? Will I have to watch as war breaks it all apart? Or will I be able to hang onto it all, the corpses of my enemies beneath me.

I don’t know, but I am sure my father is laughing from his grave. He’s always said Allura will be the ruin of me, destroying all that I value. Right now, I am almost inclined to agree, though I’ll fight against such a fate. I’ll do everything I can to keep things from blowing apart any further around me, even as I know the one thing I should do is rid myself of Allura. But I am not willing to do that, might be incapable of such a thing. And that might be my biggest problem of all.

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