She had been aware of the changes going around her for a while now, things both major and small, disrupting her peaceful world. The first of those changes began with her best friend Lotor, the prince becoming sullen and withdrawn, the boy hardly interested in playing games with her anymore. He was almost always busy, with school work and lessons with his father, far too much of his time scheduled away from her.
He hardly ever smiled, and he almost never touched her now, Allura missing his hugs. But more than that she missed him, hearing his voice, seeing him laugh, experiencing real moments of pleasured fun with Lotor. It left her desperate for his attention, the girl clinging to him whenever he had a free moment, which more often than not seemed to annoy the boy.
Take right now for instance, she was following behind him, walking close enough that she could reach out and touch him. But Allura didn’t dare, not after he growled at her, Lotor’s words an angry order telling her to leave him alone.
Still she persisted, just glad to be in his presence, all but humming happily as she trailed after him. “Be quiet!” Lotor snapped, not bothering to turn towards her. This was the third time her friend had given her this order in a matter of minutes, the boy seeming agitated at her sounds.
“Pay attention to me!” Allura said in reply, hearing Lotor sigh.
“Why must you follow me everywhere?” He demanded, shaking his head in annoyance. “Do you not have better things to do with yourself?”
“Uh uh.” She sing songed to him, Lotor snorting. “Nothing is better than being with Lotor!” He fell quiet at that, ducking his head down so that his hair fell forward, hiding his expression at those words from her. She shrugged, knowing she spoke a half truth, recalling the days when he HAD been fun to be around. That time seemed ages past, though in truth only about three years had gone by since Lotor began going through his changes.
It wasn’t just Lotor who had changed, Adaline was different too, though the woman tried to hide it from her. But Allura’s instincts were sharp, and she knew that Adaline’s smile was strained, her eyes not quite able to hide some inner pain. Allura did not know the cause of the woman’s sorrow, but she worried for her all the same, the girl wanting to help Adaline in return for all the care and love she had received over the years.
Allura wanted to help Lotor too, the girl wishing she could do something to restore him back to the fun loving boy he had once been. But there was a distance spreading between them, and try as she might to stop it, it continued leaving her bereft of a friend. It started with small things, Lotor suddenly refusing to share a bed with her, the prince suddenly wanting his own room, demanding privacy for his mediations.
Still she tried, wanting to gain his interest, making demands of her own for his attention be it good or bad. “Guess what, guess what!” Allura said happily, not put off when Lotor did not deign to play the guessing game with her. “Tomorrow is my birthday!”
“It’s that time already?”
She frowned at his back, huffing angrily. “Don’t tell me you forgot!”
“What if I did?” Lotor asked with a shrug of his shoulders.
“You’re not supposed to forget a friends’ birthday!” Allura accused.
“I’ve been busy in case you hadn’t noticed.” He retorted, making her frown harder.
“You’re always busy!” Lotor made a sound of agreement to that, Allura hurrying to follow him around a corner. “You’ll make time for my birthday won’t you?” Allura tried not to sound anxious, wanting to appear as though it didn’t matter what he chose. But inside it did, Allura desperate for Lotor to come celebrate with her and Adaline.
A hesitation from the boy, Lotor’s footsteps slowing to the point Allura crashed into his back. He turned but did not frown at her, the girl steadying herself with a hand on the wall. “Might have sword practice tomorrow.”
“You can skip it for once!” Allura said, Lotor shaking his head no. “Nothing bad will happen if you miss one lesson.”
“You don’t know my father if you believe that…” Lotor said softly, then turned away.
“Lotor, please! Promise you’ll help celebrate with us!” Allura pleaded, Lotor resuming his trek down the hall. They had been walking for a while, Allura being taken to parts of the castle she was not that familiar with. That made it interesting, the girl looking around with wide eyes, peering into doorways and pointing out interesting things to Lotor.
“I make no promises.” Lotor returned sadly. “Promises are too easily broken, and lead to disappointment all around.” She didn’t understand this kind of talk, to Allura promises were sacred, and once given they were unbreakable. The person simply HAD to do what they promised, no ifs ands or buts about it.
“There will be cake…” She tried to entice him, even if it wasn’t going to be his preferred flavor. “It’ll be ever so yummy! And candy, lots of it!” No response from Lotor, the boy continuing down the corridor. “I…I’ll let you play with my dolls!”
He snorted at that, taking derisive amusement in her offer. “Boys don’t play with dolls.”
“Says who?” Allura wanted to know.
“My father for one.” He seemed to shiver, Lotor drawing to a stop before a door. “I don’t want to think what he would do if he caught me even looking at a doll.”
“He wouldn’t have to know!” Allura said, watching as Lotor began easing open the door, his actions careful to keep it from squeaking.
“He’d find out.” Lotor said with resignation. “He ALWAYS finds out. Now hush and be quiet.” He gestured for her to stand next to him, Lotor peering in the opening he had made with the door. Curiosity got the better of Allura, the girl squeezing in next to him, peering through the wide crack.
“What’s this?” Allura asked, Lotor hissing at her in response.
She made a face, but lowered her voice to a whisper, peering into the room. It was like none she had ever seen before, gauzy curtains hanging everywhere, their colors a soft fade that gave the room a dreamy look to it. Some kind of incense burned, thick enough that it tickled her nose, Allura trying to breathe through her mouth instead.
The room was large, as though several walls had been broken down to give it the space needed to accommodate all the women inside. And there was women, many of them, more than Allura could keep track of. They lay on pillows scattered across the floor, or sat on the few pieces of furniture that was made available to them. Some sat with instruments, playing beautiful music that made Allura want to dance in response to.
They were all shapes and sizes, human and Drule, and even the odd alien mixed in. All were exotic, all beautiful, and all were wearing very little, some going about naked save for the jewels on their bodies. Allura stared for a bit, wondering how these women weren’t cold and embarrassed going around dressed like that. She turned to ask Lotor if he knew what the purpose of this room was, and saw him staring enraptured, his eyes taking on a dreamy quality to it.
His face was full of longing, Allura did not known enough to realize that was desire she saw gleaming in his eyes, the boy eagerly drinking in the sight of the scantily clad females. His gaze lignered not on their face, but on their bodies, the boy searing his gaze into the unsupecting women. Allura frowned, and nudge him, the boy seeming slow to be shaken from the women’s spell.
“What is this room?” whispered Allura to him. “What are these women doing here? Why aren’t they dressed?!”
“So many questions….” murmured Lotor, still distracted by his study of the women.
“Lotor, tell me!” She insisted, and he sighed.
“It’s my father’s harem.”
“Harem?” She did not know this word, and Allura looked to Lotor to explain.
“It’s where he keeps his women.”
“His women?” Allura echoed, waving a hand in Lotor’s face. “You mean like Addy?” A hesitation from Lotor, the prince pausing to think about it.
“Not quite.” He said at last. “They’re different from mother.”
“They’re not as pretty as Adaline.” Allura said loyally.
“They’re beautiful.” Lotor breathed out, his attention returned to the women. She waited a few minutes more, but all Lotor did was stand there and stare.
“This is boring!” She exclaimed, Lotor clamping a hand over her mouth. She made a muffled protest, Lotor dragging her away from the door before her commotion roused the woman’s suspicion.
“If it’s so boring, go find something else to do.” Lotor snapped, annoyed with her for some reason.
“Come with me!” Allura begged, and he shook his head no. “Why not? All you do is stare. It’s not like you talk to them. Or play.”
“My father says I’m too young to play with them.” For some reason he smirked at that, but his eyes looked wistful.
“Too young to play?” Allura was confused, in all her ten years of life, she had never heard of such a thing. “If you want to play so badly, you can play with me!” Lotor laughed at that, seeming to find the very thought hysterical. It made her upset to see him react like this, Allura stamping her foot down in mock tantrum.
“I don’t want to play with someone as flat chested as you.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” A confused Allura asked.
“Everything!” replied Lotor, and held his hands up to his chest, cupping at non existent breasts. “These are what matters when choosing a playmate.”
Allura glanced down at her own chest, seeing she was as flat as board. She made a deduction, her voice upset. “Lotor won’t play with me unless I get breasts?” He just smirked at her, Allura growing infuriated. “Fine! I’ll get some! You’ll see! And then, I’ll be the one you can’t take your eyes off of!” He outright laughed at that, the boy shaking with his laughter. It only made Allura angrier, the girl suddenly kicking at his shin. “And then I’ll be the one to refuse to play with you!”
“OW!” Lotor yelped out, but Allura was already turning, running back the way they had come. It took her a while to get back to the room she now shared with Adaline, the girl getting confused, finally have to beg directions from a servant. But eventually she returned to the living quarters, Allura pushing open the door to the outer chamber.
“Stupid Lotor!” She muttered under her breath. Allura didn’t see what was so special about a harem, and she certainly didn’t understand the appeal of those women that stayed inside that room.
“It’s fine.” She sighed, walking into the bedroom. “I don’t need him after all. I can have just as much fun on my own as I could with boring old Lotor!”
No welcoming voice called out to her, Allura assuming Adaline was off making preparations for tomorrow’s birthday celebration. She couldn’t even smile at the thought, all her anticipation at her tenth birthday fading as she thought of Lotor, and the way he had laughed at her. But she refused to cry, pasting a bright cheery smile on her face as she walked towards Adaline’s closet.
The closet was huge, with a multitude of various colorful gowns. Allura stroked her fingers enviously down a blue velvet bodice, the girl wishing she had even one gown as fine as the ones Adaline wore. But for now she settled for trying on Adaline’s clothing, Allura stepping deeper inside the closet, disappearing among the dresses as she searched for her favorite.
She often played dress up with Adaline’s things, and sometimes the woman even helped her, putting make up and jewelry on Allura. She always felt like a princess when she was dressed up in Adaline’s gowns, Allura staring at her reflections in dreamy contemplation. It didn’t matter that the dresses bagged on her, looking more like a rumpled sack then form fitting gown.
She was standing on her top toes, reaching to pull a pink and white satin gown off it’s hanger, when she heard the doors to the outer chamber slam open. The sound made her jump, Allura gasping, the dress falling to the floor. She started to wonder who was responsible for the sound, and then she heard the voices, angry and screaming, Zarkon and Adaline having another one of their arguments.
They fought often these days, Zarkon always having something to yell about. It made Allura flinch and cover her ears, the girl wanting to block out the sound of his angry voice. She didn’t succeed completely in muffling the sounds, she could make out a few words here and there, along with something breaking, Adaline screaming in terror.
The woman’s scream shocked Allura, the girl dropping to her knees, the clothing swinging around her. The closet had the perfect view of the open bedroom doors, Allura spying Adaline step into view, her face panicked as she ran into the bedroom.
Zarkon was fast on her heels, the woman turning, trying to slam the doors shut in his face. He violently swung out his arms, knocking the doors back and into Adaline who scrambled away.
“You never learn, do you Adaline?!” Zarkon roared, and Allura cringed, realizing how bad this situation was. “You just continue to make the same mistakes, continue to baby him!”
“You what?!” sneered Zarkon, advancing on the woman. “Are you sorry?!” He grabbed at her, Allura wincing to see how his claws dug into Adaline’s arms, causing blood to well out of the wounds they made.
“No!” Adaline retorted, trying to twist away from Zarkon’s hurting grip. “Never that! I’ll not make my son into a monster no matter how many times you beat me!”
“Yes. I realize that now.” Zarkon easily kept his grip on her, holding her up to stare grimly into her eyes. “No matter what I do, no matter how much pain I inflict, you’ll never sacrifice his soul for your own well being.”
“Pity it took you nearly two years to figure that out!” Adaline retorted, and Zarkon’s eyes gleamed a warning. Allura clamped her hands over her mouth as Zarkon struck Adaline, the woman crying out as she fell to the floor.
“Are you calling me stupid Adaline?!” He demanded, and wisely the woman kept silent to that. Zarkon snorted then, and began pacing before her, muttering things under his breath. “I think it’s time we get rid of your interference once and for all…”
“What do you mean…?” Adaline demanded, staggering upwards to her feet. “What are you going to do now!?” She sounded fearful, apprehensive, but more than that Adaline sounded tired.
“Isn’t it obvious?!” Zarkon fixed her with a cruel smile, Adaline backing up a few steps. “You’re not to have any contact with the boy. That means nothing, do you understand?”
“You cannot be serious!” She had bumped into her bookcase, letting out a startled gasp of fright at the contact. “You cannot keep my son from me!”
“I can and I will!” Zarkon shouted, and stalk towards Adaline. “It won’t be so bad Adaline….you’ll have that brat of Alfor’s to play with instead.”
“But he’s my son!”
“As is he mine!” Zarkon retorted, stopping before her. “And I will no longer allow you, allow us to continue to tear him in two with conflicting teachings!” He reached out to touch Adaline, the woman flinching at his deceptively gentle touch. “Adaline….you bring this on yourself. If you had only complied, only done what I asked of you, NONE of this would have happened.”
“Do not do this Zarkon.” She tried one last time, pleading with voice and eyes. His fingers caressed down to her lips, tracing the bottom curve of her mouth. “Please….”
“Your words no longer have the power to move me.” Zarkon said and turned, laughter gleaming in his eyes. “I’ll give you till the end of the day to say your good-byes to Lotor.”
Allura saw what Zarkon did not, the moment Adaline had reached her breaking point. Her face twisted with rage, Adaline almost ugly in the moment, as she reached behind her, grasping hold of a vase. She took a step after her husband, and Allura would never forget the wild, angry shriek Adlaine let out, the woman giving voice to her rage and frustration.
Zarkon turned at his wife’s scream, the vase crashing down on his head, shattering into a dozen broken pieces. Allura could not see his face from her vantage point, but she saw the way he stiffened, Adaline still screaming, attacking him with fist and nails. She landed glancing blows on his face, Zarkon suddenly rearing back, his arm swinging forward to back hand her hard across the face.
He didn’t stop there, he was like an animal, growling and snarling, dropping down to pummel his wife mercilessly. Allura could only press into her hands, trying to stifle her whimpers, watching wide eyed as Zarkon beat his wife half dead. He kept at it long after the woman stopped screaming, the man panting with exertion and rage, and staring down at her swollen and bloodied face.
Allura thought he had done his worse, thought he had finished, Zarkon taking a step away from Adaline’s fallen form. She didn’t dare sigh in relief, thinking thoughts of rushing to Adaline’s aid once the scary Drule was gone from the rooms. She never got the chance, for Zarkon was suddenly drawing his sword, stepping back towards Adaline.
“I’ve grown sick of your tantrums, sick of your voice, sick of YOU.” He growled to an unresponsive Adaline. “You cause me nothing but headaches….but no more Adaline. It ends now.” He was already driving his sword forward, Allura choking down a scream, her teeth biting into her fingers so hard she drew blood in the attempt to
keep from making a betraying sound.
The sword made a sickening squelching sound, something in Allura breaking to hear it. Zarkon gave a twist of the sword’s handle, the blade sinking deeper in Adaline and stirring up her insides. There was blood pooling out beneath her, Zarkon stepping carefully around it, retrieving his sword but not before cleaning his blade on Adaline’s skirts.
Calmly, Zarkon sheathed his sword, and without so much as a backwards glance, strode out of the room. Allura continued to bite at her hand, shaking, lost to fear and sickness, and unable to scream.