The first thing that Lance registered upon waking up was the pain. It screamed throughout his body but Lance refused to so much as whimper until he could figure out where he was. Pushing the feeling to the back of his mind, Lance grit his teeth and took a breath to prepare himself for whatever situation he was about to find himself in. He cracked open one of his eyes just enough to see--but not enough to be seen--and scanned his whereabouts. He last remembered passing out in the hall of a castle he had been defending, but this room looked more like a cell.
A cell. Crap.
He knew things would be bad, but this was beyond what he had imagined. He’d been captured, and from the looks of the prisoner garb that was worn by those crowded into the next cell over, by the Galra no less.
If he had been captured, then it was likely that he’d be here for a while. Voltron wouldn’t be able to get him back very quickly. Lance realized that it was entirely likely that Allura would end up piloting Blue for a while in his absence. Voltron was down a paladin, sure, but Blue was down a pilot. Lance focused on his bond with Blue and sent a small sliver of reassurance through it. Immediately, a faint response came from his lion, one of elation but worry. Lance released a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, they were looking for him.
Finding no reason to put off the inevitable after contacting his lion, Lance ignored his screaming limbs and pulled himself to a wall, managing to maneuver his body into a seated position. Leaning against the construct for support as he calmed his breathing, Lance took the time to think through his situation. He was alone and without his armor and bayard. There seemed to be no immediate means of escape from the cell.
The blue paladin turned his attention to the neighboring cells as he could see into the many caged rooms, each with far too many prisoners. Realizing the overcrowding problem, Lance gulped. He was the only prisoner in his cell. Special treatment by the Galra could only mean special interest and horrors to come.
“So the blue paladin has awoken after seven quintants of sleep,” a voice came from outside the cell. A guard sneered as Lance met his eyes, defiance burning bright even across the dimly lit cell. “Enjoy these moments, paladin. You’ll be fighting soon enough.”
Fighting? It only takes a few moments for Lance to begin to process the meaning of that statement. When he does, his facial expression slowly drains into one of horror, his inability to keep the emotion from his face only serving to make the guard laugh. Lance looked down at his lap as the terror-ridden thoughts went through his head. All the human could focus on was the image of a broken Shiro, his hero from the Garrison. That strong pilot had been subjected to fighting for Galran amusement and had come out of the experience so very different than the man Lance had first met all those years ago. Now, it would be Lance’s turn. They’re going to put me in the arena. I’m going to have to fight.
The guard smirked and spoke again, “So much for a legendary Paladin of Voltron. You’re nothing but a weak little flast .”
Weak. The word played over and over again in Lance’s head. Wasn’t that what was always assumed of him? He wasn’t the strongest paladin, nor the smartest, nor the kindest, he knew that. But that didn’t mean he was nothing at all. He was a Paladin of Voltron, for goodness sakes! He was the Blue Paladin and without him, they wouldn’t have even gotten into space.
Lance clenched his teeth and glared down at his body, filled with injuries as it was. The rest of his body seemed to be just as stubborn, his fists clenching against the dirt floor of his cell as his knee drew in towards his chest as though he were readying himself to spring to his feet. Lance shuddered with a quiet fury that he didn’t often feel. He would not allow this random Galra foot soldier to be right. He refused.
He had come too far to simply give up now.
At that thought, a small grin grew on Lance’s face, laughter making its way through his lips. Lance’s gaze came back up to stare at the guard, the sight of this injured prisoner’s laughter shocking both the guard and other prisoners.
“Thank you,” Lance rasped out, his voice hoarse from the lack of use during his time unconscious. He continued quickly, not wanting to lose his momentum or be interrupted. “You’ve just given me a reason to fight. You’re wrong. I’m not as weak as you think. I will fight. And I will protect the ones who can’t.”
The Galra guard stepped back, completely taken aback by the response. This prisoner, this human , refused to give in or back down, even when everything in the world was against him.
In contrast, the other prisoners seemed to lean forward, as though drawn in by the humans words as insects were to light. The prisoners had heard many a declaration such as this before, but never had one given them so much hope. Hope that freedom was in sight. Perhaps… perhaps this “paladin” would be the one to free them.
Regaining his composure, the Galran scoffed and turned his head, scowling at the other prisoners. This paladin was unusual and that scared him. He had come down to the cell expecting to be able to insult and intimidate a cowering and broken prisoner. There was no cowering in the way the blue one sat. Nor was there a broken look in his eyes, as the Galra saw in many other prisoners. Instead, the human creature seemed to have a spirit that was yet unbroken and an intensity that spoke of a determination to survive. Then again, it was rumored that all the Paladins of Voltron were the same species as the Champion. If that were indeed the case, then the reaction was truly not as much of a surprise as the guard had originally thought.
The Champion had been different from any other prisoner the guard had ever come across. He hardly faltered in a fight when injured, the lack of proper nutrition barely seemed to affect him, even the sleep deprivation methods had failed to cause his downfall when the Galra officials called for it. He had become too popular for too long and he had to be terminated, but nothing they threw at him was enough to take him down. If such a powerful creature was from the same species as this prisoner, the guard could only speculate on what the future would bring.
Looking at the strange prisoner once more, the guard spit his next words before leaving the cell block. “Then you will fight. And you will die.”