He couldn’t help but pace, Lotor’s movements agitated as he walked up and down the length of the corridor outside the throne room’s huge double doors. Too much time was passing, too many unforeseen delays and problems occurring. Lotor knew it should have gone down a whole lot easier, Zarkon should have only had his personal guards to rely on. Instead he had far more allies than Lotor had taken into account for, the prince scowling as he thought on how he had been betrayed.
He tried not to think about it too closely, Lotor knowing it would only make him more angry, angry to the point he’d lose all sense of reason. It would stoke the fire within him, and boil over into rage, making his actions sloppy and careless. He couldn’t afford that, he needed to be clear headed and calm, lest he fall victim to an attack from whatever waited for him inside the throne room.
He completed his turn, walking back towards the throne room, spying his comrades clustered by the doors. They seemed as impatient as he, most leaning against the walls, weapons in hand. They were hardly relaxed, tension coiling through their muscles as they kept an eye on both ends of the hall, alert to any potential problems. No one was talking, the time for plotting had come and passed, Lotor and his accomplices waiting for the signal to attack.
The female mercenary had her com unit out in her hands, the woman keeping it attuned to the several channels, listening to make sure Zarkon’s forces weren’t radioing in reinforcements. Whatever was going on, the king’s allies were maintaining radio silence. Either they did not know what was going on, or they had some other way to communicate their needs to one another.
In the eastern hall, the fighting had at last died down, Lotor’s forces proving victorious though they had suffered extensive damages. Many of the reinforcements from the harem had been sent into the eastern hall, Lotor wanting to bolster their numbers. That left his own band of fighters numbered to fourteen, himself not included. The numbers were somewhat evenly spread out through the other two halls, twenty or so men at each entrance.
They’d have more men on the inside, if and only if Zarkon had not learned of their identities. Lotor prayed he had not, the prince counting on the duke of Galbrodia’s assistance. He had no way of knowing if any of Zarkon’s guards remained with the king, and the lack of knowledge troubled him. Almost as much as the fact that they had received zero acknowledgment from the communications they had tried to establish with Commander Cossack.
He knew Cossack was capable, and would protect Allura, at the cost of his own life if need be. But the fact that he wasn’t answered his com unit upped Lotor’s anxiety, the prince sparing one of his precious few men to go back to his quarters and check on Allura and the commander. That man had not returned, leaving Lotor to want to abandon everything to rush to Allura’s side and find out what was going on.
But he couldn’t, not when he came so close to ending Zarkon’s reign of terror at long last. Lotor knew they would not get another chance to kill the king, they had to strike now, or forever be on the run, the prince an exile in his own empire. Another turn, and he was walking away from his soldiers, hearing the radio come alive with a voice. The woman reacted, speaking back in their code, her voice a stern confirmation.
“‘What? What did they say?” Lotor demanded, knowing that was not the voice of the man he had sent to check on Allura and Cossack.
“The reinforcements have arrived, everyone is now in position.” The woman explained. “We only await your command, and we will take the throne room.”
“That’s good.” Lotor strode towards her, his sword already out in his hand. “Tell them to start the countdown. We open the doors in less than thirty seconds.” She nodded, quickly relaying his words. The other soldiers and mercenaries straightened and approached the doors, one testing the handles. It was not locked, Zarkon’s overconfidence keeping him from barricading himself inside the throne room.
The woman put the com unit away, hooking it onto the side of her belt, her daggers being drawn in it’s place. Out loud she counted down the time, everyone tensing up noticeably as they waited for the final second to be announced. “Ten seconds…Nine…”
One of the harem guards began to turn the handles, ready to push open the doors at the last possible second. The woman continued her count down, reaching the third second.
“Now!” Lotor shouted, and the doors were flung open, some of the mercenaries firing stray shots into the room. Their lasers had been sent on stun, Lotor advising them to be wary of hitting the nobles who would have put an appearance into court this evening. Even without the killing blasts, the people inside the throne room screamed, Lotor and his men charging into the room.
There was no return fire from Zarkon’s men, and in an instant Lotor saw why. The nobles, though they had screamed, had made no move to run, no move to duck and avoid the blasts. For they were currently standing, in two large groups that lined the blood red carpet that led to the throne’s dais. Zarkon’s guards were there, their weapons trained on the nobles, making hostages out of them.
The nobles didn’t even turn to look as the two servant’s entrances burst open, Lotor’s back up piling into the room. They had their laser pistols out, and only a signal from the prince kept them from firing. Lotor did a quick scan of the hostages, noticing how some of them had pistols placed against their neck, or aimed at the temple of their heads. A quick shot would instantly end their lives, and there would be no chance of saving them.
Lotor’s lips curled into a scowl, the prince tightening his fingers around his sword’s handle. The noble’s fear was a palpable thing, Lotor could practically taste it, feeling a shiver go down his spine. He stared straight ahead when the laughter broke out, mocking and loud enough to echo through the room, his father sitting on his throne. The king looked amused, scepter laid across his lap as he stared down at his son.
“Well, Lotor?! Now what will you do?” demanded Zarkon, his voice a cruel taunt. Lotor bit back a growl, raising his head to stare up at his father. There was no doubt in his mind that his father would go through with killing the hostages, and Lotor knew that once upon a time he too would have sacrificed anything and anyone to get his hands on the throne.
“What do we do?” The large, reddish purple Drule asked. None of the allies that surrounded Lotor had lowered their weapons, conscious of the fact that at any moment the king’s soldiers could let go of the hostages and open fire on them.
Lotor was silent, trying to think over his options. He noted the way the nobles stared at him, eyes wide with fear, a pleading expression on their faces. They wanted Lotor to save them, wanted him to do the right thing and give up to his father. But Lotor knew if he did that, everyone who had aligned themselves with him would suffer, the king being merciless in executing the traitors to the throne.
One last look at the nobles, Lotor wondering if he could become that ruthless prince once more. The one uncaring about the lives of others, the one whose actions looked out for him and him alone. Thoughts of Allura, her current situation unknown had him realizing that yes, he could become that person once again.
“Stay here.” He said softly, his words barely louder than whisper. “But keep on alert for an attack. I need you all to guard my back.”
“What are you going to do?” The woman asked, but Lotor was already stepping forward. He eased past the two harem guards, his boots muffled on the carpet as he began walking towards the dais. He kept his gaze fixed straight ahead, his eyes locked onto Zarkon’s figure. The king’s eyes narrowed, a hissed out word from him had one of the guards pulling the trigger, a lady of the court falling down dead on the carpet, her brain splattered into a fine mess.
A few screams were heard, shocked horror from the hostages. Lotor forced himself to keep moving, to not hesitate even one instant. He got a few more inches ahead, and then a man was killed, his body falling to it’s knees, before being kicked to lay flat on the ground. “I can keep killing them Lotor!” Zarkon threatened, but there was no hint of laughter in his voice now. “I can turn this court into a ghost town before this night is through!”
“Go ahead.” Lotor said calmly, continuing to move. “It’s either them or me, and I regret to inform the court that I am just not that self sacrificing.”
Zarkon’s lips seem to tremble, the king fighting not to smile. “So that slave hasn’t made you completely weak after all.”
“I do what is necessary…” Lotor began, another body dropping to the floor. “For me, and for the good of the Empire. And father? You are no longer fit to rule.”
“And who are you to decide that?!” Zarkon roared, voice booming down the dais. Lotor was almost to the first step, another hostage being killed. “I’ve devoted my entire life to this empire, to making it better, bigger, powerful. It’s riches exceed those of any other ruler Doom has had, and all because I do what is necessary.” He pointed a clawed finger at Lotor, fangs flashing as he snarled. “You…” He sneered, seeming to shake with anger as Lotor began his ascent up the staircase. “You only do this for that slave of yours. You want to protect her, to keep her safe from me.”
“You’ve sat on the throne too long father….” Lotor replied, watching as Zarkon leapt to his feet, scepter in hand. “You make bad decisions, you risk our people, you ruin our cities…”
“All things that tie back to you and that slave!” retorted Zarkon, making no move to meet Lotor on the steps. “Our world was plunged into war with Merla’s because of you! Because you couldn’t let Allura go! You ignored protocol, killed Merla’s son! And then you bungled the war efforts, let it drag out for too long! I merely did what was needed to end this battle!”
“At the cost of lives and homes!” Shouted Lotor, almost to the top of the dais. “And then, you don’t even want to open the treasury to fund the restoration of our cities! You make the people eat the cost of rebuilding, when they are already suffering.”
“I didn’t realize you were so caring!” sneered Zarkon, looking down at Lotor. “It’s a pity that doesn’t extend to your own court. Tell me Lotor, even if you kill me, how will you rule without the support of the nobles?!”
“It’s not I who pulled the trigger.” Lotor said, and lunged up the final steps towards his father. “If they’re smart…” continued Lotor, sword arm raised high, ready to be brought down to slash across Zarkon’s chest. “They’ll understand it was you who placed them in danger. I was just doing what I had to, to survive!”
“As do I!” Zarkon snarled, and a clang was heard, his scepter blocking Lotor’s sword. The prince’s brows drew together in surprise, Lotor not thinking gold was strong enough to withstand such a forceful blow of lazon. Zarkon saw his confusion and laughed, pushing back with the scepter to knock away Lotor’s sword. “Did you really think me defenseless son?” Zarkon demanded, and using both hands, he began pulling apart his scepter.
The red jeweled tip slipped free, revealing a thin but powerful blade of lazon that had been hidden inside the scepter. Zarkon smirked at his son, and began twirling his sword about, doing complex patterns in the air. “I was quite the swordsmen in my day…” Zarkon confessed to Lotor. “There was none who could best me in a fight, fair or otherwise.”
“That was years ago father!” Lotor retorted, carefully watching his father for a sign to give away his next move. “And you’ll find me no slouch in the department of sword fighting!”
An amused snort escaped Zarkon, the king grinning. “Then it will be a duel that decides who takes the throne. A duel I don’t intend to lose!” With that, he was letting out a feral scream, lunging towards Lotor. His sword arm was extended forward, the lazon tip intent on seeking out Lotor’s heart. Lotor quickly brought his sword down, hearing the clang as lazon met lazon, sparks shooting off the blades as he blocked his father’s blow.
For one brief instant, the two blades remained locked together, the two royals staring into each other’s eyes. And then with a shout, they were pulling apart, a few feet separating them as they stood there considering one another. Zarkon continued to wear a cocky smile, eyeing Lotor for an opening. The prince tried to keep his expression blank, though he feared a permanent frown wanted to flash across his lips.
He kept his sword arm elevated, blade held before his chest so it could guard against another attack by Zarkon. The king held a similar stance, and except for that smile, Zarkon’s face did not betray what he was thinking. Lotor was almost unprepared for Zarkon to lunge again, his sword swinging towards his neck. Lotor hastily swung his sword upwards, blocking at the last second. As Zarkon’s blade rebounded off of Lotor’s, the king spun in place, nimble even in his cumbersome robes.
He was giving Lotor no time to recover, no time to mount an offense of his own, Zarkon thrusting his sword forward again and again, Lotor desperately parrying. With each successfully block, Lotor backed up a step, until he was teetering at the edge of the dais’ platform. Zarkon smirked, surely thinking he was victorious, and lunged again. Lotor turned to the side, feeling the lazon tear open the back of his shirt, but at least he did not fall down the stair case.
Zarkons blade held the smallest amount of Lotor’s blood on it’s tip, the king holding it up to taunt Lotor. “First blood goes to me.” Laughed the king, and Lotor glared. But he refused to be goaded into attacking Zarkon in this moment, knowing if he lost his head to anger, he was apt to be killed.
“It means nothing.” Lotor retorted, and gave a few experimental twirls of his sword, looking his father over.
“Perhaps not.” Zarkon agreed, an infuriating grin on his face. “But it feels good all the same.” Suddenly his face twisted, Zarkon dashing forward once more. “I’ll make you bleed like a stuck pig before I am through with you!” Sparks crackled on the dais, lazon meeting lazon, Zarkon pressing down with all his strength so that Lotor was forced to use both hands to hold off the king’s sword.
And still his own weapon was pressed back, Lotor feeling the heat of the lazon on his face. With a curse he was kicking out with his left leg, an attempt to sweep out Zarkon’s feet out from under him. The king leaped backwards to avoid the kick, allowing Lotor time to recover. The prince returned to holding his sword with only one hand, and began inching his way towards Zarkon.
Once again Zarkon charged him, letting out a vicious cry as he kept his sword swinging low in an attempt to slice open Lotor’s stomach. Lotor brought down his sword, the downward swing knocking aside Zarkon’s blade, his left arm up as he slammed his fist into the king’s face. That left Zarkon stunned long enough for Lotor to jerk his sword up and across the king’s chest.
The red robe around Zarkon’s suit split open, revealing the black fabric beneath it. It was fiber thin, a garment much like Lotor’s own vest which would protect the wearer from laser blasts.
With a hiss, Zarkon stepped back from Lotor, free hand touching the front of his torn robe. His fingers felt along the gash, and a look of approval appeared in Zarkon’s eyes. “Not bad.” He grudgingly admitted. “It’s been a long time since anyone has been able to score a hit on me.”
“It’ll be the first of many!” Lotor promised, already crossing over towards his father.
“Don’t get cocky now boy!” Zarkon advised, lunging to the right so that the throne was between them. Lotor turned and glared at his father, the two circling around the gold seat. Each one was cautious, looking for an opening that would allow them to strike without being torn apart by the lazon blades. Zarkon’s face betrayed nothing of his intentions, there was no hint in his eyes, no look of tension about him. Lotor could only hope that his own face was as impassive, the prince vibrating with excited energy.
Zarkon suddenly lunged to the left of the throne, Lotor pivoting on his feet to spin about and guard his side. The swords scrapped against each other’s surface, Zarkon’s free hand reaching for Lotor’s braid. The prince let out a grunt, feeling the king yank cruelly on his hair, Zarkon attempting to knock Lotor off balance in the process.
Lotor tried to maintain standing, but his father jerked harder, toppling him down onto the seat of the throne. Before he could scramble off, Zarkon was there, laughing as he did a vicious stab with his sword. The blade entered Lotor’s right shoulder, searing into the skin as Zarkon pinned him harder against the throne. Lotor refused to give Zarkon the satisfaction of a scream, though he did let out a hiss of pain.
His sword was still in his hand, fingers clenched tightly around the hilt. Pain in his shoulder registered all the way down to the tips of his fingers, Lotor fearing he would be unable to move his arm. “Sloppy Lotor.” Zarkon taunted him, pushing on the sword, digging it in deeper into Lotor’s shoulder. “So how does it feel boy? To finally sit on the throne you so covet?”
Lotor glared at Zarkon, hating the mocking twist of his lips. “Not as good as you expected, eh?” Zarkon finally jerked his sword out of Lotor’s shoulder, revealing lazon that ran red with the prince’s blood. “Well, don’t worry, I’m here to end your pain!”
Weakly, Lotor brought up his sword, somehow forcing his arm to work to block Zarkon’s next thrust. It didn’t deter the King for long, Zarkon knocking aside Lotor’s weak defense, and slashing open the front of his shirt. Zarkon licked his lips at the sight of Lotor bleeding, the blood seeming to excite him. Another swing of his sword, and Lotor’s blade went flying, clattering to the side of the dais’ floor.
“Heh…” Zarkon teasingly brought the tip of his sword against Lotor’s throat, staring at him with narrowed eyes. “You were a decade too inexperienced to take me on.”
“If you’re going to gloat…” Lotor hissed, meeting Zarkon’s gaze with a determined one of his own. “Then just kill me now.”
“Oh I’ll kill you all right…” promised Zarkon, his voice relishing the words. “But not before I make you suffer!” The sword was on the move, Zarkon stabbing it into Lotor’s hip. A grunt of pain escaped him, Zarkon laughing at it.
“Father…” Lotor whispered, letting the pain fill his eyes. He mumbled words, Zarkon frowning at him.
“What is it? What are you trying to say to me?” The king demanded, leaning closer to Lotor, sword still in the prince’s hip. Lotor moved his lips, words almost silenced as he spoke urgently to the King.
“You are the real fool.” Lotor whispered in Zarkon’s ear, and with a flick of his left wrist, the dagger fell out of his shirt and into his hand. Zarkon was practically on top of Lotor at that point, and never saw the dagger’s strike, Lotor shoving it into Zarkon’s stomach. The king made a surprised sound, Lotor snarling as he began jerking the knife about inside Zarkon.
His injured right arm moved, the dagger falling into his hand so that Lotor was armed with both. Zarkon started to straighten, and that was when Lotor yanked out the one dagger, and struck with the other, slicing a cut into the King’s throat. Zarkon’s hand was still on the sword, the king giving a frantic tug to pull it free of Lotor’s body. Even as the sword started to move, Lotor was sitting up, ignoring his pain to thrust his left hand forward. The dagger was planted into Zarkon’s chest, piercing his heart in the process.
Zarkon let go of the sword, stumbling back a step from the throne. Lotor stared at him, breathing hard, his own hand reaching for the king’s blade. He didn’t so much as wince when he jerked it out the rest of the way, too busy watching the blood as it started to trickle down the sides of Zarkon’s mouth. “This is not over…” Zarkon moaned, giving a shake of his head. “I will have my revenge.”
“You’re finished father.” Lotor told him, watching the king give another shake of his head no.
“The slave….you’ll never see her again….her or those bastads you sired….”
“Allura?!” Lotor sat up straighter, glaring at Zarkon. “What have you done?!” But Zarkon just gave an eerie smile, and turned to face the court. He teetered at the edge of the top most step, arms spreading wide in an expansive gesture. “FATHER!” Lotor shouted, but Zarkon was already falling, pitching head first down the steps. Somehow Lotor managed to push up out of the throne, putting all his weight on his good leg.
Lotor heard a bellow, and realized it was his voice that was shouting, watching as Zarkon bounced down the steps. It wasn’t a long journey, but each bounce had Lotor cringing, until the king came to a stop, one step short of the bottom. His body draped across the stairs, blood staining the stone steps, Zarkon’s crown spinning about on it’s side, a tiny clitter clatter of pitiful noise.
Except for the crown, the throne room was silent, everyone staring at the king’s body. Lotor stared too, his father’s final words ringing in his mind. Knowing he had to get to Allura, he began limping down the staircase, ignoring his bleeding wounds, and nearly slipping in the process.
“Get me a new sword.” Lotor ordered, his voice drawing attention away from his father’s body. “And round up any and all who sided with my father during tonight’s coup.”
“What shall we do with them?” One of the mercenaries asked, another handing Lotor his sword.
“We’re keeping them alive for now.” Lotor said, tone gruff. “I’ll have the names of all who supported my father, of all who betrayed me to him.” Lotor stepped around his father’s body, and onto the carpet. The woman mercenary stepped in front of him, face looking concerned.
Lotor merely grunted a that, trying to downplay the severity of his injuries. “It’s nothing.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing.” She insisted.
“I’ll be fine.” Lotor said, and nearly growled when the behemoth sized Drule caught hold of Lotor’s good arm.
“At least let us see to your wounds…”
“We don’t have time for this now!” Lotor snapped. “Allura….my heirs are in danger!” He jerked free of the behemoth’s hold, and nearly fell down in the process, the woman stepping into him to catch Lotor.
“Then we will go with you.” She decided, and the behemoth nodded. Lotor looked at them, then sighed, realizing the need for their support.
“Fine….but hurry…” Lotor urged, trying to limp faster. To the sides of him, his allies were disarming the unresisting supporters of Zarkon, the nobles heaving sighs of relief that their ordeal was over with. And yet none of them dropped to their knees to acknowledge their new King, Lotor noticing the open show of animosity in their eyes. He couldn’t blame them for that, knowing it had been a horrific night, with many of their kinsmen slain by both his and his father’s actions.
It would take time for them to forget, and even longer for them to forgive, but Lotor was determined to make it work out between him and the court. It was a process that could be hurried if he remained to speak with them now, to ease their fears and apologize for the rough start his reign got off too. He knew it would only be adding salt to the wounds to rush off to Allura’s side, and yet for all of this, Lotor couldn’t, wouldn’t stay away. Not while she was in danger.
“Hurry.” Lotor repeated, hearing the murmured agreement from his two companions. Inwardly he thought of Allura and Cossack, and prayed that they would be all right.