Lotor often told himself that things would have been just fine if Allura had chosen to remain inside her cabin during the flight to Doom. There would have been no chance to foster the early stages of a friendship with her, no chance to become impressed with her, or to let his heart soften even further towards his enemy. He was already so dangerously close to liking her just based on first impressions, her beauty such that it stirred something inside him.
He didn’t want to have feelings for her, didn’t want to extend himself beyond hating Allura. And yet she made it impossible to do anything but like her, the princess going out of her way to get to know him. He tried to avoid her at first, but even on a vessel as large as the fleet’s flag ship there was only so many places he could run. She always managed to find him, and he often privately accused her of witchcraft to so effectively locate him.
When she wasn’t chasing after him, she was mingling with the crew of the ship, the princess getting to know soldiers and servants alike. She was kind and courteous to everyone, and it wasn’t long before she had charmed nearly the entire crew. They were not immune to her great beauty, the men admiring her openly. But her friendly nature also made her approachable, and it wasn’t long before the Drule were coming to her, doting attention on their future queen, even gifting her with small tokens, or seeking her counsel on disagreements.
Lotor should have been annoyed at the last, as the man in charge of the fleet, it should have been up to him to oversee any problems between the crew. He certainly could admit it freed up his time, not having to deal with petty annoyances, though Lotor wondered how his father would take to his bride’s meddling. Though she never made a nuisance of herself, touring the ship, and even coming to the command deck to watch over the procedures needed to keep the ship flying.
She was always with a chaperone, usually that angry, older woman. Where Allura was happy and smiling, Nanny was hostile and glaring, looking at the Drule with stern disapproval. She gave Lotor the impression that she felt the Drule weren’t good enough to be in the princess’ presence, and Lotor wondered if her attitude would improve once they were on Doom.
The other two ladies of Allura’s entourage mainly kept to the cabin, seeming too timid and meek to venture far. They certainly didn’t have the imposing presence of Nanny, and even their worst look wasn’t half as menacing as the older woman’s glare. Lotor grew accustomed to the woman’s dirty looks, even finding amusement in the flustered way she squawked to Allura.
Of course he never did anything improper to earn Nanny’s ire, but the woman seemed to measure the men around her princess with standards they could not reach. He wondered if even a King could impress this Nanny, and knew that his father would try to dispose of the woman the first chance he got.
He also knew the dismissal of Nanny would greatly upset Allura, the girl taking comfort in the woman’s presence around her. In those early days before their arrival on Doom, Lotor would never guess that Allura’s constant presence among the crew was due to her increasing nerves. She was privately worrying about her marriage, and the future that was uprooting her life from Arus.
She needed distractions, needed to keep busy so that she didn’t sink into despair and cry all the time. So she took to ingratiating herself to the people, just being herself and letting them judge her on her sweet personality. Lotor wondered if he would have felt pity for her back then if he had known what a nervous mess she was inside. He had after all been too busy fighting his feelings for her, Lotor still at the stage where he was suspicious of her intentions in agreeing to marry King Zarkon.
He’d eventually learn she had had no choice, Zarkon had taken the decision out of her hands when he conquered Arus. The best Allura could do was to adapt to the situation she was thrown into, to play the gracious loser who accepted a ruthless King’s mercy. It was rare of Zarkon to show such mercy, and practically unheard of for the King to force a situation where he would play benefactor to a conquered world. And all he asked for in return, was Allura. That and her utmost loyalty and obedience.
Given what little choices she had, it was no wonder Allura had agreed to marry Zarkon. She knew he could have taken her if she had refused, and her planet would have suffered for her rejection. At least now she could forge an alliance that would see Arus prosper rather than fall, her people free, and living in the wealth of the Doom Empire. She wasn’t completely at peace with her choice, and those who knew to look closely at her, would often catch a wistful glaze in her eyes.
Allura often slipped into a melancholy state when alone, and it was during one such moment that Lotor came across her, seated on a bench on the viewing deck of the flagship. He caught her staring off to the distance, the far away look in her eyes showing she wasn’t aware of her present surroundings. He almost turned away, wanting to give her that privacy, but couldn’t resist staring at her.
He often wanted to gaze longingly at her, and he often had to control those urges, Lotor choosing to look anywhere but at Allura. This time, with her distracted, he stared, drinking in her beauty. She was dressed in pastel hues of blue and lavender, with the faintest of pink rimming the edge of her gown’s bodice. She looked like springtime flowers, and he thought to himself how out of place she would look on Doom.
No doubt his father would do away with those modest gowns of hers, the dress not only covering her curves, but down right plain. She didn’t dress like royalty, forgoing jewels and extravagant adornments. She was a simple girl when it came to her garments, and the plainness of her dresses suited her. Her beauty was such it would have outshone diamonds, and Lotor shuddered at the thought of Zarkon dressing her up like one of the painted whores that passed for ladies at the Doom court.
He wasn’t sure how long he stood there, but suddenly a throat was clearing. He turned in the direction of the sound, and spied Nanny, the woman frowning at him. Allura went from that statue like stillness to movement, turning to look at him. Already that melancholy mask was gone, the girls’ eyes bright as she smiled a greeting to him.
“Evening Princess Allura.” Lotor said, and offered her a low bow of respect. She was already attempting to rise from her seat, to return his gesture. “There’s no need.” Lotor told her, urging her to remain seated.
“Evening your highness.” She allowed a slight bow of her head, unable to let go of customs completely. Nanny grumbled something behind her, it could have been a greeting, or it could have been a curse. Lotor smiled all the same, amused when Nanny snorted.
“I see you’re alone tonight.” Lotor noted, eyes touching on the empty deck. There was none of the princess’ usual admirers present, which was surprising in and of itself. “Shall I leave you to your contemplations?”
“No, stay!” Allura said it too quickly, sounding almost desperate for his company. He quirked an eyebrow at her, but nodded all the same, chuckling slightly at her blush.
“All right…” Lotor stepped closer to her, the nearness giving an intimacy to their conversation. Allura scooted over on the bench, patting the seat besides her. Lotor shook his head, giving her a polite rejection. “I can’t stay long princess. They’ll need me on the bridge. We’re almost to Doom.”
“Yes, I know…” She had paled at that, and her happy mask slipped long enough for him to notice how unnerved she was by the thought of arriving at her future home. “We’ll be landing in what….two more hours?”
“More like an hour and a half.” Lotor corrected. “In this final leg of the journey, we are pushing top speed. My father is growing impatient to meet with you.” She seemed to pale further at that, her smile wavering. “It’s not just my father…” Lotor added, hoping to distract her from thoughts of Zarkon. “All of Doom is eager to meet their future Queen.”
She wasn’t prone to performance anxiety, the thought of a whole planet of people waiting for her did not bother her in the slightest. “And I am eager to greet them.” Allura said. “I’ve been practicing my Drule.” She added after a pause. “Your crew has been most helpful in volunteering to go over the language lessons with me.”
Lotor himself had helped her with some of her studies, the two practicing speaking Drule over a shared lunch. “No one will blame you if you speak Basic.” Lotor told her, and she nodded.
“I know that. But I want to be able to greet my new subjects in their native tongue.” She reached up to nervously fiddle her fingers in her hair, Nanny making a chiding sound. The noise from the older woman had the princess releasing her hair, hands returning to her lap. “I’ve been practicing my speech. I hope I don’t stumble…”
“I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Lotor assured her, tone warm.
“I hope so.” She repeated, then sighed. “What is Doom like this time of year?”
“It’s not much different from any other season.” Lotor told her. “Doom seems to go from two extremes, cold and windy, or cold and rainy.”
“I hear that Doom is a barren world….that not much grows on it.” She looked up at him, eyes seeming to beg him to tell her otherwise. “Is that true?”
“I’m afraid so.” Lotor admitted, and she seemed to wilt. “Doom is not like your Arus, it’s not suitable for most flowers to grow. Only the sturdiest of plants can survive, and they are twisted, ugly things.”
“But…” He was quick to add, wanting to cheer her up. “My father has been sure to import plenty of flowers for your arrival. The bouquets were just beginning to arrive when I left to meet with you at Navenia. No doubt the castle will be transformed into a veritable flower paradise.”
She looked surprised to hear that, shaking her head. “Are not flowers expensive on Doom? I am surely not worth the fuss.”
“My father can afford it.” Lotor retorted. “He’s already spent several fortunes worth on the wedding, and the festivals. Every city and town on planet Doom has been decorated in celebration of your arrival.”
“They have?!” She exclaimed, mouth falling open in shock.
He grinned at her reaction, and began painting a picture with his words. “The city capital of Doom is the most extravagant. With garland of flowers woven into the street’s pillars, forming arches under which the people must travel. The streets are littered with fallen petals, and the city smells sweeter than it has in years. There’s balloons everywhere, and twinkling white lights. The people rejoice, and were already heavy into the celebrations before I left.”
“They must truly love your King to be celebrating the fact that he has chosen a bride.” Allura commented, and Lotor shrugged.
“They love a good excuse to party.”
“Oh.” A soft comment from her, Allura glancing downwards.
“But they are eager to see you.” Lotor added hastily. “We’ve all heard the rumors of the great beauty that captured our King’s attention.”
“I am no great beauty!” Allura stammered, flustered and blushing heavily.
“You’ve never truly looked at yourself in a mirror then.” Lotor replied, his words more blunt that he had intended. She just continued to blush, not saying anything. Nanny continued to eyeball him, disapproval radiating of her. Lotor cast about for some topic to distract Allura from her embarrassment, and suddenly pointed at a distant planet on the view screen. ‘See that there?” He blurted out with more excitement than he should have. “That brown and gray planet is Doom.”
“Doom….” She followed his finger to gaze at the planet, and he wondered what she thought of the dull colors of the world.
“That’s your new home Allura.” Lotor added when it seemed she wasn’t about to say anything else. “I know it doesn’t look like much from space, but trust me. It will look better once you can see the ground.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” She murmured. Allura didn’t seem inclined to keep the conversation going, and so with a stiff bow he excused himself from her side. He hurried away, but not before he heard say something to Nanny, the words spoken in the Arusian tongue. Allura sounded no less excited now, than she had before, in fact he could almost hear a note of despair in her voice.
It was harder than it should have been to ignore her unhappiness, Lotor trying to distract himself with busy work on the bridge of the ship. He wasn’t complete successful, Lotor haunted by memories of Allura’s voice. He found himself wishing he could make her truly happy, and then frowning at himself for thinking such a thing. He knew it was none of his business whether his father’s bride was happy or not, knew he had no right to try and cheer her up, or help her to adjust to the changes life on Doom would bring her.
He heard reports from his soldiers, the men explaining that the princess had remained on the viewing deck, watching the ship’s descent onto Doom. He wanted to have the fleet pass by the capital, to show Allura the city in all it’s festive glory. But knew he didn’t dare, not with his father breathing impatience for his bride’s arrival. All too soon castle Doom was within sight of the fleet, and Lotor sent word up to Allura to prepare herself for departure.
They met in the docking bay, Allura accompanied by all three of her ladies. Nanny was standing behind her, fussing over the girl’s hair and dress, an angry glower on her face though she did not look at anyone in particular. Lotor realized with a start that Nanny was trying to distract herself from what was happening to her princess, the woman’s eyes actually wet with unshed tears.
It unnerved him to realize the seeming unflappable woman was so upset over the princess impending marriage. It wasn’t just Nanny who was upset, the two girls Allura had chosen to accompany her to Doom were blinking back tears, one clinging to the other’s arm as they walked behind their princess. Allura was the only completely composed, the princess holding her head high, eyes almost defiant in the moment.
Lotor guided her over to the ramp that would lead them off the ship, and found himself hesitating at the top of it. “Are you ready?” He asked, voice low as to not be overheard by any of the other soldiers who were standing near as the princess’ honor guard.
“I am.” She gave a nod of her head, as though trying to assure herself of that too. Lotor had a moment where he wanted to tell her it was not too late, that she should tell Zarkon no. But that was an absurd idea, he knew she had little choice on what happened to her now, and could only affect the future of her planet and her people.
Nanny said something, voice brunt and businesslike as she fluffed out the cape that had been given to Allura. The navy blue material did not match her summer colored dress, but at least it would protect her from Doom’s cold weather.
“Then let us be off.” Lotor said, and offered Allura his arm. He tried to tell himself it was pure protocol that had him do that, but really he wanted to lend her his steadying presence. Her fingers shook on his arm, betraying the tremble that was working it’s way through her body. She was nervous, and trying to remain unaffected by what was going on around her.
Cossack led the first of the soldiers off the ship, the armed men stepping forward to secure the premises. When the all clear signal was given, Lotor began walking Allura down the ramp. She continued to shake, though one wouldn’t be able to tell that from just looking at her.
Their footsteps echoed with a metallic ring, and then they were stepping on the tarmac field that made up the castle’s front lawn. Even with the field as large as it was, there wasn’t enough room for the entire fleet. Lotor’s flag ship, and Allura’s yacht had landed the closest to the castle, and he could see slaves were walking up and down the ramp of that ship, already bringing Allura’s things off of it.
Somewhere among her belongings was the dowry that would be offered to her future husband, and Lotor couldn’t hide that he was curious as to what sort of wealth the Arusians could have amassed for their princess.
Allura had paused to get her bearings, turning her head this way and that to take in her first sight of the castle. Lotor tried to see it from her eyes, knowing the building was an imposing structure, all dark gray stone and jagged towers made of sharp rock. Brilliant yellow lights flashed from window to window, but otherwise darkness loomed from the inside.
Occasionally the castle was lit up by a stark flash of lightning, thunder booming as it signaled the coming storm. Allura seemed to shiver, and clutch at her cape, and Lotor urged her to hurry.
“Come, you’ll be warmer inside.” Lotor told her, and began walking the short distance to the castle’s stone steps. Allura followed him, and Nanny made a sound, the woman displeased to see just how many steps they would have to climb to get to entrance’s landing. Allura continued to hold onto Lotor’s arm, almost clinging to him as they began climbing upwards.
The soldiers ignored Nanny and the other two girls, leaving them to flounder as they tried to navigate the steep stairs. Nanny was soon panting, breath huffing and puffing from the long climb. Occasionally she would grunt out a sound of complaint, but for the most part she was too busy trying to concentrate on her breathing to talk. Allura seemed to manage the climb much better, her color was good, and she breathed normally. It left Lotor impressed by her fortitude, the prince knowing that humans often had trouble with the stairs the first few times.
Slaves also labored on the stairs, carrying the princess’ belongings up them. The slaves couldn’t afford to complain, they would be beaten or worse if they did. So they struggled as best they could managed, sweating and red faced, and hardly dressed appropriately for the cold weather. He wondered what Allura thought of slavery, Lotor remembering how she had treated everyone on board the flag ship with equal kindness, even the slaves.
He wouldn’t get the chance to quiz her on her standing where slavery was concerned for they had reached the landing. Nanny seemed to gasp, the sound so distorted everyone turned to look at her in concern. She was sweating profusely, her dress bearing wet stains on the back. When the woman realized she had drawn everyone’s attention, she grew flustered, wheezing out a comment as she waved at them to continue their business.
Lotor looked at Allura, then shrugged. If Nanny was insisting she was fine, he wouldn’t pause to wait for her to catch her breath. He turned to glance at Cossack, and barked out a command in Drule. Cossack nodding, and gestured for two of his men to open the doors to the castle. The metal doors towered above them, all iron framework, and gilded symbols written on it’s surface. It was as imposing as the rest of the castle, and the doors let out an ominous creak as they were forced open.
For one instant the darkness of the castle’s insides beckoned ominously, and then footsteps were heard. To Lotor’s shock and astonishment, the King’s guards walked out onto the landing, a trumpeter heralding their arrival. A few seconds pause, Lotor recovering enough to close his mouth, and then his father himself was walking out into the cold.
Zarkon was dressed in one of his new suits, a black cape lined with blood red descending down his shoulders. Blood red piping was threaded over the black of his jacket, matching silk handkerchief folded neatly over one pocket. He was wearing his best crown, it’s gold gleaming, it’s jewels twinkling. Everyone, including Allura had gone down to their knees, paying homage and submission to the king.
Allura continued to hold onto Lotor’s arm, and now her nails practically dug through his sleeve to cut into his skin. He kept a bland expression on his face, not betraying that she was kind of hurting him. Zarkon made them kneel for several seconds more, before he bade them rise, and Lotor took to helping Allura stand in one smooth motion.
“Father…” Lotor began, and swept forward with Allura. “As was my royal duty, I have safely brought you your bride.”
“It’s about time.” Zarkon grumbled in Drule. But he barely looked at Lotor, his eyes all for Allura. Lotor felt uneasy at the open lust in his father’s eyes, the King practically leering at the princess. He smiled at her, revealing his sharp fangs as he asked her a question in Basic. “Well, my dear, what do you think of your new home?”
Allura was pale faced, but kept a rigid smile on her face. “It’s….very different from what I’m used to.” She spoke in Drule, words hesitant though Lotor could not tell if it was from her nervousness at the situation, or her lack of confidence when it came to speaking the language.
Zarkon’s eyes flashed with surprise, then pleasure, the King grinning wider. “Ha, no doubt.” He switched back to Drule, a chuckle escaping him at her answer. “You’ll find there’s little similarities between this world and Arus. But I hope in time you’ll come to think of it as your home.”
“I’m sure I will.” Allrua was still clinging to Lotor’s arm, and now Zarkon fixed a pointed stare at her hand. The girl immediately flushed, letting go of Lotor as though his touch burned her.
“Come…” Zarkon offered his arm to her, and to Allura’s credit, she did not hesitate in taking it. The king tucked her in close to his body, actually daring to lean in and sniff at her hair. Lotor had to fight to keep from making fists, reminding himself this was not his woman but his father’s. He had no right to be bothered by the sight of his father indulging himself with Allura.
“Let’s get you settled into your rooms for the night.” With that, Zarkon was leading her into the castle, his guards moving to follow. They formed a blockade between Lotor and his father, the prince fuming at being so ignored. He wasn’t the only one, Nanny was muttering under her breath, and the two girls were attempting to soothe her.
Zarkon did not cast a glance back at Lotor and his entourage, his attention completely focused on Allura. He took care to constantly lean in to whisper in her ear, or rake his claws through her hair. Allura endured it all with poise and confidence, the girl not even flinching one time at the king’s touches.
“You must be tired from your long journey.” The King continued solicitously. “No doubt you’ll be wanting to rest before the wedding.”
“I’d like that, yes.” Allura admitted with a nod.
“It pains me to spend even one more night separate from you…” Zarkon’s voice was husky with desire. “But I have the utmost faith that all good things are worth the wait.” She flushed at that, ducking her head shyly so that her hair hide her expression from them all. Zarkon wasn’t content to leave her be, brushing her hair back and letting his claws linger on her cheek.
“It will be a long day of ceremonies.” Continued Zarkon, and Lotor wondered if Allura understood enough Drule to follow all that the King was saying. “A tiresome but necessary formality if we want the people to acknowledge you as my queen. I know, some of what we do will seem barbaric to you, but I believe you will conduct yourself appropriately.”
Allura was just nodding her head, and now Lotor was certain she hadn’t been able to follow it all. He also felt a sudden flash of guilt, Lotor wishing he had thought to prepare Allura for some of the more gruesome aspects of the ceremonies that would tie her together with Zarkon. He knew he wouldn’t get a chance to privately speak to her now to correct that over sight, Lotor hoping Allura would be able to maintain her composure during the ceremonies.
“Ah….here we are…” Zarkon led Allura over to a door, and one of his guards hurried to open it for the royal couple. “This is the apartment I’ve appointed to you. I hope it’s to your tastes.” He led Allura inside the room, and Lotor could make out the sound of her soft comments, the girl expressing her gratitude for the rooms the King had given her.
Satisfied with her words, Zarkon turned to her, Lotor squeezing past the King’s guards just in time to catch sight of his father leaning in to kiss Allura squarely on the lips. She seemed as startled as Lotor was, the girl holding herself absolutely still as the King savored the taste of her mouth. Lotor found his fists clenching, leaving him to try and control his anger.
The kiss lasted longer than was appropriate in view of others. Lotor wanted to growl and tear Zarkon off Allura, remind the old man to allow the princess her dignity in front of the guards.
When Zarkon finally pulled away, his eyes had darkened with desire, the man slowly licking his lips as though trying to get one last taste of the princess. Lotor couldn’t see Allura’s face, had no idea what sort of expression she wore. But Zarkon seem satisfied all the same, the King touching her hair, and rearranging it on her shoulders before stepping away from her.
“Pleasant dreams Allura.” Zarkon was almost laughing, his bow practically mocking. She curtsied back to him, and then the King was stepping away from her to walk out of the room. The guards moved with him, and then Nanny and the other two girls were allowed to enter the room. They immediately flocked to their princess’ side, their voices cooing concern as they touched her.
“Lotor, we need to talk.” Zarkon’s brisk voice was calling out to him, Lotor tearing his eyes away from the scene in Allura’s room. Zarkon was waiting rather impatiently for Lotor to step towards him, and the prince wondered why. He’d not find out until they were a corridor away from Allura’s apartment, Lotor falling into step besides his father. “So tell me. What was her behavior like on the ship?”
Lotor blinked, surprised. This is what his father wanted to know? “She was fine. She acted with dignity and kindness, treating all onboard with respect.” Lotor tried not to smile, remembering how taken the crew was with the princess. “You would be proud.” He added. “She did not bring shame to you or her people.”
“Good.” Zarkon nodded in satisfaction. “I worried that she’d cause a scene. You know how brides can be with their last minute jitters.” They walked in silence a few more feet, and then Zarkon began drilling him with questions about his bride. Everything from what she had said, to what she had worn, and what foods she had enjoyed. Zarkon wanted to know it all, and Lotor wondered if there was a pattern to his madness.
He tried to answer the questions as best he could, though in truth Lotor hadn’t paid that close attention to certain things. Zarkon was less than pleased to hear Allura had been allowed to interact with the soldiers with only another woman as her chaperone.
“The crew loved her.” Lotor quickly assured him. “Each and every one of them adores your bride. None would think to lay a finger on her, unless it was by your command.”
“That is the way it should be.” Zarkon grumbled, though he still wore that dissatisfied look. Lotor could only wonder at the reason behind it, Zarkon not one to offer answers about his moods. “Get some rest Lotor. I wasn’t kidding when I said it would be a long day tomorrow.”
“Of course.” Lotor said, and bowed to his father. Zarkon gave a dismissive grunt, his guards moving past the prince to follow him through the castle corridors. Left to his own devices, Lotor really wanted to go get a drink, the prince thinking to drink away the bad feelings he had about this match between Zarkon and Allura. But he knew he would not stop once started, and Lotor could not afford to show up at the ceremonies hung over.
“It’s just one more day.” Lotor whispered to himself. One more day, and then he would be free of obligations, and could drink himself into a stupor. Maybe then the aching in his heart would grow dull.