Freedom 12

They were still in the throne room, Lotor standing next to Allura, his arm wrapped around her slender waist. All around them, controlled chaos reigned, servants rushing to make sure everything was perfect for the big day. Human slaves labored under the watchful eyes of the soldiers, carrying a heavy plaster punch bowl towards a table. It was composed of four tiers, each one bigger than the last, so that the beverage would flow over the sides into the bowls beneath them, mimicking the effects of a water fall.

A tarp covered the ceiling, bulging slightly as it held back confetti. Once the ceremony was completed, it would split open, dropping it’s contents down onto the people gathered in the pews below, showering them in glitter. Fake strands of green garland were being wound around the room’s pillars, Lotor’s one regret being there wasn’t enough time to import real flowers for the wedding. Still he was impressed with the quality of the silk flowers that covered the table tops, they added an expensive, regal touch to the proceedings.

More servants arrived, carrying covered trays, depositing their wares onto a section of a table. They looked anxiously at Lotor, who gave a slight nod of his head, signaling he had noticed their arrival. “Ah Allura…..I have one more treat for you.”

“Oh?” She looked at him, eyes curious.

“I thought you might like to sample some of the foods that are going to be served at the ceremony.” Lotor said, steering her towards the table. “It will be a mixture of Drule and Arusian delicacies, a veritable feast for the senses.”

“All right.” She agreed, and he was continuing.

“Some of my people’s food takes some getting use too.” A chuckle then, Lotor pulling out a chair for her. Allura sat down, folding her dress neatly around her legs, eyes intent on the covered dishes before her. Lotor sat down next to her, and with a gesture from him, the servants began uncovering the food. Delicious aromas arose in the air, tantalizing his sense of smell.

“There’s so many to choose from.” Allura said, amazed.

“Well, we are hosting a party that consists of almost entirely Drules.” A hearty laugh from him, Lotor reaching for the plate nearest to him. It was some sort of green gelatin substance, with tiny bits of berries inside. “And my people are known for their voracious appetites.”

“I see.” Allura picked up a spoon, scooping up a tiny bit of the gelatin into her mouth. She made an appreciative sound, eyes wide with shock. “It’s good! It tastes as though my own chef back on Arus had prepared this!”

“I’m glad.” Lotor said, relieved his chefs had been up to the challenge of preparing meals from Arus. He reached for a large cut of meat, some sort of broiled steak that was rich brown in color. He cut off small pieces, giving one to Allura, who stabbed a fork into it. She gingerly took a bite, getting her first taste of what passed for cows on Planet Doom.

They only took a bite from each meal, the plates quickly being carried away with the remainders of the dish. By the time they did it to the fifth dish, Allura was frowning, setting her utensils down. “Lotor….what are they going to do with the uneaten food?”

He paused, surprised. “Disposing of it most likely. Why?”

“Dispose of it? Dispose of it how?!” Allura demanded, eyes narrowed so that she looked even angrier. Lotor could not understand the cause of her ire, the prince looking at her in confusion.

“Most likely tossed down into the garbage disposal unit.” Lotor said, giving an uncaring shrug of his shoulders. He watched her look away from him, turning to take in all the plates that were set out across the table.

“You mean all of this….” A quick gesture from her. “Is going to go to waste?! When they are people out there suffering, going to their beds hungry tonight? Unable to feed their familles?!”

“Ah….” Uneasy Lotor shifted in his seat. “As always, you are concerned with the welfare of others, princess. But really, what would be the point in offering up this fine repast to them? It would solve only to feed them for one meal, they would be left hungry for more.”

“Then why don’t you do something to help them permanently ease their hunger?” Her eyes were challenging, Allura’s words heated. “Set up food drives, have your people who are prospering from the suffering of others donate money to help ease the plight of the planets you have conquered!”

“Allura, you ask me to do the impossible.” Lotor said, and she shook her head, voice loud.

“It is not!”

“I cannot end universal hunger!” Lotor snapped, seeing Allura set her lips into a thin line of disapproval. “Allura, there is simply too many people, and not enough fertile land to feed them all. Some unfortunate sacrifices must be made.”

“Those unfortunate sacrifices are people!” She countered, seeming to grow more and more agitated by his words.

“Don’t you think I know that?!” A sigh followed his shout, Lotor shaking his head. “Allura…even your own planet had difficulties sustaining it’s people’s appetites without outside help.”

“Only because your planet destroyed many of our crop fields!” Allura pointed out. “There was a time before Voltron when we couldn’t even rely on importing aide from other planets…all thanks to your father!”

“Cutting off a planet’s supply routes is a typical maneuver when trying to conquer a new land.” Lotor said, unapologetic for Zarkon’s actions.

“It’s wrong!” Allura cried out, shoulders shaking with her anger. “Lotor how can you be so….so unfeeling!?”

She was blinking back tears, Lotor silent as he considered his words. He didn’t want to upset her any further, but feared anything he would say would do just that. Her concern for the welfare of others was as admirable as it was annoying, Lotor holding back a sigh. “I am a realist.” He said at last. “I know what can and cannot be done, and I accept it. To do any less would be a lesson in futility. Allura…you emphasized with the starving nations, but what does this emphaty get you other than hurt tears and tortured feelings?”

She wasn’t saying anything, just staring at him. He smiled kindly at her, hand reaching towards her cheek. His fingers played with a stray curl, teasing it back to the side. “Let it go….just let it go. Free yourself from this unnecessary burden of worrying.”

“To do that would be to change the person I am, to become someone unrecognizable to myself.” Allura told him sadly. “I won’t become something I’m not, Lotor.”

“And neither will I change just to please your tortured sensibilities.” Lotor retorted. He could see she didn’t like that, Allura pushing away from the table.

“I’ve lost my appetite.” Allura announced. “Please see that the remainder of this food goes to someone in need.”

He stood when she did, Allura turning her back on him. Exasperated he turned, catching sight of an emancipated looking slave, who was eyeing the table hungrily. The slave gave a start of fright when he realized Lotor was looking at him, starting to move to resume whatever duties had been assigned to him.

“You there!” Lotor barked, pointing at the scared slave. “Come here!”

“Yes, Prince Lotor.” The slave said nervously, head bowed low so that he stared at his feet as he approached the prince. From the way he was moving, it was clear the slave expected to be beaten.

Lotor raised his hand, the slave flinching but remaining before the prince, ready to take the blow. But it never came, Lotor instead clapping his hand down on the man’s shoulder, not quite smiling as he guided the slave into his vacated chair. “Eat up.” Lotor ordered, hearing the rustle of skirts as Allura turned, surprised.

The slave was hesitating, staring in disbelief at the food. “Re…really?”

“I gave you an order!” Lotor snapped, and the slave hastily reached for a handful of cake, not even bothering with a fork. “Now…” Lotor was looking at his shocked servants. “Gather up as many slaves as you can find. Have them partake of this meal. I won’t have this food going to waste.”

“Lotor…” Allura whispered his name, as the Drule servants hurried off. “…..thank you….”

He looked at her now, eyes serious. “This won’t make a difference, you realize that? It’s only one night’s meal, they will still be fighting over scraps come the next day.”

“But at least for tonight they will go to bed with their bellies full.” Allura said, and she reached out to touch his arm. “And for that I am grateful.”

“I must be a fool for love.” He muttered too soft for her to hear. Slowly, more slaves were seated at the table, their faces astonished. They moved hesitantly at first, and then began grabbing for food, rapidly stuffing their faces as though they feared at any moment they would be reprimanded for eating. They were likely to make themselves sick from the greedy way they gobbled down their meal, Lotor trying to keep from looking disgusted at the thought.

The food was quickly being demolished, the slaves not slowing down to savor the rich taste of the meal. Lotor turned away from the sight, reaching for Allura’s hand. She no longer looked as angry as she had been, not quite smiling as she looked at him. Wordlessly, Lotor started to lead her away from the table, walking past soldiers and servants who were still looking at him with amazement in their eyes.

He felt like a fool, and he hoped his father wouldn’t learn of his act of kindness. His father would not be amused, and liable to ridicule him in front of the court for his actions. And Lotor had had enough of such scenes to last him a lifetime!

They went to leave the room, a soldier arriving just as they reached the entrance. He was slightly out of breath, having been running, and he slid to a stop in front of Lotor and his bride. His hand went to temple in a sharp salute, the man looking relieved to see Lotor.

“Yes, what is it?” Lotor demanded, in no mood for any urgent news.

“Witch Haggar requests your presence immediately!” The soldier said, Lotor now understanding why the man had been in such a hurry. There was few Drules who wanted to be in the presence of that witch, her magic made them uneasy, leaving them frightened of her and her feline companion.

“What does that old crone want now?” Lotor asked out loud.

“She says it’s urgent.” Added the soldier. “Something to do with your upcoming nuptials.”

“She better not have found a reason to delay the ceremony.” Lotor grumbled, eyes darkening with a promise of a threat. “I swear, if she tells me her crystal ball said the planets aren’t lined up in a favorable position, I will wring her scrawny neck!” He let go of Allura, glancing at her. “I won’t be long my darling.”

“You’re going alone?” She looked relieved, and Lotor couldn’t blame her for not wanting to see the witch.

“Yes.” Lotor’s voice became commanding, an order issuing from his lips. “Return the princess to my chambers. See that no one disturbs her.”

“Yes, sire!” The soldier said, and with a glance at Allura, was moving. She paused for one instant, eyes intent on Lotor’s face.

“Do not worry Allura. Haggar won’t harm me.” Lotor assured her, and she nodded.

“All right, I’ll see you later.” With that she was moving, following the soldier. Lotor also left the hall, and at the next bend, he separated from Allura, going off in the opposite direction of his rooms. He moved fast, stalking through the corridors, people hurrying out of his way as they noticed the annoyed look on his face.

Haggar made her home in the West wing of the castle, a wide array of rooms that had had their dividing walls knocked down to give her a large amount of space for her laboratory. It was always dark in the witch’s den, only the flicker of an overhead light allowed a brief glow of blue to wash over the proceedings.

Her lab always smell of burnt things, the remains of magic discharged in the air. Chemicals produced a faint odor, overtaken by the many herbs that found their home in every available nook and cranny. Her laboratory was a strange mixture of science and magic, computer consoles beeping, caged creatures growling. Tubes and beakers lined her desk, and in one corner was a Drule sized tube, perfect for cloning a person.

Something slithered in a tank, a tentacle being extended, brushing it’s slimy limb against Lotor’s hand. It was to his credit that he didn’t react by lashing out with his sword, Lotor reigning in his startled reaction. It simply wasn’t worth the chewing out he would get as Haggar bitched and bemoaned the loss of one of her twisted experiments.

He went deeper into the laboratory, eyes casting about for any sign of the witch. He passed by rows of bookcases, coughing on the dust that covered the tomes, and still she did not appear. “All right Haggar, I am here!” Lotor shouted, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. “What was so urgent you had to summon me away from my bride?”

A cackle was heard, Lotor moving towards the sound. At last he saw her, back turned to him as she hunched over something on the table. Her brown cloak was wrapped tightly around her body, and her blue cat Coba was winding his way around her ankles, begging for her attention.

“Ah Prince Lotor. Perfect timing.” Haggar said, glancing at him over her shoulder. Her eyes gleamed, two stark points of yellow in the darkness. “Come closer….I have something for you….something you have great need of.”

“And what would that be exactly?” Lotor asked, moving towards her. She turned, holding a curved container, bright red liquid sloshing about the glass. “A potion?” Lotor arched an eyebrow, hardly impressed. “Haggar, you do realize I already have everything I desire. I doubt a potion can add to that.”

“Ah but you don’t!” Haggar replied, lips turned upwards in a smile. “You know that to be true, deep down the thing you want the most still eludes you!”

“Just what are you getting at?” He demanded, hands on his hips.

“Allura’s heart.” Haggar replied, a cackle escaping her. “You want the girl to fall in love with you.”

“That’ll happen in time.” Lotor said confidently.

“Are you sure?” Haggar asked, surely trying to cause him to feel doubt. She smiled at his hesitation, shoving the potion under his nose. It smelled horrible, Lotor taking a step back to escape the smell. “With this you can be guaranteed of her heart within an instant.”

“And what exactly is this concoction you proffer before me?” Lotor asked, already having a good idea of what it was.

“A love potion!” She said triumphantly. “I’ve finally perfected the spell!”

“How very good for you.” Lotor said, not making a move to take the container from her. “But I have no use for it. I want Allura’s love to be real, not manufactured.”

“Then you are a fool!” barked out Haggar, annoyance and anger in her tone.

“Careful witch. Lest you go too far with your words.” Lotor snapped back, his tone matching hers “Now….if that is the reason you have summoned me here, then I shall be leaving. Unless you have something else to hold my attention with.”

She frowned at him, shaking her head no. He turned to leave, and she called out after him. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

Lotor shrugged, uncaring. “Pour it down a drain, or drink it yourself. It matters not to me! Good night Haggar.”

“You’re making a mistake!” She hissed, setting the potion down hard on the table. The glass clinked loudly, but did not break, liquid sloshing violently within it. “That girl will never love you! She doesn’t even like you!”

“Then I shall enjoy proving you wrong!” Lotor said, laughing. But it was a forced sound, Lotor not as sure of the situation as he would have liked to be. Haggar was cursing, a muted sound under her breath as Lotor walked away.

He hurried through her laboratory, intent on returning to Allura. But inwardly he was wondering if he was doing the right thing. The love potion was a tempting offer, and one he doubted Haggar would make to him a second time. Was he turning his back on the only chance he had to ensure Allura became as devoted to him as he was to her?

He shook his head, frowning. He would just have to keep on believing she would cave in to his advances, learn to love him. It shouldn’t be hard for her to do, he reasoned to himself. He was handsome, charming, skilled in bed. And even though she claimed not to be impressed by wealth and power, some part of her had to be moved by the safety and rich lifestyle he offered her.

~She’ll come around.~ He thought to himself, navigating Castle Doom’s corridors. ~Once she realizes I am the best match for her, she’ll be grateful to by my bride.~

It was late by the time he reached his chambers, Allura having already retired to the bedroom. He knocked on the bedroom door, pleased to note she hadn’t locked it this time. “Allura? Are you asleep?”

“No, not yet.” Came her answer, the girl laying on her side, head resting on a pillow. She sat up as he entered, Lotor letting dim light illuminate the room. “What did Haggar want?” She asked, unable to keep the curiosity out of her voice.

“Just to wish me good fortune on our wedding day.” The lie slipped easily off his tongue, Lotor pausing by his dresser. “Her magic has forecast that the wedding will go off without a hitch.” Continued Lotor, rooting around through the drawers. “The Gods have favored us with the perfect day to get married.”

“Oh….” Allura said, tone dull with disappointment.

Lotor glanced at her, hands sweeping aside shirts as he searched. “Are you disappointed? Did you hope the captain and the Voltron force would find a way to disrupt the ceremony?”

“……….” She looked down at her lap, but her silence was answer enough, Lotor chuckling.

“Sooner or later, you will give up on this foolish notion of being rescued.” Lotor said, his hand catching on a velvet lined box. He smiled, and withdrew it from the drawer, slowly lifting the lid up. A necklace was revealed, gold chain polished to perfection, with jewels that would have twinkled if the light had been brighter in the room.

Snapping the lid close, he approached the bed, going to perch on the edge next to Allura. “I have something for you.”

“More gifts?” She asked, glancing at the box. “Lotor….you don’t have to keep giving me things. It… won’t change things between us, and only serves to spoil me further.”

“But I like spoiling you.” Lotor said, choosing to ignore what she had said. “It makes me happy.” He held up the box before her, Allura not reaching for it. “Please…..indulge me.”

“All right…” Allura sighed, taking the box from his hands. He watched as she carefully opened it, hearing her gasp in surprise. “Lotor….this is….this is beautiful.”

“It….It was my mother’s.” Lotor said, and watched as she tore her eyes away from the necklace to look at him.

“Your mother’s?” He nodded. “Oh Lotor…..I…I can’t accept this. If it was your mother’s, you should keep it.”

“But I want you to have it.” Lotor said, refusing to take the box back. “The necklace should be worn. And who better to wear it than the woman I love?” He watched her try to think of a reason to reject the necklace, watched her struggle to find the right words.

“Please Allura…” Lotor said, covering her hands with his. “Don’t say no. Honor my mother”s memory by accepting and wearing this necklace with pride”

“Can….can you tell me about her?” Allura asked, glancing down at the necklace once more. “What was she like?”

“In a way she was very much like you. Not just in looks, but in personality. Spirited….” He smiled, thinking back on his hazy memories of his mother. “Kind and caring towards others, and when she laughed, the whole room lit up with her joy.” He fought to keep from thinking of his father, trying to focus only on his mother. “She was too good for my father…so different and regal compared to him. They were world’s apart…and should have stayed that way.”

“Did they love each other?” Allura asked him, and he almost laughed.

“No Allura.” He shook his head, hoping his expression remained blank. “They did not.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” Lotor said, slowly uncovering her hands. “It’s not anyone’s fault but Zarkon’s.”

“It must have been difficult growing up with him for a father.” Allura said, and Lotor nodded.

“Yes….in some ways it was. My mother made it better though. So please….” Lotor said, forcing himself to focus only on Allura and not past memories. “Accept my gift to you.”

“All right.” She said, hugging the box close to her chest. “I will wear it with honor.”

“That’s all I ask.” Lotor said, leaning in to kiss her, a brief brushing of his lips against her forehead. “Get some rest Allura. You’ll need it for tomorrow.”

“I will.” She said, closing the jewelry box. She carefully set it down on the night stand next to the bed, and it was then that Lotor stood up. One last lingering look at her, and then he was turning, going to walk out of the room. He paused only long enough to switch off the lights, letting the door slide shut behind him.

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