The days seemed endless to Adaline, time flowing at a snail’s crawl, making the dry summer season of Doom seem even longer. Even with the planet at it’s closet proximity to it’s sun’s orbit, the surface temperature of Doom never seemed to heat up more then ten degrees hotter than any of the other seasons. Doom was a strange world, with only three ways to distinguish between it’s three seasons.
The dry summer season was the shortest of the three, with the wet rainy season, and cold snowfall of winter clouding the planet in perpetual darkness. It made the planet a miserable place to live, Adaline wondering why the Drule did not just abandon the world completely. They certainly had enough planets to choose from, the Empire growing in size at an astronomical rate now that it no longer had Voltron and Arus to contend with.
They still hadn’t discovered the secrets to recreating the mighty robot, the former king Alfor having enacted one final revenge against Zarkon. The man had destroyed his father’s blue prints, the plans incinerated, and the ashes scattered to the winds. It left Zarkon in a foul mood, one he took out on anyone in close proximity to him, be they slave, servant or noble.
Unfortunately for Adaline, she made a convenient target, Zarkon often requesting her presence in his chambers. She was long since tired of listening to him rant and rave about Voltron, her husband using his anger to fuel his passions. When he wasn’t demanding sex from her, he was devising torments, atrocious acts Adaline was sure he thought made him clever.
She was required to be there when he acted them out, Adaline forced to watch as some helpless person fell victim to his latest amusements. It was a testament to Drule cruelty, the nobles cheering, their vocal praise goading Zarkon on to new heights of depravity. Witnessing these moments left Adaline weary in both body and soul, the woman feeling unclean, and more than a little guilty.
It was a survivor’s guilt, Adaline living when so many died, the woman feeling that at least some of them wouldn’t have gone through such miserable tortures if Zarkon hadn’t been trying to get a reaction out of her. He seemed to eat up her horror and anguish, cruel amusement shining in his eyes at the way she flinched and tried to fight the impulse to turn away. It was the least she could do to bear witness to these people’s final moments, even as their deaths play havoc with her mind, filling her sleep with endless nightmares.
Between the dreams and Zarkon keeping her up, Adaline spent much of her time dragging her feet, a heavy haze of weariness surrounding her. She was almost glad the summer season was at an end, it meant the children would be starting school, and perhaps then she’d have a chance to catch up on her sleep. But not right now, not when she had to get them both ready, Lotor fidgeting in front of her.
The boy was impatient, hardly sitting still enough for her to comb out his long hair. It had grown another two inches, reaching past his shoulders now, and Adaline debated on cutting it. It snagged on everything, and was always full of tangles, and lately she didn’t have the energy to want to comb them out. Allura’s hair was even longer than Lotor’s, Adaline taking to braiding it in order to maintain it’s tangle free state.
Unfortunately for her, Allura was currently fiddling with one of the twin braids, popping off the hair band to let loose her curls. “Allura, leave it.” Adaline chided gently, the girl getting the braid half unwound. Adaline hid a sigh, knowing she would have to redo it from the top, just as soon as she was done with Lotor’s hair.
“Hurry mommy hurry!” Lotor wiggled in place, the boy not content to sit still for so long. Especially without a toy to occupy his hands, Lotor pulling at imaginary loose threads on his new shirt.
“Lotor, leave your shirt alone.” Adaline told him, finding the comb moved easier through his hair now. She appeared to have gotten out all the knots, the woman tucking her son’s hair behind his ears. He immediately jumped down from the chair, and rushed over to his toy chest, hands digging about the top most toys. “Lotor, there’s no time to be playing…”
“But mommy!” Lotor whined in protest, pulling out his action figures.
“No buts.” Adaline said firmly, and lifted Allura onto the chair. She undid the remnants of the girl’s braid, then began crossing the strands together, listening as Lotor continued to ignore her words, rattling about the toy chest. Allura stared at her reflection, the stuffed robeast clutched to her front. She made a cute picture, the girl dressed in a pale pink jumper with white undershirt and shoes.
Adaline had ordered a whole new wardrobe for Allura, rushing the castle seamstresses to complete the outfits within a week’s time. Zarkon had grumbled about the expense, but Adaline had reasoned that Allura couldn’t wear Lotor’s oversized hand me downs forever. In truth Adaline had overdone it, the woman looking forward to having a little girl to dress up. She had longed for a daughter of her own, but after Lotor had been born she had given up on those dreams, reasoning she couldn’t allow another child to be born that would play victim to Zarkon’s brand of terror.
Lotor was only seven, and already he bore scars, emotional ones that lingered just out of sight. Adaline didn’t dare hope that her husband would show a kinder side to female offspring, not when he treated his own wife so badly. He had little respect for women, seeing them as good only for two things. Sex and making babies.
“All right…” Adaline smiled at Allura, giving her a fond pat on the head. “You’re all set.”
Allura nodded, and with Adaline’s help, was returned to the floor. Allura continued to be a silent enigma, the girl talking but only a few words at a time. Adaline was sure it wasn’t shyness, Allura comfortable around her and Lotor. It was the other people who lived in the castle that caused Allura fright, the girl meek and seeking protection from those she perceived to be hostile strangers.
She wasn’t that far off base, Adaline knowing that the Drules that tended to them mostly did not like Allura. They still harbored grudges over her tears, refusing to be swayed to a compassionate understanding that Allura wasn’t doing it on purpose.
Allura continued to be troubled by night time terrors, though it wasn’t as frequent as it had been in the beginning. She could sometimes make it through a whole night without screaming, Allura clinging to Lotor for comfort in their bed. She still refused to talk about the dreams and the experiences that led to them, Allura unable to give voice to more than a few words of terror.
It was more than enough, Adaline chilled by the words she did speak. They showed how heavily the massacre Allura had witnessed weighed on her mind. Adaline wondered if the girl would ever be able to move on from it,but she prayed that she did.
“Come on…” Adaline said, turning to frown at her son. “Put those figures away.” Lotor shook his head, hands clutching the toy soldiers tightly. “We have to get going, or we’ll be late for your first day of school.”
“But mommy…” Lotor’s lower lip trembled, but his eyes remained clear, the boy merely trying to make her think he was on the verge of tears. “I don’t want to go!”
“But you have to.” Retorted Adaline, advancing on Lotor who backed into his toy chest.
“Why?!” He demanded, and she paused to explain.
“Well…you need to learn, you need to study your math and your spelling, and learn to read.”
“I have mommy for that!” He pointed out, and she kneeled down before him, reaching for his hands.
“You won’t always want mommy to read to you when you’re older.” He frowned at that, Adaline adding the following. “You’ll need to become a big boy, one capable of ruling your father’s kingdom. There is much you need to know in order to that.”
“But…can’t mommy teach me those things?” Lotor asked, his tone begging. Adaline sighed, and shook her head, gently taking the toys out of his hands.
“There are things even mommies don’t know. Running a kingdom is one of those things.” Lotor’s eyes widened, his expression slightly panicked.
“Is being King that hard?!” She nodded, and he frowned. “Then let Allura do it!” She almost laughed at his suggestion, well aware of her son’s bossy nature. He often had the girl do the things he didn’t want to do, be it because they were boring or difficult.
“Allura will have her own role to play when she grows up.” Adaline told him.
“What?” That gave her pause, Adaline unable to imagine what sort of future a displaced princess could have on Doom. “Mommy what? What will Allura do?”
“She may become a mommy to someone…” Adaline said at last, and Lotor pouted.
“That’s boring!” Lotor announced, looking at Allura.
“But no less important than being king.” Adaline told him, reaching past him to lock the toy chest. “Now….it’s time…” He looked sullen, but nodded, moving to follow close behind her. Adaline paused to stretch out a hand to Allura, the girl grasping hold of it after a moment’s hesitation. Together, the three stepped out into the corridor, the guards turning to watch them as Adaline ushered them past.
She was pleased by Lotor’s bravery, remembering how last year he had cried and shook, working himself up to full blown hysterics about his first day of school. And the days that followed, Lotor taking two whole weeks to adjust before he could attend his lessons without fearing them.
It was because of that very reaction that Zarkon had excused her from court today. Her husband feared that Lotor would have a relapse of bad behavior, and he hoped his wife’s presence would stave off any embarrassing crying fits. So far so good, Lotor behaving with only the minimal amount of fuss. She was more worried about how Allura would handle the idea of school, the girl really too young to be starting any lessons. But it was Adaline’s hope that in a school surrounding, Allura would start to learn the Drule language that was so essential to her adult survival.
Allura would need any advantages she could get, Adaline not knowing what Zarkon planned to do with her once she got older. If she was lucky, she’d be allowed to remain with Adaline, perhaps as a lady in waiting. There were many things that could go wrong though, and the fates that waited Allura might be more horrible than the dungeons. Adaline was well aware that Allura made a beautiful child, having the kind of looks that would only make her grow even more beautiful the older she got. She might very well end up in someone’s harem one day, and the thought broke Adaline’s heart.
Allura was suddenly clinging tighter to her hand, Adaline glancing down at the little girl. She was pressed against Adaline’s skirts, trying to hide, having spied the woman waiting for them in an open doorway. The woman was a tall Drule, with black hair that was streaked with dark purple highlights, the kind that wasn’t noticeable until the light hit them.
The Drule female had managed a smile, her eyes holding a welcoming light to them. That all faded when she spied Allura, the woman frowning instead of smiling. “Why is she here?”
Adaline paused, looking at the female teacher. She truly seemed not to have expected Allura’s presence, Adaline inwardly cursing her husband for not preparing the
woman for one more student. “Allura’s going to join Lotor in his studies.”
“Is she now?” The teacher’s voice was a challenge, the woman looking down her nose at Adaline. “Why wasn’t I informed of this?”
“His highness is surely busy.” Adaline told her. “He has the weight of the empire on his shoulders, surely we won’t find fault in him for forgetting about one child.”
‘Surely we won’t.” Agreed the Drule, then sighed. “Is the girl even capable of intelligent thinking?”
“She’s bright enough.” Adaline assured her. “But she only knows the very basic when it comes to the Drule language.” The teacher pursed her lips together, looking
displeased to hear it.
“I suppose I can start her on writing the alphabet while Lotor continues with his advance studies.”
“Yes, do that.” Adaline agreed, and the woman looked at Lotor.
“Well, your highness, are you ready to begin you studies?”
“NO!” He shouted it, fixing the woman with his best glare. “I want to play!” The teacher looked put out by what he said, and Adaline could only offer up an apologetic smile for her son’s behavior.
“The time for playing is past.” The teacher told him, gesturing for him to enter the room behind her. “You’ve had your vacation, now it’s time to work.”
“I don’t want to!” Lotor snapped back, choosing to be difficult. The teacher heave a heavy sigh, reaching into her pocket.
“I didn’t want to have to resort to this..” She sounded almost apologetic, Adaline and the children watching as she withdrew wrapped pieces of candy. Adaline hid a groan at the sight of it, recalling how long it had taken her to discover her son blackmailing a maid into delivering the children daily pieces of candy. It wasn’t until both Allura and Lotor came down with toothaches, their afflictions occurring just days apart from one another, that Adaline had wheedled the truth out of all involved.
Since then she had kept a strict watch on their candy intake, seeking to avoid it as much as possible. Lotor’s eyes lit up, and he took a step forward, thrusting a demanding hand in the direction of the teacher. But it was Allura who spoke, the girl still clinging to Adaline’s hand. “Candy!”
“You want this your highness?” asked the teacher, and Lotor nodded.
“Give it to me.” He ordered, and tried to snatch it out of the woman’s hand. She deftly avoided his fingers, backing into the room.
“You can have it.” A pause then, the woman smirking. “After your lessons are finished.”
A decision played out on Lotor’s face, the boy trying to decide if it was worth it for the treat or not. At least he wasn’t shouting, or crying, Adaline and the teacher both agreeing it was an improvement over last year’s behavior. “Fine.” Lotor decided, and entered the room. “Come Allura!”
The girl was still hesitating, and now she looked up at Adaline. She smiled down at Allura, and urged her to walk with her, the two entering the room together. Allura looked around, shy but interested in her new surroundings. There was a large desk in the room, with workbooks already spread out across it surface. The teacher was moving about, looking through her belongings for some busy work to give Allura.
“I won’t be far now…” Adaline told Allura, helping the girl up into one of the chairs. She was too short to reach the high table, Adaline having to pile text books beneath Allura in order for her to be able to view the desk’s top. Lotor was sitting next to her, swinging his legs about, already looking bored. Adaline touched him, placing a fond hand on his and Allura’s shoulders. “You be good for your teacher, and study hard, okay?”
“Kay…” Allura said, hugging her stuffed robeast to her. She was staring at the desk, head cocked to the side as she studied the pictures in an open book.
“Lotor?” Adaline waited for him to voice his agreement, but he stubbornly remained silent. She sighed and ruffled his hair, leaning in to give him a kiss on the cheek. “Behave…”: She reminded him, hesitating to leave the room. “And be sure to take care of Allura!”
“They’ll be fine.” The teacher said, looking up from her bag. “Both of them.” Adaline hoped so, leaning in to give Allura a kiss before forcing herself to walk out of the room.