It was late, and she was tired, but not so exhausted as to want to spend another minute in her husband’s presence. That is why when Zarkon dismissed her from his bed, a gratified relief had swelled up within her, Adaline glad he was not the type to often cuddle after sex.
She had slipped out from beneath him, her legs shaky, Adaline uncertain they would be able to support her standing so soon. It wasn’t just her legs, her entire body seemed to ache, Adaline not used to the harsh treatment she had received both now and earlier in the day. She didn’t understand it, her husband was not a young man, being a good twenty years older than her. But his stamina was that of a teenager, his appetites nearly insatiable, leaving her to once again curse the Drules and their strange bodies’ biology.
She had almost escaped from the room when he called her name, Adaline fighting not to stiffen as she paused in the doorway. Her husband had sounded amused, telling her to come join him in court in the morning. To some the invitation—order, would garner immense pleasure, Zarkon bestowing a rare honor in requesting her presence there. But to Adaline it was nothing more than a burden, the woman fearing the kind of things she would see, crimes ordered by her husband for the amusement of his court.
Still she had no room to say no, Zarkon having drilled it into her head that the price for her refusals and disobedience would be one that the child, Allura paid. She couldn’t allow it, not after all the girl had been through. So she nodded her yes, then hurried out the room, pausing only long enough to pick up her dress which she had left neatly folded on a table in the outer chamber.
Adaline had been surprised at how badly her hands had been shaking, the woman having difficulty doing up the buttons on her front. But it wouldn’t do to leave Zarkon’s room in disarray, Adaline forcing herself to go slow and get herself set right. It still didn’t stop the guards from leering as she exited her husband’s chambers, the men knowing there was only one reason why she would be called there so late.
She allowed them their looks, knowing that was all they could do to her. Not without her husband’s express permission, the men simply having to reign in their lusts
for Adaline was not to be touched in anyway. Even if she was to suddenly collapse in need of urgent medical care, the men wouldn’t have been allowed to touch her. Zarkon
simply didn’t like anyone else laying hands on his possessions.
Once Adaline found it strange to think of herself as that, insisting she was a free woman with rights and feelings. Zarkon had quickly taught her otherwise, his lessons harsh and leaving lasting impressions on her soul. She learned shame at his hands, and pure and utter hatred, and in those early days she was startled at how much she could feel on the negative strata of emotion.
Her son had saved her, his birth awakening long forgotten emotions inside her. Love had blossomed in her heart, overwhelming in it’s strength, when she held that perfect little hafling in her arms for the first time. Adaline never once faulted Lotor for who his father was, her love for her son unconditional. As complete as the hate she felt for her husband.
Adaline wondered as she opened the door to her chambers, if it was possible to hate Zarkon even more than she already did. He was certainly pushing things to new limits, testing her endurance and her boundaries. She half stumbled as she walked through the sitting room of her apartment, heading towards the open door of her bedroom.
And stopped in shock, having spied the bed in messy disarray. Sheets rumpled, and pillows knocked aside, the blankets bearing the dried remains of the sex she had had with her husband. The maids hadn’t bothered to change the bedding, and Adaline wondered now if it had been on purpose, some twisted amusement of Zarkon’s.
She wanted to scream, to throw things, to somehow let her anger manifest itself in outward expression. But that was a dangerous thing to let happen, Adaline knowing if she relaxed even for a moment, she’d fall out of the habit of hiding her feelings when it mattered most. So she sighed and approached the bed, kicking aside pillows and pulling at the dirtied blanket.
Soon even the sheets were stripped from the bed, Adaline bunching them up and carrying them into the bathroom. She dumped the bedding in the hamper, though her greatest desire at the moment was to burn the stained sheets. Repressing a sigh, Adaline fetched new bedding, and began dressing the bed, all the while trying not to think on what happened earlier in the day.
It wasn’t often that Zarkon took her in her own bed, the Drule usually respecting the sanctity of her private chambers. She could count on one hand the number of times he had insisted on his husband rights while inside her chambers. Adaline would never let him know just how much it bothered her, this violation of the rooms that made up her private space.
She angrily fluffed up the pillows, all but slamming them down against the bed’s headboard. It felt good to do that, Adaline knowing she was a ticking time bomb of pent up anger and resentment. The problem was she couldn’t explode, not without great cost to herself. And now to Allura, Zarkon seeming to delight in taking every opportunity to threaten the girl.
Adaline was thinking on how carefully she had to tread, when she heard a scream, the high pitch sound of a fearful child. It wasn’t Lotor who was doing the screaming, and though the voice was not yet familiar, she realized who it must be. “Allura!” Adaline gasped, dropping the blanket on the floor, already turning to run out the room. The scream sounded again, no less afraid, urging Adaline to ignore the pain to move as quickly as she could manage.
Gripping her skirts she burst out into the hall, hoping the screams wouldn’t carry as far as Zarkon’s chambers. Guards had appeared, milling uncertainly outside Lotor’s room, uneasy with the screams but unsure of what to do. It was just one more reminder of how different the Drules were from humans, the people lacking the ability to
understand the need to comfort a panicked child.
Adaline pushed her way past the guards, and now she could hear weeping, the sound of the little girl’s sobbing breaking something in Adaline’s heart. She opened the doors to her son’s room, and stopped up short in surprise. Her son, clad in his pajamas, was hovering uncertainly over the terrified Allura, whispering urgently to her.
“Please…please stop that.” Lotor said, almost begging. “We’ll both be in trouble if you don’t stop!” Allura was sitting up, knees tucked in close to her body, her hands over her face. Her little shoulders shook with her upset, and Lotor hovered a hand over her hair, not quite touching her.
The pair was in Lotor’s bed, Adaline having tucked them in for the night just before leaving for Zarkon’s bedroom. Allura had seemed fine at the time, or at least as fine as child who would not speak or play could be. She still wasn’t talking, just doing that pitiful weeping, her upset turning Lotor anxious and afraid. Adaline could guess why, knowing Zarkon had given Lotor enough beatings for his own tears.
“Mommy!” Lotor had looked up at the sound of her approaching footsteps, the tone of his voice telling her how glad he was to see her. “She won’t stop!” His own eyes were worried, the boy whispering his fear. “Father will be mad.”
“Father doesn’t have to know.” Adaline told him, and sat down on the bed. “Allura? It’s…it’s me…I’m here now…” She spoke just loud enough to be heard over the girl’s weeping, reaching out with her hands to touch Allura’s knees. Lotor continued to remain standing on the bed, putting a fist to his mouth that had him sucking at his knuckles in worry.
Allura continued to cry, and Adaline could feel the tremors shaking her body. “Allura sweetie, it’s all right….no one will hurt you…” That got the girl to lift her head, her face flushed red, and streaked with tears. Adaline picked up the edge of the blanket, and began wiping at her face, trying to dry her tears. “Can you tell me about it?” Adaline asked, hoping to get the girl talking.
Allura was silent, staring at her for a few instants. And then her face crumpled anew, a fresh batch of tears wetting her face. Adaline abandoned trying to wash her face, pulling Allura onto her lap. The child immediately hugged her, burying into Adaline’s warmth, her sobs muffled against the woman’s breast.
“I think she had a bad dream.” Lotor spoke up, trying to be helpful. Adaline didn’t doubt the truth of that statement, knowing the girl had witnessed horrors no child should ever have been allowed to see. Unspeakable acts of violence and murder, acts that could even damage the mind of a grown woman. That Allura wasn’t completely shut down was a miracle in and of itself, Adaline grateful for any small sliver of chance she had to heal this girl.
“Did she wake you with her screaming?” He nodded quickly, Adaline apologizing. “I’m sorry Lotor. She didn’t mean too.”
“I tried to help.” He said, and she smiled at him.
“I know, I saw. I’m very proud.” She was indeed, pleased that her son had the compassion to try and tend to a hysterical Allura. Even if he had only been motivated by fear of his father learning of the girl’s tears and punishing them both for it.
Lotor seemed happy to have earned his mother’s approval, the boy returning her smile. But his eyes remained worried, the child looking at Allura. “Maybe she wants something…” He slowly dropped down to all fours, backing off the bed and onto the floor. Rocking Allura gently, making soothing sounds, Adaline watched as Lotor hurried to his toy chest.
“Here…” He said upon his return to the bed. “This always make me feel better after a bad dream.” He was holding out a toy, a stuffed imitation of a robeast. What was once terrifying was now comical, the toy almost cute in it’s appearance. Adaline nudged Allura, easing her back so the girl could see the boy’s offering. A loud sniffle was heard, the girl hesitant to reach for the toy.
“Go on.” Encouraged Adaline, and Allura reached one shaking hand out to the toy. But she didn’t let go of Adaline’s dress, as though she feared the woman would vanish once more.
“Take it.” Urged Lotor, pushing the stuffed robeast into the space between Allura and Adaline. The little girl looked down at it, and brought her hand to curl in the toy’s soft fur. She had ceased to cry, too distracted by the toy’s nearness.
“That was very good thinking Lotor.” Adaline praised him, and he seemed to grow embarrassed. She went to stand, still holding onto Allura, the girl’s small hand holding a death grip on the bodice of Adaline’s dress. Call it a mother’s intuition, but Adaline had the distinct feeling Allura would start crying again if she tried to separate from her.
“I think she needs to sleep with me tonight.” Adaline told Lotor, and the boy frowned. “What?”
“Me too?” asked her son, and Adaline realized if she refused him she was liable to be encouraging the boy to be jealous of Allura.
“All right.” Adaline said, knowing her bed was more than big enough for her and two children.
“Yay!” Lotor cheered, a bit louder than he should. He was still at the age where he enjoyed sleeping with his mother, something Zarkon tried to discourage him from doing. He wasn’t the type to be accepting of a child’s nighttime fears, or their dependency on a parent in any strong capacity. He’d be annoyed to learn of the sleepover, and a small part of Adaline relished the thought of Zarkon’s dissatisfaction.
“Shh.” Adaline hissed, a gentle admonishment at his loud excitement. “Now come along…quietly.”
“Kay.” Lotor said, and reached for her skirt, clinging close to her leg. It was a slow, awkward way to walk, but they moved through the room, Lotor suddenly gasping. “My light! Don’t forget my light!”
He was referring to the his night light, the room washed in it’s soft glow. She wordlessly plucked it from the wall as they passed by, Adaline reasoning that Allura could also benefit from it’s use. If the princess of Arus hadn’t been scared of the dark previously, her stay in the dungeons would have surely cemented that fear.
They stepped out into the hall, most of the guards having vanished in the interim. She knew this late at night they wouldn’t have dared bother Zarkon with something so seemingly insignificant as a hysterical child. Adaline gave a haughty look to the remaining pair of guards, urging Lotor to walk just a little quicker. Even with his quickened pace, it still took them longer than normal to reach her bedroom.
“Yay!” Lotor called out, and let go of her dress to run towards the bed. He gripped hold of the canopy’s curtain, using it to help pull him up onto the mattress. He grinned at his mother, and bounced a few times in the center of the bed, clearly excited to be there.
“Calm down Lotor.” Adaline advised, placing the night light into a socket on her wall. She then shut off the overhead lights, the room darkening by several shades.
“But mommy!” Lotor pouted as he bounced to a stop.
“But nothing. It’s time to sleep now.” Adaline said, and joined him in the bed. Allura had twisted around to watch Lotor bounce, still clutching at both Adaline and the stuffed robeast. Adaline shifted the girl, placing her next to her right side in bed, Lotor to the left of her. He snuggled up to her, and placed a hand next to Allura’s, fingers curling onto his mother’s dress.
“Yes, son?” Adaline asked, wondering how long it would take Lotor to calm enough to return to sleep.
“You smell like daddy today.” She couldn’t stop from stiffening at his words, embarrassment and displeasure coursing through her. “Why?”
“Mommy spent a lot of time….helping your father today.” Came her hesitant answer.
“Helping with what?” He asked, and she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“With his exercise!”
“Oh.” A moment’s quiet, than Lotor was sighing. “I like mommy better when she doesn’t smell like daddy.” She could only make a choked out sound in response, flustered by Lotor’s observation about her scent. If a halfing like her son could smell Zarkon on her, did that mean every full blooded Drule she came in contact with would note the king’s scent? It left her shamed and mortified, Adaline vowing to take a long bath in the morning, filled with scented oils and shampoos.
“Does…Does Allura have a mommy?”
“You’re just full of questions tonight, aren’t you…” Adaline murmured, then sighed. “Yes, Lotor, Allura has a mommy. She has a daddy too.”
“Where are they?” Lotor wondered, and Adaline glanced at Allura who was watching them talk with huge eyes. Adaline wouldn’t tell either child the truth behind Allura
coming to Doom all alone, nor could she imagine breaking the news to the girl about her parent’s fate. Zarkon had been gloating, reveling in their humiliation, going so far as to show her pictures of Alfor and Diana.
She supposed it was a small miracle he had kept them alive, Zarkon more prone to killing off the remnants of a planet’s previous regime. But she harbored no illusions as to the reason why, knowing it wasn’t mercy that spared them, not when her husband lacked such a thing. Whatever his reasons in this case, Adaline thought it a relief, not wanting to have to one day break it to Allura that her parents were dead.
It would be one more burden on the girl’s heart, Adaline fearing the death of her parents would cast Allura into the abyss of insanity, the girl never to return to normalcy. She glanced towards Allura, and saw her still awake, her eyes on Adaline’s face, expression so solemn. It left Adaline wondering what the girl could be thinking, the woman hoping it was something pleasant and not colored by the nightmares she had just experienced.
“She doesn’t talk much…” Lotor sounded sleepy, words mumbling out of him. “Why?”
“Well….she’s a long way from her home….”
“Hmmm….” Adaline could tell by his tone Lotor was dissatisfied with this answer. She tried to put it in perspective for him, her hand reaching to pet his hair. He liked when she did that, the boy practically purring at her finger’s strokes.
“How would you feel if you were somewhere new….some strange place without even mommy around to help you?”
“I…” She felt a shiver go through him, Lotor coming to a better understanding of what he thought was the problems Allura faced. “I’d be scared…” A pause then, Lotor staring not at his mother, but at the girl across from him. “Allura is scared?”
“Very.” Confirmed Adaline. “Which is why you must be patient and kind and help her to not be. Can you do that Lotor?”
He had to consider it, the seconds ticking by, his face scrunched up in deep thought. At last he nodded, and moved his hand so that it covered Allura’s. “I’ll help.” He promised, and Adaline smiled.
“Very good son.” She was pleased by his easy agreement, Adaline liking that his human side overrode his Drule instincts. She firmly believed in nurture over nature,
Adaline doing her best to turn Lotor into a shining example of fine human behavior. She knew Zarkon didn’t like it, taking to undermining her with threats and beatings, trying to harden Lotor’s heart.
Her son was resilient, not breaking under his father’s constant assault. It left her hopeful that Lotor would grow up to be the kind of man to be respected and admired. Adaline, who often prided herself on understanding the Drule nature, was blind when it came to her son’s raising. She never took it into consideration that she was doing Lotor a great disservice, trying to keep from him the necessary traits needed for a future King to rule over the Drule.
“You will be a great king…” Adaline murmured, surprised when Lotor, who had appeared to be sleeping answered her back.
Even greater than father?”
“Even greater than Zarkon.” She agreed, and the boy’s lips curved into a smile. She saw that he liked that, the boy snuggling once more against his mother’s side. Soon he slipped into a deeper state of sleep, Adaline hearing the lightest of snores rumble out of her son. She glanced at Allura, the girl not having relaxed her grip one iota. But her eyelids were drooping, the child trying to fight off sleep.
Adaline shifted her hand enough to rub up and down Allura’s back, working to soothe her further. Added to her attempts was the soft humming of her voice, an Arusian lullaby comforting the girl. With this tricks at her disposal, it wasn’t long before Allura caved in, slumping against Adaline’s side. It was only then that Adaline allowed herself to give in to the exhaustion she felt, the woman swearing she fell asleep the instant her eyes closed.