Songbird 21

When I look back, I often wonder if there was something I could have done to keep things from crumbling apart around myself and Romelle. There is a handful of what ifs in my mind, a dozen potentials outcomes all dependent on the actions I did not take. I certainly hadn’t been prepared to risk myself, and help her escape from the castle and planet Doom. I had foolishly clung to my life in the Empire, the one I had built up for myself from the gutter up. I hadn’t wanted to be a traitor, not to my empire or to my friend.

Of course, helping Romelle to escape was just one of the things I could have done differently that night. I often wonder if I hadn’t declined his offer to go out drinking, if I had gone with him to trick the soldiers into revealing his father’s spy I could have somehow controlled the situation. Often did I wonder if the two of us had been the ones to get drunk, if I couldn’t have steered him towards his harem to soothe his lusts. Or even kept plying him with drink to the point he was unable to function and thus pass out. Would that have saved us from what happened next? Or would it have only been delaying the inevitable?

I suppose there’s no way of knowing for sure. I only torment myself with these questions. It is a torment similar to the one I endured that night, my mind plagued by uncertain doubts and fears. I continued to feel unsettled, to the point I was unable to relax. I tried though, wandering the castle’s floors, pausing in certain rooms. I visited the library, but none of the books there could hold my interest. Nor was I distracted by the chatter of those who attended the hourly feasting inside the banquet room.

They spoke of Zarkon, and of Lotor’s mother, the mysterious Adaline. The gossip there was all speculation, these men and women knew nothing concrete about her. I would pick at my meal, and leave most of it untouched, leaving soon to resume my travels. I was completely aimless, stopping at the gymnasium, and watching the soldiers there exercise. I felt restless energy within me, but it wasn’t enough to goad me into joining the Drules on the exercise mats.

I continued to wander, wanting–needing something to calm me. But drink held no appeal, and there was little people around whose company I desired. The only one I wanted to be with was Romelle, and sure enough, after an hour and a half of wandering, I found myself in the main corridor of the prince’s wing. I knew right away which room was hers, Romelle’s door being guarded by a single soldier.

I recognized him as a Drule I had sparred with in the past, some soldier who had the fortune of earning a position inside the castle. Some of us might have envied those with castle jobs. It wasn’t a hard life to be a guard in the castle, the pay was good, and there was less chance of dying than for those of us who fought day to day on the battlefields of the planets Doom was trying to invade.

The guards of the castle were a different breed of soldier from those in the Empire’s military. It still didn’t exempt them from the orders of a higher ranking soldier. I would use that to my advantage, pulling rank on the guard to gain admittance to Romelle’s room. The man was uneasy with this, muttering things about it not being proper or part of procedure. I went so far as to slip him a palm full of coins, dismissing him from his post. He didn’t stick around, hurrying off before I could change my mind and demand back my money.

Romelle wasn’t present in the outer chamber of the apartment. At least not until I called out to her. She had probably been expecting Lotor to be the one to call upon her, her face showing her surprise at seeing me. Nor could she hide the flash of relief in her eyes, the whole situation making her uneasy since she had been moved from the dungeons to this lavish apartment.

I found myself mirroring her relief, looking her over for signs of abuse. The bruise on her cheek had faded, no longer so stark and ugly a contrast to her fair skin. She was dressed in a pale lavender gown, with black lacing folding over the edge of the bodice, and over her sleeves. The gown hid too much of her body, leaving me unable to know if bruises were on her beneath that pale silk. But still, she looked well enough, and I found myself relaxing noticeable.

“Is he treating you well?” I finally broke the silence with that concerned question. Romelle gave a shrug of her shoulders, then flung out her arms to gesture about the room.

“Well, enough I suppose.” But she didn’t look happy about her surroundings, or the comforts that had been awarded to her.

“He hasn’t been…” It wasn’t that I wasn’t sure how to ask her about Lotor’s interest, but more I was scared to find out just how forward he had been with her. “He hasn’t been too demanding, has he?”

“He’s been his usual, overbearing self. All arrogant and high handed.” Romelle answered.

“High handed?” I raised an eyebrow at that, and she flushed a subtle pink color. “What has he done?” Anger colored my worry, making me growl. She blushed even harder then, eyes turning downcast. “Romelle…”

“It’s not what you think.” She said at last. “It’s not like it was on Pollux..not yet at least.” She shivered then, crossing her arms over her chest as though hugging herself for comfort. “He’s been spending time with me…giving me gifts, and making his expectations known.”

“I’ll bet.” I grumbled.

“He doesn’t understand why I am not more appreciative of all he’s done.” Added Romelle. “Why I continue to deny him things, expressions of affection.” I tried not to let my mind run wild at her words, wondering just what sort of affection Lotor demanded of her. “He refuses to understand I can give him NOTHING of what he wants. Nor would I want to!”

“There is danger in that….” I said. “I fear for you Romelle, I truly do. The prince, he is not known for his patience, especially where women are concerned.”

“He takes what he wants.” She said flatly, and I nodded.

“That he does. He might be content to play around with you, but sooner rather than later, he will tire of this game.”

“You tell me things I already know.” Romelle replied. “I know my time is running out…” The sad fact was I knew it too, and knew not how to extend it for her. If she played at being grateful to Lotor for his niceties, he would only grow more delusional and demanding. Asking things of Romelle she would never be prepared to give. The mystery of how he could think she would come to love him when Romelle couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with him continued to confound me.

“The King is still adamant Lotor may not marry you until he gains victory over Voltron.” Romelle gave me a sad smile, as though I was the one being naive.

“He doesn’t need to be married to me to do what he wants to do.” Her voice was a soft chide, Romelle looking downwards. “Even I am not so foolish as to believe a lack of commitment will stay his hand for long.”

Once again she left me unsure of what to say, both of us well alert to the grimness of her situation. I had no words to reassure her, nor could I make promises that Lotor would not touch her. Not when she was in the apartment he had set up for her, surrounded by the things he had bought, clothed in the gown he had personally picked out for her. Lotors’ presence was everywhere, it suffocated these chambers.

“Enough.” Romelle gave a shake of her head, and walked over to the two person table that sat situated in one corner of the room. She gestured for me to join her there, the girl pouring me a glass of the cider that had been chilling inside a pitcher. There was an array of cookies and sweets on a platter, but neither of us made a move towards it. We could barely stomach the poured cider, fingers playing against our cups.

“Tell me…” She said after a long pause of several minutes. “What news do you have of Pollux?” Her eyes sparkled with curiosity, Romelle was longing for information about her home world and brother. “How is Bandor coping?”

I was chagrined to realize I had no such information for her, not having given thought to do some snooping before coming to see her. “I regret to tell you I do not know. Pollux has been surprisingly quiet since that declaration of war. Forgive me.” Glum I lowered my eyes to my cup. Romelle moved to touch my hand, covering it with her own.

“It just means my brother is being smart, playing things close to his chest if Doom has not gotten wind of Pollux’s plans.”

“That may very well be the case.” I agreed. “But I will do my best to find out something I can tell you. At the very least I could inquire about your brother’s health…”

“I’d like that.” Just as quickly, she withdrew her hand, placing it around her cup. “If I may…can you tell me how the cities are recovering? It will be winter soon on Pollux, and I can’t bear the thought of what will happen to the people rendered homeless during Doom’s attack.”

“I’m sure you’re brother will be doing everything he can to help lessen your people’s plight.” I tried to be reassuring for her, though I wondered what if anything Bandor would manage to do. He had to be feeling overwhelmed, newly crowned ruler of the planet, left without any family to rely on, poised to wage war with a mighty empire. So much of the planet had been ruined, whole cities devastated. Would it be too much burden on the young boy’s shoulders?

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right.” A faint glimmer of a smile from Romelle. “Bandor won’t let them suffer, not if he can do anything about it!”

I marveled at her utter confidence in her brother’s abilities, wondering if there was another facet to the boy I had not been made aware of. I had not spent much if any time in Bandor’s presence, leaving me dependent on rumors and Romelle to form an impression of the boy. I sincerely began to hope that Bandor really could live up to Romelle’s expectations. The people of Pollux would be better off if they were led by someone capable.

“Is it true…” Romelle would jar me from my thoughts with her questions. “That Pollux and Arus are now allies?”

“Yes.” I was not surprised that she had heard the news. Not even her captive status could keep the gossip from trickling through the cracks of her prison. “It was Doom’s betrayal that led Pollux to mend past fences with Arus.”

She looked relieved to hear it, almost but not quite happy at the news. “I’m glad to hear it. It’s a shame, but at least some good came out of this tragedy.”

“So it did.” I agreed. She said nothing in response, letting the conversation die. I won’t say it wasn’t an awkward silence that took it’s place. It was. The first of many, our attempts at talking stilted at times. I watched her play her fingers against the rim of her cup, Romelle looking deep in thought. But whenever I made a move to leave, she would speak, drawing me back in to answering her questions.

It wasn’t what you might think. She didn’t try to pump me for information to use against the Doom Empire. Instead she was curious about me, Romelle asking me things that I sometimes felt uncomfortable to talk about. Especially about my childhood, the girl curious about the kind of up bringing I had had. I didn’t like remembering Canias, but for her I made the effort to find the few pleasant memories I had.

It was no surprise that those memories were of the time before I was kicked out of the brothel, of the time I spent being cared for by my mother and the other slaves. The women there liked children, quick to spoil them as best and as often as they could. As slaves their possessions weren’t their own, it made it difficult for them to get the things a child would want or need. Many of my toys and clothes had been hand crafted, or passed down from children who had previously lived in the brothel.

Officially I had no brothers or sisters, but there was a kinship among the accidental children the slave girls bore. We were all fast friends, close and loving with one another. We cried whenever one of us went missing, never suspecting the darker truth behind the brothel’s owners cruelties. The boys were almost always kicked out of the brothel before they could mature into teenagers. And the girls? The girls were kept, groomed to become whores, just another way for the master to make more money.

When Romelle asked me about the other children, what had happened to them, I grew quiet. I said nothing, but my face must have betrayed me for she said a quiet oh, and looked down. I’m sure she had figured out what had happened to the girls, and could guess at the uncertain fates of the tossed out boys. Even I did not know for certain what had happen to them, they might have died out on the streets, or fought their way to survive. Some might have become criminals, others like myself, might have become part of the Empire.

I was more relaxed when she began to ask me about my academy days. The physical hardship was immense, but the severity of my instructors was lessened by the fact that I had stability in my life once more. I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and a guaranteed several square meals a day. I found this sort of life suited me far better then being a penniless urchin scrounging for scraps. Was it any wonder I became determined to not only earn my keep, but to excel at my duties?

I can’t say for sure if Romelle was truly fascinated by what I was saying. She was lonely, and enjoyed having a company that made no demands of her, especially not of the lewd kind. She actually leaned forward in her seat, eyes intent on me as the princess listened to my stories. I was careful not to speak of my first associations with Lotor, not wanting to darken her expression with any mention of the prince. There was more than enough to tell her without bringing Lotor into the mix.

Soon she had me regaling her with tales of the worlds I had visited, both of us ignoring the fact that many of them had been under attack by the Doom Empire. Instead of telling her about the battles, I told her about the land and the people, and what customs and culture I managed to learn from them. Frankly I’m surprised my voice didn’t grow hoarse from all the talking she had me do, my cider’s ice melting, the drink all but untouched.

It grew late, the hours flying by faster than I would have liked. Truth be known, I lost track of time, so intent on keeping Romelle company. It soothed something in me to talk to her like this, I almost relaxed from my earlier unease. I may have even smiled at her, and she touched my hand on more than one occasion. I savored that touch, gaining an illicit thrill from any contact she freely gave me.

But it was pure innocence on her part, Romelle meaning nothing more than a kind friendship to me. The whole atmosphere in the room was like that, easy going and tension free, no expectations from either one of us. Pity Lotor wouldn’t see it that way, the prince kicking in the door while I was in mid story. Tensing, I leapt to my feet, my chair toppling over at my sudden change of position.

Romelle remained seated, gasping loudly. I didn’t turn to look at her, instead gazing at the visibly angry Prince of Doom. His lips were scowling, and his eyes were narrowed at me, an accusation in them. Could what happened have been averted if I had left Romelle’s side just an hour earlier? But even without his jealousy roused, Lotor had clearly come to this room with a purpose in mind.

“Your highness.” I did not dare bow more than the slightest nod of my head, too conscious of what might happen if I took my eyes off him. “Did you find your rat?”

“Yes…yes I did.” He entered the room, the door falling shut behind him. “But I see now there is more than one rat to consider.” My own eyes wanted to widen in shock at his meaning, even as I asked a question uneasily.

“Oh? Is there more than one?”

“I don’t know Sabbath, you tell me.” Lotor was prowling closer to me, but I held my ground. I would not run, and I would not cower before him. “Why am I not as surprised as I should be to find you here?”

“I’m not sure what you think is going on, but we were just talking.” Romelle announced, and Lotor growled.

“I didn’t ask you Romelle!” He arched one white brow at me. “Talking Sabbath? Is that what you were doing?!”

“Yes. It was just some harmless conversation. The princess was curious about me and…” I trailed off, seeing how enraged Lotor seemed to grow at the thought of Romelle showing any kind of interest in me.

“You know what I think?” Lotor asked, then continued without waiting for my response. “I think you were doing more than just talking. I think, you’re trying to move in on my territory.”

“You’re territory?!” Romelle sounded aghast at that.

“You’re always around her…always popping up to help her, to talk to her, to do nice things for her. You undermine my progress with your actions!”

“It’s not done on purpose.” I said quietly, and Lotor laughed. He was close enough to me that I could smell the stench coming off him. He reeked of beer and blood, the kind the soldiers brewed in the barracks. I could guess at the blood, thinking he had found Zarkon’s informant and killed him. I was determined not to be the next body added to Lotor’s tally of corpses.

“Then what do you think you are doing?!” Lotor demanded. “Why concern yourself with another man’s woman?!”

“I am not your woman!” Romelle protested, but was ignored.

“It’s…”

“It’s what?!” Lotor demanded. “Certainly you never cared about being friends with a prisoner before. Is that all it takes Sabbath? A pretty set of blue eyes, and you suddenly turn traitor to your prince and your Empire!?”

“I have not turned traitor!” I snapped back, annoyed. “I have not done anything to support such a belief!”

“You better hope I don’t find out otherwise!” Lotor growled, then thrust a finger in my face. He actually poked me between my eyes, hissing things at me. “There’s going to be no more of this. No more seeing Romelle. No more talking to her, no more giving her gifts, you won’t even so much as LOOK at her!”

“No! You can’t do that!” Perhaps if Romelle had kept her tongue, it would have kept the situation from growing out of control.

“Oh? And why not?” Lotor demanded, peering over my shoulder at Romelle.

“He’s my…he’s my friend!” She announced, and Lotor smirked.

“A friend?! Oh isn’t that sweet…Let me tell you something princess. Drules don’t make friends with women. There’s only one two things we could ever want from a woman, family or a quick fuck. And you’ll never give Sabbath either one of those!”

Romelle had gasped at his language, I could just imagine her face turning pale with shock.

“Understand now Romelle? He’ll use you just as quick as any other Drule. You’re better off with me.”

“Why?!” She demanded tartly. “Because you’ll marry me?!”

“I will make you a princess of the Doom Empire!” Roared Lotor, and he shoved me aside. It was a violent push, I stumbled before catching my footing. “And one day, when my father is gone, I will be King! And you will rule at my side with your cousin Allura!”

“You’re insane!” Romelle said, as Lotor advanced on her. She hadn’t the time to rise from her seat before he was in front of her, hands slamming down on the arm rests of her chair. It left her trapped, Lotor sneering directly into her face. “I will NEVER be yours! And neither will Allura!”

“You will! You will not only become my bride, you will do and speak as I demand!” Lotor snarled, practically spitting in her face. I was walking towards them, though I wasn’t sure what I was about to do. Pull him away from her? And then what? He’d surely go ballistic.

My indecision cost Romelle, Lotor suddenly fisting the side of her hair. She cried out in pain when he used that grip to haul her up out of her seat, Lotor moving in for a kiss. There was none of his usual teasing or artful seduction, he went straight to shoving his tongue past her lips. She let out an indignant shriek, her hands rising as fists to beat at his chest. She even tried to pull his hair, Lotor responding with a growl and jerking harder on HER hair.

My inaction was at an end, I grabbed him by the arm that wasn’t pulling on Romelle’s hair. “Your highness!” He was reluctant to turn to face me, still trying to rape Romelle’s mouth with his tongue. “LOTOR STOP!”

This time he did turn, but he kept his grip on Romelle’s hair. His eyes which were more angry than aroused, glared at me. He seemed oblivious to the way Romelle was pounding her fists on his chest, too focused on me now. That focus wasn’t a good thing, and I almost took a step back.

“You best be leaving Commander.” Lotor told me, and I shook my head.

“Not without you.”

“Me? Don’t be absurd. I have some things I must make Romelle understand.” That was what I was afraid of. I pulled harder on his arm, as though I would physically drag him to the door.

“Now is not the time for that.” I told Lotor.

“Oh but I think it is.” He hissed. ‘Now is the perfect time…for both of you to understand the situation as it was meant to be!” Romelle was looking like she wanted to spit, surely disgusted by the fact Lotor had had his tongue in her mouth. “Now I’ll tell you one last time. Leave!”

“I won’t.” I refused. “I won’t let you make this kind of mistake…” I barely got out the words when he punched me square in the face. It stunned me, leaving my dazed and seeing stars. I heard Romelle scream, and only then realized Lotor had let her go, and was punching me a second time.

“Sabbath!”

Romelle calling my name couldn’t serve any purpose but to further enrage Lotor. He tried for a third punch, and I threw up my arms to cover my face. That blows of his hit my forearms, and then I was kicking out with my right leg. That knocked Lotor away from me, I was able to lower my arms and take stock of the situation. Romelle was still close to me, her hands over her mouth as she gasped.

“Sabbath, look out!”

Lotor barreled into me, taking me and the table I crashed into down. The legs simply collapsed from the violent force that had hit it. Lotor tried to punch me again, and I was throwing punches too, some landing, some not. We’d both begin wrestling, rolling about before we managed to lunge to our feet. I still felt disoriented from the blows to my face, but Lotor had to also being feeling the disorientation due to how drunk he was.

It put us on more even ground, but I was still conscious of how I had never beaten Lotor in a fair fight before. And from the looks of things, I wouldn’t be doing that now. I grabbed for a piece of the broken table, intending to smash it down on Lotor’s head. He dodged, leaving me to hit him in the shoulder. A grunt of pain came from the prince, and then he was grabbing me by my hair, slamming me face first into his knee.

I twisted in his hold, trying to get free. It wasn’t working, so I pretended to go limp. That fooled the drunk into thinking I was defeated. Lotor let go of me, and I immediately stood up and threw my most vicious uppercut into his jaw. He cried out, then backhanded me across the face. I would follow up with my own back hand, and for a while we just traded punches in that manner.

We added our legs into the mix, kicking high and low, searching for openings on each other’s bodies. And then Lotor pulled a dirty move, a knee hitting me right between the legs. That hurt like hell, and I cried out, hunching over as though I would try to protect my crotch from being kicked again. Lotor took advantage of my distraction, to smack me so hard, I fell over backwards. He fell on top of me, and began pummeling me all over.

I could have, should have died then, Lotor wasn’t stopping. He had a wicked smile on his face, his eyes showing the frenzy of blood lust. He was going to kill me with his bare hands, and I was beyond stopping him at that point. My poor body, abused and in pain, might even be broken inside. I was bleeding heavily from the nose and the mouth, and the pain in my chest hinted that at least one rib had to be broken. And still he continued to have at me, until suddenly he stopped.

The voice of an angel spoke. I was confused until I realized it was Romelle, pulling on his arm, trying to get him to stop. She was crying, near hysterics, and still she thought to protect me. I’m not sure what she said, my ears were ringing too loudly for me to understand her words at that moment. But Lotor left me, and as I looked up at them, I saw him grabbing at her.

She paled and shrieked, the sound hurting my ears. She began hitting him once more, Lotor trying to kiss her as he dragged her away from me. I would scream too, in helpless fury, ordering him to leave her alone. Lotor just laughed, and threw her over his shoulder. Her hair obscured her face from me, but she was fighting even from that upside down position.

They’d move out of my view, Lotor taking her into the bedroom. Her shrieks would get louder, and I could heard the sound of clothing being ripped. I knew what he was trying to do, and even in all that pain, I moved to stop him. It hurt, and I had to drag myself forward with my hands. “Don’t…don’t you hurt her…” I rasped. My voice was weak, unable to properly convey my anger. But I felt it all the same.

I wouldn’t get very far, I was in too much pain. The door was just out of my view, left open as though Lotor had wanted to give me a ring side seat to his violation of Romelle. I wasn’t in any vantage point to see anything, but I could hear. The sounds disturbed me, Lotor alternating between guttural moans and vicious snarls. Romelle was weeping now, only occasionally letting out a scream. The sound of flesh hitting flesh was heard, it sicken me with how it repeated.

I tried to stay awake, though to what purpose that would serve I did not know. I heard another scream, from the sound of it, Lotor had slapped Romelle. It was then I began begging her to not fight him anymore, if only to save herself from further abuse. The sounds of her torment would continue, but I was long past remaining conscious. It might have been a blessing to pass out when I did, for it meant I could no longer feel pain or hear Romelle’s rape. I gave into the blackness with a sigh, and then there was nothing.


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