Songbird 29

Princess Corral would continue to question me about Lotor at every available opportunity. But her interest didn’t lie so much with her future husbands’ likes and dislikes, Corral being far more interested in Lotor’s romantic history. She was especially fascinated with his interest in Allura, the princess full of questions to the point that sometimes she didn’t know the right words to use in my language. I could see that the limits of the language barrier frustrated Corral, though it didn’t stop her from prying.

I would tell Corral what I could, detailing the close encounters Lotor had had with the princess of Arus. There wasn’t that many, and I found what had happened wasn’t particularly romantic. Certainly not romantic enough to earn the wistful sighs of Corral, the princess looking dreamy eyed at the thought of Lotor’s forbidden love. There was something going on there, something beyond the surface of what Corral showed me.

I wouldn’t find out what that something was until nearly two days later. Corral and I would be inside one of the spare banquet halls, watching the slaves as they hurried about to get things ready for the upcoming wedding. Fine drapery of black and blood red velvet were covering the walls, the colors chosen specifically for a Drule wedding. The black laced table cloths were being spread out, and bunches of balloons were being gathered and adhered to the corners of the hall.

Even as she kept one eye on the proceedings, Corral attempted to talk to me. Her voice, always so halting and uncertain when she tried to speak my language, was at a low chirp.

“When Lotor see Allura….Lotor know?”

“Know what?” I asked, watching a slave struggle with marble drink fountain. He was coming perilously close to dropping it, an action that would get him whipped for sure. But none of the other slaves were free to come to the man’s assistance. Each one was busy with their own tasks.

“That it love.” Corral clarified.

Still watching the slave with the fountain, I didn’t need long to think about her question. “He knew she was the one he wanted from the first moment he laid eyes on her.” But I didn’t say it was love. It didn’t matter. Corral would choose to interpret my words however she wished, building Lotor up to be this great romantic figure.

Corral was quiet then. Out the corner of my eye I could see her staring off into the distance. Her look was thoughtful, Corral bringing up a hand to touch her red hair. This time when she sighed, it was a sad sound. It drew my full attention to the princess, and I noted her frown.

“Lotor….doesn’t want Corral.” She announced. I didn’t know what to say to that. the statement harsh and all too true. Lotor had an instant dislike for his future bride, and the prince had gone out of his way to show it. He avoided Corral when he could, and those few times Zarkon had forced Lotor to meet with Corral, the prince had blatantly been rude to her face. It was apparent to all that he would not be a kind and caring husband, certainly not to Corral.

“Lotor should be with Allura.” Corral said this with a firm nod. “Lotor won’t be happy with Corral.”

That too was true, though I wondered if anyone could truly make Lotor happy. He wanted Allura, but I wondered for how long his satisfaction with her would last once it became apparent she wouldn’t love him back. I had seen how quickly he had turned on Romelle, his disappointments with her rejections making him nasty and cruel. Even more so than usual.

“And Corral….Corral won’t be happy with Lotor!” She added after a moment’s pause. I turned my full attention on her, wide eyed and shocked. She didn’t look sad though, she look determined.

I didn’t try to protest what she had said, nodding dully in agreement. It only fired her up further, Corral continuing to speak. “Corral won’t marry Lotor.” Slowly I blinked, wondering if it was that simple. The marriage was an arrangement between the two empires, surely her father wouldn’t let her back down from it anymore than Zarkon would let Lotor.

“What’s this?” A familiar voice from behind me, I quickly lurched to my feet and turned. Corral rose with me, but she hadn’t paled. She wasn’t bothered that her declaration had been heard, nor did she realize the danger that came with the one who approached us.

“Haggar!” I hissed out her name, venom practically coating my words. She ignored me, giving the slightest of bows to the princess Corral.

“What is this about you not marrying the prince?” She wanted to know.

Corral lifted her chin, expression defiant. “Corral knows. Lotor won’t be happy with Corral.”

Haggar glanced at me, a tsk escaping her. “Just what have you been telling the princess about his highness?”

“Nothing like you suspect.” I retorted. “She merely wanted to know about Lotor and his….desire for Allura.”

“Lotor love Allura. Not Corral.” Interjected the princess. “And Corral? Corral no love Lotor!”

“You’ll find love has little to do when it comes to political matches.” Haggar told her. “You have to put aside such things for the good of your people. The two Empires must be united as one….”

“No.” A stubborn insistence from Corral, her gaze level as she stared at the witch. “Corral do that once. Corral not do it again.”

I was surprised at that, but I didn’t have to wonder what she meant for long. Haggar was quickly explaining, a sigh escaping her. “Ah yes. I had heard something about you having a lover. Some lesser noble that your father has deemed would not be a good match for you. Princess Corral, you must forget about that man and embrace the prince as your husband.”

“No.” More stubborn defiance from Corral, the princess crossing her arms over her chest. “Corral marry for love. Lotor marry Allura!”

Haggar slid her glance my way, as if this was all my fault. I could merely shrug, content to let Haggar deal with the stubborn princess. “If Lotor doesn’t marry you, you will be sent back to your kingdom in disgrace. Do you want that?”

Even Corral hesitated at that thought, a fact Haggar tried to play on. “Your father will be most displeased. He may even disown you.”

I could practically see Corral’s mind working, the girl seizing on an idea. The words failed her, Corral switching to her language. Haggar listened and turned annoyed, her expression angry. “You little fool!” She hissed in Drule, abandoning all need to be polite. “You think that will be okay. That you will abandon the kingdom to marry someone beneath you?! That he will even still want you once you are not a princess?!”

Corral was sure of her love, nodding in response to Haggar’s words. The witch looked exasperated beyond belief, eyes rolling skyward for guidance. If she could have, Haggar would have cast a love spell to make Corral and Lotor both be compliant. But love was the one thing even magic could not force. It complicated things needlessly, this insistence both the prince and princess had about marrying for love.

“Corral help Lotor get Allura.” The princess added. Haggar arched an eyebrow at that, but she was still too aggravated to be amused.

“Oh? And how will you do that?” Corral shrugged, and glanced at me. I had no suggestions for her, nor was I eager to see Allura be brought to Doom.

“You don’t even have a clue how to accomplish that.” Grumbled Haggar. But a calculating look had come to her eyes, the witch staring at Corral in consideration. “Very well, let witch Haggar help you both out.” Before Corral or I could say anything, Haggar held up a finger. “But my help does not come without a price.”

“And what price would that be?” I asked, wary on behalf of the princess.

“If Lotor fails to get Allura this time, Corral will still marry our prince. There will be no more of these complaints, these attempts to get out of the marriage. Both Lotor and Corral will marry each other, and forget about those that they love.”

Corral was nodding rapidly in agreement, seeming confidant Lotor would manage to obtain his heart’s desire. I was nowhere near as sure, thinking this had all the makings of a tragedy.

“So what will you do?” I asked Haggar. “How will you accomplish the impossible?”

“Nothing is impossible.” She retorted. “Some things are just more difficult than others.”

“Invite Allura to Doom.” Corral spoke up, showing she hadn’t understood about the princess of Arus’ reluctance to be anywhere near Doom or it’s prince “Lotor marry her then.”

“No, she won’t come if we ask.” Haggar told her. Corral cocked her head to the side, a question in her eyes. “She fears the prince’s father.” I couldn’t help it, I did a rude snort of sound. It was not just Zarkon Allura feared, but Lotor and his desire for her.

“You have something to say Lieutenant?” Haggar growled out, not expecting a reply. But I couldn’t help myself, the words all but being blurted out.

“She’d sooner die than come to Doom, and you know it.”

Haggar opened her mouth to respond, then abruptly closed it. A calculating gleam appeared in her eyes, the witch reaching up to stroke her claws over her chin. “If the princess of Arus were to die…” She spoke slowly, turning over an idea in her mind. “It would make things easier…”

“Lotor would be pissed if you killed her!” I retorted, alarmed.

“Oh, I won’t harm the princess. Not permanently at least.”

“What are you saying? Have you gone mad?” I demanded. “Death IS permanent.”

“Not when magic is involved.” Haggar turned away and strode over to one of the banquet tables. Corral and I followed her, watching as the witch picked up one wicked looking blade. It was a carving knife, meant to tear easily into the flesh of meat. Like many of the King’s belongings, it was ornate, richly endowed with silver and jewels. Haggar held it up, watching the light gleam off the blade. “Yes, this will do quite nicely.”

“What are you plotting?” I snarled. “What do you intend to do?!”

“You’ll find out soon enough Lieutenant.” Haggar answered, and gestured for Corral and I to follow her. “Come along your highness. We shall go pay Prince Lotor a visit.”

Corral nodded, already following Haggar towards the hall’s exit. I stood for a moment, staring after them, not sure I wanted to face the prince’s wrath when Haggar began talking about killing Allura. A crash from behind me alerted me to the fact that the slave had indeed dropped the fountain. A guard was already rushing towards him, whip in hand to punish the slave. It was a typical response to a slave messing up, and yet it bothered me more than it had in months past.

I reached out with a hand, snagging the guard’s arm. “Leave him.” I told him, not looking towards the slave. “It was an accident.”

“Accident or not, he broke an expensive marble fountain!” retorted the guard, his expression aghast at my interference.

“It wouldn’t have happened if someone had gone to help him!”

“That’s a slave’s work!” snapped the guard, and jerked his arm free of my grip. “You don’t have any authority here, LIEUTENANT.” He added, stressing my demotion. I snarled wordlessly, and stalked away from the hall. I didn’t want to watch the slave get whipped, but the sounds of leather cracking against flesh chased me out into the corridor.

Haggar and Corral were a ways down from the exit, both looking impatient as they waited for me to catch up. It reminded me that there was an air of danger to Corral being here. There was many in both galaxies who didn’t want this marriage to take place, fearing what a union between Doom and Demos would mean. We expected someone to make an attempt on the princess life, though frankly I thought they would be a fool to try anything when Haggar was present.

The witch was quiet save for a few chuckles under her breath. She had hidden the carving knife in her robes, and was walking with nonchalant ease. Corral was besides her, and I was brining up their rear. I was brimming with both curiosity and unease, impatient to know just what Haggar was planning. Corral was handling it better, her trust in the witch apparent by the way she didn’t continuously question Haggar.

I couldn’t help the shudder that went through me as we reached the hall where Lotor’s apartment was kept. Just a few doors down from it, was the rooms he had once appointed to Romelle. I had not been back to this part of castle since Romelle’s escape, and unpleasant memories fought to rise up and disturb me. I tried to push them back down, not wanting to remember the beatings and rape. But still my skin crawled with unease.

Haggar nodded her hellos to Captain Adamentius. She visited Lotor often enough during his confinement that the Captain did not question her arrival. Instead he preceded to open the door, Lotor’s worried voice echoing out into the hallway.

“One chance. When I tried a thousand times!” He hadn’t even noticed the opening of the door, too busy pacing in circles. He had his hands clasped behind his back, a studied look of concentration on his face as he walked back and forth across the floor. “Allura is always under guard. I’ve used every low trick known to devils!”

“That you have.” Haggar broke into his thoughts, Lotor slowing and turning towards us. His eyes narrowed at the sight of Corral, it would take a moment for him to even notice me. But when he did, his look turned ugly, Lotor’s hand going to his sword’s hilt.

“YOU!” He growled. “You dare show your face here?!”

“Lieutenant Sabbath has been assigned to guard the princess Corral.” Haggar reminded him. “He goes where she goes.”

“And why is SHE here then?!” Lotor demanded, still looking like he wanted to rush me with his sword. I none too subtly slipped into a defensive stance, my hand casually resting on the holster of my laser pistol. I would not hesitate to draw and shoot the prince, though I regret I would only be able to get away with stunning him.

“You’ll be happy to know the princess agrees with you.” Haggar replied, grinning widely. I wondered if she was purposefully being cryptic, Lotor flashing the witch a scowl.

“She agrees with what?” Lotor demanded.

“She wishes you to wed the one you love, sire.” Haggar answered.

Lotor was very self involved, not thinking to question why. Instead he resumed pacing, though he stay involved in the conversation. “That’s very generous.” Lotor said. “I wish she could tell me HOW!!”

“Place it in my hands sire…” Haggar told him. “There is a way, but there is also a price.”

“A price?” Lotor’s pacing drew him closer to our group, the prince staring at Corral. “And what would the princess of Demos ask of me?”

“It’s not the princess you’ll have to pay.” Haggar retorted. “Corral simply wishes to be free to marry the one she loves as well. You are both very similar in this regard.”

“Then what is this price you speak of?” Lotor wanted to know.

“There are two things I ask of you.” Haggar said. “The first is if this should fail…”

“It won’t.”

“IF it should fail…” continued Haggar. “You and Corral will wed each other.”

“And the second?” Lotor demanded, eyeing the witch distrustfully.

“I demand a position of power in return for bringing you Allura.” Haggar told him. “I must share the throne.”

“Share the throne?” Lotor reared back in horror. “You want me to make you my Queen?” Even I felt ill at the thought.

“Settle down Prince Lotor. I am not so crazed as to want to marry you. But I do want the power, power that would be denied me even as your Queen. I want to be your equal when it comes to the throne. To be free to do as I want, and have no one make demands of me.”

Lotor seemed reluctant to grant her such a thing, but at last he nodded. “Very well old witch. The wish will be granted IF You succeed. I want Allura to come willingly!”

“You ask for too much, your highness. Allura will never come here willingly…”

“Yes. She fears my father.” No mention was made of Allura’s fear of Lotor, the prince manifesting his delusions about her once more. “That’s the problem.”

“She will never accept your father.” Agreed Haggar. “But the King can’t live forever.”

“Is that a threat against my father?” demanded Lotor, smirking.

“Oh, never that.” Haggar returned his smirk. “Just pointing out a hard truth.”

“I’m not content to wait out my father’s life before getting Allura.” Lotor sighed.

“You will just have to settle for Allura, unwilling though she may be.”

“And how do you propose to bring her here, if she’s so unwilling?” Lotor asked the question that was on my mind, Haggar’s smirk deepening.

“By my dark sorcery of course.”

“Ah yes.” Lotor smiled for a moment. “But I don’t want her harmed by you!”

“You worry needlessly. I know my ancient craft well.” Haggar reached into her robes, withdrawing the carving knife. “This blade will do your bidding sire…”

“NO! It’s a sharp weapon witch. It will hurt Allura!”

“It will do no more than put her into a deep sleep once I’ve imbued it with my magic!” Haggar retorted. “I will cast a spell upon this blade, one that will induce a death like sleep upon any whose flesh is scratched by it.” Haggar flashed all of her teeth in her smile. “Those fools on Arus won’t know what has happened, when the princess falls ill and dies!”

Lotor shuddered in distaste, visibly uneasy with the thought of Allura dying. “And then what?”

Haggar sighed, seeming annoyed with Lotor’s need for her to spell everything out for him. “Before they bury the pretty princess, we shall kidnap her body. My spell should be such that Allura stays unconscious until we arrive on Doom.”

Lotor considered her words, then smiled. “I like it witch. I like it a lot.”

“Then come with me.” Haggar said. “We must prepare for our trip to Arus.”

“Yes.” Lotor nodded, then glanced at Corral. The princess had been listening intently to the pair’s exchange, but I wondered how much she understood. Was she confused by all that talk about Allura dying? Did Demos even associate with magic users as powerful as witch Haggar? I had a feeling I would be the one to field Corral’s questions and concerns, and I nearly groaned at the thought of it.

“Thank you for caring.” Lotor said to Corral, raising her hand to his lips. He brushed a kiss over her knuckles, and it seemed Corral wasn’t immune to the charm Lotor was now showing her. She blushed, and quickly looked away.

We would be dismissed from Haggar and Lotor’s presence, the pair heading to the tower where the witch’s lair was kept. There they would stay, waiting for Haggar’s enchantment to sink into the blade. A day later they would leave for Arus, and it surprised me the small number of ships they took with them. They weren’t intent on engaging the enemy, wanting to sneak onto Arus, poison and kidnap the princess out from under the noses of her guardians.

Of course the plan wouldn’t go off as smoothly as they had hoped. They did indeed succeed in using the blade on Allura, Haggar’s cat scratching open her flesh so that the poison could sink inside her. Allura died that day, and in the resulting days that followed, a large funeral was held. All of Arus was out to attend, the people wanting to pay their respects to the princess.

Funerals take time to plan, especially one as large as the one held for the princess. It put Haggar’s spell in jeopardy of wearing off sooner than anticipated. Lotor would just barely managed to steal the carriage carrying Allura in her coffin, and even then the Voltron Force did not give up the princess to him. I’m sure they thought Lotor even more sick and depraved than previously, what with him stealing what they assumed was the princess’ corpse. They refused to let him defile Allura’s body though, and a skirmish broke out. One that was ultimately won by the pilot of green lion.

Lotor and Haggar were forced to flee, and the princess of Arus was returned to her life and her home. Word quickly reached the King’s ears of the prince’s failure. Zarkon and his guard would be there to personally greet Lotor upon his arrival, as was Corral and I. The princess Corral was dressed in black, her flame colored hair standing out in brilliant contrast to the silk fabric of her wedding gown. Her veil muffled most but not all of her sobbing, the princess feeling her chance at love was over with
now that she would be forced to wed Prince Lotor.

Our first glimpse of Lotor and the witch was the pair in mid argument, Lotor screaming at Haggar. “You tricked me old witch!” He was saying, the prince barely restrained by the guards. “You purposefully came up with a plan that would fail in order to force me to marry Corral!”

“The plan was a sound one.” Haggar retorted. But she wasn’t as calm as she usually appeared to be. It made me wonder if she and Lotor had been arguing the entire journey from Arus to Doom. “It’s not my fault that the Voltron Force followed after us!”

“They were supposed to believe she was dead!” Lotor all but bellowed. “They should have left her body to me!”

“I suppose they think you that big a pervert, Lotor.” Zarkon interjected himself into the argument. “Who knows what they thought you wanted to do to her body. I don’t blame them for wanting to stop you.”

Lotor turned to glare in his father’s direction, and it was then that he first took notice of how Corral was dressed. “What’s this?”

“What’s it look like Lotor?” Zarkon demanded. “You’re going to marry Princess Corral, as per your agreement.”

“I will not!” Lotor struggled against the guards’ hold, expression menacing.

“You will!”

“No, I will not!” Lotor broke free of the guard’s hold, drawing his sword. Everyone, including myself, drew our pistols. We weren’t sure who Lotor’s intended target was, Lotor snarling like a vicious animal. “The only woman I will ever marry is Princess Allura of Arus.” Heedless of the weapons aimed on him, Lotor charged down the ramp. He used his sword to deflect the few shots that came his way, running towards Corral.

Her gasp turned into a scream as I pulled her behind me. Lotor was still intent on Corral, and as he screamed, I took careful aim at him. “I will never wed you Corral!”

“What are you doing you fool?!” Zarkon was heard growling. “You wish to cast us into a war with Demos by killing their crown princess?!”

Lotor never got to answer, one of my blasts had managed to get through his sword’s defense. It wasn’t as satisfying as you might have imagined, I would have preferred to bring Lotor down with a more traditional weapon. But down he went, Lotor moaning as his sword clattered to the floor.

“Pick him up.” Zarkon ordered with a sneer. “Someone get him ready for the wedding.”

“NO!” It was Corral who spoke now, the princess shaking and clinging to my shirt’s back. “Corral not marry Lotor!”

“That’s not for you to decide!” Zarkon snapped at her, an angry glower being tossed her way.

“Lotor try kill Corral!” She retorted. “Corral NEVER marry Lotor now.”

And she was right, Corral leaving the castle docks to go contact her father. Once the King of Demos heard of Lotor’s attempt to personally assassinate the princess, he was outraged. Zarkon tried to smooth over matters with Demos’ King, but the damage had been done. The King would not risk his only daughter to an unstable prince. Corral and her entourage would be sent back to Demos, untouched and unharmed. Zarkon could have held the princess prisoner, but he was aware of how powerful the Demos Empire was. With our forces already feeling the strain from the war with Arus, Doom could not afford to divide it’s attention between Voltron and the Demos Empire.

Doom and Demos just narrowly avoided engaging in hostilities, the truce between them all but shattered. Those in both galaxies breathed a sigh of relief, knowing they had just barely managed to avoid the catastrophe that would have been the two evil empires united together.

Lotor’s imprisonment would continue, and I would not earn a promotion. I didn’t even approach Zarkon about it, knowing with the way things had turned out, the King would be more likely to kill me than reward me. But I felt it was no loss. My disillusionment with the Empire and it’s rulers, with how they acted, and the things they attempted to do, would continue. I was becoming more and more certain that being the Empire’s pawn was something I did not want to be. I was very close to breaking all ties with the Empire, all it would take was a little more pushing on Lotor’s part.

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