The arena was filled with the sound of his son’s crying, the boy’s voice raising in pitch with each sob, to the point Zarkon was sure all of creation could hear the brat weeping. The acoustics were such that the sound of the boy’s hysterics echoed around him, the noise seeming to mock Zarkon, serving to hurt his delicate hearing and sour his mood.
“Get up.” Zarkon’s voice was cold, anger threading through it as he stared down at his son. “Pick up you sword.” The boy seemed to ignore him, covering his face with blood stained hands that did nothing to muffle his loud sobs.
“He’s dead…” Lotor said in between hiccups of air. “Why? Why is he dead?!”
“He’s dead because you killed him.” Zarkon told him, the answer only serving to further the boy’s upset.
“I didn’t mean to…” The boy had whispered that out, his hands lowering to reach for the creature. “I didn’t want to..” He began shaking the animal, trying to rouse it, getting blood on it’s dust dirtied wool. “Make it get up!”
“It’ll never get up again.”
“Why?!” Lotor was still shaking it, but he looked up at his father, flashing miserable eyes that overflowed with his tears. “Why won’t it?!” The boy’s voice screeched out, loud enough for Zarkon to wince, his hands clenching into fists at his side. “The sword masters always got up when you struck them with your sword….why is this any different?!”
Zarkon couldn’t believe the depths of the boy’s stupidity, staring down aghast at the question he had just asked. Lotor continued to repeat the word why, and now his fingers tightened into the wool, the boy trying to force the creature up onto it’s feet. But he lacked the strength, could only grunt and strain, the body lifting not even an inch off the ground.
“Why is this any different?!” wailed out Lotor, abandoning his attempts to make the creature stand.
Zarkon glared at his son, feeling his anger mount, his mood becoming more and more dangerous. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, his son wasn’t supposed to be bawling! He should be grinning right now, pleased with his victory over the beast, the child taking the first, important step in transforming himself from boy to man. They should have been celebrating, Zarkon giving the boy pats on his back, and taking him into the hidden recesses of the arena where the sword masters awaited to greet
Instead he was left with a near inconsolable child, their glorious moment ruined, and all because his son was weak, poisoned by his mother’s kindness. Mothers know best indeed, Zarkon though, snorting angrily. She was ruining the boy, making him into something he was never meant to be—human. Maybe worse than human, for Zarkon had slaves, many of them human and they weren’t prone to as much crying as Adaline’s son seemed wont to do.
His face hardened, Zarkon barking out an order. “Stop it! Stop that crying!” Lotor was normally quick to obey, the boy keen enough to pick up on his father’s developing rage. Not this time though, the child too upset over what he had been forced to do. Zarkon tried again, stepping around the beast so that he stood over his son’s crumpled form. “I gave you an order boy! Stop your sniveling this instant!”
Lotor’s response was to cry louder, the boy clutching the beast’s wool tighter. Zarkon glared down at him, feeling his anger mount, the fury overtaking him as he wondered what his sword masters would think to witness such a scene. He was humiliated enough that there were slaves in the arena, the humans standing about wide eyed and uncomfortable.
Of course, some part of him had expected such a thing to happen. It was after all the reason he had emptied the arena of it’s spectators, making Lotor’s first kill a private moment. He had even sent away the sword masters, and picked a harmless human creature for Lotor’s first taste of slaughter. Did the boy appreciate his efforts? No!
“Lotor, stop crying or so help me…” Zarkon’s voice was loud, echoing around them as he tried to reach through to the boy’s mind. To that part that feared him, and overrode his other urges. “Pick up your sword. You do it and me dishonor in discarding it so carelessly.
“…..it.” Mumbled the boy, not looking at the sword. “I don’t want it.”
“I don’t want it anymore. It’s not fun. This is not fun.” Lotor complained through his tears.
“Being a sword master is not supposed to be fun!” Zarkon roared down at him, Lotor barely even flinching. “It’s about being strong, and discipline. It’s about being a man!”
The boy was not impressed by those reasons, sitting there crying. Zarkon gave him one more chance, the king marveling that his patience had lasted this long. “Pick it up son. Pick it up, clean it off, and return it to your sheathe.”
“NO!” Lotor all but screamed in defiance, reaching for the sword and flinging it as far away as he could. It didn’t travel far, the boy’s throw hardly impressive. But it enraged Zarkon all the more, the man reaching down to grab at Lotor’s arm, jerking him off his knees.
“You dare defy me?!” Zarkon roared, and before he even realized what he was doing, his hand back handed Lotor across the face. The boy made a stunned sound, and for one brief, merciful instant his tears quieted down. Zarkon would always wonder if in that moment, if Lotor had remained quiet, if the outcome would have been any different.
“I hate you!” Lotor shrieked, a fresh wave of sobbing following his words. Zarkon struck him again, harder this time.
“Hate me all you like boy.” Zarkon sneered. “It won’t change the fact that you are weak!” The third blow to the face seemed to choke out the breath from Lotor, the boy just about hyperventilating. The sounds only further served to displease Zarkon, the last of his restraint snapping as he began openly beating the boy. Lotor cowered and covered his head with his arms, leaving the rest of his body open to Zarkon’s fists.
“Seven months!’ Zarkon raged, letting his punches land where they would. “The culmination of seven months of training! And what do we have to show for it?!”
“Father please!” Lotor managed to get out, voice distorted with pain.
“NOTHING!” Zarkon roared, another blow flying. “Absolutely nothing!” He had let go of Lotor’s arm so that he could pummel the boy with both fists, and the child though slow to realize it, took advantage of the freedom that allowed him. He took a hesitant step backward, then was running, trying to evade his father’s blows. It only incensed Zarkon further to see the boy running from him, the man narrowing his eyes as he hurried after Lotor.
His long legs easily allowed him to catch up with the boy, Zarkon snagging him by the hair, yanking him back and throwing him face first to the ground. The boy whimpered in pain, and the sound only made Zarkon see red, the Drule beginning to kick at the boy’s body.
“I can only thank the Gods by my father isn’t alive to see the craven, cowardly grandson I’ve given him!” Zarkon bellowed, giving him a good hard kick to the side. It left him panting, but not with exertion, his anger such that it made it hard to catch his breath. He took a step back from Lotor, surprised to find himself shaking, so great was his rage.
“Get up.” Zarkon ordered the boy, uncaring if his injuries was such that his son couldn’t move. Lotor merely whined in pain, breath wheezing in and out of him in a manner that led Zarkon to believe the very act of breathing hurt the boy. “Get up. I don’t care if it takes us all day, and well into the night….a hundred more animals, no a thousand killed. You will develop a taste for killing, and you will enjoy it!”
Lotor whimpered at that, but made no other response, just laying there. Zarkon saw red again, and bent over his son, dragging him up to his knees by his now filthy hair. The boy looked horrible, face swollen, one eye sealed shut, He could see the bruises starting to develop on his skin, the boy would bear the mark of his father’s shame for days to come.
Lotor wasn’t crying anymore, the boy seeming barely conscious in the moment. Zarkon spat, a disgusted sound escaping him as he let the boy drop down to his feet once more. “Worthless! Absolutely worthless!”
His eyes fell on the human slaves, the men standing there looking appalled at the king’s treatment of the prince. Zarkon felt a different kind of rage take him, the Drule angered that his son had embarrassed him in front of his slaves. Well aware there would be talk, he kicked Lotor again, even as he drew his sword. Witnesses could
not be allowed, there would be talk yes, but he could control the kind of information that was leaked out about today’s debacle.
With not a shred of remorse he advanced on the terrified slaves, the men holding up their sharpened sticks in a pathetic display of bravado. Zarkon charged, and they scattered, men running every which way. In the end it made no difference, Zarkon catching up to the weak and malnourished slaves, killing them all.
His clothes stained with their blood, and leaving drops of it on the sand, Zarkon calmly stalked back to his son. Somehow Lotor had managed to retain consciousness, the boy moaning softly in pain. Zarkon growled, and hauled him up, the boy’s knees dragging on the sand as he began marching out of the arena. Soldier approached him, Zarkon calm as he addressed them.
“There’s been an accident in the arena. An animal has gone out of control.” He let regret seep into his voice. “My son bore the brunt of it’s rage.” He didn’t even mention the damage to the dead slaves, so inconsequential were their lives.
The soldiers nodded and hurried into the arena, intent on performing the clean up. No one questioned the king, no one had the nerve to, people seeing him dragging his son, spying the extent of damage done to the boy and turned away. There was no concerned voices, no worry or expressed emotion, no one wanted to get involved lest they risk angering their king.
They could guess what had happened, the Drules figuring the boy had disappointed his father in some way. None were surprised, in fact they had expected such an outcome. There would be rumors whispered through the castle, speculations bandied about at just how thoroughly the prince had failed in his first official kill. They’d never get it right, never dream the boy had managed to complete the kill, albeit by pure luck, the Drules assuming the boy had been to weak to even pick up his sword.
His rage was still strong, Zarkon marching the boy through the castle, avoiding the infirmary and heading towards the living quarters. By the time they reached Adaline’s rooms, the boy was unconscious, no longer able to give voice to his pain.
Adaline looked up as the doors were thrown open to her chambers, Allura sitting besides her, colorful crayons in hand. The girl was painting a picture, a child’s crude drawing of her family. She looked up at Adaline’s gasp, and turned shocked at the sight of the bloody Zarkon and the beaten Lotor. “Lo…” Adaline had grabbed her, putting
a hand over her mouth to stifle her cries.
“What have you done?!” Adaline demanded as Zarkon stopped a few feet from her.
“I’m returning to you, your son.” Zarkon said and flung Lotor down at Adaline’s feet. Allura stared horrified at the injuries on Lotor’s face, her eyes starting to fill with tears, even as Zarkon began screaming. “How dare you give me such a worthless son! Such a sniveling coward, such a bawling baby, such a….such a HUMAN!” He sneered out that last word, Adaline rising to stand.
“Allura….go to my bedroom and shut the door.” Allura wanted to protest, the girl staring at Lotor’s fallen form. Adaline gave her a shove in the direction she wanted the child to travel in, Allura taking stumbling steps forward. She barely had time to close the door, and even then she couldn’t shut out the screaming Zarkon was doing.
Adaline moved to hover over Lotor, her hands reaching for the boy. Zarkon’s eyes narrowed, and he snarled. “Don’t touch him Adaline!”
“‘Then what do you want me to do?!” She demanded, voice coming out too loud and angry for Zarkon’s liking.
“I want you to be a mother to him!” He roared, and she flinched at the sound of his voice.
“I am trying to be!”
“Try harder!” Zarkon retorted. “Stop trying to raise him to be a human, he’s not!”
“He’s not Drule either.” She pointed out, kneeling besides Lotor. “The blood of both flows within him….he’s something different, something unique…”
She was making more sense than he liked, Zarkon continuing to glare. “The Drule half is all that matters! It should override everything else!”
“I don’t think it works that way…” Adaline murmured, reaching out to brush back Lotor’s hair. Suddenly Zarkon was besides her, seizing hold of her wrist.
“I told you not to touch him!”
“He needs me!” She tried to jerk her wrist free of him, Zarkon merely holding on tighter, hard enough he could swear he heard her bones start to crack. Adaline’s face twisted into pain, and for one brief instant Zarkon felt satisfaction. “He needs my help!”
“I think he’s had enough of your brand of help!” Zarkon retorted. “This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t coddled him!” He dragged his wife to her feet, pulling her away from their son’s unconscious body. She fought him, not wanting to leave Lotor’s side, her own eyes narrowing as she glared back at Zarkon.
“Just what happened?! Why is he like this?!”
“I took him to the arena.” He heard her gasp, her shock and dismay apparent on her face. “I had him kill something in there….Heh…yes Adaline, your little boy is a killer…although not by his own choosing.”
“Monster!” She snapped back in retort, still struggling. “He’s just a boy….not even nine yet. How could you make him do something so horrible?!”
“He had to start, the sooner the better!” Zarkon replied, and released his hold on her wrist, watching with a smirk as Adaline fell backwards to the floor. She lay there stunned, her hand cradled close to her chest, staring up at him angrily. “I had to undo the damages done to him, the damages YOU did to him!” She opened her mouth to argue, and Zarkon shouted over her. “Don’t argue with me Adaline! Not about this, not about Lotor!”
He began pacing before her, senses attuned to her should she try to make a move towards their son. He was angry, terribly so, at her and at Lotor, but mostly at himself. He felt this situation had come to be for the allowances he made for his wife, giving her leave to raise the boy how she saw fit these last eight years. Zarkon didn’t want to think he was as much to blame as she was, but some part of him realized it, and the knowledge made him angry.
“I’ve been too soft towards you…” He muttered, hearing Adaline let out a sharp breath at his words. “Letting you do as you please. Well, no more Adaline, no more!”
“What does that mean?” She asked, then shook her head. “It doesn’t matter right now. We have to tend to our son. Get him to a doctor, a healer…”
“There will be no doctors!” Zarkon decided, seeing her stare shocked at him. “The boy will be left to recover on his own. He’ll either do that or fail..”
“He could die!” She pointed out, scrambling to her feet.
“Aye, he could.” Zarkon nodded, expression grim. “And perhaps it would be better if he did. It would save us all trouble in the long run.” She was glaring and gasping at him, eyes so angry a blue. “We will see if our son is Drule enough to survive the injuries I bestowed on him…If not..” A shrug then, the move graceful and calm, complete opposites of the angry maelstrom whirling inside him.
“If not what?” demanded Adaline.
“We’ll start over…” Zarkon told her. “And this time Adaline? You won’t infect the new child with your weakness.”
“You would let Lotor die…” She began slowly, fingers curling and uncurling into fists, the woman radiating with her desire to strike him. “All in some twisted TEST to see if he is worthy? Worthy of what? More abuse from you?!” She snorted then, turning her back to him, stalking towards Lotor.
“Don’t touch him.” Zarkon reminded her, and she screamed over her shoulder.
“I will not just leave him to bleed all over the carpet!”
“You can and you will!’ Zarkon was taking a step towards her, watching as she ignored him. Watching and raging, seeing her move to tenderly lift Lotor’s head up onto her lap. She began dabbing at the corner of his mouth, trying to clean up the blood and sand on his face in a purposeful show of disobeying her husband’s direct orders. Zarkon’s hands clenched, and he growled, but Adaline paid him no mind, whispering soft entreaties to Lotor.
“There, there my son…” She crooned softly, head bowed so that her hair fell forward to hide her tears. “Everything will be all right now that mommy is here.”
He growled at that, knowing Adaline had no right to make such guarantees to their son. “Leave him.” Zarkon said, even as he stalked across the room to her, his tone implying this was the last chance she had to obey his commands. Adaline chose to ignore it and him, sitting there singing softly to the boy she tended too. That was the final straw, Zarkon moving to undo his belt, Adaline stiffening at the sound of it’s buckle unfastening.
She looked up at him, and hatred was on her face, naked and open. Adaline surely thought he meant to get started on creating Lotor’s replacement. She thought wrong. Today her punishment wasn’t going to be about sex, it seemed she never learned from that tactic, favored though it was by Zarkon. It was time for a new way of doling out pain, in a way that would far more complete and leave a more lasting impression on her.
Adaline realized too late what Zarkon’s intention were, having no time to flee, no time to do more than scream. He was already raising the belt, buckle gleaming, the gold reflecting the light of the room. She screamed again, and even in her fear, she thought to protect Lotor, Adaline hunching over his body. Zarkon let out a feral, angry sound, and let his hand drop, belt lashing out with violent certainty at Adaline’s back.