The music was a lively beat, full of harmonious bells and dings, strings being plucked to provide a secondary sound. It was a happy sort of tune, the kind that made people smile and tap their toes to the rhythm. But Lotor was not smiling, sending an annoyed glare at the musicians who were set up in the far right corner of the throne room.
The minstrels seemed not to notice, playing on, their music loud enough to be heard over the buzz of conversation that filled the room. Nobles were huddled in groups of three or four, speaking among themselves, not even bothering to whisper out their words. They talked about him, about Prince Lotor’s latest stunt, noting how unusual it was of him to behave like that. How impulsive and reckless he had been, and all for a slave.
Some actually laughed at him, finding far too much amusement at his predicament. Lotor carefully noted the ones who mocked him, vowing to himself if he survived this night, he would make them pay. He lifted his goblet to his lips to hide his smirk, already dreaming of the blood he would spill in his quest for personal revenge.
Talk of revenge was a hot topic among the court, they seemed unable to tire of the subject, going round and round in circles. Talking of Lotor, and his revenge against Morwin, followed up by talk of the man’s mother, the Queen Merla still crying out for justice, demanding her son be avenged. The court wondered if they would be plunged into another war, wondered if Queen Merla would attempt to break away from the Doom Empire in her quest for vengeance.
The nobles were also confused by Lotor’s presence here in the throne room. By all rights he should be rotting in the palace dungeon, awaiting some suitable form of punishment. And yet here he was, drinking and eating, full of health and vitality if a bit blood soaked and disheveled. Zarkon wasn’t speaking on the matter, sitting up on his dais, isolated from the people. He kept smirking in Lotor’s direction, as though he knew a secret they did not.
Lotor returned his father’s smirk, trying to appear at ease and unconcerned. For all outward appearances, he was the picture of tranquility, the lazy prince come to regain his rightful place at his father’s side. But inside where it counted, he was a mess. Fretting over Allura, wondering what they were doing to her, how they were treating her. Would they kill her immediately upon discovering his ruse? He just did not know, praying that his last glimpse of her would not be on the landing strip outside the castle walls.
He wanted to pace, to shout and rail against what was happening. Instead he focused on his drink, keeping his fingers tight around the goblet, letting it’s bejeweled surface cut into his skin. The pain helped calm him, Lotor leaning against the side of the dais, watching the room.
A few feet to the left of him stood Cossack, the man watching him with concern. Neither he nor Lotor had been allowed to leave the throne room, Zarkon suspicious of their actions. They were kept near the dais, right where the King could keep an easy eye on them. Between Zarkon, the nobles, and the throne room guards there was little opportunity available to them to sneak out of the room.
The music increased in tempo, dancing girls suddenly coming out the servant’s entrance. The nobles cheered as the pretty women spread through out the crowd, shaking their hips in time to the beat. They wore very little, and had little tambourine clams on their fingers, which they clashed together, adding a jingling sound to their movements. Lotor glanced up at Zarkon, finding his father was still watching him rather then the swaying bodies of the dancing women.
The dancing continued, nobles letting out wild shouts, laughing and cheering on the girls. The dancers provided a temporary distraction from their talk of Prince Lotor, some of the men trying to dance with the young ladies. Lotor watched the crowd grow more relaxed, wondering if this would be his chance to slip away, small groups spreading out to become a huge crowd of drunken revelry.
He was just gearing up to draw near to a dancer, hoping to fool his father into thinking he was in a celebratory mood when the music came to an abrupt and sudden halt. Lotor looked, and saw above the heads of the partygoers the doors to the throne room had been thrown open. A murmur began through the crowd, people parting to clear a path for the soldiers who had arrived.
They marched toward the dais, a man in between their circle of bodies. He was not much older than Lotor himself, with long black hair tied back in a braid. Multiple colored beads decorated his hair, adding flair to his appearance. He was dressed in a white lab coat, with plain colored slacks peeking out beneath the hem of his jacket. A stethoscope was around his neck, Lotor recognizing him as the newest of King Zarkon’s personal doctors.
The doctor was brought before the dais, the man dropping a low bow in Zarkon’s direction. The King smiled, and gestured, his voice almost purring as he spoke. “Ah, Doctor Clemesus. I do hope you bring us good news.”
The doctor straightened, his head nodding. “Yes, my Lord. I have the results of the girl’s tests.” Lotor set his cup down on the tray of a passing servant, taking a step in the direction of the doctor.
“Patience Lotor.” Zarkon had noticed his movement, the King smirking down at him. “We will soon have our answer. Well, Clemesus. Is she or isn’t she?”
“Ah…we have run an extensive amount of tests, as per your orders King Zarkon.” The doctor said. “And the results were all the same.”
“The same you say?” Zarkon’s grin widened, the King oozing confidence of what that verdict would be.
“Yes.” An affirmative nod from the doctor.
“And you’re sure about the results? There can be no mistakes you know!” Zarkon said.
“None!” agreed Clemesus. “The girl is, without a doubt…..pregnant.”
Lotor blinked surprised, but not half as surprised as Zarkon looked. “What?!” roared the King, suddenly standing, his scepter in hand. “She’s pregnant?!”
“Yes, your highness.” Clemesus said. “The child inside her is just under a week old.”
Lotor’s eyebrows drew together, the prince wondering how this could be. Except for last night, he hadn’t been with Allura in over a week. Not since they had been on Planet Pollux. His mind was already turning over the possibilities, wondering who if any had dared to touch her without his permission. Jealousy was flaring to life, competing with the relief that Allura would be saved from execution now.
“Well, father?” Lotor spoke up, glancing at Zarkon’s stunned face. “Are you satisfied now?”
Zarkon gave him a murderous glare, the King scowling. “You’ve won your stay of execution Lotor. Both you, and your little slave.” The nobles were talking again, trying to ascertain what was going on by the conversation between father and son. Zarkon slammed his scepter against the dais’ surface, three loud taps as his voice boomed out. “Silence!”
The court immediately complied, voices breaking off mid sentence. “Congratulations son…” Zarkon said through gritted teeth. “It looks like you’ve gained a child….and a bride. But I wonder…” Zarkon’s look was calculating, a shiver going through Lotor’s spine. “Can you keep them safe?”
“I can and I will.” Lotor swore, flashing his father a dark look. “I’ll show no mercy to anyone who dares endanger my family.” It was his own threat against the implied one of King Zarkon’s, the air seeming to crackle between the two men, rife with electricity.
“Hmph.” Zarkon actually looked away first, moving to retake his seat. “You can try. But you’ll soon discover it’s not as easy as you think. Wives….and children complicate things. Make it difficult to hold onto power, especially if you hold even one ounce of feeling for them.” He sounded tired now, weary of this discussion. “Go now Lotor. Go and check in on the mother of your child.”
A gasp from the crowd, the people hesitant to start speaking lest they anger Zarkon once more. But their eyes looked at the prince, curious and surprised to hear the news that Lotor had fathered a child with a slave. Lotor kept his head held high, his gaze challenging as he moved, striding towards the crowd.
Cossack followed, hurrying forward to push and shout at the crowd. “Make way for Prince Lotor!” The crowd moved with a grumble, nobles stepping to the side as Lotor swept past them. He could feel their eyes on him, not just from the front, but from the sides and on his back. Boring holes into his body, the nobles surely eager to get their tongues wagging over this latest piece of gossip.
Lotor waited until he was in the hall, and away from their prying eyes to wilt in relief. Cossack appeared not to notice the prince’s show of weakness, still walking ahead of Lotor.
“Geez it, pregnant?! No wonder you went so crazy to get her back!”
Lotor said nothing in response to the commander, but inwardly he was tempted to tell him the truth. To let someone know his suspicions. But it was too great a secret, to big a burden to place on Cossack’s shoulders.
“You could have told me.” Continued Cossack, sounding accusing. “I wouldn’t have protested half as much had I known!”
“Forgive me.” Lotor said. “In the heat of the moment, I was not thinking straight.”
“Can’t blame you for that.” Admitted Cossack. “Pregnant! Hey! You think that’s why she collapsed?” His tone turned worried, Cossack turning to look at Lotor. “I mean, human girls are kind of weak…..maybe she can’t safely carry a half Drule baby.”
Yet another thing for Lotor to worry about! It must have shown on his face, Cossack was hurrying to amend his statement. “But I’m sure she’ll be okay….Both she and the baby. I mean they both survived that whipping, and that was one of the most brutal things I’ve ever seen done to a woman.”
“I hope you’re right.” Lotor said in a moment of weakness, letting the weariness he felt show in his eyes.
“Hey. You don’t look so good.” Cossack was concerned. “I think maybe you need to lay down for a while.”
“I’ll be fine.” Lotor said. “It’s Allura I am worried about.”
“And the baby.” Cossack added, nodding.
“Yes….and the baby.” Agreed Lotor after a slight hesitation. “I’m worried about you too.”
“Well, you still haven’t gotten your shoulder looked at.” Lotor pointed out.
“Aw….it’ll be fine. It’s not even bleeding anymore.” Cossack assured him.
“Still, I want you to get it checked out.” Lotor said, and Cossack nodded.
“All right. I was due for a physical anyway.” The commander was still walking with his head turned to look at Lotor, not really paying attention to who was in front of him. That was why when the figure dressed in brown stepped out from behind a pillar, Cossack stumbled into her, nearly knocking the woman off her feet.
“HEY!!” Cossack snapped, annoyed. “Watch where you’re going. You jostled my injured shoulder.”
“You should pay better attention to your surroundings dolt!” snapped the woman, straightening so they could see her face.
“Haggar!” Cossack hissed out her name, shock in his eyes. “What do you want?!”
“A moment of the prince’s time is all I require.” The witch said, offering a yellow tooth smile to Lotor.
“Well, you can’t have it.” Cossack said, choosing to play secretary for Lotor. “His highness is too busy for the likes of you. He has a situation to take care of, one that takes priority over any visit with you!”
“Ah, but I have news about that very situation that the prince will be most interested in.” Haggar said, turning as Lotor and Cossack went to walk by her. “Prince Lotor…I dare say you will be pleased when you hear what I have done.”
“I doubt it.” Lotor said, more concerned with thoughts of Allura and the mystery father of her child.
“Oh but you’re wrong!” Hagger sidled after him, a cackle escaping her. Cossack stepped in front of Lotor, wary of the witch’s tricks.
“It’s all right Cossack.” Lotor said, hand on the man’s shoulder. “Haggar won’t harm me. She wouldn’t dare.”
“Yeah but….she’s a witch. They can’t be trusted.” Cossack protested, moving when Lotor pushed him.
“Oh I can be trusted for a price.” Laughed Haggar, and now she stepped up to Lotor, the prince fighting not to shudder as he beheld the twisted ugliness that was her face. “Prince Lotor…it would behoove you to come with me.” She pressed her lips against his ears, the cracked leather of her mouth brushing his skin in an intimate caress. “I can answer you the mystery behind the father of Allura’s baby.”
“What’s wrong?” Cossack asked, alert to the widening of Lotor’s eyes.
“It’s nothing!” Lotor’s voice came out a little too hasty, a snapped out retort that made Cossack frown. “Go on ahead Commander.” Lotor ordered. “Go and get that shoulder checked out, but more than that….keep an eye on Allura. I wouldn’t put it past my father to attempt to do something to make her miscarry my child.”
“That’s cold even for your father.” Cossack said.
“But an all too likely scenario.” Haggar added, interjecting her opnion.
“Please…..do this for me. Not as your prince….but as your friend.” Lotor said, and Cossack hesitated.
“Damn….you don’t have to get all serious on me. I’m going, I’m going!” Cossack turned, waving a hand behind his back. “I’ll see you later prince.”
They watched him go, waiting until he disappeared around the corner of the long hall, Lotor then turning to Haggar. “Now witch….you’re going to tell me everything you know!”
“Indeed I will, your highness!” Haggar cackled. “But not here. The walls have ears.”
‘Then where.” Lotor demanded, moving to follow the brown cloaked witch.
“My private chambers.” She answered, moving quickly through the halls. “It’s the only place I can guarantee we won’t be overheard.”
“There’s always my quarters.” Lotor said, surprised when she laughed.
“You think Zarkon doesn’t have bugs in place even beneath your bedroom floors?!” She asked, smirking. “No, this castle is full of so many transmitters, I’m surprised Zarkon ever gets any sleep for all the eavesdropping he does.”
“Then how can you be sure your chambers is clean?” Lotor asked, his voice whispering to the witch. She smiled and winked at him, turning down the hall in the opposite direction Cossack had traveled. “Haggar!”
“Not here!” She repeated, and scurried ahead of him. Lotor swore, and ran after her, watching as she ducked through doorways, and rounded a corner. It took them less then twenty minutes to reach the modest room appointed to the witch, Hagger holding the door open for Prince Lotor. He hesitated on the threshold, just peering inside, seeing the room crowded with book cases. All manner of things were on their shelves, jars and bottles of spell components, along with large research tomes.
A small cot was pushed to the side of the room, just big enough for the witch’s thin frame. A blue cat was curled up in the center of it, the feline not deigning to lift it’s head at their arrival.
“I know it’s cramped but…I call it home….for now at least.” She added, walking over to a table.
Lotor sighed, and closed the door behind him, then moved to approach the witch. She was standing before a bowl of bubbling green liquid, peering into it’s center. “Are you working some magic?” Lotor asked, curious.
“Yes.” She smiled at him. “This spell keeps Zarkon’s bugs from working inside my chambers.” She cackled, the sound grating on Lotor’s ears though he tried not to show it. “The old fool can’t ascertain why his devices keep failing him!”
“That’s not very respectful of you.” Lotor pointed out. “Calling him an old fool.”
“As if you don’t do the same!” Haggar said defensively. Lotor had no retort for her, knowing it was the truth. “So…I suppose you’ll be wanting to know the truth now.”
“That is the only reason I followed you here.” Lotor agreed.
“Ha yes. You’ve never willingly set foot in my chambers before. But still…” A grudging tone of respect. “You’ve always been somewhat kind to me, employing me when your father refused to rely on my services.”
“I never did trust my father’s witch Cortana.” Lotor said.
“You’d be a fool too! Her loyalties lie strictly with King Zarkon.” Haggar replied.
“And yours? Where do they lie?” questioned Lotor.
A smile then, Hagger flashing her yellowed teeth at him. “Why with the highest bidder of course. But it’s not money I’m after.”
“Oh power, prestige, respect. Things money alone can’t buy.” Came her answer.
“And you think I can give you these things?” Lotor asked.
“I know you can.” Haggar nodded. “Maybe not right now, but soon. Heh….I know you have great ambitions Prince Lotor. And the wind, it tells me things.”
“Like who is the father of Allura’s child?” Lotor asked, trying to steer the conversation back on track.
“It wasn’t the wind that told me that.” A head shake, the witch still grinning. “I want you to remember this day Prince Lotor. Remember it for what is. I’ve done you a great favor, one that has saved not only your life, but the life of your beloved slave.”
“A favor?” Lotor frowned, shaking his head. “I don’t understand.”
“You will, you will!” Hagger laughed. “She’s not pregnant you know. One time without the birth control wasn’t enough to do it.”
“Not pregnant? But my father’s physician…” He fell silent as Haggar raised her hand, wagging her finger at him.
“If I can interfere with your father’s listening devices, what makes you think I can’t fudge the results of a few pregnancy tests?” He looked at her, not daring to believe. “It’s true.” She nodded her head, and held up her hand. “It’s as easy as…” She snapped her fingers in his face, a poof of smoke escaping them. “….that for me!”
“So Allura is not pregnant?” Lotor asked, wanting to be sure.
“No, and you’ll have to hurry if you want to get her with child before the king is suspicious.” Haggar told him. “Babies can come early, or they can come late, but not too late or else everyone will know.” She turned from him, and began rooting around in her desk, opening drawers and shoving things aside. “Now…in return for this favor…I want your promise that when you overthrow Zarkon, you will make me your head witch.”
“I’m not going to overthrow my father!” Even to Lotor, his protest sounded half hearted, the witch straightening to give him a look.
“If that is true, than Zarkon is not a crusty old fart!” She exclaimed. “Now….your promise? Or should I go straight to Zarkon with word of this deceit?”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Lotor exclaimed, a menacing look on his face.
“Don’t even think of threatening me young man!” Haggar snapped back. “I may be old, but I still have my magic. It will be a fight you’ll lose!” He said nothing, just staring at her in frustration. Her face softened, Haggar smiling once more. “It’s better to be my friend than my enemy. Now, what do you say? A new witch for a new king?” She held out her bony hand, waiting for Lotor to take it.
“All right! Damn you, all right.” He grabbed her hand, feeling her curl withered fingers around him. Hagger let out a high pitched sound, shaking his hand enthusiastically.
“Now I expect you’ll be wanting to go back to your slave.” Haggar made a sympathetic noise, a tsking sound. “Poor girl has been through so much. And about to be through even more. Here, take this.” Her other hand was shoving a bottle into Lotor’s hand, the prince glancing curiously at it. “It’s pills to help numb the pain she’s in. It’s not approved by any medical federation, but it’ll do the job twice as fast as any of that trash they’ll be feeding her.”
“Thank you Haggar.” Lotor said, reluctant gratitude in his eyes.
“She’ll still be sensitive, and you’ll have to be careful about opening that gash on her shoulder.” Continued the witch. “I’d say wait a few days, but you really must hurry and get her with child. I only wish I had some spells to aid in fertility rituals.” A wistful sigh from the witch.
“I’m sure we can manage in that department without any aid.” Lotor smirked.
“Just be thankful she hasn’t been on the birth control for longer than a few months.” Haggar said, expression stern. “Did you know the shots you were giving the women of your harem, while effective for short term use, the long term side effects is to render them barren?”
“You probably didn’t even give it one thought except to make sure they didn’t get pregnant by your seed!” She was actually admonishing him, clucking her tongue at him like a mother hen. “Hmph, just like a man to think with his dick and not with his heart.”
“Er….right.” Lotor pocketed the small bottle. “I’ll be going now….if that’s okay with you.”
“Fine, fine, get out of here.” She made shooing motions with her hands. “I’ve taken enough time away from your Allura.” She turned her back on him, a clear sign of dismissal as she strode over to her bed. The cat looked up at her, letting out a questioning meow. “Soon dearie. Soon.”
Lotor gave a shake of his head, and moved to navigate past the bookcases, heading for the room’s exit. He could hear Haggar talking to the feline, her voice chuckling softly. “Soon we’ll be gone from this place, and have a proper laboratory with a proper bedroom. Prince Lotor will make it happen. You’ll see.” Lotor sincerely hoped she was right about that!