A dead silence followed Lotor’s announcement, Zarkon staring back at his son, astonishment in his eyes. All around him were the soldiers, the men shifting about, unsure of what to do, some lowering their weapons as quickly as their jaws dropped.
Prince Lotor stood on the center of the ship’s ramp, feeling the first hint of sweat drip down the back of his neck. The spotlight shined on him, the light bright and it’s heat intense, adding to the prince’s discomfort. Allura was in his arms, the girl holding onto his chest, a questioning look in her eyes as she glanced up at him. He knew she didn’t understand, felt confidant her limited knowledge of the Drule language kept her from following the conversation between him and his father.
At least she seemed to sense the tension in the air, wisely remaining quiet in the face of all those weapons trained on them. A footstep behind him, Cossack exiting the ship, softly swearing under his breath. The sound of his voice seemed to break the spell Lotor had cast, Zarkon blinking his eyes slowly, lips turning into a perplexed frown. Lotor continued to maintain eye contact with his father, and now he moved, continuing his descent down the ramp.
A soldier next to Zarkon reacted to Lotor’s movement, whipping his blaster up to take aim. Zarkon noticed, a growl escaping him as he roughly shoved the soldier’s blaster to aim at the ground. “Don’t shoot!” His voice was loud, echoing across the landing strip, a clear command the gathered army took note of. “At least…” A lazy half smile from Zarkon to Lotor. “Not yet.”
“So…” Zarkon took a step forward, leaving the safety of his guards behind. “Pregnant is she?”
“Yes.” Lotor gave an affirmative nod of his head.
“And you’re sure it’s yours?” Lotor didn’t like Zarkon’s insinuation, he had to struggle to keep his face blank.
“All—This slave has been with no one but me.” Lotor said. “No one that is until you thought to give her away.” He couldn’t keep the ice out of his tone, Lotor narrowing his eyes at King Zarkon. “And she was already with child by that point.”
“I don’t believe you.” Zarkon’s own eyes were narrowed. “You’re always so careful when it comes to preventing that sort of thing.”
“Mistakes happen to us all.” Lotor replied, and now he and Zarkon were before each other. “You above all people should know that.” A smirk from Lotor, Zarkon glaring. “I know.” Lotor began, voice dropping into a whisper for Zarkon’s ears alone. “I know you tried to poison her birth control shot. I ought to thank you for that.”
“Thank me?” A lift of Zarkon’s brow, the king not understanding.
“Replacing her shot with the poison gave me a slim window of opportunity to get her with child.” Lotor smirk grew, his fangs being revealed. “In light of recent events, I say this child is the only thing keeping us both alive.”
“I could still kill you.” Zarkon hissed back, his voice also low. “Of that be assured. You’ve caused me a lot of trouble over this slave. Do you know Queen Merla is inconsolable?!”
Lotor shrugged his shoulders, noting the way Allura hid her face from King Zarkon. “You killed her son!” Zarkon continued, and Lotor flashed him a deadly serious look.
“An eye for an eye. He nearly killed my unborn child.”
“I think you’re more concerned with the mother of that ill gotten bastard than you are of this supposed whelp she is carrying inside her!” Zarkon snapped. Lotor neither confirmed nor denied Zarkon’s words, calm in the face of Zarkon’s irate anger. “Merla is calling for your head! I was prone to give it to her until you dropped this little bombshell of yours.” An angry huff of air escaped Zarkon’s nose. “How fortunate the timing. How convenient for you to have this slave out of all other be carrying your child.”
“Clearly your spies aren’t as all knowing as you’d like to think, father.” A subtle jab, Lotor watching as the lines around Zarkon’s eyes grew tighter yet. “The doctors confirmed it this morning, right before I came to confront you about the poison.”
“That I don’t believe.” Zarkon said, and now he reached out with a clawed hand to snag Allura’s red stained hair. Lotor bristled at the touch, seeing how Zarkon cruelly yanked on it, forcing the girl to look at him. “Well, girl?!” Zarkon demanded. “Is it true? Are you pregnant by my son?”
Allura’s eyes were wide with terror, Lotor could feel her whole body trembling as Zarkon leaned in close to snarl into her face. “She doesn’t understand you father! Her skill with our language is limited at best.”
Zarkon ignored him, raising his voice as though shouting would help convey his message to Allura. “Baby! A baby! Do you have a baby inside you?!” Allura cringed, making a panicked noise, Zarkon letting go of her hair.
“Bah, is she stupid as well as a slut?!”
“Careful father.” Growled Lotor, eyes blazing with anger. ‘You are speaking about the mother of my child.”
“Yes, you keep stressing that point.” Zarkon said, bringing his hand to stroke thoughtfully at his chin. “But I am still not convinced. I want my doctors to look her over. They’ll get to the bottom of this matter.”
“Very well father.” Lotor moved to carry Allura past the King, Zarkon lashing out with his hand. His fingers curled around Lotor’s upper arm, stopping him from moving any further.
“Where do you think your going?!” Zarkon demanded.
“Why to take Allura to the royal physician.” Lotor said, tone innocent.
“Oh no. You’re going to stay far, far away from any doctors.” Zarkon smirked, but it was an angry expression. “I don’t trust you Lotor. You’re too crafty. You’ll pay them off, and if money can’t buy their lies, you’ll use your power to intimidate them.”
“Father, I am shocked that you would imply such a thing.” Lotor said, jerking free of Zarkon’s grip.
“It’s what I would do in your shoes.” Zarkon retorted. “Now….hand over the girl.” The King gestured with his scepter, a soldier approaching Lotor who hesitated. “Hurry it up Lotor, or I’ll shoot you both, grandchild or no.”
Ill at ease, Lotor set Allura down on the ground, his hands touching her shoulders briefly. He desperately wished he could explain to her what was happening, but for now he settled for a gentle reassurance. “Go with this man. He’ll take you to a doctor.”
“Ah.” She nodded, and turned, walking with a noticeable limp. Zarkon scowled, a complaint issuing out of him.
“What’s wrong with her that she can’t even walk right?!”
“Morwin’s handiwork.” Lotor said, his eyes on Allura. “Will you allow one of my men to accompany her?”
“No.” Zarkon bluntly denied. “No, I’m taking no chances. I will have the truth one way or another. And know this Lotor. If the little bitch isn’t pregnant, she soon will be!” Lotor stared at him perplexed. Zarkon flashed a toothy grin, leaning in close to whisper in Lotor’s ear. “I’ll kill you, and get that ruinous slave pregnant with your replacement!”
“You wouldn’t…” breathed out Lotor, his fists clenching together.
“Oh I would.” Zarkon laughed. “And I’ll enjoy every minute of her screams. Now…..what’s say we return to the castle? I find the air a bit too dry for my liking.”
“Very well father.” Lotor agreed.
“And don’t hope for a chance to sneak away.” Zarkon added. “I’ll be keeping you close by. Close enough to keep an eye on you.”
~Wonderful.~ thought Lotor, trying not to frown. He turned to cast a glance at Cossack, the commander giving a helpless shrug of his shoulders as he approached the prince and king.
“Ah Commander. So good to see you.” Zarkon smiled at Cossack, the man growing nervous by that look.
“It is?” Cossack was as surprised as Lotor.
“Yes.” Zarkon clapped a jovial hand on Cossack’s injured shoulder, the man wincing in pain. “As second in command to Lotor’s little rescue mission, you’ll be number one witness in the courts.”
“The courts?” echoed Cossack.
“Yes. In case I have to execute Lotor. I’ll do it regardless, but the senate needs to be appeased that it was the right thing to do.” Zarkon explained.
“Oh..uh….” Cossack looked at Lotor for help, the prince sighing.
“It’s all right Cossack. This matter won’t go to court. Not once the senate finds out my father gave away my pregnant slave.” Lotor said, wishing he was as confidant as he made his voice sound. “Zarkon, you’ll have a lot to answer for.”
“Trust me when I say I am not worried about it.” Zarkon replied, and gestured for a soldier to approach. “You there! Relay my commands! The rest of the men onboard Lotor’s fleet are to remain inside. No one is allowed off until the private matter between my son and I is resolved.”
“Yes, Lord Zarkon.” The soldier bowed, and then pulled out a communicator, voice harsh as he repeated Zarkon’s decree.
“Ha ha ha. That way no one can help you now Lotor.” Zarkon said, and began walking back to the castle. Lotor followed, just a step behind him, with Cossack bringing up the rear. A group of soldiers surrounded them, forming a living shield that protected the royal pair, the men alert for any assassination attempts against the King.
Zarkon set off at a brisk pace, making everyone hurry to keep up with him. “I’ve sent aid to Queen Merla’s ship.” The King said conversationally. “As of now, between it’s malfunctioning systems, and the damage you did to it when you rammed the Elite, that ship of hers is just dead weight in space. Naturally my offer of assistance cannot begin to make up for the atrocities you committed this day.”
“Merla should be blaming you, father.” Lotor pointed out. “It was you who forced my hand, you who handed over that slave without my permission.”
“You could have gone about it a more diplomatic way.” Zarkon retorted. “We could have set up communications, offered up a trade. We could have worked out a deal, if only you had told me what was going on from the start!”
“Diplomacy takes time.” Lotor said. “Time Allura did not have. We’ll be fortunate if she doesn’t miscarry from the treatment she received onboard Merla’s ship.”
“Well done Lotor. You almost sound like you believe that.” Zarkon said, a hint of approval in his tone. “I can’t even tell if you are lying to me or not.”
“It’s because you wouldn’t know the truth if it bit you on the ass!” Lotor snapped. Zarkon tossed back his head, an uproarious laughter escaping him.
“I think the same applies to you son.”
They reached the edge of the landing strip, the stone steps of the castle looming before them. At the very top Lotor could see Allura, the soldier that accompanied her, having lost his patience, resigning himself to carrying her all the way. Lotor paused to stare at her, the instant lasting long enough for a solider to prod him in the back with his rifle.
Lotor shook his head, and looked forward, seeing Zarkonn had started up the stairs. The king moved quickly, spry for his age, his hands lifting the hem of his robes so that his pointed shoes showed. Another prod against Lotor’s back, and then the prince was following, easily catching up to his father.
By the time they reached the top of the staircase, there was no sign of Allura and her guard. A few officials of the court were out on the landing, waiting expectantly for their arrival. “King Zarkon, Prince Lotor….the Queen is still sending angry transmissions to the castle. She…” A nervous glance at Lotor before the woman continued. “She says she won’t be satisfied until she has the prince’s blood for her drink.”
“She’ll just have to appease herself with the wine I sent in his place.” Zarkon said, heading towards the entrance of the castle. Guards opened the doors at his approach, Zarkon sweeping past them and into the palace proper.
“Then the slave?” asked the woman. “At least give her the slave that was the start of all this trouble.”
“I just may do that.” Zarkon turned to grin at Lotor. “Wouldn’t Allura’s head look lovely on a silver platter?” Lotor kept from shuddering at the thought, schooling his expression to be blank. Zarkon scowled at Lotor’s apparent lack of reaction, muttering an angry bah under his breath. “But not just yet. There is a situation involving the slave. One we are waiting on pending results.”
“Sire?” A veiled man was speaking now. “What could possibly save the slave from being put to death at this point?”
“Well, Lotor? Do you want to tell them or should I?” Zarkon asked, a smirk on his face. “I do believe you get more believable each time you repeat the news.”
“It’s believable because it’s the truth.” Lotor hissed.
“Hmm. Perhaps.” Zarkon turned his attention to the male courtesan. “My son claims to have gotten the wench pregnant.”
“Pregnant?!” All three of the court officials gasped, the woman looking at Lotor in shock.
“If this is true, which I highly doubt it is…” continued Zarkon, turning around a bend in the hall. “Naturally the slave will be expected to carry the child to term.”
“She’ll be a slave no more.” The woman pointed out. “The child must be legitimate if it is to have ties to the throne, and continue the Zarkonian line. Prince Lotor, you’ll have to marry her.”
“Marry?” questioned Lotor, hearing Zarkon snort.
“Not quite willing to go that far for your strumpet?” The King asked snidely.
“No, it’s just…I did not know such a thing was possible…” Lotor said.
“Oh yes, it’s happened before. Why your mo—-”
“SIlence!” Zarkon’s voice was as sharp as a knife. “No need to bring up the past. Lotor may very well have to take the slave as his wife. Of course she’ll still be little more than property.”
“Yes, Royal Consort in name only.” Agreed one of the men. “She’ll have no real power save when it comes to household servants.”
Lotor said nothing, walking in a state of stunned shock. Marriage! He had never dared dream of such a thing, finding it unbelievable how quickly things were changing. He thrilled at the thought of further tying Allura to him, thoughts of her supposed pregnancy almost pushed to the back of his mind.
“Of course this is all pending the state of her pregnancy.” Zarkon’s voice was a harsh reminder of reality, tone mocking and reminding Lotor that the King simply did not believe his boast.
“Yes.” Agreed the woman. “It’s pointless to get ahead of ourselves until we know for sure.”
“Ah…here we are.” Zarkon smiled as they reached the hall that led into the throne room of Castle Doom. “Come along Lotor. Might as well sit back and relax while we wait for the news.” A short chuckle, Zarkon stepping into the lively throne room. “It may be your last meal after all. You should enjoy it.”
Lotor followed close behind his father, ignoring the staring nobles who gasped and pointed his way. He had no appetite for food, no urge for drink though he took the cup thrust into his hands. The liquid was red, as red as Allura’s blood, Lotor sighing as he stared into the cup’s contents. He offered up a prayer, hoping against hope that Allura would indeed prove to be pregnant.