A curse on his lips, Lotor watched as Allura disappeared through the doorway of the ball room, his wife not pausing at his shouts. She didn’t even look back at him, didn’t so much as acknowledge him, and her hands pulled the door shut behind her. He barely heard the sound of it slamming into place, listening to the congratulatory cheers of the crowd. Both his soldiers and the party guests equally approving of his actions, and hungering for more justice to be served.
“Take care of things here.” Lotor said, not looking at Merack as he commanded him. Instead he sheathed his bloodied sword, his mind already on Allura and thoughts of pursuing her.
“Yes, your highness.” Merack voice was rife with satisfaction, the man pleased at what Lotor had done. He heard Merack start barking out orders, the soldiers beginning an interrogation of the men, quick to learn what towns they were from and if there was any rebel scum that still remained free. All would be accounted for, all would be killed, their heads preserved and sent to their home villages to be put on display. A warning to all over what would happen if you went up against the Doom Empire.
But Lotor didn’t stick around to watch the beheadings, already pushing his way through the crowd. Several people tried to stop him, wanting to offer their thanks and congratulations, admiration in their tones. Lotor let out a furious growl, shoving aside a man who was attempting to shake his hand, his words a curt order that would not be disobeyed.
“Get out of my way!”
The people wisely moved, but slowly, Lotor all but snarling in impatience as he inched forward. His mood hardly improved once he was free of the crowd, breaking into a run as he forced the doors open and got out into the hall. His eyes swept the corridor, seeing no sign of Allura, Lotor growling out another curse.
Two soldiers approached him, leading Doctor Gorma and his staff towards the ball room. One look at the anxious prince as he ran, and the two Drules moved into action, ushering the medical personal to form a single file up against the wall. It left his way clear, Lotor grateful he did not have to fight through another crowd of people.
Lotor ran faster, looking for Allura, his eyes not failing to notice the marks of the lasers in the marble of the walls. There were Drule guardsmen laying dead on the floor, victims of the fight with the terrorists. There was also damage done to the castle itself, holes blasted where doors used to be, the wall around them blackened steel. They would have to get a construction crew in to repair the damage done to the building, but for now there was other concerns to worry about.
He turned a corridor, and saw a bloody foot print, roughly the size of Allura’s. And then another, and another, the girl having stepped in the blood pooling out of a dead terrorist’s body. He followed that trail, tracking her deeper into the castle. Until finally he burst into the grand hall, seeing her pausing by the wall, a hand over her mouth as though she was going to be ill.
“Allura!” He said her name softly, but no less urgently, seeing her lift her head and glance his way. Lotor saw her eyes were wet, the blue bright with unshed tears, and then she was closing her eyes, spinning away from him.
“Allura!” He shouted now, and crossed the distance, catching up with her before she could exit the room. He snatched at her arm, jerking her back harder than he meant to, hearing her cry out, the sound a panicked whimper. “Allura….I…I…” Lotor wanted to pull her into his embrace, but he was conscious of the blood on his front, the red liquid still fresh and wet. Lotor settled for holding onto her arm, refusing to let her evade him.
“You what?” She asked, still not turning to look at him. “What could you possibly be? Sorry?”
“I am sorry.” Lotor said, and now she did turn, flashing a surprised stare at him. “I’m sorry you had to see that.”
“I am too…” Allura whispered, then closed her eyes. “Oh God, I can still see that moment in my eyes. When you…when you…”
“When I killed that man.” Lotor finished for her. “Oh Allura…I should have waited until you were out of the room. But I…I got caught up in the heat of the moment.” Her eyes snapped open, Allura letting out a sound that was half sob, half bitter laugh.
“You don’t regret doing it, do you?” She asked, and Lotor shook his head no.
“It had to be done.” Lotor told her. “Adamus was too…..vicious and ruthless a man to allow to live.”
“Some would say the same about you and your men.” Allura said stiffly. He didn’t flinch, he just stared at her levelly, watching her grow defensive. “It’s true. We could have just imprisoned Adamus and his men….” She sounded uncertain, trailing off at his head shake.
“Allura, I know how these type of people work.” Lotor said, his tone patient as he tried to make her understand. “If you leave them alive, they’ll just come back more determined than ever. Adamus’ followers would see to liberating him from a prison, setting him free to run rampant on Arus again. He had to die, they all do so that no one else rises up in his place.”
“But…” Her voice was so soft, she sounded so lost, Lotor wanting to hug her to him. “It’s wrong. Killing them makes us as bad as them.”
“No, it makes us practical.” He corrected her. “It would be seen as a weakness to let them live. Especially after all they have done. Have you forgotten so quickly? Not just the events of tonight, but these past weeks? People have died, both mine and yours. These terrorists didn’t care who they harmed, just so long as they did damage. They brought it on themselves with their actions.”
“They were scared….scared of change and of your people…” Allura began, and now Lotor wanting to shake her, try to jar some sense into her.
“So that justifies what they did?!” He asked in disbelief.
“NO!” She shouted, then softened her voice. “No. But…I can’t believe that all of them are evil. Surely some were just swept away by Adamus’ plans.”
“They could have stopped him before he started killing people tonight.” Lotor pointed out, then snorted. “Hell, they could have stopped him days ago when his riots started causing innocent Arusians to die. That they stood by and did nothing to curb his blood lust, that speak volumes to me on what kind of people they are.”
“I don’t know what to think anymore.” She confessed, Allura seeming to wilt before him. “Everyone is changing all around me, revealing hidden natures I never dreamed they possessed. I never thought any of my people could do something so evil as what Adamus did tonight…”
“We all hold the ability to do evil…” Lotor said, seeing her shake her head no. “It’s choices that define us.”
“Choices…” Allura echoed softly. She sighed suddenly, her eyes still so sad and tortured. “It was my choices that led us here tonight. Or rather my lack of such a thing. You and I…we set all this in motion did we not? Is it not our fault that so many died? Because we married, because we tied our two planets together? Even tonight, perhaps Adamus wouldn’t have killed those four if we had gone to him.”
“If we had gone to him, he would have tortured and killed us. Not to mention slaughter everyone else at the ball.” Lotor pointed out.
“But perhaps Merack would have arrived in time to save everyone else…..I think I wouldn’t mind dying if it meant the guests could have been saved…”
“Don’t speak like that!” Lotor said harshly, and pulled her to him, not caring about the wet blood on his body. Allura let out a sound, a hoarse whisper of protest and began struggling. Her hands pushed against his jacket, sliding across the blood which seemed to panic her even more.
“Don’t ever speak of throwing your life away again!” Lotor ordered her, pulling her tight against him, his fingers gripping her so hard she stopped struggling to cry out in pain. “You have a responsibility to survive. To yourself, to your people, and above all to me!”
“You’re hurting me…” She whimpered, and Lotor glared at her.
“Good. It’s proof that you’re alive. That you can still feel!” Lotor said, voice rising with passion.
“Feeling is all I can do!” She shouted back, her voice just as loud as his. “It hurts…” Allura seemed to wilt in his grip, but she kept her eyes locked onto his. “All I can think of is the pain and the horror of this night…I don’t know how I can ever get those images out of my mind. How I can forget.”
“You’re not meant to forget.” Lotor loosened his grip on her, but kept her pressed to him. “It’s a memory that will remain for all your life. But you can learn, and you can go on living. And one day you’ll even be grateful to have survived. You’ll come to terms with what happened, and though you may never understand why a person could do what Adamus did….or even what I did…you’ll accept that it happened, and I took measures to prevent it from happening again.”
“I’m not that strong.” Allura whispered.
“You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for.” Lotor told her. “Think back on all you have done, all you have accomplished. You stood up to my father, you not only led a war, you fought in it. Tonight won’t break you, you’ll grow stronger from the experience.”
“Yes.” Lotor said with an emphatic nod of his head.
“I think you could talk circles around me until I am dizzy with confusion and ready to believe anything.” Allura replied.
“But you still sound doubtful.” He pointed out.
“I can’t help it…” She sighed, lowering her eyes, seeming to stare at her hands gripping his bloodied jacket. “There’s so much blood on you….”
“And more to come….” Lotor said, his admittance making her glance up at him again.
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“We have tried things the Arus way.” Lotor explained. “The peaceful route. It’s not working. It’s time we do things the Doom way, at least where the resistance is concerned.”
She pushed out of his embrace, the bodice of her dress coming away wet with blood. “More killings?”
“Only as we seek out the remainders of this rebel faction. Not one can escape.” Lotor was grim as he spoke. “For where there is one, there is power. The power to recruit others, and grow. Grow until they are able to return and mount an offensive.” She crossed her arms over her chest, hands rubbing at her sleeves as she shivered. “I’m sorry.”
He was, sorry for the pain and turmoil it caused her, sorry for the way this painted him in her eyes. But Lotor knew he could no longer allow his hands to be tied by Allura and her weak sensibilities towards violence.
“I’m sorry too.” She whispered after a full two minute pause. She didn’t look at him as she said those words, starting to turn away from him.
“Allura….” He caught at her elbow, grip gentle and she froze. “Please…..what can I do to make this all right?”
He saw her square her shoulders in a shrug, her back still to him as she wearily gave an answer. “I don’t know.” A shake of her head, Allura sighing. “For tonight at least, I honestly don’t know. I need time….time to be myself…time to think on what you and my Aunt have said.”
“Your Aunt?” He frowned, curiosity in his voice.
“She condones what you did.” Allura answered. “I dare say she even approves.”
“She sounds like a practical woman, that Aunt of yours.” Lotor said, and Allura nodded.
“Very much so. I value her opinion and yet I am scared at what she said tonight.” He felt her try to draw her arm away, Lotor holding on to her so she could not leave him. “Please Lotor….just for tonight….let me go…Leave me so I can be alone…” She hesitated a beat, then continued. “Don’t make me beg for a private moment.”
“All right…” Lotor let go of her arm. “I can grant you that much at least.”
“Thank you.” Allura said, and hitched up her skirts, the purple hued dress dirty with blood and dust. He stood in the grand hall, and watched her walk away from him, watched her head towards one of the exits, and disappear into the shadows.
It wasn’t until the sound of her footsteps fading that he let out the breath he had been holding, the air forcefully expelled from his lungs. “Damn it.” Lotor muttered, raising a bloodied hand to his hair, sweeping it back from his brow. “DAMN IT!” He said louder, and with more feeling. He looked at his hands, seeing the blood on his blue skin, and made fists of them.
“She thinks me a monster now.” Lotor muttered, then let out a humorless chuckle. “And maybe she’s right.” He turned abruptly, heading back the way he came, intent on returning to the ball room. His mind thought of Allura, and the picture of misery she presented to him. It was small consolation that she didn’t look at him with hatred in her eyes, but he wondered if that was because she was still in shock. Once the shock wore off, would she loathe him? Hate him, fear him? Would they be back to square one in their relationship, an invisible barrier between them?
He just didn’t know, and he worried that the answer would be yes. It made him sigh, made Lotor want to shout in fury, but he couldn’t muster up the energy to do so. Once he would have flown into a rage and destroyed something, but now he merely walked at an unhurried pace, his mind thoughtful as he considered Allura and the night’s events. How Adamus and his followers would have laughed if they had known they may have succeeded in driving a wedge between him and Allura. Lotor growled at the thought, remembering how mocking Adamus’ voice had sounded whenever he spoke.
If anything, it made Lotor want to run back, chase after his wife, and never let her go. Hold her until she stopped being so sad, and caved in his arms, and accepted all facets of his personality, even the ruthless side that killed when necessary.
He was fighting that very temptation, his thoughts musing on how to explain to Allura that he killed in order to maintain peace on Arus when he arrived at the ball room. The guards at the door saluted him, standing at brisk attention but Lotor barely reacted. He entered the room and looked around, seeing the Doctor Gorma and his staff had spread out through the room, working to tend to the injured.
Over by the stage, most of the terrorists were still alive, but already there were dead bodies in a pile. Heads lined the edge of the platform, being set carefully aside for future preservation and pike mounting. Most of the terrorists seemed defiant as they were brought onto the stage, their heads being chopped off, but a few look terrified. One even lost control of his bowels, feces and urine soaking his pants an instant before a blade bit into his neck.
The party guests had lost interest in watching the executions, more concerned with being treated by Doctor Gorma’s medical staff and conversing with one another. Lotor looked around until he caught sight of Orla in her black finery, the Queen standing off to the left side of the room. A man was with her, and from his profile, Lotor recognized him as Coran. He actually felt relief to see the Allrua’s former advisor alive, knowing his wife would not have been able to handle such a personal loss. He walked over to them, hearing the strains of their conversation.
“It’ll be awfully hard for Allura to recover from this.” Orla was saying. “To see so much death and violence in her home….”
“Indeed. What was Prince Lotor thinking, exposing the princess to so horrific an execution?!” grumbled Coran, Lotor feeling a brief bout of chastisement at his words.
“I admit she didn’t have to see that, but…she had to know the fate that would be delivered to these terrorists.” Orla replied. “My niece has been sheltered for too long, kept innocent of the ways of the universe. She was just lucky she had people like you in her life Coran. To keep her gentle nature from totally being taken advantage of and hurt.”
“All the good it did us.” Sighed the man. “She ended up exposed to Doom’s influence, Prince Lotor bringing these horrors into her life.”
“While it’s true that her union with Lotor caused these events to play out, I’m sure the prince did not intend for any of this to happen.” Orla protested, even as Coran shook his head no, the man in denial.
“Her highness is right.” Lotor said, alerting them to his presence. “I would never, ever purposefully bring down this kind of devastation on Allura. If anything I would shield her just as you did from such experiences.”
“She can’t be kept in the dark forever.” Orla said, as practical as ever. “The shelter approach only does more harm than good in the long run. Although I wish we could have taken baby steps towards opening her eyes towards the evil that men are capable of.”
Coran sighed, a deep huff of air sounding. “She always believes in the good of everyone…it hurts her when she discovers other sides to people. I can’t imagine what she is thinking, knowing our own people could do something like this”
“How is she?” Orla showed her concern, her hand reaching to touch Lotor’s arm.
“She’s upset.” Lotor told her. “Upset….and I suspect disappointed with me.
“Understandable.” Coran said.
“Are you sure you should leave her alone?” Orla asked, and now Lotor sighed.
“I don’t want to, but she all but begged me too.” He shrugged. “What else could I do but give in to her request?”
“I suppose time heals some wounds…” Orla said. “But you will have to work to help her through this. It’s your duty as her husband after all!”
“I will try my best.” Lotor promised her. “Your highness…may I ask a favor of you?”
“Of course.” Orla said, looking surprised. “You but have to command me and I will do it.”
Lotor shook his head, saying, “No. No command. It must be done of your own free will.”
“Talk to Allura. She mentioned you had your own opinion on what I did tonight. It troubled her greatly.” Lotor said. “Maybe if you explained things to her, she would find it easier to come to terms with what had to happen to the resistance members.”
“I will do my best.” Orla promised.
“Thank you.” Lotor said, then nodded his good-byes to the pair. He turned and began walking across the floor when he spotted Nanny, the brown haired woman delivering bottles of water to the injured. He studied her for a minute, his eyes narrowing as he recalled the defiant way she had looked at him as she tried to close the door in his face. Such behavior could not be allowed to continue, to go unpunished, Lotor making up his mind with a determined head shake.
He made a beeline towards the woman, moving into place behind her. Without a word he grabbed her by the arm, giving her a rough shake that caused Nanny to gasp and drop her burden. The plastic bottles bounced against the floor, dented but not broken.
“What are you doing?!” Nanny demanded as he whirled her around, Lotor dragging her over to a quiet corner in the room.
“You and I need to talk.” Lotor said, and pushed her against the wall. She went to move past him, and he slammed his hand against the marble, arm blocking her escape. She looked at him, a glare on her face.
“Now is not the time.” Nanny told him, shaking her head. “I have duties to see to.”
“I’ll make it quick.” Lotor said, towering over her. “I can see you and I are never going to get along. It’s a pity, but one I won’t lose any sleep over.”
“Neither will I!” snapped Nanny.
“Yes, I suspected you wouldn’t.” He almost snarled out the next, angry with her. “You wouldn’t have batted an eye at the thought of the terrorists getting their hands on me. In fact, you tried to help them.”
“I did not!” Nanny protested. “I would never help such evil men!”
“Ah but you did, your actions proved it when you tried to shut me out of that room. What did you think would happen if I was left out in the open at the mercy of these terrorists?!” A sullen look on her face, Nanny quiet for the moment. “I don’t know if you’re that malicious. Maybe you didn’t think things through. Maybe you weren’t hoping they’d kill me. But I can’t take that chance. ”
“What are you going to do?” She demanded. “Demote me even further?”
“Oh no.” Lotor shook his head. “I am through with demotions, through with playing these games with you. I was foolish enough to give you one more chance, a chance you blew. I won’t be making that same mistake again.” He paused to savor the look on her face as he spoke his next words. “Effective immediately, your assignment at the castle is terminated.”
Nanny’s eyes widened, the lids lowering close as she blinked several times. Her mouth open and closed, and she gave a slight head shake as she gaped at him. “No.” She breathed out at last, and Lotor smirked.
“You can’t do this!” She shouted, and Lotor leaned in close to her, his breath hissing in her face.
“I can and I have. Pack your things Nanny. I expect you to be gone from the castle by tomorrow night.” He pushed away from her, even as she let out a protesting cry, frustration and tears at the heart of it. He didn’t look back, not even when she called on Allura’s name, toting the fact that the princess would not like this. He already knew that, Lotor wondering how he would make this and a million other things right in his wife’s eyes.