Songbird 24

It was becoming a habit with me, passing out in unexpected places. But this time there was no Romelle to hover concerned over me. What I got instead, was the unpleasant sight of Prince Lotor, the prince jerking on my hair. From the feel of it, he had been pulling on my braids for a while now, and I was surprise none of them had snapped free of my scalp.

“Good, you’re awake.” Lotor hissed, still holding onto my hair. He was holding me at an awkward angle, my head bowed back. I was on my knees, and at the moment the only thing that kept me from slumping down was the hold on my hair. My face hurt even more than it had before my impromptu nap, and I realized Lotor must have been slapping me in an attempt to rouse me from my sleep. Those slaps would only serve to aggravate my injuries, but then Lotor didn’t care how much harm he did to me.

“Where’s…where’s Romelle?” I asked, concerned when I realized I was still in her apartment. Lotor’s eyes narrowed, but not before I saw the fury flare up in those golden depths.

“Funny, that’s what I want to know!” I was confused, brow furrowing as I frowned. How could he not know where Romelle was? But Lotor had no patience or pity for my slow thought process, back handing me across the face. I almost bit my tongue in reaction, stunned by the blow. He raised his hand to give me another slap, and a voice called out to him.

“That’s more than enough your highness.” It was Doctor Shabatoba who spoke, his voice calm. “If you keep hitting him like that, he’ll only pass out. And then you may never find out what you want to know.”

I saw Lotor scowl at that, he didn’t like what the doctor had said, but knew it to be the truth. I was visibly on the edge of unconsciousness, mind still sluggish from the medicine the doctor had given me.

I rolled my eyes towards the figure of the doctor, and mumbled an accusation. “Thought you said those pills were only a mild sedative.”

“They were.” The doctor’s answer made me frown. “So long as they weren’t mixed with something else.”

“What else could there be?” I asked, and it was Lotor who snarled out an answer.

“The pain pills you so thoughtfully procured for Romelle!” I must have looked as blank as I felt, Lotor turning exasperated. “Don’t you get it commander?! She drugged you!”

“No…”

“YES! She purposefully played on your friendship, and used you to advance her own plans.” I almost smiled, which only annoyed Lotor further. “She betrayed you!”

“She only did what she had to, to get away from you.” I pointed out, which earned another slap from Lotor. I was seeing stars in place of him, but could still hear Lotor’s voice.

“She can’t have gotten very far. None of them could have.” Lotor was muttering.

“Calm down, you’ll find them.” Shabatoba was trying to soothe the prince’s temper.

“You better hope I do.” Lotor growled. “I’ve not forgotten it was medication you prescribed that helped aid her in this escape!” He let go of my hair, actually throwing me against the floor. “I hold the both of you accountable for what has happened!”

I pushed up off the floor, but stayed on my knees. “If any one is at fault, it’s you.” I told Lotor, who whirled to face me. He looked so angry, I was surprise he hadn’t drawn his sword yet. “You’re the one who committed countless crimes against her. You’re the one who raped her, who brutalized her so savagely there was blood everywhere!”

“Shut up!” snapped Lotor, but I refused.

“Doctor Shabatoba can tell you. He saw the marks on her body, the damage you had done. You nearly tore her up from the inside out!” I got another back hand to the face, and I fell over backwards onto the floor. Lotor’s sword was at my throat, he was breathing heavily. “It’s the ugly truth…and nothing you can say or do will fix what you have done! She’ll never love you, never even care for you! And when her cousin Allura finds out what you did, what you are really like, she will hate you too!”

I honestly thought he would end it there, slice open my throat in order to silence me once and for all. His arm was shaking with his tension, my own eyes were goading him on. I almost wanted to die, almost felt like I could go in peace now that Romelle had escaped from him.

But the killing blow never came, Lotor gaining control of himself. “No.” He shook his head, pulling back his sword. “No. You won’t get off so easily. I won’t let you escape your punishment.”

“Punishment? What worse could you do to me?!” I demanded. Lotor gave me a look that was pure evil in it’s malicious delight. I shivered in response, seeing how he was anticipating whatever tortures he wanted to visit on me.

“Trust me commander, when I say there are worse things to be had. You think what I did to Romelle was bad? That was nothing compared to what I will do to her now…”

“You shouldn’t hurt her to punish me!” I cried out, and he laughed, sounding mean and cruel.

“But it’s such an effective way to hurt you.” I knew he was right too, shivering in fear before him. “You fool. Caring for that girl. What is wrong with you? Do you think you love her? Is that why you go to such extremes to protect her?!”

I didn’t know how to answer him. Was it love I felt for Romelle? I knew enough to recognize it was more than just a simple attraction. I cared for her, thought her my friend. And if I looked closer at my feelings, then yes…I was falling in love with her. Had been for a while, each encounter only strengthening my feelings for her. And with that realization, shame flooded me, leaving me wondering what was wrong with me that I hadn’t tried to save her sooner. Why was it everything I did came too late? Even my thoughts of trying to help her escape Lotor had come too late, Romelle raped and then plotting and executing her own plan of escape.

And yet I admire her for her tenacity, the way she continued to struggle against Lotor and her fate. I liked that she had managed to flee from Lotor, even though I wish she had confided in me, and taken me along with her. But I could understand why she would leave me behind, even if that action left me hurt. Without even realizing it, I was smiling, inwardly cheering her on to success.

“Wipe that smirk off your face!” snarled Lotor. He didn’t understand how I could smile just then. It certainly was a bleak time, and whether Romelle was returned to him or not, my punishment was guaranteed.

“You should be ashamed of yourself.” Added Lotor. “Being outsmarted by a woman!”

“Not when the woman is as intelligent as the princess is.” I retorted.

“Hmph.” Lotor snorted, turning away from me to pace over to the doctor. I tracked his movements, and felt a chill go through me as I noticed a body laying on the floor. It was the guard I had bribed with money, and he wasn’t moving. Lotor noticed where my gaze had landed, and smirked. “Yes, I killed him. For being as big a fool as you!” He made a disgusted sound. “Falling for a woman’s trick. He should have never left you alone with them.”

He was right about that. I didn’t think the guard had panicked, not completely. But with five shrieking females, he had been badgered into leaving his post. I suddenly realized something, patting my pockets for the card key. Lotor noticed, and hissed out a question.

“Missing something?!” I nodded, pockets turning up empty. “They stole your key, you fool! It’s how they got out of this room. You all but gift wrapped the means for them to have near unlimited access to everywhere in the castle!”

“The King will not be pleased…” murmured Shabatoba.

“To hell with my father!” Lotor snapped, and he was right. The prince was the more pressing concern, his rage far more tangible than Zarkon’s could ever be. And yet for Lotor it was a valid concern the doctor had brought up. Zarkon would not be pleased to lose Romelle, the King in the midst of figuring out a way to use her against Doom’s enemies.

I was still laying on my back, too pained and tired to really try to sit up. I listened to Lotor growling at the doctor, and then the door to the apartment opened. A pair of guards rushed in, breathless and excited. “We found something!”

“What?!” Lotor growled, stalking over to them. My own heart dropped like an anvil, fearing what this would mean for Romelle.

“The fires!” explained one guard. “The ones that started in the corridor that led to the docks…”

“What about the fires?!” Lotor demanded, even as I was confused. There had been a fire in the castle?

“We have surveillance footage that it was started by the princess and her slaves. They used the fire as a distraction so they could sneak onboard a vessel. A small cargo ship is missing. It would be able to fly with a crew of four…..”

“I want that ship tracked down at once!” ordered Lotor. The guards nodded. “And spread the word to have my ship prepared as well. I am personally going after the princess.”

Communicators were whipped out, the guards already giving out orders as they ran out the room. The airwaves inside the castle were cluttered with voices, everyone had been looking for the princess, or dealing with the fires. Now they would be given a new purpose, soldiers being gathered to board Lotors’ ship. His wouldn’t be the only vessel going after Romelle, already two ships had taken off in pursuit.

“Get up.” Lotor ordered, scowling at me. I didn’t move fast enough for his liking, he was grabbing me by my braided hair, hauling me upright. I grunted, but otherwise did not vocalize me pain. “You’re coming with me. You both are.”

“Me?” Doctor Shabatoba was surprised.

“The princess will be in need of your services soon enough.” That was ominous, a million reasons flashing in my mind over why she would need to be treated by Shabatoba.

“Don’t hurt her!” I said, shoving at Lotor’s chest to get him away from me. “Not anymore…”

“You have no bargaining power with me.” Lotor responded coldly. “Nor can you expect me to grant you any favors.”

“Asshole.”

“Quite right.” Lotor retorted, and shoved me towards the door. I stumbled, but righted myself at the last moment. Lotor continued to push at my back, constantly trying to make me fall down as we moved through the corridors. I managed not to, which I’m sure annoyed him all the more. Doctor Shabatoba quietly brought up our rear, and as we arrived at the docks, Haggar and General Mogor was waiting for us.

The General took one look at me, and winced, but was otherwise quiet. It seemed he had some inkling of why I was in the condition I appeared in. Haggar was looking me over as well, but her expression was guarded. I met her eyes, my voice gruff as I asked.

“Was this the trouble you foresaw witch? Did you know this would happen?”

“Yes and no.” Was her answer. “The vision wasn’t clear, flooding me with so much information I couldn’t latch on to any details.” She paused, and then tsked, tongue clucking against her teeth. “Was it worth it commander? Was it worth sparing her life?!”

“What are you two talking about?!” Lotor demanded, eyes suspicious.

“Oh, nothing sire.” Haggar said quick enough. She didn’t want him to know she wanted his precious princess dead. I was angry, and wanting to lash out, so opened my mouth to tell him just what he wanted to know. But my voice wouldn’t come, the witch had guessed my intentions, and silenced me with a spell. I seethed at that, wanting to reach out and punch her. But at my first aggressive move, guards seized me by my arms, dragging me up the ramp.

Lotor and his entourage would follow, all of us going to the command deck of the flag ship. We’d soon take off, following a signal given off by a tracking beacon inside the stolen cargo ship. Our ships were all similarly equipped with those beacons, all to prevent such scenarios from succeeding.

We wouldn’t be far from Doom when a transmission from one the ships in pursuit of Romelle came through to our ship. Lotor immediately had it put up on the screen, the pilot clearly relishing the news he had for his prince. “We’ve sighted the cargo ship sire.”

“Move in for attack position!” Came Lotor’s orders, the prince looking pleased as he leaned back in his seat. “Fire blinding stun beams only. I don’t want the princess injured.”

“How considerate of you sire.” Was the pilots’ answer. I nearly snorted then, thinking Lotor was anything but considerate. He just wanted to ensure Romelle lived so he could torture her some more.

The pilot would adjust some levers on the console in front of him, the image on the view screen showing the cargo ship now. We could see the red beams firing on it, explosions occurring on the left side of the ship. Lotor began to laugh as the smoking ship spun out of control, still trying desperately to keep moving.

“Sire! They are attempting to call for help!” Came one of the technicians onboard the ship.

“It won’t do them any good!” Lotor smirked, gesturing for the technician to play Romelle’s transmission. It was a frantic plea to planet Pollux, Romelle calling for her brother.

“Calling planet Pollux, calling Prince Bandor.” Romelle kept repeating the message over and over. I could occasionally hear the screams of the women with her, but Romelle remained calm. “It’s Romelle. We escaped, but we’re in trouble. We’re going to crash land on planet Nieve.”

“Sire…we didn’t manage to block the signal in time. It’s gone out not only to Pollux, but to all the planets in this solar system.” The technician called out.

“Damn!” Lotor grumbled. “This could be trouble if the Voltron Force gets wind of this.”

Haggar began laughing, drawing Lotors’ glare to her. “I have a plan! Let us go to planet Nieve, and lay a trap for the Voltron Force.” She was still laughing, and I wondered if she knew for certain that the Voltron Force would come.

“A trap? What kind?” Lotor asked.

“Why the perfect kind to get you Allura of course!” Haggar answered. “Romelle makes the perfect bait…as an ally of planet Pollux, the Voltron Force will be unable to resist coming to her rescue…and that’s when they’ll meet ME!”

Haggar began to lay out the details of her plan, explaining how she’d use her magic to take on the form of princess Romelle. Lotor relaxed when he heard Romelle would never come near to the Voltron Force, pleased at the thought of returning to Doom with not one but two princesses on his arms.

We would fly top speed to planet Nieve, a world that was made of inhospitable ice. The winds continually howled, blowing fierce and cold. The snow consistently pelted the land, and it wouldn’t take more than a few hours for it to bury the ships in it’s white embrace. In the distance I could see the fire blazing, a result of the cargo vessel’s forced landing. I knew it was bad that the ship had been damaged that badly, but the fire promised that Romelle and the women would remain warm for a time.

They had to, considering it would take a good two hours for Lotor’s ship to arrive on Nieve. We would land some distance away, taking a ground based transport vehicle over to the crash site. The pilot who had shot the cargo vessel down was already there, his ship’s weapons trained on it’s undamaged side.

“There’s been no movement outside.” He reported to Lotor. “Neither the princess, nor her slaves have emerged in all this time. Nor do they reply to any hailings.”

I wondered then if Romelle could have died in the crash, especially when the pilot reported that the ship had maintained radio silence since it’s forced landing. They were no longer calling for help. It could have been that their radio had been damaged in the crash, but I feared the worse.

“You first Commander.” Lotor shoved me in the direction of the cargo ship, his voice mocking. I took unsteady steps towards the ship, not wearing the proper footwear to handle the slippery ice. It should have been easier to move on the snow, but it was so deep here, I sunk down into it up to my knees. I made slow progress to the ship, but eventually I reached it. The snow crunching behind me alerted me to the fact that Lotor and the others were following me.

The prince would force me to be the one to pry open the ship’s damaged door. I would cautiously poke my head inside, conscious of a potential attack. Lotor grew impatient, a shove on my back forcing me inside. But nothing attacked me. It seemed that if Romelle lived, she and the other women hadn’t managed to get their hands on any weapons.

“Romelle, come out.” Lotor’s voice echoed through the ship. It should have been the only sound, but one of the slave girls whimpered in fear. Immediately several other voices were heard, the women hissing at the first to be quiet. Lotor smirked, and gave a gesture for his soldiers to proceed ahead of him into the ship. The women’s hiding spots would be uncovered, screams erupting as they all began to fight and cry.

Only Romelle remained dignified, looking resigned even as she glared defiantly at Lotor. Soldiers took her by the arms, and proceeded to drag her over to Lotor. They led her past Doctor Shabatoba, who was hurrying over to one of the slave girls. She was screaming, her clothes bloody. She had apparently been injured during the crash, the pain such that it had driven her to whimper uncontrollably.

“It’s all right.” Shabatoba was saying, shoving aside the soldiers. “I am a doctor.” He immediately began checking her over for the source of her injuries. It would be revealed to be a nasty gash, one the doctor said would require stitches to close.

“Well, my dear…” Lotor reached out to grasp hold of her chin, but he needn’t have bothered. Romelle couldn’t take her eyes off him, seeming to be shaking, probably from a combination of fear and revulsion. I couldn’t blame her, he was after all her tormentor, the man who had raped her. It had to be a crushing blow, to have almost escaped from him, only to be caught at the last possible second.

“It was a valiant effort.” Continued Lotor, purring at her. “But ultimately a futile one.”

“I will never give up!” Romelle told him. “And one day I will escape from you!”

“That stubborn determination is something I admire in you.” Lotor retorted. “It would have been a shame if your spirit had been damaged in the crash.” He smirked again. “I’m glad you are unharmed. It would have made things so less satisfactory if I had to wait for you to heal.” She paled in fright then, trying to jerk out of his grip. He just grabbed at her arms, pulling her against him. “And Romelle? It’s time for your FIRST punishment.”

He spun her around, so that her back was pressed against his front. An arm was across her chest, holding her trapped against him. Lotor bent over, lips by her ear, actually kissing the curve of it before issuing out an order. “Do it.”

“Do what?! What are you going to do?!” demanded Romelle. Her voice raised in a scream, the hum of lazon filling the air. The soldiers had drawn their swords, and were stabbing them into the bodies of the slaves that had escaped with Romelle. Doctor Shabatoba was startled, shouting in dismay as the slave he was tending to, was killed before his eyes.

“Why?!” Romelle would have surely fallen to the ground if not for Lotor holding her up. “Why would you do that?!”

“The punishment is clear for slaves who try to escape.” Lotor told her. “They couldn’t be tolerated to live.” He kissed her ear again, laughing softly. “It’s all on you Romelle. All your fault for inspiring them to rebel against the Empire, and escape with you.”

“No!”

“Yes!” hissed Lotor. “You should have never tried to leave me. You should have known I wouldn’t let you go, that I wouldn’t travel to the ends of the galaxy if need be to bring you back to my bed!”

“That’s enough!” I shouted at him, and one of the soldiers punched me in the stomach. Romelle cried out, maybe realizing for the first time that I was there.

“Sabbath!” She tried to wiggle free of Lotor’s arm, but he merely tightened his hold, his expression cold as he looked towards me. “Leave him alone!” She screamed when I was punched a second time. Lotor scowled, not liking her concern.

“This is touching, really it is.” Lotor mocked. “So beautiful the concern you have for one another. Pity it can be broken just like anything else on this ship.”

“Please…” Romelle pleaded, but Lotor chose to ignore her. It was then that Haggar stepped into our midst. She calmly took in the sight of the dead slave girls, of Romelle’s tear streaked face, and of my hunched over body.

“I’m sure this make for a fascinating drama.” She said with a tsk. “But the Voltron Force and a ship from Planet Pollux approach this world. We just barely have enough time to get everyone into position…” She gave Lotor a questioning look. “Or are you content to leave here with just Romelle?”

“No…I will have Allura too.” Lotor retorted. “I will make some good come out of this mess Romelle thrust us into.” He smiled and spun her around to face him. “Won’t that make you happy? To have your cousin for company?!”

“NO!”

“I will have Allura, and it will all be because of you!” She shrieked again, Lotor moving to cover her mouth with his. I’m not sure what happened next, what went through Romelle’s mind. She seemed to stiffen against him, for once not trying to hit him. And then she was sagging in his grip, Romelle having fainted. Lotor looked put out by her reaction to his kiss, lifting her up in his arms.

“You seem to have knocked her off her feet sire.” Mogor joked.

“I have that effect on a lot of women.” Lotor dryly retorted. “Well, Haggar. It’s your show now. Don’t disappoint me.”

“I won’t sire, I promise!” Haggar said. She was already casting her magic, her ugly visage taking on the beautiful features of princess Romelle. She became identical to the girl, right down to the blue and pink dress the girl was wearing. Haggar would move into the cargo hold of the ship, laying down on the floor to pretend she had been knocked unconscious. The bodies of the slave girls were left to lay where they had been slain, out in the open of the corridor of the ship.

Lotor would take the rest of us back to his ship, and there we would wait. Lotor would sit in the commander’s chair, Romelle on his lap. She remained unconscious, slumped against his chest. Lotor seemed to take pleasure in just the simple act of stroking her hair, letting the repetitive actions calm his nerves. He like the rest of us was anxious, eager to see the Voltron Force fall into Haggar’s trap. For the first time in my life, I found myself rooting for the Voltron Force to win. And all because I felt they were the only chance Romelle had of ending the nightmare Lotor had thrust her into.


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