Songbird 19

During the next few weeks, Doom would continue to try and conquer Arus. There were many plans made, things being set into motion that would have far reaching effects some time in the future. One such thing was the development of a flower, Haggar working overtime in her lab to modify an already existing plant’s seeds. These flowers would be poisonous, their pollen quick to make humans sick with a high fever. There would be no known cure on Arus, a fact we were counting on. We wanted the people of Arus held hostage for our cure, believing that the princess would give in to save her people.

And so the seeds were sent to Arus, our ships flying low to scatter them all over every available inch of the planet. It would take weeks for the seeds to take root in the ground, and during that time other schemes were formed. In addition to the poisoned flowers, Haggar began developing a carnivorous race of rats. It was no secret the princess of Arus had rodents for friends, and the witch hoped that her rats would infiltrate the castle, and do a myriad of sabotage.

But before the flowers could bloom, and the rats could be cloned, there were more immediate plans to be had. Lotor actually took a back seat to this next mission, allowing the witch to be in charge. Haggar took to her task with an unnatural glow about her, the witch happy and confidant she would succeed. Of course, such confidence was necessary, we couldn’t allow our subordinates to think we had no faith in these plans of ours. But Haggar was laying it on a little too thick, even for Zarkon!

Haggar would travel to planet Arus, to the deepest part of the woods that surrounded the castle of lions. Haggar would use her magic to call up a castle from the buried ruins of a building that had been destroyed long before Doom came to Arus. It was an impressive sight to see, the ground seeming to split open, the few columns and stones pulling together, and multiplying. Molding together, until a grand old building existed, though a spooky sense of foreboding surrounded the very air around it.

That was not all Haggar would do, she would spread rumors of the castle, of the treasure that was within it’s walls. The people of Arus would begin to avidly talk about this treasure, though none knew for certain the location of the castle. Haggar kept the castle clouded in fog, she wanted no one but the Voltron Force to stumble upon it’s location.

Of course, her plans didn’t go off without a hitch. Some local children, not even older than eight, were playing in the woods when the castle first appeared. Two boys and a girl, more brave than I would have thought a child could be. They didn’t run, instead becoming determined to explore the castle. I don’t know how it happened, but they would meet up with the pilot of Green Lion. He wasn’t much older than the children, perhaps that’s why he didn’t send them home.

Whatever his reasons, it was with those kids that Pidge arrived at Haggar’s castle. They would walk right into her trap, wandering into the castle’s treasure room. The group was overcome by the sight of all that treasure, lowering their guard as they all began to stuff their pockets full of coins and jewels. It was then that Haggar would make her move, using her magic to seal the castle’s doors. Once trapped, the treasure’s illusions wore off, revealing the group had stuffed their pockets full of bugs, lizards and snakes.

While they were screaming, Haggar trapped them in a bell, the group hanging upside down. Eventually, the rest of the Voltron Force would somehow be alerted to the plight of Pidge and the children. Haggar wasn’t content to allow the remaining members of the Voltron Force to just waltz into the castle. She conjured the long dead soldiers that had guarded the castle ages ago. The corpses would cut off their retreat, all but their captain running inside the castle.

I thought it foolish of Haggar to have underestimated the captain of the Voltron Force. She left him to roam free about the castle, while the others on his team ended up in a similar predicament to Pidge and the children. It was then that Haggar sprang the final trap, a robeast emerging from the ground. It would sink hooks into the very stone of the castle, struggling to lift it free of it’s foundations.

My ship would be called into action, it and three other large vessels, lassoing ropes around the castle’s towers. These were no ordinary ropes, but cords made of thick but flexible steel. Together with the robeast, we would lift the castle free of the ground, our intent to carry it and the Voltron Force back to planet Doom. It might have even worked, if not for the pilot of black lion remaining free.

He would scurry about the upper levels of the castle, battling the bone soldiers as he made his way to one of the ropes. We were all astonished when he began climbing up one, and on my orders, the star cutters were released. They attempted to shoot the captain down, and though he did slip at one point, the pilot did not fall to his death. Instead he would land on one of our star cutters, breaking it open to toss out the Drule pilot, and fly the ship down into the forest.

I can remember Haggar’s infuriated screams when black lion took flight. She had been so sure of our victory, she had already called King Zarkon to gloat to him of the present she was bringing. It became apparent to us all, we were about to be handed another loss, black lion cutting all the cables with it’s sharp claws. The castle would fall back down to the planet’s surface, the Voltron Force barely more than scratched up from the ordeal.

Haggar refused to believe in her defeat, sending her robeast to chase after the pilots. Even with it’s flame breath trying to cut off their escape, they made it to the lions. Voltron was quickly formed, and the battle was laughable in how short it was.

Forced back to Doom, Haggar could only offer feeble apologies for our failure. Lotor was smug about this, for it gave validation to his own claims that it hadn’t been his fault that he kept losing against the robot. Zarkon could only grudgingly agree, for Haggar’s defeat had reminded him of his own difficulties against Arus’ defender. Our planning sessions would continue, more strategies being developed in preparation for our next assaults on Arus.

Of course, going to see Romelle was one of the first things I attempted to do upon my return. I was anxious to see her, to see with my own eyes that she was still as well as one could be, given the circumstances of her situation. Never was I expecting what I found, her cell restored to it’s previous state of grime and despair. I stared in shock to see the blankets and padding gone, the women huddled on the dirty floor. They looked even more miserable than the first time I had seen them, and I would be slow to realize it was all my fault.

No one outright accused me, but I knew enough to realize I had given them a false sense of hope with my acts of kindness. The women had begun to believe their situation was improving, enjoying the food, medicine, and bedding I had continued to send to them. They never took it for granted, but they also never thought to wonder what would happen if one day the gifts stopped.

To many, it would have been better if I had never given them those things. For it had given them a taste of what they might never again have. These people had no hope of rescue, back then it was unheard of, of prisoners escaping or being ransomed off. Once you ended up in the dungeons of castle Doom, you were there until you died.

These women, already so downtrodden and miserable, were even more so now that they had benefited from my gifts. They wouldn’t even look at me, sitting close to one another for comfort and warmth. But some cried, perhaps assuming my gifts had been just one more manifestation of the Drule’s cruelty.

These thoughts would come much later, for right then and there, I was more concerned with Romelle. Or the fact that it was plainly clear she wasn’t present in the cell. Alarmed, I jerked back from the bars, feeling myself grow sick with worry. Where was she, and what had happened to Romelle? I didn’t know, but I would get answers, running through the dungeons until I reached the gate that separated me from the exit.

The guards heard me coming, reacting to draw their blasters. They didn’t know what could have stirred me so, and feared there was some kind of danger inside the dungeons. I was sure I was frantic and wild eyed, gesturing impatiently for them to open the gate. They would do so after a moment’s hesitation, the chain groaning in protest as it lifted the gate.

“Where is she?!” I demanded, lunging through the opening. I actually grabbed one of the guards by his tunic’s collar, shaking him. “Where is Princess Romelle?!”

“The princess?!” The guards exchanged looks. I growled, and shook the one I held so hard his teeth seemed to rattle.

“Yes, the princess! She is gone from her cell.” I didn’t mention my gifts were also absent, more concerned with the girl’s whereabouts. A dozen scenarios were playing out in my head, none of them good.

“It was the prince.” My heart sank at those words, and unconsciously, I dug my claws into the soldier’s neck.

“What about his highness?!” He tried to look at his partner for help. I was digging in deep enough to draw his blood, growling threateningly.

“Commander…” The other soldier would not risk touching me. Not with the mood I was in. “Prince Lotor had her moved from the dungeons. Said it was not suitable a place for his future bride.”

“Moved?” I didn’t relax, taking my eyes off the soldier I was bleeding to look at his partner. He was eyeing me back, looking increasingly worried by how I was handling his partner. I couldn’t blame him. Drules higher in the chain of power, were known for abusing those below them. What’s more, it would not be considered a crime if I killed these men for displeasing me. And all because my rank was higher than theirs. “Moved where?!”

“We do not know!” The solider exclaimed. “The prince chose not to share such information with us. You must believe me.” I stared at him a minute longer, before relaxing my grip. Immediately the soldier I had bled fell to the floor, his hands raising to touch his throat. His fingers would come away red with his blood, he would need medical treatment to fight off infections.

“If you want to find out what happened to the princess, it’s best you speak to the prince himself.”

I nodded, eyes narrowed, the dark promise in them making the two guards shiver. “That I will.”

Without another word, I stalked away from the two, actually stepping over the soldier bleeding on the floor. I would all but fly up the stairs, my unease growing with every step taken. I was imagining a million things at that moment, all having to do with Romelle, and the treatment she would suffer at Lotor’s hands. It showed on my face, translating into an angry glower that had people gasping and turning away from me. They didn’t know why, but knew enough to know a high ranking Drule was on the war path.

No one wanted to get in my way, and those that had the misfortune to, were quickly barreled over. I knocked servants over in my haste to track down Lotor, ignored greetings from friends, would have even refused a summons from my King. I would check all of Lotor’s usual haunts in the castle, the banquet hall, the command center, even the barracks where the soldiers brewed their own beer. I should have just gone directly to the chamber that housed his harem, for that is where I eventually stumbled upon the prince.

The harem was as lively as it had ever been, frantic, jovial beats playing. The women there, all blonde and scantily clad, were dancing to the music. They were all accomplished dancers. They had to be if they wanted to survive. Lotor wouldn’t tolerate imperfections in his harem, forcing the women to not only be talented, but also stick to a strict diet and exercise regime to maintain their shapely bodies.

Lotor sat on a throne that was similar in looks to his father’s. He was relaxed, right leg draped over one arm rest, head propped up on his left arm. Harem girls surrounded him, each one holding something. The one with the pitcher had been tasked with never allowing Lotor’s goblet to run empty, while another was busy peeling grapes before feeding them to the prince. Another was holding a large feathered fan, waving it gently in Lotor’s direction.

The prince was watching the dancing slave girls, but anyone could see he was distracted. He wasn’t his usually, relaxed self, no smirk of satisfaction on his face. He wasn’t quite mad, not yet, but he was annoyed. I’d find out soon enough that Romelle was the source of that annoyance.

“What have you done with the princess?” I asked without preamble. I didn’t even bow to him, just radiating with my anger, An anger born out of fear, leaving me sick with worry over the things Lotor could have done to Romelle.

“Ah Sabbath….” Lotor didn’t look my way, opening his mouth for another grape. He wasn’t being his usual teasing self, not bothering to suck on the girl’s fingers, or run his tongue over them. “I figured I’d hear from you soon enough.”

“The princess…” I started to say, and Lotor gave a lazy wave.

“Come, take a load off.” One of the harem girls quickly dragged over a chair for me, but I ignored it. It was then that Lotor sighed, and truly looked at me for the first time. “Really Sabbath, standing about glaring is not going to get you answers any quicker.”

“Fine.” I grit out through my teeth, reluctantly sitting down. A goblet was immediately pushed into my hands, red liquid sloshing about. I couldn’t help but look at it suspiciously, earning a laugh from Lotor.

“It’s not poisoned if that’s what you fear.” His humor left him just as quickly as it had formed. “Though by all rights, I should consider doing something to you for your…treatment of Romelle.”

I stared at him aghast. ‘My treatment?!”

“I know about your…gifts to her.” Lotor explained. “Very kind, very considerate. But also very inappropriate.” If a Drule could blush, I might have then. As it was, I turned flustered, taking a long drink out of the goblet to hide that reaction. “Just what were you thinking? Seeing to the care of another man’s property.”

I seethed inwardly at him referring to Romelle as if she was nothing more than a possession. It made me reckless, my words bold. “I was doing what you didn’t.” Lotor arched a brow at me, looking skeptical. “That girl deserves far better treatment than she was given, especially if one is to consider she is about to become the Doom Empire’s princess. I couldn’t leave her to waste away in the dungeon…”

“Neither could I….Not for very long at least.” Lotor acknowledged. He tsked then. “You’ve nearly ruined my plans for her.” I wasn’t sorry to hear that, taking another long sip of the wine. “I wanted Romelle to enjoy all the amenities of the dungeons, to better allow her to appreciate the comforts I could give her.” He paused to eat another grape, his eyes narrowing as he looked at me. “Imagine my surprise and displeasure when I discover she is not wallowing in misery, but making the best of her situation. A situation that was markedly improved because my friend decide to pamper her!”

“Would you have me apologize for that?!” I demanded in a gruff tone.

“I don’t care much about your apologies, though I would like an explanation.” He eyed me. “You care for her, don’t you? Don’t deny it, it was written all over your face from the moment you walked into my harem. But commander…it can’t go beyond caring…the girl is mine. Forever denied to you.”

“Don’t you think I know that?!” I snapped out, inwardly shocked at how angry the thought made me. “Your highness, I would never presume to even try to take a woman from you…”

“You’d fail Sabbath.” Lotor smirked. “You lack the charm that I possess, the way I have with women.” It might surprise you to know Lotor was able to say that with a straight face, but then he was delusional enough to believe that. He really thought he was God’s gift to women, that he could tame any one of them, and make them feel honored to sleep with him.

I was impatient, not content to be talked circles around. “I know and understand that. I see the princess as nothing more than a…”

“A what? A friend?” Lotor snorted rudely. “Don’t be absurd. Men like us don’t make friends with women as beautiful as she. We want, and we lust, and eventually we take what we want.”

“And have you?” It was bold, and presumptuous of me, but I was desperate to know. “Have you made her yours, in every way that counts?”

Another smirk, which made me think the worse. Lotor drank down his wine, and then sighed. “No, not yet.”

“Not yet?” I repeated dumbly. What was he waiting for?

“I thought if I gave her some time, she would grow to appreciate me. Grow to appreciate the things I can do for her.” He scowled then. “She isn’t nearly thankful enough….I blame that on you.”

“On me?!”

“Yes!” Lotor slammed his cup down on the floor, a slave scrambling to retrieve it. “If you hadn’t sent her food and blankets, then maybe she’d be a bit more appreciative of the room I moved her to.”

I tried to be causal as I asked the following. “Just where did you put her?”

“She’s in one of the abandoned bedrooms near to my own private quarters.” Lotor scowled. “I spared no expense in renovating the rooms, outfitting it to charm and dazzle a female’s eyes. I’ve gotten her a whole new wardrobe, made of silks and satins, velvets and lace. The finest clothing to ever touch a woman’s skin. And the jewels! Why one necklace alone would put the wealth of a kingdom against her throat. And yet she doesn’t care!”

I busied myself with drinking, hiding a smile behind the goblet. I wasn’t surprised that Lotor couldn’t buy Romelle off with his gifts. But I was also worried, wondering how long he would play this cat and mouse game of courting her the proper way. Knowing him, he was bound to get impatient sooner rather than later. Which would endanger Romelle all over again.

“I’m surprised your father allowed this…” I was causal as I said this, fishing for information.

Lotor snorted again, and smirked. “My father simply said I cannot marry her. He said nothing about fucking the girl.” I tried my best not to choke on my drink, glad my blue skin couldn’t grow pale at the thought. “Ah…no matter. I will wear down Romelle’s resistance, one way or another…”

That one way or another concerned me, as much as anything else Lotor had said. I tried to give him advice, all to help delay an unpleasant fate for Romelle. “You must exert care and patience where the princess is concerned.” I said. Lotor rolled his eyes in annoyance at me. “She is unused to our ways…..she saw you kill her father before her very eyes….her planet was betrayed by ours…it’s no wonder she isn’t coping well…”

“She needs to get over those things, and get over it fast!” Lotor grumbled. “My patience is not infinite.” How well I knew, and feared! “She can’t spend her time whining and crying over the past. She needs to embrace her future. Her future with ME!”

“I’m sure she will, given enough time…” It was a bold face lie, I knew Romelle would never forget or forgive him for what he had done.

“She better.” Grumbled Lotor, and it seemed the subject was at an end. He would turn his attention back to his harem, taking comfort from the seductive swaying of the slave’s bodies. I wish I could say I grew at ease watching them, but I remained tense. I practically leapt out of my skin when a soldier burst into the room, an excited shout being called out.

“Prince Lotor, Commander Sabbath! King Zarkon would have you come to him at once!”

“What? My father?” Lotor grimaced. “What does he want now?”

“I know not sire, save to tell you Haggar the witch has also been summoned.” Lotor and I exchanged glances, knowing this had to be serious.

“We will be there at once.” Lotor said, already rising to his feet. The harem girls would scatter at his insistence, the music grinding to a halt. Together Lotor and I would leave, following the soldier to Zarkon’s private office. Haggar was just arriving, having a soldier of her own accompany her. We would all exchanged greetings, but neither did we linger for long out in the hall. Not when we were eager to know the reason behind this summoning.

Zarkon would be seated behind his desk, staring not at us, but something on the computer before him. He wouldn’t even greet us in a formal way, save for an acknowledging grunt as he typed out a command into the computer’s console.

“Take a look at this.” He said, as a view screen lowered from the ceiling. We all immediately fastened our eyes onto the screen, watching as missile bombarded some planet. Each hit was followed with a violent explosion, that decimated the land around it for miles. Whole buildings were wiped out, the people vaporized in the explosion. The land was reduced to nothing but ash and dirt, a crater marking what had once existed.

“This is Planet Bolto.” Zarkon said at last. “We have been actively attempting to destroy it for the past ten hours.”

“Actively succeeding from the looks of it.” I said, and Zarkon grinned.

“It won’t be much longer until nothing is left of Bolto.”

“Why are we bothering with this backwater planet?” Lotor demanded, arms crossing over his chest. “I never even heard of this Bolto before this day!”

“That’s right! We should be concentrating on planet Arus…” Haggar spoke as if she hadn’t just suffered a crushing defeat at Arus’ hands.

“I think Bolto matters very much to us in the long run.” Zarkon paused, looking us all over. “I have received word that Bolto is the home world of one of the Voltron Force members.”

“Really?”

“Yes. That runt. The one who pilots green lion.” He smirked again. “I’ve also recived word that the lions of Arus have launched, all to scurry to the rescue of Bolto. Of course….blue lion has remained behind. It appears they had a disagreement over what to do…”

“This is perfect…Alllura is alone on Arus!” Lotor exclaimed, and Zarkon sneered.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself Lotor, you haven’t captured her yet!”

“But I will! With the lions separated by a distance of several hundred light years, there’s no way they can form Voltron!” Lotor laughed, and Haggar cackled in excitement.

“And while they are light years away, I will plan the capture of Planet Arus!”

“Yes, you will. Lotor, you’re going to Bolto.” I could see Lotor was displeased, he would much rather be sent to Arus.

“I must have the assurance that they will be defeated and not return!” Haggar was saying.

“Be assured. Lotor, you see that they are totally destroyed on planet Bolto. Commander, you are to go with him to make sure he doesn’t somehow fuck it up.”

“Yes, your highness.” I was ill at ease, not liking how Zarkon put the responsibility for Lotor’s mission in my hands. But what else could I do? I couldn’t wiggle off this hook, and could only hope it wouldn’t result in my death if Lotor somehow failed.


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