Two Shadows Went, Chapter 22

Lance closed his eyes, he knew that morning was a penance gift from his mate. Breakfast on the gardens terrace—Just like they used to have all too often.


Antok stood very close behind Lance, there was a set of four guards that morning waiting as Lance opened the door of the king’s chamber. The procession, Lance couldn’t decide, could be out of Shiro’s paranoia and be out of a tightening cage for Lance—though the verdict was still out.


As the doors to the gardens opened, Lance looked up—and nearly stalled where he stood.


Before him stood the Blue Lion. Facing the grand steps of the palace, she was exactly where Lance had left her a few weeks prior. His eyes adjusted to the bright morning light around him and the gleam in the distance he realized as well—the temple, no, it had never been a temple. The Castle of Lions sat where it had been left as well. An Altean warship standing proud in the middle of what was quickly becoming a Galra empire.


"They can’t move,"


Lance turned from where he stood at the stone railing of the terrace. He didn’t remember drifting closer though, entranced by his beautiful Blue, Lance wasn’t surprised. He turned slow as he heard the foreign voice.


Sandy brown hair, a bit messy and a bit too long, slight build and bright eyes behind spectacles that looked quite familiar.


Lance side stepped to have a closer look.


"Your Highness," the boy crooked a smirking smile as he swept into a bow. “You are as lovely as they say--I almost mistook you for a morning lilly.”


Lance tipped his head. Who was this?


"Don’t do stuff like that! You’re embarrassing."


That was a very familiar voice. Lance looked over just as Pidge stepped closer.


Immediately it was recognizable, and Lance’s hand dropped to his side as he turned.


"You’ll give him a fat head," Pidge monotoned as she stepped up closer.


Lance glanced back between them. The boy was much taller but had the same sandy hair, same eyes and—


Lance tilted his head.


The boy shrugged Pidge off as he stepped closer to Lance. He strode forward confidently as he extended a hand to shake. "It is truly an honor—"


Long, jagged black spears slammed into the stone, crossing before Lance, and between the boy and Lance, Lance’s guards responsible, looked straight through black helmets to the boy and Antok stepped forward from behind, broad shoulders held up and a hand at his sword.


The boy gave an awkward sort of drop of his hand before he stepped back. "Right, well then I’ll just greet you from here—about twelve feet away. That’s a normal distance to have a conversation,"


Lance huffed out a single laugh. He was snarky.


"Moron," Pidge rolled her eyes as she stepped closer. "He’s the last royal family member of Altea," She crossed her arms as she came forward as well. "I don’t think Shiro is going to let any one within ten feet of him."


Lance made an expression to accompany his shrug. She wasn’t wrong after all.


The guy cracked a smile. "Well, I tried."


Pidge turned to Lance then and for once—


Lance tipped his head to her. She was smiling. Not her usual smirk. Not a look of devilish glee. No, it was a sincere smile.


"May I introduce to you, Your Highness," She gestured with a hand to the tall boy next to her. "My big goofy brother—Matthew."




 



It took a moment before Lance looked up and it all clicked in.


That— Lance nearly stepped back to the railing again.


"I’m sorry," he held up a hand. "Shiro—my husband, said you were dead." Lance had to be sure after all. And formal. He was working on formal. If he really was going to do it to Shiro as his ally then he needed the palace to see him a certain way.


Matt made a face. "Figures." He gave a dramatic sigh. "He’s always pretending I’m dead so he can galavant off and save his people from utter exile—blah blah blah!" He cracked his own smile at the end though, and it was a fond one.


"I thought he was dead too," Pidge looked up. Her eyes shifted over her brother with such—wonder, amazement, admiration. "Shiro told me not to lose faith—but I never thought..." she beamed with light as she looked up at her brother.


Suddenly so much clicked into place. Lance tipped his head to the smaller green Paladin—she was still the Green Paladin. Her armor was still polished. Her emblem at her chest was still visible. If anything—Lance looked to Matt—she had been rewarded for her loyalty.


When Pidge looked back to Lance she looked—full, she smiled so easily and her eyes were so big as she commented. "His Majesty brought—so many people home."


That—was hard to swallow. Lance’s chin lifted. Brought them home? He’d slaughtered hundreds, he’d ransacked the very palace they stood in, he’d torn Lance’s family to shreds, he’d imprisoned goddess only knew how many people and he’d made it clear he’d burn King Alfor’s legacy to the ground—and yet, Lance’s lips pressed into a trembling line to contain himself. Shiro was their savior. He set a world ablaze just to bring people home? That wasn’t—how could they see it like that?


Lance nodded as he averted his gaze, his jaw tight and his breathing tense he nearly gagged. That was so—


"Your Highness," Antok leaned down, his helmeted head tipped as he inquired.


Lance raised a smile to his lips. He hoped it didn’t look as hopelessly fake as it felt. He locked a glance to his personal guard, before turning to look at the newest Holt family member.


"You got him off that ship?" Lance asked as he pulled in a full breath. "The one where he lost his arm, the stranded ship wreck?” He almost said the one that had gotten them captured by Galra, but Lance highly doubted that detail at that point.


Matt gave his own tilt of his head. "He told you about that?"


"He’s my life bond mate. We don’t have many secrets." Except for the kind that gets Lance’s family imprisoned or dead, but who was counting at that point?


For a second it didn’t look like Matt was going "I found a way to open the connection up—but it was Shiro that got us out, he knew Galra, and he called for help."


"Of course," Lance glanced to Antok behind him. That segment of the story had already been filled in.


"But that’s not where Shiro lost an arm," Matt cracked a smile.


Lance looked up.


"He lost it becoming Kon." Matt said simply.


"Of course," Lance tipped his head, trying to appear unsurprised.


He glanced back at Antok still though. Always there seemed to be another layer of secrets and lies. Wonderful.


“Your highness,” it was a thickly accented servant that stepped up then. “Lunch is served.”


“Of course,” Lance gave a brisk nod and a sincere smile. “Thank you.”


More Galra, Lance didn’t doubt it. He couldn’t say he had the same pallette for the deeply spicy food Shiro’s new rule seemed to bring with him. Everything was heavy and rich, dark colors with distinct smells that immediately were noticeable. It was entirely different from the light, fruit heavy diet Lance had grown up on.


The meal was being laid out at a table at the other end of the terrace still though and Lance had no desire to starve. It's not like it would do any good—Shiro likely wouldn’t hesitate to have Antok see to Lance eating or worst come to worst, hook him up to receive nutrients intravenously. So as lovely as that sounded, if Lance was going to remain alive he might as well enjoy a meal.


He took one last long look over to his beloved Blue.


“She hasn’t moved,”


Pidge had already skipped to the food, but Matt still stood where he was.


Lance glanced back to him.


His eyes yes were narrow this time as he watched Lance. “You royals are rather clever.”


Lance didn’t comment.


Matt jutted his chin to the Castle of Lions in the distance. “They might as well be statues, we can't get them to even open up for us.”


Lance raised his chin. “They were forged by us.” He gave a shrug. “So the door’s simply been locked on our way out.”


“All locks have weaknesses, all of them have keys even if its unconventional.” Matt gave a cheery smile and a chuckle. “That’s why I’m here.”


Lance didn’t speak again. His own brow lowered and he stilled.


That mischievous look was back in the gleam of Matt's eye as he watched Lance. “You wouldn’t happen to know the key would you?”


“Why would I know?” Lance gave a shrug. “I’m just the Second Prince, I never even knew that place could move before it did.”


“Ohh,” Matt laughed. “That we both know isn’t true!”


Lance glanced back to his lion. He wondered if he’d ever be allowed to enter her again. It seemed like a distant dream at that point. Lance was already afraid he’d lose her.


“What about all of you is so special?” Matt crossed his arms, a finger held at his lips as if he were contemplating.


Matt slid a step closer. “We’ve already tried your sister’s blood—and nothing, no bells, no whistles, just statues still.”


Lance shot ramrod straight. He knew his eyes widened, but he stayed still.


“And I have considered,” Matt said matter of fact, “trying yours but I’m pretty sure—“


He went to take a step closer only to taste the bite of a spear slammed back before Lance. Matt stepped back away with a shrug. “Shiro is just being a bit irrational when it comes to you.”


Lance didn’t comment. He knew what he wanted to say. He wanted to snap and snarl. If Matt thought for a second Lance was going to spill his soul on the last remaining monuments of his father he was an idiot. And Lance highly doubted Shiro would keep anyone that stupid around.


“You know I heard you were sooo chatty!” Matt still wore a smile. “Though it seems to be me carrying this conversation. “


“Revolutions will do that,” Lance hummed. He didn’t move. His muscles locked, and his gaze never faltered.


“Revolution seems to have done a lot.”


Lance tried to smooth his reaction, giving what he hoped would be an easy shrug. “It only destroyed my family.” He cracked his own bitter smile.


Matt laughed that time, full on laughed. “Oh that happened long before,” when he looked back to focus on Lance he didn’t look the least bit cheery. “We both know that is a lie. Your family was destroyed the second Alfor stabbed his loving wife over the altar of that ship in exchange for power.”


It was like the aftershock of a bomb. Of course Lance shouldn’t have counted on any man around him to sugar coat the events that had taken place, that had steered Lances life irrevocably. But a part of him—he took a deep breath. The sins of the past—Lance knew Shiro’s disdain for his father, and he had to believe—that wouldn’t happen to him.


“I can’t help you,” Lance finally settled on, hoping the dismissiveness in his tone was noticeably present.


Matt shrugged, “Well worth a try!”


As he finally turned away following after his sister, Lance let out a long breath.


“Your Highness,” Antok sounded agitated.


Lance raised his hand to his personal guards forearm. “I’m fine, Antok.”


His guard was leaning over him, and Lance resolved that he wasn’t going anywhere without Antok from then on. If he was anxious on Lance’s behalf he’d be a good asset to Lance. Lance needed those.


“Let's go join our guests for lunch,” Lance said after a deep breath. “We were invited here after all.”


“Alright, Your Highness,” Antok straightened as he stepped back away, giving Lance space.


As Lance approached the table his five people accompaniment fanned out behind him as Lance chose a place to sit.


He stilled though as he looked down.


Moon peach buns...


Those were his favorite.


“Is there something wrong, Your Highness?” The same servant as before approached with an eager expression.


Lances fingers graced over the small bun lifting it.


The servant seemed to hesitate . “His Majesty said you enjoyed those, I tried very hard to replicate it.”


“It’s perfect,” Lance cut in, looking to the servant. “It’s completely perfect.”


The servant smiled. “Let me know if there’s anything I can improve upon, Your Highness.”


Lance didn’t bother with most of the food on the table. The first bite he took of the moon bun was amazing. It was spiced differently, but Lance didn’t care. It was perfect.


Lance ate it without comment as the siblings chatted on. He was pretty certain at that point Shiro probably would simply send a platter of sweets with apology of his absence, but Lance couldn’t find it in him to mind. His brain still whirled with all of the new information.




 



The doors to the bedroom barely closed behind them before Lance was turning to Antok.


"How did Shiro become Kon?"


It seemed to surprise the guard. He stopped where he stood.


"Your Highness..." he sounded hesitant.


Lance charged a step forward to the guard. "My husband lost an arm while fighting for this. He won’t tell me himself so you get to educate me." Lance hissed. "How does one become a Kon?" He crossed his arms. "It’s been mentioned now several times to me, it’s not through birthright, so how do—" He wasn’t sure what to call them any more. "How do the Galra, choose their ruler?"


Antok looked uncomfortable.


Lance crossed his arms. Okay, yeah he was scrawny. But Lance was tall and he knew he may not be at eye level with Antok but he wasn’t small enough to be pushed around.


“It’s a trial,” Antok admitted.


Lance knew he looked a bit surprised. “What do you mean?”


Antok looked for a second like he wouldn’t answer, before he trailed into their sitting room. With a heavy sigh he sat in one tot the small arm chairs. It had a low back, very elegant and one of the few Altean inspired pieces left in the room.


“It’s called a Kral Zera,” Antok went on, hunching over his knees in a way that made Lance remember he was a military man first and foremost.


Lance scrambled over, taking up a perch on the edge of the polished black topped coffee table. “And it’s a trial? Where does it take place? What are the stakes?”


Antok held up his hand, “You may not want to hear the answers, your—“


“My family members are dead or in a cell dying because my husband became something I’ve never even heard of...” Lance raised his brow as he looked to Antok.


A sigh was heard before Antok reached up to pull his helmet off for once.


The long black braided mane of hair and white marked face always seemed so unfamiliar despite all the time Lance had spent with the man.


“It’s a very old tradition.”


Lance leaned closer. “From Varr?”


“From Daibazal.” Antok raised his own brow.


Right, Lance nodded. Varr was what Alteans called it. “From Daibazal.” He repeated, hoping to sound compliant and dutiful.


Antok chuckled. “You’re learning fast. You’ll fit in, very soon.”


“Yes, with caramel skin and eyes like these I’m very confident no one will notice when I slip into a room before long,” he resisted rolling his eyes.


The deep rumble of a chuckle from Antok told Lance the man took it in good humor.


“We just want you to become comfortable here,” Antok rumbled.


“I was born here,” Lance dismissed. There was no where on all Altea that Lance appreciated more as his home.


“There have been a lot of changes,” Antok tipped his head.


“Such as you trying to change the subject,” Lance bumped his way in, with a princely expression.


Caught in the act, Antok’s expression seemed to be that he’d given up.


“A Kral Zera,” Lance piped up. “It takes place on Daibazal?”


Antok gave a nod. “Though it hasn’t been in a very long time.”


“Because of the rules implemented by the royal family?” Lance kept himself distant from that statement.


“Yes,” Antok nodded. “Galra were not allowed to light the fires and raise a new Kon—" he paused and his face seemed to Change just a bit his head tipped. "Until Shiro’s Uncle lit them."


Lance sat up a bit straighter. "You told me there was no bloodline."


"I told you there was no such thing as a royal bloodline," Antok spoke with insistence.


"But there is still a lineage?" Lance pressed.


"No," Antok shook his head. "There is—" he looked like at that moment he may growl. "Oppression can make small men as tall as mountains—imagine what it could do to a family.”


Lance raised his chin. "Shiro’s uncle was the Kon that started the first revolution. The one that..." he trailed off as he realized. It was the fight that had taken his mother.


"We needed to rule ourselves," Antok reached forward and very carefully took Lance’s hand.


Lance nodded, though he looked down and away. Antok’s much larger gloved hand engulfed Lance’s completely as he gave a small squeeze before letting go.


"My father used Voltron to exile any man involved in the revolt," Lance's voice was small, but he managed the words.


"Yes," Antok rumbled.


"And Shiro’s uncle?" Lance looked up.


Antok didn’t need to speak, so even for the long moment he stayed wiliest Lance knew.


The words still seemed surprising though. "He was executed."


"By my father?" Lance knew it was redundant—he just. He still loved his father and the confrontation of the man he truly had been was something Lance wanted to face. The sooner he could conquer his father’s flaws the better.


"Shiro—"


Lance looked up. It was uncommon for Antok to address his Kon so informally.


The man looked a bit troubled, his mouth turned down in a frown. "He watched." His voice was quiet. "With Keith actually. The two boys were forced to watch."


That was—Lance’s breath caught. Keith—How was—?


"The two boys mustn’t have been very old. Once he told me his happiest memory as a child was when his uncle was proclaimed Kon—and the worst, was when he watched six men drive pikes through the same man bound on his knees." Antok moved his hand over his chin, clearly in thought. "He didn’t have a father or mother. They were victims of a cull, you see."


At what moment, Lance stopped breathing was a mystery. He knew his eyes were wide as he sat at the edge of the table.


"A cull?" He knew—but a part of him just wanted—he needed to know for sure what that meant.


Antok’s gave him a long look. Possibly waiting for Lance to rescind the question.


He didn’t.


"Your grandfather, just before his rule was ended—he felt the Galra population on Daibazal needed to be thinned." Antok gave a sigh. "It was the first mass exodus of the Galra to space—fleeing to escape certain death. Those that stayed, those that believed Altea wouldn’t do it—their population was nearly halved."


Lance swallowed. He’d never met his grandfather. All Lance knew was his grandfather had had Alfor very late in life, his only son and only heir, Lance had no immediate cousins because of it. Alfor had very rarely spoken of his father as well and seemed to have spent most of his kingship dismantling the systems his father set in place.


"Unfortunately," Antok continued. "It was that cull, that launched Alfor’s rule into rebellion—and the raising of a Kon."


A cull... a slaughter... Lance felt like his mouth was drying.


In comparison—was slowly poisoning a king worse? Lance shook his head as he looked away, his hand lifting to his cheek. He wasn’t sure anymore. Was revenge for an entire race really that reproachable?


But then again...


"Altea needs its moons," Lance could still hear his father's voice in his head.


Without Varr or Mai, Altea would be entirely uninhabitable.


Antok’s face seemed to sober. "Daibazal is not a colony."


"So you waged war for control of your parent planet?" Lance hissed. But—he hurt. His breath felt hollow and his insides constricted. What had all of that even been for?


That got hims a sharp look. "We waged war to determine our own future!" Antok’s voice boomed through the room.


There was a long awkward silent moment. Lance didn’t look up from the floor, afraid he would only sneer at Antok. The man was only at Lances side constantly. It wouldn’t be advantageous for Lance to start a budding resentment between them.


So when Lance finally felt composed enough to keep his voice level he asked on. "If it’s not passed on through blood, how did Shiro become a Kon?"


There was another pause, long enough Lance looked up to see Antok’s somber face.


"He fought for it."


"It’s a bar brawl then?" Lance gave his own mirthless laugh.


Antok’s laugh though was not mirthless as he cracked a grin. "You’re not far off."


The tip of Lance’s head must have been question enough.


Antok leaned forward motioning as he spoke. "There is a place, very old on Daibazal, where there is a great pit in the ground, it is at the foot of a great tall set of stairs. One must take a flame from the pit all the way up to a prier at the top of the stairs—the man to make it, and light the prier is raised as Kon, the strongest, bravest, and most clever amongst us."


And Shiro did that.


Lance glanced to the door though. He breathed out slow as his gaze shifted and he looked back to Antok.


"Those men—" Lance spoke soft. "His council—they were his contenders, weren’t they?"


Antok looked—impressed. His head tipping up, he gave a nod. "Yes. The fight with Sendak alone—Sendak took Shiro’s arm, in turn Shiro paid him back, with a slash out to his eye as well. Shiro’s fight with Kollivan on the steps, was only with one arm as well. The man defied belief when he stood at the top."


Lances brow creased. "How does this not equal in warring factions?" He gestured wildly. “They all just conform once a Kon is chosen?"


"Yes,’ Antok nodded. "Contenders may garner support, but they will follow their Kon in the end. Because of his family, his Majesty had a legacy and he had plenty of support for it. And as an Alpha Prime there was little question that he was fit.’"


Lance huffed. It was a world he completely did not understand.


The lightest touch on Lance’s hand by Antok brought his attention back up from the floor.


"You should be proud." Antok seemed to be trying to reassure Lance. "What he did was very brave, and very hard."


Lance huffed out a laugh. Yeah. Lance didn’t doubt it was hard. Though—was it? Was it hard when Shiro had set Lance’s own men against him? Was it hard when he had charged his sister over and over again in the gardens? Had it really been hard when he organized the death of a nation?


The door was clicking open then, Lance could already hear the sound of council men and Shiro’s booming voice in their foray.


It was Rax again. Lance had no desire to talk to that man.


Standing, Lance stepped forward to his still seated guard. Platonically, he placed his hands over the black mane of hair and graced a small kiss to Antok’s head.


"Thank you," he murmured. It was information he doubted he would have been able to get from anyone else without having it tossed in his face.


Antok nodded and he great hand lifted to give a gentle pat at Lance’s side.


He needed time to process though so Lance pulled away and started back to their bedroom. Antok stood and followed behind,


"Lance," Shiro entered just as Lance was leaving.


Lance looked back. His Kon struck an impressive look there. Black armor and deep rich colored fabrics.


"I’m going to bathe," Lance simply said.


Shiro gave a nod.


And whatever response he was gonna give, Lance brushed it off before he turned. Once in the split bathroom, Lance let Antok help him remove another needlessly intricate outfit. Finally with bare feet, Lance stepped out of his cloths to the bathroom tile.


Antok around him started a bath as Lance retrieved a few bottles of oil and skin care from the vanity.


"I’ll be fine," Lance spoke over his shoulder to his guard. "You can go join the others outside."


Antok gave another bow before he slipped out of the room. Lance had no doubt he would probably just take up a station next to the door.


He dipped his feet into the steering water. Hibiscus flowers and scented oils had already been dropped into the large tub. Lance slid into the water stepping down into the tub with a sigh.


Left alone finally, Lance leaned back in the bathtub.


Blue couldn’t move, the castle of lions couldn’t move—there was no telling what else was tied up—stalled with no sign of life. They’d toppled the power source without realizing they were unplugging the battery.