Songbird 02

For a match that was so sudden and unexpected, it still drew in crowds, the arena filling up to nearly it’s entire capacity. Word had traveled, those that had been present in Zarkon’s throne room, had called their friends, the news bringing them out in throngs. I could hear the excitement, the Drules talking, speculating on what kind of slaughter they were about to see. It seemed almost no one had faith that a human warrior could stand up to one of Haggar’s robeasts.

Their certainty got to me, I was sure I had wasted credits in betting in Avok’s favor. But it was too late to rescind the bet. The match was due to start at any moment, we just waited on our King. He was present in the royal box, a balcony that overlooked the arena’s pit. Besides him was his witch, her crystal ball in hand. She almost never went without it, always scrying, always looking for some hidden threat to Zarkon’s rule.

What might be the biggest threat to him was seated to the left of me, Prince Lotor leaning back with his arms crossed over his chest. An impatient look was on his face, he was going so far as to tap his foot. He was eager for the fight to begin, wanting to bear personal witness to Avok’s defeat. I hadn’t been able to pry out of him whatever trick he was plotting, and for a brief few minutes Lotor had left my side. He wouldn’t say what he had done in those few minutes, but I was sure it wouldn’t be in Avok’s favor.

It might seem strange to you, but that brief interaction in his father’s throne room, had put Avok on Lotor’s shit list. The prince, always easy to anger, hadn’t like King Cova’s words. He took personal offense to the thought of there being a warrior greater than him, especially one of human blood. Too often, among the Drule, it had been said that Prince Lotor was the greatest fighter in all the known universe. That honor was being stolen away with each loss he suffered at Voltron’s hands, people forgetting all of his accomplishments to focus in on the failures.

It seemed to me, Lotor NEEDED to bring Avok down a peg or two. If only to soothe his wounded pride. He couldn’t successfully lash out at his father or Voltron, so sought the next available target. I almost pitied Avok for this, knowing if he survived the arena, it wouldn’t spare him from Lotor’s attacks.

I wasn’t the impatient type, but sitting next to my prince, and listening to the restlessness of the crowd, it affect me. It was a blessed relief when the fanfare of trumpets sounded, King Zarkon having given the signal to start. Lotor besides me, smiled slyly, his voice coming out almost too soft for me to hear over the crowd’s excited roar.

“And now it begins.”

Avok was the first fighter out in the pit, and immediately I saw what Lotor had done. The red haired prince was still clad in his dark green tunic, yellow cape flowing out behind him. And that was all, no sign of armor, not even arm guards. It was highly unusual for a fighter to enter without the proper padding, even slaves got a flimsy breast plate to protect them from the monster’s claws.

The crowd had noticed Avok’s lack of armor, whispers of conversation being heard. They thought the prince had done it on purpose, that his human arrogance had led him to be so cocky and confidant. It caused a mix reaction in the spectators, some of them liking it, some not. Some were angry, assuming that the fight would end barely before it started, the Drules expecting an armorless human to easily be torn open by the robeast.

Betting was resumed, I could catch the whispers of people deciding just how long Avok would last in the arena. Seeing him like this, it made me regret my earlier bet even more. I was already wincing inwardly at the loss of a week’s salary when the robeast entered. It looked like it had once been a Drule, although it’s skin was so dark a green it was almost black. It had a bald head with the head ridges so similar in one half of my race. It’s lips were nearly nonexistent, allowing row upon row of sharp, white teeth to be seen. They glistened, the robeast salivating at the sight of the human.

Both Avok and the robeast were equipped with swords. The blades were made of lazon, which hummed and glowed brightly. When it came to arena fights, the Drules did not skimp out on the weaponry it presented the warriors with. Most times, the slaves that fought here were so inexpert with a sword, that they ended up slicing off a body part of their own in trying to wield the lazon. But Avok didn’t have that problem, twirling it about in a complex pattern that left the glow flickering a moment in the air.

The robeast warrior responded to Avok’s unvoiced challenge, letting out a vicious sounding roar. Seconds later it was charging across the pit, sand being kicked up by it’s feet. Avok did not cower, nor did he just stand there waiting for the robeast to come to him. Instead he moved, swiftly but cautiously, covering ground so that they met almost in the middle of the arena’s pit.

The robeast’s malevolent red eyes flashed, and it lunged forward, slashing downwards with it’s sword arm. I watched as Avok just managed to avoid it, jumping back three steps. The robeast immediately corrected it’s forward trajectory, turning and lunging again. This time it attempted a side slice, aiming for Avok’s stomach. Again the human jumped back, and the crowd grew restless. Was this all the human was capable of? Dodging attacks?

I glanced at Lotor and saw he was the only one smiling, the crowd’s unrest doing nothing to affect his mood. He seemed too happy with Avok’s performance so far, watching as the human prince once again dodged another of the robeast’s attacks. The monster than roared it’s frustration, seeming puzzled by the fact Avok’s blood wasn’t on it’s sword.

I knew of this robeast, it had been the arena champion for the last four days. If it kept up the winning streak for another day, it would end up on a slab in Haggar’s laboratory. Just another monster to be enhanced and shipped off to Arus. It wasn’t a winnable situation to be in, for it’s only other option was to die in the arena. This robeast didn’t want to die, it showed in how efficient and vicious it was in it’s battles. It had earned a reputation for especially brutal killings of it’s opponents, and I found myself wondering if Lotor had had a hand in this robeast being brought out to fight Avok.

Avok dodged another attack, the swing nearly taking his head. So far he had not even once tried to swing his sword at the monster, and the crowd didn’t like that. As he continued to dance around the pit, avoiding the robeast’s attacks, the crowd began to protest. They openly booed him, and someone threw their meaty treat into the arena in a show of disgust.

Lotor chuckled softly under his breath, I only heard it because of how close I was to him. Avok hardly seemed bothered by the crowd’s upset, continue to duck and weave around the robeast’s attacks. It only served to enrage the robeast, it’s attacks coming faster. I wouldn’t realize it then, but Avok had a purpose in this seemingly cowardly avoidance. He was attempting to tire out the robeast, letting it grow winded before he made his move.

The fight would drag on for another ten minutes before Avok began to seriously fight. The crowd continued to boo him, jeers and taunts being voiced, more garbage being flung into the pit. He smashed his sword into the robeast’s blade, but it was too late, the crowd had lost interest in the fight.

Sparks shot off the crossed blades, and the robeast swung it’s free hand at Avok. It had sharp claws that were bone white in color. Avok back flipped away from the claw’s swipe, sword still in hand. But this time he took the offensive, gearing up for a mighty leap in the air. That leap surprised me, Avok gaining enough height to bring his sword down on the top of the robeast’s head.

It was shocking in both it’s suddenness and brutality, the lazon easily cleaving in half the robeast’s head. Stunned silence filled the arena, the people watching as the robeast’s body crumpled, Avok falling it down to the sand. He was calm, as he pulled his sword out of the remains of the robeast’s face, shaking the blood off the blade. The monster’s body twitched in death like throes, before stilling completely.

“I can’t believe it!” I almost startled at the sound of Lotor’s voice. It carried through the silent arena, the prince rising to stand. “That man was lucky.”

I wasn’t sure what to believe, having witnessed Avok’s tactic of tiring out the robeast. But I also couldn’t deny it had taken real strength to be able to split the robeast’s head in two. But before I could say anything, Prince Lotor was vaulting over the side of the wall that separated the stands from the pit. It was an easy leap for him, Lotor landing on his feet.

“NOW!” He said, all tense and dramatic as he drew his own sword. It’s blue lazon blade hummed to life, glow seeming brighter in contrast to Avok’s blood and gore covered sword. “Beat a real opponent. Me!”

Avok wasn’t a man of many words it seemed. He said nothing save for an acknowledging grunt as he slid into a defensive pose. Lotor bent his arm, sword held before him as he began circling closer. Avok mirrored his movements, the two princes moving about in an ever decreasing circle until finally Lotor lost patience. I was surprised at that, Lotor was usually more reserved than that in battle. He must have really wanted Avok’s blood to so recklessly charge him.

Avok didn’t break from his defensive stance, waiting for Lotor to reach him. At the last second, Lotor leapt up, intending to bring down his sword on Avok’s head. It seemed he wanted to mimic the move Avok had used to kill the robeast, but it didn’t play out in the same way. Avok brought his sword up high over his head, just barely managing to block Lotor’s sword.

Frankly I was surprised Avok’s sword didn’t break in half from the heavy pressure Lotor brought down on it. He managed to push Lotor up and off his weapon, the prince staggering back a few steps. Again, this was impressive, showing that this human had more strength then was expected. Lotor eyed him, surely contemplating where would be the next place to strike. I sincerely hoped he wasn’t going to fall into the trap the robeast had, for Avok was doing nothing but staring back at Lotor.

The crowd had come alive at the prince’s introduction into the pit. It wasn’t every day they got to see their prince fight, and they liked the showmanship of the prince. If anyone had asked me, I would have bet on Lotor to win this encounter. Especially with Avok coming off the heels of a long fight with a robeast!

“YARGH!!” Lotor charged Avok again, displaying that rash impatience once more. Their swords clang together, and seemed to grow stuck, neither man refusing to back down. They were pushing against each other, each putting pressure on their opponent’s blade. One minute Lotor would be moving Avok back, and the next Avok would push forward, driving Lotor to step back. And all the while they were locked together with their swords.

They continued like that for two minutes straight, and then Avok’s weariness began to show. He began to falter, his face seeming to pale. Lotor laughed then, and began backing him into one of the side walls. “Fool!” the Drule Prince cried out for all to hear, a triumphant smirk on his face. I could see how gleeful Lotor was, he was embracing the battle, enjoying every minute of what seemed to be Avok’s inevitable defeat.

He actually backed Avok up to the wall before my seat, Lotor’s eyes looking full of blood lust. The crowd was cheering, people screaming for the prince to finish off the human. And then it happened, amidst the roar of the crowd, a female voice called out. I was close enough to hear her, and so was Lotor and Avok.

“Avok, my brother! Win it for us!”

I didn’t turn in the direction of the woman’s voice, too intent on the fight. But Lotor allowed her to distract him, going so far as to lift his head up in her direction. That was all the opportunity Avok needed, the human prince shoving hard with his sword. At first it didn’t seem it would make a difference, but Lotor continued to look in the direction of the woman, rather then at his opponent.

Another voice was heard, a boys. “My big brother Avok is the bravest and best fighter in the universe!”

“The bravest fighter, and the strongest prince!” Came the woman’s voice. Lotor’s eyes narrowed at that, I could see he didn’t like those words. And then the crowd was gasping, Avok having managed to shove Lotor back completely. The Drule prince’s sword went flying. It would land several feet away. Before Lotor could even think to retrieve it, Avok had his sword’s point pressed into the Drule’s throat.

The crowd was horrified, not knowing what to make of their prince losing and in such a humiliating way. I was just as shocked, and couldn’t even be cheered by the thought of the bet I had won. Nor could I see Lotor’s face from the position he was in, but I could hear Avok’s taunting chuckle. The human knew he had the prince right where he wanted him, and only Avok’s mercy spared Lotor from becoming another stain on his sword.

“Lotor is a fool, distracted by a woman!” Came Zarkon’s announcement, the displeased King having risen from his throne. It seemed to me he had wanted to see the Polluxian prince put in his place as well, or maybe he was just disappointed that Lotor had acted so foolishly on the battlefield.

Lotor let out a low growl, angry at his defeat. “You’re lucky.” He insisted. “Would you dare to fight me again?” I’d give him points for trying, but Avok wasn’t having any of it.

“I’ll spare you…”Avok began, keeping the sword from splitting open Lotor’s throat. “If you help me with my plan.”

“Fair enough.” Lotor said, and Avok stepped back. Lotor turned to gaze off to the side, where Haggar was waiting. “Haggar, come quickly. Take this brave man to your laboratory.” His voice suddenly became satisfied, Lotor practically purring. “Good bye…and good riddance!”

“Ah, young man….you wish to be a robeast?” Haggar had stepped up to Avok, running a solictious hand across his muscled arm. Somehow he kept from shuddering, even as my stomach turned at the admiring look in Haggar’s eyes. She would surely enjoy working on this latest test subject of hers, modifying Avok’s body until he was a twisted shell of his former self. “Follow me!”

My eyes stayed trained on the sight of Haggar leading the silent Avok out of the pit, but then two voices drew my attention. “Wow! Avok’s gonna be a robeast!” It was that boy again, and I saw that he looked to be a much younger version of Avok, with a slightly subdued shade of red for his curly hair. Besides him was a girl, just on the cusp of becoming a woman.

I can admit to being confused, seeing her blue eyed, blond haired looks, and thinking she was princess Allura. If I had made that mistake, it was no surprise Lotor had thought the same, allowing the resemblance this girl had to Allura to distract him at a pivotal moment. I’m not making excuses for Lotor’s defeat, he really shouldn’t have allowed anything or anyone to distract him. Even if the real princess Allura had been there, naked and offering herself up to him, he should have finished the battle first, and then gone after her.

“Yes, but the real excitement will be when he defeats the mighty Voltron!” The girl exclaimed, a smile lighting her face up, and making her even more beautiful.

“Voltron won’t stand a chance against him!” The boy grinned, practically dancing in place with his excitement.

It was then that Lotor vaulted back into the stands, not caring for the new robeast that was being brought out. The next fight would be to placate the disquieted crowd, to give them something worth cheering about. But I, like the rest of them, could see Lotor had no more interests in fighting for the day. No, he had other pursuits in mind, the prince walking over to the girl and the boy.

He immediately dropped down to one knee, a fist pressed over his heart. I almost rolled my eyes then, thinking he was overdoing it on his attempts to be gallant. He wasn’t the type to try and charm a woman, he was usually blunt and straight to the point, making it known what he wanted and expected from them.

He took hold of her hand, rising to stand straight before her. “You think Avok’s the bravest man in the universe?”

“So I do.” She shyly lowered her eyes for a moment, which I’m sure endeared her all the more to Lotor. “I’m Princess Romelle.” She nodded to the boy next to her. “And this is my little brother, Prince Bandor.”

“Avok’s also your brothe…” Lotor noted, and Romelle nodded. If anything Lotor’s smile became wider, the prince caressing a thumb over the back of her hand. I could practically see the wheels turning in his head, Lotor realizing Romelle was just one more way to get under Avok’s skin. It didn’t hurt that she was beautiful, fitting Lotor’s type of blonde, blue eyed beauties with fair skin. He had a whole harem of similar looking women, and I had no doubt he was contemplating adding Romelle to his collection.

“May I show you around?” Lotor asked, and barely waited for her answer to begin leading her away.

“Well…all right.” She said, casting one last look at her little brother. She almost stumbled at Lotor’s insistent pull, the prince murmuring an offhand remark.

“You look just like princess Allura…”

I nearly groaned then, thinking he lacked a filter for his mouth, spouting out the first thing that came to his mind. But the princess barely reacted. If it bothered her to be compared to another woman, she didn’t let it show. Perhaps she was just that naive, not realizing that was the attraction she held for the Drule Prince. Whatever the case, she went with him, and I immediately tried to put Romelle out of my mind. She was meant to be insignificant, just another princess of a world that would soon be under Doom’s rule. At least that’s what I thought back then, assuming she would be nothing more than another notch on Lotor’s bed post. I had no idea how important she would become, to the war, to Zarkon and Lotor’s plans, and more importantly, to me.

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