The outer chamber of the apartment was a flurry of activity, several men and women rushing about the room. Sounds followed their actions, clothing rustling, people whispering hushed words to each other as they worked. Louder was the voices of his aides, two men dressed in dark green robes, each taking turns speaking to Lotor. One held numerous documents in his hands, the Drule reading off the top most paper.
Lotor only half paid attention to his words, nodding at the appropriate intervals as two seamstresses fussed over him. The women were moving about his standing form, hands tugging and pulling at his robe, smoothing out an already wrinkle free garment. At times they reached over to adjust his sash, Lotor wearing various medals on the stark purple material.
A compromise had been reached in regard to his clothes, Lotor forgoing the robes Zarkon so favored. Instead he wore neatly pressed pants and shirt, black in color. A vibrant blue half robe was over his clothes, looking more like a long coat that trailed down to the backs of his knees. It was open in the front, and it’s sleeves billowed down to cover his hands.
A seamstress had one sleeve in her grasp, fingers working quickly to sew up the sleeve’s hem. Similar care would be shown to the other one, last minute adjustments being made before tonight’s auspicious occasion. He wasn’t the only one whose outfit was being tended to, Lotor turning his head to catch sight of Allura across the room. The girl stood on a pedestal so that the seamstresses needn’t constantly bend over her, a fine velvet gown of lace and frills on her pregnant frame.
The gown was different from any of the other dresses he had gifted her with in the recent past, a veritable ball gown that held twinkling diamonds sewn into the curvature of the bodice. The velvet skirt puffed out, a light wire frame beneath it to help it keep it’s shape. The dress itself was lavender, a shade that was several hues lighter than the purple worn by his guards.
He chose that color for her to send a message to his court, to let them know as best he could that Allura was his in everything but name. Lotor longed to take that final step with Allura, thinking on the argon heart that lay in his safe. She had yet to accept it from him, Lotor thinking what a pity it was that she did not have jewels made from the crystallized heart. His desire to see her wearing it was great, Lotor knowing the pinkish red crystals would look lovely as a strand of jewels around her neck.
Even better as a ring, Lotor knowing the message behind such an extravagant jewel would not be lost on the court. Instead he had to content himself with giving her lesser jewels, simple gifts that held no meaning towards engagement. He wished it was otherwise, Lotor growing impatient for Allura to make a decision, even as he feared what her choice would bring.
She still seemed no closer to wanting to stay with him, Lotor wondering how he would handle her attempts to leave him. Lotor didn’t know if he was capable of handling such a choice with maturity and calmness, the King staring hard at Allura. She sensed his eyes on her, looking up from the seamstress that was making sure the silver ropes on her sleeves were secured in place.
She looked nervous as she gazed at him, a faint blush appearing on her cheeks. Lotor wondered what kind of expression he wore to cause her flustered state, the prince blinking as one of his aides suddenly cleared his throat.
“Yes?” Lotor turned to fix the man with his attention, the aide frowning at him.
“Your highness, this is an important event….you must be prepared for tonight’s ritual!”
“I’m listening.” Lotor assured him, seeing the way his aide pursed his lips together. The man didn’t dare argue against Lotor’s lack of concentration, instead rifling through his pages.
“All the Lords and Ladies of the various households will be here tonight.” The aide said, the other one nodding in agreement.
“That’s right. They come to pay the new King homage.”
Lotor laughed at that, startling the aides. “They come because they want to curry favor with me. They fight and scramble to secure their positions in my court.”
“Be that as it may…” The aide with the stack of paperwork said. “You are expected to meet and greet with them all.” Lotor sighed, knowing that would take time, and most likely be boring. “It’ll only be a few minutes allocated with each house. Tonight is not the time for them to press their agendas with you.”
“That’s good.” Lotor said, waving a seamstresses’ hands away from his crotch. “What is this ceremony like again?” The two aides exchanged glances, holding back disapproving sighs.
“Sire, we have gone over this countless times!”
“And you will continue to go over it with me until I am sure of what I am doing!” Lotor snapped, not quite glowering.
“It’s the coronation, the official acknowledgment of your claim to the throne.” Stated one. “It’s been ages since we last had a King rise to take the crown. You will be expected to swear your loyalty to the Empire, and promise to do all in your power to help it succeed and thrive.”
“And with tonight, it ends the official period of mourning.” The other aide said, seeming to shiver as Lotor’s face darkened. The former King had been dead for two weeks now, enough time for the halted affairs of Doom to resume into action once more. Lotor was more than eager to get to work, knowing it would help the people and planet heal. It would also soothe his restless heart, Lotor still not recovered from his friend Cossack’s passing.
He tried to keep his thoughts about Cossack limited to just a quick mention, Lotor knowing it would do no one any good to give in to the sadness he felt. It wasn’t seemly for a King to be seen mourning this long, especially of someone so low in status. It would make him seem weak, and soft hearted, Lotor knowing he could only properly express his grief in private to Allura and Haggar.
“Ah…sire….” The aide was nervous, almost fidgeting in place. “Are you sure it’s wise to bring Allura to the ceremony?” He flinched back at Lotor’s scowl, the man hurrying to explain. “She is not of the court, she’s holds no official status on Doom!”
“She is the mother of my heirs!” Lotor growled. “I will not have her be shunned on a technicality.”
“She is a slave…” One muttered, and Lotor growled.
“Slave no more. I freed her!”
“Lotor….” Allura’s voice, sad and drifting to intrude on the conversation. “Maybe I shouldn’t go. Not if it will cause trouble. I can always watch the coronation on the holos.”
He looked at her then, trying not to frown at her. “No. I will not have them chase you away.”
Pushing past the seamstresses, he hurried towards her, catching hold of her hand. “This is an important moment for me Allura.” He said, voice low and urgent. “I would not have you miss it.” She still looked ready to protest, Lotor stepping in close to whisper in her ear. “Please. I need you by my side…”
“All right…” She agreed, voice faint.
“The matter could be resolved if King Lotor were to give Allura an official designation beyond guest of the castle.” The aide with the paperwork turned to stare horrified at his partner, hissing out a protest. A protest that was ignored, Lotor turning to stare at the Drule. “If you were to marry her….all this would be moot…”
Allura tried to pull back her hand, Lotor holding onto her as the aide continued to speak. “The nobles wouldn’t be able to object then. Her presence at the court would be secured.”
“Lotor…” her voice was a heated whisper, Allura shaking her head no. “I…I can’t..I can’t think about this now…”
He schooled his expression to be blank, Lotor’s voice sounding unaffected by what she said. “I will not be pressured into marrying anyone to appease the court’s delicate sensibilities.”
The aides stared at him, but nodded, put upon expressions on their faces. Lotor stepped away from Allura, walking towards the cart that held several different kinds of desserts. He chose a piece of hard chocolate, eyeing his aides as he chewed. “Write this down…” The aides immediately scrambled for a pen, one overturning the stack of paper to get a fresh sheet.
Lotor paused a beat, considering his next words. “As soon as tonight’s festivities are over, I want the treasury to be opened. The cities have waited too long for it’s gold.” He began detailing out the amounts that would go to each city, and for what the gold would be used for. The aide’s pen scribbled frantically, trying to keep up with Lotor’s orders.
It wasn’t just the cities of Doom that needed funding, Lotor allocating money to the crews that would clean up the landscape of the planet. Far too many robeasts lay dead and decaying, their stench reaching across the plains to pollute the cities with their foulness. Salvage crews were needed to clean up the wrecked remains of the vehicles that had taken part in the war, the scrap metal would be put to good use in making new ships for the depleted armadas.
He wanted to do so much more than just mete out money, Lotor eager to usher in a new reign of prosperity with his ascension to the throne. There was planets to consider, conquests old and new, including ones that had been abandoned during the war with Queen Merla. The court would want to know the status of their affairs on other planets, and with all the money being given away, they would have to find new riches to bolster the depleted treasury.
Riches that would most likely come from other planets, taxes being increased so that the burden fell on the backs of those conquered people. Some of the conquered were made into slaves, but there was a fortunate few who were allowed to live free under Doom rule, the Drules quick to force strict adherence to their laws. There was some who whispered it was almost better to be made a slave of Doom, thinking the heavy taxation and limits on freedom and imports were too big a burden to allow.
They needed gold not just for their cities, but to fortify their ships, fleets needing to rebuild it’s previous numbers if they were to lead successful war campaigns. Lotor had barely had time to give proper thought to the weaponry needed, thinking it best to start with repairs close to home. He was just dwindling down the last of the treasury amounts, when a knock sounded on the apartment’s door.
Voices grew hushed, people turning to glance that way, an aide hurrying over to the door. A soldier was there, clad in the dismal grays of a regular palace guard, the man panting as though he had run a long way. The aide looked displeased to see him, biting out a sharp word.
“What is it? What do you want?!”
“The dungeon master has sent me.” Wheezed the soldier, Lotor lifting an eyebrow at his words. “I have papers for the King.” He held up the heavy stack of documents as proof of his words, the aide reaching for them.
“You can give that to me…” The aide said, and Lotor made an annoyed sound, already moving towards the door.
“I decide who does and does not read my messages.” Lotor grumbled, shooting the aide a warning look. The aide took heed of his tone, and the look in his eyes, moving aside to let the guard into the room. The aide hovered besides him, obvious in his attempts to read the top most page of the paperwork Lotor reached for. The other aide could not contain his curiosity, issuing out a question.
“What matter could the dungeon master possibly have for our King?”
“Yes, it is beneath our ruler to concern himself with the dregs of society…” added the aide closest to him. Lotor held up his one hand, signaling for silence as he looked over the documents. The papers themselves were crinkled, smudges of dirt and grime on their once pristine surface. Much of the writing was hand written, listing numerous crimes, among which plotting against the new King was the most grievous of all.
Lotor continued to read, and his lips quirked into a smile, but it was not without menace to it. The papers listed several key names, the prisoners that had been interrogated swearing to the truth of the ones who had enlisted them into working for Zarkon. Lotor knew the dungeon master was a true artist when it came to torturing the truth out of those in his care, having entrusted him to discover just who had betrayed his plans to his father.
He rifled through the pages, seeing similar confessions, each one signed in blood. The prisoners had all been questioned separately, isolated from one another so that they would be unable to come up with matching stories. The fact that they all agreed on just who their employers had been, did not speak well for the named nobles, of which there was three in all.
The gray clad soldier who had brought him the papers were looking at him anxiously, fidgeting from foot to foot. Lotor peered at him over the tops of the papers, then nodded, granting the man leave to speak.
“The dungeon master is awaiting further orders your highness.” He said. “Just say the word, and we will have these traitors in his care within the hour!”
“If they are traitors to the crown….” began one of the aides, the one who had read over Lotor’s shoulder. “Then an example must be made of them.”
“We must not allow any malcontents to exist.” Agreed the other aide. “We must kill them and be done with it.”
“And we will.” Lotor said, voice rife with promise. “Take note of these names…” He was already passing the papers to the aide, Lotor continuing. “And advise the palace guards to be on standby.”
“Standby sire?” frowned the aide, glancing up from the paperwork. “Should we not move to apprehend these people immediately?”
“They’ll be at tonight’s festivities.” Lotor replied, a slight smirk on his face. “They don’t dare miss it. After all….they’ll want their just rewards for their role in my assuming the throne.” He gave a dismissive wave to the disappointed soldier, the gray clad Drule bowing before exiting the room.
“But sire, every moment we delay is a moment they could use to flee the planet!” protested the aide, his partner bobbing his head in agreement.
“They won’t flee.” Lotor said confidently. “Not this late in the game.” He made a scoffing sound, eyes taking on a hard light to them. “They must think they’ve gotten away with it, going this long without the guards showing up on their doorstep. We’ll show them the error of their ways tonight.”
“Yes.” He had turned, noting the way Allura was watching him. Her gaze kept him from grinning, Lotor controlling his expression to be stoic. “Tonight. Rejoice gentlemen, there will be an added bonus to tonight’s festivities.”
“Bonus?” questioned Allura, looking worried.
“You mean to execute them before the court….” The one aide said, smiling in a way that showed off his fangs.
“An excellent idea.” Agreed the other, also grinning. “It will send a message to all that King Lotor is not to be trifled with.”
Allura had paled, a hand going to her throat. Lotor held back a sigh, gazing across the room at the girl’s troubled expression. “Leave us.” He ordered, the aides smiles fading.
“Your highness, we still have work to go over!” protested one, Lotor turning to shoot him a sharp glare.
“Are you disobeying a direct order of mine?” He demanded, and the aide did a nervous swallow.
“No sire.” He was meek, bowing his head in defeat.
“Then show yourself out. All of you!” Lotor roared, the seamstresses hurrying past him, their jobs only partially finished, The aides cast him one more look, then they too were scrambling over each other to be the first out the door. Lotor waited until the door had closed to approach Allura, the girl still standing on her pedestal. Even with that added height, she still did not stand eye to eye with him.
“You are troubled by what I plan to do.” He said softly, and she nodded. “Why?”
“It’s one thing to talk about killing them…” She began, hesitating as she chose her words carefully. “I mean, you told me you would. I thought I accepted that…but…it’s different now.”
“Different how?” Lotor asked, wanting to understand.
“I…I just thought it would be bad enough to know about their deaths….but to actually have to be there and witness it…” She trailed off, shivering. He did not smile, Lotor placing his hands on her shoulders.
“It needs to be done Allura. What’s more…it has to be experienced by as many people as possible. They need to see with their own eyes that their new King will not allow traitors to go unpunished. Otherwise…”
“Otherwise what?” Allura asked, tone soft.
“It would invite disaster. More plots, and potential murders, people trying to gain control of the throne.” Lotor sighed. “A weak king does not last long on Doom.”
“And the Drules are so…so blood thirsty that killing is the only thing they respect…”
“The only thing they truly understand…” Lotor corrected her. “Ruthlessness is a thing to be admired…almost as much as it is to be feared. I’ll strengthen my position even further with tonight’s killings.” He saw her lower her eyes, Allura avoiding looking at him.
“I…I don’t want you to do anything that makes you appear weak…” She admitted at last. “I can’t say I support your decision but…I think I understand it.”
“Thank you Allura.” Lotor said, relieved by her words.
“These are after all, the people whose actions were responsible for Cossack’s death.” She looked up at him, Lotor fighting not to glower.
“Yes.” He agreed, holding back a growl. “And for that alone they should die! But I won’t be killing them just for revenge…” He hastily assured her, Allura nodding. “If they sided with my father against me, they are capable of anything.”
“What more could they do now that Zarkon is dead?” Allura asked, and Lotor had to smile at her innocence.
“They could try to kill me.” She gasped, Lotor reaching up to caress her cheek. “You carry the heirs to my throne…they would try to take control of you and the children, gain power through proxy.”
“They’d make puppets of us all.” She realized, Lotor nodding.
“You must be strong Allura. For tonight they won’t only be watching me, but you as well.” He gave a snort, sounding disgusted. “They’ll be scrutinizing everything about us, and the people I surround myself with. Looking for weaknesses to exploit…”
“And you think I will be that weakness?”
He hesitated. “I don’t mean to make you nervous….I am just trying to prepare you for the court and it’s machinations.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t go after all…” Allura began, Lotor frowning. “It is after all like your aides said. I have no place there.”
“Your place is at my side!” Lotor snapped, voice a heated exclamation. “I need you to be seen, I won’t hide you away anymore. The court needs to learn to accept you, and your place in my life.” She looked startled by his passionate proclamation, her shoulder sagging as she gave in to him.
“All right Lotor. I will attend the ceremony after all.”
“Thank you.” He flashed her a genuine smile, bending slightly to graze his lips against her forehead. She smiled, but it was all sadness in that expression, Lotor understanding she was making a great sacrifice in going to the coronation. It made him wish to protect her, made Lotor wish he could have killed the traitors out of her sight, if only to save her the grief and horror she would most likely feel tonight.