The Baroness’ mansion nearly rivaled castle Doom in size, twinkling lights burning brightly from not only every available window, but from the roof and house’s frame as well. Colorful spotlights wove their beams back and forth across the grounds, letting the mansion’s property light up as though it was a sun lit day. It was almost garish and overdone, Allura spying the spectacle when they were still some distance from the building.
She hadn’t needed Lotor to point out that was their destination, not with the lights and seemingly endless rows of traffic driving onto the property. There really was at least a hundred couples invited to this affair, and the number was nearly doubled by the amount of security and servants hurrying about the property. It was a clear night, not a cloud in sight which encourage many of the guests to remain outside on what passed for a lawn on Doom.
It was all artificial flowers she saw, the colors bright, the grass planted plastic. A gazebo was set up near the rear, with plenty of seats and tables situated about for those who wanted to sit. About half the party was outside, and music was blasted over speakers of the live band that performed inside the mansion. They were all Drule performers, Allura recognizing them as a band that had quite a large following in the planets that were part of the Drule Empire.
Zarkon had disappeared once they arrived at the party, the King taking off to do God only knew what. Allura was relieved that he excused himself from their presence, the girl not knowing how much more of his stares and innuendo ridden words she could have endured. But more than that, she was glad to be free of the tension that had surrounded them inside the cruiser.
She was sure both Lotor and Zarkon had been aware of it, though they tried to ignore it and play at being pleasant towards one another. It didn’t matter, Allura had felt nearly suffocated by it, the air thick with Zarkon’s desire, Lotor’s annoyance, and her fright. Warring emotions that could only bring calamity to them all if it was allowed to continue, Allura holding back a shudder as she thought of what would have happened if Lotor had began questioning his father and his intentions towards her.
But for now she was free of Zarkon, and if she was lucky, he would find someone else to accompany him back to the castle. She’d like that, Allura not wanting to endure another moment in his presence, especially in such a confined place like the cruiser!
She tightened her hand around Lotor’s arm, the prince guiding them towards the entrance of the mansion. She tried to concentrate on looking straight ahead, Allura not
wanting to appear as though she was looking around for the oily King. Even with Zarkon having vanished into the crowd of partying people, she felt as though someone was staring at her.
But she couldn’t find the source of that look, Allura finding many people were studying her and the prince as they passed by. But she sensed nothing but curiosity from them, nothing like the evil intent that sent prickles of fear down her spine. If Lotor felt her trembling he did not comment, the prince stepping them through the threshold of the huge double doors.
A lavishly appointed entryway greeted them, Lotor walking her down a corridor towards the sound of the band. Her eyes widened as they reached the main ball room, Allura spying a crystal theme that sent up reflections of colors everywhere she looked. The floor and ceiling was mirrored, the large chandelier made of crystals. Jagged shapes cut out of glass were hung on the wall, colored pieces that distorted reflections.
It wasn’t possible to look anywhere without seeing yourself in a mirror, Allura feeling disorientated and confused as to how many people were really in the room. Lights twinkled everywhere, reflecting of the glass to the point it was almost dazzling to her. She felt grateful for her hold on Lotor’s arm, the prince something solid she could cling to until she got her bearing.
She snuck glances at the other couples, spying some dancing. The woman’s colorful dresses glittered with jewels, their hoop skirts flaring out as they were twirled around the dance floor by their partner. The men were just as showy in their dress, the black of their suits broken up by bright sparks of color, and gold cufflinks glittered at their wrists.
“Hmph.” She glanced at Lotor when he made that sound, the prince looking amused. He noticed her questioning look, Lotor leaning in to whisper something in her ear. “Look at them all….each and every one trying to outdo the rest in a show that would put a strutting earth peacock to shame.”
“They want to look good.” Allura replied, voice just as soft as Lotor’s. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“They’re vain….a pride driven lot that puts too much stock on looks.” Lotor told her, still leaning in to her. “In a way it’s a game, each one trying to see who will be the best in showing up the others. Of course the ones with the most money will win…luxury is only afforded to those who are wealthiest.”
She glanced at Lotor, perhaps the look a bit more pointed than she should dare. Allura passed her gaze over his suit, seeing the crimson shirt bright against the black of his coat. He had forgone the jewels, nothing shined off of his clothing. His outfit was understated, next to the glittering men and women of the party, he hardly looked like a wealthy prince.
Allura realized that thanks to Zarkon’s gift, the dress made her seem to fit in more with those in attendance of this party. Even with the meager amount of jewels she wore, she shined, perhaps more than a courtesan should. “What do they get for being the best dressed?”
“Bragging rights.” Lotor promptly answered. “It makes little sense to me, but some people take great satisfaction in besting others. Some take it to seriously, and there will be many…hurt feelings and tantrums expressed in the privacy of one’s home.”
“I see.” Her brow furrowed, Allura frowning. “It’s all so strange to me.”
“Don’t worry so much about it.” He straightened, pulling away from her. “You needn’t play a part in these games. Ah…there she is…” Lotor’s voice rose in greeting, the prince drawing Allura near to a group of people clustered around a table. The conversation drew to a halt, the people parting to reveal a tall and slender Drule female, whose oil black hair was streaked with ruby red jewels. They matched her dress, the fabric covered in glitter, shiny and form fitting.
“The woman of the hour…” Lotor continued, striding right up to the woman whose face lit up with joy to see the prince. He didn’t bow, though he did incline his head slightly, the woman smiling and offering him her hand. Lotor took it, and pressed a kiss over her knuckles, then gestured towards Allura. “Baroness Morte, I’d like to introduce you to my mistress, the Lady Allura.”
Allura felt the eyes of not only the Baroness on her, but also of the group gathered around them. Inwards she was nervous, but Allura presented a calm composure on the outside, the girl dipping into a graceful curtsy. She had to hold herself still, waiting for the Baroness’ acknowledgment.
“So this is the girl everyone has been talking about!” The Baroness exclaimed, reaching out to touch Allura’s face. Those long fingers of the Baroness snagged her by the chin, the woman tilting Allura’s gaze up to meet hers. “She’s even lovelier up close.”
Somehow she managed not to blush, the Baroness at last letting go of her face, and nodding permission for Allura to straighten. “Yes, she is.” Agreed Lotor, tone almost taking on a pride filled quality to it.
“You have quite the discerning eye.” Continued the Baroness.
“Not at all.” Answered Lotor, tone breezy. “But even I was able to recognize beauty when placed before me.” They all laughed at that, save for Allura who stood there looking back and forth between the Drules. She felt a little out of her element, being discussed like this.
“I hear the Madame drove quite a hard bargain…” added the Baroness. “What was the amount you paid? Six hundred thousand credits?”
“Closer to eight hundred thousand.” Lotor corrected her, placing a hand on Allura’s shoulder. “The Madame did not want to part with Allura so easily.”
“I bet she didn’t! Such a beauty with her training would be capable of having several men fight over her contract.”
“I would have won it regardless.” Lotor answered confidently.
“What if the price went up to the millions?” The Baroness asked, and even Allura was curious as to Lotor’s answer.
“I would have paid it.” He said, and Allura had to fight her surprised reaction. Why would he go to so much trouble for a stranger, even one who was guaranteed to have sex with him?
“I think your father would have had objections about that!” Everyone laughed at the Baroness’ words, even Lotor. “He’d most likely prefer you pick someone cheaper.”
“A prince settles for nothing but the best.” Lotor answered, his own smirk flashing across his lips.
“And is she the best?” The Baroness asked, the attention now completely on Allura, who was failing at maintaining a blush free state. “You’ve had many partners in the past. Your exploits are legendary!”
“We’ve wondered if one woman can really hold the crown prince’s attention for this long.” A man spoke up, the others around him murmuring agreement. “We even have a wager in progress about when you will start inviting other women back to your bed.” He smirked. “I think you won’t last out the week.”
“Am I really that bad as to tire of such a beautiful and engaging woman as Allura so quickly?” Lotor asked, and a resounding yes was the answer he received.
“You are notorious your highness!” Baroness Morte exclaimed. “A different woman every night!”
“Sometimes every hour!” One of the men said, leaving Allura to wonder if that was true.
“Well, there is something about variety…” agreed Lotor, but he smiled at Allura. “But monotony is not as bad as I first imagined it would be.”
“What’s this?” The Baroness gasped in mock outrage. “Our prince is able to be satisfied with just one woman?!” Another look at Allura, the Baroness’ gaze considering. “Perhaps we are underestimating this girl’s charms. Tell me Allura, what sort of tricks do you know?”
Allura was left blinking rapidly to hide her startled response at Morte’s overly nosy question. The others gathered around them began asking questions as well, seeming to take delight in Allura’s awkward unease.
“You must know some!” continued the Baroness. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be worth the money his highness paid for you.”
“I know enough.” Allura answered coolly, glancing at Lotor who looked amused.
“Then tell us!” ordered another man, the other Drules taking up the chant.
“It’s secrets of my trade.” Allura told them, fixing them with her best haughty look. “I could not tell you forbidden information.”
“Just one trick…” begged another female, Allura wondering why Lotor was allowing them to harass her in this manner.
Allura shook her head, firm in her resolve not to talk about this. “Such things are a private matter between man and woman. I would not be so uncouth as to discuss such….lewd and lascivious a subject.” A pause followed her words, Allura wondering if she could have been more tactful in her refusal. But their interest had jostled her composure, leaving Allura both upset and embarrassed.
“Well.” The Baroness said at last, her voice suddenly holding a frost edge that had not been there previously. “If she doesn’t want to share, I suppose we can’t make her. But still….I never expected a whore to have even a bit of modesty.”
Allura immediately colored at Morte’s words, her fingers curling into fists at her side. It took every ounce of willpower not to step forward and slap the woman across the face, Allura feeling humiliated to have her profession thrown in her face like that.
“Baroness…” Lotor began, some tone of warning in his voice.
“What?” The Baroness tried for an innocent look, one Allura didn’t buy for a second. “I’m merely stating a fact.”
“You’ll do well to not address Allura in such a manner while around me.” Lotor told her, making the others frown around them.
“It’s fine your highness.” Allura interrupted him, trying to stave off a loss of popularity for the prince. “Her ladyship merely does not understand that some things are scared….even to a whore. One thing Madame Elianza was sure to instill in all her students was a sense of value for a paramour’s privacy. We maintain that value for ourselves as well, and we do not speak out of turn, especially about such bawdy matters.” She forced a smile on her face, meeting Morte’s eyes. “If you want to know what it’s like to have a courtesan as your bed mate, I suggest you purchase one’s contract for yourself. Then you will get all the answers you like and then some.”
“Hmph.” A haughty sniff from Baroness Morte. “It hardly seems worth the expense just to satisfy one’s curiosity!”
“I don’t know about that…” One of the male Drules stared at Allura, a hint of desire in his eyes. “There are worse things to spend money on than a trained mistress.”
“As if your wife would let you!” Another Drule male spoke up, earning a loud protest from the one staring at Allura. “You know how tight a leash she keeps you on!” Around them laughter erupted, the people taking delight in the upset the Drule showed at those words. The two men continued to chatter, the one growing amused the more his words roused the upset of the other.
As badly as she felt for the teasing the man was getting, Allura was grateful the subject about her and her profession had seemed to change. She didn’t laugh though, not knowing the man well enough to find humor in the situation. She kept a frozen smile on her face, wondering when or if Lotor would deem they had spent enough time in
the Baroness’s presence.
But Lotor seemed in no hurry to leave, moving to take a goblet from a passing servant’s tray. He drank deeply of his drink, chuckling occasionally at the antics around them. Allura held back a sigh, thinking it was going to be a long night. Especially when they began talking of court politics, mentioning things Allura had no way of knowing about, let alone being able to hold her own in a discussion.
Since Allura’s refusal to talk about her tricks, the Baroness Morte had shown a great dislike for the girl. That was fine with Allura, the girl not liking Morte much at all. The dislike was deepened by Morte purposefully asking Allura her opinion about various court scandals, then clicking her tongue in disappointment at Allura’s lack of knowledge.
“Well….the lady needs to spend a little less time on her back…” Allura bristled at that insult, smile faltering as she glared at Motre. “And a little more time on researching current events.”
Right then and there Allura vowed to do just that, the girl wanting to be prepared for the next time she had the misfortune of engaging the Baroness in a conversation. “Allura’s only been on Doom for little more than a week.” Lotor explained, the girl feeling gratitude well up in her. “She can’t possibly be expected to know things that happened months ago….especially when many of the matters you’ve brought up never received news coverage.”
“Still, it is disappointing.” Morte began, but Lotor was cutting her off.
“And I’ve never been one for idle gossip. So if anyone is at fault, it is me for not telling Allura about these things. However…” He smirked, his own words a thinly veiled insult. “I’ve never cared much for the scandals that rocked the court, such tasteless matters, don’t you think? The kind best forgotten about.”
An ungracious look was the Baroness’ answer, the woman bobbing her head in agreement. “I suppose you are right.”
“I know I am.” Lotor said confidently.
“And it’s not like his highness to take part in this type of scandals.” Continued the Baroness. “You always did distance yourself from the private affairs of the court.”
“Perhaps foolish of me, but I haven’t had the time or desire to take sides in the various arguments the nobles have.” Lotor answered. “Especially given the petty nature of their disagreements.”
“At least you don’t cause many scandals of your own,” said one of the men. “That’s a trait to be admired.”
“I’m afraid I’m too busy fighting in the arena to cause trouble elsewhere.” Lotor let out a little chuckle, and the conversation became about the prince’s accomplishments in the arena. It was clear the men were especially impressed with Lotor’s prowess with a sword. Allura listened but turned part way, looking about the room. She gave a startled jolt of recognition when her eyes met the gaze of a familiar face.
“Phillip?” She whispered, and Lotor paused besides her.
“Did you say something Allura?”
“No…” She shook her head. “It’s nothing.” She gazed back across the room, studying the youth, who was turning from her to whisper something in his companion’s ear. The man turned and looked at Allura, the Drule raising his glass in a toast to her.
“It appears you mistress has a new admirer.” Baroness Morte said from behind her. Lotor immediately turned to look, but his annoyance faded when he saw who it was.
“I doubt it. Lord Mundi’s interest lies not with the fairer sex.”
‘I wasn’t talking about Mundi but his…new toy.” Morte said, and Allura raised her eyebrows at that.
“I believe his name is Phillip.” The Baroness answered. “I heard whispers that he came from the same house as you Allura. Isn’t that nice? To have a familiar face so near to you?”
“Er….yes…” Allura said, spying the look in Lotor’s eyes. He was studying Phillip now, and she wondered what he made of him. Was that a spark of jealousy in his eyes? She didn’t know, but one thing Allura did understand was now was not the time to ask Lotor for a visit with an old friend.
“Of course….Mundi didn’t have to pay nearly as much money for Phillip as Lotor spent on you.” Continued the Baroness. “There’s rumors as to why, but it chiefly boils down to the fact Phillip doesn’t favor men.”
Allura knew that for a fact, remembering how often Phillip interrupted class and raged against his fate. But she kept quiet, not wanting to spill Phillip’s secrets. It was his to reveal, for good or bad.
“That must make his job hard.” A male Drule said, and the others snickered at the implied joke. There was no sympathy expressed for Phillip, in fact it seemed the gathered nobles found it more fun if the boy wasn’t enjoying Mundi’s affections.
“I don’t doubt the Lord Mundi will set him right.” Lotor said, and the others were nodding. “With his fists if need be.”
Allura was appalled, turning to look at Lotor. “What?”
“Mundi is not exactly known for his peaceful nature.” Morte explained. “He tends to react with violence first. If Phillip displeases him…” She trailed off, but Allura got her meaning, the girl fighting a shudder. She knew Madame Elianza had always been worried about Phillip’s future, the woman worrying what would happen if the youth were to end up with a partner he despised. She also understood that Elianza had been worried about her own reputation, Phillip’s disobedience holding the potential to ruin it. But more than that, Allura was fearful for the boy himself, worrying what would happen if the much larger Drule really did began to use his fists on Phillip.
She was left to worry and pray for Phillip’s safety, hoping the boy could control his temper around Lord Mundi. “Does it bother you Allura?” The Baroness asked, and Allura hesitated. She had to choose her words carefully, not wanting to make the rumors or situation worse for Phillip.
“Phillip is a good man.” Allura said at last. “Madame Elianza made sure to train us all to the best of our abilities. He’ll manage…”
“It might be more fun if he didn’t.” Said one of the gathered females. Allura frowned at her, the white haired Drule shrugging. “Think of the stories we would hear!”
“Now, now, Merza.” The Baroness tsked. “You know the prince doesn’t care about that sort of thing!”
“Indeed I don’t.” Lotor agreed, and soon the conversation was steered towards the war with Demos. The gathered Drules expressed varying opinions, some impatient for the war to be over with, wanting Demos crushed under Doom’s heel. A few held the viewpoint that the war was good, it meant they could charge outrageous prices for various goods and services on the worlds that were war plagued.
Whatever stance the Drules took, one thing was clear to Allura. They were all profiting off the war, their treasury vaults flooded with coin taken from desperate people. She kept quiet about what she thought, Allura feeling it was not right to raise prices on a starving people simply to rake in the profits. Fortunately no one asked her what she thought about the Demos Doom encounters, and Allura did not offer up any opinions of her own.
She continued to stand besides Lotor, smiling at the appropriate times, and nodding her head when someone said something especially poignant. She heard footsteps approaching, and turned surprise when a man tapped Lotor on the shoulder. Lotor turned, and the servant leaned in to whisper something in the prince’s ear. Lotor nodded his head several times, then spoke up.
“‘Thank you for alerting me to this. Tell them I’ll be there shortly.” Lotor dismissed the servant, and offered up a smile to the Baroness. “Morte, if you would be so kind as to direct me to your communications room….”
“Is there a problem?” She asked, tone dripping with curiosity.
“A minor one at the castle. They can’t seem to locate my father, so need me to over see the solution.” Lotor explained.
“Of course.” She nodded her head, ready to lead Lotor away.
“Should I accompany you?” Allura asked, and Lotor waved her off.
“There’s no need. Stay and enjoy yourself. I won’t be gone too long.” Lotor told her, and brushed a kiss against her lips.
“All right…if you think that’s best,,,” Allura said, though she felt uncertain at being abandoned for any amount of time at this party.
“I do.” Lotor said, moving to follow Baroness Morte from the room. Allura stood there watching until he disappeared through the doorway, the girl sighing to herself. Most of the Baroness’ entourage had dispersed, people moving to dance or to plunder the buffet tables. Only two men remained behind, staring at her in a way that made her feel as though they were undressing her with their eyes.
She nervously reached for a drink, hoping to calm her nerves. The men tried engaging her in a conversation, Allura making sounds at the appropriate intervals. The problem was they really didn’t have much to talk about, certainly not any topics that Allura cared about. She could sense the men’s growing frustration, the girl drinking from the goblet as they began quizzing her on her favorite things.
She dutifully answered their questions, wondering why they were bothering with such things, when a shadow fell over her. She turned, and gasped, Allura not having heard the sound of the King’s footsteps as he approached her. The two Drules besides her began dropping into bows, murmuring praise and adulation to their King. Allura barely remembered to curtsey, her badly shaking hands dropping the goblet.
Zarkon caught it in one smooth move, and set it on the table behind her. Allura didn’t fail to notice the way he took the chance to press his body against hers, all on the pretext of leaning pass her to reach the table. She managed not to tremble at the contact, Zarkon taking his time in easing back.
“They’re looking for you!” Allura blurted out, seeing Zarkon raise an eyebrow. “At the castle I mean. There’s a problem. Lotor went to oversee it in your place.” She knew she was practically babbling now, Allura growing more flustered as Zarkon smiled at her.
“Is he now? Well, I’m sure whatever it is, he can handle it.” Zarkon reached for her hand, fingers encircling her wrist possessively. “Come Allura. I’d like for you to dance with me.”
“Dance? With you?” Allura was startled anew, Zarkon already tugging her out onto the crowded dance floor. She couldn’t think of a way to get out of this, the King insistent as he put his one hand on her hip, and the other behind her back. It was just her luck that a slow song came on, Zarkon forcing her nearer for an intimacy she did not want.
Hardly at ease with the situation, Allura placed her hands on Zarkon’s upper arms, her skirts swishing across the floor as he swayed them to the beat of the music, turning them a few times. He kept her press so tight against him, her breasts squished against is chest.
He was smiling at her as they danced, and Allura could only wonder at what sort of expression she wore. Certainly if she smiled, it was a frightened look, Allura trying not to panic at being in the King’s embrace. It didn’t help matters when he leaned in to sniff at her neck, her skin practically crawling as she felt his hot breath on her skin. “You’re wearing perfume…” Zarkon said, his nose practically buried in the crook of her shoulder now. “Lots of it.”
“Er….yes..” Allura held herself as still as she could, Zarkon lifting up his head to stare into her eyes.
“Don”t wear this scent anymore. It doesn’t suit you.” A smile, and another sniff, Zarkon licking his lips. “It’s faint, but I can just make out your natural scent. That one pleases me far more than the one you doused yourself with tonight.”
“But the prince prefers it when I wear perfumes…” Allura began, but Zarkon cut her off with a snort.
“We’re talking about what pleases ME.” Zarkon told her, and she frowned at him.
“It’s not my job to please you or anyone else for that matter. I exist solely for the prince’s pleasure. At least for the next three years.”
“Yes…that contract of yours binds you to my son.” He actually sighed then, surprising Allura with his tone of regret. “Such a pity. A fine woman such as yourself is wasted on Lotor.” She wasn’t sure what to say to that, Allura merely giving a shrug of her shoulders in response. “It won’t always be this way…” Zarkon continued, and her frown deepened.
“What do you mean?”
“You. Belonging to Lotor.” Zarkon clarified.
“Ah…” She could only hope that by the time three years passed, this sickening desire the King held for her would pass. “Well….three years is still some time in the future….anything could happen….”
“I’m talking about much sooner than that.” Zarkon said to her dismay. He suddenly dipped her, smiling down at her as he bent over her. She clung to his arms to keep from falling over, not trusting that his hands would suppert her.
“Sooner?” Allura wondered out loud, Zarkon slow to pull her up off the floor.
“Yes.” Zarkon continued to dance with her, Allura not failing to notice he was leading her away from the other couples on the floor. In fact he was aiming towards one of the curtained alcoves, as though he wanted a chance to be alone with her in an even more intimate setting. “Big changes are coming to Doom.” Zarkon continued, the hand on her back lowering so that he could goose her bottom.
Allura gasped. “You’re highness!” She very much wanted to tear that hand off her, Zarkon resting on the curve of her ass. “What sort of changes?” She demanded, dragging her feet as best she could when he danced her through the curtains and into the enclosed space.
A crooked grin was her answer, Zarkon leaning her against the wall. His one hand reached up to touch her cheek, the king being extra careful with his claws as he caressed at her skin.
“What are you planning?” Allura continued with her questioning, even as she fought not to shudder at the way Zarkon was touching her. “What are you going to do to the prince?!”
“It hasn’t been decided yet, but I’m sure it will happen….make no doubt about it.” Zarkon told her, his thumb brushing over her bottom lip. “Lotor will soon have no use for your services.”
“But nothing.” Zarkon hushed her with a hiss, fingers still tracing her mouth’s lines. “Lotor may be otherwise engaged..” He snickered than, amused for some reason she could not fathom. “But I will be in need of your services.”
This time she let the horror blossom in her eyes, but it barely seemed to register with Zarkon how she looked at him. Her breath caught in her throat, the gasp did not want to come out as Zarkon leaned in to claim her mouth with his own. Allura could only squeal impotently, her hands pushing at Zarkon’s chest, trying to free herself from him. It made little difference what she tried to do, the King was immovable, forcing Allura to suffer through his sickening kiss.