The inside of the princess’ yacht was decidedly different from it’s outside, the interior clean and brightly lit. There was no sign of wear and tear, surely the Arusians had been busy with repairs and cleaning the inside of the ship. It was decorated nicely, in what Lotor was sure passed for lavish on Arus. He studied his surroundings with some curiosity, looking over the crest that was painted on the rear wall.
It was a shield divided into four sections, two halves colored red, the others colored blue. A golden lion took up guard on the front of the shield, it’s colors gleaming in the light. The crest stood in bold contrast to the white smoothness of the walls, and banners hung against it, a deep royal purple color. There was a couch that matched that purple, along with a paler lavender shade that colored the chairs.
Lotor sat in the center most chair, waiting impatiently for his charge to arrive. He didn’t like that she was keeping him waiting, thought it was arrogant of the princess. He was eager to collect her, and get back to the safety of his own ship, this yacht seeming to rattle on occasion, as though it would fall apart at any moment. He thought of the gossip he had heard, of how Doom had devastated Arus of it’s military, and realized that this was probably the best of the princess’ remaining ships.
Cossack stood besides him, and behind the pair was several Drule soldiers. They were armed, though they kept their stance relaxed to show they meant no menace to the princess. Lotor nearly snorted at the thought, knowing that if she showed any protest at coming to Doom, they would advance on her, drag her kicking and screaming if need be to her future husband.
What a scandal that would cause, Lotor hiding a smirk as he waited for the princess to finally present herself to him. A servant moved around the room, Lotor having to remind himself that this human wasn’t a slave but a citizen of the Doom Empire. Drinks were offered him, as were pastries, Lotor refusing them all. He wasn’t here for niceties, didn’t care about Arusian hospitality.
“What is taking your princess so long?” Lotor demanded with an angry bark. The servant jumped, nearly dropping her tray to the floor. Only her shaking hands managed to steady it, the woman risking a look at Lotor.
“Forgive us, your highness.” She bowed meekly. “We weren’t expecting you quite this soon. The princess is overseeing the packing of her belongings…”
“She doesn’t need to bring much.” Grumbled Lotor. “The journey to Doom will at most take two days. And that’s if we don’t hurry.”
“I’ll relay that to her.” The servant all but ran out of the room, the Drule soldiers erupting into laughter.
“It’s just like a woman to keep a man waiting.” Cossack muttered, and Lotor corrected him.
“It’s just like a spoiled princess to keep us waiting.” Lotor sighed. “I have far better things to do than wait for her to decide on which dresses she wants to take.”
“Patience your highness…” advised Cossack. “It shouldn’t take much longer…”
“It better not.” Lotor retorted with a rude sound. He kept on glancing at the room’s chrono meter, glaring as the minutes sped by. To wait even five minutes was unacceptable, but the princess had been keeping him here for nearly thirty. He wondered if his father knew about the princess’ penchant for keeping men waiting, Lotor thinking Zarkon would quickly free her of that bad habit.
“Why a lion…” Came Cossack’s murmur, and Lotor realized his friend was studying the room’s crest. He had no answer for the commander, and was surprised when one of the soldiers spoke.
“The lion is a sort of mascot for Arus. Their animal of prosperity.” Explained the soldier. “Why even their castle is named after it, with great big stone guardians placed around the property.” Lotor and Cossack stared at him, and the Drule became flustered. “I have a brother who is stationed on Arus. He’s told me a little about their culture.”
“Has he seen the princess?” Cossack asked, sounding eager. “Is she as beautiful as they say?”
“According to him, yes.” The soldier nodded. “He’s only seen a few glimpse of her, but he says he can see why the King would want her.”
That soured Lotor’s mood, the prince once again angry his father could be so swayed by beauty. But he bit his tongue to keep from grumbling out loud, knowing he couldn’t risk that these soldiers would not report back to Zarkon with Lotor’s words.
“I don’t know how she’s going to handle life on Doom.” Continued the soldier. “My brother says she is soft, even for a woman.”
“The nobles will eat her alive if she’s really that soft.” Cossack said, and Lotor hid a grin.
“I doubt very much our King would allow that.” The soldier said seriously, and Lotor did not fight his scowl.
“My father doesn’t have time to baby a woman, even if she’s his bride. She’ll learn to develop a thick skin, or she will pay the price with the nobles.” Lotor glanced at the chrono meter again, and leapt to his feet. This was beyond ridiculous, how long was this woman going to keep him here?!
“Where are you going prince?” Cossack called out as Lotor stepped towards the door.
“To fetch the princess myself.” Lotor growled, and jerked open the door. Cossack must have given a command, for the soldiers moved to follow their prince, the group of Drules startling the humans out in the hall. These humans were all so shaky and easy to frighten, and Lotor wondered what sort of hardships they had endured at his people’s hands.
A servant was running towards him, a man this time, an older gentleman with a mustache. “Your highness, please…if you would just wait a moment more…”
“I’m through waiting.” Lotor grabbed him by the jacket, drawing him close enough to growl in his face. “You will show me to your princess’ room immediately.” The man’s eyes widened, but he didn’t dare offer a protest, merely nodding a yes to Lotor.
Satisfied, the prince thrust the man away from him, the servant tripping over his own feet. He crashed into a wall, and the soldiers laughed at that, giving the man red cheeks that hinted at his flustered state.
Lotor waited impatiently for the servant to recover his footing, and with a stiff bow, the man was moving. Lotor stalked behind him, noting the startled humans who stopped to stare open mouthed at the Drules. No one tried to get in their way, in fact a few humans darted into open doorways in a bid to avoid confrontation with the Drules.
They were led deeper into the ship, until at last the servant stopped before a room. “A moment if you please, your highness.” The man said, moving to knock on the door.
“She’s had more than enough moments.” Lotor retorted, knocking the man aside and thrusting open the door. He could hear the chatter of females, voices not overly excited but solemn as they talked. They weren’t speaking in Drule or Basic, but in the language of their native world. Lotor had a moment’s uncertainty, wondering if the princess would even be able to converse with the Drules without an interpreter present.
Suddenly a round shaped woman stepped in front of him, her face red with anger as she looked him over. She didn’t seem cowed by the fact he was a Drule, placing her hands on her hips to angrily bark at him.
Lotor blinked in surprise, then narrowed his eyes. “Out of my way, you impertinent bitch!” A gasp was heard from inside the room, someone there had understood what he had said.
The man spoke, trying to stem the confrontation from becoming any nastier. “This is Nanny. She is in charge of the princess’ household.”
“She’ll be cleaning out castle Doom’s dungeons if she doesn’t watch her tone with me.” Lotor said, and shoved the woman into the room. With Nanny out of the way, he caught sight of the chaos existing in this room, dresses thrown on every available surface save for the floor. Suitcases were open, looking half full, and there was half a dozen women gathered in the room.
Nearly all turned to stare at him, and Lotor passed a cursory glance over each one. There was one practically laying on the floor, her head under the bed as she searched for something. What he did not know, but he ignored her, turning to study the other girls. They were all shapes and sizes, ranging from plain to pretty, though none seemed beautiful enough to have made his father a lust crazed fool.
Their dresses didn’t hint at which one could be the princess, they were all garbed in their finest gowns as befitted ladies in waiting. Lotor studied them a minute more, than was walking to the prettiest, not quite content to kneel before her. He settled for offering a stiff bow, hand reaching for hers. “Princess Allura…” His voice was cold, holding no emotion to it as he moved to grace a kiss on the back of her hand.
The women all seemed to gasp, and Allura jerked her hand away from his grasp. He frowned at her, not liking the insult she had given him, or the way she chirped something at him in that strange sounding tongue of hers.
“Well?” Lotor looked to the male servant to translate, and he coughed, seeming embarrassed. The woman known as Nanny said something, and a muffled voice came from under the bed. He didn’t understand what she said, but heard the triumphant quality to her tone. Lotor glanced back at his commander, Cossack giving a shrug, as at a loss as Lotor was.
Another happy sound, and then the girl under the bed was standing up. At first Lotor only took notice of what she held in her hands, two squirming gray colored mice, that squeaked and stared at him with beady black eyes. He was so taken aback by the mice, he almost forgot to look at the girls’ face, watching as she turned away from him to deposit the mice into a cage with two others.
Nanny seemed to tsk, and hurried over to the girl, reaching to smooth out her skirts, and fuss over her hair. The other women were starting to talk again, and suddenly the girl straightened. She turned, and this time her hands were empty, Lotor jerking his gaze up to her face. And stopped, feeling as stunned as the girl looked.
She had sun kissed skin that would surely turn pale after a few weeks of living on Doom. Lotor felt that even without the healthy glow of a tan, she would be radiant, Lotor staring at her face. A cute nose set in a perfect face, with elegant cheek bones, and sparkling blue eyes that reminded him of an ocean he had once seen. Pouty, full lips, colored a reddish pink pursed at him, the girl saying something, but he didn’t hear it.
He was too busy taking note of her wavy blond hair, the color so golden he had only seen it’s likes on one other woman. It startled him the resemblance she bore to his dead mother, even as he could see she had enough features to look different, as though she was a distant relative. She seemed even more lovely than the mother of his memories, and Lotor couldn’t help but think this girl was so beautiful that it hurt to look at her.
He could hear Cossack and the soldiers behind him murmuring their appreciation in Drule, one even speaking enviously at the thought of the King bedding such a beauty. With a start Lotor realized this had to be Allura of Arus, and his heart gave a despairing lurch. Especially when he thought of this beautiful creature in the arms of a crusty old man like his father’s.
“You’re staring your highness.” Cossack said in a staged whisper, Lotor blinking rapidly to compose himself. The girl looked at him uncertainly, Nanny and the other women still fussing over her appearance. The older woman was even clucking her tongue, having spied the carpet stains on the girl’s skirt from when she had crawled around on the floor.
“Princess Allura, I presume?” Lotor asked, not wanting to make a mistake a second time. He found himself hoping with all his heart that she was not Allura of Arus, even as he knew she couldn’t be anyone else. No one in the room could compare to her perfection, and Lotor had to remind himself several times she was poised to become his enemy through her marriage to his father.
“Yes, I am she.” She surprised them all by speaking in halting Drule, her pronunciation off in a few places. She looked nervous, and smoothed her hands down the bodice of her pink gown, it’s shade matching her lipstick. “And you are crown prince Lotor, yes?” He nodded, pleased she had acknowledge his title. “Ah…forgive me…” She switched to basic, cheeks turning pink. “My Drule is not so good…I’m afraid I’m at my limit when it comes to conversing in it.”
“It’s all right.” Lotor reassured her, then cursed himself for trying to put her at ease. “You’ll have plenty of time to learn the ins and outs of the Drule language. Until then, we can speak in Basic, if that is where your skill lies.”
“Thank you.” She looked grateful for a moment, and then Nanny said something to her. Her eyes widened, and she immediately dipped into a curtsey. Lotor tried not to stare down her modest top, not wanting to ogle her. “Please forgive me for keeping you waiting. There was a problem with my things.”
“So I noticed.” Lotor said wryly, lifting a hand to indicate the messy state of her room. She colored even redder, and seemed at a loss for what to say. “We really won’t be in space for that long. You need not take everything with you on board my ship.”
“Of course.” She gestured, and the women parted from her side, hurrying over to close the suitcases. “Then I am ready.” A disapproving Nanny lifted the cage with the mice, the rodents squeaking loudly. Lotor lifted a brow at that, and Allura grew even more flustered. “These are my pets.”
“You keep vermin for companions?!” He was shocked, and the mice seemed to squeak in indignation.
“They’re not vermin, they’re mice. A special breed on Arus, highly intelligent, and as suitable a companion for a princess as any other.”
“Hmmm.” Lotor made a noncommittal noise, privately wondering what his father would have to say in her choice in pets. He’d let the old man deal with it, Lotor nodding his head and gesturing for Allura to follow him out of the room. Nanny and the girls moved to accompany them, and Lotor paused. “My father has already picked out your ladies in waiting. These women need not come along with us.”
Allura looked startled at that, turning to look at Nanny and the other girls. “But…I thought we agreed….I could pick out my own ladies…”
Lotor knew what his father was up to, filling Allura’s household with ladies who would be spies that would report on the future queen’s every activity. Her every move would be watched, her every word reported to the King, and Lotor loathed to think what Zarkon would do if he found Allura’s behavior suspicious.
It was the male servant who came to the princess’ rescue, the man drawing himself upright. “The princess cannot board your ship without the proper chaperones.” Lotor was amused at that, knowing no one would dare molest Zarkon’s bride. “We must insist that at least Nanny and two of the girls accompany her to Doom.”
“Oh you must insist?” Lotor demanded with a raised eyebrow. The man stiffened, but nodded, and Lotor fought to keep from laughing.
“Please your highness…you won’t even know they’re there.” It was Allura who spoke, tone almost begging. He looked at Nanny, his expression saying he would always be aware of the large woman.
“It doesn’t suit a future Queen of Doom to beg anyone but her husband.” Lotor said, and Allura colored in embarrassment. “But I will allow their presence if it will put you at ease.”
She seemed to wilt in relief, nodding quickly. “It would.” She then turned, and said something to Nanny and the other women, a mixture of relief and disappointment on their faces. It appeared the women didn’t want to part from their princess’ side, but they also were in no way eager to go to Doom.
In addition to Nanny, Allura picked one of the plainer girls, a dishwater blonde, and the pretty redhead Lotor had mistaken for the princess. The two girls struggled to carry the princess’ luggage, the soldiers not offering a hand. They were here as soldiers, not as servants, and refused to even be considered as anything less than an honor guard for the two royals.
He walked with Allura besides him, Lotor content to allow the male servant lead them back to the docking bay of the ship. Lotor had to fight to keep from looking at Allura constantly, and he was well aware he had slipped in etiquette in not offering her his arm. But he was actually frightened of the thought of this beautiful creature touching him, Lotor fearing he would shatter into a million piece at the grazing of her fingers on his flesh.
“So…” Cossack was clearing his throat, trying to engage the princess in conversation. “You are practicing Drule?”
“Oh yes.” Allura nodded, her lips forming an odd little smile. “I’ve been studying your language ever since talks began about my marriage to your King.”
“He’s your king too now.” Lotor was quick to point out, and she ducked her head shyly.
“Yes, I know.” Came her faint answer. She was almost shy then, speaking softly. “Do you think it will please him to know I am learning the Drule language?”
“I’m sure the King will enjoy being able to speak to his beautiful bride in his native tongue.” Cossack assured her, with a warm smile. Lotor wished he could be so kind to the princess, but he found himself forcing a distance, Lotor trying to harden himself where her beauty had softened him. He couldn’t help but compare Allura to a witch, wondering if she was casting the same spell on him that she had placed on his father.
“I’m very happy to hear that.” Allura said, seeming relieved.
As they moved through the ship, people came out to see their princess. There was much tears, and bowing going on, and Lotor was surprised when a few tossed flowers Allura’s way. She maintained an air of dignity through it all, offering smiles to her people, and even touching a few hands as they walked by. The soldiers tensed when she hugged one woman, the old lady clinging to the girl as if she would never let her go.
Finally the old woman’s daughter pulled her away, the woman whispering something urgently to the princess. Lotor couldn’t resist asking, the prince risking a look at the princess. “What did she say to you?”
“She was….” A hesitation, Lotor quick to realize Allura was censoring what had been said. “She was merely wishing me a long and happy life.”
“I see.” He pursed his lips together, showing how mistrustful he was of her words. Lotor was almost tempted to learn Arusian, all in an attempt to be able to know just exactly what Allura and her people would say. He wouldn’t be surprised if Zarkon did not have translators present, even among the ladies he had appointed as Allura’s entourage. After all the spies would only be effective if they could understand the girl they were assigned to watch over.
At last they reached the docking bay, and in the distance they could see the tunnel ramp’s entrance. Allura seemed to stiffen at the sight of it, as if trying to draw strength in preparation for the trek through it. More people were out in the docking bay, and they led a rousing cheer, crying out their princess’ name. Allura smiled, though her eyes hinted at tears, and waved and blew kisses to her people.
They made slow progress to the tunnel ramp, Lotor almost tempted to grab Allura’s arm in an effort to make her hurry. Once at the ramp, she paused, turning one last time to look at both the ship and the people. An unreadable expression was on her face, but Lotor was sure she was taking in what would be the last sight of her Arusian heritage.
The people seemed to be singing a mourning song, and though Allura’s eyes turned misty, she drew up straight, and gave him a bright smile. “I’m ready.” She said, and stepped into the ramp past him. Nanny and the two girls hurried after her, and Lotor paused to stare back at the Arusians. They had doubled in size, more people rushing out to catch one last glimpse of their princess. He wondered if she was beloved because she was a kind ruler, or if their devotion was spurned on by the sacrifice she was making for them in marrying King Zarkon.
Whatever the case, it shouldn’t have mattered to him, Lotor stepping into the tunnel ramp. The spiral opening closed shut behind him, and he hurried to catch up to Allura and Cossack. She smiled at Lotor again, and Lotor found himself starting to return the smile before he remembered himself. He ended up glaring at her instead, and told himself her hurt look did not matter one bit to him.