She was hot, she was tired, but more than that Merla was in pain. Her head actually throbbed, temples pounding from the force of the migraine that she herself was the cause of. She had ignored the warning signs, Merla pushing herself, pushing her powers past their limits. All in an attempt to not only bring Allura to her, but to keep control of the princess long enough to end the girl’s miserable life.
It hadn’t gone as she had expected. Merla should have realized a lot sooner that Allura’s zest for life would make all the difference. Allura was a survivor, scrappy and determined. When faced with a compulsion that went against everything Allura believed in, the princess had balked. Fought against Merla’s powers, until she had broken free of them.
Merla had persisted, trying to regain control of Allura, even as the pain had intensified in her head. But Allura, like Lotor, had proven too difficult to control. Merla could have burnt out her powers trying, and indeed she had come close. A thin trickle of blood was steadily leaking out her left nostril. Merla had long since stopped trying to wipe away that blood. More would only come, the Queen worrying she had broken something inside her.
She wondered if Lotor noticed the blood on her face. Wondered if he even cared that she was in pain. Probably not from the look on his face, Lotor enraged and furious. He’d actually knock Merla down, his foot catching her across her breasts. He should never have landed that blow. Merla was fast, quicker than nearly any Drule male. But such was her tiredness that her movements had been slower than normal.
And now here she was. On her back on the hard, pebble strewn ground of the forest. Staring up the long length of Lotor’s all so deadly sword. The lazon hummed louder than ever in her ears, it’s bright color hurting her eyes. She could feel the heat coming off the metal. All it would take was another half inch, and she would be dead, speared through between the eyes.
Merla once again thought how tired she was. It was a weariness that didn’t all have to do with the exertion of her powers, and the fighting she had done with Allura. She was tired physically, had been tired for weeks now. It extended to her marriage, to the problems there in. She wanted Lotor so badly, and knew of no way to get him. Even as she had gone after Allura, Merla had known the princess’ death wouldn’t solve any of their problems. If anything, Allura’s death would have made things worse. The only thing she could have gained was Lotor’s absolute hatred, the prince despising her even as he suffered for the loss of his love.
Looking at Lotor’s angry face now, Merla saw her death in his eyes. She hadn’t needed to kill Allura after all. Just hurt her, and Lotor would do the rest. In that moment Merla almost welcomed death, for it would offer her a new kind of freedom. A freedom from her obsession, from the torments of her hurt heart. All the pain would simply stop. She wondered though about Allura. Would the princess of Arus be grateful to Lotor for killing her would be assassin? Or would horror at Lotor’s actions take root in Allura’s heart?
She was too tired to even hope for the latter, Merla letting go of her bitterness in the moment. She stared up at Lotor, watching as he trembled from the force of his rage. It wouldn’t take much to push him over the edge, to get him to kill her, and kill her now. He was too enamored with Allura, too outrage at the thought of his precious princess suffering even one bit of hurt. Merla wished he could have felt that same protectiveness towards her, her defiant look fading to betray her own tiredness.
And then Lotor had control of his anger, speaking to Merla in a deep rasping hiss. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just kill you right here and right now.”
She felt the brief flickers of anger at the thought that Lotor would try and make her beg for her life. She managed a glare, once again defiant. She’d never beg, never snivel and cower before him. Even if there had been a chance that Lotor would spare her, Merla sure he had no mercy left in him where the Queen was concerned. And with that thought, she felt her tiredness increase, Merla fighting not to sag against the hard ground. In that moment, Merla wanted nothing more than to rest. To close her eyes and let all her worries leave her. But that wasn’t an option at the moment. She had to answer Lotor’s question, and knew by his shaking that he wouldn’t delay her death for much longer.
She said the only thing she could say. Merla told the truth. “I am pregnant with YOUR child.” She announced. She had the satisfaction of seeing Lotor’s startled expression. This confession of hers, was the one thing he hadn’t been expecting to hear. It left him unprepared with how to proceed, Lotor actually taking a step back and with him his sword. But Merla didn’t try to sit up, just laying on the ground as cautious as ever.
Lotor didn’t sheathe his sword. In fact he barely seemed aware of what he was holding, too busy gaping in astonishment at Merla. She didn’t smirk, didn’t give him any sort of expression. Just lay there, tired and hurting. She probably needed a doctor, and it didn’t all have to do with the baby she carried inside her. The blood was still trickling out of her nose, a slow bit of constant annoyance.
Behind Lotor, Allura had gone quiet. She had finally gotten her breathing back under control. Merla wondered if she was conscious, if she had heard the Queen’s revelation. If she had indeed heard, Merla gave Allura credit for not gasping in response, for not doing anything that could draw Lotor’s attention back to her. And his attention WAS gone from Allura. Lotor might not even remember that the princess of Arus was present, the Drule too busy staring at Merla with a rather comical look of shocked surprise.
How long would they stay there, just staring at each other? Neither one was ready to break their silence, and Merla’s head hurt too much for the Queen to even consider probing Lotor’s mind in order to get an idea of just how he was feeling in the moment. Overhead, the foliage of the trees blocked out the sights of the war waging in the skies, but they couldn’t drown out the sounds. So many people fighting and dying, and they had no idea of the drama occurring just below them.
Time ticked by, seconds turning into minutes. Lotor would finally remember to close his mouth, the man taking in a deep breath before trying to speak. His voice betrayed his shock, Lotor sounding almost confused as he talked. “Pregnant?!” She couldn’t even nod her head without pain, Merla keeping her eyes on Lotor. “Pregnant… what….how….?”
“How do you think?” It wasn’t sarcasm in the moment. She was just tired and in no mood for stupid questions. Lotor seemed flustered in response, his free hand rising to touch the back of his head in a sheepish manner.
“I wouldn’t have said it if I wasn’t.” Merla retorted, voice calm rather than defiant or angry.
“You…you could be lying…” Lotor finally said. He tried for an angry look, but his eyes were still too shocked looking. “You would say anything to get me to spare your miserable life!”
“Then kill me.” Merla told him, giving in to the impulse to close her eyes. “Kill me and be done with it.”
There was a long pause before Lotor spoke. “And what if you are really pregnant with my child?”
“Then it dies with me.” Merla said, without opening her eyes.
Another one of those long pauses, Lotor seeming to need them in order to figure out what to say to her. “How long have you known? Why wait until now to tell me? I mean, the timing of your confession is suspect at best….”
“Weeks.” Answered Merla, and without hesitation told him this. “Wasn’t sure I’d keep the child.”
“Wasn’t sure?” Lotor repeated, then growled. “Wasn’t sure?! You were going to abort MY child without even telling me about him?! WHY?!”
“Wasn’t sure it would matter to you. Wasn’t sure you’d care.” Merla answered truthfully.
“Why wouldn’t I have cared?! Merla! This is MY child we’re talking about! Of course I’d care!”
She opened her eyes then. “Even though it’s not a child you planned on, not a child you created with Allura?” Lotor blinked rapidly, and it was apparent even without her mind powers, that the prince didn’t know how to answer such an inquiry. “A child would cramp your lifestyle Lotor….and mine…I’m not sure we are even ready to be parents, ready to deal with the responsibilities of a child…”
“Just because a child might inconvenience some aspects of our life…it doesn’t mean you can just abort it!” Lotor insisted. “Merla, it’s a part of you…a part of me…” She said nothing to that, just studying his eyes which were so expressive in this moment. “We have to keep it…we have to give him or her a chance.”
“This child will bind us together forever.” Merla snapped. “We will forever be a part of your life….do you want that?!” He hesitated. It was awful that he did, and let her know Lotor wasn’t exactly thrilled about what she had said. “It’s all or nothing with me, Lotor.” Merla said, pretending not to notice the movement from where Allura lay on the ground. It was clear the princess had decided now was a prime chance to escape, while Lotor was distracted by his pregnant wife. “I won’t be content with you giving our baby, giving ME only half of your attentions.”
Allura was upright, cautiously sneaking her way backwards towards the nearest bushes. Merla barely paid her any mind, keeping most of her focus on Lotor. “You’d have to be a father to our child, and a husband, a REAL husband to me.”
“And what does that mean exactly?” Lotor demanded. “What are you asking me to do?”
“You know.” Merla said, even as Lotor shook his head no. “You’ve always known.” She insisted.
“Yes. Forget about Allura. Forget about any future with her, and be with me.” There was a snap of sound as Allura’s foot cracked a branch. The princess froze in horror, but Lotor didn’t so much as turn. He was that distracted.
“I…I can’t…” Lotor started to say. Merla felt her impatience flare, the woman pushing herself upright on her elbows.
“She doesn’t WANT you Lotor! She never has, she never will!” She glared hard at him. “I’m offering you an alternative to a life spent endlessly pursuing her, with little hope of a payout. Even if you do capture Allura, what can await you except heartache and misery?! She’ll never love you. At best you can only have her body! Would you really be content with only that?!”
“Allura can LEARN to love me…” He clung stubbornly to his beliefs.
“That’s NOT love.” Merla snapped.
“Since when are you such an expert on love?!” Lotor demand, as Allura disappeared into the forest behind him. “Since when do you even know what love is?!”
She couldn’t say it, she wouldn’t. Not even to herself could Merla admit that she had developed such a deep attachment to him. Merla certainly didn’t want to classify what she felt for Lotor as love, it would be too painful otherwise.
“You can’t answer, can you?” Lotor demanded as Merla looked away from him. “You feel no love. Not for me, not for anyone.”
“It’s so easy for you to decide that, isn’t it?” Merla asked. “You don’t know nearly as much as you like to think you know.”
“Then tell me what it is I am missing!” Lotor shouted. “Merla, if you have feelings for me, genuine feelings that go beyond lust and jealousy, then tell me!”
“I…” She couldn’t, she simply couldn’t. Lotor let out a frustrated sound, the noise similar to the frustration Merla was feeling with herself.
“Impossible female!” Lotor grumbled, sheathing his sword at long last. “I neither understand you, nor want to in this moment!”
“That makes two of us…” She murmured in the moment.
“What was that?” Lotor asked, and she shrugged.
“She’s getting away you know.” Merla casually spoke of Allura now.
“WHAT?!” Lotor spun around, letting out a curse when he realized Allura was nowhere in sight. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?!”
“Didn’t seem to matter…”
“Didn’t seem to matter?!” He repeated in a disbelieving tone. “Why in the world would you think that?! Never mind! I’ve got to go after her!”
“Of course.” Merla said bitterly. “Wouldn’t want to miss your chance with her…”
“I’m glad you understand.” Lotor started to take a step towards the thicket, then seemed to hesitate. He turned to look at Merla, and for one brief instant his expression was concerned. “Will you be all right here? On your own I mean?”
“I will be fine.” Merla insisted, bringing up a hand to wipe at the blood on her face. “Don’t start worrying about me now, Lotor…”
“It’s too late for that.” He replied, much to her surprise. He gave her one last searching look, and then was crashing through the thicket. Lotor wasn’t trying to be quiet in his pursuit of Allura, full out running to catch up with her. He’d probably catch up to her too, the princess not having much of a head start to begin with. Merla wasn’t even surprised Lotor had left her to go chasing after Allura, and yet the fact that he had, STILL hurt. But then, why had she expected anything else? Especially when she herself had been the one to point out the princess’ attempt at escape? Of course Lotor would go after Allura! Not even the fact that Merla was hurt, her body pregnant with Lotor’s child, could stop the prince from going after Allura.
Nothing had changed. Not even this baby would make a difference. Merla felt a bitter, twisted sense of disappointment, wondering why she couldn’t be good enough for Lotor. Knowing that he would always want Allura, always prefer her to Merla and their child still didn’t make any difference towards what she wanted. Merla still wanted Lotor, still felt the attraction to him. She was as cursed with want of him, as Lotor was cursed with desire for Allura.
Sighing, her every move riddled with pain, Merla began the arduous task of getting up. She actually felt dizzy, the forest seeming to spin about her as she took an unsteady step forward. She wasn’t even going to try to chase after Lotor and Allura. But neither did she want to remain here in the forest for even a second longer. Her ship was parked somewhere in the forest. Merla had lost track of it when she had had to fight against Allura.
Merla would actually grimace at the memories, recalling how strong minded Allura had proven to be. It hadn’t been difficult to lure the princess to her. No, the hard part had come later, after Merla had tormented Allura with images of her dead father. Allura had thought King Alfor had been communicating with her from beyond the grave, the princess all too gullible in her desire to be reunited with her parents. She’d leave the castle, ditching both guards and members of the Voltron Force in her haste to go to where her father urged her.
It would take time for Allura to travel the miles to where Merla waited. As soon as Merla was sure Allura was on her way, her mind firmly in the grip of the Queen’s powers, the Drule female had given the signal to begin the attacks. The fleet she had brought with her had been all too eager to unleash their full might on Arus. The sky had filled with the enemy ships, the fleet converging on the castle of lions and the surrounding territory.
Merla did not know what those in the castle thought of their princess’ disappearance. She didn’t know if they had bothered to look for her, or what. But the lions had been launched, along with what had to be every last ship available to Arus’ military. Merla had listened to the sounds of the explosions, the continuos fire of lasers, and smirked. And not once had she felt a sense of impatience, waiting for Allura to arrive.
The battle had been raging for at least an hour when Allura would finally emerge from the brush. She had looked normal, save for her eyes. Normally quite expressive, they had been glazed over, a sign of how deeply in control Merla was of the princess. Merla remembered scowling at the sight of Allura, thinking to herself that though the princess was pretty, she was not that great a beauty to have thoroughly mesmerized Prince Lotor.
Merla would actually walk around Allura in a circle, eyes critical as she looked the girl over. She wasn’t just studying her outward appearance, but shifting through Allura’s mind. Experiencing some of her memories, seeing the things that had shaped Allura into the person she had become this day. The person Lotor was so in love with. Merla had wanted to understand what was just so special about Allura, so fascinating that Lotor couldn’t stomach the idea of letting go of her. Merla had seen nothing that made her stand out as different from all the other women in the galaxy, a fact that both made the Queen relieved and annoyed. THIS was what Lotor wanted? This prissy princess who had one too many morals, who strongly believed evil was evil and good was good, with no gray areas in between?
Merla came away with the certainty that Allura would nag Lotor incessantly about right and wrong. That she would forever challenge Lotor, the two bickering eternally. She was positive Lotor would eventually grow tired of Allura’s stubborn will and realize the mistake he had made in taking the princess for his bride. The two were simply complete opposites, the kind that could never get along, and would never make a good match.
Merla had realized then and there that Lotor would ruin his life if he ever truly got Allura. And not just his life, but Merla’s, as well as the child she carried. Why the whole of the Doom Empire might suffer for Lotor’s distraction with Allura! Merla had reasoned to herself that she was doing them all a favor in getting rid of Allura. That it wasn’t just jealousy driving her actions, but the good of the Empire that made her act.
She remembered how docile Allura had been, the princess just standing there for Merla’s silent inspection. That would all change when Merla tried to command Allura to kill herself, the girl balking at the idea of suicide. Not even the illusions of Alfor, could get Allura to commit suicide. It had been too deeply ingrained in Allura, this need for survival, and the certainty that no matter how dark the future looked, her father would never urge her to just give up and end her life.
The harder Merla struggled to force Allura to act, the more the princess had fought. Merla remembered getting so far as to have Allura draw the pistol at her side, the princess’ arm raising. Slow, every inch gained making Allura’s eyes start to water with tears. By the time the pistol was placed against the side of the princess’ head, Allura was openly crying. Merla’s own eyes had watered too, the pain in her head sharp and increasing in intensity. She had been exerting her powers for too long, over too long a distance. Not even the amplification spell Haggar had given her, could short out the pain Merla was feeling.
The pain would grow worse, Merla fighting with Allura, trying to get the girl to pull the trigger on her pistol. She’d actually see Allura’s finger move, Merla feeling a surge of triumph go through her even as blood began to trickle out of her nose. Never had Merla fought with a mind that was this resistant for such a long amount of time. And yet Merla wouldn’t give up, just as Allura wouldn’t give in so easily to the compulsion to kill herself.
At the last possible second, Allura had wrested control from Merla. The shot would be fired, both women jumping back to avoid it. Allura had managed to break free of Merla’s powers, the Queen experiencing a rush of pure anger from the princess before their minds were closed off from each other. Merla hadn’t been able to afford the luxury of being stunned. She had had to react, lunging forward with her claws, only to leap to the side in order to avoid the shots Allura fired at her.
Allura would continue to shoot at Merla, the Queen avoiding the lasers. She always stayed just out of reach, waiting for the moment when Allura would use up the last of her pistol’s charge. That was when the real fighting had begun, the two relying on hand to hand combat to duel. Allura had been woefully outclassed when compared to a Drule, especially one who had been in training all her life to be a killer.
They would fight and chase each other through the forest, both of them getting confused and lost about where they were. It wouldn’t be long after, that Lotor’s ship would appear above them. By that point Merla had had her hands around Allura’s neck, the Queen desperately trying to squeeze the life out of the human girl. She had known by then that killing Allura would solve none of her problems. But Merla had felt beyond caring, just wanting everything over and done with. Even if it meant the Queen herself would also end up dead.
Now she didn’t know what would happen to her. To any of them. Lotor would catch up to Allura. Of that Merla was certain. Whether or not he got to keep the princess depended on Allura’s resourcefulness, on the chances of a rescue happening this late in the game. What would Lotor do if he actually got to take Allura back to Doom? What need would he have for Merla once Allura was part of his life?
And yet she didn’t know if she would grant him the divorce he so craved. She could keep him tied to her out of spite. But even Merla didn’t want to endure the laughter of the Drule nobility, the humiliation that would come from them all knowing the marriage only remained intact because of her stubbornness. If Lotor couldn’t get free of Merla, couldn’t divorce her, he would surely still take Allura on as his mistress. It would make Merla the laughing stock of the Empire, make her known as the Queen too stupid to let go.
Merla wasn’t even worrying yet about the child she carried. And all because Merla wasn’t sure it would be a good idea to keep it. It was just one more complication to a mess that was convoluted at best.
Sighing to herself, a grimace on her face, Merla paused to lean against the trunk of a tree. She was still dizzy, but at least her nose had seemed to stop bleeding. The pain hadn’t gone away. She really needed to get examined by a doctor and soon. But to do that, she needed to get out of the forest first. Needed to get back to her ship. Merla closed her eyes, thinking on how she could have done things differently with Allura.
She must have passed out briefly. For suddenly Merla was jerking awake, startled and more than a little disorientated. She was still in the forest, and could still hear the sounds of the ships fighting above the trees. The noise was such that it covered the sound of the footsteps approaching her. But nothing could stop Merla from picking up the stray thoughts of the group sneaking towards her.
She tensed up, realizing she had no weapon save for her body and her powers. And her mind was in no shape to take on even one person, let alone a group of over a dozen humans. Snarling, Merla pushed away from the tree. It was at that exact instant that a laser blast blew up the ground before her feet. She managed not to scream, throwing up an arm to protect her face.
More laser fire erupted near her, but never actually hit her. It kept Merla from moving, the Queen knowing to do so would risk one of the blasts actually striking her. She was forced to just stand there, almost swaying on her feet as the ground and trees exploded around her.
It was a relief when a lull in the shooting came. Merla had known they hadn’t wanted to actually hit her, but these attackers hadn’t wanted to give her a chance to run away. And now she was surrounded, seeing the familiar gray and blue uniforms of the soldiers who worked at the castle of lions. They were grim faced men and women, all armed and pointing their weapons at her.
She tried her best glare at them, even as Merla held up her hands to show she was harmless. They didn’t relax their guards, these soldiers knowing about Merla’s powers when it came to the mind.
“Do not attempt to try anything, your highness.” A man’s voice warned. Two of the soldiers shifted, allowing a man dressed in a predominately brown colored suit to pass between them. “We won’t hesitate to shoot you, if you try to take control of any one of my men with your compulsions.”
“Coran.” Merla spoke as though he hadn’t just threatened her. “To what do I owe this honor?”
“Princess Allura is missing.” The advisor stated. “No doubt you have had something to do with that.” Merla didn’t deny or confirm it, just staring at him. He fought his impatience, his lips seeming to twitch with disapproval. “Where is she, Queen Merla? Where is Allura?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea.” Merla said, noting how the soldiers all seemed to tense with anger.
“You’re lying!” One woman hissed, and the other made agreeing sounds. Merla ignored them, not deigning to talk to someone so unimportant as the castle minions.
“You will tell us what you know. Either now and here, or back at the castle.” At Coran’s gesture, two soldiers approached Merla. She barely resisted, allowing them to put the manacles on her.
“Capturing me will get you nothing.” Merla said, fighting her own sadness. “I am of no value to the prince. He’d never trade me for anything or anyone, let alone Princess Allura.”
“We will see about that.” Coran said. He ordered some of the soldiers to continue their search of the forest. The ones that remained behind would escort him and Merla back to the castle of lions. Merla would go with them, too tired and in too much pain to do more than put up a minimal amount of fuss. She had no hopes to hang on to, no expectations that Lotor would come to her rescue. Why should he? After all she had tried to do? After all she had nearly cost him? He would take Allura and flee Arus, as fast as he could, without a single thought spared to Merla. And that truth hurt her the most of all.