Not that there was many, the Drule seemed tireless, never needing to pause for breath as he spoke. Instead she looked around his home, interest in her eyes as she looked at the tastefully decorated rooms. The colors of the walls were subdued, dark tones that would not detract from the paintings and sculptures that pressed against them. And there were many, Petrack appearing to be a collector of the arts.
It was more than just Drule works that decorated his mansion, she spied things made by human hands, the noble having an eye for the best regardless of planet or race. It left her wondering if he had anything from Arus, although Allura wasn’t sure she wanted a reminder of home at the moment.
It was the sudden quiet that alerted Allura to the fact something was wrong, Petrack’s voice dying down in a gasp that had her tearing her eyes away from a cherub statue. She looked in his direction, and saw the group of people standing there, angry sneers on their faces as they stared down at Allura and her companions. For one brief instant no one said anything, and then Petrack was speaking, snobbishly ordering the group to move.
They refused, shaking their heads and raising their voices, anger at the heart of their emotions. She couldn’t understand everything that was being said, Allura only picking up a few words here and there amidst the jumble of speaking voices. What she heard chilled her to the bone, Allura realizing they were angry at her. Immediately the guards went to stand before her, trying to hide her from sight, even as they urged her to run back the way they had come.
Nodding, Allura turned and got but a few feet away when another group of Drules stepped out into her path. She didn’t even have time to react before one man was before her, face twisted into ugliness as he raised his hand, brutally back handing her across the face. Her scream had the guards leaping to her defense, one knocking the man to the floor, the other grabbing her by the arm and dragging her into the adjacent room.
It was a dead end, her guards swearing as the crowd of Drules followed them into the room. It left Allura and companions pressed up against the furthest wall, both guards crowding her behind their backs, blocking her view of what was going on. But she could still hear, practically tasting the animosity that was in the air. Petrack tried to calm them, first speaking politely, than growing angry, demanding the rabble leave his home. It made no difference, they ignored him, pressing closer to her guards.
She wasn’t sure how it happened, it was some time after her second scream that he arrived. A savior descending from the clouds, bringing help in the form of more guards. Lotor’s voice was powerful enough to quiet the crowd, the prince having his men push through to clear a path to her. A grizzled old woman steeled her nerves, boldly speaking back to the prince. Her voice was enough to get others to react, Lotor doing his best to calm them as he strode towards Allura.
Allura didn’t quite breath a sigh of relief as she took his hand, going with him eagerly as he led her past the angry crowd of people. They were almost to the room’s doorway when it happened, a man letting out a vicious accusation. She was already turning at the sound of the man’s curse, eyes widening as she saw the orange object sail through the air.
It smashed into the prince’s back, and all seemed to hold their breath, shocked at what had happened. All save for Lotor, who abruptly let go of her hand, and stalked out past the guards into the crowd. Allura tried to tell him no, but he was already drawing his sword, zeroing in on the man. It was then that all the color bled out of the room, leaving their surroundings in stark black and white.
She heard the sound of the sword stabbing into the man’s body, the echo of it repeated again and again in her ears. She winced, and then it was repeated, the scene playing out from another angle. Each time the man’s face twisted in pain, eyes so wide they looked as though they would fall out of their sockets. A flash, and then she saw the scene play out in an extreme close up, Allura crying out as the sword went into the body.
When at last Lotor pulled out the sword, a shower of blood accompanied it’s removal. The blood itself was a bright red, shocking to see amidst the black and white of her dream. She was deafened to everything but the sounds of her own breathing, watching with horror as Lotor turned on the crowd, smirking as he began killing anyone who crossed his path.
The people didn’t even try to run, they just stood there, accepting their fates. Allura went to cover her eyes with her hands, wanting to block out the sight of Lotor killing, and felt warm liquid touch her face. She pulled back her hands and saw the blood that coated her skin, oozing down her palms and onto her wrists. It was then that she began screaming for real, loud, hysterical cries that had her shaking.
She realized she was shaking for real, hands on her arms trying to jerk her out of her dream. Her eyes snapped open, and Allura saw Lotor above her, his face concerned, his mouth open to call out her name. For a second disorientation was with her, Allura shrieking louder at the sight of Lotor, trying to shove him away from her.
“Allura! It’s okay! You’re having a nightmare!”
She screamed one last time, then collapsed against the pillow cushions, completely drained of her energy. Panting, she stared up at Lotor, trying not to flinch back when he touched her face. He busied himself with smoothing back her hair, making soothing sounds that held no meaning as he tried to comfort her. She tried to let him ease her worries, though her heart beat wildly and she could still hear the sound of the sword connecting with that man’s body.
“You want to talk about it?” Lotor asked, and Allura quickly shook her head no. “It might help….”
“No….no…” Allura repeated, glancing down at her hands. She swore she could feel the blood on them, though they looked clean. “I…I need to use the bathroom!” He frowned, but moved off her, allowing Allura to scamper up into a sitting position. She spotted the guards in the room, most of them studiously ignoring the scene on the couch. Others were watching the view screen, studying the battle that still waged on over Doom.
Allura stood without assistance, though Lotor looked ready to pick her up and carry her to the bathroom at the slightest sign of weakness. She couldn’t even manage a smile for him, hurrying over to the bathroom’s door. Once closed, she leaned against it, letting out a shaky sounding sigh as she stared at her hands again. She knew what the dream symbolized, knew that the blood on her hands was her guilt over the man’s death. The others that had died surely represented the innocents that had been killed in this war, their blood a stain on her hands she’d never be able to wash away.
But she tried, hurrying to the sink, turning the water on full blast as she began soaping up her hands. She scrubbed and scrubbed at her skin, till her hands felt raw and hurt from the experience. And only then did the feel of warm blood on her skin fade away.
Shaken, she sat down on the floor, huddling her legs close to her chest. Allura realized she was even more affected by Lotor’s killing of the man than she had thought, biting her lip to keep from crying. As horrible as it had been to see him kill a monster with his bare hands, it was even worse to see him murder a person. It reminded her of just who he was, the dark prince who was capable of anything. And that scared her.
She stayed on the floor, fighting back tears, knowing Lotor would be in the room in an instant if he heard her sobbing. She placed a hand on her belly, feeling for the life that was forming inside her, and worrying for the future. Lotor was ruthless, she had known that, but somehow had pushed it aside to the point of forgetting. Would he ever really let her go? Allura didn’t know, and it upset her that the choice he gave her might just be a deception on his part.
Minutes went by, and then a knock on the door sounded, Allura sighing. It seemed her moment of privacy was at an end, Lotor coming to check on her. “Yes?” She called out, staring dully at her knees.
“Can I come in dearie?” An unexpected but familiar voice asked. Allura lifted her head, surprise in her eyes. That was Haggar’s voice on the other side of the door! Surprise was quickly replaced by pleasure, Allura almost smiling as she called out an answer.
“Yes, Haggar, you may.”
The door opened, and revealed the brown clad nursemaid, her blue cat Coba bounding into the room. He gave a cursory glance at his surroundings, then went right towards Allura, crawling onto her lap. At her finger’s touch on his head, Coba began purring, the sound calming Allura greatly.
Haggar closed the door behind her, and gazed down at Allura, her yellow eyes taking in the sight of the girl on the floor. “Lotor tells me you had a nightmare.”
“I….” Allura shook her head, knowing her eyes were troubled. “It’s nothing.”
“Don’t tell me it’s nothing.” Haggar retorted, walking over to perch on the toilet seat. “Anyone who looks at you can see you’re shaken to the core by it.” Allura said nothing to that, leaving Haggar to press on with her inquiries. “Why don’t you tell me about it? It might help.”
“I already know what it means…” Allura whispered, and Haggar cocked an eyebrow at her.
“That all these deaths, both in the war, and the people Lotor kills personally…..it’s all on me. It’s all my fault.” She said, gazing down at the blue fur of Coba’s back.
“I had heard you witnessed the prince killing someone. I’m sure that was unpleasant for you, seeing that side of him…” A tsking sound accompanied her words, Haggar shaking her head. “I bet right now you’re thinking an anonymous life in a mansion somewhere far away from this world would be the ideal life for you.” Allura kept her mouth closed, not wanting to agree or disagree with that statement.
“It’s all right Allura. It’s just us girls now. You can tell me if your heart is leaning closer to leaving our cruel prince than staying with him.”
“It’s just so hard…” Allura told her, voice soft and low. “He does things that almost make me forget who he really is, and what he has done. I start to feel comfortable around him, start to….to like him more and more. And then…”
“And then he does something stupid and violent.” Haggar sighed. “Although he’s right about one thing.”
“What?” asked Allura, looking at the nursemaid curiously.
“That man had to die.” Allura frowned at that, the nursemaid hurrying to explain. “We can’t give the people the idea that they can attack their prince with impunity. It would lead to chaos, the people would soon lose all respect for authority and riot. Then there’d be a lot more killings and crime as the populace ran wild, unafraid of reprimand.” Haggar sighed. “It’s a shame he had to do that in front of you, but he had to act then and there. Make an example out of that man in front of the others.”
“I guess…” Allura said uncertainly.
“I know so.” Haggar didn’t quite laugh, an odd hissing sound escaping her. “The king would have done worse. He’d be liable to kill everyone in the room save for one. That one would be left alive as witness to what happens when one displeases the king.”
“He truly is a demon.” Shuddered Allura, her hands going still on Coba’s back.
“Not many would disagree with you on that.” Haggar agreed.
She didn’t really want to talk about Zarkon, Allura casting about for some other topic to discuss. “How was the ride over here?”
“A bit too bumpy for my taste, but we made it in one piece.” Haggar grumbled.
“We?” Allura asked, even as Coba let out a disapproving meow, annoyed that she had stopped petting him. “Did Cossack come with you?”
“Oh no. He’s still at the castle. Though he wanted to come.” Haggar said. “But as Lotor’s right hand man, he had to remain behind to monitor the battle.”
“We’re not doing too well in it are we?”
“Don’t count us out just yet.” Haggar advised her. “It’s still early….Doom will put up a good fight…”
“But will it be enough?” Allura wondered out loud.
Haggar shrugged her shoulders. “The winds are silent on this matter. The future is too unstable, anything could happen.”
“What does the winds say about my remaining on Doom?” A curious Allura asked.
Haggar’s lips twisted upwards, a crooked smile that flashed her fangs. “You can’t let the winds choose for you. It’s a decision you will have to make on your own.” It left Allura wondering if her future was just as unstable as the outcome of this war, the girl sighing to herself.
“Now…..are you ready to face Lotor?” The nursemaid asked. Allura nodded, watching as Haggar rose to stand. Coba immediately leaped off her lap, padding towards the bathroom door. He stood in front of it, tail twitching as though the cat was impatient for it to open. Allura also stood, and followed Haggar out of the room, spotting Lotor standing across the room.
He was once again focusing on the screen, barking out orders to his subordinates. Allura studied his face, noticing the tired look in his eyes. She wondered if he had had any sleep, or if he had stayed up all night watching the battle. A cough from Haggar drew Allura’s attention away from the prince, the girl glancing at the nursemaid. “He won’t have much time to rest in the following days. It’s the prince’s duty to monitor the battle closely, although I’m sure King Zarkon will also be keeping an eye on the proceedings as well.”
“No doubt ready to blame Lotor for anything that goes wrong.” Murmured Allura as Haggar nodded.
“It’s tough, the duties of a Doom prince. You’ll be his comfort, his solace when he has a moment to relax. Do try to be patient with him.”
“I’ll try…” Allura agreed, wondering what was next in store for them. She nearly jumped out of her skin when Lotor bellowed loudly, the word foreign but no doubt a vicious Drule curse from the way the prince slammed the remote onto the floor. Haggar didn’t quite chuckle, moving from Allura’s side to approach the prince.
“You must remain calm sire.” Haggar advised, and Lotor turned to glare at her.
“Calm? How can I when I am surrounded by incompetents!”
“It’s not their fault they are outnumbered.” The nursemaid was trying for a soothing lilt to her voice, calm in the face of Lotor’s anger. “If it wasn’t for that secret weapon of Merlas, Doom wouldn’t be having such a hard time at it.” Lotor continued to glower at her, Haggar smiling. “We have a secret weapon of our own…”
“The lions?” Lotor asked, eyebrows drawing together. “They’re not ready yet. Not all have been found, and the pilots have yet to master their controls.”
“I think you need to bring what ones you have found to Doom as soon as the pilots become proficient at flying them. Even a few may make the difference in holding back the queen’s forces.” Haggar said.
“All right…” agreed Lotor. “I’ll push to have the pilots train night and day in preparation for a return to Doom. We’ll see how well these lions do against Merla and her ultimate weapon.”
Haggar nodded in approval. “It will surely be an interesting show.”
“I’m not interested in shows, I want results!” retorted Lotor, glancing back at the view screen.
“And you’ll have them soon.” Haggar said reassuringly. “But first, let us return to the castle before the bombings begin again.”
“Bombings?” Lotor asked warily. “Are you sensing another air raid?”
“I cannot be certain.” Haggar answered, already moving to walk past Lotor. “I just know I would feel a lot better at the castle among my potions than trapped in this dusty mansion for days on end.” She gestured at Allura, the girl moving towards the nursemaid. “We’ll be waiting by the cruiser. Do try to hurry Lotor.”
Allura glanced at Lotor, seeing him frowning at Haggar’s words. He looked at Allura, and though his expression softened, he did not smile. “Go on.” He said. “I’ll be out in a moment.”
“All right.” Allura agreed, and hurried after Haggar. She heard Lotor start to speak, the prince giving out commands to his men. They moved into action, hurrying to follow Allura and Haggar out of the room. Lotor continued to give out orders, Allura realizing he was speaking to his generals via the view screen, wanting to give one last command before he went out of communication range.
“What is it like at the castle?” Allura asked Haggar as they moved through the hallways of the mansion.
“Oh, not much has changed….yet.” Haggar cackled. “It’s only been a day since the war started, so life goes on as usual. King Zakron is as surly as ever, and though he grumbles a lot, he appears unworried. It helps that we have witches able to maintain the shielding. I suspect it’s a lot worse in most of the cities.”
“Do you know what is causing the jamming?” Allura asked, seeing Haggar shake her head no.
“It’s surely a tactic to drain our witches of their magic.” Haggar sighed. “It may work too if this battle goes on too long.”
“Even with the witches working in shifts?”
“It takes a lot of magic to work the shield generators. They can’t keep this up indefinitely…” Haggar sounded sad at that. “We have to end this siege, and soon…Not just for our witches’ sake. Doom has little resources of it’s own, we must import much of what we eat and drink. And with Merla’s armada in the way, we won’t be able to get our life necessities in.”
“How horrible.” Allura was chilled at the thought, thinking on how the people of Doom might go hungry during this war.
“It’ll be worse for the people in the cities.” Haggar said, reaching the doors that led outside the mansion. “The castle is well stocked for emergencies, and when that stock runs out, the cities will be hit for their resources.”
“That’s cruel!” exclaimed Allura.
“That’s life on Doom.” Retorted Haggar, walking towards the cruiser that was parked in front of the mansion’s ruined gate. Allura could see a woman leaning against the side, cloaked in a black robe that had red trim to it’s bottom and sleeves. She wasn’t as aged as Haggar, though her face bore some lines to it. Allura realized this woman must be one of the witches that they would use to protect them on their journey back to the castle. “Allura, this is Subesta.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Allura said to the witch, offering her a small curtsey.
Subesta nodded, looking impatient as she spoke. “Where is the prince? I thought he would be eager to return to the castle?” Her voice was heavily accented, making it difficult for Allura to understand her every word.
“He’s on his way. He’s merely giving out a few last orders.” Haggar explained.
“I don’t know why he bothers.” Grumbled Subesta. “It’s not as though it will make a differance.”
“Subesta!” Haggar said sharply, glaring at the witch. “You know better than to cast doubt on the outcome of this war. Nothing is set in stone, NOTHING.” The witch looked cowed at Haggar’s words, lowering her head meekly. Allura wondered at the exchange, but before she could question it, Lotor was hurrying out of the mansion.
“About time.” Grumbled Subesta under her breath, avoiding Haggar’s eyes. She bowed to the prince, who nodded and gestured for Allura to climb inside the cruiser. She did as he asked, finding him sliding in next to her. Haggar with Coba came next, and then the witch Subesta. The guards boarded the hover bikes, which had been brought along with the cruiser, the men having to stick by close to be covered by the witch’s protective magic.
Subesta began chanting, words foreign and guttural to Allura. She saw the witch’s eyes turn milky white, the woman seeming to vibrate with power. That power extended past the woman’s frail form and onto the cruiser itself. It crackled and raised the hair on Allura’s arms, Haggar patting her knee in assurance.
“You can feel it, can’t you?” The nursemaid asked, and Allura nodded. “That’s good. You’re strong if you can sense the spell at work.”
“Can you teach it to me?” Allura asked, and Lotor made a protesting sound. She glanced at him, seeing him shaking his head no as he frowned. “Why not?”
It was Haggar who answered, sighing as she did so. “It’s not good to toy with such a powerful spell when you are with child. It would place an unneeded burden on you both.”
“Oh.” Allura was disappointed, and it showed.
“Cheer up Allura.” Haggar said, once again giving her that crooked smile. “I’ll teach you something good in it’s place.” She glanced past Allura to Lotor, noting the scowl on the prince’s face. “It’s best you get some rest your highness. Do try to sleep during the ride back to the castle.”
“Yes, please try!” Added Allura, concern in her tone. “You need your rest.”
“I will.” Grumbled Lotor, leaning back against the cushioned seat of the cruiser. “Provided Haggar doesn’t start filling your head with one too many spells!”
“I won’t.” Snapped Haggar, rolling her eyes in annoyance. “Besides, it’s not good to practice magic when such a powerful spell is being performed. It might distract Subesta from her casting, and that would be disastrous.” She actually shuddered at that, Allura going wide eyed to see her nursemaid’s discomfort.
“What could happen?” She asked curiously.
“Magic unleashed and wild is a dangerous thing. it could turn against the castor, or us.” Haggar explained, and Lotor snorted.
“Just one of the many reasons I don’t like magic being cast near me.”
“We all have to make sacrifices during this war.” Haggar retorted. “Not even royalty is free from that burden.” Lotor didn’t respond, merely closing his eyes as he tried to relax to go to sleep. Allura leaned back against her seat, but she didn’t try to sleep, frightened she would have another nightmare if she closed her eyes. Instead she focused her attention on the cruiser’s side window, staring out at the city streets they were passing by. She knew without a doubt it would be a long time if ever before she got to see the city again.