The guards were clearly uneasy to see Lotor, standing to attention with their weapons drawn, deadly blades exposed to the air but not aimed at the prince. Not yet at any rate, the two men eyeing the prince warily as he approached. Lotor knew they had a right to be cautious, especially after what had happened the last time he had visited his father in the man’s office.
It was different this time, Lotor a thousand times less agitated, though he still felt an undercurrent of angry energy boiling through him. It translated in his movements, stiff and jerky, Lotor fighting to keep his expression devoid of any emotion. He knew as well as the guards did that to show his upset would make things difficult, the men moving to bar him entry to his father. He wasn’t in the mood to fight them, not yet to the point where he lost all sight and reason and tried to force his way inside.
In a way he was thankful it had taken him a while to reach this part of the castle, the long walk helping to calm him somewhat. He had checked the throne room first, learning his father had closed court for the day to tend to business in his private office. For that Lotor was glad, wanting, no needing the coming to talk to be had in private.
He stopped a foot away from the guards, and though he was unsmiling, he forced his voice to sound pleasant and unrestrained. “Tell my father his son is here to see him.” Lotor stressed the familial nature of their relationship, a subtle reminder to the guards of just who they were dealing with.
“Yes, Prince Lotor.” One said, the man backing up a step, to rap his free hand on the door. Zarkon’s voice drifted out into the hall, slightly muffled through the wood. Gruff though he was, he bade the guard to speak, the man taking the invitation to open the door a crack. “The crown prince is here to see you sire.”
A moment’s pause, Zarkon making Lotor wait. “All right, let him in.”
Grudgingly, the guards sheathed their weapons, one pulling the door open the rest of the way for Lotor. He didn’t waste his time on being smug, bristling past the two guards with his head held high. The doors were closed behind him with a soft thud, leaving Lotor to blink in the dim lighting of the room.
Zarkon sat in the rear of the room, a new desk before him, sheaf of papers spread before him. His features were lit up with a blue glow, the light coming from the computer that took up the right corner of his desk. Lotor idly gave thought to just what sort of business his father was conducting, walking nearer to the man.
“I’ve been wondering when you’d show up.” Zarkon said, leaning back in his chair to fix his gleaming cat’s eyes on Lotor’s face. “It’s not like you to over sleep when there is a war to plan.”
“I’m not here to make apologies.” Lotor retorted, ignoring his father’s gesture towards one of the stiff back chairs in front of the desk. He knew they were as uncomfortable as they looked, a direct contrast to the soft leather Zarkon perched upon.
“Oh?” Just a word, but it conveyed his displeasure, Zarkon speaking once more. “I think I have been far too lenient with you these past few weeks. Just because you are grounded from flight, doesn’t mean you can skip out on the rest of your responsibilities to play with that slave of yours.”
Lotor didn’t bother to correct him that Allura was no longer his slave, he was positive word had already reached Zarkon’s ears about that matter. He was just surprised his father wasn’t making a big deal over it. “I’m not shirking my duties.” Lotor told him. “I will get the armada deployed within the next two days, count on it.”
“I’ll hold you to that Lotor.” Zarkon said, the merest hint of a smirk on his face. “If we do badly in this war, it’ll be on your head the fault. Yours and hers.”
“There’s no need to threaten Allura!” Lotor snapped, and Zarkon let out a short bark of laughter.
“Who is threatening? I am merely stating fact.” Zarkon retorted. “I expect you to have the complete list of just which fleets are being deployed to Amazonia on my desk by the end of this day.” Zarkon glanced at his computer, reading something off it’s screen. It was a dismissive gesture, the King surely feeling their audience was at an end. He thought wrong, Lotor stepping closer to the desk, his voice a soft growl as he spoke.
“You told me my mother was a Drule.” A glance from Zarkon, eyes carefully lidded to not betray any inward feelings.
“It’s been a long time since we spoke about your mother.” Zarkon said, voice devoid of emotion. “How many years has it been since you wondered about her?”
“Too many…” Lotor said, thinking he had still been but a boy when he had last asked his father about his mother.
“It’s best not to stir up the past.” Zarkon told him, Lotor giving a shake of his head.
“I disagree.” Zarkon said nothing to that, returning his attention to the computer screen. Lotor felt annoyance flare, the prince placing his hands on the edge of the desk. “My mother, the truth father. Was she human?”
Zarkon was a master at controlling his reactions, his expression school to be blank as he kept on staring at the computer screen. “Where would you get such a ridiculous notion from?”
“So you deny it?” Lotor demanded, words hot but holding hope to it. He waited for Zarkon to nod, to tell him it was all just some silly rumor, but the King just sat there, staring at him. It made him uncomfortable, Lotor shifting from foot to foot, the silence stretching out between them.
“Believe what you like.” Zarkon said at last, steeping his fingers before him.
“Damn it old man, don’t think you can wave me off with a flippant answer.” Lotor snapped, slapping his hand against the polished surface of the desk. “Was she human?”
“Answer me this first.” Zarkon replied, still avoiding his question. “Just who was the little….snitch who filled your head with these thoughts about your mother?” It was an interesting choice of words, snitch could almost imply there was truth to the rumor.
“I assure you it was no idle tongue that wagged.” Lotor told him, watching his father carefully. “It was Haggar who cast the light on my true parentage.” It was subtle, but he noticed the facial tic on Zarkon’s face, a brief second of it before the king squashed it down.
“I should have known.” Breathed out Zarkon, lowering his hands to his desk. “Hmph.” A displeased sound, Zarkon pressing his lips together tightly. “The witch meddles in areas where she shouldn’t. I’ll have to speak to her about that.”
“Haggar is under my protection.” Lotor reminded the Drule. “You’re not to harm her.” Zarkon said nothing to do this, Lotor sighing. “Now, the answer to my question.”
“Answer?” A smirk from Zarkon, the barest hint of mocking pleasure in that expression. “Did I promise to answer your question?”
“Damn it, you know what I want!” Lotor said, voice rising.
“Careful Lotor. Any louder and your shouts will draw in my guards.” That smirk of his grew bigger yet, the King all but laughing at his son. Lotor let out a low growl, annoyance at the heart of it.
“I have a right to know!” That got a reaction from Zarkon, the man’s eyes narrowing, rage flashing in their golden depths.
“The only rights you have are the ones I grant you!” Zarkon hissed, pounding a fist on the arm rest of his chair. Lotor was not intimidated, leaning closer to glare into his father’s eyes.
“The truth father, I want it now. Unless…you prefer I take my inquiries to the court.” Lotor made a short sound of laughter, watching as Zarkon seemed to grow angrier. “We can have this conversation now, in the privacy of your office, or we can do it in front of the whole court in the throne room. It’s your choice.”
“It’s not me who will suffer if the truth comes out before your peers.” Zarkon said, mouth an unhappy frown as he spoke.
“Then tell me now…” Lotor urged, softening his tone slightly. He breathed a sigh of relief when Zarkon did a slow bob of his head, nodding his agreement.
“All right…” Lotor waited patiently for Zarkon to continue, seeing his father thinking on the words he would speak. “Yes, Lotor. In answer to your question, your mother was a human.”
Lotor took a step back from the desk, feeling as unhappy as Zarkon looked. “Why did you never tell me?”
“What would be the point?” Zarkon asked, then shook his head. “It matters little who your mother was, all that counts is that my blood runs through your veins, weakened though it may be by the human half.”
“It matters to me!” Lotor snapped, giving an angry punch at the air with his fist.
“It doesn’t change who you are.” Zarkon said, Lotor wondering if the man was actually trying to sound soothing. “You’re still my son.”
“If it doesn’t matter, then why hide it from me?” Lotor asked, wanting to understand. An elegant shrug of his father’s shoulders, the King not saying anything to that. “Who else knows?” Lotor demanded, question after questions being issued out his lips. “Why have I never gotten even one hint of this from anyone else? Why don’t they…”
“Why don’t they what?” Zarkon finished the question for him. “Why don’t they look down on you for your human half?” At Lotor’s nod he continued, giving up answers that Lotor was so desperate for. “Do you honestly think I would allow anyone to belittle my son for something he had no control over?” Lotor was surprised at the amount of caring that question implied, the prince staying silent as Zarkon spoke. “No. I made sure to squash any such impulse back when you were still in diapers.” A self satisfied smirk from Zarkon then. “The penalties for making fun of the prince were strict, it was the same for anyone gossiping about your mother’s less than ideal pedigree.”
“You threatened the court into silence?”
“I didn’t just threaten.” Zarkon explained. “I maimed and killed. I had men and women tortured for even the most innocent of comments, until the court was too terrified to speak, even nicely about your mother. It suited my needs.”
“Your needs?” echoed Lotor, curious.
“I didn’t want the reminder of her.” Zarkon said, eyes darkening with turbulent emotion. “I didn’t want to remember my folly in taking a human for my bride.”
“You married her?” Lotor was surprised Zarkon had gone that far for a human, feeling shocked when Zarkon nodded.
“Aye, I did.” Needing to sit down, Lotor dropped into one of the chairs by Zarkon’s desk, ignoring the discomfort it offered to just stare dumbly at his father.
“How did you meet her?” Lotor asked, and Zarkon shook his head no.
“I am in no mood to reminisce about the past.”
“Please father. I’ll never bring her up again if you just answer my questions now.” Lotor told him, a promise in his voice.
Zarkon let out a weary sigh. “All right. I suppose it can’t do any more harm than it already has for you to know.” A smirk then, Zarkon looking amused. “It might even help you to avoid the mistakes I made, though I fear you are already too close to following in my footsteps in regard to that slave of yours.”
For once Lotor did not tell Zarkon to leave Allura out of this, fearing if he argued it would put the King off sharing with him. “Mistakes? You think my mother was a mistake?”
“I know she was.” He clicked his tongue against his teeth, making a tsking sound. “I should have never gotten her involved with me. Maybe then she’d still be alive.”
“What do you mean?” Lotor asked, seeing Zarkon hold up his hand for silence.
“So many questions…and more to come no doubt as I tell you the story of your mother and the circumstances surrounding your birth.” Zarkon fell silent, gathering his thoughts. “Some details are fuzzy, at first I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have to your mother. I had so many other concerns, and what was one more slave in the grand scheme of things? She just seemed to appear from nowhere, a slave that was always down on her knees, scrubbing the floors clean. You don’t pay much attention to them unless the slaves make some kind of mistake, and she? She was absolutely diligent in her duties.”
“What changed?” Lotor risked interrupting Zarkon’s story, impatient to know everything about the woman and her relationship with his father.
“I’m not sure. I just started noticing her more. Her hair was blonde, a golden color that rivals your Allura’s. I liked that bit of color, it reminded me of the gold sitting in my vaults. I’d find myself staring at her, odd thoughts going through my mind, the urge to find out if her hair was as soft as it looked.” A rare smile from Zarkon, no hint of cruelty or taunts in it. “It was. I discovered that she had quite the figure hidden under the rags the slaves wore, and beneath the dirt and grime her face was beautiful. It was no hardship to bed her, I’ll tell you that much.”
Lotor felt a bit uncomfortable to be thinking about his father having sex, the prince hurrying to speak. “When did it become something more?”
“There is no one turning point, the time just spread out until months had gone by and I realized I hadn’t tired of this particular slave. I knew then Adaline was special, something for me to keep, to cherish.” Zarkon looked away from Lotor, eyes growing distant as he lost himself to the memories. “I didn’t often find possessions I did not want to break, but with her it was different. It wasn’t love, but I held a certain kind of fondness for her.”
“And this fondness is what led you to sire a child with a slave?” Zarkon made a rude noise at that, shaking his head no.
“Of course not. I wasn’t that stupid.” Lotor hated the implication in his words, knowing Zarkon disliked the fact that he had gotten Allura pregnant. “No, accidents happen, and back then birth control wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is these days. Adaline had a bad batch of the serum I used to prevent such things from occurring, and without warning, you were conceived.”
“I was an accident.” Lotor was stunned, always assuming he had been the carefully planned result of his father’s liaison with his mother.
“A happy one, but an accident nonetheless.” Zarkon agreed. “Of course my advisors urged me to have the baby aborted but I wouldn’t listen. I saw it as the perfect way to further cement my hold on the throne, and all without the added burden of sharing it with a queen. You can marry a slave, but they still will never rise in rank to attain a status that goes beyond consort to the throne.”
“And you wanted to marry Adaline?”
“I wanted you to be recognized as a legitimate heir to the throne, not some bastard offspring without claim to it.” Zarkon retorted. “I married her as much for your sake, as for my own desire. It tied her further to me, and the allure of her body did not weaken even when she grew fat with child.” A frown then, Zarkon looking displeased. “I doted on her. Foolishly so. It was not love, but I did harbor genuine feeling for her. Feeling others were quick to note and misinterpret.”
Lotor noted the ominous feel of those last words, the prince wondering out loud what it could mean. “What happened?”
“My enemies sought to use her and the unborn child against me.” Zarkon grew angrier yet, eyes flashing with repressed rage. “She was taken from me.”
“Kidnapped?” This was all news to Lotor, the prince lifting a brow in surprise. “Who would dare?”
“The houses of those nobles who conspired against me have been completely destroyed.” Grim satisfaction was in Zarkon’s voice, the man not losing any of his anger. “I made sure to personally over see the massacre of each and every noble, no matter gender, age, or political alliance. My message was clear, no one was to mess with me or my family.”
“How far along was she when she was kidnapped?”
“Nearly nine months. And they didn’t treat her well. She was beaten and tortured, a bloody mess when I found her.” His words had Lotor gasping, staring at his father in horror. The man continued to speak, almost dispassionate as he described the following events. “Stress had induced an early labor, and I had to rush her to the nearest hospital for treatment. Her beauty was lost amidst all the bruising, and she was so weak she could barely scream from the pain you were causing her. I dare say my sweet Adaline wasn’t even aware of where she was, or who was with her.”
A long, drawn out sigh from Zarkon, the man staring glumly at his desk. “There was little they could do to save her, Adaline had been through too much, and her heart was giving out in the midst of giving birth to you. They barely managed to save you my son, by the time you were ejected from her body, she was breathing her last breaths. She didn’t even get to hold you.”
“Father…” Lotor said softly, noting the dejected way the King slumped in his chair. “I’m…I’m so sorry…”
“I don’t tell you this to earn your pity.” Zarkon said sharply, the fire back in his eyes at hearing the sympathetic note in his voice. “This would have never happened if she was a Drule. They wouldn’t have dared lay a finger on her, her body would have been strong enough to handle birthing a baby with Drule blood. The pregnancy had always been a difficult time for her, and the stress of being kidnapped and tortured just made the situation all the worse. I did this to her….I made her weak with child, and I brought the attention of my enemies on her with the way I indulged her.”
“You tried to warn me….” Lotor realized, recalling the words Zarkon had spoken after the doctor had confirmed Allura’s pregnant state. “Cryptic words about keeping them safe, and how a wife and children complicated things.” He had thought it was a threat that had moved his father to speak like that, but now hearing the story of his ill fated mother, he knew it was more concern than Zarkon had ever shown him before.
“You push too much attention on that slave.” Zarkon said, Lotor realizing his gruff exterior was an attempt to hide his embarrassment. “Everyone knows how important she is to you. It’s too late to change that. You should have practiced more care in your behavior towards her.”
“I won’t repeat your mistakes now that I know.” Lotor said, determined to keep Allura safe from those who would act against him or his father.
“No, you’ll just blunder ahead and make new ones.” Zarkon retorted. “Now, have I satisfied your curiosity, or are you determined to torment with memories I had thought long buried?”
“No. You’ve satisfied my curiosity.” Lotor told him, rising to stand. “I’ll have those reports ready for you.” Zarkon nodded, turning his attention back towards his computer. There was no reason to linger, Lotor looking him over one last time. Zarkon looked weary, as though the weight of what he had spoken of had aged him. Lotor suspected for all his stressing of not loving Adaline, the man had held deep affection for the woman that had been Lotor’s mother. It may have even been love, and Lotor wondered what his life would have been like if he had been raised by the two of them.
“Thank you father.” Lotor said, already turning to leave the room. “And I am sorry for your loss.” Zarkon just grunted in acknowledgment, the click clack of the keyboard chasing Lotor as he left the room.
The guards were still on edge when he passed them by, one openly peering into the darkened office to make sure the king was still alive. Lotor was amused at the implication, knowing how nervous the men were at the thought of their prince killing their king. But he said nothing, merely holding his head high as he walked down the corridor, looking at the row of portraits that hung there.
So many of his father, his stern gaze looking over this patch of hall that was devoted to the king’s exploits. Even one that showed the king posing with a young prince, Zarkon looking proud in the picture. But no painting of his mother, she was forgotten to time’s passing, a distant memory that only a few still held. Adaline would never take her place on this wall, but Lotor was determined to not allow Allura to become nothing more than a memory. His child, be it a son or a daughter would know everything about it’s mother, and he would have paintings taken of the girl, so that they need never wonder what she looked like, never wonder what resemblance did they bare to their mother.
It was a precaution in case Allura really did leave him, Lotor not wanting to have to live with memories alone of what she had looked like. Portraits would be small comfort to him, Lotor knowing nothing and no one could take Allura’s place by his side.