His first order of business was to get Allura situated in a more comfortable a surrounding than the dingy holding cell she had spent the last few days in. It was simply unacceptable to Lotor that she had spent even an hour in such an inhospitable room, and the King could not apologize enough to her. She had been gracious, shrugging off the treatment she had thus received, more eager for answers than concerned for her own comfort.
But Lotor had been insistent, long used to getting his way, even at the protests of his General and the head of the castle’s house keeping. They tried to delay him, Cossack not thinking it wise to take Allura out into the castle, the maids all a flutter, saying they did not have a room prepared for one of Lotor’s stature. Lotor ignored them all, and selected one of the empty bedrooms on the fourth floor of the castle, with orders to send in fresh linens and things to make the room more cozy.
He also had them preparing a meal, an extravagant lunch that was sure to tempt Allura into eating. Not that it would take much, not after she had been consigned to the slop they called food down in the castle’s make shift dungeon. Even now the food was being prepared, the cooks order to take their time so as not to rush into any mistakes.
Lotor had insisted Allura relax, and bathe, a dress being borrowed from one of the maids. Allura had been leery at the thought of bathing with him present, it had taken an extraordinary amount of coaxing and promises on his part not to intrude. Even then she hadn’t trust him enough to leave the door unlocked, Lotor hearing the sounds of something heavy being dragged over to the door, the girl barricading herself inside the bathroom.
He almost smiled at that, amused by her antics. He also knew that once that wouldn’t have been enough to keep him from her side, Lotor pressing a hand to the metal of the door. If this had been a younger, more impetuous Lotor, he wouldn’t have hesitated to break down the door, all for the illicit thrill of seeing his beloved princess in the nude. But that was then, and he was a more composed man, or so he liked to believe.
Still he kept casting longing looks at the door, even going so far as to press himself against it, imagining he could feel the warmth of her shower and smell the soap she was using. It was in that position he was found by the maids, two women wheeling a tray covered cart into the room. He grew flustered at their intrusion, but thankfully they said nothing about what he had been doing.
He pulled away from the door, pacing about the room as they began covering a table with plates of food. The meal smelled delicious, and Lotor found that for the first time in a long time he was looking forward to eating. It was only too bad the experience would be marred by the topic that was so heavy on Allura’s mind, Lotor holding back a sigh as he wondered how he would be able to break the news of all that had happened.
He knew it would be hard for her to hear, and some of it would be difficult for him to recount, Lotor still having trouble thinking about those days without experiencing a fresh wave of grief. The grief would be dulled by Allura’s presence, Lotor marveling at the miracle that had brought her back in his life. He hadn’t been a very religious man, these past twenty year. Lotor had all but stopped believing in Gods and miracles with the death of Allura. He hadn’t been able to understand what sort of Creator would allow so beautiful and kind a soul to die such a horrid and wrongful death.
Now he was a flush with new devotion, Lotor bowing his head as he paused by a sunlit window. He didn’t know who to direct his prayer of thanks to, Lotor settling on any God who would listen to a man as fallen in faith as he. “Thank you…” He said simply. “Thank you for bringing her back to me. For giving me another chance…”
He heard the sound of something being dragged, and realized Allura had finished her shower. He was turning towards the bathroom when she opened the door, looking a little uncertain as she stepped out in the drab uniform of a maid. The dress may have been of an unflattering cut, and it’s colors dull and faded, but it didn’t detract one iota from her beauty.
“Allura…” He was all smiles, walking towards her. “You look…” He hesitated, not sure how she would take his flattery. “Refreshed.”
“Thank you, I am. I…you were right. I needed that.” She admitted. “More than I realized.” He just smiled at her, not wanting to gloat that she had seen the wisdom in his suggestions. Instead he gestured at the table, Allura’s eyes widening as she saw all the food.
“Are we having company?” She asked, drawn to the table in an instant, her expression hungry. “The General perhaps?”
“Oh no, it will be just us.” Lotor assured her, pulling out a chair for her. She hesitated a moment, then sat down, Lotor resisting the urge to touch her shoulders and lean in to sniff at her hair. “Do you think I had the cooks make too much?” He couldn’t help but sound anxious, Lotor moving to take the chair next to her.
“Just a little…” She said, and he began to cut into the roasted water fowl that was the centerpiece of the meal. Allura waited until he was done distributing the pieces of meat, the girl fidgeting with her knife and fork. She didn’t start eating immediately, instead staring down at her plate, a look of concentration on her face. He could tell she was eager to question him, but trying to be polite.
Lotor settled the matter by offering her a way in with his words, the King almost musing as he spoke. “So…” He said, having finished piling on vegetables onto his plate. “You want to know everything…”
She immediately looked at him, unable to hide how desperate she was for the information. “Yes.” Allura answered. “Everything you can tell me. I want to get a picture of what happened the day I…” A hesitation, the girl choosing her words carefully. “…disappeared.”
“Disappeared.” Lotor repeated, and somehow managed to hold back a shudder. “It’s still so hard to believe. You sitting here besides me. After thinking you were dead for so long…”
“It’s no easier for you than I!” Allura exclaimed. “I think I’m still in a state of shock over learning twenty years passed in an instant! Just what was in that robeast’s cannon beam that could have caused this…temporal anomaly?”
“That’s what I would like to know…” Lotor muttered under his breath, wondering if Haggar had even known what she had created when making that monster of hers. “But…we’ll worry about that some other time. For now I think we should stick to questions I can answer.”
“Okay.” A nod of her head, Allura turning to fix all her attention on him. “What happened after I got hit with the beam?”
“Chaos, pure and simple.” Lotor answered, fighting not to transport himself to that time and place in his mind. It was a losing battle, as the words formed in his head, allowing him to paint a vivid picture for Allura, he began to relive that day. The sounds and sights were all too real to him, Lotor remembering the shock he had felt when he leapt to his feet from the command chair.
“Allura!” He had shouted, hands forming fists. There had been silence on board his ship, the soldiers and technicians falling quiet once they realized just which lion had been hit. Lotor had stared at the view screen, and all he had been able to see was a thick cloud of smoke where Allura’s lion had been. It was a dark gray color, almost black, and flames seemed to spark all around it.
The robeast wasn’t idle, it was recovering from the attack that had caused it to misfire, shaking red lion off it’s arm. Lotor didn’t know who to blame more, Haggar’s robeast or the pilot of red lion, and sweat began beading on the side of his face as he stood there staring. The four remaining lions were milling about in the sky, they had seemed unsure of what to do, waiting for a sign from blue lion.
None was coming, and Lotor could remembering demanding his men establish radio contact with Allura’s lion. It was a radio frequency they were familiar with, Lotor often making calls to her, taunting and seducing, even trying to cow her into accepting his affections. This time he had hoped to do nothing more than express his concern for her, and God willing, his relief for her state of well being.
He would get to do neither, a Drule technician shouting out horrifying words. “There’s nothing but static on the airwaves. It’s as if blue lion isn’t there to make contact with!”
“Fool!” Lotor had hissed, and it wasn’t his imagination that the Drules onboard his ship had cowered. “She has to be there! Keep trying!”
“Yes, sire!” had been the answer, but the voice had sounded doubtful.
The lions were regrouping, forced to continue to evade the robeast’s attacks, cannon beams firing indiscriminately at them. Lotor saw another beam punch through the cloud of smoke, dissecting it into two. “Someone! Manual override the cannon on that creature’s arm!”
“But sire…” Came the protest. “To do so now would be foolish…!”
“I don’t care!” Lotor had growled, too upset over Allura’s unknown fate to care about anything else. “His blasts are too dangerous! He’s hit Allura….he…he continues to hit her!”
“Yes, sire…” had sighed the voice, the Drule technicians getting busy on hacking into the robeast’s weapon.
“Come on, come on….” Lotor had muttered, staring at the screen. He wasn’t even paying attention to the fight, just staring at the cloud as it hung there, smoking in the air. He had kept waiting for blue lion to fly out at any moment, badly damaged but intact, and every second that went by he was disappointed.
He had started to sweat even more, damp, nervous sweat that had his uniform sticking to his skin. He had never felt so frightened in his life, not even his father’s disappointment could compare to the terror Lotor had been experiencing in that moment. The terror of losing Allura.
Somewhere to the right of him Cossack had been approaching, the commander’s expression concerned. Lotor would have ignored him, should have, but then he was whispering foolish words, the commander close enough to hear and object. “I wish to call a cease fire…”
“Prince no!” Cossack had the sense to keep his voice down, but it was no less heated as he shook his head to Lotor’s wish.
“It would be a temporary thing!” Lotor had practically been pleading with his commander, unable to even look away from the view screen. The robeast had realized it’s cannon beam wasn’t working, and it began howling in rage. “A momentary truce so we could check on Allura. Get her the help she might need…”
“Your father would never understand…” Cossack had begun, and Lotor had cut him off with a hoarse shout.
“To hell with my father! This is Allura we’re talking about! He’ll have to understand…”
“He wouldn’t, and you know it!” Cossack had pointed out. “What’s more, neither would our people understand, nor would they accept a prince who shows such concern for our enemy.”
“But it’s Allura…” Lotor had lowered his voice once more, a whispered whine of her name.
“This is war.” Cossack had answered, steel in his tone. “And she is on the opposing side. What’s more, she fights against us in that lion of hers. She knew the risks when she took to piloting that machine.”
“No….NO!” Lotor shook his head, slamming his fists on the computer console before his seat. “She’s counting on me. Counting on me to protect her from harm!” Unspoken was the thought he had failed her, Lotor staring at the screen.
“Sire..” Cossack’s voice had sounded rich with apology, but Lotor had shrugged off the hand he offered. It was at that moment that green lion darted in close to the cloud, the other remaining lions distracting the robeast with their attacks. Green lions’ jaw dropped, and gusts of winds were emitted, the breezes blowing apart the cloud bit by bit. Lotor had watched anxiously, a prayer being repeated over and over in his mind.
~Please let her be all right.~ He had thought, and then was screaming, in a voice no one had ever heard before this day. He had never had reason to use it before, Lotor’s voice breaking on a sob. He was close to crying, and blindly he reacted, trying to lunge towards the view screen even though a large drop was between him and the floor. Cossack’s hands were on him, hauling him back, but Lotor had continued to struggle, to scream.
The cloud had been completely blown away, not even stray wisps remained. The sight had he been longing to see was not there, there was no sign of Allura’s lion, not even one flaming paw to mark where she had been. His voice had still been screaming, long after he thought he had stopped, Lotor finding Cossack had wrapped his arms around him.
It was odd to be embraced by another man, even one who was his friend, Lotor shaking and trembling like a newborn baby in Cossack’s arms. Cossack’s hold had been awkward, the man seeming leery of touching the prince in this way. But it had seem the only way to keep Lotor from doing something foolish, something harmful to himself, the prince staring at the view screen.
“Allura no! NO!” Lotor had screamed, almost incapable of any other words. “Haggar! What have you done?! What have you done!” He couldn’t even remember the words Cossack had whispered to him, the commander trying to be soothing. His eyes had been wet, burning hot with tears as he thought of Allura, that beautiful life snuffed out in an instant.
The lions had also faltered in mid air, the pilots surely shocked by what green lion had uncovered. The robeast was swinging it’s ball and chain around again, occasionally thrusting it forward, the lions barely dodging the spiked ball in time. Yellow lion took a direct hit to the face, and then the lions were backing away. Green lion continued to hover uncertainly in the air, seeming to stare at the spot Allura’s lion should be in.
That had cost the pilot of green lion, his inattention allowing him to fall susceptible to the robeast’s attack. The spikes of the iron ball buried deep in the lion’s back, green lion being dragged to the ground. The robeast stomped forward, triumphantly placing it’s foot on the lion’s head, grounding it’s heel in viciously. The other lions had been in the midst of a retreat, but now black lion came charging back, attacking the robeast.
It was enough of a diversion that the robeast stepped off green lion, allowing the badly damaged machine to shakily walk off. Yellow lion approached, lending green lion it’s support in the form of a piggy back ride. Black lion kept up the diversion with the robeast only long enough for yellow lion to carry green lion away. And then it too was retreating, running as fast as it’s engines would allow.
“Prince…” Cossack had hissed in his ear, still holding Lotor who had been a complete wreck. “We have them on the run! What are your orders?” Lotor had said nothing then, was barely aware the fight was going in Doom’s favor. All he had been able to think about was the moment blue lion has taken the full on force of the robeast’s cannon beam.
“Prince Lotor!” Cossack’s voice, sharper this time. “We are awaiting your command! Tell us what to do…!”
“Allura…” Was all Lotor had said, even when Cossack began to shake him, trying to rouse sense in him.
“Forget about her! Doom’s victory is at hand!” Lotor had not responded, not giving a damn about giving Doom it’s coveted victory. Cossack had quickly realized that, and with a sigh, let go of Lotor. The prince had then sagged in place, dropping to his knees. What would happen next was stuff he had only heard about, others recounting the moment when Cossack took command of the fleet.
“Pursue the lions!” Cossack had said, his voice so commanding no one dare argue with him. “Do not let them reach the castle. Order our ships on standby to resume attacking, they are to provide support for our robeast.”
It had been with a sense of grimness on board the flag ship, that the commander’s orders were repeated over the airwaves. Cossack had continued to command, hardly ever pausing for breath save to check on Lotor’s condition. It hadn’t changed, the prince had just sat there, Lotor lost to his own horror and grief. He kept wondering how things could have been different, wondering if red lion had been a little slower, or Allura’s lion had been just a tad faster, if this tradgedy could have then been avoided.
“Green lion is already out of commission.” Cossack’s voice had been ripe with satisfaction, the Drule directing the star cutters towards the helpless lion. “It’s weight is nothing but a burden to yellow lion. Someone knock them both out of the sky!”
Bombs had gone off, mini explosions as the missiles bombarded yellow and green lion. Green lion had dug it’s claws into yellow lion’s back, trying to hang on valiantly. It made no difference in the end, it’s front paws being blown to smithereens, the lion slipping off it’s partner, and falling to the forest below. Cossack had ordered the bombardment to continue, several ships circling around the downed green lion.
Yellow lion had roared out a challenge, seeking to defend his comrade. Black lion and red lion ended up trapped between half the Drule fleet, large war ships blocking the way to the castle. On the other side was the robeast, the creature attacking with it’s ball and chain. The pilots of the three remaining lions would continue to fight, right up to the point their ships were all but destroyed.
Huge pock marks in the ground marked where each lion lay, the craters smoking. Such had been the devastation of the Drule’s attacks that it was a small miracle the lions had been in a salvageable state. But the time to restore the lions to working order would come later, Cossack keeping plenty of ships on the grounded lions as he ordered the rest of the fleet to attack the castle.
It would take less than an hour after the fall of the lions for surrender to come from the castle, Allura’s advisor pale faced and stoic, trying to hide his grief. It couldn’t compare to the grief of the Drule prince, Lotor trapped in it, unable to function even long enough to claim victory in his name. Cossack had tried to rouse him, and gotten shoved for his efforts, the Commander sighing and ordering the flag ship and several others to land on the castle lawn.
That day it would be Cossack not Lotor who entered the castle of lions. By this point Lotor had blacked out entirely, completely unaware when someone led him off the command deck of the ship. He had been taken to his cabin, several soldiers left to watch over him. They would not survive the night, Lotor slipping into an unholy rage that left them defenseless against him.
Lotor would never know what kept him from turning his sword onto himself after he was done killing his guards. When Cossack and the others found him, he was laying on the floor, covered in blood, his sword clenched in his right hand. His eyes had been open, but he was sightless, lost to whatever visions were in his head.
He had to blink back tears, Lotor shaking his head, trying to shrug off the memories Allura’s questions had brought him. Allura was staring at him, tears in her eyes, and he could only wish those tears were for him. He knew better, knew she was mourning the crushing defeat Doom had given her people, the girl unable to appreciate the torment Lotor had gone through the instant she had died.
A torment that would continue, Lotor knowing he had told her only part of the story. Clearing his throat, he reached for a glass, noting the maids had conveniently forgotten to give them wine. No doubt on orders from Cossack, the Drule fearing what would happen if Lotor took to drinking again. Lotor was almost amused by his concern, the king drinking from his glass as he waited for Allura to recover.
“What would happen next?” She asked, voice an urgent whisper.
“Next?” Lotor echoed, and she nodded.
“To…Coran and my people. To the pilots of the lions.”
“Ah…” Uneasy, he finished off his water, Lotor not wanting to answer and knowing he must. The only way to get Allura to stop asking questions was to give her all the answers she longed for, no matter how painful the journey would be for them both.