Porcelain 70

It was a quiet night in the rebel’s camp, the early sounds of the day had faded away as many of the men and women took to sleeping inside the tents. The quiet amplified the sounds of the forest, Allura could make out the sound of crickets chirping, and hear the howl of a lonely wolf. Things rustled in the bushes, animals skittering about, Allura suddenly grateful for the armed men who kept guard over the camp.

Even so, she couldn’t relax enough to sleep, Allura pacing about the small space inside her tent. She had a thin blanket wrapped around her, it didn’t do much to chase away the chill she felt. But she didn’t dare ask for another, not sure what sort of reaction her guards would have to such a request.

She also wondered if they even had any more to spare, Allura certain that the rebels had had to scrounge for every bit of resource they had. She remembered what she had read about Arus, how the slaves there owned nothing. Indeed almost everything she did spy, and that included the tents, bore the insignia of the Drule Empire, hinting that all their goods were stolen.

She couldn’t help wondering how they had managed in the starting days of the rebellion. Their weapons had to come from somewhere, Allura wondering how they had overpowered the Drule in those early, first days. Had there been a secret, hidden cache of weapons the slaves had access to? Something that gave them a fighting chance against the Drule?

She didn’t know, and Allura didn’t dare ask, not wanting to seem as though she was prying for secrets to the rebels. She tried to put it out of her mind, and it was easier than expected, Allura knowing she was excited and stunned to have come face to face with her parents. It hadn’t been the type of reunion she would have liked, but then Allura hadn’t given much thought to just what sort of first meeting they would have.

It made her wonder if she had expected the worst, to find them dead, or hating her for the sacrifices they had made for her. She wasn’t entirely sure what they were feeling towards her now, Alfor’s expression unreadable save for the sternness of his eyes. Diana however, seemed elated to see Allura, the girl positive those were tears that had glistened in her mother’s eyes.

She could only hope there would be a warmer welcome once the test results came back, Allura wanting desperately to be embraced by her parents. If only for a moment. She wasn’t sure what would happen next, where they would go with things. She had a mixed sense of loyalty, both to Arus and it’s people, and to Lotor. She certainly didn’t want to take sides against either one, and yet Allura had a feeling that was what it would come down to.

Allura didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how she could bear to fight against either one. She wanted Lotor to come find her, and yet she didn’t, not wanting to risk both the rebels and the Drule. It seemed an impossible choice, one or the other would forever be hurt by her, Allura even feared that maybe both would end up dead! She shivered under her blanket at that thought, wishing things were a lot simpler than they appeared.

She was sighing again, pacing for a few minutes more when noise stirred outside her lowered tent flap. She heard the voices of the two men who stood watch over her, and then a third voice, a woman speaking. The voice sounded familiar, but Allura didn’t dare hope it was her mother who had come to her. Not even when the tent flap was lifted, and Diana in all her silver streaked glory entered, carrying a bowl and a smile on her face.

Mother was on the tip of her tongue, an excited exclamation Allura held back. Instead she smiled weakly, and whispered a name. “Lady Diana…”

“Please…” Diana said, the tent flap falling close behind her. “There’s no need to be so formal.” She stepped deeper inside the tent, Allura envying the warm looking cloak the woman wore over her dress. “I thought you might be hungry…”

Allura realized she was, her stomach practically rumbling it’s agreement to those words. “Thank you.” Allura stammered out, taking the offered bowl from Diana’s hands. It smelled delicious, and was some kind of soup, surely the same meal she had spied being made earlier that day.

Diana followed Allura over to the crates, the two sitting down on top of them. Allura took a hearty sip of the soup, almost moaning out her appreciation. It smelled as wonderful as it tasted, and though she couldn’t identify what type of soup it was, it held a mishmash of vegetables and meats floating in it’s liquid.

“It’s very good.” Allura told Diana, gratitude in her tone. After days inside the Drule holding cell, a tasty meal was more than welcome.

“I’m glad you think so.” Diana was studying her as she ate, eyes looking her over critically. Allura wondered if she matched up to the woman’s expectations, almost flushing as she wished she could present a better picture of herself to her mother. “We may not have much, but our cooks do miracles with what we do have.”

Allura bobbed her head in agreement, chewing up a piece of succulently soft meat. Diana lapsed into silence, hands folded on her lap, though she seemed to be fidgeting. Allura couldn’t hazard a guess as to Diana’s unrest, the girl taking care to eat up every bit of soup down to the last drop.

It was when she finished, that Diana spoke, the woman’s green eyes taking a misty look to them. “It’s good to see you…Allura.”

“I feel the same way.” Allura admitted, setting the bowl down besides her on the crate. “I didn’t dare dream I would find my parents alive and well.”

“Or living as rebels, no doubt!” Diana added, a hint of teasing to her voice. Allura almost smiled at that.

“Never that!”

“You must have so many questions.” Diana mused out loud, Allura nodding.

“I do! It’s hard to know where to begin…”

“I too hold an endless amount of curiosity about my daughter and the years she—you spent away from me.” Diana told her. Allura blinked rapidly, trying to dispel the tears that were brought up at Diana’s words.

“Then you believe me when I say I am her? That I am your daughter Allura?” She asked anxiously.

“Oh yes. I knew without a doubt the moment I laid eyes on you.” Diana replied.

“But how? How can you be so sure?” Allura wanted to know. “Even Alfor…even he is hesitant to believe…”

Diana still wore her smile, though it grew smaller at the mention of Alfor and his reluctance to believe. “He doesn’t want to get hurt. I can’t blame him for wanting to protect his heart and mine. The disappointment if you turned out to be false would surely devastate him.”

“And you?” Asked Allura. Diana hesitated, but eventually nodded a yes.

“Maybe I’m being foolish.” She said. “Maybe I’m too lost to hope, to stubborn to admit that the Drule could have killed my daughter. Maybe the hope that my daughter could have lived, blinds me to all else. But I see you, and I see one who could have been my twin. A twin that bears Alfor’s eyes, and I just know in my soul you are she.” A shake of her head, silver streaked hair bouncing. “I don’t want to think the Drule are that cruel as to deceive us in this way.”

“Make no mistake about it. The Drule can be that cruel.” Allura sighed, bowing her head. “I’ve seen so many things, such horrors and atrocities, ones that no one should bear witness to. I’ve no doubt that if needed, they would do such a thing.” She hesitated, giving a shake of her head. “If they knew you were alive and part of the rebellion…” A shrug then, Allura unsure. She had no doubt Zarkon would have engineered such a scheme, but she didn’t want to think Lotor that cruel.

“It must have been horrible for you. Growing up among the Drule.” Diana murmured, and Allura glanced at her. Diana looked troubled at the thought, Allura slowly nodded.

“It was…difficult under the best of times.” She admitted. “It wasn’t an easy life, those years spent on Doom. But…I had allies, a family even….”

“A…a family?” Diana looked surprised at that.

“Yes.” Allura exhaled a great deep breath, preparing to tell Diana as much as she could. “I don’t know what you imagined of my time on Doom. Maybe you thought I spent it all in the dungeons.” A bitter laugh then, Allura shaking her head no. “There’s no way I’d be here talking to you now if I had. I was a broken shell inside those dungeons, a terrified child who could do nothing but cry, and even then my voice faded after a while.”

“It was Adaline who saved me.” She continued.

“Adaline?” questioned Diana.

“King Zarkon’s wife. Though slave would be a more apt term considering the way he treated her.” Allura shuddered at the memory. “Adaline took me from the dungeons at great cost to herself. She raised me with her son. She was the mother figure I needed, someone to cling to and love in those dark times.” Diana’s eyes flashed with some sharp emotion, Allura trailing off. “I…forgive me…”

“No.” Diana quickly assured her, then let out a shaky sounding laugh. “It is I who should be sorry. I’m actually jealous you had someone else be your mother. Terrible of me, when I should be glad you had that comfort available to you.”

“Still…it must be hard.” Allura said. “To hear that your own child considered someone else their mother….I…I never meant to replace you. But I was so young, and many of memories of my real parents were dim, hazy recollections I soon forgot.” She felt sad in admitting that, knowing she couldn’t really remember a thing before Adaline had found her in the dungeons.

“You really don’t remember me?” Diana asked sadly.

Allura shook her head no. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even know what you looked like until I saw the picture of you and Alfor in a news clipping. You’re all but strangers to me, and Arus is just as new.”

They were both quiet following that, just digesting her words. The silence eventually was broken up by Diana, sadness blooming in her eyes. “Someday I would like to show you Arus. The planet as it’s truly meant to be seen. Free of the Drule’s tyranny, our people free.”

“I’d like that.” Allura kept quiet about the likelihood of that ever happening, not wanting to dash her mother’s hope.

“I’d also like to meet this Adaline one day. To thank her and…” She paused, noting the pain that came across Allura’s face. “Oh child, what is it?”

“Adaline is dead.” Allura told her, trying to be emotionless, but tearing up all the same. “She died many years ago. Although dying is too mild a word for what happened to her. She was killed…”

“Killed?!” gasped Diana, staring at her shocked.

“Yes.” The tears were pouring down her face, her grief over Adaline just as raw and fresh now as it was the day the murder had happened. “Her own husband was the murderer. He killed her in a cold blood, after years of abuse to his family.”

Diana looked horrified at that, and somehow Allura ended up pressed against her, her mother offering a comforting hug that Allura was all too eager to accept. She gave in to her tears, hiccuping on a sob as she wept bitterly. Diana made soothing sounds, arms tight around her as she rocked with Allura in her arms.

“I loved her.” Allura continued, still sobbing. “She was my light in the darkness, my comforting star. I was nearly lost for good after witnessing her murder.”

“You witnessed it?” Diana gasped, Allura glancing upwards to see how stricken her mother looked at that revelation.

“Yes.” Allura brought up a hand to brush at her eyes, but the tears weren’t stopping. “I was playing in her closet, among her dresses when they entered. It was a typical sight to see the King fighting with his wife…but I never expected things to go the way they did.” She shuddered in her mother’s arms, trying not to revisit that horrific night.

“I’m so sorry, my child…” Diana whispered.

“It’s not your fault.” Allura told her.

“But I feel like it is. If only Alfor and I could have done something, anything, to rescue you from that awful place!”

“You did what you could to make sure I lived.” Allura soothed her. “That was more than enough.”

“But…” Diana fell silent, and just continued to hug Allura, and soon the girl realized her mother was also crying. “I wondered and worried for so long, and find the reality doesn’t match up to my fears.”

“Shhh….shhh…” Allura tried to calm her, the two clinging to each other in their upset. “Don’t cry for things you had no control over.”

“Damn him…” Diana hissed, Allura startled by the anger in her voice. “Damn that king, and damn the Drule too! They’ve taken nearly everything from us, in one way or another!”

Allura wasn’t sure what to say to that, just continuing to make soothing sounds. “He’s dead now.” Allura added as an afterthought. “His son killed him, avenging the murder of Adaline and what was done to us as children.”

“We’ve just exchanged one ruthless leader for another.” Diana said, and Allura shook her head no.

“I’m not so sure about that….Lotor is different from the other Drule, from his father.”

“Not different enough!” exclaimed Diana, and Allura hid a frown. Before she could even think up a suitable reply, the tent flap was lifting, Allura catching sight of Alfor entering. His expression was grim, stern eyes landing on the embracing women.

“I thought I’d find you here.” His voice rumbled out with disapproval, hands landing on his hips. Diana seemed to flush, a guilty look in her eyes as she slowly disentangled from Allura.

“I was just bringing her the evening meal…”

“Someone else could have done that.” Alfor pointed out, and Diana sighed.

“All right, I wanted to see her. To talk to her!” She made no move to stand, staring across the tent at her husband. “Is that so wrong?”

“No…no it is not.” Alfor sighed. “I can’t begrudge you the desire for wanting to get close to the girl, but I do think it best for you to wait until we know for certain whether she is our daughter or not.”

“So I’m to ignore her until then?” Diana shook her head no. “I’ve had to keep away from my daughter for so many years. I can’t bear to do so any longer!”

“If she even is our daughter…” muttered Alfor.

Diana’s eyes flashed with hurt, she was standing now. “She is! I know it in my heart! That you can’t see it…” She shook her head, surely biting back hurtful words.

“I’m just being cautious…” Alfor began, but Allura was speaking.

“Because you think I’m a spy? Or an assassin?”

“Those are valid concerns.” Said Alfor. “But I also don’t want my wife’s heart to get broken.” Diana expression softened at that, she stepped closer towards her husband. He let her approach, let Diana hug him, but he kept staring at Allura.

“I don’t want anyone’s heart to get broken.” She said quietly. “I just wanted to find my parents…to know if they were alive or not. And if not, to find out all I could about the kind of people they were.”

“You speak as though you had a choice in coming here.” Alfor noted, and Allura flushed guiltily.

“I…” She sighed, wondering if she should just admit the truth. “I know of the Drule’s purpose in coming here with me, but I? I had my own agenda here on Arus. I want nothing to do with the Drule rebel war, I just wanted my parents!”

“You have to know you can’t remain out of this war, especially now!” Alfor said. “You can be with us or against us, you can’t side with both!”

“Alfor!” Diana hissed out an exclamation, but the man did not look apologetic.

“This war is awfully one sided.” Allura began, seeing the anger in her father’s eyes. She hated having him look at her that way, but she continued. “The Drule will overpower you. They have more of everything, and don’t have to rely on stealing to get their assets.”

“We are thieves only because the Drule made us that way!” Alfor pointed out, sounding exasperated.

“Yes I know. But…But things could be different now.” Allura said.

“Different?” Alfor scoffed. “Because they have a new King?”

“Yes!” Allura exclaimed. “Lotor is a different man from King Zarkon. He’s trying to lead the Drule into change. It may take time but…”

“You speak as though you are on good terms with him!” Alfor pointed out, and Allura blushed. She began stammering out a response, but Alfor was speaking suspiciously. “Have you spoken with this Lotor? Has he come and told you lies about what he wants to do on Arus, to get your compliance?”

Allura almost wanted to laugh at that, shaking her head no. “Believe in me when I say I was not willing to travel to Arus as a prisoner. I wanted no part in his schemes.”

“That makes it sound as though you are privy to what he has planned.” Alfor pointed out.

“I don’t know everything…” She admitted with a sigh. “But I do know what will happen if your rebels aren’t caught soon. The Drule will begin to randomly target the slaves, executing them for the rebellion’s crimes. You cannot allow that to happen!”

“And you say this King is different from the previous one?” scoffed Alfor.

“He is!” Allura insisted, flushing redder. “But he’s also a practical man. He can’t allow the rebels to run wild on Arus. He’ll put a stop to you all…and I fear for you and Diana both!”

“What would you have us do?” Diana asked at the same time Alfor made an exclamation.

“We can’t just stop. To give up means nothing will change.”

“Then you’ll all die.” Allura said sadly, grief blossoming in her heart at the very thought. “I don’t want that. And I don’t think you do either!”

“We don’t.” Agreed Diana. “But I’m afraid there is no other way. The people of Arus are depending on us. We can’t fail them a second time.”

“But…” She trailed off, Allura realizing her arguments would be useless against them. They wee determined to see things through, no matter the cost. “I don’t want to lose you a second time.” That had Diana moving towards her, the woman hugging Allura before Alfor could stop her.

“I wish I could believe in this new King of yours.” Alfor said at last. “But he’s had weeks now to make change, and nothing has been done on Arus.”

“Change isn’t always quick.” Allura pointed out, still in Diana’s arms. “Especially when one runs as big an empire as the Drule have.”

“Then let the rebels be the incentive needed for a slow acting King to move into action.” Alfor said. Allura frowned at him, Alfor gazing tiredly back at her. “Come Diana. It’s late. We could all use a good rest now.”

“Just five minutes more…” begged Diana, but Allura was already pulling back from her embrace.

“Your husband is right. Please….sleep now. We can always talk some more tomorrow.”

“All…all right.” Diana was clearly reluctant to leave Allura’s side, catching at her right hand to give it a gentle squeeze. “Tomorrow then. I look forward to you telling me all about yourself.”

“Yes..” Allura forced a smile, though inwardly she was panicking at the thought. How could she ever reveal to her mother that her upbringing had led her into a life of high class prostitution?!

“Good night Allura.” Alfor said, tone stiff as he led his wife away from her. Allura echoed the good-byes, watching sadly as they left the tent. It would be hours before she calmed down enough to be able to sleep, all the while turning over the conversations with Alfor and Diana in her head. She didn’t see a way to save everyone, the burden of it weighing heavily on her shoulders. Was she right about Lotor? Was he different enough from Zarkon that he would find a way to make peace for Arus and it’s people? She didn’t know, and that troubled her all the more….

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