Fighting the urge to sag in her seat, Allura sat stiff backed besides the foul King, the girl staring into the arena. The large robeast had been killed, it’s remains cleaned up, and the injured carried out of the pit. Currently there was several smaller robeasts, no more than five feet tall hunting a man. The badly shaking human had been given a sword, lazon humming as he tried to ward off an attack with an unskilled hand.
The crowd that took up seats in the arena’s stands were going wild, mocking and jeering, and throwing garbage down into the pit. There was no sympathy for the outnumbered, inexperienced human they had plucked from the slave pits, the mood one of evil anticipation towards the man’s fate. Even with her training, Allura thought she’d normally muster up enough horror and sympathy for the man’s plight, but right now she was anything but feeling normal.
She was in a dull state of shock, sitting there lost in thought. Her thoughts weren’t exactly happy, the girl wondering how it could be that Lotor, the boy she had grown up with, could not recognizes her. It hurt, the thought of him forgetting her, and she badly wanted to break down in tears, to mourn her lost friendship. But she wasn’t allowed the privacy she longed for, Allura having to work to process her thoughts under the scrutiny of the King and the Drules that made up his entourage.
She didn’t waste time sneaking glances at the King, content to let him think her glum manner had everything to do with the sight currently going on in the arena pit. Instead she mulled over the past, not limiting herself to those odd days in Lotor’s presence, but to the years that had preceded her arrival on Doom. She tried to think of those days before she was sent away, but the time between Adaline’s murder and her arrival at the hospital on Zabatos was blurry at best.
She could only vaguely recall memories of Lotor being with her at all hours of the day, the boy trying to take care of her as best he could. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for Allura, he hadn’t been what she needed, he couldn’t replace the loss of Adaline in any shape or form. And so they had sent her away, to a world far from Doom that would give her the medical attention she had needed.
She still remembered a vague memory of Lotor as he said good-bye to her before she boarded the ship with the nurse. Words that rang of a promise, the prince swearing they would be reunited one day in the future. How foolish of her to think Lotor’s arrival at Madame Elianza’s home had been him acting on that promise. He hadn’t even known that was her, blindly choosing her for such flimsy reasons as she smelled good and was pretty.
She felt ill thinking that it had been lust alone that had driven Lotor to choose her, that same lust making him almost violent with her in their first sexual encounters. It wasn’t any caring for a friend’s comfort that had made him show her what true pleasure felt like. She had no idea what motivated him in that regard, why he should care if she enjoyed herself or not.
Allura was left to wonder if he had forgotten about her the instant she left Doom. It would explain why there had been no contact from him all these years. Why no one had come to her following the devastation that had befallen planet Zabatos. She wondered if they had even tried to keep track of her in the chaos that had come after the terrorists attacks, or if they had used that as a convenience to forget all about her.
She had certainly not forgotten about them, Doom and it’s King leaving a permanent mark upon her fragile mind. Truth be known she had been glad to get away, even if it meant bouncing from home to home, planet after planet changing her circumstances for the better. She felt certain if she had stayed on Doom she wouldn’t have survived, she would have remained in that catatonic state, surrounded by uncaring Drules.
To think that she sometimes felt guilt at not trying to get in contact with Lotor, Allura remembering how as a child she had been frightened of the thought of returning to Doom. Of being around the monster who had murdered Adaline. She had kept quiet about where she came from, letting the adults around her assume she was made an orphan during the war that plagued Zabatos.
It hadn’t cost her much to lie like that, and no one questioned her too deeply. Even Madame Elianza who had expressed a curiosity towards Allura’s easy skill with the Drule language hadn’t pressed the issue, the woman content to hold on to her investment. Allura never told anyone the truth about her Doom connections, not even to Liandra. Nor did she explain why she was so interested in Prince Lotor, Allura almost obsessive in keeping track of his life.
Some part of her, some small bit of arrogance had assumed Lotor was doing the same in regard to her life. She had foolishly allowed herself to believe Lotor was letting her live free of Doom to give her a better chance at a normal life. Now she didn’t know what to make of it, doubting everything she had ever thought about her situation.
The crowd let out an excited cheer, voices mingled as one as they watched the robeasts get a hold of the man. His sword lay in the sand, the lazon’s light a constant
flicker as it powered down. Allura’s eyes widened, the rising voices of the crowd drawing her out of her thoughts long enough for her to realize the current show was nearing it’s end. The three robeasts each grabbed at sections of the human’s body, arms, legs and head each gripped and pulled.
She couldn’t keep from flinching, seeing the screaming human torn apart in a bloody display of limbs and head. Zarkon laughed besides her, the man turning in time to catch the way she cringed at the sight. But other than her shivering, Allura managed to keep herself composed, forcing her eyes not to betray her current emotional state. Zarkon seemed almost disappointed in her reaction, the King gesturing for the servant to bring him a drink.
Some kind of liquid that was as red as blood was thrust before her face, Allura staring down at the cup in horror. Her trembling fingers closed around the stem of the goblet, but she made no move to lift it to her lips. Zarkon on the other hand drank his wine down in one gulp, the King smirking as he watched the robeasts play with the human’s body parts.
“I’m impressed.” He said, voice soft in it’s gruffness. “Most humans upon their first time seeing an arena spectacle do more than just shake. They scream, they cry, I remember one who was ill. Distasteful reaction that one.”
“I’m not like most humans.” Allura answered, voice just as soft as she gazed into her goblet.
“Oh?” Zarkon glanced at her, expression intrigued. “Care to elaborate?”
Allura hesitated, knowing she was risking gaining more of the king’s interest. She instinctively knew not to tell him she had been raised on Doom for some of her formative years, or that she was an old experienced hand when it came to the Drules and their cruelty. Instead she settled for a half truth, raising her head to stare at the robeasts who were feasting hungrily on the body.
“I used to watch the arena and other Drule entertainments on the holos.” She explained. “It was one of the ways Madame Elianza helped to condition us to such sights so that we would make suitable companions to the Drules who might buy our contracts.”
“Must have watched a lot to get to this point.” Zarkon said, and Allura nodded.
“I did.” She thought she had had an unfair advantage. What did seeing a man torn to pieces in the arena matter when compared to seeing her precious mother figure killed in so brutal a fashion. It had left her the top of her class when it came to being able to withstand the torments and gore filled displays that occurred on Doom.
“Still…” Allura didn’t know why she kept the conversation going, words tumbling free almost unbidden. “It’s a lot different from seeing it on the holos and seeing it up close.” She almost jumped when a robeast flung a piece of flesh that she realized had once been a leg at the glass that blocked the balcony from the arena. “Case in point.” She said, gesturing at the blood splattered onto the glass.
“Yes. It’s a million times more real being here than watching it from the distance of a holo.” Zarkon almost sounded admiring. “You do Lotor good in controlling your reactions to what is happening.”
“I don’t wish to ever bring him dishonor with my behavior.” Allura said demurely.
“You’ll certainly have a long and healthy career if you keep up that kind of attitude.” Zarkon replied, snapping his fingers for more drink. The female servant hurried over with a pitcher, pouring a refill into his goblet. Allura was without comment to that, merely bowing her head, her gaze on her cup once more. “I hope you join us at court some time.”
“It’s a lot more….intense than the arena.” Zarkon actually chuckled at that, taking a much slower sip of his wine. “I’d be interested in seeing how your training holds up to the sights witnessed there.”
“I’m sure I’ll manage.” Allura answered, hardly pleased when Zarkon placed his hand on her knee, patting her there.
“Confidant. It is an admirable trait in a woman. One I like.” She hardly said it to make him like her, Allura turning to glance at him with wide eyes. She was hardly at ease when he laughed at her look, Zarkon rubbing his hand up higher on her leg. “Oh don’t look so shocked. I’m not so old as not to notice a beautiful woman when she is besides me.”
Her skin felt as though it was crawling at his touch, Allura’s mouth going dry as she fought not to scream. She wondered what the penalty would be for slapping the King of the Drule Empire, Allura wondering if there was some polite way to turn him down. “Your highness…I…I belong to your son!”
“For now.” Zarkon said, and gave her leg a squeeze, Allura feeling the pin prick of his claws through her skirt’s fabric. “But a lot can change in three years time.”
She almost hissed that that would never happen, Allura keeping a terrified smile plastered on her face. Funny how the scene in the arena’s pit hadn’t moved her enough to scream, but Zarkon’s sudden interest and voiced come-ons could.
“That’s true…” She nerved herself to touch his hand, forcing it to move off her thigh. “But until that time, I exist solely for Lotor’s exclusive use.”
“Such a pity.” Zarkon sighed, finishing off his drink. He glanced away from her to look into the pit, human slaves working to clean up the mess, while Drule soldiers herded the wild robeasts into the holding pens. “But it’s good to know you are loyal. That counts for a lot in your business I am sure.” He rose to stand, robes settling around him with a swish of the heavy fabric.
Allura stood too, knowing common etiquette dictated she not remain sitting when a King stood in her presence. “Tell my son I think he made a fine choice.”
“Your highness?” She blinked, getting his meaning. “You’re not staying to tell him yourself?”
“No…I’ve seen enough for today.” He thrust their cups in the direction of the hovering servant, the woman hurriedly taking it away. “Besides…I sudden feel the urge to visit my harem.”
Allura had no idea what to say to that, choosing instead to bow to him, aware of Zarkon’s eyes on her exposed cleavage. She felt sick at the thought that his encounter with her had stirred his lusts enough to want to seek out a woman. In the future, if it was at all possible, she would do her best to avoid the King.
Others were bowing, but none of the gathered Drules made a move to follow the King. It appeared they were content to remain behind to watch the upcoming fight in the arena. Allura returned to her seat, sinking into it gratefully as she watched the pit for signs of the next fight. To her relief, Lotor walked out, armor in place over his black clothing.
In addition to his sword, he carried a shield bearing the official crests of the Drule Empire, along with the symbols of his family’s line. The crowd all but leapt to their feet to applaud him, Allura remembering his disappearance from the arena fights had caused quite a stir. The holo channels had been speculating on just what had happened to him, and she knew his fans would be glad to see him back.
Music played, a fanfare being trumpeted out, speakers echoing the sound over the roar of the crowd. She watched Lotor walk to the center of the pit, holding his sword up high in greeting. Lights went off in the stands, people snapping pictures of him, others throwing tokens down as gifts to him. The slaves hurried to gather up the presents, trying to keep the sand pit clear of a mess even as the holding pen door opened.
Two large robeasts struggled to squeeze past each other out into the arena. It was a tight fit through the doorway, one of the large beasts having to concede ground so the other could walk out first. Allura felt alarmed at the size of the monsters, thinking that Lotor should have been allowed some back up for a fight against them. She made fists in her lap, knuckles turning white as she leaned forward, her concern apparent on her face.
“It’s all right my lady.” She looked up surprised at the voice that spoke to her, a handsome Drule man with short black hair, and jade green cat’s eyes standing next to the seat Zarkon had vacated. “The crown prince is an accomplished swordsman. He’ll make short work of those beasts.”
“Thank you for that.” Allura said, though she still felt uneasy at the thought of Lotor’s uneven fight. “I needed the reassurance.”
“I could tell.” He smiled, and gestured at the empty seat besides her. “May I?”
“Please.” Allura replied, and the Drule sat down next to her.
“You wear concern well. It doesn’t mar even one iota of your beauty.” The black haired Drule said, making her blush. “Ah…I don’t believe we’ve been introduced. I am Lord Tarak.”
“And I am…”
“The Lady Allura. Yes, I overheard the prince introducing you to our King.” He smiled in such a way that made Allura believe that was not all he had heard. “How are you enjoying our fair Doom?”
She hesitated, the word fair hardly being the word she would use when talking about Doom. “It’s been…interesting to say the least. Although I’ve yet to see much beyond the castle and the arena.”
“No doubt his highness is keeping you busy elsewhere.” Tarak laughed, Allura growing more flustered. “I’d do the same if I had a mistress as pretty as you.”
“Really you flatter me too much.” Allura protested, and Tarak shook his head.
“I haven’t begun to try and flatter you.” He said, a twinkle in his eyes. “I’m merely speaking the truth.”
“It still makes me blush to hear such words…” Allura admitted, making the Drule chuckle in response.
“I suspect you will be doing a lot more blushing before the court is done admiring you.” He leaned in to her, Allura’s eyes growing wide at his next words. “They’re already talking about you, you know.”
“Yes. Someone caught a glimpse of you being escorted to the prince’s wing, and that was all it took to get tongues wagging. They’ve been very curious about the prince’s absence, and now he returns with such a beautiful prize. It’s all very mysterious, and gossip worthy.” Tarak explained.
“And you thought…what exactly?” Allura asked, tone wry. “That you’d get inside information by approaching me?”
“Well, that too.” He agreed with a grin. “But more than that, I was too impatient to wait for the prince to make the proper introductions. Knowing him, it might be months before he thinks to share you with us.”
“Share?” Her tone was wary, Allura not sure she understood the meaning of his words.
“I mean nothing uncouth. Just a simple gracing of both your presences among us.” Tarak was still leaning into her, and now he placed a hand on her shoulder, his fingers letting strands of her hair curl around them. She shifted, trying to do a subtle moving of his hand but he kept it firmly in place. “Perhaps you would join me for a drink?”
“I…that is his highness…”
“With the prince of course.” Tarak said, not taking his eyes off Allura when she nodded at the battling form of Lotor in the arena’s pit. “I understand you are locked into a contract with him at the moment, but in the future…perhaps…”
“Perhaps.” She said, not wanting to make or deny a commitment to this man. She realized he was giving her the opportunity that Madame Elianza had often spoke about, Allura about to make her first acquaintance with someone who frequented the court. What’s more, Tarak surely had a high position of power, judging by his presence in the King’s balcony box.
It wouldn’t be a friendship, it was too soon to tell if she could gain any friends among the Drule, but allies might be useful, especially for future engagements. She couldn’t afford to alienate anyone at the Drule court, especially potential clients. So she smiled and played coy, relaxing her pose so as not to appear so stiff and nervous around this Lord.
“What was that?” She realized he had said something while she was distracted, Allura leaning in towards him. Tarak smiled, and lifted his other hand, touching her cheek in an intimate caress that was hardly appropriate.
“I was saying, perhaps you and the prince could join me at my city home. I’m having a small get together of friends, a party if you will. It would do me great honor if his highness were to attend.”
With the way they were leaning into each other, she could feel his breath on her face, the act of speaking seeming far more intimate than it should. Allura wanted to move back, but the Drule’s hand on her cheek prevented that action, his fingers caressing her in an overly friendly manner.
“You’ll have to ask the prince.” She said at last, and he bowed his head, the act putting him almost in kissing distance. “I can’t speak for him.”
“Of course. But do extend the invitation to him.” Tarak said, just as the crowd went wild, thunderous applaud erupting among the stands. She tore her gaze away from Tarak, turning to see what had excited the crowd and spied Lotor standing victorious among the bodies of the two robeasts. Once again he raised his sword, the blade now covered in blood and gore, people cheering him on.
He shouldn’t have been able to notice her amidst all the lights flashing on and off, and yet their eyes locked together. Allura practically gasped out loud, not liking the jealous look Lotor gave her. The girl realized too late that Lord Tarak’s hands were still touching her, the man close enough for their talk to be misinterpreted. She was already pulling back, no longer caring if she appeared rude in shrugging off the Drule’s hands. But the damage seemed done, Lotor was glaring, leaving Allura to battle with the sinking feeling in the center of her stomach.