When Zarkon set out to do something, he exerted himself to the fullest, throwing both his mind and body into the effort in order to attain his goals. With Lotor’s training it was no different, the king meeting with the boy daily, allowing him no rest or respite from their training sessions with the sword.
Every single day, without fail, the boy would be brought before Zarkon, Lotor nothing more than a tool, so like the steel sword in his hand. And like a steel sword Lotor needed forging, his previous self burned away, melted to the point that Zarkon could mold him into the kind of man he wanted him to be. Of course such a molding would take time, Zarkon understood and accepted that, after all Adaline had had nearly eight years with the boy. Enough time to do extensive damage to the boy, damage that was left to his father to repair.
He began slowly with the boy, just getting him used to handling the sword. They performed hundreds of repetitive drills, Lotor slashing at the air over and over, building up muscle in his right arm. To balance things out, Zarkon prescribed lifting weights for Lotor’s left arm, along with a rigorous exercise regimen. He explained to the boy it wasn’t enough to simple be able to swing the sword, he had to be fit and fast in order to dodge and parry his opponent’s blows.
He held duels before the boy, to better demonstrate what he meant. The men chosen to duel with Zarkon were among his best, elite sword masters who wouldn’t falter to a case of nerves at fighting their king. Sometimes he even lost those duels, but not before leaving his mark on his opponent, jagged slices from his sword that bled and showed Lotor just how dangerous a sword truly could be.
It was a lesson the boy needed, Lotor thinking the swords just another toy, a great fun game to be had. Zarkon worked to disabuse him of such notions, even going so far as to cut the boy. It wouldn’t be the last time, and spilled blood wouldn’t be the only result of their lessons. He frequently sent Lotor back to his mother bruised and bloody, the boy in tears, tired both in mind and body.
She protested this treatment of their son, giving Zarkon angry looks and poison laced words of recrimination. He merely laughed in her face, giving her a not so gentle reminder of how much worse things could be. With or without Adaline’s appproval, their lessons continued, Zarkon and Lotor crossing swords, the boy woefully outclassed.
Zarkon enjoyed their duels, one sided though they may be, the king taking pleasure in watching the boy try to best him. He never did, Lotor’s every move predictable, easily read and even easier defended against. Too often did the boy leave himself open for attack, and only the fact that this wasn’t the battlefield saved Lotor from incurring any lasting scars.
To his surprise Zarkon found himself enjoying this time with his son, the man using it to impart pearls of wisdom not related to just the use of a sword. He spoke of things Lotor couldn’t possibly understand yet, of politics and conquest, and even of women. He spoke on manipulation, on managing the very people one surrounds himself with, all in order to better secure your hold on the throne.
Most importantly of all, he spoke of mercy, and the advantages of having none. He thought the boy took the lessons to heart, Zarkon thinking he was hardening the boy into a ruthless Drule. He’d soon discover how wrong he was, but for now the lessons continued, Zarkon riding Lotor hard, to the point the boy cried and begged, pleading to be released from his training.
Such sniveling angered Zarkon, and it wasn’t unheard of for him to back hand the boy across his face in an attempt to knock some sense into him. During those incidents he would tersely explain to the boy that he had wasted precious time teaching him. Time he couldn’t get back. If the tears persisted, it wasn’t unheard of for Zarkon to beat the boy, reasoning that this too was another lesson in toughening Lotor up.
Sometimes the lessons left Zarkon wondering if his son was stupid, the boy never seeming to learn the repercussions for his whining and crying. Some days he wanted to deem the boy hopeless, but a sliver of talent kept him persistent, Zarkon feeling hope that Lotor would be able to follow in his footsteps and become a great sword master.
The cold winter months seemed to speed by, Lotor showing progress day by day, enough to the point Zarkon felt the boy had merited a special treat. It was for that reason he called the boy to him, Lotor looking puzzled for Zarkon had interrupted his schooling.
He grew even more confused when he saw they weren’t going to the training room, Lotor casting a sidelong glance at his father. “Where are we going?”
He was in exceedingly good spirits, Zarkon walking with a spring in his step. “I’m taking you to the arena my son.”
“The arena?” Lotor gasped with excitement, his face lighting up with his shock. Zarkon had often told the boy about the arena, spinning tales of the swords masters who reigned supreme there. The boy was close to idolizing those men, living every lesson in anticipation of his father’s stories, Lotor loving the tales of the heroes slaying the monsters and criminals that plagued Doom’s arena.
Zarkon had to laugh at the boy’s enthusiasm when Lotor realized his father was serious. He practically danced as he walked, the boy fighting impatience, wanting to run ahead but not knowing the way to the famed arena.
“Will we see monsters?” The boy wanted to know, gazing up at his father as they walked. “Great big scary ones?!”
“We may.” Came his answer, Lotor almost squealing his delight.
“And fights? Will there be fighting?”
“There will be.” Zarkon nodded, and Lotor grinned.
“Will you be fighting in the arena father?”
“Not today son.” The boy’s disappointed was apparent, Zarkon hiding a frown at how easy it was to read Lotor’s every thought on his face. The boy had no skill, no guile towards hiding his emotions. It was just one more lesson he needed to learn if he wanted to survive the manipulations at court, Zarkon knowing he would have to give thought to how he would impart the lesson to Lotor.
But for now he concentrated on the surprise he had planned, Zarkon allowing a faint smile to appear on his face. “But you will be.”
“Me?!” squeaked out Lotor, the boy both equal parts frightened and surprised. “Fight in the arena?!” At his father’s nod, the boy’s nervousness became more pronounced, Lotor stuttering and stumbling on his words. “But…but I’m not a sword master!”
“But one day you will be.” Zarkon told him, the boy continuing to protest. Zarkon did not allow him to make excuses, the king talking over the boy’s voice. Lotor fell silent, not wanting to incur his father’s wrath by speaking out of turn. “With my tutorship, you will excel at the sword. And one day you may even become the greatest sword master on Doom.”
The boy looked doubtful of that, eyes uncertain. Zarkon held back his impulse to frown, knowing that before that day could come, his son would have to shake free of any doubts and weaknesses that held him back. Else he’d never reach the aspirations Zarkon had for him.
That fist of Lotor’s was raising, the boy giving in to the beginnings of stress. Zarkon narrowed his eyes at his son, displeased by this nervous habit and his constant attempts to express it. Zarkon willed himself to not let anger infuse him, the king not wanting to ruin what was meant to be a special day for his son.
“Lotor!” His voice came out harsher than intended, the boy jumping in place due to fright. “What have I told you about sucking on your fist?”
“Not..not to do it.” Lotor whispered, the fist falling back to his side.
“Disgusting habit.” Zarkon grunted out, wondering how many more punishments it would take before Lotor was free of that urge. He couldn’t even begin to understand what the boy had to be stressed about, Zarkon thinking his son led a charmed life as a pampered prince of the Drule. In fact, he considered the boy spoiled, no doubt coddled into bad behavior by his mother. He’d leave it up to Adaline to cure Lotor of this habit if he didn’t think she would do just the opposite of his wishes.
Adaline was funny that way, the woman not daring to oppose her husband directly. Instead she used their son to do it, allowing him little quirks of personality that brought shame to both Lotor and Zarkon. No matter how often and how vigorously Adaline protested she did not, Zarkon held on to the thought that she did it on purpose, and all to embarrass her husband!
She was only doing damage to the boy, the very son she claimed to love. Zarkon wished she’d understand that, wished she’d stop this foolishness and be a real mother to Lotor. Their son did not need hugs and kisses, but the hard hand of discipline, each blow struck with the purpose of bettering their child. Ruthlessness and ambition were key, Lotor needed those things if he was to become a king the Drule could accept.
Sometimes Zarkon thought about starting anew, birthing a new heir off of Adaline, one that she would have no influence over. He was pretty sure he knew how that would end, with Lotor dead and Adaline sobbing, hating him for the loss of her son.
It was a tempting dream, but Zarkon was never one to give up so easily, having invested eight years worth of time and care into Lotor. He would see the boy hardened, developed into the kind of man worthy of the Drule throne, or he would see the boy dead himself. Only then would he give serious thought to making a replacement for Lotor.
It was with those thoughts that they reached the arena, Zarkon leading his son out into the sand pit center. The boy looked around, eyes wide and brimming with curiosity. “This!” Zarkon voiced boom out, the acoustics of the arena allowing his voice to resonate, loud echoes repeating his words to the point Lotor clapped hands over his ears to block out the sound. “This is where it all happens son!”
There was no cheering throngs to welcome the two royals, the arena stands were empty, the howling wind the only sound in response to Zarkon’s words. He could see the boy looked disappointed, this was hardly the exciting picture Zarkon had painted for him of the arena.
“Father…” Lotor was hesitant, surely thinking he would incur Zarkon’s anger. “Where are the people? The sword masters? The monsters!”
“Those come later my boy.” Zarkon told him, then smirked. “An inexperienced boy like yourself has to earn the right to an adoring audience.” Lotor frowned at that,
Zarkon knowing how much the boy yearned for attention, good or bad, from any and everyone he encountered.
“And the swordmasters?” Lotor gestured with his hands, the boy impatient for something, anything to happen inside the arena grounds.
“You will meet them later.” Zarkon promised, gesturing for Lotor to draw the sword at his side. “But first you must prove that you are worthy of their attentions.”
“Worthy?” The boy asked, his sword making a grating sound as it was pulled free of the metal sheathe at his side. “Worthy how?”
“You must test yourself….you must fight in the arena!” Zarkon watched as Lotor looked around once more, the boy noting the utter emptiness of the sand pit they stood on.
“But father….there’s no one here to fight!” The boy verged on whining, seeming frustrated. Zarkon grinned again, and swung out his arms with a dramatic flourish.
“That’s where you’re wrong!” He raised his voice even louder, the deafening sound traveling through the arena. “Open the gate!”
The sound of groaning metal was heard, Lotor whirling in it’s direction. The gate was rusted from rain, battered by the winds, slow and unweildy, it’s heavy metal requiring three Drules to work it open. The tunnel the gate guarded was cast in darkness, pitch black hiding whatever waited inside. Slowly, they could hear the sound of hooves, a steady clip clop on the stones as something began moving forward.
Eyes appeared, glowing red in the darkness, seeming to shine with angry and malevolent emotions. Lotor seemed frightened by those eyes, backing up into his father’s legs, allowing Zarkon to feel the tremor of fear that went through the boy.
Snorting was heard, the creature angry, pawing at the ground with it’s hooves. Lotor let out a whimper, and though Zarkon frowned to hear it, he allowed it, watching as the creature was finally brought into the light.
It hadn’t been willing to come out, human slaves were poking at it with sharpened sticks, agitating the creature. It was small, not much taller than Lotor in height, with white woolly fur all over it’s head and body. It walked forward reluctantly, and looked towards Lotor, letting out a baleful sound. “BAAAAAAAAAA!”
Lotor seemed to wilt in relief, and then a giggle escaped him. “That’s no monster!” He turned to look at Zarkon accusingly. “That looks like a sheep from one of mommy’s stories!”
“You’re not yet ready to face a real monster.” Zarkon told him, watching as a slave caught at the creature’s fur, roughly dragging it closer by it’s neck. A rope was brought out, the noose going around the creature’s neck, the beast being tethered to a stake in the ground. There was just enough length on the rope for the animal to run around in circles, and the creature moved, testing the strength of it’s leash.
“But this?” He gestured at the creature, the beast letting out a forlorn sound as it realized it was trapped. “This is more your speed.”
“What am I to do with it?” Lotor asked, Zarkon placing his hand on the boy’s back.
“Fight it.” Zarkon ordered, and gave the boy a push in the creature’s direction. The human slaves were still around it, and now they beat and whipped at the creature’s hide, stirring it into a frenzy, the beast snorting and trying to ram head first into it’s abusers.
Zarkon watched as Lotor approached the beast, the boy walking slowly, occasionally pausing to look back at his father. Zarkon smiled at him, nodding his head in encouragement, eager to see his son in action.
The human slaves scattered at the prince’s approach, the creature trying to run after them. Lotor was forced to jog after the beast, his short little legs making it difficult to keep up with the animal. But with no other targets in close range, the creature turned it’s attention to the newcomer, eyes narrowing as it charged. Zarkon hid back a laugh as Lotor took the brunt of a head butt, the boy flying backwards to lay stunned in the sand.
The creature was bold, and angry, not willing to let the young prince recover enough to stand. It butted him again as Lotor struggled to his feet, the boy falling down and letting out a cry. Zarkon ignored the weak sound that came out of his son’s mouth, watching impassively as the creature tried to trample the boy with it’s hooves. Lotor immediately began rolling, trying to avoid the creature’s attack, and it was only when the beast tried to step on his face that the boy remembered his sword.
He brought it up, waving it wildly before him, somehow managing to nick one of the animal’s forefront legs. The beast screamed in pain, and reared back, Lotor scrambling out of the way. Dust was stirred up where he had lain, the creature violently slamming it’s hooves into the sand. Zarkon was impressed, finding the creature was putting up more fight than he had expected. Perhaps there would be some honor in it’s defeat after all.
The creature, some cattle animal from a human planet, hadn’t been Zarkon’s first choice of opponent for Lotor. But he had carefully considered the options, weighing the boy’s limited skill in handling a sword, and realized that for this day, the boy would need something weak, something easy to hurt, and even easier to kill.
And yet for all it’s weaknesses, it was giving his son quite the fight. The boy had yet to land a serious blow, doing little more than run and maintain his defense. Zarkon sighed as he watched the creature head butt him again, the boy bringing up his left arm to bear the brunt of the blow.
“Fight him Lotor!” Zarkon shouted, his words a distraction that almost cost Lotor his hard won standing. “Do it just like I taught you, and strike!”
Lotor side stepped another charge of the creature, flinging out his sword arm to slap the flat of his blade onto the creature’s rump. The creature let out a wild shriek, and spun about, Lotor still doing that mindless swinging. There was no art or expertise to the slashes, the boy seeming to have forgotten everything he had learned in the heat
of the moment.
The laughable fight continued, the beast getting the better of his son, Lotor doing little more than slashing and running away. Little by little he tired, a wild swing of his sword somehow severing the rope around the creature’s neck. It immediately gave chase, the boy frantic and screaming, running towards stone wall with the creature in hot pursuit.
The human slaves looked to their king for guidance on what to do. Zarkon merely shook his head, forbidding any interference with what was to happen between his son and the animal.
The creature now had Lotor pinned, the boy pressed up against the stone wall, his free hand scrambling, trying to find purchase to pull himself up out of harm way. There was no escape that way, the stone too smooth to allow anyone room to navigate their way upwards. His right hand still gripped his sword, Lotor swinging it wildly in warning. A warning the creature avoided, charging Lotor one more time.
It would be the first and only mistake the animal would make, the boy screaming, his eyes closed, his sword arm slashing sideways. An arc of blood exploded from the animal’s throat, the red liquid splattering onto the boy. It wasn’t the most auspicious of kills, as far as the history of Drule swordsmen went, but it was a kill nonetheless, Zarkon feeling flushed with approval for his son’s accomplishment.
Lotor stood there panting, eyes still closed even as the creature let out it’s sad, pitiable death gurgle. It staggered away from Lotor, one step then two, before falling onto it’s side, dead. Zarkon approached, and even from a distance he could see how badly his son shook, the boy seeming terrified. He applauded him anyway, and the human slaves joined him, all wanting to reward the prince for his first kill.
Lotor opened his eyes, and stood staring down at the creature, and for once his expression was unreadable. The boy didn’t even seem to be aware of the applause, the child cautiously approaching the creature. He leaned out one shaky foot, prodding at the creature’s side. There was no reaction from the beast, and Lotor frowned, pushing his foot harder into the creature.
“Father…” Lotor said, and Zarkon could hear the confusion in his son’s voice. “Why won’t it get up? What’s wrong with it?”
The boy couldn’t be that stupid, could he? Zarkon frowned at him, and at the sight of that expression on his face, the human slaves ceased their clapping. Lotor was still poking at the creature, almost frantic now as he tried to revive it.
“Lotor…son…” Zarkon had reached him, the creature the only thing between them. “It’s dead.”
“Dead?!” The boy gasped, looking shocked.
Zarkon nodded. “You did an adequate job boy. With time you will only get better at killing.”
“Dead…” repeated the boy, and now Lotor’s face twisted with horror. “I….I killed him?” The bloodied sword fell to the sand, Lotor soon dropping to his knees besides it. “I killed him!” It was sudden and fast, the boy bursting into tears, heart felt sobs that echoed through the arena, leaving Zarkon to stare horrified at the boy.