An open book lay on her lap, Allura staring down at the page, the words seeming to blur into a jumbled mess that was incomprehensive. She frowned, blinked her eyes, trying to concentrate, to keep her mind from wandering. It proved a lesson in futility, Allura finding it was the fifth time she had tried to read the opening paragraph of the novel she had chosen.
With a sigh, she tossed it down next to her on the love seat, seeing it bounce in place against the cushions. She lifted a hand, rubbing at her tired eyes, Allura’s whole body feeling weary. She didn’t even have the energy to yawn, Allura leaning back in her seat, staring up at the ceiling. It was a cream colored plaster, with a high hanging lamp in the center of the ceiling.
She tried studying the lamp, picking out the pattern on the gold edge, but even that didn’t distract her. She kept reliving last night, seeing the faces of those who had been so ruthlessly slain. Both friend and foe, Allura remembering the countess, Clemenas, and even the maid whose name she knew to be Marie. The maid hurt most of all, Allura having spent all her life around the girls who worked in the castle. She knew just enough about them, to feel a personal connection to each one. It was like losing a distant friend, one she grieved for.
The other maids were planning to hold a small service in the castle cemetery, and Allura hoped to join them at the appointed time. It was the least she could do, Allura feeling immense guilt that she hadn’t been able to stop what had happened to Marie.
The guilt she felt had played a huge part in keeping her up for most of the night, horror lending it’s hand to her torment. When she had finally dozed off, it was a fitful, restless sleep, Allura tossing and turning, getting tangled up in the bed sheets. Her dreams had been plagued by the screams of the dying, the nightmare making an already gruesome scene all the more horrifying.
It was no surprised she had woken up screaming. Even worse, Allura had woken up terrified and alone, reaching out for her husband who had not been by her side. She didn’t know where Lotor had spent the night, and he had yet to put in an appearance this day. Allura wasn’t sure how she felt about that, a part of her needy and wanting to cling to him, to take all the comfort she could from his nearness even as she wanted to reject him for the things he had done.
It was difficult to be his wife, to see him do such things, his actions moving beyond the gray areas and into what she would have once deemed evil. It was wrong to kill when it wasn’t in self defense, and yet Lotor did it so easily. She knew he claimed he was protecting them, safeguarding them from future attacks. But Allura was the type to wait and see if such an attack would come before doing anything about it. Allura didn’t believe in using murder as a preventive measure, and Arus had never been big on executing criminals.
It all left an unpleasant taste in her mouth, one that had nothing to do with food. She had abstained from eating this morning, the very smell of the smoked ham turning her stomach upside down. Allura wouldn’t wither away from missing one more meal, though truthfully she wondered how she’d ever be able to stomach food again after some of the more gore ridden sights she had seen last night.
Her thoughts turned back to Lotor, thinking on how he looked covered in blood. So very much like a barbarian prince, as savage looking as she once believed him to be. He had barely reacted to the blood splatter, he moved as though he was used to it, used to wearing other people’s blood on his body. Allura shivered, wondering how true that thought was.
With Lotor’s actions of last night, it was as though he had become a stranger to her all over again. The distant Prince of Doom whom she only knew through gossip and intelligence reports. Allura wondered which painted a truer picture of Lotor. The man she had spent the last few weeks getting to know, or the man of last night, the man who could admit to treating the women of his harem in such a cold callous manner and start off a massacre with one strike of his sword. It made her heart ache, Allura hoping she hadn’t fallen in love with a Lotor who was an illusion.
She turned her head, Allura glancing at the huge bay window. It was an overcast day, but it had yet to start raining. Smoke billowed in the air, a fact that had puzzled her until she realized it was because they were burning bodies. She kept the windows tightly shut, not wanting to risk smelling the scent of dead flesh roasting. Allura supposed it was another Doom custom, showing a lack of respect towards their enemies. It made her wonder what other Doom customs the Drules would show to Arus, Allura recalling Lotor’s words on how it was time to do things the Doom way.
She was pondering that very thing, letting her imagination run wild when a knock sounded at the door. It startled her, Allura starting to stand, her heart beating faster as she wondered if it was Lotor finally coming to call on her. She wanted to see him, even if it pained her, and yet she was scared, listening to that hesitant knock sound again.
“Eh…..enter.” Allura called out, watching as the foyer’s door was pushed open. Her nanny swept into the room, and Allura wilted, half from relief, part from disappointment. So consumed with those two opposing feelings, Allura almost didn’t register the fact that her Nanny wasn’t dressed in her maid’s uniform, the pale blue and white replaced by a red rust brown dress. A half cloak was on her shoulders, the material draping down to a stop by her waist, revealing her hands which clutched an ebony black purse before her. She had a hat pinned in place over her brown hair, Nanny looking as prim and proper as ever in her traveler’s outfit.
“Nanny…” Allura said, hearing the guards close the door behind the woman. “What is the meaning of this? Are you going somewhere?” Already she was thinking on the possibilities, wondering if Nanny was going to visit one of her few friends who lived in the mountains some distance away from the castle.
“Yes.” Nanny said, approaching Allura, her face troubled. “I am.”
“I see. Well, I suppose with the recent events, it might be good to get away from the castle.” Allura said. “Give yourself the time needed to recover from the horrors we witnessed.” She sighed, wishing she could do that very thing. Her home had become a frightening place to her, Allura sure that certain rooms would trigger unwanted flashbacks.
Nanny’s fingers tightened on her purse, the color bleeding out her knuckles from the force of her grip. Allura looked at her in concern, wondering if the woman was suffering some sort of post traumatic stress. “How long will you be away? I hope it’s not for too long. You know how we all depend on you.” To her surprise, Nanny’s face took on an odd look, seeming torn between anger and sadness. “Nanny?”
“I won’t be returning. Not for a very long time.” She said at last, and now Allura frowned.
“What do you mean? Of course you need to come back. We—I need you!” She gasped. “Don’t tell me what happened last night has upset you so that you would abandon me….”
“Of course I wouldn’t!” Nanny said, her voice heated. “Don’t ever think that. I raised you from a baby. You’re the daughter I never had. If I had a choice, I would never leave you, especially now.”
“What do you mean, if you had a choice?” Allura asked, her frown deepening. Nanny’s lips pursed together, an instant before she exhaled.
“Ask that husband of yours. He’s sending me away.”
Allura’s jaw dropped, the princess gaping at her nanny in shock. “No…”
“It’s true.” Nanny insisted. “He fired me last night. Ordered me to be gone from the castle before evening falls.”
“He…..he can’t do that…” Allura said, voice tiny and uncertain.
“I said the same thing, but apparently he thinks he can.” Nanny replied.
“You can’t go.” Allura felt like she was in a state of shock, shaking her head in denial. “Why….why is he doing this?”
“He says he can’t trust me…” Nanny began, Allura interrupting.
“We’ll just have to prove him wrong!”
“I don’t think we can. In fact….he’s right.” Nanny sighed. “I can’t be around him without feeling hate. Without doing stupid things. I thought I could control myself, but I can’t. Do you know what I did last night?” Allura shook her head no, just staring at her. “I tried to lock him out of the room. That’s what set him off to send me away.”
“But if we tell him you’re sorry…” A snort from Nanny, the woman shaking her head no.
“Lotor will never believe it. And I won’t grovel for my position. Not to a Drule.”
“Not even for me?” Allura asked, and Nanny hesitated.
“….I can’t.” Nanny said, looking away from Allura.
“Nanny…” A frustrated saying of her name, Allura sighing. “Is hate for the Drules so much stronger than love for me?”
“It’s complicated.” Nanny said, and set her purse down on the table. “Allura…I wish things could be different.”
“Why can’t they be?” Allura asked, wondering if that was a naive question. “Lotor is…” She hesitated, realizing she had been about to say he wasn’t that bad. But even that she wasn’t sure of, wondering if he presented a different personality to the people when she wasn’t around. “It’s all so messed up.” Allura said instead, sinking back down on the love seat.
“Yes, it is.” Agreed Nanny. “You were never meant for this kind of life, this kind of marriage. You were certainly not meant to be tied to that type of man!” She sighed, and approached Allura, kneeling down to the side of her. “At least now you know the truth.”
“The truth?” Allura wondered out loud.
“Aye. You know what kind of man he is after seeing first hand what he is capable of. You’ll no longer be able to deceive yourself that he is anything but a fiend. A monster.” Nanny said, Allura staring at her.
“Monster may be stretching it…” Allura began, and Nanny let out an angry sound.
“You are still trying to excuse him?” She looked mad, Nanny seizing hold of Allura’s hands. “When will you realize, they are all monsters! Every last one of them. The sooner you realize this, the better…”
“But nothing!” Nanny shook her head, still so angry. “Please Allura, don’t give your heart to him. Don’t fall any further into his arms. You’ll only come away hurt and miserable. I thought the fear for his kind would be enough to keep your heart safe, I never expected him to go a different route and try and charm you with an act of gentleness.”
“You think it’s an act?” Allura asked, feeling Nanny squeeze her hands.
“Of course it is. But a leopard can’t hide it’s spots for long….his true nature is starting to reveal itself, last night was only the beginning. He’s wormed his way into your heart and into your bed with that act. You must be strong, guard your heart and not give in to his seductions.”
“It’s too late. My heart wants what it wants….” She started to blush, a confession on her lips. “And this body is weak when it comes to the pleasure he’s shown me.” She lowered her eyes, a question on her lips. “Nanny? Why didn’t you ever tell me it could feel so good? Why didn’t you prepare me better when it came to sex and pleasure….?”
Nanny released her hold on Allura’s hands, the princess looking up to see a strange look on the woman’s face. Nanny slowly rose from her kneeling position, leaving Allura to call out her name. “Nanny? I’m sorry…perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything….but….I was taken aback by what he showed me….You never talked about anything but a wife’s duty, and the pain associated with it…but that was only the first time, and it was brief…” She was babbling, cheeks turning redder and redder, looking at her nanny through lowered eyelids.
“How can you say that?!” She was startled by the anger in Nanny’s voice, glancing up as the woman fired off another question. “How can ever find anything he does to you pleasurable?!”
“I…I just do…” Allura whispered uncertainly. “Is…Is it not the same for all women?”
“No! No…” Nanny shook her head, agitation giving voice to a sigh. “Especially not where a Drule is concerned. They are fiends, depraved, perverts. I hate them. I hate them all! Every last one of them!”
“Nanny….why? WHy do you hate them so much? I know they’ve done a lot to our planet, but surely there are some good people among the Drules.” Allura saw her shaking her head, raising her hands to her ears. But she didn’t cover them, staring at Allura, the princess pressing on. “Please tell me. I have to know. I have to understand…”
“There’s nothing good about a Drule, especially the men.” snarled Nanny, dropping her hands to her sides. Her hands clenched into fists, Nanny backing away from Allura. “Absolutely nothing….” Allura was sure Nanny wasn’t going to answer her question, but the woman suddenly sagged, losing some of her fire.
“Nanny? What happened? How did they hurt you?”
“I never thought I would tell you this.” Nanny began pacing, agitation causing her to walk the length of the room back and forth. “I never wanted you to know my secret shame. You’d be ashamed of me if you knew..”
“That’s not true…” Allura said, trying to convince Nanny of the truth of her words. Her curiosity was growing, Allura determined to get the story behind Nanny’s hatred out into the open. “Whatever it is, you can tell me….”
“Maybe….” But the woman sounded doubtful, flashing Allura an uncertain look. “And maybe if you knew…if you really knew just what they are capable of, you’d look at Lotor with different eyes.”
Allura kept quiet at that, but inside she feared, wondering just what her nanny could tell her that would be so bad. Nanny stopped her pacing, coming to stand by the table. She looked down at it’s surface, reaching out with a hand to touch the wood. Allura watched as she traced a finger along it, as though she was testing it for dirt.
“It’s been so long….” Nanny began, her voice quiet and soft. “So many years, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.” Again she fell silent, not speaking, Allura leaving her to gather her thoughts. “Can you believe it’s been over fifteen years since the Drules first arrived on Arus…? You were barely out of diapers when Zarkon sent his forces to our planet.”
“I can’t even remember a time when Arus was free.” Allura admitted. “I mean…the closest thing to peace we have had is when the boys arrived and found Voltron. Even that was short lived, as it plunged us into a permanent state of war…”
“Our people have suffered so much at their hands. Poverty, famine, death and destruction. Our whole way of life turned upside down, decimated.” That much Allura knew, the princess nodding her head, seeing Nanny lift her hands, bringing them to clutch together. “That much you know. I’ve seen people I know, people I cared about killed before my eyes, tortured or maimed, and even worse. ”
Her hands were moving, Nanny wringing them together, her eyes anxious. “The day Zarkon killed your father, was the day Drule soldiers overran the castle. Your mother spirited you away, slipping into a secret passage. Some of the maids went with her…I…” She lowered her eyes, staring at her hands. “I was not so fortunate.”
“What happened?” Allura asked, noticing the way Nanny seemed to shudder. “How did you get away?”
“I didn’t.” Nanny confession made Allura gasp, the princess wondering how the woman was standing before her, and not dead, or sent to some distant planet as a slave.
“Pandemonium reigned when they attacked the castle.” Nanny continued, and her eyes seemed to fade, looking dull and distant. “Everyone was running to hide, to escape if they could. I tried to…..but the Drules caught up with me in the kitchen. There were others in the room. A cook, along with a boy and two other maids. They killed the cook, the boy didn’t even live to see his twelfth birthday. As for the girls and I…”
She was almost afraid to ask, Allura on the edge of her seat, seeing Nanny trembled and give a vicious wrench of her fingers. “You have to understand.” She gestured wildly, and began pacing once more. “The Drules do things differently from our own people. Their soliders are cruel…heartless and without mercy. Espcially towards women.” Venom dripped at her next words, Nanny sneering. “Women are just toys to them, to be used and tossed aside…”
“Nanny….what did they do?” prodded Allura, trying to keep the woman from going off on a rant.
“They pinned me down…” Nanny stopped by the window, her back to Allura. “They were so strong…no matter how much I fought, I couldn’t budge them. Couldn’t move even one foot. I thrashed about and out the corner of my eye, I could see them doing the same to the other two girls. They…my skirts were shoved upwards….they….”
“No….” whispered Allura horrified, her hands going to her mouth to cover it. She stared at Nanny’s back, seeing the woman’s shoulders shaking, the woman fighting the memories.
“They raped me. They raped all three of us. But it was more than just a rape, it was animalistic….they used me, they used me as nothing more that an object, taking turns, and at times sharing. At one point…” Nanny’s voice caught, and Allura realized she was crying. “There was three using me…”
“Nanny…” Allura rose to her feet, padding towards the window.
“It hurt….you have no idea how much…I knew I never wanted to experience such a thing again…..so I didn’t. I guarded my heart well, I kept away from men who showed interest. Not that there was many besides the Drules…” Nanny jumped, startled when Allura put her hand on her shoulder. The woman turned, and tears were streaming down her face, Allura feeling her own eyes wet and leaking tears.
“I don’t know how long they kept us there….how many hours….it felt like days, the torments, and more and more kept coming into the room.” Nanny sniffled, Allura wrapping her arms around the woman. It seemed to make her cry harder, both women weeping as Nanny continued. “It wasn’t enough that they raped us. They were so cruel with their words, mocking and vile…I wanted to die….”
“How did you get away?” Allura whispered, hugging the woman tight.
“Some of the guards from the castle, they stumbled upon the scene in the kitchen. Fighting broke out, the Drules caught with their pants down.” A watery smile, but it held no happiness to it. “Somehow I pulled myself together, I literally crawled out of the kitchen. Pulling myself by my hands and out into gardens. My legs were so shaky, and I was covered in their filth, but I managed to stand. You can bet I didn’t stick around to see the outcome of that fight in the kitchen.” She looked ashamed now. “I ran, I ran and didn’t look back.
Allura rubbed her back, making soothing noises. “I’m glad you ran. Glad you’re here with me today.”
“I don’t even know what happened to those other two girls. Those poor maids!” Nanny sobbed. “I left them to their fates….I’m such a selfish person…”
“No..” Allura protested. “You’re not. You were powerless in that situation. You couldn’t help them, but you were able to help yourself. That saved you!” They were sinking down to the floor, Nanny seeming too weak to stand. She settled against Allura with a sigh, her cheeks soaked with her tears.
“I don’t even know how I made it to the caves to rejoin you and your mother. I think I blacked out a few times.” Continued Nanny. “Those were dark times…and your mother didn’t live long after the death of your father. It was as though she died of a broken heart. I wanted to die to, but for different reasons. But when you were left without mother or father, I knew someone had to raise you. Protect you from those monsters.”
Another fresh bout of weeping, Nanny loud in her pain. “I never dreamed you would be married to one! I failed you!”
“No, you didn’t” Allura assured her, but Nanny didn’t seem to hear her. “I was so horrified when he captured you. I didn’t want to think of him doing such awful things to you…..but I couldn’t stop the images from coming to my mind…”
“He didn’t rape me…” Allura said, thinking it would be best not to mention that first night when he had been drunk and tried to force his attentions on her. Nanny didn’t need to know, it would only leave the poor woman conflicted. “And I understand now why you were so tight lipped when it came to talking about sex. If rape was all you knew…” Allura shuddered. “You never married, was it because of what happened to you?”
Nanny nodded. “That and more. Our people were forced to live as animals…to hide and fight among each other for food. It was hard to find time for anything but survival, and not many would want to bring a child into such a bleak future.”
“How true…” Allura said, thinking how as a child there had been little chance for friends and playing. Her days had been spent hiding, living in terror of being caught and killed.
“What you must think of me!” exclaimed Nanny, covering her face with her hands. “You;ll never look at me the same again.”
“It’s true my perceptions of you have changed….” Allura began slowly, reaching for Nanny’s hands. She pulled them down, forcing the woman to look at her. “But I don’t think less of you for what you have told me. I think you are the strongest woman I’ve ever known, and I am proud to have had you as my mother.” She reached around to hug her.
“Thank you Allura…” Nanny whispered, shaking in her arms.
“I’ll talk to Lotor.” Allura said, sniffling as the last of her tears dropped. “It may take some time, some hard convincing on my part, but I will get him to allow you to come back to the castle. To reinstate you to your full position. I can’t have my adopted mother away from me for too long.”
“He’s stubborn. I doubt he’ll change his mind.” Nanny said, the picture of dejection and misery.
“I can be just as stubborn. Devious too. I’ll make him change his mind!” Allura said, offering a small smile to her nanny. “Come….let’s get your face cleaned up.”
“Ah, I must look like an awful fright.” Nanny said, allowing Allura to help her to her feet. They walked over to the table, Nanny reaching for her purse, pulling a handkerchief out of the black bag. She began dabbing at her face, drying her tears, and only a few sniffles escaped her. Allura watched her transform herself, Nanny ceasing her crying, and becoming the serious faced woman once more.
“When do you leave?” Allura asked, and Nanny hesitated.
“There’s a carriage outside. It waits on my visit with you.” Nanny told her.
“I see.” Allura said sadly. “Then this is good-bye…just for now. I promise.”
“I hope so.” Nanny said, and Allura shook her head.
“I know so!” The two woman embraced, one last hug, and now Allura cried harder, silent tears down her cheeks. Allura walked Nanny to the door, standing in the archway to watch sadly as the woman walked down the hall. Her head was held high, Nanny stiff with pride as she moved through the corridor. It wasn’t until she disappeared down the staircase that Allura closed the doors, walking back towards the love seat. She all but collapsed on the cushions, and began crying harder, weeping for the separation from her Nanny, and the horrible events that had happened to the woman. She even wept for the other two girls, and the cook and the boy, and a tear was shed at the thought of her parents gone from her at such a young age.
Her cries attracted attention, Allura hugging a pillow to her as she felt something brush against her foot. She glanced down and saw Cheddar, the leader of her pet mice trying to climb up her leg. “Cheddar….” sniffled Allura, leaning down to hold out her hand to the mouse. He chittered at her, and climb aboard, Allura bringing him towards her lap.
The other mice cautiously came out, casting glances around the room. “He’s not here.” Allura assured them, and the mice seemed to sigh in relief. It wasn’t often that the rodents came to visit her these days, the mice wanting to steer clear of Lotor and the other Drules. She found she missed them, missed seeing their antics and taking comfort from their presence. Her finger petted between Cheddar’s ears, the little mouse cooing at her.
The other four began doing acrobatics on the floor before her, trying to rouse a smile from their princess. She let out a laugh that was half sob, half chuckle, feeling amused at their antics. It didn’t last, her mind wandering back to Nanny’s story, her stomach turning, leaving her to feel sick. The mice were left to make concerned noises, watching as Allura began crying once more.
To Be Continued!
With thanks to Christy for plot bunnying me to come up with a past for Nanny, Botias for confirming when King Alfor was killed, and Nichole for cheering me on when I faltered.