She was finally inside the castle of lions, but it wasn’t a cause for celebration. Not when she sat inside one of the few interrogation rooms, her hands manacled behind her back. Soldiers surrounded her, crowded into the tiny room. One even pressed the tip of his rifle to the back of her neck, a constant reminder to Merla to not try anything with her powers. Not if she didn’t want them to blow her head off.
Even if Merla had wanted to try to take control of these soldiers, she couldn’t. Not with the pain pounding inside her head. A pain that had not lessened even one bit, leaving Merla feeling tired and drained. Downright weak. She should have been thinking about escape, on how to manage what seemed an impossible feat. But Merla was tired, emotionally, physically, maybe even spiritually. She wanted nothing more than the chance to lay down and sleep, and yet Coran wasn’t giving her that chance.
The human was pacing before her, a stern, disapproving look on his face. He had his hands clasped together behind his back, as though that was the only way Coran could keep himself from reaching over to shake the answers out of Merla. Answers she wasn’t forthcoming with, the Queen having spent the better part of the hour in silent misery.
It wasn’t accomplishing anything to keep quiet. Nor would it help Merla in any way if she spoke. Merla could only be grateful these humans didn’t have the stomach for true torture, the men and women here not at all like the Drules. Here, they were too conscious of the rights of prisoners, of the mandates of the Alliance that spoke on the proper care and conduct when questioning an enemy. There would be no whipping, no beatings, no breaking of bones. They wouldn’t even kill her unless she gave them no other choice, though it was clear from the energy in the room some of these soldiers really wanted Merla to give them that chance.
It didn’t even make her feel better that they were treating her like the dangerous Drule she was. Probably because she didn’t feel very dangerous, or capable in the moment. Not with the pain inside her, her mind powers all but useless, Merla barely able to filter out the random thoughts of Coran and his men. Under normal circumstances she would have loved to sink her claws into tender human throats, use her speed to kill many, while her mind powers took care of the rest. But once again she felt too weak to attempt any of that, leaving Merla to wonder just what had gone wrong with Haggar’s amplification spell.
It had to be that spell that made Merla hurt as badly as she did. Had to be Haggar’s fault that something had broken inside Merla, blood having trickled steadily out of her nose for quite some time. The bleeding had finally stopped, but Merla feared it’s return, especially if she were to push past the pain inside her head and try to use her powers to do anything more than listen to thoughts she couldn’t block out.
The people here were angry, but more than that they were worried. They didn’t know where their princess was, didn’t know if she was alive, dead, or captured. They feared without Allura to pilot blue lion, Doom would overwhelm the remaining four lions by the sheer amount of ships that had been launched. They couldn’t even be relieved that no robeast had been let loose, the situation in Arus’ skies already that bad.
They couldn’t know how much worse things might become, especially once Lotor captured and carried their princess off to planet Doom. Merla felt real depression at that thought, positive Lotor wouldn’t even spare her a second thought once he had Allura in his possession. The fighting wouldn’t stop, not even with Merla Coran’s prisoner. Doom would continue to launch attack after attack, forcing Arus to either surrender or fight until every last soldier was dead. There would be no attempts to negotiate for Merla’s release. Lotor would not give up Allura, not to save Merla. He might feel a twinge of regret at losing his unborn child, but Merla was sure he would comfort himself inside Allura’s body.
Merla never cried. Hadn’t since she was a young girl and learned tears didn’t accomplish anything. She certainly wasn’t going to cry about Lotor’s lack of interest, or the fact that she might die, or spend the rest of her life inside one of Arus’ prisons. She was full of regrets though, wishing she had never come to Arus in the first place. Wishing she had never married Lotor, never even come to Doom. But more than that, she found herself wishing she had never developed such strong feelings for Lotor, feelings she still didn’t want to classify as love. How could it be love, when she felt just as strongly, a twisted kind of hate for the prince? But it was hate born of her disappointments, a hate that responded to the fact that Lotor neither loved nor wanted Merla.
Just once she allowed herself a simple wish, Merla wanting to know what it would have been like to have been loved. For all her money, her power, even her beauty, no one had ever loved Merla. They had wanted her, and the things she could do for them. The things they could gain out of an association with a powerful Queen. But never had anyone truly cared for Merla. Never had it mattered much to Merla, until her own ice cold heart began to thaw, the Queen yearning for Lotor in a way that still was surprising.
And yet she knew such wishes and feelings were a waste, especially on someone like Lotor. Someone who couldn’t see past the nose on his face, the man consumed with his own wants and desires at the cost of everything else. And yet just like Lotor, Merla couldn’t help who she wanted, her heart having been captured before she even realized what was happening. It was a sick mockery to have fallen for a man who lusted so strongly for that which he couldn’t have, Merla and Lotor more similar then the Queen could ever have dreamed. He wasn’t the fool she first thought him, Lotor was a million times worse. And so was she, for feeling for him.
“Your highness…” Coran’s voice was loud, as though he had been trying to get her attention for some time now. Merla blinked slowly, looking at him with disinterest. “I will ask you again. What have you done with Princess Allura?”
Merla said nothing, just maintaining her unfeeling stare. The thoughts that filtered in her mind spoke of the surrounding soldiers agitation, the men and women growing increasingly angry that Merla would not cooperate.
Coran paced closer, his eyes filled with harsh emotion. He couldn’t even soften his expression, not even to feign concern. “Queen Merla, It is clear you are unwell.” His tone was solicitous now. “If you will simply answers a few of my questions, I will allow the castle doctor to tend to your injuries.”
Merla almost made a scoffing sound then. As if she would ever allow some human doctor to treat her. Not even the worries she had, would allow her to be examined by some human. “Not interested.”
Coran made an exasperated sound. “This lack of cooperation serves to do nothing but annoy. We will find Princess Allura, with or without your help.”
“Then why haven’t you?” Merla demanded. She couldn’t even smirk, couldn’t muster up the energy to properly enjoy the chance to taunt the advisor. “Face it Coran. You’re all a bunch of incompetents. Unable to find your own backsides, let alone the princess!” Anger bristled in the thoughts around her, the soldiers rightfully insulted.
“We’ve captured you, did we not?”
“For all the good it will do you.” Merla snapped. “Do you honestly think this will stop the fighting? Or that an exchange can be arranged?” She scoffed then, and that was a mistake, pain flaring in her. “I know my value. And it is nothing when compared to what will be gained if Doom can finally conquer Arus.”
Coran was disgusted then. “You are Prince Lotor’s wife, King Zarkon’s daughter in law. Surely that makes you an effective bargaining tool!”
“You underestimate how badly Zarkon wants this wretched planet. And the desire Lotor has for Allura. No…neither one will negotiate for my release. Neither one will even care what happens to me…” Depression filled her, Merla speaking with certainty. “You can abuse me, rape me, kill me. It will matter not in the end. King Zarkon hates failures, and that is what he will see me as, for being captured by the likes of you.”
“You Drules are a horrible people!” exclaimed Coran. “How can you be so uncaring about one another?!”
Merla gave a shrug of her shoulders, a move that had all the soldiers tensing up. “It is just the way things are. I’ve long since understood Allura matters more than me. To both Zarkon and Lotor. With her capture, the war is all but won, all that’s left is for Arus to officially surrender.” She gave him a shrewd look. “I’d do that soon if I was you, before there’s nothing left of Arus.”
“You haven’t won yet!” Coran exclaimed. “There’s still a chance….”
“Are you that stupid?” Merla demanded in disbelief. “What chance do you think you have? Your princess is lost to you, Arus’ sky filled with Doom’s ships. The lions and your pitifully sized military can hold out only for so long. You’ve already lost, and it’s time you accept that.”
“NO!” Coran all but shouted. “There is a chance, small though it is, that Allura can escape or be rescued. And as long as we have that hope, we will continue to fight you Drules.”
“Fool.” Sneered Merla. “Hope serves to do nothing but keep you in denial of the situation you are in. You need to accept what is happening. Just as I have accepted what my fate will be.”
“I almost feel sorry for you then, Queen Merla.”
Merla hissed at that, insulted. “I do not want or need your pity! Save it for yourself, and for that princess of yours!”
Coran pinched the bridge of his nose, his exasperation apparent. “Who is your second in command? Is it the witch?”
Merla just pressed her lips firmly together, refusing to answer. But she felt his agitation, picked up on his troubled thoughts. Coran didn’t know who to hope had possession of Allura. Or which would be preferable, since the witch might hurt, even kill Allura but wouldn’t rape her the way he feared Prince Lotor would.
“Queen Merla, you are trying the last of my patience!” snapped Coran. “If you won’t answer….”
“What will you do to me?” She asked, tone mocking. “The Galaxy Alliance has strict laws about the treatment of prisoners.” She made a sound, a half laugh that set everyone on edge. “You’d never do anything that would make you seem as cruel and evil as the Drule. We all know it. So stop this farce of an interrogation. Send me to whatever dungeon you possess, but stop wasting my time with these stupid questions!”
Coran actually glared at her. He was angry and frustrated, Merla having told him nothing. Coran didn’t even know for certain if Prince Lotor was on Arus, or if Merla had come on her own as she had twice done in the past. Merla’s lack of cooperation infuriated the advisor, the man as close to committing violence as he had ever been. And still Merla refused to be of help in any way. She’d rather die than be branded a traitor to the Doom Empire.
Letting out a deep breath, Coran stepped away from Merla. He’d reach into his jacket’s pocket, a tiny remote being brought out. Merla watched as a view screen lowered itself from the ceiling. Coran would stand with his back to Merla, waiting for the view screen to finish it’s descent. More fiddling with the remote, and then a technician from the castle’s control room would appear on the screen.
“Have we had any success getting a transmission to the Drules’ ships?” Coran asked, not bothering with a greetings.
“Yes, Coran.” answered the technician. “We’ve just managed to establish contact a few minutes ago. We’ve been demanding they leave Arus at once, but they have ignored us.”
Merla laughed then. “Did you honestly think asking the Drule to leave would actually work?!”
Coran ignored her. “Change of plans. Set up arrangements so that I speak to whoever is currently in charge of this invasion.”
“Unless you’re planning to surrender, nothing good will come of this talk.” Merla told him.
“At once, Coran.” The technician said, and the screen emptied of everything, except the castle of lion’s insignia. It was a picture they would be seeing for quite some time, Coran waiting impatiently for the call to be put through. The soldiers who stood guard over Merla, their own agitation racketed up several notches, the men and women just as impatient and frustrated as the advisor. Maybe even more so!
Merla felt her own impatience, the woman wanting nothing more than to lay down. She even wished Lotor would hurry up and take Coran’s call, for maybe then she’d be allowed the chance to finally get some sleep. Maybe then her head would stop hurting, and she could finally use her powers to block out all these unwanted thoughts that kept filtering in against her wishes.
It took perhaps fifteen minutes before the Drules accepted Coran’s call. The man was visibly relieved to see Haggar the witch, Coran wrongfully assuming this meant Lotor was nowhere around. Merla glared at the view screen, her expression scornful cause she knew better. Lotor was probably with Allura right this very second, too busy screwing around to spare even one thought to Merla’s own dangerous predicament.
“What do you want Coran?” Haggar demanded, not so much as sparing one glance Merla’s way. That was fine with the Queen, for if the positions were reversed, Merla wouldn’t have cared about Haggar’s capture.
“Princess Allura is missing. No doubt you had something to do with that.” Coran retorted.
“And what if we have?” A sly smile on the witch’s face. “It’s not as if you can do anything about it.”
Coran’s eyes held an angry glower to them. “I have your Queen.” He began. “If you want her back relatively unharmed, you will release Allura, and call off the attack on Arus.”
Haggar began to laugh, much to the Arusians’ annoyance. “Do you honestly think that is a fair trade?!”
“It’s a life for a life.” Coran pointed out.
“It’s more than just two lives that are at stake here. Doom is finally in the position to end this war, and gain control of your robot. Do you honestly think one woman is worth giving all that up for? Hmmm?”
“We won’t just roll over and surrender! You may have Princess Allura, but you haven’t won yet!” Coran snapped, angry.
“I’d say that’s exactly what we’ve done!” laughed Haggar. “Coran, a word of advice. If you don’t want to die, you’d best hurry up and call back the lions. Otherwise I can’t be responsible for what happens next.”
“Before I do anything for you, I want to see Princess Allura.”
“That’s not possible at the moment.” Haggar smirked.
“I demand proof that you really have her, before I hand over Arus to you!” Coran all but shouted.
“You’re in no position to make demands!” Haggar reminded him, not losing her smirk.
“You might not even have her.”
“That’s a risk you’ll just have to take.” Haggar retorted. “And the longer you wait, the more lives are at risk. You may not give a damn about the Drules, but your conscience won’t allow you to let innocent humans die because of your indecision.”
“Damn you!” Coran said, his hand clutching at the remote so hard, his knuckles turned white. As angry as he was, Coran’s thoughts were taking a rapid turn, the man wondering if the situation truly was hopeless. To the advisor, this seemed Arus second most darkest day, comparable to the time Zarkon slew King Alfor, and invaded the planet. Coran was even thinking how he failed Alfor and Allura, feeling as though it was his fault the princess had been captured.
Merla’s own thoughts were equally as dismal. She wondered just who would get credit for Arus successfully being conquered, if Mera’s own name would even be remembered. Or would she be as forgotten by the Drule, as she was to Lotor and to Haggar? That annoyed her, but more than that her anger returned, Merla sitting up straighter in her seat.
“Haggar!” Merla locked eyes with the witch, her golden gaze seeming to smolder with determination. The witch looked uneasy to be addressed by Merla, Haggar’s own eyes a sickly yellow that flickered with uncertainty. “I wish to speak to Lotor.” She was speaking in Drule, riding on the chance none of these humans had ever even bothered to learn the language of her people.
“What would be the point?” Haggar asked, also speaking in Drule. “You know as well as I do, there is no way he would exchange Allura for you!”
“I am PREGNANT with HIS child.” Merla hissed, watching with some satisfaction as the witch’s eyes widened in shock.
“Pregnant? Is it true?” Haggar demanded, hardly at ease when Merla gave a slow nod. “I…I cannot promise you anything. I certainly don’t have the power to negotiate for your release…but…I will go get him.”
“Do that.” Merla said, wanting to sag in her seat. But she maintained her queenly dignity, sitting straight up, with an almost haughty manner to her.
“I’ll be right back.” Haggar had switched to basic, and before Coran could question her, the witch had scurried off screen.
“What was that about?!” Coran had turned to glare at Merla now. “What did you say to her? What are you plotting?!”
“Relax Advisor.” Merla didn’t try to be soothing. “I simply gave Haggar the incentive needed to bring Lotor to talk with us.”
“And just what is that incentive you speak of?” Coran asked.
Merla gave him a secretive smile. “Does it matter? It worked, didn’t it?”
Coran still didn’t like it, and his thoughts showed just how little he trusted Merla and this incentive of hers. Nor did he feel any more hopeful, now that Merla had managed to arrange things so that Lotor would speak with them. He was too wary of some kind of trick, some way for Merla to escape unscathed. He couldn’t know Merla had already been burned, hurt worse by Lotor than anything these pathetic humans could ever hope to do.
Lotor didn’t keep them waiting nearly as long as Haggar had. He’d actually come stalking forward, just slightly out of breath as though he had run all the way to the command deck. Given that the commander’s cabin was located clear on the other side of the ship, it was an accurate guess. But Merla didn’t feel flattered at the thought that news of her capture had brought Lotor running. Instead she stared at him, seething with a fast burning anger. Noting his disheveled looks, the way his hair was wildly mussed, and the fact that his clothing had clearly been hastily thrown on.
She couldn’t keep from giving in to that anger, to letting jealousy consume her. Without a care to where she was, and who was listening, Merla snarled. “Did you fuck her, Lotor?! Did you fuck Allura?!”
Coran who had been prepared to speak, went silent with outrage at Merla’s question. But it had been something the advisor himself had worried about, the man worried and fearing what Lotor’s answer would be. The rest of the soldiers present were equally agitated, more than few thinking they would like to shoot Merla if Lotor answered in the affirmative.
As though aware of the danger, Lotor did not answer in basic. Instead he grit out a harsh retort in the Drule language, his own eyes angry as he glared at Merla. “How could you let yourself be caught like this?!”
“Just answer my question!” Merla snapped, still speaking in basic.
But Lotor was evasive, almost stiff as he growled. “It’s none of anyone’s business what I did or did not do with Allura.”
Merla hated that answer, thinking it almost confirmation that Lotor had in fact had sex with the princess of Arus. “You bastard!” She all but screamed in basic. “I have a right to know what you did or did not do with her! Like it or not, we are still married! You may not respect that fact, but at least respect me and answer truthfully my questions!”
“Now is not the time for this…” Lotor began.
“It’s as good a time as any!” Merla interrupted with a growl.
“I didn’t come here to fight with you.” He was still speaking in Drule, the Arusians trying to follow the conversation as best they could from Merla’s side alone.
“Then why did you come?!” demanded Merla, wishing she could put her hands on her hips. Or better yet use them to claw up Lotor’s face.
“Did you think I would stay away, knowing you were in danger?” She was right not to soften at that, Lotor’s next words hurting. “You’re pregnant with my child…Of course I am concerned.”
“How awful for you Lotor.” Merla hissed. “To be in such a terrible position. Forced to choose between Allura and the baby.” The Arusians around her, all turned startled at the revelation. None of them had known Merla was pregnant, and it came across as quite the shock to them to learn this now.
Lotor stared at her, dawning horror in his eyes. “Did you do this on purpose? Did you LET yourself be caught, so you could test which matters more to me?!”
“You think I’m that foolish, that my brain has become so addled because of you?!” sneered Merla. “No, if anyone is at fault, it’s you!”
“ME?! How is it my fault?!”
“You LEFT me to go chase after Allura! You left your tired and ill wife who is pregnant with your child, to chase after some Arusian slut!” Merla felt the anger in Coran and the soldiers. They hadn’t like Merla calling Allura a slut. “You left me without any way to defend myself. You didn’t even care to escort me back to my ship!”
“You….I thought you could handle things!” Lotor snapped back. “How was I to know you had been so weakened you couldn’t deal with a few humans?!”
“Anyone with eyes could have seen!” Merla retorted. “I was BLEEDING Lotor. That alone should have clued you in! You IDIOT!”
“Don’t call me an idiot!”
“Why not? It’s what you are!” Merla hissed.
“Stop calling me names, and help me come up with a way to FIX this!”
“Believe me, if I knew how to get out of this mess, I would have already done so.” Merla muttered.
Lotor’s expression didn’t betray his frustration. “Damn. There has to be some way…some way to get you back, and keep Allura.” That was the final straw, Merla giving Lotor one last glare.
“Just do whatever you like!” She hissed, no longer having the energy to care about anything. Merrla was so damn tired, so damn sick of everything and everyone. At this point she didn’t care what happened to her next, if she lived or died.
Coran actually waited a moment, to see if Lotor and Merla had anything more to say to each other. When it was apparent the Queen was done screaming at Lotor, he smiled, a stiff lip expression. It wasn’t a happy look, more a mocking expression then anything. “Well, your highness.” Coran said to Lotor. “It seems the Queen’s delicate condition changes everything.”
Lotor turned his glare on Coran, and the look was so murderous there was no doubt in any one’s mind that the prince would have killed the advisor if they had been in the same room together. “Oh does it?” Lotor demanded sarcastically.
“Well, yes.” Coran said. “Our bargaining power has increased. You may not put much value on your wife, but your unborn child? Even you are not that cruel, that unfeeling.” Lotors’ glare only turned even more enraged, his murderous intent apparent. He might even turn that rage on one of the many soldiers onboard the command deck, trying to satisfy his blood lust until he could get in a room with Coran. “Well, your highness?” continued Coran, pretending to be oblivious to Lotor’s anger. “What will you do now?”
“I…” A slow exhale of breath, Lotor seeming to need it to keep control of himself. “I will have to call you back.” With that the transmission was ended, leaving Coran to scowl at the view screen.
“Damn him! What is he hoping for?!” Coran muttered. He turned when Merla let out a tired sigh.
“He’s going to have to figure out just what matters to him more. Keeping Allura, or getting his child back.”
“For your sake, I hope he makes the smart decision.” Coran grumbled. Merla said nothing to that,not even to goad the advisor with the fact that she didn’t think he or any of the soldiers present had the stomach to kill a pregnant woman. She was too busy wondering what Lotor’s next move would be, and trying to reconcile her heart to the fact that whatever he chose, it wouldn’t be Merla that he thought of.