She all but lay on top of the scattered photos and notes, fat tears dripping down her cheeks to splash onto the papers beneath her. ~It just wasn’t fair!~ Allura thought, pounding a fist against the floor. She heard the paper rustle beneath her hand, crinkling in on itself from the vicious way she pounded her fist against it. Allura didn’t care, she was through with attempting to decipher the remaining symbols, through with trying to help Lotor win this war with Merla.
It left her feeling like such a fool, Allura feeling almost as though she had been tricked by Lotor. She knew on some level he hadn’t purposefully set out to hurt her, and yet here he was, once again in a position to do just that. An opportunity he took, ready to destroy her childhood home, the remainders of her happy memories to be scattered as stone was pounded into dust.
Allura knew the chances of her ever seeing her castle again were slim to none, and yet the thought of it being destroyed hurt all the same. So many memories were there, both good and bad, of her parents, of her friends, of time spent with Avok. Even the last time she had seen her father, struck down by the demon, his body growing cold and lifeless as she was dragged by Zarkon’s men onto his ship.
There was so much to regret, and right now Allura almost wished she had never told Lotor about the legend of Voltron. She couldn’t have bared the knowledge that Arus would have been destroyed, turned into a chemical testing ground for Doom, and yet the thought of her castle being torn apart by Drule hands was equally as painful. Even more so was the thought that it would be destroyed because of her, because of her foolish desire to want to help Lotor.
“If only I hadn’t volunteered the information to him.” She sobbed, voice distorted due to her upset. “I should have never told him I could read those symbols. Four lions would have been more than enough!” Allura words turned into a scream, her hands grabbing at photos, beginning to tear several of them up. She cried as she did it, forcing the thick paper of the photos to bend and tear, ignoring the cuts she got on her fingers as she ripped the photos into smaller and smaller pieces.
The confetti like remains of the photos were still in the air, fluttering where she had thrown them when she reached for another grouping of paper and photos. She was beginning to rip a tear down the middle of the new batch when the door to her room opened. For a second Allura was hopeful, thinking it was Lotor come back, the prince willing to work out some different way to find the final lion.
Her hopes were dashed when she turned red rimmed eyes towards the room’s threshold, seeing the brown cloaked figure of Haggar. The nursemaid was silent as she stared at Allura kneeling on the floor, her yellow eyes brimming with sympathy.
“Haggar…” Allura wanted nothing more than to go to the woman, to throw herself into her thin arms and be held. But she curbed that instinct, sniffling once or twice as she tried to force the tears to stop.
“Oh child…..you’re crying.” Haggar said, pointing out the obvious as she closed the door to the room. Allura nodded, watching as the woman walked towards her, glancing curiously down at the papers and mess on the floor. She didn’t ask the reasons behind Allura’s tears, and yet the girl found herself speaking, her worries spilling out of her in a jumbled mess.
“Lotor…..the castle….he….to find the lion he must….”
“Calm down and tell me what is going on.” Haggar was patient, coming to a stop at the edge of the remaining photos spread on the floor.
“I wanted to help.” Allura’s tone was pure misery, the girl staring sadly at the nursemaid. “The opportunity presented itself in the form of deciphering these symbols…” A gesture from her hand encompassed the remaining photos, Haggar kneeling to peer closer at them. “I thought I would do more good than harm in translating the meaning behind them…But now….now Lotor will have the final lion….at the cost of my home.”
“Your home?” Haggar questioned sharply, glancing up from the photos to look at Allura.
“Yes…the final lion….the message says it’s somewhere within the castle….within it’s stone walls.” She felt a wave of fresh tears forming in her eyes, Allura blinking rapidly in an effort to dispel them. “He’s going to tear apart the castle to find it.”
“I suppose he thinks it’s a necessary step to do…” Haggar was looking at the photos again, turning her head this way and that as she cast a critical eye on the symbols. “Especially if he wants to win the war with Merla…”
“Will he be successful?” Allura asked, surprised when Haggar snorted.
“On winning the war, or finding the final lion?” The nursemaid began touching the photos, gnarled fingers brushing aside the shredded remains to reveal the picture beneath them.
Her questions confused Allura, the girl staring at Haggar. “Are you saying even if he does this terrible thing, he may not even find the final lion?” Allura felt anxious, despairing at the thought that the castle would be destroyed and not give up the lion in the process.
“In the grand scheme of things, a little destruction is not such a terrible thing.” Haggar muttered, still concentrating on the photos beneath her fingers. “Oh, to you it is. Because you are attached to it. You grew up there, your memories and experiences surround the castle, infuse it with life. But to the starving peasants who yearn for the war to be over with, a little property damage is nothing if it means finding the lion.”
“Still…” Haggar continued in the face of Allura’s silence. “It’s a shame….he’s not thinking things through. He’s just blundering forward in his usual manner….it doesn’t bode well for his chances with you, does it?” A coy glance in Allura’s direction, the girl nodding as she let her body sag in place so that she could lean her back against the wall.
“Upsetting you like this…” Hagger murmured, and now she was picking up photos, looking at them, then casting some aside only to place others next to each other on the floor. “How does he ever expect to win you if he keeps doing stupid things like this…?” A heavy sigh from the nursemaid, the woman shaking her head no.
“He’s trying hard….” Allura began, only to be cut off by a sharp protest by Haggar.
“He doesn’t try hard enough!” Her hands were busy all this time, seeming to play with the photos at random. “He hurts you, and if he’s not hurting you with his actions, then he hurts you with his words. I suppose we have to cut him some leeway since he’s never been in a relationship but…” She was frowning now, Allura glancing down to see what exactly Haggar was doing with the photos.
“But what?” She asked, watching as another photo was shoved out of the way for a new picture to be it’s replacement.
“We can only excuse him one too many times.” Haggar muttered, hovering her hand over the photos. Allura watched as her finger tapped one in particular, Haggar carefully picking it up, only to place it down at the end of the row she had created.
“Just what are you doing?” Allura demanded, staring quizzically at the line of rearranged symbols.
“Don’t you know?” Haggar asked, sounding disappointed. “Can’t you see?”
“See what?” Allura asked, looking away from the photos. “It’s just symbols you rearranged. They’re not even in the proper order they were found in the lair.”
“Ah, but don’t you see the pattern they form?” Haggar wanted to know, waving a hand excitedly over the photos. “Look at it with fresh eyes. See the new message they spell out to you.”
“Message?” Allura repeated, looking at the photos once more.
“As my apprentice, you have to learn to not trust what you first see.” Haggar told her, tone chiding. “The lion’s lairs all hold messages, but more than just one. See the truth as I have revealed it to you…”
“The truth revealed…” Haggar was reaching for her notepad, flipping past the pages of writing to find a fresh sheet of paper. Allura continued to stare at the symbols in the rearranged photos, hearing Haggar whisper to her.
“You’ve already deciphered these symbols….now string them together to read the message…”
Almost of it’s own accord, Allura’s hand began to move, gripping hold of the pen and note pad. She stared at the rearranged symbols, writing down their meanings in the order laid out by Haggar’s hands. The nursemaid was quiet, waiting patiently for Allura to finish, the room silent save for the scritch scratch of the pen moving. When at last her hand stilled, the pen dropped free of her fingers, Allura staring dully at the floor.
She felt as though she had been in a trance, and now that she was free of the symbol’s power, she was scared to look and see what she had written. Hagagr made an impatient gesture with her hand, the woman eager to hear the message.
“I can’t do it.” Allura said, closing her eyes. “I can’t get my hopes up again.” She held out her hands to the nursemaid, begging the woman to take the note pad from her.
“No, Allura…” Haggar said, and she snapped open her eyes. “You have to see for yourself…” She gently pushed the pad back towards Allura, and slowly the girl lowered her eyes to read what she had written.
“It’s..it’s directions…” Wonder was in her voice, looking over the word printed in her neat handwriting. “I…I know this place….know this room…..but it’s always been a dead end…” But she continued to read, seeing it detail out the exact chipped stone to push. “There’s a hidden room behind this wall…” She locked eyes with Haggar, seeing the Drule smile, her look pure satisfaction.
“How did you know?” Allura demanded, and Haggar put on a mask of confusion.
“That the symbols needed to be rearranged! That there was another message there!” Allura exclaimed, gesturing with the note pad. “It can’t have been pure coincidence that you knew the order to put the photos in.”
“Well, dear…I suppose the wind told me what I needed to know.” Haggar smiled again, clearly thinking her answer was enough. It left Allura staring at her, mouth open in a round o of shock. “Come…there’s not time to waste.” Haggar was using her cane to pull herself up from her kneeling position, brown robes settling around her with a rustle of fabric.
Allura continued to stare, barely remembering to blink when Haggar frowned at her. “You do want to reach Lotor in time to stop him from ordering your castle to be destroyed don’t you?!”
“Oh yes!” Allura exclaimed, springing into action. She stood far easier than Haggar had, clutching her note pad to her chest. “Do you think we’ll get there in time?”
“One can never be certain about these things…” Haggar said, opening the door to the room. “I’m sure Lotor went straight away to telling those generals of his to begin work on the castle….but it takes time to wear down stone….” They stepped out into the hall, Haggar waving the approaching guard away with her cane. “Your child will get a chance to see where it comes from.”
“My baby…” Allura was hurrying after Haggar, a hand on her belly. “Will my baby really get to see the castle one day?”
“Of course. It’s it’s birthright….as much as Voltron is…” Haggar replied. “The lions may be changing owners, but one day they will belong to the children you and Lotor have together…”
“Children?” Allura asked sharply, but the Drule refused to take the bait. It left her troubled, Allura wondering if the woman saw more than one child in the future for her and Lotor. She wondered if that would have an effect on her decision to stay, if she knew there was more children that could possible be conceived between them. She thought it might be nice for her baby to have siblings, even as she shuddered to think of the demon pitting the children against one another.
They were hurrying through the halls, Haggar amazingly spry for a woman of her considerable age. They passed by startled guards and servants, and at one point Cossack joined them, the commander clearly upset to see Allura out on the floor without a suitable guard accompanying her.
“What’s going on?” he demanded, easily keeping up with the two females. “Did something happen?”
“No time! No time!” Haggar retorted, making a sharp turn around the corridor’s bend. “We have to get to Lotor!”
“Lotor?” repeated Cossack, frowning. “He’s in his office. He really can’t be disturb.” Allura saw him glance back at her, looking uncomfortable. “He’s taking care of business…”
“With Arus, we know!” Haggar interrupted. “But what we have to say will change everything!”
“Somehow I doubt it.” Muttered Cossack.
“Doubt all you like!” snapped Haggar, at last reaching Lotor’s office. “But make you sure you stay to bear witness to how quickly things can change.” She began rapping on the office door with her cane, gnarled knob banging against the thick pane of glass.
“Careful!” Cossack hissed, his warning only making the nursemaid pound harder on the door. A few seconds passed, and then it was flung open, Lotor appearing, his expression looking frazzled to see her. His words started out a growl, then died down to surprise when he noticed Allura behind Haggar and Cossack.
“Allura, what are you doing here?”
“She has a message for you.” Haggar sniffed, pushing past him to enter the room. Cossack gave Lotor an apologetic look, but followed the woman inside the office. Lotor sighed, then looked at Allura, who clutched her note pad tighter to her chest.
“What do you have to tell me?” His tone was soft, his eyes on hers as he waited for her to speak.
“I…I finished deciphering the message in the lion’s lair.” Allura said, seeing the quizzical look that appeared in the prince’s eyes. “There was more to it than what we knew. Haggar helped me to see….”
“To see what?” Lotor asked softly.
“The symbols…if you rearranged them in the right pattern….they form a new message. One that lists directions to where the lion sleeps.” Allura explained, and showed him her note book. “I know you can’t read this right now….we need to have someone translate the words into Drule, but these are the coordinates to the hidden room that will lead to the lions’ lair. You see Lotor?” She looked at him hopefully. “You don’t have to destroy the castle. So please…” She was fighting not to tear up, pinning all her hopes on his response. “Call back your men on Arus….tell them what is needed to be done.”
“All right Allura.” She couldn’t help gasping in pleasure at his agreement. “Come inside.” She nodded, following Lotor into the room. She could see his view screen was on, showing the inside of a ship where two Drules dressed in distinguished looking uniforms were waiting impatiently for their prince. “It’s really quite a fortunate turn of events.” Lotor said to her.
“We hadn’t started any processes yet.” His tone was amused, Lotor chuckling. “It seems some of the homeless of Arus have taken to using the castle as a shelter from the seasons. We were about to begin evicting them when you arrived with your news.” He approached the view screen, the two Drules immediately standing to attention. “Gentleman. Good news.”
“Yes, Prince Lotor?” One asked, and Lotor smiled.
“It appears we won’t have to tear down the castle walls after all. I have in my hands…” He held out his hand for Allura’s note book. “The exact coordinates that lead to the final lion.”
“I’ll be faxing over the results, just as soon as I’ve run the coordinations through a translation program. But that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.” Continued Lotor, turning from the view screen to walk over to the computer on his desk. “In the meantime, please continue to cast out the rabble found inside the castle’s halls.”
“Do you have to chase them out?” Allura’s question had Lotor glancing at her, the prince frowning. “If they have no home, it would be cruel to make them leave.”
“It’ll only be temporary.” Lotor assured her. “Just while we search for the final lion.”
“All right.” She agreed, mollified by his words. She came closer to his desk, watching as Lotor began scanning the top page of her note pad into his computer. The machine began making all kinds of noises, beeps and whirrs as it set to work. Lotor himself sat down before it, fingers flying over the key pad as he began inputting commands.
“I’m having it pull up the Arusian Drule translation program.” He explained to Allura, and she nodded. In the background she could hear Haggar and Cossack speaking, their voices low as they argued. She glanced at them, but they barely paid attention to her, to caught up in their own conversation.
“I can’t believe it. If you knew there was a trick to finding the lions, why didn’t you come tell us sooner?!” The commander demanded. “It would have saved us a lot of effort and heart break in the long run!”
“You didn’t ask!” Haggar retorted, smacking Cossack across the hip with her cane.
“Hey!” Cossack made a protesting sound, moving out of range of the nursemaid’s cane.
“Cossack asks a good question Haggar.” Lotor said, showing he had been paying attention to their conversation. “Why didn’t you offer your help sooner?”
“I didn’t know.” Haggar retorted, looking at Lotor. “Not until just now….when it came to me in a vision. You should know by now, visions are the hardest type of magic to control. You don’t ask them answers, you wait for them to leak you secrets, one drop at a time. All the while praying it will be enough to help you with whatever task you seek to accomplish.”
“Hmph.” Lotor made a sound, hitting one last key stroke with a flourish. Lights flickered across the screen, Allura hurrying around the desk to peer at the monitor. She was just in time to see the Arusian words change, forming the letters of the Drule language. “Now all that’s left to do is forward this to the Carnage…” Lotor muttered, and his fingers flew across the key pad, opening up a new program where he began typing in the address for the ship. “We’ll be able to watch first hand as the search party moves through out the castle.”
“That’s wonderful.” Allura said, clasping her hands together in excitement. She was looking forward to seeing her beloved home once more, even if it was from a distance.
“General Labreaza…” Lotor looked up from the computer, to stare across to the view screen. “How soon can you put a search party together?”
“We should have one ready within the hour.” The General answered.
“Excellent.” Lotor nodded, and pressed a button that cut the communication off. “We’ve got an hour before they’re even ready to broach the inside of the castle. What say we get you something to eat?” He was looking at Allura, the girl realizing that with her renewed hopes her appetite had returned.
“All right.” She agreed, knowing it would make everyone present happy that she was eating.
“Cossack, can you go get her something from the kitchen?” The commander was already standing, nodding to his prince.
“No problem your highness. I’ll be right back!” He hurried towards the room’s exit, Lotor glancing at Haggar. The nursemaid appeared comfortable in her seat, content to remain there no matter what.
“Haggar….don’t you have something to do?” Lotor demanded, and at her shaking her head no, he frowned. “Do you need me to find you something to do?” Haggar fixed him with a withering stare, causing Lotor to sigh loudly.
“Don’t worry your highness….you’ll get your alone time with Allura soon enough.” Haggar tittered softly. “But for now I think it best if you leave things be, lest you end up sticking your foot in your mouth again.” Lotor grumbled at that, the sound making Allura hide a smile. As happy as she was to know her castle wouldn’t be destroyed, she wasn’t sure she was up to being alone with Lotor. She still felt so conflicted on what had just happened, leaving her to wonder if she still harbored feelings of anger towards him. Allura knew it would be better if some time passed, allowing her to gather her thoughts together before she spoke with Lotor.