The days continued, a new pattern emerging to break up the peace and contentment Lotor and his mother had found. Lotor knew he shouldn’t be surprised, it was inevitable that the happiness they had found would be shattered by his father. He just hadn’t expected it to be so soon, the man coming by daily now, making demands, wanting to drag Lotor off for more of his so called lessons.
In the beginning, when the sword was new, and Zarkon had been almost kind to him, Lotor had been eager to learn. That was before it was made obvious how much time and effort the path of the sword would take, Zarkon a merciless taskmaster who worked Lotor to a weary exhaustion. The man had consistently talked about discipline and control, and how he intended to instill those things into Lotor.
The boy couldn’t look back on the lessons with fondness, recalling how bone weary tired he became, his hand barely able to grip the sword. And still Zarkon pushed him, forcing him to do drills, and mock fights against one another. Zarkon had seemed to revel in the fights, the man cruel and mocking, taunting Lotor for every little mistake. He was also vicious, quick to take advantage of any opening Lotor gave him, and with the boy’s inexperience there was plenty.
It wasn’t unheard of for Zarkon to strike him, to knock him down or kick him during those duels that were meant to strengthen Lotor’s skill with the sword. Those times were bad enough, but the worst day of his training had been in the arena, and just thinking the name was enough to leave Lotor shivering with fear.
Of course his mind tried to block out what had exactly taken place there, but images still flickered through to him, of blood and of fists and his voice, screaming in
terror. He often gave voice to those screams, especially at night, especially when he had been dreaming.
His mother and Allura tried to protect him, tried to comfort him from the terror brought on by his memories. They couldn’t succeed, not completely, Lotor now thinking he understood the reason for Allura’s own screams. He never asked, but he felt certain the girl had witnessed something just as horrible as he had, the girl having her own private nightmares to torture her sleep.
And through it all his mother was a rock, strong, supporting granite who worked tirelessly to protect them both. He wished it was the other way around, Lotor could see what it was costing her to continue to protect them. Her soul was starting to weaken, pieces of it leeched off, taken by his father for his own amusement.
The pattern continued, Adaline going to Zarkon day after day, distracting him from his son. Lotor wanted to tell her to stop, and yet he could not speak the words, becoming tongue tied at the thought of his father dragging him off for more lessons.
The lessons held more fear for him than the thought of his mother breaking under his father’s merciless care, and that left Lotor ashamed, the boy not liking that he was willing sacrificing the woman. And yet for all his dislike and self hate, he couldn’t–wouldn’t speak up, watching helplessly as day after day she left him and Allura to fend for themselves.
Such times left him restless, his anger manifesting in the way he played with Allura, Lotor quick to lose his temper and even quicker to destroy his toys. Allura always looked so shocked at his behavior, but the child did not reprimand him, surely holding her own private turmoil over the situation that surrounded them. She’d display remarkable patience for one so young, calmly and quietly picking up the pieces of the destroyed toys.
His wealth of toys was dwindling because of his destructive ways, Lotor’s rage railing at his impotence to help his mother out of the situation that was his own fault. “Coward.” He muttered under his breath, fingers snapping his crayons in two. “Coward!”
Allura looked up from her own picture, wordlessly taking in th sight of the broken crayons. She didn’t flinch and didn’t make a move to inch the remaining crayons out of his way, merely sitting there listening to him rage.
He grabbed more crayons, feeling a kind of satisfaction go through him with each snapping of the colorful pieces. It didn’t last, his anger returned, Lotor pushing up from the floor to agitatedly pace the room.
Allura gathered the broken crayon remains to her, carefully putting them back into their box. Lotor tried not to look at her as he walked, wondering how many days it had been since Adaline began selling herself for his safety. But not for his peace of mind, never that, her actions troubling him in ways he could not explain. He didn’t know what his father did with his mother to make her hurt so, he could see the strain on her face, the tired lines around her eyes.
“She smells like him more and more everyday!” Lotor gritted out through clenched teeth. It didn’t matter how often his mother bathed, Zarkon’s scent clung to her, lingering in her hair and skin. It chased away her own natural scent, Lotor could barely stand to hug her when she smelled so strongly of his father’s personal odor.
“Just what are they doing…” Lotor whispered, trying to understand. But a part of him didn’t want to know, Lotor fearing the price his mother was paying would prove too high for his mind to handle.
“Dunno.” Came Allura’s mournful voice, the little girl as clueless as he. He was suddenly besides her, hugging her for comfort, breathing in her scent which reminded him vaguely of his mother’s favorite perfume. He had seen few flowers in his life, and smelled even less, but he understood that Allura’s scent was the fading smell of flowers after a fresh spring rain.
Her scent comforted him, allowed him to think of something other than his mother’s plight, Lotor clinging to the girl. She was used to his hugs, Allura not squirming, just patiently enduring his embrace.
“I’m sorry about the crayons.” He said, not relaxing his arms’ hold on her.
“It’s all right.” Allura reassured him. “We can still use them.”
“Hmm.” He peered over the top of her head, staring down at the paper before her. She had drawn two peach colored blobs, along with one blue one. Two of the blobs were about the same height, but the third was much taller and had long yellow hair all around it. “What are you drawing?” A curious Lotor asked.
“My family on Doom.” Allura said proudly, and began pointing at the blobs. “This one is Addy, and this one is me. And this one is you.”
“It looks nothing like me!” protested Lotor, glad to have something to distract him from his thoughts. “My skin is not that dark!”
“It was the only blue I had!” Allura replied, fingers playing with the box of crayons.
“I see…” Lotor said, mollified. He studied the picture some more, realizing the blobs were holding hands. “Allura, what about your own parents? Why didn’t you draw them?” Her fingers stopped their fidgeting, the girl growing quiet once more. “Allura?” He prodded her, the girl bowing her head.
“I..” A hesitation, the girl’s voice soft and unsure. “I don’t remember what they looked like.”
“You don’t?!” Lotor exclaimed, a mixture of surprise and sadness infusing him. “What do you remember?”
A shake of her head, the action mournful, Allura’s voice sounding sadder. “Not much. It’s more like feelings than anything else. The feelings of being happy and safe around them. They loved me….and each other.”
“Love…” whispered Lotor wistfully. He knew that was lacking in his own parent’s relationship, and Lotor had the sneaking suspicion his father didn’t even like him, never mind feeling any spattering feelings of love. He told himself he didn’t mind, after all it wasn’t as though he loved his father anymore than the man cared for him. But a sneaking suspicion told him everything would be different if love had been in the equation for his family.
“But Addy loves me!” Allura announced brightly, selecting a red crayon from the box. “And I love her.” She drew hearts around the three blobs, Allura giggling though it sounded forced. “And I love Lotor too!”
Embarrassed, he hugged her tighter for that love, unable to say the words back to her. Instead he searched for a new topic, hoping to distract the girl from the topic of love, and whom cared for who. “What was your home like?”
“My home?” Allura was coloring in the hearts now, pinks and purples filling in the red outlines. “I think they were trees there. Lots of them. And the sky was always so blue, not like it is on Doom.”
“Trees…” Lotor repeated thoughtfully. He was so used to being cooped up in the castle, the boy never having set one foot outside it’s walls. “I think I’d like trees.”
“You would, they’re fun!” Allura quickly replied. “You can climb on them, and pick fruit off them. You can put a swing on them and play! I miss them….”
“All right….” He decided then and there to make a promise to her. “When we’re older and we can leave Doom, I’ll take you somewhere where there is lots of trees! You, me and mommy. We’ll have fun and play games…”
“And have a picnic?” Allura asked excitedly.
“Yes, and a picnic.” Lotor said, though in truth he didn’t know what that was.
“It sounds nice.” Allura said, then twisted in his arms to look at him. “But how will we get there?”
Lotor paused to give it some thought, then grinned. “I’ll learn how to fly! I’ll take us up in a big ship, big enough for all three of us. We’ll leave Doom, and never have to come back!”
Allura’s eyes looked shiny with happy emotion, the girl excited at the thought. “Promise Lotor?” She seemed anxious for his word, Lotor nodding his head.
“Yay!” Allura cheered, and hugged him quickly. Lotor laughed, and pulled back, his mood better now that he had thought up an escape plan.
“‘But you mustn’t tell anybody.” Lotor warned her. “Else it won’t come true…”
“I won’t!” Allura said, expression serious. “I promise!”
He nodded at her, then gestured for her to continue with her drawing. Allura hummed happily, and began adding green and brown trees to the picture. Lotor sat next to her, content to watch the girl color. Their talk had cheered him up immensely, even with the quiet moments of sad revelation. He felt it didn’t matter that Allura couldn’t remember who her parents were, she didn’t need them so long as she had him and Adaline for a family.
It was a family he’d protect, one he’d die for, Lotor determined to see them get their own happy ending. As he watched Allura color, Lotor gave serious consideration to their future, wondering what planet they would flee too. His brow furrowed up in concentration, the boy trying to remember the things he had learned about other worlds in teacher Veria’s school room.
It wasn’t much, most of the worlds falling under his father’s rule. If there was one thing Lotor didn’t want, was to remain in Zarkon’s sphere of influence. “It’s fine.” He whispered softly to himself. “We’ll just have to travel a little further to find our trees.”
“I hope Addy likes my picture.” Allura said, the girl holding up the finished product for Lotor’s inspection.
“I’m sure she will.” Lotor said warmly.
“I want to give her something back.” The girl confessed, eyes turning downcast. “Something to thank her…something so she doesn’t stop loving me.”
“Mommy isn’t like that!” Lotor protested. “She doesn’t need anything in return for her love.” He paused, then added. “Though hugs and kisses can’t hurt.” He knew his mother liked those, and he tried to give them to her often enough even if she smelled like Zarkon now. “When you see her, just give her a big hug, and a quick kiss.” He advised. “It’ll make her smile.”
“Okay!” Allura grinned at him, and rose to stand, the girl carrying her picture over to the tabletop. She was straining to put the picture onto it’s surface, when voices were heard outside their room. “Addy!” Allura exclaimed, clutching her picture back to her.
“She’s not alone.” Lotor warned her, surprised by the sound that came out of his throat. It was almost a growl, angry and upset. “She’s with HIM.” Allura sent him wide, worried eyes, the girl beginning to chew on her lip.
“You can’t…!” Adaline was heard to say, and Zarkon talked over her.
“I can and I will!” He retorted angrily, leaving Lotor to wonder what they could be arguing about. He got his answer soon enough, Zarkon flinging open the door to the room. “The boy has had more than enough time to recover!”
“His injuries may have healed, but what about the emotional scars you’ve left him with?!” demanded Adaline.
“Are you on about that human weakness again?!” Zarkon snapped in reply. He hadn’t looked at the children yet, too busy glaring at Adaline. “Don’t worry…I’ll fix him. I’ll fix him good, cure him of any emotions he may still cling to.”
“Your further input is neither required nor wanted Adaline!” Zarkon told her. “This is going to happen. Today, now! And no amount of begging or seduction will sway me from my task.”
“I hate you!” Adaline said fitfully.
“Yes. You do.” Cold agreement from Zarkon, the man smirking. “Well, boy?” His attention was now for Lotor, Zarkon all but ignoring Adaline completely. “Are you ready to resume where we left off?”
“N…no…” Lotor stuttered, cursing himself for his lack of bravery.
“Well, too bad.” Zarkon retorted, and advanced on Lotor. He tried to back up, but the man’s much longer legs had him reaching Lotor in seconds, his father grabbing him by the arm.
“Zarkon, don’t do this.” Adaline was plaintive, her expression tortured. He snorted at her, but did not respond in words, the man dragging Lotor towards the room’s exit. Adaline tried to follow them out into the hall, her voice switching between anger and sorrow, the woman trying both emotions to reason with her husband.
“Guards…” Zarkon snapped out, the men hurrying towards him. “Keep her confined to the room. I’ll allow no more of her interferences.”
“Mommy…!” Lotor cried out as the guards moved to bar Adaline from him, the woman letting out frustrated sounds.
“Damn you!” She cried, and Zarkon laughed.
“I’m afraid people with more power than you have tried and failed to damn me to hell.” With that retort he was moving, dragging the protesting Lotor through the halls of the castle. The boy tried his best to get free, twisting about though it only succeeded in hurting his arm more. Zarkon grunted and tightened his grip, the man casting a
glare in Lotor’s direction.
“Stop that! Stop that infernal racket!” Lotor continued to cry, Zarkon suddenly slamming him into a wall. “Do you think I don’t know what it is you are doing?!” Lotor stared at him wide eyed, trembling as he shook his head no. “You’ll not escape your lessons any longer. I won’t be goaded into knocking you unconscious this time around!”
“That’s not what I am doing!” Lotor wailed in protest, and his father shook him.
“Don’t think I am not wise to your tricks boy!” Another glare, and then they were moving, Lotor stumbling to his knees as his father dragged him. His father seemed so angry and impatient, not willing to wait for the boy to right himself. “You’d do just about anything to avoid your lessons!”
He didn’t understand why his father seemed so angry with him, Lotor trying to hold back his tears and failing miserably. People stopped and stared as they walked by, not an ounce of compassion on the Drule’s faces as the King dragged Lotor not to the training room but to the arena.
“NO!” His panic increased, Lotor’s struggling going wild. Zarkon picked him up bodily, and carried him into the arena, the stands once again abandoned of all people. But not the sand pit center, there they waited, slaves and another animal, some harmless looking creature that was tethered to a post in the ground. His father dragged him towards the animal, Lotor scrambling with his nails, trying to claw at the hand that gripped him.
A back hand across the face was his reward for the injuries he tried to inflict on Zarkon, the man throwing him down before the animal. The creature could scent Lotor’s fear, and reacted to it, trying to shuffle backwards as far as it’s leash would allow.
Lotor lay down in the sand, and heard the clatter of a sword, Zarkon having thrown it next to him. “Pick up the sword boy.”
“NO!” Lotor refused, managing to hold in his sobs as he stared up into the animal’s eyes.
“Do as you’re told and pick it up!”
“I won’t!” Lotor snapped, shaking his head. “You can’t make me do this. You can’t make me kill again!”
“I can and I will boy!” Zarkon was there, suddenly hauling Lotor to his feet, forcing the sword into the boy’s hands. Lotor tried to let go of it, to make his fingers limp around the hilt, but Zarkon’s iron fist was around his hand. He forced Lotor to grip the sword, the man pressing against the boy’s back. He forced Lotor’s arm to move, Lotor fighting him all the while. It made no difference, the sword was swung, the animal’s throat gaining a jagged slash across it’s skin, blood splattering onto the sand.
It wasn’t a clean cut, the animal was still alive, choking on it’s own blood as Zarkon laughed. “It’s your own fault this animal suffers Lotor. If you hadn’t had fought me, if
you had just done as you were told, you could have killed it in one blow.”
“Please…” Tears were streaming down Lotor’s face, the boy weeping out his words.
“Please what?” Zarkon demanded gruffly. Lotor didn’t know what to ask him, struggling as Zarkon held him before the animal, the boy forced to watch as the animal continued to die a slow death. The creature gazed back in Lotor’s eyes, the boy seeming to swear it was pleading with him, asking him why it was made to suffer. Lotor screamed, and this time tried to swing the sword, intent on ending the beast’s misery.
“Ah ah ah!” Zarkon chided, holding Lotor’s sword arm still. “It’s too late for that. A lesson must be learned.”
Together they stood there, watching as the animal slowly staggered downwards, blood dripping down the front of it’s fur. It couldn’t even manage a cry, could only thrash about in pain, it’s life slowly ebbing away from it.
When at last it was done, Lotor nearly sagged with relief, thinking the worst over. He was wrong, his father’s torture just beginning. He was vaguely aware of the man giving orders, the human slaves hurrying off. Lotor continued to stare at the dead animal, only looking up when he heard the sound of many hooves.
Shocked he looked up, and saw over a dozen more creatures brought out, the animals tensing in fright as they saw the dead beast laying in the sand. The slaves tethered them all to posts in the sand, Zarkon speaking, his words malicious and cruel.
“I gave it a lot of thought, this weakness you have. This aversion to killing.” The words hissed down to Lotor’s ear, the boy shaking his head, having to quiet his tears in order to make out his father’s words. “And there is only one way I know of to cure you of such qualms.”
“You have to get used to killing.” Zarkon continued, dragging the boy over to the next animal. “And Lotor, son? So help me, if it takes days, weeks, MONTHS, you will get used to it. Not only that, you will learn to ENJOY it. To revel in the kill as your prey’s precious life blood flows out of them.”
“NO!” Lotor screamed again, struggling harder. He wished his father would beat him, anything to end the horror of what the man wanted to make Lotor do. Zarkon positioned them before the animal’s front, and before Lotor could raise any more feeble requests, his sword arm was being forced to swing, the blade slashing open the beast’s throat.
This time the wound was deep, severing muscle and vocal cords, blood spraying onto a horrified Lotor. The animal’s death was much quicker than the last one, the creature falling down as Zarkon dragged him over to the next, panicking beast. It became a habit, Lotor’s struggles lessening with each kill, the slaves bringing out more and more animals to replace the ones that had been slaughtered.
Soon the boy was killing on his own, Lotor crying harder with each throat slashed. Zarkon stood watch over him, face impassive as he spoke. “Again!”
Sniffling and sobbing, Lotor would move on to the next animal, trying to convey with his eyes how sorry he was for what he was about to do. But the sorrow didn’t stop his arm from moving, the sword slashing open another throat. Lotor could barely breathe past the blood and sickening stench of the groupings of animals’ fear. He continued to kill, the hours passing by, his sword arm exhausted. And still his father wasn’t satisfied, not until Lotor stopped crying, his actions becoming automatic.
Lotor was still a long way from enjoying what he was doing, but his soul had started to die inside him. The boy no longer whispered sorry to the animals, they no longer warranted that much care, nor did they garner his tears. The boy had turned expressionless, doing his duty with a glazed over look of death in his eyes.