Two Shadows Went, Chapter 26
There was no way Lance couldn’t have known.
The crowd around thundered with roars and jeers.
Six guards stood in a square around Lance, with Antok standing directly behind Lance. He was dressed again in richly adorned fabrics. The jacket—he’d insisted upon, wide sleeves, stiff triangle shape that draped over him, had been embroidered in gold, the Champion’s sigil was large and visible across Lance’s back. The high collar—at his right side was stitched in the symbol for the blue Paladin and on the right, the same side as Lance’s bond mark was stitched the symbol for the Black Paladin. And the front, understated, but brilliantly framed and still in gold, over Lance’s heart was the harsh symbol of the Kon.
He was branded, from head to two. An Altean, dressed as a Galran Prize. The prettiest Galran pet. That morning as Lance had been dressed in silence, a servant had even brushed gold across his face, highlighting his altean eye markings and even fluttered at his lashes. What a pretty picture Lance could only think as he’d caught a glimpse of himself. Shiro’s little ethereal slave. It was even pretty as Lance’s eyes narrowed at his reflection, mouth a harsh line.
Lance didn’t pause as he started down the steps descending into the Palace’s grand massive foray. His entourage was larger than those of Shiro’s councilmen. And yet they doubted him, Lance thought.
The doors were already held open and Lance stepped through, the sunlight across him was blinding for a moment but Lance was still led forward.
The massive form of the Blue Lion still overlooked the Palace steps. From the platform at their peak, Shiro stood. He wore the mantle of the black galaxy cloak, framing his shoulders, but clipped back from the modest black flight suit. He never liked to wear a crown, Lance had noticed. At most a wreath or cornet--today he wore nothing atop his head. He never had needed one though. He held himself like an Emperor.
Next to him, Keith stood in a functional but clean cut suit of black and red armor. His eyes were narrow on Lance and he uncrossed his arms as Lance approached.
Scattered around were councilman and advisors, Kollivan looked on from the edges, Sendak not far behind.
“My love,” Shiro was always generous as he leaned into peck a kiss to Lance's closed lips, his touch was gentle as he grasped Lance’s arm to steady them both.
Lance closed his eyes, his hand coming up to Shiro's face. But by the time he’d lifted his hand Shiro was already pulling away.
Shiro was already straightening and Lance didn’t look up at him.
He could tell by the way, Shiro’s hand stayed at Lance’s arm that he was nervous. His thumb stroked over the fabric and Lance breathed out.
“Take him back,” Shiro spoke soft. “Let’s place him at his Lion’s feet.”
Aw, more lovely symbols of control, Lance thought, but as Antok stepped up he didn’t say a word as he followed instructions and went to stand at the foot of his lion.
He had no idea where his bayard had ended up, it had been knocked away in the fight at the Castle of Lions and Lance hadn’t seen it since. Though--it was a small comfort that neither had any of his captors either.
As Lance stood between Blue’s large paws, head raised and Guard fanned out around him--the prisoners were finally brought to the Palace steps.
“The proceedings for the trial of the former oppressive regime and supporters will now begin!” Thace’s voice rang out over the gathered masses before the steps.
And as Lance’s battered and bruised sister was finally escorted out into the square. They booed her. Lance had never seen his beloved sister booed in his entire life. And maybe before that moment he realized he'd never thought he would see it.
Oh, how the world had shifted.
The tall guards around the gathered supports of the Altean Royalty kept at bay any gathered Galra, so though they sneered and snarled and howled as Allura was brought forward, hands chained before her and feet hobbled, the nondescript white coarse cheap cloth clothing hanging off her shoulders in a way so dearly unflattering, no one was allowed close enough to harm her.
Behind her, Lance recognized Coran, and four council members--
Lance cocked his head.
He’d always thought they had abandoned them. Looking at the four Altean council members standing behind Allura. They had been suspiciously absent, gone nearly a week before everything had happened.
They’d just assumed--the palace had thinned in occupants dramatically by the time Lance’s father had died.
...the banner men had never come.
And yet there they stood. Lance’s gaze shifted to his Kon. What if they never came--because Shiro had already asked for their loyalty? And an answer of no had earned them imprisonment?
When Lance looked back to his sister, she was already being led up the steps to file out before the Kon and above the crowd.
Thace directed the guards, and once those on trial all stood an equal distance apart, the guards pushed them down to their knees. Most stumbled, their hobbled feet causing them to fall. Allura did her best, descending in a more fluid way, her hands fisted before her, and her chin up. Lance pressed his jaw clenched tight shut, in hopes he didn’t say anything, his eyes glued on the scene.
He was there as an example, he realized as his eyes swept the scene. The good little Altean, dressed as a Galra and stitched up as their patron of what a subjugate royal should appear had been put on display for everyone to witness.
Should he have fought harder, Lance asked himself. In every moment leading up to that point, should he have given it the same effort his sister had? Kicking and screaming oaths to kill Shiro every step of the way, should he have tried his best to instead of placating a king, to enrage him?
Lance’s eyes slipped to his sister. Kicking and screaming had only earner her a place on her knees. Lance’s eyes narrowed. Doubting himself now wouldn't get him very far.
“All of you have been imprisoned and now stand before your Kon for the crimes of treason, and tyranny.” Thace stepped forward, his scathing voice on the verge of a snarl.
Shiro had promised Lance one thing: Exile over death.
And Lance’s breath felt like rushing wind through him as he looked to his Kon. He’d made Lance one promise, and Lance would--he didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t know if any of it would work. He had just--he would not move till he was certain.
His hands fisted at his sides. His shoulders shifting as well. He felt it in this left sleeve, the weight of the dagger held stiffer in the inner folds.
“You are here to answer for the massacres on Daibazaal, the enslavement of our people, and the banishment to the outer reaches of space of our soldiers, and countless more crimes issued by your forefathers.”
Lance’s eyes shifted to Shiro. Behind him on his right was Keith and on his left stood Kollivan. Lance couldn’t read any of their harsh expressions.
Cries from the assembled Galra could be heard, a thunderous wave of snarls and growls.
Lance glanced, is that what banishment had done to them, eeking out a living in the endless blackness of space? He’d seen the differences between them, the reptilian and cat like ways they moved and their skin in shades most Alteans seemed to shy away from. Lance wondered at what point they had shifted their bodies like that? When had they been adopting fur so long, it seemed unnatural not to have?
Lances mouth closed again, his jaw clenched. Thace wasn’t incorrect. Lance’s Grandfather had done that to them, had twisted a race to the point their chanting war cries had become ever present in Altean culture. But were they war cries? If Lance had been thrown into space, after watching his people die--wouldn’t he do everything to get back home?
His eyes shifted to Shiro again.
They had done everything. War after war, and they’d resorted to this, this moment, strangling Altea to take control of their own future.
Lance’s head bowed as he heard Thace speak again.
“You will be subject to your new Kon’s judgement.” Thace nearly sounded bloodthirsty at that point.
“One Promise,” Lance closed his eyes as he whispered to himself.
He just needed Shiro to come through on one promise. He’d bow to Shiro the rest of his life, he’d go to his knees forever, no questions asked just so long as he gave him one promise.
Lance heard the rustle of Antok’s armor as the man looked down. His helmet’s luminous perfect circular eyes, so inhuman stared down at Lance for a moment, his head tipping.
But before them, Shiro stepped forward.
“I will let my council make their opinion in this matter known,” Shiro said, his eyes forward as he looked over Allura.
Her jaw ground, Lance could see. She was biting at the bit to speak, but Lance already knew there would be little chance that would happen. Thace had already laid out sins not even committed by Lance’s sister dangling them over her head. A plea Lance was certain wouldn’t do much.
He knew. He’d tried.
“The rule of a new era has dawned and the old bloodsoaked and vicious kindred should not be permitted to remain a part of it.” Kollivan’s voice thundered from behind Shiro. His words were spoken calmly. “We can not raise a new empire until the judgement of the old has been fairly distributed.”
They wanted his sister dead. She would hold the sins of Altea on her shoulders--and she would die for them.
Lance sucked in a controlled breath. Antok was watching him, Lance could tell from the way the man shifted and his armor creaked.
As carefully as Lance could he brought his hand up under the jacket, reaching in carefully and slowly to the inseam. His fingers wrapped around the hilt of the dagger.
He’d give Shiro every chance to come through on his promise.
If Kolivan’s words held any sway over Shiro there was no hint of it in his carefully crafted expression.
Shiro took several steps forward this time.
Allura’s eyes widened, she was enraged as the new King stood before her. Though Lance was sure if she opened her mouth the guard behind would only deal her a blow for the further disrespect.
“Your regime has nearly annihilated the will and even the lives of our race.” Shiro spoke in a level tone, though through the silence of the square it could be clearly heard. “You took our will away--and I don’t wish for that to be your final moment in turn.”
Lance’s chest heaved under the layers of his clothing.
Was he coming through for him?
Would Shiro really do as he’d promised?
“Will you subjugate and swear allegiance?” Shiro asked.
Lance felt like blinking was too long to keep his eyes off of the scene before him. His breath too much of a distraction as he wished and prayed to any god or goddess listening, he just needed one promise to hold true.
But given the opportunity to speak, Allura’s chin jutted. “I am Allura, Queen of Altea and the colonies therein-” The force at which Keith struck across her face was enough to send her to the stone.
Her arms shook as she reached out to steady herself, head bowed for the first time.
Lance’s breath completely stopped.
Shiro pulled himself into a straight-backed, militaristic stance, his own jaw clenched. “So be it, the old regime shall die.”
The guards, one standing behind each of the accused all as one pulled forth their swords.
And at the same moment Lance pulled forth his own weapon.
Antok, ready for Lance to lurch stole forward--
But Lance never intended to lunged forward. He’d never have gotten far that way. Because even as he’d wept and cried and begged his Kon, he’d still watched innocence die.
And he wouldn't repeat the same mistake again.
He didn’t know if it would work. He wasn’t even sure if his hunch was right, if he’d managed to do anything.
But it was all he could do.
Lance grasped the blade of the dagger with his other hand, and ripped the jagged Galran blade through his palm.
Blood spilt across the white stones they stood on as Lance circumvented his guard to the foot of the Blue lion.
His blood slicked hand pressed over the Lion’s white leg.
And for a moment nothing happened.
Lance brought his hand away, blinking at the blood smeared print of his hand. Maybe he’d been wrong… He just--he’d thought it may be literal….
Then, overhead, the Blue Lion’s eyes lit up, and a roar echoed over the Palace steps.