She was seated off to the side of the view screen, positioned in such a way so that not even her elbow would appear in range of the monitor. It had been Lotor’s request, the prince wanting her to stay out of sight until after he told his father about their marriage. Allura hadn’t had a problem with hiding, she wasn’t looking forward to being seen by the king.
Lotor himself didn’t appear any eager than she, Allura surprised to note he looked nervous. An expression she had never before seen on his face, the prince standing rigid, with his hands behind his back. They were waiting for the steward to fetch Zarkon, the king busy with some task that the man had not seen fit to explain. Allura shuddered, thinking of all the evil things Zarkon could be in the midst of doing.
The connection between Doom and Las Tibayas wasn’t any better than the one to Arus, the screen wavering with static, and losing it’s color at times. Allura wouldn’t be surprised if the transmission cut out at a key moment, forcing them to call back to finish the conversation. She glanced at Lotor, looking him over. He was dressed in one of his many spare uniforms, Allura realizing that except for yesterday, she had never seen him dressed in anything else.
She held back her sighs, impatiently smoothing down the skirt of her sun dress. She wondered how long this would take, Allura knowing she was due to attend Romelle and Sven’s wedding rehearsal in just under an hour. No doubt Keith and the others had already left, ready to help set up last minute preparations. Allura would much rather be there, helping out than sitting here, waiting on Zarkon’s leisure.
He kept them waiting another ten minutes before he appeared on the screen, and even in the distortment caused by the distance between planets, the Drule looked fearsome. His reptilian face was so alien and different from Lotor’s handsome, almost human like features. Allura wondered how they could be related and yet look so drastically different.
“Lotor.” Zarkon’s voice boomed out, clear and without accent. She nearly jumped out of her seat to hear it, noting the undercurrent of displeasure in the king’s voice as he addressed his son. “And to what do I owe the honor of this call? No no, don’t tell me. Another one of your little schemes has gone wrong, and now you’ve come crying to me to bail you out of it.”
“Father…” His expression didn’t betray what he was feeling at Zarkon’s words, Lotor standing stoic before the screen. He gave a slight bow of his head, the briefest show of respect to the king. It was more than the king showed his own son, Zarkon’s voice sardonic as he continued.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve calling me like this son. After taking off without a word to anyone, and all to chase after that princess of yours.” That surprised Allura, she had always thought Lotor had full blessings from Zarkon to go after her.
“I’m….sorry for having to leave like that.”
“No, you’re not.” Interjected Zarkon. “You’re only sorry you didn’t catch her. So…..how’s the weather like on whatever miserable planet you are on? Does defeat taste just as bitter there as it does on Arus?” A chuckle then, Zarkon continuing. “You might as well give up on her Lotor. She’s never going to want you. She’ll never be more than a dream you chase.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Lotor snapped, Allura hearing Zarkon laugh harder.
“We go round and round in this discussion, and it always turns out the same.” Zarkon sounded bored now. “For all your weak protests, you never end up with the girl. You never even come close to catching her. Isn’t it about time you give her up and settle down with someone else? I know your marriage to Queen Merla failed but…” Allura blinked in surprise, shocked. Lotor had been married before? And to Merla of all people?!
“Allura is the only one I want to be married to.” Lotor replied.
“And she’s just not cooperating.” Zarkon retorted. “I’ve got a girl lined up for you, a princess Ruvia. She’s from one of the Drule kingdoms, and is different from both the Queen and Allura. You’ll LIKE this one.”
“You’re attempts at match making always fail father.” Lotor’s words had Allura wondering just how many women Zarkon had brought before the prince. “Remember Corral? That too failed.”
“Corral was a mistake.” Zarkon said. “She didn’t even have the fire to fight you on your dismissal of her. No doubt any children she bared would have been just as weak as her. No, Lotor, you need a Drule, someone whose blood will strengthen any children you sire.”
“I’m afraid that’s out of the question father.” Lotor still had his hands behind his back, holding the remote. “I will accept no one other than Allura.” A slight smile then, Lotor looking as though he relished his next words. “Fortunately, the princess of Arus has deigned to accept me as her husband.”
There was a moment’s pause, Zarkon staring at Lotor. Finally he spoke, and his words were ripe with ridicule. “Have you been drinking again Lotor? You know you get delusional when you over do it!”
“It’s no delusion father, it’s real!” Lotor exclaimed, bringing his hands forward to flash his wedding band. Zarkon made no comment about the gold ring glinting on Lotor’s finger. “I believe if you check your messages, you’ll find a copy of our marriage certificate…” Now he gestured to Allura, holding out his hand for hers.
Nervously she stood, walking slowly into view of the monitor. She placed her hand in Lotor’s, noting how small it looked in his large, blue grasp. Zarkon made a noise, it was almost a choked out gasp, Allura steadying herself as she lifted her head, facing Zarkon. For one-second his eyes were wide, and then they narrowed, the king looking over her from head to toe.
“I don’t believe it…” Zarkon said, leaning back in his seat. “Are you really Allura of Arus?”
“Yes…” Allura nodded, and even with the distance of light years between them, she felt the weight of the king’s stare. “I am the ruler of Arus.”
“Ruler no more if what Lotor says is true.” Smirked Zarkon. “You’ve caused me a lot of trouble over these last two years. It’s more than time you were brought to heel.”
She flushed, angry at his words, opening her mouth to snap back a retort. But Lotor hurried to speak over her, squeezing her hand gently. “No one is doing any such thing. It is a partnership I offered Allura. One she gladly accepted.” She wondered if Lotor was squeezing her hand out of nervousness, the prince trying to draw comfort from her touch. “Along with the marriage license, there is something else I sent you….” He hesitated, as though bracing himself for Zarkon’s anger. “A copy of the treaty we forged before we were married.”
“A what?” Zarkon’s voice came out hissing, but the anger was there. “I think I did not hear you correctly Lotor. Did you just say you forged a treaty with her?!” Lotor nodded, and Zarkon jumped to his feet. “Are you out of your mind?! A treaty?! Since when do we cave in to other’s demands. We take what we want Lotor. We always have, we always will!”
“Not this time father.” Lotor said, voice cold. “Allura was very….adamant about what she wanted before she would agree to marry me.”
“I taught you better than this. You never give in, especially to a woman’s demands.” Zarkon gestured off screen, no doubt to the steward. “Get me a data pad. I want to see the terms of this treaty for myself.”
“Yes, sire.” Came the answer, footsteps hurrying away.
“There’s no use looking for a way to wiggle out of the terms my bride and I set up.” Lotor smirked. “It’s an iron clad agreement, one that is more than fair to Arus.”
“We will see about that.” Hmphed Zarkon, still standing. He looked at Allura, eyes vicious. “You’ve been the ruin of my son since the day he set eyes on you. I won’t let you do the same, and be the fall of my empire!”
“Is that a threat?” Allura was pleased her voice sounded cold, not betraying any fear or agitation that she felt.
“It’s a promise.” Zarkon snapped.
“Father, you will not speak to Allura in this manner.” Lotor growled. “She is my wife, and as such deserves your respect.” Zarkon snorted at that, Lotor’s eyes darkening with annoyance. “I will tolerate no attacks on my bride, verbal or otherwise. Do you understand me father?”
“Otherwise?” Allura glanced worriedly at Lotor who was staring at the view screen.
“Hmph. I cannot be blamed for every accident that befalls your bride.”
“Father, I am warning you!” Lotor was almost shouting now. “If anything happens to Allura, I will revisit it ten fold on you.”
“Look at what she is doing. You’ve been married to her for what? A day? Two days? And already she has you turning against me.” Zarkon’s words had Lotor scowling.
“It’s no doing of Allura, I can assure you. If anything, it’s been your treatment over these last few years that has me….dissatisfied with you and your methods.” Lotor retorted.
“I think your many failures with Arus warrant that treatment!” Zarkon snapped. “I include this marriage into the list. A treaty…” He tsked, shaking his head. “I’d ask what you were thinking, but I know. Or rather, know what part you were thinking with. I hope she was a good lay Lotor, good enough to warrant this act of foolishness on your part.”
Allura turned red with humiliation at Zarkon’s words, hearing Lotor gasp out an angry word. “Father!”
Zarkon did not apologize, leaning against his desk as he stared at her. Allura shifted, uncomfortable with the look he was giving her. “So…no doubt you’ll give me grandchildren that will be more human than Drule.” She barely heard his disgusted tone, shock working it’s way into her. She hadn’t even considered the thought of having children with Lotor, let alone the idea that her babies wouldn’t be wholly human.
“Weak and pathetic, just like all humans are.” Zarkon continued, and glared at Lotor. “Did you even think what the Doom court will do to your scrawny human babies?! We’ll eat them up alive. You’ll be lucky if they grow up fit to sit on the Doom throne.”
“Any children I have will never go near you. You or that court of yours!” Allura snapped, but she was still paling, both over his words, and the thought of having Lotor’s child.
“You have fire, I’ll admit that much, if you can still talk to me like that.” Zarkon said, eyes narrowed. “I hate that in a woman.”
“I suppose to you, women should be meek and docile!”
“Yes.” Zarkon smirked, not looking at all shamed at it. “Submissive in all ways.” She tore her eyes away from Zarkon’s yellow gaze, glancing at Lotor. She wondered if Lotor shared Zarkon’s sentiments, but dared not ask in front of the king.
“Ah.” said the Drule ruler, holding out his hand to the approaching steward. “Now let’s see this treaty of yours.” His clawed fingertips fiddled with the device, looking far too awkward to handle the delicate buttons of the data pad.
“You’ll find everything is in order.” Lotor told him, both he and Allura watching the king as he scanned the treaty. “Not even you can find a loophole to exploit.”
“We will see about that Lotor.” Zarkon murmured, tone distracted. “I will be having my best lawyers go over this before the night is done. Count on it.”
“I wouldn’t expect any less from you.” Lotor retorted.
Zarkon made a noise, not quite laughing at Lotor’s agreement. Allura fidgeted in place, waiting anxiously for the king to comment on what he was reading. He didn’t keep them waiting long, he suddenly snorted, eyes jerking off the data pad to lob a fierce glare at Lotor. “No slaves?! Are you mad?”
“Allura wanted no sign of slavery to touch her planet. I agreed.”
“I can see that!” shouted Zarkon. “But how are we to get any work done if we cannot make slaves of the Arusians?!”
“You’ll pay my people a wage, a fair one!” Allura snapped, jumping into the conversation. “You’ll have to pay for work to be done, rather than bully and beat people into submission!”
“The Doom Empire was built on the backs of slaves! We don’t pay for anything!” Zarkon roared, and Allura flashed him an impudent, tightlipped smile.
“You’ll pay for Arus!” She gave a haughty toss of her head, feeling her hair bounce from the action. “If you haven’t read that far, you’ll see that not only can’t you enslave my people, but you cannot bring in slaves from other planets. The Drules will have to learn to dirty their own hands for once.”
“You have no idea just how dirty we can be.” Zarkon hissed.
“Yes, I’m well aware of just how dirty you fight, but I’m talking about doing some honest work for a change.” Allura was calm in her reply, though inwardly she was shaking, a kind of angry excitement surging through her at talking so boldly to the king. She gripped Lotor’s hand tighter, using him as her anchor through the storm that was conversing with King Zarkon.
“It’ll be a choice father. Either you pay the Arusians for their work, or you pay to bring in people from other worlds to do the work for them.” Allura glanced at Lotor, grateful for his backing her words. “You’ll have to loosen the empire’s purse strings, spend some of that gold we’ve accumulated over the years.”
A low rumble of annoyance came out of the king, Zarkon fixing Lotor with an annoyed glare. “And I suppose the Empire will be responsible for the money it’s needed to rebuild Arus and it’s cities?” Both Lotor and Allura nodded, the princess speaking up once more.
“It’s only fair. I’m afraid Arus’ own treasury has been vastly depleted, what with the war and the costs of keeping my people alive.” Allura didn’t bother to sugar coat the harsh truth of the matter. “We need many things, there’s food and medicine that needs to be imported until Arus can recover enough to sustain it’s own.”
“So you’re telling me the planet is pretty worthless.” Zarkon grumbled, turning his attention back to the data pad.
“It’s not worthless!” Allura bristled at the insult to her home world. “It’s just been depleted from trying to resist your invasion all these years. If anything, the fault lies in your hands for Arus’ current state.”
Zarkon let out a gruff growl at her words, eyes scanning the treaty. “Arus would have never ended up in this state if you or your father had been wise enough to give me what I wanted in the first place. You…” His voice suddenly roared to a shout, the king having spotted something else he disliked. “No mining?! You signed away our right to excavate any jewels and minerals Arus might have hidden in it’s caves?!”
“Allura drove a hard bargain.” Lotor was flippant, his face a mask hiding at his emotions.
“I will not have you drain what little resources Arus has left!” Allura added, mirroring Zarkon’s glaring expression.
“What surprise do you have for me next?” Zarkon demanded, fingers tightening on the data pad to the point it made a squeal of protest. “That we can’t use Voltron for our own means?”
“That’s a little further down in the treaty.” Lotor said, and Zarkon’s face twisted into a mask that was even uglier than his usual grimace.
“WHAT?!” He threw the data pad onto the floor, the glass of it’s screen shattering on impact. A servant hurried over, dropping to his knees to pick up the shards of glass, but Zarkon barely paid him any mind. “How could you? Is there nothing we gained from Arus?! Nothing we can use?!”
“We won’t have Voltron chasing after us anymore.” Lotor’s voice was low, a direct contrast to Zarkon’s angry bellows. “Arus will no longer come to the aid of other planets. We’ll be able to recoup the losses Voltron caused us, and gain new territories in the coming years. Think of it father, no more Voltron to stop us, no more space explorers meddling in our plans.”
“There’s still Garrison…” Zarkon muttered, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Garrison won’t be a problem.” Lotor was confidant, leaving Allura to wonder why. “They weren’t able to stop us in the past, they won’t be able to now. Especially with Vehicle Voltron too busy in other sectors of the universe.”
Allura pulled her hand free of Lotor’s, disturbed to be privy to hearing them talk like this. She didn’t like the thought that she would just have to sit by while Zarkon and Lotor, her own husband, ran wild on the rest of the Denubian galaxy. Lotor glanced at her, but his eyes were unreadable, Allura shivering and looking away.
“You better hope you’re right about that Lotor.” Zarkon said, snapping his fingers. The steward stepped into view, Zarkon speaking to him. “Get me a replacement data pad at once.” The steward nodded, and hurried off, Zarkon scowling. “I want my men on Arus. Immediately if not sooner.”
“It will be done.” Lotor promised. “But first, allow my bride and I to return to Arus. The changes will be easier on the populace if they see their princess is all right, and working with us.”
“I care little about what her people feel or think about this transition stage.” Zarkon retorted.
“You will if they start rebelling against us.” Lotor’s words had Zarkon letting out a unamused laugh.
“You know how we deal with upstarts and rebellions.” Allura grew chillier at his next words. “We crush them like insects, leaving their corpses in town as example to others not to try.”
“NO!!” Allura cried out, distressed. “You will not be resorting to such methods on my home world!”
“Your bride reminds me just how weak she is. Too soft to do what is needed.” Zarkon retorted. “Hmph. I’m surprised she stopped being selfish and married you.”
“Selfish?” She frowned, not getting his meaning.
“You could have ended this war months earlier if you had agreed to marry my son sooner.” Zarkon explained, taking cruel amusement in her shock and horror. “Your people needn’t have suffered as long as they did. Heh…I’m surprised they didn’t turn against you for dragging on this war just because you weren’t in favor of Lotor as your husband.” Her jaw almost dropped, Allura staring numb at him. “It’s really on your head princess. Every person’s death, every injury, every home destroyed. All because you were stubborn.”
“It’s my fault….” She whispered, disturbed.
“Stop filling her head with these ideas!” Lotor snapped, and he was suddenly draping an arm across her shoulders, hugging her to his side. He was in his own way, trying to comfort her, showing anger at his father.
“The truth hurts, doesn’t it Allura?” Zarkon questioned, a mean grin on his face. The steward had returned with the data pad, Zarkon snatching it from his hands.
“I’ve got to go.” Allura said abruptly, glancing up at Lotor. “They’re waiting for me….” It was true, but in actuality she just wanted away from Zarkon, long since having had enough of hearing his voice and cruel words.
“It’s fine.” Lotor told her, brushing his fingers against her cheek. “You go, I’ll finish up here with my father.”
She stared into his eyes, a searching look in them. “Can I trust you?” Allura whispered, Lotor cocking his head as though to hear her better. “To do what is right for Arus?”
“Yes.” Lotor confirmed with a nod. “I won’t betray you.” A wry smile then. “I’ll do my best to keep my father reigned in.”
“All right.” Allura said, and made to pull away. But he tightened his arm around her, Lotor leaning in to brush a kiss against her forehead. It left her blinking, surprised, Lotor’s smile widening.
“I’ll see you later.” Lotor said, just as Zarkon began bellowing over something else he had found in the treaty.
“You gave them the right to bear arms?!” Zarkon screeched, barely taking note of Allura moving out of view. “You might as well line up my men and paint targets on their backs.”
She didn’t stick around to hear Lotor’s response, grabbing her purse as she walked out of the room. But even out in the hall, with the door closed she could still hear the king’s angry voice shouting. “You’re just asking for them to rebel by giving them access to weapons!” Allura sighed, not envying Lotor the task of dealing with his father. She had barely spent an hour in his presence, and already he had her all shook up and questioning everything she thought she knew.
With a frown on her face, she headed for the elevator, wondering if Zarkon was right. Had she been selfish in denying Lotor’s numerous marriage proposals? Had she put her own happiness above her people’s safety? Could there have been Arusians who were angry at her, wishing she had put an end to the war by marrying Lotor sooner? Allura just didn’t know, wondering how isolated Coran and Nanny kept her when it came to learning the people of Arus’ true sentiments.
Sighing, she entered the elevator, catching sight of her morose expression in the mirrored wall. She shook her head, Allura forcing herself to take on a cheery disposition, determined to not bring down the mood of her cousin’s rehearsal. If she hurried, she might even be there in time to do some last minute help. Allura knew she could certainly use the distraction from her own thoughts and problems. She just hoped she’d be able to put aside her troubling thoughts long enough to relax a little.