He had been right about the headache, his agitation and stress over the current situation and his father’s antics doing much to bring about the throbbing pain in his temples. Aspirin did little to quell the pounding in his head, Lotor’s mood growing fouler as he stalked through the castle halls. The servants smartly avoided stepping into his path, taking one look at his face and hurrying off in the opposite direction.
They were quick, but he still heard the whispers, his sharp ears picking up muted words about the king’s actions, and the prince’s attempts to keep a tense situation from spiraling out of control. Try as Lotor might to stop the rumors that were circulating throughout the castle, word had spread about Zarkon’s desire to toss aside the city and it’s people. There was many who spent a good portion of their lives inside the castle, but still had family, friends, and homes in the cities closest to the palace. Lotor could hear them wondering if any other cities would be sacrificed, uneasy at the thought of being homeless and their loved ones dying.
It left Lotor uneasy, the prince having Cossack gathering up his most trusted men to patrol the castle corridors. They would work to keep the peace, quell any mutiny before it started. They were being especially vigilant towards any rumblings towards the castle denizens turning against the royal family, although Lotor would not mind if his father was hurt if things took a turn for the worse.
Although with Zarkon’s luck, the king’s witch Cortana would use her magic to protect him from any servant turned assassin. Lotor held back his sigh, knowing Cortana was one of the few witches in the castle that wasn’t working on the shield. She was off doing the Gods only knew what, Zarkon as secretive as the witch when it came to her assigned tasks.
Lotor wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t preparing for the lions’ arrival, Cortana having proven in the past just how eager she was to study them. He was leery at the very thought, worrying over her delving too deeply into the lions’ secrets. He wished he could consult with Haggar, but that particular witch had not escaped her duties to the castle, working on enlarging robeasts for the battle.
It was now hours since the first of the robeasts had been dropped on the city, his father choosing to let it be destroyed rather than see it fall to Merla’s forces. Better to see it crumble to dust beneath the robeasts’ feet than allow the Amazonian army to secure it as a base of operations. Even as Lotor walked through the castle halls, he knew the robeasts were in the midst of rampaging, the berserk frame of mind the most noticeable side effect of the magic used to enlarge them to gargantuan size.
Airlifted to the city, and dropped down into the heart of it, the beasts would be disoriented. Full of rage, they would attack anything and everyone, knocking over buildings and trampling over people. By the time the beserker frenzy wore off and they wandered away from the battle, new ones would be dropped onto the field. The robeasts themselves were equipped with collars, a high energy volt coursing through them, ready to zap the monsters should they try to turn back and approach the castle. The level of energy would increase in intensity, and if the robeast persisted in it’s advancement, the zaps would grow powerful enough to eventually kill them.
It was weird to Lotor to think of giant sized robeasts wandering his planet, even for the short time their lives would allow them to. He knew the other side effect of the magic was to noticeably shorten their lives, the beasts sometimes dying within hours of deployment. Containing them wouldn’t be a problem, though disposing of their bodies would take time and money. Lotor could already imagine the robeasts bodies laying on the surface, decaying waste that stunk up the surroundings.
With his nose wrinkled in distaste, Lotor turned the corner, arriving in the corridor which housed his and Allura’s apartments. The guards here had been replaced with men chosen by Cossack, neither the commander nor Lotor wanted to risk some overly ambitious servant deciding to kidnap Allura in a mad attempt to hand her over to Queen Merla.
Lotor shuddered at that thought, knowing the Queen would not be satisfied with just Allura’s death. At this point, with her attacks on Zarkon and the planet itself, he had little reason to doubt she wanted to take control of the Doom Empire. The Queen surely had lofty ambitions that extended beyond mere revenge for her son, and Lotor would be damned if he’d let her get away with it.
He realized he was growling, a soft sound of discontent that took Lotor several moments before he could compose himself. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to see Allura in a fit of agitation, Lotor steeling himself to be calm as he paused outside her door. The room itself was silent, the walls sound proof, and hiding it’s secrets well. He went to knock on the door, already keying it open with his other hand. He stepped inside, and drew up short, spotting Allura sitting on the couch.
But she wasn’t alone, several women surrounded her, and all five turned to stare at his arrival. Except for Allura, none of them looked particularly glad to see him, their eyes wary, their body language growing stiff with tension. Allura made a happy sound, and pushed up from her seat, navigating around the twins sitting on the floor to approach Lotor.
The remaining four women seemed to at last remember just who they were dealing with, each one leaving their seat to perform an act of subservience. He gave an impatient wave, gesturing for them to cease their kneeling, but his attention was all for Allura.
“You’re back sooner than I expected.” She said, and drew up short before him. He felt disappointed, Lotor almost ready to swear she had been about to throw her arms around him. Instead Allura clasped her hands together behind her back, as though trying to force herself to resist the urge to touch him. He wondered if she was making the effort because of the Arusian slaves gathered here in the room.
“It seems I’ve been demoted.” Lotor let out a humorless chuckle, seeing Allura’s quizzical look at his words. “My father…He’s decided to take over the war effort as of today.”
“Oh.” Her eyes widened, Allura surprised to hear that. “Is that normal for him?”
“He hasn’t led a war himself in years.” Lotor sighed, wondering how much of the conversation the slaves from Arus could understand. He supposed it didn’t matter, not expecting harem slaves to be able to do much about the situation. Not when they were so isolated in the harem room itself, kept far away from other slaves and servants. “And he’s never had to fight a war on his own planet.”
“Is it difficult to wage war on your home territory?” Allura asked, and he shrugged.
“It is if you want to keep your own people from turning against you!” Lotor strode past her towards the table in the corner, reaching for the pitcher and a glass. He poured the liquid, noting it was amber in color, some kind of fruit cider. It would quench his thirst better than the wine he was craving, the prince knowing he needed to keep a clear head during this time of crisis.
Allura had turned to track his movements, staring across the room at him with her blue eyes wide with surprise. Before she could ask him what he meant by that, he was speaking, Lotor scowling down at his drink. “He’s making foolish moves, agitating the people in the castle with his uncaring attitude towards the lives that are about to be lost in this war.”
“What do you mean?” Her soft question had him looking up at her, his eyes troubled. “Lotor…tell me, what has he done?”
“He hasn’t done it…not yet. Only because I managed to talk him out of it.” Lotor sighed, taking another drink of his cider. “Merla’s forces couldn’t land closer to the castle. There’s a city between us and them.” He saw Allura pale at that, the girl surely understanding the meaning behind his words. The four Arusian slaves also seemed to realize what this meant, one making an excited sound before the others shushed her.
“The city will be caught in the war zone…” Allura whispered, and he nodded.
“It gets worse…we were in the midst of evacuating the cities’ people when my father arrived to make his announcement.” Lotor grimaced, slamming his glass down on the table. The cider sloshed about from his actions, Lotor fighting back the growl that wanted to come out. “He didn’t want to wait for the people to get to safety.”
“No…” The girls from Arus echoed Allura’s upset, one rising to stand as Allura brought her hand to her mouth. “He didn’t…” She wasn’t waiting for Lotor to finish, covering her face with her hands, her shoulders shaking with her upset. The slave was in the midst of approaching Allura, when Lotor brushed past her, choosing to comfort Allura before the Arusian could.
“No, Allura, I stopped him.” He was easing her hands down, seeing the relief in her sparkling blue eyes. “Just barely though. I practically had to beg to get him to agree.”
“The people…they’re safe now?” Allura asked, and Lotor nodded.
“As safe as they can be, considering the planet itself is now a war zone.” He hesitated, debating whether to tell her the rest. It was the remembrance of how unsure she had been about the need for Zarkon to die, that moved Lotor’s tongue. “They won’t have homes to return to. All they worked for will be lost…”
“But if they live….they can rebuild…” Allura told him, frowning when he snorted.
“There won’t be much left to build upon. We’ve unleashed the robeasts. They’re destroying the city as we speak.”
“Destroying it?! Why?” She demanded, looking away from him as one of the twins said something in Arusian.
“They’ve been sent to fight Merla’s army. But they won’t distinguish friend from foe….not while they are in beserker mode. A creature of that size is impossible to control, even when calm. We can only hope they do as much damage to the opposing army as they do to the city.” Explained Lotor. “Right now our ground forces are holding back. They’re at a safe enough distance to avoid being trampled by the robeasts. Although with the decisions my father has been making today..I wouldn’t be surprised if he ordered them into the heart of the robeasts path just to get an early start on the fighting.”
“How horrible…” Allura murmured.
“Yes.” He nodded, giving a side long glance to the wide eyed slaves from Arus. “Come with me.” He said, taking Allura by the arm. She went without protest, allowing him to lead her into the bedroom where he closed the door. Only then did he release his grip on her, fixing her with a serious look. “My father is willing to sacrifice innocent lives to win this war. He doesn’t care who he hurts in the process. You have to be careful during this time Allura.”
“You think he would hurt me?” She wanted to know, wringing her fingers together anxiously.
“If he knew about Voltron he would.” Lotor confirmed for her. “Now do you see Allura? He has to be stopped…he has to die..to protect you…to protect everyone!” She was just staring at him, expression unreadable. It set Lotor off to pacing before her, the prince speaking as he moved. “There’s already unrest in the castle. Those who bore witness to his plan to let the people of that city die have already spread talk of what went on in the command center. My father is lucky he hasn’t caused a mutiny!”
“Yes. It’s the last thing we need. Chaos in the castle as people rampage and try to get to us.” Lotor paused in front of her, taking her by the arms. “Allura, I fear that if he pushes much farther, they’ll try to hand all three of us over to Merla to end this war.”
“But what can we do to stop them?” She wondered out loud.
“I have men I trust.” Lotor said. “They’re patrolling the castle as we speak, trying to stamp out any problems before they start. We’re fortunate in that talk of my pleading for the people’s lives has also spread. It will sway people to my side of things. I may get unexpected allies out of this.”
“You’re going to try to kill him during this war, aren’t you?” Allura asked, tone faint.
“Maybe.” His tone was guarded, Lotor unsure he had the means to pull this off just yet. “He has men he trusts just as much as I trust Cossack and the others. Plus he has Cortana on his side….” And with Haggar busy elsewhere, it would be tricky to take on his father’s witch alone. “I’ve men on the outside, powerful lords who rule over their cities, with private armies that will be mine to call upon…”
“More war?” Allura whispered. “Lotor, when will it end?”
“It will end when Merla and Zarkon are both dead!” Lotor exclaimed, but at the doubting look on Allura’s face, he felt unsure.
“Doom seems to always be at war…” She sighed then, hand going to rest on her belly.
“It’s my people’s nature to be war mongers.” Lotor replied, but his words didn’t appease her.
“But people can change.” Allura said insistently. “You can help your people to be something else, something better than war hungry. As their King, you could lead them to a new era…” She touched his cheek, stopping him from shaking his head no. “I believe because I’ve already started to see some change in you.”
“You have?” For once it was his turn to make wide eyes at her, Lotor hardly daring to believe she had noticed his efforts.
“Yes. You’re different with me. And…” She exhaled slowly, seeming to debate telling him this. “The other girls, they told me what you have done.”
“What I have done?” He was bemused, just staring at her as he waited for Allura to continue.
“Or rather what you haven’t done.” She dropped her hand, moving it back into place so she could fidget with her fingers. “They tell me you haven’t been…visiting your harem. That you haven’t been using the slaves there for your pleasure.” A searching look from Allura, the girl’s eyes intense as they gazed at him. “Is it true Lotor? Have you really been abstaining from sex all this time?”
Slowly he nodded his head, not daring to breathe. “Why?” Allura asked, locking eyes with him. “Why would you do that?”
“Don’t you know?” He asked in turn, resisting the urge to pull her into his embrace. “Can’t you guess?” She shook her head no, but her blush hinted that she had a fair idea of his reasons why. Lotor smiled, and this time he took hold of her hands, giving them a light squeeze. “Allura, I mean it when I say I love you. I can think of no greater way to prove it then to abstain from women, from all women.”
“But isn’t that difficult for you?” She wanted to know, blush deepening. “I mean a man of your sexual appetites…”
“It’s worth the sacrifice.” Lotor interrupted her. “It’s almost too easy for me, and you know why?” Wordlessly, Allura shook her head no. “Because I find I don’t want anyone else. I don’t want anyone but you in my bed, and in my arms. Sure it’s driving me mad with need, and causes me to make stupid mistakes with you, but….ultimately I hope…”
“You hope what?” She asked softly, squeezing his hands.
“I just…” A shrug then, Lotor at a loss for words. “I just hope that I can prove myself worthy of your love. To show that I not only love and want you, but that I respect you enough not to go to another woman.”
“I realized something tonight…” Allura said, expression serious. “Do you want to know what that is?”
“Of course I do!” exclaimed Lotor, impatience leaking into his voice.
“I realized that if you had been going to your harem, if you had been seeking pleasure out with those other women…I…I don’t think I could forgive you.” He stared shocked at her, seeing how bright red her face turned. “On Arus we believe in monogamy…I don’t know if there is a word in Drule that comes close to it’s meaning. But it comes down to one woman one man per relationship.”
Wisely he kept quiet about having made such an observation about the human race, Lotor just listening to Allura speak. “If we’re to have a chance…” She continued, looking like she was struggling not to look away. “There can be no other lover for either one of us.”
“That won’t be a problem!” Lotor said quickly, Allura keeping her expression serious.
“I hope not. You ask a lot, for me to risk my heart and my future with you.” Lotor felt almost delirious with joy to hear her speaking like this, the prince pulling her into a tight hug. “I’m not saying I am staying.” Allura was quick to remind him. “We still have a lot of issues to work out. The least of which being what you are going to do with your harem slaves.”
“I’ll get rid of them.” Lotor told her, and almost missed the way she stiffened in his arms at his next words. “I’ll sell them off, or gift them to some of the lords that live on planet Doom.”
“Can’t….can’t you free them instead?” Allura asked, and now he stared at her, unable to believe she’d ask him of that.
“Me? Free a slave?” He couldn’t keep from scoffing, finding Allura abruptly pulling out of his arms.
“Why not? You did it for me!”
“That was a special circumstance.” Lotor replied, and Allura sighed. “Allura, they’re property. They’ve cost me a lot of time and money, it’s only fair I get my expenses back in their sale.” He was slowly realizing he was putting his foot in his mouth, the girl frowning harder and harder at him. “What would I do if I freed a bunch of slaves? Where would they go? It’s not like most of them can return home, and many do not have any marketable skills aside from sex. I’m really saving them from a life on the streets or in a brothel…”
Allura was looking very disappointed at him, shaking her head no over and over. “Why can’t you set them up in a home somewhere like you said you would do for me?”
“It comes down to expense again!” Lotor retorted, ill at ease with the way this conversation was going. “I won’t get anything out of freeing them, out of financing a life for them out of the harem.”
“You don’t get anything out of giving me a new life either.” Allura pointed out, her eyes looking suspicious now. “Or are you even planning to do that for me? Lotor, have you even looked into where you are supposedly going to send me?!”
“Supposedly?!” He sputtered, avoiding her question.
“You haven’t, have you?!” She accused, looking upset. “You’re just pinning all your hopes on my choosing to stay! Well, it’s not a done deal! I don’t love you, and I don’t think I can, so long as you continue to think of the women of your harem as nothing more than property!”
“Don’t Allura me!” She turned her back on him, reaching out to open the bedroom door. She seemed to think the conversation was over, but Lotor had other ideas in mind. He snagged hold of her arm, forcing her to turn back to him.
“You can’t expect me to turn my back on a life time of beliefs!” He snapped, watching her flinch back from the angry tone of his voice. “I’m trying my best Allura, but you can’t expect me to change everything that I am! I’m still a Drule, I’m still a prince of a people who keep slaves. We fight and wage war, and we conquer other races. You can’t accept that, and I am working on improving things around us! But it’s for you I do this, and for no one else!”
“And that is the wrong reason to do it.” Allura said, upset. “You should do it out of the goodness of your heart, not because you want to impress me…” She jerked her arm free of his hold, and pulled open the door. She was already rushing into the outer chamber when Lotor spoke, not giving a damn that the Arusian slaves could hear.
“You’ll be the reason change comes to Doom Allura. You and only you.” She whirled to look at him, Lotor’s gaze level with hers as he marched into the room. “Let that knowledge weigh on your conscience before you choose to abandon me.” With those words he was stalking towards the exit, slamming the door behind him as he stepped out into the hallway.