She sat huddled on the couch, a pillow clutched to her front, it’s frayed edge being played with by her fingers. Around her sat the girls from Arus, the women who had become her fast friends in their shared misery at the situation thrust upon them. Allura was grateful for their friendship, glad that it endured all the changes that had occurred in the last few months, starting with her elevation from slave to the prince’s personal favorite, and her eventual freeing.
The girls from Arus didn’t begrudge her for her rise to status, Allura wondering if perhaps their easy acceptance had to do with the fact that she was their princess. As such there had always existed a level of status between them, even when she had been stripped of her crown, and made to toil as a pleasure slave. Through out it all, these four women had been with her, sometimes watching from afar as she went through the trials and tribulations of forging a relationship with Prince Lotor.
Right now the four women were talking, voices quiet as they tried to engage Allura into participating in the conversation. But except for her smile, and occasional nod of her head, Allura tuned them out, not really caring for gossip about the other slaves inside Lotor’s harem. Instead she turned to the conversation she had had with the prince last night, playing it over in her head. Thoughts of how she had spoke about him changing left her embarrassed, Allura feeling humiliated to have spoken so freely with him. She felt she had been wrong about him, finding little had really changed, Lotor still doing the bare minimum of goodness all in an effort to impress upon her the need to stay.
She wondered why he bothered, especially in light of the reveal that he hadn’t even begun looking for a new home for her. It left Allura wondering if it was all a big charade, an attempt to make her believe she actually had a choice when it came to leaving him. Was she even truly free? She resisted the urge to touch her neck, staring at Sumetra’s slave collar. True she no longer wore the metal band around her neck, but she was still pretty much confined to the apartment, only leaving it to visit with Haggar, or to go on outings with Lotor.
He said it was dangerous for her to be alone, and Allura understood and accepted that. It didn’t mean she didn’t chafe at the restrictions to her comings and goings, Allura used to the freedoms allowed to her as princess of Arus. She resisted the urge to sigh, not wanting to draw concerned gazes from the four women. They had spent the night in her apartment, the five of them sleeping cuddled on the big bed in the rear room. There had been more than enough room, leaving Allura to wonder if Lotor had ever entertained as much as five women at once.
It wasn’t jealousy that flared up at the wondering, though Allura had to admit that when Sasperella, along with the other three’s murmured agreement, told her that Lotor had been abstaining from sex with his harem, relief had coursed through her. She wondered at that, wondered why the reveal could bring about such a strong feeling of relief, Allura almost heavy with it. All this time she had assumed he had been taking pleasure from other women, assumed that was why he was able to control himself just barely around her.
Perhaps it would be easier if he was sleeping around, it would make her choice that much easier. She wanted a love where she was the one that mattered most to her partner, Allura wanting not only their heart but their faithfulness as well. Lotor was making the effort, and not even boasting about it. That surprised her, Allura thinking Lotor was the kind to demand acknowledgment for any good deed he performed.
In the grand scheme of things, his list of good was outnumbered by all the bad he had done, Allura waiting without much hope for Lotor to improve. Last night had been a disappointment, Allura jarred by his adamant refusal to free his harem. She knew it was expected of her to be grateful for any crumb of kindness he threw her way, and she did appreciate that he cared enough to let her four friends from Arus come with her if the time came to evacuate.
She wanted to do more for them, wanted to set them free, and see them led to a good life. If they couldn’t return to Arus, then she wanted to take them with her, to the life Lotor promised her that extended beyond planet Doom. But she dared not voice her desire to the women, fearing to get their hopes up for something that might never happen.
This time she did sigh, and one of the twins, the blond Sumetra looked at her, eyes crinkled with concern. “I’m fine.” Allura said, before she could voice a question. “I’m just a little tired.”
“Poor Allura…” sighed Andais, a stunning red head with vibrant green colored eyes. “You were unable to get much sleep last night.” To that Allura was surprised, staring at Andais who tittered nervously. “You kept tossing and turning….it’s apparent to us all you were unable to settle down after that visit with the prince.”
“He upsets you.” Dominique, the brunette of the bunch spoke up. “Always saying or doing something to cause you distress.” The other three made agreeing noises, Allura sighing again. She didn’t feel the urge to defend Lotor’s actions, agreeing that he had left her upset.
“Just what did he say to you?” asked Sasperella, Allura finding curious gazes aimed towards her. “Last night when he took you aside in the bedroom?”
She wanted to say it was nothing, but knew they’d know it was a lie. Yet how could Allura reveal that Lotor’s ideal fix for an unwanted harem was to give them away to friends, and sell the rest. Hard though it may be to spend the rest of their lives in Lotor’s harem, it would be a million times worse to be transferred to a new place. They’d most likely be separated from each other, and their new master might not be as kind as Lotor. The scars on Allura’s back attested to that fact, the girl stifling a shudder as she remembered how quick the cruel Morwin had been to whip her.
“Allura?” A concerned look from them all, Sasperella touching her knee. Allura shook off the memories of her whipping, wishing she could muster up a smile to reassure them of her well being.
“You can tell us.” Added Sasperella’s twin, Sumetra smiling kindly at Allura. “You know we’d never judge.”
They wouldn’t, and still she racked her mind, trying to pick and choose some sharable tidbit from the conversation she had had with Lotor. Just as she couldn’t tell them about his plans for the harem, she knew she couldn’t share with them talk of killing the demon. The women of Arus would probably be glad to hear of Zarkon impending murder, but she didn’t want that burden on them.
It was better the less people knew about Lotor’s plans, the secret shared between three. There was the niggling thought in the back of her mind that Lotor might do something to her fiends if they knew, Allura not putting it past him to sell them all the sooner or worse yet, attempt to silence them. It was disturbing thoughts like this that made Allura doubt she could ever stay long term with Lotor. Not if she had a choice.
The if was the problem, she doubted his sincerity about letting her go once the baby was born. She very much wanted to believe that option was available to her, even as she chafed against the thought of leaving her baby and the only home she had left, behind. She hated the thought of the unknown, almost as much as she hated that Lotor had flat out told her change would come to him and his people only if she stayed.
“You heard him last night, did you not?” Allura at last asked, glancing from face to face as each girl nodded. She knew their grasp of the Drule language wasn’t as strong as hers, but they had surmised from his tone and body language that Lotor had been angry, almost hostile. They had pressed upon her to reveal just what he had said before storming out, and although Allura had burst into tears, she told them. “Change will come to Doom only if I stay with him…”
“But what does that mean?” asked Andais, eyes confused. “What sort of change?”
“It’s obvious, is it not?” Sumetra wondered, brushing back her hair. “He means to improve things, make the world a better place.”
“But a better place how?” Allura questioned, fingers still playing with the pillow’s frayed edge. “What will he do different? He made it pretty clear to me last night that he wasn’t going to give up on owning slaves. That he wouldn’t free them.” She sighed then recalled his exact words, expression sad. “He said he was a prince of a people who own slaves…he won’t even make the effort to lead by example and free the ones in his care!”
The girls exchanged looks, any pain they felt at hearing they would not be freed masked by their calm expressions. “Oh princess…” Dominique sighed out Allura’s name, still holding to the habit of referring to her by her former title. “As much as I would love to be free, I fear seeing what has become of our world.” Allura kept quiet as the others nodded, remembering how upsetting it had been to see her castle reduced to it’s fallen down state.
“Where would we go if not Arus?” Sumetra wanted to know, and no one had any answers for her. Allura bit her lip to keep quiet, not wanting to suggest they come live with her, knowing it wasn’t a sure possibility.
“Is what he said to you…is that what troubles you so?” Sasperella was trying to steer the conversation back on track, Allura nodding at her.
“It’s just too much of a burden to be placed on my shoulders.” Allura confessed, hugging the pillow tight to her. “To know I could be responsible for bettering Doom, and the way it’s people relate to other worlds…to know I could do some good here, and then turn my back on it…” She willed herself not to cry, but her voice grew shaky with her upset. “It’s hard enough to think of leaving my child behind…”
“He’s through with subtly manipulating you.” Noted Sumetra. “The prince is laying down all the cards, playing hard and fast with you. It’s not so surprising is it, that he would resort to just about any means to win you.”
“It’s cruel….it’s cruel and it’s torture….as if I don’t have enough to worry about!” Allura cried out, and Sasperella sat down next to her, pulling the girl into a hug. Allura relaxed against the blonde, taking comfort from her touch. “I don’t even know if he will really let me go…”
“What do you mean?” asked Andais, her mouth letting out a gasp. “You think he’s lying to you?”
Miserably, Allura nodded. “He hasn’t even picked out a destination for me. I dare say he’s not made any plans regarding my future if I choose to leave him.” A thoughtful pause followed her words, the four girls exchanging looks as they frowned. “What?” Allura asked, having seen the looks on their faces. “What is it?”
“It’s nothing…” began Sasperella, but her twin angrily burst in.
“The prince is a lying bastard if that is true!”
“Sumetra!” Sasperella’s tone was an admonishing one, looking horrified that her twin would speak so badly of the prince.
“Forgive me, but it’s true!” Sumetra exclaimed. “He shouldn’t be doing this to Allura. Shouldn’t be stressing her out, and giving her false hope. It’s wrong of him to lie, wrong of him to try and build a relationship with her on false promises. What will happen after the baby is born and she wants to leave? Will he lock her up, make her a slave again? Force her to be with him?”
“That’s enough!” Sasperella shouted, glaring at her sister. The severity of the anger in her voice shocked Sumetra into silence.
“Sumetra, I’m sure such thoughts have already plague the princess’ mind.” Dominique said, not unkindly. “There’s no need to give voice to them.”
“Saying it out loud gives it power…” added Andais. “Makes it all too real.”
“What are my options?” Allura’s question drew attention back to her, the girl sighing. “Do I continue to buy into his story, never knowing if it’s true or not? Do I open myself to him, all on the chance he could be sincere and really change, do I risk it all on someone whose proven he can’t really be selfless and kind to others?”
“We have no easy answers for you Allura.” Sighed Sasperella. “It may be your only option is to accept him and a life with him so you don’t end up completely miserable…”
Allura turned to stare at her, expression dismayed. Domnique spoke up, clearly trying to put Allura’s mind at ease, though her words helped little in that regard. “It wouldn’t be so different from an arranged marriage would it? I mean…in an arranged marriage, love does not come at first, sometimes it never comes. You must simply move on and learn to live in a way that allows you both to be happy.”
“You’d have your baby.” Added Andais, filling in the silence left by Allura. “You could do it Allura. You could learn to be happy, if only for your child’s sake.”
It was selfish, but Allura wanted to ask what about her happiness. Her personal joy that might never come if she remained on Doom. She didn’t want to have to learn to be happy with the situation, to simply give up and accept that there was no other choice available to her. And yet another part of her knew that as the former princess of Arus, she had been raised to know when to make the best of a situation. She had been prepared for a loveless marriage, one born on the heels of aligning power. She had been lucky in that she and Avok had fallen in love, all signs pointing to a happy future between them.
She wasn’t a princess anymore, nor if what Lotor said was true, was she a slave. That sort of thinking affected her, making her feel entitled to the choices he dangled before her. Another sigh heaved out of her, Allura letting go of the pillow to cover her face. “I don’t know…I just don’t….”
A knock sounded at the door, loud and angry, hurried thumping that gave no pause in their sound. They all turned to glance at the door, making surprised sounds. “Is it breakfast?” wondered Sumetra, rising to her feet.
“Maybe…” Allura said, though she had a feeling from that angry knock it wasn’t a servant brining a meal to them. Her anxiety level rose, Allura grasping tight hold of the pillow. Sumetra was already walking towards the door, intent on opening it as Allura fought the instinct to warn her against the act. She had the feeling that whoever was on the other side of the door meant no good towards them, Allura growing frightened at the insistent way they banged on the door.
“Calm down.” Sumetra said, undoing the door’s lock. The door had barely opened, and already she was gasping, pushed to the side as prince Lotor barreled past her. His hair was wild, and he still wore the same clothing he had had on the night before. It wasn’t possible for a Drule’s eyes to be bloodshot, but they looked tired all the same.
Her companions looked at him, surely fighting the need to cast hostile glances towards the one who had upset her so. He ignored them, coming to a halt before Allura, his stance agitated. In his hands he held papers, and she curiously wondered what they could be. Surely he did not have more symbols for her to translate. “Lotor…” Allura began, fingers tightening their grip on the pillow she hugged against her. She hated how anxious her voice sounded, nor did she like the way she flinched when he tossed the paper down on her lap.
“There!” He announced with a flourish, voice sounding satisfied. “Here’s your proof!”
“Proof?” She repeated, confused. Allura made no move to glance down at the papers, instead staring up at the prince.
“Everything you wanted to know.” Lotor told her, pointing out the papers spilled across her lap. She followed his finger downwards, seeing the brightly colored pictures of a villa surrounded by lush gardens, the building on a slight hill that overlooked a sprawling city of white alabaster. It had a wrought iron gate, and a cobble stone pathway that led from it’s front door down the hill, all the way into the city.
There was pictures of the city too, a mixture of Drules and humans walking together among the city streets. She couldn’t read all the signs, but some of them were in Drule, advertising things. She let go of the pillow to reach down with one hand, touching the pictures as she frowned. “What is this?” Allura asked, and Lotor made an impatient noise.
“It’s the city of Umeso, the capital of the planet Quevra. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes…” Allura agreed, noting Sasperella was sneaking glances at the pictures. “But why are you showing me this?”
“It’s one of the many planets in the Doom Empire. Long since settled by the Drules, it’s a peaceful, pleasant world, a veritable paradise even for humans.” Lotor told her. “I deemed it the ideal place to send you should you choose to leave me once our child is born.” She stared at him now, noting the depressed set of his lips as he spoke about her leaving. “If you look beneath the pictures, you’ll find in your language details of the planet, about it’s exports and imports, and everything you could want to know about it’s people and customs.” He was almost nonchalant as he spoke, though the tensing of his shoulders betrayed his anxiety. “You’ll even find bank statements for an account set up in your name. Money has already been added into it, and will keep on adding to it every month for the rest of your life.”
Wordlessly she began rifling through the papers, seeing the printed type of the Arusian language on their surface. “You’ll want to verify the realness of that account.” Lotor continued, folding his arms across his broad chest. “There’s also land leases, I’ve bought you that villa in the picture, along with the surrounding acreage for miles around. You’ll be a very wealthy woman Allura. Able to buy anything your heart should desire.”
“This…” She didn’t know what to say, looking up quickly from the paperwork. “This must have taken you a while to do.”
“All night.” Lotor said, confirming what his weary appearance hinted at. “I spent all night searching for a suitable world for you.” His tone softened slightly. “I wanted a world that was known for it’s beauty, and covered in flowers to send you to.”
She blinked and looked away. “You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble…” Allura said. “I mean….not during this time when the war is at it’s most crucial. You could have waited a few days…”
“Perhaps.” Lotor coolly agreed. “But I needed to know where to send you in case of an evacuation. Besides…I wanted to prove the sincerity of my words.” She could feel the heat of his stare, boring into her, Lotor waiting for some kind of acknowledgment or approval from Allura.
“I’ll have to go over these papers…” Allura said, knowing she had nothing but free time when she wasn’t with Haggar or posing for her portrait.
“Of course.” Lotor nodded. “You may doubt me, but this is for real.” He turned to leave, and Allura found herself dropping the papers, hurrying to stand and go after him. She followed him to the door, knowing the eyes of her friends were upon her.
“Lotor…” She whispered quietly, stepping out into the hall with him. The door was closed behind her, leaving them alone in the corridor save for the patrolling guards. “If this is real…thank you.”
“Don’t thank me for helping you to leave me.” Lotor snapped, his tiredness making him hostile. She tried not to let it affect her, letting warmth into her eyes as she touched his arm. He didn’t jerk away from her touch, but he made no move to return the gesture.
“I…I have one more favor to ask you.” Allura said, feeling bad that she had to place another demand on him. He raised his eyebrow, cold curiosity in his eyes. “If I do go to that world….may I take my friends with me? I…I don’t want to be alone among strangers…”
He paused, considering it. “All right. I’ll get the proper paperwork ready to transfer ownership to you of the slaves from Arus.”
Her first instinct was to argue against that, not wanting to own her friends. But she bit back any protests to nod stiffly at him. “Thank you.” Allura told him, even as she thought on how she could always free her friends once they arrived at the planet Quevra.
“Don’t mention it.” Lotor said, and pulled away from her. She was left standing, watching his retreat as Lotor strode down the hall. Once again she felt at odds with herself, a mixture of emotions that left her shivering as she thought about her future. She hadn’t seen much of Quevra, but it looked to be the ideal world, a place that would have been perfect to raise her baby.
She placed a hand on her belly, caressing at the life inside it, knowing she couldn’t be happy at the thought of leaving her child behind on Doom. Sighing, Allura then turned to reenter the apartment, being greeted by the curious voices of her friends. She forced herself to smile, ready to break the news of what Lotor had promised her. And yet, even with the prospect of hearing their excitement, she kept right on feeling as though she’d break down into tears at any minute.