Footsteps echoed throughout an otherwise silent hall, Allura padding bare foot behind the two quiet guards. She shivered as she felt the cool tile against her feet, the chills being sent up her legs making her regret her impatience. In her haste to see Lotor, she had rushed out of the bedroom, neglecting the simplest of tasks, such as the brushing of her hair, or the retrieving of her shoes. Now she moved, one hand clutching at her robe, the other running nervous fingers through her wild hair, trying to get her blond tresses under control.
It was more nervous habit than any desire to make a good impression on Lotor, Allura unable to keep from fidgeting. She silently willed the guards to move faster, finding them turning the corner that led towards the guest quarters. They passed door after door, the corridor empty save for Allura and her guards. It was too early for the servants to be up performing their duties, but it surprised Allura that no Drule soldiers patrolled this length of hall.
The guards suddenly came to a halt, pausing before huge double doors carved of ivory, intricate designs carved around the wood leading towards the handles. They formed a pretty pattern of leaves and curlicues, drawing one’s attention to the bronze gilded knobs. It was the most extravagant of the palace’s guest rooms, a chamber fit for visiting royalty. The princess was not at all surprised to learn Lotor had chosen this room for his own, the prince had always had an eye for opulence, gravitating towards the best that money could buy.
It was still simple compared to the standards Lotor had set on Doom, a quaint room filled with touches that were more homey than grand, Allura setting out not to impress so much as to make her guests feel welcomed. But it was a large room, with it’s own private bath, with enough lavish touches to make Lotor find it suitable for a temporary retreat.
Her guards had taken up positions on either side of the door, staring straight ahead so that their eyes swept past Allura onto the hall. They weren’t ignoring her, ready to be attentive should she make her needs known, nor were they solicitous, just waiting to be acknowledged. She squared her shoulders, and stepped towards the door, raising a hand to hover over the ivory. No hesitation in her, she dropped her hand against the wood, knocking her fists against it three times.
That sound seemed to ripple through the hall, breaking the silence as she waited, not quite holding her breath for Lotor’s answer. None came, the princess frowning, Allura rapping her fist against the door more forcefully this time. She knew with his sharp Drule hearing he couldn’t possibly sleep through the noise, Allura keeping her hand busy with continuos knocks.
“Lotor…..it’s me Allura.” She called out, her voice as loud as she dared. “Can I come in?”
She wasn’t sure exactly what she had been expecting, a part of her having hoped Lotor would leap at the chance to have her visit him so late at night. But the door remained closed, the prince unresponsive from within. Out the corner of her eye she looked at one of the Drules that had accompanied her here, feeling embarrassed at her husband’s rebuff of her.
“Lotor!” His name snapped out more forcefully than she had intended, Allura slamming her hand hard against the door. To her surprise it responded, creaking open a crack to reveal it’s unlocked state. Her frown deepened, Allura pushing the door inwards, seeing the darkened chamber it guarded. She left the guards standing outside the room, walking inside, her hand feeling along the wall for the panel that controlled the lights.
She was left blinking owlishly when the room flooded with bright lights, the illumination a stark contrast to the darkness of the castle halls. Squinting, Allura looked around, seeing the bed was empty, sheets neatly made and showing their undisturbed state. Lotor was hardly the sort to get up and make his own bed, even if he got up before the servants.
An uneasy feeling began in the pit of her stomach, Allura spinning slowly, taking in the sight of the empty chairs, and bereft couch. She had hoped to see Lotor perch on one, a drink in hand, or hunched over at the desk. But she was disappointed every time, finding no sign of her husband’s presence.
It was more than just the absence of his body, the room itself was too clean, seeming not lived in for the moment. The desk was neat and tidy, no unruly stacks of paperwork like the ones he had maintained in their shared bedroom. The bar was empty, not even housing Lotor’s favorite brand of wine. She walked all around the room, noting these things, and paused in front of a mirror.
For a second Allura only saw her reflection, her blue eyes tired and filled with worry. Her hands were twisting the robe’s ties in a nervous fashion, Allura chewing on her bottom lip as she tried to put her finger on why she felt so disturbed. And then she noticed it, the closet’s doors open and reflected on the mirror’s glass. A sight she had passed over, not realizing it’s significance the first time she had looked at it.
Almost like in a dream, she turned, movements slow and hesitant. But her eyes did not deceive her, the closet doors hung open, the inside empty save for a few discarded hangers. It upset her to see Lotor’s clothes gone, the princess stepping towards the closet, her hands brushing aside the empty hangers. Nothing, not even a single stray thread remained behind.
“No.” She almost didn’t recognize her voice, Allura hurrying over to the desk. Her shaking hands pulled at it’s drawers, upending them onto the floor as she found them empty, not even an ink pot remained behind. Heart beating wildly, she hurried towards the bathroom, wrenching open the door. She slid to her knees, pulling open the sink’s cabinets, searching for any sign of the many hair care products Lotor employed in the maintenance of his white mane.
Gone just like his clothing and his work, Allura staggering to her feet. She brought a hand to her mouth, trying to calm herself, reasoning that this was all her over acting. He had merely moved to a different room, and would laugh at her silliness when she told him what she had suspected.
But still she remembered the lack of soldiers patrolling this part of the castle, Allura’s mind turning faster, an idea coming to her an instant before she broke into a run. Her sudden charge from the bedroom startled her guards, she heard them shouting behind her, their boots sounding heavy on the floor as they gave chase. Allura did not pause to tell them what was wrong, her feet pounding into the floor, the girl nearly sliding downwards across the slick tile.
She managed to right herself without stopping, running so fast her hair streamed out behind her. Other people appeared, alerted to the sound of the guard’s shouts, their faces startled as Allura ran past them. She gave no pause to answer questions, needing to see for herself.
She reached the stair case, hand gripping the railing, Allura all but flying down the steps. She leaped the last two, landing hard on her feet, and still she kept running, hearing her breath come faster from her exertion.
When she reached her destination, she flung open the door, surveying Coran’s office with an eagle eye. Just like the bedroom it had been emptied of Lotor’s presence, his books gone, his never ending pile of paper work vanished in an instant. She hurried over to the desk, over turning pictures that belong to Coran’s family, and finding nothing of Lotor’s. Outside the recently repaired glass window, soldiers still patrolled the gardens, but even here their numbers were diminished.
“Gone!” Allura exclaimed, slapping a hand on top of the desk’s surface. She heard a clatter from behind her, Allura turning to see her panting guards staggering into the room.
“Your highness, what is the matter?” One wheezed out in between deep lung full of air
“Where is Lotor?” She demanded, taking a step towards them. “Where is my husband?!” They exchanged looks, doubt on their faces. It made Allura curl her fingers into fists, the princess wanting to lash out and strike something. “You know something…” She all but hissed, advancing menacingly towards them. “Tell me!”
The one with the fiery red mane opened his mouth to speak, hesitation showing on his face. Whatever he had been about to say was lost to the loud roar of engines, a great rumble of sound that seemed to shake the castle with it’s force. Allura’s eyes widened with disbelief, her lips forming a protest that was not voiced. Her distress showed on her face, the guards attempting to grab her when she made a move to run past them.
“I order you not to touch me!” Allura snapped, avoiding their hands. Again they exchanged looks, unsure of what to do in the face of a direct order from their prince’s wife. That second of split indecision was in Allura’s favor, the princess squeezing past them out into the hall.
The sound was louder out here, and flickering lights flooded the hall through the large glass windows that lined the corridor. Allura ran towards one, peering outside, but from this vantage point she could see nothing but trees. This time she gave in to the unladylike curse that bubbled out of her, Allura pushing away from the window to go running down the corridor.
The guards followed her, armor clanking loudly as they moved. By the time she burst into the foyer of the castle, other people were standing there, a gathering of sleepy eyed servants. They were all peering out windows, hands pressed to the glass as they stared out to the front yard of the castle.
“Princess Allura!” Coran’s voice, calling her name, the brown haired advisor rushing to her. For an instant she just stared, taken back to see him in blue striped pajamas, his hair ruffled and uncombed. He looked agitated, his hands gesturing wildly towards the windows. “Just what is the meaning of this? Why is Lotor’s ships up in the sky?”
“I don’t know Coran.” Allura said, her expression grim as marched towards the castle’s front doors. “But I intend to find out.”
Coran shadowed her, anxiety showing in his voice even as he offered a hopeful solution. “Perhaps they are merely testing out their ship’s flight programs. They did finish installing the new computers today on almost all the ships.”
“They wouldn’t have bothered testing so early.” She pointed out, soldiers hurrying to open the doors for her. She stepped out on the drawbridge, feeling the chill wind of the night air, crossing her arms over each other to steal warmth for herself. “And they wouldn’t launch so many ships at once….this is something more…”
The wind pulled at her hair, whipping it wildly around her face, breezes agitated by the ships up in the sky. Already they were over the top of the castle, seeming to hover for a second as Allura looked up, trying to spot Lotor’s flag ship. She spotted it in the midst of a cluster of skull ships, the blood red insignia of Doom painted on it’s hull.
“Lotor!” Even as she screamed, she knew it was foolish, knowing he couldn’t possible hear her over the roar of the engines. She knew the thick metal walls would also block out her cries, Allura staring frustrated up at the sky, watching as the ships flew higher and higher, picking up speed. She lifted her arms, Allura waving like a mad woman, hoping Lotor would see her and respond.
But except for the flapping of her robe, no other thing happened, the ships growing smaller the farther they flew. For one-second she stood there, still pumping her arms in the air, voice growing hoarse as she screamed for her husband to acknowledge her.
“Are they leaving….?” Coran asked, with wonder in his voice. He immediately coughed to cover up that reaction, seeing her angry look.
“Come with me!” Allura said, grabbing him by the arm. He stumbled in the direction she pulled, voicing feeble protests as Allura dragged him back into the castle. More people were crowded in the foyer, watching the sky with amazement in their eyes. Allura noted that the humans outnumbered the gathered Drules four to one, a direct contrast to the way things had been these past few weeks.
“Where are we going?” Coran asked, Allura wondering if he had made the same realization as she about the lack of Drule soldiers.
“To the control room!” Allura replied, her hand urging him to run faster. Every minute they wasted on questions was another minute that Lotor’s fleet got further away from Arus, their ascent rapidly leaving the planet’s atmosphere for deep space. She counted out the seconds in her head, despairing when it took another six minutes to reach her intended destination.
She burst into the control room, and only then did she relax her grip on Coran’s arm. Castle technicians sat around the room, watching the monitors, fingers hovering over keyboards. Allura marched over to the main computer, pointing a finger in the chest of the tall technician. “Open up a line of communication to the Drule flag ship.”
“We’ve been trying…” said the man, hand gesturing at his men. “But so far all attempts to establish communication have been denied.”
“Well, try again.” Allura ordered, her tone impatient and showing she would not tolerate failure. “I wish to speak to my husband!” She flashed a glare around the room, the technicians turning to hurriedly type on their keyboards. Voices spoke, urgent as they attempted to contact the flag ship only to be met with repeated failure. “Try another ship then.” Allura said, feeling herself twitch with impatience. “Maybe the flag ship hasn’t repaired it’s communication programs yet.”
“Yes, your highness.” The lead technician began trying ships at random, the view screens remaining empty as ship after ship ignored the hails. Allura leaned over the man’s shoulder, her nails digging into his seat’s back as she held her breath, waiting for a voice to acknowledge the hailings.
“It’s no good…” The lead technician said at last, the man sighing. “They either can’t or won’t accept our calls.”
“Please…” Allura urged him, fixing pleading eyes on him. “Try again….”
“Allura….” Coran’s hand landed on her shoulder, urging her to look at him. She couldn’t bear the sympathetic note in his voice, Allura jerking back from his hand.
“He didn’t leave me!” She said, voice loud but not quite shouting. “He did not!” Allura said insistently, seeing the looks on the gathered men and women’s faces. Pity and remorse, but also relief, the technicians glad for the Drules to be gone from Arus. It was a relief she did not echo, Allura’s chest feeling tight with distressed emotion. “He only….” She trailed off, unable to think of a proper excuse for Lotor flight in the middle of the night.
“He’s gone your highness…” A woman spoke, her sad voice seeming to ring with a finality that gutted Allura’s heart thoroughly.
“Did…did he leave a note?” She whispered, seeing Coran shrug his shoulders. “A message, a video gram, something?” But deep down she knew there would be nothing, Lotor leaving as suddenly as he had come into her life. “No…” She protested, shaking her head. “I won’t let him do this…”
“Please princess, you’re in shock.” Coran solicitously took her arm, leading her away from the computer. “And you’re shaking with cold…”
“It’s not the cold…” She said, feeling numb.
Coran ignored her words, fussing over her. “We’ll get you some tea. It’ll warm you right up, and help calm you down.”
“I don’t want to be calm!” Allura said, pulling away from Coran’s hand. “My husband just left me! Without even saying good-bye! Without even leaving a note. I don’t know when or if he’ll be back….I don’t know what to think, what to feel….he’s left me…” Her hands covered her face, Allura not wanting to give in to tears. “And the only trace I have that he was ever even here are the Drules left in the castle!”
“Can you not see this as a good thing?” Coran wondered out loud, and Allura lowered her hands to stare at him horrified. “You’re free of that brute. You need not trouble yourself with him any longer…”
“I’m still married to him…” Allura snapped, feeling the color rise to her cheeks. “I am still his wife….I still…still love him.” She whispered those last words, a sob escaping her as she began sinking to her knees. Coran was there to catch her, holding her upright as she fought to keep from weeping. She was barely aware of Coran helping her into a seat, the man hovering over her nervously as he ordered one of the technicians to go fetch her a glass of water.
Allura closed her hands around the cool cup, seeing how her trembles shook the glass so that water spilled over it;s sides. She could barely bring it to her lips, choking down the water as she sat and fretted over what to do. All around her conversation buzzed, the people talking softly, men running in and out of the room as Coran sent them on errands.
And all the while Allura just sat there, staring down into her cup, wondering why Lotor had left her. And without even bothering to explain. She knew times had been rough, that their situation had become difficult, but she hadn’t thought it to the point he’d willingly abandoned her. ~Was I really being that unreasonable to him?~ She wondered, eyes as troubled as her thoughts. ~Did I really make things so difficult that he would give up on me, on us?~
She let out a soft moan, startling Coran, the princess ignoring his attempts at comforting her. She was too lost in thought, going over their recent encounters, wondering if there was anything she could have done differently. ~Perhaps I could have been nicer…~ Allura conceded. ~I could have tried harder, not left it all on his shoulders to fix.~ Allura knew she had left most if not all the attempts at making this marriage work on Lotor’s shoulders, leaving it the prince’s burden to bear. And through it all he had strove to make it work, causing Allura’s heart to thaw and open up to him.
“I won’t let him go.” She whispered to herself, to soft for Coran to hear. “I won’t let him just abandon me like this.” Allura didn’t quite smile, expression determined as she thought on how she’d make her husband answer to her for leaving her behind without even a note to explain his absence.