Two Shadows Went, Chapter 21

Updated: Apr 13, 2019





The palace was probably the most crowded Lance had ever seen it over the next few days. He wasn’t—Lance wasn’t sure what Shiro’s intentions were, but he wasn’t letting Lance anywhere within the palace. He been pulled away from balconies, he’d been shuffled into secluded sitting rooms, he had taken most of his morning meals in their new rooms as well as evenings too. He rarely saw Shiro, and saw him even rarer just by himself. It turned out the gold fitted around his neck—Lance couldn’t take it off, he’d even asked Antok to help and was informed—only Shiro would be able to take it off.


So that night as a servants had entered Lance was jerked out of his reveries, reading at one of the large window seats of the room.


Honerva stepped in promptly, her face held at an ever present frown it seemed.


Lance perked but didn’t get up from where he lounged across the pillows.


He hated her.


There was no two ways around it.


"Your Highness—"


"Antok," Lance huffed as he looked over.


His guard had seemed to relax around him since the overturning, it was possibly because they spent just about every moment with each other as it was. And he turned from where he stood to face Lance.


"Please let the acolyte know I’m simply not in the mood. Have her sent out." Lance turned back to look through the book he had rested over a pillow.


Antok gave a nod before stepping forward.


"Lance—" Honerva snapped like an affronted mother.


Lance narrowed his eyes as he looked up. "That—is no way to address me." He gestured back to Antok. "She can leave."


"Of course, Your Highness," Antok shifted back to the woman and took another step forward.


Honerva stared down the guard. "This is blatant disrespect, Lance."


Lance finally shut the book, his legs uncrossed and he squared the woman with a glare.


"Because the people in this palace definitely have opinions of me I should keep intact," Lance hissed. "It's not like I’m unsure if I'll keep my head tomorrow," he huffed. "So you know I’m not all that concerned with whether or not I’m rude to you."


Honervas brow raised as she looked over. "You, my young nephew, are alive because of me."


Lance snorted. "I highly doubt my father's murderer cares much for my life." He stood with a swift action as he continued to the small drinks cart in the sitting room. "And for the love of god, never call me that again." He hissed under his breath.


The woman didn’t seem to know quite how to compose herself.


Lance poured himself a drink. As he turned he even took a sip of the dark amber liquid and faced her.


"I am not the aggressor here," Honerva settled on. "I am here vouching on your behalf."


Lance nodded. And took another drink. "So your story is that Shiro killed my father then?"


Honervas head shot up, "His Majesty—"


"That prick," Lance corrected. "May have set all the pieces up, but I’m very confident I know who pulled the trigger."


"Your Highness, that is careless and insolent—"


Lance gestured as if to brush it away with an eye roll. "He’s my husband, I can call him whatever I like, especially after all he’s done." Lance leaned back against the cart. "I have to see him, for the rest of my life, no matter how long or short that will be, for the rest of my life he is intrinsically tied to me—so when he walks into this room, I let him speak. ...unlike you."


She seemed to finally be catching on as her gaze darkened on Lance. "Your father was a tyrant."


"And so you dealt him justice?" Lance hissed. "By letting him fester away in bed for months?" Lance gestured around himself. "It's obvious now—every turn that Shiro needed more time at—My father seemed to get better, just long enough for Shiro to iron out the details—because he had you pulling the puppet strings."


"You’ve no idea what you’re talking about boy."


"I like that less," Lance pointed out. “Especially considering I'm fairly confident I know who let every Galra here in on the great family secret!" Lance gestured out around him. "Not a single soul in the palace knew I was connected to the lions or the temple—except you! Shiro brought me to your domain so you could watch me light the place up—a personal show just for him!"


Honerva lifted her chin. "His Majesty asked me to confirm your value."


Lance nearly started to laugh. "My Value?" He shook his head. The temple flashed before Lance’s mind—it was so so vivid—and so distressing. The set up—He’d had no clue. And Shiro had carefully walked him into a bear trap.


"You are alive." Honerva’s voice held a conviction. "You were on all of their radars before—and you are alive because of me. They would have escorted you straight to the gallows if it wasn’t for what I’ve done for you."


"How gracious of you," Lance’s lip curled. "Is that what this was about—keeping me alive? I don’t see how my father's death fit into that."


Her narrow face only seemed to grow more gaunt. "Your father deserved his end."


"This palace," Lance’s hands gestured all around. "Was built by my father. As far as forging an empire goes he did pretty well."


"And he did it on the bloody bones of your mother!" Honervas voice was shrill this time.


That stilled Lance.


He wasn’t stupid—though... some facts were harder to face than others. Lance had always seen his father—as the most perfect man in the world and the thought...


"Did you really think, a life force—" Honerva hissed. "Could be obtained without cost?"


He didn’t have an answer for that.


But as his narrow eyes lifted, Lance asked his own question. "What makes you think any of these new rulers will hesitate to do the same to me?" Lance’s head tipped. "Or to you?"


She fell silent. "I don’t hold the bloodline."


Lance nodded considering.


"Just my mother did." Lance spoke. "And they broke her to form the Bayards..." it felt—odd saying it out loud. Lance wasn’t even sure he could form the words in his mouth.


"Your father murdered her." Honerva’s voice held a lift then, a self assurance. "For power."


Lance pondered a moment more. "Why do you seem so fine with my sister in chains, yet revel in the victory of me at your Emperor’s bedside? Because she’s not the child of your sister, like me? She’s still innocent of my father’s crimes.”


Honerva’s face seemed to grow stoney.


Lance shook his head. "You don’t care."


"I saved your—"


"My life," lance finished for her. He shrugged. "You killed my father in return, and had a hand in toppling everything he built—including the down fall of his children."


"My sister meant everything to me." Honerva hissed. "She was my world and I vowed to crush his in return!”


Lance gestured to Antok again.


"My sister is still in chains."


Honerva’s chin raised again. "She doesn’t carry the bloodline."


Lance took another sip from his drink. "Of course—where’s the gain in that after all. Only the first born of a King! The sister you loved so dearly was only acting as her mother after all, but no real blood connection—no power in helping her!"


Honerva’s face twisted into a ghastly snarl. "Do not judge me, boy."


Lance considered staying quiet for just a moment, but then again—what did he have to gain from that?


"You don’t care," Lance could hear the melancholy tone of his voice. "My sister has no power to be profited from any longer." Lance gave a sigh. "How very like my father of you."


Antok unfolded his arms as he looked back to Lance.


"Please escort the witch out," Lance turned away. "These rooms are restricted to close members of the royal court only."


He didn’t look back over his shoulder. But as the door closed Lance was confident he’d just made his first real enemy. He simply took another drink.


"You probably shouldn’t have called her a witch," Antok’s casual tone as he returned was becoming more common.


Lance turned around before giving a characteristic shrug. "What’s she gonna do—tattle to Shiro on me." Lance rolled his eyes. "Cause He’s really gonna slap my wrist for that one," Lance snorted.


"His Majesty is an Emperor, Your Highness. He is your Kon." Antok tsked as well from where he stood still at the head of the entry room.


Even through the helmet Lance could recognize a scolding. He sighed. "He’s just a man," Lance turned away to the drink cart again. "He holds all the keys to me—but he’s still just a man."




 



Lance wasn’t ever sure what to make of the two wide-eyed servants. They always were silent except for when they spoke in hushed tones to one another.


"They’re just speaking Galra," Antok spoke as he stooped down to talk to Lance. "Their Altean isn’t very good. They’ve rarely been around one as far as I’ve gathered."


The two smaller servants had already come into the room, a box held between them of clothing it looked. Lance hadn’t been directly told what he’d been doing but it sounded like—Shiro was probably lonely.


And for once Lance was going to go out in public, and have dinner in the great hall with the rest of the new ruling class.


"Then why are they assigned to me?" Lance shot back.


Antok tipped his head. "They’re very skilled. It sounds like they are some sort of apprentice to the man who is designing your royal attire."


Lance cocked his head. Of course, Shiro would be the man to meticulously curate on even what Lance wore as his Consort.


"What are they saying?" Lance whispered back to Antok.


They servants were laying out the box at a footstool near the massive bed as they opened it up and started to remove what Lance could gather was a few different outfits.


"You have nice clothes."


Lance turned to look up at Antok, his expression he knew a bit dead pan.


The larger man gave a shrug. "They really like them."


Lance looked back to the two chattering away in fast words and giggles with one another. He looked back to Antok.


"They still like your clothes."


Lance blinked at Antok for a moment. "I’m starting to realize why Shiro picked Keith as my spy and you as my bodyguard."


Antok’s head seemed to tip to the side. "He asks me about you." He said as if it was a defense.


Lance paused. "What do you tell him?"


There was more silence besides the chattering servants. Even through that helmeted head, Lance could see as it dawned on Antok, he abruptly looked away.


"That you’re nice."


Lance opened his mouth to give his own snarky reply when suddenly the servants descended on him, tugging him over to the bed, to decide which he would wear that night.


His clothes—Lance quickly found had all been replaced. He used to dress in silver and soft whites, light blues and teals—but Shiro... he’d always know that presentation meant too much at times.


It was all blacks. And dark purples, a color Lance was learning quickly was associated solely with the Emperor. Lance’s richly adorned clothes glittered with gold and embroidered symbols of the Galra were everywhere. Lance had only ever seen the marks smeared across the hulls of ships, but as every banner of the palace now sported them, Lance only really needed to look down at his sleeve if he ever couldn’t see one.


And then there was—Lance never needed assistance getting his clothes on as the Second Prince of Altea. Not Once. But his clothes came in pieces now, elaborate pieces that were artfully pinned together and around him. They hooked into his jewelry, they were braided and pinned and clasped. Half the time he was never even sure how to get his outfits on before one of the servants started helping him.


As they even finished up this time, the servants all ogling at Lance as he looked at him through the mirror he stood before, Lance just sighed. As always—his back was completely on display.


Perfect. Another venture of parading.


The door opened then, just as a servant slipped in one of Lance’s earrings. And the other slide a bracelet to fit in over his sleeve, keeping it from riding up, probably.


"Your Highness,"


Lance nearly paled.


He abruptly looked back to the mirror.


"Red Paladin." Antok bowed his head.


"I’m here as His Highness’ escort for the evening." Keith's voice was held in and controlled.


Lance licked his lips. The second earring was fit in as the sash around his waist was checked again to make sure it had been pinned to hold properly.


Lance could see out of the corner of his eye as Antok looked over at him—the comment just moments before fresh on both of their minds.


"I’m ready." Lance saved them both.


He sucked in a breath before looking to Keith.


How long had it been—really since Lance’s world had crumbled and he’d been thrust into his new role?


As he looked at Keith, it felt like eons, millennia, lifetimes. He was dressed as well for his new part, the black and red uniform fit him well indeed.


"You look beautiful, Your Highness." Keith commented.


All Lance could think about was how he’d lost to that man, when he needed to win the most—he’d lost and Shiro had won because of it.


"Let’s not keep our Kon waiting, shall we." Lance said before he stepped towards the door.




 



Once in the hallways, Lance got back the awkward socially inept boy he always remembered.


"Antok says you’re doing good." Keith said as they started to walk.


Lance looked over. This time Keith blinked at him.


"My father's dead." Lance said blandly. His expression in no semblance of happy. "Killed in fact, by all of you. My mother I’ve found out was sacrificed to bring a war machine to life. I haven’t seen my sister in two weeks, but I’m confident she's not being treated nearly as warmly as I am, and I've been brutally betrayed by the man who swears he loves me the most."


Lance huffed. "Oh and I’m not sure if tomorrow I will still be breathing."


Keith shifted a bit uncomfortably in his armor.


"I’m just dandy!" Lance filled in for Keith, forcing a fake smile he let slide off his face a bit too quickly probably.


Keith seemed to mull that information over for a moment longer, the only sound their steps.


"I’ve missed our training sessions." Keith finally spoke up.


Without a doubt, the last thing Lance would be able to get his hands on at that point was a sword. Lance looked over, not sure what Keith expected him to say.


"You were actually really improving there," he went on.


Lance sighed, looking down at his shoes, as he walked.


"Thank you, " Lance said then. "For taking your time with me, for the training."


Keith looked up, hope so plain on his face then.


"It didn’t make a difference in the end," Lance settled with as he pulled in breath, "but I still do appreciate it."


"Of course," Keith said.


Lance looked down the long hallway then. Keith wanted to be friends now. Great. How in the world was Lance supposed to use that information.


"Why am I going to this dinner?" Lance suddenly blurted.


Keith looked up, narrow eyes on Lance.


For a second, Lance wondered if he’d be answered or if they would dip back into awkward comments about the weather. Not that Lance knew what the weather was like, he was never allowed outside for very long.


"You don’t know what he’s had to do to get you here," Keith's tone was hushed suddenly.


Lance eyed him. "Then why not still keep me locked in a tower?"


Keith shook his head. "The noble families will concede if you’re by his side."


Lance brow dropped. That statement sounded very assured. "What makes him think that?"


Keith's face took on a somber shade. "You need to think that too."


"What difference will that make?" Lance shot back.


Keith stopped, his hand grasping at Lance’s elbow. “You need to think it will make a difference.”


"I’m not going to invite my friends to their own execution!” Lance hissed, as he pulled his arm from Keith's grasp with a look of disdain.


Eyes wide, Lance realized for the first time— they were purple. Keith had always had eyes of purple. And his stark red markings—they shone on his face. He was striking. And he looked—very Galra.


They were nearly there, the great halls entrance was only at most 25 feet away.


Keith grabbed at Lance’s arm again, this time holding him to jerk a step closer to Keith. "He doesn’t want them dead." Keith glanced to the doors, "They’re easier to manage if we can integrate them into Galra dominion."


Lance froze. The words ran through his head.


"Your Highness! Red Paladin!" a tall Galra greeted as he approached the doors as well. "I see His Majesty has brought out even his treasures for this occasion."


"Come on," Keith hauled Lance back into walking as he pulled Lance with him to the doors to the grand entryway.


Lance barely noticed.


It was still sinking in: They all didn’t have to all end up dead.




 



"My darling,"


It nearly scared Lance how elation warmed through him at the mere glance of that smile. Shiro stood as Lance approached, causing most of the room to all look up as Lance approached the table.


His hand was soft as he grasped Lance’s chin to first press a kiss to Lance’s lips, and rougher as he tilted Lance’s face up. Biting his lip, Lance’s eyes closed as Shiro mouthed a bit over the bond mark. It sent shivers through Lance but it wasn’t lost on him the looks of approval from around them.


"Here," Shiro directed Lance to sit.


Lance stilled for just a moment. Across from him, Keith slid in to a seat directly at Shiro’s right and to his left—first was seated Lance.


Ever since Lance had been small—that had always been his sister’s place, next to his father. It felt wrong even as his limbs robotically slid in to sit. The only easing, was as he sat, Shiro pressed in another loving kiss over Lance’s cheek marking. Eyes cast around—apparently it wasn’t considered out of place. Such a display would have been considered gaudy in the Altean courts.


Shiro took his own seat as the head of the table of course. And as was expected the first course was served.


Lance jerked his head as the first thing— he was poured a very deep glass of wine. He blinked at it several times. Alcohol was not something he was accustomed to having first thing in a meal.


But around him—drinks were already being passed around. Keith was already smiling as he took a drink of something dark out of a tall glass. Everyone was talking even a few ramcuciously.


"Would you prefer something else, Your Highness?" The servant at his side asked. Another—Galra, “His Majesty said you preferred rose.”


Startled, Lance looked up. "Uh-" he looked down at the full wine glass. "No. This—this is lovely, thank you!"


Lance took the stem of the glass to raise it to his lips.


This—was no longer Altea. Scanning the room, Lance breathed out slow. There were new rules to this game—but he’d just learned there was a chance he might be able to play it well.




 



Quickly Lance became aware the room was filled with possibly as many people he did know than as he didn’t. He’d filled his court quickly. Broad men with deep voices and deeper purplish skin tones all sat around Lance. They all seemed—so many didn’t even look like they were ever related to Alteans. Some had fur and sharp large ears, others had scales littered over their skin. Some markings across their faces were white or greys while many of the others were dark and vivid reds, color that ran deep. There was not a quiet one among them. Or a sober one, Lance was quickly learning as a servant had already asked him twice if the wine was okay. Lance realized most of the men at the table were well past a second or third glass. Many of them were already making small bets on games and what looked like a drinking game was already under way at the far end of the table.


Watching them, Lance kept glancing to Shiro. Deep drinking men that delighted in their spoils of war... Facets that fascinated Lance before were finally falling into place. Even now as he looked at Shiro—his features... they all fit in here. His square chin, dark marks, all of it. It fit in so well. He took a long drink from a thick bottomed glass as he talked with Keith. He looked comfortable. Lance blinked as Shiro finally caught his eye.


He was still handsome to Lance, and it felt nearly devastating to admit.


Jerking his head to look down Lance knew he was already frowning, his lips possibly trembling. He just—Shiro had told him it was so unexpected to love him—and it all made too much sense.


"Your name is Lance?"


The voice was so deep it was nearly a grating growl.


It snapped Lance’s attention up to the man seated next to him.


For the first time in his life, Lance’s mouth stalled on a reply.


The Galra tilted his head at the pause. “You are his Majesty’s mate, correct?”


Lance swallowed. That wasn’t all he was, and Lance’s eyes narrowed. This was his home. He was so close to another breakdown. He was being caged and put on display in his own fucking home. And these men were destroying it.


Lance face stilled. "Prince Lance." He insisted, chin tipped up.


The man addressing him didn’t give an answer as he looked at Lance. He looked nearly nothing like an Altean, his large ears and soft pastel coloring nowhere near familiar. Is this what exile did? Did it warp men into beasts like this?


"I don’t see a crown," another man farther down boasted as he cackled out a laugh.


Lance’s gaze fixed to the voice. This one only had one eye, and he—out of so many he was the least familiar. He had fur and a red biomatronic eye replacement and his face had no markings as laughed at Lance. Lance nearly sneered. A lowborn, no doubt and a mouthy one at that.


"Sendak," Keith’s rumble of an Alpha tone across from Lance brought the conversations all around to more of a grinding halt.


Shiro’s attention had been tipped as well, and even as he spoke to someone else his gaze shifted and Lance didn’t miss the way Shiro’s arm extended at the arm rests of his chair, his hand resting not so casually over Lance’s wrist.


"He doesn’t need one." The first Galra spoke then, his postured relaxing back into his chair. "I've never seen a boy more naturally decorated in my life."


Lance lifted his chin again, gaze steady, quickly covering the widening of his eye for just one moment.


The sound ran up Lance’s spine first and he looked just as Shiro opened his mouth and smiled into the chuckle he gave.


“Lance,” Shiro turned to him and for half a second their eyes met.


Lances mouth tightened. That ass. He— just right after Lance had corrected the Galra addressing him, Shiro was turning it around.


He wasn’t a servant.


But he couldn’t correct a King.


"This is Kolivan," Shiro gestured. "He’s my head of council and War advisor." Shiro gestured farther back, "and that is Sendak, one of my commanders."


Lance looked back to Kolivan. He was a well built man with a hard face and an unreadable expression.


From across the table, Lance could see Keith, his gaze slashed from Lance to Kolivan in a way Lance couldn’t misread.


So with a deep inhale Lance turned.


"Councilman," he bowed his head in what he hoped was a satisfactory way.


"Your silver spoon fed brat seems a bit stiff," Sendak commented.


Lance forced in another deep inhale. His hands fisted on the table but he didn’t move.