Freedom 13

She sat staring at her reflection, Allura watching as the slave girl fussed over her hair. One hundred strokes of the hairbrush later, and the slave girl began gathering up Allura’s hair, piling it up into a loose fitting bun in which two long strands escaped to reach down and caress the top of her breasts. Those strands were then curled using an iron, the heat of which formed thick, wavy curls.

Her crown had been removed, Allura thinking to herself how strange it was to see her without that ivory band on her brow. Her crown may be gone, but she still felt the burden that came with it, the weighty responsibility she owed to her people. For the first time since all this had happened, Allura wondered if her people would understand and accept her sacrifice. Or would they see it as a betrayal, not wanting to realize she had simply had no choice in saving them all.

She held back her weary sighs, Allura having already been chastised by Thelessa for letting one escape her earlier. The dressmaker had felt she should be happy on this day, not wanting to understand that Allura was anything but. The dressmaker was quick to ration away Allura’s lack of enthusiasm as being a bundle of nerves, Thelessa smiling and energetic enough for three people.

Allura was already dressed in her gown, Thelessa being true to her word about finishing it’s modifications in time. Around her neck, Allura wore the necklace Lotor had given her, a memento of his mother. The jewels twinkled, a heavy sapphire set between a clusters of diamonds. Allura thought back to an old earth custom Lance had told her about, thinking how the necklace embodied both the something old, and something blue tradition.

She glanced down at her hand, the ring Lotor had made for her standing out noticeably. It was extravagant, and so not like her, the diamond large and heavy upon her finger. Other than the ring and the necklace, she wore no other jewelry, even though more had been offered to her. Jewels had been paraded before Allura, the wealth amazing her, enough to feed several kingdoms with some money left over.

A translucent veil was brought forth, the sheet being extended from a tiny crown, plain gold that held no jewels to it. The crown was pinned securely to the center of her head, the slave girl taking care to not muss the elaborate hairstyle she had created. It trailed all the way down her back, the veil stopping just short of the floor.

“Thank you.” Allura said to the slave, the girl offering a nervous smile to the princess. She did not speak, choosing instead to respond to all commands with a head shake or a nod.

A woman tsked, a tall Drule that resembled King Zarkon in facial structure, with large fishtail like ears that were heavily pierced. Allura glanced at her sharply, knowing the woman disapproved of showing kindness to slaves, not understanding Allura’s need to use polite words with them. But the Drule held her tongue, instead choosing to sip on the champagne that had been left out in the room.

Allura drank none, her nerves too tense to even think of partaking in spirits. No one seemed to notice or care, the women in the room talking quietly amongst themselves. They were relatives and family friends of Lotor’s, indeed the one who reminded her of a female Zarkon was some sort of aunt, Allura not recalling her name. Children played in the room, and Allura had been startled at the sight of them, getting her first glimpse of Drule childhood.

They behaved like any other child, laughing, playing with toys as they impatiently waited for the ceremony to start. A kinder looking Drule bent down before the trio, two girls and one boy, ready to remind them of their duty.

“Now you remember what you’re supposed to do during the ceremony?”

“Yes Auntie Nidrida.” They chorused back to her, eyes eager to get back to their game.

“I’m supposed to give cousin Lotor the rings!” The little boy said, then as an after thought added. “And no going eeew when they kiss.” The two little girls giggled at the thought of seeing their cousin kissing a girl, glancing at Allura. Their job was to help hold the train of her dress, assisting Allura down the aisle.

Satisfied the woman moved away from the children, rejoining the grown ups’ conversation. Allura longed for her own nanny and maids, having always expected her Aunt Orla and cousin Romelle to be here to lend her support. Instead she was surrounded by strangers, who seemed to care little about her considering she was about to marry into their family.

Her family may be about the expand, but Allura still felt all alone, as isolated as the day her father had died, leaving her an orphan two times over. Indeed she felt closer to the slave than to any of the women in this room, finding she had little in common with them.

“It’s time.” Announced a Drule female who was petite compared to the others, but still towered over Allura in height. Her skin was a faint hue of purple, her white hair tied back in a severe bun that pulled the lines of her face taut. “You there.” A contemptuous look at the slave girl. “Run and tell Prince Lotor his bride is ready to join him at the altar.”

The slave was nodding, dropping into a curtsey before she left the room. This place they found themselves in was located close to the throne room, some sort of guest bedroom they had commandeered for the bridal party.

Glasses were emptied, the Drules finishing up their drink, glancing at Allura who slowly started to stand. Her stomach fluttered, a sign of her nerves, Allura wondering if she would make it through the ceremony without fainting. She started to move, finding herself surrounded by the women, last minute advice being offered to her.

“Be sure to walk with you head held high! You are after all marrying into the prestigious Zarkon family.”

“Smile more. Frowns do not become a bride on her wedding day.”

“Perhaps she needs more make up.” One said, staring critically at her face. “She looks far too pale, even for a human.” That set of another wave of chatter, the women worrying about Allura’s health. As they talked, the door to the room opened, no one paying attention, assuming it was the slave having returned from her errand.

It wasn’t until a male’s voice coughed, a deep clearing of his throat that the women stiffened and turned. Allura’s eyes widened in fright, the women dropping down into deep curtseys as they cried out, “King Zarkon!”

“Leave us.” He commanded, and they were quick to obey. The women piled out into the hallway, offering quick, sympathetic glances at Allura. The princess herself fought to keep from breaking out into a panicked sweat at being all alone with the tyrant. She dearly hoped he didn’t notice the way she was trembling, Allura’s body screaming to move, to flee from him.

But she remained standing, hoping her eyes didn’t give away the fear that she felt. “Your highness.” She said, giving a slight nod of her head.

“Hmph.” Zarkon was looking her over, eyes traveling from head to toe. “I suppose in that cumbersome dress, a curtsy is too much to ask for? No matter. Be glad I am in a….gracious mood this day.” He wandered over to the almost empty bottle of champagne, pouring himself a glass. He drank from it, giving her a considering look. “I suppose you clean up well enough. I could almost see why my son is so besotted with you.”

Still she said nothing, not sure Zarkon even wanted a response from her. “It won’t last you know.” He said, and that got a reaction from her.

“Oh?”

“The love I mean.” Zarkon clarified. “It never does. Lotor only thinks he cares for you, but it’s mere infatuation. Heh…he’s always been the type to want what he can’t have. And in this galaxy there has been little to deny him. I spoiled him you see.” Zarkon confided to her.

“He’s your only child. Your heir. Of course you would spoil him.” Allura said, and Zarkon nodded.

“Aye. That he is. And as such…” A step closer to her, Zarkon flashing fangs in a grim smile. “I won’t have you ruining him.”

“What do you mean?” Allura asked, the instinct to run was strong. She found herself taking a step backwards, trying to keep her distance from the king. “Ruin him how?”

“Oh you women have your ways.” Zarkon said, moving to close the distance between them. “You flirt, and you beguile, seeking to wrap a man about your little finger. You use your bodies to trap a man, make him desperate for you. But if we men are lucky, we fight free of the spells you seek to place on us.”

“You think very highly of the female species, don’t you?” Allura asked, sarcasm dripping from her voice.

“I know enough to respect a shrewd enemy.” Zarkon retorted. “And I know enough to be wary of you, princess. You’ve made trouble for me for far too long. That ends today. Marry Lotor, play the dutiful wife to him. Make him happy or else.”

“Or else what?” Allura whispered, watching as Zarkon’s horrible smile widened.

“Or else I’ll snap that slender little neck of yours with my bare hands.” Zarkon threatened, and it was all the more horrible when he laughed. “I care nothing for you. You are a mere insect in the grand scheme of things. Go….make pale skinned babies with him, give me heirs I can pit against each other. Learn to be silent and meek, and you may even live longer than Lotor’s mother did.”

She was staring at him horrified, trying to digest all he was saying. She hadn’t even thought of having children with Lotor, and the idea of Zarkon as a grandfather to them made her sick. Even worse was the thought of him raising them to hate each other, to fight over the kingdom. She almost wished he would snap her neck right then and there, spare her from going through with this marriage.

“Am I making myself clear princess?” Zarkon asked, and she quickly nodded her head yes.

“Perfectly.”

“Good.” His clawed hand was reaching for her, Allura letting out an alarmed gasp as she went to avoid his hand.

“What are you doing?!”

“Oh?” A questioning look from him. “Didn’t anyone tell you? In lieu of your own father being absent from the wedding, I am the one who will be walking you down the aisle.” How he smirked at seeing her horrified look, once again making a grab for her arm. She let out a cry of pain, Allura finding his nails digging in painfully into her skin.

“No!” Allura cried out, trying to pull her arm back. “Not you! Anyone but you!” She had always wanted Coran to be the one to walk her down the aisle, the man had become like a father to her in the absence of her own. Now she would settle for a complete stranger, rather than submit to the humiliation of being escorted down the aisle by her father’s killer.

“Yes….” hissed Zarkon, his foul breath wafting into her face. “Me. You’re not going to make a scene, are you princess? Ha ha ha. How entertaining. I’m sure the people back on Arus would love to see you being dragged, kicking and screaming down the aisle. It might even make the news of your wedding easier to swallow.” He drew her to him, hissing into her ear. “The wedding is being broadcast all over the galaxy. Will you behave accordingly, or make a fool out of yourself?”

“I hate you.” Allura whispered back, finding her eyes were brimming with tears, a mixture of her pain and frustration.

“Yes. You do.” A satisfied Zarkon said, reaching to catch a tear on his fingertip. He brought it to his mouth, doing a slow lick of his finger. “Your misery is sweet. Perhaps sometime I will have you cry into a cup, and quench my thirst on your tears.”

“I’ve cried enough where you family is concerned!” Allura snapped back, fighting to keep from giving into her tears.

“Not enough considering all the trouble you caused!” Zarkon retorted, and began dragging her towards the door. He yanked it open, the chatter of the women in the hall greeting them. “Ah ladies. Thank you for waiting. I think we are ready now. Right daughter?”

“Right.” Allura got out, word angry. The women exchanged looks, but said nothing about the strained look on Allura’s face. The two little girls moved as Zarkon guided Allura into the hall, taking up the ends of her dresses’ heavy train. They lifted it up so it would not drag on the floor, Allura moving easier with their help. Someone pushed a bouquet of fake flowers into Allura’s hands, the silk colored in golds, purples, and white to match the decor that had been set up in the throne room.

Choking on her anger, Allura walked alongside King Zarkon, the party making quick progress towards the throne room. They paused in the corridor, just around the bend from the double doors, the guards having pulled them open. The crowd in the throne room fell silent, their anticipation almost a palpable thing. The ring bearer was urged to go around the corner, the boy clutching the pillow with the rings before his chest.

Soon after he entered the room, the women began heading inside, making up Allura’s bridesmaids. Groomsmen joined each one as they entered, walking them down the aisle until at last the strains of the wedding march began, organ sounding loud and somber.

~This is it.~ Allura realized, as Zarkon began leading her around the corner. ~There’s no going back now.~ They came into view of the doors, and as one the people in the pews rose to their seats, eager to get their first sight of the bride to be. There was no point in scanning the crowd for familiar faces, she knew there was simply none to be found.

One foot after the other, Allura forced herself to move, Zarkon half dragging her down the aisle. At the end of the rug, Lotor stood waiting, turning to smile at her, expression beaming. He wore an elaborate jacket, black, collar stiff and high on his neck. Gold thread was embroidered into the dark material, forming curlicues and swirls in a tasteful design. He had medals pinned to his breast, and his pants were neatly pressed. They too were black, with a gold line running down the sides. A hint of gold was at his wrists, expensive cufflinks no doubt.

His white hair was swept back from his shoulders, tied with a gold ribbon. It matched the shade of his eyes, Lotor staring dreamily at Allura. She gazed back at him, reluctantly admiring his beauty, the handsome prince nearly stealing her breath away. Behind Lotor, just before the steps of the dais was a small wooden podium, a Drule priest stationed before it. A book of some sort was open, purple ribbon trailing out from between the pages.

All too soon, Zarkon was handing her over to Lotor, the tight grip relaxed on her arm, Lotor’s hands gentle as he guided her to stand next to him. A whisper in her ear, Lotor praising her. “You look absolutely stunning.:

She said, nothing, turning to fix her eyes on the priest, noticing how ancient he looked, how wrinkled his skin was. His mouth opened, dry lips cracked in places as he spoke in a voice that reminded her of a frog’s croak.

“We are gathered here today to bear witness to the joining together of these two young ones.” He began, the crowd at last sitting down. Zarkon joined Haggar in the front pew, the witch cackling softly as she stared at Allura. She tried to ignore the witch, uncomfortable with the looks she was giving her.

“We join not only two lovers together, but kingdoms as well.” Continued the priest. “It is an end to war, a bringing of a much need peace for which we are grateful for.” His words made Allura wonder if he realized the irony of them, the princess thinking the Drules were anything but eager for peace.

“We hope for the blessings of the Gods, to place upon Prince Lotor and Princess Allura all the love and happiness they deserve. And to extend that blessing to Planet Doom and Planet Arus, ushering in a new era of progress. As their love seasons and grows, so too must the two united kingdoms, prospering under their joined hands.” So far the ceremony was a constant reminder of why Allura was going through with it, the princess wondering if the priest had been instructed by Lotor to spinkle in such reminders.

Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced at Lotor, the prince all smiles as he listened attentively to the priest. His hand was warm on her arm, fingers caressing her through the sleeve. He was totally relaxed, not all impatient or worried.

“What is a marriage?” asked the priest, a pause as he gazed out on his audience. “Marriage, a good one, is a strong bond of friendship and trust. Lotor and Allura, your love for each other will grow deeper with every passing day. Your love is the foundation on which stands mutual affection and respect for each other, and it can only straighten in time.”

Allura quelled at the thought of Lotor’s obsession with her growing any stronger, the princess fighting to keep from frowning. “To truly love another person…” continued the priest. “Is to be willing to accept both their strong points, and their weak ones with equal measures of understanding and respect.” The priest offered a kind smile to them. “The vows you are about to exchange will be a verbal representation of your emotions, of your commitment to each other. They may not be tangible, but the vows will be as real as anything that can be seen, heard, or touched.”

“For…” His words were drowned out as a loud explosion was heard, the guests gasping as the castle shook to it’s very foundations. Lotor’s hand tightened on her arm, Allura hearing footsteps as soldiers ran into the room. She turned to watch their approach, seeing them split up, one approaching to whisper quietly in Zarkon’s ear. The other spoke to Lotor, voice too soft for Allura to make out his words, but Lotor’s expression became angry.

Whispering something back, the soldier turned the way he had come, Zarkon and Haggar getting up to follow. The priest was hesitating, looking to Lotor for guidance.

“Continue with the ceremony.” Ordered the prince, a glower on his face.

Another explosion shook the castle, the guests sitting back down, visibly nervous. Allura wondered what was going on, not daring to hope it was her friends come at last to rescue her.

The priest was glancing at his book, trying to find his place as one bony figure touched the printed words. “Ah yes…For it is not words alone that will bind you together as one….but the strength of the love and commitment you have for each other. The love you have found deep within your souls.”

“Let us take a moment to pray for the God’s blessing. We ask them to grant Lotor and Allura with health and happiness, to allow them to be a fertile match.” The guests were praying, hands clasped together, trying to ignore the sounds of gun fire that could be heard. A roar was issued, Allura giving a start of fright, realizing a robeast had been let loose outside the castle walls.

“At….at this time…” stuttered the priest, clearly unnerved by the sounds. “I ask you, Lotor, and you, Allura to face each other as you hold each other’s hands.” Allura handed off her bouquet to one of her purple clad bridesmaids, dutifully clasping hold of Lotor’s hands. He laced their fingers together, blue on peach, and he was smiling though the sides of that look was strained.

“Now….Lotor….repeat after me.” The priest ordered, eyes widening as soldiers entered the room, taking up positions by the doors. “I, Lotor, take you, Allura to by my lawfully wedded wife.”

“I Lotor, take you Allura…” Lotor said, voice loud and confidant as he gazed into her eyes. “To be my lawfully wedded wife, my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward.” Allura was relieved that he was sticking to traditional vows, the princess feeling she wouldn’t have been able to handle writing her own.

“Here in the presence of the Gods that watch over Planet Doom, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as sorrow.” Continued Lotor. “I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and to cry with you. But most of all, I promise to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.”

Another explosion, nearly knocking her off her feet. To the back of her, one of the little girls who held onto her train began crying, clearly frightened by the sounds. The priest urged Allura to repeat after him, and she did so, words falling free in a dull monotone as she professed to love and honor Lotor. For an instant she wondered if the Gods themselves would strike her down for her lies, knowing she did not love her husband to be.

“Now for the rings.” The priest said, and the little boy came forward with his pillow, Lotor reaching for them. He handed one to Allura, and she gave a quick glance at it, noticing it was simple gold bands with Drule writing scripted on the inside. She wondered what they said, the priest telling Lotor to place the ring on Allura’s hand. He did so, and then it was her turn to slide the ring onto his finger.

“Now…” The priest looked extremely nervous as he spoke. “Who so ever has just cause for these two to not be married, speak now or forever hold your piece.”

Allura held her breath, seeing Lotor shoot a warning glare into the crowd. They chuckled nervously, but no one came forward, and the priest smiled relieved. “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”

“Gladly.” Lotor purred, and was pulling Allura to him, so fast she nearly stumbled. His hands on her waist kept her up right, Lotor bending to bring his mouth to bear against her lips. It was hardly a chaste kiss, Lotor’s tongue licking across her bottom lip, demanding entrance to her mouth. She reluctantly allowed it, her husband taking advantage to explore her mouth completely, pressing their bodies together that he nearly bent her over backwards as they kissed.

Cheers erupted from the crowd, the guests standing to applaud. A sound was heard, fabric tearing as confetti was released from the ceiling, glittering silver pieces of papers showering them all. And still Lotor continue to kiss her, Allura’s eyes falling close, the girl making a small sound deep in her throat.

It was only when the priest cleared his throat, embarrassed by the display that caused Lotor to remember they had an audience, the prince reluctantly pulling back. Allura was breathing a little quicker, Lotor having stolen away a good portion of her breath.

“It is my honor…” began the priest. “To present to you, Crown Prince Lotor and his wife, the Princess Allura.” Lotor was staring at her, looking very much like he wanted to kiss her again. Red faced, Allura turned to look at the crowd, hoping to avoid another one of Lotor’s kisses. Together as one, they began to move, stepping away from the podium to mingle with the guests in the pews.

People surrounded them, all talking at once, excited chatter as they offered their congratulations. Another explosion sounded, tremor slightly lessened this time. Allura glanced at Lotor, seeking answers. She was not the only one, a Drule noble issuing out his demand.

“Prince Lotor, you simply must tell us the reason behind these explosions!”

“Yes!” A woman cried out, unable to stifle her fears any longer. “The fireworks weren’t scheduled to go off, until after the ceremony. Are we under attack?”

“Yes, we are.” Lotor said, unconcerned. “But do not allow this to mar this joyous day. My father and men are handling the situation, Haggar has already released a robeast to take care of the intruders. We will win this fight.”

“Who is it?” Allura asked, causing Lotor to glance at her. “Who is attacking Doom?”

“Some former friends of yours.” Lotor’s words made her heart tighten, Allura’s eyes widening with understanding.

“The Voltron Force….but how?” She wondered.

“No doubt Sven is piloting blue lion.” Grumbled Lotor. “Your captain is…quick to exploit all possible angles.”

“Don’t hurt him.” Allura said, seeing Lotor’s eyes flash with jealousy. “Please Lotor…” She begged. “Don’t hurt my friends.”

“They are the ones who came here when they should have stayed well away. They are the ones who even as we speak, use Voltron against my people.” Lotor said. “They will be lucky to escape with their lives.”

“Please…” Allura whispered.

He hesitated, then spoke. You have your first duty as my wife to perform.” Lotor said, and was guiding her through the crowds, over to a camera man. “Patch us through to channel KY7.” He ordered, Allura’s recognizing it as the frequency the lions communicated on.

“Yes sir!” The cameraman agreed, adjusting his equipment so that the broadcast was sent straight to the lions.

“You’re on my dear.” Lotor said, stepping away from Allura. “Make it good.”

Allura hesitated as the camera was aimed at her, the radio feedback amplifying the sounds of the explosions. She could hear the Voltron force talking, gasping as she appeared on their monitors.

“Princess!” Keith’s voice echoing out of the radio. “Hang on just a little longer! We just have to take care of Haggar’s robeast!”

“Don’t…” Allura said, and she heard his confusion as he said her name.

“Allura?”

“Keith….my friends…it’s over.” Allura sighed, glad she couldn’t see their faces.

“It’s never over!” Keith protested, the others voicing their agreement.

“No. I mean the ceremony….it’s already over. I…” Allura glanced at Lotor, who was just out of range of the camera. He was smirking, enjoying every minute of her conversation. “I’m married.” She said to gasps. “Lotor and I are now husband and wife. There’s no need to fight anymore.”

“He can’t force you to do anything if we kill him!” Keith growled.

“Ha ha ha.” Lotor laughed, unable to stay out of the conversation any longer. “Always an extremist dear captain. Would you really try to make dear princess Allura into a widow on her wedding day?”

“If it mean ridding the galaxy of your smirking face, than you better believe it!” snarled Keith in reply.

“Face it captain, you have lost! Allura is mine now. All of the galaxy is watching.” Lotor added, slipping an arm around her waist. “They’ve heard your words, know it is you who attack us, not the other way around. If you dare to try and kill me, you will go down for murder.”

“If it frees Allura, I’d gladly take the fall.” Retorted Keith, Allura gasping out a reply.

“Keith no!” She shook her head. “Don’t do this. Please, I beg of you.”

No answer from Keith, but then Lance was speaking. “What would you have us do princess? We can’t just leave you to that monster!”

“Yeah!” Pidge said. “We can’t bear to see you resigned to a life of sadness.”

“And you think I will be happy having you commit murder in my name?” She demanded sharply. “That I will be happy to have my friends in jail? And what of Planet Arus? With Lotor gone, it will still fall under attack, and with no Voltron Force to pilot the lions, we would be doomed. Nothing would change!”

“But!” Pidge cried out, and she talked over him.

“But nothing! Please. Stop this foolishness at once. Cease your fighting…”

“Yes. Surrender to Doom at once.” Lotor ordered. “If you do this, I may be willing to speak on your behalf to save your military careers.”

“What do you want to do Keith?” Lance was heard asking.

“Keith?” Hunk’s voice, the man sounding concerned at Keith’s silence. “It’s Allura asking us to do the right thing. We should respect her wishes.” A sigh then, Keith at last speaking.

“All right. All right, damn you! We surrender! Call off your robeast!”

Lotor laughed, victorious. “A wise decision captain. Power down Voltron, and be prepared to be boarded.”

“What are you going to do, Lotor?” Sven demanded, Allura wanting to know the answer to that question as well.

“I will merely be taking you into custody.” Explained Lotor. “You will be shipped back to Garrison after a lengthy interrogation. I’d do it myself but…” A smile at Allura, a tender touch of her cheek. “I have a honeymoon to attend to.” He broke into peals of laughter, and guided her away from the camera, signaling the transmission to be cut short, the Voltron force’s protests dying mid scream.


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