Songbird 06

There was always some kind of meal being served in Castle Doom. As such, the dining room was usually packed with people, Nobles and officers that held a high rank in the military. The feasting here was always extravagant, Zarkon not skimping on the money he spent on impressing his court. While others on the planet might be starving and suffering, the Drules inside the castle were growing fat and well fed.

That evening, I was fortunate to arrive to the sight of Lotor and Romelle, the prince sitting at the head of the table. The princess was to the left of him, picking at the food on her plate. She seemed to have little appetite since arriving on Doom, going from one upset to another. I worried if this continued, she’d wilt away, and hoped that Lotor was doing his best to coax her into eating.

“Sabbath!” Lotor called out loudly, gesturing at me with the hand that held a large leg of some kind of bird. It was still thick with meat, the prince had only enjoyed a few bites of the bird. “Join us.”

I was surprised at the invitation, especially considering there had been a noticeable space around Lotor and Romelle. The other diners had left them in isolation, allowing the prince to continue his seduction in private.

“If you’re sure.” I said, walking over to their side of the table. I would take the seat to the right of Lotor, Romelle offering a smile to me.

“Hello Commander.”

“I’ve told you before, it’s Sabbath.” I reminded her, and she smiled even more.

“What have you two been up to?” I asked. I had not seen Romelle or Lotor since returning the princess to his care. It didn’t mean she hadn’t been in my thoughts, concern for her emotional well being weighing heavy on my mind.

“Oh here and there.” Lotor said, which told me nothing really. “I was just telling Romelle about perhaps tomorrow we could go to one of the planet’s cities.” There was a noticeable slur to Lotor’s speech, it alarmed me enough to wonder just how much he had been drinking. I glanced at his glass, seeing it was full of a blood red liquid. No doubt it was his favorite brand of berry, the wine imported from a planet call Tyrus.

Romelle also had a glass of the wine, but like the food on her plate, she wasn’t partaking of it. I couldn’t help but think Lotor would be disappointed by that. Surely he had intended to loosen Romelle up with drink to better succeed at his seduction of her. Instead he was the one who was well on the way to being totally drunk, and his speech wasn’t the only thing that was being affected. His eyes were drooping, a heavy lidded look to them.

“Which city were you thinking of?” I asked, a slave girl approaching to put a portion of the day’s feast before me. The roasted bird was the featured meal, it’s flesh charred but succulent. I immediately began to eat, but stayed alert to the conversation.

“Most likely the kingdom’s capital.” Answered Lotor, drinking more from his glass.

“Yensuva?” I asked, surprised. “Isn’t that a bit far from here?”

“That it is.” Lotor agreed, his expression more smirk than smile. “We may have to spend the night at a hotel.”

So that was his game! Get Romelle out of the castle, isolate her from her family and entourage, trapping her at a hotel with him. I wondered if he would even bother to get them separate rooms, or if he would arrange for there to only be one available. For some reason I found annoyance welling in me. I didn’t like the thought of Lotor tricking Romelle any more than I liked the thought of him seducing her. But I did not know how to stop this, there was little I could do to object.

I tried anyway, offering up a subtle protest. “I don’t know about Yensuva.” I took a drink from my cup. “There’s not much of interest there. Especially for a princess.” I smiled at Romelle. “If you really want to see one of Doom’s cities, I would go to Walnov. At this time of year, they should be holding their annual fair.” Lotor shot me a dark look, annoyed by my suggestion. I pretended not to notice, leaning back in my seat. “Plus there is shopping…”

“Shopping?” Romelle’s interest was immediately piqued.

“Walnov is known as the fashion capital of the Doom Empire.” I knew how to play on a lady’s interest, tempting her with the thought of new clothing. “There’s plenty to choose from, it won’t just be Drule clothing that is on sale in Walnov.”

Romelle glanced at Lotor, who was trying not to scowl. “Could we not go to Walnov tomorrow?”

“I was…” He hesitated, the drink was affecting his ability to think quickly. “I was hoping to show you the robeast racing fields in Yensuva.”

“We could do that another time couldn’t we?” Romelle asked. I hid a smile behind my glass, knowing robeasts couldn’t compare to new clothing as far as a woman was concerned.

“We’ll be leaving soon for Pollux.” Lotor reminded her. “Avok’s transformation is almost completed.”

“Yes, but…Pollux and Doom are allies now.” Romelle pointed out. “There is nothing to prevent a future visit. To the capital, and to any other city you want to show me.”

Lotor paused, swallowing down the remainder of his wine before answering. “I suppose.” He said grudgingly. Romelle immediately lighted up with a dazzling smile, happy she had persuaded him. Lotor set down his cup between them, staring at her with a slack jawed expression. I couldn’t blame him, Romelle was stunning when she was happy.

“Romelle…” Lotor’s tone was as husky as his voice was slurred, the prince reaching to take both her hands in his. They ended up turning in their seats so they could face each other, Lotor staring into her eyes.

“Yes, Lotor?” Romelle asked, when it became apparent that was all Lotor was going to do. I could see how uncomfortable it made her, to have him just staring at her. Especially with that dark look in his eyes. He looked like he wanted to devour her, lust practically rising off of him as steam.

“You’re so beautiful.” He sighed happily. “Especially when you smile.”

“Er…thank you…” Her smile had dimmed, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“No need to thank me when I speak the truth.” Lotor mumbled. His thumbs were caressing the back of her hands, he might not even realize he was doing it. Romelle seemed to grow embarrassed by his attention, the faintest of blushes appearing on her cheeks. I felt bad for them both, the awkwardness apparent to all save Lotor. But I didn’t know how to stop him, to save him from making a complete fool of himself before her.

“Beautiful, isn’t she, Sabbath.” Lotor suddenly drew me into the exchange, though he didn’t look my way. I was nowhere near as engaging as the pretty princess, and frankly I was surprised he remember that there was others in the room with them.

“Oh yes. Very beautiful.” I kept my tone bland, knowing a drunk Lotor was a dangerous one. His mood would be quick to change, and if I agreed too strongly, his anger might be unleashed. That was one thing I didn’t want to be the focus of, none of us did.

“See Romelle? It’s agreed.” His grin was happy, Lotor pleased that I had backed up his flattery. “So very, very beautiful….” He sighed then, tone wistful. “It makes me…makes me want things.”

I winced at that, wondering just what sort of nonsense Lotor would blurt out next. Romelle appeared to be morbidly curious, asking a question as she tried to pull back her hands from his. “Things, what kind of things?”

Lotor held on, actually pulling on her so that she had to lean in to him. A slave was approaching, a large pitcher of wine in her hands. I noticed her out the corner of my eye, but hadn’t expected her to approach Lotor’s glass, not in the middle of his drunken love confession to Romelle.

“All kinds of things.” Lotor said, almost falling off his chair in an attempt to lean into Romelle. I had to admit, I was watching in horrified fascination, wondering what he would say or do next. “I’ve wondered what you taste like…”

I wanted to cover my face, feeling embarrassed for them both. Romelle had frozen at his words, her eyes widening as she stared back at him. I couldn’t blame her for being speechless, especially with an amorous Drule prince saying such things to her. She probably had little to no experience with so blunt a flirtation. I was betting with how protective her brother Avok had seemed, that she hadn’t had much contact with males that were interested in her. But there was no Avok to protect her now, she was left defenseless, ill prepared to come up with a suitable reply to Lotor’s drunken musings.

“I would kill for a taste of your lips.” Lotor confessed, his tongue licking his lips as he studied her mouth. Romelle made a noise, something like a nervous half giggle. But she didn’t look amused, nor flattered, still trying to get her hands free. It was then that the slave began refilling Lotor’s glass with the wine, seeming oblivious to the exchange she was interrupting.

Lotor took no notice of the slave, trying to pull Romelle onto his lap. She managed to keep her seat, just as Lotor made another one of his announcements. “I’m going to marry you.”

“MARRY?!” Romelle exclaimed, and then followed it up with a startled yelp. She had managed to jerk away from Lotor, but in the process jostled the slave girl. It was like watching a ship wreck, the events seeming to happen in slow motion. The slave girl dropped the pitcher of wine, a loud splash following as the drink got all over the front of Romelle’s dress.

The pitcher shattered on the floor, but no one seemed to care. We were all frozen in shock, staring at the slave who was panicking. Tears were in her eyes, she didn’t seem to know what to do, just standing there shaking.

She had a right to be scared, not even five seconds would go by before Lotor leapt to his feet, slapping the slave girl across her face. She shrieked in pain, and already I could see the red mark of his hand on her right cheek. Romelle also screamed when Lotor struck the slave girl, her jaw dropping open in shock.

“Apologize to the princess Romelle.” Lotor snarled, and the whimpering slave girl tried to get out the words. She didn’t say them fast enough for Lotor’s liking, he was slapping her again.

“I…I’m sorry.” The crying slave girl said, her chest was heaving, she was close to hysterics.

“Not good enough.” Lotor growled, and moved to slap her again.

“Lotor!” Romelle cried out, having found her voice. “That’s enough, she apologized!”

Lotor seemed to stare THOUGH Romelle, his face ugly with his anger. “She ruined your dress.”

“It’s just a stain.” Romelle said quickly. “It will come out.”

“It better.” Lotor grabbed the slave by her hair, forcing her to her knees. He pointed at the large puddle of wine on the floor, growling. “Do you know how much that wine costs?! It is worth ten of you! And you spilled it!”

“I didn’t mean to…” whispered the slave.

“It doesn’t matter what you meant!” Lotor shouted, and shoved her face first into the puddle. She sputtered and flailed, trying to push herself up off the floor. Lotor held her there, and I found that I had risen from my seat.

“Prince Lotor, that’s enough!” He kept right on holding the slave down, but he turned angry eyes to me. “You are upsetting the princess.” That was the only thing that MIGHT get through to him. He blinked his eyes several times in rapid motion, then looked at Romelle.

“Romelle?” She looked close to tears herself, her hands clasped before her as though in prayer. “Are you upset Romelle?” She nodded, and Lotor looked completely confused. “But why?”

“Please…” She begged him. “Just let her go.”

“It’s your dress.” Lotor decided with a nod. “Your upset because SHE ruined your dress.” He hauled the slave upright, then flung her away from him. “Take her to the dungeon master!” He commanded of the guards. “Fifty lashings should suffice for her mistake.”

“No!” Gasped Romelle in protest, and Lotor nodded.

“The princess is right. Fifty is not enough. Make that one hundred lashings.” Romelle’s hands flew to her mouth, she was muffling any further protests, frightened of what Lotor would decide next.

“Yes, sire.” Two soldiers had drawn near, they were taking hold of the shrieking slave girl, dragging her out of the room. I could see Romelle was shaking for this was her first real experience with Lotor’s true nature. I had warned her in the gymnasium that Lotor could be vicious, even more than he had been in the fight. Now she was seeing just how much I was right, and it left her looking at Lotor like he was a monster.

“What?” Lotor growled, noticing that the rest of the seated Drules were staring at him and Romelle. They didn’t care what he had done to the slave, they were just eager to witness a potential scene between him and the princess. “What are you all looking at?!” Another growl, and then they were turning back to their plates, soft conversation resuming.

He then looked at the shaken Romelle, the princess frozen in place. His brow furrowed, as though Lotor was trying to figure out the reason for her continued upset. His gaze traveled lower, looking at the stain of red on the pale blue fabric of her dress. “Don’t worry. When we go to Walnov I will buy you a dozen dresses to replace this one.” I had the feeling Romelle wasn’t about to go anywhere with him, let alone to one of the Drule cities.

“There’s no need.” Romelle said, but Lotor acted as though he didn’t hear her. Instead he reached for a handful of napkins, and began patting down the front of her dress. Romelle tried to stop him, and it was no surprise to me that he was taking this opportunity to fondle her breasts in the process. “Stop…STOP!” She actually shoved him away from her, Lotor so drunk he was easier to move.

He almost toppled into the chair behind him, staring at her in stunned surprise. “I…I want to go back to my room.” Romelle announced, still shaking.

“But what about dinner? Desert?”

“I am not hungry.” Romelle was firm on this. “And I want to get out of this dress and take a shower. I stink of wine.” So did Lotor for that matter, and he was grinning at the thought of Romelle undressing.

“Then I will take you to your room.” Lotor said, reaching for her hand. She deftly evaded his touch, and looked to me.

“I want Commander Sabbath to take me.”

I couldn’t blame her for that, between Lotor’s drunken ardor, and the violent treatment of the slave, she had a right to not want to be alone with him for any length of time. But it put me in an awful position, Lotor turning the evil eye on me.

“With Sabbath?” He demanded, growling. “Why not with me?!”

“I am thinking you need to sleep off the effects of your drink before I go anywhere with you!” retorted Romelle. “Please commander, let us leave now?”

I was torn, trying to look at them both, as if that could help me decide what to do. Lotor was my friend, I did not want to end up on his shit list because of a woman. But neither did I want him to continue to do anything stupid, especially where Romelle was concerned.

“Fine.” Lotor grumbled, slumping down into his chair. “Go with him if you want to so much.” He reached for his glass, then cursed, finding much of it was empty, the wine having spilled on the floor. “Someone clean up this mess and get me more wine!” He bellowed, seeming to completely ignore Romelle now that he had dismissed her. She didn’t seem to care, walking around to my side of the table, and taking my arm.

The murmurs of the gathered diners followed us as we walked out the room. They were predominately speaking in Drule, but they were being careful not to discuss the scene they had just witnessed. Not so long as Prince Lotor was in ear shot.

“I’m sorry for putting you in that position.” Romelle apologized when we were a corridor away from the dining room. It wasn’t exactly fine with me, and I fervently hoped Lotor would be too hung over to remember what exactly had happened between him and Romelle. Especially the part where she made her preference known about who would escort her to her room.

“I just couldn’t stand the thought of being alone with him.” Romelle continued in response to my silence. “He’s…he’s not what I thought he was.”

“The prince has a temper. Especially when he drinks.” I said, and she nodded.

“I see that now. I got a taste of it during your fight with him, but I’m afraid I didn’t truly believe you when you said he was capable of being even more vicious.” The sad thing was, I knew Lotor had barely begun to overact in regard to the slave’s accident. He could have done a lot worse, might even have been holding back for Romelle’s sake. Sad as it was, that slave had been lucky, she could have ended up dead.

“He won’t really have that slave girl whipped for such a thing, will he?” Romelle asked. “For such a little mistake…?”

“I’ve seen him do worse for even smaller offenses.” I admitted to her. “Being a slave on Doom is terrible thing. We Drules are not known for our kindness.”

She pondered that, walking in silence besides me. “But not all of you are bad, are you? I mean….you’ve been nothing but kind to me. You took me to see my brother when Lotor would not. And you found the right words to stop Lotor from doing further with the slave.”

“For all the good that did.” I grumbled. “She’s still going to be whipped.”

“But at least you tried. No one else at that table did. I guess they were all too afraid….”

“Are you still planning to go to the city with Lotor tomorrow?” I asked, and she hesitated.

“I don’t want to.” Romelle admitted. “But I am afraid I don’t know how to get out of it.”

“If you do go, insist on bringing Bandor with you. Maybe even one of the men who came with you from Pollux. But whatever you do, princess…do not go with him alone.” I was warning her off Lotor as best I could, confidant he wouldn’t be able to try anything if she brought an entourage with her. Where Drule soldiers would turn a blind eye to Lotor’s actions, I knew her brother would not.

“Thank you for that suggestion. I will.” She sighed then. “But I do hope to get out of it somehow…” Another pause, and then she was glancing at me sideways. “What did Lotor mean when he said he was going to marry me?”

“It’s not so unusual is it?” I asked. “Doom and Pollux are entering into an alliance. I would not be surprised if marriage was in your future, all to better forge relations between our two worlds.”

Romelle actually blanched at that. Lotor had indeed done damage to their relationship, ruining all his efforts within a few minutes. “Have you heard anything?” She asked me, her beautiful blue eyes filled with upset. I had given her a new worry, and for that I was sorry.

“Nothing…officially.” Which was the truth. What Lotor had told me in the showers had been off the record, there had come no official decree from the royal house of Doom.

“And unofficially?” She saved me from answering, shaking her head. “No, father wouldn’t do this to me. He wouldn’t marry me off without asking for my input.”

I had my doubts about that. If her father could willingly hand over his heir to become a robeast, than what would stop King Cova from wanting to marry Romelle off to Lotor? But it was a moot point, Doom was planning to betray them all. There would be no alliance, only lies and deception. Sadly I was a part of this now, and I was not yet so loyal to Romelle that I would contemplate giving her a warning about Doom’s plans.

I often wondered if I could have made a bigger difference in the fate of Romelle. If I could have averted the tragedies that would befall her by informing her of Doom’s plans. Of course at this point, I had no idea that Pollux was planning a betrayal of their own. King Cova wanted more than Arus, he had his eye on the Doom Empire, wanting it under his control. That lust for power might have led him to continue feigning friendship with Doom, the events might have played out exactly the same.

Was destiny inescapable? I could not say for certain. But I felt very much caught up in the plight of this princess, helpless to stop it, left only to observe. My conscious was developing, guilt weighing heavy on my heart. I was betraying her and it was something I did not want to do! But I was loyal to Doom, and still loyal to the crown prince. I could only sit back and hope everything would work out for the best, and that best would be in Romelle’s favor.

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