Allura had never, ever thought she’d be so happy to hear Merack’s voice. But that was the emotion that went through her, Allura wilting with relief when the com unit on Lotor’s lapel crackled to life, the commander’s voice seeming to echo as he announced his arrival. Lotor’s smile grew wider, and it seemed all the tension left his body, Allura feeling him relax as she lay pinned against his chest.
“Commander! It’s good to hear from you.” Lotor said, speaking into the com unit.
“Are you all right, my prince? Are you and the princess harmed in anyway?” Merack’s voice was rife with concern, Allura could practically picture him wringing his hands in a nervous gesture.
“We’re fine.” Lotor assured him. “A little shook up, but no worse for wear.” He smiled at Allura, ruffling her bangs. She said nothing, wondering how she would ever sleep again without hearing the screams of the people who had been killed so that she and her husband could live a little longer.
“We’re rounding up the last of the rebel scum now. I will be along shortly to escort you out of the room.” Merack said, and the com unit went silent. A few shouts could be heard outside the room, sounds of struggle as someone was subdued.
“Is it really over?” Nanny was speaking, having paused in her praying to listen to the conversation between Lotor and Merack.
“It’s over.” Lotor assured her, wrapping his arms around Allura. “So you can put down the pistol. There won’t be any need for it now.” Nanny immediately dropped the weapon onto the floor, her hands shaking as she brought them to her face. She was hiding herself from them, her shoulders shaking as she gave in to weeping, tears of relief at having survived this deadly night.
“I hope Governor Engit is all right.” Queen Orla said, Allura turning to flash surprised eyes at her Aunt. The woman flushed, hastily offering an explanation. “He has been kind all things considered. I’d hate to see him replaced with someone who would be less fair to the people of my kingdom.”
“Is that all?” Allura said, and Lotor chuckled. She felt him brush his lips against her ear, speaking in a whisper only she could hear.
“Perhaps your Aunt is not immune to Engit’s charms.”
“She wouldn’t be the first of Arus Royalty to fall to a Drule’s charm.” Allura replied, not quite managing a smile. It was too soon, the pain and horror too raw, too horrible to think of showing joy at a time like this. She felt guilty at being alive, guilt at having others die for her life to continue.
“Coran!” gasped Nanny, jarring Allura from her thoughts. “That poor man! He was at the party!” She lowered her hands, her face streaked with tears. “Do you think..?”
“Don’t say it!” Allura begged, shaking her head no. “Please, don’t even think it!”
“Allura is right.” Orla said. “We can’t worry until we get out of here to see who has and has not survived. Don’t torture yourself with thoughts of who might have been injured…or worse.”
“If you must, pray.” Lotor added. “Pray that his name is not on the list of casualties.” Nanny nodded, for once not having a surly word for the prince, her hands clasping together. Her voice was a soft murmur as she began her prayers, head bowed with tears glistening on her cheeks.
Allura said a silent prayer of her own, for Coran and for all the guests, praying that no more had died. She felt the deaths that had occurred were needless, horrible acts she would be sure to dream about. She gave thanks that her husband was still alive, resting her head on his chest, listening to the strong sound of his heartbeat. Another sound came, footsteps competing with the heartbeat, the sound of many approaching the room.
“Prince Lotor, sir!” Merack’s voice, Allura shifting free of Lotor’s arms to peer around the couch. He stood in the ruined archway, framed where the door used to be. A half a dozen guards were with him, already beginning to move aside the remains of the furniture.
“Ah Merack, good timing.” Lotor said, and eased himself up to a standing position. His hands gripped Allura’s wrists, helping her to stand as well. Behind them Nanny continued her prayers, though she paused to assist Queen Orla to her feet.
“Not good enough.” Merack looked chagrin. “If only we had arrived sooner, perhaps some deaths could have been avoided.”
“How did you know to come?” Orla asked, and the Drule glanced at the Queen before speaking.
“The men on the ships are scheduled to check in with the castle every ninety minutes. When we couldn’t get anyone to answer our hails, we got suspicious.” Merack explained. “We sent a man in to investigate. He didn’t have to go very far to find the first blast site of the terrorists.”
“Naturally he radioed for back up.” Lotor continued. “It is protocol after all.”
“Yes.” Merack nodded. “It took us time to fight our way to the ball room. The deeper we went into the castle, the more of the rebel scum there was, just waiting for us.”
“Thank goodness you got here when you did!” Orla said, and Allura nodded.
“Yes. We are grateful commander.”
“Just doing my job your highness.” Merack said, looking embarrassed.
“It’s more than that.” Allura insisted. “You didn’t have to come. Not after what happened.”
“Prince Lotor is my liege. I am sworn to protect him no matter what happens between us.” Merack explained. “That protection extends to you as well princess.”
“I see.” She said softly. He wasn’t what she could call a good man, but he was fair, and seemed to live by a code that he adhered to. Lotor could do worse to have this man guarding his back, and though she didn’t approve of the way Merack sometimes handled situations, she felt closer to understanding why he did what he did. He could almost be called honorable, Allura wondering how many Drules would be as dedicated to Lotor as Merack was.
“Well. No use standing around.” Lotor said. “I am most eager to get out of this room.” The furniture had been cleared, and one of the soldiers was working to put out the fire in the bookcase.
“A moment Prince Lotor!” Merack stepped towards him, gesturing him close. He dropped his voice to a whisper, but Allura still picked up the words that he spoke. “The ball room is in an awful state. There are bodies everywhere. Perhaps it would be best to wait so that the princess does not see….?”
“I can handle it.” Allura said before Lotor could answer for her. Both Drules looked at her, and she saw the doubt in their eyes. “Really, I’ll be okay.”
“Very well.” Merack said, and gestured for the guards to clear out of the room. She approached Lotor, taking his hand, and felt him squeeze her fingers.
“Are you sure about this?” He asked, and she nodded, resolute in her decision. He let out a sigh, but stepped forward, Lotor leading her out of the room. She braced herself for the worse, and still wasn’t prepared for the sight that awaited them just outside the ruin of the doorway. One of the Drule’s bodies, she couldn’t tell if it was Clemenas or the orange tipped Drule, for both had been wearing similar black suits. There was no way to identify them by the head, there was just too little of the skull remaining behind.
The brain was a mish mash of paste, bulbous globs laying on the floor, Allura nearly slipping on something. She looked down with a gasp, seeing bloody footprints, realizing she and Lotor had walked through a puddle of split blood. Behind her came a low moan, Nanny voicing her disgust and despair at seeing the body. Orla did not react, showing no outward sign of upset, though her Aunt was quick to keep her eyes up off the floor.
Allura heard a whimper, and realized it was coming from her, Lotor drawing her close to his body, his one hand over her eyes. “Don’t look.” He advised, and for one brief instant she took comfort from the warmth of his body.
“No…I have to see.” Allura insisted, and turned away from him, drawing his hand away from her face. She didn’t look back at the body, but she did look at the rest of the ball room. At first her eyes seemed to linger more on objects than people, seeing the scorch marks on walls, the furled banners in flames, chairs shot up with holes. But little by little, the people became apparent, Allura relieved to see most of them moving. But a few laid on the floor, as still as statues and she knew that never again would they move, full of life and joy.
“The terrorists continued to use killing blasts.” Explained Merack. “My men were set to stun, low level blasts to take them alive. But…” A shrug them, a gesture at the room. “Injuries and death still occurred.”
“Have you summon Doctor Gorma?” Allura wanted to know. “These people are in desperate need of his treatment.”
“Already on his way. I’ve sent two guards to accompany him and his staff to this room.” Answered Merack. Moans were heard, a mixture of sound from both the injured party guests and the captured terrorists. Allura spared a glance at some of the terrorists, seeing the men lined up near the stage. The Drules were in the process of removing their helmets, revealing their faces to the room.
“What are you going to do with them?” Allura asked, and saw Merack look at Lotor.
“That is up to your husband.” Merack said, and Lotor nodded. “I see.” He let go of Allura, and started to move purposefully towards the stage, Allura following hot on his heels. Merack, Nanny and Orla also chased after them, but at a more sedate pace, the five weaving their way through the crowd of people. The injured guests noticed Lotor, and they began speaking, a murmur that grew louder and louder, Allura hearing them wondering how Lotor would punish the terrorists.
He reached the group, and paused, a question being issued from his lips. “Which one of you is the leader?” Silence was his answer, Lotor placing a hand on his hip. “Come now. It does no good to be quiet. It won’t change the outcome of what is to happen.”
“And that is what?” demanded one of the terrorists, and Lotor suddenly lashed out with his hands. He hauled the man up by his shirt, practically spitting in his face as he snarled.
“I think you can guess.” Lotor sneered. “It’s the same fate that awaited my wife and I! But you’ll find I am in no less forgiving than you scum.” Still holding onto him with one hand, Lotor reached for his sword, unsheathing the lazon blade. The man’s eyes widened, seeing the lazon hum against his skin, close enough that he could surely feel the heat of that blade.
“Now…where should I start…” Lotor mused out loud, Allura moving towards him. But a hand on her shoulder stopped her, the princess turning to see Orla who shook her head no. Allura frowned at her, but did not interfere, allowing Lotor to continue with his actions. “Perhaps I’ll slice off an ear…just a simple slash like so…” He swung at the air, the man letting out a wild shout.
“Please….mercy….” The man begged, trembling. “I….I’ll tell you anything you want…”
“Darius be quiet!” Another terrorist hissed, Lotor’s grin widening.
“Oh no Dairus, give in to your urges. I’d love to hear you squeal like a stuck pig!” Lotor said, and this time the blade slashed open the armor the man wore, splitting it cleanly in half. The tip of his blade was then pressed against the hollow of his throat, Darius going stone still at the touch. “Any last words…?”
“It was him.” Darius said. “Adamus is our leader.”
“Adamus…” purred Lotor, lowering his sword. “And he is which one exactly?” Darius nodded at a man with brown hair and blue eyes, the one identified as Adamus scowling at Lotor.
“Thank you Darius.” Lotor continued that throaty purr, letting go of the man. “Now here is your reward.” He suddenly shoved his sword through the man’s chest, impaling him so thoroughly that the blade came out his back. Darius gagged, his eyes wide as blood poured out of his mouth.
“Wh…why?” He croaked.
“Why?” Lotor jerked back his arm, the blade soiled with Darius’ blood. Allura had let out a scream at the sight of what Lotor had done, her hands flying to her mouth in horror. “Why I’m merely granting you a swift and relatively pain free death. No need to thank me.” Lotor said, as Darius dropped down to the floor.
“Now…” Lotor walked over to the scowling Adamus, grabbing him by his arm. He dragged the struggling leader onto the stage, and Allura noticed that all eyes were on Lotor and his prisoner. Those of the injured that could move did so, inching closer to the stage, an eager look in their eyes.
“On your knees!” Hissed Lotor, and forced the man down into a kneeling position. Lotor grabbed at his hair with one hand, making a fist of it as he began hissing out words. “Not so smug now, are you? How does it feel to be helpless? To know your life is in the hands of someone who has no mercy for you?” Lotor bent over him, cheek pressed to cheek, sword raised to his throat. “Not a good feeling is it?”
“If you kill me, more will simply rise up in my place!” Adamus insisted, and Lotor laughed.
“And I will be sure to strike them all down. Look out at the crowd Adamus. Look at the people you terrorized, the people you hurt, the people you KILLED. Look into their eyes, and see if they have any mercy for you!”
Allura could hear the jeers, taunts and mocking laughter, the people seeming eager for the terrorist’s blood to be spilled. She shivered, and looked away from the crowd, not liking the ugliness she saw in their faces. They were goading Lotor on, approving of his actions, and it was not only the Drules that did it. She felt like she didn’t know her own people anymore, her Nanny, the terrorists, the people at this party. All people of Arus, all people who were supposed to be good and pure. But the terrorists actions hadn’t been pure hearted, but malicious and evil, and now the guests in her home were ruthless and without mercy for their tormentors.
Amidst the cries to kill him, Lotor continued, straightening. “Look at my wife, the woman you dared to insinuate you’d harm. You sealed your fate with those words, the instant you put her in danger I knew I had to act. Ah but don’t look too long…you don’t deserve such a sight as your last! You don’t deserve to live, none of you rebel scum do.”
“Lotor no…” Allura, her voice lost to the crowd’s jeers. But Lotor seemed to hear her, glancing her way. His golden eyes locked onto hers, and for a second he looked uncertain, sword hesitating. She repeated herself, clearly mouthing the word no over and over again, her head shaking out it’s meaning. Time seemed to draw out between them, till it was just her and Lotor, and even the leader of the terrorist was no more.
Her eyes welled with tears when Lotor looked away, one lone tear slipping free as his sword arm moved. In one strike the lazon severed Adamus head from his neck, blood sprouting up from his throat, his head coming away gripped by Lotor’s fist. The blood splattered onto Lotor, the prince not flinching as it covered him. He merely raised the head up high, and the crowd went wild, praising cheers being issued as they applauded him.
Commander Merack was by the stage now, and Lotor strode towards him, Adamus’ head still in his hand. “Here.” Lotor said, handing the head to Merack. “I want this preserved and mounted on a pike. Find out what town Adamus is from.” A gesture then, Lotor indicating the rest of the terrorists. “Find out where all these men are from. They will suffer similar fates, and their towns will bear witness to what happens to those who go up against Doom.”
“No…” Allura whispered, seeing him through a haze of her tears. “NO!!”
“Allura…” Orla was turning her to face her, the woman taking her niece into her arms. “He has to do this. He has to send a message so that no one dare repeat what happened on this day.”
Wide eyed she stared up at Orla, seeing the serious look on her Aunt’s face. “You condone this?”
“Men like them cannot be allowed to live.” The Queen said, Allura starting to struggle in her embrace. “Not after the crimes they committed. I dare say a public execution is what is needed after all these acts of terror.” Allura pushed free of her Aunt’s arms, shaking her head no. “Word will spread….the people will remember this day….”
“And so will I.” Allura said, and turned away. She began pushing her way through the crowd, the people clamoring towards the stage, ignoring her as they watched a Drule soldier behead another screaming terrorist. She brought her hands to her ears, but not before she heard Lotor’s voice, her husband shouting her name.
She didn’t turn, didn’t look back, breaking into a fast run that had her reaching the doorway of the room. Again she heard Lotor calling her name, sounding desperate as he tried to follow her. It just made her break into a sob, and she slipped through the doors, slamming one shut behind her.