Two Shadows Went, Chapter 17
Updated: Apr 13, 2019
The morning rose with a red sun in the distance. Lance had watched as he dressed in his fine clothing, linking in silver cufflinks to match his silver circlet over his brow. He slipped the Blue Bayard in at his hips, planning on training later in the afternoon with Keith. In deep blues and accenting gold and silver, Lance had made his way to his father’s chambers.
It wasn’t till around mid-day that Lance realized — he wouldn’t be going to train with Keith that day.
“Retrieve my sister.” Lance said to a servant as lunch was served around them to his father and the gathered few that fleeted in and out.
It was more than usual. Servants were nearly frantic as they attended to the diminishing man in the white linens of the bed. The forlorn thought occurred that he doubted they had ever attended to the death of a king.
“Your highness,” The servant gave a deep bow before backing away.
Lance grabbed at the servant’s sleeve, stopping them before they could step away. “Tell her—she needs to come now. Not when her meetings are done. Her duties don’t matter right now, she needs to come as soon as she can.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” The servant gave another duck into a bow. Once freed, they fleeted past the armed guard and through the folds of draper.
Lance nodded before he turned back to his father.
He looked—frail, small, all the marks of a man slowly dwindling away, Lance had never imagined of this father. And his expression only fell further as his father erupted into another coughing fit. Servants huddled closer, but the clothes that came away were still brightly speckled with red.
“It will be an easy passing,” Coran stepped up to Lance.
Lance looked over at the loyal manservant. He’d attended to kings before them, his entire family had served the bloodline it seemed since the dawn of time.
Lance gave a nod, not sure what to say.
“Take lunch, your highness?” Coran offered.
Lance looked at the small lunch that was offered to him.
“You’ll be the one still here,” Coran spoke softly to Lance as he offered the small sandwich closer. “You will need your strength.”
He was right.
If Lance deprived himself now— Lance took half of the sandwich.
The small smile of victory on Coran’s face was payment enough as Coran set the plate down on a side table near Lance and returned to expertly conducting the servants around them.
The room was covered in drapery, keeping the room warm and secluded. Lance carefully stepped back forward.
Any other day — Lance looked at his father’s untouched soup near him. Another day and Lance would have urged his father into eating as well but— Lance looked at his sunken and pale face. He finished off his own half sandwich quickly. There wasn’t a lot of time left that he had to spend with his father.
It didn’t matter any longer, Lance mused as he moved back to his father’s bedside, shooing away a servant as he slid back into the small chair he placed at his father’s bedside earlier that day.
“I hope you will forgive me,”
Lance turned to his father with wide eyes. He hadn’t expected that as an opener.
His father’s voice was low, so very shallow and low. But his bright blue eyes were on Lance.
“I wish I could go back—It was just…” Alfor’s voice trailed off. “You will never understand what—what was at stake.”
Lance tipped his head as he drifted closer to his father. “It’s alright,” Lance urged. “I love Shiro.” He smiled, “I will never hold our union against you.”
When his father looked at him, Lance could barely see much of the man he’d grown up with. His smooth face was creased with wrinkles, his hair of silver-starlight had faded and dimmed. “My dear Lance,” he spoke so quiet.
Lance reached forward across the bed. “I’m here.” And he wouldn’t leave, not till the very end.
“I need to explain,” His father said desperately then, grasping across the covers to Lance’s hands. His grip was fierce like the last struggling grab from beyond the brink.
Lance nearly froze, the hair standing on end at his neck, but he sat there, grasping his father’s hands. “It’s alright—“ He adjusted then, sliding form the chair to the side of the bed, the mattress dipping as he sat a the expanse to better reaches father.
“It’s not.” His father cut him off. He struggled for breath. “The lions wouldn’t wake. We pleaded with the goddess, and they still wouldn’t wake.”
Lance cocked his head, unsure at his father’s words as he sat there.
“No matter what we did they wouldn’t wake,” Alfor shook his head. “And there was no way—“
They—What? Lance’s brow creased.
“Varr was picking a new Kon — they were forbidden from doing that, they knew. But they still lit the priers on Varr and made the call, they challenged the bloodline and raised the banners for a new Kon.” Alfor’s face went tense his jaw grinding away at his teeth. “They aren’t like us. They don’t have a blood right succession! They were never meant to rule. They know it, those dark marks are proof enough.” Suddenly Alfor broke into a coughing fit.
Servants, though a few were just as enraptured with the Kings words, pitched forward. Lance took an offered crisp handkerchief offered from a small servant. Lance nearly hesitated though as he saw the way she averted her eyes. Her eye markings—a deep dark fusia. She was Varrian. Lance blinked rapidly, this was no time to stall out and he offered the handkerchief to his father. As his father clutched the handkerchief to his mouth, coughing into it, Lance glanced at the servant again. Her eyes raised just slightly to Lance.
Lance didn’t look away. Shiro’s eye markings were just a shade or so darker, a deep purple at the tips of his cheeks. He nodded to her in dismissal and she quickly turned away.
“What are you saying?” Lance turned back to his father. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear.
A part of him — there was a reason Shiro had always been sneered at when he entered a room. Varr was the harsh nation known for constant turmoil and rebellion.
Suddenly conscious of their situation, Lance looked around. A few guards men stood a few feet away and a group of acolytes were nearby but they were circled around out of earshot, talking amongst themselves in hushed tones. All wore dark black floor-length robes. The servants in the room were mostly looking away. Lance had no doubt they were listening. Everyone was always listening when one of the royal bloodline spoke. But they wouldn’t give a tell to it.
As his father dropped the handkerchief, he clutched forward to Lance’s hand. It started Lance’s gaze forward.
So close, his father spoke quieter. “They were going to usurp our family.” He shook his head. “and I couldn’t let it happen. We wouldn’t be forced into their war chants.”
Lance’s eyes shot across his father’s face. The room was so quiet. Lance felt fragile in that moment as he looked over his father. “What—“ Lance tipped his head away from his father just slightly. He couldn’t have kept the look of mixed disgust and disbelief from his face. “You should have let them go.” He whispered.
If history had proven anything it was that Varrians were not Alteans—and they didn’t want to be Alteans.
Alfor shook his head. “There is no way,” He looked very sad at that moment. “Varr is a moon of Altea. They could never operate without consequence on Altea, not so close—they understand, they know they must subjugate. Neither of our planets would survive without the other.”
Lance pressed his mouth together. Alfor was right, without either of the two moons holding Altea at such a distance from their sun, at the gravitational pull, neither would survive. They were bound together. Polar opposites and their fates were stitched together.
Alfor’s eyes on Lance were so tired. “The lions were all we had.”
Like rain, all trickling in to one collected drain it started to piece together for Lance. He tilted his head to his father.
“Why are they still awake?” Lance asked aloud, his face held as expressionless as he could. “Why are the lions no longer kept at that temple?”
“The lions—“ Alfor’s voice was stalled. His brow drawn in. It looked like it was possibly the first time—like he’d never had to say it before. “We knew—I knew there was a way to give them a life-force.”
His eyes grew wide as ever small droplet started to run together and he realized—
“The royal bloodline doesn’t just carry succession—“ Alfor’s head shook slowly. There was something distant in his eyes—something…
Lance sucked in breath as he realized—it was fear.
“The goddess blessed our line.” Alfor swallowed and his eyes shifted up to look at the silver circlet at Lances brow.
“Father,” Lance breathed.
“I never thought—“ Alfor shook his head. “There just—the line has so few true heirs left. The goddess blood only shows in so few of us now."
Lance swallowed thickly. “What are you saying?” He raised his chin, his back straightening.
“There was power in her veins." Alfor’s eyes searched over Lance. "She had the mark down her back."
Lance breathed slow and his hand came up to the silver and sapphire circlet on his brow.
“..father,” Lance managed again past the cloying in his throat.
“They made me put that on your head.” Alfor suddenly said, his voice rattled with each word, barely coming to his lips. “I begged them,” His head shook again, nearly frantic. “I’d already given one." He looked desperate. "and they already knew. I would have hidden it if I could have, if I had known it would have ever come to it — I would have done anything to hide it if I could. To claim the line had ended with her."
Lance saw his reflection in his father’s eyes then, as his eyes watered Lance could see himself. He could see his own fear shaking through him at that moment.
“There—“ Alfor’s breath was labored. “There must always be one set aside—if the time came.”
Lance found he couldn’t breathe at that moment.
His father was seized then by another coughing fit. Lance caught the glimpse of red this time across the handkerchief clutched in his father’s hand.
Lance still felt—frostbitten. Barely able to move he wasn’t sure what to do as his father sat back, resting back into the pillows.
His cheeks were so sunken in.
Frantic suddenly, Lance pivoted as best he could and caught Coran as he stood near.
“Get Allura,” He hissed to the man, his eyes boring into him.
Coran looked to the king before back at Lance before he gave a swift nod. Lance made sure to watch as Coran gave a last order to a servant, before fleeting out through the folds of drapery and out of the room.
Why wasn’t she already there? She had been sent for multiple times that morning. She needed to be there. Lance looked down at the floor as he tried to process. His mind felt numb as he slowly dragged his gaze back to the bed. Where was Allura?
The acolytes were taking notice at that point. Dark robes all drifted closer to the bed. Lance glanced at them. Whatever his father had left to say, Lance wished they were alone so he could simply say it.
“Lance,” Alfor’s voice was cracked this time as his words were carried on a low shallow breath.
“It’s alright,” Lance managed. He clutched at his father’s hand tighter than ever. He swallowed, unsure he was trying to calm himself more than his father.
A part of him—his father can’t leave. He couldn’t leave Lance like this. This couldn’t happen. There was still so much—a king’s life wasn’t supposed to end like this! Lance was still—his mind was so lost at that moment. And his father was —he was leaving Lance.
“I love you,” Lance gasped as he felt his eyes watering.
“My son,” Alfor breathed again. He shook his head. “Remember what I said to you,”
It was so labored. Each breath was like the great heave of a mountain before — an exhale so deep Lance nearly heard the rattle in his father’s chest.
Lance felt his eyes well as he nodded. Right what his father said. “The temple,” Lance mouthed to his father.
The slightest of nods was given.
Around them long willow black robes capped with long white masks seemed to close in around them.
Lance pushed in closer to his father, bringing his hand to his lips. “I forgive you,” Lance gasped.
He wasn’t sure if it was true. He couldn’t tell it was just—at that moment it felt like what his father needed to hear. And Lance would give anything his father needed in that moment. Even if it was simply on his last breath he was reaching out to Lance. Even if it was the last possible moment—he was till trying to save his son. Lance felt as tears streaked from his eyes. It was enough.
Time-stopped, as Alfor's tired eyes slowly closed. Those bright crystalline eyes watched Lance so steadily as slowly the lids lowered—and Lance nearly gasped out a cry as they finally sealed shut.
Lance gasped for air as his father stilled, his efforts to hold back tears in despair as he watched his father’s light slow dim before —
With one last exhale… he was gone.
Lance didn’t need to lift his finger to his father’s pulse or to feel for a breath, he knew as his father stilled over the pillows and his fingers in Lance’s hand went slack.
It was then more tears spilled across Lance’s face. Streaking down his face, Lance gasped for air as a sob shook through him. He clutched his father’s hand so close to his face, pressing a kiss multiple times over his father’s limp hand. He was gone. The one man Lance had always looked up to was gone.
An acolyte stepped up, with that white mask and long dark robes, there was an eerie stillness to them. It was as if the grim reaper were stooped over Lance’s father, dipping in to collect his soul and fairy it to the afterlife. Instead, they pressed a slender hand to the King’s neck. They straightened a moment later and looked back to the foot of the bed, before giving a nod.
“And so ends the reign of the tyrant.”
At the foot of the bed, Honerva stood proud as she looked over the dead king.
Lance lifted his head, the words from the acolyte rang in his ears. His head jerked then, the small servant still stood at the side of the bed.
“What is a Kon?” Lance suddenly said to her.
Her head jerked up. Dark hair, dark eyes in the same almond shape—the same almond shape of both Shiro and Keith. She seemed taken back.
“Tell me,” Lance pressed as he released his father’s hand for the first time, smoothing it over the bed.
“Your Highness,” the young girl whispered.
Around the bed, Acolytes were starting to arrange themselves. Lance stood and charged the girl. He was at the very least taller than her.
“What is a Kon?” Lance repeated.
The girl looked up at Lance with wide eyes.
A part of him—Lance already knew. But without—he needed to hear the words.
Lance grabbed out at her, taking her arm and stopping her from retreating from him. He needed an answer.
“King,” She suddenly breathed, so quiet, so small.
Lance’s eyes narrowed.
“They’ve chosen again.” Lance grit his teeth.
It wasn’t a question, but the small servant still ducked her head. “He was called the Champion.”
…they called me their blood-christened Champion.
Lance nearly lost his breath. He released the girl as the memory ran through his mind, the warm water, Shiro so close to him—he’d told him then. He’d told Lance—when there was still so much time, so much he could have done.
Had that been a thrill to him? Lance looked down at his empty hands. Had so much of this—been just…?
He could have stopped so much so long ago. Lance looked back to his father’s bed. The black-robed figures all circled him, casting her shadows over him.
The witch — Lance realized. The witch was smiling as she looked over the bed.
“He’s dead.” She repeated gleefully as she looked to Lance. Her golden eyes flicked to focus on him.
At that moment—the room in its entirety came into focus for Lance. Black, long robes all surrounded him. Long, white masks all looked on at the king and back to Lance — they’d been there for days. Lance’s head ticked to the door before his eyes widened.
It wasn’t the deep blue of royal guards standing there.
There was more black, black armor and black, long cloaks hanging down from tall and broad men standing at the door.
“Honerva.” Lance spoke softly. His hand was already at his waist, already reaching of the Blue Bayard.
Honerva face turned to him. “My dear nephew,” She smiled as she looked to him.
That was— Lances chin raised. His eyes widened a fraction.
She could be lying. There was nothing this woman probably wouldn’t lie about.
Lance’s head ticked to the side.
“You are so very similar to my sister.” Honerva still smiled at him.
The nod Lance gave was slow.
Of course, his mother.
The room’s silence made Lance evermore uneasy. His bones felt stiff even as he looked around. The servants—they were all huddled and backing away.
“I need to send word,” Lance said very carefully as he stepped towards the door. Immediately he was blocked as a tall guard stepped forward, a long pike blocking his path. “My sister needs to be notified of her ascension.”
“I’m afraid you can’t,” Honerva spoke.
Lance considered as she spoke. Looking over the men blocking his path.
“It’s been requested that you remain here.” Honerva went on. “And I agree, it is what’s best for your safety, Your Highness. As your father has made clear, there has been a gift in your veins and there’s not—“
Lance’s hand on his Bayard struck out, the great broadsword flashed into striking across the black clad guard’s face. There was a scream from the servants, but Lance was already stealing forward.
The stunned moment in the room was perfect for Lance to side-step past the second guard and fight his way through the folds of drapery into his father’s vast chambers. They should have had a second set of guards posted at the double doors.
But they didn’t.
So wasting no time, Lance’s feet pound across the polished marble floors. He reached the double doors and slid though to—
Lance realized why no guards were inside the room.
The royal guard gave a deep groan as the black armored man over his pulled his pike out of his abdomen. Littering the floor was four other bodies and three deep black armored men stood.
Lance nearly froze.
“Your Highness—“ One of the black guard’s reached to Lance.
His father’s words flashed through his mind and Lance jerked away and was propelled back into action, sittering out of the way and flinging himself into a run down the hallway.
It was just then a few royal guards appeared at the end of the hall. “Your Highness!” Their long velvet blue cloaks embroidered with the seal of the Altean Royalty was like a beckon in the long hall.
There were only four men, but that would be enough.
Lance pivoted on his toes, turning the corner of the hallway and sprinted towards them.
“Get me to the hangers” Lance hissed as he ran.
Two guards nodded and broke off, close on Lance’s heels. Two stayed behind arming to fight those in pursuit.
Any pretense of calm left him as Lance’s feet pelted him down the hallways. His mind raced, but he tried to breath and push himself through every step. The two thudding footsteps next to him was a small comfort. He had a small share of men with him. He spotted the grand court room — and Lance skidded to a halt. No. he couldn’t go that way. The guards skidded to halt as well only as Lance made up his mind and stole down a corridor that led through the very center of the palace grounds. Light poured in over Lance as he flew over the railing into the courtyard, both guards vaulting on either side as well. and sped up through the center courtyard, lush greener around him and bright white marble underfoot.
He had to get to his lion. He needed there a quickly as possible. And this time he wasn’t going to let a single guard stand in his way.
“Your highness!” Lance skied to halt as he looked back across the courtyard.
The stark sound of swords being drawn hissed on either side of Lance, and his guards both slid into a fighters stance.
But Lance knew that voice. He’d always know that voice. Across galaxies and eons—that voice ran through Lance’s veins.
Shiro — was ready. His black armor gleamed in the light as his eyes settled on Lance. At his hand was the black claymore, massive and the black metal absorbing any light.
Looking at him, Lance turned, side-stepping just enough that he could see Shiro more clearly. Both guards faced Shiro fully.
Around him, stood a regiment of black-clad guards. All of them were dressed like Shiro — for battle. All of them had their helmets drawn down, leaving eerie suits of armor to watch as Shiro advanced.
“Don’t!” Lance pulled his own Bayward, flashing it into the broadsword. His guards advanced a step ahead of Lance.
Shiro stopped just a few steps from Lance, holding his hands up. “I won’t hurt you.”
Lance’s eyes shot over Shiro, now so close. He was— so tall. And at his neck the newly formed bond mark was still under a white bandage. His hands were broad as he held them up and away so Lance could clearly see them. It was — the same man, and yet so different in the new light.
The courtyard was filled with light. The clouds over head shifted and— Shiro was bathed in golden light. Christened with a halo of pure sunlight in golden rays. His armor looked magnificent and his hair so soft as it tossed with the breeze. The sight of the ethereal display slowly lowered Lance’s sword.
“Lance,” Shiro spoke soft as he lowered his hands and stepped closer, stepping in level with Lances guards. Ever so carefully he offered out a hand. “Take my hand,” He said still so soft to Lance. His face was so—he looked not a bit different, his eyes still soft as they looked at Lance.
He looked like a king. And Lance’s eyes widened at the thought.
From the moment Lance had first met him, had gazed at him as he had walked up the steps to his own doom, Lance had thought Shiro looked like a king.
Lance’s hands fell away to hang at his sides.
He felt—like—how could this have happened? He was so close to him. And yet it had all still happened?
“How could you?” He gasped.
Shiro slid a step closer with careful precise movements. “Take my hand,” He repeated as he held his hand out to Lance again.
Lance’s hand lifted and ever so hesitantly crossed the space.
He still watched Shiro though.
“Did you kill him?” Lance asked. He needed to know.
Shiro’s face went unreadable as he drifted ever closer and his hand reached out for Lance’s. His eyes narrowed though, his gaze darkening as he looked down at Lance.
“I won’t hurt you.”
That was all the answer Lance needed as he jerked, stealing away—
Only Shiro grasped him, his hands clambering to grasp at Lance’s wrist.
“I can’t,” Lance gasped as he shook his head. “You know I can’t.”
Shiro’s gaze narrowed as he tightened his hold on Lance’s arm. His long fingers poised to splay across Lance’s wrist no doubt to yank Lance to him, willing or not.
“Get back!” The guard to Lance’s left struck forward.
And Shiro struck his arm, jerking Lance forward. Lance shrunk back though and as his sleeve ripped he jerked fully away.
The guards both lunged and Shiro snapped the closest into a hold as the other was knocked back with the black claymore.
“Lance,” Shiro breathed through a tight jaw.
“No!” Lance jerked his hand away. He shook his head as he staggered a step backwards.
He heard it first. The guard gasped as less than a mere few feet away Lance had a front row seat as Shiro slammed the Black Claymore through the man’s spine—and the obsidian massive blade struck out through his front. The sound of blood dropping to the ground was all Lance could hear for a moment.
Releasing the man, the altean’s body slumped, and fell to the courtyard stones.
Lance knew his eyes were wide as he watched his lover—he’d just watched... Shiro really had just…
Covered in blood now, the black armor gleamed even more in the sunlight, as Shiro extend his hand, bloodsoaked and dripping. “I promised you mercy,” His murmured so soft Lance doubted it was loud enough for anyone else to hear.
There was a cry before the second guard lunged. Shiro was forced to pivot and the sword struck out again, slashing through the air.
Gasping, Lance saw another rain of blood as the fully armored guards behind Shiro all moved forward this time. There was no hope of Lance’s guard and the deep blue of his royal uniform was rapidly stained red as he groaned and slumped to the ground as well.
As Shiro turned—
Lance slammed into a run again, seizing what little of the distraction he could. Shiro’s arm struck out to grab him, But Lance fumbled and pulled away, his breath shuddering out—he could feel his clothing sliding through Shiro’s fingertips. His heart pound through his chest, his body felt like he couldn’t move fast enough—and in a blink of an eye that seemed to last hours Lance was free of Shiro’s grasp. And though stealing a last glance over his shoulder, Lance pitched himself across the courtyard, running as fast as he could manage.
“Retrieve him!” It was a roaring Alpha call that struck through the courtyard, trembling through Lance’s bones.
Lance heard the movement of guards from behind himself but he didn’t stop running, sliding in through the halls of the Palace again as turned one corner after another.
“Don’t let her get to him—“ Shiro’s voice faded as Lance pounded his feet farther away.
A Black Guard reached for him at the stairs down to the hangers but Lance bound away from him, nearly dumping himself down the stairs but he still managed them two by two and was running full force down the hall, yells and shouts behind him echoed off the slick marble walls, leaving Lance unsure how close they were behind him. At the massive doors to Blue’s chambers, a royal guard still stood.
Eyes wide, the man looked on as Lance’s own gaze narrowed as he drew out his Bayard in the flat broadsword again. Eyes narrow, he knew he was splattered with blood, and his breath heaved out of his chest.
There were footsteps sounding behind them and the Guard gripped his pike as he slammed the doors open and gritted out, “Go.”
Lance slipped past him just as black armored guards appeared at the end of the hallway. They were covered head to toe in thick plates and flight suits, but as Lance looked back—they moved almost animalistic.
It unnerved him.
The doors slammed shut behind him, and Lance pressed his hand in to lock it. Somethings may have changed but he knew this couldn’t have. His finger print was the only thing that would open those doors.
His Bayard flashed out to the broadsword again as he cut back around corner and slashed at the guard — it was red armor and Lance danced away from the stunned man easily.
He was huffing by the time he reached the feet of his lovely Blue. But Lance smiled as he looked up at the lion. She activated immediately and Lance strode forward.
It was as Lance changed into a flight suit that he noticed— Shiro had torn the sapphire cufflink from Lance’s sleeve. He was covered hips down in dark splattering of blood from his guardsmen, and Shiro had ripped through the gasmier shoulder covering, most likely on that last grab. It stalled him just a moment—just a thread as he pictured the small silver cufflink in Shiro’s large hand. He truly adored those hands. And he’d just watched them—
But he loved his family.
And he couldn’t let this happen.
Lance pulled off the first bits of his princely and now useless outfit, charging forward to Blue’s cockpit chair.
As Blue launched from the hangers, she bound out over the Palace grounds to find— chaos.
The Red lion roared over advancing royal forces, before suddenly— the beast reared back and belted fire that—
Lance’s eyes widened as he watched men burn— and the defending royal force was decimated.
It was chaos, there was no front, enemies poured in from the Palace and out from all around. Shiro’s forces all wore a symbol Lance was unfamiliar with. It was emblazoned across their chests and shown at the sides of their helmets. They looked nearly reptilian in the closely fitted armor as they weaved and bobbed through battle. Compared to the flowing capes and heavily adorned armor of the royal forces, there was no mistaking the stark difference.
Suddenly Red was hit with a blast—erupting across it’s side and sending the smaller Red Lion flying back. The massive Yellow Lion leapt through the grounds, canon on his back at the ready.
Hearing that voice through his intercoms Lace nearly cried from relief.
He wasn't alone out here.
“Hunk!” Lance flipped on all comms systems as he smiled and launched his own Lion into action.
Through the crackle and gun fire, Lance could still make out Hunk’s voice. “Lance—what is going on?”
“The king is dead.” Lance managed.
It was just then— there was a great roar that rumbled over the palace grounds and from the hangers— Green bound out first. Knocking through the front and pivoting through the grounds, she drew attention away—
By the time the Black Lion was in the air over Lance, there was no chance to stop it. Lance was slammed back in his seat as the Black Lion’s massive jaws locked around the Blue Lion neck. Hurling Blue back against the Palace walls, Lance grit his teeth as he was knocked forward, his gut slammed over his controls.
His monitors all fuzzed out around him for a few seconds as Lance regained himself. By the time it was all back online, and Lance could look up through the screens the massive figure of the Black lion was walking closer over him.
The sun was blotted out over head as the lumbering form of the Black Lion prowled over Lance.
Through Lance’s coms he heard his Alpha’s purr, “Lance,”
Lance grit his teeth as he managed back up into his seat. Blue’s paws squared back on the ground as Lance pushed his thrusters up again—
Only be be slammed back down as the Black Lion pounced on him.
The wind was knocked out of Lance as he was slammed across his controls again.
“Stand down, Your Highness.” Shiro spoke. His voice was calm, though a way that chilled Lance.
Lance huffed and sat back up. “I—“ He forced an exhale “will not let you do this,” He was still out of breath but he pushed his controls forward again.
With another thrust from the Black Lion, Lance was knocked back down to the dirt again.
“Keith,” Shiro’s voice still rang over the open comms. It was devoid of emotion, like he was asking for the salt over dinner.
“Here” Keith answered. In the distance the Red Lion pivoted, facing them.
“Keep Lance down.” Shiro commanded. “And keep him out of the way.”
“Confirmed.” Keith spoke and in a second the Red Lion was bounding over the Royal forces and to Lance.
The Black Lion looked up and Lance followed his gaze.
Allura stood at the steps of the Palace. In shining armor and hundreds of men rallying around her, she flashed out a great glowing staff as she faced off with the Black Lion. The royal forces there had managed to set up ranks and take hold of the Palace steps, Banners of Altea’s royal flag drawing the scattered forces in to them.
The Lion was off of Lance in a flash. Only mid-bound to the princess— Yellow slammed into him. The Black Lion was knocked back to skid into the grounds.
A private comms opened up to Lance.
“I think I can hold him off.” Hunk’s determined voice sounded.
Red swerved through the commotion, headed straight to Lance.
“My hands are about to be very full,” Lance said as he got Blue up and standing. She gave a growl to Red, slowing it down to a prowl forward.
“What do we need to do to help Allura?” Hunk asked.
The Black Lion was standing in the distance. He was irritated. Lance could tell, he’d spent more than a few interaction with Shiro that he knew now when Shiro was feeling tedious.
Lance looked over the landscape. The Palace was a mess of blasts and fighting men. Two Lions out of the game still wouldn’t be enough. There was still Green bounding through, the roar of lasers from her mouth flashed at every turn. And—
Lance saw the looming ships over Altea finally with a shutter of breath.
A massive Ballmerian ship loomed over head. The Altean ships were low off the ground—emergency sirens blaring as they released into the air, limping up and into action, so clearly taken by surprise.
Had an ascension ever been this violent in Altean history? Lance couldn’t remember anything like it.
It was the massive blasts from Balmerian ships that took Lances breath the next moment.
It wasn't at the black guards—it was at Altean ships. Grounding them one by one. A crack down from the Air. Lance watched in horror.
From the very beginning, Lance had heard the deals being brokered.
Shiro had always been a meticulous planner—and he’d taken them from surprise with in, seizing up any legs the royals could stand on—and now… he shot down their wings before they could ever take flight, using ships marked as supposed allies.
In the distance though— Lance could see as the sun gleamed off of polished white— the temple.
There. He needed to be there.
The Black Lion was standing then and with a yawl slammed back into the Yellow. The two bulky lions tussled. Stones and trees all crumbled and were knocked aside as they grappled, destroying the sculpted landscape of the Palace entry gardens.
And it was a distraction just long enough for another yowl to sound and Lance— his controls seized up as Red was on him and knocking him back to the wall.
“Stay here!” A vid comm opened up and Keith’s face appeared. He was wearing the Red Paladin’s armor, his face had a smear of blood across one cheek.
“I have to get through to her, Keith,” Lance said as he pulls his helmet off. He felt like he couldn’t breath with it on.
Keith shook his head. “You can’t. We need you here.”
Lance frowned. “I can’t let you use me.” And with that, he reached forward to switch off the vid connection.
Blue tore out of Red’s hold, skittering across the grounds as she bound away. Red was almost literally hot on his trail, fire spitting at every turn.
Every where Lance turned he could see the devastation — at every corner the deep blue of the royal guards were falling back as black overwhelmed them.
Then he heard it, looking up the skies— deep black ships were over head, their powerful thrusters searing the Altean earth. Lance watched wide-eyed as they all started to land around the capital.
He’d seen ships like that before, sharp and tribe sigils painted across the bow.
Only now—they all only displayed one symbol.
Lance charged at Red again and the two went flying. He had to think. He had to figure a way out of all of this, to turn the tide—
He heard it first, Hunk giving a great shout through his comms.
Lance managed to flip Keith off him and wheel Blue around to see—Green was on Yellow and at every blow of the Black Lion, Green was forcing Hunk to stay on his guard.
The massive brute force couldn’t keep up with both. Every swift slash of the Green was laying Hunk open to a powerful attack from Black.
Lance’s eyes went wide. They were going to lose. They would lose the Lions. All of them. …unless he did something.
“Hunk!” Lance slammed his hands down onto the controls.
The video opened up, though the connection cracked and fuzzed out, leaving Hunk’s already pained face worsened. “I”m not doing so great over here, buddy.”
“I need you to do something for me.” Lance ordered. “As your Prince, I need you to do something for me.”
Hunk looked up at him, quiet for possibly the first time before he gave a nod. “Anything, Your Highness.”
“Run.” Lance felt as the words nearly crackled as he spoke them.
“What?” Hunk balked, shock breaking across his face.
“We aren’t winning this battle,” Lance looked around him again. “I need to preserve my family and my kingdom— so please, leave.”
“Lance,” Hunk seemed so struck with disbelief.
All Lance could see was a guards lifeless eyes as unceremoniously Shiro had impaled him on an obsidian sword. Nothing was getting in his way, and Hunk wouldn’t be more than a bat of Shiro’s gaze.
“We don’t have a choice,” Lance tried so hard, He’d already cried so much that day. “Take Yellow—“ His voice broke as he tried to keep talking—“And go very very far away.”
Hunk’s face was still wide-eyed, his mouth still hung open.
“I’m commanding you,” Lance managed as he broke.
“Buddy,” Hunk said very quietly.
“Go find Shay,” Lance managed. He knew he must have been a bit of a mess, he felt as the tears streaked down his face.
“I can’t leave you—“
“You will do as I say!” Lance shot back. He composed himself with a sniff. “Paladin Garrett, You will follow my orders.”
Stillness settled between them. Lance wasn’t sure if he’d ever issued a command to his best friend.
This time, hesitantly Hunk gave a nod, “I’ll miss you, buddy.”
Lance’s own sad smile broke. “I’ll call for you. When it’s safe, when I can bring the Lions together again— I’ll call for you.” Lance promised.
Hunk gave a nod. His own eyes were welling up before he batted any evidence with his gloved hand. “Alright.” He nodded to himself. “I have to get this lug head off of me— I’ll never be able to break atmosphere if I don’t.”
“Don’t worry,” Lance smiled. “He’s not going to be paying attention to you much longer.”
Blue buckled out of the full run and Red shot past her as Lance pivoted her away and headed straight to the palace. The guards men parted with ease as Lance slid through the ranks. Lance pulled his Bayard and was flinging out of his cockpit with in seconds at the Palace steps. His feet touching on stone, he let his bayard blaze out to the broadsword in a grand display as he focused his gaze on the Black Lion.
He saw the Black Lion stop. Lance’s hair tossed in the wind as he removed his helmet and held the Bayard in one hand and his helmet in another.
“Shiro,” Keith’s voice still hummed through their joined comms at Lance’s helmet. “He’s drawing you out of your Lion—Don’t do it!”
There was silence.
Lance lowered his chin as he started forward as he let the Guardsmen around him file up.
“I can’t leave him out there.” Shiro’s voice was resigned and the Black Lion lurched towards the steps of the Palace.
Lance smiled and dropped the helmet there as he ran up the steps. The few royal guardsmen left were immediately on Lance. A defense of pikes and brilliantly lit laser spears parted and surrounded as Lance was escorted to the top of the Palace steps.
“Lance,” Allura met him at the door. “You can’t just leave your lion—“
“We need to go!” Lance roared at her.
He watched back behind him. As the Black Lion let out a mighty roar, stalking forward Yellow was just left with Green- and with one hell of a gut slam Yellow plowed the Green Lion into the dirt, before the lumbering form turned and leapt into the air.
Allura was stunned as she looked at him. “What have you done!” She gestured to the blue lion. “You’ve left your lion out there and now the Yellow retreats!”
Lance held up the Blue Bayard. "I left a Blue Statue."
She still just looked at him, her gaze narrow.
She must know. Lance looked around him, gesturing. They were losing men by the hundreds.
“You’ll have nothing if you stay.” Lance shook his head.
Allura stayed silent for a moment. “We have no way out.”
Lance didn’t say anything, just looked. The sun still sparkled off the surface of the temple. In the distance at most a mile away it was still untouched by the ravages of the coup d'état around them.
There was a blast from over head.
Lance jerked around as he saw—Yellow falling.
His eyes wide, his breath caught as he watched his friend’s limp lion fall through the air. Allura sucked in breath next to him.
And Four Balmerain Fighters let out after the tumbling Lion.
“How…” Lance gasped as he watched his—was Hunk still alive?
The Lion was caught and the Four fighters lifted it , carrying the lifeless Lion up through the clouds, up to the massive greenery covered Balmerian ships.
Lance looked to his sister.
She was— surprisingly quiet as she watched.
From the Black Lion was let out a thunderous mighty roar, and shouts, animalistic and howling could be heard from the black armored forces. A victory. The Balmerain price paid.
Lance blinked rapidly. Now was not his moment of mourning, but still he felt his insides crumbling. His throat felt like it was closing, and his head dropped. He didn’t know if his friend was alive in that cockpit still. He gave himself a moment before raising his head, shifting his thinking.
He looked back to his sister. Eyes narrowed. He had to focus on the things he could still change.
Her eyes were wide as she seemed to finally survey their situation around her.
“Get whoever is left,” Allura hissed to her captain.
A war horn broke out behind them. Lance could only imagine what that meant—in his mind he could just see that massive black claymore sweeping through men as Shiro advanced through the ranks. He thought—what he’d done didn’t matter, he’d only drawn Shiro to them at this point. It was his fault, all his fa—Lance breathed in. He couldn’t cripple into panic yet. He needed to keep moving forward.
“We go now,” Lance grabbed at his sister and was already striding through the Palace doors. If he needed to, he would tow his sister the whole way.
“Form up!” The captain was already calling behind them.
Allura broke into a run next to Lance as they watched as black guards started to trickle in closer, the spring showers before lightning struck.
They raced through the halls, passing dying men and cowering servants.
“How will we get there?” Allura asked as they sped through the courtyard.
“I know a way!” Lance grabbed his sister’s hand.
It — someone screamed next to them and yet— It reminded him for the first time in a long time— Like Lance was really with his sister, like he was grabbing her hand so he could pull her away for another devious prank. Lance pulled her around a sharp corner and down through the castles west side. The sounds of the heavy footfalls of their guard pound in level rhythm with Lance’s racing heart.
"The banner men never came,” Allura hissed, "those cowards, they never came and more than half the guards men simply lay down their weapons before Shiro’s men even threatened them."
Lance was only half-listening. The servants all veered out of the way, huddling in corners and watching with wide eyes. This wasn’t their fight. The turmoils of the royals were simply petty to them. They just didn’t want to die.
Lance pulled his sister through the halls. They finally entered the byway halls, the rows of tall windows showing the gardens below, the entrance to the garden terrace just up ahead.
But from the shadows, farther down the hall, emerged the tall, lumbering form and familiar black helmet. Circular neon lilac near robotic eyes looked to Lance.
As Lance slowed to a stop, his mind raced. Allura’s long staff shout out to its full height in her hands, the top and bottom glowing in the limited light. The gossamer curtains of the windows fluttered with the breeze.
"If you would, your highness,” Antok stepped forward. "I need to return you to the throne room." His voice was the same gentle tone he always took with Lance. "You will be safe there."
Lance’s eyes narrowed.
If they had control of the throne room, they would need to steer clear. Lance’s eyes flicked to the windows. It was possible most of the palace was under Shiro’s control.
Could they afford to lose it? Could they take that hit of leaving the imperial palace in foreign control?
The men around Antok stepped forward. Lithe and black and moving like more monsters than men. Lance’s jaw clenched. He had a hunch what was under those helmets but—he didn’t want to see if it was true.
"I’m afraid the both of you will need to come with us." Antok’s gentle tone still didn’t falter.
They were asking for a surrender.
The few dark blue cloaks all wavered around the royal siblings. But a few, Lance could feel as they closed ranks shields raising and swords drawn. Men willing to die for them, Lance thought.
And yet others of their guard...
Would they surrender? Lance didn’t have to glance at his sister. But he still weighed it in his mind. There was little they could do if the palace was taken…
Allura would never surrender. But if Lance did—she may be spared. That would be a risk for them though. If the bloodline even had a chance to continue—
Lance sucked in a breath. Of course, Shiro had done everything in his power up to that point to halt the bloodline, and draw the dynasty to a close. Lance glanced down at his arm. The small pinpricked mark of the implant wasn’t visible under his Paladin’s flight suit, but he knew it was under his armor. They’d done everything to stop the bloodline.
If they surrendered, Allura would be surrendering to a guillotine.
And for him— Lance was confident he would be as all had said to him; safe, and unharmed. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t be used. He felt conscious of the way his back brushed against his armor in that moment. There was no way they’d let the key to the Lions go unused.
Lance flashed out his bayard into a broad sword as Allura gripped her staff at the ready.
Antok was still for a moment.
Then he nodded.
The men around surged forward and dark blue cloaks did the same, striking out to protect the two royals. Eight men against ten though wasn’t enough and Lance gave a growl as he thrust into the fray. His sword clashed with black and Lance thrust back, pushing the man away from him. There was a snarl and the thing ripped its helm off. Lance nearly lost his breath as a Galra face was revealed and the thing hissed at him.
The Galra struck out at him as he lunged back at Lance.
The stinging hit to Lance’s head had him whirling for a moment before he spun back and slashed the broad sword across the Galra’s chest. It carved just deep enough and as the man crippled to the ground, Lance could leap over him. It was just in time to veer out of Antok’s way as the man struck out, impaling a blue cloak on the long black pike in hand.
Eyes wide as Antok turned his helmet to him, Lance shot out around him.
He grabbed his sister, and with all his might pulled her from the fight. Two, then three royal guard disengaged as well following their charges in the mad chase.
Allura nearly stumbled but quickly took up the same blindly running pace as they flashed down the hall, leaving the last of their dying guard in a desperate attempt to flee. Two royals, three accompanying guardsmen and from Lance’s look over them, it didn’t seem to be his father's hand picked men by any stretch.
Lance didn’t stop as they emerged out through the terrace into the brilliant sunset on the horizon.
Beside him, his sister stilled as he looked out over the maze of gardens. They were untouched. At the back end of the Palace, no where near the hangers or the major entryways, the gardens seemed a still reprieve of the power struggle in chaotic critical mass around them.
In the distance—the last rays of the sun were gleaming off the massive temple looking over them, giving the gardens a glow of the mystical twilight hours.
“Lance,” Allura exclaimed.
Lance was already down the steps and trudging through the grass, billowing royal blue cloaks of his guard following close on either side of him, before he looked back at her.
“I know the way,” Lance said, completely assured.
Allura looked at him for a moment more. “I—“ She started. “I’ve forgotten it. I’ll get lost.”
Holding out his hand to his sister, Lance beckoned her forward. “You won’t — I promise, I’ll guide you through it.”
For a moment, Lance was certain his sister wouldn’t believe him. Like she always did, she would simple go her own way— but with one last look to the palace, Allura pitched down the stairs and took Lance’s hand.
Together they fled. Lance pulled his sister deep within the reaches of the gardens.