He was reluctant to wake, as though Lotor feared he would open his eyes and discover that everything that had happened had been nothing more than a dream. A sweet, wonderful experience, but a dream all the same, Lotor burrowing his face closer against something soft. His nose rubbed against silken strands, the faintest of faint perfume being brought up from his motion. The sweet scent of jasmine and lilac, a woman’s shampoo, familiar and comforting to him.
Lotor recognized it as her scent, and he moaned, brushing his face more insistently against it, realizing it was hair—her hair that brushed against his face. “Allura?” He whispered her name, Lotor hearing her make a sound at his voice, a sleepy half murmur of acknowledgment.
He forced opened his eyes, risking reality proving false to him, only to be greeted with the welcome sight of Allura curled up next to him. Her unbound hair was wild and unkempt, somehow he had made a pillow of it while he slept, cuddling close to the top of her head. He smiled to see her, his head moving, bringing his lips to brush against her forehead.
Allura kept her eyes closed, lashes dark against her pale skin, but she smiled at his tender kiss. Lotor brought his hand to her face, his fingers touching her lips, tracing the outline of her smile. He wanted to memorize that expression, wanted to burn it into his memory in case he never saw it again. His felt a pang in his heart at the thought of never seeing her smile, of never seeing that sweet expression on her face when she was awake.
He’d have to take what he could get for now, Lotor settling for the fact she was relaxed enough in dreams to smile at him. Lotor sighed and lifted up on his elbow, still gazing at Allura. He felt like he could spend all day just staring at her, contemplating each and every thing about her. But sleep was starting to fade from his mind, letting pressing matters make themselves known.
He had his father to deal with, and what’s worse, he had that promise to Allura to keep. Saving Arus presented him with no ends of headaches, Lotor wondering just how he would convince Zarkon it was a viable resource to their empire. Last night when he had been in the midst of her seductive powers, Lotor hadn’t been thinking beyond pleasing her, not realizing just how troublesome it would be to uphold such a promise to Allura.
He thought on what Arus was good for, knowing it’s main product was a source of food stuff. The green planet was fertile, a veritable paradise for farmers, with wide open lands perfect for crop fields. It’s secondary resource was it’s mineral mines, but they had to dig deep into the planet to get at the diamonds and quartz buried in the rocks. It was a whole lot of effort for little output, the dazzling jewels easily found on many other planets, and far more accessible.
The cost of labor on Arus was proving to be expensive, the slaves needing food and shelter if they were to keep on working. It was simply costing too much to care for the people of Arus when compared to the goods and services they provided in return. It was no wonder Zarkon wanted to turn the planet into a testing ground, quick to cast aside Arus in the early stages of it’s admittance into the Doom Empire.
It would not be easy to convince Zarkon to not turn Arus into a barren wasteland, it’s people sick or made into mutants. Lotor wondered how he was going to pull this one off, wondered if he could convince his father to hand over the care of Arus to him. It wasn’t a bad planet, it was just woefully behind on technology. Lotor felt positive with a little care and cultivation it could be turned into something wonderful.
It would take time, and effort, and perhaps Lotor would have to dip into his own private fortunes to set up a thriving industry on Arus. It seemed like more effort than it was worth, but one look at Allura snuggled up against his side, made Lotor determined to see it through.
He reached for her hands, untangling her arms from around his waist, smiling as Allura made a sleepy protest. He slipped a pillow in next to her, the girl immediately wrapping her arms around the soft cushion, wiggling against it as she pressed near. Lotor slipped free of the blanket, setting his foot on the cold tile of the floor. It sent a chill working it’s way up his body, Lotor casting about for his discarded clothes.
He found his pants on the other side of the bed, half knocked underneath it’s frame. His boots were not far behind, Lotor gathering the items and placing them on the chair by the bedside. He slipped on his pants, leather creaking as it moved into place. The fit was snug, body hugging and low riding, Lotor inhaling as he pulled up the zipper, careful not to catch his skin in the process.
Once zipped up, he sat down, pulling his boots on. They went up to his knees, Lotor maneuvering the side zippers closed. He was just pulling on his shirt, found hanging haphazardly on the metal edge of one of the many machines in the room, when a knock sounded at the door. It was soft in sound, as though it’s owner did not want to disturb the people inside the room.
Lotor reached for his sword belt, and with a glance at the still sleeping Allura, walked over to the door. He opened it to discover the doctor he had talked to the first night Allura had collapsed, the man holding a folder with the girl’s name written in neat cursive on it’s surface. He nodded at Lotor, gesturing for the prince to step out into the hall, an air of secrecy about him.
“What is it doctor?” Lotor asked, carefully closing the door behind him. He followed the Drule away from Allura’s room, the pair walking past other patient’s, the doctor silent for the moment. “Have you found out anything more about her illness?”
The doctor nodded, opening his mouth to speak. “I have. I…” A hesitation, the doctor glancing down at the folder in his hands. “It was nearly untraceable…the…the poison was designed to not be found until it had run it’s full course.”
“Poison?!” Lotor exclaimed, his voice coming out too loud. He lowered the volume of his voice, whispering to the doctor. “She was poisoned?”
“Yes. A vicious strain of poison that would have proved deadly if given the full dosage. It’s strange but it appears the poison was diluted before being administered…” The doctor flipped open the folder, rifling through the papers. “I can’t imagine why anyone would go to the trouble of poisoning someone, let alone a slave, and then inject just enough to make them violently ill but not die.”
“She couldn’t have ingested something by accident?” Lotor asked, wanting to make sure he understood all the angles.
“Oh no, this had to be given to her via the blood stream for it to have acted so fast and with such extreme results.” The doctor was reading the papers, eyes searching for something. “Seems it was a strain of Rubetya, a root found growing in the Colskil mountains of Doom.”
“Rubetya root?” Lotor demanded, tone sharp, the doctor glancing at him.
“Yes….it’s more commonly known as heart stopper.” The doctor blinked, the man having a reaction to the look on Lotor’s face. The prince knew he had a cold look on his face, a murderous rage filling his eyes.
“Heart stopper? Are you sure?” Lotor demanded, and at the doctor’s nod, he was swearing, profane curses escaping him as he suddenly broke away from the doctor’s side.
“Prince Lotor?! Your highness wait!” The doctor called after him, but Lotor didn’t so much as look back. He was already running, speeding past nurses and orderlies, and the patients that had been held hostage in the medical wing these last few days. Lotor barely even noticed them, his anger growing, Lotor fighting the urge to snarl out a name.
His footsteps pounded into the floor, Lotor throwing open the doors of the medical wing, and stepping out into the castle hall. The guards he had placed out there look surprised by his entrance, shouts being issued his way, demands for what was wrong. Lotor ignored them all, his hair streaming behind him as he ran.
He was soon in the palace proper, startling servants, dodging nobles who were eager for a chance at a private audience with the prince. None of them mattered, Lotor growling out demands, shoving people out of his way as he ran for the wing that was located on the opposite side of the castle.
It was a tiring journey to run all that way, but Lotor was hardly winded, his anger keeping him going. The floor turned to expensive marble, the kind that echoed the approach of all who walked across it, alerting the guards to his coming. Lotor saw the portraits of his father lining the walls, paintings that depicted him as a stoic youth, to blood thirsty conqueror, to even concerned father. Lotor nearly laughed at the last one, his rage increasing as he looked at the pictures of his father.
He rounded the turn, and saw the two guards waiting for him, the man clad in bronze armor, swords drawn. Their eyes widened to see their prince, the men hesitating over what to do. Lotor showed no such weakness, drawing his own sword, the lazon lighting up the darkened hall with it’s blue glow.
“Prince Lotor stop!” One of the guards was speaking, holding up a hand in supplication. Lotor just let out an angry growl, never slowing down in his advance. The guard grew more agitated, voice almost desperate as he shouted. “Stop or we will be forced to stop you!”
“Get out of my way!” snarled Lotor, giving an expert twirl of his sword.
“We…we can’t…” The guard was shaking, nerves making his words stutter out fearfully. “We can’t allow you to…to see the king in this agitated state!”
“Then you die.” Lotor retorted, closing the distance between the two guards. The men came at him at the same time, swords drawn, their pointed tips aimed at his waist. Lotor swung his sword down, a half arcing circle that blocked the weapons from gazing his belly. He pushed with his arm, the swords being knocked back, Lotor spinning on his feet to give a roundhouse kick to the face of the guard who had spoken to him.
The guard was stunned, his nose dripping blood, surely broken from the direct blow it had received. He cried out in pain, free hand held to his face as he tried to assess the damage Lotor had done. Lotor turned, and crossed blades with the other guard, battling furiously, lazon sending up sparks each time the blades connected.
Over and over they swung their weapons at each other, Lotor thrusting the blade at the guard’s face. The man turned just in time, the bloodied guard running forward with an angry scream. Lotor’s blade clashed against his, then Lotor spun to smash his sword into the other guard’s face. They put him on the defensive, his sword arm constantly on the move as it worked to parry the thrusts made in his direction.
“I don’t have time for this.” Lotor growled in impatience, and did a twist with his wrist, causing the one guard’s sword to turn with his. Lotor risked getting his arm cut open, not crying out as the lazon left a bloodied welt across his shoulder. He turned when the blade bit into his skin, bringing up his arm to viciously stab his elbow into the man’s face, a tooth getting knocked out in the process.
The injured guard let go of his sword, Lotor quickly claiming it for his own. With a quick stab forward, he pierced the guard’s armor, even as he used his own sword to fend off the bloodied guard’s advance. Just as quickly, he pulled the sword out of the guard’s chest, spinning his arms round to bash both blades against the remaining guard’s sword.
“It’s over.” Lotor hissed, pressing downwards, seeing the guard’s arm start to tremble from the force of holding Lotor back. “Give up while you still can.”
“Never.” Panted the guard. “I won’t allow you to hurt the king!”
“Just remember I gave you a chance to save yourself.” Lotor said, and pulled back his right arm. The left still pushed the sword against the guard’s, Lotor using his right arm to slash open the guard’s throat. A spray of blood spurted out in Lotor’s face, coating him with the red substance. Lotor grimaced and shoved the guard away from him, his lifeless body falling to the floor in a heap of useless metal.
Still holding onto both blades, Lotor walked towards the door the two fools had guarded, the prince lashing out with his foot. A mighty shove from him, and the door was kicked in, Lotor stepping into the room with a shout. “Father!”
The office of King Zarkon was well lit, but a smoky green fog seemed to cling to the air. Some kind of foul smelling incense the king was burning. Lotor tried not to choke on the smell, taking another step forward, his eyes landing on the black wood of his father’s desk. His leather lined chair was turned, back to Lotor, but the prince could see the tips of Zarkon’s crown sticking out of the top.
“Really father…Heart stopper?!” Lotor stalked towards the desk, and with a roar he knocked it to the side, clearing a path to his father’s chair. He kicked it with his foot, the chair spinning in place, revealing a calm looking King Zarkon.
“Hello Lotor, my son.” Zarkon gave a lazy nod towards the open door to his office, but did not take his eyes off the prince. “I do hope you realize those were some of my best guards you dispatched.”
“They shouldn’t have gotten in my way!” hissed Lotor, and thrust the blade into Zarkon’s face. It stopped just a millimeter of his forehead, the lazon so close Zarkon had to feel it warming his skin. “I’ll ask you again…Heart stopper?!”
“Oh yes….the slave…” A smile from Zarkon, though it appeared strained from the closeness of the blade to his head. “I was wondering how long it would take the doctors to find my calling card.”
“You’re not even going to deny it?!” Lotor demanded, sorely tempted to close the distance between Zarkon’s brain and his sword’s lazon tip.
“Why should I?” Zarkon asked. “It is after all my poison of choice. I use it against all my enemies…”
“Allura is not your enemy…she’s just a slave!” Lotor was quick to point out.
“Ah….that’s just it…” Zarkon leaned back in his seat, putting a few more inches between him and Lotor’s blade. “We both know she’s not. We both know she means more to you than just being your slave. And that’s the problem.”
“She’s done nothing to you….” Lotor said, lowering his arm.
“Ah but she has.” Zarkon said, his next words making Lotor tense and raise his blade once more. “She’s come very close to ruining my only son. She’s playing you for a fool Lotor. Everyone is talking about it…”
“There’s nothing to talk about…” Lotor began, and Zarkon suddenly shouted, leaping to his feet.
“Do you think I don’t know what is going on in my own castle?” He roared that into Lotor’s face, bold even in the face of the threat Lotor posed to him. “It’s bad enough you are taken with her, but to be so infatuated as to make promises to her.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about….”
“Oh….Arus….Save Arus.” it was disconcerting to hear Zarkon mimick a female’s higher pitch tone, even more so when Zarkon did a dead on impression of Lotor’s own baritone. “Arus will be spared, from this and any future plots. This I swear.”
Lotor didn’t quiite gasp, going still with shock as Zarkon accurately repeated word for word things spoken when he thought he had been alone with Allura. “How…how did you…”
“How did I know?” A smirk then. “I have spies everywhere. Just because you routed out one, doesn’t mean I do not have a dozen ready to take his or her place. I’m always watching you son….watching and waiting to make sure you don’t make a fool out of yourself.”
“That’s good.” Lotor said gruffly, sheathing his sword. But he kept on pointing the guard’s weapon at Zarkon. “Keep on reminding me that I am your son, and it may be the only thing that saves your miserable hide. Now, why did you poison Allura?! If you know my promise to her, then you know I made it after she fell ill.”
That smirk of his grew wider, Zarkon flashing crooked teeth at Lotor. “Why do you think? It was a test. One you failed miserably.”
“A test?” Lotor asked. “You risk killing Allura in order to test me?!”
“Yes. If you had reacted the way I trained you to be, if you had never shown any concern for the girl, if you had left her to rot and die in a sick bed somewhere, all of this could have been avoided.” Zarkon said, retaking his seat.
“All of this?” Lotor was confused. “What do you mean.” Zarkon just smiled, eyes glittering with dark amusement as he gripped the arm rests of his chair. Now Lotor really did gasp. “You’ve plotted something else…..what is it?! Tell me what you are going to do!!”
“Not do….it’s already done.” Satisfaction dripped in Zarkon’s voice. “I hope you enjoyed your time between that slave’s legs Lotor. It’s the last moment you’ll ever share with her.”
“If you’ve hurt her….I swear…”
“You’ll do nothing.” Zarkon mocked. “You’ll get over the slut from Arus, and in time you’ll come to realize your father really did know what was best for you.”
“Never.” Lotor said, then shouted. “NEVER!” He slammed his sword down at Zarkon, the lazon searing a hole into his father’s robes. Zarkon’s eyes were wide with shock, and his mouth opened and closed several times, the king unable to speak.
“Know that next time my aim will be more accurate.” Lotor didn’t so much as smirk, turning away from the sight of his shocked witless father. Zarkon slowly tore his eyes away from Lotor’s retreating figure, staring at the sword that pinned his robes to the leather of his seat. It had been stabbed right between his spread legs, just missing piercing his groin.
“Gu…” Zarkon began, then took a desperate gasp for air. His chest swelled as he inhaled, and then he bellowed with all his might. “GUARDS!” It would be some time before anyone appeared to soothe his frayed nerves, Zarkon forgetting for the moment to push the voice button on his private intercom.