Devil 02

The next morning was full of headaches and aggravation, Lotor being called on to attend his father at an ungodly hour. It was too early on Doom, and even with the Drules ability to forgo sleep for many more hours than a human could, Lotor felt tired and disorientated. He realized it was more than just a late night that had him feeling so horrible, Lotor noting how dry his mouth felt, the way his headache seemed to hammer at his temples, and the general feel of nausea that surrounded him.

There was no doubt about it, he was hung over, Lotor having drunk himself to the point of sickness. His father seemed to know what was wrong with him, fixing him with a disgusted look as Lotor tried to look anywhere but at Zarkon. It didn’t help that his vision kept splitting into two, Lotor seeing double of each person in the room. Currently there was three besides him and his father, and with his doubled vision, he kept seeing eight people rushing about.

His father stood in the center of the room, arms held out to the sides as the castle seamstresses took his measurements. It appeared his father had gain some muscle, his chest broader, and his arms bulging with strength. It left Lotor wondering if his father had taken to exercising, all in an attempt to impress his future bride.

The seamstresses were chattering quietly, calling out numbers to each other as one inputted the information into a data pad. Another was holding up swatches of cloth to Zarkon, the King seeming almost dismissive as he chose and discarded colors. He was being fitted for a new wardrobe, the King eager to show off his new body, Lotor was shocked to see him forgoing the usual loose robes he had favored for so long.

“Father…” Lotor said at last, trying to squint to control the double vision of Zarkon’s face. “Just what do you wish to talk to me about this early?”

“It’s not that early son.” Zarkon replied, than gave a haughty toss of his head. “I’ve been up since five this morning.” Lotor held back a nasty comment about Zarkon’s odd hours, the prince feeling sorry for the servants who would have had to get up even earlier than their King. “You can’t sleep your whole life away, especially now.”

“I had a late night, and if all you’re going to do is chide me for a momentary relapse in sleeping in, I’m leaving.” Lotor announced, already turning towards the door.

“They’re all talking about it you know.” Zarkon’s voice called after him. “Don’t think the court doesn’t know you were out in some filthy pub getting drunk off your ass.”

“Am I not allowed to celebrate my own father’s impending nuptials?” Lotor asked, tone tart.

“Not when everyone knows you were drinking out of disgust for this union.” Zarkon said sharply.

“Oh?” Lotor turned back to him, expression mild as he raised his eyebrows. “Is that what they think?”

“Everyone saw your reaction to news of my bride.” Zarkon was allowing a seamstress to slide a jacket on him, the woman checking to make sure the fit was snug but not so tight as to impede his movements. “You were very vocal in your displeasure and opposition to this marriage.”

“I was in shock.” Lotor pointed out. “Do forgive me if I said anything that gave you the idea I was against you and your bride.”

“Shock had nothing to do with that sharp tongue of yours. Telling me to take a whore rather than a wife.” Zarkon made a tsking sound, a mirror being held up before him so he could admire himself in the jacket. He gave a slight nod of his head, approving of it, and then was shrugging out of the garment, the seamstresses hurrying to catch it before it hit the floor.

“I misspoke.” Lotor admitted. “I won’t do so again.”

“Good.” Zarkon grunted his approval. “Because I will not have you talking negativity to me, my bride, or to the court. This marriage is a good thing, and one you should not be opposed of.”

Lotor couldn’t help the sullen look that came across his face at Zarkon’s words. “How can you say that?” He demanded. “This girl you’ve decided to marry comes from NOTHING. Less than nothing! Her planet is poor, pitiable, her people should be made slaves not citizens of the Doom Empire. And yet you are making all kinds of allowances for them, giving them protection and support, ready to advance their civilization so they can make something of themselves. Why? Why go through all this charade just to get the chit into bed with you?”

Zarkon’s eyes had narrowed, but Lotor blundered onwards, perhaps a bit of drink still remained inside him, giving him foolish courage. “We are Drule! We take what we want, we don’t negotiate. Not for power, not for money, and not for affection!”

“There are some things you’ll find worth making concessions for.” Zarkon retorted with a hiss. “Allura of Arus will be mine, and I will claim her so thoroughly that their will be no doubt who she belongs to.”

“She has bewitched you, hasn’t she!” Lotor cried out, bereft in the moment. “That’s the only explanation I can think of for this madness.”

“Mad am I?” Zarkon scowled. “Son, you have not begun to see the true depths of insanity if you think an old man indulging with a sweet young bride is crazy.”

“She’s using you.” Lotor grumbled. “What is she, a gold digger as well as a princess?! Does she even have a suitable dowry to give you?” Lotor shook his head no. “It matters not, her dowry was lost the instant Doom conquered her planet. She’s got nothing to offer you! I would be able to make sense of this if you were doing this for political gain, but that you simply lust for the girl is too much!”

“I’ve never been one to be controlled by the opinion of others.” Zarkon began with a growl. “And I’m not about to start now. I make the decisions about my life, and that includes who to marry. I will not lower myself to allow the court or YOU to tell me who to take my pleasure from! And I will not have you being so vocal in your opposition of this marriage!”

“Why?” Lotor demanded, still squinting at his father. The double vision was starting to spin, making him dizzy and he found himself leaning against the wall for support. “Do you fear the nobles will back me on this?” Zarkon merely grunted, and Lotor gasped. ‘You do! Your worry that they’ll push to have you removed from the throne, that they’ll support me in a bid for the crown, don’t you?”

“You and they will find I am not so easy to replace Lotor.” Zarkon warned. “If there’s even a chance of them trying to put you on the throne before my time is up, I will kill you myself. And then they will have no choice but to name my children with Allura as the throne’s heirs.”

“You wouldn’t…” Lotor stared at his father, mouth open in shock.

“You’ll find there is little I won’t do to retain power, or to get my way.” Zarkon retorted. “Now, are you going to continue to make a public spectacle of yourself, and drunkenly oppose this marriage? Or will you be the first to congratulate me after the deed is done? Choose carefully Lotor…” The prince noticed his father’s hand was resting on the pommel of his sword, and Lotor once again found himself cursing his hung over state.

“No father.” Lotor was glum as he spoke, bowing his head. “I wish you all the happiness in your upcoming marriage.” Zarkon had not relaxed his stance, staring steely eyed at his son. “I was never going to go to the nobles to back me against you.” It was a half truth, Lotor could remember wanting to gain the court’s support in making this Allura’s life miserable.

“But you thought it, didn’t you.” Zarkon grumbled, fingers caressing the hilt of his sword. “I want you to swear your loyalty to me.”

“Right now?”

“Now and before the court.” Zarkon told him. Lotor held back a growl, thinking his father wanted to publicly humiliate him. “Make all the pretty speeches you need, but I want you to be convincing when you say you have no designs on my crown, and the life of my new bride.” A new jacket was offered him, Zarkon waving it away as he glared coldly at his son. “Submit to me on this, and you may get your chance to sit on the throne within twenty years time.”

“Twenty years?!” Lotor exclaimed, eyes flashing with annoyance. “Surely you could step down sooner than that.”

“Careful Lotor, or I’ll make you wait another thirty.” Zarkon warned. Lotor lips curled, the prince realizing his father would never give up the throne so long as he was able bodied to defend it. He even entertained a vision of Zarkon clinging to the crown with the viselike grip of death, forcing his son to pry it free of his cold fingers.

Shaking his head to dispel the image, Lotor spoke. “By that time the nobles might decide I am too old to assume the throne. What then? If you have any children with your bride, they might insist on younger blood taking the throne.”

“That won’t be a problem if you behave yourself.” Zarkon told him. “Allura has already agreed that any children she births will not be allowed into the line of succession. Your position as heir is secured.”

“Only on the whim of you!” Lotor pointed out. “And what of this Allura? You claim she is not ambitious, but surely as a mother she would want the best for her children. I can already imagine her whispering in your ear, wheedling you into granting her children rights. Rights that should not be theirs in the first place.”

“Bah!” Zarkon snorted. “I am not so weak as to let a female’s cajoling twist my rule around.” Lotor certainly hoped so, though he kept quiet with that comment. “Allura will have little power to affect anything in the Doom Empire. So rest assured, at most she will rule only over the servants, and not our people.”

“You will not entertain any of her suggestions?” Lotor asked, and Zarkon shrugged.

“I’ll listen to them. She’s certainly intelligent enough to make good decisions. After all…” A fang filled grin. “She agreed to marry me.” Lotor was in doubt about how smart a decision that was. “Now submit to me, and swear your loyalty Lotor.” Another caress of his sword’s hilt, Zarkon glaring at Lotor.

“Fine…” Lotor said through gritted teeth. It pained him to make this concession, Lotor moving slowly towards his father. His father gestured for him to drop to his knees, and Lotor had to fight to keep the hatred off his face. “I submit to you on this and all matters, father.” Lotor growled out, fuming inwardly. “I am loyal to you…I swear it.” Zarkon stared down at him, and for one-second his fingers closed around the hilt of his sword, as though the King was still considering striking down his son.

Lotor would have been defenseless in the moment, lacking the proper motor skills that a clear headed mind would have granted him. He tried not to tense up, watching his father, who studied him carefully. “I suppose it’s good enough.” Grunted Zarkon, to Lotor’s relief. “Just remember to work on convincing my court of your loyalty as well.”

“I will father.” Lotor hissed, and slowly rose to his feet.

“I want you to stand with me at the wedding ceremony.” Zarkon continued, Lotor looking at him in surprise. “Your appearance there will go far to show your support of me.”

“Of course father.” Lotor allowed a gracious nod, though appearing supportive of the match was the last thing he wanted.

“Busy times Lotor, busy times.” Zarkon said, then laughed. “You’ll have to get fitted with a new suit. Can’t have you doing my bride and the ceremony dishonor in those rags you call a uniform.”

“I’ll get on it immediately.” Lotor said, and made a gesture towards the door. “If that is all, may I be excused?”

“There’s one other reason I called you down here.” Zarkon stopped him with those words. “I need you to do something for me.”

“Oh? What?” Curiosity got the better of him, Lotor waiting for his father to speak.

“My bride is set to arrive any day now. I want you to take the fleet and meet her in space.” Zarkon grinned. “I don’t want to take a chance this close to Doom that something might happen to her. You never know when enemy ships might lurk in Doom air space. It would be tragic if something were to happen to Allura, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, father.” Lotor bowed his head in agreement, though inwardly he was angered at the thought of playing escort for the princess. But he had had no choice but to agree, and thus this was how he found himself several planets way from his home world, waiting for the Arusian ships to arrive. The amount of ships he had brought with him bordered on insane, Zarkon insisting on nothing but a full regiment of warships. Lotor had with him over thirty-five ships, enough to start a small scale war, and certainly more than enough to handle any would be attackers.

He sulked as he sat in his command chair, studying the star filled vastness of space, the green and purple planet of Navenia spinning slowly in it’s orbit as the Drule ships inched it’s way past that world. So far there was no sign of the Arusian ships, and Lotor waited impatiently for them to arrive. He wanted this job over and done with, the prince eager to be back on Doom.

“I’m a warrior not a baby sitter!” Lotor grumbled under his breath, and his friend Cossack cocked his head to the side.

“Sire?”

“It’s nothing.” Lotor told him, tapping impatient fingers on the arm rest of his command chair. He kept thinking his father had given him this mission partly to keep him out of trouble on Doom. Surely Zarkon had noticed the way some of the nobles were flocking to Lotor’s side, expressing concern on the impending marriage. They didn’t like the thought of their king marrying for pleasure, anymore than Lotor did, though in truth the prince would have opposed the marriage even if it had something advantageous to Doom.

Now he was sworn to be loyal, and not stir the nobles up, or divide the court against his father and this bride of his. Lotor was also aware his father was doing Allura the honor of being escorted by his son, though the prince wished Zarkon had found some lesser decorated soldier to lead the bridal escort. He felt he should be off on another war campaign, though in truth he had earned a break from all the constant warring.

How many planets had he conquered in his short career? Lotor had lost track, being sent on his first campaign when he was barely sixteen years of age. He added numerous worlds, slaves and riches to the Doom Empire, and the heads of Doom’s enemies lined his father’s trophy room. Lotor was the most prolific of warriors that his father employed, the prince’s accomplishments only being outdone by his own father’s, back when Zarkon had been a young man of twenty.

Lotor understood the time for war was to be set aside, there was a celebration to be had, even if he hated the reason behind the rejoicing. He didn’t like the thought of being saddled on Doom during his father’s honeymoon period, but Zarkon seemed to want to keep him close at hand. As though he didn’t trust Lotor’s swears of loyalty, Zarkon making sure the prince would not go off and amass an army of his own.

“At least we’ll finally get to see if this Allura is as beautiful as they claim she is.” Cossack’s voice drew Lotor out of his private grumbling, Lotor looking at the grinning commander. He had no doubt Allura had to be beautiful, but he failed to see how her beauty could be enough to make his father consider remarrying. Especially after his last disastrous union.

Lotor thought of his mother then, a pang in his heart. He had still been but a boy when he last saw her, the woman vibrant, with long blond hair and blue green eyes that seemed to change depending on her moods. Zarkon had not married for love, it had been a union based purely on solidifying Doom’s power in Queen Adaline’s part of the galaxy.

The marriage had been successful on that front, but a disaster in others, Adaline hating her husband with a passion that rivaled Zarkon’s own temper. They fought often, and Lotor had been privately amazed they had come together long enough to conceive even one child. He bore traits from both his parents, his mother’s human blood softening his Drule looks to the point he bordered on pretty. But his temper and fierce love of battle was all traits from his father, Lotor more Drule than human when it came to thought and actions.

He didn’t like to think about his mother, or the time that followed her death. Lotor could vaguely recall the accident that took place in court, Adaline’s body bouncing off the steps that led up to the throne’s dais. He had been too young to tell if she had slipped, or his father had pushed her, and the guards had quickly surrounded him, preventing him from going to his mother’s side.

He never got to see her final moments, barely aware that his father had hurried down the steps to kneel at his mother’s side. He never could remember what happened next, Lotor blacking out to the sound of screams all around him. But he knew when he woke up, his mother had already been dead.

A shudder shook him, Lotor frowning. He thought it an ill omen to be thinking about his mother’s death when he was poised to meet his father’s new bride. He feared what it meant, feared that darkness and death would follow on the heels of Allura’s arrival. What’s more, he didn’t know if he’d be able to stop it, or if he’d even care to try.

He was still musing about what this could mean, when a shout was heard, several of the Drule technicians calling out in excitement. They had a reading that hinted at the arrival of the Arusian ships, and Lotor sat up straighter. “What’s the estimated time of arrival?” He demanded, and a voice called out.

“Twenty seconds!”

“They should be arriving out of warp speed now.” Cossack added, and together he and Lotor stared at the front view monitor that showed off the empty space before the Doom fleet. A technician continued to count down the time, and as she did so, the stars seemed to waver before them. It was a dizzy inducing moment, that ended with a white flash of light.

Lotor had been prepared for the light, already closing his eyes to block out the sight. When he opened them, the Arusian ships were there, and his mouth dropped open in shock. “That’s it?” He demanded, torn between glaring and laughing in mock outrage at the pitifully small number of ships the Arusians had sent as an escort for their princess. There was five in all, including the princess’ yacht, and none were very big or imposing. He snorted then, and grumbled. “Just how poor is this Arus, to send such a weak escort for their princess?!”

“No wonder the King was so eager to have us come meet them.” Murmured Cossack, looking just as stunned as Lotor did. Arus looked the part of a poor relation, and the prince was astounded they had had enough power to travel through warp speed.

“Move into position around the Arusian ships.” Lotor ordered, and heard the technicians relaying his command to the other ships. The Arusian ships hesitated, allowing the Drule fleet to surround it. Lotor’s own flag ship moved to intercept the princess’ yacht, the prince impatient to get these formalities over and done with. From this point onward he was to travel directly with the princess, and protocol be damned, he refused to ride aboard her pathetically ill equipped yacht. The ship was little more than a pleasure cruiser, and Lotor doubted it had many weapons to protect itself.

“Make the connection.” Lotor snapped, waiting impatiently for the two ships to connect to each other by way of tunnel ramp. He would be boarding the yacht just long enough to collect the princess. Her belongings would remain on the ship, though Lotor doubted she had much in the way of riches. He was curious to inspect what she brought as a dowry, but aware that such an act would be seen as humiliating to the king’s future bride.

There was a shaking of the Arusian yacht, the tunnel ramp connecting to it with such force the ship seemed ready to fall apart. Lotor rolled his eyes, muttering things about the shoddiness of Arusian craftsmanship.

When at last the tunnel ramp was secured, Lotor stood up, sweeping back his cape. His hand briefly touched upon his sword’s hilt, Lotor taking comfort from it’s presence upon him. “Let’s go.” Lotor said to Cossack. “It’s time to meet my father’s bride.”


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