Porcelain 54

She walked through the castle halls, her pace neither hurried nor slow, Allura almost aimless in her wanderings. It was a rare moment of free time for her, Lotor nowhere to be found, the King having canceled the day’s court. As glad as Allura was to be able to skip a day of court horrors and political machinations, it left her unsure of what to do with herself. And so she had come to this part of the castle, seeking out the company of the nobles, even though she was unsure of what sort of welcome she would receive.

She nodded and smiled her hellos at the servants she passed, Allura polite to a fault to anyone regardless of their station and status here on Doom. It gave her a mixed popularity, the Drule nobles thinking it wrong to be friendly to a servant or slave. The servants didn’t know how to handle someone with a higher status being kind to them, Allura often received stammered out responses, or the servants would dart away without acknowledging her interest.

She didn’t care, determined to be kind to any and everyone she could, even to the nobles who often looked down on her for various reasons. It was the women especially who were hostile to Allura, the ladies of the high court thinking they were better than her because they had money and no need to whore themselves out for it. Allura refused to believe her profession could bring her so low, the girl reasoning she was well educated and well spoken, practically spoiled when it came to the finer things in life.

Under Madame Elianza’s care, her every wish had been indulged, the woman truly seeking to give the children she watched over everything their hearts desired. The practice continued, Lotor’s money seeing Allura fitted in the finest of gowns, the girl tasting the best meals, witnessing extravagant entertainments, living in rich elegance. It wasn’t as though she came from the gutter, her life a rich one, that could rival a noble’s living style.

She could hear the sound of the noble’s voices echoing into the corridor, Allura approaching a door. She hesitated outside it, smoothing her hands down her voluminous jade skirts. It hadn’t taken her long to reach this room, Allura no longer needing an escort to guide her to this part of the castle. She was becoming familiar with her new home, and that made her bolder in her travels.

A boldness she tried to hang on to as she entered the room, hearing the voices of conversation die down as the nobles turned and got a good look at her. She kept the smile plastered on her face, not too big, not too small. It was a cool look she gave them, the briefest of acknowledgment that tried to hide her nervousness. Unblinking eyes gazed back at her, and then the ladies were turning, presenting her with their backs.

It was a clear sign of dismissal, the women ignoring Allura and resuming their conversation. Allura held back a sigh, not sure why she had expected anything more from them. Try as she might to become friends with them, the Drule females seemed determined to shun Allura at every step. The males were different, the various Dukes and Lords scrambling to get closer to her, to ingratiate themselves to Allura.

She knew what they wanted from her, sex playing a major part in their interest. A few however thought beyond her charms, the men seeking to get closer to the prince through her. She knew they hoped their closeness would allow them the chance to have the prince’s ear, to curry favor with him, to get his backing on matters both political and private. Allura didn’t know how to tell them that so far Lotor just viewed her as a possession, an outlet for sexual desire. He never asked her about her opinion when it came to politics, indeed most of their conversation was no better than polite small talk!

She drifted over to a group, holding back a sigh and caught stray snippets of conversation. The gossiping females were making no attempt to hide their voices, she could hear them speaking about Baroness Morte’s party. Allura lifted a brow at that, fighting not to groan as the conversation was once again about the spectacle she and Lotor had made of themselves.

~Honestly!~ She fumed inwardly to herself. ~It’s been more than a week since that night. Can’t we move on and talk about something else for once?!~

But her wish would go unanswered, the party proving too popular a topic choice. Especially when Zarkon was added into the equation. There had been many present who had born witness to her dance with the King, many who had seen Allura in his arms, Zarkon pressing her close and nuzzling her neck like a lover. It didn’t matter to them why he did that, Allura had tried in the beginning to explain he had been smelling her not kissing her. Either option had allowed him to get in close, and the closeness was what mattered to these nobles.

They had also seen Zarkon dance her into one of the private alcoves of the room, the nobles careful to note just how much time they had spent inside. They hadn’t failed to notice Lotor’s arrival, and subsequent displeasure at finding her alone with the King. Rumors speculated wildly on just what Allura and Zarkon had been doing, the people wondering if the King was the one really responsible for Allura’s disheveled state upon leaving the alcove.

Of course the nobles had tried to get the story from Allura, the gossips pressing her eagerly for details. Allura had remained tightlipped about the encounter, much to their disgust and disappointment. It earned her even more dislike, the nobles finding no use for her if she wouldn’t help fuel the rumor mills.

A pointed look was directed her way, but other than that she was ignored, the women more content to talk about her than to her. Allura bit back another sigh and drifted towards another group of clustered females. It was the same here, no one welcoming her into the circle, the talk speculating about her relationship with the king. They were uncomfortably close to the truth when one wondered if Zarkon would take Allura from Lotor for himself.

It didn’t cause them to be nicer to her, though Allura wondered bitterly if her popularity would improve once it appeared she had the King doting on her. Certainly more would seek to ally themselves with her in the hopes she’d be able to influence the king. ~As if he’d ever listen to a woman for advice.~ Allura thought annoyed. The king seemed the sort to only use a woman for bedroom purposes, and never for any other reason.

She moved away from the group of ladies before she could get any more upset at what they were saying, Allura wondering if she should return to her rooms. It might be better to wait out the day, watch the holos or read a book, rather than make the attempt to ingratiate herself to these gossipers. But she almost couldn’t bear the thought, Allura having spent far too much time alone in her apartment doing just that.

She wandered over to the refreshment table, selecting a cream filled croissant which she bit into delicately. It took special care not to cause the cream to explode all over her front, but Allura managed, not even a stray drop landing on her cheek. She sucked delicately at the tip, drinking in more of the cream and studied the room. It was one of the larger ones, an off shoot of the throne room, with over stuffed chairs situated on the floor for those who wanted to sit.

Most people chose to stand, the nobles breaking off into groups that shunned and ignored the others. It was all a matter of who allied with who, and if you were part of one group, you most likely could not be part of another. There was a few people who existed on the outskirts of such groups, though most weren’t like Allura, instead choosing not to take part in the petty posturing for positions and power.

Some were just that powerful that they could be acquaintances with people in each of the groups, easily accepted into the fold. Some however were newcomers to the court, newly rich, or outcasts that had fallen into disgrace with the other nobles. Those jostled for position, moving from group to group as they tried to gain acceptance. It was a hard ground to win, Allura knew that well, the girl thinking she was failing Madame Elianza when it came to making allies among the Drule nobles.

She began chewing on a bite of her croissant, only half paying attention to the two men near her who were talking as they made their selection of the refreshments laid out on the table.

“I don’t know what the King is going to do…” said the one man, a Drule with curly black hair. “The situation on Arus is getting out of hand.” Allura hid a smile behind her croissant, the girl relieved that at least they weren’t discussing Baroness Morte’s party.

“Arus?” The other man said, seeming more interested in the food than what his friend was saying. “What about Arus?”

“Don’t you know?” The black haired Drule practically gasped around his drink. “They’ve started to rebel against us!”

That was startling, Allura not knowing of any planets in the Drule Empire that would dare do such a thing. Of course she supposed they kept quiet about such incidents, certainly she had never read in any history books about planets that once assimilated into the Drule Empire, had attempted to fight back. it just simply did not happen.

“Hmph. I don’t know why they bother.” Sniffed the second Drule, with a haughty toss of his head. “It’s not as if those primitives can hope to rival the Drule Empire’s power. At best they’ll only get themselves killed. Them and the entire planet wiped out.”

She thought that more than a bit extreme, Allura hoping Zarkon wouldn’t force an entire planet’s worth of people to die just for the rebel’s sins. She didn’t think anyone should die, and yet she knew that to many life as a slave of the Drule Empire was harsh indeed. Death was almost preferable to the indignities the Drule forced on the people of a conquered planet.

“They are a nuisance.” Answered the first Drule. “Remember….they gave Doom problems for years before the planet ultimately fell in defeat.”

“Wasn’t that an isolated incident?” The other Drule asked. “A fluke?”

“How soon they forget.” Muttered his companion. “Arus had a weapon, one that left them near undefeatable.”

“But they succumbed to Doom’s invasion…just like every other planet has.” Both men laughed at that, pleased with the might of their Empire.

“Still….” The black haired Drule mused. “It must be bad if word of the rebel’s actions have reached as far as Doom.”

Allura finished off her croissant, still eavesdropping on the two men’s conversation. She thought it sad that the action of a few brave but foolish men and women would most likely bring ruin about to the people of that planet. She didn’t dare hope for Zarkon to be merciful, Allura sure he would crush the planet and it’s people in an instant.

The men continued to talk, enjoying speculating on just what sort of punishment Zarkon would inflict on Arus. She almost sighed, feeling sympathetic to a world she had never known, to a people she owed nothing to. Try as she might to be accustomed to life among the Drules, Allura felt she could never be so bloodthirsty as to enjoy another’s pain, misery or misfortune.

There was nothing here for her, Allura decided, realizing this excursion had been little more than a waste of her time. She should go back to her rooms, and just wait it out until Lotor called for her. It was turning into a lonely existence, this life as a Doom courtesan, and Allura felt herself growing depressed. She was the type of person who longed to be around other people, who needed plenty of friends to talk to and take comfort from.

~Maybe I’ll call Liandra.~ Allura thought, stepping away from the buffet table. If her dearest friend wasn’t busy with her own lover, the girl would be able to spend hours talking to Allura. She’d like that, Allura needing a friendly face to make conversation with.

She navigated her way through the room, ignoring the pointed talk aimed at her as she passed. Allura nearly gasped when a new person entered the room, the girl recognizing him to be Phillip. He wasn’t with Lord Mundi, leaving Allura to wonder if he was just as aimless and bored as she was with the downtime that came when one’s lover was otherwise occupied.

“Allura…” Phillip had spotted her, and he smiled, though it didn’t completely reach his eyes. Instead a haunted look was in them, leaving the girl to wonder at what kind of pain he was harboring.

She smiled back at him, and together they walked towards each other, glad to see a familiar and more importantly friendly face. “Phillip….it’s good to see you. Although…I wish it was under better circumstances.”

He didn’t ask her what she meant, Phillip merely nodding. They both knew that if left to his own devices, he would never have taken a man as a lover. She studied him now, eyes passing over his face carefully. Was that a little too much powder on his skin? She wondered if it was there to hide any bruises, the girl stifling a shudder as she remembered the words from the party, of how Lord Mundi was quick to react with his fists.

“Come…sit with me…” Phillip said, gesturing towards two empty seats in the corner of the room. She nodded, grateful for the chance to visit with him, even as she felt many of the nobles staring at them. She wondered what they thought, knowing she and Phillip made an attractive pair, both dressed in outfits that showed off their bodies and their wealth.

Sitting down besides him, Allura rested her hands on the armrests of her chair. “Phillip….I was surprised to see you at the Baroness’ party. I had no idea your contract had been sold…”

“I am a recent acquisition of Lord Mundi.” Phillip almost grimaced at that, and Allura made a sympathetic sound. She wanted to ask him how the Drule was treating him, but didn’t dare, fearing both the answer and Phillip’s reactions.

“Are you enjoying your time on Doom?” She asked instead, then hastily added. “Aside from your…duties I mean?”

“How could I?” He wanted to know, sighing. “Doom is unlike anything I’ve ever known. Such a horrible world.” A distasteful look was on his face, Phillip’s lip curling in a sneer. His voice lowered to a whisper, forcing Allura to lean into him to pick up his words. “This planet is as miserable as it’s people are, both complete savages.”

Her eyes widened, understanding in an instant why he was whispering. He didn’t want the nobles to hear, didn’t want his low opinion to travel among the Drules, and
ultimately get back to Lord Mundi. “Honestly Allura…” Phillip continued at a more normal volume. “I don’t see how any human could be happy on this sunless, cold world.”

“It’s..” She trailed off, not prepared to commit to defending Doom. But she knew she was having an easier time with the transition of living here, having spent a good portion of her childhood years on Doom. “Is there not any good you can find about being on this world?” Allura asked instead, and Phillip shook his head no.

“No, none.” He said, and now she sighed. “I look forward to the day my contract ends, and I can leave this world for greener pastures.”

If he survived that long, was Allura’s unspoken thought. “How long is your contract for?” She was truly curious when she asked that, Allura wanting to know just how long Phillip would have to endure Lord Mundi’s unwanted attention.

“Little more than a year.” That surprised her, and it must have shown in her eyes, Phillip giving a humorless chuckle. “The Madame was uncertain about sending me to work. You can call this adventure little more than a test run. If I do well, other jobs will follow.”

“I wish you all the luck.” Allura murmured, and he nodded at her.

“And how about you?” Phillip asked, leaning back in his seat. “Is his highness, the prince, treating you well?”

“He’s very….attentive.” That was true in a way, Lotor was all over her when it came time for his desires to run rampant. But in other areas she felt neglected, Allura wanted to cry in disbelief.

“So I hear.” Phillip said. “But beyond that, how is his behavior? Is he kind to you?”

“Oh yes.” Allura answered. “As kind as he can manage.”

“Good. I’m glad for you.” Phillip replied. “At least one of us can be happy with our current situations.”

“I wouldn’t go that far…” Allura grew embarrassed that she said that out loud, cheeks coloring immediately as Phillip gazed at her, concerned curiosity in his eyes. “It’s just….he can’t always spend every minute with me….nor would I want him too. But….except for his highness, I have no one else on Doom to…to talk with. I’ve no one to call friend…I get tired with the endless waiting between the prince’s visits.”

“You’re lonely.” Phillip noted, and she nodded.

“Yes, yes I am.” She sighed then, bringing her hands together to play with her fingers. “I didn’t expect to make friends immediately, but…neither did I think I would be shunned so thoroughly. Are you having the same problem?”

“Not exactly…” Phillip admitted. “Some of the men who share Lord Mundi’s tastes are overly…friendly towards me.” She could tell he didn’t want that, didn’t want to risk having them become so interested in him they would try to bid for his contract when Mundi’s time was up. She could sympathize with that, knowing how King Zarkon was chasing after her contract even when it was far from being completed.

“Oh.” She said at loud, letting depression sweep over her.

“It’s fine.” Phillip assured her quickly. “I can manage.”

He’d have to, Allura realized, but she said nothing to that, just allowing a weak smile to turn her lips upwards. Footsteps approached them, and Allura looked up, a voice already calling out to them. “There you are Phillip!” It was Lord Mundi, both Allura and Phillip hastily rising from their seats to acknowledge the Drule. Allura dipped into a low curtsey, and Phillip gave a stiff bow.

“Lord Mundi….is your meeting with King Zarkon over already?” Phillip asked, tone flat with no emotion. Allura straightened, trying to hide her surprise at hearing the Drule had met with the King.

“Yes, it ended sooner than anticipated. But I think he’s going to agree to my proposal.” A satisfied smile was on Mundi’s face, the man extending his arm forward to touch Allura’s hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you, my lady.”

“Likewise.” Allura answered, knowing this was the first chance they had had to actually talk to one another. Mundi brushed his lips over the back of Allura’s hand, paying her proper respect. “I’m glad to hear his highness may grant you your proposal.”

“Thank you my dear.” He let go of her hand, moving closer to Phillip to place a possessive touch on his shoulder. Phillip pretended not to notice, not even when the touch had Mundi’s fingers caressing against his neck. “How are you holding up in these busy times?” He asked this solicitously, his eyes studying her for her reaction.

She couldn’t’ hide her confusion, Allura blinking rapidly as she spoke. “These times?”

But Mundi wasn’t answering her, instead having spotted someone new entering the drawing room. “Ah Prince Lotor!” He called out joyously, and Allura turned to see Lotor making a bee line towards the trio. The three were already doing various signs of respect towards the prince, Allura still mid courtesy when Mundi spoke. “I understand a congratulations is in order.”

“Congratulations?” Lotor asked, sounding puzzled.

“Well, yes….” Lord Mundi said, and Allura straightened just in time to hear his next words. “Your father just told me the good news. I must say I am surprised but pleased to hear of your impending nuptials.” Allura felt as horrified as Lotor looked confused, the prince frowning at him.

“My what?!”

Lord Mundi seemed oblivious to the disturbance he was causing, or the fact that the nobles had all quieted down to eavesdrop on this conversation. “This marriage is just what the Drule Empire needs to strengthen it’s hold on the Denubian Galaxy.”

“Lord Mundi, you are mistaken.” Lotor sounded as though he was struggling not to growl, the words terse with tension. “I am not getting married, not any time soon.”
“Well, yes, it takes time to plan a wedding as big as this one is going to be. Agreements need to be hammered out, contracts signed. Your father is very busy handling these matters, trying to make everything run smoothly so your marriage to Princess Corral goes off without a hitch.”

“Princess Corral?” Lotor lifted an eyebrow at that name, Allura not understanding why he looked so shocked. “THE Princess Corral of Demos?”

“Well, yes…” Mundi began, but Lotor cut him off with a laugh.

“SIr, you are mistaken! I would never tie myself to someone who has Demosian blood running through their veins!”

Mundi frowned. “I know I am not mistaken when I say your father himself told me the good news. You ARE marrying Corral, it’s for the good of the empire!”

Allura watched as Lotor held himself still, hands clenching into fists at his sides. His mouth opened and closed several times, the prince seeming to gear himself up to argue. Instead he exhaled, his expression turning far too calm. “If you will excuse me…”

“Of course!” Mundi exclaimed, Lotor already turning to leave. “But where are you going?”

“To speak with my father.” Lotor answered, rushing towards the room’s exit. “I’ll find out first hand just what it is he’s plotting!” With those words, and his exit, the room interrupted into a loud chatter, the nobles all speaking on what they had just overheard. Allura continued to stare long after Lotor had left the room, the girl in a daze as she realized this must be the big changes Zarkon had alluded to at the party.

~He’s marrying Lotor off!~ Allura’s dismayed thoughts came rushing through her, the girl clasping her hands before her. ~Is this how he plans to get a hold of my contract? By tying Lotor to another woman?!~

“Ah Allura….” Mundi’s voice intruded into her private turmoil, the girl blinking in surprise. “You look pale. Perhaps you should sit down.” Dully, she did as he suggested sinking into the cushions of the chair. “The news must come as a shock to you…” he continued, and she could only nod in agreement. Phillip was looking at her sympathetically, and that made her want to burst into tears.

She wondered if she’d be able to remain with Lotor once he was married. It was rare, but it did happen, a married man taking on a mistress. She didn’t know if it was the same for royals, if the princess Corral would find it offensive that Lotor keep a woman on the side. She had a feeling it wouldn’t matter, Zarkon would make sure to force Lotor to free himself of her. And all to get at her contract!

The first tear slipped down her cheek, Allura quickly bringing up a hand to angrily brush it away. But Mundi noticed, and pulled out a handkerchief, handing it to her with a sympathetic noise. “Poor dear…I didn’t mean to upset you with the news…”

“Its fine…” Allura quickly assured him, dabbing at her eyes with the silk cloth. “It just took me by surprise.” Mundi nodded, and continued to speak but to Allura it fell on deaf ears. All she could think on at the moment was that her life as she knew it was ending, and it was all the fault of King Zarkon!

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