It was a crisp, cold day, the hint of frost being carried on the breeze, leaving Lotor chilled even under the extra layer of clothing he had worn in preparation for Arus’ winter fall climate. He managed to keep from shivering, Lotor pulling his coat close, as he traveled down a well worn path in the castle gardens. It had been painstakingly restored, flowers that had once been razed to the ground, now blooming once more, although many were currently wilting, their colors faded.
He knew they would soon die, only to be reborn when the spring came and the thaw melted. The gardens would be awash in colors, their perfumes released into the air, a subtle reminder of the scent of the girl he had once loved. Lotor supposed that was why he avoided Arus during the hotter seasons, the King being too overcome with memories without the need for outside stimuli.
It was an excuse, and he knew it, but Lotor found it difficult to make this journey more than a few times a year. It had always been that way, right up to the moment Allura had been buried, Arus becoming nothing more than a painful reminder of what he had lost. In the beginning he had reasoned his limited visits to his busy schedule, a king’s duty finding ways of keeping him constantly buried in work. That was the ultimate in lies, Lotor knowing that the galaxy waited on his whims, and if he wanted to visit Allura’s grave, then work be damned.
But instead he always found excuses, putting it off until his heart was too heavy, Lotor suffering from an overwhelming urge to see her. He always had much to tell her, speaking on Arus and it’s restoration, and his conquest of the Denubian Galaxy. But mainly he talked about their daughters, telling her all the things she had missed out on seeing.
And there was plenty, the two princesses now young adults, girls nearing the age Allura had been when she had died. They were not yet women, had not even experienced half the things their mother had, and Lotor worked to ensure they never did. Not that they knew the details surrounding their conception and their mother’s death, Lotor keeping a tightlipped wrap on such information.
The nobles had been silenced, the many servants and slaves ordered not to speak about Allura. It made it easier for Lotor to choose what information to feed his daughters, keeping them satisfied with just enough tidbits that they didn’t starve for knowledge. It still wasn’t enough, he could see the curiosity in their eyes, burning in those blue depths that painfully reminded him of their mother’s eyes.
Her eyes had truly been the window to her soul, always quick to show what she was feeling. And she had felt too much, far more than Lotor had ever been aware of. He sighed as he walked, noticing someone had been by to replace the chipped cobblestones of the path. The gardens were forbidden from almost all, only Doom royalty and the servants that maintained it’s beauty allowed on the property. And yet the garden never suffered from disarray, the servants quick on the uptake in keeping it’s pristine state.
Another sigh, Lotor still thinking about Allura and her feelings. He felt he had been too blind in the days of the past to notice the extent of her anguish, Lotor wishing he could change time, do something different than he had. Perhaps if he had been more sympathetic, quicker to attend to her needs, she would have never been driven to do what she had.
“Allura.” He whispered, listening to the heels of his boots echo his footsteps. He wished he hadn’t been so hard with her, Lotor damning himself for forcing the wedding on her. Perhaps if he had been patient, something could have been worked out between the two of them, something that would have pleased them both. Instead they each had ended up with nothing, Allura only a body to be buried in the ground.
He did have their daughters, and they provided rare moments of joy in his dismal life. Joy that became colored with pain the older they got, the girls resembling their mother more and more. They had her smile, and he imagined Adora’s laugh to be what Allura’s would have been, if the girl had allowed herself to get caught up in joyous emotion.
They didn’t have her mannerisms, the girls acting more like their father in thought and action. He tried to temper the bad influence he knew he was on them, Lotor trying to expose them to views other than his own, views Allura would have given them. He was afraid he didn’t quite succeed in getting them to form opinions that differed from his own, but at least the princesses weren’t completely blood thirsty.
Nor were they heartless, Lotor having given them as much love as had remained in his heart, tempering any cruel tendencies with the utmost of affection. It was something he had sorely been lacking in his life, right up from the moment of his birth to falling in love with Allura. Even once his heart had been given to her, he had been unkind at the best of times, hurting her again and again with thoughtless words and actions.
It was no surprise she hadn’t left him a letter, some final farewell he could cling to after her death. Instead her last words had been addressed to their daughters, Lotor carefully going over them, looking for some hidden message to it all. But Allura had been kind, even then, her words speaking only of the love for her daughters and how sorry she was that she would not be there to see them grow.
It hurt him that she hadn’t thought of him in her final moments, but he survived the pain. He thought that her actions spoke louder than any words she could have addressed to him, Allura clear in her message of not wanting to be with him.
It was years before he gave her letter to her daughters, years before he could think of an excuse behind her death. He finally settled on a half truth, telling them the only thing he could. An enemy, one of both their parents, had slain their mother. It was a harsh bit of reality, Lotor reasoning his lust had indeed been a powerful foe, one that was strong enough to drive Allura to suicide.
He wished he could say he had exorcised that demon from his life, but he hadn’t. Not completely. He still lusted after women, was still driven by his powerful urges for sex. For the most part he controlled himself, setting himself up with a mistress he visited a few times a month. His harem was no more, Lotor sending the girls far, far away, leaving his aides to find them masters that were known for their kindness. It was all he could do for them, their worlds destroyed or enslaved, leaving them with little in choices should they return there.
The grave stone was in sight, Lotor quickening his steps towards it. He had deviated from the norm, neither burying Allura on Doom, nor had he allowed her to join her family in the royal crypt of Arus. The crypt had been too defiled, the bodies looted for the wealth that had been buried with them. Instead Lotor had reached a compromise, brining her back to her world for one last visit as he had promised.
He had found a servant, one who remembered the gardens, the woman timid and fearful as she pointed out the spot that had been Allura’s. He remembered how fondly she had spoken on the gardens, pride in her voice as she told him about the patch of land she had use for her own garden. It was in that section he chose to honor her body, a large tombstone erected in the heart of it, with flowers blooming all around it.
The servants kept careful maintenance of her grave, pulling out weeds, and preventing vines from clinging to the marker. They hadn’t been able to prevent weather from wearing down the stone, the edges dull, leaving Lotor to wonder if he should have the stone replaced. But he never did, taking an odd sense of comfort from knowing this was the same tombstone he had gripped as he screamed and cried, raving like a lunatic over the injustices surrounding Allura’s death.
Sometimes Lotor imagined he could see the groves where his fingers had so tightly gripped the tombstone, the King kneeling now to lay down a bouquet of fresh cut flowers. He kept his head bowed for a moment, concentrating instead on the grass at his feet, noting the green had already started to brown.
“It’s been a while Allura.” Lotor said at last, pleased his voice wasn’t shaky. In the early days he had been barely able to speak to her without breaking down, the King grateful that he ordered his guards to remain inside the rebuilt castle of lions. His pain was his alone, and no one need witness it but him. “I’m sorry I haven’t come by often enough. I’ll try to do better in the future….”
That was a lie, he knew he wouldn’t, knew he’d be unable to face her grave again until months had passed by. He reached out with his arm, pressing his hand to the cold stone. There was gold etching on the marble, writing that glinted when the sun shined down on it. It was simple words for a girl whose life Lotor felt had been extraordinary under the circumstances. It stated her name and the year of her birth, as well as the day of her death. A poem followed underneath those dates, one that spoke on how loved a mother was.
“Our daughters are nearly all grown up.” Lotor continued, fingers caressing the gold that formed Allura’s name. “It won’t be long before they look for husbands and start families of their own.” Indeed many a marriage offer had come to the castle, men eager for the princesses not only for their titles and the empire that came with them, but for their beauty. So far Lotor had rejected all such proposals, keeping them secret from his daughters.
“Adora is becoming quite the pilot.” Lotor said, thinking of the girl with her shoulder length hair that was always curled tightly around her face. “She loves flying black lion, although she’s never been to battle.” And she never would if Lotor had his way, the King wanting to keep the girl secloistered inside the castle.
“Ah what’s that? What of Alessandra?” He chuckled then, pretending he was holding a pleasant filled conversation with Allura. “She continues her studies with Haggar. She’ll be the first witch Queen Doom has ever had. I dare say not many will mess with her! Not with the powers she holds inside her fingertips.” It sometimes scared him how powerful in magic his daughter was, Alessandra refusing to limit herself to just healing arts.
Haggar had been right about her, the girl inheriting much from Allura, and holding an eye that was turned towards the future. She had sensed the moment her mother had died, Alessandra wailing out her grief in that chilling way. She had cried for days, being inconsolable, and though Adora had cried, she had been unable to understand the pain her sister felt. Adora simply lacked the proper magic, the girl seeking elsewhere for her interests.
“Haggar hasn’t changed much if at all.” Lotor said, thinking of the witch and her eccentric ways. “She still misses Coba though, and absolutely refuses to get a new cat.” It had been three years since the blue cat has passed, the witch mourning her beloved pet and companion. He allowed a half smile to cross his face, Lotor adding the following. “The twins are conspiring to get her a kitten. I’ve doubts on how well the witch will take to one, but I guess we’ll know what has happened by the time I visit you next.”
“The Doom Empire continues to flourish….as does Arus.” He continued to make conversation, words coming easier as long as he didn’t allow too many memories to surface. “Arus is a free world now, much like planet Quevra is. Drules and Arusians coexist peacefully now, and both languages are spoken here.” He knew she would like that, Allura having been concerned that the Arusian language would die. “I wish there was someone to teach our daughters the ancient language of the Arusians…” He trailed off, knowing the language had died with Allura.
“Romelle has recently married.” Lotor had kept tabs on the former princess of Pollux, watching but not interfering with her life. And what a life it had been, the woman having married three times in all once she got over her fears of sex. She even had three children, all sons, and he wondered if she’d try for a daughter with this newest husband. “Bets are being placed on whether this one will last.”
The former slave girls of Arus had all found gainful employment on Quevra, working to earn money and a chance at happiness. He hadn’t paid as close attention to their lives, knowing that eventually all had married and moved from the capital. “I’ve appointed a new commandeer of the guards.” Lotor said, trying to fill Allura in on everything that was going on in his life. “He’s a bit of a bumbler, but seems to have a good heart. He…he reminds me of Cossack.”
He had never gotten a friend quite like Cossack again, Lotor keeping himself distant from all but his daughters. He sometimes missed the lack of friendship, the commadrie he had shared with Cossack. But his high position as King kept him isolated and unable to trust those who would offer their hands in friendship. It was a lonely life being King of the Doom Empire, and Lotor sighed.
“I’m so alone…” He whispered those words, hands gripping the tomb stone for support. “And tired. Allura, when can I rest?” He didn’t ask when he could join her, Lotor holding no illusions that he would be reunited with Allura once he died. She was simply too far out of reach of him, gone to a better place, an eternity that wasn’t fit for the likes of him.
He shook his head, feeling the sadness weighing him down. “I’ve been thinking of stepping down from my throne.” He could imagine the shock that would have filled her eyes, Allura gasping out that he had worked too hard to gain it. “I know how shocking a notion that is. But I’ve had a good rule these last 18 years. It was more than I deserved. Our daughters are nearly of age, and I don’t see why they cannot take my throne from me.”
He pictured them now, twin princesses who would share rulership of the Doom Empire. Their husbands mere consorts, the Empire being ruled on the whims of two competent young women. Much had been done to prepare them, the girls spending their teenage years studying politics and court protocol. Even war had been broached upon, tactics being discussed over and over until the ideas were hammered into their young minds.
Lotor had no doubt they would do him proud, and they might even bring change to the Doom Empire. Change Allura would approve of, change that would appall the nobles. Such a thought should have made him smile, but Lotor couldn’t muster up the energy to do so. “I miss you.” He finally said, resting his forehead on the tomb stone. “I don’t think you can begin to fathom just how much I do….”
He had been right when he had said Allura would be his one true love, Lotor’s broken heart never moving for another woman. He supposed it was fitting, a penance for his actions, Lotor unable to love or be loved in return, not in the way he had craved Allura’s love and devotion. He felt he had finally learned what true love was like, and the lesson was a simple one, a lesson he had failed to grasp all those years ago.
True love meant sacrifice, and being unselfish, Lotor knowing he should have let Allura go that second time. Better to live apart then to have lived with the knowledge she was dead and completely out of his reach. But like with all lessons learned too late, the price paid was harsh, and one Lotor was sure he would have never understood had Allura lived.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered, pressing a kiss into her name on the tomb stone. “I wish I could make amends, wish I could do something more to show just how sorry I truly am. Allura, if you can, watch over our daughters for me. Help guide them to be the kind of rulers needed to help the Doom Empire prosper through both turbulent and peaceful times.”
He hesitated a moment, feeling as though something inside him clenched, the words not wanting to come out. “Allura…I’ll always love you.” With that he was rising, Lotor smoothing a hand down his coat, the fabric having wrinkled from his kneeling position. A silent tear made it’s way down one cheek, but it was the only evidence of his distress, Lotor managing to remain strong.
He walked with his head held high, traveling back along the path towards the castle. His guards would be waiting, though they would never show their impatience, knowing their time was limited to the King’s whim. They’d be glad to know they would be returning to Doom, Lotor unable to bear remaining on Arus for any longer than necessary.
“It’s time.” He said softly, brushing at his wet cheek with the back of his hand. Time for him to return to his lonely life, inside his castle on Doom. To be forever surrounded by people but feel alone, that was his punishment. He couldn’t, wouldn’t ask for things to be different, Lotor knowing he had earned all that he had wrought with his treatment of his beloved Allura.